Saturday, March 23, 2013

Game of Thrones
SPOILER below the cut.

(This warning wasn't in place earlier; the topic and response were high-profile enough I didn't think one was needed. Apologies to anyone affected.)

So Ned Stark got it in the neck (literally) in last night's episode of Game of Thrones, and D tells me it produced a chorus of outraged disbelief from many viewers. What? Didn't they see that one coming a long way off? 

Neither of us have read the books, and decided to hold off until after the end of the series so we can judge the show not as an adaptation but on its own merits. Even so, I was still able to tell D about four episodes ago that Robert's drinking would do for him; that young Joffrey would turn out a nasty piece of work; and that honour-blinkered Ned would be the first to know about it. Joffrey is going to be a Bad Husband (cruel, not disinterested) to Sansa if that marriage ever happens, and his dear indulgent mummy will find last night's over-ruling of her wishes a dangerous precedent.

It's the Wars of the Roses, of course, as GRRM has said; something I slogged through at University but have had a fondness for once the need to pass exams was over. Though the parallels in the books may be different, here's how I interpret some of the characters: 

Robert was Edward IV, once a great warrior but now more interested in beef, booze and broads (being killed by a boar has another resonance as well, suggesting that GRRM was thinking of Richard III's badge.) Cersei is a combination of Margaret of Anjou (vicious maternalism) and Elizabeth Woodville (devious nepotism.) Joffrey's a combination of Edward of Westminster and George of Clarence, wanting to prove he's not taking orders any more and using harsh justice to be feared by those who won't ever love him. Tywin Lannister seems a bit like Richard of Warwick, the Kingmaker*, though until the war started his means of control was more gold than force of arms. Sansa's a version of Anne Neville, one more pawn in the marriage stakes, and Ned is (or was) a less ambition-driven Richard of York, trying to do the right thing for the right reasons even though doing the wrong thing would be more sensible. All good convoluted stuff, and never a back that doesn't have a dagger ready to be stabbed in it.

*There was a board game called "Kingmaker". I don't know if it still exists, but it was most wonderfully convoluted. I used to play it with my best friend Charles and his two brothers, and each game was litigous ("show me in the rules where it says I can't do that...") treacherous and thoroughly entertaining.

Oh, and young Edward of Westminster's behaviour in malevolent youth is another reason why Richard III might have wanted rid of his deposed nephews (if he did it.) Edward was passing death sentences at the age of 7, and though that might have been at his mother Margaret's urging, a few years later a foreign ambassador (Milanese, I think) reported that he was talking about little else. 

If Richard's nephew the ex-king Edward V (people with the same names infest this period: Edwards, Richards and Henrys are all over the place, and it's safer to go by title though you then get a railway-timetable effect: York, Gloucester, Somerset, and the every-popular saucy Worcester) ever got his throne back, I doubt he'd be very sympathetic to the uncle who proclaimed him a bastard in order to pinch it...

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