We made it. After going back through all of Game of Thrones’s most reason season, Julie (the combined brain of Julia and Kylie) has reached the end point. Her 9th and final Season 6 retrospective, where she analyzes just one plotline of the Emmy-winning “outstanding drama” to truly appreciate the genius of showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss, along with their creative team (D&D). It’s been quite the journey.
What’s left? Why, that would be the action that takes place the land somewhere in between Winterhell and Horn Faire known as “the riverblands”. This retrospective is a little unique in that we will be following the journey of two characters whose arcs are disconnected, though geographically tied. You see, in the books, the riverlands themselves had quite a bit of significance, and especially in A Feast For Crows, they served to thematically link the seemingly disparate journeys of Brienne and Jaime. We have every bit of confidence that D&D’s penning of the riverblands, with a focus on Larry Lannister and The Canine, will have the same effect.
But wait, who is this “Larry” and why are we being such jerks about naming conventions? Well, in our long-standing fight against the conflation of Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire, we’ve adopted nicknames for the TV characters and locations. All explanations can be found in our Book Snob Glossary, but as a quick reference for these plotlines, here’s who you need to know:
Larry Lannister is…a bit of an idiot. A befuddled knight, if you will. Sure, we vaguely remember a time where he might have been on a journey that forced him to reflect on his internal vs. external honor, and we’re quite certain that losing his prized sword-hand was a significant part of that. But since Season 4 on, the only thing we can say with any certainty about Larry is that he loves Carol. He probably loves her because she explains confusing things to him, like that snake-in-a-box death threats are bad, and storming the sept in an attempt to kill everybody probably isn’t the world’s best idea.
Oh right, in case you missed it, before Larry set off on the heroic journey we’re about to describe, he spent the beginning half of Season 6 Larroling all over the place, trying to plot a coup to dispose of the head religious figure, because he was threatening Carol. Nobody puts Carol in a corner—or on trial.
But he failed at that. He failed so spectacularly that immediately following him storming the sept without bothering to secure his king first (or even check where his fellow kingsguard were), said king, a twelveish-year-old-boy whose defining characteristic is being easily manipulated, fired him from being the Lord Commander.
Aaaand, that’s where Julie is going to pick things up: the dramatic throne room strip tease.
It’s possible, however, that Tommen was just being manipulated by Steve the Intern, since he randomly tells Larry to go hook up with Jaime’s A Feast for Crows plotline in the riverlands. Because guess what? Pop-up Blackfish has retaken Riverroundabout off-screen. At some point. After his pee break at the Red Wedding.
Tommen’s justification is that Larry was super rude to the gods, but Larry, being a great ally, immediately points out how it’s funny that he’s not being paraded naked through the streets of Carol’s Landing. Good point, Larry! That’s some sexist bullshit. You still have to go away, though.
We quickly cut to those riverblands, The Twins to be exact, where we see Walder Filch, the leader of the Floppy Hat Brigade. He’s yelling at his two soon-to-be-pie sons for letting Pop-up Blackfish retake Riverroundabout off-screen. We would too. How the fuck did this guy mount such an impressive military maneuver with nothing but the provisions he brought with him to a wedding? During a bathroom break.
Oh, did you think we were going to let that point go?
Also, we have no clue what the time-frame was of this magical victory, or why Filch seems to find out about it after Tommen, but whatever the logistics, the guy suddenly remembers that he has a Tully hostage! It’s Edmure! He looks like shit! Which makes sense, since he’s been in a dungeon for years. Years. In the background to add color, Filch’s terrified child-bride is just…on his lap looking terrified and child-like. We’re really happy this detail exists! And in the same episode as sassy Horn Faire dames asserting themselves! Normally, we’d point out this inconsistency in the world building, but it’s clearly an established Rule™ that Arya can only kill child rapists, so this makes a ton of sense. Well done, D&D.
Back in Carol’s Landing, Larry is in a room screaming at the top of his voice about the thing that Carol is going to go on trial for soon. Here’s a snippet:
Larry: I’m going to give Bronn the largest bag of gold anyone’s ever seen and have him gather the best killers he knows. I’ll take them to the sept and I’ll remove the High Sparrow’s head and every other sparrow head I can find.
Carol (reasonably): You can’t.
Larry (screaming): He has our son! He stole our son! He’s torn our family apart.
We weren’t kidding when we told you that Larry needs Carol. She talks him off this high-treason-shouting cliff a bit by saying, “jeeze dude, don’t worry—we can still punish our enemies.” But she also makes good points about how Larry can’t do much more to help her there, and how leading a Lannister army might come in handy at some point. She concludes by saying that they’re going to fuck up everyone else, and Larry is super turned on by this. They make out, and their slurps bleed into the next scene.
One episode and some indeterminate amount of time later, Larry and Bronn (it’s a Rule™ that the Bro-nns are a matched set) have arrived at Riverroundabout at the front of a long column of Lannister forces. This shouldn’t have taken a month and a half or anything. Wasn’t Carol’s trial in “days” when he left?
The siege looks like a mess, because the Floppy Hat Brigade is made of pure fail, although there is at least an attempt to do the whole three camps thing. Bronn, who is of course an expert on siege tactics, immediately points out the flaws and lack of trenches (is that the theme of this season?), and Larry says, “don’t worry, you’ll be in charge.” Why? Not that we’re against the social mobility of sellswords or anything, but why?
It’s also a Rule™ that Bronn must curse every other word. So that we know he’s plucky.
Larry: You have better instincts than any officer in the Lannister army.
Bronn: That’s like saying I have a bigger cock than anyone in the Unsullied army.
Oh wait, remember Lollys Stokeworth? Well she’s retconned or something, because Larry has to promise Bronn a whole new wife and castle to get him to do his job.
Don’t dwell on it too long, though, because we’re suddenly dropped into a fan-film of Jaime VI from A Feast for Crows.
No really, this is weird, guys. We mean, the context of Larry’s arrival is completely stupid, and it even has to be lampshaded as “you Floppy Hat kids are so shit that you let the Lannister army sneak up on you.” We are just two women foolish in the ways of war, but you’re telling us that no one turned their head at any point to see 8,000 soldiers approaching? Also, why didn’t the Lannisters tell the Floppy Hat Brigade they were coming? Was this a surprise party?
But ignoring that minor detail, the Floppy Hat Sonions are doing their best to bring Martin’s vision to life. They threaten to hang Edmure or slit his throat (there’s in-fighting so they can’t decide which one) in what is obviously an empty threat, and Pop-up Blackfish pops up on the battlements of Riverroundabout to roll his eyes and tell them to fuck off. Then Larry patiently explains why what they’re doing is idiotic (Carol’s rubbing off on him!) and takes charge of the army.
You don’t understand: if you just showed us this scene, free of any context, we’d be very pleased with its content as a truncated representation of one of our favorite chapters. No bullshit. But at the same time, we can’t imagine how this is landing for any TV-only viewer. We suppose Larry is enough of a blank-slate that they could just think, “oh huh, in this particular scene he happens to be funny and smart,” but are they finding it odd that an entire siege was retconned into existence, and an army warped there to bring us this moment?
Par for the course though, really.
Larry gets excited about this adaption, so he asks Bronn to set up a parlay with Pop-up Blackfish, with all his sellsword authority. Book snob Blackfish agrees, so he and Larry chat on a bridge about how stupid Larry is.
And again, we don’t know how to feel about this scene, because it’s quite good. Blackfish tosses Larry’s shit honor in his face, is pissed that he didn’t fulfill his oath to Cat to bring Arya and Sansa to safety, and also is quite open about the fact that he’s willing to die on this futile hill. Larry doesn’t really have any answers, since how do you convince a dude that just wants to fight, especially when none of the River Lords seem to exist, so the poor guy has no leverage. But we do get this rather lovely shot that is the most Oh! Larry moment we ever saw:
Hey, remember Brienne the Brute? She and Larry once had fun times with a bear together? Well, when we last saw her, Boss Ass Individual Brittany ordered her to go treat on her behalf with the Tully army, because and we quote, “you’ll know how to talk to him.” Not that it mattered with Jonny’s arbitrary battle timeline anyway.
The point is, Brienne, who feels duty-bound to protect Cat’s daughter(s), has arrived at Riverroundabout on this incredibly important diplomatic mission. And she gets scooped up by Lannister soldiers almost instantly, because Bronn has surely whipped the siege-line into shape. She asks to speak with Larry and everyone’s like, “aight.”
It’s the reunion we’ve all been wait for, guys…Pod and Bronn! Remember the fun times they had together, drinking or something? We’re pretty sure this happened, though not 100%. Don’t make us check. Bronn certainly remembers Pod’s sex life, so that’s something. Apparently his “magic cock” needs a mention, lest we let that continuity drop.
Bronn sort of launches into this…incredibly weird tirade about Pod’s sex life and Larry’s life, and does Pod think Brienne and Larry are fucking? And everyone wants to fuck Larry—it’s really upsetting how women look at him, and does he ship Brienne and Larry?
We’re NOT exaggerating. Pod, meanwhile, tries to casually laugh this off, though if you look closely, you can see Daniel Portman’s soul shattering.
Inside the tent, Larry and Brienne are not fucking. We’d be more upset about that if either of these two had a characterization beyond befuddlement and smashing things, respectively.
Instead, they’re talking about “politics,” apparently, which means just now discovering that they’re on opposite sides of the war. See, Larry is supes impressed that she fulfilled half their oath to Lady Cat, but then is like, “I just remembered Carol wants Sansa dead, so…” Brienne then tells Larry that she is there to treat with Pop-up Blackfish so that he can take the Tully forces to fight for Sansa in the North. She asks that Larry just…let them go, if she can convince him.
Let them go. To fight for the Starks. Who the Lannisters want dead. This checks out!
The best honeypot we can come up with is that Larry knows Carol is pissed at the Boltons, and wouldn’t mind if these two forces wiped each other out, or something to that effect. Though this level of strategy normally eludes Larry.
Whatever his reason (it’s never explained), he agrees to this terrible plan, because he might love Brienne or something. She also tries to return Oathkeeper to Larry, because one out of two Stark girls is enough, but he insists it’s hers.
It matches her eyes.
Despite Brittany’s vote of confidence in Brienne, when we cut to her trying to convince Blackfish, not only does Brienne have no clue what to say to Blackfish, but she’s not even convincing enough to get him to stop pacing around and have a proper conversation with her. We guess there’s plenty of futzing for him to do since this is an action-packed siege.
“Sieges are dull.” —Blackfish, 6×07
She finally cajoles him into standing still long enough to read a letter that Brittany wrote, and it’s so moving that he says she’s “exactly like her mother.” For being literate? Or did she talk about how it’s her lot in life to wait for her men? Wait, that’s the books. Did she write about how she cursed her whole family to death by being awful?
Whatever she said, unfortunately being just like Cat doesn’t mean as much as it used to since Blackfish still wants to die on his dumb hill. That and he doesn’t trust the Lannisters and Floppy Hat Brigade to close their eyes, turn their backs, and pretend an entire Tully army isn’t marching North. Plus this is his home and junk.
Meanwhile, the fan-film of Jaime VI takes a turn for the fanfic. See, like the second half of the chapter, Edmure and Larry still chat in a tent, and it concludes with Larry threatening to hurl Edmure’s sonion at Riverroundabout via
trebuchet catapult. But the logic for how Larry gets there is…unique.
As it turns out, the only thing that motivates him is his love for Carol. He loves her so much that he will do anything to be with her again, and everything he does is to achieve that aim. If he were to have a vision-board, it’d look something like this:
By the way, why is the Floppy Hat Brigade keeping Edmure alive if he has a fully-born sonion who can be Lord of Riverroundabout? Because in the books—forget it.
Edmure might be a book snob, or Tobias Menzies is really livid about having to act this shit out, because he’s like, thrashing against his restraints and banging his head against the tent pole. It’s not made better by the fact that Larry keeps likening Carol to Cat with the most superficial parallels we’ve ever heard. They both were mothers! They both didn’t want their kids dead!
Also, this might be the culminating moment of Larry’s arc this season: screaming how much he loves Carol. Which, in case you didn’t remember, was his culminating moment last year too. After all, we can’t choose whom we love. Even if we can choose whom we fuck and commit high treason with. Just sayin’.
Convinced that Larry really will do anything to get back to Carol, Edmure decides that it is best just to surrender Riverroundabout than to have his sonion murdered, along with all of the Tully men inside. Blackfish, seeing this obviously-compromised prisoner asking to be let in, tells the guards not to let him in, because, you know, he’s obviously compromised. However, a very conscientious Tully soldier, let’s call him Andrew, says that he has to let Edmure in since, “He’s my lord, my lord.” He’s very committed to the feudal order.
Edmure walks in and he and Blackfish exchange pissy looks for some reason. God forbid family members love each other and understand the difficult positions they’re both in. Edmure then marches up to an eager Andrew and tells him to surrender the castle to the Floppy Hat Brigade. We’re not sure what Andrew expected, but the dude is crushed. Talk about a breakdown of idealization.
Blackfish decides that he needs to save Brienne and Pod by showing them the way out of the castle, even though they were given permission by Larry to be there and don’t seem to be in any real danger. Brienne tries one more time to convince Blackfish to come with them and not die stupidly for, at this point, literally no reason. It wouldn’t even be like a hundred Lannisters fall for each Tully. The castle is breached because The Lord surrendered.
“Your family is in the North. Come with us. Don’t die for pride when you can fight for your blood.”
She really knows just what to say to him…to get him to suicide charge off-screen. Oh well, she tried.
We suppose it’s possible Pop-up Blackfish took out a hundred Lannisters, actually, since we didn’t see the damn fight. We’re just informed about it after the fact by a random guard who catches Larry standing on the battlements, staring into the middle-distance. Thinkin’ about Carol, of course. Somehow, despite it being pitch fucking black, he spots Brienne and Pod’s little rowboat. Even more miraculously, Brienne spots him and recognizes this shadowy lump as Larry. So she waves.
This is objectively ridiculous.
We know the sheer momentousness of this plotline is overwhelming, but don’t worry: we’re nearing the end. In “The Winds of Winter (fuck you)”, we cut to The Twins, where Walder Filch is throwing a ‘mission accomplished’ party. He happily chats up the alliance between the Lannisters and the Floppy Hat Brigade, though didn’t see fit to give Larry a seat on the dias. Awkward. His child-bride is missing too, but we’re less upset about that one.
Apparently the battle-cheer of this alliance is, “we send our regards!” This strikes us as…odd. It’s almost like it’s a phrase that has more meaning to the fandom than to in-verse characters and appropriating it sticks out.
Down in the cheap-seats, Arya Todd makes flirty eyes at Larry so that Bronn can go off on another tirade about how hot Larry is, and how he’s so jelly. Jelly of whom, Bronn? Larry or the ladies? Well, we get our answer when Larry, a good wingman, somehow negotiates a threesome for Bronn, and the guy goes (and we QUOTE), “Maybe I’m not in the mood.”
Are we fucked up for wanting Bronn to be in love with Larry because at least it would be something here?
Either way, he grudgingly fucks off (literally), so Walder Filch comes down from his high seat to bond with Larry. It’s actually not terrible, because he brings up the mutual kingslaying thing and it visibly upsets Larry. Like yeah, having Filch empathizing with you over something like that would call into question your life choices. It kind of reminds us that Larry used to be this character:
Walder Filch also goes on to talk about how he might lack in fighting prowess, since he’s old as balls, but he still manages to find a way to win his battles. And he’s right. What show is this?
Oh wait, it’s Game of Thrones, so rather than actually relating to anything in his arc, Larry just gets pissy with Filch and says that it was really the *Lannisters* who saved the day. “Why do we need you?” So once again:
Fast forward…some amount of time, and Larry and Bronn make it back to a still-smoking
Carol’s Cheryl’s Landing! Larry rushes inside to find Carol Cheryl being coronated. By the Master of Whispers. Logically. He then gets this look on his face, and that’s the last we see of them for the season:
Elsewhere in the riverblands…
Or are we in the riverblands? Because from what we can tell, we’re in land of Always Summer, with blooming fields and happy hobbits. We’re quite certain Tuckborough is only a short walk away.
See, these Shire Folk are not only happy and industrious, but they’re pious, working hard to raise a sept under the watchful eye of Septon ‘Ray’. This is his actual canon name, and we will repeat that fact many times. Ray bares a shocking resemblance to the rugged Ian McShane, who may or may not be pissed at his agent for this role. He shouts encouragements at his little hobbits, but with a bit of a grimace on his face.
Oh, by the way, this scene was a cold open for the episode “The Broken Man.” So, we hope you’re on the edge of your seats for what’s about to happen.
There is one merry worker who is not whistling! Instead, he’s carrying giant fucking logs all by himself. The camera does a swoopy thing, and it’s time for the Reveal of Extreme Significance: this dude is The Canine!!!!!
Guys, did that send shockwaves, or what? We mean, it’s The Canine. The person who ate chicken wings once. We’re just lucky that we had the credits to collect ourselves, because afterwards we pick back up in the same spot, only now Ray and The Canine have a chat.
The Canine chops wood, while Ray teases him for losing a fight to a woman. Drop in the bucket at this point.
Then we cut to the hobbits eating lunch. The Canine isn’t sitting with them, because he’s brooding or something. Ray decides to cheer him up by expositing about the details of how he didn’t die, which we’re quite certain The Canine knows anyway.
Oh and good news, he went to the Bronn School of Vocabulary:
Ray: No, there’s a reason you’re still here.
The Canine: Aye, there’s a reason. I’m a big fucker and I’m tough to kill.
Wow, D&D just earn those Emmys time after time.
Ray further exposits about how he’s the world’s worst septon, since he doesn’t know anything about the religion he’s supposed to be preaching. Like, he doesn’t even know the names of the gods, though there’s a chance he’s just stoned out of his mind on Shire leaf. It would also explain the pseudo-philosophical bullshit he spins about how he doesn’t need to know the names, man, because they’re all just part of one big story.
“Maybe it is the Seven. Or maybe it’s the old gods. Or maybe it’s the Lord of Light. Or maybe they’re all the same fucking thing. I don’t know.”
What he does know are the stories about how badass The Canine is. The Canine thinks the gods aren’t real because he should have been punished already, but Ray says that he was. That was inspiring!
Later that day, or maybe a month later because this is the episode where Larry warped to Riverroundabout and Brittany and Jonny took a bullet train through The North, Ray is preaching at the hobbits. He might have once read A Feast for Crows and got inspired by Septon Maribald’s famous “broken man” speech (hey, that’s the name of the episode!), but he’s gonna do the short, short version. Ian McShane sells it, because he’s Ian McShane. The gist? War sucks and can make you do things that don’t feel good, but there’s always a chance at redemption. Now that we think about it, it’s a lot more hopey-changey than Maribald’s speech, though Kara Danvers approves.
The Canine sits on the outskirts listening, looking…moved? Irritated? Hungry?
Well no time for eating, three random dudes on horseback materialize and demand horses/steel/food in exchange for their “protection.” Ray says “Seven save you, friends” as they depart, so at least he knows the number of gods. It’s something. He also invites them for dinner, but says that they don’t really have anything to give, and they’ve got hungry mouths too. The randos exchanged peeved looks, but turn to go with a pissy, “the night is dark and full of terrors.” This means that they are either part of the long-forgotten Brotherhood without Continuity, or maybe they’re the people that ditched Stannis who we never heard from again.
Actually, we don’t want to keep you in suspense: it’s the first option.
Once they leave, The Canine flies into a wood chopping rage, and begins cutting into a log TWICE as fast. Ray comes over and is like, “dude, it’s just tits and dragons, don’t worry about it.” Wait, sorry, that was Ian McShane, and it seems pretty obvious he’s not taking this seriously.
Ray is kind of chill about this too. He’s like, “what are we supposed to do? We’re just a bunch of hobbits.” The Canine wants Ray to fight, but he’s done fighting. Just like Jonny. Or Forest Whitaker in Rogue One. He also thinks that if you take minimal provisions to defend yourself, that spreads the disease of violence. It’s almost like he was written by people who have heard of passivism, but never actually talked to a pacifist. The Canine thinks this philosophy is stupid. We wonder who will be proven right…
Later, The Canine has progressed to chopping wood on the outskirts of the Shire, and he hears exactly one scream. He goes racing back to find Every. Single. Hobbit. Butchered. Wow, those guys are super efficient. For some reason, the thugs gave Ray a special treatment and hung him on the half-built sept. WHAT A SENSELESS AND CRUEL WORLD! The Canine looks really pissed, and the episodes ends with him picking up his axe and marching forward, a determined look on his face.
The next episode contains a scene that makes us feel actively dumber and more insecure about ourselves to discuss. Because we are two respectable, educated women. Why are we watching this shit? What is this? Who said this was okay?
Alright. Here we go.
There are four men sitting around, chatting. One of them looks like one of the thugs who asked for steel and horses from the hobbits. It could be two of them, but frankly we don’t know or care to check. The one dude we do recognize sticks his fingers up the ass of one of his traveling companions and says it “smells like pussy.” Then The Canine comes charging in out of nowhere and murders them all, disemboweling the dude that just committed the sexual assault (for laughs), though not before asking him where the “others” were.
Isn’t your life richer, having had that described?
Later, The Canine stumbles across an unexpected party in the middle of the riverbands. It’s Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr! They think it’s Season 3 or something. They’ve caught three other dudes, who comprise the Bad Dudes from earlier, and are about to hang them. What a merry crew!
However, The Canine really bonded with Ray, we suppose, because he wants to revenge him. Beric and Thoros are like, “dude, we’re about to hang them,” but that’s not Manly™ enough for The Canine. He wants to chop them up with his axe. Is it possible…his arc is about his love of his axe? Because he’s always with it, and there were all those wood chopping scenes.
Thoros and Beric think he’s fucking weird, but agree to let him kick away the blocks of two of them. This takes at least a solid minute of negotiation. The Canine does as he’s told (good boy!), and while the hanging men are still twitching, rips the boots off one of them. Good boots are hard to come by.
Then he asks for something to eat. We cut to him enjoying a nice rabbit with the Brotherhood without Continuity. They ask if he likes it, setting up a punchline that references two seasons ago.
“I prefer chicken.” —The Canine, 6×08
Then he randomly gets up to piss (we guess it’s not random if he’s been drinking, but for a TV-show pissing is always a little random), so that D&D can pretend there’s nudity equality. Yes, giving us what we’ve always wanted: a blink-and-you-miss-it glimpse of a flaccid, urinating penis. This is almost as good as the warty dick shot.
The Brotherhood without Continuity tries to recruit The Canine by saying that they’re all here for a reason. He’s a good nihilist now though, and laughs at them. So instead, they convince him by saying that there’s a lot of fightin’ they’re going to be doing up north, and if he joins, he’ll help more than he’s harmed. The Canine agrees (we think), and we have literally no way of knowing if this is because he wants redemption or more fighting. Take your pick, because…
The Things We Do For Love
Alright, time to break down…all that. We’re going to start with Larry Lannister, as is fitting of his rank.
We really wanted there to be meaning in Larry’s arc, even if it was sarcastic or absolutely unintended meaning. Like how Grey Worm and Missandei were doing everything they could to run the city, but this annoying drunken asshole kept interrupting them. These things at least have some entertainment value.
But for Larry, there just wasn’t meaning to be found. As far as we can tell, even in-universe, the entire thing was just an inconvenient plot cul de sac that he had to round so he could get back to Carol as fast as possible.
There was a minute where we thought this actually could be about getting Larry to challenge his own identity and place in the world. Blackfish talked about how unimpressive he was/how shit his honor was, and Larry seemed hurt. Or maybe Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was hurting himself trying to figure out what character to play. After that, Brienne comes along, and tries to point out to Larry how the side of the war he’s on isn’t right.
Brienne: The Tullys are rebels because they’re fighting for their home?
Larry: Riverrun was granted to the Freys by royal decree.
Brienne: As a reward for betraying Robb Stark and slaughtering his family.
Larry: Exactly. (Pause) We shouldn’t argue about politics.
Now, your mileage can definitely vary on how poorly you view the Lannister’s response to Robb declaring himself king, but the point is, Brienne was still challenging Larry’s place in the world at the head of the Lannister army. Especially since he aligned himself with the Floppy Hat Brigade, who are just impossible to like, between their incompetence and child-brides.
It all seemed like it was coming to a head during Larry’s scene with Edmure (who we’re still a little floored was given lines rather than being billed as an extra: that good ol’ Rickon treatment), since Edmure says:
“How do you live with yourself? All of us have to believe that we’re decent, don’t we? You have to sleep at night. How do you tell yourself that you’re decent after everything that you’ve done?”
This is a question worth addressing, because it’s supposedly getting at the internal conflict of this character. But the thing is, Larry responds to this, and thereby responds to everyone else, by being like, “Look. I love Carol. We don’t choose whom we love. And everything I do is to ensure that she’s safe and I can be with her. Period.”
Also, call us crazy, but the way it’s framed in the narrative is both perfectly reasonable, and as if we’re supposed to be on Larry’s side. D&D ship Larrol, from what we can tell, and really, no one has a counterpoint to this.
What does this mean for Larry’s arc? Nothing! He spent all of last season learning that he should double-down on his love. Which by the way, marks the fifth or sixth character (we might low-balling, honestly) whose arc in Season 6 was identical to Season 5.
There are only two scenes that don’t fit in with this. One comes at the very very end, where Larry sees Cheryl being crowned, and he looks disappointed. We think. Frankly, this could be one of those situations where the next season they have a completely different relationship. Remember at the end of Season 3 when he and Carol were basically in tears at his return, but then in the first episode of Season 4, she wanted nothing to do with him and was potentially hiding taking an abortifacient from him? Or the end of Season 4, where she choose Larry-chu and they had wild White Tower sex, but then at the start of Season 5 she was incredibly mad at him for…something? Letting Tywin die maybe, or releasing Tyrion? But then the episode after that she seemed all hurt that he wasn’t more of a father to her kids?
Our point is, as much as we adore Larrol, their relationship has a habit of adjusting to plot needs. So forgive us for not reading too much into one look that could have just as easily been hunger. The overarching story for Larry was that he loved Carol and wasn’t afraid to assert it as a strategic tactic. If Cheryl truly upsets him, then that had nothing to do with any self-discovery, especially contextualized by the first half of the season, where he seemed like he wanted very violent revenge. Maybe he was just miffed that she was crowned when the previous conventions had been male-preference-primogeniture, because that was kind of rude. They’re a regular Fernando and Isabel, we guess.
There’s one other moment that we have to consider, which is Larry’s conversation with Walder Filch. It seemed like when Filch first brought up “hey, we’re both kingslayers,” Larry was really upset about being compared to this fucking asshole. Rightfully so; Larry’s kingslaying, remember, was one of the most honorable deeds he could have done. It’s just not viewed that way by the world, because no one understands what was at stake. Except Brienne. And apparently Carol and Saint Tyrion, too. But it’s something he closely guards, while also taking shit from everybody else about it. Of course it bothers him.
But, Larry counters what Filch says by just yelling about how much better the Lannister army is, and how this is actually his victory, cause he did all the hard work. By yelling about his love for Carol to Edmure, we guess. Then he storms off in a hissy fit.
If we’re being very, very generous, we could say that this was about him learning to accept his place at the head of the Lannister army now that he’s dismissed from the Kingsguard, and maybe putting Bronn in charge of trench-digging was showing this development of leadership too? But…is there even a ‘but’? Do we really have to pretend that this is a thing?
What boggles our mind is that they spent all this time and all these resources just to put this cul de sac in, and it didn’t even make sense. Larry being dismissed from the kingsguard was incredibly flippant, and that’s not even touching how illogical his entire rebellion against the Faith was which resulted in that decision. Just logistically, the fucking idiot didn’t pay attention to where the king was. No, we’re not over this. We won’t be over this any time soon, because this is not a reasonable level of stupidity. Even for Larry, this is simply not believable.
Add to this the fact that Blackfish had to have left the Red Wedding during a pee break, somehow made his way through the camp where everyone was being slaughtered, and then mustered the forces to take back a defensive stronghold off-screen, because that’s how important this was. And then, for some reason, the Freys didn’t know the Lannisters were coming to help them out, because how do alliances work anyway?
It’s one thing to retcon something small, but this was literally cramming a plot down our throats that we had no need for, and that accomplished nothing. Politically, Walder Filch is the Lord Paramount of the riverblands. This has been the case since the Red Wedding. As for the status of Riverroundabout, from what we can tell, Pop-up Blackfish took it back very recently, so it’s not like that amounted to anything either. Also, there were no other River Lords. They name dropped the Mallisters and the Blackwoods (they’ve risen against the Floppy Hat Brigade!), but we didn’t see them, nor these supposed rebellions. The only thing we saw were rogue members of the Brotherhood without Continuity slaughtering random hobbits in The Shire. But…how is this connected to anything?
Call us cynical, but we’re beginning to suspect that this whole thing was just a contrivance so that Larry could be out of Carol’s Landing for Chery’s Big Boom, and they actually put little to no thought into it at all.
Brienne, the Maid of FAIL
Speaking of being connected, Brienne was propped up as being very meaningful to Larry. We think. They exchanged that wave, after all.
Yes, you’d have to be a total dingus to read A Song of Ice and Fire and not find some significance in the Brienne/Jaime relationship. This is especially the case in A Feast for Crows, even though they don’t meet during the entirety of that novel. This is because they immaculately parallel each other, both on quests of identity through the riverlands, while also continually thinking about one another. The reader is able to see their influence on the other, particularly the way Brienne is shedding more and more of her idealism, while Jaime is almost taking on an increasingly romantic world-view. Ish. It’s complicated, and deep, and thematic. They both struggle with internal vs. external honor, gender expression, and how they see themselves fitting into a world that rejects them off-hand (Jaime with his disability, and Brienne eschewing traditional femininity).
For two-ish seasons, Brienne the Brute and Larry were pretty significant to each other, even if their characterizations were markedly different from their book counterparts from the start. We simply can’t imagine our Brienne shaming someone for sounding “like a bloody woman,” (or even saying the word ‘bloody’ in a non-literal context), because she rather admires other women and why the hell would that be an insult?
Still, there was the tub scene, and the time Larry gave her a sword to fulfil an oath (though they kind of screwed the pooch with Sansa trotting around in front of them for a couple of episodes), and it was clear that something was building between them. We don’t just mean romantic feels, either. We mean, we saw Larry confide in her about his most infamous act and his reasons behind it, and we saw Brienne becoming increasingly trusting of, and devoted to, him. We won’t pretend it was perfect, but it was, you know, nice.
Cue the rest of Season 4, and all of Season 5 and 6, where Larry’s entire character is devoted to his relationship to Carol, or at least, that’s framed as the most important piece of it. After all, the past two seasons were nothing but him learning to embrace how much he loves Carol, first to win the affection of an estranged daughter, and then to win a battle because Carol’s love solves all geopolitical issues.
Just as a quick aside, Larry should probably stop telling every single person he runs into how much he loves Carol. Cause like…high treason and shit. Not that there’s a legal system anyway.
Meanwhile, Brienne spent her past few seasons failing at everything.
No really, she is just made up of fail. We suppose she’s better at lighting a fire than Pod, so props there. Otherwise, she failed to convince Arya to even hear her out, only to then lose track of Arya completely (and failed to kill The Canine). She failed to convince Darth Sansa to let her into her service; she failed to pay attention to the stupid dinky candle when Sansa actually needed help. Then, mother-of-all-shocks…she failed at the one mission Sansa assigned to her this year. On occasion she’ll slaughter people at a convenient time, but otherwise, she is just utterly useless.
Larry seemed to think Brienne did an awesome job with Cat’s oath because she found Sansa, and at least could vaguely say, “Arya might not be dead.” And yeah, randomly stumbling upon these girls in a field and a bar was sure neato (and very proactive) of her. But at this point, what is she even doing? Does she still mean something to the audience, or has she gone the way of Davos, who just picks a side and makes remarks sometimes?
Come to think of it, what does she mean to Larry anymore? If it’s just like, “hey there’s that woman I hung out with for awhile and who gives me confused boners,” then sure, but contextualized by his EXTREME LOVE for Carol, her presence just doesn’t change anything. On her end, she might think he’s fuckable, or at least worthy of a goodbye wave, but…is this a romance? Is this any kind of relationship? Because from what we can tell, it was two characters who were on trajectories that they were both abruptly jettisoned from, only to faff about for two seasons and then get randomly slopped into a tent together. It was like D&D thought just sticking them in the same breathing space and having Bronn ship it would make this meaningful.
Are we supposed to think Brienne is what keeps Larry honest in the way he proceeded to negotiate the (mostly) bloodless surrender of Riverroundabout? Ya know, she’s a face on that side of the war and he doesn’t want to be as brutal or ruthless. Because by his own assertions, he just wants to do whatever’s the quickest route back to Carol. And even if that was supposed to be the case, isn’t this entire thing an exceedingly odd way for the writers to show us Brienne’s influence?
It’s not as though we don’t enjoy Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Gwendoline Christie making heart-eyes at one another (if that’s what they were doing), because at least it’s not parkour or fingers up the ass. But we just can’t find anything worthwhile to attach to these moments. Larry loves Carol. Brienne fails. What a story.
An Ode to Side-kicks
We are the kinds of people who when you ask us about the Tyrells in the books, we’ll get all smug and be like, “they exist for the benefit of the point-of-view characters, of course.” Which is not wrong. But it also means that we don’t usually take a ton of time to consider side-kick-esque characters outside of their relationships to the main character.
The thing is, Bronn doesn’t inform Larry’s character, because Larry doesn’t have a character. So instead, Bronn seems to be D&D’s attempt at comic relief. We mean, he grabs Pod’s dick and slaps him and says “fuck” a lot, and this is probably amusing to someone somewhere. He also rolls his eyes and cuts Larry off with a few more “fucks.”
At the same time, he’s a little bit infallible. We think he’s supposed to be like the everyman who is constantly ribbing these aristocrats for how out-of-touch they are (while also demanding two high born wives and castles). But D&D just kind of carry this folksy wisdom way too far.
Remember back in Season 5 when he was like, giving Larry relationship advice? And then this year, he apparently has “better instincts than any officer in the Lannister army.” First of all, there are officers? Second of all, why would this fucking sellsword have more military knowledge, particularly about siege warfare, than “officers” who probably studied this stuff, or at least read one book on it once. Hell, one of the maester chains is siegecraft, so you’d think the people benefitting from such an education system would have better instincts than the illiterate sellsword who got a job with the Lannisters by being plucky. And opportunistic. Single combat, fine, but he was tasked with overseeing the trenches.
It’s not like Bronn’s character especially matters, of course. He lightens the mood and then can sometimes act as a sounding board if Larry needs to state something obvious. We amuse ourselves with a reverse honeypot that Bronn is completely in love with Larry, because the number of times he brings up how hot he is, how jealous of all the women looking at him he is, and how he just might not be in the mood for a threesome raises a bit of suspicion. But, again, we know it’s only in our minds. That we’re talking to ourselves, and not to D&D[’s vision]. And although, we know that they are blind. Still we say…there’s a way this works.
There’s even less to say about Pod, because we can’t reverse honeypot a story for him. We can’t even tie his magical cock into anything, since all that happens is Bronn grabs it. At best, “humorous” sexual assault against men is a theme of the riverblands. Pod is just kinda…there. We’re happy he’s learning how to be a better fighter from Brienne off-screen. Go Pod!
Is it worth talking about Blackfish? We called him “Pop-up” Blackfish for a reason. From what we remember, in Season 3 he was kinda a gruff jerk. He was the dude who shamed Edmure for missing a kind of difficult shot at his father’s funeral when he was grieving. There wasn’t anything overly bad about him, but he really just…existed. You could tell he had a military competence about him, it’s just that they didn’t really bother fleshing him out any.
In the books, we’re at least privy to Brynden Tully’s complicated relationship with his brother, his love for his nieces and nephew, and how his relationship with Lysa suggested that he wasn’t completely on-board with Hoster’s treatment of her. The fact that he refused to marry for twenty years gives the potential for interesting headcanons. Also, he didn’t have to take a castle off-page; he stayed behind at the Red Wedding, because Robb actually considered securing his rear.
We’re not sure why Blackfish came to the Red Wedding in the show, because we don’t really remember him doing anything of interest. Granted, we didn’t go back to watch, so if we’re missing something momentous, please tell us. Was he just along for the ride so he could keep sniping at Edmure?
But then to bring him back, just to have him die off-screen… This is Clive Russell, and he really did sell the role, we’re not going to lie. It would have, on some level, been quite satisfying to see him leave with Brienne, or maybe agree to bring his army to the Bastard Bowl. You know, it would have made us feel like families sort of care for each other, and are willing to make sacrifices if that means banding together in the long run.
However, that’s not what we got. We didn’t even get a nice moment between Edmure and Blackfish, though frankly it’s hard to blame Edmure given how much of an ass his uncle’s been to him in the past. Like, yeah, it’s a shitty situation, but it’s not as though Blackfish can’t wrap his mind around why Edmure might not want to die in this situation, or have his son and wife come to harm. And forgive us, but IN THE BOOKS, Edmure helps Blackfish escape and is super smug about it.
Look, there’s just nothing to say about Blackfish that hasn’t been said about this plotline as whole. We have no clue why it was brought back into existence, other than that they couldn’t think of what else to do with Larry and Brienne for a season. Or this is the Checklist Effect™ .
That’s not to say it’s completely a waste. You see there’s one character who has an arc. It’s in the course for two scenes, but it is development, damnit, and more meaningful than anything else in the riverblands.
We speak, of course, of Andrew, the committed Tully man-at-arms, who was so willing to stand by his Lord no matter what. He trusted in Edmure, damnit, so imagine his chagrin when the guy marches in and orders them to stand down.
We’re not sure how Andrew envisioned that going exactly. Did he just think the Floppy Hat Brigade was turning over a hostage for fun? Still, his commitment to the feudal order is honorable, and we’re so sorry that he had to see his idol’s fall from grace.
But his epic arc notwithstanding, there’s a reason we call this “Riverroundabout.”
What Kind of Nihilistic Bullshit is This?
This was the easiest subheading we’ve ever crafted, because it’s what Julia screamed as soon as she finished watching, and continued to do so to Kylie for a few good minutes afterwards. Expect great things from our podcast next week (including Julia breaking and running, like a broken man does).
We know we just recapped the events for you, but seriously, all The Canine did was chill in The Shire with Ian McShane telling him that the world was alright, only to watch some random dudes chop everyone up because the world is shit and you should feel bad. Then he went on a [humorous?] revenge rampage, got a new pair of boots, and received a job offer.
If we’re very, very generous, we can say that Beric’s remark about how it’s “not too late” for The Canine means that this ended on an optimistic note, with The Canine suddenly motivated by redemption. Except…this is exactly what Ray said, and then he died and was proven wrong. Also, there’s no suggestion that The Canine was compelled by the redemption angle so much as the fighting angle. Unless we count that two second look during Ray’s speech that might have been conveying interest. Or maybe hunger.
If he was trying to turn over a new leaf though, isn’t this a weird way to go about showing it? Like, we have The Canine wanting to chop up three men already sentenced to die by hanging, then bargaining for a solid minute so he can kick out the stump from as many of them as possible, and then he steals the boots out from under one of them while the guy is still twitching. We know it’s a small thing, but it’s deeply fucked up and so macabre, and from what we can tell, it’s to show how ruthless and hardened of a person he is. So…this is the guy who wants to do more good than harm? Are we sure about that?
Add to that the stupid inclusion of the chicken joke. There’s a reason we have this shirt in our store:
Your mileage will vary with how humorous you found the chicken joke in Season 4. But it’s symptomatic of a different issue. This whole thing feels as though D&D brought him back because he’s a goddamn meme, in the same way you can tell they write lines like “I drink and I know things” for Tyrion because they know people will make t-shirts of that. Or why they felt we needed an intricate explanation for the origins of “Hodor” to the point where it was framed as an all-important mystery for Bran to solve.
The truth is, as a character, The Canine is absolutely indistinguishable from the host of other hardened, humorous Badasses™ that D&D have written. Because seriously, Bronn and Fabio and Tormund and even the famous Lord Umber (Randyll’s bff) will curse at inappropriate moments, or say hard truths, or yeah, steal boots from men who are about to die (at least, we can see it happening). There’s nothing remotely interesting about The Canine that we can parse at this point in the series. He doesn’t seem to have a relationship with any character except potentially Arya, and a little bit with Beric. (They don’t like each other!) But forgive us for not finding him cold-open worthy, especially when his plot can be summed up like, “now he’s walking in this direction.”
And for fuck sake, did we really need to see yet another instance of the writers setting up a scene where we’re expected to feel sympathy for someone, only to have the rug pulled out from under us so we can learn what a horrible place the world is. We already got that message with Rickon and Lady Crane and Osha and Fat Walda and Loras and Shireen and Hizdahr zo Sansa and Talisa and…we’re getting tired.
This one was so utterly transparent that it’s almost insulting. Or maybe humorous. We really can only laugh at the hobbits that were given no personality or motivation or anything, because they were just happy lambs being set up for the slaughter.
What even was this place? We know it’s The Shire, but what is this community if people in a perfectly temperate field who do nothing but build a church and skip around the maypole. Where do they sleep? Where do they hunt/grow this food that they’re eating? Did Ray find them, or was he a community organizer? Are they super isolated and that’s why he doesn’t know the names of the gods?
Also, and this is such a stupid point, it doesn’t even make sense that The Canine missed the entire slaughter. The dude was chopping wood barely on the outskirts and he hears one measly scream. Then, after rushing back, everyone is hacked to pieces, Ray is strung up, and things are like…overturned with food scattered everywhere, yet the ruffians have already fucked off. It doesn’t even look like it was ransacked properly, which was the point of the attack, wasn’t it? They wanted steel or horses or food, didn’t they? Or did they just want to chop up a bunch of heretics?
Look. In the books (we know), the Brotherhood without Banners doesn’t do anything to people who follow the Faith. They sulk at meals when someone says grace, but Julia just did that at her mom’s Easter table, so…
Yes, we guess randomly bringing in the Brave Companions or the Mountain men could have confused the Unsullied, but we have no clue what anyone’s motivation in this entire plotline is. People are horrible and you should feel bad. Robin Hood’s merry men can sometimes splinter off and go on murder benders. Neato.
We’d immaculately detail Sandor Clegane’s fate in the books and how that relates to Jaime and Brienne’s respective journeys, but this bullshit with The Canine has nothing to do with it. It has nothing to do with anything. It’s not better or worse than anything, because it’s nothing.
It took up screen time. Same with Riverroundabout. Same with Horn Faire, and Arya having her Season 5 plotline again, and Saint Tyrion rehashing the conflicts Deadpan faced, and the four High Grandpa speeches that were all the same, and Carol being put upon episode after episode until some random homicide, and Ramsay being super evhul, and so and so.
That’s the theme of season: wasting screen time. If D&D only wanted 8 episodes, they could have just told us. Jeeze. Clearly, this means the shortened Season 7 is going to be a rollicking success. We can’t wait.
Editor’s note 4/18/17: a correction was made in which Larry had originally been referred to as the “first-born.”
If you enjoyed Julie’s thoughts on this plotline, then be sure to check out the Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire podcast starring Julia and Kylie, Unabashed Book Snobbery! You can subscribe/listen on iTunes, subscribe to our RSS feed, search for “Unabashed Book Snobbery” in any podcast app, or find a complete list of UBS episodes on Kylie’s personal blog. The riverblands episode is available here.
Images courtesy of HBO
Sansa’s Shithole Siblings Part 1: Family Disunion
Welcome, welcome, welcome, to the penultimate Unabashed Book Snobbery retrospective series. As is fitting of anything penultimate, it will be shocking and titillating.
That’s right, Julie (the combined brain of Julia and Kylie) has returned after a long rest, and is thrilled to be diving back into Game of Thrones season 7, courtesy of genius showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D).
As she’s done for two seasons before, Julie has begun to rewatch the Emmy-caliber masterpiece plotline by plotline, so she can truly appreciate the dramatic satisfaction and thematic significance. Just like Rogue One! Season 7 had many great contenders, from Cheryl stalking around a giant map to Sam slopping soup. However, Julie is going to start things off with what was sure to be everyone’s most empowering plotline: Winterhell 3.0, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Conspiracy.
Julie is still committed to preventing the conflation of A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, even though she’s unsure who would be mixing these two up anymore. To ensure that there’s no confusion, she will be using her exceedingly clever nicknames, as she’s done in the past.
This season also vaguely starred:
Full explanations of these nicknames can be found in the world famous Book Snob Glossary. But for now, Julie will take you through exactly what happened in a humorous…
Part 2 of this retrospective will be the more serious analysis, for exceedingly generous definitions of serious.
Patience, Enjoy It, Revenge Can’t Be Taken In Haste
So. Just thinking over the beginning of this plotline has thrown us into an existential crisis.
Hey guys. Remember the ending of last season? You know, when Arya Todd got her revenge by empoweringly slitting Walder Filch’s throat, after baking his sons into pies and feeding them to him? We mean…with the price of meat what it is, when you get it.
Well, turns out a fortnight has passed since then, or at least we think so, since the dialogue is a bit unclear. We know this is the second feast at The Twins within a fortnight, so it’s possible it’s also the day after. But we doubt it. However, regardless of if one or fourteen days have passed, Arya Todd has been posing as Walder Filch the entire time. You see, all his sons are there, and his child-bride, and everyone’s acting like it’s business as usual.
Arya Filch (?) requests that some nice red Arbor Gold be served to the hall full of Frey sons (but not daughters, because she won’t waste wine on women), and launches into one of the weirdest toasts to date under that roof. You see, she’s like, dropping hints that she’s a Stark.
“You’re my family, the men who helped me slaughter the Starks at the Red Wedding. Yes, yes. Cheer. Brave men, all of you. Butchered a woman pregnant with her babe. Cut the throat of a mother of five. Slaughtered your guests after inviting them into your home. But you didn’t slaughter every one of the Starks.”
And as she drops these clues, the Freys begin dropping to the ground. Because that Arbor
Gold Red was poisoned. POISONED!
The Filch child-bride looks reasonably freaked out that everyone she knows is dead now, and even more reasonably freaked out when Arya Todd rips off her Halloween mask to reveal the face of an eighteen-year-old woman. Give or take. “Tell them winter came for House Frey,” she says. Okay. Should she also mention how Arya was posing as Filch and probably shared her bed for two weeks also?
Arya Todd leaves with a Smirk of Empowerment, not a single person there to stop her. For some reason.
Meanwhile, Branbot 1000 seems to be fritzing due to some bad crapware. He’s flashing to the army of the dead (and zombie giants!), while poor, gloveless Meera pulls him all the way to The Wall.
Lord Commander Edd greets them personally, because there’s nothing else he should be doing right now, and Meera tells him who they are. When Edd asks for proof, Branbot finishes his updates and informs Edd that he (Edd) was at the Fist of the First Men and Hardhome. That’s… as legitimate as having a driver’s license. Edd shrugs and says that they should be brought inside. Onion soup all around!
This brings us to Winterhell proper, where Johnny Cardboard is demonstrating why he deserves that crown he randomly got last year. He’s apparently discovered delegation, and instructs everyone to get dragonglass. Wait, has two weeks passed here too? Is it the same day? Brittany’s wig sure looks different.
He also says that they need to bone up on Winterhell’s defenses, since an army of the dead is coming. First order of business: the Wildlings will man The Wall. Beardy loves this idea, and the historical irony inherent in it, and to be honest… we kind of do too.
However, things get contentious when Jonny says everyone is going to be trained to fight—including GIRLS. Lord Glover doesn’t want to put a spear in his granddaughter’s hands (“Hey, how does she feel?” said no one ever), but it’s settled when Lyanna Mormont disparages typically female wartime roles, like provisioning the army. “Who in seven hells needs socks?” she asks, tossing a sassy look to Lord Glover. “Ima fight naked because I’m a feminist!” Everyone is convinced, because Lyanna is the ultimate bellwether lord.
Finally, it’s time to deal with the castles of the KARSTARKS and UMBERS. Lord Royce and his giant breastplate are miffed, so he wants to tear them down brick-by-brick. However Brittany finally speaks up, and points out that demolishing defensive strongholds that stand in between Winterhell and The Wall is really fucking stupid. “Of course they’re going to be manned by our allies,” she says. Reasonable. Giving land and castles as a reward for loyalty is a thing kings tend to do, especially when some lords marched a great distance to bail out an army from a sticky situation. The Northern Lords cheer in agreement.
However, Jonny had a different idea in mind, and completely didn’t run it past Sansa. He wanted to give the castles to the younger generations of KARSTARK and UMBER, because he knows how much their feelings would be hurt if he displaces their families from their ancestral homes. Brittany disagrees, but Jonny doubles down. The Northern Lords cheer in agreement. Brittany rolls her eyes and looks annoyed.
To be clear, they both have points, but neither the narrative nor the characters can seem to decide what they are, and Jonny only ends up being “right” because he spoke last. It’s a theme.
Speaking of thematic consistency, we almost forgot to point out one of the season’s strongest motifs: Wall Spot. It’s Batfinger’s new, designated space. He either is very fond of it, or he lost his teleporter and is permanently stuck there.
Afterwards, Jonny gets mad at Brittany for challenging his decision in front of the Northern Lords. Hey Jonny, it’s almost as if you should have talked to her before the meeting. Specifically so these kinds of things wouldn’t happen.
Brittany points out that good leaders allow themselves to be challenged, and it’s people like Joffrey who don’t.
Jonny: Do you think I’m Joffrey?
Looks like his hurt feelings need to take priority! Brittany soothes his ego, but then says that he has to be smarter than Ned and Robb, who both died for making stupid (but principled) mistakes. Jonny asks if that means he has to listen to her. Oh the horrors!
Brittany then explains that Cheryl is still a huge fucking threat, and they can’t just have Army of the Dead blinders on, or they’ll get creamed.
Jonny: You almost sound as if you admire her.
Does she, Jonny? Is that how you admire people? Does this mean he admires Shogun, cause he never shuts up about that threat.
Meanwhile, Brienne the Brute trains Pod ineffectively, while Tormund continues to creep on her. Haha.
Brittany watches from the gallery above, when Batfinger schmoozes on up. Brittany has NO patience for him today, and asks what he wants in an exasperated tone. When he says his usual Batfinger idiocy, she shuts him down, even outright saying:
“No need to seize the last word, Lord Baelish. I’ll assume it was something clever.”
Jeeze. Why is this guy even alive? No really.
Brienne asks Brittany the same thing, but Brittany waves it off, saying that they need his men. It’d be a whole thing to tell the Vale Lords about Lysa’s death. Who has time for that?
An indeterminate temporal relationship to the previous scene later, Arya Todd comes across a group of Lannister soldiers in the woods on horseback and potentially still wearing Walder Filch’s clothes. One of these chaps is singing “Hands of Gold” because he just read A Clash of Kings, and looks an awful lot like a teenage heartthrob. The patriarchy is also on a questionable temporal plane of existence here, since the soldiers don’t question Arya being alone or offer to protect her, but do want to know if she’s old enough to drink wine. William Tecumseh Sherman made it in a toilet; it’s blackberry. Kylie gets unpleasant Manischewitz flashbacks.
“How’s the war?” “War is hell. Have some rabbit and sit down next to Ed Sheeran.”
Maisie Williams Arya Todd seems thrilled and friendly and not at all like some kind of feral animal who has been the victim of brain trauma. Then she “jokes” about how she’s headed to Cheryl’s Landing to kill Cheryl. Everyone laughs and the scene ends. Too bad we never got Ros’s woodtime adventures on her way down to Carol’s Landing.
You should want a détente
Back in Winterhell, Tyrion has sent a raven of great importance to Jonny, asking him to come visit Deadpan because they’re super, super nice, and also they have dragons and an army. Brittany and Jonny discuss this, while observing the co-ed archery classes. Which is probably something that happened anyway. Hawking is a thing, except for poor Tiffany Tarly.
Brittany tells Jonny that this is really stupid and dangerous, and even if Tyrion was a SUPER NICE not-rapist, this is still probably a trap. Davos pipes in with his folksy wisdom to note that fire kills wights, so dragons might be cool, but Tyrion didn’t really have much chill mentioning that army. (Oh yeah! Davos is a thing!)
Speaking of no chill, Arya Todd has arrived at the Inn at the Crossroads, everyone’s favorite hangout for coincidental meetings. She eavesdrops on the world’s most boring conversation about how it’s a good idea to go to Cheryl’s Landing now before war breaks out again, when Hot Pie spots her! She steals a pot pie from his tray, and seems to have forgotten how to use utensils. Hot Pie sit down to talk to his old friend, and she can’t be bothered to make eye contact, because she’s too busy eating like some weird feral creature.
After sharing baking tips, they finally get into politics. Cheryl blew up the sept! Arya already knew this from being Walder Filch, we suppose. Also, this being common knowledge has no social ramifications or implications, right? However NOT common knowledge is that Jonny won the in-verse named “Battle of the Bastards” and is ruling the North as king. There’s no reason anyone would tell Walder Filch that.
Arya is shaken by this news. She tries to pay Hot Pie, still being far colder to him than she was to Ed Sheeran, but he refuses because he’s a mensch. Or thinks she’s pretty. (Or both.) We then get a shot of her debating which way to go: Cheryl’s Landing for more murders, or Winterhell to threaten the murder of her family? Oops. Spoiler.
She turns North.
Speaking of brand new information, Jonny gets a raven from Sam saying that there’s DRAGONGLASS on DRAGONSTONE.
Oh yeah, Stannis told us that already!
Jon is shaken, so he calls another meeting in the Great Hall without bothering to talk things over with his sister. We’re sure there’s no important political decisions being made this time.
You see, Jonny is so desperate to get this DRAGONGLASS that he makes the unilateral decision to go to DRAGONSTONE himself. Literally everyone in the room thinks this is a terrible idea. Even Batfinger is smirking from Wall Spot about how stupid he is.
- Brittany points out this is obviously a trap, and one rather evocative of their own family’s history (riding south for Targaryen rulers doesn’t always end well, yo)
- The Northern Lords say he’s abandoning them
- They point out Robb lost his kingdom by riding south
- Winter is here and they kind of elected Jon on this point
- Jonny’s impassioned speech to counter these points is really beyond Kit Harington as an actor
The gist of what he says is: tough titties—only a king can request dragonglass from a queen. “Send an emissary,” Brittany points out.
No, no, it’s fine, because the North will be in good hands.
Boy this didn’t need to be talked about ahead of time. Everyone in the room kind of nods and accepts this. Brienne looks proud for some reason.
Batfinger is so moved by this decision that he leaves Wall Spot to find Jonny in the crypts, who’s busy saying goodbye to Sean Bean’s statue. Batfinger says (and we’re paraphrasing), “Give Tyrion my best. Your dad and I both loved Cat. Cat underestimated you. You’re the best hope for the North. I’m not your enemy. I love Brittany.”
Jonny gets full of protective paternalism and shoves Batfinger up against a wall. We kind of suspect Batfinger is into it. “Touch my sister, and I’ll kill you myself.” Cool, she’ll love that. She didn’t just ask you to stop protecting her or anything, and we’re sure sexual agency isn’t important to her at all!
Jonny then leaves with the smallest fucking retinue possible for a king, and he and Brittany exchange an awkward wave.
What isn’t something is Arya’s next scene. Wolves surround her and her horsey in the woods. One of them is Nymeria. “Come with me!” Arya says. Nymeria turns and leaves. “That’s not you.” Let’s hope Nymeria watched Season 1 recently and got it, unlike the fandom that assumed it meant the giant fucking direwolf wasn’t, in fact, Nymeria. The end.
No Hugs for Brittany
Back in Winterhell, we see the consequence of Jonny leaving Brittany in charge: shit is actually getting done. Like…shit that really should have been getting done already.
Brittany is running around, organizing winter rations, overseeing winter armoring, and showing us the value of traditionally feminine skills during times of battle preparations. Batfinger keeps trying to get stupid advice in, like how she should be completely paranoid at all times and assume everyone is her enemy. It’s a nice trailer line, but she doesn’t seem to care.
What she does care about is the arrival of her brother, Branbot. Brittany runs down to the gate to greet him with a hug, but robots cannot love.
She then brings him to the heart tree, and in her hyper-ambition casually offers to give him her seat. He’s Father’s legal heir, after all. Bran refuses because he’s the Three Eyed Raven now. Brittany—like all of us—doesn’t know what that means. “It’s difficult to explain.” Okay then. When she presses the matter, he gives her a demonstration of his powers, by speaking about the night she was raped in a lot of detail, with a dispassionate and detached inflection. Fun!
Brittany—like all of us—gets reasonably freaked out and upset, and gets the fuck out of dodge. We’re glad this happened instead of Bran sharing the information about their family he just discovered.
Batfinger is also glad to see Bran again, and decides to just randomly give him that dagger from Season 1. You know, the one the hired assassin tried to use on Bran that quasi-started the War of Five Kings. He then delves into this awkward monologue about how the dagger reminds him of Cat stopping it, and how he’s loyal to Bran, just like Cat? We’re a bit confused, and assume this is a really inept attempt at getting on Bran’s good side, but thankfully Branbot is even less interested in it than we are. “Chaos is a ladder,” he says. What he meant was, “Shut the fuck up.”
Meera then pops in to say goodbye to Bran. He can’t emote, but is like, “Thanks I guess. Crazy times.” She gets pissed at him for this complete underreaction, while he shrugs and tells her that being the Three Eyed Raven makes him not Bran anymore. “You died in that cave!” she says, tearfully leaving.
Hey. Brittany would have totally hugged Meera.
But hold your tits; Arya arrives at Winterhell and demands entrance. “That’s not you,” the guards tell her. Arya points out that she’s going to get in (and her delivery is creepy enough where this is entirely believable). So either they let her in and tell Brittany, and if she’s an imposter then the jig is up, or she’s real and they’d get in trouble for not having told Brittany. The guards find this convincing, but rather than wait for five minutes, Arya decides to recreate her Season 1 scampiness by just fucking off to the crypts.
The guards then have to tell Brittany that they lost someone claiming to be her sister, but Brittany just sighs and is like, “you tried.” Apparently she knew Arya would go to the crypts, and that’s where she finds her. Then we watch five minutes of Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner trying not to giggle as they film a scene with each other for the first time in six years.
For the characters, Brittany tries to hug Arya, who is about as receptive to it as Kylie’s six-month-old niece. Use your arms, Arya. Arya gets funny about Brittany being Lady of Winterhell, but her sister doesn’t seem to care. “I remember how happy [Jonny] was to see me. When he sees you, his heart will probably stop.” That ambitious bitch! Then they allude to the trauma they suffered, before Arya makes another list joke. It just keeps on giving.
Brittany then takes Arya to see Branbot 1000, who’s recharging at the Heart Tree again. He can’t even make it one sentence without being sufficiently weird, so Brittany explains that he has visions. Then Bran confirms that Arya has a murder list. Brittany asks for a little clarification on this, but then Bran just whips out that dagger. “Wait, where did you get this?” Brittany wants to know. However neither Bran nor Arya can seem to care about this obviously weird thing for Batfinger to have given him, which is probably worth digging into. So Brittany asks these futile, but probably important questions, while her robot brother hands her murdery sister a blade.
Arya and Brittany take Bran back to the Winterhell courtyard now that he reached 100%, as Brienne and Pod watch. Pod points out that she completed her mission and will receive 50,000 XP, while Brienne argues that she didn’t really do anything. Yeah, we know.
Later, Arya asks Brienne to train her, and they duel for a few minutes while epic battle music plays. Ramin Djawadi, chill—it’s just a sparring session. Brittany looks concerned at the burned screentime.
Sneak vs. Sneak
Later, Branbot’s plugged into the Heart Tree again (he really needs to disable his background apps; this battery life is ridiculous), and sends some ravens to check out what Shogun is doing. There’s honey bunches of dead people! He then asks the maester to send out ravens, because Jonny totally needs this reminder.
Meanwhile in the Great Hall, the Northern Lords are lonely without their Jonny. They’re also a little confused why he is their king. Afterall, Brittany is here and in front of them! …Yes. This is what we were screaming at the TV screen at the end of last season. Though this seems to be less about any kind of birthright or governing capabilities, as much as it’s like dogs who are confused during their owner’s vacation since someone else is feeding them.
Lord Glover goes as far as to say that he wants her to be the queen, while Royce is all like, “we rode North for you.” This is…a fairly treasonous casual conversation. However Brittany handles it with much aplomb, saying that while she’s flattered, Jonny is their king and that’s the way of it. What an ambitious bitch! She learned from Cheryl, alright. Arya watches with stink eye.
Afterwards, Brittany vents to Arya about how she warned Jonny this would happen. But Arya is too upset to listen because Brittany is sleeping in a bedroom befitting her rank. Also, apparently her solution to this would have been to execute Glover and Royce on the spot. That worked out great for their brother Robb, and he actually had some justification about Karstark.
When Brittany points out how fucking stupid that is, Arya accuses her of wanting the Northern Lords to like her because Jonny might get himself killed and then she’d be running everything. Yeah, this is a reasonable concern when your king sails into what could easily be a trap with only like, five other dudes.
But apparently Glover and Royce keeping their heads is a sign that Brittany may be disloyal to Jonny. That checks out.
Arya is so suspicious that she decides to tail Batfinger, of all people. Like, he’s around Brittany a bunch, but if Arya had checked with her sister she’d see that there wasn’t really too much being entertained there.
Batfinger is the sneakiest sneak though, as has been established in previous seasons, and he can apparently read minds. You see he KNOWS if he gets a copy of a certain raven’s scroll from the hapless maester, then Arya will be sure to be tailing him, and will find it in his bedroom. Then she’ll not question why Batfinger was digging it up, but instead jump straight to blaming Brittany for the downfall of her House.
Which is exactly what she does!
In the next episode, Arya has taken over Brittany’s favorite Observation Spot overlooking the bailey. However, there aren’t any coed archery lessons to look at; only meaningful memories. Maybe everyone is inside with coed sock knitting? Please? We’re very concerned about the soldiers’ feeties.
Brittany senses the opportunity for more bonding (or maybe she’s angling for a hug again, because she still didn’t get one), and goes up next to her. Arya then goes down Ned Stark Memory Lane (a Carol Award category!) in a monologue that’s just a click above Maisie Williams’s acting talents. You see, when she was a girl, Brittany was an asshole who liked to knit and had pretty penmanship. But Arya, because she truly loved their father, wanted to practice archery instead. So she did! And he slowclapped for her. This checks out.
What’s weird is that Brittany is just smiling like, “oh what a nice memory. Touching story, Arya!” But then Arya finishes on the note of, and we QUOTE, “Now he’s dead. Killed by the Lannisters. With your help.” Has she been hanging on on westeros.org boards again?
Brittany is legitimately confused by this, until Arya whips out the letter. Brittany explains the concept for duress, but Arya rejects this because she didn’t have a knife to her throat. Yikes. Brittany then points out that she was, you know, eleven and told that this is what would help their father stay alive. “And you were STUPID enough to believe them!” Which is it, Arya: is it that she was actively trying to betray your father, or that she was a young girl who didn’t understand political intrigue?
Amazingly Robb and Cat managed to wrap their minds around this in about 2 seconds.
Then Arya decides to shame Brittany for wearing societally appropriate clothing to their father’s execution, even though she had thought he was going to be released. As did everyone else there,
Cheryl Carol included. It’s not like she was still betrothed to the King or anything.
Brittany finally gets a little mad at these accusations, pointing out that she’s gone through hell and back for her family, and she’s the only reason they regained any kind of political power at all. Arya, apparently unmoved, tries to compare the size of her PTSD dick to Brittany’s, because this is healthy and sisterly bonding. Arya is convinced Brittany’s letter was the downfall of her house, and mentions how Lyanna Mormont would not have been so weak as to write it. So therefore, if the Northern Lords read it, they’ll think Brittany is a traitor!
To be fair, they probably are that stupid and would have that kind of overreaction to the most innocuous diplomatic letter clearly written under duress ever. Brittany understands that, so she later expresses her worries to Batfinger, since Arya ended the conversation basically saying she was going to “expose” her.
Batfinger pretends he has no clue where Arya got the letter, while Brittany worries about the “wind vane” Northern Lords, since Jon hasn’t even written in weeks, so who knows how they’re feeling about anything right now. Brittany thinks Arya would definitely betray her if she believed (for no reason) that Brittany was willing to betray Jon.
Batfinger’s solution? Lady Brienne. She’d be “honor bound to intercede” because she’s committed to protecting both Stark sisters.
We’re not sure why, but this is greatly distressing to Brittany. We guess because Brienne and Arya bonded with their epic duel, so she’s worried that Brienne would now…cut off her head or something, if Arya asked. That checks out.
But logical leaps aside, when Brittany gets invited to the Great Wight Moot of Incoherence, she insists that Brienne go as an emissary. Also, this is a legitimately good use of an emissary; why would she march her ass to Cheryl’s Landing while Cheryl is ruling? We got the feeling she didn’t enjoy being a political prisoner so much.
Brienne seems very concerned, and suggests leaving Pod behind, but apparently her duel with Arya was so chummy that even he could pose a danger to Brittany at this point. At least, this is what we think is going on, but we can’t be sure. She also may be trying to protect Pod and Brienne from Batfinger’s machinations somehow, or she may be really, really concerned with having a proper emissary to this clearly important meeting that will totally have an actual function in the plot. Whatever her reasons, she basically snaps at Brienne until the Maid of Fail retreats sadly away. Bye bye! Have fun in Cheryl’s Landing!
High on that accomplishment, Brittany then decides to creep around Arya’s room, because she doesn’t want to be left out of the sneaky sneak game. FOMO is real, friends. We suspect she may be trying to locate the letter, but instead she finds a pretty nice leather messenger bag. It’s only $500 from Neiman Marcus and goes great with their battle cardigans (temporarily out of stock).
Inside the messenger bag are some halloween masks that were definitely not purchased at Neiman Marcus. Our guess is Party City.
“Not what you’re looking for.”
No Arya, that’s not what anyone is ever looking for. Unless they’re planning to rob a bank. For the Joker. Brittany, reasonably freaked out, asks her what these are and where she got them. “My faces.” Okay. Arya goes on to explain she got them in Braavos, training to be a Faceless Man. “What does that mean?” Brittany asks. No one knows!
Arya tells her that it means you get hit with a stick any time someone catches you lying. She offers to play this fun game with her sister, the first question being, “How do you feel about Jon being king? Is there someone else you feel should rule the North instead of him?”
We personally feel that this test really should have been calibrated with some dummy questions first, like any good polygraph. Also, Jon is a complete fucking idiot, and Kylie’s cat would be doing a better job ruling the North. So it’s kind of a Catch-22 for Brittany.
She filibusters by asking more about what the hell these faces are and how did Arya get them. Remember that time Branbot confirmed her murder list? Yeah… However, Arya soon puts her fears to rest (except not at all). You see, her murders and masks are feminist statements. Growing up, both she and Brittany wanted to be other people. Brittany wanted to be a queen (what? She was betrothed to Joffrey, so that’s not really being anyone else at all), while Arya wanted to be a knight. But in Weisseroff, little girls don’t get to choose what they are. Except when they do.
With her masks, she can be anyone. Even Brittany, with her title and pretty dresses that Arya isn’t jealous of at all. To prove this point, she points a dagger in her sister’s direction. As one does.
With Brittany almost in tears, Arya twirls the dagger around and hands it to her. Psych! That filled us with warm tinglies.
“None of you knows the truth!”
Good news everyone, winter is actually legitimately here. So is a raven from Jonny, that tells Brittany he bent the knee to Deadpan—pass it on. Boy did Brittany really not know what she was getting into when he asked her to take care of the North for him.
She vents to Batfinger that he didn’t even ask for her opinion. We’re a little mad Batfinger is even around for this, but a) she sent away Brienne who was really her only friend, b) if she vents to any Northern or Vale Lord they’ll probably do something horribly stupid, and c) one of her siblings is a cyborg and the other just threatened to murder her. So frankly, we’d probably be chumming it up with him too.
Batfinger doesn’t seem very surprised by this, especially since he knows what sexual tension there surely is between Jonny and Deadpan. So he just shrugs and casually suggests a coup where Brittany asks the Northern Lords to unname Jon as king. No biggie.
Brittany maybe entertains this (it’s impossible to tell), but pretty much immediately shuts it down because her absolutely crazed sister would most certainly murder her. In fact, she might just murder her anyway. Batfinger decides to ineptly stoke her paranoia more by telling her about a game of his: assume everyone has the worst motives ever, and then see how well that explains their actions.
We can’t believe it’s not confirmation bias! Batfinger would be a really successful YouTuber.
Brittany then tries it out, talking about how Arya is probably there to kill her, and then unearthed her duress letter so that she’d be able to get away with it. But the thing is, this really does explain Arya’s actions well, so the scene ends with Brittany looking distressed, and as if she knows what she needs to do. Because again…her sister is a murderer who threatened her. With more murder. And wearing her face.
This is weighing on Brittany, or perhaps some exhausting off-screen shenanigans are, so we get a scene of her on the battlements with her hood drawn up.
She sighs heavily and asks a random nearby guard to bring her sister to the Great Hall. Shit’s about to go down! Or she’s trying to bait-and-switch the guards too? It’s this kind of ambiguity that makes this show the masterpiece that it is.
In the Great Hall, Bran and Brittany sit at the High Table.
Arya: Are you sure you want to do this?
Brittany: It’s not what I want. It’s what honor demands.
Arya: And what does honor demand?
Brittany: That I defend my family from those who would harm us. That I defend the North from those who would betray us.
Arya: All right, then. Get on with it.
We imagine the Northern Lords are very confused by this exchange. Why do they think they’re there? Do they understand why Arya isn’t at the high table? Does Arya? We think the above conversation was rehearsed, but…are they trying to dramatically satisfy the Lords too?
Anyway, the surprise is that when Brittany says, “you stand accused of murder, you stand accused of treason,” she’s not actually talking to Arya…she’s talking to BATFINGER.
He can’t believe it so much that he peels himself off of Wall Spot and asks for clarification.
“Lady Sansa, forgive me; I’m a bit confused.”
So are we, Batfinger, and this is why you got a Carol nomination for meta-ness.
Brittany then explains his charges, finally telling the Vale Lords that he murdered her Aunt Lysa. Like, literally in front of her. She could have told them this three seasons ago but didn’t, for reasons. And yeah, now that we think about it, Brittany being in the Vale would have made so much more sense for so many reasons. Someone should write a book about that alternate universe.
However, she also starts whipping out some odd charges. Like, how he murdered Jon Arryn, and that time he betrayed Ned. We mean, he did, but how does anyone know that? Batfinger asks this reasonable question. The answer? With spectral evidence, of course!
Branbot 1000 tells the room all about Batfinger holding a dagger to Ned’s throat. We guess they’ve all been told about his role as the Three Eyed Raven and perfectly understand/accept it, since no one really bats an eye. We’re jealous. We also thought it was difficult to explain.
Batfinger then tries to ask why Brittany is doing this, since his love is so pure. She plays the motive game back in his face, also pointing out that his way of expressing love included selling her to her rapist, so sit the fuck down, dude. Then he asks for a defense, which apparently includes begging Lord Royce to take him away and escort him to the Vale. He refuses, probably because he rode north for Brittany, as he already said. Wait. What was Batfinger doing here at all for two seasons then?
“I am a slow learner, it’s true. But I learn.”
Oh fuck you, Benioff and Weiss. You backdialed her characterization and bent the plot into a windsor for her stupid rape/revenge plotline, and have the gall to say it’s because she’s a slow learner?
Arya then slits his throat. We mean, we should point out that he’s literally on his knees begging for his life at this point. But she just slits his throat. Brittany didn’t even pass a sentence; she just thanked him for his service in a kind of sarcastic tone. He falls to the floor and blood goes everywhere. This is why you execute people outside, damnit!
Some time later, Sam shows up and bonds with Branbot. But we don’t want to bore you. It has nothing to do with this plotline. We just think it’s important to note that Branbot is legitimately happier to see him than his sisters, and thinks Sam would be more interested in Jon’s parentage than they apparently are.
Meanwhile, back up at the battlements, Brittany and Arya have their season-wrap-up-bonding-session, exactly like the one Brittany had with Jonny last season. “You did the right thing.” “No you did.” Okay, girls.
Arya points out that Brittany passed the sentence, but she literally didn’t, so we’re not sure what to make of that. Or why they’re calling attention to splitting up the sentence with the sword swinging, when Ned’s whole point was that you can’t escape consequences of decision-making as a liege lord, which is why that role needs to be coupled.
Arya acknowledges that Brittany is Lady of Winterhell now that she’s proven her willingness to kill people…or demonstrated her loyalty to her family by killing people…or something. We’d have thought bringing troops from the Vale to the “Battle of the Bastards” might have accomplished that, or even her murder of Ramsay, but hey. Lady of Winterhell.
Brittany’s touched though, and says Arya’s the strongest person she knows. She totally could have survived the trauma that Brittany experienced.
Also, she still thinks Arya is “strange and annoying.” That’s an interesting way to phrase “murderous and creepy.” Then they both quote Ned talking about lone wolves dying but packs surviving. Awww, sisters.
Finally, Bran has a vision of the Army of the Dead busting through The Wall. The end.
That was…definitely something. However fear not: we will unpack all the meaning and significance in Part 2, coming in a few days. See you then!
Images courtesy of HBO. This piece was co-written by Kylie and Julia. If you liked this, be sure to subscribe to their podcast, Unabashed Book Snobbery, where they will also make the audio accompaniment to their retrospective series available.
Presidential Profile: Zhu Li
all these years six long months, the Legend of Korra comics return with Turf Wars: Part 2 on January 17th. Though I’m sure the continuing saga of Asami’s wardrobe, not to mention Varrick’s immaculate immaculate (and very off-screen) plan plan will keep us more than engaged, there is one thing this second volume promises that is worth a look:
“Recovering from the fight and furious for revenge, Triple Threats member Tokuga solidifies his ties with the duplicitous Wonyong. Meanwhile, when Republic City’s housing crisis reaches its peak, Zhu Li sets her sights on the biggest public figure in the city—President Raiko—in a bid for the presidency! With her friend’s success, the future of the spirit portal, and the wellbeing of Republic City’s citizens at stake, can Korra remain neutral and fulfill her duties as the Avatar?”
That’s right, the official description tells us that we are, indeed, getting political campaign shenanigans! It’s certainly been on my wishlist for some time, though I’ll have to admit, Presidential-hopeful Moon is not something I’d ever considered. You’d think out of all the tertiary characters, there’d be more mileage out of someone like Saikhan. Or Grandma Yin.
Yet Varrick’s scarily competent assistant-slash-wife is who we’ve got to give Raiko a run for his yuans. Now, we spent three seasons getting familiar with his approaches to policy, and without sugar coating it: there’s a reason the guy is polling at -3%. Did he even bother vetting Kuvira? But how will Zhu Li hold up in a debate, and will the public find her platform compelling enough to unseat an incumbent?
There’s only one way to figure this out…with a good ol’ fashioned political profile, presented by V-SPAN (copyright of Varrick Industries, International).
The rich world of the Avatar franchise, co-created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, does not have political parties as far as we know. Raiko’s first campaign against The Other Guy no doubt drew support from movers and shakers, but was there any kind of partisanship inherently involved? Dubious.
From what we can tell of with Zhu Li, she has vague technocractic leanings given her service for Kuvira and her pursuit of scientific discovery, but her motives for joining and staying had more to do with her interpersonal relationship. One can also discern a slightly conservative economic policy with slightly liberal social leanings, but it’s most accurate to call her an “independent.”
Political or related experience
Zhu Li holds little formal experience in the way of public office or service. Granted, the democratic United Republic was only formed about four years before this declaration of candidacy, but her career was spent as an assistant to an industrialist/inventor/shipping merchant/conspirator/importer/exporter rather than, say, a Council Page.
In terms of offices held or titles given, she was a Private of the Earth Empire military under Kuvira, denoted by the single chevron on her sleeve.
She was in close proximity to Kuvira often, though in terms of rank, she was equal to those dudes Ikki tricked with sweet buns.
This is not to say that Zhu Li is without leadership experience entirely. She (for reasons still unexplained) took charge of distributing supplies in Republic City’s temporary housing, which according to Tenzin was “very impressive.” From a former Councilman, that’s basically an endorsement.
Granted, Zhu Li was not working towards any kind of tangible housing solution beyond resource apportioning until Future Industries owner Asami Sato returned to the city, though she was quick to take up this cause as well, or at least commit Varrick’s money to it.
On the issues
Zhu Li has a complicated relationship to national security, mostly because it’s completely unclear what nation she’s even from. She worked for Varrick in the Southern Water Tribe for a number of years (wearing what can only be described as businessy Water Tribe duds), her surname and complexion fits more in-line with those from the Earth Kingdom (not to mention, she was accepted into Kuvira’s military campaign, which specifically persecuted those of non-Earth Kingdom origin), and she probably has to have some form of United Republic citizenship, since she’s angling to lead it. So which national security does she prioritize, and has her policy position been consistent?
From the angle of the United Republic, the answer is “mostly.” It’s true that Zhu Li worked for Kuvira, in a military campaign focused on the national security and stability of the Earth Kingdom. However, it was the threats to the United Republic that prompted Zhu Li to act, as opposed to her loyalty to her employer that was her reason for joining in the first place. That said, it’s equally prob-sible that Zhu Li sabotaged the super weapon because it was completely horrifying in its damaging capacity, and it had nothing to do with Kuvira’s plans of invading the United Republic specifically. She also maybe could have just been trying to protect Varrick’s personal discoveries, though surely she would have understood that any innovations under Kuvira’s employment were automatically property of the Earth Empire.
Still, it was sure good of Zhu Li to tell Raiko & others about Kuvira’s plan to attack the city. Clearly she cares about…something regarding security. It’s also worth noting that she has been described as a “cold, heartless war machine” by her employer/husband. If we are to take this to heart, we should expect Zhu Li to be more on the hawkish side of things when it comes to international conflict.
Zhu Li believes every displaced citizen has the right to a blanket. She also emphasizes the role of healers when it comes to healing people, and recognizes how emotional health should be taken into consideration as well.
Zhu Li has not made her positions on education entirely clear, though her time serving under Varrick shows her commitment to scientific discovery. She even allows herself to be used as a unit of measurement for what we can assume to be mass. It is likely she would be in favor of everyone having some kind of education, if nothing else than to help push science further.
It must be reiterated, though, that she remains to explicate a formal policy position at all in this realm, though we are still waiting on Raiko to present his as well.
Zhu Li appears to be in favor of limited government spending and revenue, instead preferring the private sector to take a large role in public services. For instance, she joined Asami in offering Varrick’s money to fund a housing project for the displaced people of Republic City. By all accounts this is utterly absurd given the level of capital investment required, so we have to assume she wouldn’t have pursued this path without strong convictions, and possibly a heavily deregulated private sector. It’s logical to assume that she would not seek to impose additional restrictions, regulations, or taxes on companies if put in office.
As for individual taxes, Zhu Li has in the past been in favor of handouts to elevate public mood.
Given how she doesn’t view the government as fiscally responsible for providing housing to the evacuated citizens of the city, it’s doubtful she would have many public works projects planned. As a result, we can assume lower individual taxes, since the government wouldn’t need much in the way of revenue.
It is difficult to tell Zhu Li’s position on women’s rights in a general sense, but in a personal sense, this is a topic where we’ve seen her views evolve. She began her career willing to perform demeaning tasks without question, and even willingly serving jail-time (unless there were charges facing her too, in which case it was willingly committing treason by helping to kidnap the President) in service of her employer. Her stated reason was because he has the “most brilliant mind,” but that level of devotion is something that should be questioned in a leader. After all, would Varrick Industries be profiting off of a Moon presidency?
However, critics should rest a bit easy, as Zhu Li did come to realize her unfair treatment. She did not comply with Varrick’s request for her to hold her breath, and also insisted that she be promoted from assistant and treated as an equal within Varrick Industries. While this is extrapolation, it would make sense if Zhu Li was supportive of similar workplace protections and upwards mobility for female workers.
Zhu Li has a problematic track record with criminal justice, particular when it comes to the crimes of those close to her. She aided in Varrick’s escape from jail (and possibly her own), and then helped him seek refuge in the city of Zaofu, where he continued to dodge legal repercussions from his planned kidnapping of President Raiko. Supporters will be quick to point out that Varrick (and probably Zhu Li as well) received pardons relating to this illegal activity, but that does not make these actions any more legal at the time.
Later, Zhu Li worked with Hiroshi Sato, who had been pulled out of prison prior to completing his sentence. Granted, this was a temporary measure enacted by the chief of police, but critics of Moon’s candidacy point to this as a “soft-on-crime” pattern.
Much like her stance on national security, Zhu Li has a dubious track record regarding immigration. It’s true that she ultimately worked to defeat the Earth Empire, but this wasn’t immediate upon Kuvira’s declaration, and the reeducation camps were hardly a new feature. Zhu Li has not stated whether or not she was ignorant towards Kuvira’s targeting of non-Earth Kingdom citizens, but if she was (like many others in the inner circle), then this would suggest an indifference to immigrant rights.
That said, Zhu Li’s experience with the Earth Kingdom may be irrelevant in the United Republic, given the nature of the nation as one of immigrants. Further, there were bound to be immigrants among those displaced in the temporary housing camps, and yet Zhu Li was most focused on everyone’s comfort. It’s unclear if this indicates a more compassionate or utilitarian approach to immigration, but it would be misguided simply to assume her position on this only by her role in the Earth Empire’s army.
Zhu Li had a strong dedication to Varrick and worked alongside him with numerous projects that had a positive environmental benefit. Most famously, this includes magnet trains and what is now known as the “spirit weapon.” However, it should be noted in the latter case that its original purpose was to provide the Earth Kingdom/Empire with a clean and reliable energy source. It is likely a President Moon would support continuing environmental research.
Independent and Free Earth Kingdom States
Zhu Li has no stated position on this. She did work to reunify the Earth Kingdom under a King Wu, but as has been covered, defected and showed no continuing loyalty to this goal. Given the major economic and political impact of the dissolving of the monarchy, we can expect this to be a hot issue on the campaign trail.
Zhu Li has not released any official statements about who her cabinet picks might be. However, as of the evacuation of Republic City, she has been working closely with Asami Sato, Avatar Korra, Master Tenzin, and her own opponent, President Raiko. This might suggest little change in the way of advisors. However, the biggest question that remains is the role her husband Varrick would take in this administration. Critics are skeptical to this point, especially given how her stated motivation for much of her professional life was to benefit and support him.
- “I pretended to be loyal to Kuvira so I could sabotage her weapon. It didn’t work, but I did overhear her plans to attack.”
- “Sounds like a visit from the Avatar was exactly what the evacuees needed”
- “These evacuees have lost everything. So let’s make sure they feel as comfortable as possible.”
- “I was blindly devoted to Varrick, and I looked past all the times he ridiculed me, or ordered me around, or made me clean his disgusting feet—because I thought he possessed the most brilliant mind in the world.”
Zhu Li’s lack of experience works against her, as well as her inconsistencies in stance, devotion to Varrick, and the many unknowns surrounding her platform. However, with President Raiko polling so lowly, and no one else declaring a candidacy for some reason, this is someone to keep an eye on. This profile should serve voters well, as they make a hard decision.
Images courtesy of Viacom and Dark Horse Comics
A Definitive Ranking of The Last Jedi Bathroom Breaks
A new Star Wars is upon us, and The Last Jedi is sure shaping up to be one of the most polarizing films yet. For this reason, there’s much to dig into. Did it accidentally become a more successful Rogue One? Was the expansion of force powers too much? Should Rey and Kylo have taken less of the center stage? Where can the series possibly go from here? Is Finn accidentally everyone’s love interest?
Whether you adored it or were left cold, one thing can be universally agreed upon—its runtime is 2.5 hours. It’s also highly popular, if box office numbers are anything to go by. Therefore, once again we will probably be schlepping back to the theaters two or three more times for our own rewatches, along with the trips to keep less zealous family members company on their own first viewings. This means that it’s time for the most important analysis possible: when is the proper time to go to the bathroom?
This was a service I provided for The Force Awakens (ahhh, the Rathtar sequence, oh and TFA from here on out) and I am happy to have returned, small bladder and all, to tell you which scene is most ideal to make a run for it without missing too much. Or which scenes to tell your somewhat disinterested sister is a safe bet after she spent the trailers chugging 32 ounces of Cherry Coke. I have carefully chosen the scenes in the middle of the movie, as anything that comes after this is officially in “just hold it” territory.
There will be full movie spoilers, so if you’re planning on going to the bathroom and remaining unaware of the events then, well…you’re shit out of luck! Eh? Ehh? I’ll see myself out. Or maybe you can, during one of these scenes, from most ideal to least.
Finn/Rose/Code breaker-guy heading towards the Star Destroyer
I want to start by saying that you probably shouldn’t pee during this movie. This is the most “extraneous” scene I can think of, and there’s nothing extraneous about it. I know because it’s the one I peed during, and I wish I hadn’t. My guess is it provided just an extra bit of characterization for Rose and/or the code-breaker (who I learned is called “DJ” after the fact), and that’s something that would have made his final scene more impactful. I hope.
Also it’s hideously short. This is why you shouldn’t choose this scene, even though it is the best scene to choose.
On the surface, the Space Horse chase seems like the best option. After all, it’s pretty obvious Rose and Finn will get out of this situation, and it’s set-up as some CGI spectacle. It’s also at an hour and ten into the movie, which is just about the halfway point of your entire viewing experience.
Let me be clear: I do not recommend peeing during this scene. I’m not even one for CGI spectacle, and I have to say I was glad to watch every minute of this. The visuals are stunning, and Rose’s enjoyment was contagious. Yes, you could easily make it to the bathroom and back. Just don’t. Don’t.
Rey on the Millennium Falcon
This is probably a fine option to duck out during, because I can’t remember much about it past a joke with Chewie. But it’s a good joke, and it showcases Rey’s determination well. Look, you’re eating popcorn aren’t you? Maybe that salt can help suck up some of the moisture.
It’s a Heist!
Rose and Finn and BB-8 are disguised as First Order people! The only reason this is even on the list is because it’s really your last chance to go to the bathroom before the climax of the movie arrives. Seriously, it’s Rey and Snoke on-deck, so empty that bladder while you can.
Except don’t. I mean, isn’t this the fun hijinks that people want from Star Wars films? It’s like the rescue mission from A New Hope but with the entire Resistance at stake versus one princess Luke thought was hot. Maybe the conclusion is forgone, and maybe the very first scene of this doesn’t add a ton in and of itself, but come on. Don’t leave the theater.
Rey/Kylo Connect #2: “monster”
Look, there’s about three or four scenes of Rey and Kylo mind-connecting with one another. You shouldn’t pee during any of them. But if you have to, this would be the one to do it during. It’s not the first establishment of their relationship, and it consists of Rey calling Kylo a “monster” (which after TFA…any of us would do?) and him responding by telling her to ask Luke “what happened.” Nothing would be particularly lost in translation if you missed this beat.
That said, Rey and Kylo’s relationship to the force and how they both perceive of each other is the driving beat of the story, right next to Luke’s guilt. Do not miss any of these scenes, even if on a meta-textual level you know it’s going to result in certain shipping corners running wild.
Rey Goes Into The Hole
Here’s the thing about magical destiny trips: they’re usually longer sequences filled with abstract symbolism. Think Luke facing “Vader” on Degobah. You could probably leave the theater during Rey’s first snap in her row of Reys, and return while they’re still all turning their hands.
But come on, the atmosphere! Also this is the protagonist in the middle of her hero’s journey. It’s thematic and junk. I’m not saying I advocate you going into your empty soda cup, but if it’s a choice between that and missing a Scene of Significance™…
Medical Ship Destroyed/BB-8 Jailbreak
Let me be clear: if you pee during this scene on your first viewing, you will be confused by DJ. However, if you are reading this, there’s a very good chance you’ve already scene the film, so we’ve got a bit of a catch-22 on our hands.
I also think you should rethink leaving during this scene. For one, the space horse scene that is better to pee during (but I still don’t recommend doing so) is just about to come up. For another, BB-8 is adorable. Finally, the destruction of the medical ship helps further the tension with the inevitable destruction limping closer. Pulling out Rey’s scenes with Luke, The Last Jedi is a wonderful bottle-episode. This is the kind of thing that makes it.
Luke’s 2nd Lesson: Skywalker Guilt
Okay, I feel for you here. It is nearing that halfway point of the movie, and you are no doubt keenly aware of your bladder. You considered making a run for it during the scene beforehand, but you were vaguely curious about the world of Canto Bight, and Rose’s commentary ended up making you stick around until it transitioned into this scene.
I get it, I promise I do. But if Skywalker guilt can’t make you stay in your seat, then you just think about how much the Skywalkers have done for you. You sit there and think about that now. And keep thinking about it until this scene passes and you don’t pee during it.
Poe Yells at Holdo
If you don’t care about inter-Resistance fighting based on differing conceptions of tactics and needs, then you should pee during this scene. However, you really should care about inter-Resistance fighting based on differing conceptions of tactics and needs, because that is what creates the human stakes in this conflict in the first place.
Also it’s what Rogue One forgot to give us, so please enjoy it while it lasts.
You know what you should do instead? Go to a sauna just before seeing the movie. A good dehydration headache is the perfect combination with loud noises and flashing lights.
Rey/Kylo First Force Contact
I guess you could skip this scene and still get what their dynamic is all about in the subsequent force contact scenes? But why would you try and miss the one that sets it up in the first place? I’m pretty sure you only have to go to the bathroom if you let yourself think you have to go, so instead try for some mind over matter. Which will be perfectly aided by this scene, since they’re all forcey about it anyway.
Rose/Finn Canto Bight Establishment
Yeah, why not try to leave the theater when we finally get to a planet that is pretty unique in its culture and role in the conflict? It’s not like Star Wars allows for multiple worldbuilding in ways we haven’t considered before.
You’d still get a good feel for Rose’s character if you peed at the start of this scene. However you’d also risk missing the part where she explains her entire guiding motivation and perspective. Just don’t.
Luke Reaches out to Leia
Oh my god you monster, do you even like Star Wars? The FIRST thing Luke does when he allows himself to connect to the force again is reach out to his sister. COME ON. Why did you even get a drink with your popcorn?
If you’ve made it to the Yoda scene and your bladder really can’t take it anymore, then fine. But you’d also miss the more-or-less retconning of Prequel!Yoda from canon given his behavior here, and that’s always a moral victory. Also this intimately ties into what the future of force-wielders might look like, so, rethink your choices. Especially since Puppet!Yoda is the only Yoda.
First training with Luke and Rey goes “straight to the dark”
Unless you live somewhere that it’s 98 degrees outside and you had to go for a 3 hour bike-ride and properly replenish your fluids, there is no excuse to leave your seat during this scene. This is the essence of Star Wars. It’s not just Luke tickling Rey with a leaf; it’s the force mythos being contextualized by our new, wonderfully compelling main character, with a much beloved mentor giving her the guidance she needs. It’s Toph telling Korra she can learn something from her enemies. Watch this scene.
Rey Sees Luke from Kylo’s Perspective and “There’s still conflict in him”
Sure, relieve yourself during the literal plot of the entire trilogy.
Because honestly, there is no scene during which you should go to the bathroom. Watch this whole movie. And may the force be with you—you’re gonna need it.
Images courtesy of Disney and The CW
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