Monday, February 20, 2017

Game of Thrones Rewatch 4.7: "Mockingbird"

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

4.7 “Mockingbird”
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Alik Sakharov
Commentary by Aiden Gillen (Petyr), Kate Dickie (Lysa), Bernadette Caulfield (Executive Producer), and Chris Newman (Producer)

We’ve reached the seriously-ramping-up stage of the season, wherein all the setup starts to snowball toward the big huge shocks of the last two episodes. Once again, there doesn’t seem to be an overarching theme besides “shit is about to hit the fan,” and frankly unless one of the episodes does have one of these themes, I probably won’t even mention it again.

In King’s Landing, stuff’s ramping up for the trial by combat. Jaime spends some time yelling at Tyrion for being so damn impulsive, especially since Jaime can’t be the one to fight for him. Tyrion wonders aloud who Cersei will get to fight for her, which is a really stupid thing to wonder—both at all and now. Sure, Tyrion’s demand for a trial by combat was impulsive rather than calculated (as it was at the Eyrie), but he has to know exactly who Cersei would get.

Cersei finds Gregor Clegane working out or practicing or something by indiscriminately murdering a bunch of people who can barely protect themselves. There’s a lot wrong with this whole scenario, and a lot of it is emblematic of how the show treats the “smallfolk” overall. Martin does a lot of work to show how the non-nobility are disenfranchised during times of war and how they respond to said disenfranchisement. He also shows how much power they actually have over the nobility by sheer force of numbers. The Small Council is constantly worried about how their decisions will look to the smallfolk and how they’ll react. Joffrey is a liability because he has a habit of mocking the starving smallfolk from the battlements, threatening them (on at least one occasion, killing them) with his crossbow, and telling them to eat their own dead. The show cuts the smallfolk out almost entirely, using them only when they’re necessary for specific plot points—the riot in King’s Landing, Margaery visiting the orphans, Cersei’s walk of shame—and ignoring them the rest of the time. In Martin’s Westeros, Clegane just slaughtering random smallfolk as part of his workout regimen—in King’s Landing—would not fly. Especially not with Tywin right there. Out in the Riverlands, he can obviously get away with a lot more because there aren’t any nobles immediately available to a) stop him or b) worry about how his actions will affect their standing with their own smallfolk. Instead, the showrunners decided to show how big, strong, and utterly amoral Clegane is (all of which we already knew) by showing him slaughtering a bunch of random people.

Now, if they’d established that these are prisoners, for example, or that there’s some other reason why nobody would protest this treatment, that would be different. But they don’t, because Benioff and Weiss are really bad at writing politics.

Bronn also comes to visit Tyrion, because Tyrion’s hoping Bronn will step up for him again. Bronn basically laughs in his face and tells him there’s no way Tyrion can outbid a castle and a noble wife (Lollys Stokeworth, who’s apparently important enough to mention twice but not important enough to prevent the near gang-rape of Sansa by actually appearing in the show before now) and he really doesn’t want to die.

By this point, Tyrion’s out of ideas and he’s pretty much given up. Oberyn to the rescue! He saw right through Cersei’s little chat with him about Myrcella, and he shares a story about seeing Tyrion when he was just a baby. Cersei hated him even back then because of the loss of her mother, but Oberyn saw just a baby, not a monster. Oberyn recognizes that Tyrion is just as much a victim of the Lannisters as Elia was, and that he can kill two birds with one spear, as it were, by defending Tyrion. He can kill Gregor, and he can rob Cersei of something she wants desperately. So he offers to fight on Tyrion’s behalf in the trial by combat, and Tyrion breaks down crying in relief.

Out in the Riverlands, Arya and Sandor come upon another casualty of the unchecked chaos happening out here: a man next to an overturned cart, dying. They discuss death, dying, and mercy for a bit before Sandor grants him a quicker death than the one he’s currently suffering. He then turns it into a lesson for Arya—“that’s where the heart is.” Then out of absolutely nowhere, Rorge and Biter show up and Sandor gets bit on the ear. Sandor kills Biter and Arya recognizes Rorge, so Sandor asks if he’s on her little list. She says he can’t be because she never learned his name, so as soon as he tells her, she puts Needle through his heart, just like big brother Sandor taught her. (That might be a bit snarky, but I still absolutely love their relationship.)

At the Wall, Alliser is super mad that Jon made it back to Castle Black and makes him lock up Ghost as punishment for not dying. They also continue to ignore his advice about how to handle Mance’s oncoming army, which of course they do because as far as they’re concerned he’s a) a kid; b) a steward, not a ranger or builder; c) potentially a traitor; and d) super bossy for someone who’s not the boss. Once again, there’s a lot of nuance lost with this whole plotline, discarded instead for Jon Is Right and Everyone Else is Stubborn/Stupid. Because Benioff and Weiss are really bad at writing politics.

Daario continues being his forward self, letting himself into Dany’s room by climbing the pyramid to her window. He brings flowers that he claims he swam to an island a mile offshore to get, and she tells him not to do stupid stuff like that and by the way, these are her private quarters and unless you’re invited, stay out. Daario’s bored; he says he’s good for two things: fighting and women, and he’s not getting either of those here. So she tells him to take off his clothes.

There’s some stuff to unpack with this scene. On the one hand, we finally have a fully-clothed woman watching a man disrobe. On the other hand, Dany is still the object of the viewer’s gaze. The camera watches her looking at him; it doesn’t put the viewer in her place and allow us to see what she sees. Also, we don’t see any more of Daario than we’ve seen of any other naked man on this show. Now, I personally have no burning desire to see Michael Huisman’s bits, but it seems like they’re aiming for female-fan-service and missing because they don’t understand that the way they’ve framed this is still male-gazey. This isn’t throwing a little something in for the ladies, this is letting guys imagine themselves being the one Dany’s looking at like that. I am glad that we don’t get Emelia Clarke naked again (I understand that by this point she had refused to do any more nude scenes for the sake of nude scenes), but this is fairly emblematic of how the showrunners think they’re being feminist but they’re just managing the thinnest façade of feminism that still services the male audience.

Jorah finds Daario coming out of Dany’s room the next morning, still putting his clothes back on. Dany assures Jorah that she doesn’t fully trust Daario, and in fact she’s sent him to essentially burn down Yunkai. Thus ensues yet another instance where one of Dany’s male advisors—because she doesn’t have any other kind—talks her out of doing something crazy and totally Targaryen by telling her stuff that she should already know or understand.  So she sends him to tell Daario there’s a change of plans and to send Hizdahr as an ambassador to the Yunkish.

There’s a bit with Melisandre and Selyse that I wouldn’t even bother to talk about if this image wouldn’t be important later for sheer continuity’s sake:

I strongly suspect (and will discuss more in season six) that nobody had any idea how important her necklace was going to be, and that they’re seriously all just making stuff up as they go along, stringing together bits of Martin’s story with their own stuff that may or may not make any gorram sense.

This brings us to the actual reason this episode is titled “Mockingbird.” Up in the Eyrie, it’s snowing, and Sansa is thrilled. She starts building a snow castle that turns into Winterfell and seems to be truly happy for the first time in a long time. So here comes Robin to completely ruin that.

Robin, like so many of the kid characters, was kind of ruined by aging him up. Also, they took away his actual disability and turned him into just a brat. In the books, Robert Arryn is possibly epileptic—he has some sort of seizure issue, anyway. He’s also a brat, but a lot of that is because Lysa is obsessively concerned about his health and shelters him to the point that he can’t handle any kind of adversity at all. I already talked about what Lysa’s problem is. So instead of a six-year-old boy with a seizure disorder (which the maesters treat by bleeding him) who is also weak because he barely gets any exercise and on top of that is spoiled rotten, we get an eleven- or twelve-year-old boy who’s just spoiled rotten.

Robin starts out okay, asking Sansa about Winterfell and bragging about the Eyrie’s Moon Door, but then he accidentally breaks part of the castle and then throws a full-blown temper tantrum when she scolds him. At which point, she slaps him.

Now, I’m not saying Robin doesn’t maybe deserve to be slapped. He’s completely insufferable and needs to grow up. However, that Sansa is the one to slap him and not, say, Petyr is another instance of them changing Sansa’s character—for the worse, in my opinion. Book-Sansa is generally a genuinely nice person. She feels for others, even scary people like Sandor. She wants them to be happy and comfortable. Her diplomacy thing isn’t entirely about protecting herself; a lot of it is just that she aspires to be like the princesses of song, and they’re courteous and genteel. Sure, she’s kind of awful to Arya, but she’s eleven years old and doesn’t know how to handle a little sister who doesn’t share her ideas about ladylike behavior. Book-Sansa is frustrated and irritated by Robert, but she’s always nice to him because she understands that his illness and brattiness aren’t really his fault. She does what she can to help train him out of his patterns of behavior, but she’s still nice to him. Book-Sansa never physically harms Robert and even feels bad when she’s verbally sharp with him.

But “nice” isn’t something main-character women on Game of Thrones are allowed to be. Heck, even secondary-character women don’t tend to be nice. The only character I can think of who’s genuinely nice is Missandei, and she’s pretty much got no political or social aspirations at all. She just wants to serve Daenerys (that’s its own problem).

Petyr comes out and assures her that she won’t be in trouble for slapping Robin, and that he really should have been slapped a lot a long time ago. He gives her some more of his faux-philosophical babble about how sometimes in order to build a home you have to demolish the old one. She demands to know why he killed Joffrey—the real, honest-to-the-Stranger reason, not more of his prevaricating. He admits that he loved Catelyn, that Joffrey hurt everyone, and that under other circumstances, Sansa would be his daughter. Because she’s not his daughter, though, and because he has a seriously unhealthy obsession with Tully girls, he kisses her. Which, of course, Lysa witnesses.

Lysa’s temper tantrum is way more epic than Robin’s snow-castle-destroying one. She’s convinced that Sansa is one more in a long line of people who have tried to keep her away from Petyr, who she’s loved her whole life. Every one of those people—Hoster, Jon Arryn, Catelyn—is dead now, and she shoves Sansa at the Moon Door to make sure she’s also removed from Lysa’s way to happiness forevermore with Petyr.

That’s until Petyr comes in, calms her down for long enough to get close to her, then drops the bombshell that he only ever loved Catelyn, and shoves her out the Moon Door.

I feel like this scene didn’t have the impact it could have. Maybe it’s because of all the problems I’ve already talked about regarding the lack of nuance in Lysa’s and Petyr’s characterization and their relationship. Maybe it’s because viewers had to have seen this coming; nobody as loose-cannony as Lysa would be allowed to live for very long when the stakes are this high. Maybe it’s because Petyr was way more open with Sansa about his obsession with Catelyn than he was in the books, so even his last words to Lysa weren’t surprising to anyone. Maybe it’s a combination of a lot of things.

Random smallfolk
Lysa Arryn

Next week: Missandei and Grey Worm are awkwardly adorable. Theon takes Moat Cailin. Sansa’s plot starts to derail. Trial by combat.

Stills from Gif from

1 comment:

  1. I think "because they're bad at writing politics" is a good mantra.

    But then, people are bad at doing politics...