On TV: Checking in with Game of Thrones

1. Rolling Stone yesterday published previously unreleased GRRM material, editorial outtakes from an interview with Martin from […]

Will McDavid / 4.29.14

1. Rolling Stone yesterday published previously unreleased GRRM material, editorial outtakes from an interview with Martin from last week. Among other great material, this gem on low anthropology, followed by a great redemption quote from the published interview, ht AOC:

On the show’s ambiguous line between good and evil:

We see a moral evolution, perhaps, on the part of the human race. But there are collapses and detours, and strange periods of aberration. Remember, we had democracy in ancient Greece. We had a republic in ancient Rome, and yet then somehow for the better part of 2000 years, we forget about those forms of government in most of the world and went to dictatorship, despotism, monarchy, of various forms. Only slowly did those form of government that we now look at and say are better kind of creep back in. So it’s not a straight-line kind of thing. Human beings are too interesting for that..

On redemption:

“Should we forgive Michael Vick? I have friends who are dog-lovers who will never forgive Michael Vick. Michael Vick has served years in prison; he’s apologized. Has he apologized sufficiently? Woody Allen: Is Woody Allen someone that we should laud, or someone that we should despise? Or Roman Polanski, Paula Deen. Our society is full of people who have fallen in one way or another, and what do we do with these people? How many good acts make up for a bad act? If you’re a Nazi war criminal and then spend the next 40 years doing good deeds and feeding the hungry, does that make up for being a concentration-camp guard? I don’t know the answer, but these are questions worth thinking about. I want there to be a possibility of redemption for us, because we all do terrible things. We should be able to be forgiven. Because if there is no possibility of redemption, what’s the answer then?”

I’m not totally sure that ASOIAF’s world has undergone any moral evolution at all, but recidivism and backsliding are all over the place, especially in the last couple of episodes.



2. Season 4, Episode 4 Power Rankings1

 1. Tyrells – Olenna has demonstrated her ability to control the Lannisters and the kingdom at large, and Margaery, in the brilliant scene in Tommen’s bedchamber, is quickly learning to follow suit. United leadership, strong arms, coin second only to the Lannisters, and plenty of grain puts them at the top for this week. And did we mention a budding alliance with the smartest man in the Seven Kingdoms?

2. Martells – Tywin needs them, and he seemingly needs them enough to suspend judgment on whether or not a very suspicious Oberyn was involved. As Tywin tells him, they’re the only house to ever stand respectably toe-to-toe with dragon-wielding Targaryens.

3. Lannister – Tywin hasn’t lost any of his power, and he’ll be able to exercise his will better with Tommen – “a wise king listens” – than with an unpredictable Joffrey. But Jaime’s gone rogue, Cersei’s grief and paranoia are clouding her judgment and isolating her, and the real brains of House Lannister (and true hero of the Blackwater) will stand trial by a panel stacked against him in a fortnight.

4. Littlefinger – He’s still presumably got Lannister support, he’s teamed up with the Tyrells, he’s marrying Lysa, which will give him considerable influence over the Vale, and he’s taken Sansa Stark, which gives him long-term leverage over the North. If we were ranking by potential, he’d be number 1, but as things stand, he directly commands hardly any strength at all. And he’s gained much from Joffrey’s death – to recap:


a. Created chaos – “chaos is a ladder”, and Littlefinger, who lives by his ambition and wit, benefits from chaos as much as anyone.

b. He’s placed the throne’s power in more predictable, and thus more manipulable, hands. In short, he’s created his kind of chaos.

c. He’s gotten Sansa

d. It’s helped him win Tyrell support, and

e. Tyrion was, along with Varys, the only match for Littlefinger in cleverness and strategy, and Littlefinger has effectively removed him from power. Also, Tyrion was arguably the only member of a great house who doesn’t grossly underestimate Littlefinger’s capabilities. One of the main threats to Baelish has been removed.

5. Targaryen – She’s getting better and better and sacking slave cities, but so far, the impact on Westeros has been negligible.

6. Boltons/Freys – They control the North

7. Varys – Where has he been?

8. Greyjoy – No word from the coast, either.

9. Baratheon – No men and no coin. Stunning that after months of scrounging for money, the idea of taking a loan never occurred to anyone until now. Expect the Iron Bank to charge exorbitant interest.

10. Stark – The Vale was their best hope for a power base, but Littlefinger’s set up well to take control there. Sansa arguably exercises less influence with Baelish than she did with Tyrion, since Tyrion cared about her some. Bran’s gone from bad to worse, losing his freedom; of his allies, Jojen’s foaming at the mouth, Hodor just took a spear in the side, and Summer is caught in some kind of trap. There’s some upside with Jon Snow, with Sunday’s episode hinting at the possibility of Night’s Watch high command.


 3. For Watchers:

-More brilliant dialogue between Arya and the Hound in episode 3. She’s such a child in some ways, but she’s the only child with enough backbone to create the compelling scenes the show’s delivered with Tywin and now Sandor. They’re good for each other: Arya’s stubborn enough to be respectable by Hound standards, and the Hound is teaching her some much-needed worldly wisdom. “How many more Starks are going to have to lose their heads…” may have been the best line all season.

-Olenna gets better and better. Direct, hilarious, self-possessed, and – it turns out – pretty influential.

-Brienne and Jaime couldn’t stop looking back at each other during her departure. Giving up his sword worked on a couple different levels as a repudiation of his Lannister heritage.

4. For maesters (spoilers from later books)


-The Night’s King! On the scale of theory plausibility (“tin foil”—->”Valyrian steel”), the idea that the Others were somehow civilized, perhaps even having built the Wall to keep out the humans, was boiled leather at best. Such theories may have just gotten a bump to chain mail. Read more from io9.

-Margaery had nothing to do with Joffrey’s death – something suggested, but as far as I remember never confirmed, in the books.

-More Thenn cannibalism and Martell orgies: I guess HBO needs some sensationalism, but also, in lieu of long passages of direct characterization, these are short and effective ways to get across a portrait of what these people are like. There’s only 55 minutes in an episode, so you gotta economize somehow.

-Bran and Jon could meet: I would personally love to see it. I don’t see how else he’s escaping from Craster’s.

-A generous reading of Ice and Fire would see Dany’s high-minded liberation as evidence not only of goodness, but also of immaturity, naiveté, and petulance. Littlefinger, Tywin, and Sandor Clegane benefit their disillusionment. Maybe I’m just biased because, despite how well the Meereen set looked, GET A NAVY.

Featured image courtesy of CD.

We use a proprietary algorithm factoring in defensibility of lands, marriageable children, and number of Valyrian steel swords, among other variables.