Dragons are not precision weapons.
There were pieces of the puzzle they could have latched onto here—like her prophecy in Qarth, echoed by Cersei’s later in the series—but chose not to, leaving this to be read as an immediate reaction as opposed to a cumulative story development. The fact that Daenerys Targaryen committed these acts does not betray the arc of her character, but it is the kind of development that requires nuanced development that the ensemble spectacle of the series just might not be built for, and which the show certainly never achieved.
Loser: the “Inside Game of Thrones” segments at the end of each episode
Honestly, these are the stupidest fucking things. Have you ever watched them? Scenes from the episode replay, while showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss try to explain what’s happening in them. [...]
I realize the joke is on me for actually watching these things, when I know they’re going to have next to nothing insightful to say about what I’ve just seen. But even by bottom-of-the-barrel standards of segments meant to discuss an episode you’ve just watched in the most superficial way possible, they’re so, so bad. Benioff and Weiss either don’t want to share insight into their characters or can’t. HBO should just dump these segments entirely.
> ...someone who named your daughter Daenerys or Khaleesi over the past decade.
Those poor people. This is why you don't name your kids Khaleesi, people. Don't do it.
I feel like the show was pretty explicit, with its long focus on her crumbling, enraged, verge-of-sobbing expression, that Dany going full dracarys was the result of her finally falling over that precipice and lashing out.
*camera zooms out slowly*
*Hodor holding a snow-globe.*
You think I'm a good man? I pushed a boy out a tower window, crippled him for life for Cersei. I strangled my cousin with my own hands just to get back to Cersei. I would have murdered every man, woman and child in Riverrun for Cersei. She's hateful. And so am I.
This is the latest parle we will admit;
Therefore to our best mercy give yourselves;
Or like to men proud of destruction
Defy us to our worst: for, as I am a soldier,
A name that in my thoughts becomes me best,
If I begin the battery once again,
I will not leave the half-achieved Harfleur
Till in her ashes she lie buried.
The gates of mercy shall be all shut up,
And the flesh'd soldier, rough and hard of heart,
In liberty of bloody hand shall range
With conscience wide as hell, mowing like grass
Your fresh-fair virgins and your flowering infants.
What is it then to me, if impious war,
Array'd in flames like to the prince of fiends,
Do, with his smirch'd complexion, all fell feats
Enlink'd to waste and desolation?
What is't to me, when you yourselves are cause,
If your pure maidens fall into the hand
Of hot and forcing violation?
What rein can hold licentious wickedness
When down the hill he holds his fierce career?
We may as bootless spend our vain command
Upon the enraged soldiers in their spoil
As send precepts to the leviathan
To come ashore. [...]
why, in a moment look to see
The blind and bloody soldier with foul hand
Defile the locks of your shrill-shrieking daughters;
Your fathers taken by the silver beards,
And their most reverend heads dash'd to the walls,
Your naked infants spitted upon pikes,
Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confused
Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry
At Herod's bloody-hunting slaughtermen.
What say you? will you yield, and this avoid,
Or, guilty in defence, be thus destroy'd?
Chekhov’s Gun is never about the gun — it’s about that the things you set up in act one are not random. The snake eventually bites its own tail. The echo goes down the cave and back. This felt like a snake without a tail at all.
Cersei’s one of the most manipulative, canny, cunning survivors. So it’ll be sad if this how she goes. Even if she remains alive it was hard to watch this vicious scorpion of a woman — smart, capable, the coldest of blood — to be reduced to someone who understands nothing of what has been wrought. Her end as seen so far is this:
She stares out the window until it’s over and time to go, and then she goes, and then she’s gone.
Last night’s penultimate Game of Thrones episode, “The Bells,” is officially the most disappointing in the show’s history. With a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 50%, it ranks even lower than season 5’s “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” (54%) which featured Sansa Stark’s brutal, controversial rape at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. In fact, a Redditor’s data analysis of Rotten Tomato ratings over the course of the show’s history shows a steep, one-way decline in ratings since the beginning of season 8.
You live a pretty rustic life.
I’m a sailor and spent all my years trying to do up boats. Now I’m thinking of finishing my last few scenes and sailing off into the sunset. That’s my dream.
That sounds fantastic. Where are you going to go?
That’s my f—ing business.
That should be the end of this story. It’s a perfect final quote for McCann and/or The Hound. But there’s a final bit. When we spoke to Maisie Williams on the set, she had something to say about working with McCann again after they spent several seasons apart. . . . “Rory would always chat with me [when filming the earlier seasons] about adventures he’d have in his life — buying a piece of land and living in bunker — all these crazy things he’d do,” Williams said. “Before I was like, ‘Wow, that’s crazy.’ Now I’m like, ‘Oh, I just bought a piece of land next to the sea too.’ I realized he’s really shaped me quite a lot as a person. I’ve realized his way of life does seem really appealing and I’ve learned a lot from him. I respect his friendship and loved working with him this year.”
Rationality is the ability to learn: to extrapolate from past experiences, to analyze the present situation, and to anticipate possible future outcomes. None of these idiots are rational; they keep doing the same thing but expecting a different result (just as we do by watching) and we accept it because we recognize their characters doing the things their characters do, and because we like their characters, we’re happy to watch it on our screens. But the only rational person, here, is Daenerys. She has experienced rebellions, both for her and against her, and has learned from them; she correctly apprehends that time is not on her side (King’s Landing is not going to rebel against Cersei and her allies are all betraying her, which will only continue) and she correctly realizes that the only way to win—and not die—is to be a dragon. Without allies who will serve her out of love, she must do what dragons do: eat the sheep.
When Jon and Tyrion do really dumb things that blow up in their face—or when Sansa and Arya act in stunningly short-sighted ways—the show gets away with it because they are Our Heroes. We not only forgive them, we fail to see through them; we let them have it both ways. This particularly works for the men, who the show expects us to see as loyal to their queen, even as they are flagrantly disloyal to her. Because Jon Snow is the hero of the show—who will probably kill Daenerys next week—we don’t see him betraying her when he repeats his father’s mistake (of revealing the inconvenient genealogies of ruling monarchs). And when Tyrion literally engineers the escape of his brother so that he can engineer the escape of Cersei, the Queen’s main enemy, we somehow don’t see this as a betrayal. In both cases, this is just an honest and a clever man doing what’s necessary because their Queen won’t.
It just might possibly be that the gendering of the situation makes it a little bit easier to see them undermining her, in everyone’s best interest—even hers—without being marked by disloyalty, because patriarchy lets you “serve” a woman while also ruling her. Maybe the gendering of the situation makes it easier to see her as abruptly “turning” in a moment of rage and madness and grief and burning King’s Landing. Maybe because she’s young and pretty, and has always been surrounded by male advisors, we overlook how well she’s learned the lessons that Olenna and Cersei have taught, and how completely in line with those lessons her actions are.
But a deeper problem is that we don’t want to admit that Daenerys is right, because we don’t want to admit what monarchy is. There are no good kings and queens, something Varys should have known (Jon Snow would be a good king, maybe, and his reign would be extremely short). Kings and queens are selfish people who will kill you when they need you to die; while Tyrion should have been reading Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Carl Schmitt, Daenerys was out learning, in the field, what exactly the throne is. She is open about it. She is honest. She had wanted everyone to love her, and tried to make it happen. But as the people who loved her kept dying—and as her “allies” turned against her and her enemies grew stronger—she correctly identified the failure of this strategy, and changed tactics. Just like she attacked the ships from the sun—ambushing them instead of letting them ambush her—she has abandoned a failing tactic, based on her knowledge of the field of play, and adopted a winning one.
It’s where a wiser leader, one more suited to the awesome power she’s spent her life working to claim for herself, might withdraw, marshal her resources, and commit to some combination of a siege and a house-by-house clearing of the city by her infantry. But in her rage and pain and sorrow, and painfully out of reach of all the advisors who’ve helped her rein herself in over the years, Dany reacts—not making a conscious, deliberate decision to do genocide to innocent people, but lashing out as a wounded dragon, as the thing she always has had inside of her, at both the Big Crossbows and at the entire society that has taken so much from her—and just fuckin’ lays waste to King’s Landing.
This isn’t Benioff and Weiss’s fault, as such; the problem is forcing this sprawling, excessive show to conclude [...] Endings and conclusions are also false in a way that unexpected deaths are not. An unexpected death contains the story it has cut short and the story that could have continued, and that’s its pathos; because a conclusion wraps it all up in a neat narrative container — and makes everything turn out to have been leading up to that — it’s a lie: nothing really ends conclusively. Life is lived and died in medias res, and death is just the beginning of mourning, and the smartest thing GoT ever did was remember that no one is the center of the story; if you think you’re the protagonist, you’ll die and at best it will turn out that you’re just the new protagonists’ motivation, or just be forgotten. But to end the show with the deaths of some and the crowning of others — which is what we all know they’ll do — is to announce that, no, THESE were the protagonists all along. The other lives and deaths just didn’t matter as much, it will turn out; this really was the story of the Starks, or the Targaryen’s, or whoever.
Noble dragons (Draco nobilis) are intelligent, arrogant, powerful, and graceful and beautiful in a specialized sense. Noble dragons are huge and winged, can produce an extremely hot flame, and seem to defy normal physics in both their flying and their flaming. If they are flesh and blood, each noble dragon will weigh many tons, but the one noble dragon that appeared in Ankh-Morpork lazily flaps its wings once to take off and glides for the rest of the flight. The noble dragon doesn't seem to have eaten much in the way of energy-rich fuels, but its flame has been far hotter than that of the most gluttonous swamp dragons.
The fact is, the noble dragon is one of the Discworld species that has evolved to live on magic. Their body materializes by magic, they flame by magic, and they fly (or glide) by magic. Since the large amount of magic required for a noble dragon to exist in the more normal dimensions of Discworld is not available everywhere, noble dragons have gone into another dimension, all metaphorically squished up like rather huge and beautiful sardines. ...
Whoever decided to build King’s Landing out of brittle clay blocks must be feeling pretty stupid right now
That the episode begins with its focus on the character most closely associated with the common people of Westeros is grimly fitting. Where previous episodes this season have worked with negative space to highlight the increasing isolation of the series’ surviving characters, “The Bells” leans hard into the panicky crush of crowds. Fleeing commoners pack the streets of King’s Landing so tightly that the slow and infirm are trampled underfoot. Waves of bodies break against unyielding stone. Drogon’s fiery breath leaves carbonized corpses heaped atop each other in contorted tangles. It’s as though the crowds that flocked to Daenerys in earlier seasons and who lifted her with joyful cries of “Mother! Mother!” are now being reforged into the physical foundation of her new capital.
It may be Daenerys’s final mental and emotional unaveling that touches off the sack of King’s Landing — the second in living memory, and orders of magnitude worse than the one Tywin Lannister infamously oversaw — but the queen herself is present only as shadow and flame for the episode’s second half. Maybe that’s all she’s ever been, at least since she tied the midwife Mirri Maz Duur to a stake and burned her alive at the end of the show’s first season almost a decade ago. The truth has always been there in the trail of dead children, crucified slavers, and burning bodies she’s left in her wake. It was there at the end of season seven when the Night King’s army breached the wall and marched into the Seven Kingdoms in a shot eerily reminiscent of so many triumphant scenes of Dany’s dragons soaring over her legions.
It has to do with the behind-the-scenes process of plotters vs. pantsers. If you’re not familiar with the distinction, plotters create a fairly detailed outline before they commit a single word to the page. /2
Pantsers discover the story as they write it, often treating the first draft like one big elaborate outline. Neither approach is ‘right’ - it’s just a way to characterize the writing process. But the two approaches do tend to have different advantages. /3
Because they have the whole story in mind, it’s usually easier for plotters to deliver tighter stories and stick the landing when it comes to endings, but their characters can sometimes feel stiff, like they’re just plot devices. /4
Pantsers have an easier time writing realistic characters, because they generate the plot by asking themselves what this fully-realized person would do or think next in the dramatic situation the writer has dropped them in. /5
But because pantsers are making it up as they go along (hence the name: they’re flying by the seat of their pants), they’re prone to meandering plots and can struggle to bring everything together in a satisfying conclusion. /6
That’s why a lot of writers plot their stories but pants their characters, and use the second draft to reconcile conflicts between the two. /7
So, did Jon Snow return the wayward daughter of Mad King Aerys to her Sun and Stars. And having no further concern, he and his companions sought adventure in the North. Many wars and feuds did Jon Snow fight. Honor and fear were heaped upon his name and, in time, he became a king by his own hand...
but that is another story.
But in time, Thrones fans will come to appreciate the choice and opportunities to go cinematic, rather than have lots of dialogue scenes.
Few fans picked up on Varys’s apparent poison plot, and after assessing all the different reads on Dany’s behavior (see below), we have to wonder — did Varys actually succeed somewhat? Did some of his poison make it into her meals, possibly causing her to feel sick and then refuse more food? (Her skin had a sallow tone, which we initially attributed to her being in mourning.) If Varys dosed Dany with a slow-acting poison (affecting her mental state), it’s another example of history possibly repeating itself. After all, Varys was also suspected of poisoning Dany’s dad, the Mad King — not with literal poison, but with whispers of treason and traitors at every turn, stoking his paranoia.
“During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man.
To this war of every man against every man, this also in consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law, where no law, no injustice. Force, and fraud, are in war the cardinal virtues.
No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."
Podrick Payne walks by and smiles at Bran while he is sitting next to a tiny fire in an abandoned room. This actually does make Bran feel a little bit like a human being again. Podrick’s smile is pure light in an ugly world. Bran considers telling Podrick that Dany is going to go full bonkers and murder thousands and thousands of innocent people in a few hours, but he just doesn’t want to bum him out.
Even if the new season had managed to minimize plot holes and avoid clunky coincidences and a clumsy Arya ex machina as a storytelling device, they couldn’t persist in the narrative lane of the past seasons. For Benioff and Weiss, trying to continue what Game of Thrones had set out to do, tell a compelling sociological story, would be like trying to eat melting ice cream with a fork. Hollywood mostly knows how to tell psychological, individualized stories. They do not have the right tools for sociological stories, nor do they even seem to understand the job.
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