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Game of Thrones – Mhysa

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Game of Thrones, Mhysa

Game of Thrones’ season three finale sounds some powerful emotional notes, but also leaves you wondering just where this story is headed. Perhaps some true “good guys” have emerged from the piles of the dead and dying.

Before I dig too deep into this week’s episode, I want to have one last say about the Red Wedding. I was a bit stunned at the number of people who responded with outrage and declared they’d no longer watch the show because of it. I think this reveals something pretty interesting about our relationship with the stories we choose to enjoy. Even when we prefer dark stories with serious themes and plenty of “realism,” we expect something roughly following standard narrative patterns. There will be clearly identifiable good guys who may suffer hardship but come out on top in the end. There will be a series of trials that make the final happy ending seem sweet and well-earned, even though we knew it was inevitable all the time.

A Song of Ice and Fire never submits to those patterns and tropes (based as it is on the historical War of the Roses, which followed no such narrative pattern). Even the best story is a roller coaster; a series of thrilling and predictable ups and downs that eventually take you safely back to the station. Game of Thrones is more like a drunken screaming ride down a rocky mountain in a shopping cart in the dark. And the Red Wedding is the point where you realize you’re not even wearing a fucking seat belt.

For me, this was the point where I realized I loved this series beyond anything I’ve ever read or watched before. It’s narrative storytelling without the safety net that’s always there in all but the most transgressive horror films. It feels so good to be liberated from having any clue what happens next or how this is all going to end. There may well be some happiness there, but not because Martin was supposed to put it there. Only because it’s what the story itself demanded.

Now, on to the recap. We get a bit of Red Wedding wrap-up, as the Stark forces and their allies are slaughtered in burning tents by the Boltons and Freys. Robb Stark’s head has been replaced with that of his wolf, a gruesome flourish on an already horrific scene. Roose Bolton vaguely tolerates Walder Frey’s leering satisfaction at the outcome.

Arya and the Hound ride off, only to later come upon some Bolton troops regaling each other with tales about desecrating Stark corpses. Note very carefully what happens next. Arya does not lash out. She does not cry out. Indeed, she never appears angry at all. She simply moves into position, tricks her way past the soldier’s defenses, then brutally murders him with a pilfered coin. As she retrieves Jaqen H’ghar’s coin, she whispers, “Valar Morghulis.” All men must die.

It’s more or less politics as usual in King’s Landing. Tyrion seems to be winning over Sansa and pissing off Shae. The Small Council meets and Joffrey just acts like a total shit, of course. And he is basically spanked and sent to bed by Tywin, which is amazing of course. It’s so creepy watching Cersei try to appease Joffrey. He’s like that kid from the Twilight Zone episode that everyone’s terrified of. Tywin and Tyrion have an interesting conversation about Westeros politics, then Tywin tries to explain the one time in his life he did something for the family and not his own benefit: when he allowed the infant Tyrion to live. When he professed that he “raised him as his son,” it should have felt like something to finally bring father and son together. But Tywin said it with such bitterness.

Varys approaches Shae with an offer: take these diamonds and leave on the next ship, be rich and never come back. She assumes Tyrion wants her gone and has sent Varys as his errand boy, but she should know that’s not how Varys operates. This seemed to be Varys making a truly kind gesture. He was completely honest with Shae and presented her with an out. A very nice out! Because the obvious way to get rid of a nameless complication is much quicker and less expensive.

Tyrion finds Sansa understandably crying over the news of her family’s complete massacre. Cersei tells him her children are the only thing that kept her from committing suicide, but it’s impossible to feel any sympathy for her.

Bran’s plot has suddenly become a lot more interesting. Instead of just vaguely heading north for no particular reason other than to find a safe place to hide, Bran has a quest. Get north of the Wall and figure out this whole White Walker thing. They spend the night in the abandoned Nightfort, telling stories about what happens to assholes who murder guests. They hear a scary noise that turns out to be a wizard, aka Samwell Tarly and Gilly. Sam’s smart and discerns immediately who he’s met, offering his service to Bran. But Bran wants to cross the Wall, and Sam wants no part of that. He does give them all dragonglass to kill Walkers with, then heads to Castle Black. Meanwhile, Bran, Hodor and the Reeds head through the tunnel to the other side of the wall.

By the way (and this is pure speculation, no spoilers at all), consider Harrenhal. The castle is consistently described as having been melted by the fire of dragons. That means it’s undoubtedly the largest source of dragonglass in all of Westeros. Who controls Harrenhal right now? Littlefinger.

Pointless Theon torture scene. I’ve said what I have to say about this, but imagine the scene where Yara and her dad get Theon’s penis in the mail if we hadn’t seen Theon all season. You’d totally forgotten about him, then suddenly his bits show up in a box, galvanizing Yara/Asha to disobey her father, assemble a crack crew of Iron islanders, and head off to rescue her younger brother. Is there anything to be said about Yara the Reaver Princess other than, “Oh hell yes”? Sadly, much of Asha’s story has been excised from Game of Thrones. It’s a shame because she’s rather more interesting than, say, Sansa’s simpering.

Jon Snow fails to complete his escape, running afoul of a clearly miffed Ygritte. He’d probably have been ok if he hadn’t told her he loved her, but she filled him with arrows and for a minute it looked like we’d be down to one male descendant of Ned Stark. Meanwhile, Sam and Gilly arrive at Castle Black and tell the maester of the looming threat from beyond the wall. For once, things go well as the maester agrees to house Gilly and send out all the ravens calling for help to defend against the White Walkers. Then Jon Snow arrives, carried unconscious by his horse. Medical treatment seems imminent, but we don’t know if he lives.

There were some brilliant scenes involving Ser Davros, first trading humorous barbs with Gendry, then reading scrolls with Stannis’ daughter, then arguing for his own life against Melisandre. Davros is one of a handful of characters in Game of Thrones who consistently works to do the right thing no matter the personal cost. Here, he frees Gendry rather than let Melisandre sacrifice him. I particularly loved Gendry’s explanation of why she was able to pierce his distrust: “A woman like that, all big words and no clothes.” I hear you, Gendry. I hear you.

Stannis condemns Davros to death for treason even though he doesn’t seem to have a clear idea of what exactly is supposed to happen when Gendry is sacrificed to the Red God. But Davros’ life is saved by the fact that Shireen taught him to read. The scroll from Castle Black catches Melisandre’s interest. Suddenly, the path to kinghood bends north, and Stannis needs an army. And a captain to command that army. Melisandre calls for Davros to be spared. A strange twist.

At King’s Landing, Jaime and Brienne arrive. Jaime was humbled long ago, so a farmer coarsely urging him out of the way doesn’t faze him. He makes his way to the Red Keep and finds Cersei. She turns at the sound of his voice. She’d thought him dead. A reunion at last. Here, then, is one of those powerful emotional notes. Yet what emotion are we feeling? Anyone can relate to the thrill of a long lost lover’s return, but of course this is all creepy and weird and we hate Cersei anyhow.

That leaves us with Daenerys Targaryen. She freed the slaves of Yunkai without ever entering the city. Now she waits with her Unsullied, her two knights, and her three dragons. Finally, the slaves issue forth. She proclaims, in that powerful, emotional voice she uses on these occasions, that they do not owe their freedom to her. They must take it for themselves. They begin shouting, calling her “Mother” in their language. She walks out among them, unprotected, and they lift her up, a beaming smile on her face. The camera rises up above an astonishing image: thousands of freed slaves reaching toward Daenerys as her dragons fly.

So here is where things stand. The war is essentially over. The Lannisters rule Westeros virtually uncontested, save for the Greyjoys holding their conquests against the Warden of the North, Roose Bolton. Yara Greyjoy is on the warpath. Stannis is marching north to bolster the Night’s Watch. An army of Wildlings are not far from the Wall. A potentially larger army of ice zombies and White Walkers are also not far from the Wall. Daenerys’ charisma has won her many loyal companions and servants. Still, her road does not seem to turn toward Westeros any time soon.

We have two looming weddings (Cersei to Loras and Margaery to Joffrey). Littlefinger and Varys continue to scheme. Tyrion is at odds with his father, who is effectively ruling the kingdom as Joffrey’s Hand, and seems to be the only one who can truly cow Joffrey. The Hound’s plan to ransom Arya to her family has failed, and though they travel together, it’s unclear where they are headed or what their immediate plans are. And finally, Bran Stark is venturing into the wild north on a magical visionquest tied to the old gods, and the strange psychic powers all Starks seem to have. I wonder where they got those powers: from their father’s side of the family, or their mother’s?

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Posted by on Sunday, June 9th, 2013. Filed under Dark TV, Headline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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