Warning! Warning! This post is full of spoilers and thoughts and conjecture.
There I have warned you.
I have a complicated relationship with Game of Thrones. It has been this way since I first binge watched it years ago. I love Jon Snow with the fire of a thousand suns. Daenerys is my home girl. I have been on Sansa’s side for longer than most because I’m a girl often underestimated, too. Arya is a badass I could totally hang with. Tyrion is my drinking buddy. I get irritated when the showrunners resort to sensationalism. That whole “Jon Snow is dead” thing, yeah, I was not okay and it is still not okay even though he’s back.
My trust is broken. My devotion still very real.
I came to GRRM’s world through the show, and even once I read the books the show was my first affection. I never transferred my affections to the books in the same way those who started with the books first like to lord that over our heads.
There is more than one way to be a fan.
The cannon of the show and the cannon of the books are two different beasts. For many seasons the show has diverged and meandered and omitted vast plot elements from the book series. They are not separate beings, but we need to stop making allowances for the show based on what has happened in the books. We have left book territory.
So for the purposes of this blog post, I am not taking into account the cannon as established by GRRM. I speak of show cannon and worldbuilding, and what framework has been created by the showrunners for the finale of this series.
Warg Magic: a study in sloppy world building
Y’all, don’t get grumpy because I sound critical. See above swoonage.
In A Song of Fire and Ice warg magic is explored not only through Bran’s storyline, but through Arya and Jon. In Game of Thrones, we are mostly limited to exploring the warg magic, and it’s boundaries and limitations, through Bran, with the help of Jojen and the Three Eyed Raven. Because of the commercial pacing of the franchise, the length of episodes, and cost of production, trying to fit complicated worldbuilding into fragmented segments of TV can often result in gaps.
Add in the fact that Bran was missing for the entirety of season 5, and we have a recipe for worldbuilding tomfoolery. This season of Game of Thrones has moved at breakneck speed — a fact I am not actually against. However, even with that pacing, for much of the season so far I have felt like the storylines were a bit limp. We have received a lot of information in a very short amount of time, and I think maybe they need to make sure someone is fact checking for them.
In the episode The Door, we are force fed two pieces of warg magic law that the TV viewer had no previous knowledge of.
Bran is touched by the White Walker dude and then apparently that means he has permission to pass through the wards in place around him.
(I don’t think they call the magical barriers wards in GoT, that is just me showing you guys how super cool I am) Is the White Walker now a vampire and this forced touch is his way of gaining permission to enter? For starters, this brings up some consent issues that Game of Thrones already gets wrong. But it is awfully convenient to the plot that this information is revealed too late, thus making the climax possible.
When worldbuilding, do not throw pertinent, potentially perspective altering information in a line of dialog right before it happens on screen/the page. It is actually possible to skillfully feather in a magical principle and still maintain dramatic tension. Throwing it at your audience (and the character), right before it is necessary is just lazy. Coming up with an active way for Bran to be touched by the White Walker even though he knows the risk would have also given him an active role in the horrific events of the climax.
Bran can warg into a body in the past.
Bran affects the timeline through his power. Beyond that one brief second at the Tower of Joy, we had no previous clue that Bran was actually even in the literal past. To me, the visions felt very much like Harry’s trips into the pensive, which he could not alter in any way.
The revelation that he can kind of be heard is the first clue that he might actually be going into the past, though raises the question of if he is in the past what physical plane is Bran on when he is warging? It’s not the same plane as the others because they can’t see him. Is he like an apparition? Apparitions historically struggle with interacting with the physical plan. (re: All the Ghost Movies)
There is either a plothole here or they need to establish the law he uses to make this magic possible. Since it wasn’t established fully, and now the Three Eyed Raven is smokey feathers, how will they answer this question?
Though, one thing that I appreciate about this revelation is the immediate consequence to this complicated magic, which I will discuss below in more detail.
The loss of Hodor and Osha, Shaggydog and Summer
Thus far the show has done little with any of the direwolves besides Ghost. Nymeria is off gods knows where, maybe gathering an army of woodland creatures to her side, maybe dead. Summer was with Bran, but after his badass role in season one, he has largely remained in the background if he is featured at all. This feels like a missed opportunity or a budget issue. Either way, it kind of blows.
Shaggydog: They gave us his bloody head.
Summer: I don’t care for symbolism, first of all. Secondly, no. Third, Summer is a hero and a saint and though he died a heroes death it felt like little more than a budget cut. I am not pleased. Do better.
Osha: After everything she has done for the Stark family, the showrunners just decided to give her to Ramsey Bolton. To call this a waste of a good character is an understatement. Osha could have easily had a life beyond that moment, and played all kinds of games to continue to help the Stark children. But they let Ramsey kill her. RAMSEY.
Hodor: About sixty seconds before he switched from “Hold the door” to “Hodor” I threw the pillow across the room and yelled profanity because I realized what was happening. Yet, to me, this moment was well earned. Hodor, a hero in the quietest and most valiant ways, was given the honor of a heroes death. But unlike Summer’s death, I believe Hodor came to the natural end of his character’s journey.
Worldbuilding issues aside, anger and sadness not withstanding, this was the way for him to go. It taught us something (or at the very least raised an interesting question), and though he has always been brave and well-liked, gave us one of the least senseless deaths of this series thus far.
It is painful to think about the reality they are trying to prove here: that Willis lost his mind as a child because of a battle in the future. That Bran was the cause.
Though I do wonder about the consequence of Bran having been in the mind of someone that died — since the consequence for young Willis was the loss of his mind — I can set that aside and appreciate the fact that Hodor died well — just as he lived, in the service of House Stark.
RIP Hodor. May the Lord of Light shine upon you.
Sansa giving it to Littlefinger
“I can still feel it in my body standing here right now.”
She spoke the words of a woman who had been traumatized, but never turned victim. This moment was beautiful and powerful and marred only by her later lie to Jon because it proves she still kind of trusts Littlfinger, and come on Sansa you are better than that. I cannot decide if this is a failing on the writers part, or a character weakness, and it is like.
Still, allowing her a moment to vocalize her disgust and give it a name was a stellar moment for this series. So often, they do not take the time to give enough emotional weight to the characters traumas. Yes, this is a fantasy, but one of the brilliant things fantasy can do is speak to complicated world and human issues with honesty.
I do not want to see a penis shot ever
Dear Showrunners that are Male,
Flaccid penises are not photogenic. Accept it. Move on. Please do not show them to us as an alternate to female nudity and pretend to understand feminism. We don’t want it. You do not get it. Lets agree to disagree and cut our losses.
Sincerely, Females with Eyes
Jon Snow’s Journey
I am grateful to have him back. But…
Magic always has a price. There must be a consequence that reflects the degree this magic influences the natural world. That the price is not being examined (yet) for Jon’s resurrection is a little bothersome. What was the exchange for his life? Is there no consequence because supposedly the Lord of Light brought him back? Does that mean the Lord of Light is real? Are they taking a religious stance?
This season has dealt in heavy doses of magic. Yes, Game of Thrones in a fantasy and magic has always had it’s place in the world, but less so in the TV series than in the books. If we are going by what we see on screen, then there is a lot left to be explained. Worldbuilding is tricky. And walking the line between allowing magic to turn into a plot device, a way out of sticky situations, a way to reveal information, and integrating into the plot so that it works for you and not against you is hard.
For Jon, we have seen an undercurrent of rage growing throughout this season. What that will lead to, we can only hope is his own chain breaking, heroism and the discovery of his true identity.
Euron is an idiot. Notable quotes that prove this:
Whatever he said about marrying Danaerys
That bit about his cock
When he wanted 1000 ships from like ten guys
That he will give them the world.
Game of Thrones continues to break my heart and enrage my mind. I don’t enjoy it, but I look forward to it every week. I don’t trust the showrunners, but I continue to invest in their product.
Great storytelling is accomplished when your reader or viewer walks away from your story thinking. Game of Thrones makes me think, and dissect, and for that (and for Jon Snow) I am thankful.