And then I was like “Your time with the wolves has made you weak” and my son was like :O
“What is Dead May Never Die” (S2:E3)
I’m really getting into the second season of Game of Thrones, so I’m going to be sporadically posting stray thoughts on episodes here. Just some context: I’ve read (and enjoyed) the first two books, but I’m more interested in talking about what’s going on in the HBO adaptation than comparing the two. Light spoilers, and I’m just going to dive right in as if people are already familiar with these characters and events.
I’ve been out in the sun all day, so this one’s going to be shorter and jokier than my last go-round.
-If I had to link this show to a classic rock band (in the vaunted tradition of Zeppelin / Tolkien), I’d definitely land on The Dark Side Of The Wall. The obsession with death, the interest in corrupt bureaucratic systems, the images of impotence, the Stark aesthetic, it all doesn’t so much scream Floyd as slowly immerse us in a Floyd-like atmosphere. And yes, I was thinking Wish You Were Here when I landed on this particular screencap.
-I’ve been generally impressed by the adaptation of source material into cinematic HBO serial, and at first I was going to say something about being disappointed in the show’s depiction of Loras Tyrell, but then I remembered that I never really found the Knight of Flowers to be all that compelling in the books either. He’s an interesting wrinkle in the world-building of Westeros in that Rock Hudson way of his, but I guess I find Hudson more interesting. The Baratheon subplot was, for me, the weakest bit in the episode, though there’s probably an interesting conversation about gender and masculinity to be had about the distinctions between Tyrell’s exchange with Baratheon and the pillow talk we usually see in the Thrones Zone.
-I wasn’t that crazy about Varys’ riddle about the sellsword, but it is interesting when you think about how this joke seems like a fairly recent development in the comedic discourse of Westeros. I don’t know how much I can assume here, but it seems like the current splintering of the kingdom is a continuation of the world’s violent entry into a more “modern” era, one that rejects things like the divine rights of kings and the infallibility of particular bloodlines. But Varys is also telling this story in a cultural moment that is very much invested in those older ideas about power. Tyrion, for all of his cribbing from Foucault, is one of the most dangerous men in Kings Landing because of his Lannister lineage. Varys will not be standing behind the throne, Cheney style, any time soon. Similarly, for all the symbolic hemming and hawing that goes on in The Iron Islands about returning to their roots and symbolically reasserting their commitments to keeping it Drowned God, the Greyjoys are in a fairly privileged position to be demanding their particular brand of austerity.
Of course, what makes all of these things less cartoonish and more terrifying is the fact that you get a lot of this kind of rhetoric in the cultural discourse of America in 2012. Ugh.
-My favorite storyline remains The Ballad of Theon Greyjoy. I watched some “Behind The Scenes” stuff on HBO’s web site, and one of the show’s producers described the scene where Theon burns his letter to Robb as an “objective correlative” moment in the vein of T.S. Eliot. This particular action concisely and dramatically sums up the perception of this pathetic young man. I think it’s interesting to hear the O.C. invoked in a show that’s so interested in duplicity and deception, but I think characters like Theon (and, of course, Ned Stark) are tragically defined by their one-dimensional natures.
Are their any characters in Game of Thrones that are not one-dimensional at their cores? Sure, we get some narratives of development where characters start at Point A and then change, but these transformations tend to stick once they’re set in place, don’t they? I don’t mean this as a critique of the show or the books. Despite the best efforts of studies in performativity and poststructuralism, we still like our core essences and whatnot, and I wouldn’t expect to see someone like Virginia Woolf’s Orlando ride into Winterfell any time soon. But I am interested in what the overwhelmingly positive reception of Thrones might tell us about our continued desire for clearly-defined moral compasses.
-I wrote “Theon Greyjoy is Mel Gibson” in my notes while I was watching this week’s episode. Don’t have anything more to add to that, but I did want to get it on record.