Game of Thrones: Mockingbird

Please tell me I’m not the only person who keeps wanting to call this episode “Mockingjay.”

A really interesting episode this week. Lots of compelling character moments, a fair bit of tension, pretty pretty snow, and cute flashbacks to friendships of days past. Not bad, for an episode that contained one of my most anticipated moments (snow Winterfell!). Of course, all the character moments also gave the show ample opportunity to be rage-inducing. A mild sort of rage, compared to some of the things the show has done this season, but a bit rage-y none-the-less.

Since there was so much going on this week, I’m going to split things up by character/plotline.

Brienne and Podrick:

What has happened to Brienne’s character over the past couple of weeks? The show has always presented a much tougher and less emotional one than the rather naive young figure we see in the books, but those changes seemed especially blatant this week.

In the books, Brienne comes to care a lot for Podrick. It’s a key part of her story going forwards. But here, she’s so dismissive of him that she becomes cruel. She tells him he’s “not interesting enough to be offensive,” with a dismissive eyeroll, and she dismisses pretty much everything he says or does. She’s not just irritated by him. She acts like he’s beneath her, like he’s a waste of space — an attitude that’s fundamentally incompatible with Brienne’s caring nature and her desire to act like a true, good knight. It’s almost as if the show feels that someone can’t be physically strong without also being a “badass” in other ways. Like they’re trying to squeeze Brienne into the idea of the “Strong Female Character,” totally confident, full of sass, a woman who needs no one (except perhaps for Jaime, her love), trading her depth in for one-dimensional (and fairly unlikable) cliché.

These changes have also made Brienne extraordinarily stupid. She’s searching for a traitor’s daughter who is wanted for the murder of the king and probably has a pretty big bounty on her head, so of course she tells everyone precisely who she’s looking for and why. I guess maybe we viewers might have forgotten what she’s doing in the past two weeks, so they had to remind us? And when she does have a lead, not on Sansa but on the Stark daughter she thought was dead, she tells her informant to give her “the quick version,” missing the fact that any detail could be vital to figuring out where Arya might be. Not to mention the fact that Strong Female Character Brienne has no reaction to learning that her lady’s missing daughter is alive after all.

By the time we learn that Brienne didn’t know about Lysa, has no idea where Sansa might be hiding or who her allies might be, and in fact is less qualified for this journey than the squire she’s been belittling, my eyes had basically rolled right out of my head. Who is this overconfident idiot plunging through the countryside and being mean to every child she encounters along the way? And why does the show think we’ll like her more than the Brienne we see in the books? Heck, why does the show think we’ll like her more than Cersei? At least the Lannister sister owns her meanness.

Tyrion, Bronn and Betrayal:

All this raging really can’t be good for my blood pressure, but ugh to all the Bronn stuff this week. Just… ugh. It’s not surprising that Bronn would betray Tyrion. He’s a ruthless sellsword who’s only out for himself. Of course he would take whatever money the Lannisters offered and ditch Tyrion when things looked iffy. Of course he wouldn’t risk his life to fight against the Mountain when better alternatives presented themselves. The only question is why Tyrion didn’t expect this in the first place.

My only problem with all this is that it presents Bronn as sympathetic. We get to see his reasoning, and it all seems very reasonable. He’s thrown Tyrion to the lions as much as Shae has, but he and Tyrion get to part as friends, with Tyrion being all understanding and telling him not to be sorry. Bronn’s ruthlessness was part of why he liked him, after all.

And yet, in the same episode, we also have Tyrion raging and angsting about Shae. About how she betrayed him. How he was a fool for thinking she’d fallen in love with him. There are so many layers of nonsense with this that it’s difficult to know where to start. Tyrion knows that Shae loves him. That was, in fact, a pretty major plot point earlier this season. He needed to convince her that he didn’t love her to force her to leave for her own protection, because otherwise she wouldn’t leave. Because she wasn’t being mercenary or full of self-preservation. Because she loved him. During the trial last week, her only moment of spite was when she called herself his “whore,” pretty clearly showing that she’s only doing this because she thinks that he never loved her, not because she never cared for him. Tyrion knows all of this. And even if he didn’t, he knows that Shae is a prostitute. He should have similar standards for her as for Bronn. They were allies, but she can’t be expected to die for him. Except not. Shae is a horrific, cold-hearted traitor, while Bronn is still ultimately a pretty good guy, for doing basically the same thing.

Perhaps it would be better if we got a peek inside Shae’s motivations, as we did at Bronn’s. Tyrion doesn’t have to hear her side of things, but Shae’s an independent character from him. We could see her talking to Cersei or Tywin. We could learn what happened between her supposedly getting shipped off and her appearing in court. We could get even a hint of her side of things or what she has been going through. But we don’t. Because Bronn and Tyrion are bros, and so both of their perspectives in their relationship count, but Shae is merely Tyrion’s love, and therefore has nothing to say or no life of her own beyond him.

Daenerys in Meereen:

They’re moving the Daenerys stuff along really quickly. As in, I think we’re now in A Dance with Dragons territory quickly. She and Brienne are both pretty far ahead at this point, and I think (although I’m not sure) that Bran is somewhat ahead of schedule too. At this point, the show could finish all the remaining books in one season, two at the most. And then they’re either going to have to start making up their own ending or reveal George RR Martin’s first. I really hope he has a detail in the contract preventing them from doing that. Because that would not end well.

But in the meantime, this means we get to see Daenerys starting to give in to her Targaryen tendencies and go slightly mad with her obsession with “justice.” Her dramatic, trailer-worthy statements and speeches do get a bit tiring, but we’re finally getting into the consequences of her moral crusade, the cost of her increasing bloodlust, and the fact that, for all her posturing, she doesn’t know how to actually be queen. I know some people tire of Daenerys being in Meereen, but I think there’s a lot of interesting things to explore here, and I’m looking forward to seeing it.

Melisandre and Selyse

Yes, a conversation between Melisandre and the other woman who actually truly believes all the Lord of Light stuff. Character depth for Selyse! An interesting conversation for both of them!

Shame Melisandre had to be naked for the whole thing. But I guess the show had to balance out Daario somehow.

Sansa, snow and the moon door

And now for one of the most creepy and intense scenes the show has ever produced. Once again, we got to see how talented Sophie Turner is at conveying emotion without saying a single word. Her look of wonder as she watched the snow, her sadness as she remembers home and her family, her fear of Littlefinger, and the sheer terror when Lysa holds her over the moon door… she’s absolutely fantastic. And although her scene with Robin initially seemed like an overreaction — he damaged the castle by accident, at least at first — I think it was important to establish that Sansa is still an emotionally traumatized child. She might be playing the gentle grown up around Robin at first, but she’s still just a young teenager herself, and there’s pretty much nothing in her life, nothing that she loves, that hasn’t been taken from her or destroyed by others. Her little snow Winterfell is just the last straw, and for once (if unfairly) she’s in a position to stand up for herself and do something about it. It’s not her most likeable moment, but god, she doesn’t have to be nice and sweet and kind every moment of the day, and her immaturity only highlights the intense creepiness of Littlefinger’s behavior in the very next scene.

Unfortunately, I do think the whole thing was incredibly rushed. She’s been at the Eyrie for little more than an episode, this was her final scene in A Storm of Swords, and the next book doesn’t have much material for her. There was no need to hurry through this, and although there were some good moments, this plotline didn’t really feel like it had room to breathe. I don’t want to imagine what the show will add for her to fill in any gaps.

In short, the show is racing through the book material far quicker than I expected, and it has barely managed to portray its female characters well when given books to guide it. There are exceptions, and some of the show’s additions have been really interesting to watch (Shae before this season, Arya and the Hound recently), but overall, the characters really aren’t in safe hands with these writers. So please, George RR Martin, release the sixth book soon. I’d hate for the show to be left to come up with plots on its own, or, worse, present events from the books that haven’t yet been released.

16 comments on “Game of Thrones: Mockingbird

  • VVendetadlc , Direct link to comment

    I think part of the reason the show is rushing over the plot is because the fourth and five book are less worked than the previous. It’s an impresion, but I think that Martin spent more time in the first books, not only writtting, but suppresing the things that didn’t really add much to the main plot. But now, since editors, fans and TV pressure him to release the books quicker, he hands the books withough the “cutting”. And the show need to suppress whats not part of the main plot shows more now than in the previous seasons.

    Of course it’s a real pitty that show’s writters think female characters development it’s not “that important” to the main plot. And that they waste so much time in meaningless sex escenes instead.

    Shae treatment it’s unfair, as is Briennes. But I think the problem it’s not that Tyrion is unfair to Shae, what is unfair is that we are expected to agree with him. I mean, Tyrion is flawed in the way he relates to women it’s in the books and it gets worse. The point it’s that it shouldn’t be seen as OK by the readers (or in this case viewers).

    For me, Brienne it’s a character with lots of potential and a fan favorite. But I don’t think the shows writters understand the real conflict she faces. Brienne’s core values are being put to test. She failed Renly, then failed Kathleen Stark and she’s conflicted because she thinks part of the reason is what happend to Jaime and her. She thinks she needs to atone for that. But in the show they made all about Jaime and her oath to Kathleen is almost forgotten. And since it’s all about Jaime, whatever interaction she has that’s not him, it’s shown as “not important” to show writters. That includes Podrick or looking for hints. At least that’s my way to “read” the changes the show has made.

    I think that in many ways, the show it’s a lot less subtle than the books for good or bad…

    • Lars Sjöström , Direct link to comment

      I disagree that the fourth and fifth books are less worked. They are instead a new beginning where Martin outlines the settings, political, military and personal, for what is to come. Both the politics of Westeros and the consequences for everyone caught between, and the complicated politics of Slavers Bay, a culture which we knew little about before ADWD.

      • VVendetadlc , Direct link to comment

        Fair enough, but then, why so few characters in the other continent? I mean, we follow Daenerys, Tyrion and Aria. We have a little Toad and then, mostly westeros. Somehow I think the first books were more “fluid” in the way they show that politics. Not only that, if the show it’s skiping that politics and people could follow the plot withough the books, are all that politic really important for the story?

        Obviusly there’s many things happening at the same time and some things are there just to add flavor, but in many stories, it’s not that important to tell everithing and, in fact, that could detract from the story you want to tell. Not allways more it’s better. I imagine we’ll see how important are those things when the next books appears. Deppending on how many loose ends and subplots end unresolved I’ll decide if you were right or not.

        Note: If they end with some deux ex like they did in Lost, then I’ll stick with “too many information that doesn’t really add to the story”.

        In my opinion more than one beggining in a story usually doesn’t work that well. You could start in media res or play with the narrator, but since the beggining is where you explain the conflict, a new beggining implies a diferent conflict withough resolving the first. Would that two conflicts tied in a way that support the same theme? I’m not really sure.

        • Lars Sjöström , Direct link to comment

          I give you that the first books are more fluid, but one the other hand GRRM tell ous much more about societies and events in the later, might simply be a matter of taste.

          I am certain that the big conflict is between humans and the others as stated in the prologue of the first book. Brandon’s storyline is about him becoming a greenseer who can somehow fight the others and Daenerys will likely play a part as well. Melisandre believes that Stannis is the champion to fight the others, but I believe in Maester Aemons theory that Daenerys is the champion.

          The Stark-Lannister-Baratheon conflict are in my opinion “only” subplots just like the power struggle of Slaver’s Bay. So I try to read everything as leading up to the great battle against the others, and thinks that one “chapter” ended with ASOS.

          • VVendetadlc , Direct link to comment

            Well, the books are called song of ice and fire. So, yes, the conflict is between the others (ice) and the fire wich I think is the dragons and the followers of the lord of fire like Melisandre. But the first books is called “Game of thrones” and it stick because most of the plot is about the Iron throne. The iron throne and who reign in Westeros is not a subplot in the same way that the battle won’t be fight in the dothraki plains, it would be fight in the Wall. My guess is that the Iron Throne is linked to the Ice-fire battle. In that sense, many things that appear in the fourth and five book are not linked to that.

            And in the same way neither ice or fire are good to live, you need balance, no house is completely good or evil, you need balance for Westeros to “work” and to keep the Iron throne and reign in westeros you need the support of all the houses (or at least not being attacked XD). Also, since the battle is in the wall, and the people who fight there are from westeros, what happend with the iron throne affects who would be sent there to “hold the wall”.

            That’s my interpretation anyway. XDDD

            I did like the books and the new places described, but I still think there are things that can be left for other stories. One of the most difficult things when writting is being accurate. Not only in word choice (wich of course it’s important) but in what you tell, not too many and not too few. Usually, when you have time to review what you’ve wrote, you “fix” that things. Cut unnecesary explanations, add details o “trime” pointles subplots. Many times, writters do that several times. My guess is that this time, Martin only did that once or twice, while the first books were a lot more “worked, and that’s the reason people who read the books usually think the first were more fluid. There’s also a lot of information, but it “read better” because it’s better structured in the plot. Makes sense if you think about Martin declarations and all the care he put in details.

            I don’t think Martin is adding things to sell more, as some people said, but I think that the end result would be different if he were able to writte the whole series withough time lines and would have published once all of them were finished.

  • Lars Sjöström , Direct link to comment

    Something that vex me about this episode is that Lysa states that everyone who stood between her and Petyr is dead, indicating that at least in her mind they died for standing between her and Petyr. But in the books she murdered Jon Arryn for wanting to send her son away, something she had sworn not to let happen sinsce her father lured her to terminate her first pregnancy. The show portray her as the paranoid, jealous she-dragon, but in the books she is also the emotionally damaged mother, something they left out of her attempt to murder Sansa.

    While Petyr Bealish gets symphatetic speaches as the wronged lover who at least claims to have murdered Joffrey to avenge Catelyn and then protect Sansa, the daughter of his love. Much of this is canon but Petyr gets all the improvements and Lysa is simplified.

    This is however a canon moment when GRRM changes steraoptypes from a classic story. The monster will kill the maid unless the hero slay the monster. But the monster is aunt and wife to maid and hero respectively, and PB is hardly a classic hero. It is a very good part.

    I follow a female writer who interpret the story of slaying a dragon and winning the maid that the patriarch needs to control a woman(the dragon) so she can become the woman he wants to marry. Now Petyr has slayed the dragon(Lysa) and train Sansa as his daughter/lover in politics.

  • Mark , Direct link to comment

    I liked the Bronn scene. He brought up an interesting point about Tyrion never risking his life for him. The only problem is that Tyrion didnt bring up Shae since Bronn told him he got her on the boat and she was gone.

    As for Shae, I think she was just trying to stay alive. It is similar to Bronn’s thinking. They arent high born, so they really have no protection from anyone. Siding with Tyrion is pretty much suicide. Once Cersei found out about Shae, her life was in danger. Maybe she even had a deal like Jaime that would ensure Tyrion at least got to live. There is no point in her dying by defending Tyrion. For all his talk about Love, he was the one that decided to stay at the end of the 2nd season when Shae wanted to run away together.

  • crowTrobot , Direct link to comment

    I think critics of the show give too much credit to the books. I got the sense that Martin doesn’t really like Brienne. She’s not that bright and we are told, in almost every other sentence, how ugly she is. Same goes with Cersei, especially in AFFC, where she becomes cartoonishly villainous. Show Cersei is better character than book Cersei. Same goes with Margaery. I think in the rush to condemn the show, people have over idealized the books. Certainly when it comes to rape and misogyny, which are at every turn. The show may have introduced rape scenes that aren’t in the books but, sadly, it’s true to the narrative. In this episode the show actually removed rape. Marillion wasn’t there to try and rape Sansa and they mentioned Lollys Stokeworth without the brutal gang rape (which almost made me stop reading the book.)

  • Phanie , Direct link to comment

    I was REALLY unhappy with the snow castle scene. I thought the direction was all wrong and the scene was far too rushed. The mid shot was awkward as it tried to show Sophie Turner’s full height in comparison with Sweetrobin and the snow castle and it made the whole shot seem distant and did little to make Sansa look like a young teenager. I’m also a little peeved there was no discussion of Giant heads on the walls of Winterfell. I also thought Sophie’s acting was the weakest it has ever been. Her look of awe was fine and her terror is par for the course in her storyline but her first show of anger since season one was unconvincing. Again, I think this is more of a direction problem and the rushed feeling of the scene, but it was incredibly difficult for me to connect her irrational and emotional outburst with the outwardly composed Sansa we’ve seen the last three seasons.

  • Maddy , Direct link to comment

    Finally someone who agrees with me about Brienne! I noticed it before but it was so blatant this episode. It is really telling about about the shallow feminism of these writers. What are you doing to one of my favourite characters? I get that she’s not quite as naiive because she’s been aged up but this was ridiculous. And apparently she’s stupid and Podrick has all the bright ideas.

    Maybe I’ve got low standards these days but I was just grateful we got the snowcastle. It was one of those things they could have easily cut. At first I didn’t like that Sansa hit Robin but I can see what you’re saying. And when I watched it again she only did it after he smashed the whole castle AKA the last reminder of the home and family she lost. I could see why she snapped. The Moon Door was way too rushed but I knew it wasn’t going to live up to my expectations – it’s one of my favourite chapters ever. I totally agree with you about Sophie Turner – and I’m not mad about her hair because her red hair looked so gorgeous in that shot. I hope they dye it soon though.

    I don’t think we’re going to see Shae until a certain moment in the last episode (probably). I understand why. I think it’s very in character for Tyrion to not understand Shae’s actions in the same way as Bronn’s – but it would have been nice if Bronn had pointed out his double standards when it came to Shae.

    The actors in this show are too good for this show. Their blatant bias and shallow interpreation of the source material is SO OBVIOUS IT HURTS. And of course Jaime is the most noble accidental rapist that ever lived.

  • Karin , Direct link to comment

    I agree on pretty much all the issues you raise here. In fact I was looking forward to your post, and you didn’t disappoint! 🙂 I actually found it one of the most infuriating episode so far (despite the lack of rape/unnecessary sex scenes). The Brienne question annoys me, and I know we’re mainly discussing feminist issues and female characterisation, but everything going on at the Wall. What’s that all about? I haven’t formed any exact thoughts about it, John is supposed to stand for humanity and trying to unite humans against their true enemy, but when he suggested that they fill in the tunnel underneath the wall I almost choked on my tea.

    • Maddy , Direct link to comment

      To be fair John is only about that after the battle at the Wall. It’s not really going to matter in the long run because they’re not going to do it. They have done a pretty poor job though of establishing why the wildings want to come over the Wall.

  • Rocio g. , Direct link to comment

    So I know this is going to sound very nitpicky BUT… I really hated Oberyn (in what was otherwise a fantastic scene) stating that his FATHER had brought him up to visit Casterly Rock? How was that change necessary? It would have actually been good for the story if they established this early the inheritance system of Dorne, how his MOTHER was the ruling princess because she was the eldest. It’s all very important for Arianne’s storyline next season. So why change it?
    Also the lack of “Only Cat” killed me… 🙁

    • Maddy , Direct link to comment

      Don’t worry I totally agree with you. It’s almost like they think people will think it’s totally unbelievable that SHOCK HORROR a woman can rule in her own right! They really haven’t taken the opportunity to use Oberyn to establish Dorne as a different culture.

    • VVendetadlc , Direct link to comment

      I fell you. Same happens to me from time to time. But if it bugs you, you’ve the right to said it. And it’s true that the iheritance sistem in dorne it’s important for what has to come.

      I don’t know why the change, but it seems that they only understand differences as “who fuck who” (Excuse me the crudeness) not all the other things that make dorne what it is. Sure, they don’t treat bastards as shit, but also they regard women better.

      Maybe they changed that withought thinking and “just” resort to their default (males as rulers and women as breeders). After all, the problem could be not in malice, but in the writters own limitations (not that that excuses them, of course).

      In a way it’s similar to the name changing in marriage. In spanish countries the woman never change her name. It’s not practical and it never have happened. So when one adress a couple as Mr and Ms (husband surname) here it’s seen as ofensive (Erasing the wife) or as if the letter is only for the husband. And there’s not problem with children because all people have the first surname of both parents. True, only now you ca put the mother’s name first, and the name that perdures is the father’s (usually). But the point is, when we speak with english people, they don’t even conceive the idea. Dorne ins based in spanish countries so…

What do you think?

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