DON’T LOOK BEHIND YOU.
NO, NOT HIM.
THE ONE WHO IS BEHIND ON GAME OF THRONES.
YEAH, I’M TALKING DIRECTLY TO YOU.
THERE ARE ABOUT TO BE SOME MAJOR SPOILERS.
LIKE FOR THE LATEST EPISODE.
SO…IT SHOULD REALLY GO WITHOUT SAYING BUT YOU SHOULD MAYBE STOP READING IF YOU…YOU KNOW…WANT TO REMAIN UNSULLIED…ER…UNSPOILED
LIKE RIGHT NOW.
OKAY ARE THEY GONE?
I’LL WAIT A LITTLE BIT LONGER.
OKAY, I THINK THEY ALL LEFT.
FUCK THEM, RIGHT?
Three episodes in and I finally have something to ramble on about. That’s due in large part to the fact that season is primarily in completely uncharted territory. For those that are familiar, I don’t particularly like to presume to know what is going to happen on this show; mainly because I suck at it. Just check out my defense of Stannis from last season for further proof. (I still stand by my love of the character, but I was super wrong about where I thought his story-line might have been heading.)
Sure, I’ve read the books but we’re way past the point where they left off at this point. Put simply: I’m firmly at the point of a fan enjoying the series as it goes along until the next book comes out…whenever that may be. Sure, we’ve still got the Greyjoy stuff (KINGSMOOT ’16) but by and large, there’s no high ground we can take anymore.
Given the showrunners are pretty operating offbook now, the plot has kicked into 12th gear with all the goings on within the past three episodes alone. Several key players have been off’d, one’s been brought back and we still have dragons to wrangle in.
That all said, there isn’t really going to be a proper to this particular Game of Thrones ramble. Typically I like to have some sort of focal point, but there really isn’t one here other than most of what I want to write about takes place at in the North (basically where all of the most interesting stuff appears to be occurring this season).
On Sunday, multiple members of the Night’s Watch ended their respective….um…..watches. Some a bit more permanently than others…
A lot of people were eagerly awaiting this scene, myself included. (Some were excited to the point of it being a little off-putting if I can be frank.) How often on this show do we get actual vengeance (with the exception of Arya)?
The way people talk about them you’d think they were the Sand Snakes. Y’know, legitimately TERRIBLE characters.
To put utter these two fractions in the same breath in terms of quality would be a mistake. However they do have quite a few aspects in common, the difference being one is a testament to the show’s strength at both developing character and trumping narrative expectations and the other is quickly working to undue all of that through choppy story-telling and catch phrases.
In fact, since we’re there, let’s get this out of the way by doing a quick compare on contrast as both groups are pretty damn similar, with one being compelling and the other eye-rolling:
The Nights Watch traitors: Furious with their new Lord Commander for letting Wildlings pass through their gates, a force they have sworn an oath to keep out of Westeros. Least that all have lost brothers (and even family members) to the Wildlings by recent attempt at a siege.
The Sand Snakes: Mad that Prince Doran is attempting to maintain peace with the Lannisters rather than seek swift justice for the death of Oberyn Martell, who was not murdered but lost in a trial by combat. (The rape/murder of Elia Martell also plays apart but we are speaking of more recent occurrences.)
Unfortunately, their plot makes little to no sense. Avenge lover/father by killing his brother.
Act of betrayal
The Nights Watch traitors: Stab Jon Snow to death under quiet of night. No one takes pleasure in it, but feel it is either this or the destruction of the only force they believe standing between Westeros and chaos.
The Sand Snakes: Recklessly kills Myrcella Lannister and then proceed to kill Doran and his crew which Dorne, a.k.a the single court yard we’ve seen thus far, seems to largely be okay with because…reasons.
Level of sympathy
The Nights Watch traitors: While largely a group of utter cunts, they have a valid argument. I don’t know about you, but if a group of hobos murdered and ate my parents AND they just got through killing a fuck ton of the friends that let me in after I was orphaned, I don’t know if I’d be all in for Jon Snow’s cooky plan of letting those assholes through either. Unfortunately they don’t see the big picture. Ice zombies are on the way.
The Sand Snakes: Also unable to see the big picture, the Sand Snakes believe they are what’s best for Dorne. Instead of being well-written, layered or even remotely empathetic characters however they go about seeking vengeance by being poorly acted, poorly executed, quip machines that have no real direction beyond “Fuck the Lannisters” and seem to be unbeatable in any task they decide to accomplish. Take this fucking scene for example. It’s not badass nor is it shocking.
It’s serves only to show just how “badass” they are without really furthering their plight or providing any insight as to why they’re doing this all in the first place. Why should I be empathizing with these women with whom I really know very little about?
Hell, I’ll take it one step further and put their leaders side-by-side:
Ser Alliser Thorne. How fucking fast did you hate that guy? He’s just a miserable son of bitch that fucking hates Jon Snow (the guy we’re sort of predisposed to like) and even picks on poor Sam. He’s old fashioned, unpleasant and a prick more often than not. (Do we see him smile on this show…like ever? I’m sure he does…mainly if Jon is in trouble or Sam’s getting beaten up but I didn’t have time to look it up.) I’m never going to argue that he was a decent man. Put simply: he’s an opportunistic asshole.
However, there were cracks in that tough, ugly shell. Signs that there was something else. Something writers call, “dimension.”
Ser Alliser is the man put in charge of training new recruits, perhaps the most important (and thankless) job at the most important (and for sure most thankless) area of Westeros. He’s seen some shit, and he’s seen what happens to improperly prepared greenhorns and veterans alike.
While rough, in many ways his utter cuntiness (?) is necessary for a man in his position. This isn’t to say he’s perfect (far from it), but you can at least emphasize with the guy and see where he’s coming from. When he lays into Sam for being “weak,” he’s not doing so just because he’s an asshole. He believes the boy is soft, and the Wall is no place for soft men.
Hell, you can even pin point they exact second you start to like the guy…
He’s still an asshole in this scene, through and through; but he’s willing to put differences aside if it means holding the Wall. Like cakes (or ogres), he has layers. Putting honor (as warped as it may be) into a character that we should be inclined to dislike is just one of the countless ways this show has built some much good will in the way it presents us with classic archetypes and subverting our expectations about them. In more ways than one, he is like Jon (not that he’d care to admit it). He acts on what he believes is right.
When he opts to betray Jon, there is some degree of his hatred of the guy for sure but it also comes from a place of duty. Like he says to Jon, being in charge comes with a shit ton of responsibility and being dislike for your decisions.
When Jon (a new guy relatively) lets the Wildlings pass through those gates, Ser Alliser is obviously going to have one or two issues with that.
So in killing Jon,Ser Alliser sees one of two options: A) accept change and in doing so, risk the safety of the land he has dedicated his life to protecting, or B) kill the bastard and save the realm (as far as he knows). He is no more short-sighted than the Sand Snakes. However, we KNOW his goal and we UNDERSTAND his motivations. We may not agree with the means, but we EMPATHIZE with or at the very least have an understanding of the sentiments behind them.
Like I said, he’s a horrible piece of shit…but he isn’t wrong and in that lies a great character. You can hate him as much as you like, but you can’t say that he isn’t interesting.
Ellaria Sand….um….she….uh…she liked to have sex a ton…..she is….she is very strong….willed, maybe? She recruited the Sand Snakes…to take back Dorne, I think?
Point is, she isn’t well-developed. She doesn’t even have the decency of being interesting for goodness sakes! They’ve thrust an under-developed character into a leadership position. Whether we are supposed to relate to her, emphasize with her, root for her, boo her or all of the above is truly anyones guess at this point. For those that genuinely like them, I encourage you to write in. Defend them. Give me just one example of nuance and subtly we get from ANY of the Sand Snakes, let alone Ellaria. To me however, they represent the show at its most shallow and in turn, for people that really dig them as characters, bring in people that watch this show for the most shallow reasons: to be shocked and have catch phrases. I’ll let them speak for themselves!
You did nothing to avenge Dorne…other than use diplomacy to dictate my decisions rather than brash action and anger because that always gets the job fucking done, right? You saw how well it worked first-hand, remember?
And before this becomes a gender thing, Game of Thrones is home to some of the best female characters on television to the point where they transcend sex. They’re simply great characters. These just happen to be characters that are FUCKING garbage that happen to be female. To even try to put them in the same league as a character like Cersi, Ygritte or Brienne is utterly ludicrous.
Now to be fair, the Sand Snakes are much more realized in the books. They do a lot more conniving and scheming, with some even working Doran (who is still very alive in the books) in order for a smarter, long-term plan at getting what’s there’s. They come off as impatient, overly-sexualized cry babies on the show, which isn’t assisted by the fact that they are now the center piece of Dorne, a location that still doesn’t seem like an actual place given how little time we’ve spent there as viewers. They’re seriously one or two scenes away from becoming this…
There’s an argument to be made that they may improve and I saw more power to the writers, actresses and whomever else may have a hand in their execution because they have a ton of ground to cover in order to get in the good graces of what seems like a majority of the fan base of the show.
I am not placing a moratorium on my hatred and complaining about these…”characters” because frankly to do so would to further beat a horse that died weeks ago.
Now, I’ve done a lot of talking about character which brings me to Olly.
I was never on the “Fuck, Olly” train that many on the internet seemed all aboard for.
As with Joffrey, many were longing for the day when Olly would meet his demise. And like Joffrey, we got it and many people celebrated.
I however felt…dissatisfied, and I think that’s the point.
At the end of the day, what were we celebrating? The death of a kid who had everything snatched away from him early on and too damaged to every move past it, and can you honestly blame him for his actions? Sure, you may say quickly but really, REALLY put yourselves in his shoes.
When Jon reaches Olly in the line-up, there isn’t a line of dialogue between the two. As he dies, he scowls, unable to let go of his hatred, a victim of his own inability to let go and move on, for which I can’t blame him.
I don’t like that he projected his hate on Jon, but I can’t really blame him for it either. This guy was supposed to be his surrogate father (because, remember, the fucking Thenns ate his actual one) and he comes to learn that not only did he lay with a Wildling woman (the exact one that shot his father with an arrow in fact) but wants to let them, as a whole, pass through the gates and live on the lands that his family used to call home.
So, I argue Olly was never some totem deserving of the internet’s scorn in the same way Ramsey Bolton or the late King Joffrey did and do. He is instead a tragic figure; a lesson in letting your emotions dictate your actions rather than reason. At the end of the day, there really isn’t anything to cheer for…other than Jon being back of course.
Some people have good, completely valid reasons for doing stupid or even horrible things; some people have lived terrible lives that breaks them, and would likely break most others if put in that situation. Regardless, they still need to be held accountable for their stupid or horrible actions. Even if we can see why they did them, it doesn’t make their actions any better, just understandable. Life kind of sucks like that.
Speaking about how much life sucks, I want to wrap things up with a quick aside concerning Jon Snow.
Everyone and their mom knew Lord Snow would be back. Fan theories aside, he is simply waaaaaaaaaaay too important to off. Too much has been set up story-wise to just drop for another shocking death this series has staked its claim on perfecting. It was simply at matter of when he’d be back, how he’d be revived, and why did he have to die?
What sort of effect will having had died have on the misbegotten former Lord Commander?
Well, that would require speculation on my part. I will say that nothing EVER happens by accident in fiction. This show likes to subvert our expectations week-after-week, but there is definitely an end game in sight. We, as audience members, just don’t have the whole path before us just yet.
So instead of speculation about where he’s going specifically, I want to examine what death meant to Jon as a character up to this point.
I LOVED the scene between Davos and Jon this week. The two are so similar that it would be shame not to have a quiet scene between them before things ramp up.
Jon, like Davos, has been a character that has largely been in service of other characters, all in the hopes of doing the right thing. Even during his short tenure as the boss, he was doing what he felt was for the greater good….
Now that’s he’s died trying to do the right thing and been given a second chance at things, he justifiably says, “Fuck this.” Now, he’s off to his own devices. Given certain set pictures that have been leaked, it’s not hard to guess where his path leads exactly and that he will probably find himself at odds with another bastard laying claim to the North that has done his family a good deal of harm. (We also have the whole “R+L=J” affair to get to this season, but we will cross that bridge once the show runners decide to either confirm or deny it.)
Now that he’s died, I expect Jon will start to go after what he wants rather than doing what’s expected of him. He’s seen where playing by the rules in a world that doesn’t gets you; a lesson his father and brother learned at the pointy ends of swords and knives.
The utter brilliance in this in that dying and seeing nothing, harkening back to Ygritte’s oft-quoted remark. Everything he thought he knew about honor, service, and the like are thrown out the window…or better yet, stabbed out of the window (Haha, nailed it). His world became just a lot more grey.
Jon Snow now LITERALLY knows nothing.
There is no rule book, and in that, Jon has the chance to change and evolve as a character and like all the best characters on this show (and unlike OTHERS that will remain namelissssss), it makes him dynamic while also signaling the emotional climax for the character should he survive (at this point he has to, right?….RIGHT?!) to the end of this long and bloody game.
Jon died failing to unite the Night’s Watch and convince his brothers that the threat beyond the wall was more important than their conflict with the Wildlings, and spends much of this last episode reckoning with that failure. He goes through the motions by dawning his furs, delivering justice, but he slowly realizes, as he’s been given a rare second chance, he cannot keep repeating the same mistakes.
His choice to walk away from the Night’s Watch (either becoming an oathbreaker,the title of the episode, or going on the technicality that his watch ended when he died) paves the way for the identity crisis that will make the eventual “R+L=J” reveal (should it actually happen) that much more significant.
So that’s about if for me pretending to wax smart about Game of Thrones for this week. Agree with what I had to say? Hate everything I said? Want to lead a coup, stab me to death and then leave my corpse out in the snow for the crows to pick at my rotting flesh? Well, Mr. or Ms. Eerily Specific, leave a comment below!