SPOILS OF WAR AFTERTHOUGHTS
So this episode still upsets me somehow. Everyone around me is just like wow this was an amazing episode and I’m here trying to pinpoint why I still have concerns. And then I think I finally pinpointed what’s wrong. It’s Dany’s storyline. This episode really made me realize how problematic her character is no matter how much I love her.
At the beginning of the show she was introduced as this fragile young woman who awakened and seized her chance at living life on her own terms and she instantly became this symbol of feminism and girl power. All the while she retained her greatest quality: compassion. By season 3 she had become the badass Mother of Dragons everybody rooted for. At this point, I was cheering every time she accomplished something without really thinking about the other side of said something. When she torched Astapor and took the Unsullied I was like YEAH. Like everybody else. When she was celebrated as Mhysa I was like YEAH. Like everybody else. When she freed Meereen I was like YEAH. Like everybody else. Etc etc.
Until the Field of Fire where I should have been like YEAH. Like everybody else. Except I wasn’t. The scene itself was impressive but for the first time it was constructed differently. Instead of an epic and victorious variation of the Dracarys theme - as was used during every single one of her battle scenes (yes I pay much attention to the score) - we got a sad rendition of the Rains of Castamere. And so I realized what was wrong. The show had just gone on the other side for the first time. Apart from Jaime and Bronn who we naturally root for and so don’t wish to see dead, we met Ed Sheeran and his friends three episodes ago and it was a nice scene of humanizing what we still perceived as the enemy because they were Lannisters.
This got me questioning everything backwards. And I realized the show made us root for Dany by never showing us the other side of things. It always painted her storyline as her vs evil men. Plain and simple. Sure the guy in Astapor was a douchebag. He deserved to be torched. And yes the dynamic between masters and slaves is problematic and needs to be changed. But when you think about it the rest of the masters were just guilty of respecting centuries-old traditions. Nothing more. Same in Meereen. When she crucified them as retaliation for the slaves that were crucified I did not think twice about it because the show just identified the masters to bad men. That’s why the Sons of the Harpy storyline never properly worked to me. They were just depicted as rebellious terrorists who didn’t accept Dany’s reign. It would have been more interesting if we could actually go into their reasons. Reasons being they do not accept this foreign ruler who would come and change the way things had been in forever because nobody likes change. And so I did not even notice when she said or did problematic things because I was only seeing her side. She fed masters to her dragons just because they were masters and on the assumption they were guilty of helping the Sons of the Harpy. Those men were potentially innocent… but I only saw the badassery in it.
Now seeing the Field of Fire and how the show established that not all Lannisters are bad I noticed how big of a contrast there is between then and now. What helped during past seasons is that we could still see a soft side to Dany. She genuinely seemed to care for the small folk. When she had to execute one of them we could see she didn’t like it. But Westeros seems like a curse to her because she seems to have lost the last of her humanity since she stepped foot on it. Where is the girl who gave her followers the choice to walk freely and unharmed if they did not wish to go with her ? Compare this to her upcoming ‘Bend the knee or die’ speech. (Although we already got a taste of it before: ‘They can live in my new world or they can die in their old one’.) Some choice she’s giving here…
Where is the wit and the clever strategy we saw during past seasons ? When she conquered all those cities, when she killed the Dothraki chiefs, that was always through a smart plan with a twist. That was part of why we loved her so much. But now she’s reduced to traditional war ? Granted Westeros is not a city. It’s seven kingdoms. Still… And I get that this is war and that she is still a better person than Cersei because she comes with good intentions (at the very bottom of her heart she’s not bad. She just goes the wrong way). Yes war means soldiers will be lost. Innocent soldiers with lives and children and families. So I’m not saying that she did a bad thing in waging war. It is what it is. Dany has always been a conqueror more than she is a ruler. And she’s a beginner. That’s why she surrounds herself with people who are more skilled in that matter yet she does not always listen to them. Sure when she takes matters in her own hands we’re in for spectacular stuff. Most viewers stop at that. But what has she accomplished here on the Field of Fire? Besides weakening the Lannister armies, she’s also weakened her own - albeit significantly less - she’s harmed her most powerful dragon and she flambeed food reserves that would have been very useful. And she didn’t listen to every single one of her advisors. Tyrion was utterly devastated in seeing this massacre. (No matter his allegiance, he cares about Westeros and its people. And he still cares about at least his brother and Bronn). He chose her and he thought that with clever plans he could have her win the throne without too much bloodshed. She didn’t listen to Barristan in the past who once told her to be merciful. She didn’t listen to Tyrion when he told her to be patient in her war. War is not a matter of days, Dany. She didn’t listen to his strategy despite it being smarter than go upfront with the enemy. Or Jon for that matter. Who told her not to do it either. Jon who seems lately to think more about the small folk that she does. Both Varys and Tyrion said they chose her because she is the one who thinks about the people first. But since she’s arrived at Dragonstone all I could see from Dany is teenage-ish behavior of someone who throws a tantrum when they don’t get what they want. ‘Call me by my rightful title’ and ‘bend the knee’ seem to be her new favorite sentences. Bend the knee and I will help you save your people, she says to Jon. Uh you know you said the North is one of YOUR kingdoms so that’s your people as well who are going to be attacked. Where is Tyrion to give her a good wake-up slap ? A good ruler thinks about their subjects first, not about their crown. Wouldn’t it be better if you’d go save everyone in an unselfish way and then maybe perhaps they would be more willing to accept you..? Because so far, again let us go on the other side. The Westerosi just see this foreign queen, the last remaining of a dynasty they consider cursed because of its last ruler… of course they are weary. Of course I can understand Jaime and Bronn going against her and Drogon.
She made Varys swear to tell her to her face when she’s failing her people. Your first failure to do your duty, Varys. Varys? Varys where are you ? Oh over here with Tyrion discussing about maybe you chose wrong again. She used to genuinely care about the well being of the small folk and I believe she still does. She still refuses (for now) to attack King’s Landing and kill innocent people. But it’s not her priority anymore. Her priority is getting people to bend the knee. Meanwhile we have Jon whose new favorite sentences are ‘Help me fight the White Walkers and save the lives of everybody’ and ‘Do not touch my sister’. Jon who was thrust into the role of being King when that was clearly not his wish. Jon who united Wildings with Northmen to save them from the White Walkers. Jon who’s trying to rally everybody to save the lives of small folk and highborn alike. Jon who initially decided to take up the fight again because he could not fathom the idea of harm coming to his sister whether it be from Ramsey or the White Walkers. Jon who left his Kingdom in the care of his sister who’s trying her best to follow in his steps in her own ways - starting food reserves, making sure that the soldiers who will defend them are warm enough against winter, preparing Winterfell as a rallying location. Just Jon and Sansa caring more for the people than the power they were given.
And so here I am. Still liking Dany as much as before but not blind anymore to her faults. I still like her better on the throne than Cersei but really who are the better rulers here I ask you Tyrion and Varys?