Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

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June 2015

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Game of Thrones Season 5 Recap: Episode 9

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. 

Game of Thrones has two distinct uses for its seasons’ penultimate episodes. One and three prominently featured executions while two and four were dedicated to big battles. While this episode featured both executions and battles, it wasn’t quite the same.

“The Dance of the Dragons” said goodbye to two characters who are alive and well in the books. Shireen Baratheon and Hizdahr zo Loraq aren’t exactly fan favorites (though show Shireen is quite endearing), but they’re also not really characters that anyone would wish death upon either. Their deaths have much different ramifications for the books. One of them is pretty important.

As I’ve pointed out in earlier recaps, Melisandre, Selyse, and Shireen all stay at The Wall in the books. Davos is also off doing recruiting for Stannis at White Harbor and later goes to find Rickon. It’s been long assumed by many book fans that Melisandre will sacrifice Shireen as she did in this episode. Problem with the show was that Stannis let it happen. That’s a big problem.

Book Stannis and Show Stannis have rarely matched up well, less so than any other major character. We know that D&D don’t particularly like him and that’s a big reason why show fans often struggle to understand the cult following behind “Stannis the Mannis.” I wrote an article about this last year.

Book Stannis is noble and also a master politician. BryndenBFish has an excellent piece on Stannis on his site that’s a must read for fully understanding the character. Show Stannis killed his daughter. I hate this.

In the books, Melisandre goes behind Stannis’ back to swap Mance Rayder out for Rattleshirt because she knows that Stannis’ sense of morality would prevent him from letting Mance live, though she obviously saw some use for him. While Melisandre’s allegiances certainly seem to be shifting toward Jon in the books, she can at least respect the code of law for Stannis.

Killing Shireen all but confirms that she’ll die in The Winds of Winter. That’s unfortunate. This might be the first real instance where the show has spoiled the books (maybe Ser Barristan, but that plot is so off course that it’s hard to say). Further more, the show basically forced all its viewers to hate Stannis. After he saved the Wall and had that great scene with Shireen earlier this season, that’s quite unfortunate. I’ll stop here because I could go on and on about how much I hated the burning of Shireen, but I’m sure most of you don’t wish to read that.

I did really like this episode’s depiction of Ser Alliser, who I like much better in the show than the books. He clearly hates what Jon is doing, but he’s smart enough to know that there’s at least some solid reasoning behind it. I would’ve like a scene mentioning Aemon’s death, but that’s not really all that necessary.

Olly will stab Jon. No doubt about that. Moving on.

The Dorne plotline sort of got some semblance of resolution even if it was stupid. Doran Martell could’ve easily refused Jaime and let that be that. King’s Landing is a mess right now. Why would anyone think that Myrcella is safer there than Dorne when her mother is on trial for regicide even with the Sand Snakes plotting?

It still remains to be seen whether or not there will be some sort of Dornish plan or if the Martells will just be treated as comic relief like the Tyrells. I hope there’s something going on or else it seems kind of pointless to introduce them at all. I would’ve rather seen the Greyjoys than this pathetic version of the Sand Snakes.

I like most of the Braavos storyline. It’s predictable, but that’s okay. Arya has managed to stay enjoyable without much in terms of plot.

It was also nice to see Tycho Nestoris again. This is another case of the show character being better than the books. I wish I could say the same for Mace Tyrell. What an idiot.

I get that Mace is portrayed as a complete idiot in the show. He’s basically an idiot in the books too, but not as outwardly pathetic. But where were the Tyrell guards? He has the largest army in Westeros and yet shows up to Braavos with Lannister men and Meryn Trant? Foolish. That is all.

While I don’t love how simplified Dany’s plotline has been, I actually really liked her scenes. While Hizdahr doesn’t die in the books and isn’t a complete fool either, I was okay with his death. The Sons of the Harpy stuff has been pretty inconsistent. They were a huge factor early on this season and then they were absent for a while.

Why does Jorah have greyscale? At least it wasn’t mentioned this episode, though I’m not sure why he’s not concerned about infecting Dany. Oh well.

Dany does fly off with Drogon in the books, though not in the middle of a battle, but the rest of the Meereen plotline is completely different. In the books, the city is about to be attacked by Yunkai with Ser Barristan prepping the defense. I imagine that will be swapped for Tyrion, Jorah, and Daario dealing with the Sons of the Harpy. Maybe we’ll see the Dothraki again. I hope so.

Where is Grey Worm? Have we stopped caring about him? I know I have. The Unsullied were pretty unimpressive in battle.

That’s it for this week. Only one more episode. There’s a certain stabbing that hasn’t happened yet, which requires a certain red priestess to be at a certain large wall, which probably means the end of a certain One True King. We’ll see if that actually happens.

Hoping for Lady Stoneheart. Well, maybe. She’s kind of weird.

Courting Mrs. McCarthy comes out tomorrow! Hooray for books!

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Monday

21

July 2014

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Game of Thrones Finally Acknowledges The One True King Stannis Baratheon

Written by , Posted in Blog, Game of Thrones

One of the downsides, perhaps the primary one, of adapting an epic book series is that certain characters are naturally going to get less screen time than they deserve. Game of Thrones has taken this to a whole new level, mostly out of necessity. While George R.R. Martin is content to have characters disappear for multiple books at a time, this isn’t really realistic for a television program.

The biggest victim of this so far has been Stannis Baratheon, King Robert’s rightful heir. His prominence in season two and the splitting of A Storm of Swords into two seasons makes a statement like this puzzling, especially since Stannis isn’t even a POV character. The problem is that the show has hardly done the one true King justice, while allotting large amounts of screen time to characters who are just as absent from chunks of the source material.

The main problem is that Stannis’ portrayal in season two doesn’t do the character justice, though Stephen Dilane was a strong casting choice. Book Stannis is a strong leader with a firm sense of right and wrong who helps uncover the Lannisters’ deception along with Jon Arryn. In the show, he’s introduced as an easily manipulated power hungry religious loon. The show backs off of this a bit in season three, but the much of the damage is done. At least in the viewers’ mind.

Until the season four finale, it was difficult to talk to fans of the show who hadn’t read the books about the one true king. Using strictly television logic, Stannis’ survival past the Battle of the Blackwater is puzzling. He’s portrayed as the “big bad” to Tyrion and Renly and those types of characters tend to die in season finales. And yet Stannis prevails.

The show’s lax characterization of Stannis deprives the character of his rich personality, which makes him one of the books’ strongest characters. While it’s easy to judge Stannis solely by Ned’s characterization, his maiming of Ser Davos, and his devotion to Melisandre, that just scratches the surface of his personality.

Stannis’ defense of Storm’s End during Robert’s Rebellion is consistently referred to as indicative of the middle Baratheon’s personality as a whole. He had it far worse than any of the other commanding usurpers and was perhaps the only one other than Ned Stark who could’ve held off the Tyrell’s under such dire circumstances. His rigidness proved to be an asset.

Which explains why he’s considered unlikable, but it’s easy to forget how little that actually matters. Stannis might not have been a friend of either Ned Stark or Jon Arryn, but he commanded their respect. The Tyrell’s were the only significant supporter of Renly who didn’t defect to his cause and that was a foregone conclusion anyway.

Stannis commands loyalty even in places where the reader/viewer isn’t supposed to expect it from. Ned refused to back Renly because Stannis was the rightful heir, a move that cost him his life. Davos supports him even after Stannis maimed his hand. He works with Jon Snow even after he was rebuffed on his offer to legitimize him as the heir to Winterfell.

Stannis grows quite a bit as he grapples with his sense of duty to the realm. We see him as more than a man seeking his right to rule, but rather as someone who understands that he is the only person who could actually bring order to Westeros. This point is eloquently featured in the show when Davos and Stannis visit the Iron Bank of Braavos in perhaps the show’s only deviation from the books that served to benefit his character.

While it’s slightly upsetting that the episode dedicated to the Wall didn’t end with Stannis’ arrival, it was great to see him have his moment of triumph after a turbulent two seasons. Since season four didn’t fully catch up with Jon’s plotline, this can sort of be excused. Fans have much to be excited for in the upcoming season as Stannis’ relationship with Jon Snow supplies the meatiest storyline of A Dance With Dragons. By saving The Wall, he shows that he’s the only one who doesn’t crave power solely for the sake of power. He chases justice.

Games of Thrones has an opportunity to let Stannis shine opposite one of the series’ most popular characters, which in turn should raise his image in the eyes of the fans of the shows. Hopefully the show won’t use him as a foil for Snow, who is occasionally at odds with Stannis but manages to gain his respect and eventually helps him rally northmen to his cause. I wouldn’t put it past the show to elevate the Snow legitimization conflict, but that in it of itself would be a further bastardization of Stannis’ character.

Looking to the future of the series, it appears as though Stannis could find himself deeply involved in the eventual Targaryen conflict if the R + L = J theory holds up and if The Onion Knight is successful in retrieving Rickon Stark from the cannibal island. Preview chapters of The Winds of Winter show Stannis’ looming decision regarding the fate of one Theon “Reek” Greyjoy, which will undoubtedly shed more light on Stannis’ overall sense of justice.

Stannis is a perfect example of the depth of characters in A Song of Ice and Fire. While Martin never goes too far out of his way to give the spotlight to the one true king, he’s much more of a three dimensional character than anyone at King’s Landing would have us believe in the first two books. While conventional logic would suggest that Stannis has about a zero percent chance at having a happy ending at the end of the series, Martin has a tendency to keep the reader guessing. Perhaps the Lord of Light will stand with Stannis. I know I will.

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