Five Essay Prompts for Game of Thrones 3×2: ‘Dark Wings, Dark Words’

(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. They say narrative is a matter of perspective. Let’s try out that theory: There are several rom-com tropes buried in the wheelings and dealings of this episode. If put in another context, for example, Brienne and Jaime could be starring in of those “opposites attract” rom-coms. Recontextualize three other story arc from “Dark Wings, Dark Words” in terms of the following genres chosen from my highly-specific Netflix queue: “Goofy NBC Comedies”; “Dark Independent Road Trip Movies”; “Dysfunctional Family Dramas With a Strong Female Lead.” Write a brief synopsis of what these spin-off films/episodes
would look like.

I’m Not Arry!
After a series of madcap mishaps, tweens Arry and Gendry have been kicked out of their homes and gone on the road to find a new place to hang their hats. Along the way, they’ve become the best of buds, traveling along with their fat, bumbling, always-hungry sidekick Hot Pie. But there is only one problem: Arry has just revealed to his best bros that he’s not really a boy, but a girl in disguise! We follow them on their unlikely adventures, as they encounter quirky fellow travelers and other loveable misfits, all the while trying to come to grips with the new dynamic of their little band of brothers…and a sister!

Cry Direwolf
Since he was little, Bran has had visions that he cannot explain. He never thought much of them, but then things started getting grimmer: he lost his legs in a tragic accident, his father was killed, and his family scarred by a home invasion. Suffering from some pretty severe PTSD from this last tragedy, Bran goes on the road, traveling north to find the source of the things he sees when asleep. Tagging along are his nearly personality-free little brother, his weird oracular former housekeeper, and a giant of a nurse from his local physical therapy clinic who never says anything but his own name. As things get stranger and stranger, Bran must confront the reality behind his visions: are they just fantasies of running with the wolves, or they leading him toward a dark fate he doesn’t yet understand?

Stark Realities
Once Catelyn Stark led a charmed life: a strong, faithful husband, five lovely kids and a beautiful home. But ever since her husband Ned was killed, it is all Cat can do to keep her head above water. One of her daughters is off exploring her transgender identity, another is living as a kept woman in the big city. One son, confined to a wheelchair, has started to have delusions that he can see the future and talk to animals. And her oldest son has broken his engagement to a woman she deemed appropriate for him, and now she finds herself thrown together with his new wife, a foreign woman whom she doesn’t really understand nor particularly like. As the two grow close through circumstance, she comes to understand that she must build her own family from the tools she has been given, instead of seeking to rebuild the perfect life she once had.

2. In case you were missing Downton Abbey, this episode gave us Dame Diana Rigg as Lady Olenna, a sister in spirit to Dame Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess of Grantham. Besides the fact that they both throw caution to the wind and say whatever they please (good graces be damned) and are associated with flowers which they in no way resemble, how else does Margery’s grandmother–based on what we know of her so far–resemble her spicy Downton counterpart?

The contrast is more telling here than the association, as the Dowager Countess is very much concerned with maintaining propriety, while the Lady of Thorns does her best, within her limited role, to subvert it. Both are determined to manipulate events to the ends they see as important despite the bumbling or ineffectiveness of the men around them, but it is Olenna who really brings home one of the dominant themes of Game of Thrones: if the less powerful can find ways to survive and even thrive within the context of a world dominated by powerful men, they will be able to do so not by mimicking the power structures of men but only by making end-runs around them. We’re seeing it with Arya, we’re seeing it with Shae, and (though she’s not in this episode) we’re seeing it with Dany.

On the other hand, Cersei is trying to use her influence within the system and seeing herself more and more stymied. And Brienne’s attempt to fit into the men’s world leaves her with few good options and an increasingly tenuous fate. It will be interesting to see if Margaery will learn her grandmother’s object lesson about getting the cheese course served when you want it: propriety serves no real purpose except to keep the powerful in charge, and even the smallest subversion is more than simply symbolic. But then again, maybe she just wants to be the queen.

3. Bitches be schemin’ (about their babies): Though Catelyn Stark seems to be opening up to her daughter-in-law in the scene where she is sewing and talking about the time she prayed so hard Jon Snow almost died (until she nursed him back to health), we’ve seen this kind of faux-bonding before. In the very first season, Cersei told a sad story about her own dead baby in order to make Catelyn feel better about Bran’s coma…even though she was Jaime’s accomplice in pushing him off the tower. If you were the head of Westeros’s CDC and someone told you that there had been a mass breakout of Münchausen syndrome by proxy, how would you respond? Remember, you only have a King’s Landing education on how diseases work, so we can forgive confusing the psychological withthe systemic, as long as you can provide a solution.

Disease? Clearly this is some sort of dark magic, if women can simply pray and make their children ill. Münchausen schmünchausen. Being a Meister, I have no children myself, but I imagine that any mother must have, at some desperate moment, late at night when the baby won’t stop crying, wished that she had never had a child. And if such dark thoughts are so common, and if wishing can make it so, we have a huge public health problem on our hands. As a measure of stopping the spread of this scourge, the only solution, obviously, is to burn the witches. But then the solution to most public health problems is to burn the witches, as far as the our modern medicine is concerned.

4. So imagine that you are working as a really well paid au pair to an orphaned tween. You are sitting in the park one day when out of nowhere this woman comes up and warns you that the kid you are looking after is being targeted by a sexual predator. Troubled, you take the matter to your boyfriend, who wants to know where you heard the rumor. When you tell him, he shrugs it off, saying: “Oh that chick? Yeah, I fucked her. Twice.”
Your boyfriend–who was very close to becoming her uncle–tells you not to worry about the strange message from his one-night stand, before offhandedly mentioning that the girl you are looking after is a “great beauty.”
So: How would your anonymous letter to the police begin? Or would you keep your mouth shut and save the story to sell to The New York Post? If so, what would the punny headline be?

Things to keep in mind: Your last professional gig was as a prostitute, you are an illegal immigrant, and your boyfriend’s family has legal guardianship over the child.

Well, like last week, we find ourselves with a temporal conundrum. Is this a modern police force that is required by law to investigate any claim of child abuse? Or is it one conditioned by the world of Westeros, in which such abuse is clearly as common as dirt, and thus well-nigh unpunishable? Assuming the latter, and given my charge’s questionable social status as the daughter of a convicted traitor and the sister of an enemy of the state, appealing to the golden-helmeted authorities seems less than advisable. And now that my boyfriend has revealed himself to be even more of a horny patriarchal little shit than previously acknowledged, perhaps it is best to attempt to spirit the girl away through back channels. You know who isn’t going to be crushing on the cute little redhead anytime soon? The dude with no balls. He’d be my first phone call.

5. Several of the major characters have found a new bestie in this episode, and these first-timers are played by some of our favorite “Oh yeah, that guy!” Brits. (Simon from Misfits as a Greyjoy spy, shock jock Paul Kaye as Thoros, the kid from Love, Actually as Jojen Reed, Aberforth Dumbledore as Mance Rayder, etc.)

Using one of these actors from this new batch, write a short piece of crossover fan fiction about how the character he is most famous for playing ended up in Game of Thrones.

Simon sat down on the roof and took off his face mask. It had been a grueling day of training, and now he just wanted to unwind. He took his book out of his bag and began reading.

“Eh. Geek.” Simon looked up to see a boy he’d seen down the pub once or twice staring down at him. He considered for a moment before answering.

“Because I’m reading a book? You should try it sometime.”

“No, because you’re reading one o’ them fantasy books. I can see just by the cover. Geek.” The boy paused, shuffled his feet. “So, you’re with that Aleisha, eh? What’s a fine piece like that doing with a prat like you?”

Simon grinned. “I don’t know. Why don’t you ask her?”

“Oh I plan on it,” the boy answered. “Right after I find some way to keep you busy.”

“And how do you propose to do that?” But the kid was grinning right back, and as soon as the words were out of Simon’s mouth, he realized: this kid had clearly been in the storm, and was about to unleash some new power.

“That looks like a mighty long book, too. Take you a while to reach the end, I wager.”

“I don’t know,” Simon said warily. “I’m a pretty fast reader.”

“Oh,” the young man said, “I wasn’t talking about reading.” He waved his hand, ever so slightly, and then he was gone.

Everything was gone. The council estate had been replaced by a forest. Simon looked up and could see a turret in the distance, a parapet with smoke rising above it.


Well, he thought, starting to walk in that direction. I suppose I just have to make my way to the end of the book. Find a role for myself here. I can turn myself invisible and see into the future. Don’t suppose anyone here could use the services of a spy? Five Essay Prompts for <em>Game of Thrones</em> 3×2: ‘Dark Wings, Dark Words’