Monday, June 20, 2016

The Pay Off

As of two months ago, Brian and I had never watched a Game of Thrones episode.

Since then, we've caught up and been made current. Last night was the first time we watched an episode when it actually aired. And what an episode to watch live.

Even as only recent additions to the GoT viewership, last night's episode was remarkably satisfying. I can't even imagine how gratifying it was for people who've been waiting four years to see someone get their due.

The episode used several elements that are amongst my favorites, because they're often overlooked. It used silence. Waiting. The stillness before the slaughter. When you play bass guitar you understand the significance of a pause. Sometimes a song needs a breath, as does a story. Prince said, I learned a lot about space from Miles [Davis]. Space is a sound, too.”

It also showed the folly of man. Or, specifically, the irrational actions of one particular man. Jon Snow is largely considered one of the primary heroes of the show, and yet he showed he was fallible. His heart led him into a trap, despite Sansa's warnings about Ramsay Bolton. The writers didn't feel the need to make him a saintly savior who, despite everything, thought of some ingenious way to overcome his enemy. Were it not for the actions of another the outcome of the battle would have been very different.

It showed the payoff of calculations. From Danaerys to Yara to Sansa, the fate of many lay in the hands of women who were able to foresee needs and vulnerabilities and make decisions with the desired payoff in mind. Danaerys learned to compromise from the wisdom of Tyrion. Yara learned to compromise from the wisdom of Danaerys. And Sansa had already compromised and set aside her pride to seek help from the one force left that could sway the outcome of the battle of the bastards. Ultimately, all attained success with their missions as a result.

In the end, the episode still had the ability to surprise. While you found yourself questioning what could possibly be the most fitting end for one of the most hated villains on the show for the last four years the ultimate resolution of the episode not only hit the perfect note, but it revealed how Sansa has grown from a naive girl into a determined woman who will not allow herself to be abused again.

Life lessons for Ramsay Bolton? I guess a dog will bite the hand that doesn't feed it.

From before we'd ever watched a Game of Thrones episode we'd heard of the Red Wedding. It's an episode that's stood out as a benchmark, a stunning hour that changed the course of the plot lines and decimated a family that had once been strong.

Exactly three seasons after the Red Wedding Game of Thrones delivered what may be one of the best episodes its ever done, and in large part that's due to the fact that it was the payoff for so many storylines that converged, with a few surprises in the mix to deliver as exact justice. It can always be tempting to rush the plot, but GoT shows the value in patience. Any one of the several storylines could have been significantly advanced or resolved in a separate episode, but the combined layering of these resolutions and advancements did a double duty of tying up loose ends while setting the stage for the wars to come, and all I can say is that one week from now, I, like many other fans of the show, will be anticipating the end of a long winter so that I can see season 7 when it airs next spring.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Well this makes me regret I stopped watching it at some point. I wonder when it was. Maybe I can retrace.

Sandra Ruttan said...

The rise of the women is the underlying theme. Marjorie, Sansa, Yara and Danaerys are poised to determine the fates of many.

Scott D. Parker said...

Ironically, last. Oft was the first time I watched an entire episode ever. My wife enjoys the show and I knew a bit of stuff looking from the outside in, but I just decided to stay and watch with her.

Sandra Ruttan said...

It's really a great study for writers in intersecting plots. Theron could have brought his people to help Sansa and Jon. He did grow up with them. Instead he and Yara went to Danaerys and help came from the very man who arranged Sansa's marriage to Ramsay. Never mind the ironies of a Lannister advising a Targaryen.

Of course I'm convinced Jon is a Targaryen and not a Stark in the way people think...

Kristopher said...

It was a great episode.

And yes, it is nice to see the women rising to the top. I think this was always GRRM's plan and those that screamed and gave up over the poor treatment of women on the show - which is admittedly the case - will sadly miss their revenge. At this point, it's look like the only option for the "winner" of Game of Thrones is a woman. (Like you Sandra, I'm pretty sure we'll see a family marriage between Jon and Dany).

As for the irony of a Lannister advising a Targaryen, I don't feel that way at all. Like the female characters, Tyrion has always been treated at the unwanted step-child, so why wouldn't he say screw you and join the other side? Plus I'm pretty sure he will be our third dragon-rider. He's the character most closely connected to GRRM, himself and as we have already seen, he's not so great in battle - but put him on a dragon, and watch out!

Sandra Ruttan said...

I love Tyrion. He treated Sansa right. I only think it's ironic because his brother murdered her father. But yes a woman will rise. I think Danaerys is the right leader. This Subday could be Marjorie's revenge. And I actually think Jon is Ned Stark's nephew. His sister was abducted by a Targaryen. And remember Bran's vision of his dad? Just my theory.

Kristopher said...

Your theory on Jon is one we readers of the books have debated for years. Like you said, it's make much more obvious on the show with the peeks into Bran's visions - the books have not gotten to those sections yet, but it seems fairly definitive at this point. Since the Targaryen's are noted for inter-marrying, this is why I think Jon will end up by Dany's side.

And I can't wait to see what Marjorie's plan is. It's going to be great, but she better get her brother out alive, or I will be pissed. LGBT characters have not fared well on the show - and not much better in the books.