Game of Thrones S02E10 (Valar Morghulis) – Where’s your god now?

I shed a few tears for Theon. There it is, I confess, I cried for a murderer of innocent little boys. Excuse me while I go bathe myself in Clorox and ponder how far my humanity has fallen.

But his arc is so freaking tragic … no, not so much tragic, pathetic. He’s so pathetic, NOTHING goes right, he’s stuck, stuck, stuck, and he can’t blame anyone except himself. “No word from my father?” Aghhhhhhh!!! He doesn’t have enough men to stay at Winterfell, he can’t go home to father dearest as a loser, even going to the Wall has the danger of Jon Snow looking for revenge. He tried a rousing speech filled with promise of glory for his men, and promptly got clobbered and sold out by them. I keep thinking of his sister’s words – don’t die so far away from the sea. How the heck did this show turn Theon Greyjoy into an underdog I’m feeling sorry for, after everything he’s done?? 

So I guess Robb did something right; his promise to pardon Theon’s men and allow them to go back to Iron Island if they deliver Theon worked after all. Interesting though that Maester Luwin didn’t trust the men Robb sent, and told Bran and Rickon to go to the Wall and find Jon Snow. The logic being, they don’t know where exactly in the South Catelyn and Robb are, but they know exactly where Jon Snow is. Ermmm, Jon Snow is not so much there anymore, he’s with the wildlings now. Based on the way this show likes to scatter characters all over the place to have their own adventures, I’m going to guess that it will be a long, long time before Bran and Rickon meet up with Jon Snow. That’s okay, the Osha-Hodor-Bran-Rickon show is pretty awesome on its own. But seriously, each episode is going to be even more disjointed next season, we have so many different threads to follow.

Margaery, too much cleavage!! You don’t want to seem too obvious now, do you? I laughed when Loras said Margaery is still an “innocent” because Renly died before they could seal the deal, so to speak. Come on, Loras, didn’t you tell Renly that Margaery is only “officially a virgin?” Well, good for Margaery, especially since she’s going to spend her life first marrying a guy who’d rather have sex with her brother, and then marrying a psychotic boy more turned on by violence than by sex. Margaery seems so confident about what she wants, but I can’t help but be scared for her anyway. This boy is not bumbling Renly, he’s a monster. Does she really know what she’s getting into here?  Sure, the Tyrell family is an important ally, so the Lannisters probably won’t want to alienate them by treating Margaery badly, the way they treated Sansa. But who the heck knows what Joffrey will do, his mother and uncle couldn’t control him, I’m not sure even the high and mighty Tywin Lannister could.

Yes, the whole shenanigan about finding true love with Margaery, and Joffrey not wanting to break his promise to marry Sansa, and Cersei and Maester Pychelle coming up with arguments and excuses to allow him to do so, is silly and probably planned and staged to the ninth degree, but it serves its purpose of acquitting Joffrey in the eyes of other people from the charge of breaking his promise, even if it was all pretend and not sincere at all. Contrast that with Robb, who married Talisa with not so much as a by your leave, explaining things to no one, and basically not even pretending to be answerable to anyone for breaking his promise.  I get the sense that the Robb-Talisa love story is the one the show expects modern audience to be most sympathetic to – two people shedding all the expectations foisted on them because of the circumstances of their birth and their position in society, all for TRUE LOVE. But I think there’s a difference between forgoing an arranged marriage that will give you a lot of advantage in order to marry someone you love, and taking that advantage, but then forgoing the arranged marriage anyway. This is not Robb saying he’s willing to give up on the things he could get by marrying Walder Frey’s daughter so he could marry the woman he loves. Robb took those things already from Walder Frey. He crossed the bridge Walder Frey controlled, he took the men Walder Frey gave him to battle, and then refused to keep his end of the bargain. Robb’s action doesn’t strike me as admirable even from our modern perspective about what a marriage should be about, instead it exposes his sense of entitlement.

Poor, poor Tyrion. It’s all about Tywin and teh Tyrells now. Sure, they crushed satnnis and his men, but only because Stannis had so few left after Tyrion BURNED most of them at sea with wildfire. It’s not surprising that Tywin would want to consolidate his own power now that he’s in King’s Landing, but did he have to send Bronn away?? No more Bronn? That’s bad for Tyrion, but also very, very sad for me, heh. I understand why Tyrion doesn’t want to run away with Shae, for the first time in his life, he’s known what it’s like to be in charge, to have at least a few people (like Varys) respect and admire his ability, that’s hard to give up, even for a lifetime of doing nothing except eating, drinking and fucking. But I think he’s underestimating how perilous his position is now.

I’m sure Littlefinger has his own grubby agenda telling Sansa that she’s not out of danger yet, but I think she needed to hear that. Just because she’s not going to marry Joffrey doesn’t mean Joffrey can’t still mistreat her, be cruel to her. In fact, logically speaking, what’s to stop Joffrey from throwing her in the dungeon now? He’s not going to marry her, her brother is still waging war against him.

Wow, the House of Undying stuff is not much, is it? They’ve been talking about it for weeks now, but Daenerys and her dragons took care of that pretty quickly. I don’t really understand the point of showing Khal Drogo and their son (that baby is brilliant casting, completely believable as the offspring of those two).  She needs to turn her back on the dead and focus on her mission to regain the Iron Throne? Xaro Xhoan Davos, the Bernie Madoff  of Qarth! Heh. He’s not really that rich after all, his safe is empty. Pretty cold of Danerys, locking him and Doreah in the safe.

I kinda wish they hadn’t shown us the White Walkers. They’re not really scary, just like zombies really, the slow-moving type. And not even that many! I guess the show busted its CGI budget with the big battle lst week. It’s interesting, last season the Night’s Watch people were constantly lecturing Jon Snow about how their task to protect the kingdom from the White Walkers beyond the Wall is much more important than the wars between this king and that king, bla bla bla. And yet, and yet, and yet, the Night’s Watch has spent most of this season fighting against the wildlings, and Mance Ryder the wildling king, who are still human beings after all.  

Noooo, I don’t want this Jaqen Hagar, I wnat the cute one!! Hey, I need some eye-candy, especially in a show as bleak as this. Where will Arya go? Will she try to go back to Winterfell? She doesn’t know where Robb and Catelyn are, so that will probably be her first choice. But obviously at some point she will take up Jaqen Hagar’s offer to train to be a killer, they wouldn’t have made “Valar Morghulis” the title of the episode if it’s not going to come up again, ever.

Stannis is back at Dragonstone pretty quickly. It took him most of the season to get from Dragonstone to King’s Landing, but the journey back is just one episode. I think I understand Melisandre better this episode. I’ve been trying to figure out whether she’s just using Stannis to spread her religion. It’s  atricky tightrope, if you want your religion to take hold, you can’t really side with the favorite, because if they think they can win on their own, why would they acceot  the help of your god? Pick an underdog, get him to feel beholden to your god, and once he’s the king, your religion becomes the de facto religion of the kingdom. But of course,  if you pick too much of an underdog, you run the risk of no victory = no faith. Before this episode, I thought that’s what Melisandre was doing, she picked Stannis because he was the underdog compared to Renly and Joffrey, and hence the one most likely to feel beholden to the Lord of Light if he is victorious. But now I’m starting to think she truly believes all that stuff about Stannis being the lord’s chosen. Her expression when she was telling him “you are the son of fire, you are the warrior of light, you will be king” was this very, very intense rapture. And it’s not play-acting for Stannis’ benefit either, he wasn’t looking at her face. And this is super-fascinating, because it changes the power dynamics in a way. Yes, she has power over him because of the things he believes her god can give him; but he also has some power over her because she truly believes that the god she worships has chosen HIM.

Stannis: I murdered my brother.
Melisandre: We murdered him. Share the weight with me.
Stannis: It wasn’t your brother.
Melisandre: This war has just begun. It will last for years. Thousands will die at your command. You will betray your family, you will betray everything you once held dear. And it will all be worth it. Because you are the son of fire, you are the warrior of light. You will sweep aside this pretender, and that one. You will be king.
Stannis: You promise these things, but … you don’t know. None of us know.
Melisandre: Let me show you. Look into the fire, my king. Look.
Stannis: I see fire.
Melisandre: Keep looking. Do you see? Do you see, my king?
Stannis: Yes

This is Stannis’ moment of truth. Melisandre has been pretty vague before this about what it would take for him to be king, you could say she was almost misleading him about how easy it would be. But not this time. This time, she spelled it out for him, very clearly, what the cost would be. Are you willing to pay that cost? Are you willing to betray everything you hold dear? Judging from Stannis’ expression when he was looking at the fire, I’m guessing yes.  Free will and agency. Stannis chose this. Yes, he might be swayed by the vision of himself as king in the fire (that’s probably what he saw, right?), but he could have chosen the other way and said, no, not even for that am I willing to betray my family, or my principles. It’s not much of a defense to say that “well, if she hadn’t shown me that vision, I wouldn’t have been willing to incur those costs, and betray the things I hold dear”. And I think even Stannis would admit this himself, this is on him, this is his choice, his decision, the way he admitted his brother’s murder is all on him. Whatever Melisandre’s agenda might be, it doesn’t change his own culpability.

Meanwhile, Davos is going around basically making excuses for Stannis; that scene after Renly’s death when he was trying to tell Stannis what the “Red Woman” did, for example. Dude, he knows!! He’s the one who told you to smuggle Melisandre to the cave so she can give birth to the homocidal shadow baby. Are you blind?? At some point, Davos is not going to be so blind anymore, and he won’t be able to put the blame on Melisandre all the time. At some point, it’s going to come down to either believing that Stannis is so weak he’s completely under Melisandre’s thumb, or that Stannis knows exactly what he’s doing, and it turns out he’s more ruthless and less honorable that Davos thought. What then? And what about Melisandre? How fixed is her conviction about Stannis being the Lord’s chosen? What happens if the fire shows her something else one day? Someone else is the Lord’s chosen. Pack her bag. bye-bye Stannis, I’m devoting myself and my power to this other guy/gal? Or maybe, screw it, I’ve worked too hard and long for this guy to start over now with someone new? Would personal loyalty play any part? (She seems to kinda, sorta like Stannis, which is almost a miracle, heh. I don’t think Davos’ feeling can be measured in terms of liking or not liking, it’s about loyalty and gratitude. So really, in the show so far, Melisandre is the only person who quasi-like Stannis).

Ahhhh, this storyline is so fascinating, especially considering that it’s a story about three people where only one of them is really all that sympathetic (Davos, obviously). I’m not invested in Stannis’ well-being the way I am with Bran, Rickon, Arya and Sansa, for example, except in the general sense that I don’t want him to die because I want to see more of his story. And I actually think the way he is now, he would make a dangerous king (rigid conception of justice not tempered by mercy + religious fanaticism = bad, bad things), but he is very, very compelling as a character, and someone whose journey I can’t wait to watch.

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