Monday, July 31, 2017

Game of Thrones (Re)Watch 6.10: "The Winds of Winter"

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

6.10 “The Winds of Winter”
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik
Commentary by David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Len Headey (Cersei), and Peter Dinklage (Tyrion)

Well, here we are. The end of season 6; the true end of any claim to rewatching. The end of an era, almost, as something like 90% of the characters get murdered in this episode. The rest of it is just wrapping up loose ends and getting ready for season seven.

I don’t know if I talk up the good parts of this series enough. The writing, plotting, and adapting might be terrible, the costuming sometimes questionable, and the acting occasionally slippy, but usually the acting is really good, the cinematography gorgeous, the effects well done.

And the music. You guys, the music. Ramin Djawadi is a master. I’m still not tired of the main theme. “The Children” gives me goosebumps every time. And in this episode, he completely changes technique and instrumentation and gives us “The Light of the Seven,” which is a gorgeously melancholy piece that plays for nearly 10 minutes over the extremely long opening of this episode that leads up to the boom. Near the end, the piano shifts to organ, which, combined with the introduction of the main motif, adds menace, then shifts back to melancholy piano, then back to organ, following the main beats of the scene.

Here, just listen:

This plays over a montage as the various King’s Landing personages get dressed and prepare for Cersei’s trial at the Sept. The militant collect Loras from his cell. Pycelle is stopped on his way to the Sept and redirected elsewhere.

Loras’ trial is held first, and he confesses to sodomy, perjury, depravity, profligacy, and arrogance. He agrees to renounce name and title, to never marry or father children. Instead, he’ll join the Faith Militant. They carve the seven-pointed star on his forehead, much to Mace’s dismay. Margaery is angry; she reminds the Sparrow that he promised not to hurt Loras. The Sparrow says he didn’t, much, and Loras is free to go as soon as Cersei’s trial is over, and where is Cersei, anyway? And Tommen?

Cersei’s still getting dressed. Tommen’s trapped in his room by a looming Ser Gregor Robert the Strong. Pycelle’s been led to Qyburn’s lab, where the little birds stab him to death. Meanwhile, Lancel discovers another kid running away from the Sept and follows him, discovering the racks and racks of wildfire under the Sept.

Margaery takes stock of the Sept and figures out Cersei’s plan. She tries to get everyone to evacuate, but gets pooh-poohed because everyone on this show is an idiot. Just as panic starts to spread and the Sparrow realizes that just maybe someone besides himself can be right about something, the Sept explodes in green fire. From the Red Keep, Cersei and Tommen watch the Sept burn.

Cersei goes downstairs to torment Septa Unella, who she’s got tied to a table, tells her that sinning is fun and feels good, so ha, then leaves her with Gregor Ser Robert, who starts stripping off his armor and frankly I don’t even want to know what’s going on in there. Meanwhile, Tommen gives up on everything and throws himself out his bedroom window. (Benioff and Weiss, of course, blame Cersei for this plot point—if she “had been more focused on her family” instead of torturing Unella, maybe it wouldn’t have happened. I—what? After all of this, you’re telling us Cersei isn’t focused enough on her family?! That’s all she’s been focused on since episode one! Also, don’t even get me started on the issue of Cersei as a bad mother being the reason bad things happen to her.)

So, rather than actually deal with complicated politics, Benioff and Weiss decided to just axe the entire King’s Landing storyline by getting rid of everyone but Cersei and Jaime in one fell swoop. Kind of like they did with Dorne at the beginning of the season (so at least there’s some symmetry!).

Jaime returns to King’s Landing and arrives just in time to see Cersei in her new badass dress of badassdom ascending the throne. Qyburn crowns her queen and everyone looks grim, including Jaime. Is he finally realizing that Cersei is a Bad Person and that, by association, he’s a Bad Person, too? Better late than never! (Martin got him there two books ago.)

It’s not just King’s Landing where death is happening, either. Back at the Twins, Walder’s cackling about how Brynden was killed by common foot soldiers. Jaime (who hasn’t left yet at this point) tells him that he’s a bad leader and if the Lannisters have to keep giving him the Riverlands because he can’t hold them, then they’re not likely to keep backing him. That shuts Walder up for a second. Later, a serving girl brings Walder his dinner, which just so happens to be Lothar and Black Walder very badly baked into a pie. The serving girl, of course, is Arya wearing a face, and she opens Walder’s throat while making her dead-eyed murder-face.

Now, the whole pie thing does happen in the books (not like this, of course). However, I don’t understand why it’s happening here. In the books, it’s set up with Bran’s story about the Rat Cook and how breaking guest-right is an unforgivable sin. Then Wyman Manderly feeds the “envoys” from the Twins—three Freys sent to keep him in line—to the Boltons at the wedding feast for Ramsay and “Arya” in meat pies (after having the bard sing the song about the Rat Cook to make it that much less subtle). In the show, there’s no indication that Arya’s particularly familiar with the story; she’s probably heard it, but Bran’s the one who loves scary stories. There’s no reminder of the Rat Cook and the story’s theme about breaking guest right. It feels more like Benioff and Weiss remembered this particular plot point and thought it would be macabre, so they threw it in without any of its accompanying context (because they’ve never done that before).

Benjen/Coldhands gets Meera and Bran to the Wall, leaving them at the godswood where the Night’s Watch men say their vows. Bran wargs into the tree again and goes back to the Tower of Joy, where he sees Lyanna giving birth. There’s a hard cut from the baby’s face to Jon’s, and this apparently confused a lot of people because it wasn’t made clear enough that the baby was Rhaegar’s (some people thought he was Ned's by Lyanna and got rightly squicked out), so the major R+L=J reveal was completely botched. Thanks, guys.

The rest of the episode is really wrapping things up. Sam and Gilly reach the Citadel, and Sam is introduced to the library, which he totally abandons Gilly for because women and babies aren’t allowed in. Davos finally gets to confront Melisandre about killing Shireen, which gets her expelled from Winterfell. Olenna, Ellaria, and Varys create an alliance to support Daenerys, who’s on her way after she dumps Daario, names Tyrion Hand of the Queen, and gets on her Ironborn fleet with . . . Varys. Who has magically appeared back at Slaver’s Bay The Bay of Dragons. I don’t even attempt to keep up with the timeline/geography of this show anymore. Petyr corners Sansa in the godswood and pervs on her, which she’s finally having none of, thank the gods.

Finally, Jon gets to have the same argument with the northern lords that he had with the Night’s Watch—they need the Wildlings to help them fight the coming winter. Lyanna Mormont declares that Jon should be King in the North despite so many reasons why he shouldn’t, and Sansa doesn’t assert her own rights as the rightful heir of Winterfell.

So that’s season 6, which might be the bloodiest season so far. I’d argue it’s also the worst in terms of everything—characterization, plotting, writing, pacing, internal consistency. As gleeful as Benioff and Weiss were about leaving Martin behind and getting to tell their own story, they sure made a hash of it.

Grand Maester Pycelle
Lancel Lannister
The High Sparrow
Loras Tyrell
Margaery Tyrell
Mace Tyrell
Kevan Lannister
Tommen Baratheon
Black Walder Rivers
Lothar Frey
Walder Frey

Next week: Dany comes home. Jon can’t lead. The Wonder Twins plot.

Voting Is Not Over

Remember, members, voting on the proposed amendment continues through tomorrow, 1 August 2017 (in US CDT, to clarify).

If you've voted, thanks!

If you've not, you ought!

If you need help, let me know:

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Voting Is Underway

The constitutional amendment noted before, here, is open for voting. If you should receive a ballot but did not, please email me at, and I'll send the link along.

Voting is open through 1 August 2017.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Game of Thrones (Re)Watch 6.9: "Battle of the Bastards"

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

6.9 “Battle of the Bastards”
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik
Commentary by Miguel Sapochinik, Sophie Turner (Sansa), and Kit Harrington (Jon)

Well, it’s a penultimate episode, so in keeping with the traditional pacing of this series, it’s time for a knock-down, drag-out battle! Now with even less tactical sense and more dumb luck!

First, though, we have to wrap up the siege of Meereen. Dany plans to do that by burning everything to ash, but Tyrion stops her initial Targaryen impulse by reminding her that that’s the sort of thing Aerys would have done and suggests maybe using diplomacy instead. So she meets with the masters down on the beach and they give her their (completely unacceptable) terms. This prompts Dany to hop on Drogon’s back and set the entire fleet on fire, because it’s not like she needed those ships or anything. While she’s off playing Aegon the Conqueror, Tyrion, Missandei, and Grey Worm negotiate the surrender of the masters, which ends with two of them dead and one left as a messenger.

Luckily for Dany, the Ironborn fleet magically appears in Slavers Bay. Yara and Dany negotiate their alliance, Yara flirts with Dany, and they agree to terms—Dany gets the fleet, Yara gets her help “murder[ing] an uncle or two who don’t think a woman’s fit to rule” and ultimately the independence of the Iron Islands when Dany’s queen. But first they have to get the non-verbal approval of their men—Tyrion and Theon—before sealing the deal with a forearm-grab.

The entire rest of the episode takes place in the north, near Winterfell, where Jon and Ramsay finally have their face-off. They start with a parley, which Jon tells Sansa she doesn’t have to attend, but she says of course she does. Ramsay thanks Jon for returning Sansa to him and demands that he kneel and swear fealty, which Jon is not doing under any circumstances. Jon suggests single combat, and Ramsay says that’s idiotic because he’s well aware his army can stomp Jon’s into the ground. He reminds them that he has Rickon, and Sansa asks how they know that for sure, at which point Shaggydog’s (incredibly well-preserved) head gets tossed on the ground again. So much for parley.

Back in camp, Jon et al. discuss their plans. They know there’s going to be a battle because Ramsay’s not the type to just wait out a siege. Tormund’s worried about the cavalry ripping through the Wildling forces, but Jon says he’s digging trenches to prevent that. Sansa finally speaks up and reminds them that she’s the only one here who knows Ramsay and nobody’s asking for her opinion. This kind of reminds me of Catelyn’s plight (more in the books than the show, since the show dumped her entire tactical mind) in that nobody will listen to her (even though she’s right) because she’s a woman. She says that they’ll never get Rickon back alive anyway, and they should wait to fight him until they have more men. She doesn’t, however, tell them that more men are coming because she’s got the Vale army on its way. For some reason.

Davos and Tormund have a talk about loyalty, and Davos has apparently written off Stannis just as hard as Melisandre did. So much for undying gratitude for not executing him for smuggling. Davos then wanders away from the camp and miraculously discovers Shireen and Selyse’s graves and discovers the stag he carved for Shireen—scorched. Dun dun dun. This is the point when Ramsay’s army arrives and everything hits the fan.

Ramsay’s set up a bunch of crosses with flayed bodies on them and taunts them with Rickon’s impending freedom only to shoot him just as he reaches Jon. (And Benioff and Weiss continue to clean house.) Jon has to charge forward a bit more to get inside the range of Ramsay’s archers, but his horse still gets shot out from under him. Ramsay’s cavalry is charging, and Jon pulls Longclaw, all ready to go out in a blaze of glory, just as his own cavalry charges past him and it’s actually kind of a funny moment.

Both sides queue up their archers again, but while Davos realizes the folly of firing into the fray, Ramsay doesn’t give a crap and keeps his archers firing. At this point, there’s a big, strategic pile of bodies, and everyone sends in their reserves.

Ramsay has a shield wall, which Jon manages to allow to surround his army, pushing them into that strategically-placed pile of bodies which would in no way have fallen that conveniently. (This is the point in the episode where my husband actually left the room because he couldn’t stand how bad the tactics were on both sides, but especially on Jon’s.) The shield wall keeps pushing the Wildlings back, crushing them into the body-pile, which is covered with Bolton men who are slaughtering everyone back there. Jon gets knocked down and almost trampled but somehow manages to climb up the men around him and break through to get a breath in a moment that’s clearly meant to be symbolic of rebirth but that symbol makes no sense in this context.

Finally, the Vale army arrives with Sansa and Peyr and destroys the shield wall. Ramsay flees, and Jon and Wun Wun go after him. Ramsay thinks he can still wait out a siege in Winterfell, but he forgot about the giant; Wun Wun takes down the gate and then takes an arrow to the eye. Ramsay offers to take Jon up on the one-on-one combat offer, and Jon beats the crap out of him, almost killing him until he notices Sansa and realizes she should be the one to get to kill him.

And then Darth Sansa feeds Ramsay to his dogs. And smiles about it. Because violence is the only answer.

Yes, Sansa getting to be the one to take out Ramsay is dramatically satisfying (once again, though, she’s not really wielding the power; Jon had to subdue Ramsay and get him in a position where Sansa could use the dogs to finish him off). But the north is supposed to be all about codes of conduct, and killing Ramsay like this doesn’t fit it. Also, we again get a woman wielding power through violence. Ramsay totally needed to die—there wasn’t any other way around it. However, rather than beheading him for treason (along with all his other crimes), which is what Ned would have done, they lower themselves to his level and essentially torture him to death. This doesn’t make me super optimistic for Jon’s upcoming rule of the North. It makes it feel like this whole fight was less about returning law, order, and the status quo to the North and more about revenge and power-grabbiness, which makes them not at all better than the Boltons.

Belicho Paenymion
Razdal mo Eraz
Rickon Stark
Jon Umber
Wun Wun
Ramsay Bolton
Slews of wildlings and northern fighters and probably some Vale knights

Next week:

Stills from; gifs from Giphy and Tumblr

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"

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

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
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"

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

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.