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Game of Thrones 3×04 Rewatch: If Only Our Watch Had Ended

Kylie

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Alas, our watch is continuing in The Wars to Come, the Game of Thrones rewatch project seeking to review the earlier seasons of the show back when we had earnest engagement. Yet we’re finding that difficult this time around. Last week, we marveled at how quickly some of Benioff and Weiss (D&D)’s classic storytelling crutches seeped into Season 3, while this week, we’re back with the boys for “And Now His Watch is Ended.” Kylie, Julia, Musa, and Bo are here to break it all down.

Episode Recap

Things are taking a turn north of the Wall. Though the remaining Night’s Watch who went on the ranging mission made it safely to Craster’s, they’ve since stalled there, waiting for their wounded to build up strength. Grenn and Edd try to make the best of it, but Rast points out that Craster is clearly hiding food from all of them. This is not made better when one of the wounded brothers dies. Gilly, meanwhile, is distraught about the birth of her son, and tells Sam that unless he can help protect him, he should leave her alone. Later that night, several of the brothers openly insult Craster under his roof. It seems like Jeor Mormont had calmed the situation, but Karl Tanner ends up provoking Craster into attacking him. He manages to kill the wildling, while Rast and others mutiny against Mormont and kill him. Sam manages to grab Gilly and run, saying they have to leave to survive.

Bran is still headed to the Wall, meanwhile, and has yet another raven dream. Yet when he climbs the tree to pursue it, he finds a frightening version of his mother there, shaking him and warning him not to climb. When he wakes, Jojen is watching, implying that he had this dream too.

Arya, meanwhile, is still a ‘prisoner’ of the Brotherhood without Banners. They put a hood over her head during the travels, because it’s safer for her to not know where they are, apparently. However, they soon arrive at a cave, where Beric Dondarrion is revealed as their quasi-leader. They try to lay charges before The Hound, though Sandor points out it’s his brother who’s been doing Tywin’s dirty work for him. However, Arya volunteers the information that Sandor rode down Mycah, so the brotherhood sentences him to trial by combat—where he’ll be facing Beric himself.

Speaking of prisoners, Jaime is in rough shape after losing his hand. He falls off his horse, and when he asks for water, Locke brings him horse pee. Jaime attempts to fight everyone when he manages to get his hands on a sword, but the group easily beats him down. Later, Jaime seems to be not eating, until Brienne shames him for giving up and whining, causing him to quickly devour the food in front of him. She then asks why he lied about Tarth to Locke for her, since it earned its nickname due to the color of the water, not the presence of actual sapphires. Jaime has no answer for her.

Elsewhere, Theon is in the middle of his “escape.” The man who helped him get away tells him that he was on the Iron Islands when Theon was taken away as a boy. Theon follows him to where he believes Yara, on the way finally breaking down about everything he did at Winterfell. He admits that he never killed Bran and Rickon, and then tells the man that his real father died in King’s Landing. The man seems sympathetic, but it’s soon revealed that he led Theon right back to the same room he was tortured in, and tells the guards there that Theon escaped.

Down in King’s Landing, Tyrion visits Varys asking for proof that Cersei tried to kill him with Ser Mandon Moore. Varys, however, tells him he has no proof, but offers a story about how he always manages to get his own revenge. He talks about how a sorcerer is the one who “cut” him, and chanted something into the fire, making him loathe all magic. As he talks, he soon reveals that he has located and procured this sorcerer, and directs Tyrion to look into a box where he sits, bound and gagged.

Varys later pays Ros a visit, inquiring about what Littlefinger is doing. Since Littlefinger is planning on leaving the city to go to Lysa Arryn, Varys asks if this means that he lost interest in Sansa. However, Ros tells him that on this boat Petyr plans to take, he arranged for two feather beds. In an attempt to foil Littlefinger’s plans with Sansa, Varys goes to Olenna to suggest a marriage be arranged between her and Loras.

Olenna already had a busy day however; she had been in the Sept of Baelor with Cersei, Joffrey, and Margaery. The King spent his time happily telling Margaery gruesome stories of the Targaryens buried there, while Cersei and Olenna commiserate about the lot of women in Westeros. Margaery then encouraged Joffrey to wave to the smallfolk gathered outside along with her, much to Cersei’s chagrin. Following that, Cersei tries to tell her father that she believes the Tyrells are a problem, but he tells her that he’s at least happy that someone managed to figure out how to control Joffrey.

That someone (Marg) later seeks out Sansa to tell her about the possibility of her marrying Loras. She points out that once she marries Joffrey, she’ll be the queen, so she can decide who Sansa marries instead of Cersei. Sansa gets very excited about the idea of wedding Loras and living in Highgarden.

Finally, in Astapor, Dany makes good on her promise to trade Drogon for all Unsullied and Unsullied-in-training. Yet as soon as this deal is finalized, it becomes obvious that Master Kraznys cannot control Drogon, or make him come with him. Dany tells the slaver that a dragon isn’t a slave, and then commands Drogon to breathe fire, while also ordering the Unsullied to kill every master and strike the chains off every slave. Once this is done, she tells the Unsullied that they’re now all free, though if they want to fight for her, they’re welcome. They all agree.

What will Dany do with this new army, will Sandor win his trial, and does Littlefinger know anyone else who sleeps on a feather bed? This will be answered next week, but for this week, let’s dive into the implications.

Initial, quick reaction

Kylie: Well, the best I can say is that *stuff* actually happened this episode. I mean, not honey bunches of stuff, but compared to last week, there was actual progression. Otherwise, I’m just seeing that this show is getting very comfortably into its own bs. The Tyrells are just super anachronistic in all aspects, Poor Carol is beginning to fully emerge, “you sound like a bloody woman”, sorcerer in a box, the continuation of Pod’s magical cock… It really just feels like the train is breaking off the tracks here.

Musa: I’d say this episode was on the high end of decent quality for me, aside from the final scene which I love and am probably going to gush about a lot in this write-up. The rest of it is fine, it works for what was by the time season 3 rolled around, a standard Game of Thrones episode.

Bo: It’s funny, last week Kylie mentioned how that episode felt like the GoT we know, and this week is where it really hit me. You could have transplanted at least half these scenes into any post-season 4 episode and I wouldn’t have noticed. I suppose what ultimately happens at this point (the first time around, anyway) is that you forget the nonsense because you only remember the highlights. The good is really good. The bad stands out so much more now.

Julia: It’s true, it’s definitely easier to see the bad than the good in the show for me. I agree with Musa that it was decent. There was cause and effect, most people were behaving mostly human. On the other hand, there were multiple scenes where I was like, “why does this scene exist!?”

Musa: If we were to chart the quality of GoT seasons on a graph, this would be around where it would start to slope downwards, never to come back up forevermore.

Highlights/lowlights

Kylie: Astapor was my highlight, and I say this as someone who has only ever been a tepid fan of Dany to begin with. It was a well-constructed sequence, the language reveal felt earned, and there were actual stakes. Sure it was rushed, but I’ll take it.

My lowlight was the sorcerer in a box. It’s not that it’s super egregious or unpleasant to watch in any way, but it was just so badly done. Tyrion comes in asking for one thing, and Varys literally goes, “well I was going to tell you about when I was cut.” Then we get some slightly warped version of what he says, so that he can super explicitly be like, “this is why I hate magic,” and we cut to…the sorcerer in the box. What the hell?? Was this his version of “chaos is a ladder”, and D&D were trying to give both him and Littlefinger a platform to explain motives and methods?

Julia: This is a weird highlight, because it’s Alex Graves, but I think I really like the direction this episode. There was a lot of visual variety and dynamism in the shots and they were often meaningful. Blocking was happening. Maybe it’s just in comparison to season 7 where people are standing around in silence and shot-reverse shot.

I’m leaning towards the Sorcerer in a Box as a lowlight too. Only because the scene was so badly shoehorned into the episode. I guess Tyrion is really bored being an accountant, so he’s still on this “who tried to murder me” thing. Or they were obligated to put Peter Dinklage in this one.

Also a contender, that Jaime Brienne scene by the fire. It was as well acted as always, but even apart from the “you sound like a woman” line, (which was the ONE thing that got him to eat, btw) there was also Brienne being all “revenge!” Varys and Tyrion were blabbing about revenge too, weren’t they? Can we please shut up about revenge, already?

Musa: My highlight is definitely the Astapor section at the end of the episode. It’s one of my favourite scenes of the entire series and the only reason I wanted to talk about this episode at all. I have a lot to gush about this scene and even more to say about it with regards to how it works as an adaptation of Dany’s ASOS plotline. Needless to say that it’s a well shot and executed scene which clearly establishes Dany as a force to be reckoned with in her own right, something that was sorely missing all throughout season 2 of the show. Also can I just take a moment to point out that I’m more invested in Emilia Clarke’s performance when she’s speaking in a made-up nonexistent language. She’s like emoting and stuff and her voice actually sounds commanding and authoritative and intimidating. Also I will take her saying “Dracarys” in that Valyrian accent over her bored mumbling of “Dracarys” in Emilia Clarke’s regular non-Danaerys voice that’ll come in later seasons. My secondary highlight would be Jack Gleeson’s performance this episode. I know we’re all supposed to collectively hate the Marg Boleyn sexual manipulator stuff, but damn does Jack Gleeson play the guy being manipulated so well in this episode.

My lowlight is pretty much all the scenes Varys is in. This includes his conversation with Ros that spends an inordinate amount of time talking about Pod and his magic penis (although I don’t know if it bodes mentioning that it wasn’t his penis that was supposedly magical originally. He just was apparently really good at foreplay. D&D basically bastardized their own joke by watering it down to having a magic penis in later seasons), the scene with Tyrion and Varys where just happens to be having his long sought out revenge that exact day at that exact minute and his scene with Olenna where they spend an inordinate amount of time talking down Sansa. We are very clearly getting the writer’s opinions on Sansa in that last one through the mouths of characters they actually like. I mean, obviously Sansa is dull and boring when you’ve literally gone through great lengths to take away everything interesting about her, Dave and Dan. God!

Bo: I need to pick something besides Astapor. Taking the books out of it, Margaery’s manipulation of Joffrey and Sansa stands out to me. It’s hard to separate her “skill” from the ruination of Sansa’s character, but I can watch this and believe Margaery’s ability to manipulate Joffrey. And all of King’s Landing, really. I see how she became such a beloved figure to the common folk.

On the flip side of the Tyrell coin, I hate Olenna. I’m picking her for a lowlight to avoid repeating about Varys and Pod, and also because I cannot stand what GoT does with her. They miss the point entirely with her book character. She’s not the upfront ruler of the Tyrell family. She’s like Cat; she’s the strong, politically adept voice behind the scenes. Except she’s underestimated even further because she’s just the kooky old grandma of the family. Making her the face of the Tyrells breaks the world this is supposed to represent.

I haven’t even gotten into how they use Olenna as the quip machine. Every other line from her is basically the D&D version of Bojack Horseman asking “do you get it, do you get my joke.”

Quality of writing

Bo: The first line of dialogue in the episode was about fingers in asses. This was a D&D episode, through and through. The random Varys story, Edd and Grenn talking about shoveling shit, “bloody woman” and revenge as Brienne’s motivation for Jaime…

Yeah. Hard pass on the writing this week. The best writing occurred in the made up language ripped assumedly from the books.

Julia: You weren’t compelled by Olenna’s monologue about how much roses suck?

You can totally tell that they structured the whole episode around getting to the monologues they wanted to get to.

Musa: Does Olenna’s ranting about roses being a terrible sigil count as foreshadowing as to the Tyrell’s easy defeat in season 7? Clearly D&D never thought much of the Tyrells specifically because their sigil and house words aren’t sufficiently manly enough.

Bo: Yeah, not like a culture obsessed with knights would put any emphasis on fighting. Who even are Loras and Garlan Tyrell?

Musa: I mean, Garlan doesn’t exist on the show, so he’s literally nobody. I sometimes wonder if D&D even realized such a character existed. (I very much doubt they read the books in any significant level of detail).

Julia: I’m not going to lie, though, watching Megga Tyrell just sit there holding an embroidery hoop while her kooky grandma rants about nothing was a little enjoyable.

Kylie: I just want to know if she throws this kind of shit fit every time they show her a project. Maybe this is the start of Olenna’s amazing arc though, since she certainly appreciates Marg’s rose doodle in Season 6.

Our 8th grade book report (on themes)

Julia: Revenge!

I’m sure I could actually make a case for it, to be honest, but I think “influence” might be more like it? It certainly feature in Varys and Carol’s plot, and Marg and Olenna too, I guess, but I have no clue how to connect it with anyone else.

Bo: I want to say something involving the inherent violence of the setting, because so much of this episode involves it. Many characters reach volatile points in the story, and they all react with violence. Jaime, Brienne, Dany, the Night’s Watch, Varys and Tyrion—they all want to hurt people because of the things going wrong in their lives.

GoT has reached the point where original scenes dominate every episode, and it’s hard to discern what exactly the show wants to say. It feels like filler conversations in between big moments.

Julia: Oh, 100%. I agree completely. The Varys/Tyrion scene is very indicative of that. They want something to happen, so they just make it happen. It’s only in its beginning stages here, though. I thought other things, like the Tyrell marriage plot, were actually well-developed. Pig-nose stories aside.

Kylie: So…violent influence? Dany certainly is there this episode too, and even to a degree the Brotherhood Without Banners trotting out bs reasons for giving Sandor a trial-by-combat. I think it works.

Julia: We’re too good at this. Deep down, we know this mess has no theme.

The Butterfly Effect

Kylie: That thing with Pod was funny! Let’s chase it into the ground! This is possibly the first, but also one of the clearest examples of the way D&D will begin to incorporate ~humor~.

Bo: Their fascination with sticking fingers up bums began here.

One big thing that stuck out to me; the stealing of agency from female characters. Olenna only thinks to marry Sansa to Loras because Varys suggested it, and Gilly doesn’t want to escape until Sam makes her. Both situations were explicitly opposite in the books, too. They love this “have your cake and eat it, too” dynamic in later seasons. They want the badass female leaders to show Women on Top but they’re always led around by the men.

Julia: Gilly was the worst of both worlds in this respect. She was uncharacteristically assertive with Sam by being all “save my son or shut up!” but also totally useless in doing anything herself to save him. To make it even more hilarious, once they do run away, she takes command, since she’s the one who actually knows where they’re going. It belongs in this category, because they never really do figure out what they wanted her character to be, did they?

Musa: Gilly was never really much of a character to begin with. She was just this woman/mother shaped void that revolved around Sam’s character for him to lust over and act as his central motivation. I’d say this episode was a also a good example of how they like to do the shocky-shocks with the whole Astapor scene. As much as I love that sequence, it is indicative of the kind of audience reaction D&D enjoy garnering and as little as it was properly foreshadowed with regards to Daenerys speaking Valyrian and all that, it was still somewhat set up. The big example of this is obviously going to be the Red Wedding near the end of this season, but this can count as a small microcosm of that larger to come problem.

Bo: Yeah, Gilly never stops being a prime example of the illusion of power for women on this show. She’s always vocal and opinionated, yet she ultimately makes few, if any, actual decisions. She’s just there to influence the men who actually decide her fate.

Kylie: I kind of did like her shoving the thimble back, though.

I think another thing we’re seeing on display this episode is the chasing of the “sass” with Olenna in particular. It leads to wonderful moments like, “a sword swallower through and through,” until she’s somehow the ruler of the entire Reach because she’s just so darn plucky. Growing strong, indeed.

Musa: It’s D&D thinking they’re writing The Reach as a region that’s ruled entirely by strong women, when in reality all they’ve done is broken the underlying structures of the patriarchy specifically in The Reach which is supposed to be Capital-P Patriarchal!

Bo: This habit of making characters and settings in the show entirely opposite of their portrayal in the books is no longer a butterfly. It’s a bigger dragon than Dany’s are right now.

Kylie: Though speaking of that, they still look fantastic.

Julia: The dragons or the scantily clad Reach ladies?

Kylie: Yes.

Remember adaptation?

Julia: I’m trying to remember when in the books Varys told us this story.

Musa: A Clash of Kings. Tyrion X. It’s prior to the Battle of the Blackwater because he wants to emphasize why exactly he hates magic and therefore Stannis vis a vis Melisandre. Here, it just came across as him retroactively telling Tyrion about it because… Actually I don’t know why he decided to retroactively tell him about his hatred for magic now, apart from the fact that D&D just needed some castration foreshadowing for what’s going to happen to Theon next episode. That’s why this was moved to this season and why emphasis will be placed on the hooked knife Ramsay approaches Theon with.

Bo: I had actually completely forgotten about this, and now I’m even angrier about season 7. Apparently Meli-sans-bra’s real magical power is making the people who hate her guts randomly forget about it. Davos randomly forgot, and so did Varys.

Julia: Varys was still mildly hostile to her in season 7, to be fair.

Bo: I will say something good here. Dracarys was basically exactly how I imagined it. I still think it might be Emilia Clarke’s best moment of the entire show and the one time she pulled off Queen Dany convincingly. Hooray for Emilia Clarke!

Julia: This is beginning to sound repetitive, but I agree with Bo! It’s like the character was trying to do the deadpan frozen face thing and it was hard because he was nervous and terrified, rather than the actor just not emoting at all. It work! It worked really well.

Musa: Okay I’ve already stated how much I loved that scene above. In terms of an adaptation of the Dracarys moment from the book, it largely hits the mark in all the right ways. The major difference is in how confident and in control Dany is in the show version of that moment, whereas in the books, because we’re inside the character’s head for the entire thing, we know she’s inwardly terrified and panicking even as she has Drogon burn a slaver to death. That’s a minor change that doesn’t really affect the overall tone or intent of the scene.

The major thing that changes that I take some measure of an issue with however is in how Dany actively uses The Unsullied to start with. She orders them to slay the masters as a master. She uses the whip to command them. In the book version of this scene, she throws the whip aside, and implores on The Unsullied to take up her cause of their own volition, which they do. They take up the chant of Dracarys and begin wiping the floor with the masters themselves because they WANT to be free. I don’t know why, but I kind of think there’s a little something lost when Dany is portrayed as just using the slaves to turn on the masters before setting them free after the fact rather than setting them free and letting them choose to revolt because fuck slavery and slavers everywhere.

Julia: I agree with Musa. That’s one of those minor things that’s actually a huge thing. And for some reason, I doubt it’s because D&D wanted to make sure they maintained the ambiguity about the Unsullied free will and their ability to make choices like that, given all their trauma.

Kylie: It’s just Part 1 of the crowd-surfing-scene to come.

Remember that one POV character with a magical destiny who travels further north than anyone? Worth pointing out that we’re already seeing D&D just being utterly bored with Bran, and it shows in the writing. They really thought the best way to convey this journey was to have random raven dreams once every three episodes?

Musa: Literally every scene with Bran and Jojen is just going to be Jojen going, “You have to find the Raven. Because the Raven is YOU” (OMG they actually seeded Bran becoming the Three-Eyed-Raven. This is obviously the BEST SHOW EVER NOW!)

Bo: I guess I agree with D&D on one thing, then, because Bran utterly bores me. Maybe the one good adaptational decision made for season 5 was giving Bran the year off. But then they made him even MORE boring.

Musa: I like Bran…. 🙁

Kylie: I’ve always been iffy on him, but it’s worth noting his scenes were some of the highlights of last season.

Julia: They took out anything about Bran post aCoK that would have made him remotely interesting. You know, like his personality.

Carol Watch: who is Cersei this week?

Kylie: Poor Carol is overlooked by the men in her life, and she and Olenna bond over the unfair patriarchy. Her issue with the Tyrells can definitely be viewed as petty, but it’s all framed as concern for Joffrey, which is, you know, legitimate, since we see NatDo giving those ~scheming~ looks. It’s not that I can’t imagine Cersei saying some of this or behaving in similar ways, but the sad Carol looks really begin to paint a certain picture here.

Bo: She was so Carol that I wondered if this was a season 5 episode. Margaery was straight up glaring triumphantly as she stole Carol’s son away.

Julia: The one thing Cersei would never say is “the gods decreed the patriarchy!” I guess we weren’t supposed to see her as sincere, but she would still never say it.

This was also the first mention of the idea that Cersei will somehow stop being regent when Joff gets married. That still doesn’t make anymore sense than it did in 2015.

Musa: I guess Dowager Queen isn’t something that exists in Weisseroff? I don’t know, there’s something weird happening with Cersei in this episode. It almost seems like she’s existing in some kind of void between being Cersei and Carol where she can almost pass for either in any given scene. She seems to switch twice in the scene with Tywin alone! She starts off as Cersei light with regards to her questions about Jaime and talks about the Tyrells as if they’re the enemy, then switches to Carol when she talks about how concerned she is with Joffrey falling under Margery’s control and then switches back to Cersei at the end when she and Tywin have her stare down.

Bo: D&D don’t have the slightest understanding of actual medieval power structures. This is the show we’re supposed to hold up as realistic? And we’re supposed to trust them to know history well enough for an alt-history American Civil War show to not be total trash? (Mercifully, no.)

Though to be fair, Martin’s not exactly an authority on medieval society either.

Musa: Martin has at least read some popular histories of medieval era society even if the actual veracity of the sources he used is questionable. It’s highly doubtful D&D even have that going for them.

Kylie: Welp, she’s well on her way to being Queen Mother, nothing more—that much is clear.

Exposition Imposition: good or clunky?

Bo: The Varys scene was as clunky as clunky exposition gets, as Kylie covered earlier. I get the connection they circled around to, but it was still awkward and ill-placed.

Julia: Does Marg’s pig face story count as exposition?

Bo: Even women in exposition have to be catty!

Musa: The stuff with Varys and Olenna felt like the writers just needed a whole bunch of information set up last minute before it started paying off. The fact that the Sansa/Margaery scene takes place right afterwards makes it seem so poorly handled.

Julia: In that same vein, we find out this episode that Ros is literate. (Just like Bronn and Shae!) Was there a sex worker teacher all the others how to read, just like at Chataya’s? But yeah, let’s throw in some last minute building up of this character before you know what.

Kylie: The most organic exposition was Brienne explaining Tarth’s nickname. Which was from the books, shock of all shocks. I guess Joff running around the sept talking about Targs being morons wasn’t that bad, though. It’s just the stuff that was clunky was extra clunky.

Julia: I forgot about the Targ exposition. And it was all accurate! No Maegor III here!

Musa: There’s enough background Targs that can be used as a means for Joffrey to gleefully brag to Marg about all the crazy stuff they did that led to their own deaths. So there was no need for D&D to make up superfluous lore that doesn’t actually add anything and sometimes detracts from the actually substantive history of Westeros.

Julia: Yeah, who would do such a crazy thing?

How was the pacing?

Julia: Every episode just feels longer and longer.

Bo: I assume from this point on that there will never be a really well-paced episode. Every single one will have scenes that drag, scenes that feel pointless, scenes that exist just because they want to be funny, and important moments cut far too short. It is what it is now. Gods help us all.

Musa: I’ll be honest, I was seriously just counting the minutes till we got to the Astapor scene. This episode seemed largely focused around the King’s Landing plotline (which makes sense with the sheer number of main characters present there) but with that in mind, everything else sort of just felt tacked on? There’s very little connective tissue here as far as disparate plotlines go, and that’s a problem the show has always had, but as the seasons go on it gets more and more apparent and seriously becomes jarring at times when scenes just end and we go somewhere completely different.

Kylie: I think a big issue, too, is that the King’s Landing stuff was setting up the ‘chaos is a ladder’ moment, which should have never really been set-up. We’ll tackle it next week, obviously, but the idea is that Littlefinger is this really masterful and sociopathic spy-guy, because we couldn’t gather that from him pulling the dagger on Ned. He also is supposed to be the guy that has one over on everyone, so he knew about Varys and Ros’s friendship—fear him! He’s King of the Ashes!

It’s just, we didn’t need this at all. The Tyrells didn’t need motivation to want to marry Sansa to Loras, Varys running around to try and last-minute save her because Ros was concerned came out of nowhere (and was especially odd placed in his revengeful monologue episode), and Ros’s corpse is absolutely not needed for us to understand Joffrey and Littlefinger’s nature. It’s like half this episode was created on setting up a situation and an answer when there was no question in the first  place.

Musa: I’m just going to take a second to point out that the Chaos is a Ladder speech is in two episodes. We still have one more episode of building up to that moment before it happens. Basically the part where Sansa tells Littlefinger she won’t go away with him and he then conspires to have her married to Tyrion essentially out of spite? I don’t know if I’m remembering that correctly.

Bo: I know this is hotly debated, but I’ve never viewed Varys and Littlefinger as equals and GoT’s desperation to make them equals always annoyed me. It usually happens in really terrible exposition, too.

Kylie: No, I completely agree. Varys has always seemed like he’s playing a completely different game, to be honest, while Littlefinger is just this rather unsubtle guy who wants power and his teenage crush. Even if we pretend Varys is definitely not a Blackfyre, you can tell there’s this intense strategy and focus on something far longer term than, “Cat’s daughter is now hot let me groom her.”

Julia: REVOLUTION!

Sorry.

Let’s talk about sex, baby

Kylie: Sex workers, who are normally quite descriptive, found Pod’s performance “difficult to describe.”

Bo: If I didn’t know the future of this joke, I’d honeypot that they mean he was really awkward and bad. They returned the money to help the poor kid (?) feel better. People still honeypot it that way.

Julia: You’re right, that would be doing about if they weren’t still going on about it in season 7.

Speaking of sex, Marg’s wardrobe isn’t getting any less anachronistic.

Musa: Was there no actual sex or nudity in this episode itself? I didn’t think the writers were showing that much restraint in season 3.

Bo: I’m sure they’ll make up for it next week. Perhaps the sexposition relies on Shae appearances.

Kylie: Yup, the most we get is Olenna talking about her and Varys’s nether regions. Which was very necessary.

Musa: It’s funny because Varys is a eunuch you see and therefore does not have any genitals. Do you get it? Do you see why that’s funny?

In memoriam…Craster, Joer Mormont, Kraznys & the slavers

Bo: Mormont’s death was well done, but I felt absolutely nothing when it happened. Dracarys was incredible. See, they nail that one big moment and it dominates the watercooler talk, not all the stupid stuff.

Musa: True enough. I honestly had forgotten that Mormont dies this episode, since they cut out the significant part of his death where he says his last wishes to Sam. Adding on the fact that they’ll have Sam just run into Jorah in season 7 anyway, why couldn’t they have just done the scene where Jeor tells Sam to get his son into the Night’s Watch? I mean, I know the answer is because they don’t plan this stuff out in advance at all but seriously.

Kylie: They’ve adapted the Night’s Watch stuff so, so poorly. In fact, Griffin couldn’t make sense of why mutinies didn’t happen all the time, and why anyone even went along with Mormont’s dumb mission in the first place. He seemed…slightly reasonable as a person, so I guess that bit was sad for people around? But to say Astapor overshadowed it all puts it very mildly.

Musa: Not like anyone sheds tears for the literal slavers. I mean some people do, but they’re weird. It’s almost as if Krazyns was built up specifically as cartoonishly villainous and gleefully misogynistic so that when he was inevitably burnt to death by dragon-flame, we cheered on his demise instead of arguing that Dany broke the sacred laws of economic transaction of slaves. Though then that brings us back to my one specific complaint about the way the show handled that scene and how it kind of undermined the slave’s own desires to revolt.

Kylie: Couldn’t agree more on that point, too.

We’re curious to hear what you agree on, however, and disagree for that matter. Are the D&Disms really piling up, or are we just hyper-focused to see all the good? Definitely let us know in the comments, and may we all have 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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Angelina
Member

Funny thing is, the “marriage as an end for regency” is the one thing they actually got RIGHT about monarchy in Late Medieval/early modern age.
Marriage officially meant that the monarch has come of age and therefore has no need in a regent))

Ann Taylor
Guest

Aaah, and look at her face. There’s nothing as disgusting as woman, Jaime!… Yup, Brienne at her finest, totally book-character, everyone! I was so upset… woman is weak enough and can’t take anything, right, and especially Brienne totes believes this, righ, Cat was just some annoying woman to her, righ. Or the terrible “Sansa, interesting girl” “Really?” “No.” (I know it’s not precise). Just… scream. Sansa was always the most interesting for me – in the books. Somebody else thinks it was just D&D dialogue transferred into the show for this two characters on the base that they think they… Read more »

Ann Taylor
Guest

*…I mean… look at her face – as she emotes and says it with such disgust, not that her face is dusgusting! 🙂

Chieroscuro
Guest
Chieroscuro

Yeah, Brienne & Jaime are magical, except when they change the book dialogue to make Brienne more misogynistic. The mutiny at Craster’s is as good as their Night’s Watch coverage gets, except where they cut a dying man’s last wish to forgive his (important secondary character!) exiled son and removed as much agency as possible from Gilly. Astapor is phenomenal, except for the timing of events that make Daenerys as much of a conqueror as possible and minimizes the revolutionary act of the Unsullied. “Unsullied!” Dany galloped before them, her silver-gold braid flying behind her, her bell chiming with every… Read more »

Doremus Schafer
Guest

While I, too, thought the Astapor climax was great, I will never understand why they cut the marvelously cinematic line “YOU ARE THE DRAGON’S NOW!”

Ruw
Guest
Ruw

I remember being sure, for the longest time, that the reveal with Pod is going to be that Tyrion paid off the prostitutes to act like he was a sex god in order to raise his confidence. I… had to abandon this theory after a few episodes of them playing it totally straight.

Maidens and Mules
Member
Maidens and Mules

Astapor was one of the show’s finest moments. In the books, the sequence reads almost like a crime caper, with our plucky, charismatic hero conning some rich, arrogant, morally depraved assholes, and the show captured the spirit of this perfectly. It’s a slow moving plot line, unfolding over three episodes, but it feels more like a pleasant, slow burn than the wheel spinning of later seasons. The show also takes good advantage of the change in medium: in the book’s close POV structure, it’s not really possible to not reveal that Dany understands everything that’s being said, whereas in the… Read more »

Mytly
Member
Mytly

Ah, but the Brotherhood Without Banners were absolutely necessary on the show! Without them, we wouldn’t have got the amazing Gumbo Pot in season 7 (or at least, it would be missing a few ingredients). Totally worth the payoff, wouldn’t you say?

MCB
Guest
MCB

You guys have me looking over my notes again, and I laughed at my observation about Tywin being right about Cersei’s lack of political intelligence, noting, “Even her “win” in season 6 is doomed given that literally everyone hates her now, including Jaime.” Oh wow I was so naive, season 7 comes around and nobody cares that she blew up the Vatican, it takes a whole season for Jaime to leave her, god that season was so bad. But this was where my rage for the show really began at their decision to substitute Loras for Willas. Merging Garlan and… Read more »

FictionIsntReal
Guest
FictionIsntReal

Season three is my favorite for this show, and the Astapor sequence here is a big part of why. You’re right that Clarke comes across so much better when speaking a constructed language. The one really bad spot for season three is how much time is spent on Theon’s torture, but I still really liked his admission about what a mistake he’d made and how Ned Stark was more of a father to him. I’ve long disagreed with your take on “Carol” supposedly being sympathetic. I think she’s clearly in the wrong while Margaery is actually a relatively good person… Read more »

Analysis

I like my women… competent

Patrycja

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Criminal minds is a show that I enjoy watching despite sometimes watching it trough my fingers. It never fails to get my adrenaline going. One of it’s many great traits is the selection and capability of present female characters, be it unsubs or agents. The lead women are versatile and different while still having a few common traits. Furthermore they’re always competent and do the job the best they can.

The leader

Emily Prentiss is one of member of the team that was with them from almost the beginning. She went trough all the career steps, finally becoming the team leader.

Her being in charge was one of my favorite story lines. She earned that privilege with exceptional service and field work with various agencies. Her character replaced Aaron Hotchner as unit chief in season 12 after he resigned. It’s wonderful to finally see a woman leading a team; it happens so rarely. She has a great deal of experience with many different cultures as her parents were diplomats. That’s also how she speaks a few different languages, and it’s a skillset that has helped solve quite a few cases.

While on cases, she’ s rarely upset or lets her emotions get in the way, which is one of the reasons why she makes a great unit chief. She is level headed and calm and always factors many different scenarios into her decisions. With that being said she is also quick on her feet and can make split second decisions when she needs to.

While being calm and collected she still empathizes with the victims and their families and doesn’t hesitate to sacrifice herself to protect others. She’s not only a skilled field agent but also an undercover operator, which was shown in her stint catching Ian Doyle. That particular unsub also forces her to fake her own death without informing her team, with JJ and Hotchner being the only exceptions. She eventually reunites with the team in season 7 after the whole Doyle debacle was over.

She isn’t with the BAU the entire time. As previously stated she also work with other agencies like the Interpol. Even if she isn’t always with the team, she is referenced and talked about or pops up for a visit. Her work as unit chief hasn’t always been smooth sailing either. She was reassigned after she pursued a case and went toe to toe with Linda Barnes, who disbanded the team.

The mother

Jennifer “JJ” Jareau is the only women on the team with a family. She has two sons with her husband Will, who was a police detective in New Orleans. The fact that JJ is a mother strongly affects the way she acts and responds.

Although she started working when she wasn’t a mom, she always sympathized with the victims and their families the most visibly. Since she started as a police and media liaison, JJ was often responsible for contacting the families of the victims or their loved ones. She always did a great job while consoling them.

Her early role as media liaison made her the “media face” of the bureau, as she often spoke at press conferences. She was also responsible for choosing the cases the team would be working on, so her job came with a lot of responsibility. Her excellent work in that position was the reason for her reassignment and classified assignment. After her comeback in season 7, she made the change to profiler and her responsibilities were taken over by Hotch and Penelope. She is a skilled profiler, as even before she was one she was often crucial to solving cases and did that job even without the title. Her transition was also easier because she observed the team as their liaison.

She was one of the two people to know that Emily didn’t die. As they are close friends. JJ was also the one who met Prentiss in Paris after her “death”.” That close friendship is a recurring theme with the two characters, as Prentiss comes back when Jennifer is missing.

JJ has been trough tough times including the suicide of her older sister, her classified assignment, not to mention the toll the cases take. While she can wear her heart on her sleeve, she is also a skilled operator who will do anything for her family and for the people she loves. As my choice of calling her “the mother” implies, Jennifer is the one who takes care of all the team members. She shares a special bond with Reid, who is the godfather of her son Henry.

Finally, Jennifer is also a great leader, which was showcased when she replaced Emily Prentiss in the role of team leader. Although she has the ability to lead she doesn’t aspire to be the BAU’s chief. She’s content being an SSA.

Baby Girl

The first thing that springs to mind when thinking of Penelope Garcia is her relationship with Derek Morgan, well, and her unique personality.

Penelope is a former hacker gone good who’s now a technical analyst. Out of all the Criminal Minds characters, she’s the most colorful one—literally. Garcia often offers comic relief and a sense of light and joy to the intense show, and is the one the audience can probably relate to the most if you exclude her computer knowledge.

She is very emotional and openly shows all of her reactions. It doesn’t surprise anyone that she can’t look at horrific crime scene photos; her office is filled with colorful and cute stuff because of the horror that fills her screens (that’s what Hotch says to Strauss while describing the analyst). She also often speaks a bit too intimately when talking to team members, especially Derek. She gives him nicknames like chocolate thunder, etc, and he, in turn, calls her ‘baby girl’. These would normally be considered sexual harassment (which was even addressed in a funny scene in episode 9×12).


But it never actually crosses that line because they have a mutual understanding that it’s a consensual conversational choice. In fact, Penelope’s special relationship with Morgan is what initially drew me to the show. There is just something in how different they are personality-wise while still being very close to each other and understanding the other perfectly that compelled me. And while my shipper heart never understood why the two never dated, I have to admit that sticking to a platonic relationship between these two was a great move.

She makes him laugh and calls him out on his BS. He grounds her and helps her focus and get the job done. Their close relationship is probably the reason why it took Garcia a long time to warm up to Luke Alvarez, who replaced Morgan after he retired. It was implied that Garcia and Morgan are still in contact despite him not being on the show; she is even the godmother to his son.

As previously stated, Garcia is a skilled computer expert and former hacker. Her work is often crucial to finding the unsub. While that is her primary job, after JJ’s promotion she also became the liaison for the team. A job she shared with Hotch till he retired. The best way to describe her is that Penelope’s character is the counterbalance we need to all the heaviness and seriousness of the show.

Criminal minds proves that we can have a show that perfectly balances it’s male and female characters. It offers us a selection of women who all are intelligent, skilled, competent, educated, professional, and strong while staying human and showing emotions.


Images courtesy of CBS

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Analysis

Game of Thrones 3×06 Rewatch: The Fall

Kylie

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It’s time for one of the famous Game of Thrones monologues in this week’s installment of The Wars to Come, our rewatch project looking back over David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D)’s masterpiece to see where it slipped out of gear. Last week, we appreciated Bryan Cogman’s use of book dialogue. This week, Kylie, Julia, Musa, and Bo examine some of D&D’s iconic writing in “The Climb.”

Episode Recap

It’s a difficult week for our characters on Game of Thrones, and Sam and Gilly are no exception. They may have escaped the Night’s Watch mutineers, but they’re still a few days from The Wall, and traveling alone.

Bran is also traveling, though with his new companions in the Reeds; there’s also new strife between Osha and Meera. The two women bicker since both feels the other is rude to them; this is quickly interrupted when a sleeping Jojen begins to have a seizure. Meera takes care of him through it—apparently this is a common side-effect of his green dreams.

Also traveling up north are Jon and the wildlings, who are planning on scaling the Wall. Ygritte tells Jon that she knows he didn’t really defect from the Night’s Watch when he killed the Halfhand. She doesn’t mind that, but she tells him that they need to look out for each other, since they’re both just soldiers on different sides of wars who don’t truly matter to those leading the efforts. They climb the Wall with Tormund and Orell, though there’s a moment where it seems like they won’t make it, and Orell proves that he was more than willing to sacrifice them if it meant him making it to the top alive. When they finally reach the top, Jon and Ygritte passionately kiss.

Meanwhile, in parts still undetermined, Theon is yet again being tortured, this time by the man who pretended to free him. The man admits that he is a liar, and they “play a game” where the man flays one of Theon’s fingers. If Theon begs him to cut it off, the man wins.

At Riverrun, two Freys deliver Walder’s terms to make up for Robb’s broken marriage. Walder wants Harrenhal, which Robb agrees to give after the war is over. He also wants Edmure to marry one of his daughters in place of Robb. Edmure initially refuses, but this is the only way to get Walder to agree to support Robb’s efforts in taking Casterly Rock, so Robb, Blackfish, and Cat all persuade him otherwise.

Speaking of that now promised Harrenhal, Jaime and Brienne dine with Roose Bolton, since they are now being treated as highborn prisoners. Roose tells Jaime that he’ll be free to go back to King’s Landing, provided that he explains to Tywin that it was Locke acting independently when he cut off his hand. Brienne, however, has to stay behind, since she holds no value to Roose and he considers her a traitor. Jaime argues against this, but Roose tells him not to over play his…position.

Elsewhere in the riverlands, Arya practices her shooting with the Brotherhood without Banners when Melisandre unexpectedly rides up. She meets Thoros and Beric, and learns about Thoros resurrecting the storm Lord numerous times. She then gets the Brotherhood to sell her Gendry in exchange for gold. Arya yells at them for this, but they don’t change their minds.

Finally, in King’s Landing, the weddings between Tyrion and Sansa, and Cersei and Loras, are finalized when Tywin tells Olenna that he’ll name Loras to the kingsguard—giving up all claims to Highgarden—if she refuses this offer. Loras likely won’t mind, since his attempts to converse with Sansa demonstrate his supreme disinterest in the match. Cersei and Tyrion discuss their upcoming weddings with each other, and how they’re unlikely to be able to get out of them. Tyrion asks once again about Ser Mandon trying to kill him, and it’s revealed that it had been Joffrey, not Cersei, who gave the orders.

Resigned to his fate, Tyrion tells Sansa about their engagement, made all the more awkward by Shae being right there. Sansa is crushed. Littlefinger and Varys discuss these events in the throne room, since it was Littlefinger who spoiled the arrangements anyway. He tells Varys that he thrives on chaos, which is a ladder, and implicitly informs him that Ros is now dead, since she informed on him to Varys. We are then shown Ros, who was murdered by Joffrey with his crossbow, presumably wanting to try out killing for the first time.  

Is chaos a ladder? We are absolutely going to discuss that below.

Initial, quick reaction

Kylie: Aaaaand here’s the Game of Thrones I’ve been watching for the past three years. Holy bajesus did this episode plummet right off the cliff faster than Jon and Ygritte. There’s a few pieces that were fine, but the King’s Landing plotline (and climax) is just a comedy now. Then we’ve got the return of torture porn, Mel’s adventure of randomness, and a catty Osha and Meera. This was just…such a decline in quality.

Bo: They quadrupled down on the gratuitous violence here. It’s the only impression this episode left on me. The hard dive into torture porn was unrelenting. You can tell they really want this to define Game of Thrones, too. I suppose it does. In the end Game of Thrones is the show of gruesome violence that punishes viewers for caring about anything and simply tortures for torture’s sake, just like Ramsay. The ultimate example of which comes in 3 episodes.

Julia: I like the idea of show!Ramsay being some kind of personification of the show itself. The question then is, who are the Knights of the Vale?

The only thing this episode didn’t have, in terms of Classic GoT Moves™ was making you like a character and then killing them horribly.

Musa: I was seriously just bored throughout this episode. There was so little about it that I felt in anyway compelled to be interested in. Even the infamous speechifying at the end was not enough to save it.

Kylie: I remember it being funnier, and less like word salad.

Highlights/lowlights

Kylie: I think my highlight was the Roose/Jaime/Brienne dinner. Those are three great actors, and you could tell that things were in motion with Roose that Jaime/Brienne were in the dark about. It also felt like there was tension, with Jaime insisting on Brienne accompanying him and such. There’s not much to say beyond that; a solid scene in a cruddy episode.

Am I allowed to pick everything in King’s Landing? I guess I’ll pick Sansa’s scripting if I have to focus in on one thing, where she’s so oblivious talking to Loras as he’s going on about fringed sleeves, and then is naively prattling to Shae who seems to know she’s being dumb, and finally she’s shown crying at the boat just as Littlefinger says, “Some are given the opportunity to climb, but refuse.” Everything put together makes her seem like this unobservant, imperceptive, superficial dolt. Which is a charming 180 from the books.  

Julia: In the interest of lowlight diversity, I’m going for the stuff with Osha and Meera. I think it’s quite indicative that they saw a plotline they thought was boring (their problem, in my opinion, not the plotline’s) and decided to fill it out with two women snipping at each other for no reason.

I would count the Brotherhood selling Gendry, but I think that’s mostly because I know what they’ll do with it by season 7. They did seed that they compromise their principles because they “need the gold” after all.

Highlight… huh. I agree about the Harrenhal scene, I guess. Though I think the direction was a little too willing to laugh at Brienne in a dress, rather than, like, using her discomfort with wearing traditionally female clothes to develop her character.

Bo: Meanwhile, Loras Tyrell, promising knight who represents a young Jaime, knows more about fashion than Sansa Stark. Of course he does. He’s gay. Get it. Everyone laugh because sword swallower.

I really don’t have anything that stood out as a highlight. The Bolton dinner scene was fine. From a purely spectacle level, the Wall climb was pretty cool. That’s all I have.

Theon’s torture is my lowlight. Ramsay says all there is to say. This scene exists just to exist. It’s just there to make us feel bad, just as he’s only torturing Theon to hurt Theon. It’s pointless, gratuitous, torture porn by every definition of the phrase. Ramsay also speaks the line that truly defines one of the key reasons I dislike the show so much, and the line that has caused millions to misinterpret what Martin wants to do with A Song of Ice and Fire. Shame on the torture scene. Shame on everything about it.

Musa: I’m going to have to double dip and say the torture stuff was my lowlight too. There’s a lot to be said about the poor handling of Theon’s torture. I’m sympathetic with the idea of not wanting to just leave the character and his story hanging for a whole season where he doesn’t appear (though it’s not like they wouldn’t do exactly that with Bran later) but there doesn’t actually seem to be anything worth exploring in what they show. Ramsay is a monster and Theon is being horribly brutalized after having done a lot of terrible things in his own way. That’s basically about the gist of this plotline and they spend ALL SEASON on it.

A highlight is significantly more difficult to really pull out of my hat here. Honestly, aside from all the nonsense of that scene itself, I actually do enjoy the back and forth between Charles Dance and Dianna Rigg. I mention the actor’s names instead of the characters because it’s honestly really just the actors showing off their performance chops in a scene together rather than anything meaningful for either character that they’re supposed to be playing. I don’t know whether I want to fully believe Tywin is just THAT uncomfortable with the topics of menopause and homosexuality, but I definitely felt that I was watching an old straight white man being confronted by things that are not his forte and thus terrify him to discuss them openly.

Quality of writing

Bo: “Chaos is a laddah.” “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”

We could probably leave it there. This episode was full of grimdark nonsense that D&D love. I’m probably being overly harsh, but I just feel nothing but grimness and anger afterwards. The Tywin/Olenna and Varys/Baelish scenes are also prime examples of D&D thinking they’re more clever than they really are.

Julia: You forgot “A sword swallower, through and through.”

I think it’s kind of amazing how obvious it is that the split of A Storm of Swords leaves both Cersei and Tyrion with nothing to do this season. So Tyrion is just asking random people who tried to kill him and Cersei is…sad she can’t control Joffery? What Emmy worthy arcs.

Bo: Remember people saying they can’t adapt A Dance with Dragons because it would be boring to have Tyrion wander Essos asking, “where do wh*res go?” every episode? I guess this is different somehow. Tyrion sitting around Meereen drinking and telling jokes was different, too. Somehow.

Kylie: I guess Tyrion gets married on top of drinking. Though why that particular conversation was put off-screen is beyond me. It kind of seemed like the one bit of natural tension there to be explored, since Sansa and Shae were both in the dark.

FOOLED YOU

We have to talk about the climb monologue, since the whole damn episode is structured around it. Nevermind Varys and Littlefinger no longer bearing any resemblance to their book counterparts (this is why the spy vs. spy doesn’t work!), but the content of the speech itself was complete drivel. “Some think about climbing, while others don’t climb, and some only know the climb, and the realm is an illusion!” It sounds like some first year English major who just learned about post-modernism. The point is that chaos creates social opportunity, but he’s still climbing the social order very much within the feudal framework. So…it’s less “chaos” and more “unrest.” Or even more simply, “some people profit in war.” Menacing.

Bo: Which is exactly what I mean by D&D thinking they’re more clever than they are. They love monologues like these, even when they’re often complete nonsense. I suppose you could give them the benefit of the doubt in that this is only Littlefinger’s view of the world, and that it’s a view proven false when chaos does prove to be a pit that swallows him whole later. But do we really think that’s what D&D had in mind with this speech?

Musa: The biggest problem with all the Littlefinger and Varys stuff is that they clearly outright state to each other stuff that they’ve done to try and thwart each other. In the books, they don’t do that…because they don’t want the other one to know what they’re doing. And that, children, is how actual spies and political machinators operate. Littlefinger expositing to Varys that he KNEW ALL ALONG about Varys’ scheme to give Sansa to the Tyrells and that he’s also had Ros killed just gives Varys additional information.

Also another sighting of random Varys Marx, doing things “for the good of the realm,” whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. No wonder that sends Littlefinger off into his nonsensical monologue, it makes just about as much sense as Varys doing things for the good of the abstract concept of “the realm.”

Kylie: He was having Ros confide to him about Sansa boat logistics for the good of the realm. Duh.

Our 8th grade book report (on themes)

Kylie: I’m having a really hard time linking what Ygritte said to Jon to anyone else. From what I can tell, the best theme is, “everything is bad, and if you think it’s good, you’re dumb.” In every plotline, maybe with the exception of Bran/Sam’s, people are not having the best go of it. Sansa, Loras, Cersei, Tyrion, Ros, Shae, Edmure, Theon, Brienne, Gendry, and even mildly Olenna are dealing with some kind of terrible news this episode. Jon and Ygritte maybe ties in with her words about how everything’s terrible, which is why they need each other, though they had a more uplifting ending to it. Still, acedia is in full swing here.

Julia: I think you can actually link the title and the speech with that, as eye rolling as the exercise is. And the Wall is a visual representation of this ladder that LF is speaking of, though why they chose to mix their metaphors here is a good question. Why can’t chaos be a wall?

Bo: Jesus, why wasn’t chaos a wall?! I doubt it helps the speech that much, but it would have been better than a ladder. I’d agree that the “chaos ladder” is the theme of the episode. We’re seeing everyone try to climb it and how well (or not so well) the climb is going.

Except Ygritte, who just wants to step off the ladder and take Jon with her? What a wonderful metaphor for my interest in this show.

Kylie: I keep think of Turtle’s “chaos is a catch-all.” Go read that one, guys.

The Butterfly Effect

Bo: I’m not sure this fits here, but let’s remember how Melisandre banged the audience over the head with foreshadowing about Arya that never actually comes to pass. I’d wonder if they were going to cram it into season 8, but they already removed Mel from Arya’s list without any explanation. Game of Thrones does this a lot in the first 3 seasons, where they foreshadow future plot points or establish future conflicts, then randomly dropped them when season 5 rolled around.

And of course, acedia. Sooooo much acedia.

Julia: Maybe we’re just supposed to think Mel is full of shit by season 7?

Kylie: I think they were setting something else up for Arya entirely this year, maybe thinking they couldn’t just have her fuck around the riverlands for an entire season with The Hound, and certainly not spend two years in Braavos. This whole event puts Mel and the Brotherhood on her list, and then she just drops them off it by Season 5, deciding she’s “forgiven them.”

Something worth noting is that D&D stray further and further from using book lines, and begin to think of themselves as masters of iconic one-lines. Littlefinger and Ramsay both show that off here. I have to think if they had written the Jaime/Brienne tub scene rather than Cogman, I have to wonder if it would have still ended on the note, “My name is Jaime.”

Bo: Considering their numerous changes to other lines, probably not.

Remember adaptation?

Bo: Good Guy Tyrion had to tell poor Sansa what’s happening, rather than spring it on her come the wedding day like everyone else.

Kylie: I’m still confused why that was off-screen. And why Tyrion was the one to spring the news, now that I think about it.

I hate hitting on this every week, but Olenna’s adaptation is just god-awful. Now we’ve progressed to her implying that Tywin had a gay experience because the Reach is so full of great allies?

Julia: I mentioned last week that that week’s Olenna content was the second worst example of her being the official negotiator of House Tyrell. Well, here is the prime example of that nonsense. Maybe it would have made sense if she was yelling at Mace about his negotiating strategy, but Tywin actually had a meeting with her to discuss official marriages. During which she insults him to his face several times.

What even is patriarchy?

Kylie: Meanwhile, up north, can you tell me who is the best rabbit skinner of them all?

Julia: There’s more than one way to skin a rabbit, Kylie. God, you’re so judgmental.

Bo: It’s hard to decide what they adapt worst at this point, but how they turned the Reach, the pinnacle of patriarchal medieval feudalism, into this anachronistic nightmare is beyond me. Did they just assume the entire Reach is like Renly since they followed him as king? I mean, Renly’s not even FROM the Reach.

And I know I bang this drum a lot, but holy hell do they miss the point with Littlefinger, and his climb speech is exhibit A. Petyr Baelish is not a man creating chaos for chaos’s sake, just to see what opportunities it creates. He deliberately causes havoc aimed at very specific goals. He doesn’t pit the Lannisters against the Starks just to see what comes of it. He does so with goals in mind regarding Cat, and then Sansa. Reducing his scheming to, “lol chaos” would make book Baelish scream.

Also, the irony of Brynden freaking Tully trying to threaten someone into marriage. It’s not completely against adaptation or anything, but it’s quite funny.

Musa: I have a serious bone to pick with the change from it being maybe Cersei who possibly ordered Mandon Moore to kill Tyrion to it being definitely Joffrey who did so. They just keep on doing this thing where they continue to give Tyrion additional sympathy points while simultaneously taking menace and agency away from Cersei to give it to Joffrey. It ruins pretty much all three characters overall.

Kylie: Well Musa, that brings us to…

Carol Watch: who is Cersei this week?

Kylie: Poor Carol has done her best with Joffrey, but he went and tried to kill Tyrion and then she had no choice but to cover for him! Also, she’s sharing in her misery with Tyrion and genuinely bonding about that. Yeah, we get some zingers like, “we could kill them” and calling Margaery a, “doe-eyed whore,” but we all know Carol has a bad bark.

Julia: Well, Carol’s character is hardly free of internalized patriarchy either. And who can blame her for being resentful of Marg, who’s flouting all the rules and getting rewarded for it, when Carol spent all those years trying to make her marriage work and be a good mother and was still screwed over for it. Indeed she still has her dad trading her like a baseball card.

Poor Carol.

Bo: She loves her family so much. It’s such a shame everyone tosses her aside when she just wants to protect them. How dare Tyrion question her about Mandon Moore? Lions need to stick to their pride.

Exposition Imposition: good or clunky?

Kylie: We learned that Jojen has seizures without anyone saying something, which is a good use of the visual medium. And I guess Sam explained highborn fire-lighting to Gilly. But in general, I’m just not remember a ton of exposition this episode. Which is probably more of a good thing than the alternative.

Bo: Yeah, the fact nothing immediately stood out as bad exposition means they at least did well here. Sam’s song also does a nice job establishing more about religion in Westeros. Thoros described his life and newfound faith quite naturally, and overall the conversation with Mel imparted knowledge about the red priests.

Kylie: Yeah! Good on you, D&D!

How was the pacing?

Julia: This whole season’s pacing is hilarious. I love how Littlefinger is still packing all his stuff six episodes in. And I’ve already mentioned how Cersei and Tyrion have had nothing to do.

Kylie: I feel like the people that actually have a full season’s worth aren’t in focus at all. Jaime and Brienne might be an exception, but the Night’s Watch, Jon’s new Wildling posse, even Bran and the Reeds (if they had wanted to bother building up characters) could have all benefited from more screen-time. It really is astounding how little happens each episode though.

Bo: Game of Thrones is so poorly planned. They clearly don’t have a plan beyond the current season being written. That’s how you end up with A Storm of Swords taking two seasons when it really shouldn’t have. They should have bitten the bullet and dove into A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons in the last third of season 4. We’re supposed to buy the excuse that Feast and Dance would have been boring to adapt properly, though. We can’t have multiple episodes of characters doing nothing!

There was no sex, baby

Kylie: Just some torture porn with both Theon, and then Ros’s obviously sexualized death. Are we supposed to make something of the fact that Joffrey hit Ros in the same place Arya hit the strawman?

Bo: What is it with HBO shows and the taboo on men giving oral sex to a woman? Jon’s weirdness about it brought back bad memories of The Sopranos doing a whole plotline about Junior Soprano being good at going down on his girlfriend but not wanting anyone to know.

Julia: And what is their weird thing about gay men not being able to pull off political marriages? And this idea that, like, they find all women so…boring or something, that they can’t even have a conversation with them, even as just two people having a conversation.

I just remembered that the one thing Renly did say to Marg during their marriage is that he liked her dress.

Bo: They can’t even get their stereotypes correct. I thought gay men got along great with women since they have so much in common, but not straight men? Wouldn’t Loras and Sansa have a great time talking about gowns and weddings? I guess Sansa was too busy not being the least bit perceptive of people to notice.

Kylie: All I know is that as a bisexual, I have great conversations with everyone because of my sexual interest in 100% of humanity.

Julia: That’s why the Dornish are the best conversationalists.

In Memoriam…Ros

Julia: The real death was any faith I had left in this show.

Kylie: Oh snap.

Bo: It’s okay, Julia, you just need a good old-fashioned desperate resurrection to restore the corpse of your love for Game of Thrones. Just remember the old words they taught you.

Kylie: I think we’re dancing around Ros’s death because it’s just so transparently voyeuristic. And gross. We didn’t need it to characterize Littlefinger, or Joffrey, and it’s just more of that punish you for caring. Ros showed concern about Sansa, well NOPE. Their shock-chasing is of the, “oh no, how messed up!’ ilk, and this is a nice inception point.

Musa: Though overall, this episode seriously does a number on Game of Thrones‘s reputation as the show with lots of tits, dragons, and death. This episode barely had any of those things. So is it REALLY a real Game of Thrones episode, even?

Kylie: Not according to Ian McShane, though I’d say this can hang with the best of Season 6’s wheel-spinning clunkers.

However, it’s time for us to climb the ladder on out of this rewatch for now. We’ll be back next week for some bear pit shenanigans, but we’re curious to hear your thoughts on this week in the meanwhile. Again, we closed on King’s Landing. Is it just the bad taste in the mouth that keeps on giving? Tell is in the comments, and we wish you good fortune in The Wars to Come.


Images courtesy of HBO

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Analysis

My First Queer: Evil Queens

Barbara

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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!

Looking back at the other My First Queer articles, I have to say my experience is going to be rather different – but then again, each of those was different, too, and the experience is varied. Still, mine differs in the way that it is much more focused on attraction, instead of the more generalized realizations of queerness or powerful stories of love.

The second is definitely because there were none to be had. The first is, perhaps, because I grew up in a very liberal household. I knew about the existence of the the letters of the LGBTQIA acronym — except queer itself, I guess, because it doesn’t really have a Czech equivalent — probably by the time I started middle school, and certainly by the time I was fifteen. There was no need to discover the idea of queerness.

What was an entirely novel concept, on the other hand, was the idea that it could somehow relate to me, or to anyone close to me.

After all, in most media queerness was — and still is — only incidental, something that happens to the side characters, and as everyone is a protagonist of their own story, I never considered that it would be something to touch me in person. When I try to think of the first piece of media where I encountered a non-straight relationship, it’s difficult. I have been reading fantasy intermittently since I was eleven. Some of that fantasy probably contained background queer characters in a casual way that went well with my general expectations of “this is something that exists somewhere in the world but doesn’t concern me in any way”.

I do remember the first book where a non-straight relationship was at least a little bit prominent: the Witcher Saga by Andrzej Sapkowski. If you know Sapkowski or have read the books, you know it’s not…exactly an ideal introduction into the world of queerness. The protagonist — or one of the protagonists — of the book, Ciri, runs away from an attempt on her life, almost dies in the desert, and finally joins up with a band of outlaws. The first night with them, she is molested and almost raped by one of the men. One of the other women stops him…and then slides into bed in his place.

This is the beginning of Ciri’s first romantic relationship, which ends with her lover/rapist being brutally murdered by a man who then proceeds to enslave Ciri. So, you know. Not exactly the pinnacle of representation, and definitely not something you would want to model your romantic life on.

This choice always feels impossible in-game, precisely because Ciri’s relationship history is so charged,

Sapkowski’s books have other mentions of wlw, too: the long-lived sorceresses being bored of their relationships with men and so trying women for a time until they discover it’s not any better. That caught my attention a little more.

I loved everything about Sapkowski’s sorceresses. Powerful, beautiful and arrogant, I can say with the benefit of hindsight that however over-the-top and mired in sexist stereotypes, they were a combination of my life goals and my wife goals.

However narcissist that sounds, the kind of person I want to be has always been similar to the kind of person I want to have, be they women or men, because I’ve always been more fan of the concept of “marriage of true minds” than “opposites attract.” That probably didn’t help with making matters clearer, since it provided a comfortable excuse for why I cared about them so much: I wanted to be like them.

The most important part, though, is that the sorceresses weren’t really queer. They were still predominantly depicted as straight, focused on the men and interested in them, and their gayness was only incidental, and always connected to men. That, combined with my real-life experiences, likely shaped my views for quite some time. Because the thing is, there was a lot of wlw women around me, but either none of them identified as bisexual, or I didn’t know they did. Just like in Sapkowski! Sleeping with both men and women was just what all the really cool girls did, right? And men found it hot.

What an amazing view to absorb.

Philippa would be so disappointed in me.

Sadly, it held through my actual first experiences with women, and of those around me. Looking back at it, it was insane. A good friend of mine was in a relationship with a girl, they even got fake-married, but I still thought of her as straight and didn’t take it seriously. After all, it was just a couple of gals being pals. In bed.

In short, Sapkowski was the piece of media during my adolescence that got the furthest in having me engage with female queerness, and it did not go very well. But there was another way my identity as a straight girl had the potential to be eroded. Not with explicitly queer women, but with (assumed) straight women I simply found hot. And boy, were there plenty.

Like I said, Sapkowski’s sorceresses hit me exactly in my weak spot. I have always been fascinated by the “evil queen” archetype. If I lived in a country where Disney animated fairy tales were the standard entertainment for children, I’m pretty sure my first queer would have easily and decidedly been Maleficent and the Evil Queen from Snow White. As it is, I only came across them later, and Czech fairy tale films don’t really have any properly evil queens to speak of, for some reason.

So as it was, my first glimpse of this was Circe.

I had a retold-for-children version of Odyssey when I was little, and it was my favorite book. Odysseus was an amazing hero and everything, but there were also beautiful illustrations in my version, and the women in those illustrations were really pretty. Particularly attractive was the evil sorceress who almost defeated Odysseus (and totally would have if he hadn’t cheated by getting help from the gods). She was a-ma-zing.

I dare you not to fall in love.

Not too long after, there was an encounter with Disney after all: I had a book version of Aladdin, and in Aladdin there was Yasmine. In particular, Yasmine in her slave outfit. Yeah, I know.

Looking back at it, I can hardly see for the amount of cringe I’m doing, and I could write dissertations on the orientalization and sexism specific to what can be found in those scenes. But my seven year old self didn’t know anything about that. I just knew that there was, you know, something about Yasmine in that outfit, being so clever as she pretended to be willing to rule alongside Jafar.

I mostly thought it was because she was wearing red and I liked red. Like I said, I was seven.

The next step on this way was the evil queen from Never-Ending Story 2. I remember always being frustrated when she pretends to be good in the middle of the film, because she lost like half of her sex-appeal – though again, I wouldn’t have put it that way when I was probably about ten at this point. Then came Sapkowski, and my love for his sorceresses. And around the same time, there came the most important stepping stone from the realm of media on my way to self-discovery: Monica Bellucci.

I honestly don’t remember how I first came across her. It must have been online, because going through her filmography, the only things I really recall seeing her in are the Matrix films, and before that I was only aware of Asterix and Obelix. And I distinctly remember thinking when it came out, as a connoisseur of the animated version: yeah, she’s a good fit for Cleopatra, she’s hot.

Almost as hot as this one. Come to think of it, Cleopatra from the animated version of this film might actually belong to my series of childhood crushes, too.

So, somehow, somewhere, I discovered Monica Bellucci, and I was immediately smitten. To this day, I consider her effectively the epitome of female beauty.

I was fourteen when Matrix Reloaded came out, and I really enjoyed the scenes with her. A lot. In fact, they probably make me recall that film in a much more positive light than it deserves.  Soon after this, my computer was stuffed with all the pictures of her I could find, mostly of them lightly erotic. Hilariously, yes, I still believed I was straight.

I could continue listing all the other movies I saw with impressive evil queen/femme fatale types in them. Snow White and the Huntsman was a disaster of a movie. But the Queen, oh, the Queen! Well, I think you get the idea.

At any rate, Monica Bellucci was the first woman I have ever seen that I looked at and thought, yes, I want to have sex with her. Not even this, though, was enough to bring any change in how I understood my sexuality. Looking for the media that helped with that, the first media that actually included a healthy queer couple… That would be fanfiction. When I was over twenty, maybe even closer to my mid-twenties.

Yeah.

To be fair, if I had a varied romantic life in the years between, I probably would have figured things out sooner even without any books to help, but as I began dating my husband not too long after my Bellucci-induced awakening, that rather limited my exploration.

My computer was stuffed with pictures like this. Stuffed. How could I think I was straight?

The fact still remains, though. It took twenty years of reading to come across a wlw couple worthy of the name. And it required fanfiction.

I read a lot, though I didn’t seek out queer books – I probably didn’t know that was a thing, to be honest, and if I did, I wouldn’t have searched them out anyway. I was straight, remember? But I read a lot, and varied things – detective stories, fantasy, literary fiction. In none of that did I come across a proper wlw relationship.

The first “femslash” fanfiction I read was a bunch of stories from the Harry Potter universe. It was mostly sexual relationships, combining various Hogwarts girl into pairs and seeing what happened. While fun, it didn’t do much to convince me to take my own preferences too seriously.

I can’t actually pinpoint the one story that did that. What I do know, though, is that as I moved from my reading from HPFF to FF.net and then to AO3, the number of wlw relationships that appeared in my reading increased. Though they were still mostly background relationships, they were at least treated more seriously than what I was used to.

Little by little, the stories chipped away at my denial. But I still can’t help to think that had Sapkowski been less of a sexist clown, and had two of his powerful women been badass wlw queens who ruled the Lodge of Sorceresses, I could have figured everything out so much easier.

In fact, that sounds like an AU fanfiction someone should write.


Images courtesy of Dimension Films, CD Projekt Red, Dargaud Films, Bounty Books, and Fabrizio Ferri

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