Thoughts on the Finale of Game of Thrones

I thought it was good. The Stark arc is complete, and Dany’s fate, telegraphed for forever, is done and done. Two things, though, about the ‘choosing of the king’ scene, could have been handled better.

First, the lords never discuss choosing Jon as king, despite having had seemingly weeks to do so by the length of Tyrion’s beard. Sure, Grey Worm wouldn’t have allowed it, probably Yara either, and I suspect once you’ve seen one seemingly “good” person go full Targaryen, you’re not anxious to try another… but since Grey Worm and the Unsullied leave Westeros right after Jon takes the black again, what’s to stop the lords (particularly Sansa) from installing Jon as king anyway? Their word?

Sansa isn’t much for keeping her word in this season alone. This makes her declaration of the independence of the North a bit hollow. Also, Bran could have also pardoned Jon in the same fashion. Now, neither of these scenarios changes Jon’s path much; he would never take the job. All roads for him point north. But it is a strange oversight.

Second, on a related note, while I think the clear implication from the initial dialogue is that of the assembled leaders only Grey Worm and Sansa have an army worth talking about, it’s curious to see Dorne and the Iron Islands not declare independence before Sansa does. In particular, readers of the books are more aware that Dorne was the last of the seven kingdoms to be conquered by Aegon, and at great cost for little gain.

Sansa is in no position to force Dorne to do anything. Why does the new prince, whoever he is, sit passively? Does he not know his legacy? Yara doesn’t declare independence either, when there is no fleet to oppose hers. Sansa does ‘vote’ last, cleverly, after the others have acceded, but they weren’t exactly following Robert’s Rules (again, back to my first objection – the lords can do whatever they want at any time).

These are artifacts, of course, of the accelerated post-Martin pace – oversights that wouldn’t have happened even as late as season 6. Still, I liked the full circle aspect of the finale. It’s not as bloody or sad as my initial predictions, but I’ll take it.

Mike’s Stupid Game of Thrones Final Season Predictions

Massive spoilers for all previous seasons of GOT follow.

There are really only two questions that interest me, and the possible answers are related:

  1. What happens when Jaime reaches the Starks?
  2. Who is Sam going to give the Tarly sword to?

Rather than answer these directly, I’d like to make death predictions instead and work my way back to them. Most of the chess pieces are in place at this point to be captured, so it’s mostly, at least in my mind, making the exchange, as they say.

Cersei and the Mountain

These two die in all possible scenarios. The only question is by who. Ayra, Tyrion, and Jaime are the top contenders. I think it will take all three.

I expect Jaime to reach Winterfell and offer his son’s sword, Widow’s Wail, as a peace offering so he is not killed immediately by Ayra, as well as his service. Sansa and Jon will back Ayra, but Brienne will defend him, citing her mission to find the Stark sisters on his behalf, his gift of Oathkeeper to her (and with Widow’s Wail, Ice can now be reforged), but she saves the best for last: the true story of how the Mad King died. Bran will confirm Brienne’s story. Minds are blown.

Then they will throw him in a dungeon just to be safe. Cue Tyrion at the cell door. “Why, hello there, brother. What do you say to killing our sister?”

Likely assassination squad: Jaime, Ayra, and the Hound, not long after, or perhaps while, Cersei backstabs the Starks and Daerenys. The most obvious course is to take Dragonstone with Euron Grayjoy’s fleet while the Starks are trying to fight the Night’s King, cutting off the Jon-Daenerys alliance off from their supply of dragonglass and setting themselves up to mop up whoever survives.

Naturally, the Hound distracts and fights his brother – regardless of outcome, their story ends. Jaime then confronts Cersei, but it’s a ruse to allow Ayra close to do the actual deed. After Jaime watches Cersei die, Ayra will probably kill him too, then wear his face or Cersei’s to command the Lannister army for the duration on the conflict (or, even better, kill Jaime first, wear his face to get close, and tada). Afterward, she will return to Sansa, leaving Casterly Rock to none other than Tyrion. If Ayra spares Jaime, he will wield Widow’s Wail in the final battle against the Night King and die fighting. Either way, Tyrion and Ayra “win,” as much as anyone in GOT “wins” anything.

Euron Greyjoy

Euron is No. 3 for zero chance of survival. Theon may fail to rescue his sister, but either he or she will kill their crazy uncle. My money is on her, as then the House can live on, potentially.

Jorah Mormont

No. 4 of the certain dead, Jorah has two tasks remaining in his very long arc. One is to have Sam Tarly offer him Heartsbane, the Tarly ancestral sword, which he gladly accepts.

Why Jorah? Well, there literally isn’t anyone else to give it to. Jon already has Longclaw, and Jorah is fine with that. Brienne has Oathkeeper. Ayra has that pesky dagger originating from Littlefinger that Bran gave her. Jaime, now on Team Stark, has Widow’s Wail. Sam ain’t going to give it to the Hound, so who’s left that favors a sword? Not Grey Worm. The guy that Sam knows well because he saved him from certain death from greyscale is the only logical pick. In fact, Sam’ll offer it to Jon first… who will suggest Jorah. This completes a five-person Murderer’s Row to fight the Night’s King on foot. Of though, Jorah is the most likely to perish in battle by saving Daenerys fresh from losing her dragon; he literally has nothing else to do in the story at this point.

But how are they going to get the Night’s King off Viserion, the undead ice dragon, to fight him at all?

The Viserion Problem

Sam has another obvious task besides getting Heartsbane to Jorah. He is going to tell Jon who his real parents are, at which point Jon will realize he has just had sex with his aunt, and Daenerys, given her knowledge, with her nephew. Ick. This may lead to a marriage, but more practically, they will realize Jon can ride the second dragon. That’s all a pretty straightforward reading of a series called, tada, A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE. I think they will both survive, oddly enough. But they may wish they did not.

The Night’s King isn’t going to be killed while an undead Viserion is still flying around. They really only have three things to fight Viserion with, alas. The remaining two dragons are one and two, and assuming Arya or Jaime control the Lannisters, the scorpion-like contraption that Cersei had built is three. A dragonclass bolt might do the trick. But I doubt the good guys are smart enough to use the remaining dragons to lure Viserion into such an ambush, as that would allow the other dragons to survive. More likely, though, for increased drama, both dragons will perish to take down Viserion in the final battle, leaving the Night’s King on foot and vulnerable, facing a Murderer’s Row of Brienne, Jorah, Jaime (if he lives that long), Arya, and Jon.

Let’s back up a bit. At the end of Season 7, everyone is heading to Winterfell. The Night’s King is headed there as that is where his real nemesis, Bran Stark, hangs out. I suggest two battles for pacing purposes. One to slow the walkers down before they get to Winterfell, which fails miserably and is made worse with whatever Cersei decides to backstab with (see Dragonstone musing earlier). Then, a last stand at Winterfell where all dragons are wiped out and any remaining forces try to give any Murderer’s Row survivors a chance to kill the Night’s King.

The Night’s King and the Murderer’s Row

Even GRRM isn’t going to let this guy win in the end, so who offs him? This assumes of course that he is truly a load-bearing baddie, where all the walkers he has created and any wights he has raised will crumble when he is defeated.

Of the remaining Valryian steel wielders, Arya has already had her moment by killing Cersei. So she’ll die. Ditto Jaime, if not offed by Arya. That leaves Brienne, Jorah, and Jon.

Brienne has two possible fates. Either she will die in battle, or live to hook up with Tormund. This is GOT, unfortunately, and if you think this will end well, you haven’t been paying attention. So no giant babies. And Jorah’s logical endpoint for his arc is to die saving Daenerys.

Jon, then, by process of elimination, is the only one left to do the deed. He has already died, so he has some serious plot armor. He has an appropriate weapon. Melissandre may even appear to resurrect him again if he missteps (and given his promise, his first act on waking up would be to kill her).

The Remaining Starks

The attack on Winterfell will be devastating, and dramatically speaking, at its most potent if the Starks are wiped out. Sansa dies defending Bran, and Bran is killed by the Night’s King, perhaps distracting or delaying him enough for Jon to kill him. With Arya already dead, Jon and Daenerys are left alone, the last Stark and Targaryen, destined to rule over a kingdom where almost everyone they know and love is dead. Tyrion, too, rules Casterly Rock alone, having killed (in some fashion or another) his entire nuclear family – mother, father, sister, and brother.






Capturing

Female hostage-taking and male would-be rescuing is pretty common in films, which leads me to one of my pet peeves in fiction – the scene where the hero or the hero’s friend or love interest is captured.

In the hands of a halfway competent villain, this means the story is over.  Said captive(s) will be killed/maimed/broken in some permanent fashion.

But heroes typically avoid this. There is a big damn rescue scene where the villain is thwarted, enabling the story to continue, and completely draining the story of any real terror or consequence. The stories that do use capturing characters at all that interest me are the ones where the hero does NOT rescue his or her friends or dies or is broken in some fundamental way.

In short, we’re looking at a preponderance of super-competent heroes and moronic villains.

 

It’s in, and other news

Yesterday was the due date for my tenure file. Now that it’s in, I can concentrate on teaching and on other projects.

I haven’t been writing here much lately, partially because I have starting keeping a private journal on my iPad where I can let loose about whatever, whereas here I am more circumspect.

One thing I would like to share today, though, is that over the summer when I wasn’t teaching, I wrote a novel. I would loosely characterize it as a post-apocalyptic adventure. The idea for it has been in my head for a few years, but I didn’t make the time for writing it until very recently. I haven’t marketed it to agents or publishers yet, as I have some friends reading it over and I would like their input first, but I plan to do so soon.

So that’s exciting, and I’m thinking that since I was able to crank one out relatively quickly during the summer break, writing several thousand words a day, I could conceivably write another next summer.  It wouldn’t affect my scholarly output because I use the long semesters, regardless of teaching load, to write that stuff, anyway.

Also, an important date is coming up tomorrow. H and I will have our tenth anniversary together. We had our first date on Oct. 8, 2004.

Additionally, I would like to announce (though it was already announced on Facebook some time ago) that H and I are expecting our first child next spring.

 

 

Reading again

I ordered a bunch of scifi books to read last week, because the gaming front has been slow (mostly waiting for the new Thief in late February) and I felt like it. I haven’t exactly been plowing through bestsellers in the last ten years, so it is going to take me awhile to discover who among the current crop  is good and who isn’t. That is always the most frustrating part of reading books for me – the uncertain quality of authors I haven’t read. Will the experience be worth the three-four hours it takes me to devour a novel? Reading journal articles is a little more profitable in that light, because they’re shorter and I can read the beginning and the end near-simultaneously without feeling cheated.

Most of the books have arrived already. I picked them by reading lists of ‘best in 2013’. I read three this weekend: The Frozen Sky by Jeff Carlson, Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, and Brilliance by Marcus Sakey. They are three very different books, but because I read them more or less at the same time I can’t help but compare them against one another.

The Frozen Sky is a first contact story set on Europa. It is a hard scifi thriller, meaning there are more ideas and action than character. All we really learn about the protagonist is that she is determined, which goes without saying. Of the first contact genre, it is of the ‘can we talk to them meaningfully’ type. So I didn’t find it sufficiently original, though it was written competently. The challenge with hard scifi is linking it to a actual rather than puppet protagonist.

Ancillary Justice was more interesting. It is about a troopship AI that is reduced to inhabiting just one of its  many previously simultaneously operating parts – a ‘corpse soldier’ or ancillary – after the ship and all the rest of its ancillaries are destroyed. The motivation is revenge – seeking out those who destroyed the ship. Lots of discussion of ethics. Also interesting was the treatment of gender. The ruthless yet principled and music-loving AI is very bad at discerning gender, and refers to everyone as ‘she’, which can make for some frustrating but enjoyable reading. An original book, I think, with the author worth sampling again.

Brilliance was light sci-fi. Its plot is basically the X-men with a helping of Heroes. In the early eighties one in a hundred babies are born ‘brilliant’ – having some kind of advanced cognitive ability. The government attempts to control the most powerful of these with NSA-like agencies, killing some and indoctrinating the rest from an early age. The protagonist is one of these ‘abnorms’, able to see patterns, especially body gestures, with uncanny accuracy.  He works for the government but – unfortunately in a predictable way – finds himself having problems holding to that allegiance. I thought this was the best written and most enjoyable of the three books – it had a steady flow to it – but in many ways the least original and most predictable. Sakey has written some other things, which might be better.

I’ll write some more about the other books as I have time. I’m working on a very difficult article this semester, one I’m not sure is even going to get finished, and that among other problems has occupied my thoughts lately.

Breaking Bad

So Breaking Bad ended last night. It was a very satisfying, all-loose-ends-tied-up experience.

I have to wonder, though. Of the best adult episodic TV of the last ten years, the high water marks – let’s say The Wire, The Sopranos, Mad Men, Deadwood, and Breaking Bad – are all about largely despicable characters that are heavily compromised morally and ethically. We’re not watching these shows out of escapism, to reinforce values, or for laughs, though there is humor. It’s entertainment more on the level of watching a train wreck in the form of human beings. This is not a complaint – more of a celebration, really – given what TV had to offer in the ’90s or ’80s. Sitcoms still churn on, but now we have these more layered, ambiguous entities available over on HBO and AMC.