Reason Podcast

Game of Thrones, Like Politics, Is About Violence and Fear

A pre-finale podcast about the HBO series that taught America to love death and dragons.

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In this special episode of the Reason Podcast, Katherine Mangu-Ward, Peter Suderman, and Robby Soave pre-game this Sunday's Game of Thrones finale and look back on the series. The Reason editors gloat (a little) about having correctly predicted Daenerys' turn—unlike presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren. We also celebrate the penultimate episode's anti-war message, and we try (and fail) to avoid the phrase "Well actually in the books…" We wrap up by speculating about why it's so hard to create a satisfying ending to a beloved TV series.

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Audio production by Ian Keyser.

 

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74 responses to “Game of Thrones, Like Politics, Is About Violence and Fear

  1. It’s kinda funny how this show has suddenly become such a huge deal in its final season.

    1. And it’s been the weakest season yet. It’s never a good idea to over-hype your finale and make everyone wait an extra year for it. It’s an even worse idea to do that and then phone the finale in.

      1. Season 7 was garbage. I didn’t really expect this one to be that good and it still has managed to disappoint. I hated episode 3 hated it most disappointing episode in television history for me. But is it funny to see all the people who were fine with the show till the Dani “heel turn” get so butthurt over inevitable. The show telegraphed her arc from like the first season on. I just hate the horrible writing. Euron might have been the worst written character on a prestige show I’ve ever seen.

        1. But is it funny to see all the people who were fine with the show till the Dani “heel turn” get so butthurt over inevitable.

          Yeah – that was hardly a shocker. Another episode or two showing her slipping into madness would have made for better pacing, but I thought Dani’s ‘transformation’ was one of the least false strokes of the season so far.

          I hated episode 3 hated it most disappointing episode in television history for me.

          It was pretty slack for a great climactic battle. It paled next to the Battle of the Bastards even though it was supposedly more dire. The 20-minutes of slow-motion Platoon style tragic violence with the weepy cello was pretty hard to take.

          I think a better plot turn would have been for Winterfell to be destroyed and for a surviving force to flee south to have to face the uncertainty of whether Cersei will help them when they get to King’s Landing.

          But as my wife observed, they’re acting more like they got suddenly cancelled and have to tie up loose ends rather than that they took an extra year to plan out a satisfying conclusion.

          1. Or was episode 3 the one where everyone is sitting around after the battle? I’m finding they’re fading from my memory pretty quickly.

            1. The battle of winterfell.

          2. I can guarantee you that extra year was not spent on GoT by D&D

            Fuck them

          3. I think a better plot turn would have been for Winterfell to be destroyed and for a surviving force to flee south to have to face the uncertainty of whether Cersei will help them when they get to King’s Landing.

            It’s absolutely pathetic that the show could be rewritten in a couple of min by an anon poster and be about 50% more interesting.

            1. Reddit users have come up with so many better endings. My favorite one was that Bran turns out to be the true villain, because otherwise his character is completely pointless.

              1. That would be an interesting twist – find out that the Night King was actually the good guy.

                I thought they actually hinted at an interesting idea that they should have developed further which was the very Michael Moorcock suggestion that most of what has been going on has been the Lord of Light guiding events toward the ultimate defeat of the Night King and now he’s done with everyone and will leave them to their various fates. The downside, of course, being that several of the characters have decided that the guiding force all along has been about their personal destiny (like Dani) rather than their simply having been useful pawns in a conflict between deities who have no interest in them personally.

                1. If they’d really had any interest in doing that, they wouldn’t have killed off Melisandre.

                  1. Oh, I don’t know – she’s lived out her usefulness, hasn’t she?

            2. That sounds more like how GRRM would write it. I also think it unlikely that Dany goes to the north when she did in the show

          4. That people are upset about Danny becoming a baddie is pretty pathetic. What a ridiculous hero. She’s arrogant and entitled. And when she learns that Jon Snow has a better claim to the throne, she shows that she doesn’t really care about who has the “rightful claim” as much as her own power. So all her talk about how the throne is hers by right is BS. She’s just another tyrant. She frees slaves, great, but Westeros doesn’t have slavery, so she’s no better than anyone else there.

            1. ^ This. It’s always been an open question whether the people of Westeros would agree with Dani that ruling them is her destiny. At first there’s an air of “I should rule because I’m righteous” when really it turns out to be “I should be righteous since it will help me to rule.” Once righteousness stopped working, she stopped having any use for it.

              Elizabeth Warren hardest hit.

            2. It’s her turn!!!11

              But seriously, the fact that she turned full tyrant in the last episode was good writing, IMO. People are upset that the development of her character happened too quickly, but I think it was more interesting the way they did it by hinting at it for awhile and subverting the “strong womyn” trope.

              1. The worst thing is that they’re going to put Sansa on the throne because “omg she’s learned do much and she’s the smartest!”
                Except none of that’s been demonstrated.
                She’s still a boring, backstabbing bitch who does nothing for herself.
                But she’s hero to the shallow ass, passive aggressive mediocre looking progs who equate victimhood to virtue with no other requirements.
                Sansa sucks, but it could’ve been ok if the writers did a damn thing to justify people’s projections of her

                1. The worst thing is that they’re going to put Sansa on the throne because “omg she’s learned do much and she’s the smartest!”

                  I really hope they don’t. I think at this point the best they could do would be “well – Dani went and destroyed the Iron Throne, so there is no Seven Kingdoms anymore. There’s just some kingdoms who will remain separate and get along somewhat better from now on.”

                2. She is easily the most obnoxious character on the show, which is why I assume she’ll be on the Iron throne at the end because vagina.

            3. I thought most viewers were agitated due to the lack of pacing and proper setup. The moment of Daenerys’ turn felt completely unearned.

  2. Violence and fear is a part of politics, but that is not the whole story. Even the worst tyrant needs allies and some sense of consensus. Reducing it to violence is a childish understanding of how politics works.

    1. The writers rushed the whole thing to tie loose ends up, as they’ve done with every aspect since season 7. Don’t really understand what took them 2 years to do it couldn’t have been writing this childish fan service of a show. And it most certainly wasn’t in editing.

      1. I had the Fire and Blood prequel book on Audible. The conceit of the book was that it was the history of the Targaryen Dynasty. The story had Aegon the Conqueror ruling with a relatively light touch once he had gotten the submission of the ruling houses, because, while he could destroy any recalcitrant house with his dragons, he did not have enough loyal supporters to actually govern the kingdoms without subverting the existing ruling class.

        1. he did not have enough loyal supporters to actually govern the kingdoms without subverting the existing ruling class

          The lesson learned by every successful conqueror, one way or another.

  3. We wrap up by speculating about why it’s so hard to create a satisfying ending to a beloved TV series.

    The Shield pulled it off.

    1. Breaking Bad…

        1. The mueller report.

      1. Breaking Bad

        ^ This. Maybe the best ending to any TV show ever.

        1. Agreed. Nothing will ever top Breaking Bad. The question now is which show will end up having the shittiest ending ever: GoT or Lost.

          1. Boy. Hard to beat Lost. They could just stop now and never air the final episode and still not be as bad as Lost.

            1. Dexter’s right up there in the Library of Bad Series Endings, too.

              1. Luckily I saw that coming and stopped watching once he wound up with a baby. No good could come of that.

      2. Americans was fine. The Wire was good.

        1. The Wire was great, but nowhere near as great as Breaking Bad. The only other show that comes close for me is Twin Peaks. Twin Peaks really stuck the landing at the end of season 3.

        2. The end of the Wire was good if you ignore the silly fake serial killer subplot.

        3. americans was a good ending.

  4. Game of Thrones, Like Politics, Is About Violence and Fear

    Not really. For the most part, politics is, and always has been, about an endless struggle for the distribution of power, wealth between the elites and wealthy on one side and the masses on the other. Violence and fear are tools the elites and wealthy tend to use against the masses. At least, that what history arguably shows.

    1. Since they left Martin’s original material, the show has been about producing a feminist fap-fest. Which is why the last two+ seasons have been trash.

      1. Since they left Martin’s original material, the show has been about producing a feminist fap-fest.

        The ‘feminist’ streak was stronger before they diverged from Martin. Feminists are rather pissed about Dani turning into an emotionally out-of-control ‘woman on the rag,’ Ayra being reduced back to ‘lost girl in the crowd’ after being told by the Hound “Go home, girl,” and Varys telling John Snow “cock do matter.”

        It’s a little bit like when Joss Whedon got so much cred for being such a ‘feminist’ that once he got firmly comfortably in his laurels he made Age of Ultron, which was arguably the most aggressively anti- feminist movie in the entire MCU.

        1. How on earth was Age of Ultron anti-feminist?

          1. One of its central themes is how Black Widow is neither a ‘real woman’ nor a ‘real hero.’

            One of the most famous moments in the movie, the one that most outraged the feminists, was the scene where Bruce Banner is moping about having slaughtered lots of innocent people and destroyed whole neighborhoods, saying, in a nutshell, “I’m a monster.”

            Black Widow’s response is essentially, “oh yeah? You think you’re a monster? I’m a woman who can’t have kids!”

            IIRC, the very next scene is the one where we discover that Hawkeye actually has this secret family that lives in an isolated Kincaid painting where his very pregnant wife shows us how much she loves being a baby factory for Hawkeye. It is rather aggressively portrayed as ‘natural and wholesome’ in contrast to the ‘monster’ that is the childless Black Widow.

            Add to that the scene with everyone trying to pick up Thor’s hammer, with only Black Widow refusing to try with the explanation “that’s a question I don’t need answered.” I.e. there is no good outcome for the girl trying to lift Thor’s hammer, since succeeding would also be a failure, presumably of her womanhood.

            Finally, the only contribution Black Widow makes at the end of the movie is being literally thrown in a cage in a tower so that Hawkeye can come rescue her. She doesn’t even attempt to escape a cage that has bars so wide she could practically squeeze through them. Completely out of character.

            The only other significant female character is Scarlet Witch, who is portrayed as child-like and emotionally unstable, needing guidance and protection from her older brother.

            I don’t think it’s deliberately anti-feminist, and I know Whedon definitely still considers himself a ‘feminist,’ but, you know, revealed preferences vs. stated . . .

            Compare to the way Black Widow is portrayed in Winter Soldier and I think you’ll see what I mean more clearly.

            1. Except the point was not Black Widow was a monster because she could not have kids. She could not have kids be because her handlers treated her like an object to make her an effective killing tool. They did not need her to get pregnant so they cut that ability out of her.

              The SJW feminists cannot see the forest for the trees.

              1. The last line of her monologue is a weeping “so, who’s the monster?”

                To which any sane answer would be “the Hulk. The Hulk is still the monster.”

                1. And the scene with Hawkeye’s wife is 100% pointless except to emphasize that.

                  1. Projecting much?

                    1. What am I projecting?

                  2. You’re assigning value to the role of Hawkeye’s wife within their family unit. It’s subjective

                    1. You’re assigning value to the role of Hawkeye’s wife within their family unit. It’s subjective

                      I don’t understand what you’re saying – elaborate?

                2. Or that she was deliberately made to be a monster, ie an amoral assassin. Arguably, that makes the people who ran that program the monsters.

                  1. Arguably, that makes the people who ran that program the monsters.

                    Agreed. So why is Black Widow calling herself a monster?

                    1. Because she does not really like the life she was forced into?

                    2. Because she does not really like the life she was forced into?

                      Why does it matter whether she can or can’t have kids to whether or not she’s a ‘monster?’ And how is it a proportionate response to what Banner is talking about?

                      I don’t have an agenda here, so if other people don’t see it they don’t see it, but like I say, when you put that scene in the context of the rest of the movie, other movies’ portrayals of Black Widow, and Whedon’s other work to me it seems to reveal a strong counter-current to Whedon’s loud history of being a ‘feminist.’

                    3. self loathing is a pretty common human trait, right?

                    4. self loathing is a pretty common human trait, right?

                      Yes. The point is why is she expressing this self-loathing, and is it consistent with the character that has been presented in every other movie in the MCU?

            2. I will never understand the requirements placed on fictional characters to be stand-ins for their entire race or sex, but thanks for the thorough explanation.

              1. I will never understand the requirements placed on fictional characters to be stand-ins for their entire race or sex

                It is a very pernicious thing that seriously hampers the ability to portray individuals in art.

                Whedon, though, very much cut his teeth on that mode of approaching fiction, and in his own words “I designed Buffy to be an icon” and (through the mouth of Willow) “Buffy, you put the ‘grr’ in “Girl Power.”

                I think when you put Age of Ultron in the context of Whedon’s output and the other portrayals of Black Widow in the MCU it reveals more about Whedon than he wants you to see.

                1. Who gives a shit about Joss Whedon?
                  He doesn’t even have a real first name

                  1. In fairness, his parents couldn’t afford the ‘h.’

                2. I am responding here to your 2:40 post because I do not see a reply button on my phone there.

                  It is not that Black Widow cannot have children that makes her a monster to herself. It is why she cannot have children. That she was utterly objectified by the Russian agent training program to make her only a weapon to serve other people’s objectives.

                  For some reason you are focusing on the what instead of the why. Seemingly, because you have disdain for female characters being portrayed as wanting a family, which shows in the ugly description you make of Hawkeye’s wife as a “baby factory” as if what she chose to do is an inferior life choice.

                  1. Seemingly, because you have disdain for female characters being portrayed as wanting a family, which shows in the ugly description you make of Hawkeye’s wife as a “baby factory” as if what she chose to do is an inferior life choice.

                    Not what I’m saying, and I really don’t see any reason to get accusatory about it.

                    What I’m saying is that the movie works pretty hard to show you the contrast between tragically-infertile-aberration-of-nature Black Widow and hyper-fertile-good-and-natural Mrs. Hawkeye. It’s not about my or your moral judgment of their “choices” – in every other context in the MCU you never get the impression that Black Widow has a single regret about not having a family. It’s just who she is.

                    The point is that Black Widow’s “I can’t have a family” is presented as a dark tragedy that haunts her and leads her to see her life as pointless and monstrous.

                    Up until that moment, Hawkeye had always been portrayed as a similar sort of shiftless assassin. Now suddenly it’s important that he’s a family man, and not just that he’s a family man but his family is a hyper-idealized pastoral utopia that’s lit like a tampon commercial and presented as the most fundamental thing about the world being defended by the Avengers.

                    What if Hawkeye were found to have been sterilized so as not to compromise his loyalties? Would he be lamenting his fundamental monstrosity?

                    The movie doesn’t need to keep undercutting Black Widow’s character and make sure you see her again and again as weak and vulnerable. No other movie in the MCU does that to her. Age of Ultron makes a point of it.

                    Again, it’s just my reading, and it’s mostly about Whedon’s hypocrisy. I don’t demand you accept it, but there’s no need to insult me because you don’t agree with it.

                    1. You are objecting to a character being resentful about being forcibly sterilized because you think a female character should not be portrayed as being upset about being incapable of having children.

                      Again, you are so hung up on the what that you are ignoring the why.

                      This is why SJW criticisms are so frustrating, because they are so one dimensional.

                    2. you think a female character should not be portrayed as being upset about being incapable of having children

                      Again, that’s not what I’m saying. This character is not being consistently portrayed from film to film is what I’m saying. The way Whedon deliberately changes the character, in this scene in combination with the rest of the movie undercuts Whedon’s claims to being an SJW feminist.

                      This is why SJW criticisms are so frustrating, because they are so one dimensional.

                      If after all I’ve said all you hear is “SJW criticisms” I think we’re done here.

  5. I’m starting a petition to redo this entire podcast.

    1. Anything would be more interesting with less Suderman. He’s the podcast equivalent of Bran.

      1. Daaaayuuumn! Call in the burn unit!

    2. The book was better.

  6. The left does not grasp loyalty to a person?
    Exactly how does one explain the cults of personality surrounding FDR, Kennedy, Clinton, and Obama? Not to mention most left wing dictators throughout the past century plus

    1. Those people don’t have cults of personality. They have respect they are due. I’m sorry Republicans haven’t had a good president since the 50s, but that’s not our fault.

  7. “Well actually in the books…”

    I actually have a couple friends I hang out with who enjoy me doing this when we’re talking about the show. My housemate, not so much. He started to refuse watching the show with me.

    On the other hand, the dumb bitch could pick up a book once in his life.

  8. People are just complaining because the show isn’t ending the way THEY wanted it to end. This season has been very good — not the best of the show, but still way better than anything else on TV (now that Gotham is over, and its final season was a drop-off too.)

    1. Nah, I had no preconceived ideas about how I wanted it to end, I just wanted it to suck less and make more sense. Winter was coming — what happened? Endless seasons building up the Night King (and Jon vs the Night King and Bran vs the Night King) and then poof. Tyrion and Daenerys and Greyworm and the last dragon, just standing there, defenseless, below Cersei and her archers and scorpions and Cersei doesn’t just mow them all down? Why the hell not? They all deserved instant death for rank stupidity. An entire fleet of ships manages to sneak up on…dragons in the sky? Bran could use ravens for recon, and Daenerys or John could use dragons, but nobody bothers. It looks like the battle against the Night King left the Unsullied and Dothraki all but wiped out, but, hang on, suddenly there are huge numbers available to storm King’s Landing? It used to be that getting around Westeros took weeks and now everybody just zips around like there is scheduled high-speed rail service.

  9. has anyone ever watched this series like me 😀

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