Anatomy of a Throne: “Kill the Boy”

HBO’s Game of Thrones (typically, and before this current season) brandishes a consistent and high degree of fidelity to the nearly 5,000-page-long source material of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, but there still, of course, are differences. While most of these gaps from the page to the screen are small and detail-oriented, it is nonetheless the case that the most subtle discrepancies often hold the biggest insight into the adaptation process, into the demands of filmmaking, and into the rigors of the literary narrative. This, then, is the anatomy of a key scene of Thrones – not because of its dramatic importance or visual effects whizbangery, but because of the telling nature of its realization.

Episode: “Kill the Boy” (505)
Scene: Dany’s marriage proposal

With the Sons of the Harpy continuing to expand their insurgency, Queen Daenerys Targaryen turns to the counsel of a trusted friend on the best way to proceed – a path, as it turns out, that includes marrying one of the longest-running families of Meereen to try and further reconcile herself with her new people’s culture. The object of her plan is none other than Hizdahr zo Loraq, an extraordinarily wealthy noble who wishes to reopen the city’s fighting pits. Hizdahr zo Loraq This is where the similarities between A Dance with Dragons and Game of Thrones ends, and their differences begin with this one single fact: the former’s version of events may be far more detailed and, perhaps, nuanced, but the latter’s is far more dramatic and, therefore, interesting. The alterations begin with Hizdahr himself. In the television series, he is rather flat, straightforward, no-nonsense – a former Great Master who ultimately finds himself becoming Daenerys’s ambassador to the slave city of Yunkai and, shortly thereafter, a member of her Meereenese small council. (He is also introduced far earlier in the story, when Dany first marches upon Meereen [“Breaker of Chains,” episode 403], cementing his relationship with both the audience and the queen earlier in the narrative.) Hizdahr zo Loraq's speech In the novel, he is merely a noble businessman, buying the city’s fighting pits at a reduced price after the Mother of Dragons orders their closure and, thereafter, endlessly petitioning her to reopen them, to continue the traditions of a people that sees her mostly as a savage foreigner (and also, it goes without saying, to make an obscene amount of money – which is quite the opposite of wanting to reopen the pits to secure a political bargain with one of Meereen’s sister cities). And although Hizdahr’s role in the story is much more constrained on the page than it is on the screen, his character is far more dynamic – funny, well-spoken, refined, engaging. It’s hard to think of a character who has changed as much in the adaptation process (relative to the amount of screen time he’s had, that is to say). The nature and role of the trusted friend is also considerably divergent. Rather than introducing yet another new character for Dany to interact with, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss opted to yet again simply reuse the show’s core cast, both regular and recurring (a decision which is entirely in keeping with literally every one of the previous 44 episodes); thus, it is Missandei, a long-standing presence on the show (she was first introduced in “Valar Dohaeris” [301]) and the only remaining servant to the queen (quite unlike Martin’s version of the story, which sees all of her Dothraki handmaidens still present), who advises Daenerys on the best way forward. What’s important to note here is how the former slave girl manages to prod her liege into marrying into Meereen – which is, essentially, only inadvertently. By telling Dany that she often sees a path that no one else can, it sets off the epiphany within the queen, moving her into action and, thereby, making her the master of her own fate. Missandei It is, needless to say, exactly the opposite situation in the source material. The Mother of Dragons is visited by a high priestess of Meereen, a venerable older woman whom Daenerys has come to implicitly trust. After noting the ever-more-deteriorating situation in the Meereenese streets between the insurgents and the Unsullied (along with other, newly-minted occupation forces that Weiss and Benioff chose to keep on the cutting room floor), this advisor promptly suggests that Dany marry into one of the noble families, and to do so fast. She even has the perfect candidate picked out and, what’s more, has brought him along to help convince her of the proposition. In this way, of course, all agency has been squarely removed from Dany, which makes her more of a reactive character rather than a proactive one (a situation similar to Queen Regent Cersei Baratheon’s predicament in the previous episode). Then there’s the background action leading to the marriage proposal. In the book, Daenerys’s chosen course of action is to collect “wards” – read: young children – from each of the great families of Meereen to officially act as cupbearers and servants but, in reality, to serve as hostages to guarantee the nobles’ good behavior; should the Sons of the Harpy continue their campaign of terror, the queen will execute her young charges (which is precisely the same scenario behind Theon Greyjoy’s presence at Winterfell for the decade before the series starts). Of course, once it’s made clear that the killings haven’t been affected in the slightest, Dany can’t bring herself to actually take the lives of her innocents, which helps push her into accepting the idea of marrying Hizdahr zo Loraq. Lunch! In “Kill the Boy,” Daenerys Targaryen takes her ire out directly on the Great Masters themselves (an ire certainly helped along by the death of Ser Barristan Selmy, a character who is very much still alive in the books and who, in fact, has actually become one of the protagonists of the series), shepherding them into the dungeon where two of her dragons are being held captive, and even allowing one of them to be gobbled up by Viserion and Rhaegal. It’s easy to see how the showrunners would want to present a softer, kinder side of the Mother of Dragons – yes, having a terrified man be burnt alive and torn to pieces is certainly more amenable than even just the threat of slicing the throats of precious children, particularly to a modern television audience – but it also serves as the perfect dramatic bridge to Hizdahr’s fate, going from would-be sacrificial offering to fiancé in the blink of a confused eye. Which takes us to the scene in question itself. The original version has Daenerys sitting at a table in her private residence at the top of the Great Pyramid while Hizdahr zo Loraq attempts to convince her of the utility of the marriage proposal. “Utility” is actually a rather apropos word – while the Meereenese noble speaks eloquently and logically, he doesn’t speak passionately. It’s something Dany notes, even directly to his face:

“You have not said you love me.”

“I will, if it would please Your Radiance.”

“That is not the answer of a man in love.”

“What is love? Desire? No man with all his parts could ever look on you and not desire you, Daenerys. That is not why I would marry you, however. Before you came, Meereen was dying. Our rulers were old men with withered cocks and crones whose puckered cunts were dry as dust. They sat atop their pyramids sipping apricot wine and talking of the glories of the Old Empire whilst the centuries slipped by and the very bricks of the city crumbled all around them. Custom and caution had an iron grip upon us till you awakened us with fire and blood. A new time has come, and new things are possible. Marry me.”

He is not hard to look at, Dany told herself, and he has a king’s tongue. “Kiss me,” she commanded.

He took her hand again, and kissed her fingers.

“Not that way. Kiss me as if I were your wife.”

Hizdahr took her by the shoulders as tenderly as if she were a baby bird. Leaning forward, he pressed his lips to hers. His kiss was light and dry and quick. Dany felt no stirrings.

“Shall I… kiss you again?” he asked when it was over.

“No.”

Meereen All good leaders must make sacrifices for their subjects, the queen of Meereen surmises, so marrying an individual whom she feels absolutely nothing for would ultimately be perfectly acceptable – so long as the violence can stop. She decides to counter his matter-of-factness with her own utilitarian proposition: should the Sons of the Harpy not strike for the next 90 days, she will marry him. Hizdahr gladly accepts the challenge and walks out, leaving behind only a scowling Barristan the Bold in his wake. Ironically enough, it is Game of Thrones’s Hizdahr zo Loraq who is the more dynamic, pleading with his monarch to spare his life while on his knees and with tears in his eyes (though he still retains a great deal of the rationality that his literary counterpart displays; his comment of “Apparently, I do not want to die at all” is not only remarkably cogent and self-deprecating, it’s also an extremely clever bit of writing, one worthy of George Martin himself). Even the setting is more dramatic – a small cell with burning torches floating in the background and a small bit of harsh natural lighting that only frames the prisoner on his knees. Benioff and Weiss certainly play the scene to its dramatic hilt, replete with his captors leaving behind only an open door to freedom – and an uncertain future.

Previous installments

“The Wars to Come” (501)

“High Sparrow” (503)

“Sons of the Harpy” (504)

65 responses

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    1. Nice piece! Like I mentioned in another thread, I think this version of the marriage proposal was an improvement, and I actually really like Joel Fry’s portrayal of Hizdahr on the show. I’ll be very interested to see where things go from here.

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    2. I like that Dany and Cersei have more of a proactive role in their futures.
      Makes for better television, especially w/ the loss of their internal monologue.

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    3. I definitely prefer the proactive approach of Show Dany to the infuriatingly oblivious and detached attitude she had in ADWD. She comes across as smarter and stronger here-but her willingness to feed a possibly innocent man to her dragons also hints at her having some of the Targaryen madness as well which is interesting and may be foreshadowing.

      And yeah I think Joel Fry is killing it as Hizdar….and actually has real chemistry with Emilia Clarke.

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    4. Excellent piece! I agree very much. I think that Hizdahr is the most clearly improved character from books to show. Whereas I didn’t care much for his book counterpart, the show has made me incredibly invested in his fate over the course of just a few scenes. That comes down to brilliant writing and acting. (I’d say direction too, if I knew anything about directing.) The Antigone speech makes a great first impression, immediately associating him with shades-of-grey morality that Dany didn’t expect to find with regard to Meereenese nobility. He even kneels before her in that first scene, a parallel with the scene where she spares his life and states her intention to marry him. It’s been a very interesting journey from the first moment we see him, looking down from the walls of Meereen, from a position of power, to his last scene in this week’s episode, looking up at Dany in a cell in Meereen, in a position of no power at all. I wonder if his descent has made him realise just how necessary it was for Dany to abolish slavery, how painful it is to be a disposable human being with no control over one’s own fate. I can’t wait to see what happens with him next.

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    5. winnie,

      I definitely prefer the proactive approach of Show Dany to the infuriatingly oblivious and detached attitude she had in ADWD

      Totally agree. I really hated Dany by DWD; reading her was like being in the mind of a teenage girl without escape. Now, she’s really coming in her own.

      Really enjoy these posts, looking forward to them each week!

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    6. Estelindis,

      The Antigone speech makes a great first impression, immediately associating him with shades-of-grey morality that Dany didn’t expect to find with regard to Meereenese nobility.

      I’d not connected that speech to Antigone when I first saw that episode. Now its like, d’oh. I played in a production of that in HS. Fun to see it mentioned on this site!

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    7. I also think that Fry’s Hizdar is more empathetic in the show than in the books. It’s another area where the show seems to be improving upon the source material. I noticed you called him “flat” in the show version, but I respectfully disagree. While Hizdar’s motives and allegiances remain up for debate in the books, show!Hizdar is portrayed to love not only his father, but the city, its citizens, and their traditions.

      Hizzy, Shireen, Gilly, Ramsey, Pod, Olenna, Margaery, Grey Worm, Missandei, Yoren, and Osha have all received this same “fleshing out” treatment, for the better, imo.

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    8. Liked the theme, as soon as Ser Barristan is dead we catch the first glimpse of Fire + Blood Dany. Looking forward to it even more in S6 and WoW – look out Khal Maego…

      Thing is, the way those Heads of family overly whimpered like cowards is a dead giveaway they aren’t behind the Harpies and they are merely merchants (really hard not to get a sense they are pandering to a whole snivelling men around strong woman stereotype, it is a bit OTT but the entire show has been like that), a major contrast to the guy who got “kill the masters”ed at the beginning of the season who was defiant when that freed slave came for him

      Reckon they are Ghiscari “nationalists” who hate Dany not because if freeing slaves etc but because quite simply she is a Targ/Valyrian which makes it all less US Civil War and KKK aftermath and more Israel/Palestine… Subscribe to the theory the Whore woman is actually “Mother of the Harpies”, a great opposite to Dany in Slavers Bay tbh

      This is interesting from the perspective of Hizdahr and even some of the other “collaborator” Masters, who would be in as much danger from nationalist Sons of the Harpy as anyone else

      To see how Daznaks unfolds should be fascinating, this could be building up to the fact that it simply won’t work (as in the books but for entirely different reasons)

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    9. I miss Quaithe and the Green Grace and even Reznak mo Reznak. THERE I SAID IT.

      Which is a weird omission, because

      I’m 98.5% sure the Green Grace is the head of the Harpy.

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    10. I think the prostitue will be the green grace on the show and giz dahr will make a few moves behind khaleesis back I think Dario is gonna do so back alley moves behind her back to. Than I think stannis is gonna come across yara greyjoys team capture them
      And make an alliance with them , sending Davis with her back to the iron islands to get another fleet than meet back at the nights watch . To take kings landing ,than for the watch happens . I’m geussin the snows gonna get to the iron born before they can head for the stint shore , that’ll be our intro do the greyjoy uncles , and prolong the stannis vs roose fight till next year and still make great tv

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    11. I still think of the preview and think why is queen Celsius is on the ground ? When stannis is dead or If stannis is not azor ahai and Mel will reveal it in beautiful fashion or perhaps maybe the crows eye can see right threw her

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    12. Grand maester giz,

      And then aegon invades westeros with jorah connington and arienne martell marries him and then they take over kings landing and varys turns into a dragon and flies to the north and revives all the ice zombies and then stannis mounts varys dragon and go kill euron greyjoy and euron is really jaqen hagar who is also syrios foreals and then lady stoneheart dies again

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    13. I quite enjoyed Daenerys’ “order” of marriage to Hizdar; he clearly had not much choice in the matter. What a contrast to all the marriages and even would-be marriages in Westeros (I am reminded of Tywin ordering Cersei to marry Loras!) In the space of a very short time, with Barristan’s death, Daenerys went from uncertain young woman to deciding decisively on her own. As Aemon said to Jon, the important thing is to make your own decision, not vacillate. I can’t help but feel that Hizdar is not as innocent and straightforward as he has appeared to be. I think we’ll find out where he stands before the season ends.

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    14. Renly’s Peach,

      The absence of any other Meereenese characters is rather pointed, I think.

      I think Hizdar will be the head Harpy on the show

      I was hoping Quaithe would return this season.

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    15. D&D missed out on cuting the whole “free the slaves” thing and have Dany head straight to Westeros.

      She was the most popular female character at the begining of the show only to become the most hated. I´ve got this by reading other TV forums.

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    16. Thank you Marc for that insightful piece on the change of dynamics of Dany’s & Hizdahr motivations. I had forgotten how it envolved in the books, only that Hizdahr appeared to be the Ghisgari version of Littlefinger and Dany was being influenced by a myriad of characters.

      Estelindis,

      Great insight into Hizdahr’s position and Joel Fry’s portrayal of him. Your line “how painful it is to be a disposable human being with no control over one’s own fate” made me realise he would be the perfect person to leave in control of Meereen once Daenerys decides to return to Westeros.
      She can’t leave Meereen in a state of rebellion and war, otherwise her credibility to rule would gain her few supporters.

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    17. Annie Wilkes,

      Dany heading straight to Westeros would have been a huge mistake because that means her Dragons would not be close to being as big or as powerful as they are right now.

      If Dany went to King’s Landing with just “kid dragons” she would have gotten her Butt handed to her by Tywin and lanterses lol

      She would need dragons like this if she headed straight to Westeros
      http://fc03.deviantart.net/fs70/f/2012/008/6/a/the_fall_of_harrenhal_by_reneaigner-d4lr28c.jpg

      Not this
      http://img1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20120430174838/gameofthrones/images/b/b4/Drogon_eats.jpg

      http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20130423062524/gameofthrones/images/1/1f/Drogon_emerges_S3E4.jpg

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    18. The return of assertive Dany seems to be about speeding up her story arc. The viewers need some momentum in her storyline.

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    19. Nice essay Marc! I like that they gave Dany some agency instead of making her a pawn in someone else’s plans again.

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    20. Marc

      is not only remarkably cogent and self-deprecating, it’s also an extremely clever bit of writing, one worthy of George Martin himself

      Wow, that’s a bold claim! There will be blood… 😉

      I just about prefer the way Dany’s story/arc is being progressed to the books but not without some reservations. I found Hizdhar a bit irritating in ADWD ( which may well be intended, to encourage the reader to think he’s duplicitous and behind the SotH ) but just a bit more sympathetic so far in the show.

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    21. LordDavos:
      The return of assertive Dany seems to be about speeding up her story arc. The viewers need some momentum in her storyline.

      That, and they only get about eight scenes with her this season before the climax. In trying to cram 2000+ pages of text into 600 minutes of TV, everything that wasn’t jettisoned has been sped up. It has to be to fit it all in. I think this most strongly shows up for Dany and Cersei. While their plots are probably the closest to the books, they are also very accelerated. Unfortunately a lot of subtlety gets lost along the way, but this was pretty much baked into the cake as soon as the decision to cram AFFC/ADWD into one season was made. Clever writing can only make up for a little bit of the lack of time necessary for deeper plots to develop. Thus, Dany’s plot feels rushed and her mood swings a bit wild, while Cersei’s plot makes her out to be an idiot because when the web she is spinning has only one major strand, it is obvious which one will break.

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    22. I thought Hizdar in the books was a kind of forgettable scumbag, but I’m really loving Fry’s version. He’s very endearing and seems like someone who had to step up to the plate after his father’s (frankly horrific) death. I’d hope his marriage to Dany means she could entrust Meereen to him, but we still have the Harpies to untangle and we’re not sure how Hizdar fits in…

      If he’s the Harpy it wouldn’t be surprsing. Would Daenarys return to Westeros and prostrate herself before her father’s killer?

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    23. Chad Brick,

      You posited this same thing–that it’s obvious what’s going to bite Cersei in the ass, making her seem all the more stupider–on multiple threads now, but you have to be careful not to let your book knowledge colour the way you feel about these things.

      Sure, even for a non-reader it’s somewhat obvious that the Faith Militant is going to have an important role in the future, likely leading (in part, at least) to some kind of complication for Cersei. However, and I don’t know about you, the same was true for me while reading the books. I remember noting to myself that giving a new and zealous military force the official sanction is going to end very badly one way or another. In fact, in retrospect, I feel it was much more obvious in the books that Cersei is in for a rough ride because there the idea to rearm the Faith came from High Sparrow and not from Cersei.

      Additionally, we (particularly the Unsullied) don’t know what role, if any, will Tyrells have further down the line and then there’s the reintroduction of Kevan which could also bode ill for Cersei given his open disdain for her.

      Try to step away from the books a bit. Might do you wonders! 😉

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    24. Mr Fixit:
      Chad Brick,

      You posited this same thing–that it’s obvious what’s going to bite Cersei in the ass, making her seem all the more stupider–on multiple threads now, but you have to be careful not to let your book knowledge colour the way you feel about these things.

      Sure, even for a non-reader it’s somewhat obvious that the Faith Militant is going to have an important role in the future, likely leading (in part, at least) to some kind of complication for Cersei. However, and I don’t know about you, the same was true for me while reading the books. I remember noting to myself that giving a new and zealous military force the official sanction is going to end very badly one way or another. In fact, in retrospect, I feel it was much more obvious in the books that Cersei is in for a rough ride because there the idea to rearm the Faith came from High Sparrow and not from Cersei.

      Additionally, we (particularly the Unsullied) don’t know what role, if any, will Tyrells have further down the line and then there’s the reintroduction of Kevan which could also bode ill for Cersei given his open disdain for her.

      Try to step away from the books a bit. Might do you wonders!

      I normally watch with three unsullied. All three of them were instantly on to what was going to happen in the general sense the moment TV-Cersei

      blurted out the sinner-in-our-midst line. Every unsullied review I read was the same. Many even included it in their headline and title. Especially with Lancel back in town, it is just completely obvious that the Sparrows will go after Cersei directly.

      Just look at this chapter summary from AFFC. Cersei is simultaneously plotting against the Faith, some of the Freys, Dorne, the Ironborn, the Iron Bank, Jon Snow, Margaery, her uncle Kevan, and Stannis, while being in on the Winterfell wedding scheme and dealing with the deceptive Littlefinger, the double (or triple, or quadruple) agent Taena, the Vale lords and Manderly. And that is just one chapter! Yeah, it was obvious something in this was going to blow up in her face and in fact multiple bombs will go off in the end. But it was far from obvious which bomb was going to go off first and biggest until the High Sparrow said No.

      In the show, she is just using the Sparrows to get at the Tyrells. There was an echo of the Iron Bank element, but that was clearly just a device to get Trant to Braavos I think. She lashed out at Dorne by sending Jaime, but that just appeared to be a dumb reaction to what was likely a forgery. She seems completely ignorant of anything going on north of the capital in the show as well.

      Book Cersei over-estimated herself. TV Cersei is just dumb.

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    25. Chad Brick,

      Actually I thought book Cersei was even dumber since she was literally screwing up the Realm on every possible front….giving Aurane Waters his own fleet was an especially head slapping moment.

      ShowCersei is an idiot too of course. Her problem is she always goes for a short term strategy without considering the long term consequences.

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    26. Chad Brick,

      You’re giving book Cersei way too much credit. That woman is a walking disaster from the first minute we get to her PoV. You’re also seriously straining the definition of plotting that could undo her. Manderly, Frey, Jon Snow, Victarion… really? Is there anyone who read the books that thought that these guys would be it? The only thing I’ll grant you is the Iron Bank because the show took a different route there that last season. Everything else is still here. Stannis is here, just like in the books, Dorne is here (remember the viper and the necklace from Episode 1?), Margaery and Tyrells are here, Kevan is here (and left on very bad terms with Cersei), Littlefinger is going to show up in KL in the next episode. If the previews are correct, LF and Cersei will talk about the Vale’s loyalty.

      Really Chad, you’re way off base here. Claiming the book Cersei is, of all things, smarter and subtler than her show counterpart… that’s gotta be a first.

      You cite the Unsullied sniffing something is up as proof of her stupidity. Well, I call that poetic justice! Many Unsullied immediately knew that Ned will be screwed in some way when he refused Renly’s help, many conjectured that Dany could turn Drogon against the Masters in Astapor, or that Robb made a grave mistake marrying Talisa and insulting Walder Frey (how many times did Catelyn remind him of that?), and so on, and so on. Knowing that something is going to go wrong is one thing, knowing exactly what will happen is quite another. As Wimsey might say: noticing the gun on the wall is all well and good. But when and how will that gun go off? That’s the real question! And I’m 100% sure that the Unsullied will have no idea just how dark it gets for Cersei courtesy of High Sparrow. In my book that’s called foreshadowing!

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    27. I feel sorry for show!Hizdahr. He’s being forced to marry someone who killed his father, broke his people, threatened him with death and horribly murdered some innocent in front of him. Poor Hizdahr got the Sansa treatment.

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    28. lalla,

      That’s actually quite the astute observation. I might have to steal that for a future article. 😉

      I’m a huge Diane Rehm fan, and one of the great things about listening to that show is just how educated, diverse, and insightful her listeners are. I’m extraordinarily pleased to say the same thing about the readers here at Watchers on the Wall — there are several comments in this thread alone that could easily be spun off into their own full-blown features (hint, hint).

      Thanks, everyone. 🙂

      ~M.

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    29. winnie: Her problem is she always goes for a short term strategy without considering the long term consequences

      Ditto that for Book!Cersei. Her re-arming the Church was the most obvious example of that in both book and show. (Her book decision regarding the Iron Bank was an even worse example: but the show has made her decision only foolish, not egregiously mind-blowingly inane.) Cersei’s short-term goals were a little different in book and show: but the tactic is equally foolish and short-sighted in either case.

      Cersei has two huge flaws (in both media): she cannot grasp that there are people more intelligent than she is, and she cannot grasp that facts of which she is ignorant might be important (or are even facts). Of course, these two flaws are strongly correlated in real people, so this makes Cersei pretty realistic, too. She’s basically Sarah Palin in Westeros.

      lalla: He’s being forced to marry someone who killed his father, broke his people, threatened him with death and horribly murdered some innocent in front of him. Poor Hizdahr got the Sansa treatment.

      At first blush, I might agree. However, we might change our minds about that! The question will certainly arise as to

      who is running the Harpies. The show has eliminated the most likely book culprits save Hizdhar. (My money is still on the Green Grace being the Harpy, but Book Hizdhar very likely and very probably thinks (though) himself to be in close collaboration with the Harpy.) I am betting that the TV show goes with Hizdhar: that will be much the simpler, and the changes to Hizdhar have been to make him more Green Grace-like.

      But the Sansa observation is notable because one could argue that what the book does makes Daeny look too Sansaesque: and that’s not good for the #1 protagonist of the series! Moreover, it made a strong parallel to the other #1 protagonist of the series: Jon. Both Daeny and Jon are making political alliances that will rub people the wrong way not because they want to do so, but because they need to do so as part of a larger strategy. We are getting strange bedfellows figuratively and literally here! An additional plus is that Sansa’s storyline now is paralleling both Jon’s and Daeny’s in this way: and having protagonists parallel each other is always a good way to reinforce story.

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    30. Annie Wilkes,

      Well, thank god you (or all those forum people) aren’t in charge of writing this story. You have no idea what her full arc is. How do you even know she’s heading to Westeros? Did you read GRRM’s manuscripts? ARE YOU GRRM??? GET BACK TO WRITING OLD MAN!

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    31. Renly’s Peach: You have no idea what her full arc is. How do you even know she’s heading to Westeros?

      There is a huge range between “knowing it all” and “knowing nothing.” Unless GRRM is an even worse writer than his harshest critics claim, then we should have a good idea where Daeny’s arc is heading. (And, yes, she’s going to Westeros: or GRRM is, indeed, even worse than his harshest critics claim.)

      However, I find it really implausible that Daeny has become unpopular by freeing slaves. In general, that makes people more popular. (Well, except in the American South, of course…. 🙂 ) Moreover, having Daeny just head straight back would have been all plot and no story: and that would have reduced the popularity of the character and the show. It’s how the characters are evolving through a series of “you cannot have it both way” situations rather than the specifics of what they are doing that attracts the audience that watches these types of series. (Or at least that is the common denominator of the popular cable TV series!)

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    32. lalla,

      Interesting observations. I can’t say that I fell sorry for ShowHizdahr but I certainly have more sympathy for him and his position than I did for his book counterpart. (BookHizdahr was creepy.) Joel Fry is doing a great job of bringing a degree of elegance and authority to the role.

      And I also think that he is the Harpy in the show.

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    33. Wimsey:She’s basically Sarah Palin in Westeros.

      I’ve always thought, in all honesty, that Martin was going for a George W. Bush parallel, particularly given the time period when he was writing it (and given Cersei’s grasp of foreign policy).

      Not to veer the conversation into a political slant, of course. I only bring it up because you did. 🙂

      ~M.

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    34. Marc N. Kleinhenz,

      There actually are a lot of people from throughout history that fit this unfortunate. This one sticks in my head because an “unsullied” asked me if GRRM based Cersei on Palin: he was unaware that the series started so long ago. (Also, even Palin’s former supporters seem to have abandoned her, so she’s safe “pickings.”)

      But, yeah, Cersei’s fixation on Margaery rather than the real problems certainly parallels W’s fixation on Sadam Hussein rather than Al Queda (although I suppose that it would be like Cersei convincing herself that Margaery was actually the one controlling Stannis and the other rebels). It could well have been an inspiration: I admit that I hadn’t thought of that.

      mariamb,
      I think that you are right. I think it’s very notable that the modifications to Hizdhar’s character (he’s much easier to “like” on TV than in the book, where he just oozes insincerity) make him more like the person many people suspect to be the Person of Interest.

      And, of course, it would be very GRRM: once again, a good deed will not go unpunished!

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    35. mariamb,
      Wimsey,

      I also like show Hizdahr much better (particularly after this week’s episode) so if he does turn out to be

      the guy behind the Harpies it will hurt and confound us even more.

      And yet another instance where the subtlety added to a character on the show that doesn’t exist in the books adds so much more to the story. In this instance (and a couple of others) D&D are actually improving on GRRM’s tale. Me likey!

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    36. Wimsey,

      i agree and i remember how at the end of season 3 almost every podcast i heard or saw wanted to see dany somehow struggle because she been in such rising position at the end of season 3 ..now that she she had her dificulties and struggles for two season people will appreciate her more when the last two seasons air and in the last two books as well

      i blame GRRM for creating new names and making a blue haired yellow tooth darrio which all makes it look like he intentionally wants people to hate her ADWD arc..after all we all know it was the arc that was stalling because of other arc’s to reach the point and dragons to grow

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    37. Joel Fry is great as Hizdahr; even when groveling on his knees he has a certain intelligence and patrician dignity. He has good chemistry with Emilia Clarke’s Dany as well, as others have pointed out. He’s not an overly sympathetic character, but he’s not the sleazy, oily type from the books, either.

      I’m pretty sure that Hizdahr is the TV Harpy. What I’m interested in is whether it will be confirmed how and when Hizdahr went over to the Harpy. It could be that Dany made an enemy out of Hizdahr by her actions.

      It would be very nuanced and interesting if Dany made an enemy out of a man who otherwise would have proven an ally through a) arbitrarily executing his father, b) contemptuously dismissing his suggestions about the fighting pits, c) threatening him with death by dragon, d) forcing him to watch the brutal killing of a man inches away, and e) forcing him to marry her. The last one is particularly egregious for Dany, given that she has firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to be forced into an unwanted marriage. I’m sure that because Dany is “heroic” in the show, if Hizdahr does turn on her or turns out to have been allied with the Sons of the Harpy all along, it will be revealed through a moustache-twirling speech where Hizdahr raves at Dany about always having hated her. Oh, well.

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    38. M,

      No, I don’t think they will do the mustache twirling thing at all. If they do, why bother to introduce any subtlety into the character at all? And they have done a great job of adding that to show Hizdahr. I think your list of why he might turn on Dany is spot on

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    39. M,

      in other words there will always be a reason to blame dany for hizdar’s actions

      and what you saying is true that dany is hero so they will change dont you think they would have made the change from the start itself and not made a sympathetic hizdar..and what do you mean by heroic in the show she is heroic in the books too

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    40. Dame Pasty:

      And yet another instance where the subtlety added to a character on the show that doesn’t exist in the books adds so much more to the story.

      And I think that subtlety is important to Hizdahr’s character. You don’t quite trust him in the show – at least I don’t.

      M,

      I love your description of him as having “patrician dignity.” He definitely conveys the manner of an aristocrat. However, I doubt that he will give us a “moustache-twirling speech.”

      I suspect that he will get BBQd in Daznak’s Pit so perhaps no time for such a speech. I think that we will see his treachery moments before hungry, angry Drogon shows up. However, I’m usually wrong about these things.

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    41. Wimsey: She’s basically Sarah Palin in Westeros.

      I bet, at some point, she even claimed to be able to see Essos from the Red Keep. 🙂

      Wimsey: (Well, except in the American South, of course…. 🙂 )

      My apologies for going off-topic for a moment, but what is it with you and “the American South?” There was your comment last week about marital rape and the American South, and now this. You do realize there have been those opposed to the ending of slavery in every society in which it existed?

      Back on topic – I am almost certain Hizdar is somehow behind the Sons. I do like Dany being the one to suggest the marriage, but that is mainly because, if Hizdar is who I think he is, how will Dany react when she realizes she set up her own marriage to the man who is responsible for the death of so many who fought for her, Ser Barristan being foremost among them.

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    42. Mr Fixit:
      Chad Brick,

      You’re giving book Cersei way too much credit. That woman is a walking disaster from the first minute we get to her PoV. You’re also seriously straining the definition of plotting that could undo her. Manderly, Frey, Jon Snow, Victarion… really? Is there anyone who read the books that thought that these guys would be it? The only thing I’ll grant you is the Iron Bank because the show took a different route there that last season. Everything else is still here. Stannis is here, just like in the books, Dorne is here (remember the viper and the necklace from Episode 1?), Margaery and Tyrells are here, Kevan is here (and left on very bad terms with Cersei), Littlefinger is going to show up in KL in the next episode. If the previews are correct, LF and Cersei will talk about the Vale’s loyalty.

      Really Chad, you’re way off base here. Claiming the book Cersei is, of all things, smarter and subtler than her show counterpart… that’s gotta be a first.

      You cite the Unsullied sniffing something is up as proof of her stupidity. Well, I call that poetic justice! Many Unsullied immediately knew that Ned will be screwed in some way when he refused Renly’s help, many conjectured that Dany could turn Drogon against the Masters in Astapor, or that Robb made a grave mistake marrying Talisa and insulting Walder Frey (how many times did Catelyn remind him of that?), and so on, and so on. Knowing that something is going to go wrong is one thing, knowing exactly what will happen is quite another. As Wimsey might say: noticing the gun on the wall is all well and good. But when and how will that gun go off? That’s the real question! And I’m 100% sure that the Unsullied will have no idea just how dark it gets for Cersei courtesy of High Sparrow. In my book that’s called foreshadowing!

      It’s not just that they “sniffed something up”. They ALL knew it from the start. No sniffing required. And Cersei being detained by the Sparrows and being punished for her past crimes is the completely obvious consequence. D&D even foreshadowed the specific type of punishment.

      Yes, those other elements you list are “here” as in “the relevant characters exist in the show”, but TV-Cersei has no anti-Kevan plot, anti-Jon plot, anti-Stannis plot, anti-Dorne plot (Jaime does, but it is idiotic), or anti-anybody plot except for Margaery and Mace. TV-Cersei is grossly under-informed relative to Book-Cersei as well. TV-Cersei clearly has no idea about anything going on in the north, or we wouldn’t be having a LF/Cersei scene next week that involved anything other than LF’s head on a pike. TV-Cersei was also too dumb to even consider that the snake from E1 might have been a forgery. And if she buys LF’s obvious lies about the Vale (which in TV-universe should be completely out of his control now as he betrayed the Vale lords by giving Sansa to Ramsay), it will be another colossal and inexplicable round of stupidity on her part. S1-S3 Cersei was not stupid. Book Cersei was not stupid. S5 Cersei is falling into traps even a blind man could see.

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    43. You lost me there. Why would she consider the snake to be a forgery? I will repeat, though, that your posts really are a first for me: Gods know enough people hate show Cersei as opposed to book Cersei (hello Linda!), but I haven’t yet seen anyone contend that she’s stupider.

      And come on Chad. Book Cersei ARMED the Faith Militant! It wasn’t even her idea; the High Sparrow played her like a fiddle. In what universe is that not a colossal stupidity even a blind man can see? Then she goes straight on and fucks over the Iron Bank, employs (after fucking them first, of course) the most inept idiots to carry out the silliest vendettas against the Tyrells. And that’s when she’s not busy handing over the whole Royal Fleet to some hot guy. THAT Cersei is smarter than Lena’s? Really? REALLY?

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    44. Just on the George W/Dany discussion – when Daario spoke in Kill The Boy about pushing the sons of the Harpy out city district by city district that did remind me of US policy in Baghdad at one point.

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    45. Dame Pasty,

      Yeah, it certainly works better on TV. Of course, I suppose that we cannot yet state for certain that something like this is not happening in the books: there is a (I think) minority view that

      Hizdhar is the Harpy.

      (I am skeptical, mind you: but that’s secondary.). Regardless, “me likey 2!”

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    46. Nymeria Warrior Queen,

      Lol… Sorry, it was a comment on the fact that Abraham Lincoln is not a terribly popular historical figure in the American South. Much as the Meerenese think that Daeny has some selfish motive for wanting to end slavery, many people there believe that the “War of Northern Aggression” was fought under false pretenses.

      My comments last week was simply to remind people that the idea that a husband could rape his wife is such a modern one that it is still denied by some people. This has been a general issue in the US because, for a variety of reason, conservative politicians (particularly albeit not exclusively) from the American South have been trying to have legal definitions of rape contracted. There have been some quotes about matital rape (or why there can be no such thing) that have been so ludicrous that you almost want to laugh at them (although it is not funny).

      However, it is pertinent here because if you value women only for their ovaries (as in Westeros and still some extant societies), then the idea that a husband could rape his wife is nearly oxymoronic just as the idea that someone would oppose slavery for philosophical rather than selfish reasons might be to some.

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    47. Wimsey,

      You may want to be careful with your generalizations. Abraham Lincoln is well-respected and admired throughout the south, and just because there are a few (mostly of a much older generation) who still even refer to it as “the War of Northern Aggression) does not mean they are at all representative of most of the people in that region. The same can be said for those few politicians who are trying to change the legal definition of rape. Just because that’s what they’re trying to do does not mean it is at all representative of the majority of people there. Moreover, as I already pointed out, it has to do with religion, not the region from which they hail. Are you going to say Southern Californians think gay people should be put to death because there’s some idiot lawyer who is trying to get a measure put on the ballots that gay people should be killed?

      I have no problem with the idea it is pertinent here because of how the society is set up in Westeros, what I do find problematic is you making sweeping generalizations about people in the south.

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    48. Nymeria Warrior Queen,

      Given that the views are prominent enough to affect who they elect to public office and what they demand gets put into their history books, it is hardly a “sweeping generalization.” To the contrary, these are talking points for people trying (and successfully trying in many cases) to win votes.

      But this skirts the point I have been trying to make. People have frequently applied very modern notions to how they think characters should react to events or be perceived by others. Now, it’s good that these people (hopefully!) apply these notions to the way that they live. However, we must not make the mistake of treating these notions concerning women, the lower classes, etc., either as “eternal” or “universal”: they are very new and not yet universal. The fact that politicians can get elected to major public office while spouting contradictory views (and even denouncing views akin to the ones assumed here as immoral) means that it’s not some lunatic fringe, either. And views even more conservative than those would rule in Westeros.

      (Regarding religion and region, yes, religion is the cause: but region and religion are very non-randomly associated throughout the world, and people construct their religions to fit their regions. GRRM is doing an interesting riff on this, too, in his world.)

      And that, of course, is how this is relevant to Thrones. After all, one of the themes of Thrones is that the fairy tales are all lies. When reading or watching this series, we should not be thinking “gosh, I wish that I could live there.” GRRM (and B&W) portray this as a Hobbesian dystopia with superficial beauty and glamor. In some ways, I view Sansa as something orthogonal to a “Mary Sue”: instead of being a wish-fulfillment character for an author, this is a “be careful for what you wish for” fulfillment character that the author is extending to the readers. Daeny, on the other hand, is closer to the “Well-behaved women seldom make history” paradigm. And even if they are dying out, there still are people in this world who would deem Daeny a meddler rather than a liberator and an unwilling Sansa as a bad wife: and those people would be the norm in Westeros and Essos.

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    49. Wimsey,

      Yes, it is a sweeping generalization when you make comments about millions of people based upon the idiotic actions of a few. Please stop.

      Again, my apologies to everyone for going off-topic like this.

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    50. Here Be Dragons:
      Great insight into Hizdahr’s position and Joel Fry’s portrayal of him. Your line “how painful it is to be a disposable human being with no control over one’s own fate” made me realise he would be the perfect person to leave in control of Meereen once Daenerys decides to return to Westeros. She can’t leave Meereen in a state of rebellion and war, otherwise her credibility to rule would gain her few supporters.

      Oh, how I wish that would happen! I find Show!Hizdahr so sympathetic that I really don’t want him to die, whether that might happen due to him turning out to be involved with the Sons of the Harpy (either from the beginning or as a reaction towards Dany’s recent actions), in a SoH attack as punishment for collaborating with her (if he has nothing to do with the Sons), or just out of random chance.

      We want to finish the Meereen story on a positive note: not necessarily a heartwarming note, but with a sense that the story had a purpose. As such, the situation ending with Meereen not changing compared to its pre-Dany situation is off the cards. Thus, I expect that, in the end, the Meereen situation will either be an absolute fiasco (in which case the “lesson” for Dany is that she can’t turn a society upside down and expect the result to be positive), or it’ll be left better than before (with Dany having achieved her intention of learning to rule well). The trouble with the former is that I don’t see how Dany can go forward from such failure. The trouble with the latter is that it’s exactly what she set out to achieve, so it’s a little unexciting.

      Wimsey:
      But the Sansa observation is notable because one could argue that what the book does makes Daeny look too Sansaesque: and that’s not good for the #1 protagonist of the series!

      Are you trying to say Sansa isn’t the #1 protagonist of the series? Get out. 😉

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    51. Mr Fixit:
      You lost me there. Why would she consider the snake to be a forgery? I will repeat, though, that your posts really are a first for me: Gods know enough people hate show Cersei as opposed to book Cersei (hello Linda!), but I haven’t yet seen anyone contend that she’s stupider.

      And come on Chad. Book Cersei ARMED the Faith Militant! It wasn’t even her idea; the High Sparrow played her like a fiddle. In what universe is that not a colossal stupidity even a blind man can see? Then she goes straight on and fucks over the Iron Bank, employs (after fucking them first, of course) the most inept idiots to carry out the silliest vendettas against the Tyrells. And that’s when she’s not busy handing over the whole Royal Fleet to some hot guy. THAT Cersei is smarter than Lena’s? Really? REALLY?

      In the books, there was not a 100% chance, or even a great chance, that the Sparrows would detain one of Cersei’s conspirators and torture a confession out of him. On TV, there IS a 100% chance….not even a 99% chance….a ONE HUNDRED PERCENT CHANCE…that Lancel is going to confess his and Cersei’s sins to the High Sparrow. Anyone and everyone can see this…except for the Sarah Palin of King’s Landing.

      Someone who engages in a plot that has a near-certain chance of catastrophically backfiring that anyone can predict is indeed stupider than someone who engages in a whole bunch of plots, some of which work, some of which don’t, and one of which blows up in her face. Combined with the fact that book-Cersei was arguably the most informed person in the realm between Varys’s disappearance and her arrest, while TV-Cersei is comically blind to most of the realm and utterly without suspicion of things that are obviously suspicious, and yes, TV-Cersei is a whole lot dumber than book-Cersei.

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    52. Chad Brick,

      Let me get this straight.

      If I engage in one plot that is certain to backfire in my face (100% backfiring chance), I’m stupider than if I were to engage in 10 plots, 3 of which will backfire in my face (30% backfiring chance)? Because 100% is greater than 30%, the first me supposedly is stupider. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have 1 thing, and not 3, blow up in my face; percentage chance would quite likely be the least of my concerns in this case. Seems to me that the person who fucks up every s.i.n.g.l.e plot he/she is a part of (and it’s a lot of plots) is monumentally stupid. There’s no spectrum broad enough to accommodate all that rampant stupidity, to be honest.

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    53. Thanks for this thoughtful article.

      @lalla, I was thinking the same about Hizdhar! I don’t trust him, but then, despite the fact that we have a stronger attachment to Dany (even those who hate her, as only indifference truly estranges), who could blame him for plotting against her, if that’s what he’s doing, after everything that’s befallen him since her arrival?

      Another observation: why do many people think that Dany feeding people to her dragons is a sign of Targaryen madness? Is it just because dragons are involved? If they were replaced by a public beheading, would people still have that reaction? Because she shows zero signs of being unhinged in my opinion. It’s just that she has means of retorsion at her disposal that no-one else has… I thought she was wisely applying Daario’s advice in using what sets her apart.

      @Ghost’s Lunch, how does the Masters cowering in front of two dragons proves they’re not behind the Sons of the Harpy? Because, 1) who wouldn’t, and 2) I don’t think the Masters are wielding the weapons themselves, more likely paying some mercenaries to do the killing work. And such people would absolutely shit themselves when placed, likely for the first time, in a situation of direct risk of death.
      (I haven’t read ADWD so sorry if there’s something in the books that totally invalidates what I just wrote)

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    54. Thanks for another great article, MNK!

      While I do appreciate Dany being more proactive and going all fire and blood on us, and I like Joel Fry’s performance as Hizdahr,

      I can’t help but think that when this all turns out to me a mistake, it will have a different impact for the viewer to think Dany charged in headlong to something which was her idea vs blaming her only for not following her own instincts and trying to rationalize herself into this marriage which was proposed by others. In one case she looks impulsive, and in another a weak, inexperienced leader who isn’t in touch with who she is. Since it seems her main theme is finding her Targaryen roots based on her Dothraki sea visions, it seems to me the book is more in touch with this simple idea regarding the marriage than the show, despite the dragons. But who knows what will come!
      I agree with others, I think Hizdahr must be show Harpy, if only because we haven’t really met anyone else!
      I’m with Renly’s Peach on missing the green grace.

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