Game of Thrones: The Door and Thoughts

Warning! Warning! This post is full of spoilers and thoughts and conjecture.

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There I have warned you.

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I have a complicated relationship with Game of Thrones. It has been this way since I first binge watched it years ago. I love Jon Snow with the fire of a thousand suns. Daenerys is my home girl. I have been on Sansa’s side for longer than most because I’m a girl often underestimated, too. Arya is a badass I could totally hang with. Tyrion is my drinking buddy. I get irritated when the showrunners resort to sensationalism. That whole “Jon Snow is dead” thing, yeah, I was not okay and it is still not okay even though he’s back.

My trust is broken. My devotion still very real.

I came to GRRM’s world through the show, and even once I read the books the show was my first affection. I never transferred my affections to the books in the same way those who started with the books first like to lord that over our heads.

There is more than one way to be a fan.

The cannon of the show and the cannon of the books are two different beasts. For many seasons the show has diverged and meandered and omitted vast plot elements from the book series. They are not separate beings, but we need to stop making allowances for the show based on what has happened in the books. We have left book territory.

So for the purposes of this blog post, I am not taking into account the cannon as established by GRRM. I speak of show cannon and worldbuilding, and what framework has been created by the showrunners for the finale of this series.

Warg Magic: a study in sloppy world building

Y’all, don’t get grumpy because I sound critical. See above swoonage.

In A Song of Fire and Ice warg magic is explored not only through Bran’s storyline, but through Arya and Jon. In Game of Thrones, we are mostly limited to exploring the warg magic, and it’s boundaries and limitations, through Bran, with the help of Jojen and the Three Eyed Raven. Because of the commercial pacing of the franchise, the length of episodes, and cost of production, trying to fit complicated worldbuilding into fragmented segments of TV can often result in gaps.

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Add in the fact that Bran was missing for the entirety of season 5, and we have a recipe for worldbuilding tomfoolery. This season of Game of Thrones has moved at breakneck speed — a fact I am not actually against. However, even with that pacing, for much of the season so far I have felt like the storylines were a bit limp. We have received a lot of information in a very short amount of time, and I think maybe they need to make sure someone is fact checking for them.

In the episode The Door, we are force fed two pieces of warg magic law that the TV viewer had no previous knowledge of.

Bran is touched by the White Walker dude and then apparently that means he has permission to pass through the wards in place around him.

(I don’t think they call the magical barriers wards in GoT, that is just me showing you guys how super cool I am) Is the White Walker now a vampire and this forced touch is his way of gaining permission to enter? For starters, this brings up some consent issues that Game of Thrones already gets wrong. But it is awfully convenient to the plot that this information is revealed too late, thus making the climax possible.

When worldbuilding, do not throw pertinent, potentially perspective altering information in a line of dialog right before it happens on screen/the page. It is actually possible to skillfully feather in a magical principle and still maintain dramatic tension. Throwing it at your audience (and the character), right before it is necessary is just lazy. Coming up with an active way for Bran to be touched by the White Walker even though he knows the risk would have also given him an active role in the horrific events of the climax.

Bran can warg into a body in the past. 

Bran affects the timeline through his power. Beyond that one brief second at the Tower of Joy, we had no previous clue that Bran was actually even in the literal past. To me, the visions felt very much like Harry’s trips into the pensive, which he could not alter in any way.

The revelation that he can kind of be heard is the first clue that he might actually be going into the past, though raises the question of if he is in the past what physical plane is Bran on when he is warging? It’s not the same plane as the others because they can’t see him. Is he like an apparition? Apparitions historically struggle with interacting with the physical plan. (re: All the Ghost Movies)

There is either a plothole here or they need to establish the law he uses to make this magic possible. Since it wasn’t established fully, and now the Three Eyed Raven is smokey feathers, how will they answer this question?

Though, one thing that I appreciate about this revelation is the immediate consequence to this complicated magic, which I will discuss below in more detail.

The loss of Hodor and Osha, Shaggydog and Summer

Thus far the show has done little with any of the direwolves besides Ghost. Nymeria is off gods knows where, maybe gathering an army of woodland creatures to her side, maybe dead. Summer was with Bran, but after his badass role in season one, he has largely remained in the background if he is featured at all. This feels like a missed opportunity or a budget issue. Either way, it kind of blows.

Shaggydog: They gave us his bloody head.

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Summer: I don’t care for symbolism, first of all. Secondly, no. Third, Summer is a hero and a saint and though he died a heroes death it felt like little more than a budget cut. I am not pleased. Do better.

Osha: After everything she has done for the Stark family, the showrunners just decided to give her to Ramsey Bolton. To call this a waste of a good character is an understatement. Osha could have easily had a life beyond that moment, and played all kinds of games to continue to help the Stark children. But they let Ramsey kill her. RAMSEY.

Hodor: About sixty seconds before he switched from “Hold the door” to “Hodor” I threw the pillow across the room and yelled profanity because I realized what was happening.  Yet, to me, this moment was well earned. Hodor, a hero in the quietest and most valiant ways, was given the honor of a heroes death. But unlike Summer’s death, I believe Hodor came to the natural end of his character’s journey.

Worldbuilding issues aside, anger and sadness not withstanding, this was the way for him to go. It taught us something (or at the very least raised an interesting question), and though he has always been brave and well-liked, gave us one of the least senseless deaths of this series thus far.

It is painful to think about the reality they are trying to prove here: that Willis lost his mind as a child because of a battle in the future. That Bran was the cause.

Though I do wonder about the consequence of Bran having been in the mind of someone that died — since the consequence for young Willis was the loss of his mind — I can set that aside and appreciate the fact that Hodor died well — just as he lived, in the service of House Stark.

RIP Hodor. May the Lord of Light shine upon you.

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Sansa giving it to Littlefinger

“I can still feel it in my body standing here right now.”

She spoke the words of a woman who had been traumatized, but never turned victim. This moment was beautiful and powerful and marred only by her later lie to Jon because it proves she still kind of trusts Littlfinger, and come on Sansa you are better than that. I cannot decide if this is a failing on the writers part, or a character weakness, and it is like.

Still, allowing her a moment to vocalize her disgust and give it a name was a stellar moment for this series. So often, they do not take the time to give enough emotional weight to the characters traumas. Yes, this is a fantasy, but one of the brilliant things fantasy can do is speak to complicated world and human issues with honesty.

I do not want to see a penis shot ever

Dear Showrunners that are Male,

Flaccid penises are not photogenic. Accept it. Move on. Please do not show them to us as an alternate to female nudity and pretend to understand feminism. We don’t want it. You do not get it. Lets agree to disagree and cut our losses.

Sincerely, Females with Eyes

Jon Snow’s Journey

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I am grateful to have him back. But…

Magic always has a price. There must be a consequence that reflects the degree this magic influences the natural world. That the price is not being examined (yet) for Jon’s resurrection is a little bothersome. What was the exchange for his life? Is there no consequence because supposedly the Lord of Light brought him back? Does that mean the Lord of Light is real? Are they taking a religious stance?

This season has dealt in heavy doses of magic. Yes, Game of Thrones in a fantasy and magic has always had it’s place in the world, but less so in the TV series than in the books. If we are going by what we see on screen, then there is a lot left to be explained. Worldbuilding is tricky. And walking the line between allowing magic to turn into a plot device, a way out of sticky situations, a way to reveal information, and integrating into the plot so that it works for you and not against you is hard.

For Jon, we have seen an undercurrent of rage growing throughout this season. What that will lead to, we can only hope is his own chain breaking, heroism and the discovery of his true identity.

Final Thoughts

Euron is an idiot. Notable quotes that prove this:

Whatever he said about marrying Danaerys

That bit about his cock

When he wanted 1000 ships from like ten guys

That he will give them the world. 


Game of Thrones continues to break my heart and enrage my mind. I don’t enjoy it, but I look forward to it every week. I don’t trust the showrunners, but I continue to invest in their product.

Great storytelling is accomplished when your reader or viewer walks away from your story thinking. Game of Thrones makes me think, and dissect, and for that (and for Jon Snow) I am thankful.

 

The Writer and the Fan: Thoughts on Mother’s Mercy

**Here there be spoilers about the Game of Thrones season five finale**

via casaharington on tumblr

via casaharington on Tumblr


The writer and the fan in me are constantly at odds.

The season five finale of Game of Thrones did a great job of highlighting this fact. As a writer, I understand the need to kill beloved characters for the sake of narrative integrity and vision. I have done that in my own writing with little concern for the future, potential reader’s delicate feelings. To me, the creator of the world and her characters, that death is destined, unchangeable, simply fact.

The fan in me does not deal in those absolutes.

The fan in me loved Jon Snow. And last night, this morning, throughout the day if I let my mind wander, the fan ached.

Now, before you laugh, judge, or think you are better than me because you care about the real world, I encourage you to consider, for a moment, why we absorb into art in the first place. Why actors act, writers write, musicians compose, and on and on: we want to connect, to make sense or make light or make broken something from our real world. There have even been studies done that show readers are more empathetic human beings.

We need art to help us understand the world we do live in.

As a creative person, I may also be more inclined to feel deeply for the characters I spend time with — whether they be my own or someone else’s. In the two years since I began watching Game of Thrones (we binged the blu-rays during the hiatus between season 2 and 3), my affection for the Bastard son of Ned Stark has become a thing of amusement to family and friends. I have received texts and Tweets and Facebook tags whenever someone ran across news about this character. I even wrote a character analysis about him once.

Fine, you can judge me a little. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

I remember feeling this way as an eleven year old reading To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time, sobbing over the attack on Jem and Scout, broken for these characters that had become (and forever will be) a part of me. I remember when I was sixteen, reading Harry Potter and turning into a broke-down zombie bride, waking in the middle of the night to check that the book was still beside me. I wrote essays about Harry. I wrote off other humans who couldn’t understand how I had been changed, utterly and completely, by the experience of going to Hogwarts.

I remember it from earlier, too. From Anne of Green Gables, from Pollyanna, from Charlotte’s Web and The Chronicles of Narnia.

And when I discovered The Hunger Games at twenty-six, and was suddenly thrust back into that experience of visceral, untainted affection, I remember spending an entire day crying after finishing Mockingjay. I was without the words to explain why I couldn’t shake the feeling of loss and longing gnawing away inside me.

Jon Snow is dead. We can speculate as fans that he will resurrect, but the line coming from the Thrones camp is one of finality. Kit Harington, the actor who was Jon for these five seasons of Thrones, has given interviews expressing his certainty that he is done. They could all be lying, milking it, but for now, I am just trying to grieve the loss. Because even if Jon comes back, it won’t be the same.

The writer in me understands this. Even if this is not the death I would have ultimately given him — a point I have argued with anyone willing to listen since I woke up this morning. But, this is not my show, and as much as my affection affords me the right to pine for the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch or to nerd rage over this loss, I can’t change it. I have nothing to bargain with David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and all my empty threats about quitting the show, well, they aren’t listening to them.

But I can allow the fan in me a chance to feel sadness. To feel cheated. To feel like Jon — my Jon — deserved better than death at the end of a mutinous dagger. I have to because that is why I consume and create art. Feeling pain is wonderful and valuable, it provides an opportunity to grow, to learn. Is it silly to cry about Jon Snow’s death? Maybe. But ignoring what I have gained and now lost through his death, that would be a missed opportunity. That would be a mistake, as a writer and a fan.

And I’m both. I’m proud to be both.

(Clarifying: HBO and Kit Harington both have an obligation to maintain the line that he is gone because the show ended on a cliffhanger. My perspective is simply to believe that even if Jon (and the actor who plays him) comes back, the character of Jon Snow as we have known him will be altered. I expect, if they are going to bring him back, he will likely have a different identity (being reborn/renamed), and that will be how they get around the statements they have made this week.)

Two Sides of the Same Coin: Ramsay, Randall, Claire and Sansa.

** This post will contain spoilers about Episode 16 of OUTLANDER  and Episode 6 of GAME OF THRONES, as well as discussion of rape and graphic violence.**

As both an aspiring novelist and screenwriter, I pay close attention to the works of fiction I read and watch, hoping to glean some knowledge, some nuggets of storytelling gold. I make it a point to consider the motive behind not only a character’s actions, but the motive behind the writer or filmmaker responsible for the story. In other words, I rarely just watch or read anything anymore.

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As seen on HBO

Watching the now widely discussed episode of Game of Thrones, Unbowed Unbent, Unbroken, I turned to my husband and said, “He’s going to rape her,” before Ramsay even, horribly awkwardly, kissed Sansa beneath the Gods Wood. It was absolutely in Ramsay Bolton’s nature to take Sansa — his new bride — into their wedding chamber and violently force himself on her. It was even completely logical for Ramsay Bolton to do this in front of Theon Greyjoy to further humiliate and demean a character he had already broken beyond repair. If you were expecting him to treat Sansa any differently, you were not paying attention to a few key things: who Ramsay is as a character and what kind of show these filmmakers are committed to create.

I think it’s important to tell you now, Game of Thrones is quite possibly my favorite current television show. You can judge me for that, as a female and a writer, even just on the basis of taste, but there it is. I love it hard, like a bad habit, I just can’t quit it.

The creators of Thrones have delivered, consistently, on the promise of showing us every dark and twisted part of human nature. So consistently that their thesis statement could very well be found in the line delivered by Cersei Lannister (my guilty pleasure favorite), “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”

In other words, if they can show you a rape scene, they will show you a rape scene because they don’t do middle ground. And on that basis what happened to Sansa fit within their premise. I want to be clear, at no point in this statement am I agreeing with their decision for her character or the way they executed it.

I was shaken by the experience, but I wasn’t surprised, nor was I surprised by the Internet’s response. Still, it annoyed me that so many expected a show that has featured brutal violence and sex from season one — beginning on episode one — would make a different choice.

Then came Outlander’s season one finale. An episode, as a reader, I had been dreading and waiting for since I finished the book. After watching, hunkered into myself, hands covering my eyes, fingers spread just enough so I could see, I walked away with a startling realization.

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As seen on Starz

Outlander captured what Game of Thrones missed. Not missed, like didn’t show me properly, because the sadism of Ramsay Bolton and Black Jack Randall are similar in execution. But where we watch Ramsay and feel rage, with Randall we feel a loss of humanity. We see not only the surface motive this character might deal with, but the very core of his soul. At times, Ramsay comes off like Sid, Andy’s toy torturing neighbor in Toy Story, not because the actor isn’t fantastic, not because the writing isn’t there, but in a show like Game of Thrones, this evil does not stand out as extraordinary.

On To Ransom a Man’s Soul, Randall became the embodiment of this concept, a living, breathing witness to how this affliction poisons the mind of one living with it. The character of Black Jack Randall is a microscope into humanity’s evil, as much as Jamie and Claire have been an examination of real love. And this, in no small way, is a testament to author Diana Gabaldon, as much as to the show runners.

It wasn’t that the Outlander scenes were more graphic — we have seen this kind of violence on Thrones — or that I felt more for Jamie than Sansa. It was the precision of filming, the focus with which the scenes were handled, and the fact that this whole season we have been building to that moment. We have watched Black Jack blossom into that man, we remember the moment Claire realized this was no ordinary villain, we experienced his deliberate pursuit, and then finally we saw him violently rape Jamie in a prison cell only steps away from a rotting corpse.

In this way, Outlander succeeds where Game of Thrones fails, not because the filmmakers aren’t capable, but because the nature of their beast makes that impossible. Thrones has too many players, too many plotlines and POVs, to ever dedicate the screen time necessary to thoroughly examine the black center of Ramsay Bolton. And so, the rape of Sansa Stark feels mishandled. Unnecessary. More of the same and not different enough to really hit us properly.

And I would argue, that they don’t really need to. We’ve gotten that from Outlander. We’ve seen shades of it with Joffrey. To me, the more interesting choice now is to focus the lens on Sansa. Here is a young woman who, until now, had managed to hold onto a piece of herself, to have kept her body and her sexuality within her power, her control, and now that, too, has been taken away. Don’t be outraged for Sansa the victim. Be looking for Sansa the hero.

In Claire Fraser, we saw a true female hero emerge. A true antithesis to Black Jack Randall, Claire is a caregiver, a nurse, and a woman capable of great love. Love that ultimately is the key to Jamie’s survival.

As the writers of Game of Thrones diverge further from the book’s plot lines, I hope to see more from Sansa than we have come to expect. I, for one, refuse to give up hoping. Thrones can’t give us elation in big doses until our villain and our hero emerges, until they narrow the playing field that much more.

Conversations with my Husband

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Me trying to justify my ridiculous crush on Jon Snow to my husband:

ME: So, I told them that my crush on Jon Snow was made exponentially more intense because he reminds me of you. (smiles unconvincingly) I mean, if there was ever a character that was like you, it would for real be Jon Snow.

HUSBAND: (eyeing me suspiciously) If I’m Jon Snow, are you Ygritte?

ME:(being thoughtful) Erm…not likely. I don’t fancy myself North of the Wall. I’m Dany.

(He laughs outright.)

ME: (scoffing in offense) Hear me out. She’s got a strong sense of justice, but not necessarily right and wrong. Totally me. She’ll do whatever is necessary to get where she needs to go. (Points to self) And…

HUSBAND: She’s got a dragon.

ME: (eyes widen) She’s got a dragon. (Pauses, thinks about Dragon babies) Plus, she’s hot.

(Husband questions, not for the first time in our marriage, why he puts up with me.)

What’s Up Wednesday

WUWKiteWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime’s blog. And in honor of What’s Up Wednesday for the fall, Jaime made some beautiful new buttons. I’ll feature them all over the next few weeks.

What I’m Reading

I finished Beauty last week. I loved it. I adore Robin McKinley, and everything I have read by her has been brilliant. Beauty isn’t my all-time fave McKinley, that title is still held by the haunting Deerskin, but it definitely enchanted me. Especially this passage. I want to live in the Beast’s library.

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I began A Game of Thrones, the first in the epic Song of Ice and Fire series that inspired the massively popular HBO show. I have watched the show. I crush hard on Jon Snow (he’s 14 in the books, but not in my head, because…Kit Harington). I am taking my time, not only because the book is very dense, but because I find myself dissecting the sentence structure and world-building elements while reading. Bran has my heart, and that one scene from the first episode of GoT, where Bran sees something he shouldn’t and then something horrible happens, that was somehow more painful to read.

What I’m Writing

I made great progress on my WiP. I hit, and then passed, the 10,000 word mark for overall word count. I am now over 12,000. I feel really hopeful about this story. I have a pretty good idea of the larger movements, have a strong sense of the world so far, and the writing itself isn’t coming out as complete and utter horse-shit.

What Inspires Me

Reading the writing of others. As a writer, one must also be a reader, but what is especially amazing is when you can be a reader for other talented writers on the same journey that you’re on. I got to read a piece from a friend last night that floored me. It was a moment where the talent of this writer, which she has honed probably for many years, came together to create near perfect pages. Or as I told her on Twitter, “There was magic in those pages.” And that is a gift.

My son’s struggle with his own expectations. Sam is a very literal child, which maybe most children are, but this seems to also just be his personality. When things don’t play out as he explicitly expects them to, in the very specific way he has seen in his brain, he struggles. Dealing with this hurdle in his life has shed light on my own need to give myself and others a bit of a break, because I have realized, Sam gets this from me. The truth is, many things will not happen as you hope or expect, that just isn’t reality, but that doesn’t give you the right to pitch a fit. You have to change your perspective. You have to understand that expectations are just one element at play in the overall outcome.

What Else I’m Up To

Tonight…a Mumford and Son’s concert!!!!!! Yay and yay!

These next few weeks are crazy busy:

We are on the final leg of pre-production.

I am in a Fun Run (I know, I don’t understand the name either. Running is not fun.) It was one of those crazy things I let myself get roped into and then actually get excited about, until I realize I will actually have to run, and then I start to panic.

The last weekend of September is Austin Teen Book Fest and I’m GOING! Of course, as a fangirl and not an author. But someday…

If you live in Texas, or nearish Austin, you should also go.

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Happy Wednesday! What’s up with you?