Game of Thrones, Season 5, Episode 2: They’re All Going To Die Anyway

A weekly conversation between an avid Game of Thrones fan, and someone who has actively avoided it until now.

Haley Cullingham is Hazlitt’s senior editor. ...

Scaachi Koul is a senior writer at BuzzFeed Canada, formerly the managing editor of Hazlitt. Her debut collection of essays, The Pursuit of...

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Haley: What’s happening at the beginning of this episode is, depending on whom you ask, either the biggest or second biggest deal in the series. Also: I feel like Arya’s habit of reciting the names of her enemies before bed is something you could really get into.

Something that’s always been an interesting element of Arya’s story, and the story of all the Stark children, is this idea of displacement. Sense of home is usually such a strong element of storytelling, but in Game of Thrones, allegiance to land is never as strong as allegiance to family. In this episode, Tyrion says that every pile of shit in the kingdom has a banner hanging from it. Even though land is ostensibly what they’re all fighting over, Game of Thrones cuts directly to the fact that no one’s really fighting for love of place or people, they’re fighting for love of power, and those who do otherwise end up dead.

Scaachi: Oh, THAT’S what tiny fighter-baby was doing. Wait, why is Cersei her enemy? Is Cersei bad? I mean, I generally find that when a female character has cheekbones as severe as she does, she cannot be anything other than a villain. Closest you get is anti-hero, generally.

Haley: Cersei is technically a villain, I guess, but I see her as an anti-hero. She’s done some terrible things, but in the sexist world of Game of Thrones, she’s totally uncompromising. She basically got screwed, her whole life, so other people could gain power, and she’s done everything she can to take it back. Also she’s a cranky grouch who’s spent much of the series drunk on wine, and I like that sort of thing.

Scaachi: Who killed her family? Did The Dink kill her family? Is that why he won’t stop drinking? (Also why do they keep putting him in crates?)

I’m also surprised by how interested I got in Crazy Eyebrows’ storyline with another Hot Bald who killed Eyes Wide Shut Mask for her. (I don’t know anyone’s name and I refuse to learn.)

Haley: There’s no point learning anyone’s name, they’re all going to die anyway.

I am surprised you found Daenerys’ stuff interesting in this episode! Her storyline, which up until this point was my favourite, is moving into a less interesting place for me. “‘Ruling is hard.’ ‘Do I have any power without my dragons?’”

The Dink is Cersei’s baby brother (BLEW YOUR MIND THERE). He murdered their father by shooting him with an arrow while he was on the toilet. She also thinks he murdered her son Joffrey, who was the previous king.

Scaachi: Whaaahahahahahaht????

Haley: She has always resented him, ostensibly because their mother died giving birth to him. But I think it’s because his dwarfism gives him agency that she never had. Her whole life has been about her responsibilities as a beautiful daughter of this great family.

Scaachi: Man, there’s so much subtext to this show that I do not understand.

As for Daenerys (okay, I know my name is impossible but this name is just ABSURD), so far, it’s the main thing keeping me interested because she’s so clearly supposed to be “good” but when you have power, you have to make decisions that people are going to be unhappy with. Still not totally sure about that dragon scene at the very end. Is she friends with dragons?

Haley: If you put your name into an online Game of Thrones name generator, it would just come back “Scaachi.”

She is the Mother of Dragons. Google “Daenerys baby dragon fire birth” for the best Game of Thrones scene ever. She is the first person to command dragons in years, but now they are older and roaming the countryside murdering children and she can’t stop them, so they’ve become a liability. She locked two of them in a dungeon after this guy took off on his own.

Scaachi: I just put my name through a Game of Thrones name generator and it came up with, “Red Priestess Scaacysa Tully, Master-At-Arms,” so, yes, technically true.

Is there some class war going on with Daenerys? Or at least in her plotline? And moreover, do all these people know each other?

Haley: Put my name in!

Daenerys is making her way around the world freeing slaves in slave kingdoms, so that’s where the class warfare comes from. The timelines are all happening more or less concurrently, but she’s on the other side of the world from everyone EXCEPT TYRION NOW.

Scaachi: I DON’T KNOW WHO TYRION IS. BUTT? BUTT-GUY?

The only portion of this show that I’m finding near-unwatchable is Jon Snow. I don’t know what his deal is but I do know people like him and they write a lot of fan-fiction about him so I guess that means he must be valuable to people, but so far, all he’s managed to be is Good Guy With Too Much Hair and now they elected him to be something, I don’t know. Help me.

You name is Queen Haleyenna Baelish.

Haley: Tyrion is the Dink.

I can’t believe you’re finding the Jon Snow parts boring. I CRIED when I read that scene in the book. CRIED. Even though it’s useless to choose loyalties in Game of Thrones, because as soon as you love something George R.R. Martin cuts off its head, I think the story is going to come down to Jon Snow and Daenerys and their potential claims to the throne.

Also, how can you say he has too much hair? Clearly you’re just in this for the balds.

Scaachi: So how can you get invested in a series that’s so unwilling to reward its readers or viewers for investing in its characters?

And more importantly, did they have to make the one black guy in the show a sanguine-looking Jesus-type?

Haley: I guess you’re supposed to be invested in the long game … OF THRONES.

The race thing is interesting. Kind of like in Hunger Games, George R.R. certainly hints at race in the book, people in some regions are lighter-skinned, darker-skinned, etc., but he’s never explicit about it. I think they could have made the show less white.

Scaachi: Well, there’s definitely a way to do that while acknowledging that it’s a kind of historical inequity that has existed in the world. But it is an extremely white show considering the fact that it seems to be occurring across the world, in regions where, generally, there are brown people of varying shades. Like, for example, Daenerys: where is she from? Because it appears that she rules people who are Not White.

Haley: Yeah, how do racial politics play out in fantasy? Or how should they?

Danaerys lives in exile because her father was insane, which is touched on a little in this episode. Her family ruled for centuries and then they were overthrown, and she and her brother were smuggled out of the country. So, she is in some ways a colonial power, but she’s cut off from the power she’s “supposed” to wield. Though that idea of entitlement is certainly what fuels most of her actions.

Scaachi: I certainly don’t think that fantasy has to hold itself to actual history or even social context, but I almost feel like that’s the difference between a fantasy book and a fantasy show or movie: I can see with much more clarity what kind of world you’re building, and eventually it becomes clear that you, as the creator, have made a version of the world that spans across many countries but I don’t see anyone who looks like me (with a few vague exceptions). And I generally don’t like using the word problematic because I feel like it means nothing in most cases, but it does feel … funny when it becomes really obvious that this is a specific kind of fantasy world. Does that make sense? Am I being sensitive? Am I a butt?

Haley: It definitely makes sense! I think the visualization is key. Many of these books are written with an element of ambiguity, but then film and television adaptations remove that and whitewash everything. (And when they don’t, as happened with the Hunger Games, horrifying racist teenage girls crawl out of the Twitter woodwork.) And in Game of Thrones, it’s especially noticeable, because the idea behind the Night’s Watch (the guys who just made Jon Snow their king) is that the members come from all over the Seven Kingdoms, and all of those guys are white. So the show is basically telling us that everyone in that region is a white person. I guess I understand the narrative choice, but I don’t agree with it. Certainly with blockbuster fantasy, people of colour are still significantly underrepresented. Women, too. THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH, these writers/directors are perhaps saying. Need the fake ones, too.

Scaachi: I don’t think it’s intentional, which I guess is both good and bad. I think for a lot of people, it becomes easier to think about whatever creative endeavour you’re embarking on in your own terms, and to write about the kinds of people and things you have connections to. R.R. is a white dude largely writing about white dudes, which is fine—what I’m kind of peeved about is the direction the casting of the television show took.

Watching Daenerys try to get back to her pyramid, shielded by guards, while slightly darker people pelt her with rocks is a weird scene to watch.

But I also recognize that I’m lacking a lot of context for this show so I don’t want to make too much of a judgment call on it.

And frankly, my biggest issue is that I hate Jon Snow and I want him to die so bad, oh my god, I want him dead.

Haley: With or without context, you’re right. The fact that it’s likely unintentional feels even worse to me, somehow.

Your attitude towards Jon Snow is hilarious. I think he’s universally loved, otherwise! I go back and forth on his storyline, but as a character, I am glad he is alive, and this season especially, I think his sections are really compelling. I think this is a good time to Tell The People that going into this, you thought Joffrey was a charming and sweet Boy King.

Scaachi: I didn’t think he was “charming and sweet,” I just felt like if I needed to get into this show, I needed to try to believe someone was interesting.

And I don’t want to be dramatic but Jon Snow is literally the worst person in the entire world. He’s just a talking can of dried paint. Why would you keep dried paint in the house? All it’s gonna do is start a fire and even then, that’s a stretch.

Haley: I do not think that is scientifically accurate.

Scaachi: Jon Snow is Man Garbage.

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