Wednesday, June 1, 2016

[Re-read] Jon I (ADwD) Same Scenes, Different Lighting [Part 2/2]

So I got cut off from finishing up Jon's first chapter because of this week's Game of Thrones. I'm still underwhelmed, the good thing about that being that I'm not as hyped for next week, despite the return to Riverrun and something actually resembling Jaime's story (it looks like my wish is coming true - for Jaime to stop just hanging around and become proactive; though it's weird he left Cersei on such good terms back in King's Landing if he's going to burn her lett.... oh. They are just skipping that, aren't they?) ANYMOOSE there's a bit of Jon I left to read, and Sam and Gilly have left the building (Castle Black, that is), so it should be all new and interesting for the remainder. Like, I remember reading A Storm of Swords for the first time sixteen years ago and it was just impossible to put down, every page promised something witty, or shocking, or was just insanely brimming with awesome. And every time Martin got me, especially with disturbing stuff. Reading Jaime and Brienne was just piling horror upon horror, from the vile Brave Companions, to Jaime losing his hand, to Jaime forced to have said hand dangling around his neck (!), Martin really took "disgusting" to new levels, but he also made me (and many others) consider important themes herein, such as the glorification of war. Anyway, before I ramble into comparisons with the daily news, heeeeeere's Jon(ny).

So Jon Snow is moving men around to guard more of the many castes lining the Wall, and he's decided to give Greyguard to Janos Slynt. I love how we as readers can "see" Jon's thoughts about Janos ("Gods save us") but when he speaks of him, he is all professional and doesn't add his opinion about the man. There is a cool moment when Jon is sliding an oilcloth along his bastard sword, an implied threat which Janos doesn't seem to take; and when Jon thinks of how easy his sword could decapitate the former commander of the Gold Cloaks, well, I guess he has the support of most readers.

Slynt is surprised by the offer of Greyguard, as in, it seems that he expected something else (a better, closer castle perhaps). To Jon's mind, Greyguard is ideal; it needs a lot of repair and care, and Janos will be to exhausted with the work to do something stupid. In a way, the convo here reminds me of the time when Tyrion invited Janos for dinner at the Red Keep. There, as well as here, Janos gradually gets angrier the more he is insulted. Also, speaks of himself in the third person. Good ol' Janos Slynt. When Jon reminds Janos that going to Greyguard is actually an order, and not an offer, Slynt simply says, "No." This man obviously has no respect for Jon Snow. The simple "no" by the way is accompanied by his chair flying backwards, so he got angry a lot faster than when he spoke to Tyrion. Fair enough, Jon isn't playing a game like Tyrion did, he just flat out tells the man what is expected of him. And I believe Jon secretly hopes that Slynt does indeed refuse.

Slynt, once more, reminds us that he has friends in high places but Jon stays calm; Janos also calls him "the traitor's bastard", so he definitely has no respect for Jon. And then Slynt stalks off. Jon thinks that Slynt sees him as a little boy, but he won't yield; it would be the only way to get Slynt to Greyguard.

Now, hold on. This is a solid, classic Ice & Fire-chapter, isn't it? I'm (re-) intrigued, I'm looking for subtext, I'm curious how this will resolve itself (yeah I remember how it ends, but you know, I've forgotten the process).

Next morning we get a Western-feeling as Jon and his posse (Iron Emmett, Dolorous Edd, Mully, Horse, Red Jack Crabb, Rusty Flowers, Owen the Oaf, wait a minute who are all these guys) enter the saloon common room where Janos and his posse are eating. His posse only has Ser Alliser as a named character, though. Unfair. Elsewhere the room is filled up with Selyse's men, Stannis' men and black brothers. Simply by describing how full of people the common room is, Martin sets the tension. Jon looks around the room (I can hear the Enrico Macaroni soundtrack playing) sees a couple more friends (huh Pyp and Grenn died in our season 4 rewatch last night, I actually have to recalibrate here) and then Martin effectively punctuates the tension with, "All the voices died at once."

Jon gives Janos one last chance to follow his orders, which allows for Janos Slynt's perhaps best line of dialogue in terms of snarkiness. Jon says he's got the horse saddled and that the road is long and hard, and Janos goes, "Then you had best be on your way, boy." Heh I imagine the high-fives among the cronies. Slynt certainly does not fear anything from Jon, as this line shows, had he known how serious Jon can get he may have toned it down a bit. Oh well, at least he got high fives out of it (possibly!). Janos adds Greyguard isn't a place for "decent godly folk", which strikes me as somewhat odd coming from Janos because I can't remember there being any hints at all of him being devout to any god (of course, it can be bluster, I know). Stranger, he adds that "The mark of the beast is on you. bastard," and this line I do have a problem with, because we've never in the previous 3000 pages heard of "the mark of the beast", so it comes totally from left field, and is taken directly from the Bible (as far as I'm aware) and as such it doesn't "fit" the established canon. At least my head-canon. I will be looking out for more references to the mark of the beast, to see if there's something more here or whether it was just something Martin threw in there without much thought (it can happen to all of us). What does Janos mean anyway? Did Jon get a 666 tattoo all of a sudden? Unlike the sudden appeareance of names for the hours ("hour of the wolf", "hour of the weevil" etc), "the mark of the beast" stands out as something that doesn't belong. But that might just be me. Oh, and I don't mind Martin taking stuff from said bible, either, there's a lot of inspiration to be found in its stories (many at least as disturbing as Martin's), but ... I'm just like, what? The mark of the beast? What beast? What is he talking about? The Devil? The Stranger? The Others? The wolves - Ghost? There is no context and I must wah wah

Slynt, as carefree as they come, tells Jon to stick his order up his bastard's arse (Slynt really likes to remind Jon of his heritage; this might become a feelgood moment once we learn that Jon's heritage is awesome), and then Jon goes, all icy calm - like Ned! - ponders for a moment that he could put him in an ice cell (but Slynt would be out scheming again in no time), to tie him to his horse and force-ride him to Greyguard (but Slynt will only desert - hey, why have that chat with...oh, to give him a chance...but still, yeah, some wonky writing there; first he thinks Slynt will work his jowls off at Greyguard so he won't have the energy to do something stupid, and seems like Jon knew all along where this was going, right?)

"- and hang him," Jon finished. 

Well, well written piece this, with Jon starting with "Take Lord Janos to the Wall--", then this long moment in which he ponders the ice cells, tying him up, making him a cook - and then dropping the mic, as it were.

Janos' goes white, the spoon slipping from his fingers, Ser Alliser reaches for his blade and Jon is mentally daring him to draw it, half the room is on their feet, and many of them didn't even vote for Jon as Lord Commander so there's a great element of uncertainty here for Jon - in the author's words, For a moment the world balanced on a sword's edge. I'm so happy I'm enjoying this chapter. There have been a few boring ones so far, but this one grabs me. Because there's something happening, there's an increased tension toward the end of the chapter, as I've become used to with the first three, in short it retains the structure and narrative of a classic I&F chapter.

And so Janos is hauled from his bench to his protests, oy look there the mark of the beast is mentioned again and it has to do with Ghost indeed, though there's no more to learn about it, we are told (perhaps too many times) that Slynt looks at Jon as nothing but a boy, and a bastard boy at that (to think that people can be judged for this, even today). As he is marched off, he keeps shouting about his friends in King's Landing, but it seems that he once again can count on those. Of course, it is most likely that those friends are only friends from Janos' point of view.

They go outside with Janos, Janos resists weakly and is slammed against the iron bars of a cage. Stannis and Val, among others, are watching from a distance. Janos continues to blather about friends and how Jon would not dare to hang me, while Jon has second thoughts. Again, nicely written by Mr. Martin, everything kind of stops as Jon says, "Stop", The reader is frowning and wondering, what now? Stannis probably has some thoughts as well. I can only imagine show!Stannis now too, Stephen Dilane while not given the best lines, did a pretty good job in the role. I can imagine him standing there, calculating the qualities of the new Lord Commander of the Night's Watch.

Janos smiles; he was right. Jon Snow would not do this to him, he's just a boy, a bastard - and then his smile fades when Edd Tollett is told to go get a block. Jon is doing in the old way, people. And of course this echoes, eloquently, one of the earliest scenes of the series, when Ned Stark beheaded a deserter of the Night's Watch. Jon is becoming more like Ned, and this seals the deal for those who haven't caught onto that part of his character development. Jon's words to Slynt aren't as elegant as Ned's were, instead he warns Slynt to be still so he won't have to hurt him for too long. Slynt's last words are "Please, my lord. Mercy. I'll go," but Jon thinks it's too late now (and I have to agree, although I'd probably put the fellow in a cell and hide the key) and swooosh there goes Janos Slynt, a character that, despite having no redeeming qualities except for a great surname, has been part of the story since the first novel, actually. show!Janos was another great casting, by the way.

Owen the Oaf breaks the spell with "Can I have his boots?" as if we're looking into a game of World of Warcraft, and as I was pondering the implications of Jon's behavior echoing Ned's, Owen's line feels out of place. But at the same time, why not. It breaks up the somberness.

Jon and Stannis share a look across the yard, and I love how ambiguous it is, while still telling us that Stannis approved of Jon Snow's decision to behead a man.

Yeah, wow, cool. I liked this bit a lot. All the repetitions from Sam I, not so much. I mean, seeing the same scene from two POVs could potentially be awesome if those viewpoints differed greatly, but it kind of didn't.

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