I adoredGame of Thrones when it first came out. I had been excited for years before it came out. But even I approached this season with trepidation. I’ll be blunt (trigger warning: rape mention) I’m talking about the rapes. The extra rapes. Rape where sex was consensual in the books (i.e. the rape of Cersei by Jaime (who hates rape and saves Brienne from rape what even?)) and the rape of Sansa, which had previously been Jayne Poole (which was also bad, but… many people were invested in the story of Sansa’s quiet, feminine strength and… it was problematic OK?)).
Our amazing show, which gave us so many amazing female characters in so many different roles that we’ve never gotten to see women play before and all together, not just one or two and… it was amazing, and where it then went the last two seasons left a lot of people feeling betrayed.
What’s more, last season was weak overall. I talk about this at length in my review of Season Five. I know a lot of people who bailed afterwards. I knew I wouldn’t, but as the new season approached… I wasn’t sure why.
But I watched it, and… I was more than pleasantly surprised.
The following is not a review – I’ve not the energy for that – but rather, it is a minimally spoilery list of reasons to watch this episode and hope that things are turning towards the light. (I mean, not for the characters – those fucks are gonna suffer, you know that, right? – but for us as viewers who need things to get a bit less rapey and sexist.) I make it for the sake of saying ‘You may be worried, but these things happen and they are the good things you probably didn’t think would happen‘:
Things are going to get better for Sansa.
Brienne is gonna be FRIGGIN’ AWESOME.
Dolorous Edd is pretty cool. I just like writing that sentence, ngl.
Tyrion and Varys politically analyse Meereen. You know you want it.
Daenerys. Is not a white saviour to anyone (in this episode). Which is good. She’s taken down a lot of pegs. But she’s also pretty awesome. Which is also good.
Sand Snakes. Are snakey. And even if their characterisation last season was lack luster, they certainly make a statement.
Arya. Is on screen and therefore awesome. But also blind and suffers physical consequences for this.
Nakedness… happens. But not in the way you expect it to.
I mean, the first two points were the most important to me, and they satisfied exactly what I needed to make this episode worthwhile, but the other stuff is also good.
And no, I’ve not told you anything about Jon Snow. As is right and proper. Watch the episode if you wanna know about that.
Guy was super against doing anything but a head and shoulders, for some reason, which is a bit weird for a cosplay photographer. Like, it’s nice that you can see the work I did on the top, but you don’t see the Stompy!Daenerys skirt I spent hours on at all.
Daenerys Outfit #2
Having been aware from the first shoot that he was resistant to full-length pictures, I specifically asked him to make sure he got in the belt, and it’s still kinda cut off? Like, I know I’m fat, and therefore less attractive under the boobs, but I dressed for the whole effect, and the belt was kind of a big deal, for me.
Don’t get me wrong, these are nice pictures – certainly a lot better than the one from the cosplay contest last year, which was small and blurry and never actually got sent to me as promised (I had to get it from the website) – and for £3, I can’t complain too much, but they’re just not quite what I was expecting of cosplay photography.
I also got proper photos done by the official Nine Worlds photographer (only £3!!!).
Big thanks to my mate, Steve, who bought me the belt/metal corset/thing for my birthday – it looks AWESOME.
This is the dress I am approximating, for comparison:
Obviously there are differences, and I know I have the wrong hair (I tried restyling this morning, and that was a disaster, so I have returned to the same style as yesterday). But I think it worked out OK 😀
I’m at NineWorlds now (yay!) and am taking a time out because ILL, but using this moment to show you my cosplay in action 🙂
(Apologies for the lighting conditions in all of these.)
A number of people have complemented me on the wig (:D), but I also got a ‘cool cosplay’ chip for the detailing on the top. Which I’m well pleased about, because I put a fair bit of effort into it, and it doesn’t show up well on film.
Hey gang, it’s baaaaaack! With season four of Game of Thrones just a few short weeks away, I’ve dusted off my reading hat and picked up my now-somewhat-battered volume of A Dance with Dragons (it’s heavier than I remembered). We’re at p. 783 – only another 176 to go!
I’ve also created an index page, which you can find in the drop-down ‘Index’ menu above. This is mostly an aesthetic change (I didn’t realise I could make drop-down menus this way before!). At the moment I’m still intending to keep the original index post up to date (apart from anything else, I don’t relish the thought of changing the links across 29 posts), but the new, ever so slightly swankier version is there if you want to just grab if from a drop-down menu.
That little bit of admin over with, let’s see if we can remember where we are, shall we?
Chapter 59: The Discarded Knight (Ser Barristan Selmy)
So, Daenerys has flown off with her dragon and nobody’s really clear on what happened – people are worried that she’s dead. Ser Barristan is now serving Dany’s husband, Hizdahr zo Loraq; although, what with the poisoned locusts that Dany nearly ate, suspicions are ripe. Was this a plot by Hizdahr to assassinate his queen? Could the Prince of Dorne have been trying to assassinate Hizdahr, in his role as a rival suitor for Dany’s (already claimed) hand? The answer to that one is no, btw, Ser Barristan – that boy just isn’t cut out for this level of intrigue. Unfortunately, the King doesn’t know that, and Ser Barristan is now rather worried for the boy’s life.
Whilst Selmy is considering plots within plots, the Yunkish arrive along with their sellsword, Bloodbeard, who chucks the head of Admiral Groleo across the throne room. Groleo had been taken as a hostage to ensure the safety of the Yunkish men who had entered the city to sign a peace accord with Dany. One of these guys died whilst trying to flee the dragon, and this is their vengeance.
Worse than the insult of killing Groleo, though, the Yunkish (who return three Meereenese hostages along with the head) now demand the destruction of the dragons in exchange for the remaining hostages. It’s an outrageous demand, made the more so as the Yunkish flatly declare that Dany is dead, killed by her dragon (‘Weeds grow through her broken skull’) but where the situation demands a decisive response, Hizdahr simply calls the audience to an end and says he must consult with his council.
As the people disperse, Selmy catches up to Quentyn – the Dornish prince – and warns him to stay away from court in Dany’s absence and to seriously consider leaving altogether. Hizdahr is not going to take too kindly to another suitor to his wife’s hand hanging around even without the whole poisoned-locusts business. Quentyn recalls to Selmy that he is known as ‘Barristan the Bold’ and asks him what name he, Quentyn, can expect to be called if he returns to Dorne without Daenerys. To stay is hopeless, but to leave means a dishonour that this prince, in his youthful determination, cannot accept.
This is an interesting chapter – lots of politics afoot. Hizdahr’s rather pathetic lack of decisive response to the Yunkish insult raises some interesting questions. The poisoned locusts having been Hizdahr’s makes him a prime suspect, but one cannot help but ask whether this is really the sort of man who could so calmly offer his queen poisoned food in a plot to claim the throne for himself. I can’t help but wonder if he isn’t a dupe who genuinely wanted peace, whilst the other political powers in Meereen plotted murder. What’s clear is that, whatever mess Daenerys was making of ruling, she was all that was holding this place together, and there is no one her equal to step into the power vacuum she’s left behind.
As for Quentyn… Oh Quentyn. I like you, I like you a lot, but you’re no more cut out for this place than Hizdahr is, and, as Selmy notes, you do not have the kind of fire in you that would attract a woman like Daenerys. This will not end well.
Chapter 60: The Spurned Suitor (Quentyn)
Speaking of the Prince, this chapter is his. His advisers think he should listen to Selmy, but Quentyn thinks he owes it to the men who have already lost their lives getting him here to see it through, so they stay. Quentyn, Quentyn – too nice for this world. As his advisers slur the names of the Meereenese (“‘I call them all Harzoo'”) Quentyn will have none of it, and demonstrates that he remembers every single one (that’s how we know he’s a nice boy).
And he’s smart, too. ‘They do not see. His friends had lost sight of his true purpose. The road leads through her, not to her. Daenerys is the means to the prize, not the prize itself.‘ He knows that Daenerys is not simply an empty symbol of power or a prize to be won and that, in many ways, her hand in marriage is not nearly as important as her command of her dragons. That is smart… but is he smart enough?
Quentyn’s new plan is to ask the Tattered Prince – the man whose contract he and his companions ran out on – to help him steal a dragon. It’s certainly audacious. If Quentyn’s right, it might even be a stroke of genius. If you want help from a mercenary you’ve betrayed, you have to intrigue him as well as pay him, and stealing a dragon certainly has that. Such a gutsy prize also allows the Tattered Prince to ask for something more than money. He asks for Pentos. And given that this is where the chapter rather dramatically ends, I think we can assume that this is the deal that is made.
As for the dragon? Quentyn’s reasoning is that he has the blood of the dragon within him, therefore he will also go unburned, as Daenerys does. He’s certainly shown himself to have grown in bravery and wits, but blood of the dragon… we saw how that line of thinking worked out for Viserys.
Quentyn, I so want things to workout for you. I can’t help but think that you would make a good and kind king. But I’m not sure that this is a world for good and kind kings.
It’s hard to say that there has ever been a more hotly anticipated season of any show than the third season of HBO’s adaptation of George R R Martin’s sprawling epic fantasy, Game of Thrones. One comment I hear again and again from people is that upon finishing an episode of Game of Thrones they instantly want more – like they had expected it to go on and it cut off abruptly. So greatly are people drawn into the world and its plot. I myself was counting down the months, the weeks, the days, from a surprisingly long time off. Basically, from the end of season 2. As one macro said: ‘One does not simply wait 306 days for Game of Thrones Season 3‘. Of course, HBO, weren’t idly letting the tension build itself. In addition to a dazzling array of posters and trailers, the cast seem to have been everywhere doing countless promo shoots, both ridiculous and sublime, including the sublimely ridiculous. They also seem to have cottoned on to the humorous creativity which infects the fans, offering the ability to create your own Game of Thrones style sigil.
I made a sigil for Philosophy, because I’m sad.
Although, to be honest, all these things were just stop-gaps in my already stoked anticipation.
The question is: did it deliver?
The answer? A complex shuffle of competing shouts of ‘HELL YES!’ and ‘Eh’.
There’s no doubt, the big moments this season were big. Of all the moments in GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire that stand out as jaw-droppingly shocking for newcomers and most-tensly anticipated by long-time fans, this season has an uncommonly high percentage. The previous two seasons probably contained one a-piece: Ned’s execution in season one, and the Battle of Blackwater in season two. This season we are treated to:
Daenerys sacking her first city
Jaime losing his hand
The Bear and the Maiden Fair
and, of course, the Red Wedding
All of which were unutterably delicious. This season saw the pay off for things that have been set up gradually over a long period of time, with Daenerys’s freeing of the Unsullied and raising of Astapor being one of the most visually stunning and dramatically satisfying pieces of television I’ve ever seen. Daenerys’s storyline is one of the most interesting and complex in an exceptionally interesting and complex show. And it has to be. Hers is the storyline that involves dragons, and that’s a trope of weighty cultural depth, heavy with the legends and fairytales of disparate cultures and centrally located in the modern consciousness of fantasy tales by Tolkein’s iconic Smaug in The Hobbit. I love dragons, but I know a lot of geeks who find them overused and annoying. If you want to win over that crowd, as well as the crowd of non-geeks who are watching for the sexy, violent, political drama, you need a solid foundation of plot, character, and acting of sufficient gravitas.
And they pull it off. Daenerys comes to her pivotal moment early in the season: episode 4. Having escaped from Qarth with her dragons and a modest amount of loot, Daenerys comes to Astapor, a great slaving city, famous for training the Unsullied: eunuchs of unparalleled fighting skill, endurance, and obedience. Jorah urges Daenerys to buy Unsullied, despite her entrenched ideological objections to slavery. The Masters of Astapor give her the usual spiel via translator, all the while mouthing off about her in Valyrian. Daenerys, against Jorah and Selmy’s advice, agrees to trade one of her dragons for all of the Unsullied – including those still in training.
Daenerys Kicks Butt
Up until now, Daenerys has been a beautiful young girl with a great name and three dragons, but she has had no land, barely any people, no army, few funds, and her dragons were small enough to be mere curiosities. At the start of season 3, though, we see that her dragons have grown, and so has she. Jorah and Selmy are too busy squaring off against each other to realise that Daenerys would never give one of her dragons into slavery. She is deeply opposed to slavery, views her dragons as her children, and is more than smart enough to realise that one dragon is worth more than 8,000 Unsullied when it comes to war.
In a stunning move that cements her stature as legend in the making, she waits until the Master has placed the whip of power in her hand and then reveals to the sexist pig that Valyrian is her mother tongue, and she has understood every insultingly misogynistic phrase he has uttered. She tells him that a dragon is not a slave and commands the Unsullied to kill their masters, and her dragon to roast the one who holds his chain alive. Having sacked the city, she frees all the slaves and asks them to fight for her of their own free will. Of course, they do.
It’s stunningly cinematic, worthy of a feature film. Emilia Clarke really comes into her own, and I take back every single word of doubt I voiced for her. I dare you to watch the above and not want to follow her anywhere.
Rousing stuff. Climactic stuff. Which is a little bit weird for an episode just shy of half way through the season.
Brienne and Jaime’s Very Bloody Buddy Movie
If you’ve been following me on Twitter or Tumblr for a while you may be aware that I was basically referring to this season in anticipation as ‘Brienne and Jaime’s Very Bloody Buddy Movie’. Of course, in reality, this was only one thread of plot, but it forms the backbone for the middle part of the season where all the political shenanigans are working themselves out to set up the big events further down the line.
Brienne and Jaime’s relationship is one of my very, very favourite things about A Song of Ice and Fire, and I’ve basically been waiting two seasons to see it finally flower before us. It’s through Brienne’s relationship with Jaime that we get to see a side of him that we have only glimpsed before, hidden behind the shocking introduction, way back in the first season, where he pushes a small boy from a window. We’re set up to hate Jaime, and almost all the characters are colluding to encourage this impression. It’s not just that he tried to kill a child to hide his incestuous relationship, he killed a king whom he was sworn to protect. Pretty shitty thing for a knight to do, right? Yeah, it’s easy, very easy to see Jaime the Shitbag.
Except, the king he killed was a mad man known for burning adults and children alive, sparking the war that led to Robert gaining his throne. And having killed the king, with his father’s army entering the capital, Jaime could have made a play for it himself. But that never even occurs to him. He cedes the throne instantly to Robert. He never wanted it. When Cersei tries to persuade him that he should be the Hand of the King, he refuses. He has never wanted power or responsibility. Despite his bravado and insolent manner, we gradually see revealed a man who’s never really at ease in social settings unless he’s talking about war. There is a hesitancy and lack of confidence lurking under the surface. His harsh words reflect a bitter disillusionment, and one might take the time to wonder why any man might ‘take the white’ – join the King’s Guard, swear to celibacy – if he were young and rich and beautiful and the heir to Casterley Rock. There must have been some real idealism in there somewhere. What would make a man like that kill a king? What would it do to a man like that to kill his king? And to be condemned for that act from every quarter outside of his family.
We also learn that Jaime always struggled with his schoolwork. There are hints that he may have had dyslexia, but Tywin, father of the year, would brook no quarter, and forced Jaime to read for four hours a day before he was allowed to go and do what he was good at: learning to fight. And I think we see here the germ of a deep insecurity. A man who only ever wanted to do what he was good at and enjoyed, but from whom others always demanded more. With no mother and a father like Tywin, it’s unsurprising the Jaime would feel drawn to the unconditional love of his twin sister for solace (even if incest is taking it a bit far). And it’s equally unsurprising that he would run away from his father for the simple, cleanly honourable life of a knight of the King’s Guard at King’s Landing.
But everywhere he is seen through the veil of ‘Kingslayer’. And at first Brienne despises him for his lack of honour. He seems everything that she is not. And he taunts her for the strength of her principles – her strength of honour, which he feels is lost to him forever. But when she proves herself his equal as a fighter he cannot help but respect her. He has always connected best to people on this one level where he is sure of his own skill, and it creates a connection that he has never had with a woman before. In turn, the respect he accords her as a fighter is one that Brienne has rarely experienced, except from Renly, whose meagrely kind treatment sparked an unrequited love, and from Catelyn, whose bravery and respect won Brienne’s undying loyalty.
When Jaime’s (successful) efforts to save Brienne from rape lead to him losing his hand, they each open up to each other in a way neither has to any other person, and in a post-amputation fever, Jaime tells the real story of what happened when he killed the mad king. How Aerys, had commanded him to kill his own father, and for his pyromancer to destroy the city; how Jaime’s action in killing him saved a quarter of a million lives. And where every other person outside of his family had refused to hear him out, had despised him, Brienne listens. And she believes him. And she tells him he did the right thing. It’s probably the most powerful thing anyone has ever done for Jaime.
I’ve written a lot about their relationship here and here. But I guess what I’m coming to is best summed up by someone else:
Put simply, she’s the knight that he wanted to be. She has all of the qualities that he tries to pretend aren’t important to him, are the realm of the naive and the stupid, but that he hates that everyone assumes he doesn’t have, that he thinks it’s too late for him to ever reclaim.
Jaime doesn’t push Bran out of a window because it’s what he wants to do. He does it because Cersei asks him to: ‘The things I do for love’ he says. Jaime was a man of honour who was despised for doing the most honourable thing in a bad situation. He had always been starved of love – his mother died when he was young and his father is a big time poo – and in a world that hates him he would have done anything for Cersei, even though she never shared the honour that came naturally to him.
And then, there’s Brienne. Who is everything he ever thought a knight should be, and she doesn’t think what he did was dishonourable when she hears the whole story. And she tells him he can be the sort of man he always wanted to be.
Guys… I just have too many feels about this. If you don’t ship Brienne/Jaime I think your heart is broken.
Ahem. *coughs* Not a tear in my eye. Dust. Yeah, dust.
Anyway. Before all the feels come out, it is totally a buddy movie, I promise. Because there is also a world of BANTER, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime) Gwendoline Christie (Brienne) manage perfectly the shift between humour and tension. Particular kudos to Gwendoline Christie for managing to portray Brienne as suitably awkward whilst also keeping up her end of the banter. Honestly, it may not have had the cinematic glory of Daenerys’s sacking of Astapor, but Brienne and Jaime’s character arc provides a much needed emotional anchor, one which gets its pay off as Jaime is forced to abandon Brienne at Harenhal, where she is forced to fight a bear in parody of a popular Westerosi folk song ‘The Bear and the Maiden Fair’. Learning that Brienne’s ransom has not been accepted because Jaime led her captors to believe that her father is richer than he really is, Jaime returns, jumping into the bear pit despite knowing that he is now useless in a fight, his only value being that others will protect him for his ransom. It is an utter confrontation with his own vulnerability at the same time as a true act of heroism, marking a quite remarkable moment of redemption.
Of course, all of the above is drawn from the books, but the HBO team are commended for pulling off what was, for me, one of the most anticipated story arcs of the whole show.
There were a couple of rough notes. Brienne’s cry of ‘The Kingslayer!’ when Jaime faints in the bath tub, felt way forced and overdone, mostly due to poor staging and overly dramatic camera angles, but the scene leading up to it was spot on. They even managed to make Brienne’s forgetting that she’s naked (one of the most painfully unrealistic moments in the books) into an act of power. Also, the fact that Gwendoline Christie is actually beautiful, and not as ugly as Brienne is meant to be in the books, makes what is meant to be a humiliating and inappropriate act of forcing her to wear a dress lose all its power. She doesn’t look awkward in it at all, and all the ‘uglying up’ styling, which was passably effective up until this point, basically evaporates when she’s cleaned up and wearing a dress that actually suits her quite well.
Minor points, though.
The Red Wedding
No review of season 3 could go by without discussing the moment that shook the Internet, as millions of fans who hadn’t read the books tuned in for the penultimate episode to witness Robb Stark, Catelyn, the pregnant Talisa, and all of the Stark army slaughtered by the Freys (and Roose Bolton) after Edmure Tully’s wedding to Rosalind Frey.
Twitter wept. An account was set up called @RedWeddingTears retweeting all the people who said they were rage-quitting Game of Thrones afterwards (you’d have thought Ned’s death in season one would have alerted them to the stakes in this game, but hey ho). Highlights include:
@gameofthrones HBO should cancel this show as a lesson to deter treacherous writing and i don’t care if its in the original book
So, I think we can assume that the episode had the desired effect. Honestly, I have difficulty connecting with people who want to quit a show because it generates a strong emotional reaction for them. I kinda wish I hadn’t known it was coming, because that kind of punch to the gut is what I want from fiction. I don’t know why, but I think it’s relatively normal for humans to feel that way. Something about tapping into shared emotion at a fundamental level. Being moved by terrible things somehow makes us feel less alone.
And on a serious note, this was a very sophisticated presentation of a blood bath. No, I’m serious. I don’t know why people who will grant Shakespeare as a great genius decry violence in shows like Game of Thrones. There’s a difference between blood presented for pure titillation and blood presented as a grim confrontation with reality. A lot of the plays we count as truly great are revenge tragedies. Hamlet has a body count of nine. Titus Andronicus is his most gruesome at fourteen, as well as rape, dismemberment, and cannibalism – it was his most popular play during his lifetime. Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi is famously bloody, as is his White Devil – in one production I saw fake blood ended up literally dripping off the stage. I couldn’t find an exact figure for it, but The Revenger’s Tragedy is widely thought to be the bloodiest of the genre, with one reviewer writing: ‘the body count of Revenger’s Tragedy makes the deaths in plays such as Hamlet seem like an adolescent squabble’.
And that’s what this is: a tragedy. Anyone familiar with the genre could not help but see the visual and stylistic references. It perhaps sits somewhere between classical tragedies (like Oedipus Rex) and Elizabethan and Jacobean revenge tragedy, but both are evoked. I can’t have been the only one who noticed that the set dressing for the Frey stronghold turned remarkably Elizabethan once the wedding started. The spartan stone castle was suddenly clad in oak panelling and tapestries. And the layout of the set with the dais for the wedding party’s table was reminiscent of a stage – complete with galleries above, just like the galleries of an Elizabethan theatre, to which our attention is drawn when crossbowmen fire down upon the wedding party from above. In this context the excessive bloodiness of the scene feels right at home and calls on centuries of literary discourse about death, and our voyeuristic interest in death. I wrote my exam piece on Shakespeare about the relationship between revenge tragedies and the spectacle of hangings in Elizabethan and Jacobean England. The playwrights were conscious of the similarities between plays and these obscene spectacles. People would rent out rooms with good views of an execution; issue programmes of the day’s hangings, much like theatre programmes; sell snacks to the audience… It’s one of the reasons the play-within-the-play is a recurring feature of the revenge tragedy, calling the audience to reflect upon their own behaviour and fascination with death.
Death is one of the most central themes in literature because it comes to us all. And it is a large emotional part of life before it comes to us ourselves. I would imagine that everyone who is old enough to watch Game of Thrones has known death, probably death in the family, so the family dramas that usually form the central part of both classical and revenge tragedy ring home for all of us. And the centrality of family is emphasised from the start. We begin with a scene in which Robb and Catelyn come together again, having been estranged, are bonded by their shared desire to avenge Ned – Robb’s father and Catelyn’s husband. The scene is also set at a wedding – a joining of families. And as Catelyn pleads for her son’s life she calls on the honour of both her families: the Tullys and the Starks. Moreover, the centrality of motherhood to Catelyn’s character has been emphasised throughout the season, as she makes ritualistic doll-wreaths to protect her sons Bran and Rickon, who she thinks are probably dead, and she regrets never being able to accept Jon Snow, Ned’s bastard, properly into her heart as a son. It all leads up to the final tableau, as she seizes Walder Frey’s unfortunate wife and holds a knife to her throat, begging for Robb to be spared. Who could not but feel her agony, admire her strength – Michelle Fairley, who had always played the role with intensity, taking it up to a new and as yet unseen level.
Her stillness and inarticulate cry at Robb’s death, before her own throat is slit, thus seem wholly appropriate, where the oft trotted out cry of ‘Noooooo’ has been rendered silly in other shows. Even the realistically spurting blood that is usually forgone in modern cinema, as audiences (who have rarely seen arterial blood spray) find it implausible, works in the context of the revenge tragedy.
Granted, the Red Wedding lacks the trope of a ghost sending a protagonist on a quest of vengeance, but I think the scene between Catelyn and Robb at the start of the episode, considering Ned’s death, spurring them on to accept the Frey deal in the name of revenge, can be seen as a symbolic ghost scene. Certainly, the ghost of Ned’s death hangs over the event, and the outrage it prompted eerily echoed in the excess of grief evinced on the Internet for the Red Wedding.
We also see Robb’s hubris. He should see, really, that going back to the Freys cap in hand when he has slighted them so thoroughly is a really bad plan. But he’s the Young Wolf. He’s never lost a battle. In the classical style, the Red Wedding forms a requisite catharsis. And although Robb was, for many, a favourite character, he was set up to be a little too perfect. The handsome young man and brilliant tactician, his one flaw being falling for the wrong woman, perhaps pride in thinking he was above marrying a Frey… in the literary game he had been set up for a fall. People call George RR Martin names for murdering favourite characters, but I’m not sure he’s as harsh as people think. The really interesting characters – the Tyrions, the Aryas, The Daeneryses – the flawed characters who make the compromises necessary to survive, but still retain a humanity and charm to keep us on their side… they seem to be doing quite well.
Doubtless I am tempting fate to say such a thing, and I’m by no means convinced anyone is immune from not making it to the end, but I’m not terribly surprised that it’s the Ned and Robb Starks of this world that have popped it. Or, at least, I wasn’t surprised by Robb after Ned had gone that way.
I honestly think ‘The Rains of Castermere’ The Red Wedding is a brilliantly crafted piece of theatre – not just in the original writing of George R R Martin’s books, but in the direction, scripting, set design, and acting of the actual episode itself. It’s like a little play within a series – a set piece – after the old revenge tragedy tradition. And it provides a concentrated microcosm of the themes of the wider series. Whilst there is some voyeuristic enjoyment of scenes like this, the enjoyment is parasitic on the horror. I’m willing to bet that the majority of people who swore off Game of Thrones after the Red Wedding will be back again next year after they’ve digested the event. In part because they will digest the event. It’s an event that demands to be digested and considered. It forces reflection because the emotions it provokes are so intense. It provides a counterpoint to the glorification of violence we see exemplified in the sub-plot, as Daenerys’s three best fighters – Jorah, Greyworm, and Daario – showcase their fighting skill in a striking piece of choreography. Because, for some reason, that kind of violence, which obfuscates the pain and death and gore it causes, is permissible, where as the raw horror of a blood bath like the Red Wedding is repugnant.
Surely violence should be repugnant. Surely we should wince and look away. I’m puzzled by people who want to see violence cleaned up (except for in kids shows, because, as my friends who are parents tell me, kids can find that stuff pretty upsetting), especially as they tend to be the same people who think we are becoming desensitised by violence on telly. We’re desensitised by santised violence. By violence only ever presented as cool and bloodless. No, I’m not saying every episode should be a Red Wedding, but anyone who thinks the Red Wedding glorifies violence needs to have their internal sensitivity to violence checked, because all those reactions above? That great outcry such as I have never seen in response to television before? That’s people who are shocked and awed and were confronted by the fact that the underlying message of Game of Thrones is not and never has been ‘violence is cool’; rather the message in unequivocally ‘war is awful’.
OK, that’s a lot of praise and in-depth analysis. Let’s take a breather before the close to return to the ‘eh’ that I mentioned in the beginning. Because, believe it or not, this was not my favourite season. It has most of my favourite moments (and I haven’t even covered all the brilliant stuff between Tyrion and Sansa and what’s been going on with Arya becoming a murderous little revenge driven terror*), but it also has the worst pacing. Between the really awesome moments are a lot of scenes that stand out against those moments as somewhat grey and unexciting. Most of the scenes at Riverrun are required to set up the Red Wedding, but seem to crawl by in comparison to places where things actually seem to be happening. Granted, this is only a low note in the context of general Game of Thrones quality, and you need some quiet moments amongst the burning cities and Red Weddings, but, for instance, the Brienne/Jamie banter scenes do this much more effectively than the Riverrun scenes, despite the wonderful Tobias Menzies bringing such colour in incompetence to the role of Edmure Tully.
In this way I’m hard pressed to rate this season over season two, just because season two was consistently good value. Nevertheless, there’s no denying that season three of Game of Thrones was a fantastic bit of television with some Internet-shaking drama that sort of throws down a gauntlet for all other television shows to take up… if they dare.
*Just a quick sidenote, there, as it relates to the Red Wedding, I think Arya’s witnessing of the events of the Red Wedding form a crucial part of the message as outlined above. Because, unlike, for instance, Hamlet where the cleansing pile of bodies leaves a sense that order has been restored, Game of Thrones presents the more realistic picture that violence begets violence. Revenge only ever leads to more revenge, and Arya’s story arc is all about the forging of a revenge driven character. That list she repeats to herself? That’s not just a list of people she wants to kill, that’s a list of people she wants to wreak revenge on. In hurting her they stoke the desire to hurt others.
I know, I know, it’s been an age, but I haven’t forgotten you, you mad cap fools who for some reason are interested in what I have to say about every single chapter of A Dance with Dragons. Alas, I’ve had a number of bouts of illness and when I’ve had the critical energy for analysing heavy tomes I’ve been devoting myself to my PhD rather than this. But today I’ve decided I’m well enough to do something, but not well enough to read Crispin Wright on hinge propositions (or whatever the hell this paper I’m looking at is heading towards) so you get my thoughts on the inhabitent’s of George R R Martin’s mind, instead.
Chapter 55: The Queensguard
In this chapter we follow Barristen Selmy as he deals with Daenerys’s court in the absence of Daenerys. Last time we saw her she was flying off on a dragon – a great personal move, no doubt, but she has kind of left things in disarray. Hizdahr, naturally, assumes control, and he wants his people around him in court. He chooses pit fighters, whom Selmy can see are not really appropriate for the role. Factions are splintering in Daenerys’s absence. The Unsullied are loyal only to Daenerys and refuse to fight under a man of Hizdahr’s choosing. Selmy can see the issues, but his own inability to adapt to local customs makes it impossible that he should be able to provide a similar role to Hizdahr as he did for Daenerys. Hizdahr insists on being treated like a Meereenese King, Selmy insists on treating him as a king of Westeros, and without Daenerys’s deft hand and cultural flexibility the court is falling apart.
Added to this, no one is quite sure what has become of Daenerys. Some think her killed by the dragon, others that she was taken away against her will. Selmy saw her riding Drogon and knows she is not dead, but that does not tell him where she has gone, why she has not returned.
And then there is the question of who tried to poison Daenerys with the tainted locusts…
Shakaz of the Brazen Beasts seeks to involve Selmy in schemes, attributing trechery to Hizdahr, but it is anathema to all Selmy believes in. He only wants to do his duty, he has no interest in the game of thrones. Yet it is also his duty to protect Daenerys. She never commanded him to protect Hizdahr, and with the possibility that Hizdahr himself might be behind a plot to kill Daenerys, Selmy finds himself embroilled in intrigue nonetheless. Shakas reports that Volantis is moving against them and he believes that Hizdahr will open the gates to them. Steps must be taken to protect Daenerys’s reign if Hizdahr is a traitor. Reluctantly, Selmy agrees to talk to Grey Worm, to gain the aid of the Unsullied, on condition that he be allowed to question the poisoner, who has been caught.
This is an interesting chapter, showing us just how fragile Daenerys’s peace was, and how much it depended on her for its continuance. But it also underlines her mistakes – that she was too flexible, too benevolent, too eager for peace. Meereen bent to her because she commanded dragons and great armies. But she kept her dragons chained, and when Astapor fell she did not move to save it or calm it for fear of losing the peace she had established in Meereen. It is as though Dany regarded Astapor as a mistake, and cast it aside, determined not to make the same mistakes with Meereen, and therefore stood fast at her new base rather than returning to sort out the old one. The trouble is that the fates of the two cities were not disconnected. Trouble in Astapor and her failure to act upon it made her seem weak, and when Astapor fell to plague, her people followed her to Meereen and brought the plague with them. Similarly, she chained her dragons because it seemed that they might have killed children. She chained them to prevent further deaths, but this robbed her of their power and made it seem that she did not have the strength to wield such power and also control it.
What should we make of this? I’m still not at ease with this mother role Daenerys has been cast in – a role that is again re-emphasised in this chapter. We are told that the Unsullied will only follow their ‘mother’, and that the freedmen call her ‘Mhysa’ which means mother. I mean, yeah, yeah, ‘mother of dragons’ and all that, but the trope of motherhood is one of caring and enabling, not of commanding and dominating – she is not the rider of dragons or the ruler of dragons, she is the one who has nurtured dragons. The thing about mothers is, however loyal their children, they all go off and live their own lives eventually. Which is not to say that mothers cannot be more than this – they absolutely can – but it troubles me that a young girl like Daenerys is being cast in this role which seems to connote something at odds to her role as conqueror.
She also seems to be vulnerable to the stereotypical ‘weaknesses’ of mothers. It is hearing that a child has been killed by her dragons that leads her to restrain them rather than train and utilize their power. She has a soft spot for children. Which is entirely understandable. She lost her own child – I’m not saying this mothering role is out of character – it’s just that having her weaknesses be so stereotypically feminine is… uncomfortable, for me.
That said, it is also clear that the instability in Meereen is the result of a myriad of factors, many of which have had unforeseeable consequences. The book is called ‘A Dance with Dragons‘ and that should be the clue that all of the action is really circling around Daenerys and her ‘children’. She’s a power centre and almost everyone is drawn to her – Tyrion, Quentyn, Selmy, ‘Young Griff’, the Astapori, the Volantenes, the Yunkai’i… she stinks of power and agency. When she was on the move she went to the people and places she wished to encounter and act upon. By sitting still, the possibilities she represents swirl about her, and the more people catch up to her the more possibilities are added to the mix – events start rolling in ways impossible to predict. Her absence shows the instability of her reign, but it also shows the strength of her influence in that she managed to keep it in check.
Chapter 56: The Iron Suitor (Victarion)
I keep reading this guy’s name as ‘Victorian’, it’s a problem. But I confess that it is my problem. What’s more problematic is just where this character has come from. The name rings a bell and tickles distant memories of some kind of plot, but it’s the first time we’ve seen him in this book and it’s a big book that we’re three-quarters of the way through. Adjusting my mind to what he’s doing and why I should care requires a little bit of effort, but hey, I do so.
Victarion has been leading a massive fleet from the Iron Islands to (guess what?) try to get to Daenerys before everyone else, and especially the Volantenes. He’s been caught in the same storm as Tyrion’s boat and lost a hefty chuck of his ships. He’s also got a hand that’s festering from some cut he got in some battle I don’t know if I’m supposed to remember. There’s a Maester on board who’s tending to the hand, but Victarion doesn’t like him, and he really doesn’t like that the man keeps saying he wants to cut the hand off (which pretty much sounds like the sensible thing to do). He’s also got a ‘dusky woman’ with him. Because of reasons. Probably ‘sexy’ ‘exotic’ reasons.
Anyway, the priest, Moqorro, who was washed off of Tyrion’s ship, seems to have wound up on Victarion’s. He offers to help Victarion with his hand to prove his worth and save his life. Victarion has some qualms about this, ’cause, you know, he’s a good Iron Born, and he serves the Drowned God. But the Drowned God doesn’t seem to be being too helpful and/or pleased, if he sent a storm like that, and Victarion figures that if the red priest was washed up near him he might have been washed up by the Drowned God to help him.
Victarion accepts Moqorro’s offer and Moqorro heals his hand. Victarion is pleased and spares his life, taking the Maester’s instead as a sacrifice to the Drowned God.
So, there are a few interesting things about this chapter. It certainly is a striking coincidence that Moqorro should be washed up right by Victarion and be able to heal his hand. (I honestly can’t remember if we were aware of this wound before, or if it’s basically been parachuted in to allow Moqorro to have an in with Victarion.) What’s clear, as has been indicated elsewhere before, is that the gods in this world definitely have physical domains, their strength and ability to act in the world determined by the strength of their worshipers as well as other factors. The Old Gods seems to be tied to the frigid north. The Red God seems to be based in the warm south, although he clearly has eyes on the north. Thus, here, the Drowned God seems to have little to no power (you’d have thought the whole ocean is his domain, but I guess it’s still a long way from most of his worshippers), and R’hllor seems strong. We also get a few more tidbits of history about the destruction of Valyria, but we don’t really learn very much more.
I’m not awesomely happy with the whole ‘dusky woman’ thing, though. She has no voice and no name and she is quite literally a sex slave. That’s a… that’s a hell of a character for a woman of colour to have in your novel. I mean, I get it, the Iron Islanders are down with slavery and salt-wife taking and all that jazz. It’s a culture thing. GRRM depicts a lot of cultural stuff that he doesn’t seem to endorse. But this woman is so anonymous. She is given no character at all. In as much as we have any indication of her feelings, she doesn’t seem to mind being Victarion’s sex slave – he’s not the guy who cut her tongue out, so he’s kind of OK, right? Right?
There’s nothing wrong with having people of colour being slaves in fiction per se, it’s how it’s treated, and sensitively should be the key word. Similarly for women in sexually subservient positions. There are many ways to handle this that are fine. But just thrown in in a way that seems to add nothing to the plot, with no voice and no name, described in exoticised terms like ‘dusky’, with no real examination of how the woman herself feels about her condition… this is pretty clearly playing to the male gaze, and the white male gaze at that. Not classy, not classy at all.
Use the negative aspects of history to colour your fantasy novel by all means, but don’t just throw them in unreflectively because you think they’re ‘cool’. That’s a pretty easy way to be pretty damned offensive.
Seems like I’m always apologising for not getting back to this sooner. What can I say? It’s a 959 page story and I’ve reviewed 672 pages. That’s 50 chapters down with an estimated 22 more to go (based on an average chapter length of 13 pages). It’s a bit daunting. But I’m 70% done now, so I don’t want to quit, and I don’t want to let down those of you who have come this far. I guess it’s just going to have to become a long-term project that I dip in and out of, rather than something I post religiously every week (which I pretty much did do until Christmas). Anyway, these reviews aren’t going to write themselves!
Chapter 51: Theon
Theon gets his name back! Three cheers for Theon! And it is apt, this chapter is the culmination of all that has gone before it. With the help of Abel’s women, Theon rescues Jeyne Pool (although, of course, Abel and his women think they are rescuing Arya). As Theon has become something of a lady’s maid to Jeyne, he is able to arrange to dress Jeyne in a servant girl’s clothes and sneak her out whilst in the pretext of bathing her. Squirrel takes Jeyne’s clothes and will pretend to be her to give them more time. Theon uses his position as the despised and ignored Reek – allowed free reign of the castle because he is harmless, and Lord Ramsay’s pet – to get past the guards at the wall (or at least close enough to them for the women to do their bloody work). But, alas, the violence is more than poor Jeyne can take. She screams and gives them away. Frenya stops to hold the guards off whilst Theon, Jeyne, and Holly escape. Too late, they realise that Frenya was the one who had the rope they were to use to get down from the wall. Holly falls to a crossbow. There is nothing for it, Theon and Jeyne jump from the wall into the snow…
The sub-plot of this chapter also sees the culmination of the tensions between the factions in Bolton’s army. The latest murder in the night is not some random soldier, but Little Walder – a mere boy – and the Freys are out for blood. Much is spilt. Lord Wyman Manderly has ‘three of his four chins’ cut, which seems to not kill him, although several others die. Finally, Roose Bolton calls them to order and dictate that the chief antagonists, Wyman and Hosteen Frey, be the first to gather their knights and direct their agression towards Stannis, who waits outside the walls.
This is a great chapter. Tensions running high on all sides and every moment taught. Nice to see Theon take something back of himself, although he is still a broken man. Still not entirely sure of who he is and what he should be, torn, as he ever was, between the Starks and the sea. He does not expect to survive this rescue attempt, and if he dies he does not know if he will go to the sea god or remain at Winterfell, but who ever he is, and wherever he will go when he dies, he knows it is better to die as Theon than to live as Reek, and that is some kind of a triumph.
It remains perplexing, however, that he still hasn’t told Abel or his women that he didn’t kill the Stark boys. He did kill two boys, and that’s pretty bad, but he’s getting a lot of enmity for being a kinslayer, and insisting that he’s not without explaining why just makes people dislike him more, for they take him to be rejecting kinship with the Starks. If he explained that he had actually saved the Stark boys by killing two different boys he might get at least some more sympathy. One supposes that it must be part of the psychology of self-punishment stemming from his torture, but it remains frustrating for the reader, and still feels like a bit of a fudge to keep the pressure on. The pressure is already on quite enough.
Chapter 52: Deanerys
Another chapter of culminations. The fighting pit has been re-opened, and in honour of Daenerys and Hizdahr’s wedding they are to be put to enthusiastic use. Daenerys dresses up in the constricting native dress and submits to attending the fighting she worked so hard to keep closed. Tyrion gets his moment in her presence, play fighting on pig-back with Penny, but if he thought he might get her attention then, he is sadly mistaken. In fact, he is lucky to leave with his life. Daenerys learns that the dwarf entertainers are to be surprised by lions at the end of their act, and angrily countermands the order. She has consented to free men and women fighting if they consent to do so, but not to people who have agreed to no such thing.
Meanwhile, someone’s plot has been afoot, and all fingers point to Hizdahr. He invited her to eat spiced and honeyed locusts, which he does not touch himself. Daenerys decides it to too hot for spicy food, and so does not eat them, but Strong Belwas helps himself to plenty… and soon starts to feel considerably worse for wear. Before this can fully come to the attention of those around him, however, an event happens that put all others in shadow: Drogon returns.
Attracted by the blood and fresh meat, Daenerys’s lost dragon swoops down on the arena and begins eating the combatants. Much screaming and panicking ensues. Fortunately, Daenerys was already in the process of removing some of her encumbering garments, disgusted by the blood-sports and finally rebelling against the oppressive customs of her conquered home. She leaps into the arena and runs to Drogon. For a moment it seems that he will eat her too, not recognising her for his ‘mother’. In the background, Ser Barristen Selmy has followed her and is vainly trying to pull Drogon’s attention to himself. But Daenerys is not some princess in need of a knight to save her from the dragon. She stands her ground and pulls a whip from the dead hand of a corpse. With it, she demonstrates her fearlessness and command. She imposes her will upon Drogon, and proves herself as blood of the dragon. Taming the beast, she mounts him, and flies away…
I gotta say, everything about this is a class-act. It’s a long, long time in coming, and I have to admit I feel like we could have done without some of the treading-water chapters that brought us here, but it was worth the wait. I have my problems with Daenerys as a character, or at least, with her depiction, but I can’t deny that this is glorious. When she’s good, she’s very very good. And I didn’t realise until I was writing about it how completely Martin is inverting the fairytale trope of what knights and princesses and dragons are supposed to do in each others presence. Daenerys doesn’t need rescuing from the dragon, she is a dragon, and Drogon is not her assailant or her captor, but her route to freedom. It is Meereen that has ensnared her these 52 chapters, and she has finally broken free.
(Index to previous A Dance with Dragons posts here.)
Back on the waggon again! Sorry for the gap, chaps. Absence of Internet for three weeks in January plus Life equals a bit of a RAWR backlog, and once I got off this horse it was a little daunting to try and get back on again. But I’m not leaving this baby unfinished. I’m still flattered by the number of hits this gets, and I kind of feel I owe it to people not to get 48 chapters through and just stop. So: onwards and upwards!
Chapter 49: Jon
Jon sees Alys Karstark married to the Magnar of Thenn to save her from an unwelcome marriage claim and help cement peace. Jon keeps Cregan Karstark (Alys’s uncle, who would have taken her by force) prisoner in an ice cell under the wall. Jon offers t let him take the black if he yields his claim upon Alys’s holding, but he refuses. Tensions continue to run high between the Queen’s men and the men of the Night’s Watch, and between the old guard of the Night’s Watch and their new wildling brothers and sisters. Lady Melisandre says that she has seen the Queen’s fool in her fires, surrounded by skulls, but when she searches for Stannis all she sees is snow. The same as when she searches for Mance. When she searches for Jon, she sees daggers ever closer. Happy omens all. The chapter closes with the sound of a horn, heralding Val’s return, with what Jon hopes will be a host of friendly wildlings to swell their ranks.
The plot inches onward in this chapter. The wedding saves Alys and will presumably mean something somewhere down the line. Val’s return will be important, but we don’t actually see her safe and sound and backed by a host of friendly wildlings, yet. Mostly, we’re treading water, although there’s a lot going on in Lady M’s visions. Menacing skulls and daggers and an awful lot of snow. And, of course, Snow may have a double meaning – the snow Stannis and Mance are buried by in the weather-stalled conflict to the south, or ‘Snow’ – the last name of a certain significant viewpoint bastard. Is Melisandra seeing snow when she searches for R’hllor’s champion because it is Snow who should be her champion, not Stannis? Everything is much too vague to say much of anything, for now, but it’s interesting that the fool is being highlighted as sinister. Fools have a literary history of unusual significance.
Chapter 50: Daenerys
Daenerys is married, and uncomfortable with the concessions she has made to gain peace. Peace with slavers – slavers who trade directly outside her walls. There’s a recurrent and poignant refrain in Daenerys’s thought ‘If I look back, I am lost‘. It is both her strength and her weakness. She has come as far as she has by pushing ever onward and not showing uncertainty, but there is a weakness, too, in sticking to one’s decisions and never retreating. Staying in Meereen seems to have been an increasingly bad idea. Daenerys is as unyielding as Tyrion is as changeable as the wind. Both are survival tactics, and I become ever more and more curious of what will happen when they meet. Oh God I hope they meet!
Daario had reportedly become wild since the wedding, and likely to kill Quentyn for his betrayal. Daenerys sends him and several others to the Yunkai’i as hostages against the peace. She must also make peace with Brown Ben Plumm of the Second Sons and in talking to him she learns that he betrayed her because he saw her as defeated – because she had chained her dragons, instead of releasing them. She comes to understand, and learns a valuable lesson, but it would be wrong to say that she forgives. Uneasy in her peace, Daenerys plots to reach out to the other mercenary companies, so that she will be ready if betrayed.
She also takes Quentyn to see her dragons, and warns him – she is his only friend in these lands, and she is married. The sellswords would kill him for his betrayal, her husband is not likely to be at ease with another suitor so close at hand, and Quentyn, bless him, is just a boy with two knights and a bit of paper. He says he will stand his ground, of course.
OK, so maybe Quentyn is not made of the same hard iron as Daenerys. Bah. It’s an interesting chapter, but like the one before it, one senses that it is mostly setting things up for the future. The various tensions and potential alliances are outlined for us, and Quentyn meets some dragons, but it’s still a waiting game. No one has come out into the open, yet; it is all preparations and secrecy. It’s well described, but I was hoping for a bit more bang in the 50th chapter. I guess one shouldn’t expect writing by nice round numbers, though.
Tune in next time to see if something actually happens!
Sorry to keep you waiting for this one, had to try and get on top of real life things for a while. But I’m still reading, and this behemoth ain’t gonna review itself. Let’s get to it!
Chapter 35: Jon
Short and sweet, this one. Time has come to swear in some new men of the watch, and some of them want to do it before a tree of the old gods. This means going out into the lands beyond the Wall. For some reason, Jon decides to go out with the men escorting the new blood. I’m kind of with Dolorous Edd on this one – he points out that, nice though the gesture is, Jon should really be thinking of looking after himself as Lord Commander. Nevermind, it means we get eyes and ears outside the Wall.
So, they head on out and it turns out the weirwood is rather farther from the Wall than I supposed from when Jon went to take his oath there. It’s late in the night by the time they arrive, and they do so to find a bunch of wildlings huddled around the tree, come to die before their gods, because they had nowhere else to go. Things are a bit tense for a moment, especially as one of the wildlings is a giant, who starts roaring something unintelligible to most of the men. Fortunately, though, one of the swearees is a former wildling himself, and he is able to speak the Old Tongue. He talks the giant down and is able to explain that they’ve just come to worship themselves. Once communication is established, they’re also able to invite the wildlings back to the Wall with them, which they’re pretty willing to do, seeing as they’re near death, and the only reason they didn’t go surrender to the Wall in the first place is that they heard about Melisandre’s burning of weirwood in her fake Mance-killing show. Nice one, Melly.
So, Jon is now up some new recruits, including a giant. He gets back to the Wall somewhat later than intended, but fairly safe and well. He finds a letter waiting for him from Stannis, saying that he’s taken Deepwood Motte and plans to march on Winterfell to take it and save Jon’s sister, if he can. Jon ponders that if Stannis were his brother Robert, he’d take his men on a forced march and probably get there with the advantage of time and ahead of the snows. Stannis is unlikely to do this, however, so it’s probably not going to end well.
I liked this chapter – I like that some of the wildlings are integrating and actually choosing to take the Black. I like that the wildling, Leathers, is able to use his knowledge of the Old Tongue to the advantage of the Night’s Watch to bring more wildlings into the fold. I like the exploration of religious tensions. There’s a little mention of further tensions with the women who have volunteered to help man the Wall, but I can’t say it overly engaged me. Having women in your army causes tensions – wah wah – that doesn’t mean they aren’t good fighters – wah wah – but some men can’t help themselves anyway – wah wah. Nothing wrong with dealing with this issue, it’s just that so far it’s very much predictable and uninteresting. Clearly we’re being set up for some Event further down the line, but there’s nothing to write home about, or to the Internet with, yet. This chapter progressed things a bit, but didn’t do that much more.
Chapter 36: Daenerys
The predicted waves of plague-riddled Astapori have arrived at Meereen. They’re starving and dying. Some say they are eating their dead. Against everyone’s guidance, Daenerys goes out to deliver the food herself. Appalled at their conditions, and knowing that things will only get worse if the people don’t wash and dispose of the dead properly, Dany gets down off her horse and goes to help them herself, shaming everyone else into joining her. Everyone thinks this is a bad idea, but Daenerys reassures herself that the blood of the dragon never gets sick, which I guess is nice for her, if true, although I don’t know about her men.
So, they feed and wash the sick and fifty of her Unsullied go to help burn the bodies of the dead. Then they return to the palace and wash a lot. After which Dany has to go speak to the Graces about her upcoming wedding, where they try to force a number of ‘merely symbolic’ concessions on her, including an examination of her lady-parts to verify that she’s still fertile… which of course she isn’t. It’s not clear whether she wins the day on that, although she concedes virtually everything else, including washing Hizdahr’s feet as a symbol of her subservience. Dany demands that he should wash her as well, which he concedes to, but I can’t help but feel that if this marriage goes through it’s not going to be as much to her liking as she thinks it’ll be.
After this, Daario arrives with bad news. Hearing that he’s covered in blood, Dany breaks her resolve not to see him anymore, although it turns out that the blood is mostly someone else’s. His news shocks everyone: Brown Ben Plumm has gone over to the Yunkai’i. I don’t know if I’m supposed to remember this dude, but I don’t. Dany does, though, and she’s as shocked as everyone else. Is this one of her predicted betrayals? If this is the one for money, was she wrong about Ser Jorah? (Answer: yes, but I guess she lacks our omnipotent perspective.) She commands the closure of Meereen’s gates, even though this means that the Astapori will be left helpless outside.
After this, Daario and Dany are left alone and she gives into her inexplicable desire to sex him up. Apparently realising she’s unsure about what the prophecies mean anymore means that she now thinks Daario won’t be one of her betrayers? Don’t ask me, I don’t get any of this line of character motivation. All I can think is that this dude has killer pheromones. His final line before she ends the chapter by saying ‘What are you waiting for?’ is to boast that he’s had a thousand women before her. I guess it must be true that some women are turned on by lines like this, but to me it’s not only laughably cheesy, but the cheese is an unpleasant, oily sort of cheese. Eh… I’m bored of bitching about the Daenerys/Daario plotline. If you’ve come this far with me you know why it bothers me, and, to be honest, this is probably the least offensive chapter in which he has featured. At this stage I just have to go ‘Lust is blind’ and hope that it won’t be too long before his inevitable betrayal.
As for the rest of the chapter, well, I’m glad the war appears to finally be reaching her. I know it fits with the realism that armies take a while to get together and go whether they need to be, but we’ve been doing an awful lot of treading water down here in the southerly plotlines. The plague-filled Astapori outside the walls are interesting, though. If the Yunkai’i are in for a siege then that’s going to cause them problems. Biological warfare FTW!