Sunday, May 5, 2013

NEW FEATURE: "Game of Thrones" Analysis, featuring Drew Galloway

So "Game of Thrones" is the best show on television. If you're not watching it, you should be. Also, if you're not watching it, stop reading now, unless you're starved for world-class television analysis.

Drew (one of my best friends from BC) and I talk about the show and the books constantly, and actually have some good insights, so I figured I should share these with the Thrones-loving fans of the world.

Read on for talk of Lannisters, Starks, Hounds, Red Gods, and general mystery and intrigue.

Robbie Vogel <>
Apr 30 (5 days ago)
to Drew
Hey there,

So I find myself watching Game of Thrones via your (very private) HBOGo account late Sunday nights, and texting you about it every five minutes. Figured we should just put all this in an email format, where it can be saved and retrieved for easy reference during future episodes when you can say: "a HA I KNEW IT." Or something.

Anyway, like I said earlier, this last episode (305 - "Kissed by Fire") may have been better than the one before it. Yes, 304 ended with Dany and Drogon tag-teaming with the Unsullied to overthrow the slavemasters of Astapor, with a bit of bait-and-switch barbecue thrown in for good measure, but 305 had it going on from beginning to end. 

In a satisfyingly bloody start, the Lord-of-Light-sponsored trial by combat between two of the most feared combatants in the Seven Kingdoms kicked off the episode in fine fashion.

Three questions emerge for me from this battle:

1. Why do people insist on wall-less trials by combat, with innocent bystanders in serious danger of being de-limbed? (Think Tyrion's trial at the Eyrie)
2. If fire-worshipping and hiring a Red Priest are all it takes to be effectively immortal, what's stopping every rich person from doing it?
3. How is Beric seen by the world at large? Presumably the person who killed him the fourth time would have heard that he had already died, perhaps several times, since Beric is sort of famous... do people think he's some sort of immortal knight of justice? I need more Beric!!

I'm not going to get into a description of each subplot, so here are a few points about the ones I'm not focusing on.

Jon and Ygritte

I've thought Ygritte was a dark horse contender for sexiest character on Thrones for a while now, and this scene certainly didn't hurt her standing. Also, Jon Snow seems to know quite a bit about lovemaking for someone who is both a virgin and, according to his tubmate, "know[s] nothing."


I love this series because everything is, as you said in your texts, "backwards or opposite or unexpected." Stannis, by all accounts, is the rightful king of Westeros. Robert took the throne, Joffrey isn't Robert's son, Robert died, and Stannis is his oldest brother. However, you couldn't find a man in a less kingly situation than ole Captain Pessimist right now. Relegated to a rock in Blackwater Bay with his brainwashed (but down for 3-ways with Melisandre) wife, 3 stillborn sons in green jars, and a greyscale-afflicted daughter who he apparently hasn't seen since getting his ass handed to him by the Lannisters.


Just a simple question. Did he do the right thing by chopping Lord Karstark's head off? Deeper question: What does "Doing the Right Thing" really mean in Thrones?


Just keeps plugging along being awesome and also about 50,000 miles from anything important. I want a spinoff show with Jorah and Barristan Selmy bro-ing out in the Free Cities with mountains of gold, whores, and whatever kinds of drugs they have in this world. Sidenote: there's remarkably little drug use in this series. Like, none at all except milk of the poppy. What's up with that?

So that's about it for me. If I missed anything, let me know, and otherwise, I'm psyched to hear your responses and looking forward to any questions you've got. 


Robert II of House Vogel

Drew Galloway
May 3 (2 days ago)
to me
I apologize for my response being far shorter than yours. Unfortunately, I'm a vastly inferior writer so my ability to easily formulate well-written sentences and strong paragraphs is quite limited. I'm going to start by answering your questions which I hope will lead me to other thoughts on the show and my own questions for you. 

1. I believe the answer to be fear. By setting these trials in an everyday place rather than a grand combat arena, GoT introduces an added level of fear to these already frightening events. It sends the message that no one is safe and there is no escape from death in this world. If we put these battles in a cage or in an arena or a pit, it makes them less real and gives the audience (both the character audience and the readers/watchers) a sense that anyone can die at any time, in any place.

Thinking of these trials, makes me think of the hound so here's a question for you:

1)What do you make of the Hound? What is his end goal? What purpose does his serve in the story? Do you think the Hound (in the books) is the same as the Hound (in the show)? Most importantly, if you think they're different, explain why and what the subtle differences tell us.

2. The red priest storyline interests me in that i don't totally understand it. I'm not sure why in a story where most characters have no sense of morality, almost all agree that the red god is a terrible thing. But is it? We have met 3 major characters who worship the red god. Obviously stannis is the first--a so called man of honor. Second is jagen h'agar who we have no idea about his true motives. Finally we have thoros who seems to generally be a good man. Ironic i find it that some of the more honorable men have worshipped the red god. I suppose this speaks to the corruption in this world--to effectively compete against the lannisters and others, you must sink to the level of your opponents.

2) My next question is quite simple but one I have yet to figure out. What motivates stannis baratheon? What drives him to such lengths as to hope for shadow children to destroy his enemies?

3. Lord beric is looked at in multiple lights as is typical of most characters. Hated by the lannisters, presumably disliked by the starks (for not joining their war party, but most importantly loved by the commonfolk (that includes us as readers!). You are correct that he is exactly as you describe, an immortal knight of justice---he stands for everything that is lacking in this world. But i would take it a step more----i believe he is a living embodiment of dear old ned stark. Ned gave him a mission & now Beric will fulfill it or continually die trying. Beric is blessed and cursed to live out bringing justice to a completely unjust world.

Now to my final questions:

3) How does tywin lannister truly feel about tyrion? Yes he hates that hes a stunted dwarf & fucks whores but look at the flip side---he does make him Hand (temporarily) and Master of Coin, and now hes given him the beautiful Sophie Turner (nope not that one) aka Sansa Stark as a bride. Yes that Sansa Stark who in tywin's estimation is only a robb stark rogue death away from being heir to winterfell.

Finally one last comment i was thinking of the other day. Can we agree that Winterfell is the spitting image of Boston? Old, cold, harsh, enduring, north, symbolic, site of the first men, revolutionary, its ppl are fiercely loyal to each other---it literally couldnt be more obvious in my mind. Here i turn to theon greyjoy for words of wisdom (really?!?!) when describing Boston, i mean winterfell---"the first time i saw winterfell, it looked like something that had been here for thousands of years and would be here for thousands of years after i was dead....of course ned stark crushed our rebellion and killed my brothers; we never stood a chance against a man who lives here"


Drew W. Galloway

Robbie Vogel <>
11:51 AM (14 minutes ago)
to Drew
Awesome email. Glad they're getting shorter or else they would start to be tedious. Having said that, this will probably be a tome. I was reading this last night and I was like "Yes, finally an essay test I WANT to take." We could teach a class on this shit.
Now, to business.
I like the fear answer. In addition to everything you said, which was definitely true, I feel like it underscores the fluidity of power in this society. Just like anyone can become insanely rich and powerful from very humble beginnings (Varys, Littlefinger), anyone is at risk of dying at any time (Ned Stark, Jeor Mormont, the dude who got gored through the throat by the Mountain in the tourney), so there are really no arenas or situations (at least in Westeros - more about the fighting pits in Meereen) where people can be safe from the action.

As to your Hound questions, I think he is an incredibly important character. Like many of the major characters, he is a study in contradictions, however, unlike almost everyone else, he doesn't really have any loyalties. You never hear anything about the Clegane family, other than Gregor, and really the only thing you hear about their relationship is that Gregor almost burned Sandor's head off. So, his family life is less than stellar. He allegedly killed the butcher's boy because Joffrey ordered it, and I think his quote was: "I'm not in the business of questioning princes." Or something like that. But, in reality, I think that's bullshit. 

I'm going to kind of disregard your questions in order to go on a mini-analysis about the Hound, cuz these thoughts are just coming to me now. 

Characters in this series are driven by what they love. Tywin loves his legacy. Catelyn loves her children. Littlefinger loves power. So what does Sandor Clegane, aka the Hound, truly love? 

He would have you think it's killing. He hacked the butcher's boy down, then his talk with Bronn at the Blackwater kind of cemented the idea. But as soon as he had the chance to do some serious killing, during the battle, he peaced out because of a little fire. Oh boo hoo he's scared of fire because his brother burned his face when he was 5. Didn't stop him from pseudo-killing Beric. I think he's trying to convince HIMSELF that he left because of the fire. I think that he had a change of heart. 

He realized he was fighting for a little bitch, who he could easily snap over his knee, and even though he's probably paid pretty well, it's not what he wanted to do. He was, if not friendly, at least courteous and chivalrous towards Sansa, so we know he's a decent dude. I think his purpose, to get back onto your line of questioning, is to further the view of Westeros as a fractured society, where the people in power are almost always corrupt, and those in service to them display qualities of better human beings. Sandor looked at his life and his choices in that moment at the Blackwater, and decided he wanted to drop all past affiliations and try to start over. 

As for the book vs movie issue, I kind of forget the books, as I often read for speed and not comprehension. But I think he was portrayed as more drunk in the books, which probably means that Martin wanted to really emphasize that he wanted to escape his life more.

The Red God, to me, is kind of a Martin cop-out so far. He hasn't shown any ill effects of worshiping it, and it seems the only reason more people in Westeros don't do it is because they're entrenched in their traditions. 

Stannis is strange. I think he's really just the most stubborn man in the world. He's pretty high up on the "honorable" scale: even though he boinked Melisandre, he did it only to further his chance to win the Iron Throne, and he apologized profusely (even though his wife was cool with it). He has the best claim to the throne, and he's just going to keep pushing his head against a brick wall until he gets it. 

Tywin and Tyrion's relationship is wonderful to watch, knowing what we know from the books. Because make no mistake about it, Tywin fucking HATES Tyrion. He hates that he's a dwarf, hates that he bangs whores, hates that he's always drunk, hates that he's ruining the Lannister's legacy, hates that, as Jaime was in the Kingsguard, Tyrion is the male heir to Casterly Rock. In addition, he hates that Tyrion is exceedingly clever. It would have been easy for Tywin to keep Tyrion locked up or throw him off a cliff or something if he was dumb, but he's actually really smart, and Tywin always underestimates him and then gets pissed about it. His giving of titles (Hand, Coin Master), and women (Sansa) has nothing to do with how he feels about Tyrion and everything to do with keeping the Lannisters in power. He just uses him as a pawn.

I like the idea that Winterfell=Boston. Martin is from New Jersey, so he's got that American bias. Pretty eerie that it's now a gutted ruin and we just went through the Marathon tragedy that blew apart the middle of our city.

However, if you look at the map, it's pretty obvious that Westeros is a stretched-out version of Great Britain. It's the same shape, King's Landing (London) is in the southeast on the water, the IRON ISLANDS (IRE-LAND) is off the west coast, Hell they've even got a modern-day Hadrian's Wall separating the "civilized" people who are ruled by a king from the "wildlings" (those crazy Scots!). 

Anyway, I'm stoked for tonight's episode, even though there were few cliffhangers. Jaime obviously isn't dead after collapsing in his bathtub, and everyone else is in transit: Robb, Arya, Dany, Jon Snow... The only hope we have is more political maneuvering from the puppeteer of King's Landing, Tywin Lannister, and perhaps a glimpse of Yunkai.

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