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Game of Thrones 2×03 Rewatch: What’s Ahead will Make Us Sigh

Kylie

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It’s Tuesday! That means we’re here with yet another installment of The Wars to Come, our Game of Thrones rewatch seeking find where showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D) let things slip out of gear. Last week, we sat through a rather boring episode. This week Bryan Cogman returns as the writer for “What is Dead May Never Die,” with Kylie, Julia, Danzie, and Jana here to break it down.

Episode Recap

We pick up right where we left off at Craster’s Keep, where Craster himself had just knocked Jon unconscious. The episode opens with Craster ordering the Night’s Watch to leave, and Joer Mormont yells at Jon to wait for him outside. Once there he scolds Jon for not following orders, but Jon tells him what he saw: something taking Craster’s baby. It becomes clear that the Lord Commander already knew about this, but the Night’s Watch can’t afford to be choosey in its allies. As they all prepare to leave, Sam says a goodbye to Gilly, and gives her a thimble from his mother that he wants her to hold for safekeeping.

Slightly further south, Bran tries to explain to Maester Luwin about his wolf dreams, where he imagines himself inside the eyes of Summer. Luwin tells him there’s nothing to make of it and that any tales about people with abilities to warg are just that—tales.

Much further south, Catelyn has arrived at King Renly’s camp, where he is holding a tourney. Brienne of Tarth bests Loras Tyrell, winning herself a place on his kingsguard, before Renly addresses Cat. She makes sure to insist on Robb’s kingship, and when it’s challenged why he didn’t come himself, she explains that her son is fighting a war while they’re playing at one. Renly shows her his 10,000 troops, though she seems skeptical that this “summer army” will do well once winter comes.

Renly has his own issue to deal with. Though he’s been enjoying his nights with Loras, there are apparently people whispering about them. Even more, Renly has married Margaery Tyrell, Loras’s sister, yet their marriage remains unconsummated. He tries to get that bit over with, though Margaery makes it clear that she understands his sexuality and relationship with Loras. She promises him that however they need to make arrangements to allow him to impregnate her, she will do it.

Over on the Iron Islands, Theon yells at Yara for her deception once they’re alone together, though she is not sorry in the slightest. Balon then arrives and tells Theon of his plans: attack the North while Robb is distracted and marching against the Lannisters. Theon tries to argue against this idea, but Balon won’t hear it. Yara tells him to make his choice whether to come with them or not, but they’re going either way. Theon writes a letter to warn Robb, but burns it, deciding instead to commit to his place with his family. He has a priest bless him with salt water.

Speaking of Lannisters, Sansa is still stuck surrounded by them in King’s Landing. She is forced to have a brunch with Cersei, Myrcella, and Tommen, where she is casually told that if Robb dies, she’ll still be expected to marry Joffrey. Shae is also unhappy with her situation, since Tyrion wants to get her a job in the kitchens washing pots. In a good solution for both women, Shae is made Sansa’s handmaiden. It’s clear to Sansa that Shae has never worked in this role before and doesn’t know what she’s doing, though the two seem to have a bit of a bond nonetheless.

Tyrion, meanwhile, is working on his political planning. He wants to figure out who is loyal to Cersei, so he tells Pycelle, Varys, and Littlefinger three different plans about where he might send Myrcella to keep her safe in the event of an attack on King’s Landing. Pycelle ends up being the one who tells of the plan to send Myrcella to Dorne, so Tyrion has him thrown in a dungeon. Varys congratulates him, though Littlefinger is mad that the plan Tyrion had told him wasn’t the one that was going to happen. Still, Tyrion has something else for Lord Baelish, which involves going and seeing Catelyn again.

Finally, on the way to The Wall, Arya has trouble sleeping. Yoren tells her that he also witnessed the murder of a family member before, and the way he was able to sleep was by reciting his brother’s killer’s name over and over as a mantra before bed. This story is cut short when their group is attacked by more Lannister soldiers, who kill both Lommy and Yoren. In the heat of the battle, Arya frees three criminals from a cage that had caught fire. The Lannister soldiers ask again for Gendry, but Arya quickly lies on the spot, saying Lommy was Gendry, since his famous helm was lying near him. It spares their lives, though we learn the Lannisters plan to march them to Harrenhal.

Initial, quick reaction

Kylie: Thinking back over everything that happened, there were a few clunkers, yet nothing particularly worse than the past couple of weeks. And somehow I turned it off with the feelings, “Wow, it’s starting to slip a lot more.” Is it because the lolz gay scene was that bad? Is it Lady Zuriff? Is it the pacing and that things are starting to feel tensionless? I honestly don’t know. I’m worrying this is a case where I’m sour on it because of adaptational choices (Tyrion the Infallible versus the books) more than a complaint about the actual quality.

Julia: Yeah, the season so far in general feels very…beige. Even the things I like, the Ironborn stuff, for instance, I don’t like that much. There was very little rise and/or fall of emotion. Even Shae only got me a little annoyed.

Jana: This episode felt a lot like a shopping list to me. A checklist, maybe? As in there were bits and pieces here and there with little to no interconnection outside of the fact that we kinda know 90% of the plot points are part of the same greater war, more or less. Most segments were perfectly alright on their own, but, like, they very much feel like several smaller episodes sewn together into a big one. That’s technically what every other episode is kind of like, too, but this is the first time I really felt it. So much so that it’s the one thing that sticks out to me. Might be a me problem, though.

Danzie: A little sleepy, but mostly benign. It’s funny, there is a kind of nostalgia in watching season two for me. It’s not that I fondly remember the episodes per se (although ACoK is my favorite book in the series, so maybe that helps), but I do fondly remember the positive feelings I had watching it back in 2012. It’s a weird kind of nostalgia.

Also, I have a feeling I’m going to be in the minority of liking the Catelyn scene at Renly’s camp. Sue me. I’m easily won over by Michelle Fairley and the Baratheon motifs everywhere.

Highlights/lowlights

Julia: Theon’s plotline in Pyke remains by far the best part of the season. And by best I mean the only part that seems to mean something thus far. There’s family drama, and I love it. My favorite moment was after Theon’s baptism when he looks over at Balon and is all, “Do you love me yet, Daddy?”

Also honorable mention for the conversation with Bran and Lewin where they talk about magic. I forgot how much I love this character and how his love for Bran shone through. Weird, but I’m glad he died when he did and not like poor Osha.

On the other end I think I’ll go with the entire sequence of Tyrion’s Cunning Plan™ to root out a spy by trading Myrcella like a baseball card, topped off with a conversation with Varys where he praises Tyrion as being the best schemer ever in a way that we have no choice but to take it at face value. I don’t know, Saint Tyrion is bugging me more than ever. Especially since he apparently didn’t let his girlfriend leave their room for god knows how long.

Jana: That scene was so much better when we didn’t know that Show!Varys is being perfectly genuine here. Nevertheless, my lowlight has to be our arrival at Sexual Liberation Capital aka The Reach. Yes, Margaery, explain to the gay how and why to make babies with you. Invite your brother along; fun for the whole family.

Also, “And Margaery’s a virgin?” Dude. Dude. What are you, a subreddit?

I’m gonna go and be boring and list the dinner scene and subsequent scene with Shae and Sansa as my highlight. Is this the first tense Cogman dinner? The children are adorable, Sansa is spot on, and Cersei daring her to say something out of line was weirdly amusing. I also thought Shae’s first day at work would be a lot more on the Sansa being a bitch side, but like. No. Not only was Sansa right in being frustrated with someone presumably being paid to do a job having no idea how to do her job, they also managed to convey pretty well that any and all lashing out she does is due to the horribly fucked up situation she’s in. Or at least that’s what Sophie Turner’s acting told me. My true highlight is probably Sophie Turner’s acting.

Danzie: Not gonna lie, the highlight of the entire season for me is Renly’s crown/armor. It looks gorgeous and fits Book!Renly’s style perfectly. I want a tiny version of it for my dog Renly.

Speaking less superficially, I agree with both Jana and Julia. I sort of wonder if I liked Theon’s scenes because his chapters in aCoK were, in my opinion, GRRM’s best work in the entire series. Is it mostly copy and pasting? Yeah, but it’s damn good copy and pasting. They aren’t “fixing” what isn’t broken from the source material. Alfie Allen sells Theon’s daddy issues so, so well.

I also enjoyed the emotional subtlety of Sansa’s scene with Shae. I’m glad it immediately followed the dinner scene, because I think otherwise it wouldn’t have worked. The projection of the abuse she’s facing was very real… but it’s still ever-empathetic Sansa, so the absolute worst abuse she can sling is milquetoast highborn elitism. I miss Sansa.

Lowlight: I liked the first of the two scenes at Renly’s camp, but you really are left wondering why the Margaery/Renly/Loras stuff even existed. It would make sense if they wanted to expand Renly’s character and show the challenges of being in the closet while trying to run a campaign that is really only afloat on popular appearance… but he dies next episode, so what is the payoff? It’s investing money into a company that you know is going out of business.

Marg and Renly’s marriage consummation was left purposefully ambiguous in the books, but I guess it’s important that we know Margaery isn’t lying to Joffrey when she says the marriage was never verified? Because… that matters?

I dunno, I’m trying to make sense of it, but really I think they just wanted to be the edgy show that wasn’t afraid to go there with gay sex… except they totally were because they had to cap off the fully clothed makeout scene with boobs for fear of alienating their core demographic.

Kylie: I think knowing what’s coming in terms of Loras’s scripting makes it all the worse, too. So much of those scenes banked on the notion that it’s funny for gay people to like, exist in a feudal order, and ha-ha Renly is screwing up his nose in disgust! Because straights are never forced into sexual relationships they find repugnant or off-putting.

And damn, yeah, he is dead next episode. Maybe time would have been better spent fully contextualizing his military position or like, platform, rather than giving him and his boyfriend a fight because the concept of lineage is escaping him.

That was my lowlight too, in case you couldn’t tell.

What’s funny about the Sansa/Shae scene is that while her frustration and panic over her situation (and confusion) read perfectly well for us, it’s also the kind of scene that gives Sansa haters fuel. “She’s just being a bitch again when Shae’s trying to be nice!” Cogman certainly isn’t responsible for fandom dialogue, and there’s a reason he’s known for awkward family dinner scenes. But what really works for us gets twisted so easily, and frankly situated in a show with intense Badass worship, it’s hard to blame people.

The Arya scenes were fine, but not amazing, and the other King’s Landing scenes were Saint Tyrion blessing us with his wisdom, so I think Iron Islands are my highlight by default. But I was having trouble super enjoying this episode, whereas it came more easily in 2×01.

Quality of writing

Danzie: It’s hard to really comment on it. It’s obviously not great, but nothing stands out as offensively bad either. However, you can see D&D starting to settle into their comfort zone of not giving a shit narratively. Scenes are more about plot points and less about tying together a bigger story. Renly can’t produce an heir, but that doesn’t go anywhere. Craster is involved with the white walkers, but nobody ever confronts him about it. Tyrion delivers major PWNage(?) to Pycelle but not much comes of this either, because they never figure out how to integrate Pycelle into the plot in a meaningful way. You can get away with it short term because you think it will eventually make sense, but hindsight is pretty unkind to these plot threads.

Julia: Maybe it’s because this was a Coggers episode but I felt that the writing within any given scene was, like, passable, but the structure of the episode as a whole was just designed to create boredom. Or lack of tension? I guess I think ol’ Bryan did the best with what he was given.

Kylie: That’s the best way of putting it, Julia. I think the beats he was made to cover weren’t the best, but lol-gayness aside, the writing was at least competent. And used a decent amount of book dialogue.

Julia: And his attempt to turn Cat’s inner monologue into dialogue only made me cringe a little bit.

Danzie: It’s funny, Julia. It might be my lady-crush on Michelle Fairley, but I think she sold those lines, and Renly keeping a cool head through it all with everyone around was a very Renly thing to do. It showed off her stanning the north, while he kept up his southern appearances.

Also, Brienne! This is her first episode, and I think her reveal was great!

Jana: Also beyond that, the writing was competent. The episodes issues, besides, you know, Renly’s tent and also Shae, were mostly structural, since basically everything in this episode was a set-up for something, and that was done competently. Let’s just enjoy a time when most setups still have pay-offs.

Our 8th grade book report (on themes)

Kylie: Hey, the episode title worked this week!

Onto themes… Lies? Secrets? This is such a general theme, I know, but I was thinking that it permeated every plotline. Jeor was “lying” or at least not being forthcoming about Craster’s true nature, Renly was lying about his Tyrell relationships, Shae lied about Lady Zuriff, Tyrion lied to everyone, and Ayra lied to the Lannister soldiers that came for them. I guess Bran and Theon kind of stick out here, since Theon just made a choice, and Bran was trying to get Luwin to take his warging seriously. But it’s the best thread I can find.

Julia: Wow, Kylie, full marks. I can tie a very tenuous thread that’s, like, expectation versus reality between Shae, Sansa, Theon, and Bran. Bran thought magic was real but Lewin tells him the story about how his own dreams there were disappointed. Theon thought he would be welcomed back into his family. Imagine how happy 1×01 Sansa would be if you told her that she would be having dinner with the Royal Family. And poor annoying Shae thought Carol’s Landing would be way more glamorous than this. I guess we can throw Jonny in there too, since his expectation of how the Night’s Watch needs to behave north of the Wall was challenged.

Danzie: It’s hard to nail down a theme, because every scene was so… not interconnected in any way? I feel like this section is only going to get harder to write as we continue down the rabbit hole.

Jana: Yeah, what Danzie said. This season will prooobably still do okay on that front, but we’re already having to split segments up between themes, that’s… Foreboding.

Cracks in the plaster (the bullshit to come)

Julia: I think this was the first time Varys spent a conversation telling Tyrion how wonderful he was, so that’s a huge milestone for the show. And Sansa and Shae are now together, so it won’t be long before all of Sansa’s scenes are about Tyrion and Shae’s relationship.

Kylie: I don’t just want to harp on Renly/Loras/Margaery, but Jesus, Margaery is anachronistic for Westeros. This may be the biggest crack in the plaster yet, since it relates to everything: mainly, how they have no fucking idea what they’re doing with women, or what Martin’s doing with the setting. People on the westeros.org forums have been speculating about Marg’s hymen since they were launched, probably (was that post 2005?), so of course let’s run with that ambiguity and make the embodiment of performative maidenhood a scheming sexpot who can remove her dress in 2.5 seconds.

Julia: I honestly thought she was in her underwear until Renly said “Nice dress, hun.” So, yeah, welcome to the show, anachronistic scantily clad Reach ladies.

Danzie: …#WomenOnTop?

Jana: Also, like, Cat is just a walking crack. In the plaster, I mean. Still with little to no agency, and even though her lines were also her observations in the books, they came off as a tad too antagonistic for someone as wise as Catelyn. Brienne is still fine so far, at least. That’s nice.

Kylie: Maye there’s a reason her observations were internal…

Remember adaptation?

Julia: Oh dear. The editing in Mission Marry Off Myrcella made all the difference, didn’t it. So was omitting the part where Varys flat out tells Tyrion that he knows exactly what he’s doing, thereby destroying any effective spy catching that might be happening.

This Tyrion is just the best, you guys.

I also like how there was no reaction to the rather major revelation that Pycelle has been a Lannister loyalist, like, forever. “Since the days of the Mad King.” That’s kind of a huge deal, and in aCoK Tyrion’s thoughts made that clear. They could have had his smug smile fall for a second or something.

Jana: Varys just, genuinely stanning Tyrion here with no ambiguity and no sense of playing him at all. Hindsight is a bitch. Also, the riddle? What’s the point of the riddle when who actually is to blame for Ned’s death is just… Never elaborated upon? I mean, there isn’t even Shae in the background going “it’s the rich man!” to hammer home her characterization, so what even?

…And here I just praised them for their setups still having pay-offs. Yay.

Danzie: Varys’ dialogue (as always) was just such overwritten nothingness (designed to be a trailer one-liner they can put on merch), and so was Tyrion’s humble brag of “I don’t like riddles, golly gosh, is the short person casting a large shadow referring to me? You’re too kind Varys.” Varys was declaring his love for Tyrion so hard that you half-expected them to makeout at the end.

Also, the editing for the schemy scene (schene?) looked like it was done by a first year film student. Like, points for creativity, but it ended up looking so gimmicky.

Julia: I’m also a little confused about Sam this week. Now he’s great at talking to girls and pressuring them into taking presents?

Jana: That’s the charitable reading. I felt Sam’s scene with Gilly was extremely uncomfortable in the context of all the times he fantasized about girls so far. Not the intended effect, that’s for sure, but after all that, to me at least he came across as much more of a creep than necessary. Especially considering how Book!Sam is not a creep at all.

Kylie: Gilly did seem super pressured. I wanted to shout at him to leave her alone. Maybe she doesn’t want the thimble!

Julia: Maybe her father/husband/abuser will find it and want to know where she got it? I doubt that would be pleasant for her.

Carol Watch: who is Cersei this week?

Kylie: I mean, Carol definitely loves her children, but this is pretty much Cersei out of the books too. Maybe it’s because this is a situation that really does fucking suck for Carol and Cersei alike, because patriarchal bullshit? Sometimes Cersei is put-upon too.

Jana: It was a Carol-esque plight with a very violent, Cersei-like reaction that you could almost understand. Like, there was nuance to the scene and there were grounds for you to be on her side. That’s what makes it hard to differentiate here, I think, usually the scenes with her are less… Ambiguous?

Julia: And the dinner scene felt like it was compatible with both. It all depends on whether Cersei was thinking about how dumb Sansa is or if Carol was thinking about how much she wanted to hug Tommen.

Danzie: It was Schrodinger’s Cersei. She was both book!Cersei and Carol depending on what mood you’re in.

Exposition Imposition: good or clunky?

Julia: I think it was fine. We even learned that the Martells hate the Lannisters. The world building with Luwin explaining about maesters’ chains felt very natural. So did the Greyjoy’s battle plans. We got to find out what a handmaiden’s job description was.

Danzie: I want Luwin to have his own spinoff where he’s a history teacher who inspires inner city kids to believe in themselves. He can exposit literally anything and I will hang on every word. I love this man.

Jana: It’s Cogger’s episode, so like most of the writing, the exposition was competent. But for real, I feel like people in general didn’t stan Luwin enough back when the show came out. He is so great in every scene he’s in.

The only thing that was maybe a little clunky was the dinner scene, though that still played very well into Cersei trying to provoke Sansa into saying something incriminating, and also, look at these kids. Of course they need some more explaining what’s going on. They’re, what, 7 and 10?

Kylie: Even Renly’s “here’s my war position” exposition wasn’t bad. It fit with the walk-and-talk of the scene.

How was the pacing?

Kylie: I felt bored. I’m assuming this has something to do with the pacing? I feel like they didn’t really linger too long on any one plot, it’s just that the individual scenes were very slow-going. Or maybe I was just bored.

Julia: I don’t remember being bored reading A Clash of Kings but that might be too apples to oranges. It does feel like nothing has happened in this season yet, doesn’t it?

Danzie: It was definitely slow going, but since it showed off some of my favorite stuff from aCoK, it gave me the warm fuzzies of reading the book for the first time. So I wasn’t bored, it just made me want to re-read loads of stuff again. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing? 😛

Jana: Yeah, everything in this episode was setup, which takes the momentum right out of everything. But that’s largely a structural problem, as mentioned above. Even much better shows have slow episodes of getting the pieces into place. It’s fine. This is fine.

Let’s talk about sex, baby

Jana: Renly’s tent sure was a busy place this week.

Julia: My favorite part is, as you mentioned Jana, the arrival of the Reach as the sexual liberation capital of Westeros with Marg’s décolletage that goes all the way down to her navel in the tourney scene and her “official” virginity.

Jana: And she wore that piece of nothing surrounded by people in heavy cloaks or full armor and in weather conditions that would make this uncomfortable at best. Like with Ros going commando and flashing Theon last season, wearing that cannot be healthy.

Kylie: I liked the part where Marg offered to lie on her stomach so that Renly could pretend she was Loras. I’m just… I’m thinking about Book!Marg now and her big performance during Maiden’s Day.

Danzie: I like how she knows he’s gay but still tries to seduce him by getting naked. Like, Marg, it really doesn’t matter how nice your boobs are, he’s not into it. What is it with this show and playing sexual assault off as a joke when the victim is male?

They genuinely want you to laugh at the dumb-dumb gay who doesn’t want to have sex with the beautiful woman who is throwing herself at him. Even his boyfriend is trying to force this crap on him. Gross.

Jana: And then there was the sex worker they caught Pycelle with. Because of course. Let’s just have a pair of tits in the background for the scene. Well, at least she was paid extra?

Kylie: It was FUNNY when Tyrion gave her an extra coin!

Jana: But… What for? That she didn’t get to enjoy such a spry man as Pycelle? What exactly is the joke here? Am I too dumb and literal to get it?

Kylie: It’s funny when sex workers witness arrests. Like, oh man, that’s awkward. Are you not laughing yet?

It’s also a meme now!

In memoriam…Yoren, Lommy

Julia: I didn’t hate them? I don’t even mind Arya’s riverlands adventures being a compressed at bit. That is, until I remember that it’s so they have room for her to bond with Tywin Lannister.

Danzie: Can’t say I’m gutted over Yoren, but he had a likable little role. Him killing the crossbowman was pretty badass, but there’s a reason ranged infantry, y’know, stand at the back? Like, why are you reloading your crossbow five feet away from an oncoming attacker? Stand behind your buddies with swords so they can cover you, you dingus.

If these are the soldiers in the Lannister army then no wonder Robb is kicking their asses.

…and I don’t have much to say about Lommy. I completely forgot he existed until this rewatch.

Jana: To be fair, cutting down on the amount of characters and misadventures in Arya’s first trip through the Riverlands is probably not the worst decision. Not until you remember what they do with all the time they saved that way. Ugh. Yoren went out like a badass, yay; Lommy went out like a bit of a dumbass, but hey, at least his death covered for Gendry. Though you’d think the guys would have been briefed about how all of Robert’s bastards have black hair…

Kylie: I had a hard time feeling much of anything for either of these characters. I think Yoren worked for the role he was in, but it wasn’t this horrible “ohhh nooo” moment like it felt in the books. Also the Lannister troops told us they were coming back, so it felt more like a, “well, what did you expect?” kind of thing. But yeah, Jana, it’s always going to get worse.

That takes us to the end of this week’s rewatch, and we’re definitely curious to hear everyone’s thoughts. Is there a lack in the tension, or are we being too negative because of the changes from portrayals in the books? Was the lolz-gay scene as bad as we’re making it out to be? And where do Lady Zuriffs go? We shall discuss below, and as always, we wish you good fortune in The Wars to Come.


Images courtesy of HBO

Kylie is a Managing Editor at The Fandomentals on a mission to slay all the tropes. She has a penchant for complex familial dynamics and is easily pleased when authors include in-depth business details.

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Ivana
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Ivana

It’s good to see someone else who appreciates ACOK – it’s not my favorite book in the series (that would be ASOS – I know, unoriginal, but it is the best), but it’s pretty close – I certainly preferred it to AGOT (not that I don’t love AGOT, but in retrospect, I like the less than the other 4 books). The early parts of ACOK is pretty slow and full of travelogues, that’s true, but that never bothered me, because of all the world-building and character development we get. Arya’s travels first shine a light on how bad the situation… Read more »

Ira
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Ira

“Nice Grandpappy Tywin” That’s one thing I’ve never understood. This guy’s fighting to install a hegemony of power over a continent for his personal profit, committing egregious crimes against people who never did anything to him to do it, and willingly is fighting to protect Joffrey’s claim, again for his personal benefit. But he’s humanized not to make his monstrous deeds and words even worse by making them come from somebody the audience understands, but to bolster him as an impressive and cool guy.

I thought Americans hated monarchists and rich assholes shoving poor people about, what gives here?

Mytly
Member
Mytly

You’re expecting a way deeper level of thought from D&D than they’re capable of. The one and only reason* why characters on GoT get more screentime than they do in the books is that D&D like the actor and want to keep him/her around more, even if that means twisting their character out of all recognition from the books. That’s how we get Nice Grandpappy Tywin, Revenge-Crazy Ellaria and Ramsay Sue.

*(Well, in case of female characters, willingness to do nude scenes is also a major factor – case in point: Roz, Shae, Margaery).

Ira
Member
Ira

I suppose in hindsight we should be grateful Sarella and most of the Sand Snakes never made it into the show. Though Darkstar “I can’t even kill a child three feet away, making me the most dangerous man in Dorne” could only have been improved. Almost wish they’d made HIM the big revenge-wanter instead of ruining Ellaria.

Ainara
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Ainara

It’s also weird how he regularly talks to a girl that he knows is 1. From the North and 2. Highborn, while he’s fighting a war AGAINST THE NORTH, and he just… lets her roam around? Instead of checking if she could, I don’t know, make a good hostage?

Ainara
Guest
Ainara

That’s how I feel about AFFC, it’s probably my second favorite after (you guessed it!) ASOS.

Ann Taylor
Guest

I have one more note. Like… where did all the other children of Doran Martell, that Tyrion explicitly said Doran has in this episode, go? Did they find out where do whores go and bail off the show before season 5? Or is Tyrion actually kind of stupid and doesn’t even know the basics about the other party he’s solding his niece to? I know, just continuity error, but really stupid.

Ann Taylor
Guest

I mean… he said Myrcella will wed their youngest son. I assume there should be some older sons if Trystane is the youngest according to Tyrion.

Blackmambauk
Member
Blackmambauk

Subjected to D&D’s special brand of rectonning their writing and hoping no one notices. But we certainly do all right. Just watch any of their bits on the specials and they are constantly contradicting themselves on everything. The two truly do not giving a shit about the plot, the characters they are using.

Ann Taylor
Guest

You mean the special videos when they basically explain the episode (because they are incapable of making an episode that doesn’t need an extra explanation)? Well, I don’t watch these. If they can’t give a shit about the stuff they are doing, I can’t give a shit about their attempts to defend it. If it’s not said, shown or hinted on screen, it didn’t happen for me. Their extra talk behind the scene is not elemental part of the show, tha would be BS, so… They aren’t able to make some logicall argument that doesn’t fall apart by brief scrutiny… Read more »

Blackmambauk
Member
Blackmambauk

Watched one just for the bile fascination, and Christ the two are deluded on how dissonance on what they are saying contrasts on what’s on screen and what they did in earlier seasons. It only increases if one has listened to their commentaries.

Mytly
Member
Mytly

Arianne and Quentyn heard what a travesty the show had become and decided they wanted nothing to do with it, so they decided to table their differences and went off to lay low with their mom in Norvos until GoT ends.

LadyJeyne
Member
LadyJeyne

1. If I’m remembering correctly (and I haven’t read the books in a while) Westeros isn’t the most homophobic place ever. Renly and Loras’s relationship is a bit of an open secret (Catelyn notices how close they are at a dinner) and no one really seems to care. Oberyn is mentioned as having male lovers, though admittedly that’s brushed off as a “Dornish thing”, sort of, if I remember right. 2. Oy gevalt… I really hate what the show did to Margaery. I understand wanting to age her up a bit but that doesn’t mean they had to sexualize her… Read more »

Mytly
Member
Mytly

Westeros is homophobic in the books as well – it’s just that its homophobia comes in a different flavour than ‘kill all gays!’ variety that modern Western people are familiar with (which, incidentally, is as extreme as it is because it’s a backlash against increasing acceptance of homosexuality in modern Western societies). Westerosi homophobia is of the type where homosexuality is by and large invisible, and what little is visible is treated as an aberration and/or a joke, rather than being taken seriously as something involving or affecting society as a whole (once again, the reason for the virulence of… Read more »

Ivana
Member
Ivana

I don’t think it’s just class. There were a couple of Night’s Watch brothers who were pretty strongly hinted to have had a very strong bond, which is never explicitly mentioned as romantic, but the way one of them grieves for the other and the way they seemed to have had a special relationship seems to indicate they weren’t just best friends. Overall, Renly, Loras, Whoresbane Umber etc. are not treated as Satin because they are stereotypically masculine in other ways, as warriors or knights or men who engage in stereotypical masculine pursuits. Satin is a different case because he… Read more »

Ivana
Member
Ivana

The changes that D&D make to the characters and the story are sometimes so random. Most of the time, I can see what they were going for, even though I think it’s stupid and a terrible idea (like doing their best to make Tyrion an unproblematic good guy), but sometimes… I have no clue why they did what they did. I mean, look at all the changes they did to the female characters, or their own original female characters. What kind of female characters do D&D seem to like? They like fictional women who are sassy and outspoken, seductive, sexually… Read more »

Chieroscuro
Guest
Chieroscuro

Honestly, this just makes me sad that they ruin Loras. If we’re going to get Margaery & Loras leaning on Renly here, it should pay off with Loras maddened by grief assaulting Dragonstone.

Ainara
Guest
Ainara

Thoughts as I read: Season 2 is kind of a weird one. Thoug it does have what probably is my favorite episode 9 (which as we all know, needs to be THE episode each season…), so there’s that. I’m trying to think if any character had such a radical change in personality compared to the books as Margaery, but… Well, actually, I guess Ellaria. Varys being turned into Tyrion’s fanboy is pretty sad but also kind of really, really funny. “Varys’ dialogue (as always) was just such overwritten nothingness (designed to be a trailer one-liner they can put on merch)”… Read more »

Maidens and Mules
Member
Maidens and Mules

The first three episodes of Season 2 were a bit slow, but unlike the wheel spinning of later seasons, they’re slow because they building to something in this season and beyond. This is especially true for the Starklings. We see Sansa trying to take what little agency is available to her as a hostage, Arya forming her first pack, and Bran experiencing ever more frequent wolf dreams. There really was the start of something special for all three here, which makes it all the more disappointing when, in later seasons, the character traits the show spent so much time setting… Read more »

Kevan
Guest
Kevan

Well, I could feel that the episode was trying to go somewhere, so… Not that bad ? Congrats on Renly’s army for being the only one to look like a medieval army, with mitch and match armour with some sigils here and there, rather than an uniformous group of faceless goons. However, the scene presents the same flaws that will appears later on with Dorne : how hard was it to film it on a sunnier day, or at least make it look more sunny ? The knight of summer narrative disappears entirely if : 1) we don’t see any… Read more »

Mytly
Member
Mytly

This is the beginning of the ‘Northern Ireland stands in for all regions and climatic zones on Planetos’ phenomenon that becomes really egregious in the later seasons. (Which is kind of weird, as they had a budget for more varied locations in the later seasons.) While they do film in specific locations for the city-based scenes – such as Croatia for the King’s Landing scenes or Morocco for the Slaver’s Bay scenes – they have a tendency to use the Northern Ireland countryside for all ‘generic countryside’ type locations, even when said countryside is on different sides of the planet.… Read more »

Analysis

In Scorpion, I like my women…oppositional

Patrycja

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Scorpion had many flaws and there were plots that could have been handled better. Thankfully with a small exception they were able to write decent female characters which gave us a variety of characteristics and strengths. While leaving the characters on opposite sides of the spectrum.

The waitress liaison

When we meet Paige she’s a waitress at a diner who’s barely getting by. She works two jobs and everything she earns goes to her son Ralph.

We know very little about Paige. There were just a few details that we know. Her father died and her estranged mother is a con women. Their relationship wasn’t the best but they managed to repair it. (Although Veronica leaves at the end of episode 3×14.) Not without leaving some cash for her daughter and grandson. It’s clear to see that Paige tried very hard not to become a mother like her own. She’s very attentive to Ralph’s needs and even though she isn’t aware that he’s a genius in the beginning, she tries very hard to connect with and understand him. She protects her son fiercely.

Paige is a college drop out. During the show she took some night classes in European history to finish her education. Although Paige isn’t a genius, she often contributes some useful ideas to solve problems or offers a comment that helps the others to find a solution.

Throughout the course of the show, she starts understanding and learning more of the science. Her main area of expertise is communication with clients and other people that the team meets. That’s why Walter hired her. She’s supposed to be their liaison to the normal world. She also often takes charge and helps the team to refocus as their minds tend to wander. Paige isn’t a mom only to Ralph—she has to take care of the whole team as they do things like forget to eat.

The waitress had some problems fitting in at the beginning. She didn’t really know her place or role, but with time she became a natural at her job and solidified her position on the team. She did have some trouble with Happy, but they worked it out while dangling on a broken cable in the air.

As wonderful as she sounds, Paige is only human and has flaws like any of us. She is stubborn to a fault and doesn’t like to admit defeat, which doesn’t always sit well with Walter. She can be overprotective of Ralph. Paige has abandonment issues. They can originate from her mother or Drew leaving her when Ralph was little. She was also cheated on. Even though she had abandonment issues, she often used her own fear against Walter who has the same problem. She left him at the end of season 1…which was understandable since Ralphs life was in danger but after that she did it again. Sometimes she lets her emotions cloud her judgement.

Paige is the epitome of a struggling single mom who pushes trough no matter what. Most of her actions are dictated by her heart and the love for her son. Although flawed, she is an excellent example on how to master life’s challenges

The mechanical prodigy

Happy Quinn is a genius mechanic with a rough exterior. She often seems as if she doesn’t care or feel. It’s not true because under the tough shell hides a loving women.

She grew up in a foster home after her mother died. She didn’t see her father until she grew up and found him. Her dad (Patrick) has an Auto repair shop, which can be viewed as the source of her mechanical talent. Repairing stuff is also how she bonds with him.

Her father isn’t the only special man in her life. She shares a profound bond with Cabe, who has kind of stepped up to the role of her father. He was the one who gave her away on her wedding.

Although she may not seem like it, she cares about a selected few very much. Especially team Scorpion. She nursed Walter back to health after he spent some time in the rabbit hole, showcasing her gentle side. She even married him so he didn’t get deported to Ireland.

Happy shared a special relationship with Toby. They got married after she divorced Walter and planned to start a family together. They tried to get pregnant but even then they met another obstacle. Sadly we’ll never know how that plot ended because of the shows cancellation, but I digress.

What I find special about their relationship is the strong foundation in friendship and how well they know and trust in each other. Toby is the only one who didn’t abandon or betray her.

Happy is a representation of every women who makes it in a field dominated by man and was hurt by life. Regardless of that she, was able to build a family and gain success.

The new chemist on the block

We meet Florence as the new chemist who moves to the building next door to the garage. She isn’t a genius, but she’s very smart. She started her own company but lost it. She then moved to start a new business venture.
She can’t really get along with the team in the beginning. Within the course of the show, however, their relationship starts to get better.

Personally, I didn’t enjoy this character. She was created to be a competition to Paige and to show a really smart individual who isn’t a genius but has the same problem as them. Sadly the character comes off as inexpressive and bleak. Her story and problems didn’t manage to get my attention or interest me.

I enjoyed her growing relationship with Sylvester, but it went down the drill since Flo had to have a crush on Walter. The character had potential and maybe with time she could grow on me but alas we’ll never know

The genius whispering sister

Megan was Walter’s older sister. She was a sickly child with a happy attitude. She was one of the few people who understood or tried to understand Walter and build a relationship with him no matter how different he was. She was very ill. She had multiple sclerosis (MS), which eventually killed her.

Even though she was deadly ill, she soldiered on and always saw the glass as half full. She was always kind and lived her life to the fullest. Megan inspired everyone around her, and comforted them when needed. This included Walter and Sylvester in the same episode, at one point (1×12).

She always supported and stood by Walter. Megan was her brother’s biggest cheerleader. Being ill didn’t stop her from having her own opinion. She didn’t want to be on a respirator and she got her way.

Something worth mentioning is her relationship with Sylvester. This particular romance was sweet like a middle school one—the feeling was strong and build on a foundation of trust. Megan gave Sylvester enough strength and courage to go against Walter’s wishes and marry her. Even if they only had a short time together, they were very happy and Megan died having lived a full life.

Megan was the character that showed us that even in the darkest times there’s always hope and a chance to be happy.

Although the woman of Scorpion are on opposite sides of the spectrum, they are united by one characteristic. Strength. Every female character showed strength in her life and soldiering on, making them prime examples on how to handle obstacles.


Images courtesy of CBS

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Analysis

Game of Thrones 3×02 Rewatch: Long Things, Dumb Words

Kylie

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Tuesday means one thing on TheFandomentals: we’re back with another installment of The Wars to Come, a deep dive into Game of Thrones early seasons in an attempt to understand what happened. Last week, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D) penned a fairly competent opening to the third season. This week, Kylie, Julia, and Jana are ready for another of Vanessa Taylor’s finest, with “Dark Wings, Dark Words.”

Episode Recap

Beyond the Wall, Mance makes it clear to Jon that he won’t hesitate to kill him if he finds out he’s faking his allegiance. After all, the reason he united everyone was to get them to understand they’d all die if they didn’t move south, so he is very focused. Mance then takes Jon to meet Orell, a skinchanger who entered the mind of a bird overhead. Once he comes back to, he informs the group that he spied “dead crows.”

Speaking of those crows, the Night’s Watch brothers began their slow journey back to the Wall. The exhaustion gets to Sam, who kneels down to give up after some taunting by Rast. Edd and Grenn do what they can to rouse him again, but it’s Commander Mormont who gets them all moving by assigning Rast to Sam. If Sam doesn’t make it back, then neither will Rast.

Heading up to the Wall meanwhile are Bran, Rickon, Osha, and Hodor. Bran is still having his crow dreams, though in this one, a strange boy about his age appears, telling Bran he can’t kill the crow since it is him. Later in real life, the same boy manages to sneak up on Bran’s camp. When Osha threatens to kill him if he takes another step towards Bran, the boy’s sister holds a knife to Osha’s throat. He introduces himself as Jojen Reed, with his sister Meera. He explains to Bran that he does have prophetic dreams, though Bran is also a warg thanks to his ability to control his direwolf. He also says the raven is something else entirely, and that it “brings the sight.” Osha tells Meera it’s shameful that she has to protect her brother, though Meera just shrugs it off.

At Robb’s camp, news arrives from both Riverrun and Winterfell. The former is that Hoster Tully, Cat’s father, has died. The second letter explains about the burning of Winterfell, and no sign of Bran and Rickon. Robb tells this to Cat, who grieves and asks if she’ll have to wear manacles to her father’s funeral. Robb turns his army to march to Riverrun, though it’s clear not all the Northern Lords want to go. On the way, Talisa approaches Cat to try and talk to her. Cat makes it clear that she blames herself for everything that’s befallen her family and cites her treatment of Jon Snow as her selfishness that doomed them.

Someone whose self-blame is a bit more deserved is Theon, who finds himself tied up in a dimly lit room underground. He is tortured, while he is asked his motivations for taking Winterfell. However, it’s clear they’re not interested in his answer. A man sweeping the floor comes up to Theon after the others leave and slightly eases the tension in the device for him, saying that he was sent by Yara and plans to save Theon later that night.

Elsewhere, Arya continues her travels with Hot Pie and Gendry, the latter of whom teases Arya for her terrible choices in the three names Jaqen gave her. They are soon found on the road by a group of men who easily outnumber them, including Thoros of Myr and Anguy. They call themselves the “Brotherhood without Banners,” and quickly piece together that they escaped Harrenhal. The brotherhood buy the trio food at an inn, and Arya lies about their escape, saying that Gendry forged them weapons and they fought their way out. Thoros says they’re free to go, but just as they’re heading out, Sandor Clegane comes in, who instantly recognizes Arya and identifies her to the room.

Speaking of trying to avoid tension, Jaime and Brienne continue their travels, as Jaime tries to make conversation by figuring out Brienne’s former allegiance. He guesses that she was in love with Renly, though the mocking stops when an old man with a loaded horse passes by. Jaime says Brienne should kill him, but she refuses. Later, they have to cross a bridge together, and Jaime sits down, purposely dragging out the process. Brienne tries to rush him up, but Jaime manages to grab hold of one of her swords. They fight, and just as Brienne manages to best him, a group of men displaying the Bolton sigil appear. As it turns out, the old man did recognize them, and they are taken captive by the Bolton troops.

Finally, down in King’s Landing, Cersei tries to talk to Joffrey about his view of Margaery, no doubt concerned at her son’s fondness. She points out that Margaery had been engaged to Renly not so long before. Meanwhile, Shae tries to warn Sansa of Littlefinger, implying that he wants to have sex with her. Their conversation is cut short when Sansa is summoned by the Tyrells. Loras walks her to where Margaery and her grandmother Olenna wait. Olenna is very critical of the men in her family and makes it clear that she has a strong grasp of the political situation. The two women ask Sansa about Joffrey, since Margaery is to marry him. They promise no harm will come to her, and Sansa tells them that he’s a monster.

Margaery gets to see that fully on display, when Joffrey summons her and ask if the bedside of a traitor was her proper place. She quickly turns the conversation around, puffing up Joffrey’s ego and feigning interest in his new crossbow. She then hints at killing something with it and letting him watch her do so. Shae is also trying to sort out sexual interests in a conversation with Tyrion. She goes to him to try and figure out what to do about Littlefinger because of Ros’s warning, but quickly becomes jealous of Tyrion’s past purchasing of Ros’s services, as well as his comments about Sansa being attractive. However, they have sex, temporarily resolving that situation.

Does Tyrion want Sansa? Did Cat doom everyone? And will Margaery really have to kill something for Joffrey’s enjoyment? We’ll find out next week, but for now, let’s break down what we just saw.

Initial, quick reaction

Kylie: Well, there’s that cliff the show begins to fall off in Season 3. There were a lot of parts of this episode that worked well, and I genuinely enjoyed. But there’s just so much invented that doesn’t quite work, and it’s quite obviously done with the intent of “improving” the plots. The drop in quality is not subtle for those moments. In fact, just writing that recap the drop in quality is not subtle, but how the hell else do you frame that Shae conversation?

Jana: This is where you start getting whiplash from the draaaastic fluctuations in quality between scenes. I’d say about 75% of this episode was fine or even good, and then we have a self-flagellating Cat doing a crafting project on the road.

Julia: The one thing about this episode was how LONG it was. Seriously, it just kept going and going. There were actual highs this time, but my eyes hurt from all the rolling in other parts.

Highlights/lowlights

Kylie: Marg was my highlight last week, just for a pretty effortless performance that’s enjoyable to watch. This week that’s still the case, but my annoyance at her scripting has finally caught up. However, I will give a highlight to Jack Gleeson in his performance. I think the material is a little mixed in terms of how well it worked (and some of it is the result of trying to age up Joffrey), however he is such a talented actor that it makes up for a lot of it. He has this ability to turn the mood of a scene on a dime, and you see his entitlement, his cruelty, and his vulnerabilities all at once. It’s really brilliant.

My lowlight was the Reeds’ introduction. It wasn’t the most unpleasant thing to watch in this episode by a long shot, but just…why? What are we supposed to make of them from this? They’re mystical? Dramatic? It just came across as random, forced tension, when it would have been genuinely nice to have a pleasant interaction as an opening. A reminder why it is Northern Lords are so loyal and everything.

Jana: The Time Warp Trifecta was really working for it this week, at least for me. Though Margaery’s scene with Joffrey was supposed to be cringey, I guess. And Talisa was the least worst thing about her scene with Catelyn. That conversation between Tyrion and Shae, though… What even was that?

Julia: Omg, “The Time Warp Trifecta.” Thank you so much for being part of my life, Jana.

Jana: Nevertheless, nothing makes me scream more than Catelyn self-flagellating over… Not loving Jon enough? Even though in the same breath she mentions doing things for him most highborn women wouldn’t even do for their own children? And what’s this bullshit about wanting to ask Ned to legitimize him? And being jealous of Jon’s mother? Good god, what a mess.

(Never forget, three seasons from now, all of Book!Catelyn’s fears about Jon threatening her children’s claims will come true. Too bad Show!Catelyn had completely different concerns, apparently.)

Highlights… Hm. I mean, any scene that gives Sansa something to do that resembles her book storyline is nice, and Diana Rigg is a treasure. I feel like this Sansa maybe gave in a little too quickly, but other than that, I guess that’s my easy highlight to pick. Followed closely by Brienne and Jaime fighting on the bridge.

Julia: Lemon cakes is a very easy highlight. There were even some women doing needlework in the background! And cheese boy! Bless his heart. And it’s kind of all I can think of for an unironic highlight.

An ironic highlight might be the patriarchy magically appearing in King’s Landing, because god did it come hard. Wise women obey, guys! And what even is anal sex? Fun times.

The Cat thing was so horrible on many levels, especially the ones Jana mentioned. Legitimating Jon, Cat’s concerns being framed as primarily jealousy… but did we forgot the torture scenes? Maybe we tried to.

Quality of writing

Jana: Varied, is the word I’d use here. Some scenes were really well and tightly written and enjoyable, and then others, the quality just dropped. And there wasn’t even a Littlefinger around to blame! Though admittedly, the scene where Shae and Tyrion talked about him had probably the worst writing. Was anything Shae said even remotely coherent from one sentence to another?

Julia: Is she just really committed to the Girlfriend Experience or are we supposed to think this is a real relationship? Like, why is this sex worker upset that he once engaged the services of another sex worker?

I think it’s at least a soft original material-book scene dichotomy this week. The best written original scene was probably the one with Carol Cersei and Joff, but then you had… all the other stuff. There were scenes that were just middling, I guess, like where Mance explains his backstory.

Kylie: The Jaime and Brienne scenes were some of the best writing in the episode, and also some of the only scenes that included book content as they were supposed to be. But Jana is right; we’d go from that one moment to the horror of Shae and Tyrion’s nonversation. Possibly the first true nonversation of the show?

Our 8th grade book report (on themes)

Julia: Well the title is kind of appropriate because Robb got those two bad news ravens. Not that they quoted the proverb. Also, why is Lord Karstark delivering messages now?

I’m kind of nowhere in terms of overall theme. The best I can do is that people are bonding and consolidating relationships. I’m thinking especially of Marg and Joff, Cat and Talisa, Jamie and Brienne, and Jon and Mance. There are also new relationships that will be important later; Sansa and Marg, the Reeds and Bran, Arya and the Hound, (who never really interacted before, as far as I can recall) Ramsay and Theon (barf).

Jana: Yes, I was considering something along those lines as well. Uneasy alliances, maybe? False friends? Though that might be more hindsight than anything substantial in this episode.

Kylie: “People in groups of varying sizes doing things.” No, “uneasy alliances” is the closest at making sense, and it actually works fairly well. Don’t forget Rast and Sam, too.

The Butterfly Effect

Kylie: Biggest one I see in effect here is with Cat’s scripting. D&D made no efforts to sympathize with her or her viewpoint in Season 1, which is why we get Cat telling Ned to stay in Winterfell. The political advancement of her family? The legitimate concerns over Jon’s potential claim? Never in evidence, so now we get her mistreatment of him played as just…she was petty and jealous and couldn’t love a baby because he had a stranger’s brown eyes.

Jana: No kidding. If I didn’t know any better, you could almost say that Catelyn’s dynastic worries were completely taken out of the show to make it more palpable for the average watcher when Jon becomes king, and that’d be a great move. But that’s also assuming the writers planned more than one season at a time, and, well…

Julia: They just don’t see Cat as a political actor at all. Even when she went to talk to Renly it was only because Robb asked her to, remember. All this personal and political stuff goes right over their heads. The closest they ever got was with Theon, and we all saw how that turned out.

Kylie: It’s early Season 3 and we’re already at the point of legitimizing a bastard being painted as an unquestionably good thing. GAH.

Julia: Okay, I know I’ve been mentioning this every week, but why do they continue to dig this Shae hole? Now she’s defending other woman from sexual exploitation?

Jana: I actually kind of like the scenes with Sansa and Shae, at least right now. I mean, it is clearly a different Shae than the one in the books, and those moments at least make her somewhat likable. I also think that in theory, having someone for Sansa to bounce her inner monologue off of could have helped the show, a lot, with its portrayal of Sansa, buuuut that sure as hell isn’t happening here.

Kylie: I do think Sansa needs someone for that (and why Dontos couldn’t have fill the role is beyond me). But it’s not really in the service of Sansa at all. In fact, the scenes are mostly just Shae imparting worldly advice on the continually naive Sansa, and then whipping out some weird ‘empowered’ lines, like how she’s totally going to make Littlefinger stop. I guess because she runs around with daggers? Or goes to Tyrion with her problems?

I guess I’m torn on it, is what I mean. I like Sansa having someone she can be nice to, even if this is all going to get thrown out the window. But Shae’s scripting is a sore thumb for this worldbuilding.

Remember adaptation?

Jana: They’re doing an all in all okay job with Jaime and Brienne. Yes, she’s more of a brute, and yes, maybe he goes on about Renly being gay a little too much, but other than that… Or maybe I’m just distracted by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (NCW) getting to actually do something again. God, he used to be so good as Jaime when he was allowed to be kind of clever and not just Carol’s beleaguered brother-lover.

Julia: You mean befuddled.

Jana: Larry was very much both beleaguered and befuddled.

Kylie: Agreed. And to be honest, I adore the way NCW and Gwendoline Christie play off of each other. This is what happens when you give actors actual content and motivation. From what I can tell NCW still tries to make sense of things. Poor guy.

Jana: Don’t mind me, I’ll be over here yelling about how they’re PERFECT AND THIS COULD HAVE BEEN SO GREAT AAAAAH but instead we try to normalize twincest for a few years, no biggie.

Julia: I just realized that the changes to Shae and her foregrounding have effectively made Sansa’s plot all about Tyrion even before they get married. But can we please indulge me and talk about why we think the stuff with Shae is happening?

Jana: My best guess as to why the Shae stuff is happening is basically that Tyrion, the precious saint-like audience avatar main protagonist hero, can’t just be fucking a regular sex worker who doesn’t care about him and his amazingness, which is why Shae is given a personality, traits that make her likable (see above points about caring for Sansa), and an informed knack for intrigue. And like, if it didn’t end the way it did, having Ros and Shae meddle with the politics of the big boys might have been a worthwhile plotline. Shae might have been a really nice example for how ladies-in-waiting are used to spy and all that. However, there was still an endpoint to get to, so all the crumbs we’re thrown here are completely meaningless in the long run.

Kylie: It’s so hard for me to understand what they were trying for with Ros in this. Because there is a bit of a throughline about maids and sex workers spying and having outcomes on the politics of the Highborn for sure. But yeah, it was a plotline without space for it, so it just ended up being this…weirdness that gets thrown out the window.

The most confusing part for me is how Martin has praised Shae’s scripting, and not an inconsequential number of times.

Jana: Eh, he is good friends with the actor. And to be fair, Shae is an actual character who at least occasionally seems to genuinely care about Tyrion and has character traits other than being out for self-preservation and good at playing the role she’s being paid to play. It paints Tyrion in a better light and make him more likable in the long run. But that only work if that was GRRM’s actual goal for Tyrion, which I doubt. I’m pretty sure Tyrion being flawed the way he is is very much the point of the character… Or maybe not. It’s hard to say at this point. The Shae thing is going to collapse hard next season, so for now it just seems like too much effort put into the wrong thing.

Julia: Right!? She just has so much screen time. Is it true or apocryphal that she has more lines than Cat this season?

Jana: I don’t have the numbers, but she definitely…does more than Cat. Has more agency than Cat, which is admittedly a low bar to clear, but nothing an ascended extra should be able to do next to a POV character.

Kylie: If it helps, Catelyn’s end tally is more than Shae’s across all their seasons? I feel like it doesn’t help.

Carol Watch: who is Cersei this week?

Kylie: I’m leaning towards Carol. We had nice slut-shaming digs at Marg’s wardrobe that could have gone either way, but we’re beginning to get that sad mom who can’t control her wild kid framing of it all.

Julia: Yeah, I’m going for full Carol. She’s totally right about the sinister nature of Marg’s risque wardrobe. And the patriarchy!

Jana: No kidding. And Joffrey yelling at her about what wise women do is very much like how people are going to be mean to Carol in the future. What happened to the woman who slapped Joffrey for talking back to her last season?

Kylie: It’s official then:

Exposition Imposition: good or clunky?

Julia: Um, Jojen gave us some myth arc exposition, I guess. We learn about anal sex? And FYI, Lord Karstark, it probably snows all the time in Dorne. They have mountains.

Jana: The guy yelling at Sam was kind of telling us What Happened So Far, but it made sense in context, I guess, and the only reason I noticed it was because I was looking for it.

If you’re generous, Joffrey tries to give us exposition about Westerosi views on homosexuality that are somehow not shared by anyone else making fun of Renly and Loras this episode. Did we mention that in the themes? People make fun of Renly and/or Loras being gay a lot this episode.

Kylie: The most seamless exposition was over lemon cakes, when Olenna was complaining about her various family members and her views on their political alliance. But we can’t exactly credit Vanessa Taylor for that one, can we?

I will say one bit of subtle exposition was that Theon is captive of the Boltons. He was on the wooden cross, and then we see the men displaying that later, which Jaime calls attention to with his, “a bit gruesome for my taste.” It was enough to preserve suspense, but it rewards a close watch, which is not anything I can say about the show now.

Julia: The problem with good exposition is that you don’t always notice it.

Kylie: Why do I feel like we should make that into a shirt?

How was the pacing?

Julia: This episode was 57 minutes long, so maybe it wasn’t the pacing that made it feel like it was taking forever. Though I do remember screaming, “am I seriously only 25 minutes in!?” at one point.

Jana: They had a LOT of scenes that were just going nowhere, or had especially frustrating content like the Cat Self Roast and Shae wildly fluctuating between actual nagging girlfriend and the girlfriend experience bought and paid for. Those scenes and the torture scenes dragged somewhat, the rest was fine.

Kylie: It was endless, absolutely endless. Griffin asked me, “Is it over now?” about three times, and I was just as horrified to discover it wasn’t too. It’s interesting, because the pace wasn’t slower in the way Season 7 scenes are slower, where people just walk across the screen for thirty seconds without saying anything. Instead, each scene itself felt pretty packed, but just packed with nothing.

Let’s talk about sex, baby

Kylie: Most sexual aspect of this episode was Marg explaining Renly’s gayness to Joff, and then getting him turned on with a crossbow. I guess there was also Shae’s blowjob to Tyrion after yelling about his attraction to Ros and Sansa.

I don’t know what to do with Marg to be honest. It seems so sinister now, knowing that Littlefinger will give Sansa the advise of “make him yours” to Ramsey, and her failure to do so resulted in her brutalization (at least, the framing of it). Here, we have the successful “make him yours” campaign by Margaery, and boy does she just wield her sexuality so effectively. I understand Vanessa Taylor wrote this episode, but this entire plotline was scripted by D&D, and it’s clear they think women really can successful control “monsters” if they weaponize their womanly bodies properly.

Jana: I’m also just gonna call it— Natalie Dormer already looks way too old for these interactions to not feel an entirely different kind of creepy than they’re meant to be. I know the show is very vague on their ages and all, but there’s at least a 10 year age difference there and Joffrey is in his teens. Not a good look. Nothing compared to what comes later, but already not a good look.

Julia: Does Shae explaining to Sansa “the only thing that men ever want” count as sexual content? Why am I so effing obsessed with Shae?

Kylie: Someone’s gotta teach Sansa about the awfulness of the world, since she’s sure as hell not learning about it inherently or having a survival narrative. Isn’t this the year where we find out she doesn’t know the word, “shit”?

Jana: Well, remember how Sansa is such a slow learner? How could she have figured any of this out if not for the help of others? But yes, the sheep shift scene is in episode 10, newlyweds being nice to each other for some reason, juuust before the news of the Red Wedding arrives. I have no idea why any of that happened, but hey. Eight episodes to go until then.

In memoriam…Hoster Tully

Julia: Did anyone die?

Jana: Catelyn’s self-respect and self-worth. That died. And from what I recall, also her relevance for the rest of the season.

Oh and I guess we find out about Hoster Tully dying off-screen.

Kylie: Just Hoster Tully. I actually liked Cat’s lines about her manacles in relation to that, though may have been more effective if the guy had ever been mentioned prior to this episode. I miss the Whispering Wood monologue.

Julia: I just miss Cat.

Jana: I miss Cat’s plot.

Kylie: I miss Your Sister.

Maybe she’ll be back next week? We’ll have to wait to find out, but that’s a wrap for today. What did you guys think of the episode? Did the Cat/Shae/Margaery stuff overshadow everything else for you, or were they not as bad as we were making them out?

We certainly look forward to continuing on in Season 3, to see what’s in store for us in The Wars to Come.


Images courtesy of HBO

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Analysis

My First Queer: 90s Fantasy Novels

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This article is part of the My First Queer series, a site-wide series of articles written by some of our non-straight Fandomentals contributors. Each will contain their thoughts on their first experiences with queer media and what it meant to them. Enjoy!

Oh look, Gretchen is going to be writing about books, big surprise! Like Kristen before me in this series, I didn’t watch a lot of TV growing up. Books were my escape, especially fantasy books. As conservative evangelical Christians, my parents were all about making sure our little child brains were as free from the ‘corrupting influences of the world’ as possible, hence why I watched so little TV and why it took me so long to figure out I was queer. Fortunately for me, my parents trusted my instincts with books. Granted, I was a compliant child who didn’t go out of my way to find anything subversive. If the cover art wasn’t scandalous and the dust jacket seemed free of ‘questionable content’, I could read it.

With literally hundreds of books passing through my hands over the first decade and a half of my life, if I still remember a scene from a book I read only once and decades ago, it meant something to me. Sometime last year, I reflected on these handful of books seared into my soul. Once you look at them, it’s pretty telling why these are the stories I remember.

The Eagle and The Nightingales by Mercedes Lackey (1995)

Sometime in late middle school/early high school, I picked up one of Mercedes Lackey’s books at the local library and proceeded to devour every available book of hers I could get my hands on. I can’t remember which book of hers I read first, but they left an indelible impression on me.

Part of Lackey’s Bardic Voices series, The Eagle and The Nightingales tells the story of Nightingale a Free Bard (someone who wields magic through music) tasked with finding out why the human king and churches are growing overtly hostile to non-human sentient beings and other classes of people they cannot directly control. She joins forces with T’yfrr a member of the Haspur, a race of humanoid eagles who has an angelic voice. Over the course of the book, the two become not only quest partners, but lovers.

So what? I can imagine you thinking. What does a bard and a bird-man have to do with ‘my first queer’? Fair point, dear reader. On the surface, T’yfrr and Nightingale are differently gendered and so seem to fit a heterosexual mold. However, as a young teen, an interspecies relationship felt as ‘forbidden’ and ‘taboo’ as anything overtly gay. There was something…queer about it even if it featured a female human and a male humanoid eagle. Especially in the story’s context of non-humans being persecuted by the church (*cough cough*) and interspecies relationships being considered taboo by the church but accepted in T’yfrr’s culture. Conversations Nightingale has with T’yfrr mirror conversations Vanyel, one of Lackey’s openly gay characters, has about being attracted to men.

Ultimately, it’s a story about discrimination against marginalized people groups and finding love in unexpected places that your society might find taboo but that’s just their (wrong, bigoted) opinion. That struck a chord with me that I couldn’t label. I just really, really liked it okay? And it made a lot of sense to me and made me feel seen for some reason. (Like I said, really telling looking back.) It was also a really well-written story, the best of the Free Bard series (of which this is the third book), in my opinion. We won’t talk about Four and Twenty Blackbirds. I like to pretend that book never happened.

Admittedly, certain aspects of The Eagle and the Nightingales didn’t age well. While the complicated politics and theme of acceptance are still relevant today, the entire Free Bard series features ‘gypsies’ prominently. Lackey’s characterization of the culture she calls ‘gypsy’ is positive, if a bit stereotypical. The real problem is her use of the word ‘gypsy’ at all. I know, I know. This is a fantasy book from the 90s. In that context, her free use of that word to describe a nomadic, Romani-like people is understandable. At the same time, understandable doesn’t mean problem-free and I would be remiss, even in my reminiscences, to overlook that rather glaring issue.

The Last Herald-Mage Series by Mercedes Lackey (1989-1990)

This brings me to the aforementioned Vanyel. The three books in this series—Magic’s Pawn, Magic’s Promise, and Magic’s Price—tell the story of Vanyel Ashkevron, the greatest Herald-Mage in the history of Valdemar. He presents at first as a bored, coddled, vain pretty-boy disinterested in running his family estate. That veneer hides the reality that he’s an emotionally neglected, highly introverted and intuitive, sensitive child who suffers from his father being overbearing and believing he’s ‘not a proper man’. His homophobic father, who fears he is shay’a’chern, the in-universe term for gay, sends him to train as a swordsman to ‘make a man’ out of him.’

Vanyel meets a Herald-Mage trainee, Tylendel, who is openly gay and sparks Vanyel’s understanding of himself. The two become lovers and lifebonded (aka soulmates), but in a magical tragedy, Tylendel dies (don’t worry, I’ll come back to this). The event also awakens Vanyel’s mage gift. In the aftermath, he learns he possesses all of the Heraldic gifts and becomes the most powerful Herald-Mage to ever exist. Eventually he meets another shay’a’chern couple from the mysterious human clan of the Tayledras, the Hawkbrothers known as Moondance and Starwind. Being gay in their society is not taboo, so they teach him to accept his orientation as normal and beautiful. He also meets a bard named Stefan, the reincarnation of his soulmate Tylendel.

Vanyel dies at the end of the series fighting against Valdemar’s enemies. However, that’s not the end for him. He’s given a choice to continue protecting Valdemar, so he, Stefan/Tylendel, and Vanyel’s psycially linked horse Companion Yfandes (it makes sense in context, I promise; she’s like a platonic soulmate who helps him with magic) become spirit protectors on Valdemar’s border.

Admittedly, Lackey killing of Tylendel to awaken Vanyel’s mage gifts doesn’t sit well after recent conversations about the representation of queer characters. Maybe I’m nostalgic and too kind because of what these books meant to me, but the events never struck me as Bury Your Gays (BYG), even as a kid. Lackey goes out of her way to normalize Vanyel’s sexuality, villainize his homophobic father, an even reincarnates Tylendel in the form of Stefan.

Vanyel’s heroic sacrifice at the end doesn’t feel like BYG either. His death isn’t intended to punish him for being gay, which is the root of the BYG trope. In fact, he gets a happy ending, even in death. He, his soulmate Tylendel/Stefan, and his platonic soulmate Companion Yfandes live forever doing what he wanted most in the world: protecting Valdemar.

Oh, and he has four biological children to carry on his legacy, though I honestly can’t remember how the sperm donor thing worked. Twins Brightstar and Firefeather are raised by the Tayledras shay’a’chern couple Vanyel meets. He also fathers Avren, the daughter of lesbian swordfighters in his older sister Lissa’s command. Most important is Jisa, daughter of Shavri, the king’s co-consort. Basically, the king is infertile but no one knows that, so Vanyel agrees to be the donor in secret. As Jisa ends up marrying the heir, the entire rest of the royal line in the Valdemar series descends from Vanyel.

Plus, Vanyel’s story is so central to the worldbuilding and history of Valdemar that without him, the rest of Valdemar wouldn’t make sense. So even in hindsight, I have a hard time labeling this as BYG. He’s just too important a character and everything else about the story resists being boiled down to, “he and Tylendel died because they were gay.”

Anyway, back to why these books were important to me. I related to Vanyel on a deeply personal level. He was introverted, misunderstood, and suffered from both neglect and direct emotional and verbal abuse. He’s deeply emotional and struggles with depression. He’s mocked by friends and family for being ‘moody’ and not fitting into society’s expectations for his gender. Because of the abuse he suffered, he both feared and desperately wanted intimacy yet denied himself the opportunities to open up for fear of getting hurt. Hey! That was me. Reading about Vanyel felt like Lackey had peered into my soul and put what she found on page. And that was aside from him being gay.

Even though reading these books didn’t immediately make me understand my sexuality, following Vanyel’s journey of discovering his sexual orienation deeply impacted me. I got to read it in real time, watch him figure it out, struggle with the implications, and learn to accept and embrace it by being told it was normal. He gave me the first glimpse of something I didn’t realize was true of myself. I just really, really liked and identified with him okay? I was a shay’a’chern…ally.

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy (1994)

Before Lackey, there was Lovejoy and Cohen’s Seven Daughters and Seven Sons. I read this in 5th grade, having picked it off of my teacher’s classroom library shelf because it was based on an Iraqi folktale. I loved (and still do love) all kinds of folktales, myths, and fairy tales, especially non-Western stories. Buran’s story became my favorite, though over time I forgot the title and it took me years to track it down again.

Buran is the fourth of seven daughters living in Baghdad. Everyone in the city shuns her father for not having sons; her uncle—father to seven sons—especially like to throw Buran’s family’s poverty and seeming lack of favor from Allah in their face. Not content to see her family suffer, Buran disguises herself as a man, travels to Tyre, and sets up shop as a successful merchant while maintaining her masculine disguise.

Mahmud, the prince of Tyre visits her shop often, and Buran finds herself falling in love with him and he with her, though she’s still disguised as a man. Soon after he realizes his in love with Buran-in-disguise, Mahmud has a moment where he begins to wonder if she is a woman. So, he sets about testing her to prove her gender. Fearing discovery and the loss of friendship and her business she uses to support her family, Buran uses her wits to pass Mahmud’s first two tests. The third, to meet him at the baths, she flees from as it would reveal her identity. Donning women’s clothing, she heads home, encountering two of her male cousins, whose position in life has much diminished since she left. Her family, on the other hand, is rich and her sisters have married well due to her business acumen.

Her family pressures her to marry, but her heart belongs to Mahmud, though she cannot admit it. Rejecting social expectations of her, Buran determines to never marry and leave her fortune to her sisters’ children. However, Prince Mahmud eventually finds her and the two get married and live happily ever after.

Stories about women who disguise themselves as men and have a prince fall in love with them exist in a strange limbo between queer and heteronormative, depending on how the author frames the prince. Lovejoy and Cohen straddle that line in an interesting way. On the one hand, the story lets the prince believe himself in love with Nasir—Buran’s masculine name—for almost two pages. There’s even a highly sexually charged scene between the two of them told from Prince Mahmud’s perspective. But then Mahmud has a rather convenient insight that Nasir is actually a woman in disguise. It simultaneously feels less homophobic than it could have been and as heteronormative as people who don’t want to acknowledge that Li Shang in Mulan was totally in love with Ping and flagrantly bisexual.

Still, as a child, it was eye-opening to read a story about a man who falls in love with another man, only to realize she’s a woman. And Buran was definitely a character I both admired and identified with. I, too, wanted to be more than what my conservative environment said a woman should be. I admired her courage, her intelligence, and her unwillingness to submit to societal expectations for what it meant to be a woman. There’s a bit of Not Like Other Girls, but no more than Vanyel felt like Not Like Other Boys. They’re both characters who didn’t quite fit in and found a way to embrace and celebrate who they were. Once again, to not-yet-aware-of-her-queerness-Gretchen something about Buran and Mahmud struck home.

And then there was the scene where Buran strips naked and looks at herself as a woman after living as a man for years.

“When I got back to my room, my own safe little room in Jihha’s house, I bade the servant leave the candle, and then I dismissed him. I took off all of my clothes, every single piece, and then I stared down at my naked self. I saw the gentle swell of my two breasts, small, but firm and high, with smooth golden flesh giving way to rosy nipples. I saw the slight curve of my belly, which would never, ever be absolutely flat, no matter how thin and hard the rest of me might be. Beneath my narrow waist, my two hips curved like two crescent moons and between my legs, black hair curled in tiny ringlets.” (p. 151-152)

Poor little 10-year-old baby bisexual Gretchen did not know what to do with the confusing feelings reading that passage awakened in her. I’ll be honest, this was the scene that stuck in my mind for years. Until recently, I had no idea why. Looking back now, I can 100% label it as the first viscerally, “Oh shit, I’m queer,” moment of my life. It only took me 20 more years to unpack it, but this book is the piece de resistance of young queer Gretchen.

So these were my first queer inklings. Strange, I know. Two of the stories weren’t even explicitly queer and the other featured a gay protagonist, not a woman-loving-woman (wlw). But they meant something to me. They planted seeds in my repressed, survival-mentality brain that would only come to fruition many years later. For a survivor of CSA and abuse who literally had no framework for understanding being a wlw, these books were the only shreds I had of a part of myself I didn’t have words for. Yes, they were problematic in some ways. Yes, they were imperfect matches to my own experience. But they were literally all I had.

As I said at the outset, these are stories I vividly remembered years later. Even if I couldn’t remember the name of the book, I remembered scenes or interactions that felt…significant to me in some unnamed as yet way. However flawed they are, they hold a special place in my soul.

They’re also the reason why I write mainstream SFF novels. I know there are other kids out there who don’t know they’re queer just like I didn’t. Kids who wouldn’t think to pick up a book explicitly labeled as ‘queer’ either because they don’t think that’s who they are or because their situation at home wouldn’t allow them to. (My parents would have banned any book labeled that way on sight.) Kids waiting to pick up a book about mages or queens or space colonists and see a protagonist who loves in a way they didn’t know was possible.

So in the end, they gave me even more of myself than I ever could have imagined. This is why stories matter.


Images Courtesy of Atheneum Books and DAW Books

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