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.” (x)
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.
Images courtesy of HBO; this post was originally hosted on Kylie’s GoT Tumblr blog
Sam Drops Out of School & Other Fairly Stupid Tales, Part 2
Happy New Year! What better way is there to ring in 2019 than to ring out the final Game of Thrones Season 7 retrospective piece by Julia and Kylie? That’s right, their fusion is back and ready to dive into the plotlines of the many miscellaneous characters whose arcs could not fit into the previous analyses. While last time we were treated Sam’s semester in college, Jorah’s love-fueled journey, and some random yet highly-detailed fire reading, this time “Julie” will break down and extract the meaning of the show’s Dornish theater, the Greyjoys, and Olenna’s final days. We’re sure showrunners Benioff and Weiss (D&D) have something essential and weighty packed into them.
That’s what you get for loving your family!
It is far past time that we concluded the Dornish chapter of this show. And this time we really mean it, since last year we had that fake-out in 6×01 where it seemed like they were never coming back too. We could be wrong; maybe next season we’ll see Elia Sand (Uller?) plotting her reign.
For those who don’t remember, at the very end of Season 6, Princess Faullaria Uller (Sand?) decided to team up with Deadpan and bring Olenna along with her. This was apparently such a great alliance for Deadpan that Varys, her emissary, was even willing to hide behind a curtain and get summoned with a bell. And for those who really don’t remember, or blocked things out, Faullaria and her “brood of bitches” murdered their own family members in the name of revenge for the deceased Oberyn Martell.
This year, we catch up with Princess Faullaria at that particular war-planning meeting where many mismatched plotlines converge. She agrees with Yara (and anyone possessing half a brain) that their best move is to use their overwhelming military presence to win the war. Right now. Go. Tyrion doesn’t want to win the war though, because it’s bad optics to have people die. Faullaria points out that it’s just kinda of the way of war, and Tyrion responds that of course she’d say such a thing…she murdered his niece!
Faullaria doubles down, saying Lannisters are guilty, until Deadpan tells them both to stuff it. Apparently Faullaria is to treat Tyrion with respect, and Tyrion is to lay out his master plan: a humanitarian siege of Cheryl’s Landing, carried out by the non-foreign troops of Dorne and Highgarden, with Yara and her fleet providing the transportation.
Faullaria is pleased enough with this, since it’s something action-y to do, we suppose. Also revenge!
Later, somewhere in the Narrow Sea on the way to Dorne, the Sand Fakes lie in hammocks together, discussing the upcoming siege and how dumb Tyene is for liking her mom. They’re trying to take dibs on who gets to kill whom, but shockingly they don’t come to an agreement, since they all hate each other. One of them also threatens to kill another, but it literally doesn’t matter who.
In a different room on the boat, Faullaria complains about the booze, since she only likes her Dornish Red. She then fishes for Yara’s sexuality, which turns out to be both-sexual. Kylie’s heart warms at this representation. Faullaria then tries to order Theon to refill her drink, and Yara tells her not to be an asshole. For some reason Faullaria takes this as a cue to start flirting more intensely with Yara, to the obvious discomfort of Theon. Part of this flirting includes her describing her moves up Yara’s leg as “a foreign invasion.” But wait! We thought the Dornish weren’t foreign, which is why they’re participating in this humanitarian siege! We’re so confused…
Mercifully for everyone, the foreign invasion is cut short by an invasion of Euron’s fleet, who no one saw coming. There’s a big, stylized battle on the boats, and Obara and Nym are both killed with their own weapons by Euron. Tyene and Faullaria are taken captive, despite them asking to be killed.
The next we see them, they are being led through the streets on leashes, to the cheering of the denizens of King’s Landing, who now very much like Euron Greyjoy. Or maybe just parades. Faullaria and Tyene are brought before Cheryl as a gift (not the gift, mind you), and Cheryl almost seems turned on by this. Neato.
Then, she decides to have Tyene and Faullaria chained up in the same dungeon across the room from one another. She comes in wearing the brightest lipstick known to man, and proceeds to monologue at them about various topics, which we have covered in depth in our Cherry Bomb retrospective. Relevant here is the fact that Oberyn looked super hot, Faullaria murdered Madison, and Cheryl thinks Tyene is a “perfect Dornish Beauty.” Then she kisses Tyene on the lips with whatever that poison is and leaves the room so that Faullaria will have to watch Tyene die in 5-35 minutes. Or if she gets sexually aroused, we suppose, like Bronn.
And that’s it! No more Dornish for Season 7.
So, we’re kind of known around these parts for liking Dorne. Therefore, the fact that we not only don’t want to talk about this, but have basically nothing to say, should be rather indicative of how this landed for us.
Taking this into consideration, the overarching arc of the Dornish (read: Princess Faullaria) is that she was consumed by revenge to her doom. She killed Doran and had Trystane killed in the name of exacting revenge on the Lannisters, she murdered a young girl just for being a Lannister, and she threw what we guess is her whole kingdom’s support behind Deadpan just to have a shot at bringing down the Lannisters. Because if there’s one thing the Martells (and quasi-Martells) do, it’s create speedy alliances and get rid of family members for their own selfish interest.
And yeah, futility of revenge: they failed, and failed so badly, they all died to their own weapons, other than Faullaria who was forced to watch.
We kind of like stories that examine the futility of revenge. The issue, is that…this was in service of Cheryl’s revenge. We guess she’s at least the bad guy this season, but it’s framed as her “winning,” just like Olenna coming clean about Joffrey’s death was her “winning” the scene with Larry. Revenge, no matter how monstrous, is still the one valid motivation that is often successful on this show, and we honestly don’t see anyone particularly consumed by it in a negative way. Revenge is Arya’s whole thing, right? And the scripts say we were supposed to be at least somewhat on her side this year.
In some ways, this Dornish plot is a counterpoint that makes the case we’ve been trying to make: revenge = no good. Yet we have a really hard time with the treatment of the Dornish on this show, because them “getting theirs” seemed less about any action they took, and more about audience wish-fulfillment for offing hated characters. People found Nym’s whip annoying? Well let’s have her strangled by it. Obara gets impaled. Tyene gets poisoned.
We know this is weird, but it feels like we were given audience revenge at the same time our antagonist was getting revenge. So…who exactly was shedding a tear for anyone in this case, or at least enough to learn a lesson about the caustic cycle of revenge?
We also need to talk about the “foreign” thing. And yes, this is something we’ve talked about ad nauseum. Our biggest issue this year was that the show could not decide who was foreign and who wasn’t. Deadpan is a “foreign whore,” despite being from the family with the longest-standing monarchical tradition in the country who were deposed well within living memory. Faullaria and the Dornish are not foreign when they need to participate in a siege over the Unsullied and Dothraki, but are foreign when they need to make racialized sex jokes. We could try and discuss that perhaps Faullaria feels more othered by the systems than someone like Tyrion would consider her to be? But that’s really, really stretching it given that A) this was never explored at all, B) the Dornish are about as othered as you can get on this show, and C) we doubt D&D gave that exchange two seconds of thought.
Our point is, this didn’t land, and the discomfort we have with the racialized aspect of this plotline is always present. Hell, Cheryl even called Tyene a “perfect Dornish beauty.” Do they not hear how this sounds?
There’s really nothing more we can say about the Dornish, unless we just want to cry into our copies of A Feast for Crows. It’s a really, really good theater in the books if you allow yourself to focus on the fraught family dynamics. Read it, and let’s ignore this pig slop.
Theon Gets His Arc Back
Nicknames of note:
Theon has been a bit of a head-scratcher for us. For those who may not remember, last year, Theon scrapped about five years worth of development to go support his sister’s claim to the Iron Islands and also to get screamed at by her. This was obviously much more meaningful than helping the person he had grown up with as a sister (Sansa) and with whom he shared a trauma.
The other meaning to be found there was that Yara told him (in an episode titled “The Broken Man”) to either stop having PTSD or to off himself because he’s not useful anymore. According to D&D at the time, it was the “tough love” Theon needed, and we even got to see a glimpse of the “old Theon.” Let’s check in on how that “cured” Theon is making out now.
The first we see of Theon and Yara is at the wonderful plotline convergence meeting where Yara forcefully (very good part) tells the room that they should attack King’s Landing with their overwhelming military advantage. As we’ve detailed before, this gets dismissed, and Yara seems chill with the new plan involving her ferrying Dornish troops to a humanitarian siege. Theon is also there and says nothing.
Next, Yara does indeed ferry said Dornish, and we really, really wish that no one said anything at all on this trip. But no, it’s the f-cking foreign invasion scene again (please don’t make us re-describe it). The one thing to note in terms of the Greyjoys here is that Yara is very defensive of Theon, and you can legitimately tell there’s affection between the siblings. This is especially apparent since it’s juxtaposed to the Sand Fakes threatening to murder each other and making fun of Tyene for liking her mom. But even without that charming context, it very much tracks that Yara and Theon look out for one another. Does that mean we’re chill with Theon dropping Sansa like a hot potato to warp to Yara’s side when their interaction was ostensibly the whole reason Sansa took the place of Jeyne Poole? No. But this is…nice? Better than the Fakes?
Too bad it only lasts about five seconds, because you’ll never guess who attacks: Euron! In the middle of the—you guessed it—overly stylized fighting, we see both Yara and Theon holding their own fairly well. However, they lose, and things take a major turn for Theon when Euron captures Yara and holds a blade to her throat. Euron purposely taunts “Little Theon” to try and save Yara, and Theon, clearly triggered by the surroundings, jumps overboard as Euron laughs.
Now, to be honest, we’re slightly confused by this. We’re not confused why Yara yelling at Theon didn’t actually work as a magic cure to PTSD, and frankly relieved that it didn’t. However, we aren’t tracking this portrayal of trauma. We 100% get that PTSD doesn’t make narrative sense in real life, and we don’t want to argue that it should. It’s just…this is PTSD D&D very purposely re-included this season for Theon to re-get-over-it (spoiler). And it’s also clear that Alfie Allen was directed to act in a triggered manner during the confrontation with Euron, but not beforehand in the midst of the fighting.
As a result, given the way it’s framed and the moment he breaks, it’s almost like we’re supposed to view Euron as Theon’s primary abuser. Or maybe it’s that any asshole reminds him of Ramsay—that mildly works, right? But more and more by rewatching this, we just see it as setting up Euron to be some kind of weird big-bad for Theon to take down as a proxy for Ramsay. That’s certainly how his arc gets set up for next year, as we’ll discuss shortly. To that…Ramsay never needed to be “his kill” in the first place, or anyone’s in particular. Because it’s possible to heal without violent revenge, amazingly. We don’t see why setting Euron up as this bad for Theon to topple is necessary, especially when it involves so many forced moments and teleporting fleets.
In fairness, Yara being threatened by Euron could have reminded Theon of Sansa in duress and served as a trigger. That’s fine, we guess. Again, the framing was more about Theon’s relationship to Euron, but fine. What’s really bothering us is that the portrayal still conflates PTSD with cowardice, and certainly continues the whole “oh this is inconvenient and unhelpful” aspect of it. That’s the very explicit framing. Yara even has a reaction shot of her looking put-out and disappointed by the whole thing.
Continuing on—and since this is technically our recap of both Theon and Yara—we should note that Yara gets captured, put on a leash, and paraded through Cheryl’s Landing, where she mildly rolls her eyes at Euron shit-talking her brother. Then she disappears for the rest of the season.
Theon, meanwhile, gets fished out of the sea by a boat of grumpy Greyjoy men who were loyal to Yara apparently? They get very mad at Theon for being alive and deduce that he must have run away or not really tried to save Yara, rather than any of the other thousand possibilities for why someone could end up in the ocean after a battle on ships. Also, these assholes are alive, so are they admitting to being cowards? Were they some kind of weird rear flank? Do they have names? Apparently, yes. The one who speaks with forceful dialogue (good part) is “Harrag.”
So Hagrid takes Theon and the grumpy Greyjoy men back to Dragonstone, where Theon is greeted by…Jonny Cardboard? The kinda-prisoner and also king of a different land?
Jonny is not happy to see Theon, but Theon kind of head-nods at him and asks if Sansa is okay. Jonny tells him that Sansa is the only reason he’s not going to kill him. We suppose this is reasonable on some level, even if we think the anger is a click above Kit Harington’s acting range. Theon tells him that he wants to talk to Deadpan so that she’ll help him rescue Yara.
Several episodes later, Theon has made no progress on this front and didn’t even try to interrupt Deadpan and Tyrion’s conversation about how she doesn’t like to date short dudes and should make a will. Instead, he patiently waits for the day of the wight moot, where he doesn’t participate in the pre-moot walk and talks. So much for him catching up with Brienne.
We don’t want to recap the pit scene ever again, and luckily Theon mostly just stands in the background, so we don’t have to. However, at one point towards the beginning, Euron just stands up and interrupts the meeting to yell at him that he has Yara and will kill her if he doesn’t submit to him on the spot. Everyone exchanges annoyed glances, and we suppose Theon didn’t really take that threat seriously, because he just looks confused and vaguely uncomfortable.
In fact, Tyrion even tries to move on by saying, “I think we ought to begin with larger concerns.” Ouch, Yara.
Later, everyone’s back at Dragonstone and getting ready to board the S.S. Boatsex. Theon decides this is a great time to talk to Jon about his character arc, since Jon has been so intimately involved with it. Like that one time Theon and Jon were both in the room to get a shave and a haircut. Or that other time when Theon pointed out that the smallest puppy was Jon’s.
Theon begins by talking about the internal conflict that was always raging inside him, and not at all resolved in any way when he risked his life to save Sansa, or when he warped back to support Yara’s election. Frankly, if we had been given his arc as scripted, we’d probably need to hash it out too. He also notes how impressive Jonny is because he never has any moral dilemmas, and never tells lies.
Jonny is more humble than anyone and kind of dismisses that praise, but tells Theon how he should have been more appreciative of the people who were holding him hostage, because they were good people. Ned would even slow clap for his daughters sometimes. Then Jonny, working hard on his 8th grade book report, decides to resolve the whole thing for Theon: he tells him he’s not a Stark or a Greyjoy, but a Strayboy who doesn’t need to choose! Theon is touched.
This also somehow leads to the revelation that he has to go save his sister, who he already wanted to save, because she was nice to him, just like the people who had been holding him hostage. And this is only possible with his new mixed Stark/Greyjoy identity? Yara didn’t have that, and she still decided to try and save Theon in Season 4, but whatever. Only Starks love their family, don’t ya know?
Theon decides that to save Yara, he has to convince
Hagrid Harrag and all of his buddies to join him. They’re on the beach, getting rowboats ready to board their own ship so they can take up the traditional Ironborn values of raping and reaving. Theon finds this out and reminds them that Yara gave it up after Deadpan asked her to (but not before). Hagrid doesn’t seem to care since she’s out of sight, out of mind. Theon tries to pull rank and say he’s in charge and they’re going to go rescue Yara—you know, their queen. Hagrid still doesn’t care, man. Then they fight.
Theon seems to be getting his butt kicked, until… Ugh. Until Hagrid tries to kick Theon in the balls, but Theon was castrated and therefore doesn’t have them. So that naturally means he feels no pain at all when slammed in the groin area, and in fact seems to enjoy it. The pleasant sensation of Hagrid’s foot in his crotch empowers Theon to deliver the single greatest headbutt in the history of filmed headbutts. Then he proceeds to win the fight! Yay!!
He also symbolically washes himself in salt water afterwards, like any good Stark/Greyjoy hybrid would do. He then tells the rest of the men that they’re off to save Yara, and they all seem thrilled. We guess fights are the Ironborn equivalent of parades?
And there we go: that’s his arc. It seems oddly familiar to us, mostly because he decided that his actual loyalty should have been to the Starks in early Season 3, and explicitly said that to Ramsay at the time. Then we were also told that his rescuing Sansa in Season 5 was necessary to amend the “great original sin” of his life. And then, he had also very comfortably gone off to support Yara’s claim, and spoke for her eloquently (more so than she managed) at the Salt Moot, because you know…he figured he could be a Stark and a Greyjoy.
Oh also, he was magically cured of PTSD at the very end of Season 6, too.
Call us cynics, but we’re finding this to be a sloppy reboot just one season after everyone else’s sloppy reboot. Maybe Theon isn’t “cured,” and D&D know that too. We’re less skeptical that they realized it at the time, since there’s no denying that both Yara screaming at him in Volantis and Theon getting kicked in the crotch were both framed as these moments where Theon looks up and is suddenly empowered/back to form. And of course, getting kicked in the crotch is explicitly in the script as an “advantage from his castration,” which to us reads as some kind of reclamation of trauma.
In fact, looking up D&D’s thoughts on the matter, (even though we do feel the show should be considered in isolation since that’s what audiences take in,) we were right! D&D totally thought they ‘fixed’ Theon in Season 6, but then writing for this season were like, “Oh huh, this seems to be an intense situation for someone given his very experiences.”
“We maybe fooled ourselves into thinking that Theon was out of the woods on his whole Reek experience, and as we were writing it, we realized that you don’t just get over what happened to him. That’s something that’s going to be part of him for the rest of his life. And this is a place that triggers the worst of that experience.” —Dan Weiss
And of course, let’s relish in how messed up it is that he couldn’t save one sister, and now can’t save the other. Boy, do they gush about the looks Alfie Allen is able to give the camera.
We really, really found this in bad taste—the whole arc, frankly. And insultingly boring, since it’s both a rehash, as well as just Jon vomiting his view of a character arc onto us. Why is Jon in any position to judge any of this? Because he can never tell a lie? And why was that framed as being more significant than Sansa already having forgiven him two season prior?
Also what the hell are they talking about that he’s a Stark and a Greyjoy? This didn’t influence anything! Theon wanted to save Yara as soon as he arrived back at Dragonstone following the battle at sea, and then still wanted to save Yara following his conversation with Jon. Was being told of his Strayboy roots the confidence boost he needed to talk to Hagrid again? And if so, why? It just seemed like this random conversation shoved in there, because Jon is a Stark proxy, and D&D wanted to show Theon being forgiven. Naturally Sansa’s forgiveness wasn’t good enough; she’s a girl.
What bothers us is that this moment really should have been impactful, since it’s not like we think Theon’s story in Season 1 and 2 was poorly done. In fact, we kinda liked it up until the torture porn. The issue is that this conclusion was already reached in Season 3, and everything else appears to be setting up some kind of crowning badass moment for him against Euron, which is simply not earned or necessary. Which is, coincidentally, the sum total of what we have to say about Theon’s arc this year.
Hooligan Without A Cause
What do you do when you have a villain who is *super evil*, but also wacky? Well, if you were D&D, you killed him off in faux-poetic justice via dogs who wait for dramatically satisfying moments. But now you have to one-up that with your next antagonist. So the only logical conclusion is to write a hooligan with a multiple personalities [sic] because that’s how “psychopaths” are.
All of this is very evident from the moment that Euron Greyjoy appears on screen this season, clad in a rockin’ leather jacket (completely with eyeliner), and doing what is very obviously a Jack Sparrow impersonation.
You see, Cheryl has invited Euron and his giant, enormous fleet (that he made overnight from all the trees on the Iron Islands) to make an alliance, because she is totally boned without more troops. Euron, instead of taking this opportunity to attack the completely defenseless Cheryl’s Landing and claim the Iron Throne as his own, decides to take a different opportunity and bitch about how his niece and nephew were so mean to steal some of his ships during his drowning coronation. He also feels apparently very secure that Cheryl won’t turn on him, because, while the throne room is full of her guards, Euron hasn’t even brought Priesty McBeardface as moral support.
Hooligan time! His new, unpredictable wish this season is to marry Cheryl, so that together they can kill Theon and Yara, and potentially Deadpan, who he now wants dead since she…sided with Yara? All this will make him feel “a lot better,” and he’s also decided that Cheryl is the most beautiful woman in the world—we guess he originally wanted to go after Deadpan before seeing Cheryl’s cute pixie cut.
Cheryl and Larry are not totally convinced, though. Larry points out how Euron is a shitty, kinslaying ally, and that they totally lost the Greyjoy rebellion too. Euron shrugs though; he had too many relatives anyway. When Cheryl notes that he’s a super annoying braggart, he fires back how she’s not humble either, since awesome people aren’t humble. For some reason unbeknownst to us, Cheryl then tells him that he’s too untrustworthy to ally with, which is why she invited his entire army? We guess she’s a hooligan too.
Euron, rather than now taking this opportunity after a slight to sack the—again—undefended city, says he must go off and impress Cheryl by bringing her a gift. Is it Tyrion again?
Evidently not, since the next we see of Euron, he’s attacking the Pornish/Yara conglomerate, and enjoying himself a lot. He purposely singles out Obara and Nym to kill with their own weapons (at least, we don’t think he did this to anyone else), before holding Yara hostage and taunting Theon, as we described. Honestly, we’ve never seen a man this happy in all our lives. Oh, and he ordered his men to take Faullaria and Tyene alive.
His ebullience continues at what seems like the next day, when he marches in a parade down Cheryl’s Landing, with Yara, Faullaria, and Tyene all on leashes. #WomenOnTop. He personally holds Yara’s leash, and as she looks done with it, he jokes around about how stupid Theon looked running away, and how he’s a “twat.” The people clap excitedly.
Once in the throne room, Euron presents Faullaria and Tyene as if he’s a magician at an 8-year-old’s birthday party who pulled a rabbit out of his hat. Cheryl seems genuinely happy/turned on by this, but is oh-so devious that she tells him they’ll certainly be married…after the war is won. Euron is 100% content with this. He even asks Larry for some sex advice! Because hooligans don’t care about incest.
Some amount of time later that’s less than two weeks, Euron takes his armada and attacks Casterly Rock, on the other side of the continent. Our biggest confusion is how his armada hadn’t crossed paths with the Unsullied fleet already, but whatever. He was laser-focused on Yara’s people, we guess.
At Casterly Rock, he manages to prevent the Unsullied from escaping in their ships, so that they have to walk back across the continent. We suppose this means Cheryl is still in control of Casterly Rock? But we’re absolutely guessing.
Finally, it’s time for the wight moot, and for Euron to circumnavigate the continent once again. Now mild spoilers, but he has a ~secret meeting~ with Cheryl just before this moot, where they decide that he will fake-get scared of the army of the dead, fake-leave Cheryl’s alliance, and then really sneak off to Essos to ferry a recently secured sellsword group of Cheryl’s. That’s the most reasonable thing we’ve ever heard.
(Also what did this add to Cheryl’s benefit? Why does it matter if they think Euron left, other than potentially giving Deadpan and Jonny a reason to walk away from the table completely? Dead horse, we get it.)
At the wight moot, Euron decides to hooligan it up by interrupting at the start to taunt Theon about how he has Yara. He says that he will kill her unless Theon surrenders to him on the spot. Everyone exchanges annoyed looks and Cheryl tells him to sit down and be quiet. Then comes the time for his amazing feint! He does it convincingly, and hits on Deadpan in the process. Time to go to Essos!
And thus are the adventures of Euron Greyjoy in Season 7.
If we had to analyze this, which we suppose we do, it’s pretty obvious that Euron’s biggest motivator is getting revenge on Yara and Theon for…not standing around and letting him kill them after he was elected King. After all, the first we see of Euron this year is him complaining about how rude they were, so obviously this is something affecting him on a deep level. In fact, he even tells Cheryl how killing them will “make him feel better.”
We guess in terms of dynastic concerns and potential challenges, it’s not that dumb. And to that end, he’s on his way. He has Yara, he wants to taunt Theon (and make empty threats about it)…fine.
Then there’s the other aspect, which is that Euron wants a queen, and his sights are now set on Cheryl rather than Deadpan. We have to assume this is because Deadpan allied with Theon and Yara and that hurt his feelings, or made him think he wouldn’t be successful in pursuing her. In fact, he’s so committed to finding a queen that he’s willing to go to lengths to impress Cheryl, when she is the one who needs him far more. He controls the Iron Islands; it’s fine!
It’s very hard for us to reconcile these two competing drives, especially since he spends the lion’s share of the season warping around and catching troops as demanded by the plot. Perhaps it takes our extremely excessive and encyclopedic knowledge of Westerosi geography to truly appreciate how improbable all his movements are, but needless to say, it sticks out. And it’s stupid. The idea that Deadpan is just on Dragonstone and can’t see fleets coming and going from Cheryl’s Landing is stupid. That’s why Dragonstone is an important military position and no one would leave it abandoned.
Then we have to consider what Pilou Asbæk has said about the character he’s playing. For one, he says that Euron is “more of a hooligan” and that Ramsay was “100% evil,” whereas Euron is not. He’s fun-loving and thus “more conflicted.” Asbæk also has spoken on multiple occasions that Euron is a “different guy every scene.” He clarified this year with the following:
“Dan, David, all the scenes you guys have written, I love every single line of it. But can we recreate him? I want to make him rock and roll. I want to be a superstar…. All of the psychopaths I’ve met in my lifetime have multiple personalities. Not like they’re schizophrenic, but they can adapt to the people they are surrounded with. He’s a chameleon.”
Now, we normally have to take anything an actor says with a heavy salt-lick on this show, like how Nat Dormer was convinced Tommen was 17, and how Isaac Hempstead Wright compared Bran to an CCTV department. Actors do what they have to do with the role to give the portray that makes sense to them.
However, Asbæk credits himself with turning Euron into a “rockstar,” and he actually has been talking about how he’s a different character and a fun-loving hooligan for two years. So it’s not to blame him, but we’re blaming him. Also, it means his approach to this role is to be a rockstar with a different personality in each scene. That is his goal with these scripts.
We don’t know what to do with this information. Because it seems to be a feature, not a bug, in the eyes of D&D that his actions make absolutely no sense and there’s no overarching character to even analyze. Like…okay, he likes Cheryl this year. He sure doesn’t like his niece and nephew and still wants to murder them. And he’s really good at repeatedly moving his armada around the southern coast of Dorne.
We can’t take this guy seriously. If we’re supposed to view him as somehow more nuanced than Ramsay, then that did not land at all. At least Ramsay had daddy issues and a semblance of an arc surrounding that, no matter how bad we found that execution. Euron is just some idiot who likes to complain that he had an opponent in an election one time. Maybe they think this is really cutting and clever Trump criticism, but all we see is some weird Jack Sparrow impersonator, and it’s not very effective at getting any point across at all, let alone a contemporary political one. Not to mention, D&D gush about how Euron is a character who can actually walk the walk, so…
Frankly, we don’t think D&D put any thought into this character other than what would seem “badass,” and what could build stakes for Theon, or maybe even top Ramsay. On both counts, they failed. However, they did succeed in making us want the Euron of the books, and that in and of itself is a smashing success.
Lean In, Deadpan
We wanted to close by talking about Olenna, because this is the close of the Tyrell saga on the show as well, which has been at least one of the more interesting components. Unless, of course we get some kind of Margaery Stoneheart in Season 8. (What would her driving motivation be? To make more catty remarks to Cheryl from beyond the grave?)
The thing is, we’ve never really liked Olenna as a character on this show. We mean, Julia loves Olenna Redwyne from the books, and has written fanfic about her teenage psyche, but on the show, she’s just been this anachronistic, pithy comment machine whose pluckiness has gotten really, really old. She also acts like a kindergartner sometimes, but we’re supposed to think she is this great political player because she wouldn’t let Carol sit with her that one time.
So imagine our shock when upon rewatching this stupid plotline for the 14th time, we rather enjoyed Olenna’s contributions. She’s in officially two scenes, and they are just fantastic.
The first is that infamous meeting of the Powerful-Women-of-Weisseroff-Gathered-to-Listen-to-Tyrion. Olenna seems aware of this confused messaging, and her first contribution to the conversation is to point out how Tyrion’s plan is basically to allow their armies (meaning the Tyrells, Martells, and Greyjoys) do all of Deadpan’s fighting for her, while she seemingly sits back. This is true. Even when Tyrion says the Unsullied are going to Casterly Rock, there’s no plan for the Dothraki, and certainly no plan for Deadpan to use her weapons of mass destruction. Because it’s uncivilized to win a war outright, or whatever.
Olenna then points out the limits of the strategy of Deadpan seeking out the approval of the people to grant her legitimacy (through a humanitarian siege, no less). After all, Marg was super popular, and the smallfolk still didn’t appear to give a shit when she got blown up. They even came and cheered for what they thought would be a slut-shame walk over her perjury.
After the meeting, Deadpan asks to speak to Olenna alone, since she knows that’s her one ally who doesn’t really care about Deadpan at all but just wants revenge. Frankly, the Dornish are operating the same exact way, but Olenna seemed clearly put off by Tyrion’s awful plan, whereas Faullaria came around. Deadpan offers Olenna some stupid platitudes about how she will grant peace in their time. Olenna, however, is an old lady whose entire family was just brutally murdered. She didn’t care about peace at the end of last year, and she certainly doesn’t this year.
But she does give Deadpan some advice about what she’s been observing during this meeting: basically, that Deadpan is letting Tyrion make all of her decisions, and he seems taken with his own cleverness. She tells her that she, Olenna, got as far in life as she did by not listening to “clever men.” Probably like how she overrode her son’s decision to marry Margaery to someone violent by plotting and executing his murder in a very surreptitious way. Olenna concludes by telling Deadpan to “be a dragon,” which in context means that she should trust her own instincts and be a true decision-maker. Lean in, Deadpan.
If we can sidebar for just a second, we’re actually kicking ourselves for not seeing this sooner. Up until this point, we wrote the conversation off as some stupid false empowerment (which…can you blame us?). “Okay, go be grapes, Olenna Redwyne.” This was especially not helped when later in this plotline, Olenna talks about the sigil of House Tyrell as if it’s the actual reason for the sack of Highgarden being so simple. But taking this scene into consideration on its own, she really is telling her to not be controlled by Tyrion, which is…exactly what happens. In fact, this point serves to muddy everything that happens on Dragonstone, since Tyrion’s “mission” this year is to curb Deadpan’s impulses, and it’s framed as something good and moral for him to do.
So, are we supposed to think Olenna is full of shit? That she’s the devil on Deadpan’s shoulder? Or does this just mean that Deadpan can “be a dragon” and trust in her instincts when those instincts allow her to bail out a different man?
We don’t get exactly what D&D were going for in the context of the whole season, but given how everything unfolds, we are 100% on-board with what Olenna is saying here. Tyrion is too taken with himself, Deadpan can do better than parroting his words (like when she says she’s not there to be “queen of the ashes), and frankly a ruler should recognize the fact that the buck stops with her. Also yes, the smallfolk are mercurial and unreliable, Deadpan should look to Marg as a cautionary tale, and peace is a sisyphean effort.
Good points, Olenna.
Later, Larry shows up to her
cottage castle containing her giant army and easily sacks it while Olenna sits in her room. He then marches in so he can kill her in a humane/dignified manner. Most of this scene is actually about Larry. He talks about how he learned from the Whispering Wood (not really applicable here, bud), and how this genius military move was so important to his character growth. Olenna shrugs and says Tywin should have taken Highgarden years ago. We’re sure Robert would have been cool with that. (Okay, maybe he would have been.)
Olenna, probably for the aforementioned reason that she’s an old lady and her whole family is dead, is quite stoic about this about-to-be-killed thing. She reminisces on how she’s done some shitty things, but at least she’s not as vile as the monstrous Cheryl. We still say this is a bit of a pot and kettle situation, but we suddenly like Olenna this year, and Cheryl did blow up a societal institution and waterboard a nun for kicks. Larry offers Olenna some poisoned wine that he promises won’t hurt at all, and she gulps it down like it’s her favorite soda.
Knowing she’s dead any second, she decides to then exposit on how speaking of poisoned wine, she did that to Joffrey, lol. She says she wants Cheryl to know, and…fine. Take your revenge on your way out, Olenna—whatever.
The thing is, had she been adapted faithfully from the start and these were her final two scenes, we probably would have been fairly pleased. We think it’s gross that D&D framed this particular scene as being about how cool it is that Larry finally got to kill someone, but how Olenna “won” the scene all the same thanks to this Joffrey knowledge. Still, her motivations and attitude are actually making sense and tracking from previous seasons, and they make us feel for her.
This character in general has been a very reliable source of rage for us on this show since she appeared in Season 3. When we think of Olenna, we think of the scene where she threatens to beat the septa following Marg around, or when she stops her carriage so that she can comment on the poo smell from the city. Or when she calls Loras a “sword swallower” while officially negotiating with Tywin. Sometimes, in the right mood, we also think about the scene where she talks about stealing her sister’s betrothed by banging him the night before he had been slated to “propose”.
It’s stupid, and it’s clear they’ve never known what they were doing with her. They certainly never understood what Martin was trying to do with this character either, but frankly, join the club Olenna. This is the show with revenge-at-all-costs Ellaria Sand.
Still, Olenna’s scenes this year were fine, much to our shock. We might even miss her next year, because what she was saying is what we proceeded to yell at our screens the rest of Season 7. Anyway, lean in, Deadpan…lean in!
How ’bout that Season 7
We’re sure this will come as a shock to everyone, but after going through 4 retrospectives in 8 parts that covered 11 different plot lines (12 if you’re willing to separate out Jon and Tyrion a bit), we’re not all that impressed with the season as a whole. Sure, ending with a focus on Olenna was kind of like having an after-dinner-mint following a very nauseating meal, and we truly were happy that we were able to feel something in the ballpark of positive for a change. It’s just, considering the rest of the season…what a mess. The ~main tension~ was quite clearly a nonsensical military conflict featuring teleporting armies and confused holdings, just to get to a point where there could be a truce meeting because the fake-out of Cheryl helping was oh-so clever? Or because shoving the characters we’ve been following together is supposed to be meaningful?
Then on the wings, there’s Arya threatening to cut off her sister’s face and wear it (which we’re supposed to at least somewhat sympathize with), Sam coming across every plot-necessary bombshell in randomly-grabbed books, and Theon rehashing an already muddled and problematic arc. Suffice it to say, the other tales we just recapped did not exactly save it for us.
Season 6’s theme seemed to be wheelspinning. The characters almost all repeated everything they did in Season 5, and then three characters magically ascended to positions of power that were either unearned or made no sense for them to inhabit on a societal level. Season 7 is…we honestly don’t know. Knocking chess pieces off the board like a drunk cat because it’s hard to write so many characters? It’s driving towards some kind of ~big finale~ whose meaning is derived entirely from “we’ve known these characters for a while and they know each other!”, which is likely why Season 7 had so many Season 1 callbacks, as well as walk-and-talks where the scripts tried frantically to recall what shared history any of them had. But it just didn’t do anything in the long run, and that’s because the contrivances required to get anyone anywhere this season were so obvious:
- Deadpan’s army needed to be reduced in size for a more even conflict with Cheryl, so it was
- Cheryl and Larry needed to break up, but not before Larry could make those stunning military victories, so they just randomly did
- Larry needed stunning military victories, so they happened
- Sandor needed to begin fire reading, so he did
- Sam needed to come back to Winterfell and team back up with Jon, so he did
- Euron needed to capture Yara and raise stakes for Theon, so he did
The most earned moment was Bran getting back to Winterfell, because at least we tracked that journey and it didn’t involve Arya’s continent-crossing teleportation of last season.
We’re not surprised. This season was the best example of “creatively it made sense because we wanted it to happen” to date. We’re just glad we only have one more season of those creative sparks left to go.
Images courtesy of HBO
Sam Drops Out of School & Other Fairly Stupid Tales, Part 1
Hi. Julie here. Your friendly neighborhood amalgamation of Kylie and Julia, who have slowly lost their sense of self during 7 seasons of the worst TV show to ever receive universal acclaim. That’s right, we’re talking about the masterpiece of David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D), Game of Thrones! The good news is, this is going to be our last retrospective for Season 7. The bad news is that it’s about 50 different characters, few of whom have a real “arc” of which we can speak.
Backing up, for anyone who is new to us, or The Fandomentals, or this corner of the internet, Julie’s favorite pastime is water acrobatics. But her second favorite activity is rewatching Game of Thrones one
finger plotline at a time, to truly immerse herself in its tale to see what this highly lauded show is saying. So far, the results have been…not much. Also possibly sexism.
This time, however, she’s closing out Season 7 by taking care of all those geographically inconvenient plot threads that didn’t fit into the previous categories. Or rather, did (at least tangentially), but Julie was already writing 15,000 word pieces to the chagrin of her editor.
Who’s involved this time? Well, basically everyone. Sam, Theon, Yara, Euron, “Ellaria Sand”, Tyene, Nym, “Barbaro”, Olenna, the merry band of brothers traveling north, their snappy canine, Jorah the Andal, some red shirts… It’s a long list.
While we’d normally use the space right here to provide Bachelor contestant-style picture frames alongside their assigned monikers, we also didn’t want 7 pages of images to kick things off. Instead, we’re going to provide a guide to newly mentioned nicknames in each section, and if there’s any names you spot that you don’t recognize, please refer to the one and only Book Snob Glossary.
We also recognize that we can’t possibly recap these completely unrelated events and talk about each character in one document. Well…intentionally unrelated for D&D, anyway. While our format has generally been to give you a:
…and then talk through the implications in a serious analysis (normally a second article), this time, we’re going to give you an:
…for each of the plot threads alone. It will be humorous in tone, yet take a genuine crack at deeper analysis along the way. Because mood dissonance is the way to get taken seriously on the internet!
In this first piece, we’ll look at Sam, Jorah, and the Brotherhood with Vague Continuity (with their pet Hound). You can also check out Part 2 to read whatever we can find to say about Dorne, the Greyjoys we are supposed to root for (we think), the Greyjoy we are not supposed to root for, and whatever we can say about the Dowager Sasstress Olenna.
So without further ado, let’s chat Sam.
Showboating Sam Drops out of School
Nicknames of note:
Slop. Scrape. Gag.
For anyone who doesn’t recall, when we last left Sam, he had just ditched his girlfriend and his adopted son in a hallway so he could look at the library of Oldtown State. You see, it has the best maester program in the land (and not just the only one), so no wonder he’d be in awe.
“What’s the most effective way to train maesters?” you ask. Why with a training montage, of course. And what else would fill such a training montage other than serving soup to people, stacking books, and cleaning chamber pots. In increasingly rapid succession. There’s a rhythm to it, and the fluids being poured into the bowls and out of the bowls all resemble each other.
Was this how Maester Luwin trained too?
In the middle of this coursework, Sam also notices a gated area of the library: the Restricted Section. He stares at it wistfully a lot. He also has one actual course, which we assume is “Human Dissection 201.” In it, Sam assists Maester Slughorn, who appears to be Sam’s personal professor at this school. Also the Archmaester? It must be a private university…
Slughorn seems like he’s actually somewhat qualified to teach people, though he doesn’t exactly encourage his student’s curiosity. Or any curiosity at all. While Slughorn is preoccupied with the weight of an alcoholic’s liver, Sam asks about gaining access to the Restricted Section so that he might go about his research project on the White Walkers. You know…the whole reason he’s there. Maester Slughorn says that while he believes Sam about the menace in the north, The Wall has been there a long time—even during the last Long Night apparently—so the research is probably unnecessary. It’ll be fine.
Sam, frustrated by this first and minor setback, decides to take matters into his own hands. He puts on his invisibility cloak and sneaks into the Restricted Section to look for books on Nicholas Flamel. We mean…he steals a key from a sleepy maester and lets himself in. Once there, he haphazardly pulls random books from the shelf nearest to him and puts them in his bag.
Pause. Okay, supposing the Restricted Section is truly where all the Long Night books are since Sam apparently hasn’t been able to find them anywhere else (does this mean that The World of Ice and Fire is restricted?), our question is: why would these be restricted? As far as skeptical maesters are concerned, these are just fairy tales anyway. What is the harm in having their students read about this? In fact, what function does Sam having to steal the books even have on the plot? He gets to be more active this way? But not really, since he was already looking for books. Maybe it’s some kind of excuse to portray the maesters as out of touch, since this plotline is full of lots of cheap (and kinda earned) shots at academia. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because D&D yet again did not have enough material for a full season of episodes (or 70% season), and were padding their 52 minute run-times with everything they had. But of course we couldn’t be shown the Stark siblings plotting together because reasons.
Anywho, after stealing the books immediately within reach, Sam goes to his mysteriously nice loveshack where Gilly and Baby Sam live. Baby Sam cannot be over 18 months. We refuse to believe it, and have a pretty good metric against which to measure right now. He’s adorable, sure, but still shrinking. Need we remind you, he was born at the beginning of Season 3!
We have no clue how their apartment exists. Our best honeypot is that they live over a pub in which Gilly works, and she’s been having amazing, wacky off-screen adventures that would rival Arya’s meat pies, or the Unsullied this year. Though it’d make the demeaning way Sam talks to her that much more grating if she were the one working to pay for his soup-slopping courses. Frankly, that makes the most sense, right? We find it hard to believe that a college that explicitly forbids students to date put them up with this.
Gilly is super excited about all these stolen books, because goddamn is she bored in this relationship. As they engage in a joint-reading session, Sam stumbles across a fact so amazing, so outrageous, and so surprising, that we have to ask you to sit down if you’re not already. You see, there is dragon glass on Dragonstone. Dragon. Glass.
The Watch needs some, so finding this information out makes Sam go, “Oh yeah, Stannis already told me lol.”
By the rate of baby-growth, maybe that was just two months ago, but it was also in Season 5, so… The long and short is that he needs to send Jon this ~brand new information~ that is militarily crucial, and thus forgotten until right now. It’s not like they’ve known about obsidian killing White Walkers since Season 3.
The next day, Sam goes back to class, and someone sticks their hand out of a room and jump scares him, asking about the whereabouts of Deadpan. Rude!
wikiHow Plague Cures
We guess Sam was super intrigued by that jump-scare, because next thing we know, he and Maester Slughorn are standing in Jorah’s room with him. Slughorn pokes the plague patient with a metal pointer. “The infection has spread too far.” Yeah, no shit, Sherlock. Also Jorah is going to go crazy like the people he and Tyrion met in Valyria. Remember when?!
Sam looks mildly grossed out by the whole thing. He also asks rather pertinent questions about if there’s any way to cure or help Jorah out. Slughorn seems to get rather annoyed and low-key insults Sam’s intelligence.
Sam: I met Stannis Baratheon’s daughter at Castle Black. She had the greyscale as a baby and was cured.
Sam: …Isn’t there some way—
Slughorn: Does this look like a baby to you?.
Stupid students and their follow-up questions!
There’s no hope for Jorah: Slughorn tells him it’s either Valyria or suicide. And apparently this is because he’s highborn; the lowborns would just get sent to Valyria. Where all ship captains want to go.
Sam seems to be moved by Jorah’s plight and asks about sending word to his family. That’s when he finds out that this guy is a MORMONT! Sam knew a Mormont!
Owing to this deep connection, Sam can’t seem to move on, and is super distracted when Slughorn babbles at him about how he’s going to go write the best research paper on the War of V Kings, with some highly precise and dry title. This is honestly the best representation of grad school that we’ve seen to date.
Sam brings up how he just happened to come across a cure for greyscale in a book earlier that day. It’s even worked on a couple of people! Shouldn’t they try to save their patient? Also why was this not considered for highborns instead of Valyria? You’d think for enough money, someone would have tried. Slughorn is dismissive, though, and points out that the guy who wrote that book died of greyscale himself. So, don’t do it.
Sam ignores that. We next see him coming into Jorah’s cell, pushing a little Hogwarts Express trolley full of medical instruments. He tells Jorah that he knew his daddy, and therefore he can’t let him die. We guess Jeor’s Tough But Fair love was effective for Sam.
It’s here that we find out about the super secret unknowable cure: exfoliation. No, literally. Jorah is covered in greyscale. The cure is to peel it off, and then put on some Polysporin. There’s also these really amazing pictures in the book that show the step-by-step process.
Sam takes a giant swig of rum, as any surgeon should, and then gets to work. It’s gross.
The next day (we think, cause Jorah wasn’t shoved off to Valyria), Slughorn is examining Jorah again, and wouldn’t you know it? He’s entirely cured. Like…the disease is gone. His skin is barely red, and he says he’s only in “a bit” of pain. We’ve had scabs that fell off with longer recovery times! Jorah decides to cover for Sam and tells Slughorn that he just magically started feeling better. Overnight. Good one! Slughorn doesn’t buy it at all, but leaves the room with a shrug. “Bye Jorah, have a good life.” Sam shakes Jorah’s hand and he looks moved to finally be touched on the hand again.
Later, in Slughorn’s office, Sam gets berated for curing an incurable disease. Slughorn definitely has a point that it was dangerous, but this whole thing is just so, so silly. Sam is then given busy-work as a punishment for his medical prowess. He has to copy a bunch of secret diaries that contain gigantic and unknown political bombshells.
You may not remember, but Bran decided on one random day to peep on the army of the dead and see how it was doing. Bigger! And Nearer! Then he wrote to Jon, the Citadel, and probably other people too. You also may not remember, but Sam’s dad and brother were brutally executed by dragon. That’s a thing.
Sam doesn’t know yet though, because he’s completely unphased as he delivers his freshly copied secret diaries to all the maesters sitting in their faculty lounge. They all agree that the maester at Winterhell is probably a dumb dumb, like those other Northerners. Then when they try to joke about other conspiracy theories, Sam interrupts them and vouches for Bran as once having been north of The Wall. He then also reiterates that he—meaning Sam—has personally witness the army of the dead, and it’s a real thing, so maybe these old fart bags with a lot of power and influence could do something about it. Slughorn dismisses it with his own conspiracy theory that it’s Deadpan-based propaganda to leave the south undefended. SAM SAW THE DEAD PEOPLE!
To throw him a bone, however, Slughorn agrees to write back to the dumb-dumb maester for “clarification”. What would that have looked like? “Hey, Maester friend: when you say ‘army of the dead’, how dead do you mean?”
When Sam leaves the room, they gossip about his recently burned family members. Slughorn reveals that he hasn’t had the heart to tell him yet. We agree: it’s much more important for us, the audience, to see the reaction of a bunch of old guys to this news than it is to see Sam’s.
Sam is getting increasingly disgruntled, though, and decides to take out his frustration back in his love shack. Gilly is having the time of her life with Secret Diary, written by [s]Tom Riddle[/s] High Septon Maynard, who was so powerful that he had a name. He also liked to count things, like windows on a building, or poops taken each day. No, we’re not kidding: we were told this.
Gilly tries to share with Sam some of these fun facts, which also includes the documentation of the time when Septon Maynard annulled the marriage of the Crown Prince, disinheriting his two children, before remarrying him in a secret Pornish love ceremony to some lady from the North. Sam, apparently uninterested in this world-changing political implication, instead retorts that he doesn’t care about the many shits that Maynard counted. Gilly seems sad he wasn’t listening.
We don’t know why, but this is Sam’s breaking point with the entire university system. He storms out of his love nest, steals even more Restricted Section books, and then decides he is done with the Fightin’ White Crows of Oldtown State. He leaves in a wagon with Gilly and baby Sam. Gilly points out how Sam had been excited to go to school and become a maester, like he always wanted. He even ditched her in a hallway because he was so into the campus tour. But no. Sam is “tired of reading about the achievements of better men,” in a direct quote of his now-late abusive father.
WHAT? EXCUSE US?
The best spin we can put on this is that Sam learned about his father’s death off-screen at some point, and this is his not very healthy way of processing his grief. Abusive dads can still be mourned in a complicated way, or spur action. See: Guardians of the Galaxy 2. However, there’s no reason for us to think Sam was told about his dad, since we learned Slughorn purposely kept it from him. And also, this isn’t really the kind of thing that can live on implication if it was supposed to be the motivator behind Sam leaving, especially when we were given scene after scene of him becoming disillusioned with the maesters.
Don’t get us wrong: we understand quitting Oldtown State. It is a terrible, terrible academic program where cleaning chamber pots is a course, books are locked away, and questions are met with disdain. It’s clearly not what Sam had in mind, not to mention, he tried to get them to move on the whole army of the dead thing, and they could not have been more dismissive. He legitimately will be doing more good out of that atmosphere, especially with all of his newly acquired stolen books.
But why the hell was he quoting Randyll? Last year, thin and confused as his arc was, we at least had him stealing Heartsbane in defiance of his father, and rejecting his father’s views. Sam clearly valued knowledge over brute force, no matter how emasculating Randyll told him it was, and when he ends the season grinning in a library, it’s kinda nice. Kinda dumb, since Gilly was literally left behind awkwardly, but nice. He took a stand against Randyll the only way he could (since he was viscerally triggered in Randyll’s presence), and we’re glad that he got out of there.
Last year is also when Randyll tried to shame Sam about how as a maester, he’d only read about the achievements of better men. It’s not just that it’s an anti-intellectual implication, which is rude, but also that this is an abuser’s words to his son not filling a toxically masculine mold. We thought Sam rejected it, just like everyone else at Horn Faire seemed to. But no! This year, we learn Randyll was right! Learning is stupid, and maesters really are just “lesser men” who joke with each other rather than facing the truth.
Clearly, we don’t find Randyll’s words compelling, and we don’t think every viewer will. But now, canonically, Sam does. He quotes that in a way of saying that he will finally go and be as ~active~ as Randyll wanted him to be. Which means his two year character arc was learning to listen to his abuser. Hooray.
Oh yeah, and Sam appears in a scene with Bran at the end of the season. He takes credit for reading about the secret marriage. What a great boyfriend.
You know what? We don’t really like Sam on the show. He’s been demeaning to Gilly from the start, he isn’t attentive to her needs, he’s super sex obsessed in a way that borders on concerning, and his only addition to this story this year was to remember something we were told two years ago, or to prompt Bran to look at a memory he should have already wanted to examine. A few years ago we nicknamed Sam “Showboating Sam”, because unlike his book counterpart, he likes to brag about his killing of White Walkers and Thenns. He may be bragging less these days, but he doesn’t seem to have grown much at all. And the fact that his culminating line of the season was basically to the point of, “yeah, learning about things is dumb and useless” doesn’t really make our hearts beat any faster.
We’re still bitter we didn’t get a plotline about Gilly making it work in the bar below her apartment.
Why did Sam even leave The Wall in Season 5? Seriously? There’s plenty of books there, and he probably could have found a circled map of dragon glass in one of them, had D&D really wanted. Last year, he had one moment of standing up to his abuser (behind Randyll’s back, albeit, but it was still significant), only for that to get completely dialed back this year. So the whole point of Sam’s journey away from The Wall was to get a sword, randomly heal Jorah, and then learn that Randyll sometimes had a point? We’re usually the last people to talk about plot function, but Sam just hasn’t had any, really, or at least not any function that wasn’t so completely contrived it couldn’t have been given to anyone else.
It almost feels like—and forgive us for suggesting this—D&D don’t plan more than one season at a time. In the books, Sam is sent off to be a maester, so they did that, but then they never had anything to say about it, or any reason to explore it. Because learning is dumb.
We suppose we should just count our blessings that they didn’t stick a cross-dressing Sand Fake at the Citadel for Sam to brag to.
Jorah the Andal Finds a Cure
Nicknames of note:
Since we already talked through Jorah’s miraculous recovery, we figured we’d now take you through the rest of his Season 7 journey. The only thing worthy of note in the Sam episodes previously discussed is that Jeor Mormont is mentioned a lot. Like aaaa loooootttt. At every conceivable opportunity, we hear about Old Bear.
It’s not that we think it’s a bad thing to bring up previous ties, but Jorah (as far as we can tell) hasn’t been bothered to even think about his father since Tyrion told him he died in Season 5. Even that was a 4 second reaction at most. It was always just about gettin’ back to Khaleesi for him.
And that’s exactly what he does this season, too! After being fully healed and good as new, Jorah makes his way to Dragonstone, where he is greeted by Dothraki who don’t recognize him. We suppose that’s possible since maybe they weren’t focused on his face when Deadpan had burned down their temple, but this is also the dude who speaks their language and always seemed to make an effort to build a rapport with those around him, so it’s a bit odd.
Either way, he’s trotted on down to where Deadpan and Jonny are engaged in some sexy talk about whether Jonny had been dead and resurrected, and boy is she happy to see him. Like, actually very happy. Her face moves and everything! Also, we’ve never thought much of Emilia Clarke’s acting, but she came so alive here for a change that we read this moment as interest, or even mild flirting.
Jonny is initially happy to see him too, but when Jorah and Deadpan kind of ignore his “I worked with your dad” comment to keep eye f-cking, Jonny gets sad and puts on a poo face. We think this is a love triangle, because who doesn’t need more of those in media.
Later on in the episode, Team Deadpan comes up with the brilliant wight-hunt plan and Jorah immediately volunteers to run into danger for his Khaleesi once more. But then Jonny also volunteers as tribute in a way that frames both their actions as competing for Deadpan’s romantic attention. How nice. It’s like when cavemen brought back mammoth carcasses.
Next, it’s time to leave for this stupid mission. Hey, remember when Jorah and Tyrion had a buddy duo dynamic for a season? And remember how that involved them being sold into slavery by a cock merchant played by Mr. Eko? Well, at the time, Jorah and Tyrion had been given a “wage” of one coin, which was meant to last them their lives. Because lol slavery! (Thank god Missandei smacked Tyrion down later for this.)
Tyrion was so affected by this experience that he’s been carrying that coin in his pocket ever since. We’re sure that’s gonna be great luck for Jorah on this trip. Tyrion gives it to him, and Jorah’s laughs, remembering the good times.
Also coming to say ‘goodbye’ is ‘Khaleesi’. They reminisce about all the other times they said goodbye, but conveniently leave out the fact that it was normally her kicking him out of her service because he was a creepy stalker or helped to almost get her killed. Hugs!
Jorah travels on up to Eastwatch to meet all of Team Gumbo. Then when everyone is playing a “who’s who,” Thoros and Jorah recognize each other from that one battle they were in that one time, and then Tormund recognizes Jorah’s last name and once again mentions his daddy.
It’s finally time to capture a wight! If you want to read about the tortured walk and talks, then we will direct you to our Dragonstalled retrospective for the umpteenth time this article. As far as Jorah is concerned, he really only has a conversation with Jon. It’s about…wait for it…his father!
Basically, Jorah tells Jonny he was a shitty son. Jonny feels bad (?) and offers him Longclaw, the sword that Jeor gave him. It’s the ancestral Mormont sword, so naturally he never offered to Lyanna (his best advocate), and instead figured the disgraced slaver was the good choice. Jorah, either a changed man or an uninterested one, rejects the sword because he “forfeited” his right to it. It has a wolf on it now anyway. Then, he tells Jonny to pass it on to his children. You know, the implication being children with Deadpan. The ones he’s now allowed to make, because Jorah gave him permission. Hooray!
Then he helps fight some zombies. The end.
So…what can we possibly say about this wonderful arc?
Let’s ignore some of the issues with his disease and such. Zooming out, Jorah’s story this year is that he really wanted to get back to his Khaleesi, so he did, and when he did he found that she was into someone else. However this time, unlike the other 500 times that happened, he was cool with it, because he’s a changed man, or his father liked Jon, or something.
To be fair, he did have that growth moment last year when he decided not to stay around Deadpan because he had the plague. That was less selfish than his character would have been prior to that. We suppose the easiest reading is that given he thought he was a dead man, being cured again gave him a new lease on life and a new perspective, wherein he could prioritize Deadpan’s happiness. This makes enough sense where we don’t really think we have to search for any other meaning.
There is, however, that thread about Jeor that resurfaced. We honestly don’t think that tied to him being chill about Deadpan and Jonny, even if we joke it about. We are confused why this was suddenly brought up again, though. Jeor seemed to have already made his peace that his son is an asshole, at least on the show (where his dying words were just a grunt, or something), and Jorah for his part seems to have made his peace with the fact that Jeor thinks he’s an asshole. He definitely looked sad when Tyrion told him Jeor had died, but it wasn’t in any way where it appeared to weigh on him, or make him reconsider his actions, or really change at all. And how does it relate to the plague, exactly?
It’s not subtle to us that this was a season where D&D rewatched Season 1 immediately before writing, and then just shoved in a bunch of callbacks and characters talking about previous relations to one another. Don’t get us wrong: it’s good to remember characters’ shared histories and connections. It’s just that the way to explore them is not to have people just walk up and talk about “hey remember this?” For all the Jeor mentions, it’s really hard for us to view it any differently than Tyrion pulling out that slave coin, or Deadpan reminiscing about that time Varys tried to kill her. We’re glad Jorah didn’t snap up Longclaw, but it just didn’t really matter at all, did it?
Also something that didn’t matter at all: Deadpan’s opinion about this love triangle, apparently. The Wight Hunt episode is one of the worst examples of action men doing actiony things while the women either fight with each other on the sidelines, or just aren’t considered first in any way. It mildly helped that Deadpan rescued everyone on Drogon, but even that was framed as her bailing out the men she loved, so…
The Jon/Jorah conversation is a great microcosm of this. Maybe Deadpan should have been the one to say who she wanted babies with! As far as we can tell, she was down to bang either one of them. Not to mention book!Jorah was the one to suggest she should have two husbands at one point.
But no, Jorah’s function is to always be there for his khaleesi, even if he has to randomly stumble across a guy with a wikiHow that will fix his situation. Deep.
The Lord’s Mysterious Plan
Nicknames of note:
Fire Reading and Pointy Mountains
Let’s not bury the lede: this is the section where we talk about the Brotherhood with Vague Continuity (who we’ll just abbreviate as BWB for simplicity) and their new bestie Sandor Clegane. They exist this season, just like last season! They’re still moving in the same geographic direction! And they feel as random this season as they did last season, though thank god there wasn’t another Shire for us to feel bad about.
For those who don’t remember, last season, they met up and decided to go “north.” And by the way, this was after not seeing the BWB since Season 3 (and no Sandor in Season 5). Sandor had been convinced to come along, because of the promise of fighting, and that he’d help in some cosmic way.
When we catch up with them, they’re still traveling in the riverlands, and it’s all snowy now. They come across an empty farmstead and plan to stay there, but Sandor recognizes it from that one time in Season 4 where he robbed a guy who wanted to employ him to drive off bandits. At the time, Sandor told Arya that the guy was weak and he and his daughter would be dead by winter.
Lo and behold, inside the farmstead, they are super dead and mummy-looking. Beric decides to play “guilt trip CSI” and tells Sandor that they clearly were starving to death and the dad had to kill the daughter, and if only they’d had some silver to buy food. Sandor and Beric then have a conversation about how mysterious the Lord of Light is for raising Beric from the dead, even though he’s just some dude.
Then, Thoros tells Sandor to look into the fire. He does, and he sees, in stunning detail, the entire army of the dead marching towards the Wall, currently at a mountain shaped like an arrowhead (unlike all the others!). Beric comments on how significant it is that Sandor, traumatized by fire, is a fire reader. Thanks D&D! We never would have gotten that on our own.
Later, Sandor buries the father and daughter’s bodies, and tries to say something nice. It somewhat works.
We guess getting North is even easier than we thought, since the next time we see this merry crew, they’re imprisoned by Tormund at Eastwatch. Why did Tormund lock them up? We still don’t know, but we’re contractually obligated to always point it out.
When Jonny’s crew arrives, the BWB and Sandor participate in the fun game of “I know you!”. Jon knows Sandor, Gendry knows the BWB, Jorah knows Thoros and Beric, and Beric’s just thrilled they can all be there together.
So now it’s time for the BWB’s walk-and-talks! The most significant is Gendry, who yells at the BWB for selling him, getting him raped, and almost getting him killed. The BWB smirk, while Sandor tells Gendry to quit complaining because his rapist was hot. Gendry looks annoyed but literally no one is on his side, so that’s the final word on the matter.
Sandor also walks and talks with Tormund, because they both knew Brienne. They trade gay jokes and discuss synonyms for “cock.” One of them is “dick.” Jorah walks and talks with Thoros. He wants to know how drunk he had been during the attack on Pyke. The answer is blackout. Finally, Beric walks and talks with Jonny, because they were both dead once. They don’t know what it means, but Beric seems satisfied to think the Lord of Light has a purpose for him.
At last, they reach Mount Arrowhead, which Sandor points out. Then they walk more and fight a wight polar bear. Thoros gets badly wounded. Then they have to run to the Plot Convenience Pond and spend, at least in terms of emotional experiences, one long night there. Thoros dies (reasonably, actually), and Sandor tries to steal his alcohol when they realize this the next morning. The group discusses how they have to burn the body, and Beric lights up his sword by cutting his hand. At this point, we’re super confused by his sword, because other times it’s been a lightsaber, like five minutes before with the wight bear.
Later, the army of the dead attacks, and they participate in the fight and escape on Drogon. Beric says he wants to stay with Tormund at Eastwatch rather than sail back to Dragonstone with everyone else. Sandor opts for the latter for no articulated reason.
Some amount of time later, Sandor joins the wight hunt team for the wight moot dragonpit meeting. He’s incredibly rude to everyone, and also tasked with carrying around the wight in a backpack. The one exception is during another walk and talk with Brienne, where they talk about how they both know Arya. She is physically safe, which pleases them, even if we’re personally quite concerned about her emotional well-being.
At the wight moot, Sandor recognizes his zombie brother, and runs up to yell at him and tell him that he will eventually be the one to kill him, as is his destiny.
After the wight moot, the Wall falls, and Beric falls with it. He might or might not be alive; it’s very unclear.
We are a bit confused how to approach this, but we think the one thing we can focus in on is Sandor’s arc. This season, he came face to face with a bad deed from his past, learned to read flames, and got to yell at his brother. If these things seem wildly disconnected, we don’t disagree one bit.
In terms of his character…arc…he’s been completely stagnant since one of his jokes landed a few seasons ago and turned him into a meme. We talked last year how, in what should have been an arc about him learning the futility of violence, he was actually validated for his pessimistic, aggressive worldview. This year, he’s quite clearly still as violent and revenge-driven, since he ends the season saying he’s going to kill his brother. That, dear readers, is zero character growth for this dude. And just hilariously far from what happens in the books.
There’s a chance that Sandor’s not as nihilistic, we suppose. It’s hard to tell, but he seems shaken by what he viewed in the fire and he gladly goes on the wight hunt mission. That could also have related to him now wanting to be a force for good in the world, since he was clearly bothered by the fate of the daughter and father he stole from. That would mean he’s reforming and growing from his past, right?
The issue, however, is that what we’re given on the screen with Sandor is so random (“here, look in these flames!”) and so paper thin, it’s a bit hard to track what’s actually driving him or how he’s feeling about anything. Especially since the priority for the writers with this character seems to be making him…witty? To us, it comes across as distressingly unpleasant. And it is possible to speak a sentence without using the c-word.
Sure, sometimes his unpleasantness makes sense. Thoros asked Sandor if he recognized the farmstead, or if he was afraid, and Sandor began calling him a c-nt, a f-cker, a c-cksucker and even made fun of his hair. It’s a defense mechanism, and that was pretty clear. Yet at the same time, he treats the Lannister soldier who was just being mildly helpful the exact same way. We realize that sometimes being a Lannister soldier is just no fun at all, but it’s more confusing to us why this is Sandor’s MO. Why are we supposed to be on this jerk’s side? He’s not funny, he’s dismissive of trauma, he’s horribly homophobic, and he doesn’t really bring anything unique to the table, unless you count him being the ‘main fire reader’ with Thoros dead and Mel shoved off.
Speaking of, what in seven hells are we supposed to do with that? Yeah, it’s vaguely poetic that a guy with trauma relating to fire could find something meaningful in it, not that he has any sympathy for anyone else who’s traumatized. But what led to this moment? What was actually set up here, other than, “Oh hey let’s use the guy with the burn for this”?
Honestly, while there is the fire reading and the brother threatening, the only real takeaway we have is that D&D think this a very funny character who is worthy of being shoved into many scenes. There’s certainly no coherent arc here, and the fire reading is not character growth—it’s character punctuated equilibrium. Nothing was earned for that moment, nothing led up to it, and yet it happened.
Then there’s the Brotherhood, now Without Purpose. When we called them the “Brotherhood with Vague Continuity,” it was because they were heading north for 2 seasons. That’s the continuity. Here though, we find out that they don’t really know why they’re going north; they just have a feeling it’s where stuff is going down. So basically, they’re Harry Potter on Felix Felicis.
Beric is this character they’ve built up since Season 3, who the Lord of Lights needs so much for his plan that he’s been risen from the dead 6 times. Beric always monologues about how the Lord isn’t done with him yet because he has some great purpose. Even this year, Sandor points out that he’s just a mundane dude, and Beric doubles down on the fact that yes, he is, but the Lord needs him.
So apparently, this great purpose was to accompany Jon Snow and his buddies to capture a wight to convince a political adversary to not solidify her position? Being so generous, Beric did have the moment of pointing to Shogun and telling Jon that if they could kill him, everyone dies. Was that his magical destiny? To have told Jon that piece of information that frankly could have been intuited given how all the wights collapsed after Skyr was killed? This is the Lord’s mysterious purpose?
Now, we know D&D are very good atheists who read The God Delusion, but we honestly don’t think Beric was supposed to be blowing smoke out of his ass this whole time. He was risen from the dead multiple times, and Sandor’s fire reading skills are not imagined. There is truly a Mount Arrowhead. So how on earth is this what we waited four years to see Beric do? Unless, of course, he’s not really dead at Eastwatch and more is to come. But wow, what a waste this year was for the BWB. Poor Thoros even died! Though in fairness, he was a c-nt with a topknot.
It might shock you, but we have nothing else to say about these guys. We don’t get it. We don’t get what anyone was going for. We’re not going to waste our time explaining to you what happened in the books, but suffice it to say it’s a lot more interesting than this. Also remember when we were told Lady Stoneheart was too silly for this show? Glad we got something much more dignified.
To be continued next week!
Since we’re a good 6,000 words in with no signs of slowing, we’ll pause here so that you can take the time needed to process the depth of D&D’s writing. If you’re prepared, you can go on to Part 2 where we cover our absolute favorite book theater, the Greyjoys (friend and foe), and Olenna’s surprisingly decent send-off. Trust us, we’re all astonishment too.
In the meanwhile, you can check out the rest of our writings on Season 7 in our retrospective tag. We’ll talk to you soon!
Images courtesy of HBO
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