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Round the Riverblands

Kylie

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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:

Only Carol

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.

This is just as effective as when Barry did the same in Season 1.

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:

Is it angry? Or hungry? Could it be love?

Concerning Canines

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.

“I’m going to kill my agent after this.”

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…

It’s over!!

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.

So pure.

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.

No one puts Larry in a corner. Though you’d think being such a great ally, he’d be okay with this.

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.

Bronn loves him, but every day he’s learning. All his life he’s only been pretending

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?

We’re more thorough with our looting in Skyrim…

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

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

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Asami’s Wardrobe, the Ongoing Saga

Kylie

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There has been an egregious oversight. For all the love we Fandomentals have given Avatar: The Legend of Korra, from its unsung hero, to its subversive end note, to even its crackships, there has yet to be a single piece on this site about its deuteragonist.

Heck, is “deuteragonist” even a fair title in this case? We’re talking about the a character arc so packed with thematic significance, so nuanced, so weighty that it quite possibly rivals Korra’s healing arc of Book 4. And now that the post-canon comic Turf Wars is out and this growth continued, it’s downright shameful it’s taken me this long to finally give this well-earned recognition.

I am speaking, of course, of Asami’s Wardrobe.

In all its glory.

That’s right, the clothing and accessories worn by Asami “the angry one” Sato should be considered, in many ways, the backbone of Legend of Korra. Or perhaps the backbone of the backbone. But while Asami had that obvious story of background suffering and devotion to Korra’s cause, only to be treated like gum stuck to the bottom of various characters’ shoes, it was her wardrobe that truly offered the sacrifices.

Most fans will point to her bangles as the obvious example here, and they’re not wrong, of course. We were introduced to these fancy bracelets on Asami’s first date with Mako back in Season 1, when they clacked and clinked happily along. Or possibly in fear of the giant meatball flowers.

Then we all know how the next time they appeared, it was when Asami went to see Bolin’s mover in “Night of a Thousand Stars.” During the conversation where she and Bolin commiserate over the displaced Team Avatar, the bangles made not a single noise. It is my personal belief that they perfectly fit the trope of the “suffering empath,” given how clued into Asami’s emotional state they are. The wedding at the end of the show where she and Korra finally confessed their feelings is proof of this, as once again the bangles were clinking together. They are just that naturally attuned to those around them.

Now, I completely understand why they steal the attention for that reason, because that level of character growth was hard-earned. Not to mention, the seamlessly tied together not one, not two, but three of Asami’s fancy outfits—something even her festive yellow clip couldn’t manage. She was clipless at the wedding, after all.

But it’s the clipless point in and of itself that leaves me flummoxed about the fandom’s unfortunate bangles-focus, because Asami’s hairclips told the single most nuanced story in the entire franchise.

Click for full res

It’s easy to be dismissive of such things given that Asami was, on the surface, polyamorous with her clip choices. And indeed, even in her first episode we saw both her yellow standard clip and her fancy yellow dress clip. Perhaps this is the reason her initial reception was one of suspicion, because she wasn’t even willing to stand by a clip.

But what people need to remember is that Asami was a much younger character then, and indeed her shedding of her naivety was a rather central moment for her. Her casual yellow clip was her go-to while donning her Book 1 non-action outfit, or the outfit she wore when she was still but a daughter of Future Industries. It’s true she learned of her father’s nefarious plans in the seventh episode, but it wasn’t until the Book 1 finale that she saw how their fractured relationship could never fully repair. He tried to murder her, after all.

It should be considered no surprise, then, that when the time came for Asami to select a clip with her non-action outfit of Book 2, she selected her blue clip, forever leaving the casual yellow one behind. I personally feel like yellow’s send-off was appropriate, given Asami’s headspace at the time. Yet there are those who point out how this played into the unfortunate Clip Triangle Trope, and I suppose on another level, it would have been refreshing to see the writing rise above such things. At least the blue and yellow clip were never shown to be envious of one another, happily trading places on a dime during Asami’s clothesbending.

But, I’ll admit it…I’m biased. I can dismiss so much of this because Dutiful Princess Blue Clip leaves me clutching at my heart. Because the blue clip was Asami’s action clip, since we first saw her don a sporty outfit to give Korra a thrill. Platonically.

We know Asami lives in her head, and when she’s in action-mode, it gives her a break for once. Her mechanic’s jacket outfit likely empowers her for this reason, which is why it was her go-to choice for her sexy spirit world getaway. But what’s a girl to do when she has to run a company and look nice? She took a small piece of that outfit, the blue clip, and donned it all through Book 2 and 3. What’s more is the blue clip was happy to step into that role—eager, you might say.

Think back to the one time in Book 2 we saw her without it: “Night of a Thousand Stars.” Well, what happened there? She was rendered completely useless, merely cheering on the sidelines for Bolin despite having found out that the man she sold a majority share in her company to was actually trying  to steal it and start a war for profit. Thanks, fancy-yellow clip.

Blue clip would have never allowed this to come to pass. And we know it had nothing to do with the impracticality of her dress, as we see her fight some of Kuvira’s baddies in a skirt during the events of “Reunion.”

No, it was the confidence of the blue clip, and should that come as a surprise? This was the very same clip she used to free Tezin from handcuffs as lava rapidly approached.

Cool as a cucumber

Now, there are some who argue that it was actually a bobby pin underneath the blue clip that freed him, and I have to ask: what show are you watching? Why would Asami wear two clips at once, first of all, and secondly, her hair is clearly clip-free during the escape, meaning she pulled out the only one in her hair. I instead hold the firm believe that Asami merely removed the wiring from the blue clip’s shell (there’s likely to be snaps in place for this), and put it back together again in time to bring down the Red Lotus guard guarding the other airbenders.

The blue clip was there for her, it provided her with utility, and yet, when Asami made the decision that her life needed to be clip-free—that she could no longer live with a crutch—it was more than willing to step down. Dutiful to the end. Excuse me while I lie down.

It should be noted that while there will always be standout stars in Asami’s wardrobe, they all work together quite well, happily clothesbending without notice when they think she needs it. For instance, when Asami was arrested in “When Extremes Meet,” her wardrobe worried that she might not have been able to handle the degradation of being brought down in her action outfit; those clothes should make her feel invincible, after all. But have no fear, once they were assured of Asami’s emotional state (it was just anger, let’s be real), they reverted back to her mechanic’s jacket and jodhpurs, which was probably far more comfortable for her night’s sleep in jail anyway.

Similarly, her clothes even camouflaged themselves once when she accidentally switched into her business casual outfit while guarding a meditating Korra. Whether this was to prevent the Avatar from freaking out, or because they knew Asami would want to seem action-ready around her is still a bitter war in the fandom. But that misses the forest for the trees. They were willing to work together to do this for Asami, and that kind of synchronicity should not be overlooked.

It’s also part and parcel with the way she can summon goggles out of thin air when the situation requires it. Throughout the show, Asami’s wardrobe predicted her needs and fought to make them a reality. The in-fighting imagined by the fandom only detracts from this point.

So what of her wardrobe in the comics? Well, on the surface, there’s not much here. Asami wears her action outfit the entire time, likely matching her determination to be ~fine~ with the death of her father and push forward, with the exception of her meeting with Raiko. When did she find time to change into them? The timeline is iffy. But it’s not a shock that she would make time to do so, seeing as she’d likely want to put on the face of the person Raiko gave the former infrastructure contract to, rather than the person who openly defied his surrender alongside the Avatar.

However, there’s a small piece of nuance in how quickly Asami changed back out of it in time to watch the sunset with her girlfriend. It’s not like she read the script and knew an action sequence was coming up, so why did the mechanic’s jacket make a reappearance? Well, it’s my own believe that her processing of her father’s grief is not as open-and-shut as her “at least I forgave him” line of the series finale made it seem. Her snapping at the land developer is rather damning evidence of this.

Dude, chill…

Therefore, it would make sense that Asami would want to don the outfit in which she feels the most secure and unflappable, seeing as there’s already so much vulnerability on the inside.

Another small thing to note is the disappearance of her gloves (both regular type and shock) just as Korra scooped her up in the battle at the spirit portal. For this, it’s rather simple: it’s not very pleasant to touch someone’s face who’s kissing you with a shock glove. Asami’s wardrobe likely knew she’d be able to steal a smooch in this situation, seeing as she was faking a very serious injury; we saw that she was totally fine just a panel before:

Asami “dramatic” Sato

So yeah, let her touch Korra’s face without worrying about frying it. Of course her wardrobe would accommodate such a request.

However, it’s the sudden and magical appearance of earrings that should draw attention. At first I thought this was a bizarre mistake—earrings? Asami? But looking at it in context paints quite the story.

You see, they exist in exactly one panel…the panel just after she and Korra get in a small disagreement.

She’s not wearing them before this, she’s not wearing them on the spirit world vacation, she’s not wearing them later in Raiko’s office, and she’s not wearing them during the gazebo chat or final sequence. So…where did they come from? Where did they go?

Well, clearly the only logical explanation is that Asami was so distraught by their disagreement, she thought to externalize her pain by piercing her ears as Tenzin was ushering Korra out the door. Kya’s look there? Yeah, it’s partly because she realizes this was a lovers’ spat, but mostly because she’s wondering if she should offer to heal her earlobes (or at least calm down what’s probably a decent throbbing).

Now, you might be wondering why someone like Asami would even have pierced ears at all. Sure, she wears gowns to weddings that put both the bride and Arianne Martell to shame, but making a permanent alteration to her body without a level of practicality to it doesn’t fit exceedingly well with her characterization. But remember the blue clip. If she was running around with a lockpick in her head for three seasons, you can bet the earrings she had in her pockets served another use.

And indeed they did: ink for her pen. It’s why they’re gone again by the time Korra gets back in her tent, and why Asami seems to be fighting with her pen as she’s making her drawings. Because earring ink is not the most efficient ink in the world.

It’s a Future Industries exclusive. Clearly.

Look, let’s call a spade a spade here…this was a dark moment for Asami. And we’ve seen her wardrobe adjust to plenty of dark moments before (need I remind you of the silenced bangles?). But we have to remember that we’re in good hands here. So far, Asami’s wardrobe has gone through changes that have touched many of us, and even though I personally haven’t had the experience of piercing my own ears with ink earrings, I have to imagine a few of us have. Then especially situated after a fight with Korra, it’s giving us just another peek at some of that inner darkness teased on the show. My hopes are that it will be fully explicated, and frankly? I’d be shocked if that’s the last we saw of the mini inkwells.

Asami’s wardrobe is at something of a crossroads right now. Should it pretend everything’s fine? Should it allow her these moments of emotional indulgence? There’s no easy answer, but I’m optimistic. The disappearing gloves at the end show us how her wardrobe is still so naturally attuned to her needs and fully supportive of the relationship that serves as a stabilizing and positive influence in her life.

And really, that’s the bottom line. Asami’s wardrobe lived a complicated tale, but at the end of the day, we knew we could count on it. So even if I’ll admit to a bit of nerves until January, this has been a hardfought story and one hell of a ride. Let’s all welcome the earrings, and may they come to earn a place in our hearts right next to the blue clip.


Images courtesy of Nickelodeon and Dark Horse Comics

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Analysis

Varrick’s Behind The Turf Wars

Griffin

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So. You just read Turf Wars. You’re probably wondering how it is that those wars over the turf fits together with the larger picture. And if you weren’t, now you are, because we just called attention to it. You know what this means? It means we’re going to have some fun, and you will like it.

That’s right, it’s time to crack open the new Legend of Korra comics that finally hit digital shelves last week. “But wait,” you might be saying, “the two of you (being Griffin and Kylie) already cracked it open, and dumped the contents over our heads with a ten thousand word rant on the worldbuilding. What more is there?”

We’re glad you asked, Jeffrey! See, while Korra and Asami were busy indulging our shipper feels, there was something nefarious brewing in the background. Or…the foreground? It is the title here. But we have to ask: who was the one person absent from this comic. The onneee person who we’ve seen chew on the scenery consistently since Book 2. Who has served as the puppet master for as many long games as there have been long games. And a few short games as well. The one man—nay, the legend—who always makes himself known. Unless he doesn’t want to make himself known.

That’s right, we’re talking about Iknik Blackstone Varrick. And he is behind EVERYTHING you just read.

See, the two of us were having some trouble making heads and tails out of the triad, developer, political, homophobia parallelogram that is the plot. It’s not that any of the individual vertices didn’t work on their own level, but what were they all doing hanging out together? Then it hit us, like an old man ordering soup at a deli. It all makes sense, if you think like someone who doesn’t care about sense, or someone who doesn’t want us to think he cares about it. And that’s Varrick, to a V.

Before we can take you through how he did everything, we must first tackle the why.

It’s no secret that the solicitation for Part 2 of Turf Wars mentions that none other than Zhu Li Moon will be running for president against the currently unopposed Raiko. Everything we know about anything suggests she will win, because if she doesn’t…then why does this story exist? We don’t imagine an immaculate redemption arc for Raiko. He’s finished politically, and frankly should be after appointing Kuvira (and then surrendering to her). And Varrick knows it!

But shouldn’t this mean that Varrick wants to be president? No, not really! The presidency is obviously a wedding gift to Zhu Li, and he’s more than happy to be First Lady.

Need more proof?

Except there’s another reason he wants Zhu Li to be president, rather than just contributing to Raiko’s campaign and “the other guy’s” again. The reason involves someone he has wronged in the past. Somebody who really, just plain straight-up hates the guy. And someone who has no idea Varrick is doing anything. Can you guess who?

Need more proof?

That’s right! Unlike Raiko, Varrick did have a bit of a redemption arc when he chose not to make weapons of mass destruction, and when he apologized for years of inappropriate workplace behavior with Zhu Li. We have to think given how impressed he was with Asami’s hummingbird mecha suits, and his displayed eagerness to work her on those, that part of his turnaround includes reparations with her. Specifically that time he lied to her, tried to steal her company out from under her, hired gang members to distract her while he took her entire inventory, and then threatened her sort-of boyfriend at the time to shut up about everything. Just a small disagreement, really.

Well, what is it that Asami might want, but cannot have? A conversation with her father (oh snap). But besides that, there’s really not much you can get for the woman who runs Lockheed Ford Motors Industry. Except wait…remember that homophobia? Remember how it’s an integral part of Korra and Asami’s plotline? It’s for a reason. Because the one thing Asami can’t get for herself? Equal protection under the law!

Wait, only Kya knows they’re together! Or is that just what we’re supposed to think? Because we seem to recall Varrick inventing Gaydar™. Sure, it was by accident when his airbender detector went wrong, but this is the guy who built a fusion bomb before ever having successfully built a timer, by his own assertion.

The point is, he knew Korra and Asami were together before they even knew.

It’s actually a matchmaker, but for some reason he could never get the FDA to approve it.

Therefore, Zhu Li’s presidency is for one main purpose: marriage equality. Well, also because Raiko is terrible and the country needs someone competent to lead it. But that’s secondary for Varrick, of course.

However, Varrick is not one to just let his wife run and hope for the best. He’s basically Lex Luthor, but with mostly good aims. And possibly intentions? It’s confusing. Even his war profiteering days were based primarily on the idea that he needed to save the Southern Water Tribe from subjugation, since nobody else seemed interested in helping. Hey, look! Yet another reason to unseat Raiko!

So let’s break down the how this supergenius set out to accomplish everything.

“I can smell a conspiracy when I see one!”

The first thing that tipped us off to this immaculate plan was Raiko’s campaign manager, who is dressed suspiciously like Varrick. Is this some kind of cosplayer?

Additionally, he seems to be completely incompetent, almost to the degree that it must be intentional. -3% polling? Ensuring Raiko doesn’t make a single appearance to the temporary housing camps full of thousands of constituents? That’s the exact opposite of what he should be doing.

No, there’s simply no campaign manager, no matter how green, who would think that a shirtless poster (not to mention a blatantly misleading one) is a more effective approach to securing reelection than face-to-face time with the people, especially given the dismal (and impossible) polling. And the fact that he’s not facing any opponent. The only logical explanation is that the man this campaign manager styles himself after…is his employer. He’s being paid to waste Raiko’s time—not the most difficult feat.

What is difficult to believe is that -3% approval Raiko would be running unopposed. Like Tenzin said, even a flying lemur would be able to run against him and win.

Keep those political designs to yourself, Asami

So wouldn’t every random yokel be trying to toss their hat into the ring? Especially the ones who lost the first election when they first started this newfangled democracy? Well, not if Varrick paid them off, bribed them, or threatened them. This might seem like a stretch, but Future President Zhu Li will have some prime cabinet appointments to make; we’re certain Varrick wouldn’t have hesitated to offer a position to any of the loser candidates from way back when, along with other political up-and-comers. Others would have been easy to bribe. As for the threats, well, this is Varrick. We saw his heavy-handed methodology of keeping Mako off his war-profiteering plan.

Only one question: what would a recently pardoned, recently defected inventor/engineer/shipping merchant use to threaten people when he’s still in the midst of rebuilding Varrick Industries International? Well, this is where the plotlines begin to come together.

“Oh yeah, I guess that was a bad thing…”

Varrick hired the triads!

Yeah, we know this is a rather lofty accomplishment, even if Varrick had canonically hired triads in the past to do his bidding. Even more, we were given Tokuga’s backstory, about how he took advantage of the chaos from the attack on Republic City to rise to power and get every gang member to “fall in line.” But…doesn’t this seem just a bit hyper-ambitious and disturbingly effective for some random chi-blocking kid?

The timeline is, quite frankly, nothing short of ridiculous. It’s been a matter of weeks since Kuvira’s invasion, and we’re supposed to think that some sword-wielding punk took over ever everything to stake out claim in a city where the basic infrastructure is probably badly damaged. Why fight now? Would this “turf” he carves out even have a chance of sticking once the thousands and thousands of citizens evacuated are moved back in? Or once repairs are made on a block-by-block basis? There has to be something more strategic at play.

These turf wars have two major effects: they prevent the police from helping with the housing crisis too much, and they make Raiko look utterly terrible. Both these things benefit Varrick! Raiko’s polling will never even climb to 0% with such safety concerns in the city, and the housing crisis continuing gives Zhu Li a platform to be authoritative. Wonder why she was randomly in charge? Because Varrick wanted her to be in charge.

There’s also some money to be made here. After all, if you can’t make money off of war, then you flat-out cannot make money. See, while Asami is an established do-gooder who throws her money at all social injustices (and love interests), we’ve only seen Varrick open up his purse in a situation that will benefit him. Which makes this bit stand out to us:

I guess Varrick’s word is worth its weight in Zhu Lis? Wait…

She was ON that, almost as if she expected it to happen. Because she probably did, since Asami is kind of predictable with her, well, tendency to dump piles of cash on things that need fixing. Now, as amusing as it might be to think of Asami and Varrick like the Waynes and the Kanes (WHICH IS WHICH???), each buying half the city because they can, we do have to acknowledge that this is such a ridiculous thing for two private companies to be doing. We’re talking about a multi-billion yuan investment, which should be a major infrastructure project for the city. This is exactly what taxes are for, not donations.

But wait, what if the property values were cheap—like, really cheap? So cheap that Varrick and Asami wouldn’t be committing financial suicide to their bottom lines with that? Well, think about what drives prices down: that’s right! Triads warring and stabbing each other in the middle of streets!

Just a flesh wound.

So now we see why Varrick *must* be behind the Turf Wars. Tokuga is suspiciously organized, we’re shown everything happening just before we witness Zhu Li in charge and offering to help fund the reconstruction project with Future Industries, plus, isn’t it odd that these wars also seem to be happening in places where nobody is living? Varrick is Mr. Chaotic Good in many ways (and yes, we are calling the South’s fight against oppression the side of ‘good’ here), and we can think of no other reason why the triads would be going full-force for land of questionable, if not entirely worthless value.

There’s also the matter of Varrick being the first person to discover that Spirit Vines are sort of not the best things to be messing with. And also the guy who vehemently refused to make a super weapon of untold destruction because the destruction was untold. Every test fire could have been blowing up comets in space for all he knew! So, with that in mind, we’d posit that there’s more than one reason (because nothing is ever that simple with Varrick) he wants to buy up all that “useless land”.

To make sure nobody stupid enough to build on it actually tries to build on it.

Varrick and Zhu Li saw the destruction the vines could cause first-hand, as it’s how they escaped prison in the first place! Plus, there’s no doubt in our minds that he was paying pretty close attention to what Asami was doing with the reconstruction efforts of Republic City after Unavaatu made the Swamp Benders look like slouches. That three year gap was long, and Asami and the city somehow managed to find a happy balance between the vines and every single form of infrastructure, so there’s only one thing Varrick, a businessman at heart, could take from that: You can’t build on the vines. You can only build around them.

Plus, there’s that whole thing where Spirit Vines are super easy to use for, again, jury-rigged fusion bombs so it’s probably in his best interest to try and limit people’s easy access to them. How is he supposed to make any money if everyone’s dead?

Now things are clicking…

“Mind blowing, right?”

Except. Wait. Tokuga got hired by this schmuck to attack airbenders:

How does Varrick fit into that one? That’s where things start to get all business-y. See, the only logical explanation is that Keum Enterprises is a deep, deep subsidiary of Varrick Industries International and quite possibly a recent acquisition. They’re so far down the chain that nobody would think twice about the several layers of parent companies that eventually trace back to Varrick. It also gives him plausible deniability for everything that Keum does, since how can he be expected to keep track of everything every employee of his does? That’s what other people are for!

But why did Varrick set Keum Enterprises on this path? The very same reason quite a few others are in this scheme: to make Raiko look even worse. See, Keum buys the land on behalf of Varrick due to the turf wars tanking real estate prices, arousing no suspicion at all since the city is broke and Raiko probably wasn’t the happiest of campers when a chunk of prime downtown property was rendered unusable for about three years. Which is most of his presidency, by the way.

Then, as the turf wars are being relegated almost entirely to that unuseable land, it paints Raiko in the light of someone who doesn’t support the private sector by protecting their interests and efforts in restoring his own city which is, again, full of healthy voters! And it certainly doesn’t help that, from the average person’s point of view, his neglect for this attempt at urban development and revitalization is frustratingly incompetent, not to mention apathetic.

We can’t imagine a whole lot of people actually know you can’t build on that land. Sure, there were witnesses to that time Korra pissed off the vines so much they ate an entire apartment building, but how would they know that’s what would always happen?

But here’s where the twist twists even more: Tokuga doesn’t report directly to Keum. He can’t, considering all of the hands on work he does to ensure the Turf Wars keep raging where they should be and don’t bleed over into other parts of the city. Nah, this mook is fully in cahootz with good ol’ Iknik Blackstone Varrick. He works with Keum, but for the most part he goes where Varrick tells him to go, and does what Varrick tells him to do.

Make sense so far? Great!

Oh, wait, that doesn’t explain how or why the attack on the airbenders went so badly…which was again to fracture Raiko’s support base even more since hating on the airbenders/ignoring the problems the airbenders face is like political suicide. See, we’re pretty sure it’s safe to assume that Varrick didn’t plan for Tokuga to get transmogrified into a lizard spirit abomination. That’d be crazy!

No, all he wanted was to further escalate the conflict and this actually works out even more in his favor! Tokuga might be a hideous freak now, but this just stokes fuel to the fire Varrick was already dumping gasoline on. So he does the only thing he can do to keep things on the right path: hands Keum Enterprises over to Tokuga so he can take a more hands-on approach from every angle possible. If Tokuga controls the company buying and “building” on the land that the triads are warring over, it’s a fraction of the risk with the potential of exponentially greater results of making Raiko look bad!

“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

So there you have it: everything you need to perfectly understand this comic. Varrick is sort of the Littlefinger that Benioff & Weiss wish they knew how to write, and boy is he climbing this ladder of chaos to his advantage. And Zhu Li’s. And all the LGBT characters of this world who want marriage equality. What could be better?

He always was the original shipper anyway.

Tune in next time where we break open Legend of Korra: Turf Wars Part 1’s other narrative secret: Asami Was Drunk The Whole Time!


Images courtesy of Dark Horse Comics and Nickelodeon

[starbox id=”Griffin,Kylie”]

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Humor

Five Ways To Ruin the Con Experience for Everyone Around You

Kori

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It’s that time of year again. San Diego Comic Con, the grand-daddy of all the cons, is upon us, and that means thousands of you will be flocking to the ridiculously heated streets of San Diego to participate. While many of us set out to go, meet people, watch panels, get our cosplay on, and get some sweet, sweet swag, there are a few ways you can help ensure that you and everyone else has a better con experience. And by help ensure, I mean here are five things that you absolutely should not do.

Be late

If you’re going with friends or meeting up with a group of friends, set a freaking alarm and be on time. SDCC is a highly structured event for panels, and your being tardy means you and your group can miss signings, panels, meals, taxis, and more. Oh, and don’t expect your friends to hold your place in line for a Hall H event so you can leave your hotel room later. The horde of other fans wanting to get in on those panels will all but ensure that you’ll get a nice comfortable spot… on the floor while you wait for the panel to end. SDCC waits for no one.

Bottom line: Set your watch, your phone, whatever. Leave early and anticipate that crowds are going to make for slower transportation.

Be cranky

Look, buddy. People pay good money to go to SDCC. They wait for this all year. The last thing they want to do is put up with your cranky butt because you either skipped a meal, didn’t get enough sleep, misplaced a cosplay item, or didn’t get an autograph you wanted. This isn’t to say you can’t have moments where you’re just DONE and want to go relax. Everyone has those. But don’t let whatever is going on with you bleed into how you interact with everyone around you.

Plan ahead, stay hydrated, sleep when you can, and pack a snack where possible. You paid a lot of money to get here too, don’t self-sabotage your own vacation by not taking care of yourself.

Be a know-it-all

Nobody likes a gate-keeping geek. Cons are a place for all of us to revel in our geekdom with our fellow nerds. To meet our equally obsessed peers and gush over DC’s Rebirth, or our favorite film franchises, or television shows. Nothing harshes a good nerd squee like some asshole waltzing in and either trying to prove someone else is a “fake” fan or trying to one-up everyone else by bragging about how they just know sooooooooo much more about a piece of media.

San Diego Comic Con is freaking expensive. If you’ve reserved a slot, paid for the hotel, paid for the tickets, paid for transportation… I think your fellow con-goer would be taking that “fake” for attention to the extreme. Just let people enjoy being with their fellow nerds, regardless of their knowledge level. Look at it this way. You LOVE this certain story arc that most of your peers haven’t had the fortune of experiencing. Wouldn’t it be exciting to share your joy of that story with them and watch as they get excited about it too and want to learn more? SHARE THE NERD LOVE.

Be judgemental

There’s a video on youtube that I’m going to drop in right here.

So you’re stuck in line for a panel, and the person behind you absolutely LOVES a particular piece of media. Or you’re meeting with friends for lunch, and they won’t stop gushing about a movie trailer they just saw for a franchise you can’t stand. Maybe you’re bitter after listening to a Henry Cavill interview, and you wanted more Gal Gadot, but your con buddy is now on a Superman high.

Don’t be that jackass. Let them gush over whatever it is they’re excited to be there for and don’t default into breaking two rules at a time by judging them AND being cranky about it. After all, they patiently sat through the two-hour rant you gave last night on why Kate Kane is now and forever the absolute best in the Bat Family. Show them the same courtesy. (Even if we agree with you, Kate is stellar.)

Bite the shipping bone

Everyone has their OTP’s; it’s the magic of shows. We as a geekdom like pairings and shipping. But there’s a time and a place for that. You know what isn’t cool? Running up precious minutes on a panel for a television show or a movie asking about a ship when the cast and crew are there to promote the season arc and share updates and new cast introductions. There’s a line of people behind you who’ve waited all year to ask their questions about characters, arcs, etc. And there’s a finite amount of time for questions. Don’t hog the mic and throw fan ship questions, especially if it’s to denigrate a canonical couple and bog the panel down.

That gauntlet of con-goers who lost a chance at getting their show question in because you wanted to rant about a ship? Well, you have to pass them all on the way back to your seat. The con is there for you to have a good time, but it’s there for everyone else as well. Be considerate.

PS. DON’T ASK THE CAST OR CREW OVERLY PERSONAL QUESTIONS. BOUNDARIES. BOUNDARIES ARE YOUR FRIENDS.


 

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