Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.
A recap of Season 8, Episode 5 and the story of how D&D (Weiss and Benioff) transformed into the “Double-D Patrol.”
What I learned after Episode 5
Last night I listened to a podcast about Game of Thrones that discussed the inconsistencies and poor writing in Season 8, and I heard Benioff and Weiss referred to as “Double-D.”
A light flickered on in whatever was left of my brain after watching the mind-numbingly stupid but visually brilliant destruction of King’s Landing.
The term brought me back twenty years, when my son was in middle school and he had an honors history teacher who came from a military background. Back in those less than politically correct days, that teacher asked students who had failed to do homework or study for a test if they wanted to be reassigned to the “Double D Patrol,” otherwise know as the regular classes. My son thought it was hilarious when he found out the term stood for the “Dumber than Dogshit Patrol.”
Given my mourning for what used to be the greatest show in the history of television, I say “if the epitaph fits, wear it.”
In Season 8, Episode 3, Benioff & Weiss decided to ignore almost every storytelling device that had been built up over 23 years of writing “A Song of Ice and Fire” (ASOIAF) and 5 seasons of Game of Thrones (GOT).
Screenwriting 101, as taught by Samuel Jackson
A mild reaction to Game of Thrones 8th and final season
I’ll let Samuel Jackson (aka Jule Winnfeld) preach:
You took five seasons of controlling concepts, foreshadowing, symbolism, imagery, character development, prophesy, religion, tragic flaws, everything… all the way down to the muthafuckin’ essence of a world he built over the last 23 years… and you and your dead couch buddy flushed all that shit down the toilet, praying to the false gods of network budgets, fan service, and “subverting” expectations because your Twitter feed says you should!
At this point, I gave up any expectations for the show, and just tried to enjoy the pictures. Kind of like a 7-year-old watching the Simpsons for the fart jokes.
I got through Episode 4, in spite of the ridiculousness that a high flying dragon — which would have to have an eagle’s vision in order to see its prey hundreds of feet below — could fail to see Euron and the amazing technicolor dream fleet. Even more ridiculous was the idea that the new improved scorpions could should arrows that had the distance, accuracy and trajectory of a laser beam, with all three shots hitting Rhaegal at the distance far beyond the range of any weapons technology from the time of the War of the Roses (GRRM’s historical inspiration). But I guess man-made weapons are magic, too, right? (More on that later.)
I started to hear rumblings of who was going to end up on the Iron Throne, so I did some NBA-style analysis to figure out which characters were most deserving, based on the rules established in the GOT universe and their performance over eight seasons — a statistically significant sample size.
Is Game of Thrones a feminist show?
An examination of the female role models in the show and who is likely to remain standing at the end.
Episode 5 has been savagely criticized and at the same time hailed as one of the best episodes ever. I agree.
I have to say that my expectations for the show had fallen so low, I enjoyed the brilliant visuals, as well as some moving emotional scenes between the wonderful actors who have become like a part of our families.
I did my best to ignore the sheer idiocy of Daenerys and Drogon learning how to evade arrows so she could destroy the Iron Fleet and every scorpion defending King’s Landing in the span of about 90 seconds. And I tried not to laugh too much as the highly anticipated entrance of the Golden Company was ended with essentially one well-directed blast of dragon fire.
There was a call back to the Battle of the Bastards, when Jon stood waiting — with his sword drawn and cloaked in the greatest plot armor in history — as the Bolton cavalry and a bazillion arrows descended on him. Harry Stanton started in the same position, but quickly shrank from the uncoming Dothraki hordes, turned to run, and was instantly killed by Grey Worm’s spear.
Harry Stanton — a character introduced and then erased as quickly as a poorly drawn penis on a white board — was the fan service equivalent of giving fart jokes to that 7-year-old Simpsons fan.
But then came the bells scene, and that was the last straw.
The Double-D Patrol decided to ignore the very essence of the characters so many people have grown to love. They just couldn’t be bothered to do all the episodes needed to give the series a quality end.
In tennis, when a player is really upset about the course of a match, and just wants to get out and go somewhere else, he stops fighting to win. We call that tanking, and the most egregious examples can get players fined or suspended (if the ATP thinks a player is trying to fix a match).
Benioff and Weiss didn’t just stop fighting, they stopped running. They started to whiff on balls, or hit them over the back fence. How else can we explain these about-faces by characters we have known for the last eight years?
#1: Daenerys was betrayed for gold… that went into the pockets of D&D.
Daenerys could have turned to the dark side, just not like this:
- She nodded her head in agreement to Tyrion’s plea that she not destroy the city if the people surrender and they ring the bells.
- When the bells start ringing, and all the fighting has stopped, instead of flying directly to the Red Keep and vaporize Cersei, we get 20 minutes of Drogon setting the city aflame — a senseless and defenseless decision made by the power mad without the slightest care for other people. Well, enough about D&D, let’s talk about Daenerys.
- Could they not have shown an extra 30 seconds of action where Daenerys witnessed some atrocity by Cersei and then snapped mentally? Without that inciting incident, why stop and wait for what seemed like an eternity for the bells to ring? Was Drogon just taking a union required smoking break?
- The visual imbalance of Dragon fire compared to wild fire set up a false equivalence. When Tyrion used wild fire, Stannis’ entire fleet exploded. When Cersei used wild fire, the Sept of Baelor exploded. Why were the wild fire explosions caused by the fire in the Red Keep so much smaller? From a visual standpoint, Daenerys and Drogon cause far more damage, and symbolically seem far worse than the Mad King. But he had been a murderous tyrant for decades, while the Queen of Dragons set a million slaves free. WTF?
#2: Jamie Lannister sent a raven to Darth Vader imploring him to kill his son Luke.
I just don’t know if there could be a bigger disappointment in terms of ignoring one’s personal evolution. I’ve written elsewhere that Jamie might have had the most amazing character arc in all of Game of Thrones. Everything in his life and in his interactions pointed him in the direction of redemption.
In the books, Maggy the Frog prophesized that the Valonqar would end up strangling Cersei to death. Most people assumed this would be either Tyrion or Jamie.
The show hinted throughout season 7 that Jamie had opened his eyes and given up his blind obsession with Cersei: his disdain for her destruction of the Sept of Baelor; his attempts to get her to make peace, or escape King’s Landing; and, going off to fight the army of the dead.
Jamie had sacrificed his honor as a knight to a higher principle by saving the people of Kings Landing from the Mad King, and suffered endlessly because of it. Now, his sister had become the Mad Queen.
How does this character hear of another horrific act by Cersei and then ignore his entire journey to end up back in her arms as if nothing had ever happened?
#3: Cersei turned into a caricature of a B Movie villain
Throughout GOT, Cersei lived according to two central principles:
- She craved the respect of her father and the power due a Lannister scion. She had listened and learned from her father and acted with more ruthlessness and cunning than either of her two brothers.
- She did everything in her power to thwart Maggy the Frog’s prophesy so she could protect her children and remain queen.
In season 7, she learned she was going to have another child, and the possibility to finally overcome the prophesy that affected so many of her decisions.
But in the end, after Qyburn had informed her that the Iron Fleet and all the scorpions had been destroyed, she just stood at the balcony watching Drogon destroy everything with no resistance. She didn’t flee while she had the chance to save herself and her baby. She didn’t have a back up plan to escape. She didn’t even set off the wild fire under the Red Keep to blow it up and take away that satisfaction from Daenerys.
Cersei went from being the super scheming tyrant always a step ahead of her opponents to a one-dimensional banana republic dictator mouthing clichés like “my men will fight better than sellswords and defend the kingdom to the last man” and “the Red Keep has never fallen and it won’t fall today.”
She hilariously forgot that she hired Bronn to kill her two brother with the crossbow that killed her father, and tenderly observes to Jamil “you’re hurt.” And then she blubbers in Jamie’s arms about not wanting to let her baby die.
Cersei was cruel, short sighted, and usually the victim of the things she set in motion, but she never stopped being a bad ass until the end.
To that funeral pyre of character development and basic human motivations, we can add:
- Arya — Her entire life lead up to her completing the List by killing Cersei, but the Hound convinces her to give up her raison d’etre in about ten seconds. (I’m glad he did, but it was way too easy).
- Davos (episode 3) — he lost a little girl he had loved like his own child when the Red Woman burned Shireen Baratheon. He had vowed to kill Melisandre if she ever set foot in the North again. And yet he just stood by and watched her go out on her own terms.
- Varys — he vowed to tell Daenerys to her face if he thought she was losing her way and becoming a tyrant like her father. Instead, he went behind her back and got executed by dragon fire.
- Tyrion (since season 7) — went from being the smartest man in the Seven Kingdoms to a complete idiot, compiling an incredible string of losses and bad decisions. The only thing he did that made sense for his character was to help his brother escape, hoping he could somehow get Cersei to leave King’s Landing with Jamie and save the city from destruction.
The Double-D Patrol gave us a thrill ride, but not much more.
About the only thing we can count on is Daenerys going after the traitorous Sansa, while Jon and Arya try to protect their sister.
Maybe we’ll have a scene where Sam begins to write down the entire story, like Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. Maybe Jon will die and we’ll get one of those happy reunion visions of Jon meeting Ygritte, Rickon, Robb, Ned, and his mother like they did in Gladiator. Or maybe they’ll find some way to finally kill all signs of magic in Westeros (Daenerys the dragon queen, Jon the resurrected, Arya the faceless man, and Drogon), which allows them to have an interminable Lord of the Rings ending.
In the final analysis, there aren’t many clues left about the ending, given how the D&D have ignored all the usual indicators that mark great literature. On the minus side, it renders the end of this great story a little meaningless. But on the plus side, it gives us far more freedom to come up with our version of the ending. So fear not, loyal reader, as I unveil four possible endings that are so are so bold and unexpected, you won’t even need to watch the series finale.
Who will sit on the iron throne?
Keep these potential endings in mind as you watch the last episode of Game of Thrones. I guarantee you won’t be…
Look for the final wrap of Game of Thrones next week.