Game of Thrones – 65

For the second time today I must reach back and quite the wisdom of Azuma Yuuhei – “This is getting complicated”.

Game of Thrones will do this sort of thing from time to time, where it forces you to start at the end (or close to it) and work your way back because truthfully, the elephant in the room would be too big to ignore.  I’m beginning to understand what the cast members meant in all those interviews meant when they said things would be happening much more quickly this season – every episode seems to contain two or three bombshells or watershed moments (this year, more often than not meetings or reunions) that would easily have been headliners almost any week in the first five season.  But even so, when it comes to headlines for “Eastwatch” there can be only one: R + L = J is confirmed.

No, I’m not bothering with spoiler tags anymore, because there’s really no point.  Things that haven’t happened in the books yet aren’t spoilers by definition, and if you haven’t pieced it together from the hints the TV series has dropped you need to watch more carefully.  Drogon’s reaction to Jon was proof enough (though the only explanation I can give for it not happening earlier was that it needed to happen here for narrative purposes) – in addition to being proof of his massive set of cojones.  But the clincher was (fittingly, somehow) Gilly’s offhand reference to “Prince Ragger” and his annulment – one which, it must be said, Sam totally blew off as blather.

For most of us this was confirmation rather than revelation, but there was one huge wrinkle that was a pretty big deal – that annulment.  If Rhaegar and Lyanna were in fact married legally, that makes Jon’s claim to the throne unquestionably the strongest.  If he were a bastard it would be a harder sell, but if he’s the legitimate son of the legitimate heir, well…  Unless, of course, you hold to the belief that Robert Baratheon overthrew the Mad King legally and was himself the legitimate king – which would mean his only known son, Gendry, could make a claim of his own (not that I think he would – but we’ll talk more of him shortly).

Truly, we’ve gone through the looking glass and out the other side, for now we find ourselves facing the moment where we must ask the question A Song of Ice and Fire fans have been dreading – is Game of Thrones now spoiling the books?  When it comes to the really big stuff – stuff like “Hold the Door” and R + L = J – it’s hard to imagine Benioff and Weiss haven’t gotten their stories straight with Martin (with Hodor’s death they confirmed it, basically).  This was always going to happen, and it’s something I find very sad indeed – but for the record, unlike some I’m not going to lash out at GoT over it.  It’s not like Weiss and Benioff (I wanted to write it that way just once) had any choice about this.  This moved at the pace they always said they would – it was GRRM who didn’t keep up his end of the bargain.

As I said, this episode was full of big moments that could, in different circumstances, have been headliners.  The death of Randall and Dickon Tarly – over Tyrion’s objections – was a ghastly reminder of the legacy that hangs over everything Daenerys does (it was also a moment for both Tarlys to show their honor, though Randall is still a fuck in my book).  The problem I see here is that Varys and Tyrion are trying to “manage” Dany, and she doesn’t want to be managed.  I’ve been pretty consistent in stating my view that Dany has done nothing to show she has the temperament to rule the Seven Kingdoms, and I still don’t think she has.  She may not be a raving psychotic like Cersei (or her father), but is that the measuring stick we’re going to use?  If so, it’s a pretty low bar.

Maybe the arrival of Ser Jorah will help to keep Daenerys from totally giving herself over to her bloodlust – though I’m not convinced he always appeals to the better angels of her nature.  But he does love her, and she feels an affection for him she seems to feel for no one else.  It might be said too that Jorah fills a role that desperately needs filling in Team Targaryen, that of a military strategist – but really, how much strategy does she need when she has three dragons?  And besides – this reunion (which certainly would have been the headline in most episodes) is almost comically brief.

This whole idea of Jon capturing a wight to offer as proof to Cersei that the threat from beyond the Wall is real?  Yeah, not buying that.  Frankly it sounds pretty silly, as does sending Tyrion and Davos into King’s Landing to try and convince Jaime (yeah, like you really thought he was dead – but that “cliffhanger” was resolved literally in the opening shot) to convince Cersei to meet to discuss it.  Maybe that’s my narrow thinking – I thought Jon’s comment towards the end of the episode, “We’re all all the same side.  We’re breathing.” was pretty on-point.  But even if any remotely sane person would see the merit in the idea that all living people must join together against a threat this alien and terrible – as the First Men and Children of the Forest did – Cersei still doesn’t make the grade.  She’s the embodiment of egomaniacal, sociopathic evil – I don’t think there’s common ground to be found with her.  Not over this, and not ever.  This is one of those big things I suspect Game of Thrones may be doing differently than ASoIaF, but only time (and maybe a lot of that) will tell.

Cockeyed scheme or not, this twist does give is some rather juicy moments with Tyrion and Davos sneaking into King’s Landing.  As usual Davos gets most of the best lines, like his none-too-gentle reminder that Tyrion killed his son, and he greeting to Gendry: “I thought you might still be rowing” (yes it’s fanservice, but we’ve earned that much). I can only say that seeing Gendry and Jon together was quite a treat – they have a lot in common these two, and not just being bastard sons (though they don’t actually have that in common, it seems).  The Baratheon name is nearly forgotten in Game of Thrones these days, and it’s good to see Gendry out there representing it.

As to the mission itself, it seems it has at least some chance of success.  The reunion between Tyrion and Jaime (I wanted to see the one between he and Bronn just as much) was more tragic than anything else.  Somewhere deep inside Jaime knows Tyrion is right, but then he’s always known Tyrion was right and went on fucking and propping up his sister anyway. This bond between brothers is one of the great melancholy regrets of both Game of Thrones and the books – their relationship is complicated and deep, and loving his brother in spite of all the pressure not to has always been one of the things that made Jaime seem redeemable.  If all this winds up with a meeting of the queens, it’ll certainly be a spectacle – but I still don’t buy it as a plot development.

Up north, Littlefinger continues his machinations – seemingly unfazed at the idea that Bran knows everything he’s up to (I didn’t trust that Maester from the beginning – why was he watching Bran in the Godswood?).  This should prove grist for the mill of fans who want to argue over one or the other Stark daughter being a snake, but it’s Arya who comes off looking the worse here.  Sansa may be harboring the thoughts Arya accuses her of, but I don’t think she’d ever act on them.  Arya seems blinded by her hatred to the point where she can’t see how much her sister has changed, and sees a traitor in every shadow.  That makes her a perfect candidate for manipulation by Baelish, who knows that those who can’t trust can easily be made to see betrayal.  Using Sansa’s duress-letter to her family seems a logical way for him to play on Arya’s paranoia.

If indeed the Northern lords are restless with Jon, who can blame them?  Sansa has her hands full trying to strike a balance between respecting their right to dissent and making sure they stay loyal to Jon.  The King in the North has taken on two missions they consider foolish – first journeying to see the Dragon Queen, and now going beyond the Wall to try and bring back a wight for the queens to gawk at.  For all his decency, Jon seems as ill-suited to being a monarch as Dany in his own way – he carries on his (step)father’s mantra of “He who passes the sentence should carry it out” to its logical extreme.  In the end, he’ll always choose to suck it up and do the dirty work himself – but that’s not the job of a king.  Maybe he’ll live long enough to come to understand that one day, but I rather doubt it – not least because I don’t think a hundred years would be long enough.

We leave things with the new suicide squad setting off on what seems, by almost any measure, to be a very foolish mission. But it is one hell of a team (and bunch of actors), I must admit – Jon, Tormund, Jorah, Gendry, and the power trio of the Brotherhood Without Banners – Beric, Thoros and Sandor Clegane.  It’s a gloriously entertaining bunch – sardonic and sneering and generally gruff and GAR till next Tuesday.  I love all these characters so much I hate the idea that a couple of them probably aren’t going to come back – but I’ll be very surprised if that doesn’t happen.

 

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18 comments

  1. G

    If you look back at the 1st couple of seasons and see where they are now some characters have had an amazing journey to get to where they are at the present time (like Tyrion, Jon, Dani). Who would have ever thought they would be where they are now.

    The heroes of the series are all aligned on one side now. Cersei is screwed. She has no one of name on her side except Jamie. She has to know her time as Queen is coming to an end.

  2. Y

    I hate how they introduced EVEN MORE tension between the Starks just so they could infuse the Winterfell storyline with EVEN MORE DRAMA, as if we hadn’t gotten 6 seasons chock-full of that already. Honestly, the remaining Starks should be tight as all hell after being apart for so long and having gone through so much fucked up shit. On a somewhat grander note, one thing this season has proven so far is that the leaked spoilers are mostly true. And I’m not sure how I feel about that…

    P. S. Davos’ joke about Gendry still rowing was such obvious fanservice and yet it was the best part of the episode for me. I laughed much harder than I should have. But yes, overall the pacing does feel too rushed, even by recent GOT standards.

  3. Yes, the Stark drama feels very manufactured. I suspect these reunions (if they happen) are going to play our very differently in the books.

    Talking of reunions, it’s such a shame that we’re blowing through so many so fast that they’re robbed of their emotional heft.

  4. Here’s to hoping that this is actually a red herring and that next week Arya goes to Sansa “hey, y’know, that Littlefinger fucker tried to pit me against you with this stupid stratagem. Can I kill him?”. “Sure, go ahead, just make it look like an accident, I don’t want any shit over it.” “Consider it done.”

    And there you go, plot solved.

  5. K

    Two incredible Tormund lines:
    – Isn’t it your job to talk him out of stupid, f***ing ideas like this?
    – And the big woman?

  6. S

    Best line of the episode: ““Nobody mind me, all I’ve ever done is live to a ripe old age!”

    Davos cracked me up a number of times thise episode! I am a tad worried about Dany’s development as of late. Her arrogance and bad judgement shouldn’t go unchallenged, but can one really be challenged when they’ve got three dragons?

  7. I’ve always worried about Dany’s development, even in the books. Never taken a shine to her as a character. Sure as hell wouldn’t want her as a monarch.

    Davos is, for me, probably the best character in the TV version of GoT (he’s great in the books, too, but Liam Cunningham is beyond perfect in the role). He consistently gets off the best laugh lines, but he’s also the most relatable and wisest person in the cast.

  8. D

    One thing I find particularly jarring is Arya. This season she rolls out as some sort of master assassin, but there’s nothing shown in previous seasons that would explain anything even close to that. She might’ve picked up a few things here and there, but her time in the House of Black and White always seemed like a wasted opportunity. It was thought-provoking for her, maybe, but nothing that happened there explains the end result. I get that they had a certain “final” vision for Arya, and they had to present her as such for narrative reasons, but her journey was more or less irrelevant to that.

  9. F

    7×06 is online right now, the episode was leaked by HBO’S Spain,
    HBO’s is reaching Godly levels of incompetence, with this season.

  10. M

    I find it kind of ironic that you tell us that, given Enzo’s post last week. That said, I’ll bite. Is it high-res? I assume it’s not.

  11. I’ll be passing, though it certainly turns social media into a massive minefield.

    I don’t necessarily blame HBO for the idiocy of their overseas distributors. It’s ironic that neither of these leaks have come from the massive hack, but from legal partners. Crazy.

  12. Let me add, for the record – anyone posting spoilers from a leaked GoT episode in the comments here is getting a ban.

  13. A

    Really don’t think Dany burning the Tarly’s alive was ‘mad’ or even the wrong thing to do. She gave them options; bend the knee, take the black or die. A leader who doesn’t follow through on what they say has no power and will be walked all over. I don’t get Tyrion and Vary’s issue at atll. In fact both Tyrion and Vary’s have done either worse or equally bad things. Tyrion burned 1000s of men alive and strangled his estranged lover to death. Vary’s has let good man die countless time and has presumably tortured the crap out of the warlock who chopped his frank and beans.

  14. O

    My viewing experience of season 7 as of right now compels me to quote the great Charles Dickens in his opening statements of the novel “A Tale of Two Cities”

    “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

    As much as I like to acknowledge the overwhelming production quality of the show as a whole, considering the fact that large-scale battles were almost completely glossed over in the first few seasons, save for the Battle of Blackwater in season 2, and now action set pieces are featured almost every episode so far, I cannot shake the feeling that the writing quality of the show has significantly dipped. Re-watching season 1 has given me a greater appreciation for the interpersonal relationships the diverse cast of characters had with one another and the political machinations and behind-the-scenes scheming which ultimately were the undoing of Eddard. While I still appreciate the show as an overwhelmingly entertaining series, I can say that it is not as good a series as it once was.
    Viewing Season 7 as one of the more fanservice-centric season of Game of Thrones, there’s a few things I’d like to comment on:

    – I feel that the bro/wingman competition is very close this season. On the one hand, Davos is without a doubt the MVP of the season thus far. Keep in mind that he’s one of the few relevant characters of old age that is still alive (R.I.P. Robert, Renly, Stannis, Barriston, Jeor Mormont (THE BEAR-Still one of the most badass nicknames ever), Mance Raider, Tywin, Olenna, Alliser etc.), so the fact that he manages to not only survive, but to maintain his decency while living in the brutal world of Westeros is nothing to overlook. On the other hand, despite being underused Bronn still remains my personal favorite sidekick. Not only did he save Jaime from certain death, but he was a willing accomplice in arranging Tyrion and Jaime’s secret meeting, despite knowing what the risks could be in a pit of treachery like King’s Landing (specially with an unhinged Cersei at the helm). And let’s not forget about the honorable Ser Piggy, otherwise known as Sam, curer of Greyscale, whose contributions throughout the show and friendship to Jon is one of the most consistently understated elements of the entire series.

    – Speaking of Sam, I find it kinda interesting that it seems like House of Tarly is pretty much gone at this point. Unlike Gendry, who can be legitimized and bring back House Baratheon, Sam is still a member of the Night’s Watch, so he has rejected any claims to nobility his name might have brought him.

    – Finally, the departure of Jon Snow’s Suicide Squad is one of the hypest endings to a Game of Thrones episode I have ever seen. I cannot help but think that this development, as awesome as it is, will be a show-exclusive. Although the books are now MILES behind where the tv series is at, I highly doubt that Martin would write such a stupid (awesome, but still stupid) means with which to convince the southern houses to take the White Walker threat seriously.

    – Keeping the whole “fanservice” element of the show in mind, I can make some speculations over who might live or die. Jon Snow and The Hound are not only fan-favorites, but they both have a connection with Arya Stark and at least should be reunited with her before they’re allowed to die. Gendry just got here for crying out loud, and his boat-rowing gains will be of much use for future battles, so I think he’s safe, just less so than Lord Snow and Lord Chicken. Same goes for Tormund, who would be on my speculative chopping block but he’s got Brienne to come back to. That leaves me with the Regretful 3: Jorah, Thoros, and Beric. Thoros and Beric have not been in the spotlight in a WHILE, making them perfect sacrificial lambs, especially since Game of Thrones is trimming the fat and killing off their unnecessary characters, so both of them dying would be my best bet. Secondly, Jorah has now become a roadblock in the romantic development fans want between Jon and Daenerys, so his death would make such a development more likely to occur.

    – LAST THING, I WOULD BE REMISS IF I DID NOT BRING UP THE POSSIBILITY OF BENJEN STARK COMING BACK TO THE FOLD. Benjen Stark was like a 2nd father to Jon, he was his introduction into the Night’s Watch and mentor (for a brief moment), a reunion between them would be amazing (Benjen, and Arya are both close to Jon and hold the dubious honor of being alive characters who haven’t seen Jon since Season 1). His contribution could also turn the Reckless 7 into the Fateful 8.

  15. I agree – suicide squad is wicked cool and also something Martin would probably never do. It’s a classic case of enjoying the TV for what it’s good at, and understanding it can never again do the things ASoIaF does so well. GoT is basically about fanservice at this point, but what fanservice it is.

    I fully expect Beric to die, likely in a blaze (literally) of glory. I’ll weep internally, because Richard Dormer is such a legend in this show, but I expect this to be it for Beric and Thoros. I agree about Sandor and Jon, but I suspect Jorah is making it back. It’s Tormund who I think might be in danger, and the Brienne thing is no armor – the writers have basically said it’s just a fun lark for them, not a real plot thread. Logic tells me Gendry is safe too, but for some reason my instinct says to worry.

  16. M

    What do you think would be a superior plan to what the boys are doing here, in order to convince Cersei?
    I’m using “plan” as a loose term for what they have currently…

  17. I wouldn’t have a plan to convince Cersei. I don’t think she can be convinced to do anything sane or decent. Any plan I have would involve either working around her altogether or destroying her before proceeding.

  18. M

    I’m actually enjoying (and liking) this season more than I did the Fifth and Sixth ones, except Hardhome. Those were a big slump. I think the writing is better & more on-point/focused than it was in that section of the show, fanservice-y as it is. It might be just me though.

    I think the showrunners have gotten better at playing with the pieces and the board GRRM already gave them, and have stopped trying to generate new material. They play with what they have, at the current scale. Which is by no means bad in this case.

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