Saturday, May 31, 2014

Another Geekend

Wow, time flies when you are thrown back into daily routines with work and all. I have barely had the time to give our beloved saga of ice and fire thought, though I have followed the latest buzz, which includes the Q&A editor Anne Groell did, revealing that we should probably not be holding our breaths just yet for The Winds of Winter, and the expectations for the next episode of Game of Thrones, for which we had to endure a whole two weeks worth of waiting.

Fortunately, even in dry spell weeks like this one has been, I keep stuff around to at least feel like I'm a geek, such as the endless cups of coffee drunk from my precious House Targaryen and The Empire Strikes Back mugs. Yay.

I've been thinking more about Star Wars VII to be honest, as you can read in a few new posts at my "sister blog" (Sooo, a twin sister...) The Dark Legacy

What else of geekery has occured this week? Not much, really. I'm almost through Brian Staveley's debut novel The Emperor's Blades and will give it a review when done; I've actually been pried away from the computer several nights in a row to watch regular movies (I had almost forgotten they existed!) - so I've been able to watch a few movies I've "always" wanted to see but never found the time for, such as Cloud Atlas (I liked it but wasn't floored; a solid 8/10) and No Country for Old Men (I liked it and was suitably impressed by the acting and the visuals; a weak 9/10) - and, I've played about ten minutes of Baldur's Gate: Extended Edition.

But tomorrow! Tomorrow it's Sunday and that means, for me at least, that a new episode of Game of Thrones is soon to drop and I can already feel that splendid mix of curiosity and anxiety awaken as I wonder how they will display the trial by combat in King's Landing, and if it will live up to the scene as described in that most excellent tome of lore, A Storm of Swords. Until then, have a great geekend.

Monday, May 26, 2014

[Re-read] Jon VII: The Morose Thinker Strikes Back

[The spoilers in this post will leave you gagging if you haven't consumed 
everything Martin-related there is]

Is it weird that a Sunday without an episode of Game of Thrones feels wrong somehow, and that the wait for next week's episode feels so long (especially considering the fact some of us have been waiting five and six years for new books in the series)? I guess it is a little weird. Those episodes are quite addictive, no matter how far they stray from the good stuff in the books most of the time. Every episode, it seems that the strongest scenes are the ones that are more or less lifted straight from the books - why do the producers and writers not trust Martin's dialogue more? I still understand certain choices but the more I watch the series, the more I feel like they are moving unnecessarily far away from the books in terms of them writing their own stuff. I hope the makers of the show catch on to the fact that usually the scenes closest to the books often are the scenes that people like the best (and it even goes for non-readers, too). Well, with no TV show to get excited about this week one can just as well read another A Storm of Swords chapter, even if it's Jon Snow again. That guy.

All right, with that meme straight out of tumblr to set the mood, let's check out on Jon Snow - and see if he is having fun.


Whoops, it's Monday all of a sudden. My read of Jon's chapter was interrupted by more pressing matters. Doesn't really matter, Ice & Fire is enjoyable any day of the week. But the lack of an episode this week. It's a void. Best fill it right away.

My favorite opening lines that Martin employs is the kind of line that this chapter opens with; short and to the point, and kind of casually mentioning something quite dramatic to reel the reader in from the get-go: They woke to the smoke of Mole's Town burning. Such snappy, to the point information! He conveys so much in these few words, but also prepares you for what's to come and has you excited about what's going on. Also, I have a suspicion we might see Mole's Town burning next week in Game of Thrones, from the preview at least it seems I'm in the same place as the show right now. Sounds like Jon's going to have som fun after all! Kind of.

So, Jon is leaning on a crutch, watching the smoke rising from Castle Black. Mole's Town is surprisingly close to the Night's Watch fortress. Jon reflects that Styr now has lost the element of surprise, so he might as well not trouble concealing his approach - hence, the smoke. I guess that HBO is going to have Gilly face the Thenns next week, because she's a character we're invested in, thus heightening the tension / drama, and then Sam or Jon or whoever swoops in to save her. Or whatever.

He's in a lot of pain, but wants to fight anyway. There's a quick reference to "the pointy end", I like that Jon remembers telling Arya about that (and again, this might indicate that the two will meet each other again, possibly at pointy ends); so Donal Noye has put him on the tower with a longbow. Now that sounds like a decent place to be when push comes to shove. Picking off wildlings from on high sounds better than facing them on the ground, especially when you're seriously wounded. Building up tension, Martin allows Jon to think of the advancing wildlings, how they will become visible on the horizon, and that Ygritte will be one of them. He thinks of how the arrow she shot had gone through his thigh, but soon enough his thoughts dwell on the cave and their nudity and the...cunning lingus he performed there. Well, all right, Martin doesn't explicitly mention what Jon remembers from his adventures with Ygritte in the cave, but. You know.

Nine out of every ten crows on roofs and tower tops are actual scarecrows then, to suggest they have more men than they actually have. This is useful information for the reader. I'm not so sure we needed to know that a guy named Mully has greasy orange hair and is pissing through a crenel (well, I expect we'll see him die later in this chapter, so that we think, oh, that pissing guy, to make an unknown character's death have some little impact). Apparently it was Maester Aemon's idea to add the scarecrows (maybe there's a Targaryen backstory waiting to be explored?) The hope is, that seeing so many "men" will make the Thenns reconsider an assault.

There are two actual living breathing beings with Jon on the tower in addition to six scarecrows. One is Deaf Dick Follard, who is methodically cleaning his crossbow, the second is an Oldtown boy named Satin who is pretty as a girl and "green as summer grass". I suppose the drama could have been heightened if one of the other characters was someone we know a little better, like Grenn or Pyp, which would allow for some fun banter, but Deaf Dick (what a name) and Satin will have to do. In the TV series, the pretty Satin has been swapped with a random northern boy who saw his village butchered and was told his parents were going to be eaten. The trauma is unfathomable.

Next we get a solid dose of exposition, aka infodump, and right now I am not sure how much of it is actually something I need to pay attention to because there will be some kind of payoff. We learn why the castle doesn't have proper walls....oh wait, dammit, there is a nugget in this block of text! Let's see if I can untangle it without having to quote the entire paragraph. First of all, Jon thinks of his uncle again - Martin sure doesn't want us to forget about Benjen Stark's existence - and the whole infodump is actually Benjen talking in Jon's memory; so Benjen has a perhaps surprisingly good knowledge of the Watch's history, whether that means something to the plot or not; but the nugget here is that this text seems to be a blend of foreshadowing and some, uh, inverse foreshadowing? I mean, Benjen told Jon about Lord Commander Rodrik Flint who thought to make himself King-beyond-the-Wall, thus echoing Mance Rayder (that's what I'd call a kind of inverse foreshadowing); Tristan Mudd is mentioned (remember the story of the Mudds in a Catelyn chapter?) - just interesting that the Mudds show up again; Benjen talked about the commanders of the Snowgate and the Nightfort going to war against each other (which I believe is foreshadowing, and we haven't seen it coming yet); and a Lord Commander was murdered by his own men (foreshadowing a late chapter in A Dance with Dragons). And of course, the dialogue reveals that Jeor Mormont was Lord Commander number 997, making Jon Snow 998, then whoever takes up the reins in The Winds of Winter will be 999 and wham (not the duo, thank you very much) Jon Snow can return to become # 1000. Pretty cool number to end up with (yes I believe Jon will remain with the Night's Watch). So...dense bit of text there, but unraveled now and quite interesting to boot. And now I am curious about this Mad Marq Rankenfell. That's a surname I haven't encountered before (like Mudd), who is this guy? Oh, Martin, you and your casual mentions that manage to arouse curiosity.

The men of Castle Black have tried to make up for the lack of a southern wall by improvising a crescent-shaped barricade ten feet high made of stores. That will keep the Thenns out. Ah, they are sheltering the runaways from Mole's Town. The naming conventions at Castle Black suddenly got a lot more gender-confused, I think. First there's Satin, pretty-as-a-girl-boy (sounds like a character more at home in Moulin Rogue), and now we have Sky Blue Su (what?!) and Lady Meliana who was no lady, her friends agree. Transvestite? What's going on, Night's Watch? I thought you were all hardened grim men and now all of a sudden you're preparing a cabaret for the wildlings? Oh well, I guess that's what happens when you simmer too long with boys only far from the world. Craster was right. :-P Tongue in cheek, folks! No, not tongue in cheek. You mind of dirt.

There's a little bit of bla-bla going on now in this chapter, though. Jon thinks "we should go get them, with fifty rangers on horse we'd cut them to smithereens", then follows up that thought with "but we don't have fifty rangers on horse so that was a useless thought." Do people think like this? Yes, so it's realistic. Is it interesting? I can't say I am reading my eyes out here. I'm rather thinking, get on with it, or write about something more interesting. Like that Sky Blue Su. What kind of name is that? And why haven't we heard of this character before (if it is a character)?

We're told, again through Jon's gloomy thoughts, that what is left of Castle Black's garrison is a rather paltry group of men, "the brothers Bowen Marsh had left behind" (I see what you're doing here, Martin, you don't want me to like Bowen too much, amirite?) So there are old men, cripples, and green boys (or rather, boys of many colors?) We get a laundry list of such characters, none of which we have heard of before (and thus not making it, as mentioned, as interesting as if we had a few known guys around like Grenn). And so many all of a sudden have nicknames, the nickname: normal name ratio has gone totally askew. Kegs, Spare Boot, Easy, Dornish Dilly, Young Henly, Old Henly, Hairy Hal, Spotted Pate. Rast is there, though. Wait, isn't he dead? Maybe not. He's raking leaves, and one of the skills needed for that chore is being alive. Jon looks down from the tower at this motley collection of nicknames, realizing they all think him a turncloak. Jon remembers that he threatened to have Ghost rip Rast's throat out if he didn't stop pestering Samwell Tarly.

Oh my, uhm, I was about to say god but I don't have any so, uh. Oh my how much Jon spends thinking in his chapters. Once again I am remindeth of the reason why I rank his chapters so low. Setting is cool, some of the supporting cast up here are cool, but Jon...he's such a morose thinker.

Now he's thinking of Donal Noye having such a lovely commanding voice, a lord's voice if you will, 'cause Donal is roaring at some Mole's Town men who aren't doing a good job, and I wonder if this is vague foreshadowing of Jon's own stint as a lord (commander). Ned told Jon that a captain's lungs are as important as his sword arm, which is kind of funny since Donal is missing his sword arm so it's good he's got great lungs. What is it with this chapter and the homoerotic undertones? They are everywhere. I don't mind, it just strikes me as ... actually there, if you know what I mean. Or I'm just cross-eyed tired from being up a few nights with a severe throat/jaw infection thingy. Even that sounds dirty. Rest assured, it's a bad tooth causing the whole thing.

ANYWAY. Donal Noye has a really impressive set of lungs.

More info: 3/4 of the citizens of Mole's Town have come to seek refuge at Castle Black, having listened to Jon's warning the last time we saw him. Every one of those spry enough were given weapons. In case you wonder what kind of weapons, Martin gently supplies some more detail. Spear. Axe- Double-bladed axe. Razor-sharp daggers. Longswords. Maces. Spiked morningstars.
The women and children have been put to work. And on and on it goes before we finally get some dialogue, because you know, too long without dialogue makes for less entertaining reads.

"It's cold."

Well, that's a big surprise right here at the Wall, Satin. His cheeks were bright red. Oooh, spanky. No, sorry. Jon's too cool though, telling Satin that this is nothing. Reminds me of myself. Whenever someone says there's a wind, I'm like You call this a wind? You should have seen the hurricanes I had to endure when I lived out on...and so on and so forth. Satin's such a wuss though. "I knew a girl in Oldtown who liked to ice her wine." That boy is going to die so hard.

Oh come on. Midday. Still no sign of the Thenns. Martin sure likes to make me wait. Does build up expectation, doesn't it? Owen the Oaf pops up the trapdoor with food. Okay. Dick is deaf indeed, but his nose works. Okay. Raisins, nuts, buns warm from the oven. That sounds rather good, doesn't it? Gimme gimme. Jon takes a stint at commanding when Satin doesn't feel like eating (implying he's nervous) and Jon tells him to eat anyway. Owen the Oaf still believes King Robert rules the realm, because he's brain damaged. Okay. We're reminded that Aemon has sent letters to basically everywhere:

Wildlings at the gate. The realm in danger. Send all the help you can to Castle Black.

A simple enough message to understand, innit. I wonder where more specifically Maester Aemon sent letters. It would be interesting to know where the ravens of Castle Black flew, so I can imagine their trajectories over the Westeros map, a bit like airplanes crossing the map in Indiana Jones. Fortunately, Martin gives us a quick insight into this particular topic. Oldtown, the Umbers, the Boltons, Castle Cerwyn, Torrhen's Square, Karhold, Deepwood Motte, Bear Island, Oldcaste (huh?), Widow's Watch, White Harbor, Barrowton, the Rills, the Liddles, the Burleys, the Norreys, the Harclays (I always read that as Barclays) and the Wulls. For good measure Martin also repeats the message one more time in case you got lost during the list.
Am I trying to complain, once again, about Martin's penchant for lists? I don't know. In one sense, it is important we know who knows. On the other hand, come A Dance with Dragons, it just seems that nobody really cared about the letter and then it is pointless to spend so many words describing who got it. And now I have spent enough time on it. I'll send the neighbor's cat up to help out, Aemon. Hate that thing.

Morning turns to afternoon (sounds weird right?) and the smoke has cleared. Okay. Okay. Guards pace restlessly. He really portrays the agonizing waiting well, doesn't he? Both literally and, you know, when it comes to publishing schedules. At evenfall they eat and Jon tells Satin to light the fire and fill the kettle with oil. Jon's leg still hurts a lot. He pays a visit to the privy. Okay. There's some looking at stars. So what kind of deity or whatever is the constellation of the Horned Lord named after? I know only of one Horned Lord and he isn't in the books, he's in the TV series (and The Phantom Menace).

Finally (I am exaggerating a little, but I do want to get on with the action right now), the wildlings arrive! High five all around. They came in the night, of course. Of course of course! Why wouldn't they? When the horns blow, Satin takes a leak (all right, "pisses himself") but Jon pretends not to notice. Embarassing, Jon? Why were you staring at the beautiful boy's crotch anyway that you noticed? Satin is afraid, of course, I don't know if it was necessary to have him state the fact when we already had the pee-part described. Jon tells him that the wildlings are afraid, too. That's probably true. So, there we are, with Jon Snow, Deaf Dick Follard, and Satan Satin taking up positions on three sides of the round tower. And we're ready for a fight.

And well, there's not that much to say about the battle, really. Its action. Things happen, in the darkness. There's chaos. Blood. Arrows are fired. Satin is happy to have killed someone. There are a lot of wildlings streaming into Castle Black. Fire begins to, well, burn. Mully (hey there he is!) shoots someone. On and on it goes, Jon loosing arrow after arrow, his fingers growing stiff and his thumb bleeding. Deaf Dick dies. Ygritte shoots him down. He can't make himself shoot at her. The villagers of Mole's Town break and flee before the onslaught. The namedrops we got earlier die in various ways.

It's all exciting and I can't wait to see how it plays out next week, but there's little subtext here. It's a rollercoaster ride of a closure to the chapter, and Martin does really write good action scenes. There are some lulls when we catch Jon Snow pondering some memory of what someone told him once, but generally the pace is quick and efficient, with short to-the-(sword)point sentences that leave little time for pondering (which is good for the reader, less so for Jon Pondersnow).

The crows entrap many wildlings, including Styr, by setting fire to stuff and shit and then the wall begins to crack and melt due to the heat and big chunks of ice drop down on them. Mm. Quite a risky plan, really, depending on a lot of variables. Temperature, speed, movements, ice, fire. Hey! Ice and fire. He wonders if Ygritte escaped the trap. Hopes, really.

Aw poor Stone Thumbs is dying. We hardly knew ye. He finds Ygritte dying as well. Funny how memory works and how the mind plays tricks. In my recollection, we saw Ygritte die in an action scene, Jon watching as Satin shot her in the tits or wherever. But that's just a fabrication of my delirium! He just bumps into her, lying on the ground with an arrow, well, there you go, between her breasts. There is a poetic quality to the description we get:
The ice crystals had settled over her face, and in the moonlight it looked as though she wore a glittering silver mask. 
Darkly beautiful. Will probably be another shocker for the TV series-only crowd. OH Hell's Yeah!!1

There's some lovelorn dialogue between the two, Ygritte happy to finally see a proper castle, Jon Snow telling her she will see a lot more castles, refusing to realize she's dying. It's kind of a small tragedy within the greater narrative. It does echo a little bit of Romeo and Juliet, doesn't it? Not just a little bit, either, come to think of it. The classic "star-crossed lovers" tale is just what the Jon/Ygritte tale is.

But I can't tell you how silly I think the last lines of this chapter are. Real stinkers. In a narrative generally very good to excellent to I wet my panties, having Jon tell her she's going to live, and then her saying, for the gazillionth time even, "You know nothing, Jon Snow," before took the sting out of the tragedy for me personally, the first time, and now the tenth time. Not only was I (am I) tired of the repeated phrase, but the framing of the scene makes it more funny than sad. It's like a silly comedy where people are talking and when they are done, just at the right time, they keel over dramatically and die.

So from a great opening line that invited interest, through a lot of ponderous thoughts from Jon Doom, to a quickly sketched but exciting battle (it deserved a few more pages) to a silly, immersion-shattering moment that should have rung with sorrow and grief and loss and rage at destiny, but instead is just a lil' silly.

Oh well. Next up is Bran Stark, which also promises a lot of good stuff in its first opening lines, but will it deliver? Only the Old Gods know. And perhaps Rh'llor, god of parlor tricks and flame. At least these two celestial (?) factions seem to have some kind of power within the world. When are the Seven stepping forward? Or have I missed something crucial?
(As a matter of fact it seems the story is solving the issue of deities already; the old gods are the Children of the Forest; Rh'llor is tricks and magic; and just maybe the Seven will be represented through a collection of seven characters.)

Enough! It is time to sleep! Tomorrow marks an important day for me. It is the last day out of, oh, about 90, that I am off work to stay home with the Second Son, who is growing fast to become a fierce combatant. Wednesday it is back to work for poor old me, but I'm looking forward to mingle with people with a more expanded vocabulary than "Ball. Bread. Light. Tree." 

[If I made any glaring errors re: content, please tell me. I am in fact a bit delirious due to medication.]

On a quick, unrelated note. I have purchased, for the first time ever in the history of me, non-Ice & Fire book that I already own copies of. Yes, I needed me some Steven Erikson in digital version so I bought Deadhouse Gates for the Kindle the other day. And a few other books. Because I don't have a big pile of unread books, no sirree. /facepalm  [And, I have two copies of Gardens of the Moon, a regular paperback and the 10th anniversary hardback edition].

Anyway, the point is, that's how good The Malazan Book of the Fallen is! The prologue in Deadhouse Gates is so good. I've read it five times. It's creepy, macabre, challenging, well written, dense, and exciting all at the same time. About time I pimped the series again, I think. Steven Erikson remains a king among writers the way he takes time out of his schedule to interact with his fans over at, communicating his thoughts and ideas. Smart guy, to be sure. I was skeptical at first, man I needed three attempts to even get through the first book in the series, but I did become a convert by the end of The Crippled God. Ten fat books, with one long narrative divided in three main arcs, a story with a conclusion, full of all the things Martin is renowned for, but with more spectacle, a lot more high fantasy, but also some very well realized dramatic scenes. Night.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Game of Thrones 4.7 - "Mockingbird"

[Spoilers for everything basically; don't read if you don't know what's going to happen next]

All right! Seven episodes down, by the Seven! Strange how fast time flies when there's a Game of Thrones season rolling. While most episodes this season have left me somewhat confused, they haven't left me wanting the way the second season did. Most of the stuff is good, if not terribly close to the source material, and so I have enjoyed it for what it is, with some nitpicks.

Considering the number of characters and plotlines, it is amazing really that the show has become so incredibly popular as it is - far more popular than I believe D.B. Weiss and David Benioff dared hope. So, considering it's a smashing success, it must do most of its things right, even though, for a grognard book reader such as myself, it often feels wrong.

Episode 7 opens with Jaime and Tyrion in Tyrion's cell, and both actors are, as they have been all season, excellent. I will be very surprised if Peter Dinklage does not steal an Emmy next time. Not that Nikolai doesn't deserve it! They are all good on this show (almost!). I like this scene, the chemistry, but also that Tyrion is allowed to tell the viewers why he decided to not heed Jaime during the trial and tell the audience there precisely what he shouldn't be telling them. I love Peter's acting so much in this scene, look at the hope in his face, when he suggests spiting Tywin one last time and then knowing that Jaime won't be his champion because it wouldn't make sense for Jaime to do this at all.

The next scene is probably the worst scene in the entire season so far, which is a shame. Here you have yet another actor portraying Ser Gregor Clegane, a character who they have botched many times already (he really should've had a more prominent role in the show, me thinks); he's just standing outside the walls of King's Landing hacking down commoners and there is no context or anything. It's just to show that he's a brutal beast. Now, if they had kept Gregor more of a presence (and not just mention him occasionally) in the show, they wouldn't need to make this scene so ridiculously blunt. Viewers would all be like, oh hell, Gregor's in town after having seen him rape the Riverlands. But what is done, is done. The actor himself didn't really look threatening at all, either. They really should have given this scene some kind of context, or rewritten it so that it didn't seem so silly. No, the series botched Gregor. We should've had a few scenes beforehand to build him up. Arya and Sandor could come over a scene of slaughter with some hapless survivor talking about Gregor, which would allow the Hound to talk a little bit more about him.
In that sense, it would also make more sense to have the Hound/Arya scene we see later in the episode, before this Gregor-scene, to establish the character at least a little. I suppose to most viewers it doesn't matter, but I feel they made some pretty weak choices with regard to Westeros' strongest man.

The next scene then is also a scene I found wanting; the Hound and Arya approach a burned out farm and talk to a dying man, and it feels a bit "been there, seen that". The scene feels too long, as well. Now I love what they did with the Arya/Hound dynamic, and the actor portraying the stabbed farmer does a good job too, but this is time that could have been used to establish Gregor further; maybe we could have seen him slaughter some farmers and take their livestock or whatever on his way to King's Landing. Maybe we could have a scene where characters talk about Gregor's deeds (for example the disturbing incident at the tavern where he raped the tavern owner's daughters before the man's eyes and then gave him a coin for it or whatever). The scene does setup Arya's future a little while, with her "Nothing is just nothing" which relates to the Faceless Men. When the farmers asks her, "Who are you?", I expected Arya to say, "No one, truly," to be honest. The scene also lets the Hound show Arya a mercy killing (Mercy!). But all in all, it felt somewhat unnecessary.

As I hadn't s(p)oiled myself before this episode - I love being unspoiled, I have come to realize! - I was surprised to see Biter suddenly on the Hound's back, biting him. It's a pretty bad wound he bit into Sandor's neck too. I suppose this will be the wound that takes the Hound down a notch or two, reminding me of Khal Drogo's death in season one (same setup). Well, Rorge is there too, and quickly, Arya stabs him in the heart and Sandor says dryly, "You're learning." Now, in an ideal world, they would have made this encounter more exciting instead of spending time on the farmer. What if we got a proper fight? There was no tension. There was no distress as the Hound was bitten, it didn't feel dangerous or terrifying at all. Like the Gregor scene, I feel this one was particularly weak - the two weakest scenes of the episode.

Next up we have a scene at the Night's Watch, and it was a good scene, with good acting (I agree with the Internet that Kit Harrington as Jon Snow has improved a lot in this season). Sealing the tunnel is a pretty good idea, but Ser Alliser Thorne just hates Jon's guts, so better let the wildlings get the advantage...a bit unbelievable, but I can't say I remember how this went down if the books (it was in the book at all - I suppose I am getting there pretty soon in my re-read).

Back to Tyrion's cell, and my favorite scene of the episode (tied with the next Tyrion-in-the-cell scene, featuring this season's breakout star, Prince Oberyn). I love how they kept Bronn abandoning Tyrion in his darkest hour true to the books and thank the Lord of Light for this. Also nice to see Bronn in his nice clothes, I like the Stokeworth shoutout, and their discussion, their hand shake, it was a perfect scene, and - again - the closer stuff is to the book, the better it seems to be. Jerome Flynn was such a fantastic casting choice for Bronn, I was skeptical at first but now I am a big fan. Well acted, with good lines of dialogue, and it's perfectly logical that they part the way they do. Now, will Bronn follow Jaime into the Riverlands like many hope? Or will they write him out of the series as he was in the books (until he returns, if he does)? Now that he tells Tyrion that he's marrying Stokeworth, however, it seems that he will stay in the vicinity of King's Landing until and if the story calls for him again. "I just like myself more," indeed. Tyrion does understand, however. He understands that now he's lost. It's a great scene. Perhaps a favorite of the season, even. Just two guys in a cell, but still. This scene always hit me hard in the books, too, because I liked the two together so much. Quite a daring move, really, to separate them like that.

Next up is Daenerys, looking good in her new clothes, and New Daario. Daenerys is a bit of a whine these days, but I like how they develop the scene although I was surprised they let Dany invite him into bed so fast. Daario is one lucky man, though. The best part is that they actually skipped the sexy time itself, leaving it a bit open. Works much better than the gratuitous showing of boobs all the time. Though it's been a while since we saw Dany's boobs. And Rhaegal and Viserion.

Next scene is the third least interesting scene in the episode for me - a scene between Melisandre's boobs and Selyse. However, the scene may just foreshadow something we book readers haven't seen in the books yet, Melisandre is very beautiful in this scene so a joy to watch from a male perspective, and there's some good characterization going on - such as Selyse's envy of Melisandre's beauty shining through, but held in check by her religious devotion. The scene shows us that Selyse too is able to see into the flames, but the real foreshadowing lies in the fact that Melisandre needs Selyse to come with her to the North. I like how Melisandre admits to being more of a trickster than a true magician, which comes late in the books. It does not explain the shadow baby, but still. One could also read into the scene that Selyse might be attracted physically to Melisandre. There's also talk of Shireen joining the crusade to the North, and it might just be that Melisandre has told Stannis to make this decision though the scene does not spell this out. It might be a hint that Shireen is destined for sacrifice, OR, coming straight from Davos' fifth chapter in the book, what if the "waking stone dragon" thingy relates somehow to Shireen's grey scale? The disease has been linked to stone (the Stone Men)! Will Shireen's sacrifice wake a dragon somehow (maybe resurrect Jon Snow - only death may pay for life - if he's a Targaryen, well there you go - I believe I might be on to something here).
Speculation it is but:
Melisandre sacrifices Shireen to resurrect Jon (only death may pay for life); Shireen has greyscale (stone), Jon is a Targaryen (dragon)... Interesting.

I love Daario's burning comment to Davos as he leaves Dany's chambers all disheveled: "She's in a good mood" (she should've tried Podrick Payne!). I almost feel sorry for Jorah. He enters her chambers, and manages to convince Daenerys to change her plan somewhat, which seems to make him happy. But there's a rift coming, and I think the scene is well written and the acting good too. And that dress Daenerys is wearing...I couldn't stop staring at her navel. It was quite a distracting dress. Poor Jorah. However, when push comes to shove, Daenerys' storyline has officially stranded like it did in the novels, and the writers will have to do a little better to keep people interested in this storyline. People already seem to become impatient with Daenerys and her story. Personally I can live with this slow-down, partially because Emilia Clarke is so lovely, and partially because it is still a better paced storyline than what we got in the book version.

Next is the scene I wish they had placed before the Gregor scene, with some good deepening of the Hound's character, and him talking about the wounds his brother gave him. I feel that Rory McCann as the Hound really came alive this season and has become a favorite in the show, much as he was in the books, even though the two versions are quite different in many ways. A good scene, with Rory giving the Hound humanity, and Maisie's just a given. She has been Arya since the first episode. A natural. Still not over how terrible the bite wound looks. There should definitely have been some more reaction to it, an anguished scream or whatever. Some shaky close-up shots of Biter's teeth settling into the Hound's neck, whatever.

To my delight and surprise, we get Hot Pie in the next scene, with Brienne and Pod seated in the only tavern in Westeros (apparently), I love that they gave the scene time to breathe, as in Hot Pie talking about a good kidney pie, simply entertaining and showing off character at the same time. And Brienne and Pod learning about Arya being alive. Nice. Better than the book version. Love how Hot Pie just keeps on talking. I felt him giving them an improved wolf bread (TM) was taking it too far, though. That was not necessary. Still, Pod and Brienne. Good stuff. Kind of surprised they went with Brienne using Sansa Stark's name instead of the "maid of ten and three" or whatever she kept repeating in A Feast for Crows.

Next up, Tyrion and Oberyn. Oberyn is great in the books, and also in the show. I love the actor's version of the character, his dialect, and of course I love that they brought in the story of Oberyn visiting Casterly Rock as a child so that we got the whole Cersei twisting Tyrion's tiny pink cock story. And that face Dinklage makes as Oberyn tells the tale...wonderful. Again, close to the books equals improved scene. This is known. I like that they take the time to build up the scene toward the revelation that Oberyn will become Tyrion's champion (and I can't wait to hear people's reactions to the outcome of the duel  unless they change it from the books, which wouldn't be a surprise, that's how good and entertaining Pedro Pascal's Oberyn is). The music is well edited too, building up toward the end of the scene. There is precious little music in this episode, come to think of it. Mostly underscoring. But it does make it all the more effectful when we get to the final scene, and Sansa steps out in the snow-filled courtyard to build her castle, and we get the sad music of Winterfell. Beautiful!

The imagery here is perfect. It is very close to how I envisioned the scene's location in the book. This weighs up for the changes to the dialogue and the missing doll that should've been ripped apart at Sansa's hand. But a slap is good too.

While Petyr Baelish has been my least favorite character in the TV show, he is finally growing on me (apart from being spot-on looks-wise) and I think we finally see a bit of book-Littlefinger here in the last moments of episode seven. He looks great with the snowy trees in the background, the mockingbird prominent beneath his chin, the visuals are fantastic in this scene.

And we get the kiss! The best part is when the camera pulls up and you see Lysa Arryn in the background there, that was actually scary. Almost as scary as seeing Sansa being taller than Lord Baelish. Great stuff.

Stuff that weighs up for the lack of "Only Cat" of course. I do understand the choice to make it "Your sister" instead, though. Catelyn wasn't called Cat that often in the show, and it might confuse viewers in a scene where you need the impact right there and then. They made the scene quite predictable, though; I wish they had spent more time with Lysa and Robin before giving her the moon door treatment, but still, I am not complaining. There is some fantastic acting going on here, especially from Kate Dickie as Lysa, she's been consistently excellent really in portraying this madwoman.

Personally I would have saved this scene for a later episode, and spent even more time up in the Eyrie with Sansa and Robin, Littlefinger and Lysa to make this scene even more powerful. But it was powerful in its own way.

And now we have to wait two weeks...which is frustrating but also good as it stretches out this jolly season (four).

Final note: I didn't even notice at first, but notice that we have Jon Snow and Satin (I'll just call him Satin) kind of having a little moment of bonding there. Now I am convinced we'll see the boy kill Ygritte. And where are the wildlings?

Monday, May 19, 2014

[Re-read] Davos V: Stoned Dragons cont'd

And as I went to bed for some sleepy sleepy, the little one woke up and refused to sleep for a good while, so here I am, at dawn, on the day after, seated at a table with a view of the forests and mountains and clouded sky outside, laptop on said table, next to a big can o' coffee and the little one playing on the floor beside me, ready to finish up that Davos V chapter. While waiting for him to fall asleep last night I traversed the murky depths of ancient Internet history to re-read old Star Wars threads in which I participated during the last Star Wars boom, '99-'05. Quite embarrassing to read some of my old posts and interesting to see how undeveloped my English was at the time. Also interesting to see how the fan-base was basically split in two sections with the arrival of the prequel trilogy, much like what happened to the other George with the release of A Feast for Crows and later, A Dance with Dragons. There's still hope for the fans of ice and fire, though - and with Episode VII seemingly trying its best to forget I-III, it seems that there are repairs underway even for Star Wars. Sorry! Sorry! My head is just really in the clouds these days. Or should I say, Cloud City. Dammit. Back to Davos. /blush

So Davos is waiting for us in the courtyard, with Salladhor Saan just having departed. He's not happy he didn't get spoils of war from the battle at Blackwater Bay, but it seems the two remain friends. I guess the point of adding this little interaction is that Martin will use Saan again later in the story.

Before leaving, Saan reminds Davos that the higher you climb, the farther you fall, and Davos muses on this, thinking he has risen too high (he's a Hand now, remember, and that he doesn't suit the job - which, we as readers, can see that he does, creating a certain irony and us imagining patting the man on his shoulder and comforting him, saying You're just fine, Dave, you're just fine). He remembers a conversation he had with Maester Pylos about the same thing, with Pylos saying that the King knows what he has in Davos, which is implied, a loyal and honest man who dares tell the truth. No matter how embroiled Stannis has become in the zealotry of Melisandre and his wife, he still likes truth and reasoning. Oh, and Pylos tells us that words are wind. Now I know I should remember if it has already been uttered or if this is the first of many times this Westerosi proverb is mentioned, but I already feel like I need to scratch myself because every time it shows up I get this itch. In other words, I feel Martin overuses the phrase and it becomes annoying more than a natural part of the story (maybe also because it goes from being non-existent early in the story to becoming used all the time later in the series; not that it is unrealistic per se, because sometimes a meme shows up and suddenly everybody's saying it/writing it, some stuff just becomes part of the common vocabulary, but still it annoys me so maybe memes don't work as well in fiction as in real life and on the webz, I don't know).

Pylos also gives us a long list of previous Hands of the Realm that have failed even though they were high-born, and compares this to some blacksmith's son who did do a good job; this to comfort Davos' doubts about himself, but also for Martin to inject more history into his narrative, further cementing the feeling of reading into a grounded, real world with a history. This whole exchange is a setup, however, for Davos to ask to learn to read so he can read the history Pylos is referring to, and Pylos offers to teach him (in the TV show, it is Shireen who teaches him, which is a much cuter direction to go, and one of the changes I applaud; it works better for that narrative instead of adding even more characters). Also, this chapter states that Shireen is a good reader, so there's precedent. So we learn that Davos is learning to read from Pylos. Davos still misses Cressen we learn, and now he's on his way up the stairs for a reading lesson.

En route, he encounters the mysterious, somewhat scary Patchface, who's loitering about because Pylos doesn't want him to interrupt Shireen's lessons. I remember the first time through that I never heeded Patchface, I just thought him a deranged character added for color. Now, however, I scrutinize every word he says, as it seems that Martin is indeed using the fool (as in jester, no disrespect meant) to drop nuggets of hints that are almost prophetic. This time, as Davos approaches, he says, "Under the sea the old fish eat the young fish." A strange thing to say in any situation, but is Patchface simply saying "Old Lord Walder Frey murdered young Robb Stark"? It would seem so, though I do not know what he means by "under the sea". One thought I have had regarding this, is that while Patchface almost drowned, he had a series of visions, so he literally saw things while beneath the waves. With this explanation, the line makes sense. He almost drowned, had a vision of Walder killing Robb, and there you go. Old fish eat the young fish. I kind of miss Patchface in the TV series, to be honest. If only for his tin bucket with antlers.

Davos finds Pylos at a long wooden table covered with books and scrolls, across from Shireen, Edric Storm, and his own son. We see that Davos is proud of his son, who will become Lord of the Rainwood, and that Devan's health and future is more important to him than himself. One of those little elements that make Davos a likable character. Like in the TV show, Devan is fast becoming a devotee of R'hllor, but in the book he's much younger (and thus more impressionable with the fables of the grown-ups). We are reminded that Edric looks very much like Robert except for his Florent ears. Those genetic traits in Westeros really are handy. Shireen tells Davos that they have been reading about King Daeron the First, who they called the Young Dragon (it is kind of interesting that even here, Robb Stark's fate is echoed as he was the Young Wolf); this leads to more exposition and backstory as Edric Storm replies that his father, Robert Baratheon, was even better than Daeron because Robert won three battles in one day. At this point it is rather obvious that Martin wanted to give us a little taste of his history of Robert's Rebellion and simply puts it in the kids' mouths. The infodump feels a little contrived, but Martin has done his best to cover it up by having the kids attend an actual reading of history, so in a way it does make a little sense that they would be talking about...historical stuff. But what exactly in Edric's account is it Martin wants us to pay attention to, for whatever reason?

Well, Summerhall is mentioned (again); it is fast becoming this legendary location of which we hear, but never really know. It adds intrigue and mystery. It also shows us how Robert got enemies to change sides; he was just that formidable a warrior. People were awed by his prowess. Pylos reminds Edric not to boast, and that Robert lost battles too. Not much though: He was bested at Ashford by Lord Tyrell, and lost a few tourney tilts. Edric counters that he won more than he lost, and slew Prince Rhaegar. All in all, the Robert we get to know in A Game of Thrones is definitely not the Robert of yore. With that, Pylos dismisses the children (it feels as if he feels defeated by Edric in their exchange, but the text does not imply this). Pylos turns to Davos, asks if he might want to read a little bit in Daeron's Conquest of Dorne himself. Davos rather wishes to read letters, though. Dorne, Dorne, it rhymes with...

Davos is simply too duty-bound to spend time reading old histories; he feels he has to do a job at the same time, so he wants to read letters. Keep up with the politics, so to speak. Another trait that I suppose endears many readers to Davos. I still find it hard to wrap my head around a smuggler being so hellbent on honor and duty. Which is one of the small nitpicks that perhaps make Davos less interesting for me personally. There are no new letters, so Pylos produces an old one (then you could just as well read some King Daeron, Dave). Of course, Martin might just want us to have a glimpse at this particular letter. In it, we read that the King Beyond the Wall comes south, leading a fast vast host of wildlings. Lord Mormont is under attack. Mormont may be slain. The letter is from the Night's Watch, and Davos asks if Stannis has read the letter, but Lord Alester had interrupted Pylos and told him Stannis had no time to waste on the Night's Watch.

Davos thinks of something his wife said once: Only a starving man begs bread from a beggar. Try saying that fast ten times. Or twenty if you are good at that sort of thing. He remembers the Blind Bastard, who had been executed for trading weapons with the wildlings. Kind of fun that when you see the wildlings brandishing weapons, those weapons were supplied by a captain Davos served when he was young. So Davos has seen the Wall before. He's been at Eastwatch where he "traded during his smuggling days". I thought he was smuggling, but oh well. A man can do two things. Just not at once. He also remembers that the wildlings had taken off with one of the cabin girls aboard the Blind Bastard's ship. Ygritte? Why not. Davos remembers the things Melisandre has said about the cold rising and the long night coming, and so he realizes this letter is actually important.
He remembers a tale Salladhor had told him, about Azor Ahai tempering Lightbringer by thrusting it through the heart of his wife, so he could fight the darkness. The wife's name is Nissa Nissa. It is perhaps one of the silliest names in the saga. Especially for me, as in my particular dialect "nissa nissa" means something like "leprechauns leprechauns". What we see is a plan slowly starting to form in Davos' mind: the first hints that Stannis will go north instead of circling around King's Landing. Davos finally tells Pylos to get him another letting, for this one is "too troubling". Ominous... Soon comes the cold, and the night that never ends, Melisandre's whispers echo in Davos' memory. It is a doom-laden, foreboding sentence. Imagine knowing that a never-ending night is approaching. Love that sense of doom.

And that was Davos V, a chapter that feels a little too long but still, it's full of interesting little bits of tids, and it sets up the rest of the Stannis plotline, far into A Dance with Dragons actually. Do we ever see Edric Storm again after this? Can't remember.

Next up is Jon Snow...that's two chapters in a row that I need to motivate myself for to re-read. I can read a Catelyn chapter any day, but Davos and Jon, they move so slowly. Woe is me. However, the next Jon chapter opens with a great introductory line that does make me want to read on:

"They woke to the smell of Mole's Town burning." Or something like that, anyway. Martin's so good at creating gripping first lines that literally force you to read on, just a little bit more.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

[Re-read] Davos V: Stoned Dragons

[Spoilers for all five books in the series]
Sunday is GoT-day for you maybe, but for me it's Just-one-more-day-day today. Still, waiting for the next episode in line gives a man a thirst for the world of ice and fire, and so one must needs grab a olde tome of lore to scratch that itch.
Yesterday I wrote a lengthy Star Wars post but decided to cut it as this blog is mainly about A Song of Ice and Fire with some assorted fantasy served by the side. While Star Wars too is fantasy (space fantasy as it were), I remembered I had set up a sideblog for this stuff, so now I'm back to writing about it at Star Wars: The Dark Legacy. Because, you know, with the official confirmation that they have started shooted, a dream I didn't know I had is kind of coming true. I never ever believed we'd see a seventh episode, but there you go. It will probably consume most of the geek parts of my brains in the coming year and a half, whether I want to or not. It's just a given.

Before we get back to Davos, I am aware there have been several new samples from The World of Ice and Fire released but I haven't had the time (or urge) to read it yet. I liked The Princess and the Queen well enough but that one was semi-narrated, while this World stuff is even more dry I assume, hence a lack of interest. As I said back in this discussion at the Tower of the Hand, I feel that the important stuff should be in the novels. Very well! On to Davos V, as he joins Stannis in Braavos to take up a loan with the Iron Bank and meet up with Salladhor in a steamy (literally) broth-house (that's bath and brothel combined).....or is he!

This is how I picture Davos, even after four seasons of GoT.

Mr. Martin launches straight into the narrative, effectively dragging me along from the first sentence as we see, through Davos' eyes, how Stannis doesn't seem to be affected at all by the news of the deaths of the King in the North and his mother. It is Salladhor Saan who brings Stannis the news, telling him that in King's Landing, "the lions prance and dance". It is through Saan we hear how they hacked off Robb's head, and sewed the head of Grey Wind in its place, and nailed a crown about his ears (I had forgotten that bit! Say one thing about the Freys, say they see a thing through - except showing up for battles, I guess); and it is Saan who tells us Catelyn was thrown naked in the river (which begs the question and I don't even really want to ask it, but why was she naked - why go through the bother of undressing her before throwing her corpse in the river? Do we have a necrophiliac among the Freys? Now there's a nasty thought). Davos thinks that the Freys are cursed, which I take as another not-all-that-subtle hint that they will have their comeuppance. Now that I've read A Dance with Dragons, I wonder if that comeuppance will come from a certain Bran Stark, who, when fully trained as a Seer of things, might just be a tad disappointed with Frey hospitality (but this suggestion would give Lady Stoneheart nothing to do).

There are leeches burning on a brazier again, and Ser Axell Florent declares that it was R'hllor who slew Robb, indicating that Melisandre's leech burning indeed inspired the murders (I can only assume he doesn't mean R'hllor physically came up from hell to do the deed himself; I chose the phrase "came up from hell" purely because the god is associated with fire, as is the semi-mythological fabrication "hell"). Queen Selyse, always drawn in the best light by Martin (hard woman with large ears and a hairy upper lip) pitches in, too, clearly a devotee. Stannis, being a bit more grounded, understands that Walder Frey did the job, but Melisandre says that Walder was but R'hlorr's tool for the job. At which point, if I were Stannis, I would ask her to have R'hlorr go and slay the rest of the Lannister clan while he is at it, significantly easing Stannis' plans for the future.

They are in the chamber of the painted table (coolest table in Westeros), and Stannis decides he wants to send letters of pardon to the Iron Islands and White Harbor, offering pardons if they repent and swear their fealty to him. Melisandre interrupts him, telling him it will do no good. She tells him that more false kings will rise to take up the crowns of those who've died, which is kind of interesting because so far we've not yet seen a new king of the Iron Islands, nor a new king of the North - though we can assume she's talking about Euron Crow's Eye and Roose Bolton. Stannis' wife is firmly on Melisandre's side by now, and I am curious what role she will play in The Winds of Winter since the character was deemed important enough to be featured in the TV series (as opposed to, say, characters with more "screen time" in the books like Strong Belwas.

Stannis admits that while Melisandre has been helpful, he doesn't trust her magic completely - to which she responds that "an ant who hears the words of a king may not comprehend what he is saying" to which Stannis should retort, "Yeah but ants don't have human intelligence so the comparison isn't valid." No, he doesn't go into a philosophical/religious argument with her, but he is mighty angry at the moment, and rather despondent and disillusioned by all the failures he's faced (notably, the Blackwater of course). He feels he's done what he could, and now the game is over: "The rest of Westeros is in the hand of my foes. I have no fleet but Salladhor Saan's. No coin to hire sellswords (...)" (why not go to the Iron Bank?)

Selyse's response to this comes a little out of the blue - "You have more men than Aegon did three hundred years go. All you lack are dragons." What I feel is strange about this reply is that, I don't know, why would she say this? She might as well have said "All you need is a nuclear missile, Stannyboy." It doesn't really help Stannis that much, you know, because it doesn't exist (anymore, in the case of dragons). I feel the line is there only for Martin to allow himself some exposition, which follows duly.  Stannis says that "nine mages crossed the sea to hatch Aegon the Third's eggs," and I can only suppose that this will be a minor point to remember for later in the story. He also mentions other Targaryens trying to resurrect dragons in different ways, all of them failing (but those nine mages could still be around, right?) Selyse turns this into them not being the "chosen of R'hllor". Interestingly, Selyse mentions that 'only death can pay for life' (blood magic), and everyone around Stannis seems to agree "the boy" must be sacrificed, in order to, if I'm not mistaken because this is a tad ambiguous, get Stannis a live dragon. This makes me assume that there are dragon bones at Dragonstone ,which I suppose rhymes well with what we got served in The Princess and the Queen. At least there's a dragon of stone there, which would explain the name of the island. A petrified dragon? Anyway, Melisandre promises that if she is given the boy, she will fulfill an ancient prophecy through that sacrifice, and a dragon "shall awaken and spread his stony wings." She adds, however, "The kingdom shall be yours," which can be read as: the stone dragon waking is metaphorical, to illustrate increased power. I don't know, this part confuses me. I often forget these details exist at all. Ser Axell begs for the same, as does Selyse. She also happens to believe that by sacrificing the boy, she will become fertile again. Uh what? Why? How? Where? When? How crazy is Selyse?

Stannis thinks of the boy as his own blood however (Robert's bastard son with some cousin of Selyse named Delena) - he shows some compassion as he doesn't feel the boy is at fault (which he of course isn't). Stannis is actually a bit human here, which is kind of hard to forget when you follow the TV series. I think they've made him more into a villain, to be honest. People shall be surprised when he saves the day come the last episodes of this season. We are reminded of Melisandre's physical attractiveness (through Davos' eyes) and how she in that regard contrasts Selyse. I do love this little backstory from Stannis where he, as a young boy, had been at King's Landing and was so impressed with the Targaryen king only to realize later it was the Hand - Tywin Lannister - he had seen on the Iron Throne.

Finally, Davos can't stand all this talk of prophecies and flames and waking stone dragons and speaks up. He tells Stannis that no man is as cursed as the kinslayer, which Stannis would become if he allows the boy to be sacrificed (incidentally it also tells us that if this is a truth in the setting, Jaime Lannister and Tyrion Lannister are doomed big time; and I wonder how much worse it is to be a kinslayer than a breaker of guest rights?). Melisandre gets annoyed, reminds him there are just two gods - R'hlorr and the Other, "whose name must not be spoken". I wonder if, Martin could have added, "because that would reveal a major spoiler because if you pay attention you can figure out that the Other is the Night's King..." oooh! Still, I applaud Davos for being both respectful yet inquisitive here as he asks just why she needs this particular boy - Edric Storm - to wake this stone dragon. Why don't they at least speak of where this stone dragon is? Is the entire castle a dragon skeleton?! It feels like Martin forgot some detail here. It's of course deliberately vague, I don't doubt it, but it's frustrating. Because, you know, it takes decades to get some answers in this series.
If THIS tired meme had any semblance of truth in it, there wouldn't be any Starks anymore. Not even Karstarks.
Melisandre's reply is the same mumbojumbo Selyse delivered - only death can pay for life, and a great gift requires a great sacrifice. She expands on this by mentioning Edric having a king's blood in his veins, and reminds him of how even a little blood could set in motion the deaths of Robb Stark and Balon Greyjoy. Davos snaps back that Robb was murdered by Walder and Balon fell from a bridge - "Who did your leeches kill?" Now this I like - someone standing up for reason and common sense, and when you read Catelyn's chapters in this novel there is indeed a plausible, logical path from Robb being hailed as King in the North to his death at the Twins with no nudging from R'hllor. Still, Melisandre seems quite confident in that she, through the blood and the leech burning, is responsible for the outcomes. And, indeed, Davos does have some faith in her powers, as he remembers the living shadow she had birthed beneath Storm's End. That's indeed a pretty powerful demonstration, though in a world where magic is waking up, it's hard to say for a reader if the power comes from a god named R'hllor, or if its magic Melisandre simply attributes to R'hllor (I choose the latter). Davos replies that the two kings are dead but the third king for which she sacrificed is still alive. That would be Joffrey Baratheon. Stannis snorts and agrees with Davos, seemingly pleased to see logic prevail. Still, why sacrifice Edric Storm if one leech is enough for one king? Throw thirty leeches on the brazier and you get rid of an entire dynasty. Just start shipping in leeches from all over the world (maybe Roose has some for sale) and get on with it. Melisandre then asks if Joffrey should die in the "midst of all his power", would that not show the power of the Lord at work?
And Stannis grudgingly says that it might. Still not convinced, then. Davos says, "Or not," which is pretty daring by itself. Axell gives Davos a nasty look before he leaves with the rest of the crowd, leaving only Davos and Stannis in the chamber. Open a window!

They launch straight into a back-and-forth with Davos reminding Stannis about the boy's name, how good a friend Edric is to Stannis' daughter Shireen, basically goes full throttle on trying to save Edric from the red woman. Stannis, however much he seemed to be on Davos' side earlier in the scene, now tells him that his duty is to the realm, and if it costs him the boy's life to save the realm from Melisandre's "night that never ends" (aka the Long Night), then that's the price Stannis must pay. He partially recites some of Melisandre's prophecies and it's interesting because I think this shows clearly how Melisandre is misinterpreting stuff: "A hero reborn in the sea" sounds rather like some Iron Islander getting his baptism (maybe Theon goes on to do something heroic?), the "living dragons hatched from stone" surely must refer to Daenerys' three dragon babies. Yet Melisandre swears that the signs point to Stannis. Maybe in a roundabout way, they will. We just don't know enough about the endgame to assume what Martin is trying to imply here. Stannis rants about his sword not being that special at all, which goes to show that Melisandre is more about tricks and, as we'll learn later in the story, glamours. He needs a dragon to get something proper done, and that is the one thing he doesn't have. But at the same time he doesn't dare to disregard her. Now this is a thematic point which I think Martin does well, as he points out the difference between blind faith (Melisandre) and faith as a safety net (Stannis), and grudging faith (Davos). Not going off on a diatribe about religion now, but it seems to me that Martin does have some thoughts on issues of faith, presenting them in different manners throughout his text.

Now, here comes a little interesting bit I had forgotten. Stannis tells Davos that he has gazed in the flames as well, and has seen stuff. This is basically a confirmation for us readers that the "flame reading trick" (for lack of a more epic spell title - but it beats Tenser's Floating Disc) actually works. We don't know how (the magic of dragons returned to the world?) but it works. Stannis has seen a king with a crown of fire on his brows, burning. The crown consumed his flesh and turned him into ash. He implies that it means Joffrey will die, but I have a feeling we haven't seen this burning king yet. It's just the way Martin does prophecy. Characters tend to misread them all the time (perhaps with the exception of Maester Aemon). We will most likely see some king in a future installment who is burned, and ... wait a minute. Did we see a king burning, in A Dance with Dragons? It's been so long since I read it. Forgive me if I'm mistaken, but it occurs to me just now that they burned Mance Rayder (well, he looked like Mance Rayder so that's what Stannis could have seen) at Castle Black, didn't they? Oh my, it really is time to read those two last books again. Anyway, if I'm right, I am convinced we can settle this one. Stannis saw a burning king - the assumed King-beyond-the-Wall. It's precisely how Martin does prophecy.

My favorite depiction of Dragonstone, made by Jordi Gonzalez. Check out his website!
He's done art for the upcoming The World of Ice and Fire (Up to Volume V at any rate) too.

Stannis threatens to send Davos back to the dungeons, so Davos backs off ("furls his sails", to be more naval-poetic about it). So he leaves the Stone Drum (can't they wake a drum from stone too, to beat the march?) and he smells the sea, which is a smell he loves. It makes him long for home, and it makes him want to be aboard a ship again. Good, this grounds the character a bit, which is needed, because it is easy to forget Davos is a "simple" (as in, common) man. He's utterly loyal, too, though, so he has to stay with Stan.
We are given a long description of Dragonstone, which is also necessary because it's been a while since we had a look at the place - and boy do they have a lot of stone dragons. Which one will Melisandre pick? The one that is essentially a kitchen? That way they could bring along pots and frying pans.

He meets Salladhor out in the courtyard who apparently can read Davos' mind. Davos wonders if he has been forgiven and he has (but Salladhor lost a lot of gold in his gamle to join at the Blackwater and so it is not forgotten). In the seemingly idle chatter Martin tucks a quick mention of Lord Celtigar owning a "magic horn to summon krakens from the deep," so we'll have to note that one. We learn that the common folk on the island are drifting back to the Seven, and that they believe Stannis has been ensorcelled by Melisandre (reminds me of Tolkien's Theoden/Wormtongue relation) - through this we also learn that you can now basically divide Stannis' forces in two factions - those who have truly converted to Melisandre's god, and those who didn't. King's men and queen's men. It's gonna come up, I tells you.

Davos tells Salladhor that Stannis won't sacrifice Edric; he doesn't believe the king has the stomach for kinslaying. Salladhor tells Davos he's off, and so they depart.

Oh man, this chapter goes on doesn't it.  I think I will have to take a break now; there's a nice lull with Davos and Salldhor parting ways (for now) and to be honest with y'all, this chapter is a bit...not boring, that's not the right word, because much of it is interesting for sure, but it's a bit slow, now I've never had Davos as a favorite POV (he ranks just above Jon Snow though) so that could be it...I do like the gloomy aspect of the setting of Dragonstone, and at this point in the story Melisandre is still nicely mysterious...but I feel like I want back to King's Landing, you know? Like Daenerys, Davos' story - so far - feels a little too peripheral, though I know it is moving forward and will eventually segue into the story of the North.
Edric Storm, though.  Great name.

I'll finish reading this chapter tomorrow morning when I've recharged my batteries. And oooh it's Game of Thrones time again tomorrow. It will be a jolly day of ice and fire. With luck, there's an update about The Winds of Winter at Not a Blog too. That would be just...good.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Game of Thrones 4.6, "The Laws of Gods and Men"

So there I was, kicking back in my office chair (I misspelled that office hair at first, for some reason I found that funny for a few seconds. Okay. It's over now) with the latest episode of the world's most interesting TV show, and again I felt confused. Those first scenes didn't appear in the books, so no wonder. Not for the first time, I realized that with this show, I have to first watch it to let the scenes just kind of wash over me, allowing myself to be annoyed at changes that I feel are weaker than what was in the book, and then see it a second (or third) time to make this alternate vision work for me. Which it usually does. In this episode, however, the strange thing was that it kind of worked right away - while we never saw Stannis and Davos sail to Braavos or treat with the Iron Bank in the book, I liked the scene well enough with its austere chamber, Stannis' sullen look, the shots of Davos' maimed hand. I also appreciate the idea of having them go there in the first place, because it sets up the Iron Bank as a player in a much stronger sense than we got in A Dance with Dragons (which goes for several characters/factions in said book), so while it was at once like pulling on a too tight new itchy woolen shirt, it was also wool of the highest quality. Uhm. It wasn't an exciting meeting with the Iron Bank, but the bankers did radiate a certain cold indifference that suited the scene perfectly. And, of course, that establishing shot of Braavos was great. One nitpick: Stannis is the, at least according to himself, rightful king of Westeros and he goes off on a single two-mast ship with a maimed smuggler as his only bodyguard? All in all, good strong and somewhat different opening to the show today. Long too! Ten minutes or thereabouts.

The show stays in Braavos for the next scene, which is basically Davos showing up at a brothel to pick up Salladhor. Several sets of boobs to appease the less discerning viewer, rather unnecessary. For a change, they could've had Salladhor engaged in some crime stuff instead. Or be aboard his pirate ship loading cargo. Anything to show that there's more to the world of Ice and Fire than whores. No, I do not mind boobs. But there's something called variety. Now, of course, they did set up Salladhor as a womanizer back in season two...but he's also a pirate.

Next up is another return of a character long absent, Asha Greyjoy. Yara whatever. The first scene aboard her ship is her basically reading Ramsay's letter (the one he sent along with Theon's toolset to her father), with clips of Ramsay having sex with his archer girlfriend alternating with clips of Asha and her men rowing a boat to the Dreadfort. Again, the boobs do nothing for the plot (other than telling us that Ramsay, perhaps surprisingly, does seem to like conventional sex); as someone suggested over at Winter is Coming, the scene would have been much stronger if the clips of Asha's approach were alternated with clips of Theon wasting away in his kennel cell. I guess the clips also showed us that Ramsay was awake, explaining why he's ready for combat later on. All in all, the weakest sequence of the series, though the acting is solid on all accounts. And I really have a thing for show-Asha, she's cool. And boy does Alfie Allen play his part as Reek! Now viewers will definitely know that he is Reek, not Theon, so that's one thing this sequence accomplishes. But the way they just row to the Dreadfort, and run off afterward (without Reek) all seemed a little implausible. Still, a brave scene to choose to include when you consider that Asha just leaves empty-handed. The scene also wins the "most annoying scene of the episode" award this time for the constant barking of the hounds.

The follow-up scene is powerful, though, a quiet scene between Ramsay and Reek further showing us how "lost" Theon Greyjoy is, ending with the almost twist-like suggestion from Ramsay that Reek will have to go to Moat Cailin and act like someone else - like Theon Greyjoy. I like that one. Also, the guy playing Ramsay is doing a very good job, too. That smile when he looks down at Reek...shudder-worthy. And Theon expecting a lashing but getting a bath instead, the music suggesting, preparing the viewer for nastiness...Well played. Also, getting a look at all those scars on Reek's body, you got to have some sympathy for the guy even after all he's done.

Now that's what I call a contrast: From the intense character study between Reek and Ramsay to a goat herder and his son being surprised by Drogon, flying up a gully and look at the size of that thing! Entertaining scene, for sure, especially that look on the boy's face when Drogon appears to roast a goat. But what a cop-out, especially for a show that really isn't afraid of much, to have the herder present a goat's bones to Daenerys instead of the bones of his son in the next scene!

And the next scene is the first scene where I'm actually worried about the series, because we are firmly in A Dance with Dragons territory with Daenerys now, and her chapters in that book weren't all that, were they? I like her throne room in Meereen, although it could use a little more...inventory? I ended up thinking the scene was better than I expected though, but the tension has kind of been lost in Dany's storyline now, both in the book and in the show. We can look forward to many talky scenes with Daenerys now, and if you remember how exciting and powerful her scenes were in Season Three, well, this is something else. Jorah and Barristan look bored where they stand, Daario's just not there...I think the show makers might just be in a wee bit of trouble when it comes to this character from now on. I'll reserve judgement. The introduction of Hizdahr oy What'sHisName was pretty good, though, in the sense that we were given a sense of who this character is and what he represents, and it gives us some food for thought regarding Daenerys' arrogance. Also, he looks like he could be Lando Calrissian's son, so smooth bonus points for that. I suppose. But I can't hide it. I'm worried. There is no tension here. Also, more inventory! It's a bit empty in there, which only accentuates the fact that her story's lost its energy as well. Shouldn't it be a little more extravagant? I like this rendition, from the Fantasy Flight Games collectible card game (I think it's the plant that makes the difference):

Queen Daenerys' Command (c) FFG

All right, all right, let's get on with it.

Oberyn Martell. He is the best in this episode. The way he sits, the way he gives Cersei that insolent, perhaps lustful, look...and his polar opposite, the dry and dull Mace Tyrell, across the table, becoming Tywin's servant. My favorite scene of the episode, much because of Oberyn really being Oberyn in the scene, I had to laugh out loud at him. Surprised Tywin doesn't seem to care, but then, he knows Oberyn is lusting for Lannister blood. The scene did remind me that they shaved off a lot of Cersei's sexiness from the books. Oh man, that insolent look Oberyn gives Cersei when he says the Unsullied aren't much in the bedroom! Favorite line of the week. And Mace Tyrell looking all forlorn and useless, great. "Lord Tyrell, be a good man, fetch my quill and paper." 

The next scene, between Varys and Oberyn, I didn't like that much. I did like how we saw the throne room being prepared for the trial without being told why the throne room looks like it does; I think the exposition here was a bit heavy, what with Varys slowly turning his gaze on the Iron Throne. Still, it feels almost like a tradition now that we have two characters talk in front of the throne, and well, they have to remind the audience what it's all about. The Iron Throne.

Which leaves the rest of the episode (well almost, they tucked one additional scene in there) for Tyrion's trial. I didn't get the feels the way many seemed to do, but maybe I will the next time. I loved how they played it, although it was a tad predictable with the witnesses coming forth one by one (although, that's how it should be); but I just couldn't get over the fact that they skipped some of the best, funniest dialogue from the novel here, especially those involving Oberyn. He was great earlier in the episode but dang. Of course, the Shae in the episode seems a tad more realistic than the Shae in the books (who can forget her line, "Men call me...a lot" ?); I miss Oberyn bending forward with interest as Shae relates some of her exploits and he asks to hear more; on the other hand, I should be more than satisfied with what we got, with Tyrion going from resigned to, well, almost cackling mad toward the end. Nice buildup. Well acted. I didn't buy it totally, I felt that something was a little off, perhaps, though I can't put my finger on precisely what I felt the scene was missing.

Ser Jaime's quick meeting with Tywin was a surprise, and worked well within the context of the show, and it sets up Jaime as Tyrion's eventual aid. Tywin himself was imposing where he sat on the Iron Throne. I want to re-read this scene as it is in the novel to see how close they stayed. It didn't feel quite right for some reason - beyond Oberyn's funny lines missing.

And with that, I bid thee a fond farewell.

[Re-read] Tyrion VI: A Nice Father-Son Moment

It's Monday again! Isn't it strange how fast those weeks go when there's a new season of Game of Thrones running? You guys in the US have of course already witnessed the events of 4.6: The Laws of Gods and Men, and I am sure places like Winter is Coming are already full of comments, but I am blissfully unaware. Will there be shockers like we had in 4.4. or will it feel more comfortable like 4.5? I am curious, but I admit I have lost a little of the zeal I had during the first few weeks of season four's run. Not because it isn't interesting anymore, but there's been other things on my mind as I mentioned before. Still, seeing the episode titles of the remaining four I can't help but feel a certain excitement building. There's still a good deal of great stuff left from A Storm of Swords, as the titles suggest - Mockingbird, The Mountain and the Viper, The Watchers on the Wall, and The Children. Of these, I am most skeptical about episode eight actually, because I feel we've had too little screen time for Ser Gregor and Prince Oberyn both, but the stakes are high for Tyrion's sake, not them, so maybe it'll work anyway. Oh well, we've always got the book. And that's precisely the item before me now, flipped open to chapter 54, Tyrion VI (okay, that's a bit of a lie. I am looking at a screen featuring an ebook version). 

It's becoming harder and harder to remember that Tyrion is supposed to be a tad uglier than the one we get in the show, by the way. 

One of them looks more like the Tyrion as described in the books.

Not that I'm complaining, Peter Dinklage did and still does a fantastic job portraying everyone's favorite Lannister, it's just fun to remind oneself of the bleak truth of the maimed, disfigured guy with different colored eyes, hair growing in patches (in that regard the picture to the left above is still being too kind) yadayada. Wonder what show viewers getting into the books think when they read about him. They shall be surprised by the ugliness factor! Anyway. The sixth Tyrion chapter (that's not many yet, but he's featuring more heavily in the latter half of the book - Catelyn, and Robb for that matter, left a black hole that must be filled with, well, a black hole of a cell - but more on that as we get there).

Because, right now, everything's all roses and rainbows, what with Tyrion just having married to a beautiful young (very young) northern lady, and enjoying a fine dinner (by candlelight I imagine). They are supping alone, and Sansa, perhaps being her usual self, is complaining that the pease are overcooked. Now what the heck is a "the pease" anyway? It's another archaic word Martin has dug up for the medieval feeling. Peas, Martin. It's not like the characters wouldn't pronounce it peas anyway. Still, I have to say, I like learning archaic words so I don't really mind, but this one seems a bit superfluous. I learned a lot of new archaic words reading Sovereign by the way. And, oh, my initial glowing first impression of The Emperor's Blades (see previous post) has been replaced by a somewhat more meh-ish feeling after reading six more chapters. Unfortunately. More when I have finished that one. 

Anyway, I have digressed already and I'm only on the second fricking sentence of the chapter. Tyrion tries to jest her complaint away but she takes it for criticism. It is truly an awkward situation and I love how Martin writes it, giving us the sense that these two people just don't understand each other, cannot see each other's point of view (a privilege we obviously have as they are both POV characters, and oh, isn't it refreshing to have more than one POV in the same chapter?) Tyrion tries to tell her that he isn't displeased with her at all; rather, he is displeased by King Joffrey, Queen Regent Cersei, Lord Tywin Lannister - nephew, mother, father - and Prince Oberyn and his entourage of three hundred Dornishmen. What he is trying to tell her, I suppose, is that he's got a lot of more important political problems on his mind than caring what Sansa thinks of overcooked mutton. We get some vital information on how Tyrion has placed the Tyrells and the Martells far from each other in the city, showing us once again his accute political sense, the man continues to make intelligent political maneuvers without any recognition for it whatsoever. Say one thing about Martin, say he knows how to portray the theme 'the world is unfair'. There's been some confrontations anyway, though, including the Queen of Thorns calling Ellaria Sand for "the serpent's whore", that's a pretty stinging remark I suppose. Oberyn continues to ask Tyrion "when justice will be served". 

"The pease suffice," Tyrion tells her, "They are green and round, what more can one expect of pease?" It's such an unremarkable little line in the grander scheme of things but I love it. It's funny because it's true. It becomes even more funnier when Podrick spoons way too many pease on Tyrion's plate and Tyrion feels obliged to eat them all. I'd love to see this little sequence on the show, but you can't have it all obviously. They finish the dinner in "strained silence", which is the perfect way to describe it all, and Sansa asks if she can go to the godswood. 
Tyrion has become accustomed to Sansa's nightly devotions. He finds all her piety "excessive", but he understands that she feels the need for comfort after all she's been through - another point in favor of Tyrion being a decent human (mostly). He suggest to accompany her, out of kindness, but she is quick to say "no", suggesting he would be bored, and he thinks she knows him well. It's funny because again they are kind of talking past each other, not realizing the other's motives. Maybe she thinks he suspects she's up to something, he thinks she's just a very pious, grieving girl. Lovely.

So off she goes, and he gets back to work - "trying to track some golden dragons through the labyrinth of Littlefinger's ledgers". I love that this plot point, established back in A Game of Thrones, is not forgotten. It means a great deal to the structure of the story and the background of many characters and situations how Littlefinger manipulated the king's coffers when he was the Master of Coin, and it makes sense that now Tyrion is trying to get a grasp of it all, as the new master. And it makes me wonder about that scene in last week's episode, where Tywin told Cersei that the Lannisters are, basically, broke. Canon, or TV show invention? Was it a spoiler? Oh, oh, to know! Said Patchface.  The more Tyrion tries to make sense of the accounts, however, the more his head hurts.

He is relieved that Ser Boros Blount comes to pick him up so he doesn't have to work on this anymore; instead, he has been summoned by his father. Of course, there's a smell of rain in the air (almost worried there) as he crossed the yard. In the Hand's solar he finds Cersei, his uncle Ser Kevan, King Joffrey, his lord father Tywin, and Grand Maester Pycelle (in my mind, now looking more and more like TV show Pycelle). His father is looking grim. Tyrion wonders if the man could smile if he wanted to, which has me chuckling and nodding. Which is kind of embarassing. If someone had seen me, I mean. Nodding in agreement to a thought written in a novel. So why is Tywin looking grim? It sounds like good news for House Lannister when Tyrion gets to read the parchment: "Roslin caught a fine fat trout. Her brothers gave her a pair of wolf pelts for her wedding." Tyrion doesn't grasp the meaning, wondering if Lord Walder Frey fancies himself a poet. Joffrey interrupts, "He's dead!", proud and happy as if he's the one who did the gruesome deed (which is how they portray Joff in the TV show as well, taking credit for deeds he hasn't done, well spotted, writers). Tyrion's thoughts go immediately to Sansa out in the godswood. 

Tywin reminds them that even though Robb and Catelyn are dead, the war has not been won yet. Many of his bannermen will likely choose submission rather than destruction, but Riverrun remains, and we learn that the Blackfish is holding that particular fort - and Edmure is held hostage by Walder, so the Blackfish will not dare do anything radical just yet. Another nod to the awesomeness and loyalty to House Mallister (my new favorite house now that I have discarded my appreciation for the Slynts); Tywin reveals that he has commanded Ser Gregor Clegane to put Harrenhal to the sword, so as to get rid of the Brave Companions. Even Tywin thinks they are a bit too much. Tyrion reflects that it seems his lord father will want to use the Mountain for all he's worth before handing him over to 'Dornish justice'...and he wonders if Littlefinger has reached the Vale yet, a thought forming naturally out of this discussion as Littlefinger is the rightful owner of Harrenhal at the moment. Nice way to remind us of Littlefinger in this chapter even as Sansa is in the godswood. Well crafted. I'm a fan.

Joffrey wants them all put to the sword - meaning not just the Companions but also the riverlanders. He sounds like such a spoiled child here, "I want them killed, Grandfather." Illustrates the character so effectively with so few words. And he wants to have Robb's head served to Sansa at his wedding feast. Geez had my kids been this demanding...It is good to see that Kevan is shocked. At least someone showing how he feels about Joffrey the moron king. Cersei tries to smile and tell her uncle Joff was only making a joke, but Joffrey says that he means it. "I want his stupid head. I'm going to make Sansa kiss it." Great. You're such a nice little boy.
Tyrion clearly can't take it anymore, either. No, he says to Joffrey with a hoarse voice, telling him that Sansa is no longer his to torment. And then, and then, Tyrion calls his nephew a monster. Which he is, of course, but Tyrion is telling the fricking King of Westeros that he's a monster, to his face. That takes guts. Foolishly, he doesn't stop there, but gives his nephew a badly veiled threat. Of course, what I didn't realize the first time I read this was that Martin was carefully setting up Tyrion as a scapegoat here. Now, Cersei has heard Tyrion threatening Joffrey, and this of course will be used against him later. First time I was just so happy to see someone finally telling the violent murderous brat the truth to his face. In that regard, I was a bit surprised when we had Tyrion bitch-slap Joffrey as early as 1.2 in the TV show. But of course Joffrey wasn't the king back then. Cersei plunges straight into a tirade, trying to make her father see how vicious Tyrion is for berating her son. Fortunately Tywin won't listen, and we end up with Joffrey looking sullen and sulky, but then he draws himself up and says, "You talk about Aerys, Grandfather, but you were scared of him." Things are getting interesting, Tyrion observes. Lannisters in the same room is almost always interesting, I say. They are just sitting around a table talking, but it comes oh so alive, sparks flying. They are the most interesting characters in many ways and putting them together like this, it's solid entertainment even as Martin advances the plot little by little. Cersei tells Joffrey to apologize to Tywin (she obviously has more respect for her father then), but Joffrey rants on, boasting about how "his father" (that would be Robert Baratheon he's talking about) killed Rhaegar while Tywin was hiding under Casterly Rock. Tywin thanks him for the wisdom, with "a courtesy so cold it was like to freeze their ears off". That's funny. Tywin tells his brother Kevan to get Joffrey to bed, and Pycelle to give Joffrey some dreamwine. Also funny, and was even funnier in the TV show. The king of Westeros is sent to bed. Still, it must feel strange to these people to hear this young boy demanding death and destruction as if he is begging for new expensive  toys for Christmas.

When Joffrey is escorted out of the solar, the discussion continues. Tywin wonders who taught Joffrey to talk like that, and Cersei suggests it might have been Robert, but reading between the lines I have a feeling it's Cersei herself who's been trying to raise her son but has obviously failed in that department (and most likely she was thinking of Ser Jaime when she spoke about honor and fighting and all that yadayada). Tyrion actually helps her, saying the part about hiding under the Rock sounds a lot like something Robert would say, she eagerly grabs onto it, further suggesting she was the one telling Joffrey stuff like that. Brilliant. Tywin dismisses his daughter as well, and she leaves, seething. Yeah, they are both pretty useless, Lord Tywin. Your best card is actually Tyrion, if you can only get over the fact he's a dwarf. Come on!

When she has left, Tyrion congratulates his father and he wonders how long Tywin and Walder have been plotting the Red Wedding. Tywin tells him he mislikes the word ("plotting", that is), to which Tyrion replies that he dislikes being left in the dark (which is a lovely, subtle foreshadowing if you will - he's ending up in a dark cell, after all, and not only that, but being left in a pretty dark rough spot in his life as well); Tywin tells him there was no reason to tell him, simple as that. He learns that Cersei wasn't told, either, which I suppose could be some kind of consolation. Tywin then admits that Tyrion does have a certain cunning, but that his problem is he talks too much. Which might well be true. The talk turns to Prince Oberyn, and Tywin tells Tyrion he's been thinking on how to best appease the Dornish. We are given more info on the more important Dornish character, Doran Martell, who Tywin describes as "cautious, reasoned, subtle, deliberate and indolent". Which perfectly summarizes the Doran we meet in A Feast for Crows, no? More exposition on the Dornish, but it's in short bursts and so interest is sustained: Oberyn is half-mad and has tried to raise Dorne for Viserys Targaryen (oh the foreshadowing of the Martell-Targaryen connection!).Tyrion says Oberyn is growing more and more impatient, before coming with another droll remark that has me chuckling: "Never let it be said that House Lannister blew its trumpets and I did not respond." Tyrion suggests taking Oberyn on a tour of King's Landing's brothels, and that he is the perfect tool for such a task, in other words, he's stabbing at his father for having such a hate for whores and, in particular, Tyrion's indulgences with whores. 

Tywin reveals that he's not going to give Ser Gregor to Prince Oberyn, which surprises Tyrion. Tywin explains that Gregor is much to useful for him, being the terror that he is, so he means to keep Gregor well away from King's Landing while Oberyn's around. He also says that Oberyn doesn't really know that Gregor was the one who murdered his sister and her children. Tywin will tell Oberyn that it was Ser Amory Lorch who did the foul deed instead. Tyrion reminds his father that Lorch is dead, which of course, is part of the plan. That way, Tywin doesn't have to lose anyway to Oberyn. We learn that it was Lorch who brought Tywin the "girl's body", she had hidden under her father's bed, as if Rhaegar could still protect her. Princess Elia, however, along with the son - that would be Aegon - were on the floor below. So here we get our first closer look at this gruesome event, and it seems then indeed, that there is some leeway for the babe Aegon to still be alive. The first hint is here, in the fact he was separate from his sister. More clues to follow. Tyrion is skeptical, which leads into Tywin telling us a lot more about the events surrounding Robert's usurpation of the Iron Throne and the murder of Princess Elia and her children. It's kind of lovely how it comes to us through a character's memories, which may be distorted. It becomes almost mythic, in a sense. What really happened? The way he describes Lorch's actions during this event leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and I wonder if Martin is taking his violence too far again. I mean, come on. Sickening. It happened back in the day, yes, but... raping and stabbing a two-three year old girl fifty times, I don't think the story's stronger for spelling it out. Sometimes, a suggestion is more than enough. We also learn that Walder had meant to keep Catelyn captive, which is kind of sad to know. Still, vengeance can be served icy cold. We see a lot of what makes Tywin tick when he says that the blood is on Walder's hands and not his. While Tyrion clearly sees that Tywin bears the blame, Tywin shrugs it off, places it on the lord of the Crossing instead. 

Tywin reveals the price he had to pay for the Red Wedding, and he's pleased it wasn't too much, showing us how he values human life in gold and agreements: Riverrun shall be given to Ser Emmon Frey once the Blackfish yields; Lancel and Daven Lannister must marry Frey girls; Joy Lannister is to wed a Frey heir; and Roose Bolton becomes Warden of the North "and takes home Arya Stark." This last bit of course surprises Tyrion. Tywin does not spell it out, but from the text we can assume they will be using someone who perhaps looks like Arya. This way, Bolton is appeased as he has a Stark heir in his family, but Tywin, cold and calculating as he is, already has his own son - Tyrion - married to Lady Sansa, so the North will become part of the House Lannister holdings, not Bolton's. 

So ruthless and efficient at the game of thrones, it's a shame, a real bloody shame, for the unfolding story, that House Lannister will soon lay in shambles almost as much as House Stark, but that's the way the story goes, and Martin ultimately decided that eventually removing this player from the story was the right decision. Myself, I still feel Tywin would have been a welcome presence in books four and five, not that I like him as a human being, but he's a strong character. But, no matter how well crafted his plots have been so far, there is someone in the shadows crafting even stronger plots, and that is Littlefinger, as we'll soon realize. And have realized, in the TV show. I guess many viewers were shocked to hear he is behind basically everything. Tyrion remains human, though, when he acidly asks his father when he should take Sansa's maidenhead, before or after telling her they have murdered her brother and mother. 

And so ends the chapter! It's basically great characters discussing politics, but it is interesting throughout, with some subtext, some barbed dialogue, some exposition, and some explanations as to how the Red Wedding came about - it's all good. We have a vested interest in these characters - and the characters they discuss, such as the Starks - and though this chapter ties up some threads for us, there's still much to look ahead for. Betrayal and murder, medieval realpolitik, and Tyrion in the midst of it all, the most human of the Lannisters, and the most reviled. House Stark seems crushed, and House Lannister might seem to be at the top of the game, but the chapter is giving us more than enough hints that all is not well; in fact, most things are not well; the king is an idiot, his mother isn't much better, Ser Jaime has lost his hand, Tywin has no empathy, the Tyrells and the Dornish are at each others' throats...if I'm not mistaken, this is at a point in the story where the tangled webs of Westeros politics and warfare are at their most complex, and to navigate it all requires a mastermind (like Littlefinger or Tywin); hence I love how the chapter shows us Tyrion struggling with Littlefinger's manipulation of money, telling us that Tyrion isn't able to see the whole picture, which later Tywin reminds us when he has to explain his son the Red Wedding plot. Nice through-line. 

Next up: Review of 4.6: The Laws of God and Men, and then Davos V!