Sunday, April 15, 2012

"What is dead may never die."

I may be a fantasy noob, but HBO's "Game of Thrones" has been the greatest thing since Middle Earth. My reasons? Here's one for each of the seven kingdoms:

1. "War is easier than daughters."

My sons are fairly uncomplicated, all things considered. I keep them well fed, equal parts rested and engaged, and exceedingly loved. They're self-cleaning ovens after that. I've never had a daughter, however, and that dynamic interests me very much.

George R.R. Martin touches on it perfectly via Eddard Stark's relationship with daughters Sansa and Arya.The former is your typical bratty teen, tired of those who love her most and eager to spread her wings. Her younger sister is already a wolf of a woman and I can't help but wish for one of my own. Look how her response is met by Ned at 0:25: despite Sansa's exhortations, he looks instead to Arya. He knows his little girl already sees the forest for the trees and couldn't be more pleased:

In the next, Ned has to turn his head to hide that glorious fatherly elixir of laughter and pride. "Game of Thrones" nails this magic like nothing else, and kudos to Sean Bean for capturing such nuance:

2. The Night's Watch

In HBO's recent "God Is Bigger Than Elvis", a Benedictine nun gives the most cogent explanation of carnal restraint I've ever heard:
"Chastity doesn’t mean that you don’t appreciate what God created. Chastity says, use it well.” 
Sure, some stewards, builders and rangers may slink off to Mole's Town for a little "Sally on the side", but there's something to be said for such integrity and resolve:


Jon tells Sam that he was almost with a red-headed whore named "Roz". Is this the same woman now in Littlefinger's brothel? I understand she's merely an HBO creation and not in Martin's books, but the coincidence is intriguing.


I know I'd find it an honorable life. They're the tip of Westeros' spear, regardless of the order's long neglected state. Whereas Cersei rolls her eyes at "grumpkins and snarks", I know all I'll ever need to about the Crows with this:
"Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night's Watch, for this night and all nights to come."
 3. A Lannister always pays his debts.

Season 2's top billing:


Tyrion pisses off The Wall, sleeps in a sky cell, treats with the clansmen and becomes the Hand of The King. He invites a Lord to the his quarters to sup on summer greens with pecans and quail drowning in butter, only to force him to take the black. He made Bran a saddle. He dealt with Jon Snow in facts on their way north, while others slung platitudes. He makes it impossible for me to hate the Lannisters, which I most assuredly do. Peter Dinklage is a giant, as far as I'm concerned.

4. "Nothin' like a woman after a fight."

One can't mention the imp without his loyal Bronn never being too far away. This sellsword is one of the most understated characters so far, in my opinion. He champions Tyrion, wins his freedom, gets offered inns and whores and travels south. But is it truly loyalty?

At any given time, Bronn can slay Tyrion without a second thought. One motion, no foreboding. Dead. The Hand of The King dust, his killer fading back into the world from whence he came. If all Tyrion can pledge is the ability to pay more, who serves whom in their clever, unlikely arrangement?

5. You can never go home again.

Theon Greyjoy gets no homecoming, fondles his sister unknowingly and gets marginalized by his father. His arc this season could be summed up with, "I know you're there, Oatman."

6. Ours is the Fury.

Stephen Dillane turned in a stupendous performance as Long Tom on HBO's "John Adams". What struck me immediately about his Stannis is his unwavering position: Whereas most others are ruled by passion, honor, greed, power, or any one of a hundred other things, his dour, spartan compass is fixed squarely on what is right. Even a seemingly harmless courtesy is struck simply because it is not true, and a title retained because it is:

He's been slighted all his life, in nearly every way imaginable. But when the time comes for him to pursue what is right, he does so with the same inflexible sense of duty. Is it any wonder, then, that men like Davos Seaworth hold him in such high esteem? He is easily one of the most complex characters so far, and one needn't look any further than his cartography lesson with Melisandre as proof. 

7. "Stupidity in a woman is unwomanly."

Frankly, I'm tired of all the fawning over Daenerys Targaryen. She's not some paragon of burgeoning womanhood, she's a weak, sycophantic waif who spread her legs. Even on her best day, she's but Cersei Lite: Half the guile, same great taste™.

When push came to shove, she harmed her own child to keep her unmerited position. When that failed, she hatched an egg. Fire may not be able to kill a dragon, but ice is another thing entirely. Frankly, it's a marvel she didn't choke on this, and I'm only hangin' on to watch her go down: