Dec 23, 2019
Game of Thrones: On Bad Dads and Good Dragons
By any stretch of the imagination, I’m not what anyone would call a big time reader of “The Good Book,” but I do remember the story of Abraham and Isaac. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Isaac is Abraham’s son. One night, Abraham believes he hears the word of God telling him to sacrifice his son. So Abraham obediently ties up Isaac on a mountaintop and is prepared to slaughter his own kid. But just before he can do it, the Angel of God comes down from Heaven and says, “Just kidding. God was just testing your loyalty. You can go ahead and kill that ram over there instead of your kid.”
To which, Abraham replies, “Cool.”
And Isaac replies, “Phew, that was a close one.”
I remember being really horrified by the story as a child. (I’m still horrified.) The fact that the ending of the story was a “happy” one (though not, admittedly, for the ram), for me, didn’t change the fact that Abraham, who, by all accounts, was supposed to be a pretty good guy, was more than willing to murder his own kid in cold blood, just because he thought it would make God happy.
That type of religious fanaticism is generally frowned upon in polite society . . .
Watching this week’s Game of Thrones, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the story of Abraham and Isaac. Here we have Stannis, a super religious guy who, we are led to believe, loves his daughter very much. He loves her enough to pay for the most expensive doctors from all across the land to cure her of her greyscale when everyone tells him she is a lost cause. He loves her enough to keep her at home with him, risking himself, rather than sending her off to live and die a horrible death with the stonemen, like so many with her ailment have done before her.
And yet, when the going gets tough, Stannis doesn’t hesitate for more than a few seconds before making the decision to murder his only daughter, submitting her to a public and agonizingly painful death by fire. He sends Davos, Shireen’s closest companion, away on a mission, to ensure that he doesn’t intervene in her impending death. And for what? To satisfy the Lord of Light? To appease his nutjob mistress? Because he’s deluded enough to think that his daughter’s death will provide him with the “good luck” he needs to win the Battle of Winterfell and take over the Iron Throne?
It all seems so ridiculous and petty . . . so callous and awful. It’s also literally Biblical.
Unfortunately for Shireen Baratheon, there was no Angel of God on hand to tell Stannis he could take out an animal instead of his own daughter. And unfortunately for us, Shireen was burned alive, leaving her no chance of coming back as a White Walker and murdering the crap out of her shitty dad and his even shittier girlfriend . . .
In more lighthearted news, Jamie gets to return to Dorne with his niece/daughter and Bronn in tow. Syrio’s murderer, Meryn Trant, is a disgusting pedophile, but is most definitely going to die next week. Everybody on the Wall hates Jon Snow now, but at least his cool new giant friend has his back. Jorah, Tyrion, Daario, and Missandrei will live to die another day. And Dany’s got a bitchin’ new set of wheels.
Let’s review, shall we?
Twenty Good Men versus One Horrible Father
In my recap last week, I derided Ramsey Bolton’s “twenty good men” battle strategy as being patently awful. This week, I get to eat my words . . .
Ramsey may be the most detestable human being on this show (though, after this week, the competition just got a heck of a lot stiffer), but even I have to admit, as a war strategist, he’s not too shabby. Sneaking twenty men into Stannis’ camps at nightfall and burning their food supply, weapons, and many of their horses, effectively preventing the Iron Throne contender from fighting OR retreating, was pretty ingenious.
(And the fact that I just complimented Sansa’s rapist makes me physically nauseous.)
Stannis asks Davos to go back to the Wall to ask them for food and supplies. Davos rightfully thinks it’s suspicious that Stannis is sending his “Hand” on a begging errand, as opposed to, say, someone who is not a regular cast member on the show. “Can I stay here and keep you from making the terrible decisions you always make when I’m not around?” Davos asks pleadingly.
“No,” says Stannis.
“Can I take your wife and daughter with me to protect them from your horrible non-Davos-approved-decision-making skills?” Davos tries again.
“No,” repeats Stannis.
“Can I just take your daughter with me then, so that you don’t brutally murder her for nonsensical religious nutjob reasons, thereby forcing the fans of this show to actually root for that horrible sociopath Ramsey to beat you in the Battle of Winterfell because they think you are a shameful excuse for a human being and then hate themselves for doing so, because Ramsey is The Absolute Worst?”
“No,” says Stannis for a third time. “I want you to leave so I can kill my daughter, and all that bad stuff you just said can come true.”
“OK,” says Davos, and then he leaves.
Davos may now be able to read, but his ability to recognize subtext clearly still needs a little work . . .
Davos then goes on to have an adorable moment with Shireen, just so that you remember how much you like her and to make you feel that much more like sh*t when she dies.
“The bad news is that you are about to die for moronic reasons, and I won’t be there to save you. The good news is, I made you a crappy buck Christmas ornament for you to play with during your last hours of life,” explains Davos.
“Hooray, Bambi’s dad!” Shireen exclaims excitedly as she examines her new toy. “Where’s Bambi’s mom?”
“You’ll see her soon enough,” mumbles Davos under his breath.
“What did you say?” Shireen inquires.
“Oh nothing, what are you reading?” Davos asks, eager to change the subject.
“It’s called Dance of Dragons. It’s the title of this episode. It’s about two Targaryens who battle one another for power and start a civil war. It teaches you how killing your family members for greedy reasons only results in more bloodshed.”
“Make sure to show that book to your dad,” Davos instructs before heading off on his Mission of Distraction.
Stannis Baratheon may be excellent at grammar, but, apparently, his reading comprehension is for absolute shit. He totally misses the point of the story Shireen is reading. “Which Targaryen did you like better? Who was the better leader?” Stannis inquires of his daughter.
“Um, neither, because they were both willing to kill their own bloodline and sacrifice half of their people for some macho pissing contest,” Shireen patiently explains.
“But one of them had to piss better, right? Longer stream? Better aim?” Stannis presses. (See what I mean about Stannis belonging in a toilet?)
“Wow, I am way too good of a person to live in this miserable world governed by men like you,” Shireen muses.
“Yeah, about that . . .” begins Stannis.
When Shireen bravely tells Stannis she would do anything to help her father in the war effort, I think she expects him to ask her to do something nice, like teach the army to read or put on a play using her new Christmas ornament to lift the men’s spirits. What she gets is . . . well . . . not that at all.
As any Hitchcock fan will tell you, sometimes the things you don’t see and, therefore, have to envision with your mind’s eye are the scariest and most frightening of all. We didn’t need to see Sansa’s rape to know it was horrific. Hearing her cries of anguish and seeing Reek’s tears was enough to leave her pain indelibly etched in our memory.
Likewise, we don’t need to see Shireen burnt at the stake to be traumatized by it. Hearing her screams and unanswered pleas for her parents to save her, as her mother collapses in a useless last-minute show of anguish and remorse and Stannis stoically stares ahead, rightfully hating himself for the monster he’s become, is more than enough.
Rest in Peace, Shireen Baratheon. Here’s hoping you are in a better place, now . . . one with all the books you could ever want to read and all the toys you could ever desire, because Westeros most certainly didn’t deserve you.
Jon Snow’s Approval Rating = Sam%
After last week’s Zombie Apocalypse, Jon and his new Wildling friends are eager to get back within the safety of the Wall. But Substitute Teacher Alliser Thorne makes them sweat it out a little bit before eventually letting them inside.
As someone who was born sexy, Jon Snow is not used to being unpopular. I mean, sure, he was born a bastard. But it didn’t matter. Men and women always liked him instinctively, because he was really, really ridiculously good looking.
Needless to say, Jon is not used to getting the barrel full of stink eye he gets served upon crossing the threshold into the Wall Watchers camp. “Don’t worry. You can still sit at my lunch table. Your new friend, Giant Guy, can be our bodyguard against bullying.”
“I suggest you get a Valyrian steel vest because these guys are totally going to Julius Caesar your ass, with Olly playing the role of Brutus,” offers Alliser Thorne, somewhat less supportively.
Just What Westeros Needs . . . More Creepy Pedos
Over in Braavos, Arya is back in her clam girl costume and ready to give that old oyster-eating dude Jagen’s “gift” of little girl’s perfume . . . just kidding, it’s poison. Before she can finish the job, though, Arya spots Meryn Trant, the guy who killed her first swordfighting teacher Syrio. Meryn is in town on business for the Lannisters, and as we know, Meryn is on Arya’s Death List. Arya knows she’s supposed to just poison the old oyster-eating dude and go home. But surely Jagen has enough poison around Burgerless White Castle for both douchebags, Arya thinks to herself.
Arya follows Meryn to a brothel, where he repeatedly turns down increasingly younger prostitutes (the first looked to be about 27; the last, about 14) for being “too old.” (When even the head of a brothel looks disgusted with your sexual proclivities, you KNOW you are a creeper.) Eventually, the head of the brothel finds someone off the street who looks to be about Arya’s age to “please” the despicable Meryn.
Arya gets discovered snooping around the brothel and is unceremoniously kicked out before she can poison Meryn, but not before she overhears the brothel owner’s promise to get Meryn a fresh new “young blood” for the following night. Methinks Arya is about to go undercover as a “lady of the night.” Now, THAT should be interesting. Gross . . . but interesting.
Back at Burgerless White Castle, Arya fibs to Jagen that old oyster-eating dude “wasn’t hungry” to explain away why she didn’t kill him.
Mr. Two Truths and a Lie Guy gives Arya this look, like he knows she’s full of shit. But, for the time being, he keeps his mouth shut.
Hmmm, I wonder, if you get fired from Burgerless White Castle, can you collect unemployment?
Sexual Deviants Unite!
Over in Dorne, Doran Martell’s “throne” is revealed to have wheels, thus proving that my “Doran has no legs” theory might actually be not far off the mark! In other news, Jamie is allowed to take Myrcella and her betrothed Trystane back to Smells Like Shit Kings Landing, where Jamie’s daughter/niece will be forced to wear more age-appropriate clothing and Trystane will take the deceased Oberon’s seat on the council.
It’s great news for Jamie, but crappy news for Myrcella, because, while Dorne may be boring as crap to watch, it seems like a way more fun place to live than the poo-smelling place being run by the creepy religious cult.
Bronn gets to come back to Kings Landing too (and sing more solos, I hope), but only after that James Earl Jones-sounding guy punches him in the face for knocking out Trystane a few weeks back.
As for Ellaria and the infamous Sand Snakes, their silly badly choreographed wedding dance of a gambit to kidnap Myrcella is thankfully wrapped up just as quickly and with as little fanfare as it was introduced. Ellaria is forced to repledge her allegiance to Doran in front of the tearful Sand Snakes. Then, just in case you weren’t sure if she really meant it, Ellaria pays Jamie a visit, in which she tells him that his incest baby-making love story with Cersei is totally cool, and not at all gross, like everyone else thinks it is!
“People who hate incest are so judgy,” Ellaria explains. “Here in Eternal Spring Break Dorne, all forms of f*cking are totally approved and encouraged. It’s why our entire male animal population walks with a limp.”
Speaking of animals . . .
The Great Escape
Another day, another brutal murder extravaganza in the fighting pits of Mereen. Dany is surrounded by all her men, each trying not so subtly win her favor (except for Tyrion, who already has it, because he’s a bad ass, obviously). She’s got Daario at her back, bragging about his own awesomeness as a former pit fighter, extoling the virtues of a small and quick fighter over a large lumbering and slow one. (He says this just as the small fighter in the pit, gets his head unceremoniously lobbed off by the big guy. Oops.) Hizdahr is still yammering on about how the fighting pits maintain the cordiality of polite society by giving men an outlet for their bloodthirsty natures. It also has the added benefit of keeping the rich (like him), rich. “My father would have liked you,” notes Tyrion casually. (From the guy who killed his father, this is not a compliment.)
Then, yet another suitor reveals himself in the fighting pits. Jorah is back. And Dany is visibly affected by the sheer stupidity of the guy, who just can’t stop himself from trying to die on her behalf. Once again, Jorah easily disposes of all his red shirt adversaries. (Though this time, running through them Tazmanian Devil style doesn’t work, and he actually has to kill them all.)
But the big finish comes when Jorah shoots an arrow into the stands at a would-be assassin with the funny-looking orgy mask from Eyes Wide Shut, saving Dany’s life. That’s right, boys and girls, the Sons of the Harpy are back, and they are not f*cking around.
Instantly about thirty more funny-looking masks appear throughout the crowd, as their eerie theme music of guttural chanting starts to play in the pits. (Because, apparently, one of them is carrying a boom box?) All hell breaks loose. The Sons of the Harpy begin killing people in the stands indiscriminately including, rich, poor, Hizdhar, who I honestly thought was part of the conspiracy, until right after he bit it.
Jorah, who knows there’s nothing like a life-threatening blood bath to really get those sexy juices flowing, jumps up from the pit and slow-mo grabs Dany’s hand, romantic comedy movie style. And I know we are all supposed to think it’s super sweet, and ship it, hard core. But was I the only one that was genuinely worried about the fact that Jorah has greyscale when this was happening?
After all, last we heard, greyscale gets transmitted like cooties, through simple skin contact. “Don’t let them touch you,” Tyrion advised, when Jorah and he were ambushed by a stone man in an earlier episode.
Now, perhaps Dany’s immune to greyscale, due to her main character status, but still . . . risky move, Jorah.
Anywhoo, Team Dany (Dany, Daario, Jorah, Tyrion and Missandrei) soon find themselves inside the pits, surrounded by Harpies who want them dead. Dany clasps Missandrei’s hand and closes her eyes, preparing for an end to her story that will most certainly not involve her breaking the wheel of Westeros.
Then, comes Drogon . . .
Dany’s eldest son got back from college just time, apparently. He’s breathing fire on Harpys and eating them left and right, like it’s no big thang. But he’s taking a few pesky swords in his back as he does it. Everyone seems to stop fighting for a few minutes to watch Dany maternally fuss over Drogon’s wounds. Then, she hops on his back and instructs him to blow this popsicle stand, presumably to head toward Westeros.
It’s exciting. It’s triumphant. It’s . . . kind of shitty for Tyrion, Jorah, Daario and Missandrei, who clearly thought Drogon’s ride toward “not dying” was more than a single-seater . . .
A little selfish, Dany . . . just saying . . .
Until next time, Westerosians .. . .