Game of Thrones Griping 6: The Dead Wedding

By Bob Case
on Mar 10, 2017
Filed under:
Television

79 comments

This series analyzes the show, but sometimes references the books as well. If you read it, expect spoilers for both.

I’m back!

Last week’s post didn’t go up because my laptop died late on Thursday night, but now I’m here again, with bells on. Two weeks ago I made plans to explain how the death of Roose Bolton was emblematic (to me at least) of the show’s decline. To do that, I’m going to take the way-back machine all the way to the halycon days of 2013, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth.

The Dead Wedding

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the Red Wedding was a watershed moment for Game of Thrones. Even if later episodes and later seasons eventually eclipsed it in ratings, I’m not sure the show has since equaled the amount of buzz the Red Wedding generated. It’s the sort of moment TV executives dream of: millions of mouths gathering around millions of (virtual or otherwise) water coolers, boosting their Q rating into the brand attachment green zone, or whatever sorts of things TV executives say.

And I have to admit, they earned it. The Rains of Castamere was, in fact, a unique moment in television. For one thing, it required the tacit collusion of thousands of book readers not to blow the game ahead of schedule, which I was a little surprised to see it mostly got.It was a teeth-grinding moment every time a book reader got too cheeky with their hint-dropping. Second, it asked for an expert control of tone on the show’s part. The audience has to have a growing sense of unease without suspecting the true extent of the danger. That unease has to steadily grow, then be at least briefly and carefully deflated before the hammer drops.

Since the last episode of MBTSAAFGOTGSMrBtongue’s Scrupulously Accurate and Fair Game of Thrones Griping Spectacular established me as a show!Bolton fanboy, you may not be surprised to learn that my favorite moment was this one:

Twenty minutes into Red Wedding and chill and he gives you this look.

Twenty minutes into Red Wedding and chill and he gives you this look.

For those whose obsessions are too healthy to remember what this is, it’s the moment just after Catelyn realizes that Roose Bolton is wearing chainmail underneath his clothing. If I had to guess, I would guess that the above is just about the exact frame where the average show-only viewer realized just how bad things were going to get. I imagine an internal monologue going something like “wait, why would you wear armor to a wedd-ooooohhhhhh shitshitshitshit.” I love that the show trusted to viewer to catch the significance of this on their own without spelling it out in some way that would’ve ruined the moment. Even the panicked strangeness of Catelyn’s reaction (she slaps him) rings true.

And the truth is they’ve been chasing that high ever since. They want that buzz again, they want that hype again, that feeling like they’re flying. And to me this is the show’s own mini meta-tragedy: they’re not going to get it. No matter how many characters they feed into their industrial-strength character mincing machine they’re never going to equal the rush of the first time. This is not only because of the natural diminishing returns of dipping your bucket into the “major character death” well over and over again, but also because the Red Wedding took place in a world made up of consistent and believable norms.

In order for it to have the impact that it did, the viewer had to believe that guest right is important and that the Starks will be protected by it. You have to realize the significance of someone wearing armor at a wedding, and to get the full effect you even have to be familiar with the song “Rains of Castamere.” That’s a lot to ask with a show that has precious little screen time to work with, but if you can pull it off the viewer is rewarded not only with the shock of the act itself but with the catharsis of realizing its signifance and the immersion of believing it took place in a consistent world.

But if you just kill off characters willy-nilly, without anchoring the deaths in believable consequences, you’re not going to get that effect. Compare the Red Wedding to the death of the character responsible for its most effective moment (and yes, make allowances for the fact that Roose Bolton is a relatively minor character in comparison to Robb and Catelyn Stark). His murder is noteable for the sheer casualness of it. Ramsay appears to do it on a whim, out of irritation as much as anything else. He apparently could have killed the Lord of the Dreadfort and Warden of the North whenever he felt like it. Roose is lucky it didn’t happen sooner, honestly. To the writers, the unique, unsettling quality of Roose Bolton is no match for the sheer awesomeness of Shirtless McRapestab and his twenty good men.

What was it that finally set him off, by the way? Learning about his new brother-in-law? Or was it when Roose wouldn’t let him march the Bolton army on Castle Black? Maybe that was the thing he wanted to do so badly he killed his own father for not doing it. Only then he never does it! He never even mentions it again! He spends the rest of the season twiddling his thumbs at Winterfell, waiting for Sansa and Jon to deposit an army on his doorstep. Occasionally they bring a minor character (Osha in this case) to his room for him to stab just so he can meet his quota, but otherwise nothing.

Sometimes the show seems to me to be little more than a conveyor belt for this stuff. Make the audience like a character, so when they die they’ll be sad. Make the audience hate a character, so when they die they’ll be happy. But each death has less emotional impact than the one before. The body count climbs ever higher – can I even remember all the season six deaths? Let’s try: Roose Bolton, Osha, Rickon StarkAnd Shaddydog, RIP., Walda FreyAnd her son., Walder FreyAnd two of his sons., Ramsay, Balon Greyjoy, Loras Tyrell, Margaery Tyrell, Mace Tyrell, the High Sparrow, Lancel Lannister, Kevan Lannister, Tommen, HodorAnd Summer, RIP., Maester Pycelle, Doran MartellAnd his bodyguard, Areo Hotah., Trystane Martell, the Three-Eyed RavenAnd the child of the forest who the credits refer to as “Leaf.”, Lady Crane, the Waif… I’m sure I’ve forgotten at least one. They’re knocking off an average of more than two per episode. A part of me suspects that they’re just trying to get their payroll down at this point.

Take life insurance out on these three. Your odds of at least one payout are nearly a lock.

Take life insurance out on these three. Your odds of at least one payout are nearly a lock.

After a while you just kind of get numb to it – or at least I do. This season did have an attempted Red Wedding-like event – only instead of catharsis the sheer farcicalness of it reduced me to half of a giggling fit. But that’s a whole other storyline, one we’ll cover if we ever make it that far. Next week will finally be Sansa week, and after that, the endgame.

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Footnotes:

[1] It was a teeth-grinding moment every time a book reader got too cheeky with their hint-dropping.

[2] MrBtongue’s Scrupulously Accurate and Fair Game of Thrones Griping Spectacular

[3] And Shaddydog, RIP.

[4] And her son.

[5] And two of his sons.

[6] And Summer, RIP.

[7] And his bodyguard, Areo Hotah.

[8] And the child of the forest who the credits refer to as “Leaf.”


2020201979 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.

From the Archives:

  1. Sharnuo says:

    There’s a fine line to walk with character death in books and TV shows. Movies it’s a bit less important because with so much less screen time you don’t miss out on as much character development and you can wrap stories up faster, and even have it add to the drama of the ending better because they’re that much closer together. But with TV shows and books, kill too few and everyone feels invulnerable, no tension or suspense. But a lot of shows fall off the horse on the other side trying to correct for this and end up killing so many characters that there’s no one interesting left. Walking Dead is starting to fall into that pattern too I feel.

    • ehlijen says:

      What’s worse (I think, I haven’t seen TWD) for GoT is that the locations all depend on a minimum interesting character level, but some had stories to tell beyond those characters.

      For example, I didn’t think for a second Jon would stay dead, because that’d have left no one at Castle Black to keep the focus on, meaning we wouldn’t see further white walker developments on screen.

      Heck, as it is, Castle Black has no meaningful characters left, so we can pretty much assume it’s going to fall off screen next season.

      Meanwhile, King’s Landing is down to Cersei and Jaime. The capital of Westeros, the focal point of all the politicking, is going to be nothing but sibling squabbles unless they get some more major characters in there.

    • Bloodsquirrel says:

      When it comes to character death, history has shown that quality trumps quantity, big time. A few really good character deaths will cement a show’s reputation for killing lots of characters in a way that a dozen poorly handled ones won’t.

      It’s also important that a character death be a natural part of the story. It’s not something you throw in to spice up an otherwise dull plotline- it has to arise from and contribute to the narrative flow. I has to be a point where the character’s personal arc and the overall story align to make it the right thing to happen at the moment.

      • Joshua says:

        As far as (sympathetic) character deaths, do the books really have that many as their reputation seems?

        Major Sympathetic Character Deaths (I mean major, no Quentyn, Beric Dondarrion, etc.)

        A Game of Thrones: Ned Stark, Robert Baratheon

        A Clash of Kings: Renly Baratheon, Jeor Mormont

        A Storm of Swords: Robb Stark, Catelyn Stark

        A Feast for Crows: Can’t remember any?

        A Dance of Dragons: Jon Snow,

        Which ones did I forget?

        There are of course villains like Joffrey, Tywin, Balon Greyjoy, and numerous minor characters but most people don’t count those kind of deaths.

        It seems to me that the books did tend to go for quality over quantity.

        • guy says:

          It’s Ned who really set the bar, though secondary characters have an above-average death rate. Mostly, Ned established that no one was safe, because he’s a protagonist-like viewpoint character and seems to be the main focus, and when it looks like he’s going to survive and go to the Wall to continue his plot, and then

          But they have the soft hearts of women! Sir Ilyn Payne, bring me his head!

          It’s kinda funny, when I started reading it, after his first viewpoint chapter I was all “Dead man walking! Dead man walking here!”, because I could just sense that he was going to die and become Robb’s motivation. But in general people took his death as a sign that absolutely no one was safe. But I think he’s the only non-prologue viewpoint character in the entire series to die for keeps.

        • Syal says:

          I think Ned and Robb are the major reasons for the reputation, but on top of those:

          Bran, Jaime, Tyrion and Theon have all been crippled;

          Brienne, the Hound and Syrio have had fade-to-black-maybe-they’re-dead moments;

          Characters like Old Nan and the members of Ned’s escort get enough development that it feels like one character dying will be a big deal, and then half a dozen of them die at once.

          Also I guess Daenarys’ son would count?

        • Joe Informatico says:

          Not really, in all likelihood. Most epic fantasy series revolve around some kind of “fellowship” or “adventuring party” ensemble cast. They might later split up and have their own adventures in different parts of the world, but that core group or protagonists is usually pretty consistent throughout the series. One or two of those characters might die in service to a Shit Just Got Real moment, but usually if the author wants to demonstrate how dire the situation is, or how evil the bad guys are, or how dark the world is overall, they’ll kill off important supporting characters, or have mass slaughters at important locations.

          A Song of Ice and Fire isn’t a traditional genre adventure story revolving around one or a small group of protagonists on a definitive quest or mission. It’s structured more like a historical epic a la War and Peace, covering multiple families and battle fronts in the middle of a war of succession. So it’s not usual in that kind of story (or actual history) for important rulers and their families to suffer casualties, since they’re trying to do the same thing to the other guy and his family.

          I think Martin gets more of a rep for two reasons. 1) He really is good writer, and skillfully builds up those moments for maximum impact, at least early on. If we weren’t invested in these characters and their motives, we wouldn’t care as much. (Joss Whedon, another guy with a rep for character-killing, is also usually good at this.) And 2), most of ASOIAF’s initial fan base were fantasy fiction readers who were used to that Lord of the Rings fellowship model–killing off the likes of Boromir and Gandalf (and bringing him back later) has more of an impact on the reader than the deaths of Theodred and Denethor. Since ASOIAF is structured the way it is, Martin makes those characters who’d be supporting cast in a typical fantasy story into protagonists, or at least very important to the POV protagonists. Theodred’s death in The Two Towers doesn’t make a huge emotional impact on the reader or the main characters. Why would it, we never knew the guy. His death mostly serves to explain how Theoden’s grief has allowed Wormtongue to isolate him from the family and people who actually care for him. But if Theoden was a POV character in Lord of the Rings, damn right his son’s death would have an emotional impact in the narrative.

        • silver Harloe says:

          “Which ones did I forget?”
          I would’ve counted Drogo from the first book. I thought he was nearly a major character, certainly moreso than Dany’s brother (can’t even remember his name anymore) and more sympathetic (perhaps FOR killing Dany’s brother, but really also because he clearly loved her immensely). I mean: I didn’t like him, but I found him sympathetic. Especially the last few days of his life – I found those rather sad.

        • Vermander says:

          I wouldn’t count book Renly as sympathetic. He was a vain, frivolous usurper, who wanted to set a new precedent of “whoever has the most swords is king.” He had absolutely no right to be king, and didn’t care, even if it prolonged the war and got more people killed.

          Plus, he was kind to Brienne’s face and joined the others making fun of her behind her back.

          All of his sympathetic qualities were invented for the show.

          • silver Harloe says:

            Agreed, he was an ass in the books, but: he was right about Kingship.

            Let’s just grant entirely for the sake of argument that the Targaryen family has the “real” right to the throne. Then Robert’s claim was based entirely on military power. Since Robert’s rule is “illegitimate,” there is no “rightful” successor to Robert – just whoever wins the war. Same “right” Robert used to claim the throne.

            Now lets delete the given which was granted for the sake of argument. What we get is that the Targaryen claim is really just based on a much older “had the most military power”.
            You might say they have a rightful claim because they united the seven kingdoms – but they did that entirely by dint of having tactical nuclear dragons. They maintained succession for so long only because they had enough loyal soldiers to crush every rebellion until Robert’s.

            • Bloodsquirrel says:

              Robert did have a Targ in his family tree at some point, which is what they used to justify his claim. It’s why he’s king instead of Ned.

              But the truth is that *none* of them have a right to be king. It’s all a post-hoc socially constructed justification for autocratic rule backed up by force. The whole thing is a game where they all have to stick to the story of there being a “rightful” king enough to prevent just anyone from going after the throne, driving the realm into anarchy, but still play loosely enough to allow for their own claims.

        • Harper says:

          I don’t think Renly counts toward sympathetic deaths, Martin’s clearly written him as an entitled PoS who knew about Cersei’s incest and still tried to make himself king, was waiting for Loras to kill his brother and basically held Catelyn captive to give her and her son a message.

    • Wraith says:

      The Walking Dead fell into that pattern a long, LONG time ago. As early as season 3, that show had fallen into a pattern where seasons were pretty much just a countdown to the next character death (usually a Mauve Shirt at worst). “Filler, action sequence, filler, filler, action sequence, character death.” That’s pretty much the formula for creating a Walking Dead episode. If I rewatched an episode I could nail it even better. By the end of my run watching an episode was like checking boxes on a list.

      And if you want to create a season: Premiere (maybe something shocking if the feeling is a need to “shake things up”), Filler episode, Wham moment in the third episode, three filler episodes, build-up penultimate episode, mid-finale has a big moment of some kind, either shaking up the status quo (pushing the characters from a home) or killing off a more significant character than usual. Repeat for the second half of the season. Walking Dead is one of those shows that would seriously benefit from a trim-down of the number of episode per season and forcing the showrunners to do more with less screentime. That’s why the first season was so good, and why Game of Thrones was so good for so long until it just became too big.

      I rage-quit The Walking Dead after the season 5 mid-premiere because of this. They killed Tyreese in that one in an episode that was a complete mess of pacing, tone, and character assassination, and in the meta sense I’d also become aware that the actor was moving on to a new project so they were clearly just killing him off because of behind-the-scenes stuff rather than for any meaningful in-universe or character reason.

      The Walking Dead died for me because it became clear they were killing off characters more for audience shock value than for meaningful story- or characterization-related reasons. Seeing the same problem infect Game of Thrones broke my heart and my trust that the writers knew what they were doing. The only way I was able to enjoy season 6 after that abominable premiere was by just rolling with the fact that what I was seeing was schlock rather than deep, cinematic television.

      • Sharnuo says:

        You definitely have it down to a science. I held out a bit longer than you because my brothers are really into the show and it was something we would bond over but none of us have gotten into the latest season. Everyone is ranting and raving about Negan but I personally just find the actor kind of annoying to be honest, and not even in the way your supposed to. Like I feel like he’s supposed to be, I don’t know, charismatic… And he just kinda bugs me. Just personal preference tho.

      • Harper says:

        I loved watching that show until about the fourth place they settled down in and had to leave abruptly. If season one or two ended with the group finding Atlanta as an actual safe-haven protected by the National Guard( with its real-world competency), then that would have been the perfect television series.
        There’s got to be an endgame for a show like that, or its just frustrating to watch after a while

    • Falterfire says:

      I think people overestimate the dangers of letting characters ‘feel invulnerable’. There are a lot of tragedies and misfortunes that can befall a character that don’t involve killing them (or even another character). There are whole genres that don’t put the main cast in mortal danger and yet are able to create interesting stakes and tense moments.

      The important thing is that the audience cares about the characters and what happens to them, even if they aren’t necessarily afraid of them being killed. I’d argue that the downside of being too safe with killing characters is much much less likely to negatively impact your audience’s enjoyment that getting too bloodthirsty.

      I find it a lot easier to continue caring about a group of characters I don’t expect to die than to care about a revolving group of characters that get unceremoniously ganked semi-randomly.

      • Bloodsquirrel says:

        They key there, though, is that you can’t keep *telling* us that the characters are in mortal danger and expecting us to believe it. You can’t tell us that your story is about cut-throat medieval politics and war, and put on a pretense of realism, and have everyone always come out fine, and that the sword we saw that guy take to the chest was only a flesh wound.

        ASOIAF really did need those character deaths in order to work. The original Star Wars trilogy got by fine without killing a whole lot of characters. Bleach and Naruto both had final arcs that wound up feeling completely toothless because of how rarely the heroes lost. Some stories need it, some don’t.

        • Shoeboxjeddy says:

          Naruto had been pretty good about give and take in terms of casualties. Then the last arc resurrected EVERY dead character… which was a lot too much.

      • King Marth says:

        It is extremely important to have degrees of failure different from death, as death is a very final event. It’s like arbitrary action series that have a tournament arc; if it’s single-elimination then the only match the protagonist can lose is the last one, unless they run out of episodes before then. Double-elimination (two losses required to be kicked out) makes every single match much more intense as you legitimately don’t know who will win until that one necessary loss before the arc-ending final match.

        From what I’ve heard, this series should have a lot of avenues for alternate setbacks, with the importance of influence. Losing support is more impactful than death, because the person who lost power has to live with those consequences and we get to see how that works out.

        • guy says:

          Funny you should use that particular example, because the Nanoha ViVid manga used a single-elimination tournament structure, which obviously means that the main character and her friend/rival will meet in the last match. Except then Vivio loses her first match with someone on the “if we had bookies they would bother to actually offer odds on this person getting champion” list. Then her rival gets matched up against the three-time galactic champion and is promptly curbstomped.

          • Bropocalypse says:

            Yeah, the ‘tournament arc’ has become a groan-worthy cliche of lots of action anime, so it’s nice to see it subverted. RWBY established a single-elimination tournament which everyone expected to be of that standard shonen fare, but it ended up just being a backdrop and reasonable target for the villain-group while the tournament itself hardly factored in at all except whenever the show wanted to take a break from the intrigue.

      • Warclam says:

        Precisely this. Nothing makes me stop caring about your story faster than axing characters (or even bystanders) just for drama.

        It should be obvious, really. Once you kill off a character, there’s only so much you can do with them. You can have some flashbacks or something, I guess? But you are depriving your audience, and yourself, of the chance to watch the character react to their own tribulations.

        Is there really nothing else this character could have provided? No other stories you could have told with them, in response to or in defiance of the things that go wrong for them?

        Now, there are those readers/viewers/players who can’t feel emotional investment without a parade of HUGELY TRAGIC BAD STUFF happening all the time. But frankly, these people worry me. Are you going to kill off your best villains and cutest woobies and greatest fighters, tear apart your entire setting that got you your audience in the first place, just to show these fickle people that things are “serious”?

        • Bloodsquirrel says:

          I’ve never been a fan of the “But you could still tell more stories with them!” reason for not killing off characters. You’re cutting yourself off from many more story possibilities by eliminating death entirely from your work than you are by killing a character every once in a while. Imagine The Lion King if they couldn’t kill Mufasa.

          • Warclam says:

            Well, yeah, but they had a story to tell about his death. Too often, writers are obviously just thinking: “We need some drama. Who can we kill?”

            That kind of laziness I can’t condone. The people who don’t care? Still don’t care. The people who did care? Now you’re teaching them that you’re not to be trusted with their emotions, because you’re going to abuse that power.

            So, they lose their investment in the story, because screw you writers you’re not going to hurt me again! Guess what? I don’t feel sad that she died, I feel angry at you for being an asshole!

          • Syal says:

            Also, the tragedy of a character’s death is because they had more stories they could have been part of. Far less effective to kill a character who’s done their part and is just hanging out now.

  2. Kylroy says:

    I assume the author is aware that a lot of these complaints hold for the books as well. GRRM isn’t quite as blatantly chasing “WHAM” moments as the show, but “After a while you just kind of get numb to it – or at least I do” sums up my feelings about ASOIAF as a whole.

    • Thomas says:

      FilmCriticHulk did one of his super long essays on how he felt the books have been forever chasing the high of the Red Wedding.

    • Harper says:

      The difference is Martin has built the foundations for these Wham moments for years.
      Euron seems like he comes out of nowhere but he was built up and his role as the inverse Bran was pretty well seeded.
      GOT has basically reverted to marking off a checklist of big events, taken from the novels and Martin’s rough outline of the endgame and put them in with wildly different contexts and without seeding them in beforehand.

      • One issue is that the showrunners had to decide to end the series. They wanted to do a season or so per book (maybe a little more). But with the books lagging behind they had to choose, take long breaks (more than a year) between seasons or spin their own tale on-wards.

        They can’t pause too long or they’ll loose momentum (and there’s enough shows on the box to distract people). And diverting too much from the books may loose the hardcore fans over time too.

        So a what, 7.5 season series does not seem that odd really. I’m just hoping that the .5 season is all high notes, and brings the TV show to a big success. And then maybe RR.Martin can relax and do the same with his books.

        I’m glad the show and books diverted, once the books are finally done I get a chance to “see” a whole alternate universe that still feels familiar.

        • Harper says:

          They can’t pause too long or they’ll loose momentum (and there’s enough shows on the box to distract people). And diverting too much from the books may loose the hardcore fans over time too.

          They’ve already diverted too far from the book, its all basically fanfiction at this point. The show diverges so wildly that when D&D attempt to put in the “fanservice” moments, they basically amount to Big Lipped Alligator Moments in the middle of an episode or two of a season.
          Good example would be the Frey Pies, a nice little box D&D check off that makes no sense out of context.
          In the books, Wyman Manderly hosts a few Freys in his castle, waits until they’re no longer his guests and then has them killed and butchered into meat pies. He has the benefit of having many people under his command, knights, soldiers, butchers and cooks to help him do it. The show ignores this whole context, and instead has a pre-teen girl do it all herself after making a long trip from Braavos, presumably recovering from grievous stab wounds in her gut, in Walder Frey’s OWN tower without anyone in the castle finding out.

          I’m glad the show and books diverted, once the books are finally done I get a chance to “see” a whole alternate universe that still feels familiar.

          I’ll be glad to read the endgame of the real universe that GoT is a pale imitation of, where the logic of the setting makes sense and the seeds Martin planted in the ’90s all coalesce into a truly gripping and emotional finale

          • Kylroy says:

            “I’ll be glad to read the endgame of the real universe that GoT is a pale imitation of, where the logic of the setting makes sense and the seeds Martin planted in the ’90s all coalesce into a truly gripping and emotional finale”

            I’ve got some bad news for you, son…

            • Harper says:

              I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt that we will see the last two books out in the next few years, he’s already given sample chapters of TWoW that are great.

              • Kylroy says:

                You mean the sample chapters that were material cut from the previous book?

                Moreover, GRRM has been pretty involved with the show’s script. IF he manages to muster the effort to actually finish a story he has clearly lost interest in, I’m not so sure it will be radically different than the show.

                • Harper says:

                  Yeah, there was a lot of material cut from one book that’s why the series is bigger than the trilogy he intended it to be…

                  Moreover, GRRM has been pretty involved with the show’s script. IF he manages to muster the effort to actually finish a story he has clearly lost interest in, I’m not so sure it will be radically different than the show.

                  He hasn’t actually personally written for the series since 2014, since then he’s had minimal involvement beyond giving them the rough outline of the endgame which he’s made clear has been changed dramatically by D&D’s alterations. The big reveals like Hold the Door, etc all have wildly different contexts in his story as has been the case for every reveal since around season 2 or 3

                  • Kylroy says:

                    The context might be different, but the overall arc of the story is likely to be the same.

                    • Harper says:

                      Taking down the White Walkers is the endgame for both the books and the show, bjut the rest of the narrative and the quality of said narrative is vastly different. The Dark Knight and Batman and Robin both have Batman take down villains, but does that mean they’re anywhere near the same quality?
                      And from what’s been leaked online, the next season of GoT is going to demonstrate precisely what GRRM said about how small changes adding up.
                      The books sure as hell aren’t going to have the Night King riding a Zombified Drogon , the “Three heads of the dragon” are a huge part of the endgame.

                    • Kylroy says:

                      If you’re thinking the books and the show will be as unconnected as The Dark Knight and Batman and Robin, I suspect you will be surprised.

                    • Harper says:

                      I was talking about the difference in quality, as in the show is the Batman and Robin to the book’s Dark Knight. And lets not kid ourselves that the whole incident where Arya gets stabbed in the gut multiple times, recovers and goes on to have a parkour chase in Braavos is any less ridiculous than the Bat Credit Card…

                      And again, the narrative will diverge, wildly if the rumors are true( and they come from the same source that gave away season 6), there’s not going to be Zombie Dragons, there’s not going to be the complete destruction of the Tyrell family, the Hound is not going to throw away all his character development to go play the Punisher, Brienne’s not going to forget her oath to protect Catelyn’s children long enough to kill Stannis, Stannis won’t get done in by a blizzard and “twenty good men”, etc, etc, etc…………

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The body count climbs ever higher – can I even remember all the season six deaths? Let’s try:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shs7VQhVvxA

  4. Matt Downie says:

    I thought it was fairly obvious what “finally set him off” – his new half-brother (not ‘brother-in-law’) is a legitimate heir. Roose no longer needs Ramsay. This alters the balance of power between them, so he kills him to ensure he inherits everything. The show frames it so at first we’re not sure which one of them has stabbed the other, because it’s plausible that Roose might decide to strike first.

    • Neil D says:

      I imagine it would be an accumulation of things, but yes, the newborn threat to Ramsay’s rather tenuous position as bastard-made-legitimate was the thing that made his father’s death not just desirable, but necessary.

      Remember this exchange from the fifth season:

      Ramsay: And if it’s a boy?
      Roose: You’re worried about your position.
      Ramsay: My position is quite clear. I’m your son until a better alternative comes along.

      So it’s surely not coincidental that this happened immediately upon learning that the child was male, or that Roose’s final words were:

      Roose: You’ll always be my firstborn.

      In front of witnesses, no less. Ramsay going stabby at that specific moment was him enforcing ‘no take-backs!’ in the most extreme way. Waiting until they were alone would have been more prudent, but Ramsay wasn’t going to take the slightest risk that the second Roose was out of sight he was going to renounce Ramsay again, or (as you say) even have him killed.

      The real failure of the writers here, with regards to showing Roose’s cunning nature, is that he should have given his wife caretakers strict instructions that he would be informed of the birth straight away, in private. Then he would be able to take appropriate action if necessary.

  5. Darren says:

    You have a point to make about the sheer number of deaths, but in that list–in any list of characters, really–there are going to be characters the audience, and show, cares about more than others. The deaths of Tommen, Margaery, and the High Sparrow were an inter-related catastrophe that represented the apex/nadir of Cersei’s character arc. It was a lavish, massively impactful episode, and at least half of it was dedicated solely to the resolution of the long conflict in King’s Landing that finally sees Cersei having seized power and the other factions of Westeros finally rallying against the might of the Lannisters. Here you toss these names out as if the show just casually mentioned that they had died offscreen.

    You might not like the show, and you might be correct that some characters are killed off without much regard, but you are objectively wrong that they are just knocking off swathes of characters without committing to the consequences of those actions. Unless you think scenes like Tommen leaping to his death were just half-assed body-count padding.

    • Harper says:

      The end result was pretty to look at, but the amount of logic and in-universe rules that had to be thrown out to get there made it ridiculous.
      The High Sparrow charging the Queen Regent with incest is a Wham! moment and super dramatic, but the problem is that charge of incest nullifies Tommen’s claim to the throne and the High Sparrow’s authority right along with it.
      Loras being taken by the Faith Militant, mutilated and denied his claim to Highgarden is just as Whammy! and dramatic( also really f**ked up and sadistically brutal) but that requires the most powerful House in the Seven Kingdoms( remember the empty Lannister gold mines?) to allow it, which is just nonsensical

      • Geebs says:

        Tommen’s death was a Wham! moment. Or maybe more of a Thud.

        Either way, that scene was a brilliantly shot and a great sucker punch.

        • Harper says:

          Yeah, the death of the child they aged up specifically to make his rape and emotional abuse by am older woman less squicky was a great sucker punch. I don’t think it was shot brilliantly however, it was actually pretty comedic the way it was shot

          • Shoeboxjeddy says:

            How was it rape if he was aged up appropriately to where it was expected a person of that age would be having sex in that world, at that time? I’m curious how you got to that point.

            • Harper says:

              Because chronologically he’s still the same age as the other actor who portrayed him, it doesn’t matter if they put in an older actor, no other child actor was aged up besides him. And even if he were aged up “properly” its still a woman in her upper twenties/early thirties raping a 16 year old boy and emotionally abusing him.

              • Shoeboxjeddy says:

                You’re missing the point. Westeros has different sexual mores than Earth, USA (or wherever you live). If the age of consent is WIDELY understood to be 16 in Westeros and he agreed to have sex with her (he definitely, definitely did), then… it’s not rape. Also, Margarey is not late 20s to early 30s in the show, that’s her actor’s age.

                • Harper says:

                  No, you’re missing the point of setting a story in a medieval, feudal society, its not to endorse that society, its to show its flaws.
                  In reality, marriage was never consummated as young as 16 in medieval societies, that’s something Martin gets wrong just as much as the showrunners, but even Martin kept the eight-ten year old Tommen away from the sixteen year old Margaery.
                  But again, the larger point is depiction vs endorsement, and that’s what you fail to understand. Mereen, Astapor, Qarth, etc all practice slavery as their analgous cultures once did in the past, but that doesn’t mean the narrative endorses slavery.
                  Even within the narrative, characters have trouble with the cultural mores of their own society, like Tyrion who is unwilling to rape a thirteen year old girl and Cersei who is so self-hating because she lives in a patriarchal setting and has internalized that misogyny.
                  And there in lies the problem with aging Tommen up and making his relationship with a much older woman in any way positive. The showrunners don’t believe its rape because they fail to understand depiction vs endorsement and their personal beliefs are probably in the realm of “What a lucky kid! Wish I had Natalie Dormer when I was 10-16!”

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Oh god,why did you have to ask that?Now he will go on about it again!

              • Shoeboxjeddy says:

                Edit: (I never noticed he ((or she)) replied the first time they commented in this fashion. That’s the main reason why.)

                I don’t like people trivializing real issues with made up, unsupported descriptions of events. GoT features many rapes, and is most often in the “rape = very bad” camp (save that one completely pooched scene between Jaime and Cersei). Saying that the woman in a married couple raped her husband because he was younger in the source material and also in my culture you have to be older is pure nonsense. In the SHOW, he is of age to have relations with his wife and it’s just presented as how things are. When one of the partners was shown as unready (Sansa and Tyrion’s marriage), the show made it clear that a DECENT person will just wait. Hell, the same character respected the feelings of her gay husband to not want to have sex with her! Having sex with someone who actively consents, wants to have sex with you, and is legally allowed to do so is not rape. This is fairly obvious to people who are cognizant of what that act is.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  It didnt work the last time,two posts ago,so dont expect it to work this time.

                • Harper says:

                  I don’t like people trivializing real issues with made up, unsupported descriptions of events

                  YOU, yes, you are the one trivializing real issues, sex between a minor and an older woman is rape. If you don’t believe that, then that’s shameful.

                  GoT features many rapes, and is most often in the “rape = very bad” camp (save that one completely pooched scene between Jaime and Cersei).

                  GoT depicts rape just as the books series does, the difference is the book series doesn’t excuse as was the case you referred to with Jaime and Cersei AND the books don’t use rape in lieu of a character arc like they did with Sansa.
                  Again, you’re failing to grasp the concept of depiction vs endorsement!

                  Having sex with someone who actively consents, wants to have sex with you, and is legally allowed to do so is not rape. This is fairly obvious to people who are cognizant of what that act is.

                  This is just morally repugnant, you realize that, right? It doesn’t matter if he’s 10 or 16, Tommen cannot give his consent to have sex, that’s basic freaking morality. He’s is raped and sexually manipulated by Margaery, basically everything Cersei was afraid she would do to Tommen in the BOOKS happened in the show, yet the show endorsed it. It really was akin to every idiot who says boys can’t be raped by their female teachers, both showrunners are apparently two of those same idiots.
                  We are not meant to take Essos’s slavery or Westeros’s patriarchy as good things or excusable, they are meant to be challenged within the text and BY the readers/viewers.

                  • Shamus says:

                    Your tone is terrible. You can’t convince someone by intensifying your outrage and shaming them into agreeing with you. All you’ll get is an angry fight. Topic closed. For everyone.

      • Darren says:

        The charge of incest was based entirely on Cersei’s affair with her cousin Lancel (who also got conveniently blown up). Tommen’s authority was under no threat whatsoever, and given the rumors swirling about the Lannister twins it reflects–at best–willful blindness on the part of the High Sparrow.

        The High Sparrow had the approval of the king, a private army of fanatics, and was emboldened by the support of the peasants and the general ineptitude of the Lannister and Tyrell resistance. The overwhelming power of one side of a conflict is not a guarantee of that side’s victory in real life–see the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, virtually any invasion of Russia–and I think the show was reasonably clear on why the situation got out of hand.

        • Harper says:

          The charge of incest linked Cersei to Jaime just as much Lancel, the rumors of their affair went out all over Westeros after Stannis’s letters. He declares Cersei is guilty of incest, those rumors are basically confirmed in the minds of the smallfolk and nobles alike and Tommen’s legitimacy is done.
          Realistically within the setting, without the support of the monarchy the High Sparrow doesn’t have the power to do what he wants done.
          And again, the ineptitude of the Lannister and Tyrell resistance is just as ridiculous, the Tyrells would never allow the heir to the family taken by the Faith or denied his birth right.
          Contrast the situation in the books where the High Sparrow is as aware as anyone about Cersei’s incest, but he’s smart enough to charge her with murder of the previous High Septon

          • guy says:

            By the end of AFFC, the Faith Militant has gotten well out of the Crown’s control. The High Sparrow derives his authority from being the representative of the gods and having an enormous army of fanatics and a goodly number of experienced knights who will side with him in any conflict with the secular powers. He wasn’t appointed by royal authority, and his followers won’t care if he doesn’t legally have the right to raise troops.

            • Harper says:

              Its certainly got better PR than the corrupt Lannister regime but monarchical power still means something in the feudal setting. If the High Sparrow is acting under the authority of a false King, that’s going to hurt him.
              The Faith Militant in the books aren’t psychotic Al-Queda rip-offs who carve stars into their foreheads, they’re knights and soldiers who still follow the feudal system. If anything their religious fervor would see them rebel against a High Sparrow who supports a bastard born of incest.
              Now when fakeAegon comes down with his Golden Company and supposed Targaryen pedigree, the first person to jump on board his ship will definitely be the High Sparrow, but until then he’s not going to let any charges of incest undermine what he’s trying to accomplish

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I cant say if its true,but to me it feels like the whole tyrion trial arc surpassed the red wedding.First,it was kicked off by joffrey kicking the bucket,which everyone cheered for.But then,it had multiple culminations,with tyrions speech,then with oberyns death,and finally with tywins death.Not only were all of those shocking visually,they were masterfully acted and put a fitting conclusions to the tyrion/tywin relationship.So instead of one shocking moment,we got three.Its three times better than the red wedding.

    Also,their gory effects were never better than in the scene with oberyns smashed head.That one made even me wince,and Im not shocked by on screen gore.

    • Phantos says:

      On a whim one day, I looked up videos of the deaths on Game of Thrones.

      That part you mentioned with the head smashing was the most traumatic thing I’ve seen from a television show. I don’t get traumatized by shows. I don’t get traumatized by violence in entertainment. I hesitate to say something like “It gave me PTSD”, but I also think that’s the closest I’ve ever been to the descriptions I’ve read of people who have recurring psychological damage. I’ve seen some unspeakable things on the internet, but none of it brought me THAT close to a panic-attack, every day for more than a week.

      Keep in mind I only saw the first three episodes. The character who died was unknown to me. I had no pony in that race. I guess I just wanted to see if I was missing anything. I was bored and looking for something to watch, and I didn’t think it would be one of the worst things I’ve ever felt.

      I couldn’t tell you what it was about that scene that crossed the line, in which other shows did not. I don’t know what it did differently. I’m also not sure what HBO gained from it. Something about that scene scarred me in a way that I am not grateful for.

      That whole experience made me take trigger warnings a lot more seriously. I didn’t know just watching a clip from a TV show could do that to anyone. I need to be more careful from now on.

    • Fade2Gray says:

      Also,their gory effects were never better than in the scene with oberyns smashed head.That one made even me wince,and Im not shocked by on screen gore.

      I think I seriously blocked that one from my memory. That was one gruesome and uncomfortable to watch death. It didn’t hit mean nearly as hard as Phantos, but I had that squicky feeling for a while afterwords.

  7. Malimar says:

    The moment I realized the show was just killing characters for the lulz with no rhyme or reason to it was the fighting pit scene where they killed Hizdahr zo Loraq in season 5. For some reason, that was the specific moment show deaths ceased to have any significance for me and the whole enterprise of the show started feeling like badly-written fanfiction.

    • zookeeper says:

      For me I think that moment was when Barristan was killed. Dying fighting against nameless mooks for no particular cause beyond saving Grey Worm, in order to ensure that Tyrion will have no one to actually talk with in season 6? It also had the very artificial taste of simply making room for Tyrion, a significant portion of whose screentime is then spent on making eunuch jokes.

  8. Alex Broadhead says:

    Did anybody else notice that the Sand People can apparently teleport?

    Trystane Martell sails off with Jaime, Bronn, and his intended, Myrcella, only to have Myrcella assassinated via slow acting poison before they can get anywhere. We know it’s poison because we see Ellaria wiping off her lipstick _on the dock, standing next to the three principal Sand Snakes_.

    The next time we see Trystane, he’s being assassinated by two of the Sand Snakes in his cabin on the boat docked, presumably, at King’s Landing! (Why would Jaime & Co. have returned him to Dorne?) How did they get there? Then, a few scenes later, the Sand Snakes are helping Ellaria kill Prince Doran, back in Dorne!

    Teleporting poison ninjas are presumably what made it so difficult for the Targaryens to take Dorne, I guess?

    • Shoeboxjeddy says:

      The Prince wasn’t on the same boat as Myrcella and Jaime. That was a boat off the coast of Dorne, was the impression I got. Still too easy to pull off assassinations that season, but not AS crazy as you suggested here.

      • Alex Broadhead says:

        That removes the need for teleportation, but opens up whole new plot holes. Why would he be on a different boat? Why did his boat not go to King’s Landing? Why is he still on the boat?

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Why would he go to kings landing?Its not his home.And why shouldnt a noble spend time on his boat if he wishes to do so?

          • Alex Broadhead says:

            http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Trystane_Martell

            “Doran invites Trystane, Myrcella, Ellaria and Jaime to drinking and eat with him. There, he promises Jaime that he does not want a war with the Lannisters and that he will send Myrcella back to King’s Landing. However, Trystane and Myrcella’s betrothal is to stand, which means Trystane will accompany his betrothed to the capital. He will also take up Oberyn’s vacant seat on the Small Council, to further cement the alliance between Dorne and the Iron Throne. Jaime accepts these terms.”

            • Shoeboxjeddy says:

              Let’s be generous and assume that by “accompanied” they mean “head in the same direction as”. It would make sense if the Lannister party was on one boat and the Dornish party was on a separate boat, both headed in the same direction. That way they could control all aspects of security on their respective boats without needing to trust the other party during the voyage.

              • Alex Broadhead says:

                You can go with the rationalization you like, i.e. that despite the fact that all four of them (Jaime, Bronn, Myrcella & Trystane) are shown getting onto the same boat to be taken to the only ship waiting in the harbor, while Ellaria and the three named Sand Snakes are standing on the dock, what in fact happens is that the boat makes two stops and while they are doing the water taxi, at least two of the Sand Snakes swim out to the Dornish stealth boat and stow away. I’m not sure how the Snakes get back to Dorne in time to kill Prince Doran, but maybe the Dornish ship never leaves the harbor? Maybe it heads back as soon as they get the news that Myrcella is dead? Maybe Trystane is painting eye stones for Myrcella as a symbolic tribute, and not to _actually put them on Myrcella’s eyes_?

                Me, I prefer sexy teleporting poison ninjas – it’s cooler.

  9. Harper says:

    The Ramsay/Roose relationship is expounded more so in the books, its very clear from the beginning that Ramsay is the wildcard that Roose consistently underestimates. Its even implied Roose begins to commit to betraying Robb right around the time Ramsay sacks Winterfell because he knows that would come back to bite him in the ass if Robb succeeded against the Lannisters.
    So as much as I like Roose SO much better than Ramsay for his subtle sadism( the Jaime, Brienne dinner scene really shows it off beautifully) his death and Ramsay’s temporary rise makes sense for the characters.
    The difference between that his death in the books and the show is Ramsay is not the Evil Sue D&D love so much and its going to come back to bite HIM in the ass when Stannis comes to take back Winterfell

    • guy says:

      My read on the books was quite different; my impression is that Ramsey is an idiot wildcard who Roose keeps bailing out because he’s family, and Roose’s patience is very rapidly running out with having to salvage Ramsey’s fuckups. My sense of where the characters are going in the books is that Ramsey is soon going to use up his last chance and fall down a flight of stairs onto a spear while Roose is conspicuously present in an entirely different city.

      • Harper says:

        Ramsay is definitely the idiot wildcard, he’s basically Joffrey with courage and low-grade cunning, but that doesn’t mean Roose cannot and does not underestimate how much of an idiot wildcard he is. He never imagined what he would do to Theon or how badly he would screw up by sacking Winterfell.
        He protects Ramsay only so long as he remains his only heir and with Fat Walda with child, Ramsay knows his position is under threat. Ramsay killing his father would be exactly the kind of stupid wildcard action Roose wouldn’t expect, its kinslaying and it would alienate the few supporters they actually have.
        That’s why Stannis will( probably) actually succeed in taking Winterfell, in the chaos surrounding Roose’s death

        • guy says:

          I doubt Roose wouldn’t see it coming; he must know Ramsey might be brutal and short-sighted enough to try that. He keeps getting taken somewhat off-guard by how badly Ramsey can screw things up, but he must anticipate Ramsey will try something.

          And honestly, I think Roose is just about at the point where he stops caring whether or not Ramsey is his only heir and is going to dispose of him in any case.

          • Harper says:

            The Lord of the Dreadfort glanced at Reek. “Oh, and unchain your pet. I am taking him.”

            “Taking him? Where? He’s mine. You cannot have him.”

            Roose seemed amused by that. “All you have I gave you. You would do well to remember that, bastard. As for this … Reek … if you have not ruined him beyond redemption, he may yet be of some use to us. Get the keys and remove those chains from him, before you make me rue the day I raped your mother.”

            “You see what Ramsay is. She made him, her and Reek, always whispering in his ear about his rights. He should have been content to grind corn. Does he truly think that he can ever rule the north?”

            “He fights for you,” Reek blurted out. “He’s strong.”

            “Bulls are strong. Bears.”

            -Theon’s third ADWD chapter

            I think Roose knows Ramsay is a threat to his future children, but he doesn’t really believe him to be a threat against himself and that’s the issue, Roose consistently refuses to take Ramsay seriously and like all the major villains of the books( Tywin, Cersei, Hound, etc) that’s going to come back to bite him in the ass.

            Personally, its not my favorite character arc because I was really hoping for a Roose/Stannis showdown

  10. Alex says:

    I own the first four seasons on DVD. Reading this series of articles is pretty much me burning my bridges – I’m paying attention to what people say about it because I don’t care any more.

    I was capable of recognising Seasons 1-4 as being objectively good, and I did enjoy a fair bit of it, but it was never a show for me. If Seasons 5 and 6 ramp up the thing I always disliked about the series, with far less justification and far worse writing, I think I would regret continuing.

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