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LG&M Podcast: SEK and Steven Attewell on “Valar Dohaeris,” the Season Premiere of Game of Thrones

[ 50 ] April 2, 2013 |

In this podcast, Steven Attewell, author of the indispensable Race for the Iron Throne blog and general internet celebrity, joins Yours Truly for a rousing discussing of “Valar Dohaeris” that was in no way ruined by me posting everything I had to say about the episode three hours earlier. Because it turns out that, in the presence of experts, the smartest people are the best listeners. All spoilers are prefaced by a damned fool loudly declaiming against them and I’m responsible for 99 percent of the salty language, for which I apologize in advance but will not be endeavoring to amend. Enjoy!

Download Kaufman and Attewell discussing “Valar Dohaeris” here.

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  1. StevenAttewell says:

    I’m really curious about the second link, which isn’t working.

  2. Sly says:

    I think Tyrion’s demand for Casterly Rock as a reward makes sense once you account for how Tyrion views his relationship with his family, and particularly with Tywin, and as a plot device.

    A significant chunk of S1 serves as a vehicle for conveying part of his view: his cynicism. Tyrion knows why he is being treated unfairly, both because of his status as a dwarf (who are all “bastards in their father’s eyes”) and his culpability in his mother’s death, and why it is unfair (he had no control over either). That cynicism is a result of the distance between Tyrion and the rest of his family created by these conditions, which allows him to evaluate what is going on more clearly.

    However, that distance also poses a obstacle which must be overcome. Tyrion wants to be a Lannister, and much of S2 is spent on how he thinks he can get at that: redemption. Tyrion believes, implicitly or explicitly, that he can prove himself to the rest of his family. Sure, he may be given all the shit jobs, but he is going to complete those shit jobs not only better than anyone expects of him, but better than they can even expect of themselves. He didn’t have any control over why he’s been forsaken to the extent that he has, but proving himself is a way of reclaiming his own agency in a way that allows him to be a full member of the family. He may constantly delight in demonstrating his superiority, but that superiority is always in service to his father’s cause (or, rather, an interpretation of it): defending the family legacy.

    So why shouldn’t Tywin finally recognize him as a legitimate heir after Blackwater? Tyrion certainly did better than either Cersei, who herself brought much of the misfortune faced by the Lannisters onto the family, or Jaime, who got himself captured and has put the family in a bind. And he’s certainly miles ahead of Joffrey, who has the most unjustified privilege of anyone. If anyone is defending the Lannister Legacy other than Tywin, it’s Tyrion.

    But “defending the family legacy” has different meaning for Tyrion than it does Tywin, the latter of whom focuses on the external relationship between the Lannisters and everyone else. For Tywin, the Lannisters must be a family that is feared by all lest they be exploited (like they were under his father’s reign), and who would fear a family lead by a dwarf who killed his own mother? In Tywin’s mind, no one. It would be the Reyne’s rebellion all over again, and probably on a larger scale.

    So when Tywin rejects him, it serves to cement the notion within Tyrion’s mind that nothing he ever does will be good enough, which in turn serves to drive the story towards a certain pivotal moment (which shall not be named or elaborated upon) between Tyrion and the rest of the Lannister clan.

    • StevenAttewell says:

      +1. Lannisters are screwed-up, on a Faulknerian level.

    • joel hanes says:

      Tyrion actually has Jaime’s affection (if not his respect).

      There’s a four-beat silence at the end of one of Tyrion’s arguments with Cersei during which he slowly approaches her with a totally open, little-brother-love face, chin down and lowered lashes, offering Cersei his affection and understanding. He knows who she is, yet he still craves his sister’s acceptance and affection.

      When made Hand, Tyrion begins to believe he might earn even his father’s respect. This makes the eventual rejection more painful, especially after Tyrion has served the family so brilliantly as Hand, saving Lannister control of King’s Landing and the lives of many of his family, and risking his own life in battle to defend the throne that Joffrey will not.

      But instead of the affection and respect he has offered and earned, his sister conspires to have him killed in battle, and his father denies him as a son and as a Lannister.

      Compare Tyrion’s planning, competence, and matter-of-fact treatment of his dwarfism with the parallel tale of Theon Greyjoy, who similarly craves the affection and respect of his family. Theon’s insecurity, arrogance, and puling self-pity mislead him every time — he deludes himself about his place with in house Greyjoy, betrays the people who actually do know and love him (he’d have done better to have rejected his estranged family and stuck by Rob), and drives himself into worse and worse choices — and whines the whole time about his lot in life.

      • Sly says:

        Tyrion actually has Jaime’s affection (if not his respect).

        Yes, but (and we’re getting into spoiler territory) that affection and respect only goes so far.

        Compare Tyrion’s planning, competence, and matter-of-fact treatment of his dwarfism with the parallel tale of Theon Greyjoy, who similarly craves the affection and respect of his family. Theon’s insecurity, arrogance, and puling self-pity mislead him every time — he deludes himself about his place with in house Greyjoy, betrays the people who actually do know and love him (he’d have done better to have rejected his estranged family and stuck by Rob), and drives himself into worse and worse choices — and whines the whole time about his lot in life.

        I would suppose that the difference between Theon in Tyrion is that while both are familial outcasts, Tyrion is an outcast within his family while Theon never had any contact with the other Greyjoys. While Tyrion could take advantage of the distance that his status provided, by examining how the family dynamic worked and using it to his advantage, Theon never had that opportunity. He just has an idea of his family, and one that matches reality in few ways.

        The irony is that the one familial outcast in the series who actually has a somewhat healthy relationship with his/her family is Jon Snow. He and they know that he has very little future within the Stark household. But, aside from Catelyn, they all have a strong affection for him, which actually makes his leaving the family easier rather than harder. There’s less baggage.

        • Sly says:

          And its also worth noting that Theon always could use (and did use) the Starks as the reason for his outcast status among the Greyjoys, while Tyrion has always had to face the fact that the only people preventing him from being a Lannister are the other Lannisters.

        • joel hanes says:

          that affection and respect only goes so far.

          If you’re Jaime, very little good can come of crossing Tywin in any way at all.

          Note that Jaime’s love interest is just as covert as Tyrion’s (until Stannis broadcasts it), and arguably more taboo.

          • Sly says:

            But like I said, there’s a limit. And that limit is Tywin.

            And that’s the problem with the Lannisters in a nutshell; Tywin’s drive to make sure his father’s reign is never repeated is so absolute, that it poisons everything else about the family. He’s the toxic black hole at the center of everything, and the drive to “make daddy proud” creates all sorts of problems when daddy is a narcissistic monster.

            • Yep. And that reminds me of something I forgot to add:

              Backstory on why Tywin is so fixated on the whore thing. When Tywin was a young man, his weak but warm father took a commonborn mistress (who Tywin considered a whore), who he let wear Tywin’s mother’s gowns and jewels, order around the servants and bannermen, and rule in his absence, basically a wife in all but name.

              In a very Freudian act, when his father died, Tywin threw her out of the house, and forced her to walk naked through the streets of Lannisport for two weeks telling everyone she met that she was a thief and a whore.

              So yah, Tywin’s also got a huge daddy complex.

      • James E. Powell says:

        There’s quite a bit of Smeagol/Gollum in Theon’s story. If he has some redemption in his future, I’m hoping it’s not as melodramatic & cheesy.

        • Melodramatic? Depends on your taste.

          Wrenching and hard-earned? Definitely.

          • (the other) Davis says:

            Wrenching and hard-earned? Definitely.

            I wanted bad things to happen to Theon after what he did at Winterfell. But the things that were done to him are far, far worse than I would wish upon any living being. I wonder how much I’m going to be cringing during the show.

      • Yah, that’s a good comparison.

        And as for Jaime, god I’m starting to dread that scene when it comes in Season 4.

      • SEK says:

        There’s a four-beat silence at the end of one of Tyrion’s arguments with Cersei during which he slowly approaches her with a totally open, little-brother-love face, chin down and lowered lashes, offering Cersei his affection and understanding. He knows who she is, yet he still craves his sister’s acceptance and affection.

        During this episode, or a previous one? I didn’t note that scene, but it’s something I’d want to look into for … an argument I’ll be making soon.

    • witless chum says:

      Yeah, demanding it does makes sense. As Tyrion points out, he’s Tywin’s heir because Jaime is a Kingsguard (an appointment that’s supposed to be for life, it’s telling that Cersei’s first act as regent involves violating a long-held tradition for petty bullshit by throwing Barristan off it) and Cersei is a woman. He’s demanding that Tywin stop obstructing the natural order of things and acknowledge the fact publicly, especially now that’s he’s proved he can be an able ruler and future leader of the Lannisters.

  3. Uncle Ebeneezer says:

    Great discussion. Only one small request: perhaps hyperlinks to IMDB’s of the characters discussed, or thumbnails or something would be helpful. Having not read the books I’m still rather iffy on names of characters beyond the major players.

    • StevenAttewell says:

      Try Tower of the Hand. They have a good character encyclopedia and you can set spoiler blocks.

      • Uncle Ebeneezer says:

        Awesome. Thanks.

        • Uncle Ebeneezer says:

          The one that threw me was the gal that you both hypothesized was a spy for the Lannisters. What was her name?

          • StevenAttewell says:

            Ah. That character has been changed for the show. – in the books, she’s Jayne Westerling. In the show, she’s Talisa Maegyr.

          • David Hunt says:

            I’m pretty sure the person you’re referring to is Talisa Maegyr. She’s a new character invented for television show, the healer that was treating Robb Stark’s men after battles…and she married Robb Stark at the end of Season 2. She made a brief appearance in the Season 3 premiere when Robb’s men found all the slaughtered men at Harrenhal and you see her treating the survivor that they found and mentioned that he’s lucky to be alive.

  4. […] did a video thing with Scott Eric Kaufman at Lawyers, Guns, and Money, talking about the history/politics and the visual rhetoric of Game of […]

  5. Lars says:

    Great discussion, guys.

    But I have to confess that I’m getting mighty annoyed by the continued insistence by Kaufman(?) that Dany has slaves. She does not.

    She has a set of very dedicated followers, but at most they are exhibiting a cult-like worship of Dany – hardly surprising based on her dragons. But they are not slaves, they are free to go.

    Are they following her based on having nowhere else to go? Sure. But even if you have a crap job with few alternatives, you can still quit your job if you want to. It does not make you a slave.

    So please stop claiming this – continuing to claim their slave just waters down the term.

    • Agreed. Arguably, Dany kinda has slaves in the first season, although technically she’s just a slave put above other slaves, an overseer if you would, but she does not own slaves after season 1 finale.

      • SEK says:

        I have to confess that I’m getting mighty annoyed … by Kaufman

        Don’t worry, I feel this way all the time. I think I do need to be more sympathetic to the idea that she’s more like a house-slave than a slave-owner in the first season, but even if that’s the case, there’s a long tradition in American literature of differentiating between the two. That said, while Drogo’s alive, Doreah asks her “Are you a slave, Khaleesi? Then don’t make love like a slave.” But Doreah is, at that point, clearly still a slave, isn’t she? (Despite the fact that she’s going to teach Dany how not to make love like one.) And given Doreah’s ultimate fate — her disposability to Dany — it’s hard to treat her seriously as an agent in her own right.

        But I could be wrong. (As I frequently am, so never hesitate to call me out when you think I’m wrong.) Thanks for listening!

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