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!