Five Essay Prompts for Game of Thrones 3×7: ‘The Bear and the Maiden Fair’

Illustration via Alex Bedder

Illustration via Alex Bedder

These questions regard last night’s episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Please answer the prompts with specific examples from LAST NIGHT’S EPISODE, though supplementary material will be accepted as a secondary source. Please write legibly. No. 2 pencils only. You have an hour to finish this test. See below for questions and sample responses.

1. Daenerys’s negotiating style is less familiar to us from fantasy narratives than it is from gangster movies. She is not unlike an rising underworld kingpin using her muscle to build her empire, drawing her competitors into negotiations and then turning the tables with the threat of violence. “You thought this was a negotiation? Sorry, no. Say hello to my little friends. Oh, and leave the gold.” Of course in this case, the weapons are her children (happy Mother’s Day!), who also happen to be flying, fire-breathing teenage reptiles. How does this detail affect the genre conventions? Are the dragons more like guns or more like the ranking members of her growing gang?

It’s hard to make a case that Daeny would fit any conventions of the gangster genre, for one simple reason: she’s a woman. There are approximately zero famous mafia movies that feature a female Don, or even a woman who rises to any sort of role besides that of a femme fatale or beleaguered housewife. So of course, Khaleesi’s weapons would be different: her henchmen are the Unsullied, and she keeps picking up new wartime consiglieri wherever she goes (to Jorah’s dismay), but those dragons of hers break convention. The space they occupy is that of the supernatural, something that few alive have ever seen, let alone owned. And her relationship to them as their “mother” elevates them beyond the latest machine gun or disposable Fredo and into a much more dangerous category.

If you want the perfect movie analogy, these flying triplets are Rosemary’s babies: triplets from hell who empower the formerly frightened girl to become the Mother of Dragons–a.k.a. “The Lady Who Waltzes Into Town and Tells Everyone That They Have to Free Their Slaves in Order to Be Slaughtered By Them, Django-Style.”

Which is noble, sure, but Dany may have lost sight of her mission to become ruler of Westeros during all of this. While she’s taking some satisfaction playing the new gunslinging sheriff (ooh, another genre!) to every slave-owning city on the continent of Essos, she’s apparently forgotten that this detour will potentially take a couple lifetimes to accomplish. (Essos is “several times” larger than Westeros and an ocean away, so it’s basically like she’s going door-to-door through Asia as a shortcut to becoming ruler of South America.)

It’s really creepy to think about it in these terms, but seriously, Daenerys is just fulfilling the unwritten epilogue of Rosemary, which would obviously end in world domination:

2. Several times in this episode, characters base their arguments on the lessons of ancient history: Joffrey reminded his grandfather of how big dragons once were, for example, and Jon schooled Ygritte about the six failed Wilding attacks on the wall. Except for Tyrion, none of the major characters on the show are much for book learnin’. But given that both of these often-wrong characters seem to be arguing very sensibly here, might others on the show benefit from picking up a volume every now and again? Who would gain the most?

The Joffrey/Tywin scene was a bit bizarre, wasn’t it? Since when did the King of House Slytherin bother to crack a book, or let anyone teach him anything? We can only suppose this is more of Margaery’s doing, because he’s certainly not getting these history lessons from Uncle Tyrion.

But back to the question of who would gain the most from reading a book once in awhile: probably Robb Stark. That guy should really pick up a copy of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War or The 48 Laws of Power. No spoilers, but I would have highlighted chapters 19 and 20 for him before he started playing with his giant chessboard.

3. You are the leader of a religious youth camp, and one of your kids has gone seriously dark. You talk to her about the one true god, but she decides to pray to death instead. Is this just teenage rebellion, a phase she’ll get over, or is this kid in need of some serious therapy? Things to consider: her father was recently killed in a gruesome way, she really likes sharp objects, and she’s pretty damned young to be starting in on the whole goth thing.

I guess this goes back to an earlier question we had: what separates a religion from a cult? Because sure, if you are a kindly youth pastor at a summer camp and a kid starts defecting  to the dark side, that’s probably cause for alarm, and you should call her remaining parent/guardian immediately. However, if you’re just some guy running a roving “camp” out in the middle of nowhere, picking up a ragtag army of believers with speeches that start off all kumbayah but end with gibberish declarations of immortality, it’s hard to blame someone for deciding she’d rather jump ship than watch you hold another “Trial by Fire Sword.” Not to mention the hypocrisy of selling one of your own to a witch in exchange for some cash.

And what kind of deity gives you immortality just so you can compromise your integrity for gold, anyway? Not a god I’d be praying to, that’s for sure.

4. Theon’s protracted torture is weeks beyond becoming torturous for the viewer as well. With this episode’s sequence clearly meant to titillate in the worst way, is it possible that by this point Game of Thrones is just trolling its viewers along with Theon? (You’ve had enough torture, viewers? Ok, how about some boobs…and torture!) And if so, how might this relate to the protracted discussion of Tyrion and Sansa’s future sex life? Are we supposed to be made uncomfortable by it?

I’m starting to think that the show just hands off those Theon moments to Eli Roth. I actually had to leave the room the last two weeks during those extended scenes of torture porn.

And let’s be clear: the term “torture porn” usually refers to excessive, pornographic images of torture, not literally combining torture and pornography. So kudos to Game of Thrones for finding a way to take that phrase at face value this week.

What’s the point of these Theon scenes? Well, first off, they are so far beyond uncomfortable–like you said, Tyrion trying to keep Shae his whore was “uncomfortable,” as was Joffrey’s treatment of Sansa, or seeing Littlefinger’s fate for Ros. The incest on the show is uncomfortable, and so was that time Melisandre’s had her ghost baby, not to mention the really awkward crush the Hound had on Arya’s sister.

But spending 10 minutes watching someone get mercilessly destroyed–one ounce of flesh at a time, only to be given a sliver of hope in order to make the next new hell that much worse–that’s not uncomfortable. It’s pretty much unwatchable. Unless there is some movement on this storyline soon, I’m just going to start fast-forwarding these scenes and assume that Theon is now a eunuch.

Thanks for ruining Misfits for me, guys.

5. After the death of Ros last week, Sansa and Ygritte are the two redheads left, and the episode draws some interesting parallels between them. Sansa recounts how she was stupidly excited to leave the provincial north and see the royal metropolis, and the even-more-provincial Ygritte goes south to find that a structure she’d have considered a castle is only a windmill. And when Ygritte fake swoons, she may as well be doing a Sansa impression. Given each of them hints at the idea that they may one day be the lady of Winterfell, which is more dangerous: Ygritte’s overconfident ignorance or Sansa’s oversensitive naivete?

You’re forgetting the third contender: Melisandre is the ultimate fire crotch, and what’s more, she makes it a perfect trifecta. Like Sansa and Ygritte, she came from a provincial county (Asshai in Essos, also known as the area where Dany’s dragon eggs were found!), but her ability to adapt to her new world is far beyond that of the other two. While Sansa may have longed to visit King’s Landing and Ygritte felt it was her duty to move south to save her people, Melisandre came to Dragonstone with no illusion about returning home after she played her part. Like the Spanish staking their flag on North America, Melisandre came to Westeros to conquer it. She reminds me of that warning Varys gave about Littlefinger: “He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes.”

And While Sansa is only endangering herself and Ygritte, at best, might be putting a small scouting team at risk with her cockiness, Melisandre and her “burn the non-believers alive” approach to religion is the most dangerous thing to happen to Westeros outside that slowly approaching zombie army of White Walkers.

Good luck with that, Gendry.