Posts Tagged ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’
Sean and Stefan are joined by a very special guest to talk about a very special episode! Emmett Booth, the ASoIaF analyst behind the widely read Poor Quentyn tumblr and a maester at ASoIaF University, hops aboard the BLAH train to discuss the shocking revelations of “The Door,” this week’s episode ofGame of Thrones, and use this mid-point opportunity to take stock of the season thus far. What do the secret origins of the White Walkers and Hodor mean for both the show and the books? What does the current political status quo portend for the future, in terms of both plot and theme? What’s wrong with the Game of Thrones critical discourse? Is the show…evil? We’re answering all these questions and more. If you like what you hear, subscribe, rate, and review us on iTunes to help the Boiled Leather Rebellion emerge victorious!
WHAT’S THE BIG PICTURE
In a word: Magic. Game of Thrones may have made its initial impression as an epic fantasy without much fantasy, saving its dragon hatchlings for the final shot of its first season. But it’s always been about both the public power plays and the game behind the Game — specifically, that all this scheming and warring is a tragic distraction from humanity’s real rip-it-up-and-start-again foe, the White Walkers. Jon Snow’s revival, Daenerys’s fireproof triumph, and Bran Stark’s increasingly powerful visions are a surefire sign that the endgame is approaching, and that certain characters may have a literally messianic role to play.
So it’s no coincidence at all that if and when the Walkers breach the Wall or Daenerys takes wing to Westeros, they’ll find conditions incredibly grim. Bloodthirsty killers control three of the Seven Kingdoms. Self-interested sociopath Littlefinger has command of the continent’s single largest intact army. The Riverlands appear poised for battle between the Red Wedding planners in House Frey and the Blackfish, saved from the massacre by a fortuitously timed bathroom break. King’s Landing is on the brink of full-scale civil war in the streets. Winter is coming, but good old-fashioned human cruelty and greed has set the thermostat close to zero already.
Yet the other big theme of the season so far has been reunions. Brienne and Sansa, Theon and Yara, Dany and Jorah, and especially Sansa and Jon: Each of these long awaited meetings sends the message to the audience that sometimes hope is rewarded, and good things happen to people who deserve them. Nowhere is this clearer than in its supernatural form: Bran’s visions may well get him the informational ammo he needs, particularly concerning Jon Snow’s true parents, to destroy the White Walkers for good. In other words, armies and dragons be damned: Human connections are humanity’s flame against the coming cold. Ice, meet fire.
We learned no less a secret than the origin of the White Walkers, but tonight’s episode of Game of Thrones had an even more gut-wrenching revelation in store. When Bran Stark discovers that the benevolent Children of the Forest created the army of ice demons as a doomsday weapon against the human beings who were slaughtering them in turn, it’s a first-hand lesson in blowback. Little does he know he’s capable of a similar moral blood-sacrifice: It’s his own psychic abilities that turned a towering teenager called Willas into the mentally disabled man he knows as Hodor. Mentally time-traveling to the past even as he and his companions flee the Night King and his undead army in the present, the boy burns the defensive command “Hold the door” so deep into his companion’s brain that a truncated version of the phrase becomes all he can say.
The message of tonight’s installment (“The Door”) is that this is the cost of war, even if it’s a battle against pure evil. Half a world away, Daenerys prepares to ride; Tyrion makes alliances with the Lord of Light’s High Priestess; and Euron Greyjoy preps the Ironborn to conquer the world by the Dragon Queen’s side. But even supernatural saviors leave broken bodies in their wake. Hodor’s crippling — along with the loss of the Three-Eyed Raven, the Children, and Hodor himself — shows that the ends may justify the means, but the means are all but unbearable.
To understand a show full of natural born killers, sometimes it pays to consult the original article — specifically, Oliver Stone’s hyperviolent, hyperstylized 1994 mass-murderer movie. There’s a very funny exchange between Robert Downey Jr.’s tabloid-TV sleazeball Wayne Gale and one of his show’s editors, played by a young, pre-Sex and the City Evan Handler. The exasperated staffer complains that they’ve shown the same over-the-top reenactment of one of superstar serial-killer couple Mickey & Mallory’s murders over and over again; Downey’s character barks back “Repetition works, David” — at which point Stone cuts backward in time, so the line “Repetition works, David” repeats all over again.
Much of what happened on tonight’s oddly off-kilter Game of Thrones episode — “The Book of the Stranger” — depends on whether you believe the point of the joke. Yes, repeating ideas and imagery can heighten their impact, reveal subtle variations, or emphasize the cyclical nature of events. But there’s also such a thing as diminishing returns; if you go to the same well too many times, eventually it’ll run dry.
I reviewed last night’s Game of Thrones for Rolling Stone. I was of two minds about it, as you’ll see in the review. As I say later in the piece, “Whether these scenes worked is an ultimately open question, determined by the resolution of the storylines — one reason among many why it’s best to engage each episode as it comes, rather than attempt to predict the future or put your faith in fan theories.” I wanted to include “or saying ‘here’s what they should have done’” in that list of Don’ts, but it got cut.
We’re analyzing the new sample chapter from The Winds of Winter available at GeorgeRRMartin.com this week, and it’s all about Arianne Martell! In this episode of BLAH, Sean & Stefan investigate the latest sneak preview of the next volume of A Song of Ice and Fire, which Martin has previously read aloud at live appearances, as it takes us further into the future adventures of the Princess of Dorne. What do her discoveries tell us about Aegon and Jon Connington’s invasion? What do they portend for the South now that it’s torn between so many rival forces: Lannister, Tyrell, Faith Militant, Martell, the Golden Company, potential Targaryen loyalists, and who knows what else? And what do they teach us about Arianne herself? In just under half an hour we tackle everything from the likely condition of the Seven Kingdoms when the Others invade to whether or not releasing this chapter was a subtweet of the show’s handling of Dorne and more. Enjoy!
Jon Snow returned not with a bang, but a whimper. Resurrected last week after his murder by mutinying members of the Night’s Watch — not to mention a year of furious speculation by the audience and half-hearted denials by the cast and crew — the Lord Commander reentered the land of the living less like a triumphant messiah and more like a guy who’d just come to after a horrendous car accident. His breath came in gasps. His eyes were wide with confusion and distress. When he stepped off the slab, he couldn’t even walk without an almost equally stunned Ser Davos holding him up. And what did he learn on the other side? As the saying goes, he knows nothing. His rebirth was basically one big supernatural panic attack.
I reviewed last night’s Game of Thrones for Rolling Stone. One parallel that got cut from my review of last night’s episode is that in the show, Ned and Howland kill Arthur Dayne in much the same way that Jaime Lannister killed his boss, the Mad King; one was celebrated, the other reviled.
But what does Jon’s supernatural survival mean for the show itself? First and foremost, it means you are, indeed, watching a fantasy show. Melisandre’s shadow-demon babies, Arya’s shape-shifting assassins, that FrankenMountain monster, last week’s reveal of the Red Woman’s true form, the White Walkers and their undead army, Dany’s freaking dragons: The rules of reality have already been bent left, right, and center, up to and including several resurrections. Our boy in black’s big comeback makes perfect sense within the genre; the idea that this represents some unforgivable breach of audience trust has got to make you wonder what show people have been watching. On the flip side, the complaint that this was too easy to see coming is equally bogus: Isn’t that what foreshadowing is for? Fiction isn’t a magic trick designed to keep audiences in the dark until the big reveal; it works on levels of categorical conventions, theme, tone, character, and plot that can all trump the need for a perfect surprise.
A crippled boy walks again, a smile on his face as he walks around the place he once called home. A lonely girl sits isolated against a vast frozen field, mourning her brother and wondering if she has a purpose without him. A giant bursts through a gate, cowing a small army into submission. A drunk in the middle of pissing on the wall turns to face a masked killer, who crushes his skull and walks away without a word. A sullied knight and a man of god(s) face off in a holy place, the body of a princess in front of them, daylight shining through a seven-pointed window behind them. A dwarf ventures into the darkness to face dragons, illuminated only by the light of his torch and the fire in their mouths. A new mother clutches her baby as a madman releases his hounds to kill them. A broken man hugs the woman he rescued, and who rescued him, as they say goodbye. An aging king faces off against his own brother on a bridge above the ocean, blown back and forth by the storm.
And oh, yeah … Jon Snow comes back from the dead.
What impact did the Blackfyre Rebellion have on the characters of A Song of Ice and Fire’s view of bastards? What impact might the Blackfyre Rebellion have had on our understanding of those views, had these civil wars of succession been introduced earlier in the series? What role will they play now that they’ve entered the story in a relatively big way, via “Young Griff” and Varys,The World of Ice and Fire, and A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms? They’re good questions – so good, in fact, that we didn’t think them up ourselves at all. This episode, we’re tackling a topic specifically chosen for us by Rosie Gleeson of Dublin, Ireland, our first Patreon subscriber to donate at the $50 a month level. This earns her an episode of her own choosing, and so at her request we’ll be delving into the Blackfyres, bastardry, and both the in-story and meta reasons for Martin’s treatment of both. Thank you so much for your generosity, Rosie! And if any of you other listeners would like that kind of clout – or would care to pitch it at any level at all – our Patreon page is still accepting donations to make this a better podcast. Thanks for listening, and for supporting us any way you choose! (Moral support counts.)
If Game of Thrones were a Netflix show, there isn’t a man or woman in all Seven Kingdoms who wouldn’t have plowed right into episode two after watching tonight’s Season Six premiere. So many of the big storytelling beats went unresolved that the inability to binge-watch the next hour (or more) is an almost Ramsay Bolton–level torment.
We don’t get to witness the final showdown between Ser Davos and Ser Alliser. We don’t see the triumphant return of Dolorous Edd leading an army of wildlings (with or without a giant or two in tow) to his black brothers’ rescue. Neither of Cersei Lannister’s most loyal nights, her incestuous brotherJaime and her Frankensteinian bodyguard Ser Robert Strong (aka an undead Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane), face off against the fanatical forces of the High Sparrow. Tyrion Lannister and his buddy-comedy advisor Varys don’t free the dragons chained up in the basement of their Meereenese palace. Daenerys Targaryen’s dragon, the black beast called Drogon, doesn’t swoop in to save her from the clutches of Khal Moro and his Dothraki horde. Bran Stark, his wizardly mentor the Three-Eyed Raven, his M.I.A. kid brother Rickon, schemer par excellence Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish and the ne’er-do-well rulers of the Iron Islands from House Greyjoy don’t show up at all. Most importantly, to paraphrase Chevy Chase, Jon Snow is still dead—if his psychic baby bro, his telepathically connected direwolf Ghost or the apparently ancient sorceress Melisandre are going to bring him back from beyond, we’ll have to tune in next week, same Stark time, same Stark channel.
Shit, we might not even get to find out then.
So how come “The Red Woman,” tonight’s long-anticipated comeback ep, felt so satisfying regardless?
I reviewed the Season 6 premiere of Game of Thrones for Rolling Stone, where I’ll be covering the show weekly once again. Yay!
Huge thanks to editor Neil Janowitz for tapping me to help put together this massive Game of Thrones character relationship guide for Vulture, written by Jennifer Vineyard and assembled by their crack interactive team. You’ve really gotta see this thing to believe it. Enjoy!
5. What’s going to happen in King’s Landing?
Seriously, is there any place here that isn’t a ticking time bomb going into Season Six?! Like Jon and Dany, Cersei Lannister started last season in charge and ended up in deep shit. After empowering the extremist religious leader known as the High Sparrow — in the hope that he’d take down her rivals — she wound up in the crosshairs as well. Now she’s endured a horrifying walk of shame but will still have to stand trial … and we’ve all seen how trials in King’s Landing go. Her brother Jaime’s back in town, bearing the bad news of their daughter Myrcella’s murder, and her undead bodyguard Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane is running around too. There could well be a three-way bloodbath in the streets between Lannister, Tyrell, and Faith Militant forces before it’s all said and done — four-way, since Dorne’s Prince Trystane is a newcomer to the city this season. It’s a recipe for disaster potent enough to make Meereen look like Des Moines.
We’re going back to the future with part two of our all-predictions podcast series on The Winds of Winter! This time around we’re traveling to Essos to speculate as to what Volume Six of A Song of Ice and Fire has in store for our old friends, from Braavos to Meereen. What fate will befall the five POV characters currently located east of Westeros—Arya, Barristan, Victarion, Tyrion, and Daenerys? What about supporting players like Jorah Mormont, Moqorro, and Marwyn the Mage? (Forgot about him, didn’t you?) Then, of course, there’s the matter of the dragons to consider, and consider them we do. It winds up being a wide-ranging discussion of lands near and far, futures immediate and distant. Guess along with us!
This episode also features an update on our fundraisers, both our emergency PayPal fund to help fix Sean’s broken laptop and our Patreon drive, where your monthly subscription/donation can help guarantee more episodes, better sound quality, topics of your choosing, and more. We greatly appreciate all our donors and patrons so far, and if you think the podcast’s worth a few bucks a month, we’d be so grateful for you to join their ranks!
If fools rush in where angels fear to tread, then we’re about to pull a Patchface: We’re foolishly forecasting the events of The Winds of Winter in our new episode! The start of a series, this installment sees us attempting to predict what’s in store for the North in volume six of A Song of Ice and Fire. What fate awaits our POV characters—Bran, Davos, Melisandre, Asha, Theon, and of course Jon Snow? How will things shake out for supporting characters like Rickon, Osha, Hodor, Tormund Giantsbane, Wyman Manderly, the Reeds, and the Boltons? What will happen at Hardhome, Winterfell, the Wall? Like everyone who isn’t George R.R. Martin, we have no freaking idea, but it’s fun to guess, and our best guesses await! (NOTE: We do refer on occasion to the TWoW preview chapters Martin has published or read aloud, so be warned!)
But wait, there’s more! This episode also includes the formal announcement of two new fundraising drives for the podcast. The first is our new Patreon page, where you can pledge to pitch in a few dollars a month to help keep the podcast running. The podcast will always be free, but even a little money per month will make it easier for us to record more frequently and with better equipment. There are also some cool goals and rewards, so please check it out!
Our second fundraiser involves a more urgent concern: Sean’s laptop screen was recently shattered in a mishap involving his kids’ Wii controllers, and replacing it is an expensive proposition on a fulltime-freelancer’s salary. So we’re opening the coffers at our PayPal donation page. A one-time donation of any amount will help Sean revive the computer he uses to work and record—a real necessity. Again, any amount helps. Thank you so much for your generosity, and enjoy the episode!
Hi all! Before we upload this week’s episode, which we think you’ll like, an announcement: We have set up a Patreon page for the podcast, to help raise funds for new equipment and make it easier for the two of us (Sean especially) to commit to recording more episodes without it coming at a cost to our financial health. Please pledge any amount you want–every bit helps!
Also, on a more urgent note, Sean is in dire need of laptop repair after a mishap with his kids’ toys broke his screen. This is very expensive, especially on a full-time freelancer’s salary. So if you like, you can donate to the BLAH paypal page to help raise funds to replace the laptop and make recording (and working!) possible. Thanks again!
Prepare for a guided tour of The World of Ice and Fire! The co-authors of George R.R. Martin’s ambitious sourcebook for A Song of Ice and Fire — and longtime friends of the podcast — Elio M. García, Jr. and Linda Antonsson join us to talk about the book, which hit stores in time for the holiday season one year ago. Beginning with a look back over TWoIaF’s reception over the past year, our chat ranges from a discussion of fanfiction to the influence of Lovecraft and Howard; the way using in-world maesters as narrators shaped the writing; the material left on the cutting room floor to avoid spoiling future stories—and the stuff inserted to lay the groundwork for them; and, of course, what’s up with the Deep Ones. And we close with the big question: Are there future collaborations on the history of the setting in store?
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Sean and Stefan discuss the new Star Wars movie! Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens Jedi mind tricked us into dedicating this episode of our A Song of Ice and Fire podcast to an entirely different fantasy franchise. How did the film fit in with larger saga? How did J.J. Abrams’s direction differ from George Lucas’s? Is Rey a Mary Sue, and if so, how does that impact the film? What the hell was up with Starkiller Base? We answer all these questions and more, including a discussion of the film’s cinematography, the performances of its actors, the pros and cons of the characters, and even a few connections to the world of Westeros. I’ve got a good feeling about this…
Like the Spanish Inquisition before him, George R.R. Martin’s chief weapon is surprise. The author of the A Song of Ice and Fire series has packed his epic-fantasy novels with unpredictable plot twists — and for every shocking revelation, there’s an equally tantalizing secret that stays hidden, riddle that remains unsolved, or prophecy that has yet to be properly decoded. Game of Thrones, the show based on the books, has largely stayed away from Martin’s mix of hints, clues, visions, and red herrings, which is probably wise; no one wants a repeat of Lost, where fans went so berserk trying to figure out what was going to happen in advance that the show itself became an afterthought.
But readers have had almost two decades to pore over and ponder every line in Martin’s novels, beginning with the first volume, 1996’s A Game of Thrones. From Tumblr to Reddit to major ASOIAF fansites likewesteros.organd Tower of the Hand — as well as my and my co-author’s own sites All Leather Must Be Boiled and the Nerdstream Era, and our podcast, “The Boiled Leather Audio Hour” — self-taught experts and avid fans have advanced literally hundreds of theories about the past and future of the story, from slam-dunk analysis that’s been all but accepted as fact to tinfoil-hat crackpottery that makes the Kennedy assassination look as clear-cut as an episode of Murder, She Wrote. The sensation of stumbling across this incredibly vast trove of deep-cut knowledge for the first time is a memory many readers share: “Holy shit — Ned Stark isn’t Jon Snow’s dad?”
Below, you’ll find 50 of the most popular, compelling, convincing, and/or crazy theories out there. Consider it early prep for Game of Thrones’ sixth season, out in April. Dig in, but be warned: The Song will not remain the same.
With an editorial assist by our own Stefan Sasse, I wrote 10,000 words on 50 ASoIaF/GoT theories. This is the least sane thing I’ve ever been paid to do.
Exciting news from the world of ASoIaF podcasts: Stefan and I are the special guests on this week’s edition of A Podcast of Ice and Fire. Join us and host Amin Javadi as we celebrate the 100th installment of Stefan & Amin’s Supreme Court of Westeros Q&A feature (which I all too infrequently remember to post here at boiledleather.com) by tackling a host of reader-generated questions about the series’ biggest mysteries, theories, and themes. Consider it the Boiled Leather Audio Hour Episode 42.5!