Tag: Game of Thrones (page 1 of 6)

Lame of Thrones

Spoilers for Game of Thrones (the TV series) ahead. Fairly be ye warned.

But I need to talk about this, because it’s been bothering me ever since the end credits for Episode 4 of Season 8 rolled across the screen.

I have so many questions, and I don’t like any of the answers.

The biggest one is this:

If you are crafting a character-focused drama that has drawn in an audience because of the relationships between and development of those characters, why would you take a sledgehammer to those relationships and that development? I think I have an answer, but I’d like to lay out the basis for these questions.

Stay cool, Dany. Don’t let Dan & Dave make you into something you’re not.

Something that has been pointed out to me is that Game of Thrones has, up until this point, taken a chance in portraying the stories of abuse survivors — specifically, Sansa Stark and Daenerys Targaryen. Now, I’m going to say up front that portraying the circumstances by which the characters became survivors in the first place is lazy and often used for cheap shock value, in addition to being triggering and offensive for real survivors. Looking back, there’s something about the source material that’s always been a little too gleeful about the subject, a little too exploitative. But I’m not here to talk about the novels. That might be a subject for another time.

We appreciate Daenerys and Sansa because they survived. They found a way to stand up in the face of abusive and callous males who treated them as things. Dany, trapped in a marriage to a man with whom she couldn’t communicate clearly, found a way to have him regard her as more than a piece of meat for breeding. He fell in love with the person she revealed herself to be, and made an effort to show that love and be a better person because of her. And after he was gone, Dany built herself up, strength upon strength, until she became the Mother of Dragons and the Breaker of Chains. She stood on our own two feet, measured and self-assured in the face of nay-sayers and everyone who underestimated her because of her gender and stature. It’s a powerful, meaningful narrative.

And it’s been shot to shit just as much as her dragon was, and I could feel the writers evincing a similar amount of glee as their bastardized version of Euron Greyjoy as they did it.

Let me not take anything way from Daenerys and her grief and anger. Losing a child is hard is the worst trauma a parent can suffer. Then you have the callous execution of her best friend on top of that. She walks away furious, barely keeping control of her emotions, instead of mounting her dragon to immediately burn the whole thing down. She should be applauded for her strength.

Instead, Dany will be characterized as “unhinged” and “crazy”. Listen to the music, and consider the episode leading up to that point, how so many other characters have spoken about her, and most importantly what the perceptions of the majority of the typical target audience of epic fantasy would be of someone like Dany. Like so many male-driven narratives before, abuse and pain and loss have put a ‘strong female character’ in a position where she could be written into abusing her power and commit atrocities in revenge. I’d like to think that we’ll get something better than that. Instead, I fear we’ll get the “crazy bitch” out for blood. If that happens, it’ll be as lurid and exploitative as I Spit On Your Grave, just with dragons. Well, one dragon, now. One dragon and one “crazy bitch”, who the male characters are going to defame, betray, and destroy to put another male on the throne. The same way the writers abandoned Ghost, they’re also poised to abandon the whole point of Daenerys and her character development.

Dan & Dave, if you do that, fuck you.

Courtesy HBO
Look at this poor wintery boi. Look what you’ve done to him. Look at him.

I’ll circle back to Sansa in a moment. But first, I’d like to talk about another example of characters being driven completely off the rails to the sound of cackling and “Oh, this will subvert expectations! Check out how gritty and ‘real’ we are, we’re cooler than The Last Jedi in changing our characters, stay with us fans!” I’d like to talk about Jaime Lannister.

Courtesy HBO
“Burn them all,” Dan and Dave said. “Burn all the characters down.”

When we first met him, Jaime Lannister was the sort of ‘Prince Charming’ subversion that fit very well in the general Game of Thrones sentiment. “This isn’t your parent’s fantasy epic.” A golden boy with smug charisma and assholery to spare, at first he was someone you’d love to hate, just as much as his sister. But then he got lost. The hand that had defined his adult life, as one of the great Westerosi swordsmen, was cut off for a goof. He came face to face with cruelty and callous disregard for human life, the very thing that made him become the Kingslayer in the first place. And it seemed, for a long time, that he wanted to find a better life for himself. A more honorable life. A happier life.

And then he threw it all away for the sake of a person that we know, that he knows, is a toxic wellspring of spite, hate, and selfish ambition. “So am I,” he says to Brienne, the one person who has truly and thoroughly believed in his better nature and his ability to have it prevail.

Now, we still have two episodes left. Maybe Jaime behaved the way he did towards Brienne because he wanted to distance himself from her because a part of him knows that he won’t be making it back from King’s Landing. I’d like to think that his intent is to kill Cersei, not to protect her. And in treating Brienne so cruelly, it will be “okay” if he dies in the attempt. In his mind, he doesn’t want to be mourned.

Maybe I’m projecting a bit from my own experiences and the nature of my own inner critics, but no matter what the motivation or eventual ‘shocking’ reveals, this flies in the face of years of careful character development, of deconstructing and reconstructing a person who, like Khal Drogo, saw a flaw within himself and sought to correct it. Jaime stumbled and made mistakes along the way, for sure, but he finally saw Cersei for who she was and made the choice to walk away. Now he’s going back, and throwing away the one person who loves him not just for who he is, but for who he can be, and from all indications wants to be?

Fuck you, Dan & Dave.

Courtesy HBO
Sansa Stark is not having any of your bullshit.

For the most part, there’s aspects of the Stark children that feels true. Arya’s not a lady, and has never wanted to be, regardless of how she feels about Gendry. Bran recognizes how much he’s changed, and has come to terms with it because of how much he knows and recognizes the role he has to play in the world as it is. I’ll get to Jon in a moment, but first, let’s talk about Sansa.

Like Dany, Sansa’s trauma and abuse has been shown to us in all of its unvarnished cruelty. Like Dany, the portrayal of it was done with a disquieting since of gleeful exploitation. And like Dany, Sansa’s used her experiences to find her strength and develop herself as someone who knows that living well, and being one’s best self, is the most effective and rewarding ‘revenge’. As much as she doesn’t like Daenerys, Sansa doesn’t make decisions out of spite or a sense of competition. She’s shown herself to be someone who wants to be an ally to a fellow survivor, regardless of her misgivings. But Dany, for one reason or another, hasn’t really been willing to meet her halfway. It’s a huge missed opportunity to show how survivors can best support one another, and that stings.

When Sansa tells Tyrion the truth about Jon, it’s not because she doesn’t like Daenerys; she’s not jealous or ambitious. She’s concerned about the safety and sovereignty of her people, and she sees Jon as a better leader; not just because he’s family, but because he’s given her facts and evidence to that effect. In the same vein, she recognizes that in spite of the cruelty visited upon her by the Lannisters, Tyrion is at heart a good person, someone who’s seen her as a person from the start and who’s treated her with respect the best way he’s known how. She’s exemplary in that a ‘strong female character’ doesn’t have to be turned bitter and ‘crazy’ because of their trauma; they can grow in spite of it and become a better version of themselves in the wake of it. Where Dan & Dave went wrong with Dany, they went right with Sansa. It doesn’t make what happened to her or how we were shown what happened to her ‘okay,’ but it does feel like more of a success story, more of a true portrayal of what strength of character really looks like.

Now, Jon. Oh, Jon. I like you, my dude, but I hate what you represent.

Courtesy HBO & incorrectgotquotes
Bring back the incorrectgotquotes Instagram, you cowards.

Tyrion and Varys have a discussion about Jon and his viability as a candidate for the Iron Throne, and one of them (I forget which) says “he’s the best for it because he doesn’t want it.” I couldn’t help but roll my eyes a bit. We’ve seen this sort of thing before, many times. Take Aragorn from Lord of the Rings — another reluctant born leader who shuns his own potential. Keenly aware of the weakness of his ancestors and other men like Boromir, Aragorn is very circumspect about seizing a role of leadership and a position of power. While in the novel, this circumspection isn’t quite as pronounced as in the film — Aragorn has Narsil reforged in Fellowship of the Ring before they even leave Rivendell — it still presents an interesting parallel to Frodo, another “hero” or “chosen one” who feels isolated and abnormal due to the circumstances that imposed their role upon them.

Jon’s story, and his portrayal in the show, are similar, but the difference comes in the surrounding circumstances. Tolkien focused on the nature of the quest at hand, and its influences upon the characters who took up said quest. Game of Thrones, on the other hand, makes it a point to play its characters against one another in political gamesmanship. And in its attempt to be ‘gritty’ and ‘realistic’, this means that men will conspire to unseat a woman in power to put a man in her place, especially if that man is seen as virtuous, even if that means derailing the female in question to make the man more appealing, to the in-story populace and to the audience.

This is bullshit.

Yes, it’s how things happen in the real world. Yes, it sucks. It would be one thing if Dany were still the sort of determined but measured person we saw in control of Meereen, instead of someone that the writers seem to be pushing to be just as unappealing a ruler as Cersei Lannister. This situation, as it is presented currently, make both Dany and Jon nothing more than pawns in the titular game which robs them of the agency that has made both of them so compelling for the last seven and half seasons. And from all indications, to the writers, the male pawn is the more important one, and is being positioned to ensure that the male empowerment fantasy is the one that will ultimately prevail.

Seriously, Dan and Dave. Fuck. You.

Courtesy HBO
“You want to dowhat to my mother’s character? BITCH I’M A DRAGON, I WILL EAT YOUR ASS.”

All of this leads me to one conclusion. I could be wrong. I’d like to be wrong. But the facts are what they are, and as far as I can see, it all leads to one thing: pandering. Viewers, the vocal ones on the Internet at least, don’t want to see female characters prevail. They’re intimidated by strength and growth in those characters. So the writers make Daenerys unhinged, put Yara on a bus (okay, it’s a boat, but the trope stands), and leave Brienne broken and in tears. To avoid being lumped in with The Last Jedi which portrayed Rey in a way that had her be accused of being a “Mary Sue” and left those entitled viewers feeling betrayed because Luke Skywalker was an understandably jaded and thoroughly exhausted man, they’ve derailed one character after another. In a world where Marvel and even DC are showing that narratives can be wildly successful without cis white males as main protagonists — see Black Panther, Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel as evidence to that effect — Game of Thrones goes the lazy route of pandering to a demographic that’s been pandered to long before television or film was even a thing. One hopes that this isn’t necessarily what George RR Martin had in mind, but we won’t know if he’s just as bad as Dan & Dave until we finally see Winds of Winter on store shelves. You’re on notice, GRRM.

As for Dan & Dave — shame on you, you lazy fucks. What you’ve done with this narrative and these characters is disgusting, cowardly, and lame. Even if Jaime ultimately kills Cersei, and Daenerys course-corrects before becoming an evil as bad as or worse than her father that “needs to be put down,” you couldn’t have done a worse job in your lead-up to the big final battle if you’d tried. And you didn’t. You didn’t try. You went the easy route. You got scared. You let your fear hold your pens. And what squirted out is such weaksauce even people who don’t like their sauce spicy in the slightest are reaching for the salt. And they’re right to be salty.

If this is how this television series is going to end, I for one am glad it’s ending. Again, maybe I’m mistaken, and things will happen that will pull the narrative and these characters out of this tragic, disgusting tailspin.

But I’m not holding my breath.

Honor & Blood, VIII: Victor

The Twins

Please note: All characters, locations and events are copyright George RR Martin and the events that take place during this tale can and will deviate from series canon.

The Story So Far: Victor Luxon
has completed his task of returning heirloom blades to the great Houses of Westeros. He and his household make for their restored castle at Moat Cailin, but not before visiting his father-in-law, Walder Frey, at the Twins…

“So…” The word was drawn out for a moment longer than most would consider polite. Victor Luxon tore another mouthful of meat from the haunch in his hand. He waited for the speaker to lean closer before he made eye contact.

Walder Frey’s mouth never stopped moving. The largest orifice in the old man’s weasel-like face was even more animated as he entreated his son-in-law. “So! You still have some of those old swords, do you?”

Victor shrugged. “My father has them. They’re locked up, under the Mage’s Tower.”

“The Mage’s Tower.” Walder turned his head to spit. The gelatinous projectile sailed down from their high table and landed in the soup of one of Walder’s sons. The young Frey gave his father a withering look. Walder merely chuckled. “Serve ya right for being so pretty, boy!” The old man turned to Victor. “Too much of his mother in that one. Too pretty.”

“So you said.” Victor took a drink of wine. “Why do you ask about the swords?”

“Freys don’t have ancestral blades. It’d be nice to have one.” He got that leer in his look again. “Just be a matter of putting a different hilt on it, I imagine. Who’d know the difference? A sword’s a sword, right?”

“To the peasants and the dim lower nobles,” Victor replied. “Show it to any of the Great Houses, and —”

“Oh, yes, have them call me a liar! I’m not used to that old sausage, not at all.” Walder Frey sniffed wetly. Victor tried to keep his frown to himself. He’d traded that bastard and his irritable smile for a completely different definition of the word ‘disgusting’. “Or, better yet, would I be ‘dishonoring’ the sword if I put some Frey colors on its hilt? That’s something you Luxons know all about, eh? Honor?”

“It’s in our words.” Victor set down his goblet. “Do you really want a Valyrian sword that badly?”

Walder blinked as if stunned. “Who wouldn’t? Pretty things, those. Look quite fashionable over my hearth.”

“A sword’s meant to be used. It’s a weapon, not a sculpture.”

“And how often does your lord father use his?”

Victor frowned. This conversation was quickly going in uncomfortable directions. “Often enough to make men without sense think twice before opening their fetid mouths.”

Walder’s expression darkened. “Boy, you’d best not take that tone with me.”

Victor met Walder’s gaze. “If we were squatting over the same shithole, father-in-law, you can be damned sure I’d tell you if your shit stank. I’d expect you’d do the same for me.”

For a moment, the mouth of Walder Frey made no sound. Then, like a hole in a sack bursting wide under the pressure of its contents, the Lord of the Crossing’s jaw hinged downward wide, and he laughed loudly.

“You just might be the most worthwhile in-law I ever had the good fortune to put in bed with one of my daughters!” He slapped Victor on the shoulder. Victor barely felt it. “I’ve seen lesser men, even my own blood, piss themselves when I round on ’em.”

“You do remember every insult hurled at you, or so they say. Most of that, I imagine, comes from so-called highborn manners.”

“Too right, you are.” Frey took a large drink of wine. “What is it that you want?”

Victor narrowed his eyes. “That’s a broad question.”

“Well, then, make your answer broad. Come on, speak up.”

“I want what you want.” Victor paused. “I want to make my house great.”

Frey leaned back, a long “ah” sound coming from his mouth. “And how, exactly, are you going to do that?”

“By engaging in actions my sons and daughters, and their sons and daughters after, will speak of in awe and reverence. By taking what is mine. By denying my house’s lands, titles, and holdings to those who’d take them from us.”

“You’re starting to sound like you see yourself as some kind of conqueror.”

“And why not?” Victor gestured broadly. “The North is vast. The Starks will not be able to control all of it forever. There will be opportunities that House Luxon will seize. I would dishonor myself, and all the Luxons past and future, if I settled for less than I’m owed.”

“So the Starks owe you the North, eh?” Frey grinned his skull-like grin. “Come now, boy. Such things should not be shouted from the parapets. They need be whispered, between those of similar ambitions.”

Victor furrowed his brows. He was not used to whispering about such things. He found the very notion uncomfortable. Honorable men did not whisper. Still, he nodded.

“Good. You have some sense, at least.” Walder Frey beckoned him closer. “Come, let us whisper now about our liege-lords, and how we might best serve ourselves, rather than their fat arses…”

Get caught up by visiting the Westeros page.

Next: Jon

Mondays are for making art.

No Pity

Courtesy Adult Swim

Good media doesn’t just entertain. It invites us to take a long, hard look at ourselves and our world. It shows us things that can change, or need to change. And, sometimes, it points the way to the tools required to make that change, to be that change.

Take Rick & Morty. In the midst of all of the cruel cutting humor and Cronenbergian body horror, there are moments of true introspection and insight. “Pickle Rick” provided wonderful for-and-against arguments regarding therapy. We’re seeing Morty grow and change, standing up to Rick more often and seizing opportunities to be his own person. And now, in “The Wirly Dirly Conspiracy”, we more closely Jerry, the sad sack that exists mostly as a punching bag, a savage take on the typical “everyman” character, and the unwitting catalyst for the family problems that are just as important to the storylines as Rick’s alcohol-fueled mad science.

“You act like prey, but you’re a predator. You use pity to lure in your victims. It’s how you survive.” – Rick, to Jerry

Maybe it’s just me, but I had to pause the episode, step away, and take a long moment to think about myself, my past behaviors, and the changes I’ve made.

At some point when I was very young, I developed a titanic guilt complex. I would be extraordinarily hard on myself. I would emotionally (and, at times, physically) beat myself up, punish myself, for making a mistake. I think that part of my motivation for doing so was that if I punished myself hard enough, other punishments would pale in comparison.

Another part was that if I was outwardly hard on myself enough, others would take it easy.

I, too, preyed on pity.

Writing that out is at once damning and freeing. It’s something of which I am deeply ashamed. I am struggling to put into words just how insidiously toxic such behavior can be. I think about my past behaviors and actions, impulsive decisions I made; the knowledge that those choices hurt people I love, respect, and care about hurts.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about those things I did. That I don’t turn the evidence over in my hand and look for things to correct and change. There isn’t a day that passes where I don’t admit to myself how afraid I was of being abandoned should these things come to light — and how much I still fear.

Courtesy HBO

Fear is no excuse. There is no excuse.

I cannot take pity on myself any more than I should expect others to have pity on me. The things inside of me that served as the roots sprouting that poison fruit are not excuses. They are explanations. When a tree in your garden is rotten, you have to deal with it, before it lays waste to everything. You salvage what seeds you can. Then, you cut it down. You burn it.

You plant anew and you move on.

I’m still hard on myself. I still examine myself more closely and more exactingly than I do those around me. But that is because I am still growing, still changing. I do wish, deep down, that those who were affected by my actions could see — maybe even appreciate — the changes I’ve made and the ones I’m still making.

However, the only validation that truly matters is the validation I find and give to myself.

Other people will always think how they wish to think, feel how they wish to feel. For whatever their reasons, the way they look at me is something beyond my control. It doesn’t matter if they choose to be “on my side” or not. All I can do is show up as the best version of myself I can muster, own my mistakes in the name of doing better, and be present for people I want to be present for me. How they deal with that is up to them.

They cannot and should not have pity on me. Neither can I.

I will talk about how I think and how I feel. There are others in the world who fight similar battles against depression, anxiety, PTSD, all sorts of head weasels that clamor and screech for attention. It is my hope that being open and honest and up-front about these things can inspire others, or at least reassure them that they are not alone. In the past, that would not have been my motivation. But that is what it is now.

The line between asking for help and begging for attention or pity can be a fine one. And if you’ve done the latter in the past as I have, there are those who may not believe that you are engaging in the former.

Look within yourself. Do whatever you can to remain on the side of the line that will lead to you changing and growing. Distance yourself from the people and things that would drag you to the other side.

This is not easy. For me, it is one of the most difficult things to admit about myself and one of the hardest changes I’ve made.

And I am never, ever going back.

There is no pity in my soul’s city.

Tuesdays are for telling my story.

The Rains of Castamere

I was up rather late last night, and I think the best way to illustrate why is the following song. Hum along if you know the tune.

Courtesy HBO & GRRM

And who are you, the proud lord said,
that I must bow so low?
Only a cat of a different coat,
that’s all the truth I know.
In a coat of gold or a coat of red,
a lion still has claws,
And mine are long and sharp, my lord,
as long and sharp as yours.

And so he spoke, and so he spoke,
that Lord of Castamere,
But now the rains weep o’er his hall,
with no one there to hear.
Yes, now the rains weep o’er his hall,
and not a soul to hear.

Flash Fiction: King’s Landing’s Hero

Courtesy HBO

I rolled for the Terribleminds ABC meets XYZ challenge, and got “Game of Thrones” meets “Batman”. I’m not sure I stopped there.


Night falls on King’s Landing. I find another dog with its guts spilling into the street. This dog was a person, once. Someone’s son. Maybe someone’s husband. Once a human being, now a chilling corpse. Like this city. It once held wonder and potential. Now it is only death and misery.

So be it, I say. If this is how the city wants to rot under the Lannisters and their little product of juvenile lust, so be it. But innocents suffer too much. They watched loved ones rot and wither under the gilded heel of the lions. They cry out for justice, without saying a word, for fear of the blade of Ilyn Payne.

I’ve decided to answer them.

The rooftops of the city are where I roam. There was a time when the Lannister soldiers on constant patrol were a source of fear for everyone there who was not in Tywin’s keeping. For me, it had become a challenge to avoid detection every night when I slipped out through the hidden corridors built by the Targaryens. The libraries and hidden alcoves throughout the keep had given me the knowledge I used; late nights with needle and thread helped me craft the cloak and cowl that hid my identity.

It’s after two bells past the sunset that I find tonight’s prey. As much as the Kingsguard are supposedly on duty every hour of every day, they’re also supposedly celibate. Yet there was Ser Meryn Trant, making his way towards the house owned and nomially run by Petyr Baelish, the man they called Littlefinger. Trant knew better than to walk the streets in his pure white cloak and golden armor, but his swagger was unmistakable. Arrogance and smug superiority propelled his every step.

I cannot tell you how badly I want to kill him.

I wait until he was inside. I move and jump from one rooftop to the next, my steps sure and silent. The claws on my knees and palms carry me down the wall outside the house, and I peer into one room after the next. I finally find him, with two of Littlefinger’s girls. He sits near the bed, sharpening a dagger as he watches them undress each other. I can’t discern what he could be planning, but I decide immediately he won’t finish whatever depraved thought that fills his head.

As soon as he stands, licking his lips like a wild animal catching the scent of fresh meat, I kick open the window and enter the room. Trant turns towards me with a snarl. Before he can say anything, I am on him, one hand clamping his jaw shut, the other delivering a quick blow to his throat. The Kingsguard staggers back, still clutching his dagger. He’s moving towards his sword, even as he struggles to breathe. He is, however, off-balance, and I sweep his feet out from under him. As soon as he’s on the floor, my feet are on his chest and his own dagger rests at his throat, clutched in my gloved hand.

“Whoever you are,” he manages to snarl, “you’re dead.”

“When morning comes,” I whisper, “you’ll wish you were.”

He laughs at me before I bludgeon him with the dagger’s hilt. Something tells me that will be his last laugh for a while.

When they find him, hours later, he was strung up over a street in Flea Bottom. Stripped and left to cook in the morning sun, his fingers were all broken, along with his wrists and elbows and knees. He had been cut many times, the most vicious cut being the one that left him without his manhood. He is, however, alive. Death, after all, is a mercy, to hear the Lannisters tell it. I’m merely playing by their rules.

From the Hand of the King to the lowest urchin in Flea Bottom, everybody wants to know who had done this. Of course, when they find the message on Trant’s body, they come asking me.

But I am a mere, lowly prisoner here. I have been since Ser Ilyn Payne took my father’s head. I’ve spent so much time learning to avert my gaze and agree that my family are a pack of traitors that nobody’s noticed the time I’ve spent preparing for that night, and all the nights to come. I keep my eyes downcast. I pretend to fear the queen. I mask my disgust for Joffrey. I can still convince them that a prisoner is all I am, and that I am no threat to their plans, their gold, their precious throne. But I’m not without that streak of rebellion. I carefully hide any evidence I leave, seek out stray red hairs, keep my face concealed; yet part of me enjoys the game, the chase, almost daring them to confront me, so I can tell them what I really link of their house and what they’ve done to me and mine.

That is why, into Meryn Trant’s chest, I carved the words “BAD WOLF”.

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