‘Game of Thrones’ Precap: Daenerys Needs a Publicist, Dreamy Jaqen H’ghar, and Mudslinging in the Lord Commander CampaignHBO
The Maester’s Quick-Hitting Questions and Things to Watch Out for Going Into Episode 3
Jason Concepcion: The world of Game of Thrones is a brutal, unforgiving one full of incest, dragons, forced castration, and beheadings. On the negative side, the show’s numerous plotlines and characters can make things confusing. Let’s get to some quick-hitting questions ahead of Episode 3.
If Varys has been part of the conspiracy to put the Targaryens back on the throne of Westeros, why did he send an assassin to kill Dany, on King Robert’s orders, way back in Season 1?
This question has come up a few times, and it’s a really good one. The important thing to realize about the Varys/Illyrio conspiracy is that its focus was originally on Dany’s brother Viserys. The whole idea behind marrying Dany off to Khal Drogo was to obtain an army of Dothraki on whose tanned, rippling backs Viserys would ride to Westeros, taking his place as its rightful ruler. The main obstacle to that plan, besides Viserys lacking the political skills to win Drogo’s respect and support, is that the Dothraki fear the open sea, referring to the water as “poison water,” and refuse to sail on ships. Varys probably didn’t want to send the assassin, but he may have figured that Dany’s death would enrage Drogo to the extent that he would take his khalasar across the Narrow Sea seeking revenge.
Drogo killed Viserys unexpectedly, just one episode before the attempt on Dany’s life, by which time the wheels of Robert’s kill order were probably already in motion.
Does Westeros have its version of the Seven Wonders of the World?
This question came up in relation to the Titan of Braavos. There are actually nine wonders of the world, according to the book Wonders Made by Man by the fictional travel writer Lomas Longstrider, most of which are not technically located in Westeros. Only eight of Lomas’s wonders are confirmed by the book canon; the ninth is a mystery. The confirmed wonders are:
- The Wall
- The Titan of Braavos
- The Valyrian Roads
- The Walls of Qarth
- The Three Bells of Norvos
- The Long Bridge of Volantis
- The Great Pyramid of Ghis
- The Palace With a Thousand Rooms
You Think You Know Jon Snow, But Do You Really?
Superfan Crazyperson Power Rankings of the Week: Dany’s Dreadful Decisions
Mallory “Mother of Dragons” Rubin: Another week, another slew of baffling decisions from our girl, Daenerys Stormborn. For someone who’s got most of the grown men in Westeros and Essos soiling their underthings in fear, Dany has made her share of questionable calls, most recently publicly executing a freed slave who defied her orders. She sparked a riot in the process, reminding us that as good as she is at some things (like looking smokin’ hot and feeding CGI dragons), she’s bad at plenty of others. But what is she worst at? Glad you asked!
You’d think someone sporting the moniker “Mother of Dragons” would be the poster girl for parenting, but you’d be wrong. Though Dany has collected children (in human and critter form) by the thousands, her maternal instincts have proven to be deviously unreliable. After losing her human baby due to a botched blood magic bargain, she let her dragons go on an open-air feeding frenzy, trying so hard to be the cool mom who lets her kids sneak a beer or two in the backyard that she accidentally allowed Drogon to barbecue a human child. Then, she overcompensated by chaining Rhaegal and Viserion in the catacombs of Meereen; she couldn’t lock up Drogon because he was on the lam, cruising the skies of Slaver’s Bay, looking for another score. Now, Dany’s hordes of adopted offspring have stopped lovingly shouting “Mhysa” (Ghiscari for “Mother”) and started hissing in horror at her beheading betrayal. For those counting at home, that’s death, imprisonment, abandonment, and abuse.
Dany has proven that her military game is on point, assembling a lethal and loyal army and expertly conquering cities where unsavory acts occur. She’s also the envy of countless sad sacks like Viserys, who know she has what they never will: the love of her people. Unfortunately, she kind of blows at every other aspect of governance. She lost the bulk of her khalasar because they sensed weakness. She led her remaining subjects into dehydration and despair, then “rescued” them by leading them to eventual mass slaughter inside the gates of Qarth (where she also allowed a creepy warlock with blue lips to steal her dragons). She failed to install a system for maintaining the new order in Yunkai, which reverted back to a chaotic terror state as soon as she skipped town. And now she can’t keep the peace in Meereen, despite actually staying there after dropping her badass “I will do what queens do; I will rule” line in Season 4.
Also, she really needs to beef up her background checks: Jorah ratted her out to King Robert; Doreah betrayed her in Qarth; and now her three most trusted advisers are a freed slave, a sellsword, and the former lord commander of Robert’s Kingsguard. Worse, she’s giving John Kerry a run for his money in the flip-flopping department, succumbing to the whims of the moment, failing to maintain consistency with her policy, diplomacy, and even her own personal goals. Wasn’t she supposed to be, you know, heading to Westeros to reclaim her rightful throne? Jorah was right when he told Dany she has a gentle heart; the question now is whether the thing that helped her win some thrones will cost her a chance at the only one that matters.
Dany. Girl. Can we have some real-talk time? About that hot piece of knighted hunkery who’s been waiting for you to liberate him from friend-zone purgatory for lo these many moons? When George R.R. Martin told your tale on the printed page, he made Ser Jorah Mormont a hideous ogre so that you would be less tempted to let him handle your dragon eggs (if you know what I’m saying, and I think you do). When Sers Benioff and Weiss brought your journey to the small screen, however, they cast Iain Glen, who has a jaw like an anvil, inflects like a Siren, and would have surely made sweet love to you all across the Red Waste. But you spurned his delicate advances, opting instead for that rogue Daario, who is admittedly quite dreamy, and who says awesome things like “a man cannot make love to property,” but who is not, you know, a suave middle-aged Scottish man who’s so committed to you that he passed up a royal pardon granting his return to Westeros so that he could continue gawking adoringly at you during your desert camping trip. Think on it. And please, let him return from exile. He’s sorry!
To be fair: Dany’s love life was going just fine, thank you very much, until Drogo’s pectoral wound morphed from “a scratch” into a stinking, festering harbinger of death. And to be fair once more: Dany’s heart was in the right place when she asked Mirri Maz Duur to treat her ailing Sun and Stars. Still, the Khaleesi’s good intentions can’t erase the foolishness of putting the Maegi who’d just been raped and captured by the Dothraki in position to do their Khal harm, nor the unrivaled idiocy of letting the same witch use blood magic to attempt to “save” the man she’d just tried to surreptitiously kill. If only Dany hadn’t been traveling during her Obamacare open-enrollment period!
The flip side, of course, is that if Dany had used some Essos-brand Neosporin and Band-Aids instead, Drogo wouldn’t have died, Dany and her eggs wouldn’t have wound up cooking in the Khal’s funeral pyre fire, and this story wouldn’t have any dragons. And then where would we be?
BONUS! Borderline Weird Mallory Rubin Game of Thrones Memorabilia of the Week
Beam Me Up, Doran Martell
Dave Schilling: I like Game of Thrones. I LOVE Star Trek. So, when I saw that my main man Alexander Siddig — Dr. Julian Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine — was joining the cast of GoT in Season 5, my excitement level went from warp factor 7 to that transwarp shit the Excelsior had in The Search for Spock. Doran Martell is clearly a man of principle who believes, above all else, in keeping his word. In one brief scene, he established himself as a strong, capable, fair ruler who refuses to succumb to the temptation to seek revenge and disregard his sense of ethics. Of course, that means he’s going to be dead by Episode 9. So, instead of dwelling on this doomed character any longer, let’s check out this Star Trek/Game of Thrones mash-up video!
That was fun, right?? R.I.P., Doran Martell. See you at Quark’s, my dude! The first Dabo game is on me!
ICYMI: The ‘Watch the Thrones’ Podcast Goes for a Walk in the Water Garden
Charting a New Course
Ben Lindbergh: For a book reader, the approach of Game of Thrones Season 5 was a froggy stew of excitement and anxiety. Through its initial four seasons, the HBO series mostly marched in formation with A Song of Ice and Fire’s first three volumes, but because of the show’s production schedule, George R.R. Martin’s deliberate writing, and the filler in the fourth and fifth books, showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff faced a choice after they finished riding the third and fourth seasons’ pre-plotted highs: strike out on their own or lose their way with weaker source material.
Which is why it’s encouraging that two episodes into the season, the show we’re watching looks as much like A Feast for Crows as Jedi Lancel looks like a Lannister. There’s no better illustration of the diverging narrative paths the two tellings have taken than the diverging physical paths of HBO Brienne and Book Brienne. The GIF below traces HBO Brienne’s itinerary since she snagged some Valyrian steel and set off from King’s Landing to search for the Stark sisters, as plotted on the interactive Game of Thrones map:
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Compare that to Book Brienne’s route, starting from the same point. Watch without fear: There’s no risk of spoilers, because the narratives no longer overlap.
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According to Phil Lowles, a Westeros scholar and mapmaker who’s in the midst of a monumental effort to catalogue every character’s movements down to the day, Book Brienne’s journey covers an estimated 1,521 miles. HBO Brienne’s checks in at a comparatively economical 857 miles. As a result, nobody who’s only seen the series knows the trouble Book Brienne’s been through. But that’s not a bad thing: Book Brienne’s traveling tour takes up eight chapters (and 120 pages) of the Crows hardcover, and at no point in those pages does she actually encounter a Stark. HBO Brienne, by contrast, has unsurpassed Starkdar: She can’t stroll across the countryside or walk into an inn without stumbling over one of Westeros’s most wanted women.
As compelling as the scenic route through the story can be, adapting a sprawling series usually means making frequent cuts. “The House of Black and White” was far from the first time Benioff and Weiss have taken liberties with the literature, but in terms of book pages bypassed, Brienne’s truncated trip and second Stark-sister meet-cute was one of the most sweeping fast-forwards so far. Throw in Jaime and Bronn in Destination: Dorne (in the books, Jaime spends most of Crows on a less interesting side quest) and the surprise reappearance of Jaqen H’ghar, and it’s clear that the showrunners won’t hold back on skipping slow sections out of loyalty to a long-winded world-builder. The result is a new balance of plot-revealing power between fans of the books and the HBO-only contingent: TV viewers now have the same capacity to spoil book readers that book readers have used to troll TV viewers for the past four years. Based on Season 5’s first steps, Game of Thrones won’t falter without its book-series safety net.
The timeline of Game of Thrones the Show is now so far past the point in the books where I stopped for fear of clawing off my own face out of exasperation that I’m totally adrift when it comes to being clued in about possible upcoming reveals, but this was the best kind of surprise from this show, wasn’t it? The kind that can jaw-drop show fans and book fans and both fans, and is also AWESOME, because did you know …
And based on the promos for this next episode, he’s going to stay back for awhile if the show’s creative team knows what’s good for them. I don’t especially care whether this fan theory pans out, although I guess upon reflection I’d rather see both H’ghar and Syrio Forel alive and swordsing about at the same time, being the two characters who’ve done the most for Arya, the real light of the universe? Whatever. I’m not picky. Because the important thing is, we’ve got a hot guy on this show again who’s not tainted by twincest. He’s literally whoever you want him to be. He’s hot fire with a weirdo speech pattern. He’s like Kaa in The Jungle Book, but sexy. Trusssst in himmmmmm.
(And thank you, lindsay227, wherever you are, for speaking on behalf of a grateful nation.)
Dany, Get Thee to a Flacker-y
John Lopez: Oh, Dany. Doing right is hard enough when it’s just you, a darkened antechamber, and both the Old Gods and the New; but doing right on the stage of public opinion — or in your case, the Executioner’s Platform — that’s a whole new level of statecraft. Watching Veep after, it hit me that someone needs to introduce Dany to Bill Ericsson, Selina Meyer’s new cold-blooded director of communications, because Dany’s got a real optics problem. I mean, how do you lift an entire nation out of servitude one day and then find yourself running from a granite hailstorm the next?
Sure, Drogon’s nightly catcalls over Meereen probably served to remind the restive populace there’s some serious dragon’s fire coming their way if they get too out of hand. But how long’ll that keep a lid on class warfare? Dany et al. are making the U.S. Army’s hearts-and-minds campaigns in Iraq look positively brilliant by comparison. I hate to say it, because hiring a publicist is only slightly less damning than hiring an attorney, but Dany needs some serious flack right now.
A couple of rules any publicist worth their weight will tell you: Do not lift a former slave into a high-profile position of authority on your inner council and then mete out highly visible cold justice to him when he goes a little overboard. That’s what endless tribunals are for: Bore the populace to tears so they forget this kid’s the living symbol of everything they love about you before you “do the right thing.”
Second, if you absolutely must execute him, try not to be onstage when the ax comes down. Go on a vacation; take the dragons out for a stroll. Let a subordinate handle it. Ser Barristan was all high on the Mad King’s arbitrary lawgiving. Let him take the credit for this one. At best, watch from the 110th-floor portico of your pyramid.
Worst of all, this was a lost opportunity. You need to punish Mossador, but he’s way too popular … Yunkai wants its beloved gladiatorial death matches reinstated? Kill two birds with one stone: Open the games and let Mossador fight it out with a Son of the Harpy. The masters get to cheer, the freed slaves get to jeer. You make a little money off admissions. It worked for Ridley Scott! See, the Romans knew the two things actually necessary to maintain a stable, multiethnic society and they weren’t objective justice or a uniform code of law: Panem et Circenses, Dany. And by circenses, we mean brutal bloodsport. Or hockey. Take your pick.