How to Fix Game of Thrones, Season 8

Spoiler’s ahead. If you haven’t seen Season 8 yet, and plan to, you probably want to stop reading now.

Just to give us a little buffer between this and the spoiler’s below, I’m posting a completely non-spoilery GoT picture below. Everything beneath that picture will contain spoilers.

What Went Wrong

Season 8 felt rushed, to me. Not in terms of pacing; they cranked the slow-motion all the way up to 11 for this last season. Rushed in terms of execution.

Jon’s first dragon ride was the first time the dragons looked fake to me. I mean, I know they’ve always been CGI creations, but they looked good up till that point. It’s like they got so far, and then quit.

And so many storylines get short shrift. Dany’s slide from liberator to slaughterer is too abrupt, too forced. Ditto Jaime’s about-face from noble knight to love-struck pawn. Once the battle with the Night King is over, it seems they give up explaining character actions, and instead just move them about the board to where they’re needed.

It’s sloppy, and it didn’t have to be this way.

How to Fix It

Let’s start with the decision to only make 6 episodes. This was a mistake. It doesn’t give us enough time for all our storylines to breathe. And we end up wasting a good portion of each episode with slow-motion filler, instead of pushing the story ahead.

So we go back to 10 full episodes. We cut any slow-motion that doesn’t serve the story or the tension of the episode (which, let’s face it, means all of it gets cut, save for the slow-down before Arya’s awesome leap at the Night King).

Now we’ve got enough space to tell our story. But what story do we tell?

Dany’s Not Mad, She’s Just Drawn That Way

Despite all of Varys’ hand-wringing and Tyrion’s prison self-pity, I don’t think Daenerys’ actions in the latter part of the season mean she’s gone insane. I think she’s been driven to a dark place. I think she’s angry, and seeks vengeance against her enemies, as she always has.

But crazy? No.

And with more time in the season, we can show it.

Start with the siege of King’s Landing. Let’s make it a proper siege!

We can still have the naval battle at the beginning, where she loses another dragon because the ship-mounted scorpions catch her by surprise. So she lands angry and hurt, already. One more death to lay at Cersei’s feet.

Her troops dig in around the capital. She summons her war council, where the Westerosi try to tell her how to proceed. She dismisses their advice, telling them she’s conquered several cities already, and knows how it’s done. She puts the prep work in the hands of Grey Worm, who was at her side when she won those cities.

The next day, she goes to the wall, and does what she knows best: she talks directly to the people.

She doesn’t appeal to Cersei. She doesn’t care about her. She makes her pitch directly to the people of King’s Landing, just as she made it to the people of Slaver’s Bay: throw down your masters, open the gates, and the Breaker of Chains will give you freedom.

But unlike before, the gates don’t open. No troops lay down their arms.

Instead, Cersei executes a prisoner. Right there, in front of everyone, where Dany can see.

Notice I said a prisoner. Not Missandei, not yet. Cersei captured several people after the battle, and over the next few weeks, as the siege drags on, she executes them all, one by one.

Each day, Daenerys goes out to make her plea. Each day, she sees another of her followers executed in response.

And loses a little more of her patience.

On the last day of the siege, Cersei executes Missandei.

By the time battle is finally joined, we’ve seen the build-up. We’ve seen Daenerys try to prevent bloodshed in the way she knows how. We’ve seen her try to connect to the people, and fail.

So when the Bells sound, and she decides to sack the city anyway, we may not agree with her choice, but we understand why she makes it: because it’s too little, too late.

Jaime Isn’t Love-Struck, He’s Summoned by Duty

Jaime’s about-face in the latter half of the season also doesn’t make sense. It’s a complete reversal of his entire character arc, where he’s been building to a sense of himself as an honorable person, a flawed one, but one that has been trying to do the right thing.

Why would he run back to Cersei, after finally rejecting her and riding North?

Answer: he wouldn’t.

Instead, while the seige is happening in King’s Landing (over a couple of episodes), we sometimes shift over to Winterfell to show what’s happening there.

For Jaime and Brienne, it’s a long-sought time of peace. Winter has come, true, but the Night King’s been vanquished, and the war at King’s Landing will soon be over (they expect Cersei to surrender to Dany’s dragons). They can lay down their arms, and simply enjoy being with each other. A reward for all that they’ve gone through, all they’ve lost.

That peace is shattered, though, when a raven arrives from Tyrion, summoning Jaime to King’s Landing.

Tyrion’s letter tells Jaime of the loss of a second dragon. Of Daenerys’ rejected pleas to the city. Of Cersei’s stubbornness in the face of certain defeat.

And he begs his brother to come help. To sneak through the siege lines, and convince Cersei to surrender the city. To save the lives of the people of King’s Landing once again, as he did when he killed the Mad King.

We see Brienne and Jaime argue about what to do. Brienne begs him to stay, to let Cersei pay for her mistakes, finally. But Jaime feels honor-bound to go.

We still get the scene of Brienne crying, begging him not to leave. We still get Jaime, regretful, saying goodbye. But not because he’s “hateful”.

He leaves because he’s honorable.

Jon Hides from the Truth Until It’s Too Late

Meanwhile, Jon didn’t tell Daenerys who he really is in that scene in the crypts (before the battle with the Night King). He told her Rhaegar loved Lyanna, sure, but he held back on the results of that love.

Why? Because he has doubts. He’d just been told something that contradicts everything he knows about himself. He heard it from Bran, true, but Bran claims not to be Bran anymore. And Sam confirmed it, which makes him take it seriously, but Sam could be wrong, couldn’t he?

So he holds back.

After the battle, he does finally tell someone. His family.

In that scene in the Godswood, he opens up. Shares what he knows, and his doubts about it. Bran insists it’s true, and gives some spooky quotes to back it up.

Jon says he’ll have to tell Dany next. She’s his queen, she deserves to know.

But Sansa convinces him not to. Sansa tells him — rightly — that she’ll see him as a threat if he tells her. That she doesn’t want to see him burned alive, like her grandfather and uncle were. And if he doesn’t want the throne, he shouldn’t tell anyone.

The last argument convinces him. He decides not to tell Dany, and swears the rest of them to secrecy.

Sansa, of course, immediately tells Tyrion, intending to drive a wedge between Dany and Jon, weakening the Dragon Queen. And setting in motion the chain of events that will end with Varys’ betrayal.

Jon tries to go on with Daenerys as if nothing’s changed, but it has. He starts to pull away from her touch, her caress, out of his concerns about their incest.

Dany doesn’t understand why, at first, though she gives him some slack because of what they’ve gone through (and her focus on retaking the Iron Throne from Cersei). But it unsettles her, makes her feel rejected and alone, and contributes to her sense that Westeros doesn’t like her, that its people will never love and accept her.

So she pulls another page from her Essos playbook: marriage to a local noble, to cement the people’s loyalty.

And the noble she chooses is Jon. It’ll seal her alliance with the North, and head off any rebellion Sansa might be planning.

Before they leave Winterfell (because they’ll be separated: she’s going by dragon/sea and he’s going by land), she proposes marriage. Jon is flustered, taken aback. He wants to say no, because of who he is, but he can’t. Not without telling her.

So he agrees. Dany is happy, says they’ll wait till after they take King’s Landing, of course, but that it’ll be good to have something to celebrate after so much war. Jon is sober, quiet, but plays it off as his concerns with the coming siege, nothing else.

But then the siege starts, and Daenerys loses another dragon, and Varys betrays her.

It’s Varys that tells her Jon’s parentage, just before she burns him alive. And when she confronts Jon, expecting him to deny it, he instead confirms what Varys believed, revealing that he’s been keeping secrets from her, too.

At this, Dany goes cold. She assumes he wants the throne, though he denies it. She wonders how she can believe him, when he’s been holding so much from her. He says she is his Queen, and she has to trust him.

She decides to trust him, but on one condition: he has to renounce the Iron Throne. She insists their wedding still take place, and that his formal renouncing of the throne take place after the ceremony. Everyone will see him bend the knee, and hear his words of fealty, and understand who is the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.

Jon’s hurt that she doesn’t trust him explicitly, and unsure of an incestuous wedding. But he agrees. “As my Queen commands.”

The Sack

So as we move into the Sack of King’s Landing, everyone’s under tremendous pressure. Tyrion’s trying to win King’s Landing with a minimum of bloodshed. Jaime’s trying to do the honorable thing, even if it means leaving behind a peaceful life with the woman he loves (Brienne). Jon’s growing more and more uncertain of his position and his safety.

And Daenerys feels alone, vulnerable, and unloved. The people of King’s Landing seem defiant and ungrateful to her. Didn’t she mobilize the army that defeated the Night King? Didn’t she offer them a peaceful way out?

If the people of King’s Landing — or the other kingdoms — find out who Jon really is, won’t they turn on her the first chance they get?

The battle happens much like it does in the released version. But this time, when the Bells sound and she starts destroying the city, we understand why. She’s not gone crazy. She’s punishing them for making the wrong choice. For rejecting her.

One more change: when the Unsullied start slaughtering prisoners, Jon orders his men out. He doesn’t stand there like an actor without blocking directions, he actively tells his men to get out of the city. As a result, none of the Westerosi knights participate in the slaughter.

The Aftermath

Jaime and Cersei die in the catacombs under the keep. Arya almost dies trying to get out before Dany destroys the city.

Jon and his troops finally enter King’s Landing, trying to restore some sort of order. Tyrion wanders among the dead, looking for his siblings.

Daenerys gives a speech to her troops. But not the “eternal war” one she gives in the released version. She does praise them for slaughtering her enemies, and showing them no mercy when they deserved none. She praises their loyalty, and promises a new time of peace, though she knows she can always call on them to defend the defenseless.

Hearing that speech, and having seen the devastation, Tyrion resigns as her Hand. He can’t work for someone that’s proud of what she’s done. She has him imprisoned, not for resigning, but for his betrayals: once for releasing Jaime in an attempt to help Cersei, and twice for keeping Jon’s parentage from her.

In the throne room, Jon confronts Dany about the sack. Instead of responding with some weird speech about conquering the world, she defends her choices. Did she not give the people a choice? After they made it, how could she not hold them to its consequences? She talks about how she needs to inspire fear in Westeros, since she cannot inspire love. How she’ll rebuild something better from the ashes, just as she did in Slaver’s Bay. And just as in Slaver’s Bay, those who won’t bend the knee will be dealt with harshly.

Jon pushes back, saying Westeros won’t respond to the same methods she used in Essos. That its nobles are more stubborn, its people more loyal to their rulers. Will she burn them all, just to ensure that what’s left is loyal?

Daenerys looks at him, eyes fierce. “If I have to.”

Queenslayer

Jon goes to see Tyrion, more torn than ever. Tyrion doesn’t give him the “we should have always seen her madness speech,” which, again, isn’t needed. It’s enough for Tyrion to be down on himself, to have helped her kill his family, and so many women and children. He can remark how it’s different seeing people you’ve known your entire life being burned alive.

And he has a warning for Jon: that if he doesn’t act soon, Dany’s going to turn him against his family, too.

Jon scoffs. Sansa’s loyal. He’s going to marry the Queen. It won’t be a problem.

Tyrion chides him for being naive. Sansa’s not going to bend the knee, he insists. And when she doesn’t, Dany’s going to take her dragon and burn down Jon’s childhood home. His only way out is to kill Daenerys, and take the throne from her.

Jon leaves in a huff. He’s no assassin. No Queenslayer, some second coming of Jaime Lannister. He’s loyal to his Queen, and if his family rebels, then so be it.

His bluster doesn’t fool Tyrion. And it doesn’t really fool himself, either. He comes out of the visit, wondering if it’s true, and what he’ll do if it comes to it.

Daenerys settles into King’s Landing, to rule. She sends ravens to all the nobles of Westeros, inviting them to her coronation, and to swear oaths of fealty.

Sansa’s answer comes back: no.

Daenerys summons Jon. Tells him to order Sansa south, as King in the North. He insists she can stay there, he’ll bend the knee for the North.

But Dany won’t be placated. If Sansa won’t come, then she’ll take her army to Winterfell and force her.

That pushes Jon over the edge. Torn between family and honor, he chooses family. He embraces Dany, for the last time, and plunges his dagger into her heart.

No Kings

Drogon melts the Iron Throne and takes Dany’s body away.

Grey Worm sees Drogon leave, finds Jon with blood on his hands. Immediately takes him into custody.

Ser Davos convinces Grey Worm to let him call a meeting of the high lords of Westeros, to decide what to do.

And so we see Tyrion brought out to the assembly, where they are to decide his fate, and that of the Queenslayer.

Talk turns to choosing a King. Edmure stands up, begins his little speech about being a “veteran” and knowing about “statecraft.”

And Sansa tells him to sit down.

After he sits, Sansa keeps talking. Says the North will never kneel to a Southern king again. Not ever. The North is free.

The Dornish noble nods, and says his kingdom, too, has ever been unbowed and unbent. Though they lost the Sand Snakes, they are unbroken. They will not bend the knee, either.

Tyrion gets frustrated. Wonders if it’ll be a return to war between the kingdoms, without a single King or Queen to hold them together.

Sam stands, says they don’t need a King. What they need is a Hand.

Edmure scoffs. Can’t have a Hand of the King without a King.

Sam shakes his head. Not a Hand of the King, he says. A Hand of the Realm. Someone chosen by them, the Lords of Westeros, to serve the Realm as a whole. To arbitrate disputes, organize the defense of the Kingdoms, and prevent war.

Sansa agrees, a Hand would be fine. But who?

Here, Bran speaks up, finally. Nominates Tyrion as the Hand of the Realm. Explains why: he’s been making mistakes, and he can spend the rest of his life cleaning up his mess, with no title or lands of his own.

The other lords agree, one by one. Tyrion will be the first Hand of the Realm.

As his first act, he chooses Bran to be his Master of Whispers.

His second act is to negotiate a deal for Jon. It winds up much the same as in the released version: life at the Wall in exchange for renouncing titles, and he escapes punishment for killing their Queen.

Heartfelt goodbyes, the Unsullied sail for Naath, Tyrion hosts his first Small Council meeting. Jon reunites with Ghost and Tormund, rides into the sunset.

Roll credits.

WonderCon 2019: Day One

I feel like a real test of a good Con is one you can attend by yourself and still have a good time. WonderCon passed that test this year, with flying colors! My wife couldn’t make it this year, so I was on my own. But the panels were fantastic, the dealers in the exhibit hall were warm and friendly, and everyone in general seemed to be having a blast. I also learned a lot about world-building, dealing with fear while writing, and what to expect when trying to break into comics or TV writing. My notes from Day One are below. I’ll post Days 2 and 3 later this week!

Fantasy Set Decoration

sam sykes, mary e. pearson, tricia levenseller, kali wallace, livia blackburne, with nadine armstrong

kali wallace: has a PhD in geophysics

dr livia blackburne: wrote first novel while researching neuroscience of reading

to sam and livia: what was the first thing you did when creating new world to make it stand out and be different?

  • sam: i don’t know, i just started writing; details of a different world comes after; my worldbuilding technique is all about designing things that will inflict pain and suffering on the main character, and everyone’s pain is unique; started with the protag with a cool gun, made the gun sentient, then it just spiraled out from there
  • livia: akin to sam, starts with something really cool, had an image of snakes while hiking in san diego, thought about how people inject themselves with venom to get immunity, what about a rite of passage where you have to build up your immunity and then they inject you with three types of poisons and if you survive, congrats you’re a healer; flowed from there to what kind of society would that be, etc

to mary: how do you keep a long-running world feeling fresh?

  • map on the inside, 12 kingdoms, trilogy only explored three kingdoms, all kind of different, gives glimpse of how world works, built on ashes of bygone civilization, in the spin-off duology, set in a very different geography; geography informs a lot of how people live and how they dress, etc; every little culture on our planet builds their own mythology, and the point of her series is to explore different mythologies built by these different kingdoms

tricia: wrote two novels with lots of swordfights, didn’t want to write more swordfights in her next book, but needed an action hook, so thought of gimli and his battle-axe, so decided it’d be cool to do battle-axe fights, so from there thought “why would you use a battle axe? it’s not very practical…what if the monsters have tough exoskeletons and the only way to get through them is with a massive battle-axe?” and went from there

kali: changes her worldbuilding based on the perspective of the main character, thinks a kid would notice different things from the world than an old person would or a 12-yr-old, etc

sam: cool stuff alone is not enough to tell the story, it only matters as much as it impacts the character

livia: tends to not like reading journey novels, but then she wrote one, and needed to figure out how to deal with it; had things happening in two far apart locations across a big empire, had to figure out how they communicate, etc; in the end, pushing her characters out let her show off the empire, and created challenges for the characters that made things more interesting

tricia: had to give her character a reason to come back home, even when she didn’t want to; likes tackling problems that are really hard; thought “i’ll just have my characters kill a god,” but didn’t know how that would happen; important to keep in mind what a character’s goals are, and what problems they have to deal with

sam: people will remember gimmicks, magic systems, all that cool stuff, but it’s not what makes you go “oh!” and tell your friend about the story that hit you; it’s all set decoration unless the plot and characters pull you through it; the world-building feels more thorough when we see the impact of things on a character (or characters) that we like

mary: the world has to help carve and mold the character; if we can plop them in another world and their problems are the same, then either the character’s forgettable, or the world is

sam: magic system in most recent book has a price; it’s a deal with an eldritch creature that takes part of what makes you, you; was him being lazy, instead of having to worry about the impact of magic and the price, just made it directly affect their personality

livia: went into a series of questions to look into how people tick; like what if you lose your memory? and while it’s gone you fall in love with someone you despise? and then what if your memory comes back?

tricia: main character was betrayed by close ally; wanted to explore how do you work to get trust back once your trust has been broken?

mary: her character came to large fork in the road; even while writing it she was wondering what her character was going to do; part of the fun of writing is looking at choices and how we make them, and how we learn to forgive ourselves

tricia: had a lot of fun making monsters in her last book; took her fears and made monsters that encapsulate them

how to build a good magic system?

  • start with what your character needs it to do, and then make it cause more problems than it solves
  • pay attention to whether magic is innate or trained, because that’ll affect how your character experiences it

how much worldbuilding changes over drafts?

  • mary: has a lot of it in her head before she writes, it feels a little flat in her first draft, and gets richer from there, but nothing changes radically; most important thing is to go back and ensure it’s all consistent from beginning to end
  • sam: you can always flesh something out later, but if it doesn’t impact the characters, the reader won’t care

Pak Talk!

greg pak

grew up in dallas, tx

shows some of the earliest comics he made, from when he was a kid

went to film school, made a movie called “robot stories”, then got a gig writing comics for marvel

best-known for planet hulk, also co-created amadeus cho, who even became the hulk for a while (“the totally awesome hulk”), got to put together a superhero group called the protectors (largest group of asian-american superheroes)

also wrote “the princess who saved herself” and “the princess who saved her friends” (went to college with joco, based these on his song)

with boom! studios, done “ronin island” and “mech cadet yu” (creator-owned comics)

what he does: combine genre hijinks with real emotional storytelling

things he thinks about while working on these stories:

  • heroism: how does that work? heroes don’t do the right thing all the time; characters are trying to do their best in a complicated world; he really enjoyed writing superman, there’s something compelling about characters that are really concerned with other people
  • written several sequences where monsters turn out to not be monsters, and it’s the hero that recognizes their non-montrousness
  • diversity: he’s biracial, half-korean, half-white (his terms), very conscious of the need for justice in the world; “why isn’t there an asian kid in peanuts?”; now that he create comics, he’s consciously bringing in more representation; it’s great to get one diverse character in there, but when you get a whole bunch of them together, you get to show the diversity within the diversity, and no one character has to stand in anymore for everyone in their group (immigrants vs second-generation vs third-generation, etc); and this isn’t new, matt murdock is a great character because he’s very specifically irish catholic
  • he’s also noticed in a lot of stories with biracial histories, they become tragic backstories for someone else, or they’re always being torn by their two cultures, instead of the real experience of people that just live as 1/4 chinese, 1/4 white, 1/2 black, etc.
  • kingsway west: chinese gunslinger searching for his wife in an old west with magic

Science of Game of Thrones

dr travis langley, tamara robertson, allen pan, steve huff, jenna busch, jonathan maberry

q about joffrey: he was poisoned, and that poison seems to be similar to some real ones?

  • travis: there’s so many ways to poison joffrey; he dies fairly quickly; he’s checked with his chemist friends; can mix up different poisons with belladonna, and several others, but it seems to have been strychnine (rat poison)

let’s jump to wildfire

  • tamara: definitely similar to greek fire, but even more so like napalm, in the way it sticks to its victims and can be launched long distances; greek fire was famous for being able to float on sea water and explode on impact
  • travis: napalm was actually around in world war ii
  • jonathan: martin inspired by napalm, he thought it was one of the most horrific things ever invented
  • allen: have to address the fact that wildfire burns a very bright green; boron, for example, will burn green (borax mixed with rubbing alcohol); copper also burns green; “don’t do that, but that’s how you would do that”

let’s talk about the ice wall: could you build one? and if you did, how would it work, and could a dragon take it down?

  • jonathan: no, you couldn’t do it; it’s too big, the temp’s not cold enough for it; you’d have to sculpt a glacier
  • allen: 700 ft tall, 300 miles long; 300 feet wide; 6 trillion gallons of water; the entire flow of the mississippi river for 15 days (!)
  • tamara: u of alaska looked at this, for it to be 300 ft thick, would need to be 20 miles (?) thick at the base
  • travis: what if it wasn’t all ice? their great wall froze over
  • allen: no way, we’re still talking an order of magnitude bigger than the great wall of china
  • jonathan: also, the whole idea of a dragon flame taking it down; i know it’s dead but they had it breathe flame for 2 minutes, that’s too long; also cruise missiles couldn’t have taken that thing down, let alone a 2 min flame; but where does all that gas come from?
  • allen: dragons, breathing fire, closest actual animal is a bombadier beetle; the beetle has two glands in its abdomen, has hydrogen peroxide and ??? mixes the two together so the two react and boil, expansion of steam is enough to shoot those chemicals out of its butt at those temps (to defend itself); is lethal to smaller predators (spiders, etc); hypergallic chemicals: rocket propellants that combust when mixed; his two candidates? hydrogen peroxide and kerosene; that would work, but doesn’t cover the volume
  • tamara: can look at cows if you want it to come out of the mouth; cow produces 66-132 gallons of methane in a day; just before the dragon died we see a huge sac under the throat burst, it could be holding the gas there
  • travis: there’s a discworld book where that is how it works for their dragons: they fart fire, and it’s how they fly

dragon flight?

  • travis: dragons have 2 legs, and then the wings! no four legged things with the wings
  • allen: devil’s advocate here: pegasi have six limbs, maybe dragons and pegasi have a common ancestor?
  • jonathan: also the mass to weight ratios are completely wrong, there’s no way it could fly because it’s too heavy; for the show, they studied how birds and bats fly, so they do some cool stuff when they take off, but they get airborne way too fast
  • tamara: but it could be thermal currents, giving them extra lift?

let’s talk about valyrian steel and dragonglass steel

  • steve: idea behind valyrian steel is that it’s a sword of loss; similar to damascene steel in our world, because it was a lost art; both damascus and folded steel you’re looking at layers; different from japanese swords, which tend to be harder, with a soft core, which makes the edge brittle (so they would never go edge-to-edge when fighting); so we have methods of forging steel that’s similar to valyrian steel; and dragonglass is basically obsidian, which can be quite sharp and strong, but can snap
  • travis: what about under high heat?
  • steve: that’s where you get into the fantasy bit; a real sword should have a bit of flex, you should be able to bend it and it come back to true; but under high heat, it’ll damage the blade and it’ll become brittle or start to warp
  • allen: if valyrian steel is lost, wouldn’t melting it down and then making two more a terrible way to make a sword?
  • steve: yes; in the real world, if a sword breaks, they would just resharpen it an use it as a smaller weapon; also forged blades are stronger than anything that’s cast
  • jonathan: q about the obsidian: that’s chipped, not forged; they’re bringing in a swordsmith for those, wouldn’t you rather get a sculptor?
  • steve: definitely would want someone that has experience with knapping, not forging

what about jaime learning to use his other hand?

  • steve: he and his students train with both hands; just because we never saw jaime train with his other hand, it doesn’t mean he couldn’t do it
  • jonathan: surprised they didn’t go into that; he trained with both hands as well, with jiu-jitsu; losing one hand might make him a lesser swordsman, but he’d still have a great deal of skill
  • steve: most of combat is mastery of concepts; he’s not going to suddenly lose those skills because he lost a hand

psychology question: let’s talk about hodor; anything that would cause someone to continually repeat one word

  • travis: yes! expressive aphasia: the person has trouble with communication that they previously didn’t have, because of a brain injury; dr broca, the researcher that the language area of the brain is named for, had a patient that said “tan”; when travis was an intern, he had a patient who could only say two words: “party” and “shittin”

let’s talk about white walkers: could they exist? wouldn’t any liquid left in the body freeze?

  • allen: ok, we’re gonna talk weird animals again; like, how are the white walkers even moving around if they’re some kind of frozen? there’s a wood frog in NA, can be frozen solid for up to 7 months at a time, and when spring comes around, it’s fine; creates glucose and urea in its cells, that act as cryoprotectants; lowers the glass transition temp of tissue; main issue with walking around, is that it should not be able to move; he proposes, as part of their conversion process, they develop these cryogens in their tissues
  • jonathan: there’s a couple other squirrels and creatures that freeze like that, but they don’t move; each zombie book he writes, he has to mug a bunch of scientists to come up with different theories to make zombies make sense; closest he ever got were parasites that hijack the nervous system to operate it after the loss of intelligence; but the cold factor you can’t get around, there’s nothing that allows frozen tissue to be flexible enough to walk; they don’t act according to any laws of physics in those fight scenes
  • allen: i would like to counter, with the idea that, the temps around the wall can’t be that cold because there’s a forest there; there’s a lower limit to the temps there
  • jonathan: so as winter arrives, they should freeze?
  • allen: not if they invade westeros! i think that if you took a dead body, and reanimated it, and injected it with glucose and urea, and put it in a tundran environment, where there are still dire wolves, i think that body is still mobile

what about the psychology of evil?

  • travis: narcissism isn’t enough; you need the dark triad: sadism, narcissism, and psychopathy; people with just one of the three can be high functioning and members of society; there’s a measurable difference in brain activity with psychopaths, particularly in the p3 wave, so they think there’s a biological component, but they don’t know; current theory is that they might have some kind of very early brain injury; and the novels mention joffrey having had a brain injury early in life
  • tamara: there’s also the genetic anomaly of being born from twins; they see increased incidents of schizophrenia with incest

audience questions:

  • is there some way for daenarys to have gone into a pyre and coming out ok?
  • why the irregular seasons? tamara: a volcanic eruption, around valyria, would both explain the long winters and the sheer amount of dragonglass they have (as well as explaining what happened to valyria); reference: explosion of krakatoa in the 19th century, which erupted in southern pacific but affected winters as far away as europe

Pushing Characters and Buttons: Lessons from Game of Thrones’ Season 5

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

I’m not sure I’ll be back for Season 6 of Game of Thrones. I feel like this last season was the weakest one so far. I’m still processing why, but I suspect it’s because of the following things, mistakes that I’ll try to avoid in my own writing:

1) Focusing on the wrong things.

I think this season spent a lot of time lingering over details that it didn’t need to, and shouldn’t. I’d count Sansa’s wedding night sexual assault as one of them, for multiple reasons. First, I think sexual assault is one of the most terrible things that can happen to a human being, and I don’t really want to watch even fake ones any more. Second, we didn’t need to see the actual assault to know it’d taken place: the very next scene with Sansa, where Reek comes upon her laying battered and half-naked on the bed, tells us everything we need to know.

But because they did decide to show us the assault itself, they weren’t able to show us other things, like Sansa trying to work out different ways to escape, or talking to the different servants to find out which ones she could rely on. They couldn’t show us the preparations for a siege at Winterfell, with Sansa trying to take advantage of the chaos to send a raven to Littlefinger or study the walls to remind herself of the best way over them.

I think it was a similar mistake to insist on showing us the full extent of Cersei’s humiliation, including the entire walk of shame. I didn’t want to see it, I didn’t need to see it — seeing her at the next small council meeting, head shaved and face cut, shaking as she reaches for her wine, is enough — and it prevented them from showing me other things, like Kevan trying to get her back, or the whole of them dealing with the aftermath.

I’ll admit that GoT takes place in a nasty world, where nasty things happen. But I didn’t need to see Craster actually rape his daughters to know he was a nasty man and understand what was happening there. I didn’t need to see King Robert’s sexual orgies to know the humiliation his antics caused Jaime and Cersei. And I didn’t need to see Viserys force himself on his sister to know she lived in fear of him.

2) Moving characters around instead of letting them move.

A lot of the decisions characters made this season felt forced, as if they needed to move across the game board for plot requirements, and the writers found an excuse send them there.

Take Jon Snow going to Hardhome. Why was this necessary? I understand that without Jon Snow there, there’s no perspective character to show us the assault of the army of the dead. But it would have made more sense for Aliser Thorne to have gone instead of Jon: he’s First Ranger, and known to hate the Wildlings more than Jon. Wouldn’t the oath to give them safe passage have been more impressive coming from an old and known enemy?

Jaime and Bronn going to fetch Myrcella also didn’t make sense to me. I mean, I understand wanting to show a buddy knight trip between the two of them, but Jaime has little reason to go and Bronn has less, and their presence didn’t affect the outcome at all. If they hadn’t been there, the Sand Snakes would have tried to kidnap Myrcella, failed, and any messenger from Cersei asking to see her daughter would have given Doran the excuse he needed to send Myrcella away to safety.

Finally we have Jorah. His decision to sign up for gladiator combat the first time made sense, since it gave him a chance to see Daenerys again. But submitting to slavery a second time after being banished again? Only made sense as a way to place him near her during the Sons of the Harpy attack. For the character, it didn’t make sense at all.

3) Trying too hard for big moments.

So many times during this season, I felt like I was watching the “Are you not entertained?” moment from Gladiator. The music would swell, the camera would zoom in on some character’s face, and they would say a line that was supposed to carry a lot of emotional weight. But it fell flat for me, every time, no matter the character or the situation.

I think the first two mistakes, made often enough over the courseĀ of the season, robbed the emotional high points of any impact. Instead of caring that Brienne finally got to confront Stannis, I just saw a knight come upon an old wounded man in the forest, tell him her name, and deliver a killing blow. Instead of dying a little inside at seeing Jon bleeding out in the snow, I knew from the moment Olly came to fetch him that he was about to be ambushed, and the circle of knives was way too much “Et tu, Brute?” to make me do anything other than shake my head.

And Drogon saving the day . Well, of course he saved the day, then dumped Daenerys in the middle of nowhere instead of somewhere else in the city. How else were the writers to setup Daenerys being standard in the wilderness, needing her two bravest knights to come save her (groan)?

None of it worked for me, and the parts that did deliver an emotional impact — Sansa’s assault, Cersei’s humiliation — were entirely negative. For me, this season was a set of lessons in what not to do. Here’s hoping I take them to heart.