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On very busy men

(Game of Thrones 1×05: The Wolf and the Lion)

1 The King…

“I thought being king meant I could do whatever I wanted.”

We’re all subject to something, someone. At King Robert’s level, he’s subject to the office, and as much to the people as the people are to him. Many of these characters are subject to their families, to systems that keep them in check, to traditions that none can conceive of dying. Anyone who might consider themselves free in this world would also have few meaningful connections, few ways to connect to society.

More loredumping — Bran is tasked by Maester Luwin with reciting the names and mottos of various Houses. What is a family motto if not being subject even to your dead ancestors?


Sky cells! Yikes!


Sansa and Arya both fight for the respect they crave, though they’re different respects. Sansa wants to be like her mother, and Arya like her brothers. One imagines Arya would be perfectly happy with Jon Snow’s life.

It’s a queer story, that. But the faux-medieval thing of it all is an extremely limiting factor to that ever going anywhere. Even with Ser Loras and his freshly-shaven boyfriend around, queerness here is about what people want, not who they are. And I hate to imagine what any of the many aggressively heterosexual shitheads in this show would say if they knew about them.

4 …and below

Who is most looked down upon in Westeros? There’s Tyrion, who is mocked and ignored, respected in this episode really by Ros the sex worker, and by Catelyn Stark and her entourage, for what he’s capable of, not for who he is. But he still has the ear of characters above him, could still get things done if need be. There’s Bran, whose disability and age put him in a similar place, without even the respect for what he can do.

I’m thinking also of the White Walkers, who are, at least, humanoid, but not even thought of as people.

“I’m the same as you”

(Game of Thrones 1×04)

1 Spring

There should not be more than a month between me watching ones of these — the break strikes me as not particularly conducive to keeping up with yer who’s whos and what’s wheres and all that. Who was that prince again? Who’s fucking who again? I suppose for this one I’m Sam — who I like — on account of I, too, am new here.

2 A long time ago

People love to tell each other history in this show. When did people do what with dragons, who built the throne, who built the room, what made who legendary.

Do we do that in real life? Do we go on and on about what people did five hundred years ago? I feel like when we do it tops out at the edge of human memory — an American might reference Lyndon B Johnson, Brits might talk about the Blitz. But we don’t go much further back than that. As a cartoonist, the history of my field doesn’t stretch that far back, as a Dutch person the history of my country is fractured and divided. What emperor Karel V got up to on these lands in the year 1514 is functionally irrelevant to my life, and–

Wait, fuck, I teach art history, I do actually bring up 16th century artist Albrecht Dürer all the time.


3 Summer

I like Sam. But I especially like what his presence at the Wall tells us about the people around him. He’s not the fastest, the strongest, the hardest, or the best at anything. Their boss goes on and on about this, how Sam is soft and useless, about how he eager he’d be to eat him in a Donner Party situation. But Sam is kind and nice, qualities in short supply at the wall. And so, we must notice, who does and doesn’t value him and include him, who does and doesn’t see that he might not be all of those things everyone else has to be at the Wall, but that he is still there, with the rest of them, at the Wall?

“I’m the same as you,” Jon tells him. They’re talking about virginity, and bonding about both having been somewhat unlucky in the relevant regards. But they were both essentially sent there to get out of other people’s ways, they’re both at the edge of the world they know. They’re both there.

4 Winter

Tyrion: “I must say I received a slightly warmer welcome on my last visit.”

Well, yes. Winter is coming, after all.

Things That Are Coming

  1. Winter, still.
  2. A war of some kind.
  3. Bran’s testimony, though he supposedly has no memory of the accident.
  4. White Walkers.

From the Starkzone to the Wallplace

(Game of Thrones 1×03: “Lord Snow”)

1 On allegiances

Oh, Sean Bean’s folks and the Lannisters are separate things. Okay, okay, let’s write some of this out.

Ned Stark and the Starks in the, I wanna say, North. Winterfell? This is where Ned lives, though he’s out of town right now. Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran are some of his kids, the latter is in bed, awake. Jon Snow is one of these guys, but a bastard, and attached to the Night’s Watch. Mrs Sean Bean is probably from some other grouping, but fuck knows who.

The Lannisters, then, obviously, in King’s Landing. Jaime and Cersei. Tyrion is part of this but also his own thing, also currently chilling at the Night’s Watch. Jaime is the one who chucked Bran out the window, that’ll probably come back to bite him in his naked ass. Cersei is Mrs King Robert, but also in a long-term incestuous thing with Jaime. Probably no protection from pregnancy in this world, so I assume Joffrey etc. are theirs, and that Robert doesn’t know. Lots of space for conflict here.

Daenerys and Jason Momoa and the rest of the Dothraki are their own thing. Ser Jorah is hanging out with them right now, as a sort of ambassador type figure connected to the… Starks? and so there’s a normal adult Daenerys can talk to who isn’t a grunting beefman. I think Ser Jorah is probably up to something. Daenerys’ brother seems like he’s probably not in season three, if you know what I mean.

If you’re in the Night’s Watch you’re very loyal to the Night’s Watch, but if you’re not you’re more like, wow, what a bunch of weirdoes in the Night’s Watch.

2 On places

I also haven’t really thought about geography yet, but the Starkzone is all autumnal, while Jamie’s place has palm trees. (It’s weird seeing the “Winter is coming.” guy next to a palm tree, I’m sorry.) The Wallzone is obviously where winter already is. Daenerys and the Dothraki are bare-shouldered, probably pretty warm there, too. Are these places very far away from each other? How far would I have to travel from my 5 celsius to see people in short sleeves?

I should pay more attention to the title sequence.

3 On contrasts

Arya is taught to fight as if it’s a form of dance, the Knight’s dance — when every death we’ve seen has been brutal, grotesque, awful. There’s only so much dancing you can do when somebody comes at you with a great big thing of metal that’ll cut you in half. Ned realises this, too.

4 On fantasy without fantasy

“I don’t believe that giants and ghouls and White Walkers are lurking beyond the Wall.”

You can tell which of those we’re meant to care about from which one the subtitles capitalise. No way are we ever seeing giants or ghouls.

Things That Are Coming

  1. Winter, still.
  2. A war of some kind.
  3. Bran’s testimony?
  4. White Walkers? Is this the same as winter? Are they just the friendly face of Father Winter?

On allying with one of many families in a war-torn medieval land

Game of Thrones 1×02: “The Kingsroad”


“Dear brother, there are times you make me wonder whose side you’re on.”

Let’s think about sides for a moment. A lot of this kind of story hangs on whose side everyone is or isn’t on, because they all have complicated allegiances and loyalties, and they love to make snide remarks that suggest or imply those might change, or that they might have secret ones. So much said, so much unsaid. Even bonds of the heart or blood aren’t sacred if the right advantage comes along to draw one to another allegiance.

I couldn’t rattle off these allegiances to you off the top of my head right now, that’s not how my brain works. I assume Lannisters are with Lannisters, Starks with Starks, that the Night Watch will typically take priority, etc.

This may be a big part of why I found this hard to get into way back when I last tried, all those social rules — but it should be much easier to relate to now that I’ve been on Mastodon for nearly a decade.


“There’s a war coming, Ned. I don’t know when, I don’t know who we’ll be fighting, but it’s coming.”

Let’s keep track of some arrows shot that are in the air, some things that are meant to be coming.

  1. Winter — already at the Wall, but approaching places that aren’t usually like that.
  2. A war — this seems inevitable regardless of current affairs, because what is a story like this if there’s not a war to deal with.
  3. Bran, out of his coma.
  4. White Walkers?
  5. All of these people having all of this graphic sex, hopefully?


“A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.”

Tyrion to Game of Thrones as Sawyer was to LOST — the jester, the understander, the knower, the guy who speaks the truths others aren’t socially allowed to, and who is happy to throw himself into a fight if need be. What are the odds he’ll similarly come out somewhat on top, having suffered losses but better for it in the end?


“In the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai, they say there are fields of ghost grass with stalks as pale as milk that glow in the night. Murders all other grass.”

By whatever dead god they worship, even the fucking grass is no fun allowed.

fantasy without fantasy

(Game of Thrones 1×01: “Winter is Coming”)

Y’all hear about this Game of Thrones thing?

1 Autumn

“Winter is coming,” we’re told, twice, but we open on snow and ice. Boy, y’all really goofed it there, HBO, winter is already here! I understand, from pop cultural osmosis, that the land continent? planet? of Westeros has what is by our standards an unusual relationship with the seasons. People in this world, I’m sure I will soon find out, have unusual relationships to lots of things, including their own heads, their siblings…

The idea of winter is rich with potential for metaphor — everything freezing, stopping, dying, before the sun returns and thaws everything out, bringing life back. They should do something with that.

2 Spring

I’ve been here before. This having been the cultural juggernaut that it was, of course I tried to watch this, first when it first aired — didn’t really connect with it, made it maybe ten minutes — and then again once it had become that juggernaut — I made it… eight episodes, I wanna say?

What didn’t I like about it, and why am I trying again now? Well, I always hate missing a popular bus, but what I saw from my initial glance as it drove past me was a depressing world full of sad shit and boring fights, and riding along for eight episodes only confirmed that feeling. Watching this now, I suspect the reputation this show has for unnecessary explicitness1Look, what is “unnecessary,” right? is probably earned. But I’m older, and my tastes have matured. Maybe I can get into this now.

I only finally read Achewood last year, you know.

3 Autumn

Obviously this is going certain places. Uninterested in the show until now, I never made a point of avoiding spoilers, and I know the big one from the first season because I, well, I watched that episode, I’ve heard something about a wedding, and I know broadly speaking that once they run out of book they struggle to maintain a stable road under this particular car. There is, as far as I can tell from where I stand, no show that quite crashes and burns like this one.

But here the inciting incidents are simple — a report from the North, and at home a man is dead. I’m sure the fallout of these matters will be dealt with swiftly and effectively.

4 Winter

Ultimately, Game of Thrones is fantasy without fantasy. It’s fantasy for people who think laughter who should go back to where it came from.2Comedy clubs in basements. Everything light and fun has been stripped away. Where something like Wonka is magic for the sheer sake of whimsy, this is the opposite — it’s a fantastical world that can only imagine violence and viscera, filth and fucking, politics and pain. A Dothraki wedding is a funeral. In Westeros, people only smile when they conquer, when they scheme, when they sentence, when they kill.

All magic that remains here is out to hurt you.

  • 1
    Look, what is “unnecessary,” right?
  • 2
    Comedy clubs in basements.
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