Daenerys As The Mad Queen: A Brilliant Or Problematic Potential Plot Twist?

Daenerys As The Mad Queen: A Brilliant Or Problematic Potential Plot Twist?

***Spoiler warning!

Game of Thrones thrives on manipulating and deconstructing fantasy tropes. This is partly what makes the story arc of Daenerys Targaryen so fascinating to analyze. Daenerys is one of the only characters whose arc has followed a common fantasy trope of the unordinary character who has nothing becoming a powerful, benevolent figure. In this trope the character becomes so powerful to the point of being indestructible and always finding a way to succeed.

One theory that will ultimately deconstruct this trope is for Daenerys to become the Mad Queen. She will descend into total madness and become a ruthless dictator. Many have proposed this theory. Check out YouTube user The Last Harpy’s video to further understand this theory through an excellent choice of clips.

Brilliant!

Daenerys has been a fan-favorite from the beginning. We may not always agree with her decisions but we’ve always rooted for her and reveled in her triumphs. Thus, Daenerys descending into madness and becoming a psychotic dictator would brilliantly deconstruct the trope. It would make audiences reevaluate everything, wondering how they got behind this terrible person. This would be a more long-term and mind-blowing version of what we experienced towards the end of season 5 and all throughout season 6 with Cersei Lannister. Despite the atrocities she committed and influenced, we started to feel bad for Cersei and even rooted for her as the High Sparrow seized control of King’s Landing and her only remaining child Tommen. When Cersei crafted and executed a plan that murdered all her opponents in King’s Landing, we wondered how we possibly could have rooted for this woman calmly sipping wine as she watches her foes explode in a magnificent blast of wildfire. Now imagine a similar turn of events on the scale of our beloved Daenerys.

The plot twist would furthermore be brilliant because Daenerys has almost always sought to do the right thing and help others. She’s freed countless slaves, liberated a few cities by ending slavery in those locations, outlawed barbaric practices such as the fighting pits. Moreover, she constantly provides voice to her subjects and advisors. Yet it seems like these triumphs rarely last and the more permanent triumphs result from violent domination. She seems to thrive at conquering as opposed to ruling. We’ve seen this more and more, and it leads to thought-provoking questions about what happens when you attempt to rule through empathy, idealism, and humane intentions. In short, the savior becomes the villain.

Problematic

Game of Thrones constantly contradicts itself when it comes to feminism. Within a misogynist society where all individuals are expected to live within constrained social and gender roles, we’ve seen many incredible, complex women shatter these roles and become the most formidable figures in their universe. Cersei Lannister sits on the Iron Throne. Daenerys commands three dragons and the most impressive array of forces in existence. Brienne of Tarth is arguably the best warrior in Westeros and Arya Stark is one of the most dangerous assassins in all the lands. Olenna Tyrell and Ellaria Sand command their respective kingdoms. Many of the Ironborn refute Euron Greyjoy’s leadership and follow Yara instead. Most importantly, these characters are not just depicted as cunning and accomplished. Their vulnerabilities, human desires like love, and values are just as integral to their character development and depictions.

On the other hand, the show far too often portrays rape in a disgustingly casual manner or only to further the development of a male character. For example, Ramsay raping Sansa ended up being too much about Theon’s call to action in order to shed his Reek identity and reclaim agency by choosing to help Sansa. Jaime raping Cersei next to Joffrey’s corpse ends up not serving practically no purpose. Sure, there’s continued enmity between the incestuous siblings for a few more episodes but the show keeps making the enmity about Joffrey’s death and Tyrion’s fate based on the events of the Purple Wedding. The story even places an emphasis on continuing to redeem Jaime even though he’s a rapist.

Such problematic approaches would only increase with the Mad Queen twist in which one of the most powerful and complex female characters is ultimately defined by her psychotic nature. It is dangerous to show that one of your most iconic, beloved, empathetic characters, a survivor of sexual assault, one of the most powerful and charming women in the story, ends up becoming the primary human villain in the story. Why turn her into her father when she’s already so much more? Why rob her of nuanced character development only to see her become the latest tyrant?

What do you think? Would Daenerys becoming the Mad Queen plot twist be more brilliant or problematic?

If you enjoyed this blog post be sure to check out my novels as well!

Game of Thrones season 7 trailer: 5 Major Takeaways

Game of Thrones season 7 trailer: 5 Major Takeaways

Watch the official Game of Thrones season 7 trailer before reading my 5 major takeaways!

1. Littlefinger and Jon Snow clash: Defeating Ramsay Bolton and his allies at Winterfell would not have been possible without Littlefinger and the forces he brought from the Vale. But despite this and the alliance forged between the North and the Vale at the end of the season, Jon Snow has plenty of reason to hate Littlefinger. The problem is that Sansa has told Jon precious little about Littlefinger, most importantly the role he played in the torment she experienced because of Ramsay. Neither Sansa nor Jon know how integral Littlefinger was to the War of Five Kings and the extensive suffering and death it caused the Starks and their allies. It appears Jon will learn at least a piece of these matters as he slams Littlefinger against a wall in the crypts of Winterfell. Or is this the moment where Littlefinger reveals Jon’s parentage and the newly anointed King in the North lashes out at the truth? Above all, how can a ruthless manipulator and the archetypal hero (arguably the only honorable character left in the story) find a way to work together, particularly considering Littlefinger’s crimes against Jon’s family?

2. Unsullied vs. Lannister army: Queen Cersei and Queen Daenerys are two of the major players left in the game of thrones. Season 6 left them in positions of prime power but left audiences unsure of when they would face each other for the first time. The first meeting of Cersei and Daenerys is unclear, but the trailer features numerous shots of the Unsullied battling the Lannister army. This epic battle will likely determine the futures of Cersei and Daenerys and their attempts to maintain or seize control of the Iron Throne. We may even see our first glimpse of Casterly Rock through this battle.

3. Robert Baratheon’s fear has come true:

There’s been plenty of war since this scene, but more specifically we now see the hordes of Dothraki that Robert feared rampaging across Westeros. What Ned Stark claimed impossible has come to pass thanks to Daenerys, though neither Ned nor Robert foresaw the giant dragon flying above the Dothraki army.

4. Daenerys and her allies will not be at sea long: Season 7 appears to waste no time getting Daenerys and her allies to Westeros. In addition to the numerous shots of the Unsullied battling the Lannister army and the Dothraki, there are several shots of Daenerys at Dragonstone. I’m glad Daenerys, Tyrion, and the rest of these characters won’t be stuck at sea long, isolated from the core events. This will help the story keep a swift pace and I look forward to seeing how Daenerys handles the treacherous Euron Greyjoy. Among the allies of Daenerys it’s also worth noting that romance appears to be blooming between Yara Greyjoy and Ellaria Sand and blooms further for Grey Worm and Missandei.

5. Where is Arya headed? We see a couple shots of Arya with a horse out in the bitterly cold woods. This makes it look like she’s headed North where she could reunite with Jon and Sansa, and perhaps even her direwolf Nymeria along the way. But since winter has come, it’s plausible that these bitterly cold woods are farther south and she’s headed to King’s Landing to kill Cersei and the Mountain, the final individuals on her list.

This trailer did an excellent job showcasing shots of the new season and briefly reacquainting us with many of our favorite characters without spoiling anything essential. Some key characters like Bran, Varys, Olenna Tyrell, and the Hound were conspicuously absent from the trailer but I’m confident all will play prominent roles when the season airs. The story moves ever closer to the final battle not only for the Iron Throne, but for human existence against the threat of the White Walkers. We are less than two months away from the premiere of season 7!

What other takeaways do you have from watching this trailer? What are you looking forward to most in season 7? Comment below!

If you enjoyed this blog post be sure to check out my novels as well!

Game of Thrones “The Winds of Winter” 6×10 Review

Game of Thrones “The Winds of Winter” 6×10 Review

Game of Thrones “The Winds of Winter” 6×10 Review

There is no way I can do the Game of Thrones season 6 finale “The Winds of Winter” justice in a single review. Far too many significant events brimming with emotional charge occurred. To spare you a thesis paper, I leave you with the following thoughts:

While much has changed in 6 seasons of Game of Thrones, “The Winds of Winter” demonstrates that at its essence the show hasn’t changed that much. The ending of season 6 has so many fascinating parallels to the ending of season 1. A ruthless Lannister with nothing to tether their sanity sits on the Iron Throne (Joffrey in season 1, Cersei in season 6). A Stark child is named King in the North (Robb Stark in season 1, Jon Snow in season 6). Jon’s still a Stark in my opinion for so many reasons, but more on that later. Furthermore, the season ends with an incredibly powerful and triumphant moment for Daenerys.

The players and their positions have changed dramatically over 6 seasons, but the game is still the same, and most of the players and families are still playing by the same rules, guided by the same values.

Cersei is far savvier than Joffrey when it comes to politics and understanding how people operate. Joffrey could never have pulled off the devastating yet brilliant plan Cersei executed in this episode, eliminating all her known enemies. While Joffrey did whatever his spoiled and psychopathic mind wanted, there were individuals like Tyrion and Tywin who could generally prevent him from going too far. No one, not even Jaime, can fulfill that role where Cersei is concerned. Game of Thrones brilliantly made us root for Cersei, one of the show’s most despicable characters, in the conflict against the High Sparrow and the Faith Militant. By the time we realized how wrong we were to ever support this woman regardless of her opponent, the Great Sept of Baelor and majority of characters we knew in King’s Landing were incinerated or stabbed to death (a specially reserved intimately violent and disturbing ending for Grand Maester Pycelle). It’s difficult to process that all these characters are gone, particularly Margaery who’s been a major player in the game of thrones since season 2, so cunning yet so compassionate. At least she realized what was happening and tried to escape. She and Loras might’ve even made it out alive if not for the High Sparrow’s hubris.

And Tommen, one of the most manipulated and conflicted yet innocent characters, has tragically committed suicide. Cersei has no one to blame but herself where the death of her last child is concerned.

Examining further parallels, Jon is far more similar to Robb than Cersei is to Joffrey. However, there is one facet of being King in the North that Robb failed at where Jon will succeed. Jon will keep the North unified by staying in the North. While Robb turned out to be a brilliant military strategist and constantly defeated the Lannister army on the battlefield, he lost control of the North. In the absence of many Northern lords, ladies and the bulk of their armies, the ironborn invaded and Ramsay Bolton began his reign of terror. Like Robb, Jon lives honorably and bravely, sometimes to the point of naiveté. But Jon has already succeeded in unifying the North in a way we haven’t since season 2. And with the White Walkers and Night King coming, Jon definitely won’t be marching any armies South. The King in the North will stay and defend the North.

Among the many satisfying events in this episode is confirmation of the R+L=J theory (thanks, Bran). While it’s rewarding to finally have the mystery of Jon’s parentage confirmed, it doesn’t really change anything about Jon’s character for me. His values and identity are still the same values instilled by his Stark upbringing and Stark family. From growing up at Winterfell, to his time at the Wall and beyond the Wall as a brother and later Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, to his resurrection and journey to retake Winterfell and the North with Sansa at his side, Jon is very much so a man of the North. His biological mother is still a Stark, and the man who raised him and arguably shaped Jon more than anyone is still Ned Stark himself. The truth about Jon’s parentage will definitely create conflict, and it’ll probably be Littlefinger who will sow said conflict.

It’s satisfying to know what Littlefinger’s ultimate motives are, even if they aren’t at all surprising. Sansa has matured and toughened herself to an incredible extent, asserting herself as a true player in the game of thrones. However, Littlefinger still unfortunately has a hold on her and will do his utmost to turn her against Jon. I understand that while Sansa is happy to see the Northern lords and ladies declare Jon King in the North, she is irritated about not getting the respect and recognition she deserves for the integral role she played in defeating Ramsay and his army, and taking back Winterfell and the North.  But with the main threat in the North now being the White Walkers and wights, Jon Snow is definitely the best person to be in charge. And with Jon being as honorable as he is, I am confident that he will trust, respect and listen to Sansa moving forward more than he ever has before.

Meanwhile, Jon’s Aunt Daenerys (isn’t that weird to think about?!) has come so far from the young woman who emerged unscathed with three baby dragons from Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre at the end of season 1. She’s learned what it takes and what it means to be both a conqueror and a ruler. She’s surrounded herself with the individuals and forces she needs to succeed. Even though we’ve been rooting for her since season 1 and she’s allied with characters we love like Tyrion and Varys and Missandei and now Olenna Tyrell, it’s still kind of terrifying to witness the depth of her armed forces when united. Now the burning question is whether she will be seen more as a savior or invader when she lands in Westeros.

Ultimately, this episode is largely about payoff for longtime Game of Thrones fans. Which of the following events and revelations did you find most satisfying and why? Be sure to comment your answer on this blog post or on social media.

  • Cersei blowing up the Great Sept of Baelor and all her known enemies
  • Qyburn’s little birds killing Grand Maester Pycelle
  • Cersei Lannister becoming Queen of Westeros
  • Winter has come.
  • The conversation between Jon and Sansa atop the ramparts of Winterfell
  • Davos facing Melisandre concerning the truth about Shireen
  • Littlefinger finally admitting his true motives to Sansa
  • Bran discovering Jon’s parentage through his visions
  • Jon Snow becoming King in the North (Lyanna Mormont is a boss)
  • Sam and Gilly reaching the Citadel
  • Olenna Tyrell putting the Sand Snakes in their place
  • Daenerys naming Tyrion her Hand
  • Arya assassinating Walder Frey (Red Wedding revenge!)
  • Daenerys and her vast array of forces setting sail for Westeros

Game of Thrones “The Winds of Winter” 6×10 Preview: Part 2

Game of Thrones “The Winds of Winter” 6×10 Preview: Part 2

Game of Thrones “The Winds of Winter” 6×10 Preview: PART 2

  1. Winterfell

The aftermath of the victory in “Battle of the Bastards” is far from simple. Davos looks to Jon for help in punishing and maybe even killing Melisandre now that he knows the truth of what happened to Shireen. Jon aims to not just love and protect Sansa, but to trust and respect her, treating her like an equal. And Littlefinger moves to reward himself for his part in “Battle of the Bastards.” And all of this will determine the future of the North and Westeros itself.

Jon will unfortunately be forced to choose between the woman who brought him back to life, and the man who’s been his most trusted advisor this season and who convinced Melisandre to try and bring Jon back to life. I see this situation ending one of three ways. The first is that Jon banishes Melisandre, deciding that he can’t allow her execution since she brought him back to life, but he also can’t allow her to remain at his side because of what she did to Shireen. It would be similar to Daenerys’s decision to banish Jorah Mormont twice. The second is that Jon, who didn’t really know Shireen, says to Davos that Davos is the one who must decide what to do with Melisandre, that if Davos wants her to die, as per Northern philosophy, “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.” So if Davos believes Melisandre should die, then Davos needs to be the one to execute Melisandre. The third scenario is that Jon says he doesn’t have the right to punish or execute the woman who brought him back to life and that it is only fair she remain by his side. He’ll want Davos to remain by his side as well, but Davos will refuse and abandon Jon and Winterfell. Melisandre’s true age may come back into play. With her life and position on the line, she will reveal her age to help herself, even if it’s just pity she seeks.

As for Littlefinger, he’s going to seek a handsome reward for bringing the Knights of the Vale to help defeat Ramsay’s army. Political influence over the North and romance with Sansa is what we’ll see him after in this episode. He spent season 5 trying to achieve this in the North, from allying with the Boltons via the Sansa-Ramsay marriage to convincing Cersei to name him Warden of the North and give him Winterfell if he defeated the victor of the battle between the Boltons and the army of Stannis Baratheon. Cersei said she’d have the king issue a royal decree. Littlefinger may have that royal decree and tell Jon and Sansa Winterfell is his; he has the larger army and can take it from them by force if he must. However, that’s far too straightforward for Littlefinger. What’s more likely is he’ll propose an official alliance between the Vale and the North once again led by House Stark. In time he will betray them to help himself, but for now it’ll just be creating an official alliance. Where Sansa is concerned, I believe he’ll make romantic advances but Sansa will shut him down, making it clear that’s not what she wants. Littlefinger will be disappointed but won’t force the relationship. Doing so would make him too much like Ramsay. Instead, Littlefinger will promise to be patient, promise he won’t force anything between him and Sansa, but he’ll always have feelings for her and whenever she’s ready, they can begin their relationship. I dearly hope he doesn’t try to arrange an alliance between the Vale and North via a marriage between him and Sansa. Ultimately, Littlefinger will take what he wants, but he plays the game of thrones arguably better than anyone. He’s been playing a long game from the beginning and isn’t going to start taking what he wants straightforward and by force now.

There’s a lot more for the North to decide than just an alliance with the Vale. Jon will do his utmost to ensure that he and Sansa are in a good place with their relationship in the ensuing political complexity. I expect the Northern Houses to once again recognize House Stark as the reigning House. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Houses push for Sansa to be the Wardeness of the North, for Jon to be the new King in the North, or perhaps even for both to happen. I loved the sassy expression Lyanna Mormont gave Ramsay Bolton in the last episode. I hope to see her playing a role in deciding the future of the North. Tormund and the remaining wildling should also have a say in that matter.

  1. Meereen

Daenerys finally has the ships and combined forces she needs to sail for Westeros. The seemingly endless quandary of Meereen and Slaver’s Bay is finally resolved, and she has fully asserted her identity as the Mother of Dragons. At last it is time for her to head to Westeros using the ships provided by Theon and Yara, and the fleet she and her forces took from the Masters. Three fully grown dragons, Grey Worm and the Unsullied, the Khalasar, Daario Naharis and the Second Sons, Theon and Yara and their fellow ironborn, Missandei, Tyrion Lannister, and Daenerys herself will all be headed to Westeros by the end of this episode.

  1. The Wall

Bran, Meera Reed and Benjen Stark really need to reach the Wall. The White Walkers and wights have managed to kill or force everyone to flee the lands beyond the Wall. Only Bran, Meera and Benjen remain (except perhaps for Craster’s wives, we don’t know for sure what happened to them after Jon and his faithful brothers of the Night’s Watch killed the mutineers at Craster’s Keep and burned it down).

In this episode I expect to see this newly formed trio reach Castle Black where Lord Commander Edd will fill them in on all that’s happened. They’ll enjoy some shelter and food and warmth before heading to Winterfell to reunite with Jon and Sansa. With Arya also planning to head to Winterfell, the ultimate Stark reunion may come to fruition in season 7. This includes not just Arya and Bran seeing the recently reunited Jon and Sansa for the first time in years, but their Uncle Benjen as well. Like Jon, Benjen can say “My watch is ended” honorably because he too died and through extraordinary circumstances came back to life.

Edd and the rest of the Night’s Watch will be in trouble as I expect the White Walkers and wights to begin breaching the Wall at the end of the episode. There’s nothing left to stand in the way of the White Walkers and wights beyond the Wall. The episode is called “The Winds of Winter” because the White Walkers and wights are bringing the winds of winter with them as they begin spilling into Westeros.

  1. Wild Card storylines

I doubt we’ll see Arya, Sam and Gilly, Jorah Mormont, Varys, Brienne and Podrick, or Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes in this episode. But I’d love to see Sam and Gilly since there’s been a severe lack of them this season and I want to know whether Sam is sticking with the maester plan or headed back North after what transpired at Horn Hill. If Varys is back in Westeros I suspect he’ll either go to King’s Landing to murder some significant characters or to Dorne to forge an alliance between Daenerys and Dorne. Even at 69 minutes I’m not sure the episode can squeeze in these other storylines, but we shall see in what is sure to be an iconic Game of Thrones episode!

 

 

Image credit: http://moviepilot.com/posts/3972162

Game of Thrones “The Winds of Winter” 6×10 Preview: Part 1

Game of Thrones “The Winds of Winter” 6×10 Preview: Part 1

Game of Thrones “The Winds of Winter” 6×10 Preview

The season finale of a favorite TV show is always a bittersweet time. Season finales tend to be packed with awesomeness, often delivering many of the best moments in the show’s history. While the shocking twists and cliffhangers are delicious, you’re then left deprived of any new taste until the next season. Before diving into preview and predictions for the Game of Thrones season 6 finale, watch (or re-watch) the episode’s promo:

  1. The Twins

Many characters die in Game of Thrones when they’re feeling most victorious and confident. Walder Frey is currently feeling that way with Riverrun once again under Frey-Lannister control, the Blackfish dead and the Houses of the Riverlands once again forced to be subservient to House Frey. That means it’s time for Walder Frey to die. It’s only fitting one of the primary engineers of the Red Wedding dies at a celebratory event at the Twins. In the books it seems like the Brotherhood Without Banners are the ones planning to bring that to fruition. But it definitely doesn’t look that way in the show with the Brotherhood gearing up to head North and fight the White Walkers and wights, and with the show’s lack of Lady Stoneheart. So who is going to kill Walder Frey?

I believe Jaime Lannister will, with help from Bronn. Jaime will kill Walder Frey for Catelyn Stark. When Jaime met with Brienne in “No One” (6×08) he was impressed and genuinely surprised Brienne was able to finish fulfilling her oath to Catelyn. I like to think it made Jaime realize he hasn’t done enough to finish fulfilling his part of the oath to Catelyn. When talking with Edmure Tully, Jaime made it abundantly clear that despite everything he still has deep respect for Catelyn, for her strength and love for her children. While he can’t help with Sansa or Arya, he can get vengeance against Walder Frey for the Red Wedding and Catelyn’s death. He has no love for the Freys and even has cause to be angry with them as their plight with Riverrun played a role in yet again tearing him away from Cersei.

With Bronn’s help, Jaime will kill Walder Frey in a way that makes Black Walder Rivers look responsible. Jaime has ample cause to hate Black Walder Rivers as he’s the one who killed Catelyn, and he acted arrogantly when Jaime and the Lannister army arrived at Riverrun (Jaime smacked him in the face). Poison seems like the best way to make this happen.

  1. King’s Landing

The trial for Cersei Lannister and Loras Tyrell is finally here. The High Sparrow thinks he’s won. But he’s severely underestimated two women: Margaery Tyrell and Cersei Lannister. Margaery has fooled about everyone except her grandmother Olenna Tyrell into thinking she’s become a completely pious, atoning figure obedient to the Faith of the Seven. But Margaery assured her grandmother the situation was under control. I believe her. Margaery is the only character who’s been able to manipulate and even be remotely successful dealing with the High Sparrow. She’s still Queen of Westeros while the first two kings she married have been long dead and her currently husband is a pawn of the High Sparrow. I am confident she has a plan to save her brother and the future of House Tyrell. She’s already put herself in a prime position to make whatever her plan is a reality.

But will Cersei inadvertently destroy Margaery’s plan? Cersei will enter this trial relying on the mysterious rumor discussed between her and Qyburn in “No One” to save herself and defeat the High Sparrow and Faith Militant once and for all. As for what that rumor is, there are two theories I present, the first being an outlandish theory of mine and the second being a popular one discussed at length on the Internet. The first is that if you watch the season 6 trailer below this paragraph, there’s a frame at 1:18 so brief it doesn’t even last a whole second. But the frame looks like a group of children standing over someone and stabbing them. My theory is that Cersei had Qyburn investigate any dirt on the High Sparrow, particularly a rumor that the High Sparrow used to be or continues to be a pedophile. With this confirmed, Cersei is going to use Qyburn’s spies (the children who were Varys’s little birds in King’s Landing) to catch the High Sparrow off guard, perhaps even pretending to seduce him before killing him. With the High Sparrow gone, the Faith Militant and the Faith’s alliance with the Crown will crumble. Of course, the more likely scenario with these children has to do with the events depicted in the Epilogue of George R. R. Martin’s A Dance With Dragons . . .

The other less creepy and more popular theory is that Cersei had Qyburn investigate rumors about the caches of wildfire beneath the city and she will use the deadly weapon to save herself and defeat her enemies. It’s argued that Bran’s visions of wildfire and the Mad King screaming “Burn them all!” in “Blood of My Blood” (6×06) was foreshadowing of this event. This theory is a lot more likely. The question is how exactly Cersei intends to use the wildfire.

Compared to previous seasons, things have remained pretty status quo in King’s Landing with the High Sparrow and Faith Militant firmly maintaining their control despite various efforts from members of the tenuous Lannister-Tyrell alliance. All I feel confident in saying is that the status quo will finally shatter. I expect multiple significant characters to die in King’s Landing as the city once again runs with blood.

More predictions to come in Part 2 of this preview . . .

 

 

Image credit: http://www.thegrumpyfish.com/game-thrones-walder-frey-may-return-upcoming-episode/

Game of Thrones “Battle of the Bastards” 6×09 Review: Part 2

Game of Thrones “Battle of the Bastards” 6×09 Review: Part 2

Like “Blackwater” and “Watchers on the Wall,” I expected the whole episode to stay grounded in and around Winterfell, providing the rare opportunity to focus solely on the characters in that location instead of jumping between an array of characters and locations. So I was surprised to see the episode partly in Meereen this week. This move ended up working well as we get the needed resolution (Daenerys finally using the three fully grown dragons and the entirety of her forces to defeat the Masters once and for all) and the next step in this storyline (Daenerys allying with Yara and Theon, gaining her first large group of Westerosi allies and getting the extra ships she needs to finally set sail for Westeros). While epic and crucial, both were fairly expected to happen. It was better to happen in an episode where those scenes didn’t need to be the huge punch. The huge punch was obviously provided by the battle for Winterfell between the forces led by Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton. What happened in Meereen was an epic addition to an already incredible episode.

In Meereen I was glad to see there wasn’t drawn-out tension between Daenerys and Tyrion as she grappled with whether or not she should forgive, punish, or reward him for how he fared representing her in her extensive absence. For a while now she’s known that one can never deal or reason with the Masters. In season 5 she executed the freedman (former slave) Mossador when he killed a captured Son of the Harpy who was supposed to stand trial. When talking about the Masters, Mossador said “All they understand is blood!” After the events in the fighting pit from “The Dance of Dragons” (5×09), Daenerys finally understood this, and in “Battle of the Bastards” applied Mossador’s philosophy against the Masters. Tyrion was left to deal with an impossible situation and it’s amazing he and Missandei and Grey Worm and Varys fared as well as they did. Daenerys wisely realizes that and thankfully keeps him as her trusted adviser. This is one way in which, despite the blatant foreshadowing, Daenerys is not like her father the Mad King (see “Blood of My Blood” 6×06 Review: Part 1 for more on the parallels between Daenerys and the Mad King).

As for the alliance forged between Daenerys and Yara (the flirtation between them was palpable) and Theon, the dialogue between the two parties and the pact itself speak volumes to how Game of Thrones has largely become a story of children trying to save the world from destroying itself and paying for the mistakes and or treachery inflicted by their parents. Ned Stark, Catelyn Stark (mistakes, not treachery for those two), Tywin Lannister, the Mad King, Balon Greyjoy, Roose Bolton (mistakes AND treachery for the four of them): Many of these characters were in this episode paying for their parents’ treachery or mistakes, and in all cases except Ramsay, were trying to save the world from destroying itself because of those actions.

Ultimately, this episode delivers on longtime promises. For fans of the books and the show, it’s beyond satisfying to see the Starks finally take back Winterfell and for Daenerys to assert her dominance as the Mother of Dragons. The North Remembers in an episode that is truly A Song of Ice and Fire.

Game of Thrones “Battle of the Bastards” 6×09 Review: Part 1

Game of Thrones “Battle of the Bastards” 6×09 Review: Part 1

Game of Thrones 6×09 “Battle of the Bastards” Review

After a few episodes that varied in intensity and tone, “Battle of the Bastards” went full-throttle. It was brilliant and thrilling, but also exhausting to watch. This episode, more than any other, really entrenched the audience into the chaotic and terrifying heart of battle. As fantastic as “Blackwater” (2×09) and “Watchers on the Wall” (4×09) were in terms of big battles, neither episode had that effect on the audience like “Battle of the Bastards” did.

The scenes leading up to the battle brimmed with rich moments, beginning with the first meeting between Jon and Ramsay where the two characters are fully juxtaposed and the hatefully emotional charge between Sansa and Ramsay is fiery as ever, followed soon after by the full-blown tension and harsh truths exploding between Jon and Sansa. The conversation between Davos and Tormund was also pure gold. Despite the tense history between the leaders they served, both characters find some unlikely common ground in their pragmatic humanity and faith in Jon Snow. The scene is fantastic in itself and is made even more so by Davos’s discovery (more on that in a future blog post previewing the season 6 finale).

Right before the actual battle began, Game of Thrones violated the rule of three. For those that may not know, the rule of three is simply that things that come in threes are more satisfying, effective or funny. Whether or not you’re aware of it, you rely on the rule of three when reading or watching stories. Because of this, I thought Rickon was in the clear after Ramsay’s third arrow missed him. While the despicable son of Roose Bolton intentionally missed hitting Rickon on the first two shots, I thought the third arrow would be Rickon’s demise. But when the third arrow landed in the ground, I thought Rickon was far enough away from Ramsay and close enough to Jon to survive. I should’ve known better. I should’ve remembered how Game of Thrones deconstructs so many storytelling principles we rely on, and no one is ever safe in this universe. Sansa said it best when she told Jon the night before the battle “No one can protect me. No one can protect anyone.”

That statement speaks to the nature of war itself and what the characters face in this episode. The audience is hurled headfirst alongside Jon and the others into battle strategy clashing with violent randomness, a suffocating conflict reigning in destruction to the point of hopelessness. This is evoked so strongly and for such an extended length of time that even though I and many others predicted Littlefinger would show up with the Knights of the Vale and help save the day, any hope of that happening seemed lost long before it even happened. Hear what David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have to say to hear more about the historical influences of how they created this battle:

Following the arrival of the Knights of the Vale and their critical intervention into the battle, we see the terrific shot of Jon and Tormund and Wun Wun racing up the hill to Winterfell after Ramsay. It’s one of my favorite shots in all Game of Thrones, these three individuals who despite how bloodied and battered they area and all they’ve lost are racing after Ramsay and won’t let him escape at any cost. Ramsay learned the hard way that siege tactics become a lot less successful against giants. It’s fitting that Ramsay’s final defeat and death take place inside the walls of Winterfell at the hands of the Starks.

The deaths of Rickon and Wun Wun are particularly devastating because of how they happened. The tragedy of Rickon’s death speaks for itself. It could’ve been even more tragic and meaningful if he’d received more character development and if back in season 1 if there had been personal scenes between him and Jon and Sansa. Thinking he’s finally safe again, now protected by his older brother and sister and to have that taken away from him and when he and Jon were mere feet from reaching other is absolutely gut-wrenching. Wun Wun certainly endeared himself to audiences this season over and over again. He helped save Davos and Edd and those still loyal to Jon at Castle Black, and was the first wildling outside Tormund to pledge their support to Jon in the battle against Ramsay and his forces. In this episode, he gave everything he had against the enemy forces to the point that he wrenched open and burst through the Winterfell gates even though he was covered in and still being pelted with arrows. It seemed like we were going to get one final moment between Jon and Wun Wun with the loyalty and admiration for each other fully expressed with that last look between them. Ramsay stole that moment from coming to complete fruition with another one of his damned arrows. In season 5, Wun Wun impressed when the White Walkers and wights attacked Hardhome. In season 6, Wun Wun became a fan favorite no one wanted to let go.

Tormund’s death seemed inevitable between the Bolton spearmen and the gritty showdown between him and Lord Umber. It’s fitting that Tormund is the one to kill Lord Umber since Umber’s whole motivation for allying with Ramsay was to have the numbers to destroy the wildlings. That asshole needed to die, the asshole who betrayed the Starks, killed Shaggydog and delivered Rickon and Osha to Ramsay for an alliance.

Capping it all off was Ramsay’s death which ended up being more perfect than I ever imagined. It is perfect that Ramsay’s death is elongated and torturous and ends in betrayal. It is perfect that Sansa is the one to carry out his death after how much she suffered at his hands, perfect that his loyal hounds who devoured Walda Bolton and his baby brother earlier this season are the same hounds to tear him apart. Between her conversation with Jon the night before the battle, how writing to Littlefinger helped win the battle when all seemed lost, and that final scene with Ramsay, Sansa has asserted herself more than ever as a player rather than pawn in the game of thrones.

More about this episode and the show as a whole in the Part 2 review . . .

 

 

 

 

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