Just a Game of Thrones #605: Holding the Door, Breaking Everything Else
Welcome to Just a Game of Thrones, the column singing backup vocals on the Song of Ice and Fire.
Holding the Door, Breaking Everything Else
The West Wing will always be, in my mind, one of the best television shows of the modern era.
Not just because it was essentially Schoolhouse Rock delivered via Sorkin-level wit, but because no matter how politically wonky or esoteric it got, it simultaneously found a way to be just as emotionally compelling – occasionally even crippling.
Hell, I’m pretty sure they were ones who invented the Jeff Buckley “Hallelujah” bit:
Still, no gut punch to the heart that ever took place on that show – not Martin Sheen screaming at God#, not even Leo McGarry clutching his chest# – could equal the visceral pain Game of Thrones viewers went through tonight learning how Hodor became Hodor.
After ~50 minutes centered almost exclusively around the bureaucratically Sorkian topics of female empowerment and the inner workings of various political machinery, the acutely piercing final scene of “The Door” pinned us down and mercilessly ripped us limb from limb right alongside the gentlest, most cosmically tragic giant in all of the Seven Kingdoms.
To paraphrase a heartbroken President Bartlet, Hodor was our terra servus, our messenger fulfilled his duty. And in his final moments, Hodor’s entire life, cursed as it may have been, became a testament to those who have faith that everything happens for a reason.
Death really doesn’t only come for the wicked and leave the decent behind.
Meanwhile, those lucky few left living are forced to continue playing the hands they’ve been dealt, more and more as Ziegler-esque politicians as the Game of Thrones goes on…
With primary season officially wrapping up and the party conventions right around the corner, the timing of this episode feels especially prescient. Between the candidate stumping and the PR spin, the ‘cable news’-esque political theater, and the White Walkers-as-a-result-of-a-xenophobic-arms-race reveal, “The Door” waded into some of the wonkiest waters this show has dared submerge itself in so far.
Out in Meereen, we have emerging-leader Tyrion channeling his inner Ben Rhodes and tapping Red Priestesses to spread the Gospel of Dany to the common folk. Up in The North, we see the grassroots Starks brainstorming campaign slogans – “The North Remembers!” – and talking about House Karstark like it’s a vulnerable swing state. Over in Braavos, the conflicted Arya is being told she’s too much of an insider to ever be considered anything other than the Establishment Candidate.
However, it’s out on the Iron Islands where election fever is really heating up…
On one of the end of the aisle (or in this case, isle), we’ve got Yara Greyjoy – the only daughter of Lord Balon and a fierce warrior whose ascendance to the throne would be the first time a woman has ever ruled over the Iron Islands. Boasting a long and fabled military record, she benefits from the endorsement of the current political elite and represents the progressive notion that “there are many things we’ve never done”…yet.
Her opponent, on the other hand, is a boisterous misogynist and unapologetic criminal whose demagoguery is interjected only by references to his penis, his friends abroad, and his desire to build ‘the largest fleet the world has ever seen’…
Euron Greyjoy’s “Make the Iron Islands Great Again” rhetoric is similar to the near-jingoistic, uber-masculine nationalism we’ve seen displayed throughout this story from various commoners and cultures – most of whom have seen their due comeuppance (see: the Dothraki Khals from last episode) – but there’s a unique populist bent to Euron’s stump speech that, especially when coming from a guy who probably lost some brain cells after nearly drowning, feels more threatening to our future “fragile peace” than even Jorah Mormont, the roaming biological weapon.
We know Dany’s got to get her Dothraki army over the sea somehow, but it’ll be interesting to see if she’s sincerely willing to split the ticket with a homicidal mad man to make it happen.
What’s that saying about politics and strange bedfellows?
Break The Wheel of Hot Takes
A Modern History of King’s Landing, in 3 Parts:
The fourth-wall-breaking play intercutting “The Door” was an interesting move for the typically less-referential Game of Thrones, but there are actually some strong historical and literary precedents that, given the overarching political nature of this episode, make sense to pay homage to – specifically as it relates to Arya’s hesitancy to forsake her original mission of revenge.
Perhaps the most famous, and relevant, of these is Shakespeare’s Hamlet:
In it, our protagonist stages a performance of a play called The Murder of Gonzago in order to (yada, yada) be sure if he should proceed with his long-waited plans for revenge.
“The players cannot keep counsel,” Hamlet assures his compatriots. If you just look closely, “They’ll tell all.”
And if you just look closely at Arya – and remember she still has Needle buried somewhere outside the House of Black and White – as she watches this historical farce and political concoction, her face will tell you all you need to know about where her path is leading…
The HoF of GoT GIFs
Throw Them Bows
It Was You!
What Is Dead May Almost Never Die
Should I Tell You the Name of the One Who Spoke?
The Walking Bran
Team Stark Jerseys
That One with the Beard…
Littlefinger Reads Tweets to Sansa the Sports Journalist
A few weeks ago, the website Just Not Sports asked a group of men to read to female sportswriters Julie DiCaro and Sarah Spain some of the awful, hate-filled tweets those women are sent on a daily basis. In the video, the men – who didn’t write these vitriolic tweets themselves – have a hard time even making eye contact with the women, let alone getting the words out.
Click play to watch the painful social experiment, while enjoying the transcript of Sansa’s opening scene with Littlefinger…
Sansa: “Did you know about Ramsay? If you didn’t know you’re an idiot; if you did know, you’re my enemy.
Would you like to hear about our wedding night? He never hurt my face. He needed my face, the face of Ned Stark’s daughter. But the rest of me… He did what he liked with the rest of me, as long as I could still give him an heir.
What do you think he did?”
Littlefinger: “I can’t begin to contempla…”
Sansa: “What do you think he did to me?”
Brienne: “Lady Sansa asked you a question…”
Littlefinger: “He beat you…”
Sansa: “Yes, enjoyed he that. What else do you think he did?”
Littlefinger: “Sansa, I…”
Sansa: “What else?”
Littlefinger: “Did he cut you?”
Sansa: “The other things he did, ladies aren’t supposed to talk about those things. But I imagine brothel-keeps talk about them all the time…
I can still feel it. I don’t mean ‘in my tender heart, it still pains me so‘; I can still feel what he did in my body standing here right now.”
Littlefinger: “I’m. So. Sorry.”
In the Last Fortnight Since the Pact with the Masters…
- 0 killings carried out by the Sons of the Harpy
- 2 masters butchered by free men (but that was the day of the pact)
Sword to my Throat, I’d Bet _____ Wins the Game of Thrones
The Jon Snow parental lineage connection (R+L=J) enables both the Starks and Dorne to fall in line behind her; Tyrion (a Lannister and possible Targaryen) and Varys (a possible Targaryen himself) give her the political/diplomatic edge she needs to be more than just an invading liberator; and she’s more than halfway through her Quaithe prophecy.
Also, Dothraki army.
Also, Euron’s ships.
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