Home / podcast / <em>Game of Thrones</em> podcast: Season 5, Episode 10 — “Mother’s Mercy”

Game of Thrones podcast: Season 5, Episode 10 — “Mother’s Mercy”

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This episode is notable not only for Steven’s barely contained rage, but because — obviously — is the last Game of Thrones podcast we’ll be doing for nine months.

Have no fear though! We will still be podcasting! Starting this week, we will be hosting a podcast on the new BBC series Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. We hope those of you who enjoyed listening us talk about one television show adapted from thick novels will join us as we talk about another television show adopted from another thick novel.

Enjoy!

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  • We hope those of you who enjoyed listening us talk about one television show adapted from thick novels will join us as we talk about another television show adopted from another thick novel.

    “Another thick square podcast, eh Mr. Kaufman? Scribble, scribble scribble Yammer, yammer, yammer, eh Mr. Kaufman?”

    • deptfordx

      We’re up to Episode 5 in Britain. Warning, it’s a little slow to get going. Takes an episode or two to find it’s feet. Stick with it, I’ve enjoyed it more with each episode.

  • John F

    I’m completely baffled that someone could have watched that episode and come away thinking that Brienne didn’t abandon her Sansa watch in order to stalk Stannis….

    • Brienne abandoned her watch, but she didn’t knowingly abandon Sansa. She doesn’t see the candle flame in the tower window.

      (This is, of course, incredibly stupid an on the nose, but the choice itself makes sense to me – I don’t think Brienne would have chosen revenge on Stannis over saving Sansa if she’d known those were the two alternatives.)

      • Latverian Diplomat

        I agree that Brienne puts her oath to protect Sansa above her oath to avenge Renley. But she’s been staring at that tower window for weeks to no avail. And now Stannis has dropped unexpectedly dropped into her lap.

        The timing is clearing meant to be ironic, but it makes sense in that the moment when most of the Boltons have left or are busy preparing to leave is a good time for Sansa to make her move. If Brienne had thought things through, she might have realized the same thing, and stayed. She made a very human, understandable choice though.

        I also think Steven is missing a dramatic irony in how Sansa’s actions played out. He himself says, she tried reaching out to Theon, and that failed, and she picked the lock and did the candle thing hersel and that failed. But this time, Theon does help her, after she had written him off. I don’t think Theon helps her this time without her earlier, apparently unsuccessful attempts to get through to him, but it wasn’t what she was expecting to be the key to her escape attempt this time.

        I agree the visual and narrative aspects of the snowbank jump were messed up. If I hadn’t read the books, I don’t know what I would have thought was going on there.

        In addition to all the other great comments on why the Dorne stuff didn’t work in this episode, I also think it makes Doran look like a total idiot. He though he had Elaria under control, gives her complete freedom of action, and she immediately betrays him in the most blatant fashion possible.

        I’m glad they didn’t do hallucinations in Cersei’s walk. It would have distracted from the brutal realism of how it was depicted, which was the best thing about it.

        • Dramatic irony is all very well and good, but it doesn’t add to agency.

          • Latverian Diplomat

            But I think it does. Her working on Theon did ultimately pay off. Just not when she expected it to.

            But if she hadn’t tried in the first place, she’d have wound up with an arrow to the knee, or whatever.

            Now the most agency thing for her to do would have been to just jump into the snowbank on her own, but it seemed as if she was hoping to slip back to her room and try the candle thing again another day.

        • John F

          I don’t think Theon helps her this time without her earlier, apparently unsuccessful attempts to get through to him, but it wasn’t what she was expecting to be the key to her escape attempt this time.

          I really didn’t read it quite that way, what I got was he realized that Sansa was being directly threatened to have done to her what was done to Theon- THAT got his “attention” so to speak, at least long enough to toss Myranda over the railing.

          Prior to that, in his [broken] mind he was protecting her from THAT fate (when he ratted out her earlier escape attempt).

          Once Myranda was killed, well then that’s game over, you just broke/took away one of Ramsay’s favorite toys- in a bizarre, creepy and unequal way she was possibly Ramsay’s closest friend and confidante (To the extent Ramsay is actually capable of having friends and confidantes). He’s going to be completely unhinged, you have two options, run or suicide (because you are not gonna get a chance to kill him in his sleep)

          The thing is, Ramsay “trusts” Theon now, he had get much free run to wander about here and there in Winterfell, and he knows Winterfell- if he’d woken up to the need to escape at all costs in less imminent circumstances, he probably could have, if he timed it right, smuggled her out and gotten at least a couple hours head start before anyone knew they were missing- now there only chance is either Brienne/Pod pick them up and head out on horseback pretty immediately or no one thinks to look out over the wall where they jumped (I mean who/why would someone do that? You’d only do that if you couldn’t sneak out somewhere else – they did it because of panic- but Ramsay doesn’t think that way, he’ll assume the murder of Myranda was planned, and that thy were smuggled out in a cart or something – he won’t think it was a spur of the moment thing simultaneous with his return to Winterfell.

          • Latverian Diplomat

            That’s one possible reading, I suppose. Here’s why it doesn’t work for me.

            a) No one knows Ramsay’s appetites like Reek does. He already knows Sansa is doomed.

            b) Dropping a dime on Sansa before was Reek just being Reek, I think. If he wanted to “protect” Sansa he could have just thrown the candle away. He told Ramsay about it without knowing how severe a punishment Ramsay might choose to inflict.

            c) Reek doesn’t touch Myranda, but Theon does. Who’s the only one who’s been calling Reek Theon all this time?

            Even when people act precipitously, it’s often because the motivation to do so (such as guilt) has been eating away at them. Myranda rubbing his nose in Sansa’s fate may have been the trigger, but it wasn’t the sole cause, IMHO.

  • OK, so I actually sat down and listened to the podcast this time. My opinion about podcasts and their pointlessness remains unchanged, but let’s take your points one by one.

    I actually liked the fact that the sacrifice of Shireen only gives Stannis good weather but still costs him the battle. Because what causes his defeat is free will – his mercenaries defect and take all the horses with them, which leaves him with a much smaller army (and, more crucially, an army on foot) against the Boltons’ larger one, changing the situation enough that Roose Bolton feels comfortable attacking instead of bedding in for a siege. The idea that Melisandre can control the weather but not the hearts of men – and that she’s completely failed to predict how her actions will affect those hearts – makes a great deal of sense to me.

    On Brienne and revenge: I took the exact opposite lesson from this than Steven. I think that Brienne abandoning (however unwillingly) Sansa is the most powerful statement against revenge in an episode that is all about its futility and destructiveness. I wrote some more about this in my essay about this episode, in which I conclude that though it isn’t a good hour of television it is, I think, the most coherent installment of the show in years.

    Of course Jaime doesn’t turn around and go back to Dorne! As you yourselves say, killing Myrcella was an act of war, and he has Trystane as a hostage! Going back is essentially surrendering, since Doran will have to keep him and Bronne prisoner (or kill them). Going forward and returning with an army/using his power over Trystane is the smart move.

    On Jon: I find it very implausible that Harrington is lying about S6. That’s not a sustainable lie, and it looks bad if he gets caught at it. I also find it interesting how no one – not book readers or show watchers – believes in this death, to the point that commenters seem almost angry at the fact that the writers didn’t leave an obvious out for bringing him back. I’m not saying I disagree, just that it’s odd for a story whose catchphrase has always been “anyone can die.” Also also, I think you’re both wildly overestimating how damaging it would be to the show not to have Jon or the Wall for a whole season. Jon may be important to the story, but the character is one of the most boring on the show (and played by one of its less charismatic actors). And the Wall is only as interesting as he can make it, which is to say not that much – remember when the show made a huge deal out of setting an entire episode there, and it ended up being the worst and least engaging episode 9 of all five seasons? So yeah, the Wall is obviously important, but I wouldn’t mind putting it on hold for a season while we focus on more interesting characters and stories.

    • Mayur

      I’m in agreement with you almost entirely, except for the Jon Snow thing. Kit Harrington is probably not coming back but I think Jon is, for several reasons. First, to have such a powerful long-running mystery narrative (R+L=J, TPwtP) and then throw away its subject seems like a waste of time. Second, in the books at least, GRRM strongly foreshadows the option of Jon coming back by warging into Ghost. Third, without Jon’s presence there IS no Wall story. With the truce between the wildlings and Night’s Watch broken there are no scenarios other than a destroyed Night’s Watch, a decimated wildling horde, and no one even left to stand against the Others at all, win or lose.

      • I don’t disagree that Jon’s return is likely. I just find it interesting that a fandom that has been crowing for decades about its author’s fondness for killing characters is adamantly refusing to accept this death.

        without Jon’s presence there IS no Wall story

        Again, I do not think this is a bad thing. The Wall was never a particularly interesting location or story. I don’t have a problem with putting it on hold until it becomes relevant to the rest of the story (see also: Daenerys). And, you know, is it really that crazy to assume that the Wall will fall? Maybe having the White Walkers in Westeros could jog the story in interesting ways.

        • John F

          I just find it interesting that a fandom that has been crowing for decades about its author’s fondness for killing characters is adamantly refusing to accept this death.

          The only death I would find less likely than Jon Snow’s at this stage would be Danaerys’

          I have the “what was the point” question-
          Ned was used to set up the world and the nature of the world
          Robb was a red herring

          but with Snow it’s a legitimate question that if he is dead and his story is over, what was the narrative point of following him for 5 seasons/books?

          • tribble

            Didn’t they famously get Martin’s permission to adapt the books because they guessed Jon Snow’s mother? If he’s permanently dead, that detail would be irrelevant.

            The show’s insistence otherwise seems like an attempt to distance themselves from the all-too-common TV trope of the season-ending cliffhanger getting resolved painlessly in ten minutes. The books are in a better position, because there is at least the question of how he comes back/isn’t dead, set up by other resurrections.

      • gmack

        I have a hard time, practically speaking, imagining how JS is going to come back but not Harrington. I know, warging into Ghost and all that, but how could that possibly play out well on screen? Assuming for a moment that JS is supposed to one of the three folks fighting against the White Walkers to save humanity, are they really going to have a trained wolf play that role?

        I could imagine a scenario where they do this for a season and then find a way to bring Harrington back in the end, but imagining JS becoming Ghost just throws me into thinking about “Lassie”:

        Random Night’s Watchman: “OMG, are you Jon Snow in Ghost’s body?”
        Ghost: “Bark!”
        RNW: “Then let’s get those traitors and then we’ll deal with the White Walkers”
        Ghost: “Bark!”

        • Murc

          I would watch this spin-off if Jon-in-Ghost and Zombie Catelyn Stark also solved crimes. Perhaps with the help of a jive-talking monkey. It would win all the Emmys.

          • gmack

            FTW!

          • joe from Lowell

            Gotta have the raven for those final-shot freeze frames.

            “Now that we’ve found out who the Harpy is, what should we do next?”

            “Corn! Corn! Corn!”

            “Oh, Flappy!”

            • Murc

              In time, George Martin would come to regret that contract he drunkenly signed with William Hanna on the back of a cocktail napkin in 1977.

    • Murc

      I’m really beginning to feel whiplashed by the shows pacing decisions. They cut out a lot of really good stuff to race ahead of the books, and now they’re slowing down because of… I guess because reasons?

      (This may just be me. With a couple exceptions, I find the content created just for the show to be incredibly weak, and the fact that we’re going to be getting so much more of it is wearying.)

    • Latverian Diplomat

      wrt Jon Snow in season 6. I’m kind of wondering if they are trying to do George R. R. Martin a favor by stoking up the suspense on what the deal is with Jon’s death.

      All the “Dead is Dead” and casting rumors could be an attempt to avoid spoiling that Jon is resurrected in the next book (still possibly coming out before next season?).

      The only problem is, it seems like a really weak thing for them to avoid spoiling, as nobody will be that surprised if Jon lives again, so to speak. And Stannis’ defeat seems like a much bigger deal, if one actually believes that’s going to also happen in the books (I wonder if Littlefinger’s Knight’s of the Vale will take the role of Stannis’ force in the books, as far as sheltering Sansa(Jeyne) and ultimately undoing the Boltons?).

      • Murc

        All the “Dead is Dead” and casting rumors could be an attempt to avoid spoiling that Jon is resurrected in the next book (still possibly coming out before next season?).

        Assuming Martin writes at the same pace he has for the past fifteen years, the next one should make it out either next year or the year after; SoS -> FfC was a five-year cycle, FfC-> DwD was a six-year one. It’s only been four years since DwD, so I’d be amazed if WoW came out before the next season, especially considering that Martin is still maintaining an extremely aggressive public appearances and travel and non-ASoIaF work schedule.

        I wonder if Littlefinger’s Knight’s of the Vale will take the role of Stannis’ force in the books, as far as sheltering Sansa(Jeyne) and ultimately undoing the Boltons?).

        Sansa may not even end up in the north in the books, at least for awhile. It seems abundantly clear that they’re settling in for the long haul in the Vale.

        • Latverian Diplomat

          There was some speculation that WoW would come this year; that was quashed. But as far as I know early 2016 is still possible. Martin has cut back on personal appearances a little too (and did not do a script for the show this year, expressly to concentrate on the books). But no amount of book delay would surprise me, I admit.

          I think you misunderstood my point about the Knights of the Vale. We already know the books and show have parted company on almost everything Sansa and Vale related.

          On the show, we know that there’s a force from the Vale marching North (or soon to be). That seems unlikely to happen in the books. However, in the books, Stannis’ force is still around, threatening the Boltons.

          Given that the show has dispensed with Stannis, they may still need a narrative element that serves the same purpose as book Stannis and his troops still do in the books.

    • John F

      Of course Jaime doesn’t turn around and go back to Dorne! As you yourselves say, killing Myrcella was an act of war, and he has Trystane as a hostage!

      His other problem is he either knows or will realize after his grief/rage dies down that Trystane (and his father Doran as well) had nothing to do with it – but Cersei won’t, her mind doesn’t work that way. (And Jaime doesn’t yet know that Kevan is now Hand and would likely stop Cersei from having Trystane beheaded) So what does he do? He can’t go back to Dorne, but he can’t hand Trystane over to Cersei either.

      • I’m not sure that Jaime grasps just how far around the bend Cersei is (and, of course, he has no idea how much worse she’s gotten under the pressure of her recent ordeals). Partly that’s because they’ve been apart for most of the series, and partly because he doesn’t really know her very well, outside of the idealized version of her he has in his head.

        Also, I wouldn’t assume that Jaime would be opposed to beheading Trystane. It’s not like he’s the most level-headed or ethical dude in the world, or that he isn’t prone to epic self-pity. And he had just made a huge step towards forming a relationship with the only one of his children who knew him for what he was just before she died in his arms. I wouldn’t be surprised if he wanted some revenge himself.

        • John F

          I wouldn’t be surprised if he wanted some revenge himself.

          Oh I agree, but unless he does something in the heat of the moment he’s capable of thinking it through insofar as who should be his target,. Cersei picks “targets” and then fixates on them- only listening to confirmatory evidence discarding contradictory evidence.

          So if he cools down without killing Trystane, he will realize that Trystane had nothing to do with it- which leaves the obvious-

          I mean he’s likely to realize that killing Trystane does not avenge Myrcella, hell he may even figure out that him killing Trystane is what Mrycella’s killer wants

    • John F

      http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2015/06/game-of-thrones-jon-snow-kit-harington-seen-in-belfast

      Allegedly he was just spotted in Belfast, filming for Season 6 starts in a couple of weeks…

      of course he could just be filming a scene of them disposing of his corpse :-)

    • SEK

      OK, so I actually sat down and listened to the podcast this time. My opinion about podcasts and their pointlessness remains unchanged, but let’s take your points one by one.

      I’m in total agreement with you there, as I don’t live the kind of life that makes them worth listening to — if I’m not writing, I’m reading or watching television, not sitting in a car for hours or something.

      • SV

        Me too, but I like them anyway – it’s especially useful for motivating me to do the dishes.

  • Murc

    Question. Am I the only one who spent years, literally from 2011 until the last couple months, not even considering the possibility that Jon had died in Dance with Dragons?

    My assumption had been “oh, this is precisely like Davos at the end of Clash of Kings, or the Red Wedding-adjacent chapter deliberately constructed to make it appear as though Sandor had killed Arya, or what have you. We’ll get the next book and find out how he survived and what he does next.”

    Only apparently, no, he actually did die. And it’s like… wow, okay. I hadn’t even thought that was a possibility; I’d always thought that Jon, Tyrion, and Daenerys had narrative immunity.

    I mean, it’s pretty obvious Melidandre is going to put something hot inside of him and he’ll lurch back to life with vengeance on his mind, but still. I’d just expected “Jon will wake up with a cadre of loyal supporters and have to lead a counter-coup while half-dead and all cut up.”

    Just me?

    • Mayur

      If you really thought Jon was merely bloodied but not killed, I think it might have been just you. For me, it’s the Prologue that gives away what happens to Jon. TBH, given GRRM’s decision to open ADwD with that chapter I will be pretty annoyed if Jon doesn’t stay attached to the world of the living somehow.

      • Murc

        It’s worth noting that sometimes Martin does things just because they’re interesting and evocative. Varamyr’s untimely death could just be that.

        • Mayur

          He does that stuff and I tend to consider it bad writing. Legitimate red herrings are fine but “let me tell this story that seems to the careful reader exactly like it’s meant to foreshadow something very important but is just me writing something I find interesting and evocative” is IMO shitty writing.

        • sometimes Martin does things just because they’re interesting and evocative provocative

          FTFY

          • Murc

            No, I stand by my original phrasing. Martin often spends a lot of time on food, customs, clothing, geography, etc. that serves no real purpose other than to be interesting, atmospheric, and evocative.

            Like when Daenerys was crossing the red waste and she and her khalasar stop for a bit in a ruined city and return it briefly to a semblance of life before moving on. There’s no real reason for that; we don’t learn much more about any of the characters there and in terms of plot she could have just gone straight to Quarth and nothing would have changed. It’s only purpose is to be neat.

            I mean, hell, that’s the whole purpose of World of Ice and Fire. The internal politics of Yi Ti and the history of the Kingdoms of the Sar is not going to have any narrative significance at all, it’s just there to be cool.

    • Rob in CT

      I figured, after reading the book that one of 4 things would happen (in order of how likely I thought they were):

      1) Red witch lady reincarnates him;

      2) He survives by Warging into Ghost (but then can he warg into a human – presumably not his body – again? And um, what about the owner of that body? Yikes);

      3) He actually survives the knife attack somehow. Maybe red witch lady can heal him before the moment of death (you were only mostly dead, which was good, because with all dead there’s not much you can do…); or

      4) He’s actually, truly dead. The possibility of which really pissed me off at the time, because here is the ONE GUY in the whole story, with his eye on the ball. The only character in the whole mess who is trying to deal with the real threat. In addition to being one of the few remotely admirable characters left standing.

      Martin absolutely LOVES fucking with his readers. LOVES it. To the point where I think it’s almost sadistic. He calls it inverting fantasy tropes, which is how he does it. But if you read interviews with him, he will flat-out tell people how much he enjoys fucking with his readers by inverting said tropes. He likes fucking with people and inverting tropes is just the tool for doing it.

      Given that, I think that it’s possible that JS is dead, both in the TV show and in the books (though given Martin’s statements on the books, I’d still rank that below some of the other possibilities). The whole R+L = J thing is neat, but it’s a typical fantasy trope that the unheralded bastard son of the prince and the lady is the great Hero who saves everybody. Exactly the thing that Martin likes to tear down, shit on and light on fire (to the point where he’s made it into just another convention, IMO).

      • Murc

        The only character in the whole mess who is trying to deal with the real threat.

        Let’s be fair, if Daenerys were aware of the whole impending icepocalypse, she’d probably be eager to get some dragons all up in that.

        • David Hunt

          There’s a several characters that would be working toward helping if they knew. Robb would have. Tyrion would have done so if he were convinced (not an easy lift). Hell, I suspect Brienne would turn north immediately if she knew.

          Also, Stannis and Melidandre are actually working toward fighting the Others. Stannis has decided that he needs the forces of all the Seven Kingdoms to fight the enemy, but his quest for Kingship is driven by his sense of duty. Mel is misguided about how (and with whom) to fight the enemy, but she’s definitely trying.

          Bloodraven may know more than any living man about the threat and has been trying to get his main weapon (Bran) to his Batcave for training since Book 1. If you think he arranged for the dire wolf pups to be found, since Chapter 1.

      • Karen24

        Martin’s desire to invert fantasy tropes has one, giant weakness: figure out the trope or the work being referenced and the reader figures out what’s going to happen. In my opinion Jon Snow = Jesus + Julius Caesar. (In the Iferno, Dante places Brutus and Cassius in Satan’s mouth at the bottom of Hell along with Judas. Martin appears to be quite well-read, so I would be very shocked if he didn’t think of that connection.). Caesar of course stays dead but his murder starts a civil war. Jesus is resurrected. So, how to invert this? Snow is resurrected all right, but as an evil pawn for Melisandre while his soul wargs into ghost. Bran returns at the end of season 6 and spends most of season 7 trying to get Soul!Jon back into ZombieBody!Jon. Meanwhile, an army of the wildings, lead by Zombie!Jon and Melisandre in the Cleopatra role kill off the Night’s Watch, perhaps with now-nearly adult Rickon as their leader. The Resurrction happens in Season 7 right before the ultimate finale so that Jon can join Daenerys in riding dragons and killing wights and Walkers.

        It makes no sense as a narrative to kill Jon Snow. He’s not really a Stark, so why keep him alive for four books and the TV show if he’s going to die now? This is lazier and more sadistic storytelling than the dropped house elf liberation subplot in the Harry Potter books.

        • Murc

          He’s not really a Stark, so why keep him alive for four books and the TV show if he’s going to die now?

          Jon Snow is abso-fuckin’-lutely a Stark. He looks like his mother and his uncle, for crying out loud, and was raised in Winterfell.

          • Karen24

            He’s an unnecessary Stark unless there’s something really important about his parents. He didn’t torment Catelyn, who in turn kind of ignored him. Bastards in literature exist to do torment their father’s legitimate wives or to be the abused victims of their wives — see Hera, and a long line of Wicked Stepmothers. He’s not a monster like Ramsey or Caliban. This ending makes his story a waste of time. F Martin leaves it here, Martin is both an ass and a terrible writer.

            • Murc

              Catelyn didn’t torment Jon physically, but you can’t tell me she didn’t emotionally abuse him to a greater or lesser extent, and she found him so objectionable that when Ned was going to be the Hand of the King she refused to have Jon in Winterfell anymore because she loathed a fifteen-year-old with no other prospects who’d never done her any wrong just that much.

              • Karen24

                Then there should have been a lot more interplay between the two characters. Caitlyn’s vague dislike only resulted in Jon getting sent to the Wall, which isn’t treated as evidence of Catelyn’s wickedness so much as Catelyn’s conventional thinking. There is no point at all to the Jon Snow story arc if he just dies.

                If Martin wanted to write the kind of book where everything is pointless and everyone dies the end, he could have done that without dragons and the fantasy elements. If he decides that he’s going to write “Mad Max, Ice Age,” then he’s a hack.

      • celticdragonchick

        Yes, it is sadistic manipulation, and I really did get tired of being fucked with story-wise (that and the raperaperaperpaeraperaperaperaperaperaperaperaperaperape)

        Fuck it. Walking Dead is far and away a better show, and treats the audience with respect. Heard second hand (take that FWIW)that GRR Martin had a few drinks under his belt at a hotel bar during a convention and was arguing with someone about ASoIaF. Martin is said to have claimed that the white walkers and winter are going to triumph and that was the whole damned point (IE nihilism).

        That seems like a an extraordinarily long time to shit all over your readership while claiming it is some sort of “Greek tragedy”.

        • Murc

          Claiming that Martin is in the business of sadistically manipulating people because he gets off on it is taking it way too far. The fact that his writing tics rub a lot of people the wrong way, and that his narrative intent is not to their liking, doesn’t mean he’s out to get people.

          I don’t believe he’s writing seven thousand pages of evil winning forever in the end. That would be a massive break from everything else he’s ever written and he does not write or speak like a man who isn’t invested in a universe he’s about to destroy. At worst, I can see him going for some Fimbulwinter into Ragnarok scenario, where the world is destroyed but then remade. And even that seems like a big stretch.

          • celticdragonchick

            It wold be in charcter with his obsession to upend every fantasy convention, however, and I would not put it past him to claim it is some sort of statement on the futility of human nature or some bullshit. Amanda Marcotte is already running that line at Slate.

            If I want to see perectly lovely people being slaughtered for no rational purpose, I can turn on the fucking news about Charleston (which leads to another issue in that my spouse is getting ready to go to med school to be a forensic pathologist. She stopped watching GoT after the Theon torture fiasco. By midseason this year, she all but demanded that the show not be on TV while she is around since in her view, she will be seeing anough horror and carnage as part of her real job and she sees no entertainment value in it)

            • Karen24

              Yeah, I can always watch the new or read nihilistic mid-20th century stuff by John Updike if I want that. If I want dragons, I want a haooy ending, dammit!

            • medrawt

              “his obsession to upend every fantasy convention” is the sort of thing I don’t really believe in. If it’s true, and if the course the books take (in the face of massive foreshadowing) bears that out, then I’ll be very surprised. And also disappointed, because what a stupid thing to do. If for some reason you want to systematically upend all genre conventions – as opposed to just writing something good, exploiting, avoiding, and subverting conventions as necessary – then you write a book. One book, that makes its point in a strong way and gets out. “I spent over twenty years and eight thousand pages leading people along a journey intentionally designed to frustrate them at every turn for the purpose of turning a particular style of fiction on its head” isn’t a series of novels, or the pinnacle of a respected career, it’s a performance art project, and not a good one. I continue to presume that Martin wants, at the end of this journey, for most of his readers to have felt it was worth their substantial investment to read the damned things. (Which doesn’t mean “and everyone lived happily ever after,” but does mean that “it was all pointless, surprise!” isn’t really viable.)

              Also, I continue to feel like Martin has done very little of subverting conventions (whether HE feels like he’s done so or not). I basically think killing Ned (and to a lesser extent Robb/Catelyn) is a massive double-headfake: It tells you that you weren’t reading the story you thought you were reading (Ned isn’t the primary protagonist of the series, he’s the primary protagonist of an incredibly long prologue), but it also tricks you into thinking anything can happen (if Ned can die in the middle then so can ____!)

              • Murc

                Medrawt, if this blog had a like button I’d be hitting it like a hamster at the feeder bar.

                • medrawt

                  Aw, thanks. Though I disagree with you about a couple of other things in the thread. I do think there’s a kind of ephemeral contract between artist and audience, especially in a case like this where the work is being produced and consumed (and paid for) on an ongoing basis. A book teaches us how to read it (as the cliche goes), and you only get to pull the rug out from under the reader so many times, and in certain ways, without radically disrupting that process (so if you’re going to you’d better have a good reason why). While Martin does include a lot of detail to fill out the world and atmosphere – something he does as well, but in a very different way, than Tolkien (in LOTR, nobody pays taxes; in ASOIAF, there are only five songs) – he also uses it to do two other things. The attention to detail supports the weight of character decisions (of the many things I think the show did badly with Stannis, it didn’t convey the political and logistical reasons he departed the Wall to unseat the Boltons nearly as well as the books did, IMO). And it conveys the seeds for things that will happen in the future. If you read backwards, the evidence of Bolton disloyalty is there 1500 pages before it exploded onto the scene. The omnipresence of ravens – and particularly of Mormont’s uncannily talkative and observant raven – is the foreshadow of Brynden Rivers underground in the Land of Always Winter. The books have shown us multiple Rh’llorite resurrections, established that this generation of Stark kids were likely all potential wargs, and shown us a warg’s true capabilities with Varamyr Sixskins. I believe they did so purposefully.

              • celticdragonchick

                He has been nothing if not consistent in “not giving the fans what they want” at least in terms of heroics. Right now, many fans want the one remaining ‘heroic’ Iron Throne claimant to ride with an arclite strike of dragonfire and save Westeros. That pretty much guarentees that Martin will not let that happen…BECAUSE THAT ISN’T THE TYPE OF STORY YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE READING y’know.

                Now, he might set something up where Bran manages to win the day by the end…but GRRMartin kills off nearly every single character the moment they actually do or say something significant and you are left with not giving a shit about any of the survivers since you know another bait and switch is coming.

                So yeah, the more I look at it, the more I think he kills off humanity for his final “Big Moment” (and “Big Moments” are what now pass for a plot in the TV series)

                • medrawt

                  Well, we’ll know by the first few hundred pages of Winds of Winter. I feel like the structure of the series has been Martin pushing a boulder uphill; he’s reached the crest and it’s about to start rolling down now. The books have been setting up massive retribution against the Boltons and the Freys, and the end of ADWD left us poised on the precipice. Whether Martin commits or averts probably says something about the overall shape of the series.

                  (I should note that I basically don’t believe the last couple of episodes are remotely faithful to what will happen to Stannis in the books, or at least not until many pages have passed, many plots have turned, many Freys have died.)

          • tribble

            I once read a screenwriter’s blog post critiquing something to the effect that fictional works create a kind of contract between the writer and audience. If the book/movie starts out as one thing, it had better not morph into something else 2/3 of the way through or it will antagonize the audience and lose a bunch of them. I’ve certainly bailed on book series that met this description.

            It seems that some works can avoid this, but mainly by having the change in the middle present a better value prospect for the audience.

            So for Game of Thrones, it’s “Oh, you thought this was going to be typical epic fantasy with a bunch of extra political machinations, but all those characters you thought were protected are actually fair game,” when Ned Stark is killed. That certainly works and increases the value for the audience by increasing the stakes and allowing a more realistic version of human fallibility than fantasy novels usually do. If instead it’s, “Oh, you thought this was a fantasy novel about a bunch of fallible people back-biting and sabotaging each other but still managing to stop the existential threat, but instead it’s about how those people fail to save the world due to their human flaws,” that’s not something most people would consider a better value, story-wise. You’re pretty much down to Haneke fans at that point.

            You don’t believe Martin is enough of a nihilist to write that story, but that belief, that the books will in some sense continue on as they started, is not really based on anything other than convention.

            • Murc

              I once read a screenwriter’s blog post critiquing something to the effect that fictional works create a kind of contract between the writer and audience.

              I’ve heard this notion before, and I reject it.

              If the book/movie starts out as one thing, it had better not morph into something else 2/3 of the way through or it will antagonize the audience and lose a bunch of them.

              This might be true as a normative matter, but it in no way speaks to the actual quality of the work in question or whether changing direction like that was a bad call or not.

              You don’t believe Martin is enough of a nihilist to write that story, but that belief, that the books will in some sense continue on as they started, is not really based on anything other than convention.

              If Martin were to write the story of everyone failing, it would not in any way speak to whether he personally is a nihilist or not.

              My belief that Martin isn’t writing this in a way that leads to “and then evil won forever, the end” is at least as well supported as the people claiming that Martin is deliberately writing in a way to cause people consternation and pain because he enjoys causing people pain.

              • celticdragonchick

                This might be true as a normative matter, but it in no way speaks to the actual quality of the work in question or whether changing direction like that was a bad call or not.

                1)Quality of art is entirely subjective.

                2)If the art serves merely to alienate and annoy the intended audience, then see 1)

              • MedicineMan

                I think the word “contract” is a bit too strong. The author is communicating with the audience however, and if the author’s message can be summed up as epic-trollery then it does say something about the quality of the work.

                • MedicineMan

                  If you think about it, it would be pretty fucking perverse if Martin’s primary intention were to tell his own version of Ragnarok. It would be ballsy, for sure, and would take some skill to tell this story while maintaining internal consistency, but to intentionally do so in 7-8 books and 10000+ pages all without letting your readers know they’re reading cosmic horror in Lord of the Rings drag is pretty disrespectful. That is a lot of time spent getting invested in doomed characters and a doomed world.

            • celticdragonchick

              I once read a screenwriter’s blog post critiquing something to the effect that fictional works create a kind of contract between the writer and audience.

              I do happen to agree with this.

        • joe from Lowell

          Walking Dead is far and away a better show, and treats the audience with respect.

          I don’t think the similarities to the Walking Dead in the Hardhome episode – especially the woman letting the dead children kill her – were coincidental.

  • David Hunt

    Steven, if you’re talking about the same interview that I read with Harrington, I can see how there’s some wiggle room in what he said. Going by imperfect memory here, but… He said the article wasn’t accurate but not that he wasn’t on the payroll. He said the producers had come to him and told him he was dead, but didn’t say that he wasn’t coming back. Someone who really wants him to back, *ahem*, can latch onto those statements and retain a small portion of hope. Personally the news that he had cut his hair was more discouraging to me. Yeah he could wear a wig, but he hasn’t so far.

    Having said all that, I think you’re correct that he wasn’t dancing around the truth there. I don’t know when they’re going to start filming Season Six, but once they do, there’s no way they could keep his participation secret. I don’t really see much point in being coy about it. Maybe we’ll get a funeral scene in Episode 1 like Charles Dance gave us, but beyond that…

    • ColBatGuano

      Recent pictures of him show his hair to be just about as long as the recent episodes. Plus he’s been spotted in Dublin the past few days.

  • joe from Lowell

    I can’t stand podcasts. I can’t sit at my computer and listen to people talk like a radio show. Sorry if I repeat what’s already been covered.

    I am very, very disappointed. I though we were going to see character development for Sansa, see her starting to become a real player, like in the books. I thought we were going to get to see her bringing some newly-developed capabilities to bear on her situation with Ramsey – either manipulating him, or generating some kind of resistance among the Northmen. We actually saw her “play” the Lords of the Vale in an old episode, lying skillfully about Baelish in order to advance his plot and make it hers, too.

    But all she did this season was go backwards, to what she was in Season 2 under Joffrey: a victim who is acted upon and needs saving and is saved by others.

    • Murc

      I can’t stand podcasts. I can’t sit at my computer and listen to people talk like a radio show.

      I would note that while you are far from alone in this opinion (I share it) those podcasts that are actually structured as radio shows (Welcome to Night Vale, the Thrilling Adventure Hour, etc.) are genuinely enjoyable.

    • MedicineMan

      I agree. While I initially was pleased with how they merged her plot with some of the storylines in the North, the did so in a fashion that completely disregarded any sense of progression in Sansa’s own character arc. I’m just so sick of watching her suffer pointlessly.

  • Denverite

    My not-really-serious pet theory is that Jon is going to permanently warg into Hodor (via Ghost).

    “You Hodor Hodor, Jon Hodor!”

    • joe from Lowell

      With the emphasis on “pet.”

    • funkula

      One does not simply warg into Hodor.

      • swordfish

        Now that’s funny.

  • Nick056

    Well, Martin probably needs to get some kind of resonance out of R+L=J, even if it’s that people killed their promised prince and Robert started his Rebellion over the capture of a woman who loved Rhaegar. That would certainly be brutal. And while I don’t think we’re headed for a happy ending, we’re not headed for cautionary moralism or nihilistic exhaustion with two full seasons left. If Jon dies a pitiless and pointless death, how does that advance us? One common factor in character deaths has largely been that the people dying were most important a generation ago, from Ned to Twyin to John Arran to Selme Barristan to Catlyn Stark. Characters who are clearly in their prime in this moment CAN be cut down — Robb Stark — but that was developed so heavily as a product of his wrongheaded hubris (in the show) whereas Jon is obviously trying to do the right thing with no selfish motive.

  • jamesepowell

    Ellaria Sand killed Myrcella because she was going to back to King’s Landing. So long as Myrcella was in Dorne, she was a hostage and a potential target for revenge. Ellaria knew that once she went back to King’s Landing, she would never return to Dorne.

  • Donald

    Has anyone heard the theory that Stannis was spared because Brienne realized she had forsaken her own duty to help Sansa? And that Stannis will end up as the leader at the Night’s Watch? Conceivably he could even be the savior Mel thought he was, though I still hope that is Jon.

    But a part of me is getting sick of Martin’s sadism and like others, I wonder if he is just playing a gigantic sick joke on his readers. One likes to think the fourth and fifth volumes were more than just a mostly boring setup to some really exciting stuff in volumes 6 and 7, but I’m not sure anymore. Or he could just be falling apart as a writer.

    I actually prefer some of the changes the show made. martin’s Shae character was both boring and unsympathetic, while the show managed to make me sympathize with both Tyrrion and Shae. And I don’t quite get the criticism of the show’s Dorne story–Given the dullness of the source material they could have done worse. In fact, he seems to have replaced the killed-off characters with a lot of people it is hard to care about.

    • ColBatGuano

      I agree that Dorne is pointless in both formats.

      • Donald

        I think the only point to TV Dorne is that we get to see Bronn, who supplies comic relief and also supplies an outsider’s view to all that goes on. Bronn is like an American–he could be a roguish like able character in a Western movie. He is willing to murder someone’s sister to get her inheritance, but since we never actually see him doing something evil, we can’t take that seriously.

  • In related news, Watchers on the Wall has apparently confirmed that Arthur Dayne is being cast for next season. So we should expect a Tower of Joy flashback/weir vision in season 6 Something that is utterly pointless to see if we don’t have Jon Snow to kick around anymore. Season 6’s main throughpoint at the Wall, then, may well be, “Why’d We Kill Jon Snow?”

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