Episode 23 – Walk of Punishment – Analysis
By Winter Is Coming on in Editorial, Recap.

Missandei

Walking and Falling: The Anxiety of Choice in Game of Thrones

by Tyler Davis

“We sail within a vast sphere, ever drifting in uncertainty, driven from end to end.” – Blaise Pascal

Missandei invokes the High Valyrian saying “Valar Morghulis” and we are reminded once again that – yes – all men must die. The more we learn of the conditions in Astapor – a slaver’s haven and Missandei’s cage – the more we understand why an enduring acceptance of death is common amongst its peoples. While finally passing through death’s waiting maw in one terminal gulp is the conclusion to any life, the trajectories by which we arrive at that grinning gate are inevitable, but not invariable. Season one offered sufficient proof that Westeros makes no exceptions for the honorable, or innocent. The multitude of the show’s fallen now stand like ghosts in the audience’s memory, each a signpost marking just one of the innumerable and often unexpected routes to oblivion. Each death becomes a story of crystallized steps, each step a choice, each choice a cause to another effect.

The unstoppability of what awaits was pronounced in the prologue of the first episode, heads rolling atop frozen earth in the northern wilderness. Since that time, this pronouncement has only ever softened to a steady beat reverberating from show’s backstage, never silencing, and frequently rising thunderously. Death always looms, haunting the game and threatening each player: what good is a throne, crown, title, family, or god when you’re gone? Little. But in avoiding death and achieving disparate ends, the characters of Thrones must contend with their uncertainty at every turn.

“What is not possible is not to choose.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

Thrones is preoccupied with existential questions: how do we live, and how do we die? In answering these questions, the temptation to appeal to a higher power in a world where magic exists seems sensible. But neither the show’s religions nor its overtly supernatural elements offer useful moral prescriptions. Characters like Bran, Daenerys, and Melisandre all interface with powers greater than themselves through prophetic dreams, warging, the rebirth of dragons, firesight and shadowbinding, but what these powers mean, to what ends they will be used, and why these characters can access them are all unknowns (even when a character purports to speak with complete accuracy about her gifts, as in Mel’s case). Further, a deeper uncertainty lurks behind seemingly obvious threats: the White Walkers are present, deadly, and demand response, but they are also inscrutable, and their reappearance as yet has no discernible purpose or cause. For characters lacking supernatural gifts, even religious affiliation must be called into question; Catelyn prays to the Seven, but would she be better off imploring the Old Gods for help, or not praying at all? Reliable patterns of truth cannot be isolated from out of this world’s supernatural landscape.

Unfortunately, the labyrinthine complexity of life for those caught in the Westerosi power struggle makes things no less difficult even when they haven’t been granted dragon babies or the ability to hop into an animal’s head. What the aptly-titled “Walk of Punishment” exposes so evocatively is how every person in this world is chained to their own freedom of choice, even when denied personal liberty. Theon – a prisoner – still chooses to seize upon the opportunity of escape, broken feet be damned. For the freely willing person, choices are obligatory, and often have unseen costs; this is an episode about the prices we pay for the steps we take. Existential realities must be faced up to despite an absence of instructions which would serve to clarify decisions or guide characters as they surmount obstacles. When seemingly straightforward paths do open up, they’re often suspicious, dangerous, or at cross purposes with reason, affiliation, or personal morality.

catelyn-blackfish

“It often comforts me to think that even in war’s darkest days, in most places of the world absolutely nothing is happening.” – The Blackfish

The uncertainty of fate, and the consequences of personal choice in an uncontrollable world provide the through-line for “Walk of Punishment.” Serving as the embodiment of these concepts, the actual Walk of Punishment is a coastal strip in Astapor where slaves are crucified for any reason their owners think up. Being born or sold into a life of slavery only to face torturous execution for the slightest failing in the eyes of your social superiors is perhaps the most arresting physical example of the capricious and arbitrary punishments the world of Thrones threatens. When a dying slave rejects Dany’s offer of water so as to not needlessly prolong his suffering, voice is momentarily given to his entire people, and by extension the unprivileged masses of the world. And while the Blackfish indicates that “most places” are free from subjugation, malice, or war, glimpses of Astapor and knowledge of the task set before the Brotherhood Without Banners would suggest that the lands whose shores truly remain untouched by conflict are fewer than he admits.

What’s clear is that the walk refers not just to its geographical namesake in Astapor, but also to the punishing trek each character must make. How does one navigate a world in which choice is necessary for survival, but predicting the outcome of a choice is all but impossible? There is no easy answer. Cersei privileges her family above all else, and Tywin his name. Littlefinger’s ambition drives his conquest, though to what end we are unsure. Robert gave thought to little other than his lust and gluttony, and Ned sought only honor, and truth. Arya seeks family, but revenge is a close second. Other characters – Varys, Melisandre, Jojen – have more cryptic aims. But the strength of the story centers on how each reason for being emerges naturally from plausible characterization. These modalities usually shift, because the world of Thrones does not permit immovable objects to coexist with unstoppable forces. Characters who cannot bend once outmatched usually perish, but those who do accede are by no means secure. Recall that Ned forswore the idea (if not the reality) of his honor before the gathered peoples of King’s Landing, proclaiming himself a traitor to better serve his family. Fat lot of good that did.

Robb Stark

“When, for instance, a military leader takes upon himself the responsibility for an attack and sends a number of men to their death, he chooses to do it and at bottom he alone chooses. No doubt under a higher command, but its orders, which are more general, require interpretation by him and upon that interpretation depends the life of ten, fourteen or twenty men. In making the decision, he cannot but feel a certain anguish. All leaders know that anguish. It does not prevent their acting, on the contrary it is the very condition of their action, for the action presupposes that there is a plurality of possibilities, and in choosing one of these, they realize it has value only because it is chosen.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

Being condemned to freedom is a somewhat strange-sounding idea under normal conditions, but one which resonates whenever a difficult burden is shouldered. I quote the above passage from Sartre’s “Existentialism is a Humanism” lecture because it so neatly captures the Edmure-Robb dynamic on display in one of the episode’s earliest scenes. Edmure, impetuous, has effectively crushed Robb’s hopes of capturing and killing The Mountain That Rides by leading a rash attack on a captured mill in defense of his own lands. In so doing, Edmure has incurred a long-term cost greater than he could have ever predicted. Had he only been patient! And yet Edmure surely saw this as an opportunity to win glory, to strike fear in the hearts of his enemies, to win the day–in short, to be a proper leader. Hundreds of casualties and one recaptured mill later, Edmure balks before Robb’s withering deconstruction of the military blunder. And yet the punishment stops there. Robb is a good man–loyal, and just. Edmure may have been impatient, but he clearly meant well. Even so, no war effort can sustain itself beneath the miscalculations of men like Robb’s uncle. What does the Young Wolf do next? What response is just, and what response will achieve desired ends? Do we privilege our values, or goals?

These questions lead to another: are consequences (or punishments) necessarily proportional to actions (or crimes)? The answer is “no,” but reaching the reasons why is challenging. I once stated that Martin, Benioff and Weiss limit themselves to a local range of commentary on the show’s themes, and that they correspondingly refuse to universalize or recommend moral perspectives. This means that statements about proportional punishment are bound to be complicated by the characters interpreting them. Tywin’s justification for cutthroat responses to ineffectual commanders in his military camp will differ wildly from Robb’s, each general being motivated by distinct and intelligible views. In the same way that the characters lack a shared, external system of objective morality by which they can shape their actions and through which they can judge one another, the audience isn’t given a clear interpretive framework by which the characters can be judged. The show concerns itself with the characters’ philosophies about themselves and each other, and not a creator’s philosophy about his characters. This means that we may value Tyrion for his wit and good heart, or the Starks for their long-forgotten model family dynamic, or Ned in particular for his sense of honor, but that Westeros, its other inhabitants, and the authorial voice presenting both to us may not – and often won’t – respond as we do.

jorah-dany-barristan

“Walk of Punishment” underscores the poor correlation between moral intent and moral consequence frequently, though perhaps never so descriptively as in Jorah’s proclamation that “Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly, and Rhaegar died.” Also consider Jaime’s “fighting bravely for a losing cause is admirable, but fighting for a winning cause is far more rewarding” speech to Locke, as it’s the second time that a character elevates what’s rewarding and efficacious over what’s admirable, noble or traditionally worth esteem. But even so, Jaime had just engaged in his first unequivocal act of selflessness in the series: telling a convincing lie to save Brienne from rape. Moments later, his hand chopped off for having prickled the sensitivities of the class warrior, Locke, Jaime is a changed man. What crime did Jaime commit that mutilation was the commensurate penalty?

I think it’s natural to interpret Jaime’s dismemberment as a kind of karmic comeuppance; here’s a guy who fucks his sister, who sired Joffrey, who killed Jory, who attempted to kill Ned, who attempted to kill Brienne (debatable), who killed his own cousin to escape imprisonment, who pushed a child out a window, and now he’s getting what he deserves! Right? Well, maybe not. The show has preemptively complicated readings of this type; season one, bookended by the strictly legal decapitations of innocents, clearly established that characters don’t get what they ‘deserve’ in Westeros–at least not by any measure of justice we bring with us when we watch the show. No, Jaime is being punished because he put his neck–or wrist–on the line for someone other than himself, and in so doing, misread his captor. Nothing more, nothing less. One unambiguously good act, and one poorly calibrated interpersonal assessment later, Jaime is without a fist. It’s precisely because Jaime did something essentially altruistic just minutes before receiving his severe punishment that the show is able to remind us that it has no heavy-handed interest in moral bookkeeping.

The carving knife thuds into the stump, the fingers reflexively twitch, Jaime’s eyes go wide with the shock of acknowledgement, his scream carries us through a smash cut to black and–what’s this? A raucous rendition of “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” performed by The Hold Steady? There is a rich series of tonal contrasts in this episode, with alternatingly dark and darkly comic scenes filling the running time. The same fifty-four minutes of Thrones featuring two attempted rapes and one dismemberment also includes a literal game of thrones in the small council,”direwolf bread,” musings about King Robb’s supposed lycanthropy, funeral hijinks, and a squire’s borderline camp-conquest of his own virginity in a brothel. While Theon desperately races through dark forests to save his skin in one moment, Tyrion wryly muses over the court’s ledgers as the new Master of Coin in the next. But where the episode usually separates its tonally distinct scenes from one another, this final sequence marries the black with the blackly funny.

First, it must be remembered that Locke and his men performed a less anachronistic rendition of “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” whilst transporting Brienne and Jaime (bound together on horseback in a scene that first threatens buddy comedy before collapsing into a grave discussion of impending rape) earlier in the episode. They even sing it rather warmly–these rapists and murderers. So when we later hear it a second time, we’re at least aware that the song belongs to Westeros. The Hold Steady’s performance is an energized Celtic punk cover, and is unlike anything heretofore used within a GoT episode (though anachronistic songs have made rounds in promotional materials, they’ve been less jarringly obvious). The effect is twofold: first, it’s an aural slap to the face which invites confusion and restates one of the show’s principal truths: anything can happen to anyone at any time. But more importantly, the credits serve to undermine all attempts at reading a moral lesson into Jaime’s maiming. Yes, he has done truly bad things to characters we like. Yes, he performed a personally redemptive action before being brutally punished on account of Locke’s freakish and violent whims. Yes, it all comes down to what one man with all the power feels like doing in the split second before he brings that chopper down, and no, that man is certainly not performing the role of karmic agent.

Locke Jaime

Thrones can be hilarious, and I find it interesting that an episode as painful as “Walk of Punishment” is so thick with laughs. A simple interpretation might hold that the comedy exists to counterbalance or relieve the grim tension present in places like Craster’s Keep, but I find the juxtaposition more deliberate. It’s not quite a gallows humor, as the funniest moments aren’t necessarily located within the darkest scenes. Taken in aggregate, the effect is more akin to tonal variations on a given melody; it’s the same song, but it sounds very different from key to key, or depending on what room you’re listening to it in.

As the season intensifies, the stakes are raised, and the pathos heightens. Comedy serves to punctuate and disrupt the audience’s tendency to oversimplify narrative arcs. In this way, comedy acts as an interrupting force within a character’s movement from point A to point B–a kind of jarring reminder that these are tales about living entities and not narrative robots, and that they’re each subject to the hideous and laughable incongruities life musters. Jon Snow isn’t just a plucky, nascent hero; Jaime Lannister isn’t just some charming villain. Life keeps happening even when tragedy strikes. On the day of Ned’s beheading, jokes were told and lovers loved. Somewhere, people giggled. Somewhere else, people were probably beheaded for giggling.

When the show commits to its drama, it can be heartrending. These focused instances of comedy don’t snap us away from that poignancy so much as they remind us that a jester waits just offstage. The jester observes, and no player is free from his judgment. Occasionally this jester sings for the crowd. When the credits roll, it’s as if the jester is merrily cheering, “oh, and this is the game we play – this is the bloody fucking game we play!” The closing song isn’t sneering, but is cosmically amused. It answers “why not?” when we ask “did that really just happen?” It laughs not because Jaime did or didn’t deserve to have his entire identity murdered by a cleaver, but because this is the sort of game where warriors and fools spend their time punishing one another in the endless quest for transient ends, all of them so rarely savoring what little they gain.

The song also foretells change. It’s a departure, and it anticipates a transition. There is no grim dirge heralding Jaime’s loss, nor some generically thumping war song reminding us of how dangerous this game really is. The bright, contrasting burst overpowering the credits is like the closing of a rather disgraceful chapter before the opening of another. Jorah warns us that “there is a beast in every man, and it stirs when you put a sword in his hands.” What to make of a man, then, known to all as a golden beast – swords for fangs – who has lost his bite?

And just as “Walk of Punishment” measures penalties and personal losses incurred by choice, it is also a story of cost and payment. The promise of money isn’t enough to stop Roose Bolton’s best hunter from sating a desire to show a spoiled lion what power really looks like, but it is enough to call off the rape of a noblewoman. The promise of pleasure is all Tyrion, a lifelong whoremonger, can offer in disproportionately meager payment to Podrick, the loyal squire who took a life to save Tyrion’s. Bronn, the sellsword who gauges relationships by their monetary value, is unfamiliar with the concept of interest while the crown itself mortgages its future through the Iron Bank. Daenerys considers the true cost of acquiring her army, as Jorah and Barristan debate whether an army worth commanding can be bought for any price.

“You’re walking. And you don’t always realize it, but you’re always falling. With each step you fall forward slightly, and then catch yourself from falling. Over and over, you’re falling, and then catching yourself from falling. And this is how you can be walking and falling at the same time.” – Laurie Anderson

Walking – traversing time and space by way of self-propulsion – really is an interesting phenomenon. Like blinking, we can walk voluntarily, every step a conscious choice. We can even skip. But like blinking, we usually shuffle the path between where we are and where we’re going as if on auto-pilot, eyes raised to meet destiny’s face and averted from the engine of choice powering our stride. Of course, we benefit from relative safety. Short of the requirement to cautiously cross streets, our meandering paths are usually free from danger, requiring little of us. Our choices fall within a range of relative certainties. And yet even so, each step carries with it a moment where the unknown is embraced–a span of time where a footfall really means falling.

The walk of punishment isn’t just a miserable street in Astapor, and it’s not just a clever title for an episode; the walk of punishment is the gauntlet each character must cross again and again. The inhabitants of Westeros can choose each step, but they often have little control over how these choices will reshape the paths rolling before them. Like a game with ever-shifting rules, this journey features mutating terrain. The relationship between action and reaction can quickly prove fatal when the punishment is bloodier than the crime, or the cost greater than the payment. But that’s precisely what these characters must contend with: choosing when foreknowledge is impossible, while loyalties are frayed, when intentions are veiled, when moral consistency is a liability, and when death’s teeth loom steely above the block.

Watching the lot of travelers both cautious and reckless clamber their way over hills and courts and fields of battle, the jester cocks his head to the side, grinning. He snaps his eyes shut and sees a canvas of total darkness, erasing the weary wanderers, marveling at how little it takes to end the world.

So he starts laughing.


68 Comments

  1. Grijnwaald
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Hodor

  2. Flo
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Gary Lightbody, lead singer of Snow Patrol, cameoed in the show by singing “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” in that scene with the mercenaries transporting Brienne & Jaime.

  3. We do not Hodor
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Wow! /bravo

  4. juego de tronos
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Hodor?

  5. Andy Gavin (@asgavin
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    This episode has some great Martinesque moments — the man knows how to make his characters suffer — and hands off to Weiss and Benioff for pulling off the last scene so deftly. They really know how to fray our nerves and cut to the bone. Hehe. I also really enjoyed the ever increasing scope (and budget) of the location shots. The views of Riverrun and of Astapor were fantastic, plus lots of good character development — not to mention some GOT classic gratuitous nudity. In any case, you can find my more detailed thoughts on this episode on my blog as usual.

  6. Clambake
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Can someone reccomend a fantasy series for me? Something like A Song of Ice and Fire. In the sense that it has a lot of adult content, political intrigue and the names of characters and places don’t take five minutes to pronunciate. I’m not looking for a clone or anything. Really the most important aspects I’d like are adult content and simpler names. Please help, I have had absolutely no luck whatsoever.

  7. Chris
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Clambake,

    I rather like the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss.
    Intelligent, compelling, intriguing, full of introspection and dread.
    The first book is “The Name of the Wind.”
    But beware, ASOIAF readers will be in for the same kind of tantalizing frustration that Martin inflicts on us. It took forever after the first book for Rothfuss to finish the second. And the third isn’t out yet.

  8. Stacey
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Clambake,

    R. Scott Bakker’s Prince of Nothing trilogy (following by the Aspect Emperor trilogy) are darker but nicely complex like GoT. Patrick Rothfuss’ King Killer Chronicles have a more engaging storyline with a complex world but from the POV of one character.

  9. Mike Chair
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Great job Tyler.
    Choices and money. Choose to change or suffer the consequences. Choose to change and suffer the consequences. “Anything can happen to anyone at anytime” so don’t try to find a moral theme. Morality is irrelevant. So is money and the promise of money … as is the promise of dragons …

  10. Mike Chair
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Chris,

    Clambake,

    Okay, here’s the link I keep using to answer the question you and many others have asked. 10 Great Fantasy Series to Read While You’re Waiting for George R.R. Martin’s Next Book.

    I’m reading Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind right now. Love it. I also loved all of Abercrombie books too.

  11. Ross
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Chris:
    Clambake,

    I rather like the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss.
    Intelligent, compelling, intriguing, full of introspection and dread.
    The first book is “The Name of the Wind.”
    But beware, ASOIAF readers will be in for the same kind of tantalizing frustration that Martin inflicts on us. It took forever after the first book for Rothfuss to finish the second. And the third isn’t out yet.

    I am also still looking for something similar / almost as good and have come up short. I tried a few including name of the wind and personally i have found them to be the usual hokey fantasy fare. I think asoiaf is truly a one off.

  12. Anthony Licata
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Clambake,

    The Kingkiller Chronicles is probably the best fantasy being written aside from ASOIAF. Martin himself has also recommended The Dagger And The Coin series by Daniel Abraham. The best part about Abraham is he’s released a new book in the series every year.

  13. Clambake
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Stacey,

    I have “The Judging Eye” right next to me and the character pronunciations really turn me off. Also, the map sucks. I also tried “The Darkness that Comes Before” and had the same problem. Granted, I didn’t stick with it for long but again character pronunciations are a big thing with me. Should I read Prince of Nothing trilogy first?

  14. The_Wanderer
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    This episode was like a dark comedy. It had the tone of Fargo, but a completely different plot.

    Contrast seemed to be the key idea to this episode. Walk of Punishment had the most comedic scenes of any Throne’s episode up until this point, but it also had a lot of gruesome scenes thrown into the mix with them. The contrast between comedy and suffering really drives the entire episode, but contrast went just beyond tone, too.

    We see antagonist characters like Theon and Jaime gathering sympathy in this episode, which is huge a contrast to how they were previously depicted. The episode also focuses on the huge contrast between the atmosphere of the war torn Riverlands, and the “now safe from invasion,” Kings Landing.

    On an unrelated side note, D&D did a great job directing this episode. I understand it was their first attempt, and it was awesome.

  15. Darquemode
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Mike Chair,

    Thanks for the link.
    Loved The Name of the Wind and Law series by Abercrombie.
    Think I will check out Mazalan and Night Angel series.

    One series I read years ago an quite liked a lot, but do not hear mentioned too often is the Fey series by Krystine Kathryn Rusch.

    Five books in the series and a sequel series I think, but I never read that. It’s somewhere between more adult Fantasy novels and High Fantasy as I recall. Although I have not read it for 15 years or so and my tastes have evolved… Might be worth checking out.

  16. Clambake
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    I will take a look into Kingkiller Chronicles but I am leaning toward Malazan Book of the Fallen. Once again though I can’t stress enough about pronunciations and adult content. Anybody read Malazan and what’s the verdict?

  17. Shock Me
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Clambake,

    I’m really fond of the Night Angel series

    Also The Black Prism

    And Imager

  18. That chubby kid
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Overwrought.

    Obvious conclusions.

    Not interesting and just not fun to read

  19. The_Wanderer
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Chris,

    The Acacia Trilogy by David Anthony Durham has a lot of moral ambiguity. The central family in that series is very similar to the Starks, too. It’s not as good as asoiaf, but it is entertaining.

  20. Jenny
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    There is nothing like it, but Rothfuss is really nice and keeps you guessing. Characfer Development is mediocre but the creativity is nuts. Pseudo-Dragon on Cold Turkey and nympho-nymphs…

  21. Lex
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Clambake:
    Can someone reccomend a fantasy series for me? Something like A Song of Ice and Fire. In the sense that it has a lot of adult content, political intrigue and the names of characters and places don’t take five minutes to pronunciate. I’m not looking for a clone or anything. Really the most important aspects I’d like are adult content and simpler names. Please help, I have had absolutely no luck whatsoever.

    Try Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy. Dark, gritty, adult, and it’s already finished! Relatively short trilogy, which is nice compared to all those long, never-ending, unfinished series out there.

    Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy is another old favourite (although some of the later tie-in books are weaker, IMO).

    Malazan is good, used to be one of my favourites… but there are hundreds of unpronounceable names, vast storylines set on three or four different continents, insanely complicated magic/plot/history. It’s a very challenging read for most people. Also, while the first 5 books were great, the second half of the series has declined IMO (I’ve read 8 of 10).

  22. Mike Chair
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Clambake,

    I read the first book. I found it to be more about military strategy than about the characters. Some may disagree, but I didn’t find myself caring about Erikson’s characters as much I did about Martin’s or Rosfuss’ (or even Abercrombie’s). Some of Martin’s characters you LOVE, and some you HATE. Some are just super interesting and enjoyable to read (like Abercrombie’s). While I found some of Erikson’s characters interesting, I didn’t find myself loving or hating anyone. Also, Erikson uses A LOT of magic. I like the reserved approach to magic in ASoIaF, that is likewise reserved with Rothfuss and Abercrombie.

  23. Clambake
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Lex,

    I was going to go with Malazan but being a fellow TooL junkie I’ll trust your opinion and go with the First Law trilogy. I will then read The Black Company.

  24. Gregory Kelton
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    I hate to be snarky (well, maybe not), but TL;DR. I’m not sure I understand the need to write this type of essay about an episode of a television show. Was it really this deep?

  25. Richard Weetabix
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    That chubby kid,

    And yet, interesting enough to bother responding to. Hmmm…..

  26. Clambake
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

    Mike Chair,

    Thanks for that link. I have a list of my own of books I want to check out. I think 3 were on that link. Most of the rest have been mentioned by others on this thread. But I think I’ll use your link for the next several books or series I’ll read. So thanks again.

  27. Johnny Mac
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    Hands down the Prince of Nothing series…it’s a bit tough to get through the first 100 pages. But, absolutely worth it. The first trilogy is done, and he’s almost finished with the 3rd book on the second trilogy. Dare I say it’s kept me more engaged than Martin’s books though ASOIAF will always hold a special place in my heart. Bakker’s characters are some of the most unique and interesting I’ve read in any series. It’s dark, gritty, and complex. And I would love to see a show down between Khal Drogo and Cnaiur urs Skiotha.

  28. Mudshark
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    The Jester sings for us? The closing song (as the credits roll) is`nt sneering but is cosmically amused? The song fortells change,it`s a departure, and it anticipates a transition? The aforementioned song is at it`s best sung and heard while on horseback,or in a tavern full of half naked wretches, not as some cheap ass punk metal jam to induce shock as to what we just saw. What it induced was WTF am I hearing? It was not appropriate for reflecting the age of a Medieval Fantasy. What`s next? A sobering acappella rendition of Freebird after the RW? Now if you will forgive me I have a Jabberwocky to chase….

  29. outdoorcats
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Excellent write-up. You brought Sartre into this? Dayum.

  30. Clambake
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Johnny Mac,

    Show me how you pronounce Cnaiur urs Skiotha. Just for shits and giggles.

  31. Handmaiden of Dany
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Permalink
  32. feyrband
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Lex,

    I’d recommend First Law as well. It’s got a couple of spin-offs too but I haven’t read those yet. The Night Angel trilogy is quite good so far, I just started the second book.

  33. Ms. D. Ranged in AZ
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    This was your best analysis yet. Much more tightly written and good supporting detail. Bravo! My detailed thoughts below.

    “often unexpected routes to oblivion”

    Well, technically not all of them go to oblivion. The wights prove that…..And we don’t know if they have a heaven or not. Book readers know that Bran can hear the dead, so perhaps there is an afterlife, which would argue against oblivion.

    “….the White Walkers are present, deadly, and demand response, but they are also inscrutable, and their reappearance as yet has no discernible purpose or cause”

    From your own analysis I think you can also extrapolate why they are there. There don’t seem to be any rules, except for the fact that shit happens to everyone regardless of the choices they make.

    “how every person in this world is chained to their own freedom of choice, even when denied personal liberty”

    Excellent! I agree and wrote something that supports this idea under Ep. 3 thread for book readers.

    “….Westeros, its other inhabitants, and the authorial voice presenting both to us may not – and often won’t – respond as we do”

    Maybe that’s one of the reasons the books and this series are so popular? Because we come to it with our own preconceptions and the writer’s blow that away and force us to see things through the characters’ eyes….This is critical to achieving effective drama IMHO.

    ““Walk of Punishment” underscores the poor correlation between moral intent and moral consequence..”

    The road to hell can be paved with good intentions….This is a hard lesson to learn and we’re seeing that happen over and over again in GOT.

    “Taken in aggregate, the effect is more akin to tonal variations on a given melody; it’s the same song, but it sounds very different from key to key, or depending on what room you’re listening to it in”

    Like this characterization very much….hadn’t thought of it that way.

  34. Ms. D. Ranged in AZ
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    Gregory Kelton,

    I think great art usually is. If you don’t think the show is “great art” then perhaps you wouldn’t share Tyler’s perspective on it’s depth.

  35. The Greatjon
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    I would highly recommend The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. It’s the first book in his Gentleman Bastard Sequence, and it’s right up there for me with A Song of Ice and Fire. Thieves, con artists, and capers set in a fantasy version of Renaissance Venice. What else needs to be said?

  36. Alen
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Wow, this analysis is great! A joy to read. Thank you

  37. Mike Chair
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    The Greatjon: I would highly recommend The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

    I liked it. I liked the next book as well. They’re very clever and their plots move along nicely. “Capers” is a good word for them, as it connotes “far-fetched”, but, nonetheless, “entertaining” — which is what Lamora’s escapades are.

    BTW, the third book is coming out on October 8, 2013, and I plan to read it.

  38. Staeven
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    You, Ser Tyler Davis write an excellent essay.
    Your prose and selection of quotes from Pascal & Sartre now having me searching for more works of Ser Tyler Davis.
    Thank-you,
    Staeven

  39. WildSeed
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Mike Chair:
    Chris,

    Clambake,

    Okay, here’s the link I keep using to answer the question you and many others have asked.10 Great Fantasy Series to Read While You’re Waiting for George R.R. Martin’s Next Book.

    I’m reading Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind right now.Love it.I also loved all of Abercrombie books too.

    Thanks for these, I’ve just placed an order for two books from this list.

  40. Darquemode
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    I think these are new…. Episode 3×04 promo photos:

    http://www.spoilertv.com/2013/04/game-of-thrones-episode-304-and-now-his_19.html

  41. That chubby kid
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Richard Weetabix,

    It’s the internets…just putting in my 2 cents. I suffered through the not so great parts of ASOIAF because the great parts were worth it. Same for this website. The analysis was too long. It offered no original insight. It was crammed full of words culled from a thesaurus that made it a pain to read through. It made me think too much. It made my head hurt.
    After the next episode, could we have a concise snarky humorous analysis written at a fifth grade level with some original insight? Chubby kids across the world would rejoice.

  42. Oz of Thrones
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    That chubby kid,

    Hi Chub. That’s actually what I do, although it may be a little higher than 5th grade level, but not much! Tyler is actually excellent at what he does. I should have a post up in the morning if you want to check it.

    Great analysis Tyler.

  43. I'm Unsullied
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    Shock Me:
    Clambake,

    I’m really fond of the Night Angel series

    Also The Black Prism

    And Imager

    The Black Prism / Blinding Knife series by Weeks is just flat out incredible. I’ve tried virtually everything else out there and this series is the top of my list. Can’t wait for book 3.

  44. Jamb0
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    Bit off-topic, but there was some great GoT references on Parks and Rec tonight :)

  45. A Man Grown
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Mike Chair,

    This. I made it through about 300 pages of Gardens of the Moon and gave up for the time being. After 300 pages I still didn’t care about a single character. I feel like I would need to be invested in the characters in order to make trying to wrap my arms around the ridiculously complicated setting worth it. Not crazy about the magic either.

    Once I gave up on that one, I picked up Tuf Voyaging, by some author we’ve never heard of, and it’s quite an enjoyable read so far :)

  46. Jake
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    I feel like Missandei is going to have some spectacular side-boob this season.

  47. Ser Lyonel the Laughing Storm
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    off topic but I really feel like Hot Pies farewell post every other major character seems to get one

  48. OhManymous
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    Damn classy article quoting the likes of Pascal… while doing a analysis of a TV show. If you ask me this is OVER analysed its just a TV show people!!

  49. Jaime Saltcliffe
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    Adjectives adverbs adjectives adverbs.

    Often when you strip these down, the meaning will become clearer and then more engaging to read. This is off putting. Don’t want to be a hater (while setting myself up for some serious haterade), but read a paper and get an editorial ear. OR READ UNBROKEN!

  50. Arthur
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 1:49 am | Permalink
  51. Throner69
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 2:56 am | Permalink

    obviously its over analized thats the nature of essays, haven’t you guys graduated from grade 12 english. Whether its over analized or not these are fun to read and they show a dedication to making sense of things beyond televised the story (ie. cinematography) that you don’t normally get with a tv show. Whether you agree with them or not these analyses are a great way to discuss themes of episodes beyond the face value that is offered in the original 50+ minute episode every sunday. No director will capture the total depth of the written work of asoiaf but the way they work together to adapt it on tv is second to none. #haterscanhate

  52. Jack
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Jake,

    There needs to be a Missandei Fan Club. Whenever possible.

  53. Jaime Saltcliffe
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Throner69,

    Yeah but it reads as a freshman creative writing major’s work.

  54. Richard Weetabix
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Jaime Saltcliffe,

    As a novelist who’s taught college creative writing workshops at all levels, I must say that you’re very much mistaken.

  55. Richard Weetabix
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    That chubby kid,

    You sound like one of my whiny freshmen: “Teacher, make it easy for me.” If you want juvenile humorous analyses/recaps, try the Boars, Gore and Swords podcasts.

  56. Stephanie
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Now THIS is an analysis, great job!

  57. Jaime Saltcliffe
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    Richard Weetabix,

    I imagined you saying that with your little pinky in the air.

    Editorials should be different than prose anyway…

  58. Richard Weetabix
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Jaime Saltcliffe,

    What a vivid imagination. You just might be workshop material.

    As a college English teacher for the past fifteen years, I can tell you that most freshmen are functionally illiterate, which this author definitely is not.

    And this isn’t an editorial, but a literary essay. He doesn’t have to meet some draconian word count or dumb down his writing voice for every basement-dweller on the Interwebs.

  59. JB
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Nathalie Emmanuel is definately too hot and too old to play Missandei IMHO. I always pictured Missandei as a small girl of more or less Arya’s age. Still it’s great to see Nathalie on the show , she’s gorgeous :)

  60. Jaime Saltcliffe
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    Richard Weetabix,

    Dem be fightin’ words bro.

    But seriously, what kind of university do you work for? Sounds prestigious, maybe in the middle of nowhere and not interesting

  61. Jaime Saltcliffe
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Richard Weetabix,

    And novelist, would LOVE to read your published work! Any hints?

  62. Richard Weetabix
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Jaime Saltcliffe,

    I teach at a Big Ten research university. I don’t think you’d like my work; I tend to use adjectives, and no pictures.

  63. Jaime Saltcliffe
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Richard Weetabix,

    Zinger! Enjoy it brah. I’m enjoying mine.

    And I’ve consulted three writer friends on this piece, one of whom is a NY Times best selling author and another a NYU professor (I live in NYC) and each found it ponderous, barely readable BS.

    I trust them.

  64. Atreyu
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    While I do appreciate the amount of effort Mr. Davis puts into these reviews, they could use some editing. Preferably by someone who can tell him that crossing a gauntlet doesn’t make much sense. Pass, endure, suffer, run, sure. But not cross. As long as I’m on the subject of gauntlets, if someone is going to use an archaic term like “amongst”, they might as well use “gantlet” instead. Ties the whole thing together. Anyway, self-editing is difficult and it’s usually a good idea to give a draft to a fresh set of eyes for feedback. But I wouldn’t let Prof. Richard “Fussybritches” Weetabix of Bumpass Directional Community College within ten feet of anything I’ve written.

  65. NousWanderer
    Posted April 20, 2013 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

    Atreyu,

    As you know, “running the gauntlet” involves passing through the narrow path between rows of people while they beat you. While you might find “crossing” this space to be a suboptimal use of language, it’s far from nonsensical; “crossing” doesn’t always refer to the intersection of lines, but can refer to ‘traveling across space’ without directional reference as well. As for “amongst” and “among”–they’re used interchangeably, though “amongst” has fallen from favor in recent decades. It’s far from archaic. Even if you were making unambiguously true points, however, they would be quibbles at most. I appreciate your thoughts, as you’ve every right to them, but it is highly unlikely that any editorial process will be instituted for these analyses.

    Jaime Saltcliffe,

    While I admire that you’ve actually (or supposedly) sent this blog entry far and wide in hopes of settling a dispute over aesthetic opinion with an appeal to authority, please be reminded of the following:

    1) Danielle Steel and Stephenie Meyer are both NY Times best-selling authors.
    2) This is voluntary literary commentary/analysis for a television fan site, and not creative writing. Having once taken the very course you describe, I can only admit that my anecdotal experience bears no relation to your own. Nothing written here bears the slightest resemblance to a creative writing project, in fact.
    3) Professors frequently disagree with one another, to say nothing of how often they disagree with the crawling throngs outside academia. You can figure out the rest.

    I have no interest in bandying about my own credentials or those of the “people I know,” since they have no bearing on the discussion at hand in either case. You are right in stating that I use both adjectives and adverbs when composing thoughts! Bravo. You are additionally welcome to opine that I overuse them, while others are well within their rights to enjoy what you find distasteful. Fancy this: the comments indicate that some people appreciate my analytical writing style, while others do not.

    I just find it a bit silly that these entries have proven so polemical. I was tasked with isolating and analyzing themes and patterns in what’s effectively novelized television, and the majority of dissenters object to the project outright, as if it shouldn’t be attempted. To all such persons: please, file a complaint with the board.

  66. Richard Weetabix
    Posted April 21, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Atreyu,

    “Fussybritches”? LOL I’m not the one playing basement-dweller editor here. GMAFB.

  67. chai tea
    Posted July 5, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really something which I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complex and very broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

  68. garcinia cambogia
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