Game of Thrones: No Choice At All | Spanlish

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Monday, August 14, 2017

Game of Thrones: No Choice At All

Every week for the seventh season of Game of Thrones, three Atlantic staffers will discuss new episodes of the HBO drama. Because no screeners were made available to critics in advance this year, we’ll be posting our thoughts in installments.


David Sims: This late in its run, Game of Thrones is mostly about tyrants, and I’m glad it’s aware of that. There are plentiful types of tyranny for the Westerosi to choose from, of course. There’s the conniving elitism of Cersei Lannister, still convinced of her house’s utmost superiority and willing to rule over whatever kingdom she can get, even if she has to blow everyone up in the process. There’s the “liberation” offered by Daenerys, who claims to offer freedom from oppressive rules, but really is presenting a more binary choice: Join her, or die. Finally, to the north, there’s the impassive force of the Night’s King, who offers only the apocalypse, something more than a few bedraggled citizens of Westeros might welcome at this point.

It would be too easy for this show to pitch Daenerys’s efforts at conquest as a battle between good and evil. That’s never been a narrative pursuit in George R. R. Martin’s books, and it was entirely absent from the fiery ass-kicking her Dothraki/dragon combo delivered to Jaime’s forces last episode. There are people to root for, and people to fear, on both sides, and the viewer’s sympathies lie more with Tyrion, aghast at the visceral carnage. “Eastwatch” picked up right in the aftermath of Daenerys’s assault on the Lannister loot train, as the mother of dragons stuck firmly to her brand and offered the beleaguered troops a supposed “choice”: Bend the knee, or get roasted alive. They all bent the knee, of course, except for the flinty Randyll Tarly and his son, Lord Dickon (or was it Abercrombie?), who stood against her foreign hordes and were quickly barbequed alive.

There was nothing triumphant about the scene. Randyll has never been a particularly sympathetic character, and Tyrion wisely pointed out his betrayal of the Tyrell memory in defecting to Cersei, but there was still a noble ring to his comeback: “There are no easy choices anymore,” he sighed. Too true, but to Daenerys, the choice she offers is the easiest of all—why would anyone pick death over the freedom she offers? Especially as it’s spoken in vaguely populist terms like “I’m not here to murder” and something about stopping “the wheel that has rolled over the world.”

It’s a problem that has plagued her since her days liberating Slaver’s Bay: The concept that her noble ideals, backed up with displays of strength (i.e., dragonfire and conquest), will be enough to win hearts and minds. Instead, as Tyrion and Varys know, all you end up with is endless displays of strength, which can quickly make you a Mad King (or Queen). As Game of Thrones winds to a close, they (and others) are looking to break the endless chain of tyranny, and by gum, they may just have found the way to do it, and it involves a boat filled with stinky, fermented crab.

Okay, it’s more complicated than that, but I dare you to argue with the notion that Davos was the MVP of this episode, and perhaps the show as a whole, smuggling Tyrion into King’s Landing to advance some secret diplomacy, humanely rescuing Gendry in the process, and doing a whole five-minute stand-up set about how crab is an aphrodisiac in the middle there. Crustacean jokes aside, Davos’s involvement in Daenerys’s new scheme (to present a White Walker, or one of its wights, to Cersei as an example of the looming threat in the north) felt particularly crucial to the bigger thematic stuff I’m wrestling with here, in the show’s endgame.

Davos is a loyal soldier, and his loyalty only ended up costing him his son’s life (as he reminded Tyrion), the men around him, and eventually, his liege lord Stannis Baratheon. His loyalty to Daenerys is different and more complicated, the same kind of loyalty Tyrion, and Varys, and even doe-eyed Jorah have for her: They see the chance for something different in her, even if she often behaves just as badly as the rulers they served in the past. It’s something Jon recognizes, too (and, in turn, something Daenerys recognizes in him), and that’s why this mission to retrieve a White Walker makes a mad sort of sense, as hair-raisingly dangerous as it might be. That Daenerys would consider such a scheme, rather than going around burning more castles and scoring more easy victories, is the glimmer of real hope that everyone recognizes beyond the tyranny.

Cersei has no such glimmer, now planning to publicly proclaim her love for Jaime (and give birth to their fourth child together). The Night King still advances silently, promising only destruction. “Eastwatch” was mostly another set-up episode, getting the pieces in place for Jon’s raid beyond the wall with a colorful cast of bandits (including Tormund, the Hound, Beric, and a hammer-wielding Gendry) next week. It had plenty of little tidbits to dig into, most frustrating of them all being Littlefinger’s continued machinations in Winterfell and Sam’s complete inability to listen to Gilly dropping major plot points about the legitimacy of Jon’s birth. But it was encouraging, even exciting, in how it drew on years of characterization, on seasons of world-building, to create momentum and context for its next major battle. Lenika, are you as stirred to the cause as I am? Or is Daenerys’s willingness to par-boil her enemies too fatal a flaw?


This post will be updated with entries from Lenika Cruz and Megan Garber.



Source: Game of Thrones: No Choice At All

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