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You’re on your own when the GoT storm comes

Game of Thrones is back to its brutal best. The first episode, with all its emphasis on humanity and underlying love, turned out to be a red herring. Note to self, if you ever see a herring on GoT, presume it red until proven otherwise. The second episode, ‘Stormborn’, head-bumps you back to Westerosi reality, which is all kinds of horrific, menacing, politicking, murderous, and unstable. The one or two touching instances, including a poignant reunion and a sex scene with a mere quorum of genitalia, are like teardrops of sentimentality trying to heal the greyscale of realpolitik.

The plot’s now hurtling along like wildfire. Timescale-adherence nearly altogether abandoned, we’re now consuming the story like a drunkard chugging rum. When did Yara’s fleet depart from Dragonstone for Sunspear? Was it before or after Euron Greyjoy bid farewell to Cersei with the promise of an Armada and planned his clinical interception/ambush in the Narrow Sea? Is Daenerys Targaryen’s Unsullied army already on the march to Casterly Rock by the time Randyll Tarly reaches King’s Landing on the Queen’s summons over the Targaryen invasion? It’s all very foggy. But the good thing is, we’re being administered the plot in dollops engineered for maximum shock and awe.

But GoT is still all about social commentary and philosophical insight. This time, it marries pragmatism with populism, iron fists with soft hands, and shamelessly winks at our own world’s current political climate. Dany’ regal gravitas grows by the day (or week, or month; who knows with all this timescale warping?), and it feels like she’s already a bona fide Queen of Westeros before even having set foot in King’s Landing. Her third-degree line of questioning with Varys delves deep into the interrelation between machinating and morality, honesty and loyalty, respect and fear. Varys is forced to concede that he does jump ship with the gusto of a Theon Greyjoy in his best diving form, but his underlying motivation is always genuinely “the good of the realm”. A sublime meld of individualism and nationalism, is Varys.

Over in King’s Landing, Queen of the Ashes Cersei is doing the best impression of Donald Trump you’ve seen from a person of significantly large hands. Exhorting her sparse gathering of allies that her reign of terror deserves their support because she alone can save the nation from “heathens and savages”, Cersei successfully squeezes xenophobia, enemy caricaturisation, scaremongering, unbelievable coyness, brazen whitewashing of one’s own crimes, and exaggerated promises, all into a succinct speech worthy of a 3 a.m. White House tweet. And I’m not altogether convinced about Lord Tarly’s readiness to renege on his honourable oath at the slightest mention of “foreigners and eunuchs”, but this is one of those concessions we as viewers must make to the storytellers about the putative authenticity of the characters' actions and choices.

While Cersei is ridiculously persuasive with her fearmongering irrationality, we have Jon Snow struggling to persuade his bannermen with logic and rationality, contending with parochial dissent against his practicality and foresight. I loved how the subtle mise en scènes and contrasting formality protocols further underscored the difference between iron fists and soft hands. While Cersei grandstands to her vassals and demands their fealty, squatting commandingly upon the Iron Throne, Jon walks among his seated allies, beseeching them like a sports team coach to see things his way and accord him consensus. Dany is a different beast altogether, all incontrovertible authority. Perhaps that’s why Varys has chosen her as the rightful, most deserving ruler of the Seven Kingdoms.

Speaking of different beasts, what was that aborted reunion between Arya and her long-lost pet direwolf all about? It felt like an incongruous insertion amid all the other set pieces being moved around. A compelling scene, though, for sure — trust the writers of this wrenching show to depict warmth in bleakness, ratchet fear with erratic jump cuts, paint a character into a corner, infuse the panic with terror, interject with hopeful nostalgia, and rip it all off with a gruff rebuff, all inside a minute. It’s a good thing Arya’s a strong person. I would have sunk to my knees, devastated at seeing a long-lost kindred spirit walk away in wild unentreatable independence. Let alone come up with a wry hat-tip to my own words from back in Season One.

The less said about Euron’s ambush, the better. It’s a spectacle — of sheer mania, anarchy, and existentialism — to watch. The Drowned God may have water in his lungs, but Euron has deranged despotism in his. And I didn’t ever expect to feel any more nihilism through Theon’s storyline, but there’s no way this show’s going to let all its castrated men have a happy episode. 11 more to go. And Jorah Mormont only has months to live with mental equilibrium, which could mean anything in this season’s timescale. But fear not, he’s in Samwell’s caring hands — hands that two episodes worth of menial labour have rendered equally adept at handling excrement, pus, and false guacamole. Dany’s well-laid battle plans may have run into stormy weather, but there’s always hope. Or is that a red herring?

 


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Printable version | Jun 14, 2021 7:22:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/youre-on-your-own-when-the-got-storm-comes/article19358830.ece

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