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Game of Thrones ep 8.03 "We Are Not Kidding About the Show's Title" Cannoli Send a noteboard - 01/05/2019 12:25:33 AM

This is not a song of ice and fire, about the clash of various light and fire wielding champions of life going through trials in preparation to fight demons of ice who lead armies of the dead. This IS Game of Thrones. The important thing IS the Iron Throne. THAT is the climax of the story. The armies of winter and the dead are a distraction and a crisis along the way, the really important question is who will Win the Game of Thrones and reign as the one true monarch of Westeros. Trick question! After spending two and a half episodes in conflict over competing claims through a pair of fathers who were disreputable, tyrannical, politically incompetent, overthrown princes, Jon & Dany are going to get married and rule jointly, but the ONLY metric of a quality plot the showrunners understand is surprise, so everyone is pretending that's not a blindingly obvious solution to the arguments and sniping in Daenerys' scenes this season.

Think how much better Lord of the Rings would have been if they had chucked the Ring into the fires of Doom in the opening scene of "Return of the King" and spent the next two hours dealing with Denethor's usurpation of the throne of Gondor. Or if Olver had stabbed the Dark One with Fain's dagger sometime in "Towers of Midnight" and Tuon & Egwene spent the next book and a half fighting over who was the supreme authority on the continent!

And you know, those are not half bad precedents to judge by, since Arya coming out of nowhere to kill the Night King was probably inspired by mashing Merry & Eowyn together to kill the Witch-King, and Egwene's stupidly dilatory siege of Tar Valon is much like Tyrion's idiotic advice to besiege Kings Landing rather than strike directly at Cersei in the Red Keep, because that will offend someone's sensibilities, and really, the optics are much better when you are starving the population of largest city on the continent.

As much as I give Brandon Sanderson shit for his military writing, I doubt even he'd do as awful a job as this episode did with their military (sorry, I forgot, this is GoT) mill-it-tree set up. I can also forgive the show a lot regarding feudal society depictions, since most people don't know any more than the writers, so why bother getting it right. But the OTHER super popular, water-cooler discussion show on TV right now is "The Walking Dead". Cable TV audiences might not know medieval politics, but they know zombie fighting tactics! You don't send an army of Darryls on their motorcycles directly into the teeth of a herd of walkers, you use his mobility to lure them into traps and pick off stragglers. You don't line a bunch of living fighters up in front of the obstacles, defenses and walls, you get behind them! You don't put your heavy weapons in front of your infantry, in the open, you protect them from being overrun!

See, in the books, they've done the legwork to establish that Winterfell was BUILT to fight zombies. It was built by a legendary figure who had magical knowledge. Brandon the Builder is connected to two other structures which are confirmed to have magic protections that stop supernatural threats, namely the Wall & Storm's End. Rather than an outer wall that protects peripheral structures or approaches and an inner wall protecting the essentials, as most castles do, Winterfell has a double wall enclosing the whole thing, with a moat between them. That doesn't make much sense to me, non-expert though I am. A moat protects the wall from a direct approach. You can't dig directly at the foundations, roll siege towers up to it or even place ladders. If you manage to knock it down from a distance, you have to swim the moat to get into the breech. The moat makes undermining the wall difficult. But if the moat is INSIDE the walls, you are plainly expecting the first wall to go down. You should not need a moat to protect the inner walls from siege engines and what not, because getting them into the area between the walls would be a bitch and a half. If you have hundred foot high walls, surrounded by a moat, why would you then build a second wall, only 80 feet high years later, as the maesters speculate in the World of Ice & Fire. But the maesters who scoff at legends are always wrong, and the Old Nans are usually right in aSoI&F. The legends say the guy who built the Wall to protect humanity from the Others and the dead, also built Wintefell, and made it the home to him and to his line of descendants. They claimed the title of Kings of Winter, and they buried their kings and lords with iron swords in front of their crypts to keep the dead in their tombs. They built Winterfell over a volcanic spring and piped its water through the walls to make the whole place warm even in the dead of winter, to create as hostile an environment as the Others could fear this far from the equator. I don't know what a "fell" is supposed to be. I don't get what "hollow halls beneath the fells" is supposed to be describing. Winterfell, geographically speaking, is nothing like Erebor. Unless 'fell' is a verb. Maybe Brandon the Builder erected his castle on the place where "winter fell" in the battle to end the Long Night. The earliest memory Bran sees through the heart tree in Winterfell's godswood is a human sacrifice. The beginning of the spells to protect the site? Maybe tied in to Brandon's bloodline, hence the expression about needing a Stark in Winterfell? This IS the oldest ruling family in direct descent. Of all the ancient royal lines, only the Lannisters also reigned as kings before the Andals came, and they supplanted the Casterlys in the Rock. Martin has done a lot of work to suggest that the Starks are the last keepers of the traditions (the "fire" as it were) to save humanity from the Others.

The show, not so much.

Why Winterfell? Why not a fighting retreat? Why not stick Bran on dragonback and tell the White Walkers, "see you in Dorne, bitches"? Or Dragonstone, with its volcanoes. Or take him to Bear Island and lure the army of the Dead off its course, through a forest you can set on fire to winnow their numbers as they pass through. The idea of Bran and guys like him as keepers of humanity's collective memory is a neat idea (from the prior episode) and something they could have done something with, but there was no real pay-off. Instead, they fight here, just because, and given the prominence of Jon Snow, Davos & Tyrion in the planning sessions, stupidity is a factor that can never be ruled out. Among the book versions of these characters, there is a lot of military talent present, from successful veterans, to well-trained leaders to gifted amateurs. So why send your light cavalry ahead of all the other troops, out of range of archery or infantry support, so get defeated in detail? Yes, it's a cool visual image of the swords going out, but it makes no sense. Nor does having the troops fight on the wrong side of what appeared to be an abatis behind the infantry lines, or the archers only moving into shooting positions once the dead were already starting to breach the fire-ditch. Why are they not dropping flaming pitch or boiling anything or heavy objects on the climbing wights? They've been preparing since 2016, why the heck don't they have hoardings on the walls?

That said, once the stupidity of the initial mill-it-tree dispositions are out of the way, and the show is considered on its' own, divorced from the context of seven seasons of increasingly crappy plotting and build up, there was a lot of cool stuff you could guess was happening, had to guess, in fact, because they spent their lighting budget on dragon CGI.

And ... Arya? Really? What does Arya's story have to do with killing the Night King? For that matter, her BOOK story is long on being taught to disguise herself, to assume identities, to observe and think and draw conclusions, and to combine these skills to understand people and know them so you can act on that knowledge. Not really applicable to stabbing a magical entity with a magical dagger. There have been complaints that the Night King has been eliminated without us understanding him as a foe, but I'm okay with that. It's closer at least to the indescribable force that Bran saw when the Three Eyed Crow first showed him the heart of winter, rather than just a bad guy whose destruction deactivates the rest of the battle-droids. And in the show's defense, they have seeded stuff to support that over the years, showing that they take the babies all the way to their HQ to be turned into Blue White Walkers, and that bit where if you kill a Walker, all the zombies he raised die with him. I even like the notion that there is some sort of blue magic energy animating the zombies, with dragonglass as the counter, like a graphite rod in a nuclear pile. It's different from the books' assertion that dragonglass does not work on the wights, but it's a reasonable adaptation.

But the magic threat, the Others and the wights, these are thematically connected to Jon and Dany. Jon tries to desert the Wall to join in the mundane war and Mormont lectures him on the reality of the situation "When dead men, and worse, come hunting for us in the night, do you think it matters who sits on the Iron Throne?" He spends Book/Season 2 learning about the threats beyond the Wall, and what it means to protect the realms of men. He spends Book/Season 3 learning about the difference between his human foes, the wildlings while his brothers encounter their inhuman foes, the Others, so we have a contrast between the two, and the theme of Jon's last book was that the wildlings were humans and when it comes to picking teams for the fight that matters, they're not the enemy. The show even managed to service this theme from time to time. In a way, Jon's assassination was more directly tied to that issue, being murdered because he persisted in putting humanity ahead of politics. Dany, meanwhile, had her own expansion of horizons and learning to embrace other humans as people arc in Book 1, then she walked onto a funeral pyre and emerged with dragon and began a journey through the desert leading to a place of visions and prophecies, where she was tempted with luxury and pleasure to turn aside from her quest. She set out and found her identity and purpose as a liberator, freeing slaves and casting down oppressive societies, and when she tried to play politics and "be a queen" she came close to drowning in the compromises, with her true self dying a death of a thousand cuts, before embracing her draconic aspect, and coming back to where she began, alone, among the Dothraki. On the show, at least, whatever problems there were in that storyline, the essence was that she did not play politics or take a title, she burned down the political structure and co-opted a race of slavers to be her weapons to finally defeat the slave cities for good. And in Westeros, there is an enemy waiting that is particularly vulnerable to fire, the weapon she has in abundance, and who are the ultimate magical threat suited for someone who has undergone her prophet's ordeal, her mystic vision quest. The Others are the ultimate slavers. But where the priests of the Many-Faced God could offer the gift of release to the slaves of Valyria, the chains of the Others reach into the grave as well.

Oh, wait. Silly me. Their story was just to stand helplessly as the dead closed in on them, to be saved by a guy who somehow contributed by skin-changing a flock of ravens and a girl with a teleporter. I guess the set-up for her coming out of nowhere was her crossing the ocean in one episode, making Frey pies and sleeping with Walder Frey's wife for a fortnight, before poisoning all the wine at a feast. And no one ever asked what exactly she kept doing in the kitchen... Clearly, she has teleportation powers. So no nitpicking about how serious a threat could the White Walkers ACTUALLY be, if Arya can pass unnoticed through a ring of them to leap on their boss's back.

Now Jon & Dany can go on to do what they have been born to do! They can fulfil the purpose of the great and powerful magics that gave Jon a magical albino giant wolf friend and brought him back from the dead, that enabled Dany to emerge unscathed from a sacrificial fire with three dragons born out of stone eggs: administering a kingdom, adjudicating disputes, and deciding civic policy!

Can't wait.

Cannoli
“Tolerance is the virtue of the man without convictions.” GK Chesteron
Inde muagdhe Aes Sedai misain ye!
Deus Vult!
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Game of Thrones ep 8.03 "We Are Not Kidding About the Show's Title" - 01/05/2019 12:25:33 AM 157 Views
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