In the wake of The Massacre of Hardhome, my dear friend and frequent Nick Cage Review correspondent Brendan O’Connell exchanged a few emails about White Walkers, Sand Snakes, dear King Tommen. Warning: SPOILERS. Warning: OPINIONS.
Ryan: This has been the weirdest four week span in the show’s history (episodes 5-8). Two of the series worst, bookended by two of its best. Now, you’ve been burning through these to catch up. Has that blurred the distinction between the past few episodes?
Brendan: I think it has. I haven’t seen any of the episodes as stronger or weaker then the others, with the exception of last night’s episode. That one, in my opinion, is the strongest episode of the series since “The Rains of Castamere.” I thought each episode had its own merits, with moments that shined through in each. For instance, I thought Cersei being arrested last week was a great moment for the series, and especially for that episode. Also, I feel as though Sansa and Arya have been shining through this season, and as they have been my favorite characters since Day 1, I have appreciated that.
However, that is definitely due to the nature of binge watching. Episode 6 was so incredibly depressing, and ended in such a terrible way. But I felt like it was a strong episode, due to the fact that I started watching the next episode 30 seconds after I watched my favorite character brutalized. I think if I had to watch episode 7 a week later, I would have had very different feelings on those two episodes.
I think that’s the nature of a Game of Thrones season. There are so many parts that certain episodes definitely have amazing moments that redeem the series, whereas others are needed to just move the plot along to get to those great moments we all talk about.
Ryan: I take your point that the show is basically, a bunch of people talking around tables. And that the nature of the beast is that sometimes it’s a slow burn.
But I think at least for me, there was a lot of frustration with the way six and seven ended. This isn’t just with how the episodes ended or the motif the show is trying to build–narrative anarchy.
The Sansa stuff didn’t work, because it didn’t fit because it painted Littlefinger as either a dunce or someone who doesn’t care about Sansa. But the show has proved that both those things aren’t true. Littlefinger has continually been pulling the strings of the political plot–killing off Jon Arryn, Ned Stark, Joffrey. And since Catelyn’s death, Sansa is the only living, breathing character he cares about.
And Dorne? Dorne!? They ruined the only good part of Feast for Crows.
Brendan: I always forget to look at Sansa as part of a greater scheme on Littlefinger’s part, and more as the best character of the show. But I agree with your anger over Dorne. One, that fight between the Sand Snakes and Jaime and Bronn was, to say the least, not well done. Two, the Sand Snakes should be the best characters on the show. In the book they were basically three to eight Red Vipers, which would have been the greatest thing that ever happened to our television screens. Instead, they’re the worst thing you can be on Game Of Thrones; boring.
At least with the Sansa stuff, there is something going on. You see Sansa’s survival mode kick in, and as the episodes are proving, its just making her this weird Littlefinger-Catelyn hybrid that is probably going to get revenge on Ramsay in a big way. But I just don’t see where the show is going with Dorne. They’ve gotten rid of half the Martell’s, who make up 3/4 of Feast for Crows, and then left us with some half baked characters who are looking for “revenge”, but are seemingly just going to sit in jail and show their boobs. It’s a weird choice.
I’m wondering what your thoughts are on the Kings Landing bits, especially now that three of the four major characters still there (I’m not counting Tommen) are imprisoned by the High Sparrow. Do you like where the show is taking this storyline? And are you intrigued by it, considering for about three seasons Kings Landing has been the most interesting portion of the series.
Ryan: For most of the series, Kings Landing was the center of the show. It wasn’t necessarily where all the action took place (Danery’s had her fair share before settling in Meren). But King’s Landing was where all the important decisions were made.
Here are three hot King’s Landing takes.
1. Dean-Charles Chapman (Tommen) is as good at playing an ineffectual king as Jack Gleason (Joffrey) was as at playing a young Jack the Ripperr.. I hate kittens but I appreciate how far Chapman’s bought in.
2. I root for Cersei. I know she’s an incestual witch and oblivious to her own ineptitude. Lena Headey is just too good for her own good.
3. I think Kings Landing has been a huge win for The Seven. It’s always, oddly, been the most underused religion in the story. The Lord of Light and the Ol’ Tree Gods have always been really important to the story, but the Seven has always just been there. I’m all for narrative religious equality. The Seven is striking back!
I know I’ve generally avoided your question. You see, I just don’t care about Kings Landing anymore, especially after episode 8. After seeing Tyrion and Dany test barbed wits and The Dead King-Jon Snow Showdown, Kings Landing doesn’t matter. The Dead are coming. Dragons are coming. And I know that ultimate meeting is probably three years away, so I think the challenge for the showrunners is (as always) balance. And it’s harder now because the payoff is so much closer than it used to be. They have to keep bringing us closer to the payoff without losing that hard-boiled political element that I know you so love. Have you missed that this season?
Brendan: That’s basically what I was thinking. Kings Landing was by far my favorite during the Joffrey years, but after his death, plus Tyrion, Littlefinger and Sansa’s departures to other areas of the world (even though Littlefinger is technically back), I haven’t really been as interested in Kings Landing.
Other then that, I’ve been missing some of the interactions between characters. I miss the Arya-Hound banter; I miss the Sansa-Joffrey terror (as opposed to sociopath Ramsay, who seems just way worse); I miss the Cersei-Tyrion rivalry, and the Tyrion-Tywin hatred; I miss the Jon-Ygritte romance. Those interactions, for me, were the best parts of the show, and to bring it back, helped me get through those slow building episodes.
This season, more so then any other one, seems as though everyone is isolated. Even the characters that are together are isolated. Sansa and Arya are more alone then they ever have been. Cersei and Jaime are in jail, alone. Everyone is just so alone, and this makes those slower episodes harder. The only characters who are together, really, are Daenarys and Tyrion, and that was completely overshadowed by the epicness of Jon Snow and the white walkers. Those are the moments I miss.
I do hope they bring some of those back.
Ryan: Yeah, what the show has always done really well is pairs–Arya and the Hound being the paragon of pairs. And this year we had some promising pairs. Jamie and Bronn would have been great if Dorne would have been the wild Mediterranean/Basque dream land of dear Prince Oberyn. Maybe Bronn and the slutty sandsnake could be a good pair.
I think for a moment, Grey Worm and Sir Barristan were a great pair dueling in the alleys. You can’t say Sam and Gilly weren’t an explosive (GET IT?) pair.
I think pairs are so important to the show, as or more important than ice zombies and dragons, because the show is as much about anticipation, the big tease, than anything. And that goes right along with the books. I was always pissed when Martin would skip over battles–like the Robb’s victory at Whispering Wood. He never showed the battles. It was always about the planning and fallout. It’s a show about people talking–kind of like another great show–Entourage.
Brendan: Well I never saw Entourage, so I can’t agree or disagree with that comparison. But I agree that the actual events are less important then the fallout, and sometimes the planning.I agree some of those pairs have been okay, but they’ve been so one off that I can’t get invested. It’s weird.
Going back to the planning, I’m trying to think of how all of these events are going to play out. This is a weird moment as a book reader, as so many story lines are diverging. We are far beyond where Daenarys was in the books, Jeyne Poole is nonexistent, and Lady Stoneheart is sadly not a character. So it’s interesting to actually try to guess where all this planning and pre-main event is leading. How are these story lines going to be resolved? It’s a very exciting yet weird time to be a fan of A Song of Fire and Ice watching Game of Thrones.
Ryan: I think that’s as good a place as any to yield, before we breach 1,600 words. Now our watch has ended!