Tag Archives: ian mcelhinney

Television Tuesday :: here we are, four weeks in.

5 May

Now, usually I talk about Game of Thrones a week or two after the season starts, and then again when it’s over.  You might be wondering why I’m waiting so long to do it this year.  Well, I said to myself, “I’m going to write about Game of Thrones once the Sand Snakes have arrived.”

This took… four episodes.

And mind, we got barely a taste of them.  But there they were.  I’m fairly sure that show!Tyene (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers) is going to be… essentially a creature of B&W’s own invention, which sucks because book!Tyene is my favorite (she’s got that cadence I gravitate toward) but I could be proved wrong, I don’t know.  She’s cute, though.  So far though, Nymeria (Jessica Henwick) and Obara (Keisha Castle-Hughes) seem true enough to book.  Obara’s monologue was pleasingly familiar, and they both have their proper weapons.

On the subject of monologues, I will say that that has been one of the things about the season so far that I’ve generally liked.  It’s as if B&W were like “oh, we’re five seasons in, better shoehorn in as much exposition as we can really really fast so we fill the show-watchers in on things they’re going to need to know that we’ve skipped in previous seasons.”  Or conversations-that-are-basically-monologues.  There have been multiple monologues per episode, the likes of which are more akin to Jaime in the baths in season three than anything else.  To wit, a list of veritable monologuers, in no particular order and doubtless incomplete:

  • Mance (Ciaran Hinds)
  • Melisandre (Carice van Houten)
  • Stannis (Stephen Dillane)
  • Shireen (Kerry Ingram)
  • Brienne (Gwendoline Christie)
  • Podrick (Daniel Portman)
  • Barristan (Ian McElhinney)
  • Daario (Michiel Huisman)
  • Obara
  • Ellaria (Indira Varma)
  • Daenerys (Emilia Clarke)
  • Baelish (Aidan Gillen)

And that’s to say nothing of the conversational exposition.  Which has been… basically everybody, and I am not going to list it all off because it would, basically, be a list of everybody in various configurations.  I’m perfectly comfortable with this.  I would probably watch an entire show that was just lengthy expositional conversations.  Sure, it’s a little jarring to go from a roundtable about Meereneese nobles to “so, Your Grace, about your father,” but I like it.  I don’t mind it at all.

Minor plot changes (having it be not-Jaqen [Tom Wlaschiha] at the House of Black and White, for example) I’m all right with.  Major plot changes (Sansa’s [Sophie Turner] line, which has elicited reactions such as “NO NO NO NO” and “nooooo, they can’t” and “Sansa just can’t catch a break” from my people who are show-watchers; the elimination of certain key characters) have been… less well-received.  But I’m not going to talk about my rage until it’s all over and done and I have concrete details to rage about.

–your fangirl heroine.

well then

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Television Tuesday :: a dragon is not a slave [an analysis of this week’s epic Daenerys scene]

23 Apr

I had and have many hopes for this season of Game of Thrones.  I cannot say yet for a lot of the overarching stuff; because of the way that timelines have been played with, because of the changes in dramatis personae and whatnot, there are a lot of things that could still ultimately happen, one way or another.  There have been some things I have linefaced over, of course (this is the first season for which I read the book before watching, which is simultaneously wonderful and awful — I can approximate and anticipate, but I also spend inordinate amounts of time worrying about did that happen and I just forgot? and other such issues), but there have been some things that I have squealed with glee over, too.

I don’t think there’s any surprise about the fact that I watch any and every scene with Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) with even more fervor than the rest, and this week’s scene was no exception.  I know I often describe things as that which would make me cry if I did that, but when I read A Storm of Swords, the scene in which Dany frees the Unsullied was most certainly that.  It was one of several scenes in the book that took my breath away, and having gotten plenty of teasers for it in every trailer, I was waiting and praying that it would be as perfect as it ought.

Spoiler: it was.

(Screencaps borrowed from screencapped.net.)

(The doors are opened.  Jorah [Iain Glen] and Barristan [Ian McElhinney] look fairly neutral.  Missandei [Nathalie Emmanuel], who I already/expectedly adore, looks like she’s trying to play it cool, which is completely a reasonable thing.  Dany looks exceptionally serious with a side of powerfully pissed off right under the surface.

They stride in, all business, and at the sound of Kraznys [Dan Hildebrand]’s voice, saying something in Valyrian, Dany glances over with an expression that is best translated as “I have no patience for you.”

Kraznys is leering, as per his usual.)

Missandei (as they approach the group of slave-soldiers, translating): The master says they are untested.  He says you would be wise to blood them early.

(Dany remains impassive.)

Missandei (translating): There remain some more cities between here and there, cities ripe for sacking.

(A few paces behind, Jorah eyes the soldiers; a crowd gathers.  Two Dothraki carry a wood-looking cage contrivance a few paces behind still.)

Missandei (translating): Should you take captives, the masters will buy the healthy ones and for a good price.

(The full legions of army are seen for the first time.)

Missandei (translating, as Dany’s retinue reaches where Kraznys stands): And who knows, in ten years some of the boys you sent them may be Unsullied [in their turn?].  [I’m not sure what she finishes her statement with, unfortunately.]

(Dany stares Kraznys down, Missandei watches with slightly furrowed brows.)

Act one, in which she pretends she doesn’t care about the implications of what is in front of her and what she is about to do.

Daenerys Targaryen, rightful queen of the Seven Kingdoms, has learned how to lie over the seasons.  There are moments when we the audience see the young, plainly terrified girl she was in the beginning of season one, there are many more moments when we see her fury take hold.  (One such moment is to be found in this scene.)  But she has also learned how to hold it in, how to stare her adversaries in the face and show nothing of what she is feeling except for what she wants them to see.  That has been the theme of all of her interactions with the Astapori slavers, and indeed most of her interactions thus far this season.

(Dany takes a breath, allowing a hint of nervousness to enter her expression, then turns away from Kraznys and walks to the cage.  Jorah and Barristan’s gazes follow her; after a moment, Missandei turns her head as well.

Dany works at opening the cage.  Kraznys watches with a smirk.  The bystanders watch in anticipation.

The cage opens, and Dany steps aside to let the door fall open, revealing Drogon.  There is a baton of sorts chained to his leg, and Dany takes this in hand.  With a squawk, Drogon flies into the sky, Dany still holding the baton and allowing a hint of a smirk, almost a told you so, to cross her face.

Kraznys watches, also smirking.  Jorah watches, worried.  The crowd watches, still awed.  Dany leads Drogon back toward the rest, looking Kraznys straight on as she hands the baton over and Drogon flaps his wings.

Dany’s expression grows almost wistful; Kraznys hands over a gold baton-like thing, soon revealed to be a whip.

Jorah watches, looking conflicted, and Dany looks just as conflicted as she regards the whip.)

Dany (not looking up): Is it done, then?  (looking up now) They belong to me?

(Jorah is watching intently, yeah, and Missandei translates the question to Kraznys; he replies.)

Missandei (translating): It is done.  You hold the whip.

Kraznys (in Valyrian): The bitch has her army.

(And Dany has murder in her eyes.

She turns away from Kraznys again, approaches the Unsullied.  Missandei is watching Drogon, Jorah is watching Dany.  The Unsullied stand perfectly in rows, surveyors walk amongst the rows.)

Act two, in which she pretends to be feeling what she would be feeling if she was actually going through with what they thought she was going through with.

There is a certain poetry to her pretense, a contrasting of opposites.  She works in opposites, my khaleesi, she is all about manipulating others’ impressions and ideas of her in order to righteously combat them.  She is a smart woman, and she does not “play dumb” by any means, but the slight shows of vulnerability, the ones peeking through the toughness, are those which less evolved persons would consider weak, emotional, stupid.  Kraznys has been insulting her to her face the entire time they’ve done business, speaking crudely to her, because he thinks he can hide behind the perceived language barrier and get away with it.  But the joke’s on him.

(Dany looks the army over.)

Dany (in Valyrian): Unsullied!

(Missandei immediately changes her attention, her eyes wide, and the Unsullied step to attention.  As Drogon squeals, Barristan and Jorah turn to look as well.

Apparently, Drogon is also squirming, because Kraznys is struggling with the baton.)

Dany (in Valyrian, brandishing the whip): Forward march!

(The Unsullied do.)

Dany (in Valyrian, almost gleefully): Halt!

(The Unsullied do.

Kraznys is still struggling.  Dany, looking her army over, legitimately smiles.

Barristan and Missandei look back to Kraznys as he speaks; Jorah’s eyes stay fixed on Dany.)

Kraznys (in Valyrian): Tell the bitch her beast won’t come.

(Dany turns back to look at him, and oh, she is looking furious.)

Dany (in Valyrian): A dragon is not a slave.

(Kraznys looks shocked.  Missandei looks surprised.  Jorah looks shocked.)

Kraznys (in Valyrian): You speak Valyrian?

Dany (raising her eyebrows, smirking, in Valyrian): I am Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, of the blood of Old Valyria.

(Jorah starts to smile.  Missandei starts to smile.)

Dany (absolutely venomous now, in Valyrian): Valyrian is my mother tongue.

(Missandei raises her eyebrows a bit, smirks, and turns her head to give Kraznys the greatest “suck on it” look that can be imagined.  Kraznys, meanwhile, looks horrified.)

Act three, in which it all plays out the way she planned it.

(I’m sorry, I just had to.)

Having read the book, I was completely aware that Dany was putting on that she didn’t understand him the whole time, and I’m quite glad that I was, but I nonetheless enjoy this reveal.  This scene is powerful in the book, but there’s something about actually hearing things said in different (made up, beautiful) languages and seeing the reactions on characters’ faces.

Kraznys is not so good at keeping his anger turned down low; he is as obvious and petulant about it as a child.

Jorah… I think I’ve alluded to my Jorah issues here before, and they have not gone away.  I am sure that Jorah’s intentions come from a place he sees as good, but a lot of them have always hit me as some combination of weirdly pedestal-placing and patronizing.  It’s fun, in this scene, to watch him go from “oh no, what is going on” to “oh, I get it!” but even if she did not divulge her plan to him, I can’t help but sigh and wonder why he seems so almost surprised that she had one and it was clever.  For all his “you would be a great queen” stuff, he seems to doubt her judgment rather often, and I can imagine how this reflects watchers of the show who had not read the book, actually, which is why her telling Jorah and Barristan off for questioning her in public in the previous episode was so brilliant: it’s a pointed way of saying “trust me.  No, seriously, trust me” without actually saying that.  But that’s been my refrain to non-book-reading fellow-viewers as well, “no, seriously, trust her.”

Oh, and Missandei.  I had been thinking that she figured out that Dany speaks Valyrian last time, after the “valar morghulis” / “…but we are not men” conversation, and one of the ways to read her reactions goes to that: yes, she looked surprised when Dany addressed the Unsullied, she looked surprised when Dany talked back to Kraznys, but that smirk was very possibly a smirk of “aaand gotcha.”  Either that, or she was genuinely surprised, but adjusted to the “aaand gotcha” part of it very quickly.

Dany herself is just my queen of sass and rhetoric and she wears both of those things so nicely.

(Dany turns back to the Unsullied.)

Dany (quickly looking gleeful again, in Valyrian): Unsullied!  Slay the masters, slay the soldiers, slay every man who holds a whip, but harm no child.

(Kraznys looks freaked.  Jorah goes for his sword.)

Dany (in Valyrian): Strike the chains off every slave you see!

(One of the Unsullied breaks rank, stabs an overseer through with his spear, then another.)

Kraznys (in Valyrian): I am your master!

(Barristan draws his sword.)

Kraznys (in Valyrian): Kill her!  Kill her!  Kill her!

(Jorah looks to Dany, startled; Missandei smiles.  Dany turns back, almost smugly badass.)

Dany (definitely smug by now): Dracarys.

(Drogon unleashes his fire on Kraznys.  There is no sputtering like at the end of season two, nope.  This is a full-on blowtorch of dragonfire aimed at this asshole.

And Dany just smirks.

The Unsullied move, spears pointed; as Kraznys fails in his attempts to stop, drop, and roll and Jorah shields Missandei, a battle breaks out, the Unsullied vs. basically everyone else.

Fighting, fighting, fighting.  Drogon flies, breathing fire all the while and setting off… torches?… that explode in sequence behind Dany as she watches all she has done.  Cool queens don’t look at explosions.  [I know I wasn’t the first to make that joke, but it is perfect, so.])

Where is that gentle heart now, Jorah?

No, but really.  This is actually a perfect example of why I have always taken issue with that characterization: Dany can be caring as all get-out, Dany is very invested in her people and in doing her part to look after the interests of those who cannot look after themselves.  (Granting agency, I say for the thousandth time, because who’d have thought a basic rhetorical theory class would give me one of my Dany buzzphrases?)  But she is not gentle, no.  That word implies a certain — not passivity, exactly, but aversion to aggression for sure.  Times when violence turns her stomach: when it is done to the undeserving, when it is gross and misogynistic, when it is used as a deterrent, when it is done only because some have power and use it over others.  Times when violence is justified and even something she seems to appreciate: when it is done toward those who would oppress, wrongfully harm, just generally be assholes for no reason than that they think they can.

This is one of the latter times.

(Dust clouds travel over the remains of battle as Jorah strides toward Dany, watches her watching.  She then walks off, and he follows, as do Barristan and Missandei.

The rest of the legions are seen, Dany walking through them.

A horse, a lovely white one like the one she lost in the Red Waste, is led in, and she approaches and mounts it.  Missandei stands amongst the Unsullied, watching, as do Jorah and Barristan.)

Dany (in Valyrian, as she rides through; it is important to note the genuine concern in her expression): Unsullied!  You have been slaves all your life.  Today you are free.  Any man who wishes to leave may leave, and no one will harm him.  I give you my word.

(Jorah is smiling by now, Barristan seems to be, Missandei is probably still trying to wrap her head around all of this.)

Dany (in Valyrian): Will you fight for me?  As free men?

(As she watches, one Unsullied, then more, begin to tap their spears against the ground.  Jorah smiles, Barristan smiles, Missandei smiles, Dany looks on with pride.

And with that, Dany leads her Dothraki, on horses, and her retinue, also on horses, out of the city.  Unsullied legions follow on foot.

Dany throws that damn whip on the ground.  Unsullied soldiers step on it.

Dany looks into the middle ground with resolve and pride as the dragons fly overhead.)

And with that, my queen has won herself an army, proved her strength, refuted all stripes of naysayers, and conquered a damn city.  And it probably could not be a more perfect six minutes of television.

–your fangirl heroine.