Game of Thrones, Mira, and the Illusion of Choice
A few months ago, I wrote about how much I loved the Game of Thrones game from Telltale Games. I particularly loved the female characters in the game, especially Mira, the daughter of House Forrester and handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell, who must survive the manipulative landscape of King’s Landing around the time of the Purple Wedding.
But the latest episodes have been something of a let-down. Despite the appearance of Daenerys Targareyn and lots of gasp-worthy twists, the story isn’t quite coming together.
And the major problem is the game’s neglect of Mira, its only playable female character.
At the beginning of the game, Mira had a lot to do. She had to hold her own in court with Cersei, negotiate with Tyrion, try to help her family without losing the protection of Lady Margaery, and generally figure out how to play this game of lies and manipulation to her advantage. But in recent episodes, she’s been receiving about five minutes of playtime, without any real payoff for her story.
Her brother Rodrick’s plotline has become quite repetitive, with many dramatic moments, like Ramsay’s appearance at the end of episode 4, but without any real development. He’s been stuck in a holding pattern for several episodes, with the same troubles coming up and nothing really changing. Mira, in contrast, has a lot of potential, surrounded as she is by characters from the series, with many plot-relevant events from the series occurring around her and a lot of set-up for drama within her own past plotline… and all of it seems to have been forgotten. What happened about that guard who tried to murder her? Is she wanted for that murder still? What happened to the coal boy who was helping her? Were there any consequences to the contract she made with Tyrion — should she have kept it? Should she have burned it? Most of these plotlines seem to have vanished entirely, and although there is one episode left, I doubt it will have time to deal with all of these things satisfactorily, since her brothers are at war, no one has found the North Grove yet, and Mira’s plotline has always come second to these others so far.
It’s so much wasted potential, in order for us to have another fight scene, or have her brother decide whether to kneel or stand for the hundredth time.
And her story is clearly floundering. Weeks passed within this episode, but it took the entire thing for Mira to get blackmailed by Cersei and head down to the cells to see Tyrion. The plotline had no resolution of any kind, leaving it feeling rather empty, an afterthought, despite its inherent danger.
The problem, I think, is that Mira’s storyline is the one where it’s clearest that our choices don’t actually matter. We can be faithful to Sera or we can sell her out, but she will still abandon us. No matter what we say to Cersei, no matter what we say to Margaery, they will trust or distrust us precisely the same amount. Burn the contract or keep the contract, kill a guard or flee — none of it changes anything. And although many people have commented before that “choice” in Telltale Games is purely an illusion, Mira’s story relies on that illusion more than most. Her entire plotline is built around making allies and picking the right thing to do, and the only tension in her storyline is the fear of saying or doing the wrong thing to the wrong series-regular character. If our actions and dialogue choices are revealed to have no impact on the plot whatsoever, then her story loses itself tension, and it becomes somewhat pointless to play.
Yet the more time we spend on Mira’s story, the further the illusion breaks. As the episodes pass by, we can see that we’re not really making allies or enemies, but gaining the ones the game has assigned to us. It doesn’t matter whether we swear loyalty to Cersei or to Margaery. It doesn’t matter if we’re kind or cruel. Everyone still acts the same. And since the game designers won’t replace the illusion of choice with a reality where our choices actually matter, Mira’s story has been swept under the rug, its dramatic potential forgotten.