Thoughts on Thrones #1

Welcome back Night’s Watchmen!

I’m here with what I hope to be a regular segment I’d like to give you guys some of my thoughts on the ever-changing Thronesiverse. Inspired by CBC Hockey journalism icon Elliott Friedman’s note series “30 Thoughts” in which he provides 30 short notes on the week’s news in the NHL, I’d like to provide some short opinions on the things going on in our world. I won’t be getting to 30 thoughts each week, but I’m eager to see where this might go.

That said, let’s get this baby started!

1. The multiple recasting this season give me a lot of mixed emotions as to the potential future of the show. On one hand, it tells me that the show-runners feel that the show will be running long enough that getting casting right over time is useful in the long term (for example, the recasting of Tommen Baratheon indicates they realize that Tommen will be a more important character in coming seasons and they want to have an actor who can succeed with an expanded workload); but on the other hand does this mean that the show-runners might see just about any of their actors as expendable? Ed Skein was cut after one season as Daario Naharis, and Gregor Clegane has been recast twice now, despite the fact that the character barely appears in any previous season. I’m choosing to see this as a positive, that the show has legs enough to outlive these casting shakeups and having the right actors eventually is better than holding onto the wrong ones simply for continuity reasons.

2. In season three, the character of Ros was promoted to the positions of executive assistant to Lord Petyr Baelish, she ran his brothels and was privy to his secrets and plots. She chose to use that information to plot against him with Varys and when her schemes were discovered she was given as a gift to King Joffrey to use “as he pleased”. This ended the tragic tale of a character who was never once found in the books and was introduced, so it seemed, simply to have another busty female actress appears in the nude on screen. She was introduced in the first season as a favoured whore of Theon Greyjoy, ward of Winterfell, she left Winterfell to make it big in Hollywood… I mean Kings Landing, and found herself in the employ of Littlefinger. She was a pointless character when she was introduced, and eventually served as a means of expository narration between the secretive characters in Kings Landing (since the television show can’t use the clairvoyant reader to forward the story). I always felt as though she was simply a means to an end, and that end was most often gratuitous nudity (and the only naked redhead on the show until we got the Ygritte/Jon Snow cave scene). In all honesty, good riddance Ros. I hope your kind (show-created expository device) is never heard from again.

3. The new characters that have been announced are no real shock. As a long-time reader of the books I am privy to what the unsullied would call “spoilers” for the show, even though I find the concept of spoilers in this instance to be pretty ridiculous. This isn’t about that, however; I feel as though the casting of these new roles has been pretty stellar, all told. There was a lot of controversy about the casting of Pedro Pascal as Oberyn Martell, suggesting that the Martells should be more Middle Eastern than Mediterranean. I feel as though the casting people really nailed it, however. Dorne has always struck me as being very Grecian or Spanish in culture and a Latin actor such as Pascal should be able to pull is off perfectly! I’m looking forward to seeing him fully armored with his spear in hand. This is a character with gravitas and a purpose that drives him beyond mere vengeance, if Pascal can deliver on the intensity of the Red Viper, then I think we will have a truly memorable performance.

4. Roger Ashton-Griffiths will be playing Mace Tyrell, which again I think is a home run. Mace Tyrell is a bumbling buffoon who has what influence he has in Weteros due to his father’s acumen and his daughter’s beauty. He wil sit on the small council in King’s Landing as the Master of Ships (as Tyrell was the commander of the fleet in defense of King’s Landing during the Battle of Blackwater Bay), and if his story in the books is any indication, he will be more tiresome and burdensome than his riches are worth to the crown. Cersei especially will find him tedious as he seeks to cement the influence of his house with the marriage of his daughter to the King and his own place on the Small Council. Having seen a few of Griffith’s previous roles, he seems like a perfectly capable actor who can mold the role to fit him perfectly. We might not see much of the “war-time” Mace Tyrell out of this actor, but I think that “doddering old fool” Mace Tyrell is the character people expect anyway.

5. In the east, Danaerys really didn’t do anything in season three, and it strikes me with sudden fear that this trend will continue through season four. Not knowing where the season will cross over from A Storm of Swords into A Feast for Crows, and even when it gets there how they will merge the consecutive chronologies of Feast and a Dance with Dragons… Dany has a very narrow story-line through the end of Storm. I’m sure we all see where this is going even without ‘book spoilers’, and unfortunately there is a good chance that this one big push by her and her army might constitute the majority of her story-line through the fourth season. I am a big fan of Emilia Clarke (at least, with her blonde wig on), and as much as the Kings Landing story is going to dominate the season I feel as though without balance and expansiveness that the eastern story provides, this season could feel very claustrophobic. We need more Dany, more Jorah, and especially more Daario. Knowing some of the casting for this season includes the character Hizdahr zo Loraq means that we are going to see at least a little bit of eastern politics near the end of the season, I just hope that they don’t let her sit idle for multiple episodes while we deal with Kings Landing drama.

6. In the third season, Tywin Lannister threatens Olenna Tyrell with the end of her family’s line. He tells her that he will make her grandson Loras a knight of the Kingsguard and this will ensure that the Tyrell line fades away. This is noteworthy as it represents the most significant divergence from the books in the entirety of the television series: in the books, Mace Tyrell had three sons and one daughter (Willas and Garlan Tyrell were both elder brothers to Loras and Margaery), yet in the television series it would appear as though this is not true. If the Tyrell line goes through Loras, then it is clear that neither Willas nor Garlan exist in this world. This difference more than anything else changes the end-game for Westeros, as the Tyrells are positioned in the books as being in the lead or in a close second place at the end of Dance, but at the same point in the television series there is no way that the Tyrells will have as much influence and power as they do in the novels… without any possibility for progeny, the line will fade and the house will wither and die like so many unwatered flowers.

7. More casting stuff. Struan Rodger has recently been announced as being cast as Bloodraven for season four of the television series. I’m going to try to keep this spoiler-light, but this is a character that plays a major role in Bran Stark’s end-game purpose for the series. This indicates an advancing of Bran’s story-line to a far further point than we have indications for the rest of the characters. Bran doesn’t interact with Bloodraven so quickly in the books, since we have no casting announced for the characters of Griff or Young Griff, both of whom are pivotal characters which are introduced at a similar point in the chronology to Bloodraven. This isn’t to say we won’t get those characters cast (especially since we clearly will get to that point in the story this season), but I feel as though they are really casting to fill in roles we didn’t think we would even see (Tycho Nestorius, Bloodraven specifically) rather than filling in the roles that we should expect to see this season (Coldhands, anyone?).

8. Reek, reek, rhymes with bleak. In a Clash of Kings, Roose Bolton informs King Robb that he has sent his natural-born son to Winterfell to liberate the kingdom from the grasp of the traitorous Greyjoys. That is, more or less, the last you hear of the many adventures of Theon and Ramsay until a Dance with Dragons when the Reek story-line is revealed slowly through the perspective of Reek himself. In the show, they’ve really put that story-line front and centre through the events of Storm… in my opinion this was necessary as there was no way to really remove Theon from the show for the better part of two years (his two or three fans would revolt and write many badly-phrased letters to the show-runners) and, more importantly, there was no way to bring him back as Reek without giving up the game immediately (there are no visual clues when pen strikes paper, while the same actor would play Theon in seasons one and two and Reek in season five)… giving us the off-camera action between Ramsay and Theon on the screen helps us understand how Theon could possibly become the creature he has become, and exactly the kind of monster that Roose Bolton has raised as the Heir to Dreadfort.

9. GoT Bad Lip Reading! Oh my god, as a long-time fan of Game of Thrones and Ice and Fire more generally, this is exactly what I could have hoped for coming from the guys at Bad Lip Reading! The voices were pretty universally pitch perfect (I might have preferred something deeper for Bobby B), but otherwise it was stellar “Casting”, and the writing was perfect, as always. The fact is, this is a movie I would pay money to go see… If only it were the real world and not just the fantasy of a group of extremely talented and obviously funny voice-over artists. Everyone needs to check this out if you haven’t already!

10. GRRM has spoken out about the feelings of anxiety he has when confronted with the truth that the TV show is far outpacing his ability to write the final two books in this series. He compares it to feeling “bound to train tracks and could see smoke wafting,distance”, noting that he doesn’t see the train yet, but he knows it is on its way. I would hope that he uses this as motivation to buckle down and write, and isn’t finding himself trapped by his anxiety into a state of blocked creativity. Only time will tell which is the case, but he did tell us we would have The Winds of Winter sometime in 2014, so here’s to hoping.

Those were my ten thoughts on Game of Thrones this week, I’m going to continue to research and come back with ten more next week!

Thanks for reading, feel free to comment below or send us an email or tweet @castinthedark! Until next time, keep your stick on the ice.

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