Game of Thrones, “Eastwatch”

(And look, even if Cersei weren’t a very special kind of sociopath, the ruling class of Westeros are the usual kind of sociopath: the long winter is coming, so half the peasants are going to die anyway, and no one seems to super care very much about that at all. This is more than a strange thing to do with the concept of motherhood, which is, of course, the power to create. Certainly, her dragon ethics are different than what Tyrion wants her to do: he counsels imprisonment and she responds that she’s not here to put people in chains. Obviously, Cersei might kill him, and that’d be a drag, but how else is all of this going to play out? Two utterly overdetermined inevitabilities seem to loom over the proceedings: Jaime will kill his sister-wife, and Jon will marry his aunt. Fourth, if Daenerys wants to help Jon—and since she is allowing her Hand to go on a super-secret mission to cut a deal with her enemies, and putting the war on hold, she does seem to want to help him—but maybe she should just fly over with her dragons and roast the ice zombies? Shouldn’t we hold tight? Are Jon’s men still digging it out? By subsuming motherhood into negation—and by sidelining the lady queens so as to engineer and focus on a band-of-brothers mission to defeat death—the show turns its burst of fiery dragons into a plot hole. Tyrion is a close second to Sansa on the list of people who know that Cersei is Not To Be Trusted. He’s alive, here to serve his queen! He’s back! It is also not a phallus, and the fact that it’s a different way to execute people than head-chopping is at least consistent with the sense that dragons are an alternate form of symbolic power to the “cut, stab, and penetrate” kind. “I can’t make her decisions for her,” Tyrion lamented, and then literally one scene later, he makes her decisions for her. THERE ARE FEWER OF MY ICE ZOMBIE ENEMIES THAN BEFORE BECAUSE MY DRAGON BURNED THEM ALL UP. Even Cersei herself seems to have thrown in the towel when Jaime tells her about the dragons; it didn’t seem like a foregone conclusion last week, but this episode everyone seems to accept that Daenerys’ dragons are a total game-changer, and that the war is all but over. Did he ferment them himself? Invest in some good Tupperware, would be my advice. Honestly, I’ve lost interest, but I am now wondering how you ferment crab, since all the recipes online make it seem like it only takes a day or so to make, which, I guess fermentation is really fast?)
Sixth, what happened to the main plan of getting a lot of Dragonglass to the Night’s Watch? He always wanted to be by her side, wanted nothing more, and now he finally has it. Putting aside the mechanics of transporting one, they mainly hang out in groups of ten thousand. ENOUGH WITH THE CLEVER PLANS, she should yell, leap out the window onto her Dragon, fuck up the white walkers, and be back in time for some fermented crab. Who, to be blunt, even cares about her? And it makes a hash of every character it touches. Your beasts are very beautiful,
Aaron Gosh, he really loves his queen. Until she doesn’t. A training sword is not the obstacle here; Jaime, for some reason, doesn’t want to really fight a war against Tyrion. Does she know she’s only got two more episodes until the season climax, so she wants to move things along quickly? Shouldn’t he know what his sister is like? Why would anyone think they’d put the Game of Thrones on hold to go fight for the good of the realm, something they’ve 100% never done before?)
Second, what happened to the Daenerys who said “enough with the clever plans”? Why not just burn down the Red Keep and then turn your attention to the north? Remember last year when we talked so much about phallic symbols? Why are we in such a hurry? Literally not one single part of it. Nine, on the other side: why doesn’t Jaime capture his brother and throw him in chains? And where is Theon? If the phallus erects monuments to its power, Mad Queens use fire to burn them down. Remember the Daenerys who can’t be made to listen, as our wise counselors lamented in the throne room, bemoaning their inability to get her to do anything? What happened to killing his brother next time he saw him? J’accuse. With that in mind, I present to you the following bill of particulars. We seem to have established that killing thousands of people when conquering an enemy is now good—the crux of the clifftop “we want to help people and we can only do it from a position of strength” conversation between Dany and Jon was that the ends justify the means, and her argument was pretty strong—so why not, you know, do that? And so: the show creates a non-penis-based symbolic power, the dragon as expression of feminine potency… but it can only narrativize that power as the power to un-make. Or did we? Sarah, you asked “will this show admit that the phallus is separate from the penis?” and you suggested that “if we want a world where women, too, can claim power — a power that is not a primarily phallic power, based on the ability to cut, stab, and otherwise penetrate — we need a different ethics.”   The show constantly flirts with it, but, as you observed, “you can’t commit to overturning the patriarchy and still ask your viewers to unquestioningly embrace what seemed like about 45 minutes of toasting Jon’s dick.”
If there is one thing this dragon is not, it is not a dick. Shouldn’t he be the last person in the world to propose this ridiculous plan? Dragons, for Dany, are the ability to take a formed, made thing—a wagon, a body, chains, an institution of slavery, The Wheel—and turn it into an unformed not-a-thing, the same way that Cersei’s wildfire was the power to un-make an entire religion. Eight, ok, let’s back up. Dragons are the power everyone tells you not to use, because it will only make people hate you; dragons are the Trump card you lose the game by playing. But also, come on. The phallus will take control of the dragons. Fifth, where did Ser Davos get that big bowl of fermented crab in the first place? It is the greatest threat to Westeros as we know it. J’accuse, Game of Thrones. Why is anyone even worried about convincing Cersei? Until she suddenly starts letting the boys tell her what to do, and falling in stupid love for Jon Snow, whose once unreasonable request is now, strangely, being treated by everyone as if it’s reasonable. (Winter: how does it even work?)
(Fact check, Sam: do we have any sense that anyone, anywhere, respects the citadel and would listen to their warning?)
Seven, why does anyone think LET’S KIDNAP A ZOMBIE is a plan?! More to the point, since they will surely manufacture a convoluted plan: WHY WOULD IT SEEM RATIONAL TO TRY? Where are all of Jon’s men anyway? Let’s overthink that. Dragonstone is, to all appearances, a ghost city; what are they all eating anyway? And let’s underline that this plan is the most excruciatingly “clever” plan he’s ever concocted, the Ur-clever plan; it only makes a certain convoluted sense if you really squint at it—basically, if you squint your eyes closed—and would only work if literally every part of it works perfectly. Like, what does that even look like? And so, I fear that the show is answering your question, Sarah: we have a pair of Mad Queens who have been right about everything and really good at playing the game, and the main dramatic question that the show is investing all its energy into pursuing is, wait for it: will a couple of good Lannister brothers manage to talk some sense into them? YES, THANK YOU, I WILL HAVE SOME FERMENTED CRAB, WOULD YOU LIKE SOME FERMENTED CRAB, JON, ALSO LET US INTERCOURSE. I think the problem is that, ultimately, the show doesn’t have any new ideas, especially where the intersection of gender and power are concerned. But it’s just bad writing. Has this show just forgotten about its entire Iron Island plotline? Put aside why she agrees to let Jon leave—apparently she loves him now—what we have is her hand proposing a plan she’s clearly irritated by, to assist a guy she’s, in theory, maybe going to put to death for not bending the knee; this plan requires her to sue for a temporary peace with her enemy and put all her plans on hold, all to combat a faraway threat that she has no real reason to believe in; the plan has nothing in particular to do with her advancing her interests. It has a half-glimpsed sense of the limitations of the old stories, but its critiques of patriarchy and feudal institutions don’t magically turn into a vision for a replacement; it gets a charge from blowing things up and announcing that it will break the wheel, but it can’t really think of a follow through that will earn it. The answer to that question is EVERY REASON. For Gods’ sake, shouldn’t Tyrion know this as well? Plus, if the white walkers get over the wall, well, why wouldn’t Dany think she still has a pretty good fire-breathing trump card to burn their asses up? EVERY REASON. She is very, very close to King’s Landing; the north, by contrast, is far away: if time is of the essence, it would be a lot quicker to win the war and then set out with armies for the north than to wait for the harebrained “kidnap a zombie” plan to work. If Daenerys doesn’t kill them all, which seems to be where things are tending, it’s going to be because Team Lannister does some damage of its own; why on earth wouldn’t Jaime seize this opportunity? For basically all of her life, she has had one goal, and now it’s within her grasp; why not put it all on hold while a team of cool dudes gets together goes to fight ice zombies? Does the show have an ethics for this power of unmaking? AUGUST 14, 2017

This week on Dear Television:   Aaron Bady and Sarah Mesle get together with five other samurai/Avengers/members-of-the-Blues-Brothers-Band and recap “Eastwatch,” the fifth episode of the seventh season of   Game of Thrones. You are being stupid again. How do you capture one of them? The White Walkers haven’t actually figured out a way to cross the wall, have they? None of his plans EVER work at all! She respects the men who she incinerates, actually, and she gets results. And he’s… well, he’s not totally convinced? On what planet does “hey look, here’s a zombie!” scan as a productive approach to take with Cersei, to someone who knows her? Her beast that she has to explain to him is terrifying to many people, but actually very beautiful? Will Jaime get his sister-wife to stop being such a B, and will Jon get his aunt-crush to help him solve the REAL problems? Also, that bowl of fermented crab seems sort of unsteady; how do you keep it from spilling if you’re taking that little rowboat on the ocean? The dragon likes him, but it’s not clear that he likes the dragon. Like, we didn’t see him pick any of it up, did we? Did he catch the crabs himself? If that’s the show’s new reality—because the show is so myopically close-focused on a handful of characters that it’s really hard to tell what the big-picture reality principle actually is—then a much better plan, especially from Daenerys’ perspective, would be to win the war quickly and then worry about the north. (Or is he, in theory, shipping the fermented crab away from Kings Landing? (Also, no sign of Euron, which, yay! Oops, he’s volunteering to go on a desperate nonsensical suicide mission to help Jon do that thing he’s doing, that Daenerys herself is super skeptical of. There are, of course, spoilers below, so if you want to get all the jokes about fermented crab, then you’d better   watch first. Of course the main problem is that Jaime has become a total blank as a character; he used to be a convincingly Lannister scumbag, but all of his experiences have made him sort of vaguely not evil, but also not anything else; because his character has become such a cipher, he can be sort of maybe still friends with Tyrion and also still in league with Cersei. But again: how else is this going to play out? Where is the spirit of Olenna, surviving by realizing how dumb the most serious-seeming, reasonable, clever men are? Never mind: shouldn’t Operation Dragonglass still be the plan, to take it to The Wall that has Never Before Fallen, and, you know, try to fight them off the old way? Winter: How Does It Even Work? She seems to have been replaced by a Daenerys who sort of frowns and pouts a little as her small council does the actual ruling. Put aside the fact that SHE ALREADY HAS HER OWN ZOMBIE, Cersei has never shown particular concern for the people of Westeros at the best of times; lately, after the death of all her children—and after blowing up the consensus religion of the country—everybody recognizes that she’s now A Mad Queen in the classical sense: she may not be literally insane, but she is sociopathically unconcerned about anything but a very narrow set of narrowly conceived self-interests, and terrifyingly, gloriously focused on advancing those interests. Dear Television,
There is a gaping hole at the center of this week’s episode, and it’s this: The Desperate Mission to Steal a Zombie makes no goddamn sense at all. I mean… this is not a show where the relationship between sex and power is ever very convoluted; most of the time, subtext is just text. Theon, Yara, Euron were all in the show and now they’re… not?)
Last, finally, okay, I have to say it: the dragon between Daenerys legs that Jon makes friends with. It is exactly the sort of clever plan that Daenerys was very clear, last week, about rejecting; so why is she totally fine with it this week? Bye Jorah! Third, hey it’s Jorah! So, what has Jon done when he put his hands on her beast? First: if this plan succeeds, it will obviously still fail. We know that Cersei won’t care about proof that white walkers are real. We know it because we see her basically say so to Jaime—which means we know their mission is doomed, already, even before they’ve set off, ruining the dramatic stakes—but we also know that Cersei is not the sort of person to care about white walkers at all.