Monday, September 19, 2016

Game of Thrones Rewatch 2.7: "A Man Without Honor"

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

2.7 “A Man without Honor”
Written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Directed by David Nutter
Commentary by D.B. Weiss and David Benioff

Returning to thematic explorations of the episodes, this one again matches up with its title. While the explicit titular “man without honor” is Jaime—Catelyn calls him that near the end of the episode—there are lots of men who are showing their lack of honor in this episode.

Theon is the first to appear onscreen. He wakes up and realizes Osha, Bran, Rickon, Summer, Shaggydog, and Hodor are gone, and throws a temper tantrum. He goes hunting, taking Luwin with him and his men (and his dogs). Throughout Theon’s time “ruling” Winterfell, Luwin and Dagmar have been acting like opposite sides of his conscience, Luwin urging him towards thoughtfulness and mercy, Dagmar urging him towards violence and impulse. Theon begins the hunt in a grand mood—“Worry not, maester! It’s all just a game!”—but doesn’t stay in that mood for long. They hunt for most of the day, and the best they have to show for it is a handful of walnut shells. So of course when he starts to have an idea of what to do to save face for his men and the people of Winterfell, he sends Luwin away. Not only because Luwin knowing the deception he’s planning will ruin the whole thing, but because Luwin, as the gentle side of his conscience, does not belong here anymore. If he hadn’t fully committed to Dagmar’s side of things when he took Rodrik’s head off, he has when he sends Luwin away. And it’s Luwin’s reaction that leads the audience to Theon’s pronouncement and his unveiling of the dead and burned children at the end of the episode. Yet Theon’s face is what the episode closes on, and it’s clear that he knows he’s messed up bad, but he’s in too deep now (he thinks) to do anything but continue on his path.

The other major man without honor in the episode is Xaro Xhoan Daxos. Dany is freaking out about her dragons, and Xaro promises to help her get them back by calling a meeting of the Thirteen. But once there, it becomes clear that Dany has been a convenient tool and excuse for him to execute an idea he’s had for probably years—ridding himself of the Thirteen and ruling Qarth on his own. In order to do so, he made a deal with Pyatt Pree, who can duplicate himself by magic, offering him Dany and the dragons in exchange for killing eleven of the Thirteen simultaneously and stepping aside to allow Xaro to take the throne. Xaro has broken the promise he made to protect Dany and her people while under his roof and been complicit in murder, all for the furthering of his own power.

Pyatt Pree just wants Dany to go to the House of the Undying and live there with her dragons forever and ever. Dany’s not so keen on that idea, of course.

A few other men have their honor questioned or tested in this episode. Sansa has a brief scene with Sandor Clegane, who informs her that killing is the best thing in the world, and any man who claims he doesn’t like killing is a liar. She’s shaken up by his complete lack of gallantry, chivalry, or any other kind of knightly behavior (according to her internal code), but he reminds her that once she’s married Joffrey, he’s all that will stand between her and a violent, brutal boy king.

Jon’s having a rough go of it, as well. Ygritte teases him mercilessly about being a virgin and giving up his right to ever touch a woman. She propositions him over and over, and it’s obvious both that Kit Harrington was having a really hard time keeping a straight face through Rose Leslie’s wonderful performance and that Jon’s tempted by everything she’s saying. Not just the sex part, but the freedom part. And he’s upset at himself for being tempted. He sees himself as Ned Stark’s son, bastard notwithstanding, and that brings with it a certain measure of responsibility for honorable behavior. Breaking his vows and having sex with Ygritte, let alone abandoning the Night’s Watch to join Mance Rayder, would not be honorable.

Tywin also gets to show a bit of his brutal side, hanging dozens of men to try to figure out who killed Amory (assuming that it was an attempt on his own life), and sending the Mountain out to burn villages and farms until someone gives up the Brotherhood without Banners (assuming that they’re behind it). Arya seriously considers trying to kill Tywin herself, but doesn’t quite get up the courage. And once again, Tywin shows that he should have all the information to figure out who Arya is, but either isn’t putting it together (which is ridiculous) or is playing his own game with regard to dealing with her identity.

Robb’s honor is heading toward its breaking point as he continues to flirt with Talisa, inviting her to come with him to the Crag to get medicine and such from their maester. His own people don’t think much of this, and their faith in him is shaken. When Jaime makes an escape attempt, killing a Karstark in the process, and is recaptured, the camp begins to fracture, with Rickard Karstark wanting to kill Jaime immediately and others (including Cat) arguing that killing prisoners of war (especially noble prisoners of war) is against every single rule.

This is what leads to the confrontation wherein Cat calls Jaime a man without honor, and it’s late enough in the episode to allow Jaime to put a cap on the whole discussion of honor:

So many vows. They make you swear and swear. Defend the king, obey the king, obey your father, protect the innocent, defend the weak. But what if your father despises the king? What if the king massacres the innocent? It’s too much. No matter what you do, you’re forsaking one vow or another.

Cat says he “forsook every vow [he] ever took,” but really, he forsook one of them: to defend the king. Instead, he killed the king to protect his father and ultimately the entire city. We don’t get the full story in the show until I think next season, but it shows that Jaime, the one man explicitly called “a man without honor” in this episode, is one of the more honorable ones. He has a code, and he sticks to it (he points out to Cat that he’s never cheated on Cersei), and when parts of that code came into conflict, he did what he had to do in order to serve the greater good.

There’s one more thing I’d like to discuss with this episode that goes back to my complaints last week about the writers/showrunners and their issues with adaptation. In this episode, Sansa has nightmares about the near-rape she suffered, and in it, she’s stabbed in the belly by one of her attackers. She wakes up and discovers that her thighs are covered in blood—she’s started her menses. According to Benioff or Weiss (honestly, I can’t tell their voices apart), this scene is entirely the invention of Vanessa Taylor, and it wasn’t in the books.


   That night, Sansa dreamed of the riot again. The mob surged around her, shrieking, a maddened beast with a thousand faces. Everywhere she turned, she saw faces twisted into monstrous, inhuman masks. She wept and told them she had never done them any hurt, yet they dragged her from her horse all the same. [. . .] Women swarmed over her like weasels, pinching her legs and kicking her in the face and she felt her teeth shatter. Then she saw the bright glimmer of steel. The knife plunged into her belly and tore and tore and tore, until there was nothing left of her down there but shiny wet ribbons.
   When she woke, the pale light of morning was shining through her window, yet she felt as sick and achy as if she had not slept at all. There was something sticky on her thighs. When she threw back the blanket, all she could think was that her dream had somehow come true. She remembered the knives inside her, twisting and ripping. She squirmed away in horror, kicking at the sheets and falling to the floor, breathing raggedly, naked, bloodied, and afraid. (A Clash of Kings 52, Sansa IV)

Once again, the fact that the showrunners can’t tell the difference between parts of the story that they added and parts that are in the books does not engender confidence in their ability to handle the source material and adapt it successfully. Making changes is one thing—it’s a necessary part of the adaptation process. Failing to realize when changes have been made is something else entirely, and something I’ll have to spend a lot more time on in seasons five and six.

Alton Lannister
Torrhen Karstark
Billy and Jack (farmer’s sons)
Eleven of the Thirteen of Qarth (including the Spice King, the Silk King, and the Copper King)

Next week: Yara gives good advice. Tywin's on the move. So is Jaime.

Images from Gif from tumblr.

1 comment:

  1. As ever, a good read!

    I have to wonder how much of what happens with Theon in the description is a send-up of the hardened heart trope we see in such works as Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. Anachronistic, sure, but are not we all?