Game of Thrones Season Eight: “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”

By Bob Case Posted Monday Apr 22, 2019

Filed under: Game of Thrones 102 comments

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

Once upon a time, the British – who have demonstrated that they know their way around a TV show, or indeed anything involving acting – created a show called Upstairs, Downstairs. It covered the lives of a bunch of Edwardian-era posh noble types (the titular Upstairs) and their rough-and-tumble servants (the titular Downstairs). The constrast of these two worlds within the same manor house made for such interesting storylines that it was widely copied, and the phrase “Upstairs/Downstairs” became shorthand for an entire mini-genre. Downton Abbey is probably the best-known modern example.

The reason I mention this is that Game of Thrones has a certain Upstairs/DownstairsnessA perfectly cromulent word. to it, with one key difference: the downstairs is way better. Take, for example, the genuine and cheeful comraderie between the Night’s Watch/Wildling bunch (Jon/Sam/Edd/Tormund): backslapping hugs, comic timing, people experiencing actual human emotions – now this is a show I could actually like, with characters I could root for. Even the more reserved handshake between Jon and Beric rung true. There are more nice moments, like Tyrion topping off Pod’s wine, and the characters unironically applauding Ser Brienne’s impromptu knighting.

Still got it. And by 'it' I mean my talent for hitting the screenshot key at the exact moment characters are blinking.
Still got it. And by 'it' I mean my talent for hitting the screenshot key at the exact moment characters are blinking.

By contrast, everything upstairs rings off-key. The show tacked uncomfortably close to the truth last episode, when Sansa pointed out that for the past couple seasons, the quality of Tyrion’s decision making has split the difference between “drunken debutante” and “Custer at Little Big Horn.” So now, a succession of characters have to sing his praises, and talk the audience out of thinking that Sansa was right. Jon and Dany continue to have all the chemistry of olive oil and vinegar, and Sansa and Dany – well, I can’t figure out what exactly that was supposed to be. I guess they were supposed to be bonding, but it was overblocked and stiff as an I-beam.

I would feel like I’m getting ahead of myself – putting analysis before recap – but honestly there’s isn’t a whole lot to recap. At the end of last week’s episode, everyone was getting ready for the imminent arrival of the Night King. At the end of this episode? Same thing, except Jaime and Theon are here. Oh, and the show is trying to heave up a buzzer-beating Sansa/Theon ship from half court.

To kill time, there are a lot of variations on “this is our last night alive” that would probably work better if we didn’t all know that this was episode two of a six episode season. Most of them, as usual, are too long. However, they’re not all bad. Pippin Podrick sings “The Edge of Night” “Jenny’s Song” and it’s a well-done, understated moment.”Jenny” is probably meant to be Jenny of Oldstones. It’s a book reference that, unsurprisingly, doesn’t have much to do with its use on the show. Arya and Gendry bang it out, and it’s awkward in a believable way (but again, way too long). Sam gets a bit about how memories are important, and part of what make us human. The staging is clumsy but John Bradley’s performance salvages at least part of it.

For all the occasional things they do right, the upstairs half of the show continues to drag down the rest, and it’s all the more frustrating because it seems to me that it’s down to a lack of nerve. There are certain issues that the show’s writers seem determined not to confront. One representative example: how exactly does Dany view Aerys Targaryen, the last Targaryen monarch before her? She certainly seems angry at Jaime Lannister for killing him. And yet we the audience know that Jaime slayed the King that made him “Kingslayer” because said King was about to light half a million people on fire. We the audience also know that Aerys was called “The Mad King” for a reason.

So I was wrong. Last week I would've given +150 odds on us never seeing Ghost again. Fortunately there were no takers.
So I was wrong. Last week I would've given +150 odds on us never seeing Ghost again. Fortunately there were no takers.

Does Dany know this? It’s not clear. It seems impossible that, eight seasons in, she wouldn’t be at least curious why Aerys had such a bad reputation. I’m almost certain that she’s acknowledged it in dialogue at least once; according to the Wiki it was during the episode “Hardhome.” But that never comes up during her browbeating of Jaime, or in any of the scenes following it. It’s unclear what exactly she thinks of her infamous father. Note that I didn’t say she was conflicted, I said it was unclear. It’s one of the ways in which the show has either a short or a long memory, according to convenience.

It seems like the writer’s solution to this tension is to gloss over it quickly enough that we don’t notice. This is frustrating to me because it makes for a good scene hook. Maybe Dany has a complicated relationship with the legacy of her father. Maybe she’s wary of becoming like him, knowing that being a feudal monarch requires a certain level of ruthlessness but also worrying that she’ll take it too far, or already has, and wondering where the line is. Perhaps she doesn’t know who to talk to about this, lonely as it as the top. Maybe she could talk to Jon about it? Part of romantic chemistry is a willingness to be vulnerable, isn’t it? Maybe Jon could open to Dany about his own doubts too? Maybe we could discover something about why these two are attracted to each other, aside from just the fact that they’re both good-looking and the script demands it?

Of course, it’s easier to brainstorm than it is to produce a final draft, but this issue speaks to one of my beliefs about writing: if you story contains an uncomfortable contradiction, confront it! It’s an opportunity! It’s a scene hook! Uncomfortable contradictions are one of the things drama is made out of. What you shouldn’t do is shoulder-fake around it, hoping the audience won’t notice. We will. We notice everything. It’s what makes us so infuriating.

Off all the two-dimensional shapes, triangles are the most dangerous, due to their acute angles. That's why Sun Tzu advises put them in front.
Off all the two-dimensional shapes, triangles are the most dangerous, due to their acute angles. That's why Sun Tzu advises put them in front.

Of course, there probably won’t be time to have any scenes like that. There are only four episodes left, and at least two of them will probably be big honking battles. Is it even worth it to be cranky about this? Spectacle is what’s commonly understood to pay the bills, but I’ve always questioned that understanding. I’ve always suspected that it’s the lower-key character moments that pile up the chips, and spectacle just cashes them in.

But maybe I’m wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time. For instance, though I didn’t explicitly predict it, I thought that the “Jon is Rhaeger/Lyanna’s son” bit of gossip would go through 2-3 characters before it reached Dany. Instead, he went and told her directly. Long story short, she’s skeptical, and why wouldn’t she be? I’d be skeptical too. Even though my last prediction was wrong, I’ll go ahead and make another one: her skepticism is dramatically inconvenient and will be disposed of shortly.

We’ll see if I’m right soon enough. Back next week.

 

Footnotes:

[1] A perfectly cromulent word.

[2] ”Jenny” is probably meant to be Jenny of Oldstones. It’s a book reference that, unsurprisingly, doesn’t have much to do with its use on the show.



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102 thoughts on “Game of Thrones Season Eight: “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms”

  1. cheekibreeki says:

    Wonder how Bob feels about the GOT spinoff being about the Long Night, I personally would have preferred it be set in the more mysterious and exotic places in Essos but a horror fantasy zombie apocalypse show (that’s being co-written by George R.R. Martin himself apparently) sounds promising

    1. ElementalAlchemist says:

      that’s being co-written by George R.R. Martin himself apparently

      I assume “co-written” actually means “a vague, half-page outline” if the show is intending to air this century.

      1. cheekibreeki says:

        My mistake, apparently George’s role in writing is “largely tangential, and only in an advisory role.” George mentioned the estimated premiere date is next year, 2020 and that a lot of stuff that made Game of Thrones famous (Iron Throne, Tragaryens, Dragons, King’s Landing) aren’t gonna be present in this new series. Also D.B. Weiss and David Benioff aren’t going to be involved, mostly to enjoy the show as fans this time.

      2. “a vague, half-page outline” is probably better as I’ll assume it has a start-middle-end, one thing I think that hurt GoT is that halfway through they kinda had to go off script due to there not being anymore source material, sure they got outlines but they also ran out of books.

        1. Ander says:

          I want to get cheeky about anime adaptations having this problem constantly, but it’s hard to be smug when the solutions can be so terrible.

      3. stratigo says:

        Martin’s inability to produce ASOIAF books is a funny meme, but he hasn’t been doing literally nothing the past decade. He writes a LOT. Like a whole lot. It’s not his ability to produce words on a page that stops him from the next book, he seems to just flat not want to write it.

    2. GoStu says:

      It’s weird, because I’ve always felt like medieval fantasy types would be best-suited to the typical zombie apocalypse. They don’t rely on a lot of technologies that’ll fail without power, and well-made armor is going to be utterly bite-proof. Meanwhile you can break a lot of Zeds with a shield wall and some glaives.

      The reason the White Walkers are scary is ’cause there’s millions of them and there’s some Chaotic Stupid / Stupid Evil types messing things up for everyone else, not because the zombie horde are individually dangerous. (Okay, if you want to get real detailed, the zeds are scary because they have no supply lines or fear either).

      I’d expect writers to need to cheat their asses off more than usual for zombies to have it work.

      1. Joshua says:

        Not sure what they’ve done with the Wights on the show, but in the books you really have to hack them to pieces to get them to stop attacking. There are people who are killed by severed arms strangling them. The armor doesn’t protect people as much because the Wights are very strong and they usually go for strangling/breaking your neck as opposed to biting.

        1. Syal says:

          Also zombie bears and giants.

        2. GoStu says:

          On the show they look like (roughly) the low-end of “fast” zombies, if that makes any sense. They take a bit of killing, but a good cleave with an axe or slash with a sword puts them down. The bits need to be burned afterwards to stop them from crawling around, but there’s particular weapons (dragonglass) that do it for you.

      2. shoeboxjeddy says:

        Also they have giant White Walkers and a dragon White Walker. And the crush of MILLIONS of them. And no, armor does not offer perfect protection, the White Walkers are quite capable of using weapons, they don’t just fight bare handed.

        1. Lanthanide says:

          *wights, not white walkers.

      3. stratigo says:

        a modern military could kill a theoretically infinite amount of zombies and not even be particularly put out by it. There’s literally nothing a zombie could do about a tank, or an aircraft carrier, or a helicopter. And all those things would be capable of killing many maaaaaany zombies before they literally ran out of things to kill them with.

        1. GoStu says:

          That’s generally what I meant by writers “cheating their ass off” for zombie stories. Not only does the zombie virus (or whatever) somehow escape humanity’s best practices on plague control, but armies seemingly never mobilize to stop them. If anything, you just see some abandoned tanks in the background without explaining how the military failed to do anything.

          The general excuse I see handwaved around is that the military ends up mobilized on semi-useless guard details that can’t stop the collapse of civilization, and then the mechanized assets like tanks and gunships and the like are broken down by lack of fuel and supply line failures.

          Anyway, the typical slow-shambling zombie that scrappy protagonists with baseball bats manage to fight off should be completely incapable of defeating (say) a Century of Roman foot soldiers. One of my favorite post-apocalypse stories has survivors forming those kinds of units again and they mow down disorganized biting rabble like a scythe through grass.

          1. Walter says:

            The simple reason why the military is usually ineffective zombies is because they’re too late, by the time they take action, there’s already a country’s worth of zombies waiting at their doorstep which leads to the army getting overwhelmed and tanks won’t be able to do anything because lots of zombies keep climbing and crawling over and under it.

            That and the nature of zombies themselves, you have to shoot the head most of time since its the only way of putting them down due to their lack of a preservation instinct (riddle one with bullets and it could still get up)

      4. Lanthanide says:

        Just a note, we’ve only seen about 10-20 white walkers in the show. The undead are called ‘whites’, which are different from the white walkers – the walk walkers are the Night King’s lieutenants, the male babies that he got as offering from Craster’s Keep (in recent times, anyway).

        1. Joshua says:

          Wights, not “Whites”.

    3. Kavonde says:

      Ew, that’s what they’re doing for the spin-off? I figured a show based around the Dance of the Dragons would be the perfect mix of what everyone gets hyped for with Game of Thrones: dragons, betrayals, scheming, big battles, boobs, and incest. A Long Night show just sounds like the Walking Dead with more snow and fewer guns.

      1. Armstrong says:

        I was sure they’re going to go with the obvious choice for a spinoff, which is Robert’s Rebellion… or, if not that, something like the Dance of the Dragons like you suggested. But the Long Night? That’s so far removed from anything else they could have chosen I’m actually a tiny bit optimistic. It may be a sign that they have a cool idea in mind for it.

        …unless that “cool idea” is just “The Walking Dead but with magic fireballs”

    4. AzzyGaiden says:

      Just what we need in the year 2019: A zombie apocalypse show!

      But seriously, I kind of hope these spinoffs come to nothing. I know it’s absurd to expect HBO to voluntarily stop milking its cash cow but I just don’t think they have the creativity to do anything especially interesting with this setting. Much of Essos is just vague orientalist mumbo-jumbo that’s been done better elsewhere (pretend that Jade Empire takes place in Yi Ti. It works!), and the really interesting, mysterious stuff is mostly just Lovecraft Lite, and if anything is true of that genre it’s that it does NOT benefit from over-explanation.

  2. JDMM says:

    The problem with this episode is a bit the same as but substantially worse than that time Arya baked some Frey’s into pies, it’s taking a book plotline that was adapted out and treating it as if it were actually adapted. In the books this would be a massive culmination, Jaime always wanted to be a true Kingsguard knight, when he got the opportunity he did it for a year than fell to pieces for 20 years only to be rescued by Brienne who did a wonderful job of being a knight without being a knight. It ties into Jaime and Barristan’s arcs about what being a knight is worth and the question of Rhaegar and the rest of the Kingsguard (the attempted reconcilliation between their on-the-face-of-it monstrous acts and glorious reputation)

    But on the show? The Kingsguard are just a bunch of guys with unique costumes, no different than Podrick, Tormund etc. This knighting means very little

    Admittedly that’s more in hindsight, my more pressing problem is an entire episode of waiting around reminds me of the Wall plotline in season 4 which had about 8 episodes of waiting around for the episode with the budget, wasn’t the point of splitting the final season in two so we wouldn’t have these waiting-around-for-the-episode-with-the-battle episodes?

    1. Joshua says:

      From what I’ve read, that’s a consistent issue with the show. There are plot-lines that they adapted out, but sometimes it becomes a worse issue when they leave other plot-lines in that depended on excised material, especially if it’s some sort of “highlight” that the show-runners wanted to include, but no longer makes as much sense. Bob referred to them as “sops to book readers” in an earlier article I believe.

      For example, leaving in all of Varys’s manipulations despite removing Aegon, having Arya baking Freys into a pie, Qyburn killing Pycelle with a speech tinged with sadness (even though he would have died soon anyway in the explosion), etc.

      1. Vinsomer says:

        Do you think that one way around this was to embrace non-linear storytelling? To start the season with the start of the battle, then have that battle stretch over the next 3 episodes or so, ending on major beats and having flashbacks to character reunions etc.?

        Then again, this kind of shift in narrative style has killed other shows’ final seasons (HIMYM and LOST come to mind).

        1. Joshua says:

          That would be different than the books, but could work. That’s very similar to what Martin does with Ned Stark in AGOT where he’s constantly reflecting back to the death of his sister in the Tower of Joy.

          But I’m not sure what your comment has to do with mine. I don’t think the show-runners are going to try to go back and flesh out these adapted events to make them make more sense- they’ve already moved on. They had X on the show because X or something very much like X happened in the books, even though a lot of parts were removed in the show that made X make sense. The closest they’ve come to it is with Daenerys questioning Varys on why he was doing everything that he did in the first few seasons because they adapted out the plot that gives meaning to his actions.

          1. Vinsomer says:

            Sorry, my comment was more a response to the one above (I think I might have messed up replying), but particularly about the point of having 8 episodes with setup and one where the budget is splurged on a huge battle scene and action set pieces.But I also think it’s tied to why some book story beats get repurposed or included without the context that makes them work: that kind of narrative structure is limited both by chronology and perspective, whereas a nonlinear structure can provide the gaps to insert that context or those perspectives without ruining the flow of the episode or the balance of spectacle and action in the season as a whole.

            I mean, some people love the show for the big action scenes and dragon CGI, and to them, episodes like the last one will be a disappointment.

            Part of the issue is that (clearly in the mind of the showrunners) some storylines aren’t worth adapting in full, but do have interesting beats, especially in terms of spectacle. And the problem is that those beats, when included (Frey pies is an example, the Golden Company will likely be another) don’t have the context they have in the books, which changes both their meaning, and the meaning of whoever is adjacent to those repositioned beats. Arya’s character changes in getting revenge on the Freys, and IMO it’s for the worse. But Wyman Manderley could have been a part of the show. He could have had less than 10 minutes of flashbacks, or even just dialogue to establish who he is and why he did what he did.

            Not only that, but they gave themselves the perfect flashback character in Bran.

            Anyway, it’s something to think about, even if broad structural changes in the final season generally ruin shows more than they improve them.

        2. Syal says:

          That creates problems with tone shift and problems of exhaustion. You’re going to be hard-pressed to have flashbacks to a meet-n-greet in the middle of a battle that don’t feel like gears grinding, and the longer a battle lasts, the less interesting the ending to it; the audience goes from “I hope he wins” to “I hope this ends soon”.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      But on the show? The Kingsguard are just a bunch of guys with unique costumes, no different than Podrick, Tormund etc. This knighting means very little

      Huh? A big point in the books (and early show) is explicitly that the only thing special about a knight was that a) they could fight and b) someone in power had decided to ‘knight’ them*. It was most of what Sandor Clegane ranted about whenever he was drunk, and why he was so annoyed by Sansa Stark and yet also drawn to protect her.
      ‘Acting like a knight’ never had anything to do with ‘being knighted’ and I’m not sure that there’s any realisations or arcs planned for Jamie/Brienne beyond comprehensively demonstrating that.

      Also, what’s the different between something that was ‘adapted’ vs something that was ‘adapted out’? Because if GRRM ends up writing that Arya Stark kills all the Freys in the way the show did, I’d be pretty disappointed.

      *I mean, the shit ‘Ser’ Gregor Clegane did with Tywin Lannister’s blessing…

      1. Joshua says:

        JDMM was referring to the plotline in the books where Freys were baked into a pie, but by Wyman Manderly. This was done as revenge for the Red Wedding in an homage to the story of the Rat King who baked a human into a pie, but the part of the story that was considered the most monstrous was not the murder/cannibalism, but that guest right was violated.

        The show adapting out Manderly’s plotline but adapting the plot development to fit Arya makes no sense thematically, is what JDMM was going for, I suspect. Well, beyond that, it makes no sense logistically either.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          Ah, that’s something that’s been ‘adapted out’ rather than straight-up ‘adapted’?
          Because yeah, it made sense in the book (peasents can’t take high Lords on face to face, so they ‘hurt’ them in less direct ways) but was mangled in the show, which they do quite often.

          1. Joshua says:

            I’m guessing that the linguistics would be more “adapted”. In Lord of the Rings, Glorfindel was replaced by Arwen in Peter Jackson’s version and Legolas in Ralph Bakshi’s animated in an “adaptation”, whereas Bombadil was “adapted out” in both.

            It just gets weird to think of what term to use in Game of Thrones when an entire plot-line is removed, but traces of its show up later anyway where it doesn’t make any sense. To use the LotR analogy, it’s like Aragorn handing the swords he found on Weathertop to the Hobbits and having him singing about Goldberry while doing so.

            1. Rack says:

              Elrond shows up and says “Hi, here is the sword. And keep your hands off my daughter.” Then he leaves.

  3. cheekibreeki says:

    Betting next episode that hiding the locals in the crypt (whose corpses definitely won’t reanimate *wink*wink*) is gonna bite everyone in the ass

    1. Ooh. Good one. I kinda wondered if those sent to the crypt would just be tucked away or if the dead would get in somehow but that’s a pretty astute observation.

      I do wonder though, what about Lady Stark? Will she rise, or will her ghost appear (and not under the Night King’s control) ?

      1. cheekibreeki says:

        Why do you think Arya was running from something in the halls and Daenerys says “They’re already here” in the promo for the next episode? For the second point, Im pretty sure Catelyn was dumped and is rotting in some river and I don’t remember them ever recovering the body, that and ghosts don’t exist in GOT’s world (but Rickon might pop up though)

        1. I did not watch the promo (spoilers, plus I can wait a week).

          As to ghosts, I was unaware of them not existing in the book universe (I have not read the books). I do know that Beric Dondarrion brought back Catelyn Stark from the dead though.

          1. Kavonde says:

            My personal prediction is that Cat’s body was returned to Winterfell at some point. And Zombie Cat is going to eat Berric Dondarion, because it’ll be incredibly meta-ironic.

    2. tremor3258 says:

      The number of fantasy worlds with zombies that don’t have every major group of people practicing cremation is truly astonishing when given some thought.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        At least in GoT the White Walkers and Wights were a myth up until very recently.

        1. Lanthanide says:

          Which is odd that Sam says that 1 horn blow is for rangers, 2 is for wildlings and 3 is for white walkers and that he read it in an old book.

          Who was blowing the horn that knew to blow it 3 times when there were white walkers?

          1. BlueHorus says:

            Thought experiment:
            Imgine you work for a private security company, and their (short) list of rules and guidelines included the line
            ‘If you see a Goblin, dial 333 on your phone immediately!’

            …you’d remember it, right? It’d go all around the company – ‘Hey, have you seen this Goblin rule?’
            ‘Come one man, that’s not real…’
            ‘No, I’m serious. Look!’
            ‘Holy shit, I thought it was just a rumor!’
            It’d stick in people’s minds just because it was absurd, be part of in-house jokes etc.

            But then imagine you actually did see a Goblin, eating someone. You’d be shocked, and disbelieving at first, but you’d also know what to do…

          2. Syal says:

            Okay, that’s one where the White Walker change hurts the adaptation as far as I’m concerned. In the book they’re called Others, so you have one for rangers, two for wildlings, and three for others.

            But of course the wall was built to keep them out so the original watch knew all about them, back before it became a dumping ground for political inconvenients.

      2. Joe Informatico says:

        The number of real-world societies doing nothing useful to mitigate or even prepare for climate change is horrifying, and yet here we are. Some people just won’t be convinced it’s their problem until the moment it arrives on their own doorstep.

        1. Lanthanide says:

          Climate change, which is a very slow moving problem that requires everyone on the planet to make drastic changes to their lifestyles (if we were to keep the warming to 1.5C this century) is very different from a direct local problem that is immediately obvious that has an immediately obvious and effectively easy to implement cost-free preventative measure. Especial when you consider how easy it is to deny climate change or pretend that something other than humans are the problem – pretty difficult to deny that Aunty Barbara is a raving zombie when she’s right in front of you raving and wanting to eat your brain.

      3. GoStu says:

        One of the major rules of Zombie Movies is that no character IN a Zombie Movie has SEEN a Zombie Movie.

        The rule’s been broken, but only rarely, and always for comedy.

        1. tremor3258 says:

          Game of Thrones is a lot better in this regard (ancient legends, far from civilization, very unusual and not common ninety-nine percent of the time) than, say D&D. Where any charismatic idiot with a scrollcase could unleash skeletal terrorism, and there’s usually a magic infrastructure supplying these charismatic idiots with the onyx they need…

  4. 4th Dimension says:

    Do I even want to ask which brilliant idiot thought it smart to put their line in FRONT of castle walls, ensuring that the press of enemy numbers will smoosh them into the walls and not allow them time to properly retreat into the city?

    1. Scampi says:

      Well, I’d know several reasons why it might be a good idea to have various kinds of troops in outside of castle walls instead of inside them. As I don’t know the composition of forces in question, I will still agree that the idea may at least seem questionable.

      1. The castle can’t hold all the forces, and also, this can’t turn into a siege battle as the undead do not need rest or food and have no supply chains. Sansa even said so earlier that they had too little food as it was let alone for several armies (the defenders consists of several armies).
        They know this won’t be a battle that’ll go on for days, this will last a day at most, more likely half a day. It’s possible the battle is over before the sun has properly risen.

        1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

          Which assumes that the zombies will actually try to besiege them. If they act like typical zombies, won’t they just try to rush the walls or something?

          1. Olivier FAURE says:

            The White Walkers coordinate them, though it’s not clear how exactly that works.

    2. Lanthanide says:

      It’s not a city, it’s just a fortified castle. It’s not kings landing, 500,000 people don’t live inside the walls.

      It looks like only 500 at the very most would normally live at Winterfell proper.

  5. Scampi says:

    Still got it. And by ‘it’ I mean my talent for hitting the screenshot key at the exact moment characters are blinking.

    So…were you secretly the one getting Shamus’ screencaps of Aragorn?

  6. Joe says:

    It’s one thing to know that your ancestors were incestuous, another to realise you are. If it was me, I think I’d try denial.

    1. Crokus Younghand says:

      Daenerys might just accept it; in the books, she expected Viserys to marry her until she got married off to Drogo. Besides, they are aunt/nephew, not sister/brother. Considering how even Tywin was married to his cousin; people in Westeros seem to have higher tolerance to “keeping bloodlines pure.”

      1. Joe says:

        That’s true. But somehow accidental incest just seems worse than deliberate incest.

      2. ElementalAlchemist says:

        All real-world royalty is highly incestuous. More by virtue of necessity than any predilection – marrying commoners was not the done thing unless you planned to abdicate.

        1. Boobah says:

          Well, American standards for incest are rather broad. It’s a legacy of the eugenics movement a century back; they were aiming for ‘hybrid vigor.’ Within limits, of course. They wouldn’t have approved of (shudder) miscegenation.

          Sarcasm aside, Americans still tend to look at ‘kissing cousins’ as nearly as bad as twincest. Most of the rest of the eugenics movement was killed by association with Nazi Germany.

      3. Thomas says:

        Marrying cousins is still legal in real life (at least in the UK).

        1. MelfinatheBlue says:

          And isn’t that much of a bad thing, genetically-speaking. You start running into trouble when it’s traditional and everyone does it, and you get stuff like double first cousins marrying (they share the same amount of DNA as half-siblings).

  7. “So now, a succession of characters have to sing his praises, and talk the audience out of thinking that Sansa was right. ”
    Maybe she is or she isn’t. We’ll see if he does better during the upcoming fight, or if he does something clever after the fight.

    “Jon and Dany continue to have all the chemistry of olive oil and vinegar,”
    Jon did not like the cold wall that rose between Dany and Sansa last ep I think, and Sam’s comment that perhaps she would not give up the throne for the peoples sake.
    And this ep he was obviously conflicted with his new knowledge. I kinda wish we’d have seen the multiple times Jon probably was down there looking at his mother’s statue but that would have dragged the ep way out.

    “and Sansa and Dany – well, I can’t figure out what exactly that was supposed to be. I guess they were supposed to be bonding, but it was overblocked and stiff as an I-beam.”
    The talk with Sansa was not Dany’s idea, her “close” friend suggested it (what he said we did not get to see sadly), I’m guessing Dany see it as a good political move and we see that Dany still desires the iron throne when she pulls back the hand from Sansa and later when her first reaction to learning who Jon’s father is, is that he has the rightful claim to the iron throne.

    Right now it looks like Dany will sit on the iron throne (as Jon will most likely decline it), and Dany will be persuaded to make Sansa Queen of the North, and make various others the King/Queen of this or that of the 7 realms (which currently does not have a king or queen).

    But perhaps such a fairy tail end won’t happen, Kit Harrington and a few others in interviews/guest appearance on talk shows did “hint” that the end feels satisfactory and that while some fans may have guess some of the end (of some characters) nobody have guessed the full ending. I take these statements at face value until I’ve seen the last episode.
    It’s still fun to speculate though.

    “Jenny’s Song” I suspect was the showrunners honoring the books (giving it a warm hug before the battle); I mean, the books hasn’t had this battle yet and I’ll assume R.R. Martin just said “huge battle” and little else.

    The episode seeming a tad slow I actually liked but also felt uncomfortable. But I guess it’s a “calm before the storm” moment, that lull in the sea, you know the storm is coming, you can see it in the distance, and you are in a state where you both wish it would hurry up but you also wish it would never come at the same time.
    I wonder if I’m the only one that picked up on that feeling?

    “Sam gets a bit about how memories are important, and part of what make us human. The staging is clumsy”
    I think your being too kind, that felt out of place, it might have worked better if he had said that to half of the people there, before or during a pause in the meeting, rather than during the meeting itself.

    “It’s unclear what exactly she thinks of her infamous father”
    But it seems she disliked her brother for what she thought he did to Jon’s mom, perhaps we’ll later get a “my other brother wasn’t so bad after all?” moment later.

    “It seems like the writer’s solution to this tension is to gloss over it quickly enough that we don’t notice”
    I’m speculating that this is wrong allocation of screen time, while I do find it interesting how they show Arya is fully grown a woman now (by showing her nude and without her chest “wrapped in”), they could have shortened that scene some and perhaps extended the moment in the cellar between Jon and Dany, or between Sansa and Dany and adressed Dany’s family.

    I think they missed a opportunity when not letting Dany talk to Jon first and then Sansa afterwards, it would have made Dany pulling back her hand at Sansa’s remark about “what happens after” that much more impacting.

    “this issue speaks to one of my beliefs about writing: if you story contains an uncomfortable contradiction, confront it”
    Good point, but what if the writer is uncertain of what the audience might like? One half loves the show, the other half hates it for not following the books.
    Perhaps they fell into a pattern of trying to please the masses, no idea what R.R.Martin does but if he’s stated that if he doesn’t enjoy writing then he don’t want to write and he looses interest if he knows what his characters will do next, which means he writes very organically. The show is written to “appeal to the audience”, to “be liked by all”.

    I’ve seen people complain that the show killed off one of it’s major characters early (Ned Stark), but AFAIK that is also what happened in the book right? I think the show would have been even better if it did things differently from the very start, not adhering to books at all just staying to character “behaviours” and key events (who meets who, whom travels where, and who dies/fights etc), and made new/original dialogue etc. The show might be very different doing that though.

    “there probably won’t be time to have any scenes like that. There are only four episodes left, and at least two of them will probably be big honking battles”
    I’m speculating if the “big” battle will just be the one episode (the next one) then a calmish episode, and then a battle again in the firth (against Cercei) and then a calm final episode.

    “I thought that the “Jon is Rhaeger/Lyanna’s son” bit of gossip would go through 2-3 characters before it reached Dany. Instead, he went and told her directly”

    I think you read that scene wrong. He told her when she called her brother (his father) a rapist.
    Sam sort of lameshades it in the episode by saying “waiting for the right time”.
    Did he (and this the writers) indicate that scene, or do they also hint at a future scene with Jon and Dany addressing the “throne chair” issue?

    Who knows, maybe Cersei manages to turn all the others against the Dragon and the Wolf? A weakened Dany and Jon army battling against Cersei and and former allys of the Starks is something I do not expect (I expect the remains of the current joint army instead).

    There is also somebody with a crossbow on the way, and I fear that at least one of the arrows will hit the wrong target to everyones shock. Imagine if Dany gets hit (thinking the arrow is for Jon and trying to protect him which she failed to do with her dragons “twice”), this was mentioned in the first ep this season too wasn’t it? When Bronn was with the brothel women they talked about him shooting a dragon, was this foreshadowing? Could “the dragon” be Daenerys in this case?
    If Dany dies then this changes the last 2-3 episodes drastically.

    BTW! I noticed something in the dialog n the catacombs between Jon and Dany, he told her a lot more details about his mother than we saw Sam tell Jon in the previous episode, so clearly “more talking” happens out of frame as I (and others?) did speculate last time. This is a shame as the probably could have cut last episode differently and extended the Sam and Jon scene more to include those lines.

    I wonder (like last time) how much is on the cutting room floor and if we’ll get extended scenes in the blu-ray release etc. This is a shame if that is the case as I’d be happy with 1 extra episode or even 2 in the last season. It’s also possible there is no recorded extended scenes, that they where cut before any footage was made.

    1. BTW! The screenwriter is Dave Hill just noticed that in the opening credits.
      He is not the showrunner (AFAIK), so while the showrunners erm run the show, the writing (and adaption of the books) is the work of Dave Hill.

      According to this wiki https://gameofthrones.fandom.com/wiki/Dave_Hill
      he was assistant (writer?) at first. In this final season he has written all 6 episodes (or so I presume, I only see two episode titles listed though).
      He also wrote the episode “The Dragon and the Wolf”, I don’t know if the series at that point went off the books or not, but I recall that episode as being “good”.
      He is also the writer for the new series “The Wheel of Time”.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        The Wheel of Time! Now that’s a story that might benefit from being adapted into a TV series.

        As I recall, it had a similar arc to A Song of Ice and Fire: 2-3 good books to establish the story, then Robert Jordan got carried away, fired his editor (or similar) and the story got too damn big. By the time he died 5 / 6 books later, the whole thing had turned into a bloated mess that progressed at a snail’s pace and drowned you in boring ancillary characters and unrelated bullshit.

        A faster-paced version of the same story with a load of the FUCKING AWFUL – ahem, less good – side-plots removed and a less meandering route to the epic finale battle could be really, really good.

        1. Joshua says:

          It also has the advantage of being finished, which would allow them to make adaptation decisions at the beginning of the story instead of being forced to think of them on the fly later on, because they will know which character arcs will be more important, and what the point of various characters and arcs will turn out to be.

          If you remove discussions of braid-pulling and clothing porn, I’d think you’d cut out about 10% of the bloat right there. On a serious note, although it wouldn’t be 100% true to the books thematically, I do think it would be really beneficial to cut way, way back on the gender spats and cattiness. I think the people who view the extent of this element as adding value to the story are a minority, IMHO.

          1. tremor3258 says:

            Well the nice thing about braid pulling and clothing is you don’t have to have that narrated, so just take advantage of the descriptions for personality and dress and just get on with fighting the evil.

            I’m expecting a Wheel of Time story when GOT finishes. I’m kind of surprised there hasn’t been a ‘follow the leader’ yet.

            1. BlueHorus says:

              I remember a great summary of a lot of the later Wheel of Time books:

              “A FEMALE character thinks about her NECKLINE.”

              (On that note, I’ll be interested to see how they handle the gender politics on a modern adaptation of WoT. Offhand I can’t think of any female character who wasn’t portrayed as interfering and/or controlling, particulalrly the Aes Sedai.)

              And finally I remember hearing there’s a Kingkiller Chronicles (Patrick Rothfuss books) TV show in the works as well? People are definitely following GoT’s success, I think.

              1. Cubic says:

                “And finally I remember hearing there’s a Kingkiller Chronicles (Patrick Rothfuss books) TV show in the works as well?”

                Speaking of unfinished. Lots of quirky mysteries in that one, I hear, so plenty of scope for disastrous plot failure and handwaving. I won’t touch it until the last book is out.

                1. Javier says:

                  The problem with Rothfuss is he’s such a habitual liar who exaggerates his worldbuilding that any filmmaker who gets involved inevitably finds there’s very little in the books to actually adapt into a story. Just getting this information out of Patrick takes quite a bit of back-and-forth and sorting through doublespeak and vagaries. That’s why several adaptations have already fallen through.

                  Supposedly the latest one is going to be a prequel to the books and not actually cover the Kvothe *cough* “storyline.” Which means it will just be a generic folklore fantasy story, if it ever does actually get made.

                  1. Cubic says:

                    Wow, OK, haha. I thought it sure has to be a sign of good plotting that the final(?) book to wrap up all the riddles takes infinity time to write. Even worse if there’s nothing there though.

              2. Ander says:

                “People are definitely following GoT’s success, I think.”

                I’ve heard that floated as a reason another Dune adaptation is coming.

                1. BlueHorus says:

                  Sounds good, but nothing will ever beat the David Lynch version.

            2. Joe Informatico says:

              There have been a few attempts already, I don’t know if the short-lived CAMELOT series counts, since it started right about the same time as GOT. More likely both owe a huge debt to both THE TUDORS and HBO’s ROME for doing the “period costume drama with fucks and fucking” first and just added the fantastic elements. But BASTARD EXECUTIONER and THE SHANNARA CHRONICLES were definitely trying to follow GOT’s success, neither lasting particularly long. VIKINGS and THE LAST KINGDOM have done better but again they just might be co-descendants of THE TUDORS and ROME, straight historical fiction.

              But there are over 40 fantasy and science fiction IPs currently being touted as possible GOT successors, a few coming out right about now. I don’t hold out much hope any of them will come close to GOT’s level–the TV (and streaming) and social media landscape has already changed so much since GOT debuted and nothing has really hit the same level of “water cooler discussion” dominance–the first seasons of TRUE DETECTIVE and WESTWORLD probably came closest, but didn’t really keep their momentum in later seasons. THE MANDALORIAN has a lot of talent behind it and the ubiquity of the Star Wars brand but I think the majority of people who enjoy Star Wars films don’t really care enough for deep dives into lore like that promises to be. We’ll see, I suppose.

        2. TLN says:

          I’m surprised it’s finally actually getting made. A WoT tv show has been off-and-on for like two decades by now, and I haven’t heard much about it after the 2015 thing with Billy Zane they made just to keep the rights.

    2. Joshua says:

      “I’ve seen people complain that the show killed off one of it’s major characters early (Ned Stark), but AFAIK that is also what happened in the book right? I think the show would have been even better if it did things differently from the very start, not adhering to books at all just staying to character “behaviours” and key events (who meets who, whom travels where, and who dies/fights etc), and made new/original dialogue etc. The show might be very different doing that though.”

      Not sure I’ve seen people complain about that (at least not since the show started), but yes, he dies in the first book and that is the triggering event that makes peace nearly impossible between the Starks and Lannisters. There have been many book readers who wish they would have changed things differently from the very start, since they didn’t want to(or couldn’t*) follow all of the plots the way that they occur in the book. One problem is that they probably figured they would have GRRM finish his sixth book and onto the seventh before they even got to the fifth season of the show, so they wouldn’t have to come up with so much original material paying off all of the set-ups done in the first few years.

      *One example where they didn’t want to follow the books is how they decided to change Stannis’s plotline, because they have admitted that they don’t like his character and decidedly made him more villainous (and Renly much more heroic). So, they probably should have excised Davos and not had Stannis save the Night’s Watch at the Wall if they wanted to hate on Stannis like they did. Instead, his story arc seems awfully pointless.

      One example where they couldn’t follow the books (at least not without a lot of technical effort) is that Cersei and Jaime are supposed to be nearly identical twins, which has a huge impact on their character backgrounds and relationship, at least from Cersei’s perspective. The twins would sometimes dress as the other as children, and Cersei got to experience first-hand the difference between being a man or woman in their society, which helped make her as bitter, misogynistic, and ruthless as she was, and also why their relationship deteriorates as it does when Jaime shaves his head/grows a beard/loses a hand, as she’s no longer able to use him as a narcissistic avatar of herself. So, maybe they should have rethought the whole incest storyline. Not sure.

    3. Syal says:

      If Dany dies then this changes the last 2-3 episodes drastically.

      “Well, I guess I have to marry Sansa now.”

  8. Lee says:

    Hmm. Maybe I’m being charitable, but to me, Dany’s lack of characterization on the whole ‘was my dad insane’ story is actually her characterization. She’s not wavering between, ‘he was great’, ‘he was horrible’, and ‘he’s my dad;’ and wondering if she’s too soft/too violent. She’s insane, just like he was. Though it only crops up occasionally, throughout the series she’s steadily gotten worse, just as her father did. The discussion with Sam was intended to remind us of that. Eventually she’s going to go off the deep end, like her father did, and someone is going to have to put her down.

    If Jon or Jorah has to put her down, well that’s GRRM making the characters miserable, as usual. If Tyrion does it, he gets a new appreciation for his brother’s choices. If Jaimie does it, he’s cementing his ‘kingkiller’ title (though he might still do that with Cersei instead.)

    1. BlueHorus says:

      So, it’s just my opinion, and I might be wrong but:
      This show does not have the balls, nor the subtlety, to have Dany be a bad guy.

      Remember – when the show! writers wanted to write a bad guy into the story, they came up with the Fookin’ Legend of Gin Alley, who spent almost all of his screen time antagonising, bullying and swearing at his muntinous cutthroat underlings for no purpose other than to show us what an asshole he was.
      Or they wrote Ramsey ‘if you think this has a happy ending, you’ve not been paying attention’ Bolton.
      Or they reintroduce Ser Meryn Trant (last seen punching Sansa Stark so Joffrey didn’t have to) but didn’t trust the audience to remember who he was, so most of his time is spent establishing that he’s also a paedophile who likes to beat little girls.
      Or Euron Greyjoy. Or the Waif. Or, other examples, all leading to the same point:

      If the show wants you to not like someone, they make it absolutely clear.
      (Shamus had a similar argument about ME3 and the Indoctrination Theory: if this writer wanted to imply [X], you would damn well know it, no special theories needed.)

      TL:DR: If it’s a choice between ‘this show is cleverly trying to imply Dany is actually a bad person’ and ‘this show is trying to gloss over the horrible things Dany has done and doing it badly’…
      …I’m definitely going with the latter.

      1. Bloodsquirrel says:

        Or they reintroduce Ser Meryn Trant (last seen punching Sansa Stark so Joffrey didn’t have to) but didn’t trust the audience to remember who he was, so most of his time is spent establishing that he’s also a paedophile who likes to beat little girls.

        Someone, that makes him seem *less* reprehensible. Instead of being a brutal depiction of the abuse of power and how easily it comes and easily it can turn into coarse violence,, it’s just… oh, he’s a “bad guiy”. Okay. It takes the edge off of things, someone.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          This is a good point. One could have used the character of the Kingsguard as ‘symptoms’ of the current regime, eg:

          A ‘good’ monarch, like INSERT NAME HERE CHARACTER NOT FOUND or the Show! version of Renly Baratheon would appoint good knights to the most famous knighthood in the land like Barristan Selmy or Brienne of Tarth.
          Whereas a bad king (Joffrey “Your Grace, the people are hungry!’ ‘SLAUGHTER THEM ALL!” Baratheon or Aerys ‘Wildfire solves ALL my problems!’ Targaeryen) appoints people like Meryn Trant or Sandor Clegane to it, symbolic of their wayward leadership.

          Sigh. But no, that’s too clever for the Show! version of GoT, I guess. Bad Guys gotta be unequivalently Bad.

      2. Olivier FAURE says:

        Or they reintroduce Ser Meryn Trant (last seen punching Sansa Stark so Joffrey didn’t have to)

        Wait, is that the guy who was sent to Dorne in the books, and had a small internal monologue where he went “Whew, I sure am glad not to be in King’s Landing anymore. Having the King order us to punch a little girl all the time, that fucking sucked!” ?

        1. BlueHorus says:

          No, that was Ser Arys Oakheart. He’s the one who ended up entangled in Arianne Martell’s ill-fated plot to…

          …god damn it. I can’t remember any of the organic chemistry I learned back in school, or what a quadratic equation is and why I even know that phrase, but a sub-character from a sub-plot in a late installment of a fantasy book series I’ve decided to give up on?
          THAT’S what I can recall instantly?!

          FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU-

  9. Carlos García says:

    That Sun Tzu screenshots makes me think of the DM of the Strings when the orcs surround Aragorn’s army and they mock his tactical wisdom.

    1. trevalyan says:

      Except it’s played straight. One shudders to imagine a competent commander realizing that he needs to flee. Across the sea, if that’s wide enough to keep the zombies out.

  10. trevalyan says:

    Arya: “Oh man, that was great! I got to give my virginity to a handsome, strong loyal man, a friend of the family and blood of the rightful king, in the culmination for our love of each other. What was your first time like?”
    Sansa: “… Could have been better.”

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Wait, they shipped Arya and Gendry?!

      I’d say that doesn’t seem right, but that’s probably because when I think of Arya I think psychotic murderer ‘someone’s view of a TOTAL BADASS’, rather than ‘believable human being’.

      1. Syal says:

        And when I think Gendry I think “wait, are we really still following Gendry?”

        1. BlueHorus says:

          Gendry’s a Master Blacksmith, I’ll have you know! He can even forge Obsidian weapons now he’s reached Level 5!

        2. Fabrimuch says:

          When I think Gendry, I think of rowing jokes

    2. Olivier FAURE says:

      … man, show!Arya got a really good hand, when you think about it.

  11. Cubic says:

    Sounds to me like this season was one episode too long.

  12. SAD1 says:

    You have to cut Arya and Gendry some slack on how long their scene is; the North is cold, they spent most of it trying to take off all of the clothes!

  13. Joshua says:

    “Maybe she’s wary of becoming like him, knowing that being a feudal monarch requires a certain level of ruthlessness but also worrying that she’ll take it too far, or already has, and wondering where the line is. Perhaps she doesn’t know who to talk to about this, lonely as it as the top.”

    Martin’s Novella The Sworn Sword from A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms has an excellent example of this kind of thing, although its from the perspective of a Noblewoman talking to a Knight who came from the smallfolk (Flea Bottom, where Davos was also born). I seriously recommend that book to any who read the main ASOIAF books or watch the show. It’s slightly less dark than the main books, has just one main protagonist making it easier to read, and yet still delves into Martin’s philosophising on leadership, honor, and morality.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      The essential question:
      These stories actually have an ending, right?

      1. Joshua says:

        Yes and no. Each are self-contained stories, but you know what eventually happens to the main characters, since the novellas take place about 100 years before A Game of Thrones and are discussed in histories.

        Unfortunately, the end for the two main characters is rather not…happy.

  14. Blake says:

    After the Arya/Gendry scene, a future plot point appeared in my mind that I both hope doesn’t happen, but would be totally consistent.

    Lets say Gendry dies in the coming battle, sad faces all around. Somehow the war ends with Dany on the Iron throne, and Jon dead or in the north.
    Let’s also say after her one night with Gendry, Arya ends up pregnant with a son.

    When Robert Baratheon had the Iron Throne, he ordered all of the Targaryan kids around be executed so that they wouldn’t have a claim to his throne. Jon had to hide his heritage to survive execution.
    When Cersei Lannister had the Iron Throne, she ordered all of the Baratheon bastards be executed so that they wouldn’t have a claim to her throne. Gendry had to hide his heritage to survive execution.
    If Dany ends up on the Iron Throne, would it be possible she’d order any remaining Baratheon bastards (such as Gendry if he’s still around) be executed so that they wouldn’t have a claim to her throne and Gendry Jr has to hide his heritage to survive execution?

    It seems so totally possible even though I don’t want it.

    1. Javier says:

      Rules of Drama clearly state that when two characters hook up in desperate circumstances the rate of conception is 1000%

      I’d predict a more happy ending at least for the show, Arya and Gendry marry to legitimize the kid, maybe even as Gendry is dying, and Dany lets them have the old Baratheon holdings.

  15. Andre says:

    Does anyone else think Winterfell is a horrible place to fight the others? The North is huge and cold surely it would make more sense to fortify the hell out of Moat Cailin and await the Others there. It would be better supplied and basically impervious to encirclement unless the seas froze over. I understand the symbolism of holding Winterfell, but strategically it seems pretty dumb. Also, STANNIS STANNIS STANNIS KING.

    1. Joshua says:

      In the books, there are natural hot springs under Winterfell to keep it warm and there are implications that it may be enchanted against things like Wights. It was constructed by Bran the Builder, the same Stark who built The Wall.

      https://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Brandon_Stark_(Builder)

      1. Andre says:

        Forgot about that, but is any of that relevant to the show. I thought the Others would use the Horn of Winter to bring down the wall not lure a dragon there.

  16. Galad says:

    but..Olive oil and vinegar go great in a salad, Bob!!

    Also, the show apparently has a habit of making a pair of Important Characters in a scene confront a question, uncomfortable to one of them, only to be interrupted by a third character. This done so the audience can speculate on the question themselves, wonder what the characters will do, and then get the answer sometime later, likely in a following episode. As far as scene formats go, this is not a bad one, I think. Then again, I have not lost the suspension of disbelief entirely on this show..

    1. baud says:

      > Olive oil and vinegar go great in a salad

      That’s called Vinaigrette! But when I’m doing some, I don’t stop at oil and vinegar, I also add salt, pepper, Herbe de Provence and some combination of Mustard/Ketchup/Mayo. I usually stop once the taste of the vinaigrette cover the veggies I’m putting in the salad.

      1. baud says:

        I’ll also add a cut shallot when I have some on hand.

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