Kylie’s preface: Recently, Julia and I both wrote retrospectives about the Pornish and Winterhell plotlines of Game of Thrones Season 5, respectively. Julia wanted to dissect the plotline that was universally panned by book readers and show watchers alike in an attempt to figure out what story showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D) were even trying to tell, while I wanted to pick apart the most misogynistic plotline in (perhaps) all of modern television. The results were both amusing and illuminating (this is me complimenting her work and her complimenting mine; we both are too self-deprecating to like what we ourselves produce…we’re Martells).
However, both of us willingly steeping ourselves into D&D’s torturous narrative left us quite a bit scarred. I personally ran out of emotional energy to even properly gifcap Winterhell, while Julia would sometimes just short circuit and message me, “but Trystane could have been played by your cat and nothing would have changed!”
Still, we liked what we had uncovered, which is why I suggested combining forces for this retrospective. The thing about us you should know is that when we work together, we’re able to kind of balance each other out. We go through certain rage/snark cycles, but the other is usually on the opposite end of it at any given time, so neither of us lose our minds. We were up for this task, damnit, and planned to target what is, perhaps, considered GoT’s “main” plotline. It’s also the plotline that has received the most praise (from what we can tell), and the one that even book snobs will usually give a passing grade.
Well…we’re here to disabuse you of that comfort, I’m sorry to say. I’m also equally sorry to admit that despite our best efforts, I think we only managed to drag ourselves into a joint state of outraged disbelief at how monumentally stupid this plotline was. Really, nothing could have prepared us for the discoveries we made in this Emmy-winning drama. And if you don’t mind, we’d very much like to drag you down with us.
We’ll be following the same “question framework” that Julia first established in Porne, answering the following:
- What was the story they were trying to tell?
- Whose story was it?
- What was the result of this story, from a thematic and character perspective?
- What adaptational choices were made?
- Why did they make the adaptational choices they did?
- How did those choices change the story?
And of course, as I did with Winterhell, we felt it appropriate to also add the the following:
- What the fuck were they thinking?
Throughout, we shall employ every device we know in our desire to divert you. So sit back, relax, and come travel to Carol’s Landing with us! From here on out, our fusion “Julie” will be taking over.
What was the story they were trying to tell?
The very first scene of the very first episode of the season “The Wars to Come” already features our girl Carol, because, of course, she comes first. And be very, very afraid friends, because we’re quite sure D&D built a time machine and kidnapped baby!Lena Headey and forced her to appear in their flashback.
Baby!Carol is super nice to her friend and comforts her when she’s scared as they walk through some deserted woods. In fact, there are those who femslash them now. Thanks, D&D. They enter a hut where a sexy witch is chilling. Or maybe she’s a sex worker from Les Miserables. She tells them to leave, but baby!Carol tells her she’s boring, and not even old and gross, and then she pulls rank on her, demanding to have her fortune told.
So after sucking on baby!Carol’s thumb for a bit (her wtf face is slightly awesome) Maggy the Fox answers her questions: Carol won’t wed the prince, she’ll wed the king. But Carol will totes be queen, “until there comes another, younger, and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all you hold dear.” Will they have children? “No,” says Maggy (devil’s in the details!) But he will have twenty children (let’s change this number for no reason!) and she will have three (is Tommen adopted?). Oh, and they’re going to die.
Then Maggy the Fox starts laughing while baby!Carol looks… slightly upset. Then we fade to… grownup!Carol? Don’t worry guys, we bet she thought about murdering and possibly being murdered off-screen. (Off-screen is a very important place in this plot line…).
Carol is in a box (meaningful!) on the way to her dad’s funeral. Marg is there. So is the High Septon, who thinks it’s weird for a person whose father just died to want to mourn in private, and not in front a thousand extras. See, that’s the kind of stupidity Poor Carol has to deal with constantly.
Inside the sept Larry is waiting, looking very awkward and self-conscious, and possibly trying to asses if she’s dtf (not that he’s very concerned with consent). The twins then proceed to have the most bizarre conversation where they role play each other. Larry is going on about how they have to protect their father’s legacy from their enemies, and Carol is accusing him of not thinking through the consequences of things. And she’s also telepathic, because she magical knows that Larry released Saint Tyrion (when most people would have assumed an angel did it.) But she’s totes chill about it. She says that Tywin loved Larry most of all, and he killed him through incompetence. Shame on you, Larry. Larry is sad.
And then we get more of the shit our hero has to deal with, as the Knight of Fabulous (from hereon out, “Fabs”) literally fills Carol’s ear with meaningless drivel. It’s like listening to an Inside the Episode. She eventually just walks away to find more booze. She dodges Pycelle only to be accosted by… holy shit Lancel is hot now! Like, really hot. And he didn’t see the sign that says the dress code is: yes to shoes, and no to man!cleavage.
Uncle Kevan pops up and is super embarrassed about his son’s lack of classic black-tie. He says some dismissive things about religion. It’s very smooth exposition. Carol just wants to drink by herself so she finds a quiet corner. But even here, she can’t escape from men less smart than her. Poor Carol.
hot!Lancel is all “remember when we had consensual sex? I’ve decided to shame you for that. And also the part where you had me kill your husband.” And then he gets even creepier. Like if your ex-boyfriend joined a cult and was trying to recruit you. Carol is drunk enough to laugh this off.
Later that… day? (who needs to establish timelines) The Fabs and his bae are hanging in the nude. Olyvar gets points for being a Dorne superfan, but loses them for his woeful knowledge of Dornish Geography (we hate Fake Dorne Fanboys. Always trying to impress us….). Fabulous exposits how much of a drag Carol’s Landing is while they play a game of making out as explicitly as possible while the blocking and editing go to extraordinary lengths to hide their genitals from the audience. We wouldn’t want to be gratuitous.
Marg comes in and is quite nonchalant about seeing what we don’t get to. She mostly just cares about how they’re late for their dinner party. She’s hungry and these random bowls of fruit everywhere won’t cut it! Probably because they look like they’re made of wax. The sexually liberated siblings then discuss how Fab’s marriage to Carol is probably off, so Marg is gonna be stuck with her.
“Perhaps,” says Marg. Then she twirls her moustache. While holding a flashlight under her chin. Then she kicks a puppy.
But before we see what awfulness Marg has in store for Poor Carol, we move into the next episode “The House of Black and White” where our good queen gets sent another threat! This time from Porne. She’s so thoughtful and aware of how slow Larry is that she sets the scary jack-in-a-box back up for him to impress upon him just how serious a situation it was. He still didn’t get it 🙁 . Why does he insist on vexing her?
Anyway, Carol is reasonably distraught about Myrcella’s clear and present danger, but that asshole Larry basically pulls a “calm down you hysterical woman.” Then Carol gets understandably upset because she’s had to be a single mother, since Larry refuses to be with her due to the social and political implications (what happened at the end of Season 4 again? Who knows, but they’re really committed to this characterization swap thing. It’s possibly their version of foreplay?). He sees the hurt on her face and decides to try and make it up to her…Carol deserves at least that much. She tells him that he can’t take an army or just ask for Myrcella back (well turns out he could have, as long as he compliments Doran’s soup), but Larry’s all like “on it!”
With Larry gone, Carol has to be the one to track down Tyrion (who legit did kill their father and everyone knows it) on her own. Some guys bring forth a head from the wrong dwarf, as she calmly explains. Everyone makes mistakes, yo. Trant gets pissy with them, but she calms him, and thanks the men for trying their very best. She would never think to say, call them lackwits or scream at them for wasting her time. Carol is always gracious to the smallfolk. Qyburn wants the head for…science.
Then he and Carol head up to the small council, where she sits in the seat at the head of the table. But wait! Kevan does NOT approve of a woman in that seat! How dare she. Carol takes his clear misogyny in stride, choosing to focus on effective governance instead.
Mace volunteers to be the Hand, but she’s fast to instead puff up his ego and say he’s desperately needed as Master of Coin (in addition to Master of Ships). She would never purposely insult her most important ally and ass-pull a name she “already” appointed instead or go off on a tirade about how “presumptuous” this guy whose family have only been lords paramount for three hundred years is. Then she introduces Qyburn as the Master of Whispers. Because he’s loyal.
That’s when Kevan decides he’s HAD ENOUGH. He won’t recognize Carol’s authority because she’s just “Queen Mother” (then why’s she even in this meeting? And if Tommen’s not of age then who’s Lord Protector of the Realm? And what happened to her being “Queen Regent” like Showberyn called her last year? And then why can Tommen marry and consummate but not rule?) and is mad that she’s “surrounded herself with sycophants,” even though Pycelle was objecting to her the entire time and Mace is clearly just Mace-ing. And, except for Qyburn, who replaced Varys, who announced he was quitting by committing treason, this is literally Tywin’s Small Council. And like…if she really wanted to stack the Council she totally could have appointed a new Master of Coin who would listen to her.
Just another day of Carol taking on the patriarchy, amirite?
Episode 3 “High Sparrow” starts with both Marg AND Carol in boxes (doubly meaningful!). They’re on their way to Marg and Poor Dumb Tommen’s wedding. But Marg’s box is way nicer than Carol’s. She has the “internal screaming” look in the sept as they do the wedding thing.
And then it’s…. oh gods not this. Marg sexually abuses Poor Dumb Tommen (from here on “PDT” because we’re lazy assholes. Sometimes “TomTom” if we’re feeling cheeky) and it’s HILARIOUS. Can we leave it at that? He’s super excited that they both like to sail. Like a twelve-year-old is excited when his crush also likes Minecraft.
And she’s also like, “Dude, your mom should go into a home to Casterly Rock.”
Then Carol’s all, “wow, nice pretty, dumb wifey you have there, TomTom”. But PDT is really embarrassed that he’s twelve and still living with his mom, and suggest that she should, like, go to Boca Raton Casterly Rock. Carol looks sad.
But not Marg, who’s happily telling all her girl friends about what a n00b her barely pubescent husband is at sex. *giggle* *giggle* Rape is HILARIOUS! “Oh hi, Carol. You’re looking old and alcoholic this morning. I LOVE your bracelet, and did I mention that I fucked your kid?” Carol just looks sad. But then she looks mad. The music agrees with her.
- fifteen seconds of the camera lovingly showing us the boobs and asses of sex workers.
- then holding for ten sounds on a shot that includes half of a woman’s butt and no other part of her body before going to another wide shot of six naked women displaying themselves in front of two clothed men.
- some quick cuts of boring talking
- two headless female torsos with bikini waxes walking towards an appreciative old dude.
He’s the High Septon and they’re “dressed” up as the gods, but do you give a fuck?
Oh No! It’s the Faith Taliban! Watch the headless torsos scatter as hot!Lancel proves that evil!Lancel is a better name for him as he denounces the High Septon for being a horrible sinner in a Batman voice. Look out Batfinger, you have competition.
They drag Septy McSeptonFace out into the street and make him walk naked. Oddly enough he always has a head, but everything below his navel disappears whenever we see him from the front. Weird.
In the Small Council chamber, Moustache Mace has graduated from fetching pens for Tywin to opening the door for Carol. Good for you, Mace! Septy comes in determined to defend his right not to be slut shamed. Pycelle is on his side, but no one else seems to give a fuck about it, really. But he does name drop the High Grandpa, the leader of the Faith Taliban, and that peaks Carol’s interest.
So it’s back in the box and off the see the High Grandpa! The wonderful High Grandpa of Carol’s Landing! It’s a little smelly. Carol has read all her history and knows that religious people have never hurt anyone ever. She finds Grandpa serving soup to beggars.
He tries to explicate Socialism to Carol. Everyone is equal in the eyes of the Seven, you see. Carol seems impressed by his humility and flirtatious manner and appoints Bernie Sanders as president the High Grandpa as High Septon. We think. Who knew the Queen Mother had that power. They agree to be besties.
Qyburn is playing with rats in his lab/dungeon when Carol comes in and is like “Yo! Get those raven to the wormhole, I need Batfinger!” OMG, it must be something very specific, urgent, and important. We can’t wait to find out what. Oh, and Qyburn has some kind of unholy abomination in his room. As one does. Julia has three in hers, though Kylie would rather not disclose that information right now.
But before Batfinger gets a chance to teleport, it’s a PACKED day in Carol’s Landing as we move into episode 4, “The Sons of the Harpy”. First, Carol is wisely leading the Small Council. Mace mentions that the Iron Bank of Braavos is getting super pushy about collecting their debts. Carol sagely decides to send Mace to treat with them in person, because that will show the Iron Bank how seriously they’re taking the matter, as well as keep his buffoonery far away from her attempts to get shit done. I’m sure if there was any gold left in those Lannister mines she would have paid it in a heartbeat, but this is a pretty great Plan B, considering. And then she even gives Mace a Kingsguard to keep him safe!
Seriously…this is good governance.
Unfortunately, Carol fell for that “hopey changey” stuff High Grandpa had been preaching. I guess maybe she thought that the guy preaching tolerance and humility might be able to lead an armed sect of his Faith, but whatever her reasons, she just RANDOMLY, in response to nothing, suggests reinstating the Faith Militant. She commiserates with Grandpa about how the legal system is corrupt and the rich can do as they please, apparently not noticing when he’s, like, “you know, YOU’RE rich and YOU do as you please”. She then throws a bullseye onto the Knight of the Fabulous’s back to…punk Marg? Or because Carol is now Bobby Fischer and able to see how this set of actions will lead to a perjury trap (and thus separate her son from his abuser)?
No seriously, your guesses are as good as ours ¯\_ಠ_ಠ_/¯.
Anyway, then we cut to a very nuanced portrayal of what happens when the disenfranchised who turned towards religious institutions as a means for recourse over the atrocities the smallfolk had to endure from the high lord’s wars are suddenly given the tools and authority to carry out their own conception of justice.
LOL just kidding these hooligans fucking carve into their own flesh, run around smashing nick-nacks, implementing prohibition in a setting where alcohol is often the only beverage that can be safely consumed, and dragging people out of brothels for their very private sins. Then, in case we didn’t want to burn these strawmen to the ground, they totally arrest the Knight of the Fab for being gay.
Do you get it? The bad guys are homophobic. So this is a really PROGRESSIVE narrative.
Anyway, Marg is super upset by what happened so she decides to go scream at her abuse victim husband who was just trying to eat his lunch. Sadly, PDT is having trouble even realizing that Marg and Carol are not besties braiding each other’s hair. Still, for *love* (we guess) he goes to talk to mommy.
And Carol…just like. Stopped giving shits. She doesn’t at all seem surprised that the kindly old dude who preached asceticism suddenly produced black-robed violent thugs from his ass and had them smash up the place. She seems quite pleased, in fact. Giving fanatics powers you then can’t take away again was totally worth it to score a point in a cat fight. She figured there was plausible deniability about her role in Fab’s arrest (there was). But then instead of being incredibly worried about how her kid would be received by the commoners of Carol’s Landing (remember back in 3×04 when she freaked the fuck out over Joffrey just waving to the crowd?), she just is all “go see the High Grandpa yourself, I’m sure it will be fine.”
Carol, what about the prophecy you’re subverting that was SO important just three episodes ago that they broke the no flashbacks rule for it? What is happening to our infallible super-mom?
Anyway, for some reason High Grandpa has no interest in meeting with the king. We guess he figures there’s nothing more he can stand to gain from the crown now that the Faith Taliban is back. The commoners get pissy and call Tommen a “bastard” and seem violent. The five Kingsguard with Tommen (We guess they’re keeping the 7-Kingsguard thing if we want to ignore “Arys Oakheart” getting swallowed by the sea) want to totally kill every single commoner because that’s feasible.
Why is the crowd angry anyway? What happened to all that good faith the Tyrells bought them? Wasn’t everyone just shouting for Marg like, yesterday? They really are just super fickle and plain old irrational, aren’t they? And fuck, she’s THE QUEEN so why the fuck didn’t she go with him? She really is that into Westerosi power structures that she’ll defer to PDT for this stuff?
But whatever, I guess Marg isn’t going to reflect on that, because when PDT comes back to tell her that the High Grandpa send him right to voicemail, but he left a message and maybe he’ll try again in a few hours, she just yells at him more. She then says she needs her grandma (she’s THE QUEEN…what the fuck did she even want this position for?), and basically pulls the equivalent of “you’re sleeping on the couch tonight.” Which might be funny if, you know, their entire relationship wasn’t statutory.
So like…that’s that. We get one Carol-free episode (the painfully boring “Kill the Boy”. Coincidence?) but by the time we get to “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” (which is MANY things, but not boring) the Faith Taliban successfully overthrew the government. The king has absolutely no power to stop the arrests, and citizens can now be taken away for private sins. Fuck the game of thrones, this should be the game of the crystal crown (oh wait, that was never included LOL). But just when you were thinking “wow High Grandpa and the Faith Taliban just threw Carol’s Landing into chaos,” BATFINGER pops out of his teleporter, because that’s his job, damnit.
And chaos he brings for sure…to his own plans this time. But first, he and evil!Lancel have a chat where it’s explained that the Faith Taliban created a “new” Carol’s Landing, sent the godless on the run, and dismantled various establishments board by board. You know, what anyone turning to religion for comfort would want. Anyway, the whole stopping of Batfinger seems entirely pointless, except we’re pretty sure that Bryan Cogman got a partial when he wrote the line “we both peddle fantasies,” because it sounds kind of cool, even if it makes no sense for these characters to ever have this conversation. If only the showrunners had like…some kind of document or, idk book or something, to base these interactions on.
Speaking of conversations that don’t logically flow, Batfinger and Carol sit down at the table. He’s all “pissing off the Tyrells isn’t a good idea,” and she’s like, “but Loras is gay. Speaking of, Lysa was gross, what’s up with that” to which Batfinger kind of awkwardly defends the wife he murdered. Good thing Carol URGENTLY SUMMONED him. We learn why though: she wants to make sure of the knights of the Vale “if war comes to Westeros.” Yeah, who could imagine such a world. And this totally couldn’t have been put in a letter.
And then she says (this is a direct quote): “If there’s nothing else…”
Batfinger doesn’t want to waste the whole trip, so he tells Carol that the Boltons have Sansa and are marrying her to Ramsay. She gets pissed and wants to send an army to stop this (Roose, what did you think was going to happen?). But like, isn’t this… good for her? Doesn’t this completely neutralize any Stark claim to the North? Carol… are you feeling well? What happened to the woman who deftly side-lined Mace Tyrell by puffing up his ego? Oh well, at least she still has wine.
Batfinger suggests waiting until just after Stannis and the Boltons battle, and Carol freaks out that she has no one who can help her because she’s a struggling single mom, and Winterhell is so far away. Batfinger assures her he can use his teleporter to send the Vale knights, so long as he gets to be Warden of the North. She agrees so long as she gets Sansa’s head. Then the scene ends. How rude, Batfinger didn’t even give Carol a gift or anything. We’re sure that won’t come up later…
Just outside of Carol’s Landing, the driver of Olenna’s wheelhouse stops, knowing she’s sure to treat everyone to a witticism. She doesn’t disappoint and says you can smell the shit from miles away (perhaps Obara smelled it all the way in Porne…would explain a lot).
Then our Dowager Countess meets up with her sexually liberated granddaughter, and the two of them get even more sassy. Renly fucked every stable boy apparently! That was necessary to say, and not totally baseless! Then Olenna is like “Ima chat with Carol and take care of this.” Is there a reason Marg didn’t try and do that in the first place?
Maybe it’s because she knew Carol would be a totally implacable negotiator, as the Dowager Countess soon found out. Granted, calling the person you really need something from a “tart” right out of the gate might not be the best form of diplomacy, but Olenna’s just oh-so sassy she can’t help it! She calls Carol out for getting Fabs arrested, not buying the whole “I simply gave a band of religious fanatics who already acted in a violent manner some weapons; I had no idea what would happen!” excuse. But when she threatens the Tyrell/Lannister alliance (um…her granddaughter is still queen…how the fuck would that even work), Carol calls her bluff. Good thing Olenna has that heart of gold, I guess. Then again, Carol had a point; breaking the alliance would only hurt Westeros, and there’s really no other option than to go to this inquest thing.
Too bad Olenna didn’t think to come with her army or anything. Like…she heard the heir to Highgarden was arrested and just brought Left and Right? Come on, girl, what happened to you?
At the inquest (pre-trial? Deposition?), Loras, Knight of the Fabulous is charged with the crimes of “fornication, buggery, and blasphemy,” because the Faith can totally imprison people for not following the religion now (seriously, this is not a thing that makes sense on a very basic societal level). Fabs denies all the charges. Then High Grandpa, who’s a barrister apparently, calls forth Marg, who objects because she is “The Queen.” But these arbitrary laws mean that she has to testify anyway, and she lies because she’s such a good LGBT+ ally. Like, she was just asked “what do you make of these charges,” she totally could have said so many things that didn’t perjure herself…
Anyway, Carol somehow totes knows this was a trap because she is just GRINNING like the Joker. She’s even doing that thing that people do when they’re watching a movie they’ve seen before, and glance over at their friend when something big is coming up.
Theory: High Grandpa got Carol stoned in between Episodes 3 and 4, and that’s why she suddenly started acting out of character, because the Carol we know and love would at least keep it low-key. She also might be a soothsayer, or she and Batfinger had in-depth conversations off-screen. We’d tell you more about it but we’re not imaginative enough.
But Carol’s precognitive powers are as sharp as ever, because Olvyar gets called in. And we know that’s Bad News Bears for the Tyrells because Fabs starts like…twitching in his seat. It’s weird.
Olyvar tells everyone that he’s Fabs’s squire (did Fabs not know he was a sex worker? The Faith Taliban has seen Olyvar in Batfinger’s brothel, so they know and just don’t care? Why is Olyvar shielded from High Grandpa? Oh well, if an aesthetic monk can be a barrister, a sex worker can be a squire). Then he says he and Fabs slept together, to which Fabs calls out “liar!” Yeah, very effective.
Olyvar goes on to dramatically reveal that Marg knows about all the gay sex too. He seems to be having a lot of fun with this, actually. Maybe everyone’s stoned! “But wait, it’s just hearsay.” Oh no no no, THE PORNSH BIRTHMARK IS THE PROOF! And squires never see their knights’ thighs, so it totally checks out. So Marg and Loras get led off to the dungeons, we guess, as Marg shout’s Cersei’s lines (well, at least someone got them). And Carol just sits there still grinning, PDT just sits there confused and doesn’t think to order his Kingsguard to do anything, and Olenna just stands there looking sad. So glad everyone behaves in realistic ways here.
Whatever, don’t even bother thinking about it, it’s time for “The Gift”! And no doubt D&D think that one of their “gifts” to the audience is allowing us to listen to the Sassy!Olenna repeat the joke about people asking Grandpa if he knows where the High Grandpa is. We guess when you come up with material that original you can’t stand not to use it as much as you can.
Then they bond over being old and having decrepit joints. But they’re unable to bond over the fact that her moral relativism is just as ultimately unreasonable as his moral absolutism. Sad. You would think two intellectual straw men could make it work.
We’re tempted to be on her side when she points out how stupid it is to throw the book at people for having consensual sex and defending their brother. But then she threatens to cause a famine. Again. And her bluff is called. Again. Gods be good lady, what the fuck happened to you? Did you get a lobotomy in Highgarden? Grandpa just tells her to shove her privilege up her ass and leaves. Then in the street she’s accosted by a rando who wants to give her a letter with a HUGE seal.
PTD doesn’t want his lunch. He’s too full of toxic masculinity to eat beets! He’ll kill people and scream a lot and that will show his abuser wife how manly he is! But Carol takes him by the hand and gently explains that he can be strong in the real way, and that he’s helpless against fate. And by “fate” she means a situation that she engineered. For Reasons. We think.
But Carol loves her kids and they are the only motivation she needs. Like, actually, there is no joke here. PDT is super moved by his mom telling him she would burn cities to the ground for him. Mass murder is the surest way to a boy’s heart.
Then after some Pornish hijinks it’s…
Olenna doesn’t share Batfinger’s nostalgia for the most important brothel in Westeros, the place where sex was apparently invented; she just wants to know if he had a fucking explanation for that whole perjury trap thing. She’s so confused she’d willing to hold the whole “we were regicide buddies” thing over him, just to figure it out.
And he responds by…retconning. We think. You see, Carol used her telepathic powers to know that BF knew something. But not what that something was? Right? We both have headaches at this point. Anyway, that “something” was a handsome young man. And he’s got another one for Olenna. She seems excited.
Then Carol goes to visit her daughter-in-law in prison. And she even brings her her leftovers! Carol is so nice! But Marg rejects this niceness. And Carol is understandably bemused at the idea of the woman who sexually abused her son trying to take the moral high ground. But on the other hand, Marg looks like she’s been there for about a year, and she still can’t figure out the perjury trap either. So she covers her confusion by being catty (“I fucked your son!”) and throwing food.
And WHOSE side are we supposed to be on? Because Carol’s look of smug satisfaction as she walks down the corridor would make Regina George tell her to grow the fuck up.
Carol meets up with the High Grandpa in his favorite chapel thing that is so spartan it would make John Knox proud. He then goes on to speak like a person who has HEARD of ecclesiastical jurisprudence, without necessarily knowing anything about it. Carol’s cool with whatever scope of authority he pulled from his ass that he has in mind.
Carol wants to get out of there and take TomTom to soccer or something, but Grandpa wants to have another monologue to prove he’s heard of aestheticism. And also slut shaming. His slut shaming cred is rather undeniable as he produces evil!Lancel to stand there and look judgey at Poor Carol. To be honest, it’s quite possible he just decided to lock her up because this makes no sense to him either. Like, evil!Lancel was clearly the “handsome young man” (TRUST us, we have a sixth sense for honeypots). And he finally confessed to fucking Carol/killing Robert now because…Batfinger told him to? Because Batfinger has a random Lannister cousin in his pocket?
See? Can anyone blame Grandpa for being confused?
But it’s okay because it means that the real hero will FINALLY appear. Yes, it’s Septa Spoonella! She’s a badass who has no time for Carol’s rank pulling and threats. Watch her slut shame in slow motion! Spoonella don’t give a fuck. She just locks up the queen anyway.
Aaand the very next scene we get to see this relationship blossom, in “Hardhome”. Appropriate, since this cell is Carol’s new home, and it looks… hard. Spoonella marches into Carol’s cell with her spoon of doom, and asks for a confession. Carol’s probably just as bemused as we are as to what she would possible confess to, so she asks about her son. So brave in the face of danger. And like…extreme dehydration. Seriously, she’s gonna die in a few days.
Her next visitor, some indeterminate amount of time later, is Qyburn. He finally tells her what she’s charged with, and it’s “fornication, treason, incest, the murder of King Robert.” So Carol, too, was arrested on rumours. Then it only gets worse for our super mom.
- There’s no word from Larry ◕︵◕
- Kevan is back and leading the Small Council but refuses to see her ◕︵◕
- PDT is confused by his emotions and won’t come out of his room ◕︵◕
Qyburn tells Carol the only way out is to confess (HOW is this the system?? She’s literally going to die). But she refuses because she doesn’t want to give High Grandpa the satisfaction. Or something.
However, things are obviously dire for her, because the next scene, Spoonella is still withholding water. Carol tries to buy her and threaten her, but the mean old septa just dumps the water on the floor, and once she leaves, Carol drinks it. Yuck.
Then, only a few days pass at most, but poor Carol literally looks like she’s been in that cell for a few years. Dehydration is a bitch, we guess. She hears the door open and it’s Spoonella. Joy! There’s an effective low angle shot as she says “Confess.” Carol looks like shit.
We fade to Grandpa’s favourite chapel in a scene that’s blocked to be evocative of the Catholic sacrament of confession (or rather “Reconciliation”. Stupid Vatican II…). Then we get the rarest of rare occurrences on GoT: a book scene. Well, a book scene with retcon, but at this point: we’ll take it.
Carol tries to go all pious but the High Grandpa is all, “give me the dirt, sister.”
So Carol admits that she schtupped Lancel. And he says, “your cousin”, as though that’s a taboo. It’s not dude. And also, this was while Robert was alive. Because even the actual High Sparrow would think that doing what they’re about to do to a widow who had sex, like, twice, would be a bit much. And he’s nice enough to just brazenly state the double standard when it comes to adultery. (“His sins do not exclude yours, yo.”) Poor Carol, taking on the patriarchy all by herself. She would never exploit this double standard to harm another woman, we’re sure.
Here’s the problem. In the books, Cersei was faking her contrition and her cowedness. But is Carol? The contrition yes, Carol isn’t going to regret the twincest, but is she actually cowed? We’re both quite sure Lena Headey thinks so.
But there has never, ever been anyone else, Carol declares. Well, there hasn’t. Except for Larry, and Carol’s not about to admit to that. Larry’s strategy of keeping the incest on the DL is starting to make sense, isn’t it? Whatever, she blames it on Stannis.
Grandpa’s glad, but he says there needs to be a trial. Just to reassure everyone, you know. He’s says she’s only confessed to one sin, that is, having consensual sex. What a monster she is. Carol’s not thrilled, but it’s not like she has a choice.
She really just wants to see little TomTom; she misses him. “Just one drop of the “Mother’s Mercy”?” Hey, that’s the name of the episode! Such clever writing. Grandpa agrees, after her “atonement.” Say what?
And then we have more than a minute of a body double who’s at least fifteen years younger than Carol being manhandled by nuns intercut with close ups of Carol’s face. It’s a little confusing. These nuns REALLY hate her, you guys. Spoonella just stands there glaring as they hack her hair off with a razor blade and cut into her scalp so there’s blood all over the place. They don’t have scissors in Weisseroff? And if not, they don’t at least have more practice with a razor so that they can avoid cutting chunks out of someone’s scalp?
Poor Carol. Like, actually. She dreamed a dream in time gone by; when hope was high and life worth living.
Then the inexplicably hateful nuns manhandle her some more as she’s brought before a mob on the steps of the sept. The High Grandpa gives a little speech about how she’s a horrible slut. “Falsehood and fornication.” Sorry, we have no jokes. Like, Cersei actually did bad things, and she didn’t deserve this, but Carol did nothing wrong all season except smirk at Marg a little. Did she twist Grandpa’s arm to arrest Fabulous, or frame Marg for something she didn’t do? Nope. Like, seriously, she did nothing wrong this season. The people who are punishing her right now did the wrong things, and at most she enabled them. To save her son from sexual abuse that was actually happening. Also how is “fornication” a real charge? And not “adultery”? Was this while Robert was alive or not?
But the people of Carol’s Landing don’t see it the way we do. They throw shit and scream gendered slurs. Carol is so upset that very strange things happen to her face. But only in wide shots with full frontal nudity. Weird.
Buck up though, Carol. The fact that you have the body of a woman fifteen years younger means you don’t have to confront any ugly truths about how much of your own self worth you base on your appearance and desirability to men. You’re a Victim™. You had no pride or self-delusions to strip away. You’re an awesome super-mom, and you did the best you could.
This is bad guys.
So… Carol walks through the door of the Red Keep naked, and her uncle just stands there staring at her. It takes Qyburn to come running up with a cloak before anyone says or does anything. Pycelle has… some kind of feelings. They might be lecherous, we can’t really tell.
But there’s good news, though. Qyburn has a new friend. He’s eight feet tall. And he’s blue. Which apparently no one wanted to point out. Who died and made him Kingsguard?
No, seriously, who died?
Aaaand that’s it. That’s the Ballad of Carol, our super-mom who had to fight the patriarchy to save her kids, and then randomly armed zealots along the way who turned around and slut-shamed her for sad, comfort sex she had years ago.
Whose story was it?
In our other retrospectives, we walked through the list of characters to determine this. But…do we even have to? It’s blindingly obvious Carol is the protagonist here. She’s in nearly every scene, and the narrative follows her decisions. The entire season is set-up to be the Carol Saga actually, with her cold-open. Even if we wanted to pretend that Marg is just as “important” in the earlier episodes of the season (we do get lots of scenes with her and PTD that Carol isn’t in), she exits stage-left in Episode 7 so the back-half is entirely focused on Carol.
Batfinger kind of just…flew in from his other plotline. Olenna made jokes and threats that no one believed. The High Sparrow was the antagonist of Carol’s Landing (Marg was like, a secondary antagonist, we guess).
Fuck! We’re going through the characters because we feel bad making statements without justifying them. Seriously, anyone who wants to argue that the main character of Carol’s Landing wasn’t Carol, please submit 1,000 words to our desks by Tuesday.
What was the result of this story, from a thematic and character perspective?
Since Carol is the protagonist, the plotline is about her trying to keep her children safe and prevent herself from being “cast down” by Marg, and then getting kind of randomly and unfairly punished.
You might think we’re unhinged now, because isn’t that exactly what we always talk about when it comes to Cersei’s AFFC plotline? That the prophecy was self-fulfilling, and in Cersei’s desperate attempts to subvert it, she created conditions that poetically made it come true?
Well, the problem is, D&D bent over backwards to make sure we saw how Carol really was justified in her concerns. In the first episode of the season, Marg Boleyn outright admits that she’s going to try to take Carol out of power with her “perhaps” to her brother. Then we see her actively abuse and manipulate Tommen to try and convince him to send his mother packing. So we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there really is a younger queen trying to “cast down” Carol, rather than in the books, where it’s blindingly obvious that Cersei projects scheming onto Margaery.
And then she’s worried about her kids dying because Maggy the Fox told her “gold will be their shrouds.” But again, we SEE that Tommen and Myrcella are in active danger. The crowd wants to rip Tommen limb-from-limb, and when he’s safe in the Keep, he is in an exploitative and damaging relationship that his wife is trying to use him to make her own power plays. For Myrcella, there’s the snake-in-the-box threat, which we learn from the Pornish plotline was real.
So honestly, the prophecy is almost completely pointless. Why the fuck is it even in there? Were D&D just worried that we might, for a fraction of a second, not understand Carol’s concerns? Why did they break their rule of “no flashbacks, no dreams” for something that added absolutely nothing to the narrative?
Given Carol’s very real threats, the theme most intimately explored really seems to be how a woman with little to no recourse must navigate against the patriarchy with increasingly desperate means to save herself and her children. It’s the tale of someone who goes to extremes, and then gets horribly punished for it. Should she have just ignored the abuses around her? Should she have just ignored Marg’s obvious mustache twirling? What the fuck kind of plot is this?!?!!
No seriously, Carol even legitimately tried. She wanted her uncle’s help ruling, and she knew that he might be able to keep the Tyrells in check. He refused because she was the “Queen Mother” and he wouldn’t recognize her authority, and thought a 12-year old stupid kid was more apt to govern. Because he’s a sexist asshole.
It’s like…D&D purposely made Carol as sympathetic and sad as possible, but then knew they had to still have her do these things and get arrested, despite the fact that the woman they wrote doesn’t fit in with the plot points of Martin’s story anymore.
The best we can come up with to explain this phenomenon is that D&D wrote Carol to be a “Villain Protagonist.” We don’t know why…it seems that they greatly have sympathized with her for a while now, perhaps due to some Freudian Excuse. It’s sort of that fandom tendency where some fans can’t differentiate between understanding unsavory motivations and excusing them. Carol is heavily, heavily excused by the narrative. But we think she’s still supposed to be a Villain™. Probably because they don’t understand the implications of what they wrote at all.
For example, her decision to sideline Mace by sending him to Braavos was not supposed to be a “good” decision, we don’t think. The music didn’t think it was. Because it was all about getting him out of the way so she can punk Marg, right? And being the only one with any power? The Small Council is “not small enough.”
But, firstly, Mace is a buffoon who was never actually in Carol’s way. His responsibilities seemed to be confined to fetching pens and opening doors. Never once has a single character in this show taken him seriously. Ever. Secondly, this means that the writers wrote a scene where a ruler makes a very astute political decision and demonstrates an understanding of the strength and weaknesses of her underlings, as well as showing that she takes external matters like debts and foreign relations seriously, and then they framed it as being about a cat fight and expects the audience to take away: “look how power-hungry she is!”
We, the audience, are not supposed to be on her side, even though the story wants us to be.
Are you sitting there going, “that makes no fucking sense”? We know.
Okay, moving onto other characters, because we’re getting a fucking headache here.
Marg Boleyn is probably the deuteragonist of this arc, right? But like…what’s her motivation? Please tell us. She wants to be queen, we guess. She wants to have PDT wrapped around her finger. But why? What happened to her give-orphans-toys charity drive? Does she really not have any opinions on governance to the point where she doesn’t even try to get in on that Small Council (which btw her 16-year old book counterpart did exactly that). I mean, it’s possible that we’re supposed to accept that her motives are so superficial that, like, that’s it, she wants people to call her “Your Grace”, but really…
Not to mention, after Fabs gets arrested, she all of a sudden becomes helpless and stupid. I mean full-on stupid. Marg, who motives aside, at least has been painted as having a good head on her shoulders, is suddenly incapable of approaching Cersei herself? She really thought her best bet to free her brother was to scream at PDT rather than, idk, GO WITH HIM to the sept? The Tyrells supposedly bought all this good-faith with the commoners, so couldn’t that maybe have helped her gain access to the sept?
What theme was most intimately explored in Marg’s arc? The only thing we can think is that it’s somehow the tale of someone who was outclassed in her willingness to be ruthless by Carol.
We’re pretty sure Marg and the Tyrells are supposed to be the “good guys.” Her arrest was certainly framed as “bad.” It’s possible that the themes explored through Marg were actually just ancillary for the benefit of other characters (she’s a “good guy” for the High Grandpa to react against, and a “good guy” for our Villain Antagonist to try and tear down), which means that she’s not the deuteragonist at all. She’s a hapless victim. Yes, she’s mean to Carol and is, like, a rapist, but Carol deserves it. At least we think D&D want us to think she does? (We don’t. Protect Carol at all costs).
This is how Natalie Dormer understands the character of Marg this year:
“She’s not maliciously, coldly, indifferently jumping from one man to another. Margaery is trying to keep something really bad from happening to her or her family,” Dormer says. “She’s trying to keep them all treading water, and Cersei is out to get her. It’s fight or be eaten. She genuinely cares about Tommen; she has a good heart.”
Alright, let’s do the High Grandpa. Who really must have been high, because truly, what benefit was there in him opposing the Tyrells? We mean, he seemed totally keen to go along with this ridiculous perjury trap, even manipulating the circumstances to bring about Marg’s arrest. He really hates gayness that much? It’s that big a deal to him that the queen knows of her brother’s sin and what…didn’t disown him? You could argue that he was doing this in exchange for the Faith being armed, but 1) Carol’s suggestion came out of nowhere and 2) once she (err…Tommen) signed the order he didn’t have to do diddly squat if he didn’t want to. That was kind of the point.
And like, the thing is, the Tyrells have been shown to at least vaguely give a shit about the commoners, even if it is for cynical, political reasons. Olenna really wouldn’t risk open-war again by blowing up her alliance with Carol, despite Carol obviously being involved in Fabs’s arrest, and she wouldn’t try to starve “the many” as a means to freeing the fucking heir to Highgarden. Our point is, wouldn’t someone like High Grandpa, who apparently cares for the many, perhaps want to not piss off a House like this, especially given that the “proof” is hearsay from one of Batfinger’s sexworkers?
Do we even need to go into the Faith Taliban? What the fuck is the point of them at all? How does this play into what High Grandpa wants at all? All that can be said for sure is that they’re homophobic and that’s bad. Beware of religion. Thanks, D&D, that’s such a progressive narrative and not at all a bullshit group of strawmen.
It’s clear to us that Grandpa is supposed to be a “true believer” who’s “honest” and “driven solely by faith”, the only one in this plotline. But, like, homophobia is bad, clearly D&D think so. So the best we can come up with is that he’s a Visionary Villain. But one who takes it up to eleven to the point where he’s holding the Idiot Ball (he’s Lawful Stupid, you might say). Like, who in their right mind would think that arresting the queen and the heir to the #2 Lordship in Westeros is an appropriate response to what they did?
What other characters are there for us to look at? PDT? His abuse was played off as a joke, and his entire plotline was a boy acting like an 8-year-old, but running around in the body of a 12-year-old because they thought introducing a sexual dynamic made sense.
Uh…Batfinger? He’s kind of more “in” the Winterhell plotline, but what in Seven Hells was he doing here? Just randomly helping Carol arrest the Tyrells, only to later help the Tyrells because Olenna threatened him?
Here’s the thing about Batfinger: nothing he did made any goddamn sense this year. Kylie talked about it in her Winterhell Retrospective, and while we were trying to write this stupid thing, we had an incredibly long IM conversation where we tried our damned hardest to make sense of it. There’s no logic to be found. Batfinger had no reason to travel his ass down to Carol’s Landing (and her summons were paper-thin), he had no reason to agree to Carol’s terms for Warden of the North, he had no reason to give Carol the “handsome young man” of Olyvar (which btw, must have been discussed off-screen), and he had only very weak reasons to help Olenna by selling out Carol (he truly believed she’d own up to the Purple Wedding?). Everything he did was just introducing chaos for chaos’s sake.
There was some podcast that rationalized this away by saying that Batfinger’s strategy is to throw a whole lot of balls into the air and see what lands, and do it in such a way that he can always pretend to be on everyone’s side. Fine, sure. Go with that. He’s a character with no forethought and no real plan who acts in random ways based on plot necessity. But forgive us for not finding that worth analyzing further.
Also while we’re at it, we’re skipping Olyvar and Fabs. They don’t have characters…they’re cartoonish and offensive gay stereotypes whose sexualities are the totality of their personalities. Fabs was a victim and Olyvar was a schemer this season. Wow. Nuanced.
That just leaves Olenna, right? We think it’d at least be hard to view anyone else as enough of an entity (Kevan, Pycelle, Qyburn, etc.). But Olenna, good gods. She must be a master juggler because that Idiot Ball did not touch the ground once with her. From the second she stepped foot into Carol’s Landing, she was useless. She won’t blow up her alliance with Carol, who CLEARLY was behind Fabs’s arrest, because…she was oh-so kind? Her threats to High Grandpa were actually just a bluff too because…she was oh-so kind? But then she enlisted Batfinger’s help to punk Carol (rather than free her grandkids) and was willing to “die trying” if he didn’t agree to it?
Like, we’re not trying to say it’s shitty that she “cares about people.” What we’re saying is that in this society if the heir to your fucking House, along with the queen who is from your fucking House, is arrested, THAT’s the time to pull out all the stops and yes…even risk war. NOW’s the time to break off the siege of Storm’s End and bring your whole army to chill outside the city. Because power in feudalism comes from the family unit and that is what must be protected first. Plus…Fabs and Marg really are guilty of their crimes (even if the arrest is a HUGE overreaction to them), so it’s not like “due process” is going to sort this all out.
Honestly, Olenna was headbutting the Idiot Ball back and forth with Batfinger and High Grandpa in their conversations. And we know Carol was in possession of it originally when she just RANDOMLY armed the Faith. High Grandpa didn’t even bring it up! He didn’t even so much as say “oh no, septas are being raped and sparrows are being accosted.”
The rule of Idiot Ball is that if multiple characters are in position, then it becomes an Idiot Plot. And even though Carol’s Landing may not be as nakedly stupid as say, Porne, where we had no book-content to project onto the characters, the fact is that in Carol’s Landing, every person acts randomly and against their own interest at least once, and usually far more.
As far as the outcomes, we’ll dig deeper for sure, but at the moment we’re just confused. The themes explored seem entirely incidental, given how the plot-points weren’t born out of any sort of consistent character motivation. How are we supposed to feel about Marg? Or Carol, for that matter? They didn’t notice the rape, so what was supposed to be the point of this? Is Carol supposed to be justified? We think she is because we don’t think it’s hilarious when a 12-year-old has sex with a woman, but seriously, what was the intent?
Who is supposed to be in the right? Is this supposed to be “morally ambiguous”? Or more Winterhell-esque “everyone and everything is horrible and you have no one to root for”? Because they’re so edgy?
What adaptational choices were made?
So we’ve thought long and hard about this, and the conclusion we’ve arrived at is that THE adaptational change they made with the biggest “butterfly effect,” as Mr. Martin would call it, was the decision to have Marg and PDT’s relationship be sexual. With this consummation, Marg could no longer be arrested on the grounds of “potentially not being a virgin” as she was in the books. And btw, cheating on the king is high treason. Like, Carol admitted to high treason and D&D didn’t realize.
But if Marg’s maidenhead was not even supposed to be intact, it meant that they needed some other reason to arrest her. Enter the Faith Taliban’s homophobic crusade and the perjury trap, which was probably the DUMBEST way to drag her into this possible. Like, one of the whole points of Cersei’s plotline in the book is that in the end, she’s arrested on similar charges to the ones she faked for Margaery (seriously, Cersei slept with a dude and then had him go and lie to the High Septon that he had bedded Margaery instead), but her charges are ironically true.
No such poetic “justice” in Weisseroff though. Fabs really WAS super gay and sinning, Marg really DID perjure herself in her attempts to cover it up, the High Sparrow really WAS more concerned about arresting citizens for private crimes than like…getting protection for the commonfolk who were the ones truly suffering from the war, and Carol really WAS precognitive to know that randomly arming the Faith could have this domino effect to her desired result.
In other words, this ENTIRE plot made no sense because D&D thought it’d be really funny to have a little boy talk about how much he loved his sex with an abusive older woman. And then make it seem as if somehow Tommen was lucky–a Real Man™ even–as a result of this change.
We’re not saying D&D’s other adaptational changes didn’t matter, of course. Just that this was the adaptational change that caused everything else to collapse, and it was also the adaptational change that was the least justifiable. Because seriously, please explain to us what adding this dynamic did for the plot? How would it have been any different than if Marg had just been a really fun babysitter, like she was in the books? We can’t think of a single reason why this needed to happen, and given how it played into the exceedingly damaging “All Abusers are Male” trope, it goes beyond “thoughtless” into offensive, exploitative, and irresponsible.
The Carolization of Cersei was a trend that started long before this season (we trace it back to that famous black-haired baby scene in 1×02), but it was a decision whose true and inescapable consequences were seen in this season.
Carol is not nearly as quick to anger or resort to force as Cersei is. She would never have a man’s nose cut off because he brought her the wrong dwarf!head. She would never browbeat Grand Maester Pycelle until he told her what she wanted to hear and say horribly ageist things to him. She would never sleep with a dude to get him to smother the pope in his sleep, or do it again so that he would lie to the next one in order to frame someone for a crime that would result in her execution. That simply isn’t in character for Carol. Carol isn’t nearly as sexually manipulative as Cersei, and she isn’t nearly as petty. And despite everything, D&D get Carol.
They should; they made her up.
Given what we know of Carol, it would be out of character for her to project onto Marg so much, or to be paranoid at all, so all the things that she’s afraid of have to actually exist. Kevan’s only possible objection to her is that she’s a woman, and he’s just plain wrong about anything else. He really does think he can just ignore her because she’s “the Queen Mother, nothing more”. Marg really is trying to displace her and turn Tommen against her. He children are in real, physical danger. She is fully capable of perfectly sound leadership decisions. She’s perfectly capable of working with people she doesn’t like. Carol is a “good” ruler. This may not be on purpose… we’ll discuss that later.
We could go on about how this is the opposite of her book plot, but we’ve already done that. However, it’s also like, in conflict with the shit they needed Carol to do and have done to her this season. Because if Marg and PDT was non-negotiable, then so was the Walk of Shame. We mean, they went up against an entire country and won, just so they could keep in the part where Carol is forced to walk through Carol’s Landing naked.
In order for that to happen, she needed to arm the Faith, despite the fact that all of Cersei’s reasons for doing so (the High Sparrow being made High Septon being out of her control, the Sparrows being a threat to the peace of the city, him holding Tommen’s blessing back, the huge amount of money the crown owes the Faith, the suffering of the Faith to begin with) just don’t exist in Wiesseroff.
In fact, you can make an argument that Cersei didn’t really have a choice. That the rearming of the Faith was a fait accompli and she just rubber stamped it (and incidentally, solved the immediate problems). The Sparrow movement in the show literally came out of nowhere, and Carol handed them a loaded gun for literally no reason, other than the chance to potentially stick it to Marg by getting her brother arrested. It made the disorder in Carol’s Landing worse, not better. It was just dumb.
And that was Carol’s “big mistake,” the reason why she was punished. She tried to use the Faith Taliban to bring down the Tyrells and was hoisted by her own petard. But it didn’t come from her characterization, or the themes of her arc. It was just something she randomly did one morning. She thought it’d be a nifty rebuttal to Marg’s alcoholism joke.
And in the end, it wasn’t hubris that caused Carol to fall into the hands of the Faith, it was Olenna and Batfinger being sneaky sneaks and scoring another point in round whatever of the cat fight over nothing.
We should quickly take the time to mention the adaptational change to even bring Batfinger and Olenna into this, because both characters were well away from King’s Landing in the books. Batfinger’s presence was the leftover effect of another shitty adaptational decision up North, where the “reasons” to get him out of Winterhell were so that horrible things could happen to Sansa.
Hopefully we’ve detailed how those “reasons” were nonexistent. They were so blatantly nonexistent that it’s offensive. But then like…there’s the issue that, even had Petyr Baelsih been injected into King’s Landing, he wouldn’t have behaved in as stupid or random a way as Batfinger did. Did Batfinger really need Carol’s help to the point where he also sold out Marg free of charge? Which kind of ensured that the Tyrells would have nothing to lose, and thus Olenna coming out about the Purple Wedding was likelier? Was there even a reason he got involved in this stupid trial-subplot when he and Carol *never* discussed it on screen?
That’s probably what’s most frustrating, is that we have to just invent these wild rationalizations for why Batfinger acted the way he did, because they literally never bothered to have him bring up Olyvar to Carol. Yet Carol clearly knew what was coming at the trial…
Maybe it’s in a deleted scene. But if we have to wait for the deleted scenes to come out for your story to makes ANY kind of sense, then, guess what, you’re a shitty writer.
Then there was Olenna. She was there because she’s funny. Seriously, if you can think of a better reason, tell us, because from what we can tell, her staying in Highgarden would have affected absolutely nothing. Maybe she needed to be there to encourage Batfinger to sell out Carol, but honestly couldn’t he have just gone to Carol’s Landing on that mission (after all, he is working with Sansa, and we really don’t think he’s actually going to do the whole head on a spike thing, so no Carol wouldn’t be the worst thing for him), and convinced Lancel after seeing the state of things? Fuck, they could have had the touching brothel conversation together. Nothing makes sense anyway!
Like, did they even need Batfinger and Olenna to have Lancel rat on Carol? It makes perfect sense that Lancel would do it on his own. He’s super into that whole confession thing, as he told Carol in episode 1. Also, Batfinger could have ratted to the High Grandpa on his own. He knows about the incest fo sho, as he told Carol in episode 6. And he probably knows about killing Robert too, since he seemed to understand Lancel’s value in all of this right away.
Olenna and Batfinger were just two characters that were randomly thrown in, as far as we can tell.
Finally, there’s also the adaptational changes made to the Faith. We already discussed above how the homophobic crusade was likely in part due to Marg and PDT’s sexual relationship, so they needed *some* other way to nail Marg, and perjury through her brother’s testimony was a path to that. However, given how contrived a path it was, it seems like there might have been other factors at play. The most reasonable answer we can think of is that the Faith’s extremism was a very convenient shorthand to tell the audience that these guys were “bad.”
Now, we say this fully knowing that D&D have talked about how the High Grandpa:
[Pryce discussing how High Grandpa is driven solely by faith and has very ‘honorable intentions’] Benioff: Which of course makes other people in the show distrust him even more, because they can’t believe that anyone would actually be honest. Everyone’s playing some kind of secret game.
But the thing is, you can’t say this guy has “honorable intentions,” while then completely altering what those intentions were from the books. The High Sparrow was concerned about the suffering of the poor, and how the people of the Faith are attacked on the roads with no recourse. It’s about how the War of Five Kings had terrible consequences for the smallfolk, and high lords are not doing anything to offer protection. The first thing the High Sparrow did upon taking office (he was appointed by the people in a populist movement, btw) was to sell the crystal and golden crown of his post to provide food for those who needed it.
The High Grandpa is concerned about…people frequenting brothels. He’s concerned about the consumption of wine. He’s concerned about poor merchants selling “false idols.” And he’s VERY concerned about gays, especially if they’re rich gays. Like, he does seem to be secondarily into the redistribution of wealth, but it’s not as if he even brought up the Crown’s debt to the Sept (that just wasn’t in the show at all). The High Grandpa also willingly lured Marg into a perjury trap…again. WHAT was he getting out of it?
So no, D&D made it very clear what they think of the High Grandpa: that he and the Faith Taliban are a cautionary tale against religion, and we should shake our fists and be oh-so angry when Fabs gets wrongfully punished for his sexytimes. After all…
Why did they make the adaptational choices they did?
We kind of already guessed at some of this, but we can go more in-depth. We think it’s pretty clear that with the Faith, they think they’re being progressive. They created cartoonish homophobes to hurt our protagonists, so we can clap and cheer at how sensitive D&D are when it comes to LGBT issues. We mean the Faith was clearly painted as BAD, so who gives a shit that Fabs wasn’t given an actual personality or plotline? Why were D&D so determined to paint the Faith as “bad” in the first place? ¯\_ಠ_ಠ_/¯. We could guess at their personal religious views, but let’s not. For whatever reason, it was not a movement they felt should be portrayed in a good light. We hear ya loud and clear, D&D.
We also think that they believe they’re being funny in a lot of these changes. And funny = good TV, right? TomTom and Marg was supposed to make us laugh…a little boy likes sex with a hot older woman and wants to do that all day every day! Marg and Carol are catty and making snappy Mean Girls jokes! Olenna’s talking about poop!
From what we can tell, D&D genuinely seem to think their plotline makes sense. Which means another reason for their adaptational choices is that they legitimately confuse “complex political maneuverings” with “random and nonsensical political maneuverings.” We really hope we’ve made it clear that the actors did not behave in their best interest. They just ran around doing random shit. It was one big game of Tlachtli with the Idiot Ball going through all the hoops.
Seriously, we’ve given ourselves headaches trying to make sense of why they did what they did here. We’ve had conversations spanning DAYS about how the “handsome young man” of Olyvar possibly was brought into this–was Carol and Batfinger’s offscreen conversation before or after her making fun of Lysa? WE HAVE NO CLUE.
We suppose there is the possibility that this is what they think the book plotline was all about. That Cersei and Margaery were just being catty, and so long as they hit that emotional beat, the rest makes sense. But did they not realize that Cersei was able to be arrested without Book!Lancel because she did like…shit you can’t fucking do within her aFfC arc? And again, how does this justify arresting Marg through Loras and completely warping everything we know about the Faith?
Of course it’s possible D&D think they did this plotline justice, but that’s a level of incompetence that even we don’t feel comfortable projecting onto them. So let’s just leave it as they thought their changes made for really, really good TV, eh?
How did those choices change the story?
Not to belabour the point, but…nothing makes sense.
FINE, we’ll break it down for you.
The Faith Taliban makes no sense.
First of all, they kind of came out of nowhere. True, there was Marg’s charity work in season 3 (where did that go?) and the comment about the left-overs at the Purple Wedding, and the Faith was saying some unkind things about Tyrion in season 2, so we get the impression that it sucks to be poor in Wiesseroff, but the Sparrows as a group formed in response to the War of the Five Kings, with an articulated set of political goals, is non-existent. Because the Faith as a political entity is non-existent (hell, they have Pycelle randomly do most of the stuff that a septon normally would) and the suffering of the Faith in the riverlands and elsewhere is literally never touched on.
The Sparrows are introduced as “bloody fanatics” who came to Carol’s Landing, but not for any stated goal. The High Grandpa has a general anti-rich Leveller-esque philosophy (without the religious toleration), who decide to show up in the city because, um, reasons. It’s actually Carol who mentions “septs being burned, Silent Sisters raped”, like three seconds before she arms them. While Grandpa sits there looking bemused.
In the books, THOUSANDS of people from all over the place descend on King’s Landing and camp out in the square in front the the Sept of Baelor. They bring with them the corpses of thousands of clergy who’ve been killed in the war. Just their sheer numbers are a huge threat to public order. This coincides with the election of a new High Septon (Cersei had the old one assassinated, if you recall). A mob of these “sparrows”, who are poor people (men AND women, incidentally) from all walks of life, storm the election and force the Most Devout to elect their leader, a random, charismatic itinerant preacher who soon gets the nickname of “High Sparrow”. This now extremely powerful man then proceeds to withhold blessing the king, an important symbolic gesture to cement the legitimacy of royal power. And also the crown owes the Faith a HUGE amount of money.
So Cersei had no choice but to deal with this person. And she’s still incredibly short sighted to rearm the Faith, even if it did solve all her immediate problems. But it should say something that Cersei, a character seen by many as comically stupid, shows a good deal more political acumen than our super mom.
Carol had no reason to engage with Grandpa, except that she arrogantly believed that she could use him. The Sparrows were causing trouble, but not nearly at the same level. They had no political goal, they were just running soup kitchens and calling people out. There was no debt mentioned, no blessing withheld. This was ALL Carol’s idea. We mean, if Grandpa was playing her, then wow, we’re very impressed. That was totes subtle, dude. And really, she couldn’t think of a better way? Once you give fanatics more or less unlimited power it’s kind of hard to take it back. And to punk Marg? Thinking that could possibly be worth it is just holding the Idiot Ball.
And that brings us neatly to the next point…
The Faith Taliban’s actions, and the powers they have, make no sense.
What’s more they are completely inconsistent. Like, we were supposed to assume that True Believer High Grandpa got this power nonsensically handed to him, and his True Believer conscience made him go after all these people, right? But how does it makes sense for him to be able to walk up to powerful, well connected aristocrats and arrest them? In the books, they were rearmed specifically to defend septs, clergy, and pilgrims. The scope of their authority is very limited. They were able to detain Margaery because they had proof (Osney Kettleblack’s confession) that she broke a holy vow, her marriage vows, and the vows she made about her virginity. And even there, it wasn’t clear that they had the authority to do this, not until Cersei stupidly gave it to them.
What does Fabs having a boyfriend have to do with the Faith? Nothing. What evidence did they have? Hearsay. The Faith Taliban, like, took over the entire legal system? That is INSANE. And no, not historically accurate (as if that’s a thing that makes sense to cite). Ecclesiastical law is always separate from secular law. What the fuck do you think Thomas Becket and Henry II were arguing about? If sin=law breaking, then Carol just gave them the entire government in that case. To punk Marg. Which makes her smugness until the second Spoonella grabs her a little hard to explain. Because D&D wrote a coup and didn’t notice.
What exactly is Carol charged with?
As we already mentioned, for a queen to cheat on the king is high treason. Like, the worst thing a person can do in this society. And Carol admitted to it. We think. I mean, it sounds like she did:
Carol: I lay with a man outside the bonds of marriage, I confess.
High Grandpa: Name him.
Carol: Lancel Lannister.
High Grandpa: Your cousin, and the king’s squire.
Carol: I was lonely and afraid.
High Grandpa: You had a husband.
Carol: A husband off whoring ever chance he-
High Grandpa: His sins do not pardon your own.
Which is the one thing Book!Cersei was very careful to NOT admit…because that’s FUCKING SERIOUS and would mean her head?
But like, there’s a lot before Carol is grabbed that is a little hard to explain. Which leads us to:
Carol’s motivations for summoning BF make no sense
The whole thing with the “Handsome Young Men” and Batfinger suddenly turning to help the Tyrells by throwing Carol under the bus makes so sense. Well, to be fair, we GUESS it makes sense if you assume that Batfinger is literally this agent of chaos and literally just going with the flow in every scene with no actual plan, then we guess you can argue it “makes sense”. But, like, randomization elements are cool in RPGs, but not so much in stories that are apparently “intricately plotted political machinations”.
Do we need to convince you that it makes no sense in Carol’s plotline?
- Anything to do with Olyvar wasn’t discussed between Batfinger and Carol. In fact, Marg wasn’t even discussed. Just “oh Loras is arrested, that’s not bad politics”
- Carol sends for Batfinger IMMEDIATELY after meeting High Grandpa. Why? No seriously, does this mean she was planning the Faith Militant already? And foresaw the potential to set up a perjury trap for Marg but if only Batfinger could help her with the execution?
- Carol still arms the Faith before Batfinger even arrives, so was this related at all? Did she just get fucking lucky that Batfinger happened to understand how to fuck with Marg in this? And again WHEN was this brought up?
There’s a shot right at the beginning of the scene where Carol rearms the Faith, of Batfinger’s letter, presumably saying he’ll be right with her, so we’re obviously supposed to connect the two.
But how? If Carol knew about Olyvar, what did she need Batfinger for? If she didn’t, then how the fuck did she know that arming the Faith would lead to a perjury trap? Because it’s a pretty extreme thing to do just on the off chance that they might be useful later.
Then there’s the HYM logistics. Like, we guess all that can be said about Mr. Chaos is that Batfinger decided “you know what, as thanks for my Wardenship of the North promise, I’m going to help Carol bag Marg.” So then at some point he obviously told Carol about it off-screen, because at the inquest she knew exactly what questions to ask. But guess who else did? High Grandpa. So that means that either Carol or Batfinger had to have approached High Grandpa and told him, “hey, there’s this ‘squire’ who can proves Fabs is totes gay and guess what…he also says Marg knows, so let’s try to nail her.” And High Grandpa was all like “Sounds great! I love pissing off the most powerful House that controls the most croplands.” But they also somehow must have negotiated for Olyvar to not get punished, because he was just like…fucking grinning as he was testifying. Is he that loyal to Batfinger that this was such fun for him? Did they lie to Olyvar?
AND THIS ALL HAPPENED OFF-SCREEN.
The Tyrells behaved like total dipshits and none of their motivations made sense
We did talk about this before, in some detail, so to recap:
- Marg didn’t give a shit about actually governing. She spent her time being Regina George, trying to get rid of Carol because…Carol was mean once
- When Fabs was arrested, Marg didn’t fucking do anything other than yell at Tommen, despite the fact that she knows he’s easily manipulated, and despite the fact that she has great standing with the commoners
- Marg called on her Grandma to fix the situation after chastising Tommen’s ineffective attempts at freeing Fabs. Do we really need to point out that Olenna does not hold an actual political position in Highgarden, and the fact that for 3 seasons she’s been the official negotiator of her House is ridiculous?
- Olenna knows Carol got Fabs arrested, but doesn’t do anything about it because it’d mean war. THIS IS THE KIND OF SHIT YOU GO TO WAR FOR
- Olenna threatened to withhold food to free Fabs and Marg, but was cowed into submission when High Grandpa suggested the farmers would all revolt. Because he has power over that situation, and because it’s far better to do nothing when the future of your House is in shackles
- Olenna #YOLOs and decides “if I’m going down, Batfinger is going with me” to strong-arm him into getting Carol arrested. Which…does nothing for her House. Just makes it so a different Lannister, who may be competent, is ruling..
And then they disappeared (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧
BF’s plan to take over the North makes no sense
It’s really just rehashing what Kylie said in her retrospective but like…unless Batfinger truly gives no shits about Sansa, agreeing to a Wardenship of the North on the grounds of her execution was the only thing he was ever going to get out of Carol. Was he planning on pulling a Manderly-Davos headswap? We don’t think that’d be so successful with someone as recognizable as Sansa.
And then the entire thing that Batfinger and Roose made this marriage pact on the idea that “oh the Lannisters won’t bother this far North,” but yet Batfinger felt he had to check with Carol before deploying his Vale force to Winterhell. Or that he somehow couldn’t just explain it later. Or that “we can’t make Carol suspicious” really mattered enough to leave Sansa in an incredibly precarious position.
Carol’s objection to the Sansa Marriage Strike makes no sense
Like, there’s a plotline in the books (that D&D apparently loved SO much) that revolves around the Boltons marrying a Stark to secure their own hold over the North. Carol wants the Boltons to secure the North, right? That’s their job, right? Like, it was possibly Tywin’s idea in the first place. By marrying fArya, supposedly the only person in the world left with a Stark claim, they completely neutralize it. Because jure uxoris is a thing. Carol should be thrilled at Ramsay for showing this initiative. And yeah, Sansa is “wanted” but, like, this neutralizes her.
Even little details didn’t make any fucking sense
- In Weisseroff, do squires tell their knights to dress themselves? Because wow, what shitty “proof” that Olyvar gave. And why is the High Grandpa keen to trust this random brothel worker (the Faith Taliban saw Olyvar in there a couple of times remember) about any of this? Does he respect sex workers, but not their clients?
- How is “lying before the gods” given the same treatment as Carol’s supposed “high treason.” Marg really needed a cell for this shit? Is there no bail? She’s good for it!
- Was prohibition implemented or not, because we’re quite certain we saw Carol drinking more and more even after the arming of the Faith.
- Is TomTom of age or not? Because apparently Carol is “Queen Mother, nothing more,” and yet she said she’d rule in his place “until he comes of age.” But if he’s not “of age,” why isn’t she “Queen Regent”?
- If he’s not of age, who is the regent at all, because there doesn’t seem to be one. Or a Hand. Which rather matters. But if he is of age, how does Carol have any power at all? It’s not even like “with TomTom’s marriage Carol went from regent to Queen Mother,” because Kevan calls her that before the ceremony takes place. And what in the fuck is Dowager Queen?
- Since Marg’s marriage is most certainly fucking consummated, her queenship is not precarious like it is in the books. So why does it seem like she has no power, when Carol has plenty?
- What Kingsguard member died for Robert Strong’s appointment? Did Qyburn read about Trant’s death on Weisseroff’s Twitter?
The take-away isn’t even clear or sensical
Seriously, whose side are we supposed to be on? Because we have no idea. Julia asked a show watcher in a pub for some really scientific evidence, and he said “the Tyrells,” but couldn’t articulate a single reason as to why he felt that way.
We know that we’re clearly not supposed to be okay with the Faith Taliban and its homophobic crusade, so those are the “bad guys.” But then both Carol and Marg were victims of it in the end. It was kind of set up as Carol “getting caught in her own trap” as some kind of poetic justice, but then every single Carol scene prior to arming the Faith made her seem like this struggling, sad victim. Marg and her girlfriends laughing at Carol was just outright cruel. PLUS, both Tommen and Myrcella really were in danger.
Is this D&D trying to do “moral ambiguity”? We don’t even think the idea would occur to them. The only thing we can think is that they wanted Carol to be seen as in the wrong here, and just played up the cat-fight aspect for laughs, without thinking of a higher meaning. That we’re somehow supposed to see her as “power hungry” because she made a big deal about sitting in the chair at the Small Council meeting.
We don’t know why in the fuck they cut out Carol actually doing anything “bad” herself, like flippantly handing people over to Qyburn who annoyed her, or torturing a singer all night until he agreed to lie about sleeping with Marg, as Cersei had done in the books. But I think they thought Carol was a very well-scripted villain this year. And to be honest, given her actual (not imagined) relegation from power, her own abuses at the hands of Larry, and the incredibly real and present threat against her children, the idea that they want Carol to be in the wrong here is simply disquieting.
What the fuck were they thinking?
So, we already tried to guess at D&D’s motivation for their changes, and have hopefully been successful in describing how those changes led to a completely illogical plotline. But there’s also the fact that this illogic is explicated in a horrible manner.
Like, we have no clue how professional writers could actually think *this* is the best way to bring…anything to our screens. If we were able to see these GLARING problems, how could the creators not have caught any? Were they that enamored with their…witty dialogue? Because we’ve got news for you. That’s also nonsensical.
In fact, there are times where it barely follows any rules of conversational pragmatics at all:
Carol: He never wanted you to be a Kingsguard, but here you are, protecting his dead body.
Larry: What he built, it’s ours. He built it for us. He meant it for us. They’re going to try to take it away. All of it.
Larry: All of them out there, our enemies. They’re waiting in line to make sure he’s really dead. And as soon as they see the stones on his eyes, they’ll set to work on tearing us apart.
Carol: They have nothing to do with it. The man who murdered our father, he tore us apart. He’s the enemy. I’ve been telling you for years. You’ve been defending him for years.
Larry: This is exactly what they want.
Carol: And now our father is dead and that little monster is out there somewhere drawing breath. Did you set him free? Tyrion may be a monster, but at least he killed our father on purpose. You killed him by mistake. With stupidity. You’re a man of action, aren’t you? When it occurs to you to do something, you do it. Never mind the consequences. Take a look. Look at the consequences. Here they are. He loved you more than anyone in this world.
It’s like they go into a scene knowing what they want a character to say, but they never consider how actually interacting with another character might affect what they say at all. So you end up with people who just happen to be talking near each other.
This is just bad writing on every level. The dialogue is hackneyed, but that’s par for the course at this point. The plotting is nonsensical and completely depends on two things: characters behaving like morons whenever the plot needs them to, and deceiving the audience.
Julia already made a similar point in her Porne retrospective. D&D have a habit of making a scene so that any reasonable person who’s paying attention would think one thing and then turning around and making it PSYCHE! The opposite! And then expecting to be praised for “shocking us”.
Oh shit, this is such a problem with them that we just realized Kylie made a post on this too, which covers multiple plotlines.
It’s not good writing.
And neither is having a plot that is impossible to figure out because we’re simply not given enough information. The reason we can’t figure out what the fuck is going on with Carol and Batfinger, or the Handsome Young Men thing, or why she thought arming the Faith was a good idea in the first place, isn’t because it’s complex, or that there are competing motivations. It’s because they never fucking told us.
And honeypotting barely helps. You can try. Trust us, you can try for DAYS, but whatever you come up with will always clash against SOMEONE’S established motivations. Unless you’re willing to accept the idea that Batfinger just LOVES chaos for chaos’s sake (including his own self-detriment). And that Olenna is just that willing to take everyone down with her. And that Marg just thinks she looks awesome in a crown. And that the High Grandpa just does what he’s told (off-screen), until he doesn’t.
But seriously, our inability to make sense of this is not for lack of trying:
Sure we can ASSUME certain plot points happened off screen, and invent entire subplots that we never saw, but that’s not our job. That’s the writers’ job. They don’t get credit for things they didn’t put on the screen because….wait for it… they didn’t put it on the screen.
What did they put the screen? Whatever they thought would hold our attention for long enough to get to the next bare female body, or the next shock. And they padded it out with profound-sounding statements to fool us into thinking they had a point to make, and a story to tell.
And that’s their whole MO, to fool us. To make us think that this “story” is clever, and meaningful, that they’re brave and progressive story tellers. They are not. This barely qualifies as a story. There is no meaning, there is no true exploration of themes or characters. It’s just stuff that happens in a sequence. With boobs.