I don’t know about anyone else but I am so excited for the premiere of season four of Game of Thrones!
This May Be (It Is) Spoilery, Kind of Long & A lot of book talk.
If you kept up then the above picture is all the recap you need. A swift reminder of the amount of vengeance some fans will want exacted on those who betrayed the beloved Robb Stark. Three seasons watching one Stark after another kidnapped, beaten or betrayed by people they trusted. Usually when the needed the person the most. Remember: This is all because Ned could not tell Robert “No.” Reminding us that no one is safe in this world from the depravity, greed, and desperation of some of the denizens of Westeros. As Hand of The King it served as a death sentence for Eddard and the beginning of the Stark’s shitty roller coaster ride.
Okay so he isn’t a Stark.. But Theon Greyjoy was one of “us” in the beginning. And through shitty decisions by both the people controlling his life, and of his own accord we watched him sink from Ward of the North to Lord of Winterfell and the wanna-be Prince of The Seastone Chair. To the pet of Ramsey Snow. HBO really fleshed out Theon’s story, through both A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords you have no idea if Theon is alive or dead. Pieces of him being sent out as he’s being flayed by Ramsey but that’s it. I think it helped accelerating Theon’s degeneration, wanna-be alpha male into a more sympathetic and now handicapped character.
Reap what you sow.
With Winterfell now in the hands of Ramsey Snow and the youngest Stark boys presumed missing, we eventually learn they’re on the run and hiding. HBO dragged this out for some reason, and only just now separated the Stark boys. Rickon heading toward parts unknown and Bran heading off with the Reed children. The scene with Bran and Rickon saying goodbye felt contrived probably because it felt kind of thrown in there. Everything that’s happening in their lives and now is the time they think they should head off in separate directions because of Bran’s visions? … ugh I hate to make this one of those posts but, no. The impending danger of the situation spurred Bran to do what the scene delivered which is that they are safer apart and Rickon is easiest to hide. So we say goodbye to little Rickon, who at this point is mute and savage in his behavior, which his aggressive direwolf Shaggydog reflects. Bran leaves with the aforementioned Reed children in pursuit of Bran and Jojen’s shared dreams and the Three Eyed-Crow. LULz at Isaac Hempstead-Wright turning into a grown man over night by season three.
I worry though; what will become of Rickon who is the forgotten Stark child? I don’t see anything huge coming in his story only because he was so young when any of this began and the chances of the Stark name being what it once was are slim, at least at this point in the story. The same can almost be said about Sansa sans events we’ll cover later.
We can follow Bran’s thread toward Jon Snow (The Stark Bastard) who having already put on the mask of turncloak and met with the Wildlings — Led Mance Raydar — is heading back south with them to climb The Wall and take back the land the Wildlings believe is theirs by blood and right. Remember the whispers and plans between Half-hand and Snow before all this began, and if you don’t watch the end of Season two again.
Jon Snow learns of a horn, something that I think should have been left until season four because it’s not really a necessary piece of information here. Unlike in the book, the pacing of season three is choppy (at best) so you don’t need to carry with you the loads of information the writer’s attempt to dump into your lap about one segment of characters. We spend a lot of time watching him woo Ygritte the polar opposite of every girl he’s ever met or been brought up to interact with. The dialogue is adorable especially the “What’s fainting?” conversation but it offers little in the way of what Jon is experiencing internally. Feelings against who he thinks he’s becoming in the large shadow of Ned Stark. A continued theme I come to call “Simba syndrome” (think Icarus meets Oedipus without the incest). A constantly acknowledged nobility that Ned carried with him even into death that the boys of his home try to live up to. Knowing little of the demons he carried and the sins on his shoulders.
If anyone is a good example of the Simba syndrome it’s Jon at the end of season three when he has to choose between the man he thinks he is and the man he what could be; Ygritte and everything she symbolizes versus his integrity. When Jon begins to understand that he really knows nothing and it’s time to go home, my heart broke. Will Jon ever understand where he belongs in the scheme of things? Broken, and full of arrows he returns to The Wall and Sam. Samwell’s journey is interesting and tragic. It begins with the an attack on the group of Rangers at The Fist of The First Men who are awaiting word from Jon and Half-hand and reconnaissance mission into the Wildling camp. Sam survives thanks to an obsidian blade given to him by Jon.
Trying to regroup at Craster’s keep (the home of the Wildling man who marries and sleeps with his daughter’s, leaving the boys out in the snow for The Others) ends in a mutiny and Lord Commander Mormont dead. His dying wish whispered to Samwell. Here we reunite with Gilly, the wide-eyed pregnant girl from Season two whom Ghost frightens.
Sam is a needed thread that ties many characters together. It is through him that we meet Bran as he crosses the wall to the North and if all goes according to plan he will be the one to draw us closer, if only briefly, to another Stark child.
Leading me to Robb. Fresh from winning every battle against the Lannister’s and all their bannermen, the King of The North heads into what are dark times. HBO spares us the drawn out death of his grandfather. Catelyn spends lots of time praying and remembering better times at his bedside but also wallowing in her fractured family. Instead this regret is hit spot on by the beautiful dialogue between Catelyn and Talissa during their travels to Riverrun, where Catelyn reflects on how she took for granted her children, and life before. Even the child she didn’t want, Jon Snow and how she (in the true maternal archetypal vein) takes blame for all the events that have happened to her family.
Robb, the very definition of the head strong eldest son, charges into situations with an ignorance and arrogance that is thankfully nonexistent up until this book. As most of his battles you never see you only hear about through other characters. He heeds advice from no one in his company and is, like the teenage boy that he is, he’s balls deep in love with his first love. A beautiful (and completely made up) girl who’s nothing more than a distraction in the eyes of everyone around him. As he is constantly reminded, he is fighting a war. Was getting married really the best move? Probably not. But I guess The Seven only gave Stark men enough blood to run one head at one time. Occasionally Robb reflects the fact that he is waist deep in a sea of enemies and the Lannister’s have the financial and military power to keep him fighting well into the coming Winter. But what then? And now that his home gone, his brothers and sisters are missing, he is in a corner. Only for the reminder that he’s broken an oath to fall into his lap. Yes Robb, while you were mooning over the pretty Valyrian girl you broke a promise and all a man has in Westeros is his balls, and his word. This doesn’t bode well, and from the raven’s flying back and forth between House Bolton, House Lannister and House Frey and the constant song “The Rains of Castamere” I’m surprised more people didn’t put together than home-boy was fucked. When someone tells you to take your wolf… TAKE YOUR GODDAMN WOLF.
Jesus. Stay in the fucking house, Carl!
Leading us to The Red Wedding, which I don’t need to go over, do I? No… NO I do not. But the how it happened is the interesting part. Leading me to the second of the remaining Stark children, Sansa.
Who is now a Lannister thanks to the scheming of Tywin Lannister (and Littlefinger) making sure that Winterfell and Tyrion are secure with one fatal swoop. Sansa poor girl, has a bit of a bad rap and I’d like to take a minute to climb up on my soap box in defense of the most naïve of the Stark kids. We have to remind ourselves that Sansa was born and bred for really one thing, the kept wife of some Lord. That’s it. She wanted to go to parties, and have babies and wear pretty dresses. She is a Disney princess thrown into an Iraqi war situation and has zero fucking coping skills. So before we continue on our Fuck-Sansa-Lynch-Mob let us step back and remember she is a fourteen year old pampered former daughter of a Lord of one he most powerful Holdfasts in this world. So back the shit off Sansa, yo. You know why I don’t worry about Sansa? Just take a deep look into those eyes.
If anything her naiveté has saved her a world of hurt and kept her alive. Being of a lady of the court requires wearing many masks and she’s learning, very quickly that if she wants to keep her wits about her she needs to hold it together and she’s doing this better than most people would in her situation. It help that she has worldly Shae and wicked Cersei who both refuse to let her continue this façade of a red bird in a gilded cage of delusion. Shit is dangerous, and if she doesn’t wake up she will wake up to a knife in the chest. But I trust, that what she’s witnessed and that those who are looking over her (and I feel there a few) she will find herself, as the I09 article suggest, turning into some one who isn’t to be tried. There’s nothing to really add to this as her story in the book and show are pretty similar. She’s used as a plot device up and story-teller, keeping us up to date on things happening with important people around her up until recently when she becomes more involved with key players. I’m excited to see her transition into a person of interest in the second half of A Storm of Swords. Whereas Arya has cemented being not only a growing threat but possessing most of the brains in the family (albeit not used correctly all the time), Sansa has some room to grow.
Little Arya by the time we reach her in season three is spending a great deal of her time like Bran. Transitioning between her wolf, Nymeria and traveling with her group of companions. Things are moving in a slowly up direction because while she’s not exactly safe, there are no immediate threats and readers get the comfort of knowing that Nymeria is still alive and roaming The Riverlands somewhere. The most interesting part of Arya’s current story brings us to The Brotherhood Without Banners. A rag-tag group of former knights and sell-swords led by the enigmatic Beric Dondarrion. Remember that name. Her meeting them seems like a saving grace, being Arya Stark and promised that she will go to her Aunt, Lyssa Arryn, Lady of House Arryn. Through her travels with them though they come across The Hound who also recognizes “The Stark Bitch” and thus complicates Arya situation. A trial by fire initiated by Arya’s retelling of the murder of Mycah (see season one), to the sadness of viewers, readers and Arya alike The Hound lives, killing Dondarrion.
Here is where we begin to see the true power of the whispered Lord of Light, R’hllor. Earlier in the show , while on the road back to the place The Brotherhood calls home they come across Melisandre. This exchange doesn’t actually happen in the books but the information that Thoros has brought Dondarrion back from the dead, not once but roughly six or seven times (he admits he’s kind of lost count) shocks Melisandre for reasons unknown but also disgusts her. There’s a reservation in Melisandre’s showcasing of power, that reminds me of Tywin Lannister (who I’ll get back to). She, like Tywin, knows or possesses a power or force unimaginable and it is for them to use alone in their eyes. Long story short Melisandre doesn’t travel to southern Westeros for Gendry, the sacrifice is another bastard of Robert’s named Edric Storm, click link if you want more information. Honestly I don’t blame the writer’s for leaving this out and tying Melisandre’s story to Thoros’ only because it would lead to a needless amount of story telling to include a character who is not terribly important besides what his use; the lamb is not important, the sacrifice is. Dig?
“One day I’m going to stick a sword through your eye and out the back of your skull.”
Arya unravels at all of this. Feeling betrayed by what true power she thought existed in her world, she flips out and runs off into the woods in a moment mental confusion and anguish. Allowing The Hound the opportunity to pick up the perfect ransom to free himself from Westeros entirely. Through brief mentions (that I feel could be expanded to a few monologues or deeper dialogues with others) we learn that The Hound has quite literally said “Fuck The King and Fuck The Queen.” I believe the brief conversation with the anti-hero Bronn opened The Hounds eyes about how he is nothing more than a pawn in the games of Nobles who care not if he lived or dies so long as their goals get accomplished and their hands stay clean. Stealing the youngest wolf girl he reasons to ransom her to her brother at The Twins. Unfortunately for Arya, she again arrives at the scene of one of her beloved family members just as they lose their life. But we were give two beautiful things. The end of Arya’s girlhood as she knew it, and the new “Michael Corleone says hello.”
As nothing is ever simple in Game of Thrones, this wraps around to what to House Lannister, House Bolton and House Frey. Tywin being a man of great strategic mind, prudent planning and opportunism sees Robb’s snub of the promise to marry a Frey girl as an opening to weaken Robb overall. House Bolton who while a powerful house in the north pales in comparison to the power of House Stark has aspirations of their own. And as the saying goes, ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ Let it be said that while what Robb did was a dick move, Lord Frey is a crusty old bastard and everyone from The Wall to Dorne knows this. With that being said we also have to remember that as of this moment, even with Joffrey on the throne, there’s still a massive amount of tension between many of the Houses for a variety of reasons. Namely what happened to one of the most respect and oldest houses, House Stark. The deceitful nature of House Lannister and the ever pressing knowledge that dragons have been born across the Narrow Sea and are allegedly owned by the last of the Targaryen. But let me not get ahead of myself.
Thus far we have covered most of what’s happening North of The Eyrie and at The Wall which is a pretty big part of Season Three which again is due to the fact that George RR Martin is preparing us for what’s about to happen. So gird you loins! Moving on, not all is well in King’s Landing.
The best place to start would be with The Tyrells who we meet and hear of briefly in season two toward the end, and meet in full by season three.
We met Loras and Margaery during Margaery’s brief marriage to Renly Baratheon. The weird beard of a marriage ended suddenly thanks to the efforts of The Red Priestess and her work with Stannis Baratheon. Upon Season Three, Sansa free from being Joffrey’s fiancé, tries with earnest to slip into the background and Margaery capitalizes on this. Her aspirations to be “The Queen” obviously disturb Cersei and thus we begin the battle of The Queens. As women fight passively, the on-screen cat fights between Cersei and Margaery as well as Margaery’s obvious seduction of Joffrey via showing interest in his sadistic activities is deliciously wicked. In the book Margaery’s motives are not anywhere near as explicit but it makes for fun play to watch her very obviously fuck with a slowly unraveling Cersei. Who incidentally is turning to the same vice her late husband favored. From The Battle of The Blackwater if you watch carefully the amount she begins to drink increases slowly, and if memory serves correct Tyrion even notices that she’s pouring more from her wine jug than usual.
The funny thing about the House Tyrell is that while they are pretty powerful they’re content, or the most part, to be viewed as roses. Roses with thorns however. In an excellent scene between the Matriarch of House Martell and Tywin Lannister she let’s him know exactly they win wars and who in fact may hold all the chips. Something Bronn explains to Tyrion in a similar (though less tense) scene explaining how the deaths during war times are due to starvation and murder. House Tyrell is at an advantage, in an increasingly poor capital, The Crown (which is now entirely House Lannister) is debt to the nation. Reflection of our current economic fuck up maybe?
In dialogue that can be missed there are reminders that King’s Landing is slowly running out of resources and cannot take another war or attack. The masses of poor are on edge, as they begin to attack the Royal court in the streets during a procession. House Lannister, known for golden hair and pockets is now hated because the nation they rule is starving. Coming in with the resources to feed the ailing, House Tyrell brings with them not only a daughter who is pure and ready for marriage but enough food to keep the courtiers and some of the more fortunate poor from starving in the streets. But also serves as a reminder to Tywin that wars are expensive and geese don’t shit gold.
Understandably, like most woman Cersei is in a shit of a predicament and doing the best with the cards she’s been given, incest completely aside. Being the first-born, but a girl, and cursed with not only giving a shit about her father’s teachings but wanting to aspire to more than just being another Lady of another house. Her aspirations were shit on during her early teen years, and watching Jaime more or less fuck off their entire lives it’s reasonable she’d become jaded. Her blaming Tyrion for the death of their mother only adding insult to injury. Now facing with the prospect of being replaced by her baby boy’s new paramour whom she also realizes is a vicious monster that cannot be changed. To lose favor is to lose power but to gain favor is to respect and love a sadist. Cersei, twisted in her own right knew of the implied things happening to Sansa and of her sons ever-growing extracurricular activities. But for the sake of family, name and power she enabled or ignored them.
Cersei and Margaery’s stories don’t really progress until the wedding that they promised and never delivered in season three, for reasons I don’t understand. But I think that within the first few episodes we have a reward with a wedding more unforgettable than The Red Wedding. Though we do watch Tywin Lannister step in and rearrange the lives his children had carved out for themselves in his absence. First with Tyrion, waking up after the Battle of Blackwater Bay in tiny room with all of his possessions crammed i and removed of his status. In the book there is a vicious delivery of this information by that “dried old cunt” Maester Pycelle. Later Tywin continues his arranging of the true order of things taking control of Cersei and witnessing the out of control Brat-Boy-King, and his paranoid and reckless mother sour all his efforts. He informs Cersei she’s no longer apart of the council and will marry someone he sees fit, which leaves a shit eating grin across Tyrion’s face until he too hears news of his impending nuptials to Sansa Stark.
As Lannister’s go Tyrion’s shake from Hand down to pawn piece is especially painful in his father’s delivery and his sister’s acceptance. You begin to understand the only friend he ever really had, was his brother Jaime whom he hasn’t seen in weeks now and a woman he can never have, Shae. Determined, as usual, to make the best of a bad situation Tyrion delights in Cersei’s misery; a joy to watch and I look forward to it continuing in the next chapter as his character has another huge transition. Jaime however is on the beginning of the road of redemption. Everyone loves a comeback story and Jaime, now humbled and realizing he knows nothing about his place in the grand scheme of things, has changed pace with the dance steps of The Game. Freed by Catelyn and in the custody of Brienne the adventure two of them embark on teaches Jaime more about himself than he learned as a knight and as a man. Being captured by people under the rule of Roose Bolton ends the Jaime we know and love to hate. Which is a weird feeling. But we have to go back and remember what he told Brienne in the bath. The true events of the night he killed King Aerys and the personal dreams Jaime had that would never be allowed by his father, had he not taken The White Cloak.
Which leads me to the last piece of the puzzle I found most interesting and that’s Daenerys. Season three opened strong but somewhere down the line it lost momentum. This is quite similar in the book, we get caught up in the politics of Astapor/Yunkai. They joined the two cities, lest we get bogged down in more scenery, traveling and tour guide like explanations of customs and cultures. We see immediately that the Dragons have grown and are no longer small enough to ride on their mother’s shoulders. Instead flying near or around her, or chained to cages they inhabit in quarters. We see Daenerys had grown, but we spend a lot of time doing the shifty eye brow soap opera thing when we could be building on what’s to come and what actually happens!
In A Storm of Swords Daenery’s becomes known as the burner of cities. This happens long before she makes it to Yunkai because she burns Astapor to the goddamn ground after “purchasing” the Unsullied from their master. She scene plays out pretty true to the books, except I wish we saw the melting eye balls. But then afterwards she frees the slaves, grabs her dragons, unsullied and anything of value and books it the hell out of Astapor for Yunkai where she meets Daario. It’s really not that of a deal that they joined both Astapor and Yunkai because her path is the same through both. Fire and Blood. Retribution for dragging her people through the Red Waste I guess. But she really becomes more Vicerys than makes me as a reader and viewer comfortable and I worry about what will become of her.
The cultures and events are similar enough that consolidating and avoiding the word for word political building of her kingdom should have helped build a momentum in a season covered in blood, betrayal and true intrigue. Instead what we were left with was Anne Coulter’s wet dream. The white girl saves the poor dark-skinned savages (whom are much more diversified in the books I might add) from their enslaver and guides them to a better life. The ‘Mhysa’ episode was one of the most underwhelming and disappointing episodes to date. There were so many things one would’ve capitalized on to drive home the suspense we are capable of feeling. Instead all you got was loss with the band-aid of some far away queen saving the day for people whom we barely know. Now I say this knowing what is to come, so I say this knowing they would’ve delivered better to those who aren’t reading the books. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS (second warning, no bitching).
Lady Stoneheart in a mysterious way, the true establishment of the war of The Rose and The Lioness and the establishment that Daenerys is finally on her war path (but after the same misguided path of Robb Stark) would’ve been/could’ve been illustrated in so many beautiful ways that I found myself angry with the cheap writing. There was the feeling that they knew the book would be cut into two, and that’s fine but where they decided to cut is very off. Not to mention the complete changing of Asha/Yara’s storyline as what happens is kind of important to coming events… but I’ll leave that alone. Though HBO did leave out a telling detail during her vision walk in The House of The Undying, I am hoping that in the end they tie her story together a bit more. Step back and really take in what she’s supposed is, The Underdog. Not only that but also understand that pacing is everything.
HBO was kind of enough to finally grace us with a proper trailer:
I am hoping that bringing in the Dornish residents (the massive kingdom of south Westeros, think Winterfell but lot of Sand, shorter tempers and a bigger bone to pick with The Lannisters.
HISTORY LESSON: Elia Martell the wife of Rhaegar Targaryen was the sister of Oberyn Martell who we are meeting this coming season. The Martell’s and the Targaryen’s have a centuries old allegiance and I’m interested to see how it is going to play out. Rumour has it we will meet not only Oberyn but some of his many Daughter’s known as The Sand Snakes.
I full with anticipation! And I have to wait until April 6th. Damn, man!