Houses Collide: A Weekly Game of Thrones Discussion — Feminism, Executions and Other Westeros
Sean Bean, Miltos Yeromelou, Maisie Williams
Last week, we delved into Game of Thrones' heavy-handed foreshadowing of those darn dragon's eggs. This week, we discuss some of the standout characters (Daenerys! Arya!) from Episode 3 who've kept us intrigued with their decidedly non-medieval ways.
TVGuide.com's Hanh Nguyen is an avid scripted-TV watcher, a horror-avoider and someone who's read George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire book series, on which HBO's Game of Thrones is based. Her co-worker, Rich Juzwiak, rarely watches scripted TV, is a gorehound and became alerted to Martin's existence just recently, as he started researching this new swords-and-sandals (well, boots) series. He knows nothing of these sorcerers (if that is indeed what they are), while Hanh is something of an expert (read: fantasy/sci fi nerd). Each week, he'll try to make sense of this crazy new show by enlisting Hanh's expertise. It may turn out to be a test of tolerance: in this case, the Games begin after the TV is off.
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Hanh: How does this episode compare to the previous for you?
Rich: Well, I was getting annoyed, honestly, because it seemed more full of setup and emptier of action than ever. But by the end, I was back into it.
Hanh: Yes, come to think of it, did anyone die in this episode?
Rich: No deaths. A few squabbles and some sword-naming. The major point of excitement was watching Viserys (Harry Lloyd) choke a little. Speaking of, I'm getting into Daenerys (Emilia Clarke).
Hanh: Yes, Daenerys has had rapid growth. I love Viserys, he's such a prick.
Rich: Her growth is weirdly rapid. She's pulling a Chrissy, too. Or maybe she's just an extremely fast learner of languages.
Hanh: Agreed. You might think this episode had too much setup, but in the books it definitely takes much longer for her to get to this level of comfort among the Dothraki.
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Rich: Also, she seems legitimately into her husband now.
Hanh: Jason Momoa!
Rich: Yes, which: fair enough. But the affection suggests more than just manipulation. Unless she gets off on being manipulative.
Hanh: I like how she took it upon herself to take language and sex lessons. A forward thinker!
Rich: She knows what it takes to get to the top! In multiple ways.
Hanh: I don't feel she's manipulative just because she's always been rather willing to please — first her brother, now her husband. Ew, did not mean to couple them that way. But it's true.
Rich: So she's genuinely into hubby Khal with no ulterior motives?
Hanh: Correct! I think she appreciates how in his own way, Khal Drogo is actually watching out for her, not just using her like Viserys is. Perhaps anyone seems better compared to Viserys.
Rich: It's definitely set up for viewers to feel that way. But it's nice to see a character into other cultures. Again: makes it easy to empathize with Daenerys, since we too are constantly being exposed to other (albeit fictional) cultures via this show. I loved hearing the Dothraki-to-English accent. Very nice little detail. When that...guy was talking to the other...guy.
Hanh: LOL. Which guys?
Rich: They were doing some weapon shop talk.
Hanh: Oh yes. Ser Jorah (Iain Glen) and that nameless Dothraki dude. You know Jorah's story, right? I think it was touched on last episode.
Rich: I'm sure you'll be shocked to hear that I don't have a grasp on that.
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Hanh: Ser Jorah Mormont is an exiled knight from the Seven Kingdoms — where Viserys and Daenerys are from. He had to flee Westeros when he was caught trying to sell slaves (I think by default, any slaves who've broken rules need to be given into service of the Night's Watch). I think it's an executable offense. He gave Dany books from Westeros, so in a way, he's her teacher about the land she came from.
Rich: And he just hangs out with the Targaryens because of shared culture?
Hanh: I cannot reveal his motives.
Rich: That sounds like a clue to me!
Hanh: He says that he wants the Targaryens back on the throne, and so he's their defender in Pentos (although it seems more like he counsels Daenerys, not so much Viserys).
Rich: Interesting. What's a "bloodrider," as mentioned by the unnamed Dothraki?
Hanh: The bloodriders are the warlords' — in this group, that's Khal Drogo — right hand men. Basically, when he dies, they die.
Rich: Like symbiotic hands of the king?
Hanh: Sure, but not necessarily the voice of the king like in Westeros. Hand of the King can rule in the king's stead. The bloodriders seem to be more in service to protect him.
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Rich: Speaking of, I love that Arya's trainer told her, "Boy, girl, you are a sword. That is all." Ned (Sean Bean) is the hand, and his daughter (Maisie Williams) is the sword.
Hanh: Yes! There's much poetry in Arya's role and training."Dancing" lessons were a much better gift than that lame doll.
Rich: I'd expect Arya to be satisfied with nothing less. I love that she challenges society: "How can you let her marry someone like that?"
Hanh: No joke, and I wonder since Ned gives her the fencing lessons, if she has an influence on his thinking. He's very traditional, so that actually surprised me. Then again, he does realize there's danger all around, so maybe he figured it was in her best interest to learn to defend herself. There are warrior maidens in Westerosi history, so it's not unheard of.
Rich: It feels progressive. I thought all the whose-knife-is-it-anyway stuff was very snoozy.
Hanh: Agreed. Too much politicking. Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) is also a snot. Although Ned is good and I support him, his goodness can be boring.
Rich: Totally. Another question, and this may be a minor point: When they talk about generation-spanning winters, are they just calling cold periods "winters" to be flowery (or lack-there-of-ery) or is the planet tilting haphazardly (or, I guess, not haphazardly enough)?
Hanh: Hmmm, there's a little debate about how this works, but no, the winters are not just cold periods, they're actual, but very irregular winters. For us, winter can last three months or so. For them it can last a year or decades or more. This of course makes you wonder about the planet, and how they measure a year.
Rich: And what causes what. But then, I never stop wondering what causes what.
Hanh: I think George R.R. Martin said that magic has a hand in the irregularity and that he'll go into it more in the last book (whenever that will be released. Perhaps he measures time in Westerosi winters?).
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Rich: Ah, magic: the most reliable explanation. Is it pure arrogance that leads Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) to feel like he's any authority on what's north of wall, especially when he's talking to a Night Watch guy who's actually been there?
Hanh: I think Tyrion can be, perhaps has to be, incredibly arrogant to survive as he has. But he's also incredibly well-read, and there seems to be a long history of stuff that went on that people are forgetting about. Direwolves and the Others were supposed to be extinct. But they don't seem to be from our experience in this series. So his familiarity with books could actually be helpful to those who've gotten complacent in this present time.
Rich: I ask because I wonder if the wall and what's past it is some kind of faith symbol/surrogate? He has no faith in there being anything beyond, whereas the guard feels strongly otherwise.
Hanh: I think yes to both. There's certainly real stuff beyond the Wall. There were, I think, two or more sets of beings who lived in the Seven Kingdoms before the humans we know now. And one of them was the Children of the Forest (what I think of as our fae in Western culture) who worshipped the Old Gods. Since Winterfell is up North, they still worship the Old Gods as well.
Rich: Another question: Who was Ned's father? There is talk of his murder this episode.
Hanh: All that stuff that happens before the novels start can be a bit hazy. And sometimes the account you hear isn't always reliable.
Rich: Haha. Here my mind regarding this world is as malleable as a toddler's and I'm perhaps relying on unreliable narrators. It's OK — I'll just take that as ephemera.
Hanh: Well, OK, going back. Let me try here.
Rich: OK. I trust you to be a reliable narrator.
Hanh: Mad King Aerys was on the throne. And he was crazy. Brandon (Ned's older brother) got angry about Lyanna getting "kidnapped" by Rhaegar, Aerys' son. So he rides up and challenges Rhaegar. This angered Aerys and he pretty much ordered all fathers and sons associated with Brandon (so, the court, his own dad) to be executed. Since Jaime, at the time, was the part of the King's guard, he was there when Ned's dad, Lord Rickard, was executed (burned, I think).
Rich: It's hard for me to sort out the things to know from the things to be aware of. Still.
Hanh: Yeah, so when you think about it, much of this war, usurping and all, goes back to a fight over a woman.
Rich: Like the Trojan War.
Hanh: Yup. I wouldn't put it past GRRM to have been inspired by that.
Rich: I mean, who isn't?
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Hanh: There's definitely a deeper mystery surrounding Lyanna. And I have my theories, but hopefully all will be revealed once he releases all his books.
Rich: Somehow I doubt it! And even if so, there's always something new not to know.
Hanh: I'd like to mention one the new scenes that was written for the HBO series from this episode. It's when Cersei (Lena Headey) has a heart-to-heart with Joffrey (Jack Gleeson).
Rich: I loved that line: "Someday, you'll sit on the throne and the truth will be what you make it."
Hanh: I thought it was brilliant!
Rich: Very nice way to sum up absolute power.
Hanh: Also love how she says that he needs to rule the North because they're stupid and "anyone who isn't us is an enemy." So I like to think, who qualifies as "us"?
Rich: That was definitely expository, but it didn't feel like they were cramming book pages in my ears.
Hanh: Very well done.
Rich: That kind of even hand is hard to find in introductions to new worlds. The time has come for sci-fi/fantasy moderation! (And then the savages cheer.)
Hanh: Huzzah! (In Dothraki: Huzzah!) Not that they're savages.