Season five of Game of Thrones opens with the episodes “The Wars to Come” and “The House of Black and White” as the characters resettle into new roles, and we go to Dorne.
Tom knows about the horror that is the Dorne plotline. Jimmy is about to find out. Let’s see the discussion…
tomk: So, season five opens with the only flashback the series has ever done to date.
jimmy: Back to before Cersei being a spoiled bitch?
Considering it is about Cersei…
jimmy: Cersei mentioned her fortune being read prior to the flashback right?
tomk: You know, I don’t recall.
jimmy: I seem to think she did, but I’m not sure.
tomk: Here’s the thing: starting with season five, the series starts to really deviate from the books. Starting with the fourth book, A Feast for Crows, Cersei becomes a point of view character, and aside from some talk about how awful a husband Robert was, she isn’t an overly sympathetic character. She’s obsessed with the fortune she was told, and as soon as she can, stacks the Small Council with idiots who don’t belong in government partially because she doesn’t trust anyone who actually seems competent. She’s paranoid, and believes that Tyrion might still be hiding somewhere in King’s Landing if not somewhere in the palace itself.
jimmy: At least she had the courtesy not to have sex on Tywin’s deathbed.
tomk: That’s for the Sept of Baelor.
Anyhoo, before we go much further, Bran and his group sit out season five, so we won’t be seeing Hodor’s Bath Time again until at least season six.
jimmy: …all of season 5?
tomk: Yeah. No Bran for season five.
tomk: They ran out of Bran plot for now!
You wanted to see him just hanging out with the Children of the Forest?
jimmy: Well…probably not. But seems odd for a group of main characters to miss a whole season of a show.
tomk: Well, between Sansa, Arya, Stannis, Jon, Sam, Cersei, Jaime, Tyrion, Dany, Bob, Carol, Ted, Alice, Popeye, Huey, Louie, Dewey, Davos, Jack, Rose, Yolanda, and the Moose there are more than enough people to follow.
jimmy: So, who should we follow next?
tomk: Well, we saw Jon perform an act of mercy and potentially piss off Stannis, we saw Arya find and enter the House of Black and White, we saw Sansa turn down an offer of protection from Brienne, and we saw Brienne kick some ass to save Pod. What would you like to discuss? Knowing you, it’s Tyrion riding in a box.
jimmy: I’m glad we got an explanation of how he shit in the box.
tomk: They strive for realism in their show about dragons and ice zombies.
jimmy: And I appreciate it.
And now we have Tyrion heading off to join Dany, if he doesn’t drink himself to death first. Though given the past, she might not be too happy to see him.
tomk: We’ll just have to wait and see, but you know, now we have Varys’ motivation.
jimmy: No one ever said Varys was a fool.
tomk: But who was he working for? Now you know.
He wants Dany on the Iron Throne, another change from Martin’s books.
I thought we were past the books by now anyway.
tomk: We are not. We are going way off from the books, but we still have some material left.
Martin’s fourth and fifth books, A Feast For Crows and A Dance With Dragons were originally supposed to be one book. Instead, he divided them into two by geography, so AFfC covered King’s Landing, Riverrun, Dorne, the Iron Islands, and Braavos. ADwD was the Wall, Meereen, and a few other places. Jon only appears briefly in a Sam chapter in the fourth book and Dany and Tryion don’t appear at all until the fifth.
But Arya’s plot here is still pretty faithful to the books.
tomk: Heck, so’s Dany’s.
Varys in the books tells Tyrion he is working to put a Targaryen back on the Iron Throne, but it isn’t Dany. It seems that Rhaegar’s best friend managed to smuggle his infant son to Essos and left another baby in his place, and that was who the Mountain killed. In the meantime, the kid is growing up, being raised as a potential king, and has a small army of his own under the leadership of the older knight who saved him and has been posing as his father ever since.
It’s a nice plot, but it’s also more characters. Much simpler to just name Dany as Varys’ hope and not some brand new character we’ve never seen before.
jimmy: It also sounds like a comic book retcon.
tomk: Hard to say. I don’t mind the plot in the books but it does make Martin’s work way more complicated. The show makes the Targaryen stuff simpler in a good way. What they do to Dorne is a different story.
jimmy: It’s just a birthmark.
tomk: Dorne is just a birthmark?
Man, and I thought Long Lost Targaryen was an out-of-left field idea.
jimmy: Don’t blame me; blame Iron Fist’s thigh.
tomk: Oh, sorry, any time Iron Fist comes up, I tend to blank the whole scene out. I remember he had an opening credits sequence, and then…I think some woman with a sword did something awesome…and there was the drunken fighter. Can’t believe Marvel and Netflix released a show with only five minutes worth of footage…
jimmy: But…you were talking about a certain gift to Cersei I’m guessing…
tomk: Nah, I meant the Dorne stuff in Martin’s books is much better than what the show does.
Martin writes Oberyn’s brother Prince Doran as a calculating stratigist who’s one step ahead of Ellaria, her daughters by Oberyn the Sand Snakes, and his own daughter (not on the show) who all plot out this thing to take the Iron Throne by putting Mycella Baratheon on it since Dorne allows women to inherit titles. He has his own cunning plan involving a son (who does appear on the show), and none of that will happen in the season five Dorne plot.
jimmy: He’s a doctor, Tom, not a calculating strategist.
tomk: Mostly he just sits in that chair due to poor health.
But having a guy so sick he barely walk much be a secret genius is such a George RR Martin thing to do.
jimmy: He doesn’t seem to be much of a secret anything on the show.
tomk: That’s why his secret genius thing in A Feast For Crows is impressive because he looks that way for a while and then we find out he isn’t and he’s a lot more on top of things than people think.
jimmy: Kinda like Pycelle.
tomk: More or less. Except Doran really is sick and can’t move very well.
He may fall more into the category of the unexpected competent guy, someone like Tyrion that is disregarded by others due to his physical appearance but is really, really good at what he does. He just does it mostly while sitting down, his large axe-wielding bodyguard (who gets some POV chapters) watching over things and being dangerous.
jimmy: The bodyguard gets chapters?
tomk: A couple. He’s not that impressive a character, actually, in either medium. I don’t even remember his name.
jimmy: I think it’s Jerry.
tomk: Works for me.
jimmy: I’m a bit surprised by that though. I would have thought the POV chapters would stick to main characters.
tomk: At the same time, they rarely focus on kings, so the guy standing next to him all the time may be necessary to see what Doran is up to.
jimmy: That’s true. Robert never had any chapters. (I’m not up to his death yet in the book…)
tomk: Robert doesn’t. Stannis and Renly don’t. Joffrey doesn’t. Balon Greyjoy doesn’t. Robb doesn’t. Aside from Dany, the people in charge’s POV never comes up.
jimmy: Why is that I wonder?
tomk: They aren’t the point of the story.
It’s about how other people deal with the decisions kings make.
jimmy: And given the frequency of the death of those in charge, I don’t think Martin holds them in high esteem.
tomk: Maybe it’s about trying to find a truly gifted, compassionate, and competent autocrat.
That doesn’t describe too many people we’ve seen so far.
jimmy: Definitely not.
tomk: I mean, look how quickly Dany lost her followers’ devotion.
jimmy: Not long at all.
tomk: Execute one confessed murderer and everybody hates you.
Just ask Moose Bolton.
jimmy: I’d still take him over That Guy…who we didn’t see this go round.
tomk: Forking Ramsay?
jimmy: Yeah. That guy.
tomk: Forking Ramsay…
AKA Competent Joffrey.
jimmy: I’m not sure that’s a compliment.
tomk: It isn’t. It’s a threat.
jimmy: Lots of talk about the Boltons, so I’m sure we’ll see them again soon.
tomk: Don’t we always?
tomk: We also see such Jimmy Impossible favorites like Sansa Stark and Littlefinger.
jimmy: Hey! I haven’t wished either of them dead.
tomk: Really? Not even Littlefinger?
jimmy: He’s a weasel but he’s no Joffrey, or Ramsay or Cersei.
tomk: Jimmy has a List? Like Arya?
jimmy: Probably more like Steve Rogers.
tomk: You want to listen to Marvin Gaye with them?
jimmy: Westeros could use some Sexual Healing.
tomk: That is the least of that place’s problems.
That’s the sort of thing that leads to shadow demons.
jimmy: And we don’t need another one of those.
tomk: Oh, I don’t know about that. Sic one on the right Bolton, I mean person.
But that puts us back on the Boltons. Let’s try a bastard we like. Where’s Jon Snow?
jimmy: Don’t you mean Lord Commander Jon Snow?
tomk: He won the crucial Blind Maester Vote.
And Jon didn’t even want it.
jimmy: Can you blame him? And obviously the Watch is split on him even being elected. So he has a lot of people not on his side. Can he trust them?
tomk: He’ll have to. Besides, Starks don’t go looking for power. Robb didn’t want to be King in the North either. They get and accept power but don’t pursue it.
jimmy: Ned didn’t want to be Hand either.
tomk: And yet, these guys always accept the jobs out of a strong sense of duty and obligation. If any of them end up being good at the job they get, then we’ll be in business.
jimmy: Staying alive seems to be more of the issue…
tomk: They die because they aren’t good at politics.
Ned, had he secured a real power base (i.e., not Littlefinger as his main back-up), might have won the day. Robb could have followed through his marital obligation to an anonymous Frey girl. As for Jon? Well, he hasn’t done anything yet.
jimmy: We’ll cross our fingers for Jon. At least he helped Mance avoid too painful an ending.
tomk: The book goes a bit differently. He does shoot Mance, but then later it is revealed Melisandre cast an illusion and it was another Wildling leader who was killed (the Lord of Bones), and the real Mance is still alive and runs a mission or two for Stannis or Jon or someone. It’s unclear who he is acting for when he does something in Winterfell you don’t need to worry about since the show doesn’t cover it and the last book didn’t show the whole thing.
jimmy: Man those books are convoluted. No wonder the show stopped following them after the 5th one.
tomk: They were right to do it.
jimmy: Back to Jon, he also turns down a chance to be Jon Stark.
tomk: Jon believes in the Night’s Watch and what it does. Besides, it’s not like Stannis can excuse Jon getting beheaded for going back to Winterfell.
Then again, Stannis has some…traditional ideas about how things work up there. He talks about Mance Rayder as if the guy were gunning for the Iron Throne and not just a guy who united the Wildlings outside Westerosi territory.
jimmy: It’s almost a cutting off your nose to spite your face kind of move having Mance executed.
tomk: But it’s so Stannis. He doesn’t understand the North.
Book Stannis is worse. Mance in the books has a wife and baby son, and Stannis just refuses to believe the baby isn’t heir to the Wildling throne.
jimmy: In Stannis’ defense, he’s not alone in having a set view on the ways of the world with no appetite to change or even consider things differently.
tomk: Very true. But this world does not reward people who can’t adapt to change.
Like, if you really want to change, try joining an organization where people put on different faces on a routine basis.
jimmy: No one would do that.
tomk: No one with somewhere better to go. I mean, it’s the House of Black and White. They don’t do shades of gray.
jimmy: And there’s 50 of them, so they are excluding a lot.
tomk: All 50 of those shades are terrible representations of real relationships.
jimmy: I wouldn’t know. Worse than letting a teenage girl starve to death on the streets?
tomk: That’s shade of gray #37.
tomk: Well, we got Arya’s Mysterious Murder Friend back. That’s not really in the books, but it’s a face we know when he’s wearing it.
jimmy: Her joining the Faceless Men is from the books though I assume?
tomk: Yes. The only change for now is who her mentor is.
jimmy: Well, the mentor is technically no one.
tomk: A man is teaching a girl.
So, Arya’s teachers have included Jon, Syrio, Tywin, the Brotherhood Without Banners, the Hound, and now the Faceless Men. Compare that to Sansa whose teachers can be listed as “just Littlefinger”.
jimmy: And she is more so learning from watching Littlefinger as opposed to him being a teacher or mentor. Arya’s have been true life lessons. Though both sets of skills are needed in their own way I suppose.
tomk: Arya is the sword in your face. Sansa could be the knife in your back, or at least a Stark that knows a knife could be coming.
jimmy: Exactly. They are learning different but important skills for where the series has led them, just in different ways.
tomk: It helps (or hurts) that Arya chose a path. Sansa got more or less pushed down hers.
jimmy: Mostly true, to a degree. Sansa chose to fall for Joffrey.
tomk: She didn’t choose to be tortured by the Lannisters as a prisoner physically or psychologically and then “rescued” by Littlefinger.
jimmy: No, no, of course not. But she chose the path she started down (even if that path has diverted wildly into disaster) while Arya’s was more thrust upon her with Ned’s arrest and execution.
tomk: Except Arya was outshooting Bran at archery in the very first episode. Arya may not have chosen the misery she’s endured, but she wanted to know how to fight since we first met her. It’s why she got “dancing” lessons.
jimmy: Agreed. So we’re both right. And both wrong. 😛
Um, anything else to add?
jimmy: Seems to be lots we never touched on. Brienne meeting up with and being rejected by Sansa. Dany still having dragon troubles and the Sons of the Harpy. Jaime and Bronn heading off to deal with the Myrcella situation. The new Small Council. Robin Arryn still being a little shit.
tomk: Much of those points are set-up for the season. Dany has two dragons locked up and is losing the people. Brienne isn’t the type to quit. Bronn and Jaime are going to a place neither steps foot in in the books.
jimmy: That whole Myrcella plot isn’t from the books?
tomk: Not the way they’re doing it.
tomk: The books show Elaria Sand, three of the seven Sand Snakes, and I think Doran’s daughter plotting to put Mycella on the Iron Throne because in Dorne women can inherit. Here we see Elaria and the three Sand Snakes fuming a lot and no daughters for Doran. The book plot ends after Doran sends axe guy to stop them from smuggling Mycella out of Dorne. She’s still pretty young and gets a scar across her face when her Kingsguard bodyguard, seduced by Doran’s daughter, tries to fight axe dude and goes down hard.
Doran then reveals he had his own plan for revenge that involves forming an alliance with Dany, so he sends his son to Meereen to propose marriage. Dany politely declines, but junior decides to show his worth by taming one of the captive dragons. That goes as well as can be expected when he dies slowly from painful third degree burns and the dragons get loose in Meereen.
None of that happens on the show.
tomk: The producers, by their own admission, weren’t originally planning on doing anything with Dorne, but then they liked what Martin did and tried to shoehorn in what they could. It doesn’t work out too well.
jimmy: I’m fine with most of those things being set up for the season going forward. Are the Sons of the Harpy from the books? Those masks creep me out.
tomk: They are.
jimmy: Creepy bastards.
tomk: No, that’s Ramsay.
jimmy: He’s franchising.
By the by, keeping Bronn around is nice. Book Bronn just goes into the background. He marries a noblewoman who had a bit of bad trauma during the same riot the Hound rescued Sansa from, and they have a son Bronn names Tyrion. He never really returns to the capital, but Cersei plots (unsuccessfully) to kill him.
jimmy: I kinda suspected that about Bronn actually. Why does book Cersei want him killed?
tomk: She thinks he’s plotting with Tyrion. She’s incredibly paranoid about Tyrion since he basically killed Tywin and disappeared. She even burns down the Red Keep where the Hand of the King traditionally lived because she thinks he’s hiding in a passageway in there. And when she isn’t plotting against Tyrion (who isn’t even on the same continent anymore) , she’s plotting against Margaery.
jimmy: None of that really surprises me.
tomk: Well, some of that may still happen. Cersei in the books wants power but doesn’t handle it well.
jimmy: Not like her father. We’ll miss Tywin.
tomk: She got his ambition. Tyrion got the brains. Jaime got the military skills.
jimmy: Alright. Shall we see what happens next?
tomk: Yes. Yes, we should.
jimmy: Make it so. Whoops, wrong rewatch.
And so our Watch continues. Be back soon for a discussion of the episodes “High Sparrow” and “Sons of the Harpy”.