Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

a song of ice and fire Archive

Monday

16

May 2016

0

COMMENTS

Game of Thrones Season 6 Recap: Episode 4

Written by , Posted in Blog, Celebrity Apprentice, Game of Thrones

This recap features analysis from a devoted book fan. As the show has largely deviated from the books I’m not sure how much this matters, but if you hate spoilers you should probably not read these articles. I encourage you to subscribe so you never miss a recap. Thank you for reading. 

I think it’s safe to say that this episode was the best of the season and perhaps the best since season 4’s “The Watchers on the Wall.”

The reunion of Jon and Sansa is significant for a number of reasons. None of the major Stark children (excluding Rickon) have seen each other since season one and most have no idea which of the others are even still alive. Jon and Sansa don’t really have much of a relationship in the books, something that was sort of hinted at in the episode. Given that Sansa isn’t in the North in the books, this plotline will be especially interesting to follow.

Brienne’s hypocrisy is borderline intolerable. I sort of forgot about the weird Brienne/Davos/Melisandre dynamic since the Red Woman is the only one at the Wall in the books, but it was about as awkward as could be expected. Brienne, who “executed” Stannis on the “authority” of a dead pretender king, shows next to no animosity toward Melisandre, the woman who conjured up the shadow demon that killed Renly.

It is by no means a stretch to suggest that Melisandre played a much, much bigger role in Renly’s death than Stannis, being both the person who executed the plan and presumably also the one who came up with it. Couple Brienne’s carefree attitude toward her with Davos’ casual mention of Shireen’s death, in episode 4 mind you, and we have ourselves a prime example of the show’s laziness in closing up plotlines it doesn’t like. Like Dorne, Stannis’ arc was quickly wrapped up with little logic. I know most regular readers of these recaps are hoping for the day when I stop mentioning Stannis, but that was important to acknowledge.

The pacing of Sansa’s arrival to the Wall was superb, but the fact that Jon continues to hang around Castle Black is kind of weird. I liked how he mentioned his death releasing him from his vows, but if that’s all true, he sort of needs to move on. The divorce between Jon and the Watch looks quite messier than it should. At least he showed remorse for killing Olly.

Why does Tormund only have 2,000 warriors? What happened to the 100,000 that attacked the Wall two seasons ago? They couldn’t have all died at Hardhome.

It was hard to be excited about Littlefinger’s return since he’s one of the most inconsistently portrayed characters on the show, but his scene was excellent. His seemingly indefensible decision to marry Sansa to Ramsey was handled quite well by casting doubt on Lord Royce. The only thing that kind of bugs me is that Littlefinger does show genuine affection toward Sansa in the books. I wouldn’t be surprised if that turns out to be the case later on in the show, but it’s not really believable. Who wasn’t thrilled to see Sweetrobin again?!?!

The Meereen plotline got a much needed infusion of life into it, despite having two of the most boring characters on the whole show. Grey Worm and Missandei’s deficiencies only further show what a mistake it was to kill Ser Barristan last year. Tyrion was on point as usual, but he needs a stronger character to spar with.

Jorah and his magical durable shirt are back! Which means I have to make an obligatory “why does Jorah have greyscale?” mention. Doesn’t look like I’ll be saying that much longer. More on Dany at the end of the recap.

King’s Landing also perked up. I’ve been mentioning the Tyrell’s powerful army for about a year now. It’s about time someone brought up using it. Giving the key KL players something to do was long overdue. It’ll be interesting to see if both Margaery and Loras make it out alive. I’m guessing no, but I’m willing to sacrifice both if it means we don’t have to endure another High Sparrow lecture. Jonathan Pryce is great and all. I just don’t care about listening to him ramble anymore.

How did Theon get a boat? Seriously. Anyone?

The Yara/Theon interaction was another highlight in a very strong episode. Yara is the obvious candidate to rule the Iron Islands, though A Feast for Crows had a different idea. Euron stands as a better challenger than Reek, but this will make the Kingsmoot dynamic all the more interesting. It’s hard to speculate as to what Theon’s role will be beyond a mere endorser of his sister.

Osha falls victim to the “let’s get rid of all the characters we don’t want anymore” cleanse. I’m kind of okay with it. She’s a fun character, but the show was right to acknowledge the fact that Ramsey would definitely know about her involvement in their escape. Another scene where she gets to speak would have been nice, but this episode had a lot going on.

Finally we go to Vaes Dothrak. I was rolling my eyes at the idea that Daario and Jorah would help by somehow retrieving Drogon, Dany’s scene with the Khals was excellent. As with the Sansa plotline, I was surprised with its fast pacing, but that’s a good thing. Meereen is bound to be a complete wash with everyone inevitably setting their eyes on Westeros in the not so distant future.

The parallels to the end of Dany’s season one arc were to be expected, though probably not in episode four. I assumed there would be some kind of trial, but am pretty happy that there wasn’t. Dany now commands the largest force of anyone besides the White Walkers. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of opposition the show puts against her, given the mess in KL.

It is worth noting that GRRM has said that Dany is not immune to fire in the books. This is obviously different in the show, which is a good thing. That was a great way to end the episode.

Side note: Aggo, one of the Dothraki mentioned, is one of Dany’s bloodriders in the books. I’ve often been critical of how the Dothraki just disappeared after the Unsullied were introduced, but it was nice to see a tiny throwback.

That’s it for this week. No Arya, Bran, Dorne (yay), or Sam & Gilly, but this was a very strong episode. See you next week!

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Monday

25

April 2016

0

COMMENTS

Game of Thrones Season 6 Recap: Episode 1

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones

This recap features analysis from a devoted book fan. As the show has largely deviated from the books I’m not sure how much this matters, but if you hate spoilers you should probably not read these articles. I encourage you to subscribe so you never miss a recap. Thank you for reading. 

I found myself constantly wondering about the timeline as the season opener progressed. At the beginning of A Storm of Swords, George R.R. Martin clarifies that the chapters aren’t necessarily linear and the show hasn’t always been either. The fact that several of the episode’s plotlines, mainly The Wall and Sansa/Reek appeared to happen immediately after last episode while others, mainly Dorne/King’s Landing/Meereen, clearly happened a little while later created a bit of uncertainty for me at least.

Pacing a ten episode season with a massive ensemble cast is very difficult. With that in mind, it seems hard to praise Davos’ bravery at the Wall with him still locked in that room by the end of the episode. I’m inclined to give this a pass, especially since I’m trying to purge the image of old naked Melisandre from my mind and am okay if that involves forgetting the rest of the plotline at Castle Black.

It is also important to note that there will likely only be thirteen episodes of the rest of the series after this season, which makes me think that a Sansa/revived Jon Snow/Stark reunion could happen sooner rather than later, depending on how quickly the inevitable Wildling/Alliser Throne conflict lasts. I say this mostly because Sansa’s story lacks any other logical direction and I don’t see how the merry band of Brienne, Poderick, Sansa, and Reek can wander around in the cold indefinitely.

Though it made sense for Brienne to finally stop wandering around Westeros in search of spare Starks, I have a bit of trouble accepting the fact that this woman obsessed with “duty” killed Stannis in cold blood. Longtime readers know my feelings regarding a certain One True King quite well, but this isn’t so much about what you think about Stannis, but rather whether or not Brienne’s actions were just.

Now you can make the case that Game of Thrones isn’t a show that’s concerned with having its characters have a black and white sense of moral justice, except that’s far truer in the books. We saw this on display in Ramsey’s first scene, where he displays a shocking amount of remorse for Miranda’s death. I was completely taken aback by how sympathetic the character was portrayed as, especially considering how controversial his rape of Sansa was last season. The show made up for this almost immediately with a rather out of place comment by Ramsey to merely feed her body to the dogs. Of course, Ramsey is a psychopath, but we didn’t need that scene to remind us of that. It seems puzzling as to what that scene tried to accomplish besides simply screen time for the character.

I have a hard time buying into the Lannister threat to the Boltons. In theory, this makes sense, but the Lannisters have never looked weaker. Who really thinks they’re in any position to move on Winterfell?

Cersei and Jaime aren’t really up to much at all. The whole prophecy bit made sense and all, but neither sibling seemed particularly troubled by Myrcella’s death and Tommen wasn’t even mention at all. For a show that constantly brings out the question, “who will win the game of thrones,” it doesn’t seem too concerned with who’s actually sitting on it.

The fact that Trystane Martell wasn’t even under arrest says it all about what the writers are trying to do with Dorne. I spent much of last season wondering where all of that was going and the answer is clear. Now that the show is freed from most of its obligations to the books, it doesn’t want people like Doran Martell and Stannis around.

I’m kind of okay with that. Book fanatics have been trying to figure out Doran’s plan for years. The show basically went and admitted that he doesn’t have one at all, but this shouldn’t alarm book fans. The show simply doesn’t have time to integrate a character like that into its end goal in any substantial way.

So why include them at all? I have no idea. The Sand Snakes don’t seem to have much appeal to anyone, especially after they committed needless treason. Is the viewer supposed to feel sympathetic to their desires for vengeance, which involved killing two innocent teenagers? Like much of their dialogue, this plot is laughable.

The Dothraki dialogue was also painful to read. I still can’t believe the writers won an Emmy last year. Pathetic.

Margaery in jail could have been handled better. It took me a while to remember why she was even there (for lying about Loras’ homosexuality). Jonathan Pryce is always a treat to watch, but it’s hard to care about what they’re doing.

I like the direction of Dany’s story. She likely needed Dothraki help even before the Sons of the Harpy burned her Meereen fleet. As a character, Dany works best as the underdog and it’ll be interesting to see how the Vaes Dothrak storyline plays out.

Obligatory Jorah still has greyscale for no reason mention (yes we’re still doing that and we always will). It looks worse. The scene where he and Daario discuss his weird love for Dany was creepy. Not as creepy as old naked Melisandre, but then again few things are.

The Tyrion/Varys exchange was a pleasant throwback to season two, but that also highlighted a major problem with Tyrion’s plotlines since. Tyrion hasn’t really done much big picture stuff since he commanded the troops at the Battle of the Blackwater. He spent season three recovering, four in prison, and five on the road/hanging out with Jorah. Now he has power, but he’s really far away from the main action. Peter Dinklage is one of the show’s biggest assets and while keeping him in Meereen makes sense given the timeline of the books, it doesn’t seem like the best place for him now that the show has gone completely off book.

Which is something that needs to be considered as the show moves forward if the rumors about there only being thirteen episodes left are to be believed. The show doesn’t have a ton of time to waste having Tyrion rule a city that’s relatively inconsequential to the bigger picture. I don’t want to come down too harshly on the whole plot based on five minutes of screen time, but the last season didn’t inspire a ton of confidence in that realm.

Arya is actually still relatively on book. Her blindness only lasts a single chapter in the books though. I don’t think blind Arya is particularly interesting so hopefully the show follows a similar path.

No Littlefinger, Samwell, Ironborne (if they’re actually coming), or Bran this episode. I hope there’s some direction for LF’s incomprehensible Northern plans. I sure don’t see any logic there.

All in all, this was a pretty good premiere. I don’t think it completely fixed the wrongs of season five, but there does seem to be some direction for most of the major players. After last year’s mess, I’ll settle for some entertaining set-up that promises better things to come.

Just a slight programming note. After each episode airs, I’ll do a live video on my Facebook page summarizing my thoughts. Written recaps will be posted on Mondays. Thank you for reading.

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Tuesday

5

January 2016

0

COMMENTS

The Martinese Knot: Can We Fault George R.R. Martin for Not Finishing The Winds of Winter?

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones, Pop Culture

It’s official. The Winds of Winter will not be out before the sixth season of Game of Thrones. George R.R. Martin recently put out a lengthy blog post explaining the delays and apologizing to the legions of angry book fans. Many writers, most prominently Neil Gaiman, have rushed to his defense, urging book readers not to berate Martin’s slow creative process.

As a dedicated fan of A Song of Ice and Fire as well a published author, I know that the delay is both frustrating and understandable. I find it horrifying that a TV show would overlap a book series, but I can’t fault a fellow author for taking his time and enjoying the spotlight. I’ve written about the important work GRRM does with his anthologies, using his star power to help dozens of sci-fi and fantasy authors gain much needed exposure. Few, if any, mainstream authors do more to promote their genre than GRRM and I’ll always respect him for that.

Fans of ASOIAF know that the show and the books are two completely different entities. Season five bore little resemblance to A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons. There is the risk that big storylines in the books will be spoiled by the show and that’s certainly legitimate. With that in mind, I don’t think it’s necessarily unreasonable for fans to be mad at Martin for the delay.

Two things about Neil Gaiman’s blog stick out to me that I don’t agree with. He titles the post, “Entitlement Issues” and then goes on to italicize the phrase, “George R.R. Martin is not your bitch.” While he’s certainly right about the second part, I do take some umbrage with the notion that wanting to see a book released before it’s spoiled by television somehow reflects entitlement.

Gaiman is right to point out that by buying a book, you aren’t signing a contract where you then get to control the author’s whole life. The audience cannot force an author to write something and if they could, it would probably be terrible. Writers need creative freedom.

GRRM can take as much time as he wants. Should he? Entitlement is one thing, but what about obligation?

An author is nothing without fans. Fans made GRRM. I may have maybe .01% of GRRM’s fanbase, but they’ve helped me get to where I’m at today and I won’t have much of a future in this business without them. We may not owe our fans our firstborn children (or dragon in GRRM’s case since he doesn’t have kids), but there is a sort of moral obligation to the people who got you to where you are. If Davos were real, I’m sure he’d say something similar.

There is also the fact that ASOIAF is not a new series. The first book came out twenty years ago. In the new foreword to The Gunslinger written after The Dark Tower was finished, Stephen King wrote about how he’d receive letters from fans who were terminally ill or on death row asking how the story ends. I don’t mention this to suggest that GRRM should hurry up because his fans are dying, but rather to point out the obvious. Fans invest in stories.

ASOIAF matters to many people. It matters to me. I’ve made many friendships through a common love of these books. I’ve spent countless hours obsessing over them. GRRM doesn’t owe me anything, but I’m also not going to call anyone who’s a little miffed at him entitled either.

Books matter. We’re supposed to feel something when we read. If people are angry that a TV show may ruin a book, that should be taken as a compliment for it shows what a marvelous job GRRM has done over the years.

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Friday

28

August 2015

1

COMMENTS

Game of Clickbait: A Song of “Journalists” and Thieves

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones, Pop Culture

I saw something unfortunate on Twitter this morning as I looked through my friends’ tweets. The Huffington Post’s Bill Bradley put out an article on Wednesday claiming to have a “new” Game of Thrones theory regarding the parentage of Jon Snow and Meera Reed. Given that A Clash of Kings, the first book to feature Meera, was released in 1998 and that this series can be called a worldwide phenomenon since at least 2005, when A Feast For Crows hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list (a rare feat for a fantasy novel), it is more than safe to say that this theory is anything but new.

If you google “Jon Meera twins,” tons of posts come up that are earlier than Wednesday. Without even clicking on a single link, I see one from asoiaf.westeros.org from 2012. I doubt that’s the oldest either.

It’s embarrassing that HuffPo calls this journalism. The site has been praised by many for ushering in the modern day era of the news. While there’s plenty of truth to that, things like this thievery aren’t just a disgrace, they’re sad.

It’s sad because there are countless ASOIAF/GOT fans who have put in thousands of hours of research and discussion who then go uncredited by major news websites. This goes even beyond that. You have a guy who pretends they don’t even exist and that he’s the first to make this groundbreaking revelation.

We know why. Game of Thrones has over a hundred million fans. Articles like these are cash cows, especially when the research only takes a three-word Google search. It’s free money.

Dishonest money. I’m lucky to consider many of the top ASOIAF commentators to be friends. I’ve featured many of them here in my “Interviews of Ice and Fire” feature. I haven’t featured Bill Bradley and don’t plan to. I wouldn’t want to go through the trouble of finding someone to answer his questions for him.

The people who work hard to produce new content whether it’s articles, podcasts, or even just posts on the subrebbit or other the forums play a crucial role in Game of Thrones’ worldwide popularity. They’re the reason why genuinely new theories are still being discovered years after the last book in the main series was released. Without them, Huffington Post and Buzzfeed would have no one to steal from.

Here’s the thing that really bugs me and the reason I decided to write this. The top commentators in the ASOIAF/GOT fandom are good people. Beyond that, they’re not difficult to get ahold of. If they answer my tweets and e-mails, I imagine they’d respond to requests for paid freelance work.

I imagine this article will be discovered by a crony of one of the clickbait websites at some point in time. If you feel ashamed reading this, good. You should be ashamed. There used to be a code that journalists abided by. Just because you’re behind a computer writing for an online publication rather than a print newspaper doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be integrity in your work.

For you, the reader, check out the work of this expansive fandom. It’s good stuff and you won’t have to wait years for mainstream media to find it.

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Tuesday

25

August 2015

1

COMMENTS

Interviews of Ice and Fire: Ashaya of History of Westeros Podcast

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones, IOIAF, Pop Culture

It is a pleasure to welcome Ashaya of History of Westeros Podcast to the site. History of Westeros is one of the most in depth ASOIAF resources available; creating episodes that piece together the series’ confusing timeline along with commentary on the houses, theories, reviews of Game of Thrones, and just about anything else imaginable. HoW recently wrapped up an in-depth series on Summerhall. You can support HoW through their Patreon campaign.

HoW just wrapped up two podcasts on the Tragedy of Summerhall, one of the series’ strangest mysteries and certainly one that’s overlooked by casual fans. Given how little information there is on the topic, can you tell us a little bit about how you approached it? In terms of difficulty, how did it compare to some of your other series?

 The episodes in our Religion & Magic series are generally the hardest to put together, specifically the episodes on weirwoods. The possibilities of magic are just so wide open, and that tends to make it harder to decide how to frame the narrative of the episode, and how to organize and present everything. The Tragedy of Summerhall episodes weren’t part of that series, but they obviously deal with magic as well, and so they did have some extra difficulty. We speculated about the magical aspect of it a bit, but more so focused on the role of prophecy and on the impact Summerhall had on characters like Aerys, Rhaella, and Rhaegar (and the realm).

 One thing that’s stuck with me since listening is the potential involvement of the pyromancers and how Jaime had a particular hatred of them. Given that they had seemingly no friends in court during Robert’s reign and plenty of people who don’t seem like they would be particularly fond of their line of work (Robert, Jon Arryn, Stannis), why do you think they were kept around at all?

I don’t think Robert or Jon Arryn would have felt any particular motivation to outright end the Alchemists’ Guild, which is a rather drastic course of action. If we’d had Jaime in a position of power, he likely would have, though! That said, their power has waned and waxed over time, so they weren’t as prominent during Robert’s time as they are currently in the series or (obviously) during Aerys’ reign.

One thing you mentioned that I’ve never even thought about was Aerys II’s lack of known bastards. Do you think that is an oversight on GRRM’s part or could something larger be at play?

 Questions like these are difficult because well, I do often find myself debating whether something can be explained sufficiently in-universe or whether the Doylist method is more appropriate. I know that there are a lot of fans who are pretty firmly Watsonian, but I enjoy both types of explanation, though I favor the Watsonian view overall. So often obscure things in A Song of Ice and Fire make perfect sense, and you don’t have to look at things from an out-of-universe perspective. My answer, then, is that while I think it’s possible that it was an oversight, I think there are a number of in-universe explanations, namely a) Aerys had issues with fertility (my pick) or b) Varys dealt with his bastards.

One more Summerhall question as you mentioned Shiera Seastar and she’s one of my favorite tertiary characters. I’ve often viewed her as a parallel character to Bloodraven. As unanswerable as this is, does her being Quaithe preclude her from being somehow involved in Summerhall?

No, though I personally don’t subscribe to that theory myself.

My favorite HoW episodes are the ones you did on the Battle of Ice. Granted, the two are completely different but have any of your thoughts changed since season 5?

The landscape (hah get it) of the show is indeed entirely different from the books; for instance, we theorized about the ice lakes (now you get it) having a role in the battle, with Stannis laying a trap for the Freys (we also theorized that it might backfire and get the Manderlys, but let’s ignore that). I would say that it had an effect on me, but I strongly feel that if Stannis is going to be the one to burn Shireen in the books, it will be for something far direr, and so I still don’t think that the Battle of Ice is the end for Stannis in the books. In the podcast, I said I thought that Stannis would win, and I still feel that way (with a touch more doubt, admittedly).

Since Euron = Daario seems to be unanswerable, I shall ask, how do you feel about that theory in general? Do you think there are too many identity theories floating around?

There are definitely too many identity theories! Why, I’ve even seen theories that Amin of A Podcast of Ice and Fire is my very own Aziz of History of Westeros. I try to be diplomatic about most theories, but I can’t do it for theories about Euron being Daario, Rhaegar being Mance, Arthur being Mance, etc.

If you could pick the topic for the next The Princess and the Queen or The Rogue Prince style novella, what would you pick?

Fun question! My answer for this is different than what it would be if it were for a more traditional style rather than the masterly historical style of those novellas. I would love to read an account of the Rhoynar migration and find out more specifics about the people Nymeria traveled with and so on…that might be a bit large for a novella, though, even in the history style. Alternatively, the Conquest of Dorne.

What is the craziest theory you think might actually be true.

I’m not a big theorist, especially not crazy theories, but I’m fond of the Citadel Conspiracy theory, Jojenpaste, and, (our own idea), the theory (more of a hypothesis really) that weirwoods have some sort of connection to genetics, with family looks sticking for thousands of years due to their influence. In the case of the Citadel theory, I don’t think there’s a mass conspiracy, but I think their bias is clear and should always be considered in analysis. In the case of Jojenpaste, I just like it and think it’s (deliciously) dark. The third is pretty crazy for us, but given the length of time that the appearances of these families have remained in stasis, and that we know magic is involved in the genetics, I still find myself liking the idea.

I know HoW has been to many fan conventions over the years. Can you think of a highlight that you’d like to share?

Not as many as I’d like! Though we have plans to go to Mysticon and Balticon next year, so soon there will be more under our belt. It was a huge honor to meet George, talk to him, give him our card, etc., but I think hearing him read the History of the Westerlands from The World of Ice and Fire was the highlight for me. This was prior to the release of the book, and so we were particularly hoping for material from TWOIAF. When we met GRRM the day before and told him that our podcast was titled ‘History of Westeros’, he told us that we should be excited for the reading the next day, then, so we knew in advance that we would for sure be getting new material. Let me just say…it was so hard to sleep! But then at least it was very easy to get up early due to my excitement. We frantically took notes at the reading, and were able to publish it on our website, which brought us some good publicity, which was a nice bonus. But! The day got even better, because during the Q&A after the reading, GRRM picked me to ask him a question….I was able to ask a long-burning question (what is the Unnamed Princess of Dorne’s name?), which was a dream, even if he didn’t have an answer (boo). One day I’ll have a name for her!

What shocked you the most about season 5?

That Tyene used the phrase “bad pussy”, which is, by the way, a non-canon piece of slang that has never been used in A Song of Ice and Fire, save for once in the term “pussy willows” in The Mystery Knight.

How many times a day do you get asked if Jon Snow is still alive?

Me, personally? Hardly ever. How many times a day do I have to read other people speculating based on things like his hair? Often. As an aside – it’s always the wrong question, anyway, he’s obviously dead, the question is whether Jon Snow will be brought back to life.

Will HoW do book to show episodes next season?

Definitely! They were a lot of fun, and it was great to have more opportunities to have guests like Radio Westeros on. I myself will likely be in the first few and then drop out for the rest of the season, as I did this past season. I like talking about the characters when they are first introduced, and speculating on where the season will take us, but, at least last season, I quickly got burnt out and frustrated. We’ll see, though, for all I know, I’m going to love every episode of next season! (I crack myself up)

Generic question, but who is your favorite character? Is the same true for the show?

I’ve actually done this great ASOIAF character sorter, which takes hours and hours, and I found that my number one is Sansa Stark for both A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones (the GoT sorter…yes I did both). It’s difficult to compare POV characters with minor characters, but some of my other favorites are Arianne Martell, Samwell Tarly, Maester Aemon, Varys, Wylla Manderly, Alys Karstark, and of course the usual suspects like Arya, Tyrion, and Jaime. I need a historical character sorter still, but I am particularly fond of Rohanne Webber, Egg/Aegon V, Nymeria of Ny Sar, and of course our patron saint, Septon Barth.

What’s next for HoW?

We are continuing our series on the Blackfyre Rebellions as well as preparing episodes on a few different houses like House Dayne and House Royce, and preparing an episode on Nymeria of the Rhoynar. We will also have live Q&A episodes more often as we are close to hitting that milestone on Patreon.

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Monday

1

June 2015

6

COMMENTS

Interviews of Ice and Fire: Preston Jacobs

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones, IOIAF, Pop Culture

I’m very excited to welcome Preston Jacobs to the site. Since his YouTube debut last year, Preston has stirred the ASOIAF pot with his “Rereading Ice, Rethinking Fire” series of videos, amassing over 40,000 subscribers. Covering topics such as theories, book to show comparisons, and individual episode commentaries, Preston’s videos have over 5,000,000 views.

I’ll lead off with the question that I think everyone thinks when they watch your videos. How do you come up with them?

That’s quite an existential question: where do ideas come from? What’s funny is that normally people strive for original ideas. I’m instead trying to discover GRRM’s ideas hidden in the text. In the end, we shall see if I’m successful in my quest to not have an original idea.

But regarding the creation of ideas, I think a fundamental aspect of their creation is identifying a gap in logic or information. After finding the gap, the mind will then naturally search for a solution.

Can you take us briefly through your research process?  

To produce a video, I usually start with a topic that has been bugging me or another fan. I then reread the chapters surrounding that topic and look for things that don’t quite make sense. Finally, I try to come up with solutions that explain the inconsistencies. I find six techniques really help me: 1) I reread the series by character or by location; 2) I focus heavily on the seemingly extraneous information and characters; 3) I read the appendixes; 4) I do quite a few word searches on the electronic version of the story; 5) I constantly think about character allegiance, best interest and motivation; and 6) I often consider POV conclusions to be inaccurate.

That last technique may need a bit of clarification. What I mean by that is GRRM likes listing plans and possibilities and then going with something that isn’t listed. For example, in Tyrion’s first chapter of A Dance with Dragons, Tyrion thinks he might be going to Braavos, Tyrosh, Myr, Dorne, the Wall or Lys. In the end, it’s Pentos. When a POV character has solved a mystery, I question it. And that’s a huge reason why I don’t think Euron killed Balon – because Asha is certain of it.

When it comes to your longer series, are your ideas fully fleshed out before you start making them or do you discover some new stuff along the way?

To my own detriment, I’ve never been a planner. And few, if any, of the ideas in my video are fleshed out when I start. When I finish “Part 1” of a series, I have only a vague notion of what “Part 2” will be. It’s actually pretty perilous and, for this reason, my series do often meander a bit. For example, The Littlefinger Debt Scheme wandered so much that I had to spend half an episode centering it again. The Dornish Master Plan, on the other hand, had more of that satisfying, big picture cohesiveness. A series can actually cause me a bit of anxiety. I’m continually frightened that I won’t be able to bring things together or find the answer. But, at the same time, that fear motivates me quite a bit.

Most of your older videos ended with you saying “I’m probably wrong about half of this.” When you craft a theory, do you account for potential errors?

I recognize that human beings make connections that aren’t always there. We form opinions, become emotional and suffer from confirmation bias. I know I must be guilty of this. And I am human and make mistakes. As it turns out, GRRM and his editors are humans as well and also make mistakes.

I also recognize that GRRM is trying very hard to deceive us. For example, we were clearly led to believe that Bran’s attacker was hired by Cersei or Jaime. Then, out of nowhere, it turns out the attacker was hired by Joffrey. GRRM hid this reveal very well and even laid down false information about this event to keep the reader confused.

What is difficult, however, is divorcing my error from GRRM’s error from GRRM’s misdirection from a legitimate clue. For example, Summer and Shaggydog fail to smell Wex as he hides in a tree at the end of A Clash of Kings. This seems very off to me. Am I in error in not knowing the ins and outs of a wolf’s nose? Is GRRM in error in forgetting that the wolves should have smelled Wex? Is GRRM screwing with us by planting inconsistent information? Or is this a clue on the nature of Wex? I certainly hope it’s a clue. And it’s a lot more fun to think it is.

You’re possibly the most famous R+L=J skeptic on the internet. Does the story about how GRRM asked D&D who Jon Snow’s mother was at their first meeting sway your opinion at all? 

Don’t get me wrong, there are things that make me think that R+L might equal J, but the Game of Thrones series is not one of them. GRRM is writing his magnum opus and the mystery of Jon Snow’s mother is a major piece of it. It’s a mystery that GRRM has guarded for two decades. Ask yourself, if it were you, would you trust D&D with the answer? Would you trust anyone with the answer? I certainly wouldn’t.

Also, if one looks at GRRM words about the meeting, he says that D&D “answered correctly.” Not to split hairs, but answering correctly is different from having the correct answer. If someone has been properly deceived, they are answering correctly in a way.

You’re also likely Sweetrobin’s number one fan. What is it about the Lord of the Vale that captivates you? Is he destined to marry Shireen? 

Like Tyrion, I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples and bastards and broken things. But, it goes beyond that. I’ve always been bothered by children acting too old for their age in fiction. And admittedly, our story is very guilty of this. For example, Ned claims that Rickon, at three years old, “must learn to face his fears” and is old enough for a direwolf. It’s laughable. Sweetrobin, of course, acts too young for his age, but his situation is still much more realistic and relatable than the reverse.

I am also intrigued by the mystery of Sweetrobin’s abilities. How does this small, weak boy know the things he does? He recognizes an aunt he only met when a baby. He hears Marillion’s posthumous singing. He knows Harry the Heir wants him dead. How?

A Sweetrobin-Shireen marriage does seem pretty likely to me. They are of an age and the alliance would be a powerful one. The only thing that makes me think it won’t happen is that Maester Cressen already suggested it in A Clash of King. And, as I mentioned, GRRM doesn’t like fulfilling announced plans. 

Your Tower of Joy series breaks down the timeline problems with Robert’s Rebellion. Do you think GRRM would go back and make the war longer if he could?

I’m not sure if it’s the length of the war that is the issue necessarily, but where GRRM placed the events. The real problem event is the Battle of the Bells and the real problem testimony is Jaime in the Harrenhall bathhouse in A Storm of Swords.

The Battle of the Bells seems like a battle that should be at the beginning of the war. After all, it leads to the Tully alliance, Ned’s marriage and him marching off to war and leaving Catelyn for a year. But then Jaime describes the Battle of the Bells as happening near the end of the war. According to Jaime, the battle quickly leads to Tywin’s abandonment of Aerys, the wildfire incident and Aerys’ death.

No matter how you slice it, our characters are spending months upon months twiddling his thumbs somewhere. Ned either sat at the Trident for seven or eight months or spent that time in Dorne. I think GRRM’s big mistake was not adding more events between the Battle of the Bells and the fall of King’s Landing.

When I first read “The Hedge Knight,” I wrote it off as just a fluff contribution to Legends. Your videos, particularly your “Dragonless Ambitions” series, use quotes from the novellas. Do you approach using them differently than you do with the main books in the series?  

In my opinion, the Dunk and Egg stories are the best of GRRM’s writing. They are simply fantastic stories. That said, they seem to be a little more straightforward than his other work. I will say they are good for understanding the nature of Targaryens, how bastards are seen by society, the Faith of the Seven and Bloodraven.

The Rogue Prince and the Princess and the Queen are the opposite. On first read, they are quite dry, but they are also dense and filled with glorious lies. The stories remind me greatly of the Roman histories of Suetonius and Tacitus and I’m certain that’s what GRRM was going for by having the story told through “Archmaester Glydayn.” We have a biased author collecting the writings of other biased authors. One has to know the biases and catch the contradictions to unlock the truth.

Do you think that GRRM will need more than two books to finish the series given the amount of ground that still needs to be covered?

It’s hard to imagine that he can do it two books. And it’s certainly in his publisher’s best interest to push the series to eight. I would say there’s a very good chance there will be an eighth book. Many people simply assume that there will be a lazy slaughter of characters to close plot lines in two books.

That said, GRRM’s other stories do not shy away from ending unresolved. His first novel, The Dying of Light builds up to a huge showdown and then ends before the fight. It makes me ask myself things like: if the Ironborn story ended with Theon and others returning home for a new kingsmoot, would I be satisfied? Does Theon need to win the kingsmoot or is returning home good enough for me? Because there’s a good chance GRRM will end it unresolved. 

Which character do you think is best at backdoor politics/scheming?

It’s a boring answer, but Varys. Somehow Varys rose up from humble beginning to be Aerys’ Master of Whisperers and then, somehow, convinces Robert not to kill him. That’s pretty impressive. The guy hides in walls, moonlights as a black cell guard and seems to get men that hate him (like Ned and Barristan) to do things for him. The only other person that comes close to working this hard is Littlefinger. 

Which two characters would you like to see sail together on a small fishing boat through Valyria on their way to Meereen? 

I feel Cersei and Lady Stoneheart would have some very interesting conversations. 

What are your thoughts on season five so far?

Season five, quite frankly, is a disaster. The actors have done their best and many scenes are beautifully written, but the larger story just doesn’t make any sense anymore. I believe the big problem was trying to combine plots and characters. It forced characters to do illogical things. In my opinion, D&D should have just written a new story. After all, the title of the series has “Game” in it and I think a big element that people love is the logic to that game. They love hypothesizing about what characters will do next. There is such a massive leap in logic with Littlefinger handing Sansa over to Ramsay that it’s hard to get over.

Generic question, but who is your favorite character in the books? Is the same true for the show?

I fluctuate, but when it really comes down to it, it’s Theon. He is such a real, flawed, relatable and tragic character. And he’s the one I really care about and am overwhelmingly invested in emotionally. Theon’s escape from Winterfell was one of the most nail-biting reads for me. I want him to live and find happiness, if he can.

When it comes down to it, Theon is a lot like Jessie from Breaking Bad. He may lack wisdom, but he has deniable raw talent. And he may annoyingly use faux-confidence to cover his insecurities, but he is actually just looking to make friends and find acceptance. He has done some horrible things, but he is actually a good person underneath. At some point, Theon, like Jessie, has become our son.

Which character do you think has gotten the worst treatment by the show?

Jaime, hands down. Jaime’s story should be an unexpected tale of redemption. In the books, he starts out the worst of villains –he murders the king, he sleeps with his sister, he tries to murder Bran and he kills Jory. Then, somehow, it all turns on its head during his journey with Brienne. Jaime becomes someone worth rooting for.

Jaime of the show has no journey. He just starts out pretty likable and never really changes. I understand why they made this change. The story is filled with characters and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau needed screen time to familiarize the audience with Jaime. That said, by endearing the audience to the character of Jaime early, they spoiled everything.

Last but certainly not least, what the hell happened at Summerhall? 

There is a paradox in the word “dream.” We know that dreams are a jumble of past memories, yet we use the word to talk about our ideas of the future. And, somehow, the notion that dreams are prophecy has sprouted up.

Shakespeare’s Othello deals with this subject in great depth. Iago whispers in Othello’s ear, which, in turn, becomes Othello’s dream. Othello then thinks his dream is prophecy – a “foregone conclusion.” In the end, Othello kills his lover and himself.

So, when I hear about Valyrians, their dragon dreams and their doom, I’m not so concerned with how they killed themselves. Clearly at Summerhall, Egg or one of his kin believed some crazy idea about hatching dragons or bringing forth the Prince That Was Promised. And it resulted in a fiery mess. The real question is: who is the Iago?

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May 2015

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Interviews of Ice and Fire: Jeff Hartline aka BryndenBFish

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones, IOIAF, Pop Culture

I am honored to welcome Jeff Hartline, known throughout the A Song of Ice and Fire community as BryndenBFish, to the site. Jeff is one of the most decorated ASOIAF commentators who serves as a moderator for the asoiaf subreddit and is one of the masterminds behind the Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire blog. Jeff is also one of the contributors for the recently released Tower of the Hand anthology A Hymn for Spring.

When did you first start reading the ASOIAF books?

I first started reading the books in June 2012. I just finished Season 2 of Game of Thrones, and I had to know what was going to happen to Samwell. They wouldn’t kill Sam, right? I finished reading in October 2012, and I think embarked on an immediate re-read.

How did you get involved with the ASOIAF community?

Well, once I finished reading, I had dinner with my brother (another bookreader), and he told me about this great community on reddit called /r/asoiaf to discuss everything about the books. I immediately got an account on reddit and joined the community. The 1st post I remember reading on reddit was a fan-recount from The World of Ice and Fire on Aegon’s Conquest. I was hooked!

What was the first theory/in depth essay you ever worked on?

The 1st one was an essay series called The Complete Analysis of Robb Stark as a Military Commander on reddit. In a series that had war as a prominent feature in many character and plot arcs, there was a disproportionate lack of analysis and exploration of the topic.

So, I wrote an analytical evaluation of Robb Stark as a military commander exploring each of the battles and phases of the War of the Five Kings. Ended up coming to the conclusion that Robb Stark was an excellent tactical commander, but a failure at the strategic level. Since then, I’ve revised my original thesis some, but I still look back on those essays with a lot of fondness.

Looking back, I think the most important thing about writing on the military side of the series was its comfort level for me. Sometimes, people think they have to write about certain topics, because it’s what people are interested in. But in reality, writing about something you’re interested in will make for more compelling writing.

So, advice to folks writing/analyzing ASOIAF, start in your comfort-zone and move your way out.

Though the show, The World of Ice and Fire, and the novellas offer new ideas, there hasn’t been a new book in four years, yet the community seems as vibrant as ever. What do you think keeps people engaged with the series?

A Song of Ice and Fire is a fun read by itself, but it becomes an incredibly engaging and engrossing read when you get past the easy plotlines and start looking into the individual character arcs and deeper meanings of the story. When you embrace the meta, you start feeling rewarded for reading. It becomes a fun experience to discover deeper meanings, hidden truths and Lord knows that every ASOIAF fan loves the foreshadowing (but only on re-read)

As one of the moderators on the ASOIAF subreddit, what’s the craziest thing you’ve seen happen during a heated discussion?

To be honest, nothing really crazy. I’ve seen plenty of essay length responses to things, and I… may have done that once or twice.

Your bio mentions that you are a veteran. Has serving in the Army impacted your approach to ASOIAF?

It certainly helps with understanding the military campaigns and some of the battle tactics used. But there’s something more. Though my experiences with war are nowhere near the experiences of many fellow veterans, I also don’t have to imagine what the carnage of a battlefield looks like.

It’s funny to me – when I first read ASOIAF, I thought that GRRM had to have a military background in order to write his military/battle scenes the way he did. When I found out that he was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, it made me re-evaluate the story as having a strong anti-war component to an already gritty low fantasy epic.

In the ASOIAF community, particularly asinine theories are commonly referred to as “tinfoil.” What’s the craziest theory that you think might actually be true?

There’s plenty of crazy theories out there. Of all the theories out there, I think there are probably 3 theories that I hold to that could be construed as tinfoil. They are:

  • I think that Brienne of Tarth was raised from the dead by Lady Stoneheart at the end of A Feast for Crows
  • I think that Varys is a secret Targaryen
  • I believe that Euron Greyjoy is following the Iron Fleet to Meereen and will seize a dragon out from under Victarion in The Winds of Winter.

 I assume you’ve read the books more than once. Which book do you think benefits the most from a second read?

A Dance with Dragons for a surety. When I first read A Dance with Dragons, I was disappointed. Sure, we got our Big 3 characters (Tyrion, Daenerys, Jon Snow), but the plot was disappointing. Where were the battles? Where were the kickass moments from A Storm of Swords?

But after several re-reads, I came to realize what Martin was doing with A Dance with Dragons. He was showing the consequences of the wars and the badassery. And that puts a pretty amazing spin on the book. Instead of chafing against Dany’s quest for peace in Meereen, I began to understand what was going on. Daenerys was walking the hard road of peace just as Jon was.

Unfortunately for them (but fortunately for those who want ASOIAF to move back to the bloodletting of the 1st 3 books), both Daenerys and Jon turn against peace at the end of their arcs in A Dance with Dragons. So, we’ll see a return to bloody form come The Winds of Winter.

Much has been written about the (pun intended) stark deviations from the books this season. Have you been pleased with season five thus far?

Season 5 has been a disappointment so far. In an attempt to move the plot along, they’ve taken 2 books and tried to adapt it into 1 season. This has major consequences. Major storylines and characters have hit the cutting room floor. And other major storylines have been dramatically shortened. In contrast, the show spent 2 seasons going through A Storm of Swords (and early scenes from A Feast for Crows & A Dance with Dragons).

Jon’s election as Lord Commander suffered the most from this. In the books, the plot tension ratchets up with Jon considering Stannis’ offer to become Jon Stark and the Lord of Winterfell. Meanwhile, Samwell conspires to get Jon elected as Lord Commander. These two plotlines work in parallel until the very end when Jon is elected as the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. It’s great writing and keeps your gaze fixed to the page.

In the show, it was over and done with in 15 minutes. It was a disappointment. But I have hope that Season 5 will improve as the season progresses.

Generic question, but who is your favorite character(s) in the books? Is the same true for the show?

In the books: Jaime Lannister by a country mile. I love the ambiguity, and I think GRRM accomplished something akin to a literary triumph with Jaime Lannister. We think he’s an asshole and a murderer in the 1st 2 books. And like many of you, I groaned when I saw that the 1st chapter of A Storm of Swords after the Prologue was JAIME. But as I read, I became more and more engrossed. I loved Jaime’s fall, the ironic loss of his sword hand and the revelations about the Mad King. I saw a superhuman humanized. By the time of A Feast for Crows, Jaime was firmly my favorite character in the series. I loved his turn against Cersei, and I loved his alternating guilt and desire to become Goldenhands the Just.

I won’t lie though. I’m fearful of what will happen to Jaime in The Winds of Winter.

In the show: Eddard Stark: Sean Bean did a wonderful job portraying Ned. I can’t picture Ned when I re-read the books without seeing Boromir’s visage giving grim looks.

Which character from the books would you like to see in the show that isn’t already?

I miss Jon Connington. I don’t think that we’ll see JonCon, but in A Dance with Dragons, he’s an amazing and tragic character. (I won’t spoil it for your non-book reader fans). I also miss Arianne & Quentyn too.

In terms of who might show up… I suppose I’d like to see Lady Stoneheart or Randyll Tarly in future seasons.

Tell us a little about A Hymn For Spring. What can we expect to see out of your contribution and the anthology as a whole.

A Hymn for Spring is an anthology book of A Song of Ice and Fire essays from various luminaries from the Tower of the Hand website. The essays in there range from character analysis on characters like Barristan, location analysis on Harrenhal, military analysis on Robert’s Rebellion, economic analysis on the schemes of Littlefinger and various other interests in the series. It comes in at over 200 pages. So, if you’re looking for some fascinating analysis on A Song of Ice and Fire, this is your ticket.

My contribution was an essay on Stannis Baratheon entitled Iron Bends. In the essay, I take a contrarian view to the common perspective of Stannis Baratheon as an inflexible justice robot. As I read through A Song of Ice and Fire, I came to find that Stannis bends all the damn time. (Though no one recognizes it as such). So, I invite your readers to read my essay with an open mind and if you disagree, let me know. I love a good discussion as Ian will tell you!

Thanks so much for having me!

A Hymn for Spring can be purchased here

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May 2015

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 4

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones

This recap features analysis from a devoted book fan. Spoilers will largely be kept to comparisons between the show and the books within the episodes themselves, but if you hate spoilers you should probably not read these articles. I encourage you to subscribe so you never miss a recap. Thank you for reading. 

This episode was more or less completely off book, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though I’m pretty upset with idea of losing Ser Barristan (less so with Grey Worm, but I’ll get to that later). It looks like the changes made to the King’s Landing plotline have been made to speed things up, but there have been some puzzling changes made in the process. Let’s start with the Faith Militant.

In the books, Cersei allows the Faith Militant to be reformed as a concession for the Faith forgiving a rather large debt to the Iron Throne. It’s also worth noting that at this point in the books, the Iron Bank of Braavos has not thrown in with Stannis. Having Cersei be the one to suggest reforming it is the complete opposite, but it actually fits well with the Queen Regent’s inevitable downfall.

The plotline in King’s Landing through A Feast For Crows is largely summed up by Cersei being paranoid that Margaery is trying to control Tommen. The militant hasn’t done anything drastic and Margaery and Tommen haven’t had sex and don’t even share the same bedroom. We’re not even really sure that Margaery is scheming at all. Tommen is much younger and mostly plays with his kitties throughout the books, though it looks like the age of the actor and HBO’s desire for more sex scenes were the main causes behind the change.

The show isn’t tethered to Cersei’s POV and has chosen to cast Margaery as a legitimate force of opposition to Cersei instead of allowing her to simply cause her own demise. The Faith Militant actually serves both of these purposes, creating more problems for Cersei as well as fueling the feud between the Queen and the Queen Regent. As I said last week, it also makes sense to utilize the talents of Jonathan Pryce, which is also why Olenna Tyrell appears to be headed back to King’s Landing. More Diana Rigg is always a good thing.

The show took a weird deviation last season when Tywin told Cersei that the Lannister’s mines were empty and they were broke, when in the books it’s the just the Crown that has money problems. The Tyrell alliance was forged for military purposes and nothing else. Perhaps the show didn’t want to include the Faith’s loans to the Crown because it’s confusing that a religious organization would do something like that or because it heightens the Iron Bank/Stannis problem.

It’s also worth noting that Loras Tyrell is a member of the Kingsguard in the books and his homosexuality is never used a big plot point, though most characters seem to know about it. Cersei sends him away to take Dragonstone and it’s claimed that he was severely injured, but there are plenty of reasons to think that wasn’t the case. I still think it’s possible that he could be elevated to Kingsguard, but more on that in future recaps.

Sending Ser Merywn to Braavos with Mace Tyrell seems to suggest that he’ll run into Arya, which follows her plotline albeit with different characters. That’s from a The Winds of Winter sample chapter though so I won’t go into it here. I don’t care much for Mace so it’s nice to have him out on King’s Landing.

Time for some Stannis! There’s another weird deviation when Melisandre brings up being left behind at the Battle of the Blackwater and tells Stannis not to do that again. In the books, she stays at the Wall when Stannis rides south to Winterfell.

The show’s emphasis on Shireen seems to reinforce fan speculation that Melisandre will sacrifice her to the Lord of Light. The show went out of its way to mention that she should come to the Wall last season, which also suggests that she’s important. That scene with Stannis and her was maybe the most touching scene in the whole show. If you didn’t shed a tear, you might not have a soul.

I think that Jon will join Stannis and march on Winterfell, which is both a deviation and a violation of his vows. This seems fitting as Jon doesn’t have much to do at the Wall and I don’t think there will be anymore fighting between the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings for now at least. Jon does decide to go to Winterfell eventually in the books, but that turns out to be a not so good idea. I do think that Melisandre will eventually cast Stannis aside as Azor Ahai in favor of Jon, but probably not until the end of the season.

I continue to find Sansa in Winterfell completely implausible from Littlefinger’s perspective, but nothing really happens so I won’t spend too much time on it. Something worth noting is that in the books, a large part of Roose Bolton’s army in comprised of Frey’s after he makes a deal to give them the Dreadfort after he dies since Ramsey will inherit Winterfell (though it’s doubtful that Ramsey would ever honor this).

Since Littlefinger is Lord Paramount of the Trident, he’s actually the Freys’ overlord. Though neither the books nor the show pay much attention to Littlefinger’s possession of Harrenhal, this is a possible reason why there aren’t any Frey’s besides Fat Walda in Winterfell. Or maybe they’re just overlooked like Dany’s Dothraki bloodriders. Maybe I’m reading too much into this.

Time to talk about that horrible moment when Ser Barristan and Grey Worm get stabbed, which most certainly did not happen in the books. I hated every bit of it. The show has never done justice to Ser Grandfather, who’s a complete badass in the books. I don’t think the show will kill them both off and it seems more likely that Grey Worm will survive.

So why kill perfectly awesome living characters? There’s a couple reasons. In the books, Dany has by far the best supporting cast, which makes up for the fact that she’s pretty annoying herself (I covered this in an article last year on Strong Belwas, who isn’t in the show). The limited screen time makes it impossible to do justice to all her great characters so they’ve cut most of them. With Tyrion, Ser Jorah, and possibly Varys on the way, perhaps they wanted to make room for new characters in Meereen, though with Tyrion there it stands to reason that there would be more screen time to accommodate them. Ser Barristan also doesn’t like Ser Jorah and wouldn’t trust a Lannister so maybe they killed him off to avoid having to address that.

Another reason is the fact that there really hasn’t been a ton of action so far. All the action scenes including Brienne’s weird killing spree, Jaime and Bronn in Dorne, the Faith Militant’s Occupy King’s Landing Movement, and now with Sons of the Harpy, have all been created just for the show. AFFC and ADWD don’t have a lot of action. The action was kind of mindless in the case of Brienne, but for the most part it’s been nice.

The big problem I have with Ser Barristan’s highly probably death is the fact that it could serve as a spoiler for the books. Ser Grandfather commands Daenerys’ forces in the Battle of Meereen (a battle that will not be happening in the show), which takes place at the beginning of The Winds of Winter (three sample chapters depicting the start of the battle are available already). There’s a ton of fan speculation of how the battle will go and much of it pegs Barristan the Bold as a goner. As someone who was skeptical of Ser Barristan dying during the battle itself (though I’m much less skeptical that he’ll survive all of TWOW), I’m annoyed that the show has caused me to reconsider.

We’re almost at the halfway mark for the season. It feels like it’s going rather fast, but things are certainly shaping up to be exciting. As a devout book fan, it’s kind of nice not really knowing what will happen, with only Cersei’s plotline heading in the same direction as the books (possibly Arya’s as well).

 

 

 

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April 2015

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 2

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones, Pop Culture

This recap features analysis from a devoted book fan. Spoilers will largely be kept to comparisons between the show and the books within the episodes themselves, but if you hate spoilers you should probably not read these articles. I encourage you to subscribe so you never miss a recap. Thank you for reading. 

While I’ve generally been completely fine with the deviations from the books, this episode featured two that I thought were mistakes. Since the beginning, Jon and Cersei have been two of the show’s favorite characters. This generally means that deviations will work to these characters’ benefit as much of what needs to be cut from the books will come at the expensive of a different character.

Which made the ten seconds the show gave to the election for Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch puzzling. This is a big deal in the books and it should be a big deal in the show as well. Yet for whatever reason, the show gave it just about as much time as Brienne’s dinner with Podrick.

Naturally the election is far more complex in the books. It’s worth noting that Lord Janos Slynt, not Ser Alliser Thorne, was the bad guy candidate in the books. It was also heavily implied that Jon would have been executed if Slynt were elected.

The show did allow Samwell to play a part in the election, though it stripped him of his elaborate plan inspired by Maester Aemon. In the books, Samwell convinces Denys Mallister, commander of the Shadow Tower, and Cottor Pyke, commander of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, to drop out of the race and support Jon because neither alone would have the backings to beat Slynt. This House of Cards style manipulation was reduced to a simple heartfelt speech in the show.

Samwell has never been a favorite of mine and the scheme would’ve been too elaborate for the show to pull off. The only problem with the election itself was that I don’t really think a convincing argument was made for picking Jon over Ser Alliser. Janos Slynt probably should have still be the candidate as he’s not an experienced Brother who didn’t play a pivotal role in the defense of Castle Black.

The more important problem was the neglect of Stannis’ offer to legitimize Jon. This is also a big deal. Jon could avenge his father, brothers, sister(s), and fulfill a lifelong desire to truly become a Stark with one word. He doesn’t and ultimately, we know why, but the show decides to scoot right by this without giving it the proper attention it deserves.

Honor is a big theme in Game of Thrones. Characters like Ned and Robb pay heavy prices for choosing honorable decisions. Cersei and Littlefinger get ahead by ignoring it. It shouldn’t be surprising that Jon chose to stay true to his vows, but we missed out on the grappling that should have occurred. This would have been a great opportunity to have another heart to heart with Maester Aemon about duty and family.

The pacing of the Wall storyline kind of explains this. The election happened in A Storm of Swords and I don’t think lingering much longer would have been a good idea and other storylines even at the Wall are well into A Dance with Dragons. Problem was that it was really only mentioned in passing last episode. The seed for this could have been planted last episode, possibly instead of burning Mance, which didn’t need to happen this early.

The other deviation in this episode that really bugged me was with Cersei and Kevan. In the books, Cersei offers Kevan the position of Hand of the King, which he says he will only accept if Cersei also makes him Regent and goes back to Casterly Rock. This offer also happened in a private conversation rather than during a Small Council Session. There is no “Master of War” in the books and its presence in the show is strange, but not particularly important.

It goes against the Lannister commitment to family to have Kevan call out his niece in front of the Lord of a rival House, though the show has made no effort to make Mace Tyrell look like any threat at all. Kevan isn’t a character that the show, or the books for that matter, have paid much attention to, but he is a Lannister and Lannister’s don’t pull that kind of nonsense. As the person Tywin trusted most, he should have known better. The seeds for Cersei’s fall have been planted, but in a weird way.

The Daenerys stuff is pretty straight forward, though sort of boring. I like the Sons of the Harpy plotline as a war with Yunkai would be difficult to pull off in the show given Dany’s resources and allotted screen time. In the books, Dany has a relatively large force behind her, but the show has reduced this significantly to merely her Unsullied, the Second Sons, and Ser Grandfather.

I liked the rest of the episode. It’s pretty clear (and disturbing) what Littlefinger is planning to do with Sansa. Brienne is following her because she has nothing else to do. Roose and Ramsay are having fun in Winterfell with Reek being Reek.

At first, I disliked having Jaqen H’ghar take the place of the Kindly Man in the House of Black and White, but it makes sense. That storyline is weird and having a familiar face around makes it (sort of) less weird. He and Arya are great together too.

It was nice to see Bronn, who isn’t shown in the books after his departure prior to Tyrion’s trial (though we hear about plenty of amusing Bronn antics). Jaime’s plan seems farfetched, but he and Bronn have great chemistry. The Dorne stuff isn’t an interesting as I’d hoped, but that was true of them at this point in the books as well.

That’s it for this week. If you enjoyed this recap, I encourage you to check out my other GOT/ASOIAF related articles.

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Varys and the Importance of Hedging Your Bets

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones, Pop Culture

This article contains spoilers for all five books. Though the upcoming season will deviate quite a bit from the books, there are some spoilers that could impact your enjoyment of the show if you hate spoilers. Proceed with caution. Also, I’ll be doing Game of Thrones recaps every Monday that focus on the relationship between the books and the shows so please subscribe if you are interested.

 While Varys is known as Game of Thrones’ most notorious schemer, both to the characters and the audience (Littlefinger is more trusted by the former than the latter), he loses a bit of his mystique by the epilogue of A Dance with Dragons, where he reveals his plans to a dying Kevan Lannister. I don’t mean to suggest that he’s not interesting anymore, but seeing his plan out in the open puts him a bit behind other manipulators such as Littlefinger, Olenna Redwyne, Marwyn, Doran Martell, and Mance Rayder in terms of intrigue. We know Varys’ plan. We don’t really know any of theirs.

With the knowledge that Varys wants to put (f)Aegon on the throne along with his decision to off Kevan and Pycelle in order to prevent them for cleaning Cersei’s mess, we can pretty much piece together why he disappeared after A Storm of Swords. Varys needed to create chaos in King’s Landing. Having accomplished that, sticking around only served to put him at unnecessary risk. Cersei would presumably rely on him or blame him for Tywin’s death/Tyrion’s escape, which put him in the position of either having to help Cersei at the cost of his own agenda or risk his life for not doing so.

There is one decision that doesn’t make much sense if Varys’ plan is to put Aegon and not Daenerys’ on the throne. Why send Ser Barristan to Dany if Aegon is the real objective? It seems to serve no purpose other than to make a potential enemy stronger.

Now the whole Barristan to Dany story isn’t 100% clear, but we know that Varys’ planted his dismissal in Cersei’s mind and then Illyrio Mopantis, Varys’ BFF, took care of getting Ser Grandfather, along with Strong Belwas, to Qarth to take Dany back to Pentos, which of course ended up not working at all. If Barristan knows that Varys has any involvement, he’s kept quiet. Chances are, he doesn’t know that Varys was behind all of this.

Why am I sure of that? In A Storm of Swords, Stannis tells Davos, “Ser Barristan once told me that King Aerys’ rot began with Varys” (Davos IV). Pretty damning right? There’s also the fact that Barristan knows that Ser Jorah is spying on Dany for Varys, adding another element of distrust. It’s hard to believe that Barristan, bold as he may be, would get involved in any plan spearheaded by the eunuch. That doesn’t mean that Varys doesn’t see value in having Barristan in the picture.

We know that Barristan came up with the idea to go to Dany on his own. It’s not really clear whether Illyrio found him in Pentos or if it was the other way around, but we do know that Barristan agreed to disguise himself as Arstan Whitebeard, a shady thing for a man of honor to do.

His logic for doing so is also kind of suspicious. Barristan claims that he adopted a pseudonym because Ser Jorah was spying on her for Varys and this sort of adds up. Though Jorah had stopped spying by A Storm of Swords, Ser Barristan wouldn’t have known this and probably would have been mistrustful of double agents, whether it be Varys or Jorah. Jorah was also pretty obnoxious to him for their entire boat ride. It seems as though the real reason could be that Illyrio and Varys viewed Jorah as expendable at that point and that they were better off without him and his weird lust for Dany, though Barristan could have been acting on his own accord. 

Which explains how they got Ser Barristan there, but it doesn’t really explain why. The answer to that is simple. I don’t think Barristan would’ve believed that Aegon was really Aegon, since there would have been no way of explaining that without involving Varys, who he doesn’t trust. The only way to get value out of the old knight was to help him get to a destination he was already determined to go to anyway.

The problem is that sending Barristan to Dany only strengthens her, which could become problematic for Varys when the time came to make moves with Aegon. It would be a shame for Aegon and the Golden Company to take the Iron Throne in the midst of all the chaos, only to have Dany, her dragons, and her Unsullied arrive to take it away. So why would Varys strengthen a potential enemy?

Varys, possibly more than anyone else, knows that plans go wrong all the time and there’s only so much he can do about it. There’s about a hundred different things that could go wrong with having two hotheaded Targaryen children running around Essos over the course of a few years. Angry Dothraki, angry stonemen, angry Qarth warlocks, slavers, and that’s only people problems. There’s ships sinking, pale mare, starvation, and plenty of other natural factors that Varys can’t do anything about.

What he can do is hedge his bets. In a perfect world, Varys has Aegon on the throne. Maybe he’s married to Dany, but one would think that a marriage to one of the great houses would a better idea, which doesn’t leave room for Dany at all. But that’s a perfect world and not one Varys lives in.

We’ve seen Varys forced to alter his plans before. He didn’t want the War of the Five Kings to happen at all and he would’ve had to clear out of King’s Landing completely if Stannis had taken the thrones. Varys has shown his prowess at gathering intelligence and long term planning, but he isn’t infallible.

Dany might be a problem for him eventually or she might be his only shot if something happens to Aegon, which at this point is a pretty realistic possibility. With that in mind, having a renowned knight like Ser Barristan protecting her makes perfect sense. The game of thrones is a gamble and problems will always arise. Having two Targaryens is better than one, for now at least.

 

 

 

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