An area of particular interest to me when it comes to contemplating and debating A Song of Ice and Fire from a political perspective is the idea of legitimacy, specifically in terms of from where and whom legitimacy is conferred onto leaders/rulers given that democracy isn’t exactly a realistic prospect in this narrative universe. As the field of contenders for control of Westeros has shortened over the course of the series, questions around legitimacy have come into sharp relief this season, especially now that Dany and her army have finally descended on the continent.
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As short as seven episodes may be for a season of American television, an episode this eventful and consequential arriving at the relative midpoint of a season is reminiscent of the great primetime soap operas of network television pulling out all the stops for sweeps and ending on a massive cliffhanger before a hiatus. However unlikely it is they would kill off such a crucial character as Jaime in such a fashion, the drama of the moment was undeniable, especially following as spectacular a battle sequence as it did. As strong as the first three installments were, there isn’t much doubt in my mind that “The Spoils of War” was the strongest episode of the season to this point by any metric. Continue reading →
Of the myriad ruminating and analytical exercises I enjoy while engaging with Game of Thrones, one of my favorites is to consider the events of the series through the lens of modern political theory and dynamics, especially when it comes to the legitimacy of the leaders, a subject I’ve mentioned more than a few times in this space. I find the concept of legitimacy especially interesting where it concerns monarchy. While it is fairly clear what Dany’s personal motivations are for her quest for the Iron Throne, she’s never made an effective or legitimate case for her claim, and I do not believe it’s a coincidence. I think the reason she doesn’t have one is that she hasn’t developed a positive case to make for herself apart from her own personal drive and desire. Continue reading →
Going into the season 6 finale, I assumed that any episode following the exhilaration and brilliance of “Battle of the Bastards” would suffer from at least some measure of anticlimax, regardless of the quality of the episode itself. I am happy to report that I was sorely mistaken in my assumption. I was mistaken to the extent that I must concede that while “The Winds of Winter” was as dissimilar from “Battle of the Bastards” as two episodes could be in such a stylistically consistent series as Game of Thrones, it was absolutely on par with that installment in every respect save for action, which it obviously need not be because that wasn’t the focus of this episode, that being central to the aforementioned difference. Indeed, several aspects of this episode were stylistically unique for the series, not just in relation to the previous installment.
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When Cersei answers Lancel’s threat of “order your man (the Mountain) to step aside or there will be violence” with “I choose violence,” she’s not merely delivering a steely retort to her cousin’s attempt at intimidation through the force of the the Faith Militant, she’s essentially delivering the thesis statement of the episode. In “No One,” Cersei and Arya both “choose violence” in the face of very credible threats to their safety, the Hound chooses violence over the pacifism Septon Ray preached in the previous episode, and the masters of Slaver’s Bay choose violence in defiance of the diplomatic arrangement brokered by Tyrion, Conversely, Jaime and Brienne choose diplomacy, which is undercut by the Blackfish choosing violence by making his last stand at Riverrun rather than traveling north to aid Sansa in her campaign for Winterfell. Continue reading →
Game of Thrones is so stylistically and structurally consistent that every time they do something completely normal for a television show to do, like cutting away from Stannis’ decapitation last season or starting an episode with a cold open as they did in “The Broken Man,” I jump out of my seat with a combination of shock and outrage, thinking that my cable is malfunctioning or that HBO screwed up the broadcast. When the “HBO Entertainment” card faded and the cold open began, I actually rewound the DVR thinking that the cable box had somehow skipped ahead of the opening titles. The reason for the first cold open Game of Thrones has ever employed on a non-premiere was quite obvious to me by the end of the scene, as it was, I suspect, to most viewers. Continue reading →
In the time between this writing and the airing of the Game of Thrones finale, I’ve had ample opportunity to argue with several people, and repeatedly so, about the conclusion of “Mother’s Mercy” and what it might possibly entail for the characters. Now, I love a good argument about narrative and there are few things in life I enjoy more than discussing Thrones, but unfortunately, all these arguments have almost completely distracted from what was not only a brilliantly executed and exquisitely played final sequence, but also a very strong episode featuring some of the best work of the series so far, albeit along side some more problematic material. Regardless, I left this finale with more to chew on as a viewer and consumer of the series than with almost any other episode. Every sequence held significance either for character, plot, Game of Thrones as a series in the grand scheme of television and the larger culture, or in a few cases, potentially all three. Continue reading →
There is a question at the heart of not only this episode of Game of Thrones in particular and the series in general, but at the heart of many aspects of human culture and society themselves, which is, what is the value of a human life? When I say “value,” I don’t exactly mean it in an abstract, esoteric, or philosophical way in terms of potential or theoretical value. I mean it here more in the the practical, tangible, or material sense; what is a human life worth? Furthermore, are some lives worth more than others? Part of what is so fascinating and heart-wrenching about A Song of Ice and Fire is that in this narrative universe and in the logic thereof, the functional answer to that question is a resounding “yes.” Continue reading →
While I harbor no sympathy for assertions of quality for one work over another across media (i.e. “the book was better…“) and have zero tolerance for people who complain that an adaptation isn’t sufficiently representative of their personal experience with or perception of the source material (“wah wah wah, they cut this, they changed that“), I will freely admit that as someone who has read and loved the Ice and Fire book series, there is something extremely disconcerting about watching what was once an exceedingly faithful adaptation begin to diverge from the source text to such an extent that it fundamentally changes the experience of viewing the series. I don’t mean this as a total negative; it is exhilarating as well as disconcerting to know that in any given sequence one of my favorite characters I haven’t prepared myself to say goodbye to because they’re alive in the books might be killed off. This must be what the non-readers feel when watching Game of Thrones. Continue reading →
Whenever there’s a wedding on Game of Thrones you know something terrible is going to happen, and the wedding of Sansa and Ramsay was certainly no exception. While I agreed with some of the criticism of last season’s scene featuring the rape of Cersei by Jaime, my criticism stemmed from the fact that it was a mostly unmotivated event that had no repercussions for the characters involved or their relationship. I completely agree with the sentiment that rape and sexual violence as a mere plot device is irresponsible, but I wholeheartedly disagree with the notion that any depiction of rape is inappropriate for the screen. To me, this line of thinking is akin to the argument that high school students shouldn’t read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because Mark Twain uses the word “nigger” in the text. Senator McCaskill is free to stop watching Game of Thrones, as is anyone else, but Game of Thrones is under no obligation to avoid depictions of certain behaviors and actions because they might possibly offend the sensibilities of certain audience members. Continue reading →