One episode left. The season sure does speed on by, doesn’t it?
Sunday’s episode was, I think I’m safe in saying, the episode that everyone’s been waiting for since the series got the green light. I’d say it was worth the wait. There’ve been a ton of superlatives heaped on “Blackwater” so far, so I won’t bother adding to them. I would like to add a comment or two about one specific omission.
A couple of friends of mine who’ve read the books had been bugging me leading up to Sunday, “So are we going to see the chain?” The answer, as we all saw now, is no. No chain! So it goes. But this raises a non-trivial question: Does it matter? What exactly was lost with the loss of the chain? In my estimation, little. In A Clash of Kings, the chain has a three-fold function, as I see it (one literal; one figurative; one textual). Those functions are:
- Literally, the massive chain is there to prevent Stannis’s ships from retreating as they’re doused with wild fire.
- Figuratively, the construction of the chain is a massive effort on the part of the blacksmiths of King’s Landing. As it plays such an important part in the victory, this is a way to give the people a real stake in it—something to point to and be proud of.
- Textually, it serves to further showcase Tyrion’s mental acumen.
In the show, the literal role the chain would have played is minimized. As we follow the battle, we see a decoy ship sent out in “defense”, where Stannis is expecting a fleet (a fleet smaller than his, of course, but a fleet nonetheless). The visual explosiveness of the wildfire when lit (via Bronn’s arrow) renders the potential for escape rather pointless. To me, the thing looks less like a fire than a nuclear bomb. The effect is instantaneous and devastating, so escape wasn’t really an issue—and furthermore, Stannis decided to keep pressing on, anyway, so the function of the chain in the show would have been theoretical, more than anything.
Without the build up we see in the book with the slow construction of the chain, the importance of Tyrion’s speech to the troops is rather elevated. What we see is a group of soldiers who have no real stake in the fight and no will to continue, and Tyrion rallies them. He does the same thing in the book, but here without the chain, I think his speech is slightly more impressive.
Finally, something that has happened in the show which didn’t really happen in the books is Tyrion as a character has been thrust to the forefront—largely in response to Peter Dinklage’s excellent portrayal of him in season 1. We see this happen in television shows all the time: One character becomes more popular or impressive than the others, and so the writers “write them up” (one clear example that comes to mind is The Simpsons. When the show started, everyone tuned in to see what shocking thing Bart would say. By season 4, it was clear that Homer was the star). As a result, well, Tyrion didn’t need to be any more brilliant. He’s had it in spades this season—and will likely continue to. His character doesn’t need the extra acclaim that the chain would bring him, so omitting it hasn’t really affected his character all that much, in my opinion.
I think it was a wise decision on the part of Dave and Dan to have George R. R. Martin write this episode (for a number of reasons), and I think he did an excellent job in writing the chain out. I think the proof of this comes from any fan of the show who’s never read the books. Their reaction: What chain? The logic of the battle, though scaled down, works well enough as shown, and it doesn’t feel like anything major is missing. Those who’ve read the books know, but show qua show, I think it stands up remarkably well.
Oh, but this is the Dothraki blog, isn’t it? As you may have noticed, there was no Dothraki in episode 9. Not that that should be a surprise, now that the episode has aired. Unlike any previous episode (and perhaps unlike any future episode…?), “Blackwater” focused on one single event. There were different points of view, yes (Sansa, Davos, Tyrion), but it was all the same narrative, and all the same timeline. So, of course, there was nothing from Qarth, and also nothing from beyond the Wall, nothing from Robb’s camp, etc. Given the scope of this episode, that was probably for the best, and one wonders if any other event might warrant a similar treatment. (Those who’ve read the books may be able to think of at least one, but even that one’s iffy.)
Today’s post came out a day late because I was up at BayCon for the weekend. It was a smaller event than WorldCon, but good fun! In addition to moderating a couple panels, I got to meet up with our very own khaleesi Daenerys and her boyfriend Crown of Gold. We had a wonderful dinner with my wife and Juliette Wade and her family, and then when we went for gelato, which was delicious. It was truly a red letter day. San athchomari, zhey okeosi!
And now for some disappointing news. Many will have noted that last week Dothraki.org went down. This is actually because the site is hosted on the same server that the Na’vi community is hosted on, and it went down. It came back up on Sunday, but, unfortunately, went down yet again, and the problem appears to be more serious now. Dothraki.org was the best resources on the net on Dothraki (I used it myself), and if it’s gone, that leaves this blog, which is a blog, and not as useful as, say, a wiki that can simply list tables, vocabulary, etc. There are a number of potential solutions, but it’s not clear what’s going to happen moving forward, so in the meantime, we just have to hang tight. On the bright side, sunquan has put up two more Dothraki tutorial videos on YouTube. Check them out!
And next week: The finale of season 2 of Game of Thrones. Lot of loose ends to be tied up. Can’t wait to see one of my favorite episodes from the books: The House of the Undying. Anha laz vos ayok!
The only thing disappointing to me about the current season is the tapering off of the use of Dothraki. There seems to be less and less of it as the season progresses. Having not read the books, I can only hope that it, or another conlang, will come back into prominence in season 3.
Certainly the loss of Irri and Rakharo is a major difference. For those who have read the books, both Irri and Rakharo are still alive, and are major characters in Daenerys’s storyline. Dave and Dan have had the entire story laid out for them by George R. R. Martin (including elements that haven’t yet been published), so they probably have an idea of what’s going on, but it does seem like the Dothraki speakers are dropping like flies…
I didn’t mind the elimination of the chain–though it will be interesting to see if they change what Bronn takes for a sigil in the next season, or just leave it out (which is what I’m thinking).
The only change that I didn’t fancy from the book in this ep is that The Hound offered specifically to take Sansa back to Winterfell. Without the Dontos storyline, this makes her look like a bit of a moron. Yes, Sansa thinks that she doesn’t need to be afraid of Stannis, while she is still somewhat scared of the Hound, but still.
It may just be the way the scene played out. If I were Sansa in that situation, I don’t know if I would’ve trusted a drunk Hound to actually get me back to Winterfell. The last thing she heard was Shae telling her that she would be safe if she went back to her room. She’s probably clinging to that at that moment, because she’s come to trust Shae.
And, hey, this will give her something to look back on and regret as the show progresses.
I suspect that there will be a lot more Dothraki next season! It will be worth the wait (and I am only halfway through Storm of Swords).
The dothraki.org situation is a bit of a bummer. The wiki seems to be at the moment pretty well preserved at least in Google’s cache (google for specific pages with cache:wiki.dothraki.org/dothraki/[…etc.]), but has anyone made any personal copies?
I can’t say I haven’t worried about it before, doing absolutely nothing to amend the situation, but it is a bit awkward to have almost everything Dothraki under a one roof. Westeros.org’s Dothraki subforum would probably be a natural fallback location for discussions (a bit more versatile than this blog), but I didn’t think of it before writing this…
The Learn Na’vi people apparently has a server dump as of May 18th so that should mean the data is not lost.
Certainly the Dothraki subforum is there, it just doesn’t seem that anyone was really using it (the regular Westeros forum goers weren’t interested, and Dothraki.org folk had Dothraki.org). I don’t know who actually owns the url Dothraki.org, but the entire site can be separated from LearnNavi and put back up at either the LCS or under my own hosting, and then whoever has Dothraki.org will only need to pay the $9.95 per year domain registration fee.
It seems the Na’vi community has gotten a donation to afford to buy a new server that will be up in a couple of weeks time. We might still want to entertain the idea of splitting off from them but at least now it’s not a rush since we will be back in some way or another in two weeks.