Monday, December 12, 2016

Game of Thrones Rewatch 3.8: "The Second Sons"

Read the previous entry in this series here.
Read the next entry in this series here.

3.8 “The Second Sons”
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Michelle MacLaren
Commentary by Michelle MacLaren, Hannah Murray (Gilly), and John Bradley (Sam)

Alliances formed, alliances broken, and some serious foreshadowing about how easy it is to say one thing and do another.

The titular Second Sons are the mercenary company Yunkai has hired to help defend the city. Daenerys decides to test their resolve a bit and invites the captains up to her tent. Mero, the clear leader, is a caricature of disgusting, entitled masculinity. He propositions Dany, harasses Missandei, and promises that after the battle, he’ll subject Dany to gang-rape and come looking for Missandei personally. Once they’ve gone, Dany tells Barristan that, if they should have to fight the Second Sons, he should kill Mero first. Barristan says it would be his pleasure.

Back at their camp, they discuss what to do about Dany; after all, if they take her out, they won’t have to fight all those Unsullied. They decide on an assassination and draw lots, and Daario’s given the task. Of course, the whole thing involves a barely-dressed bed-slave and Mero being gross. But that lets them contrast Mero with Daario, who’s kind of a romantic at heart; he doesn’t like bed-slaves because it’s not truly consensual, and he likes fighting. I’m not sure how I feel about this portrayal of Daario, who in the books, let’s be honest, has more than a little Mero in him, but I never understood what Dany saw in Daario in the books anyway. Daario’s response to drawing the “winning” lot is “Valar Morghulis,” which makes it sound like he’s accepted the responsibility.

Of course, he hasn’t. He does disguise himself as an Unsullied to gain access to the camp, surprise Dany in her bath, and offer her the heads of his fellow officers and the entire Second Sons. There’s an interesting moment where Dany has to decide whether to cower in the bath until he goes away or be a boss and just get out of the bath all naked. She goes with being a boss, and he does an interesting thing where it looks like his eyes are on her face the whole time, but he still clearly enjoys what he’s seeing. Missandei (poor, freaked out Missandei) puts her robe on her, and Daario takes a knee to swear his and the Second Sons’ allegiance to Dany.

Meanwhile, another alliance is being formed in the Seven Kingdoms, one which nobody involved is truly happy about. Sansa and Tyrion get married. First, Joffrey has to humiliate both of them, of course, first by being the one to walk her down the aisle because “your father’s gone” (as if that wasn’t entirely his fault), and then by removing the stool that had been placed for Tyrion so he could reach Sansa’s shoulders to cloak her.

This scene includes a small yet interesting change that on the one hand makes sense based on the other changes they made (giving Sansa a few days’ warning and a discussion with Tyrion before the wedding) but on the other takes away a small but significant moment of agency for Sansa. In the books, she’s stuffed into a gown, swept away to the Sept, shoved in front of Tyrion at the altar, and told to marry him or else. When the time comes for the cloaking, she refuses to kneel, to help Tyrion at all, because why should she give one inch more than she has to for a Lannister? Joffrey eventually calls on Dontos to be a step-stool for Tyrion so he can cloak her. She feels bad about it later, because it’s not like Tyrion has ever been anything but nice to her, but she keeps a tiny bit of her pride in the whole mess. Here, she and Tyrion have a whole relationship, as weird and awkward as it is, and there’s no Dontos, so keeping that bit would have made Sansa come off as much more of a jerk than she does in the books.

The wedding feast is even more awkward; Tyrion gets falling-down drunk, Loras tries to talk to Cersei and gets completely blown off, and Joffrey threatens to rape Sansa. When Joffrey decides it’s time to initiate the bedding, Tyrion tells him they’re not going to be doing that, and threatens to geld Joffrey if he forces it to go forward. Only Tywin’s intervention and Tyrion’s willingness to play the drunken fool saves him from immediate death. The best part of the whole thing is Olenna trying to sort out exactly how everyone’s going to be related once Joffrey and Margaery and Cersei and Loras are also married.

Tyrion manages to keep the peace between himself and Shae and himself and Sansa by refusing to have sex with Sansa despite his father’s orders. He asks Sansa how old she is—fourteen—and by the look on his face, he knew she was young, but not that young. He says he won’t do it until she wants to, and she asks what if she never wants to. Even for the new relationship they’ve made in the show, this is an incredibly brave question. In this society, it’s a wife’s duty to bear her husband’s children, whether she wants to or not. In this society, it’s well within Tyrion’s rights—even expected of him—that he get her pregnant by whatever means necessary. Sansa is his property now, and nobody would blink if he raped her (of course, Martin believes that medieval marital rape wasn’t a thing, so . . .). However, as Daario points out in the next episode, “you can’t make love to property,” and Tyrion’s always been a lover, not a fighter. We lost the scene where he told Bronn to keep his mercenaries from raping while clearing out Flea Bottom, but that same idealism is in the Tyrion of the show. However, Sansa has no way of knowing that, and her suggestion that she may never submit to duty and have sex with Tyrion isn’t her being a brat, as I’ve seen some fans suggest, but her finding out just how much bodily autonomy she has in this relationship. (We lose so much by not being inside the heads of these characters.)

Stannis is rekindling his relationship with Davos, letting him out of prison if he promises not to raise a hand to Melisandre again. Davos says he can’t promise not to disagree with her, and finds it interesting that Stannis has chosen now—when Melisandre just turned up with a Baratheon bastard whom she intends to sacrifice to R’hllor—to come get him out of prison. Davos knows Stannis needs his voice to balance Melisandre’s, and really to be the person to stand up to her because Stannis has no spine when it comes to his Red Priestess. She’s already talking about poor Gendry in terms of lambs and slaughters, and doing her usual trick of stripping naked to get Gendry to do what she wants—in this case, lie still with no shirt on so she can put leeches on him to get blood for the magic she’s about to do.

Generally speaking, I find it really irritating that the showrunners focused on this insignificant facet of her magic. There’s so much more to it in the books than making shadow babies. She can see the future (interpreting those visions is a different matter), see outright threats to her own person, resist the effects of poison, and influence events normally outside her control. Assuming the books go with the same plot points regarding Jon Snow, she can also raise the dead. And assuming the books hit another plot point in the show, she’s also incredibly old and is using illusion magic to keep herself looking young. So the fact that the showrunners keep reducing Melisandre to a sexual witch who gets what she wants through seduction all the time is really irritating. I’ll come back to this point in later seasons, I’m sure.

Finally, we’ve got a small scene with Gilly and Sam that shows that the White Walkers actually have a weakness. One of them comes for the baby, and Sam tries to fight it off, which also adds a layer to his characterization. He might call himself a coward and freak out if he has time to think and get himself all worked up, but when all he has is a moment and an instinctive reaction, he can actually be quite brave. Putting himself between Gilly and the Walker is not a coward’s move. Throwing himself at the back of the Walker that’s already broken his sword and thrown him twenty feet through the snow, armed only with a random dagger he picked up at the Fist of the First Men, is entirely not a coward’s move. He had no idea the obsidian dagger was going to have the effect it did, but he did what he had to to protect Gilly and the baby. Also, the scene shows us that the Walkers do actually have a weakness and fighting them isn’t going to be entirely hopeless.

RIP: Mero (good riddance)
Prendahl na Ghezn
White Walker #1

Next week: the episode that broke the world.

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1 comment:

  1. Again, it's always a pleasure to read your work.

    And it seems that the complicated noble family tree bit is authentic to medieval nobility...