Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

coldhands Archive

Monday

30

May 2016

3

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Game of Thrones Season 6 Recap: Episode 6

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. 

There was a brief moment during the Benjen is Coldhands reveal when I considered giving up on the show. That theory is one of my least favorite prevalent ones because it’s easily debunked in the books. I even wrote an article on it last year. Benjen can be “Showhands,” but it just doesn’t make sense in the books.

I felt a change of heart as I realized that this is actually a good thing. Benjen as Coldhands isn’t a book spoiler at all. It almost has the reverse effect as it reminds us that these are two separate entities. Benjen being Coldhands worked in the show because he revealed himself early on in the rescue (as opposed to leading Samwell and Gilly to the Wall and Bran and his friends to Bloodraven without a single mention of being a Stark) and the show also needed to give us an answer as to what the hell happened to him, something it doesn’t have all the time in the world to explain.

The one thing that needs to be criticized is the handling of Hodor’s death. For a show that dedicated several scenes last season to Brienne mourning Renly’s death that happened three seasons prior, it’s disgraceful that neither Bran nor Meera acknowledged the death of their fearless companion considering both ruined his whole life. Hodor’s death reminded us that a show with as much death as Game of Thrones can still use it as an emotional hook. Improperly handling the aftermath makes it harder to care.

This episode gave us two plotlines that the show had previously skipped over with Coldhands and the siege of Riverrun, which happened in A Dance with Dragons and A Feast for Crows. I doubt many people expected either Brienne or Jaime in the Riverlands at this point and now they both will be. The show has different obligations than the books, but I like that it still managed to work in good storylines that wouldn’t have worked in previous seasons.

The aftermath Red Wedding was never really addressed and didn’t necessarily need to be, but Walder Frey is too good of a villain not to feature again. Like many, I questioned Edmure Tully’s future on the show given Tobias Menzies’ obligations to Outlander. In the books, the Freys get to keep Riverrun after Jaime brokers a deal that sends Lord Tully to Casterly Rock to live a comfortable, yet imprisoned, life. I doubt this will happen this way given the presence of Brienne and Co., but it will be interesting to watch.

I’ve criticized the show in the past for making the figures in power in King’s Landing look ridiculously weak. Sending Jaime to help the Freys shows that the powers that be still have power. What this means long term, when Dany’s arrival appears to be in the not so distant future remains to be seen, but it’s important to show that KL isn’t just a setting for a soap opera.

The payoff for the High Sparrow stuff was rather underwhelming. It’s hard to care all that much with the White Walkers and Dany’s massive army, but the storyline moved perhaps a little too slow for its own good. We were treated to far too many High Sparrow lectures over the course of this season. I did think there was a good chance that Margaery could be killed, which would have likely pitted the Tyrells and the Lannisters against each other. That would have been far more interesting than what actually happened.

I’ve been pretty complimentary of Arya’s progress in Braavos for most of the season. I don’t love her decision to leave the House of Black and White, but it’s too early to condemn it entirely. It’s only natural that she feels a sense of loyalty to her family. Her driving force to leave Westeros, both in the books and the show, is that they’re all gone. There’s nothing left for her. We, the viewers, know this isn’t true. Bran and Rickon are alive and Sansa has escaped. She doesn’t. It seems almost unfair to Jaqen, who’s been fairly loyal to her.

Mixed feelings about the Sam/Horn Hill storyline. It was good TV. The presence of James Faulkner, who played a similarly sinister patriarch on Downton Abbey, enhanced the soapiness of the whole plotline. In the books, Lord Tarly is a highly respected battle commander, even recommended for Hand of the King by Kevan Lannister. Here, he’s quarreling with his son away from anything meaningful.

That goes for Sam as well. This season has really done a number on the credibility of the Night’s Watch. Jon is allowed to quit and Sam can go off gallivanting with Gilly. What do vows even mean anymore?

Dany didn’t do much. I talked about the fast pacing of her storyline two weeks ago. The Drogon appearance was very cool although as my sister noted, her horse seemed to have vanished.

It’s clear that Yara/Reek will supply at least some of Dany’s ships. I’m curious to see where she goes from there. The mainland of Westeros seems like the logical choice, but Euron/the Slaver’s could take her in a number of directions.

That’s it for this week. No Tyrion, Jon, Sansa, Ramsey, or Hodor… ever again. See you next week.

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Wednesday

4

March 2015

10

COMMENTS

Coldhands, Quaithe, and the Nature of Identity

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

While much of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire status as a worldwide phenomenon is attributed to the popularity of HBO’s Game of Thrones, it’s important to remember that these books were hugely successful years before the show was even conceived. A Feast For Crows debuted at number one on the New York Times Best Seller List, joining a club of fantasy novels with more exclusive membership than those who have pitched a perfect game or played James Bond. It’s not hard to see why.

The depth of this series is deeper than the crypts of Winterfell. Martin has woven an intricate puzzle that’s been the subject of countless articles, videos, and cocktail party conversation (I can attest to that final one). Re-reading the series is almost like reading a whole new series when you realize how much you’ve missed the first time around.

Identity has always been at the core of ASOIAF. Jon Snow’s parentage is the series’ most popular mystery. Even fans of the show who haven’t opened the books know about R + L = J. Martin’s use of the POV device allows him to shroud plot progression as much as he likes, which provides mystery at nearly every corner if you dig deep enough.

This also allows characters to mask their identities to the reader. On some occasions, Martin provides enough evidence to piece the puzzle together. The Gravedigger is probably Sandor Clegane and the Oldtown novice Alleras is probably Sarella Sand. On the flipside, Aegon Targaryen is probably not Aegon Targaryen (my guess is he’s a Blackfyre, though that’s a subject for another article).

A probably completely intended consequence of this is that it leads one to question the identity of many characters that Martin may not necessarily shove in the reader’s face quite like the Gravedigger. The overall depth of the series coupled with the long wait for The Winds of Winter has lead to countless theories that will likely be proven untrue. Once someone is somebody else, than anyone could be anyone else. The best example of this is Howland Reed as the High Septon, which is sort of explainable as Reed is a complete enigma, but lacks common sense from a story standpoint.

My two favorite mystery characters are Coldhands and Quaithe. I doubt not a coincidence that these two are linked to the stories of ice and fire respectively. Though they both make multiple appearances in the books, we know next to nothing about who these two might actually be and more importantly, what their agendas are.

It’s pretty clear that Coldhands used to be a man of the Night’s Watch. What’s also pretty clear is that he isn’t anyone from the books. Leaf eliminated Benjen Stark, Will, and Waymar Royce, when she said “they killed him long ago.”

This leaves The Night’s King as the only possibly person of note, but I wouldn’t use process of elimination to name him Coldhands. If Coldhands had bore some affection toward Houses Flint, Umber, Magnar Bolton, Norrey, Woodfoot, or Stark (putting aside what he did for Bran) then the notion would have some credibility. He doesn’t and further more, it seems unlikely that The Night’s King would act as a henchman to the three eyed crow, who’s significantly younger.

My personal theory is that if Coldhands is someone from the books, it’ll be revealed through a future Dunk & Egg novella. Bloodraven is mentioned almost excessively (like Tyrion’s waddling) in the first three and GRRM has said there will be at least eight D&Es. Bloodraven had a pretty loyal following, along with many of his Raven’s Teeth, accompany him to The Wall and his disappearance was clouded in mystery. If a future D&E novella features an elk riding follower of Lord Rivers, then I think we can pretty sure who it was.

Quaithe is a whole different story. We know she’s a shadowbinder from Asshai and that’s about it. She somehow has enough pull in Quarth to be part of Dany’s welcoming committee, but she urges her to get out of there as soon as possible. Quaithe’s agenda doesn’t appear linked to any of the other factions in the city. She gives Dany cryptic advice and appears to her via some weird sorcery.

The two leading theories are that she’s either Ashara Dayne or Shiera Seastar. Unlike Coldhands, neither of these candidates can really be eliminated. Like Bloodraven, Shiera is also mentioned prominently in the D&E novellas as a lover of Lord Rivers. She’s also mentioned as having an eye defect, which could be an explanation for why Quaithe wears a mask. Applying the same logic that Coldhands could be from a future D&E, it stands to reason that Quaithe could be as well. This would further tie the two character together as Coldhands, a henchman of Bloodraven, would be helping on the ice front while Quaithe aids Dany with the fire portion of the story.

There is some logic to suggest that Quaithe is neither of them. Ser Barristan frequently mentions Ashara Dayne, reaffirming her importance, but he doesn’t have anything to do with Quaithe even though he’s in close proximity to Dany for much of her story. Shiera Seastar makes sense from the angle that if Aegon is a Blackfyre, she’d naturally hate him as Bloodraven’s lover, who was a major player in the Blackfyre Rebellion. Quaithe warns against “the mummer’s dragon,” but not anymore than she warns against anyone else.

An important question to consider is what exactly changes if Coldhands’ or Quaithe’s identities are revealed? While Quaithe’s identity is likely more important than Coldhands’ is, it doesn’t mean she still isn’t a cryptic crazy woman. Further more, identifying her as Shiera Seastar does next to nothing for the majority of ASOIAF’s fanbase who haven’t read Dunk & Egg. This isn’t necessarily a compelling reason, but it’s something to consider.

ASOIAF is messy. That’s why it’s so fun to write about and why it has a rabid fan base who still engage with the series despite the long gaps between books. Our appetites are tamed a little bit by the novellas, sample chapters, and The World of Ice and Fire, but this is a feast for crows compared to The Winds of Winter.

We shouldn’t forget that there are errors. Tyrion has acrobatic skills early on in A Game of Thrones that disappear and there are a few inconsistencies in the appendixes. This shouldn’t be held against Martin, but it also goes to show that not every single word in this massive epic series serves to play into the bigger picture.

Some mysteries don’t get solved. I’ve done this with my own writing. The narrator of A Trip Down Reality Lane lacks a name. That’s just a secret that isn’t getting revealed. When it comes to ASOIAF, we can be sure that there’s plenty that won’t get answered, which will ensure the series’ popularity long after all of us have passed (and hopefully not come back as Lady Stoneheart). We aren’t going to get all the answers.

Coldhands can just be Coldhands and Quaithe can just be Quaithe. I’ve provided a few possible reasons why they are in fact secret identities, but there isn’t really any compelling motives for why this needs to be the case. ASOIAF is in many ways, a massive jigsaw puzzle. We can put together many of the pieces, but we’re probably not going to get all the answers. There’s nothing wrong with that.

 

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