Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Constitutional Amendment

Proposed at the 2017 Annual General Meeting of the Society was an amendment to the Society Constitution. In keeping with that Constitution, it is hereby announced that an online vote to approve or reject that amendment will be held from 25 July to 1 August 2017; a link to a Google Form will be emailed to the membership as the ballot.

In advance of that ballot, however, the text of the proposed amendment:

At the AGM in 2018, the Society will elect Office-Holders to the following terms: the President for three years, the Vice-President (At-large) and the Secretary for two years, and the Vice-President (USA) for one year. After the terms beginning at the end of the 2018 AGM, the terms of office will resume their regular three-year duration.
The Social Media Officer’s term of office, having already been offset, is unaffected, but will be opened for election alongside the next election of the Vice-President (USA).
Hereafter, appointments or special elections to office made to fill resignations or other removals from office will extend only until the end of the regular term of office thereby filled.
Your consideration and response are appreciated.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Game of Thrones (Re)Watch 6.8: "No One"

6.8 “No One”
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Mark Mylod
Commentary by Mark Mylod, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime), Essie Davis (Lady Crane)

Let’s just get right to the most utterly ridiculous part of this whole episode—Arya’s escape from the Terminator-Waif.

It starts out ridiculous because Arya, despite having been stabbed multiple times in the belly, is somehow alive several hours later. We’ve seen this exact type of attack before, and it took that character minutes to bleed out and die. I’m referring, of course, to Talisa at the Red Wedding. Not that the show has ever been particularly interested in internal consistency, so let’s move on! Lady Crane finds Arya backstage (after doing her new blood-and-thunder soliloquy based on Arya’s stunningly astute advice regarding Cersei’s mindset after Joffrey’s death) and stitches her up, claiming that she knows how to do this kind of major surgery because of all the times she used to stab her husbands when they’d fight. Oh-kay. They bond for a bit, and Arya gets some rest.

Arya’s woken by a thud because the Waif has murdered Lady Crane by unbalancing a stool and causing her to fall and impale herself on the legs of her stool. She tells Arya that if she’d done her job, Lady Crane could have died painlessly, but the Many-Faced God gets his due one way or the other—and Arya is now his. What follows is the most unrealistic, ridiculous scene in this show to date, and after Dorne, that’s saying something. Again, this really is just something you have to see for yourself:

  • Someone watched Terminator 2 far too many times when choreographing this scene.
  • How did Arya not just pull every single stitch in her belly and then bleed out?
  • How in the world is she outrunning the Waif?
  • How did she beat the Waif in the dark when the Waif has presumably had the same training she has, and more of it?

Again, Arya’s entire Braavos arc suffers from Benioff and Weiss thinking that character development isn’t cinematic enough. Or something. There is no reason for the Waif to be Arya’s enemy, especially if she’s already Faceless; there shouldn’t be enough ego left there for her to hate Arya. Is it possible that in the books Arya will decide that becoming a Faceless Man isn’t what she wants? Sure. There’s some hints of that in the sample chapter for The Winds of Winter when she kills Raff the Sweetling. She has her own agenda that she hasn’t been able to fully let go of as she’s been in training, and it’s entirely believable that killing Raff is what will make her decide she’s ready to go about pursuing that agenda. I very much doubt, however, that she’ll have to kill another assassin—especially not the Waif—to get free to do it. Benioff and Weiss’ versions of these characters have very little in the way of internal lives; anywhere that the book versions show introspection, Benioff and Weiss replace it with action or cut it back so severely that it throws off the pacing of the storylines. See: Jaime. Tyrion. Sansa. Arya. Daenerys. Brienne. Jon.

Speaking of, here’s Sandor stomping through the Riverlands looking for the people who killed Septon Ray. He’s decided the Brotherhood Without Banners is at fault and he’s looking for them. He finds the specific men who murdered his commune just as they’re about to be hanged by Beric and the rest of the Brotherhood. They bargain over how many of the attackers Sandor’s allowed to kill in retaliation and settle on two. Sandor kicks the logs out from under them and steals the boots off of one, then asks if Beric and Thoros have any food. Beric tries to convince Sandor to join them, and after some arguing about joining not really being Sandor’s style, he considers it.

Over in Riverrun, Brienne and Pod arrive at the siege camp and realize Jaime is there, which is their convenient pass through the camp and into Riverrun proper. While Jaime and Brienne catch up, Bronn talks at Pod about Brienne’s sex life, because of course he does. He speculates about whether Brienne and Jaime are sleeping together, claims he’d totally have sex with Brienne, that Pod totally would, too, and Jaime would, and Brienne would have sex with Jaime, and it’s really gross and he says “fuck” a lot.

Meanwhile, Jaime and Brienne argue over him being on the Frey’s side in this, and they agree that Brienne can go in and attempt to negotiate. She wants the Tully army to go north with her, anyway, so that would leave Riverrun for the Freys. She tries to give Oathkeeper back to Jaime, but he refuses it. So she’s wearing it when she talks to Brynden, who says no way is he turning Riverrun over to the Freys and abandoning it, despite Sansa’s note asking for help. So this whole thing was pretty much a waste of time; yay!

It gets even more time-wastey when Jaime manages to talk Edmure into surrendering the castle because he’s the actual lord of Riverrun, not Brynden. Brynden sneaks Brienne and Pod out the back but refuses to go with her. Instead, he turns and pulls his sword and a few seconds later a Lannister soldier comes to tell Jaime that Brynden died fighting. Off screen. Let me guess; showing his death would have been gratuitous?

So that’s two major fights, two major deaths, in one episode, offscreen. Surely there’s a good reason, right? There’s something more important happening that we really need to see instead that took up the time?


Nope, just Tyrion being Tyrion. Grey Worm and Missandei again do not want to drink or get drunk, and Tyrion again practically forces it on them. Tyrion loves the sound of his own voice, rambling for a bit about how he’d love to own his own vineyard one day (and only share the wine with his closest friends), then tries to get Missandei to tell a joke (she tries. It’s not a very good one). Only the bells ringing to announce incoming hostile armies stops this incredibly awkward, time-waste of a scene in its tracks. Because for all Tyrion thinking he’s an incredible political mind, his deal with the masters of the three cities didn’t work too well. An enormous navy pulls in and starts bombarding the city with fire catapults. Tyrion tries to come up with a new plan, and Grey Worm essentially tells him they’ve followed him long enough, which is convenient because Dany’s just arrived with Drogon and the Mother of Dragons is decidedly unhappy with the state of her city.

Speaking of mothers who are unhappy, Cersei is forced to stand in the gallery with the other noble ladies rather than joining Tommen on the dais while he issues a decree banning trial by combat, essentially condemning her to whatever punishment she could get for the measly few charges she’s being brought up on (remember in the books she’s accused of deicide for goodness sakes). I think the writers made a mistake in framing this from Cersei’s point of view. They keep insisting she’s the villain of the piece, but stuff like this makes her look reasonable. Unlike in the books, she’s spent all her time trying to defend her family from legitimate threats. Sure, she was wrong and unreasonable about Tyrion, but someone did kill Joffrey. Someone did threaten Myrcella’s life—and then kill her. Tyrion did kill Tywin. Unlike in the books, where she’s being completely paranoid and going way over the top with her reactions to insignificant or imaginary threats to herself or her children, the show takes away the paranoia aspect and then expects us to not side with her anyway. She’s about to be tried for things that she did in defense of her family, that if we take a step back from the “Cersei is evil” baggage we have from the books and the writers, most of us could probably understand. This raises all kinds of questions about why we’re supposed to still see Cersei as evil, and frankly, in my humble opinion, it comes down to a) sexism; and b) bad storytelling.

It also further demonizes Margaery, because frankly we all know this wasn’t Tommen’s idea. Margaery’s the one pulling the strings here, and this decree is targeted at Cersei. I’ve already ranted pretty thoroughly about the way the show treats Margaery, so I’ll spare you here.

Quick note, as the new season started last night: there’s two more episodes in this season, so I’ll just follow on with season seven when we’re done here. That means my analysis of the new season will be about three weeks behind, but I think we can all handle that.

Brynden Tully
Lady Crane
The Waif
A couple of outlaws
Faith Militant brother

Next week: Two big battles. The queens meet. Sansa gets her revenge.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Kalamazoo 2018, Again!

In an earlier post, I write this:
The sneak peek of the CFP for the 2018 International Congress on Medieval Studies is up, and it shows this:
Tales after Tolkien Society (2): Reclaiming the Dead and the Undead; Medievalism in Metal (A Roundtable)
Contact: Geoffrey Elliott
P.O. Box 293970
Kerrville, TX 78029
Phone: 830-329-5602
Email: geoffrey.b.elliott@gmail.com
Since it's up, I figure I ought to note what all we put out about it, so that the CFP can get answered appropriately. The following text emerges from what I sent to the Congress for consideration--and, it seems, tentative approval!

I. Reclaiming the Dead and the Undead
A paper session, the panel seeks to interrogate appropriations of medieval concepts of un/death in contemporary media, attending to how the medieval corporeal/spiritual divide is reinscribed and transgressed by the appropriations. In brief, it means to look at how recent ideas of un/death correspond with medieval antecedents and what that correspondence suggests.

II. Medievalism in Metal
A roundtable, the panel seeks to investigate medieval referentiality--acoustic, iconographic, thematic, and otherwise--in metal music and among metal bands. (The session will likely need to make use of a/v equipment.)

Send in abstracts and contact information; I'll be glad to have them!
It occurs to me that I ought to clarify a bit.

We're on the CFP, and we'd love to have your submissions. If I could get short abstracts (100-300 words for the paper session, 50-100 for the roundtable) and the PIF available on the Congress website, I'd be grateful. Earlier is better, of course, but the deadline is 15 September.

Send 'em in! Non-traditional scholars are especially encouraged!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Game of Thrones (Re)Watch 6.7: "The Broken Man"

6.7 “The Broken Man”
Written by Bryan Cogman
Directed by Mark Mylod
Commentary by Bryan Cogman, Ian McShane (Septon Ray), and Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell)

Another episode, another wild misinterpretation of a character’s arc, motivations, and actions. This time with a guest spot by a snarky Englishman who famously referred to the show as “just tits and dragons” and said fans upset by him spoiling the Hound’s return this episode “need to get a fucking life.”

I think I like him.

Sandor’s arc this episode is seeded by hints in the books that he’s not dead after Arya leaves him, but in fact washed up at the Quiet Isle and is serving as a gravedigger, having decided to leave his old life entirely behind. I, for one, would be perfectly okay for this to be Sandor’s fate and to never visit him again in the entire series (although I’d also be okay for Arya to turn up, recognize him, and take him along on her adventures). Here, Sandor’s helping build a sept with a group of smallfolk whose behavior looks remarkably like a hippie commune. The septon (McShane) preaches to his little flock about redemption; he used to be a fighter and followed orders, regardless of what those orders were, and now he’s given up all violence. (McShane refers to this as “AA for serial killers.”) He talks about making amends and although you can never take back what you’ve done, you can always change and help people instead.

Of course, this peace and “therapy” can’t last; a group of soldiers comes to see what they’re doing. The septon assures them they’re fine and don’t have anything of value for the soldiers to kill them for. They leave with the farewell remark “the night is dark and full of terrors,” which isn’t at all foreboding, and Sandor argues with the septon about self-defense. He says they’re going to have to fight, but the septon says the people here don’t know how and he doesn’t do that anymore. So of course the soldiers come back and kill everyone and hang the septon in the half-built sept, so of course Sandor has to grab an axe and go on the warpath.

Once again, this stuffs a man back into the mold of acceptable toxic masculinity. In the books, the men of the Quiet Isle have lived and served for at least thirty years (the history of the sept is a bit fuzzy in the books, but it’s been there long enough to collect the rubies from Rhaegar’s breastplate as they’ve washed down the Trident) without being bothered. Sandor could conceivably live out his days and die there without ever being yanked back into a life of violence. In the show, we’re given a man who’s renounced violence of any kind and he and his people are brutally murdered for no good reason. Because men aren’t allowed to be non-violent. That’s not how show-Westeros works. If you don’t fight, you’re a victim, full stop. This whole episode exists to a) show that Sandor’s still alive; and b) shove him back out into the world with a vendetta so he’ll start killing again (probably leading up to what fans are calling “Cleganebowl” where he’ll fight Gregor). The Westerosi society of the show has been reduced to lowest-common-denominators, and those denominators are all sex and violence. This isn’t edgy or realistic; it’s lazy and shallow.

Speaking of sex, Margaery’s apparently not been having any with Tommen, and the High Sparrow gives her a Talking To about a Woman’s Duty™ and the need to produce an heir. He says, verbatim, “congress does not require desire on the woman’s part, only patience.” Just lie back and think of Westeros, Margaery. On the one hand, this underscores one of the (probably unintentional) themes of Cersei’s storyline: women may find power through manipulating men sexually, but that’s not real power. As soon as they’re no longer desirable, they lose that as a path to power, and really their “power” lies in getting men to do things for them, not in doing things themselves. Here, Margaery has decided she no longer wants to have sex because she’s always used sex to manipulate men (there’s hints that she’s done it for her own enjoyment before, but we don’t see that. We only see her with Renly, Joffrey, and Tommen, none of whom she’s actually attracted to). So the moment she takes control of her sexuality in a way that doesn’t serve the patriarchy, she’s chastised for it.

Taking bets on whether Benioff and Weiss (or Cogman) realized they were doing this.

The High Sparrow also threatens Olenna, telling Margaery that if she doesn’t come around to the same “conversion” Margaery and Tommen have, that he fears for her safety, “body and soul.” After all, he’s got Septa Unella the Abusive following Margaery around and not allowing Olenna to meet with Margaery alone. Margaery’s only way of warning Olenna that she’s in danger and assuring her that she’s not really religiously brainwashed is handing her a sketch of a rose.

Olenna prepares to leave King’s Landing and Cersei tries to stop her because her leaving would ruin a good chunk of Cersei’s plans. Olenna tells her the High Sparrow has essentially taken King’s Landing and it won’t be long before everyone ends up in one of those cells. She suggests Cersei gets out, too, but Cersei’s stubborn and vengeful and has no intention of going anywhere.

Up north, Jon and Sansa are begging lords for men. They go to Bear Island, where Lyanna Mormont talks back to Jon and Sansa, but then somehow is talked around to giving men to the effort—by Davos. Considering that Lyanna’s objections to helping were that none of them are really Starks (Jon’s a Snow; Sansa’s a Lannister or a Bolton), I don’t get how Davos of all people, who isn’t even a northerner, managed to convince her, but oh well. Then they go to Deepwood Motte, where Lord Glover kicks them out. Later, Sansa writes a letter and sends it off by raven, making a Resolve Face as she does so (gee, I wonder who she’s writing to).

In Braavos, Arya makes plans to go home and relaxes her guard like an idiot and gets stabbed repeatedly in the belly for it. Somehow she manages to swim in the canal with multiple stab wounds to her abdomen and make it to shore then stagger through the streets. I’ll have much more to say about this nonsense next week.

Jaime’s headed to the Riverlands with Bronn, of course, because everyone needs a smart-mouthed sidekick. The siege camp on Riverrun is a joke, and Brynden isn’t having any of Lothar and Black Walder’s threats against Edmure’s life. Jaime isn’t having any of Lothar and Walder either, and immediately takes over the siege. He tries to talk Brynden into surrendering, but Brynden’s having none of that, either.

Yara and Theon have reached Volantis, and this is easily the most disturbing scene in this episode for several reasons. Yara’s making out with one of the prostitutes, while Theon is clearly uncomfortable with being here. Yara tells him to lighten up because “some of us still like it.” She bullies him into drinking despite him arguing that he doesn’t want to, then tells him he needs to get over this whole trauma thing because she’s “tired of watching [him] cower like a beat dog” and if he’s really that broken, if he’ll never get over it, he needs to just “take a knife and cut [his] wrists. End it.” Otherwise, he needs to man up, come with her, and help her take back the Iron Islands. When he assures her that he’s with her, she leaves him to go find her prostitute again.

Time for the break down.

First: The Volantene brothel. That Volantene brothels are staffed by sex slaves has already been established. In case it wasn’t obvious that these women aren’t free, they all sport the teardrop tattoo that’s also been established earlier in the series. Yara’s dalliance with the slave puts her in the position of rapist because the slave cannot refuse. Tyrion’s whole scene with the Volantene sex slave earlier notwithstanding, Westerosi prostitution is not the same thing as Volantene sex slavery, and that Benioff and Weiss keep treating it like it is is really disturbing.

Second: Suddenly Yara’s a lesbian because of course she is. Leaving aside the fact that in the books, she likes men and is in a relationship with one of her crew, making her a lesbian in this context is as cliché as it gets. She’s a reaver, essentially a Viking, a fighter, so of course she’s a lesbian. And this isn’t communicated to the audience through any sort of mutually beneficial relationship, but through a scene with a sex slave that’s clearly meant for the male gaze.

Third: Pardon my Anglo-Saxon but excuse me with the ableist bullshit here. This is so dangerous. She drags her brother, who’s suffering from PTSD, who was mutilated because he enjoyed sex too much, into a brothel, which of course triggers him, then tells him he needs to get over it because she’s tired of his whining. And if he can’t get over it, he needs to just kill himself.

Are. You. Kidding. Me.

This show has a really bad track record with disabilities already, but this just takes the cake. Again, the toxic masculinity of Westeros won’t allow a man to be anything but strong and violent at all times. Remember that in order to be a victim, Theon had to be feminized—he cried, he was almost raped, he lost his penis—but now that he’s free, he needs to get back on the masculinity train or else. If they had to do this, there’s a real opportunity to discuss PTSD and the way people treat those with trauma disorders, but instead, Yara’s “pep talk” is exactly what Theon needed to snap out of it and be the support Yara needed. He’s not strong enough to challenge her for the Driftwood Throne, but he’s strong enough to be the masculine presence she needs to be a legitimate female ruler (I’ll get into that more when they meet up with Dany). Clearly Benioff, Weiss, and Cogman didn’t seriously consider the implications of having one of their protagonists (we’re clearly supposed to be on Yara’s side here) voice such dangerous sentiments and how that might affect certain members of the audience. Again, if they had interrogated that in any way or made it clearly problematic, that would have been something else. But they didn’t. This is portrayed as a positive way to snap him out of his “funk” and get him back on the right track. And it is absolutely disgusting.

RIP: Septon Ray

Next week: Sandor goes hunting. Jaime and Brienne reunion. The Waif goes Terminator.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Game of Thrones (Re)Watch 6.6: "Blood of My Blood"

6.6 “Blood of My Blood”
Written by Bryan Cogman
Directed by Jack Bender
Commentary by John Bradley (Sam), Hannah Murray (Gilly), Jonathan Freeman (DP), Jack Bender

Oh, look, another episode with some seriously weird character moments that don’t make any sense in any context!

A massive chunk of this episode is given over to Gilly and Sam at Horn Hill—more than it deserved, really. Sam and Gilly decide their cover story is that baby Sam is Sam’s and they’re going to imply that Gilly’s a whore from Mole Town because Randyll hates Wildlings (I think I’ve mentioned before that it makes no sense for Randyll to have any opinion whatsoever about Wildlings). They meet Sam’s sister and mother first, and Talla and Meleesa are absolute joys. Talla wants to tell Sam all about how Randyll wants her to marry a Fossoway of all things (but red or white Fossoway?), then wants to be Gilly’s best friend and get her a new dress and a bath and. . . . She’s a talker.

Then they have dinner with the whole family, and it’s the most awkward dinner ever. Randyll glares at everyone. Gilly doesn’t know which fork to use. Dickon is obliviously stuffing his face. Sam tries to make small talk but he doesn’t know a lot about hunting or curing meat, and then lets slip that Gilly’s a better hunter than him and the whole jig is up. (Everyone in this show is so bad at keeping secrets.) There’s two real problems with this scene. The first is how Randyll’s abuse (and the patriarchy) magically disappear; Talla and Meleesa have no problem talking back to Randyll. This is a man who clearly has very strict ideas about gender roles and who threatened to murder his oldest son if he didn’t join the Night’s Watch. But the two women sass him, argue with him, and ultimately storm out of the room, Gilly in tow. With the number of storylines (especially Cersei’s) that rest on women aren’t allowed to do things in the patriarchy, there’s a serious problem with how often the patriarchy just disappears when Benioff and Weiss want to do something “fun”—like Talisa. Or Talla and Meleesa.

The other issue is the reinforcement of Sam’s worth as a killer. Gilly gets mad at Randyll yelling at Sam, so she yells back that Sam’s a greater warrior than either Dickon or Randyll, and he killed a White Walker and a Thenn (props to John Bradley's face acting in this scene). Meleesa at least tries to argue that being the maester of the Night’s Watch is a great honor, which starts to move away from to-be-a-man-is-to-be-a-killer motif, but Gilly yanks it right back. On the one hand, it makes perfect sense that she would bring up Sam’s fighting prowess (such as it is) and courage to show Randyll (who believes that this is how men prove their worth) that Sam’s a good man. Randyll wouldn’t accept anything else. But coming on the heels of this continued motif since season three with Sam, it’s yet another way that Benioff and Weiss shove Sam into this traditional manly-man role instead of showing that the manly-man thing is bad and destructive the way that Martin does.

Sam bids Gilly goodbye, then bursts back into the room, grabs her and baby Sam, storms into the dining hall and grabs Heartbane, the massive two-handed Valyrian steel sword, off the mantle, and leaves. I honestly don’t know what purpose any of this served. The very best I can figure is that Sam knows Jon needs Valyrian steel to help fight the White Walkers. Otherwise, he’s going to the Citadel to learn to be a maester. He’s not going to need to fight at the Citadel (probably). It’s an act of defiance against his father, sure. There’s the implication that if Randyll wants the sword, he can try to come take it back. There’s a bit of Sam asserting his rights as firstborn (which he gave up when he joined the Night’s Watch). But none of that gels or is stated well enough to explain why he does it beyond the writers giving him a badass moment of badassdom.

In King’s Landing, Margaery’s getting her long-game on. The High Sparrow explains to Tommen that yes, the walk of atonement is entirely necessary (because it wouldn’t be Game of Thrones if we weren’t threatening women with sexual humiliation), but it won’t be as bad as Cersei’s because the people actually like her. Tommen goes to visit Margaery, who assures him everything will be fine and says the High Sparrow has opened her eyes to her own sinful nature.

Outside, the Tyrell forces, led by Mace in some truly ridiculous armor, march up the street and interrupt the High Sparrow’s speech preceding Margaery’s walk. Jaime threatens the entire Faith Militant, and the High Sparrow says that’s not necessary, because Margaery’s walk is hereby cancelled because she and Tommen have come “into the light.” Tommen emerges from the Sept with the Kingsguard, who have new sigils—a crown and a seven-pointed star. Mace has to ask Olenna what’s happening, and Olenna says the High Sparrow’s won. This earns a smirk from the High Sparrow, again telling me that he’s not as pious as he seems, but his true motivations and such never really get chased down. He feels more like a plot device than a character; he’s there to make life difficult for everyone else, not to truly pursue his own ends.

In the throne room, Tommen fires Jaime from the Kingsguard for raising his hand to the Faith. Jaime snarkily asks if he’s going to have to walk naked through the street now or spend a few months in a sept dungeon first. Tommen kicks him out of the city entirely, which is a convenient excuse to get him out taking care of the Riverlands problem. Walder’s mad at his sons for not finding and killing Brynden immediately; they argue that the Brotherhood without Banners is making life difficult and he reminds them that he still has Edmure hostage, so Brynden has to surrender.

So . . . this has been a problem for like a year? And we’re only dealing with it now why? I guess cause this is when Jaime’s available to handle the problem since he had to make his entirely idiotic detour down to Dorne. We’re not following a logical progression for the plot anymore; we’re just ticking off plot points. Before he leaves King’s Landing, though, we have to have another super disturbing scene between him and Cersei that shows that character development isn’t a thing in this show.

Back up above the Wall, Meera’s hauling Bran’s limp body on a sledge while he stays in vision-world, seeing a succession of things that he (again) has no way of seeing (except magic—you know, the kind Martin purposefully kept out of his story). The dead finally catch up and Meera prepares to die, but a cowled warrior appears and saves them. When they stop to rest, the cowled man—who’s obviously supposed to be Coldhands—reveals himself as Benjen Stark and tells Bran he’s the best hope they have against the Night King.

I’m just gonna leave this right here:

In Braavos, Arya’s watching the play again. She goes backstage to poison Lady Crane’s rum and winds up having a heart-to-heart about how the last scene sucks because it’s written all wrong. Arya suddenly has a whole lot of sympathy for and understanding of Cersei, of all people. This makes absolutely zero sense in terms of Arya’s character. She decides Lady Crane doesn’t deserve to die and dumps out her rum, then warns her about the younger actress. The Waif, of course, sees every bit of this and goes to get permission from Jaqen to kill Arya while Arya retrieves Needle.

Finally, in Essos, Dany and her new enormous khalasar ride through a canyon. She asks Daario how long until they reach Meereen; he says a week. She asks how many ships he thinks she’ll need now; he says about a thousand, but nobody has that many ships. She plans to ride to Meereen, somehow get a bunch of ships from a navy that doesn’t exist, then go to Westeros and take it back. He says she’s not meant to sit on some iron chair, but to conquer things. She’s a conqueror. She takes this bit of advice on board, then disappears into the badlands. After a few hours, she comes back riding Drogon. She gives a thundering speech turning the entire khalasar into bloodriders and getting their allegiance to help her conquer the Seven Kingdoms.

Again, a couple of problems here. Throughout her time in Meereen, Dany has no ideas of her own, or when she does, they’re always kill burn destroy and she has to be talked down and given a better option. The men in her life determine her ideas and character for her; she constantly changes personality based on who’s yanking her chain at any given moment. Here, Daario tells her she’s a conqueror, so she decides she’s a conqueror and goes and does something dramatic and badass. Also, turning the entire Dothraki nation into bloodriders? Bad idea. Bloodriders are a khal’s immediate defenders, his closest friends, his most trusted advisors. Their duty is to die for him or with him—if their khal dies in battle, they’re supposed to burn his body, avenge his death, take his khaleesi back to Vaes Dothrak, and then kill themselves. Having something 100,000 bloodriders is meaningless for one thing, and for another, means that if anything happens to Dany, she’s just committed genocide (assuming all of the Dothraki follow tradition, but we all know how little Benioff and Weiss care about tradition). Finally, this again echoes her speech just before walking into the fire at the end of season one wherein she frees all the slaves and creates a new khalasar out of them, one built on equality. We’re rehashing the same plot points, again.


Next week: The Hound returns. Heavy-handed intrigue in King’s Landing. Sansa and Jon look for allies. Yara gives Theon a “pep talk.”