Watch the podcast — which, and I’m not overstating it, may well be our best, or at least most entertaining, given that we were both in a state of hyper-informed quasi-delirium when we did it — below:
Audio available here.
United Smart People
Watch the podcast — which, and I’m not overstating it, may well be our best, or at least most entertaining, given that we were both in a state of hyper-informed quasi-delirium when we did it — below:
Audio available here.
It’s the only Game of Thrones recap worth reading even if you’ve already seen the episode.
About which — I’m still not entirely sure why people like to read recaps of shows they’ve already seen, but people clearly do.
I must be the outlier here.
You can read my full recap here, but just in case you want to know where I come down on the episode’s most controversial issue:
Speaking of still being alive, Jaime Lannister is, and he’s a man, and he has needs. In a reversal of the Jaime-is-becoming-a-better-human-being plot, here we have a sex-starved Jaime raping his sister over the body of their dead child — in other words, we have a return to the incestuous relations that make King’s Landing the city we love to hate.
As for whether it’s a rape, director Alex Graves told Alan Sepinwall that “it becomes consensual by the end, because anything for them ultimately results in a turn-on, especially a power struggle.” Which means, yes, it’s rape.
So, there’s that out of the way…
My podcast with Steven Attewell on the new episode of Game of Thrones is also available:
Audio available here.
The long eye-laser-less nightmare is over!
Since I don't actually read re-caps, I had to pretend I knew what kind of information they contain and the imagine the kind of attitude I would have toward it.
Meaning, yes, I probably just channeled my not-so-inner asshole and made a sarcastic mess of it. But that's why you love me!
Also available now is the Lawyers, Guns & Money podcast Steven Attewell and I did on the first episode.
Steven Attewell and I decided that we didn’t want to wait until next February to continue talking about Game of Thrones, and so we decided to start over. Here’s our take on “Lord Snow,” the series’ third episode. And before you ask: yes, the podcast did explode before we had a chance to finish it. We'll cover the four minutes we lost in two weeks, after I've moved and settled in. Which also means, obviously, that there won't be a podcast next week, as I'll be moving and settling in. Try not to miss me too much. Works SEK discusses:
Works Attewell discusses (warning, all of these posts contain spoilers for all five books):
Steven Attewell and I decided that we didn't want to wait until next February to continue talking about Game of Thrones, and so we decided to start over. Here's our take on "Winter Is Coming," the serie's inaugural episode. I'm including links to the works I referenced and will have Steven do the same. Works SEK discusses:
Due to some foreseen circumstances -- my quarter just ended -- it took a little longer than usual to produce this podcast. But produced it has been! Enjoy!
A few newer readers were having difficulty finding the Game of Thrones specific information posted of late, and since our “tag” categories work as well as tagging “categories” does, I just thought I’d line the most recent ones up all in one place:
I hope this is less confusing. I know when material’s cross-linked and back-dated and newer posts appear before older ones that I sometimes find myself befuddled. There’s no shame in that. Or if there is, take heart in knowing I share it.
It’s been brought to my attention that the two posts I’ve produced about “The Rains of Castamere” were written under the influence of Los Lobos’s How Will the Wolf Survive? (1985). Weeks ago, insomnia guided me to some 3 a.m. PBS documentary that placed Los Lobos between Public Enemy and the Rolling Stones in terms of the most influential bands of the 20th Century, and since then I’ve been revisiting their catalog.
I just didn’t realize how biased this non-deigetic sound may have made my past couple of analyses. Maybe the Lannister’s deserve more benefit of the doubt than the “none” I’ve been extending them? The Boltons too?
When we left off, Catelyn was in the act of recognizing the terribleness of her moment. At 37:38 in the podcast, Steven and I argued about when the band began to play the song “The Rains of Castamere,” which is associated with House Lannister, and though this may seem like an insignificant detail, I don’t think it is. So I don’t want anyone to think that I’m arguing just to argue here, because this is one of the most important moments in traditional tragedy. In the Poetics, Aristotle claims that simple plots merely contain a catastrophe — something terrible happens for which general pity is felt — but complex plots combine that tragedy with anagnorisis, or a moment of recognition.
This moment of recognition is not had by the audience, but by a character within the play; that is, it’s had by a character with whom the audience sympathizes, and through whose perspective the consequences of this catastrophe can be understood. In other words, for Aristotle, the superior play is one in which the audience’s sympathies are focalized through a perspective in a way that personalizes the catastrophe. It’s not just generally sad that these Trojans have to die, it’s particularly sad that we’re forced to watch one of them we care about realize he’s about to die. That’s the heart of traditional tragedy: it’s not the catastrophe itself (because the audience isn’t in actual jeopardy), but the sympathetic identification with the character who realizes he’s about to be killed (because that’s something the audience can actually feel) that makes a tragedy effective.
In other word: this moment is important because it’s the engine of tragedy. The audience may only realize what’s happening when “The Rains of Castamere” begins to play, but because tragedy’s supposed to lead to reflection, it’s important to determine exactly when Catelyn does. So here we go. Robb and Talisa are having a long and playful conversation that ends in her informing him that she’s carrying a child named “Eddard Stark.” I’ve animated the 33-second-long conversation so you can see that it consists of 15 reversals and one pan down:
We probably don’t need to talk too much about the content of “The Rains of Castamere,” if only because I said most of what I wanted to, content-wise, in the podcast. Instead I’d like to focus on how the director, David Nutter, used the confusion created by Michelle MacClaren in “Second Sons” to great effect during the Red Wedding. If you haven’t read the books or watched the ninth episode of the third season, I highly recommend you stop reading this right now. As you remember, MacClaren’s means of shooting Tyrion’s wedding in “Second Sons” was one part (hers) misdirection and one part (the character’s) indiscretion. Everyone was a spectacle-in-waiting or a secret-about-to-be-told, but no one was talking to one another. Even the actual attempts at communication — Tywin’s conversation with Tyrion and Joffrey’s failed attempt to hold the floor — weren’t communicative, to the extent that when Tyrion finally revealed what his (modified) intentions were, there was, as I noted in the first post, “a real potential for chaos.” The lesson of the episode is, in short, that when no one’s communicating honestly, honest communication becomes impossible. Everything becomes a performance and the most convincing performer — in this case Tyrion — wins the wedding. All of which is only to say that Tyrion’s wedding consisted of jealously guarded secrets and innuendos, as opposed to the Tully-Frey wedding, in which everyone is open about everything.
Beginning with the attractiveness of the woman who isn’t the bride:
In a sense, this is a classic medium long shot of the “plain américain“ variety, in that it mimics the Western’s imperative to have everyone visible from the tops of their hats to the tips of their guns — except in this case the gun is Robb Stark’s sword. Point being that this is traditionally an “honest” shot used by directors to indicate that the characters have nothing to hide. They’ve shown their opponents what they’re packing and now a firm assessment of relative armament can be made by characters and viewers alike. In this case, it demonstrates how anemic the Stark complement within the banquet hall seems. In the light that’s filtering down from off-screen right, only Robb’s sword seems visible. It’s significant that in an episode that will — as I’ll argue — be characterized by requited gazes and general openness, the lighting in this scene indicates that the Starks have something to hide. The white light coming in from frame-right leaves the right sides of their faces in shadow and almost makes it seem as if they’re planning something nefarious, which is ironic both for the obvious reason and because, at this particular moment, Robb’s being chastised by Walder Frey for bringing Talisa to what should have been his wedding:
Frey’s half-lit face is also suspect, only more so, because Nutter frames it in a medium close-up. When a group of six people are all “victims” of the same strong off-screen light source, the general effect is that there’s a large off-camera lamp or window. It's innocuous. (That’s why “almost” is in italics up there.) The only way to make them actually seem nefarious would be to exaggerate the effect like so:
Had Nutter shot the Stark clan with such extreme contrast, they’d look genuinely secretive and dangerous. But he didn’t. And the fact that in this scene they’ve bucked common sense and not only allowed Talisa to accompany them, but that they’re allowing Walder Frey to inspect her, means that the single off-screen light source is naturalistic in these medium long shots. But it’s absolutely expressionistic when the camera reverses to Frey:
Even though Nutter pulls back into a medium shot, the fact that Frey’s the only person in frame and that shadows cover half his face make him look like a man of dubious motives. It’s a basic yet effective principle that one-shots, like the ones of Frey above, tend to be read as psychologically indicative of something in a way that similarly lit shots of groups don’t. Of the many reasons for this are that our brains consider gangs of people inherently menacing, whereas when we encounter a single person, his or her motivations are a matter of specific divination. A different part of the brain’s engaged when we’re trying to evaluate the danger potentially written on an individual face, so these one-shots of Walder Frey invite us to consider him as a singular agent and the shadows falling over half his face make it seem like he’s hiding something. Because he is: he’s hiding his face. Even if you haven’t read the novels, the way in which Frey’s shot as he discusses the “pertness” of pregnant Talisa’s breasts should alert you that the conversation isn’t the only thing that’s inappropriate here.
So too should your memory of Tyrion’s wedding. Remember that McClaren’s first shots of it were deliberately confusing: the audience wasn’t allowed to see who sat where or in relation to whom. But at the Tully-Frey wedding, Nutter canvasses the room via the plate of bread and salt intended to secure the Stark’s safety:
As that plate moves about the room in a fairly long take, we’re able to see the relative locations of all the major players. We know where everyone is and that they’re relating to each other in a conventional “medieval” hierarchy: the Lord takes the high seat even in the presence of the King of the North. That should tell us something too — that Frey’s requiring his nominal King to act the part of supplicant, which is understandable given these particular circumstances but contradicts conventions set up elsewhere, as in “Winter Is Coming”:
The Queen sits beside the Lady of House Stark, she doesn’t stand before her, as Frey demands of Robb. Speaking of whom, and because I am trying to break your heart, here’s a random image from “Winter Is Coming”:
What can we say in the presence of the child who be King? Only that his position relative to his mother and Queen Cersei is as appropriate here as it is inappropriate in “The Rains of Castamere.” That Robb isn’t this Robb and shouldn’t be treated as such, or at the very least should be suspicious when he is. Frey’s trying to infantilize the King of the North, and because he believes he’s wronged Frey, Robb offers this small social humiliation as a kind of physical apology. So as things stand the audience should be acknowledging Robb and company’s attempted humility before a literally shady Walder Frey, and because of the broken bread that’s traversed the room, should not only be secure in the Stark’s safety but also aware of the slightly inappropriate location of the significant characters relative to each other. The ostensible openness of this wedding is a direct invocation and inversion of Tyrion’s, but as we well know, the bile undermining this visual candor will bubble up soon enough. Just not before Nutter reminds us that everything is fine:
This shot’s representative of how the banquet’s framed. Instead of families staring each other down off-frame from opposite ends of the hall, Nutter captures all the celebrants in establishing shots like this, which for the purpose of this episode work like a cheap magician’s sleeves: you can’t see what you know’s up them. The shadows falling on Frey’s face and his defiance of decorum should’ve alerted you to his base intent, but Nutter’s framing of the banquet reassures you that man who pointed over there and yelled “Squirrel!” isn’t engaged in misdirection. I won’t subject you to another episode of Game of Lasers, but I assure you that everyone’s making eye contact with the appropriate people. Frey threw Robb one knowing glance when the beauty of the bride was revealed, but other than that, when people are talking to each other, they’re talking to each other:
Everything must be fine because everyone’s behaving like humans engaged in natural conversations. Be it the three-shot of Catelyn talking to Bolton or the four-shot of Robb and Talisa talking about Catelyn talking to Bolton, everyone at this wedding is making appropriate eye contact.
Did I say “everyone”? I meant almost everyone. Remember what I said earlier about our human disinclination to trust gangs of people? The Starks fought that instinct by turning toward Frey and offering him their full faces. He could make eye contact with any of them as per his desire. This lot with the musical instruments? They’re not making eye contact with anybody — not even each other. And they’re being shot from an empowering low angle. And they’re focusing on their instruments with the deadly intent of incompetent amateurs. All of which are indications that something’s afoot at this otherwise open-seeming wedding banquet. The tension builds between Nutter’s direction and what half the audience knows is coming, but it should also disquiet the half that doesn’t. Because Nutter’s not even a cheap magician. He's the replacement magician your father hired when the first one showed up stoned: he’s trying to disguise the birds in his lapels by pulling coins from your ears but he isn’t fooling anyone.
You what’s coming.
Even if you don’t.
Because this is what foreboding feels like. This is the look on your lover’s face the moment before she reveals she’s betrayed you. This is crack in your father’s voice the moment before you learn your mother’s died. This is that moment and it is terrible:
Catelyn sees those doors shut and realizes she’s in such a moment. She’s quickly coming to terms with what that means — like Diane Keaton at the end of The Godfather, only Catelyn knows that she’s not being barred from so much as locked in with the monsters.
To recap: this is a complement to the most recent podcast Steven Attewell and I produced, on “Second Sons,” in which we discussed, among many things, miscommunication at the wedding of Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister. I found my contribution to that part of the discussion lacking, so I decided to demonstrate what I meant about Tyrion coming to dominate a scene that possesses real potential for chaos. The first part can be found here and really needs to be read for the following to make sense.
When we left off, what had been a hostile but orderly wedding banquet teetered on the edge of something. Relations had been frosty but fine until Loras Tyrell reminded people how legs work and walked away from the table, which inspired Tyrion to do something with alcohol. His father, Tywin, noticed his clever son noticing Loras and, aware that Tyrion can become a giant fucking lion when the mood strikes, strode across the hall to talk to him. However, his grandson (twice-over) had a terrible idea: Joffrey “Baratheon” decided to humiliate his former bride-to-be, Sansa, but caught Margaery Tyrell noticing his planning-face and decided she should be part of it too. All of this happened via glances passing between parties. We resume mere seconds after the last post ended, with Tyrion staring at Sansa’s ass:
This is only unusual not only because, in recent episodes, Tyrion’s been shot in a manner that makes his head appear level to those of the people he’s speaking to. From the camera’s perspective, when he spoke to his father, sister or nephew, he’d ceased being a little person. But earlier in this episode, his height — and its relation to his sexual abilities — had been made an issue when he met with Sansa:
Such is what’s required of him not to stare at her ass. The contrast between this shot before the wedding and the one of his father — that’s Twyin behind him in the first image — is part of both Michelle MacClaren, the director, and Tyrion’s respective plans. In order to make himself appear drunker than he actually is, Tyrion abandons the pretense of being the willful supplicant and lets his eyes rest at their natural level. That it happens to coincide with Sansa’s ass is a happy and convenient coincidence that fails to impress his father:
Note that since she’s merely moving the camera up and to the let about a foot, MacClaren could’ve used a conventional two-shot; but because conventional two-shots create the impression of a bond between characters, she shot them individually. This has two effects: it reinforces the notion that these two are only strategically “intimate,” and it allows Tyrion to dominate the screen when he’s on it. That may not seem significant, but it’s important that the audience, at this moment, see Tyrion as someone capable of dominating the screen:
Is his father behind him? Yes, in the literal sense; but only maybe in the colloquial, because Tywin doesn’t know what Tyrion’s planning. But in a scene in which eyelines and eyeline matches are so important, it’s not a coincidence that while Tywin’s staring directly at his son, Tyrion’s refusing to establish eye contact at all. It was his eyes, after all, that gave away the fact that he was planning something earlier, so no matter how very intently his father stares at him:
Tyrion’s going to refuse to meet that stare, which would allow his father further entry into whatever it is he’s planning. It’s significant that the dialogue at this moment is mostly Tywin talking about the importance of his plans for Tyrion and Sansa coming to fruition. It’s as if he’s trying to stare Tyrion into submission, but it’s not working:
Tyrion won’t return his father’s gaze — because in addition to giving away his own plan, it would suggest consenting with his father’s. So he continues to make contact with everything except his father’s eyes. This is where the situation stands when MacClaren pulls the camera back into the only kind of two-shot that doesn’t suggest a bond between characters, i.e. one in which the characters are looking past each other in different directions:
This is a singular variation of the two one-shots of Tyrion and Sansa earlier in the scene. So intent is Tyrion on not making eye contact with his father that he’s failed to notice that Joffrey’s returned. Tywin recognizes the gravity of the situation: Joffrey’s decided that Tyrion and Sansa should be “gently” escorted to their wedding chambers and stripped for all to see, and Tywin isn’t entirely sure how to tell his grandson that this is a foul idea. So he leaves:
Note that as Joffrey enters and calls for Sansa’s public humiliation, he’s looking right at Margaery. The threat isn’t even implicit: he caught her staring at his planning-face and wants her to know exactly how their upcoming nuptials will end. Tyrion isn’t sure what to do. Whatever his plan had been, Joffrey’s has interrupted it, so Tyrion takes a moment to stare at his wine glass again. He may not be sure what to do next, but he’s certain it’ll involve alcohol. Joffrey then seeks approval from his mother:
Or, more accurately, from the chair she recently vacated. Despite the audience’s initial confusion as to where the characters were in space and in relation to each other, at this point it’s clear that Joffrey’s staring at his mother’s empty chair. Sansa, meanwhile, can no more make eye contact with the boy-king than his mother could. She knows the depravities of which he’s capable. The audience, at this moment, is reminded of what happened when Margaery stared directly at him. One does not make eye contact with the boy king. Tyrion agrees:
He continues to stare at the table evaluating his options. He ignores both Joffrey’s taunt and Sansa’s plea. The situation is so unbearable that the audience is happy to follow everyone’s eyelines to the Tyrion, then to the happy couple’s table: better to be staring at the table cloth than dealing with what’s about to happen. And it is about to happen:
Joffrey turns back to the audience generally, and in the direction of the Tyrell table particularly, and reiterates his terrible idea: Sansa shall be carried to her wedding bed and stripped. Publicly. That she’s not included in this shot indicates that this isn’t really about her. Obviously, Joffrey enjoys humiliating her — but his design here is grander and aimed, along with his eyes, on his future in-laws. Tyrion bides time.
Then he doesn’t:
Now this is a lovely little shot. Tyrion’s pretending to be far more intoxicated than he actually is, so initially the fact that this seems to be a shallow focus shot of nothing could be his drunken perspective. It isn’t. Tyrion’s decided to act, and though it’s difficult to see, there’s the thin edge of a blade in front of Sansa’s down-turned face. MacClaren racks the focus to capture Joffrey’s expression:
Tyrion’s just pulled a knife on the king. Joffrey’s face says it all: “You don’t pull a knife on the king! You don’t pull a knife on the king!” Unless you do:
And here’s the close-up the entire scene’s been setting up: Tyrion staring down Joffrey at eye level. He’s no longer Sansa’s willful supplicant: he’s dominating this close-up and he’s a giant fucking lion and no one has any idea what to do or where to look:
Because he’s Joffrey, Joffrey looks to his mother’s empty chair. Tywin seems to be looking there too, a plaintive glance that somehow communicates his disdain for how Cersei’s raised the boy-king. Margeary seems to be the only one who can look at Tyrion — Olenna stares at her staring at him while Sansa studies the floor and silly me I almost forgot Tyrion continues giving Joffrey the eye-fuck of the century:
Who owns this room? Tyrion owns this room. His father’s impressed:
Note that he’s not making direct eye contact with Tyrion though. He’s looking in the right direction, but not high enough to be looking at Tyrion. The perspective’s a little off here because he’s looking at the camera, so I had to approximate his eyeline. There’s other evidence that he’s not looking precisely at Tyrion though:
Joffrey isn’t looking directly at him either. Note that Sansa and Margaery are looking to Tywin for their cues, because everyone seems to realize what happens when the boy-king’s brought to anger. And he’s certainly angry: he’s been forced to lower his eyes to his uncle because he’s suffering what Elizabeth Loftus calls “weapon focus“:
Except it’s not fear that’s blinding him so much as outrage. You do not pull a knife on the king! But he’s not only offended: he’s profoundly disappointed that what should have been Sansa’s humiliating moment has become his. Tyrion’s ruined the evening’s “entertainment.” He’s upset the king. That Joffrey can’t steal his eyes away from the knife is a telling detail: it’s part and parcel of his reluctance to do anything for himself. He’s as much of a Lannister as a person can possibly be, but he lacks the conviction for self-reliance Tywin tried to teach Jaime in that scene. Unlike Ned Stark, who in the first episode of the series beheaded poor Will in a manner befitting a lord, Joffrey orders knights to kill people and executioners to put them down. Sansa, meanwhile, seems to recognize how precarious her situation is and studies the floor so as not to draw Joffrey’s ire further, and that’s when Tywin calls a stop to it:
He shifts his eyes — but not his body — from the Tyrion’s blade to the enraged boy-king. Significantly, it’s while he’s looking at Joffrey that Tyrion finally relents:
He still dominates the screen — and the room for that matter — but he breaks into an ostensibly drunken laugh and eases the tension among the gathered. That he relents doesn’t change the fact that he’s just put the boy-king in his place, publicly, in a moment of enforced humiliation that Joffrey thought would be his. Little as the victory may matter in the long run, on this day Tyrion’s succeeded where Joffrey failed. He’s taken ownership of his own wedding banquet away from the boy-king who thinks the world belongs to him — who thinks he’s the culmination of his grandfather’s lifetime of scheming. And it’s in this moment that Tywin, for once, seems to agree:
Or sees something on the ceiling and decides to look at it. This is the one eyeline that baffled me. Is he looking at Cersei descending from the balcony maybe? Is this an exaggerated glance at Tyrion for the purpose of making him seem “taller” in the eyes of the assembled? I don’t know. But I do know that his estimation of what Tyrion’s accomplished isn’t out of line with mine. It’s just he doesn’t see the point in needlessly annoying the boy-king. Fortunately for the audience, MacClaren’s been watching the show and understands the joy that comes with watching Joffrey impotently roar.
Especially when it’s at his “little uncle” and especially when it’s because he’s interrupted the boy-king’s reindeer games.
This is a complement to the most recent podcast Steven Attewell and I produced, on “Second Sons,” in which we discussed, among many things—some of them kitten-related—miscommunication and the wedding of Sansa Stark and Tyrion Lannister. I found my contribution to that part of the discussion lacking, so I decided to demonstrate what I meant about Tyrion coming to dominate a scene that possesses real potential for chaos. But first let me make two noncontroversial statements:
So if you walk into a crowd and everyone’s looking up:
I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, you’re going to follow their eyes and look up too:
It’s just natural—even if you’re really not from around here. The same logic applies when you’re watching a film. If all the characters look at something, your eyes will follow theirs. It’s the quietest means a director has to move your eyeballs where he or she wants them. Noisier varieties include dramatic movement, the sudden appearance of a new object or character, a loud unexpected sound, etc. Clearly these attentive systems evolved hand-in-hand: the first person who notices the sudden appearance of a new object may make a dramatic movement, which catches the attention of everyone else and compels them to follow that first person’s glance.
For example, if four people are in dining room and one of them notices a giant fucking lion in the kitchen, that person’s likely to make a dramatic movement accompanied by a loud unexpected sound; everyone else will turn to that person and then follow their glance into the kitchen, at which point they’ll also notice a giant fucking lion and panic will happen. At this point in our social evolution, however, we don’t need dramatic movements and loud unexpected sounds to compel our eyes to follow others’ glances—we just do it.
When coupled with all the social strictures that regulate who can look at whom and in what way and when, the potential for a director to make an audience very uncomfortable should be obvious. They can make us look at things we shouldn’t be looking at, or at things we can be looking at but are doing so wrongly, or most powerfully, they can use the sympathy or enmity they’ve already established for particular characters to make us pity or praise them for the direction of their glances. The wedding of Sansa and Tyrion is a perfect example of exactly how this is done by someone quite talented at doing it, Michelle MacClaren, whose episode of Breaking Bad, “Gliding Over All,” was all about staring and following stares. (In fact that second link contains images strongly resembling those about to follow, except this time, for ease of reference I’ll keep everyone’s eyelines a consistent color: Joffrey’s yellow, Tyrion’s teal, etc.) So let’s start staring!
Here we have Joffrey repaying Tyrion for the venomous look Tyrion shot him when he saw that the boy-king, who had murdered Sansa’s father, would be accompanying her down the aisle in her murdered father’s stead. Note that though Joffrey occupies the central element of the screen, his exaggerated posture as he bends to steal Tyrion’s wedding-stool mocks his uncle’s stature. He need not say a word—the insult is understood:
MacClaren responds to the boy-king’s pettiness by closing in on Tyrion’s face. The audience sympathizes with the sadness in Tyrion’s eyes just as it had the hatred moments earlier. His eyes aren’t open and inviting—as say this fellow’s are—but we’re close enough to his face to register the pain upon it, which makes the following shot all the more judgmental:
The perspective on Cersei’s eyeline is a little off—she’s actually looking more up and towards the audience, which now stands approximately where Tyrion did—but Joffrey’s clearly looking not at his uncle but at Sansa, his former bride-to-be, as a means of furthering her humiliation. Neither mother nor son need speak a word for the audience to hate them for openly mocking an already tragic scene. We only need follow their eyes to condemn them. This dynamic continues right through to the wedding feast:
The scene opens without an establishing shot. Instead, this medium shot is the only information the audience has about who's there and where they exist in space. Joffrey and Cersei are staring in the same general direction, and we want to know what they’re looking at:
Apparently they’re looking at Tyrion, except that doesn’t seem right. They medium shot was level with them and they appeared to be looking down, whereas now we seem to have a close-up that’s angled slightly low, meaning we seem to be looking slightly up. This could be a reverse to an eyeline match—that it follows the shot of Joffrey and Cersei strongly suggests as much—but the attention Tyrion’s paying to pouring his glass suggests that if he’s the object of their eyeline match, he’s an unwitting one. Given how “drunk” he’ll become, that’s a possibility, but my real point here is that the first two shots of the wedding banquet are merely contiguous, nothing more. They follow each other, but they don’t do so in a conventional manner, meaning that two shots into this banquet the audience is already a little lost about who’s where. Perhaps the next shot will provide a clue?
It will not. The bride’s not watching her new husband attentively pour himself more wine, she’s looking off-screen at something, but we’re not privy to what. But at the very least MacClaren makes a compelling point with the direction of their respective glances: the attentions of the newly betrothed are literally pointed in opposite directions, his to the left, hers to the right. Maybe we’ll get to see what she’s looking at?
This is at least a possibility: even though the camera’s level on Olenna Tyrell, it’s possible that Sansa’s looking down on her and that this is an eyeline match; but even if she is, what’s significant that Olenna’s not looking up and returning Sansa’s eyeline. There’s no connection between them—no eye contact—which only doubles the audience’s impression of Sansa’s isolation: she was just looking in the opposite direction of her husband, but now she’s watching someone have a conversation with someone else. Who Olenna’s having that conversation with isn’t clear because, again, MacClaren’s still hasn’t provided us with an establishing shot. All we can tell is that it’s not Sansa.
At this point in the scene we have no way to orient ourselves in it: we can’t tell who’s looking at what or talking to whom, and as social animals who try to locate ourselves in social spaces, we find this extremely unsettling. It’s the equivalent of being a child lost among a sea of legs in a room we don’t recognize: we can tell that people are looking at things but not what; we can tell that people are related to each other but not how; and we can only acquire information one face at a time because we’re too fucking short to see above the crowd. This can’t go on forever. At some point MacClaren must relent:
And she does, but only somewhat, because we still don’t know which one of these three Sansa was looking at. We thought we did because of the logic of the initial reverse to Olenna, but now we see that she could’ve been looking at any of these three people who aren’t returning her glance. So Sansa’s still doubly lonely, but at least we know that Olenna’s talking to Margaery Tyrell. However, just because we have some information about the relative location of people in the room doesn’t mean people are going to start communicating with each other: Olenna and Margaery’s conversation excludes Loras Tyrell, who sits between them and glares at something off the left side of the screen. What? Maybe we’ll finally have a conventional reverse?
Didn’t think so. Now we’ve got a long shot of the Lannister table from over Sansa’s shoulder, which may not be a conventional reverse, but at least helps situate us in space. We assumed that Olenna and Margaery and Loras were to Sansa’s left because the earlier shot of Olenna could’ve been an unrequited eyeline match; if we pair that assumption with the fact that Joffrey and Cersei are to her right, we can infer 1) that Cersei’s staring down someone at the Tyrell table, possibly Loras, who was looking in her direction in the previous shot; and 2) that Joffrey and Cersei weren’t staring at Tyrion in that opening shot, but at the Tyrell table. Specifically—albeit for different reasons—they were both staring at the left side of the Tyrell table, meaning that in all likelihood this scene opened with mother and son staring at their wife-and-sister-among-many-other-things-to-be, Margaery. But in the above, at least someone’s finally making eye contact with Sansa—except that it’s Joffrey and he’s making shit-eating eyes at her. MacClaren cuts to the groom’s shoulder’s perspective:
Which informs us that the one example of eye contact previous to Joffrey and Sansa’s has been broken, as Olenna’s now staring at the Lannister table, presumably in response to Cersei shooting red lasers at Margaery in the previous shot. Margaery seems unaware of—or is ignoring—Cersei’s glare, but she has to recognize that Olenna’s broken eye contact with her. Loras, still utterly uninvolved, stares at the table. Tyrion, however, is watching Olenna stare at his sister with what seems—because no one’s looking at him—like an almost anthropological curiosity. He’s watching everyone watch everyone else without making eye contact with anyone. It’s almost like he’s gauging the room in preparation for some sort of performance. After Olenna turns back to Margaery, perhaps embarrassed by having been caught staring so intently, Cersei turns to Joffrey:
Who’s clearly still trying to eye-fuck Sansa. Before seeing her response, it’s important to note that even though she’s his mother and has made him the “man” he is today, she’s being unduly deferential and speaking to him without even attempting to establish eye contact. As for Sansa:
She has found something very interesting on the floor. She’s looking neither at the Tyrell nor the Lannister table now, while her new husband stares, in an exaggerated fashion, into a pitcher of wine. It’s almost as if he wants people to think that he doesn’t know how it works anymore—that he’s so far in his cups he hasn’t a fucking a clue how to put more wine in them. Although it’s doubtful she knows what Tyrion’s planning, Sansa clearly wants no part of the dynamic she’s witnessing develop. And with good reason:
Now both of them are staring at her. Which provides Margaery an opportunity to stare at them:
Note that there’s no cross-talk going on between tables. The only way the Tyrells and Lannisters are communicating are through these glances. But before Margaery can figure out what they’re talking about—and most likely for her own good—Olenna draws her back into conversation:
Which seems to annoy Loras enough that he decides to leave, but instead of him leaving in this shot, MacClaren returns to the long shot from over Tyrion’s shoulder:
Tyrion seems to believe that Loras’s departure indicates that rules are about to change. Whatever sense of decorum had held these parties in check has been violated. That it’s Loras tiring of being spoken past by Margaery and Olenna is immaterial. The dynamic in the room is shifting and Tyrion needs to take control of it. He does so the best way he knows how:
By appearing to be very drunk.
So very drunk Sansa has no choice but to resume her study of the floor, only this time more enthusiastically. But Tyrion’s performance may have been a little too loud and dramatic, because it’s caught his father’s attention:
Tywin sees Tyrion staring “drunkenly” at his reflection and realizes that Tyrion’s realized something. Tywin isn’t sure exactly what—it’s not like they’ve been talking to each other with words or anything—but he realizes that his clever son has seen an opportunity of some sort and, alerted to the potential threat, will likely do something about it. He knows better than anyone that Tyrion can become a giant fucking lion when it suits his needs, and Tywin is determined that nothing of the sort will happen tonight. Because although it’s Tyrion’s wedding night, it’s the culmination of Twyin’s plans, and he’s not about to let his clever son disrupt them. Since he knows Tyrion’s a rational person, Twyin decides to convince him of the wrongness of whatever it is he’s about to do, but he never gets the chance:
Because as he started walking toward his rational son, his irrational grandson set his sights on Sansa, who has now found a fascinating object of study on the ceiling. Margaery notices Joffrey’s movements:
But she stared too long. Joffrey notices her noticing him:
And clearly decides that whatever indignity he was about to subject Sansa to must now include Margaery as well:
Nice try, Margaery, but he already caught you. You’re now an integral part of whatever plan he’s explaining to his mother:
Because he’s talking to her—but he’s looking at you. Even she knows this isn’t going to end well:
So what began as a drunken wedding party in which we, the audience, couldn’t orient ourselves either in space or with relation to the attendants is now about to turn ugly. Imagine that? A drunken wedding party turning ugly! Except given the involvement of Joffrey—a boy-king so monstrous even his mother seems afraid to make eye contact with him—the ugliness that could ensue could be beheading-Eddard-Stark awful. The only hope seems to be that Tywin can convince Tyrion to put aside whatever play he’s developing and put a stop to Joffrey’s … and about that I’ll have more to say tomorrow.
We apologize for missing last week's episode, but Google Plus had updated its "Hangouts" feature and we couldn't find the new button. But it's been found! Also, in this podcast we have a first: I've finally figured out how to incorporate images without making the resulting file too large for Youtube. So now if you're watching the podcast, you'll see the visuals we're describing while we're describing them. (At least mostly. I'm still experimenting with keeping the size down and the audio quality high. This is tougher than it looks.) In this episode we discuss making my students weep uncontrollably; the dynamics of the relationship between Tyrion and Sansa; the similarities between Dany and Walter White; the politics of Stannis Baratheon; and many other things beside. Enjoy!
How do y'all feel about pool parties? Not attending them, mind you, but hearing other people having them in the background of a podcast you're listening to? Because I think they should make you feel better about yourself, because here you are, listening to an intelligent podcast that makes your brain smarter, whereas the people at the pool party are just drinking and laughing in the Southern California sun. They'll come home drunk, sun-burned and utterly ignorant about what the Talmud has to say about those who collect shit-tons of mitzvot. Enjoy!
In this episode we discuss many things before short-changing you on the subject of religion. If the podcast seems to end abruptly, that's because there's another ten minutes we tabled for a later discussion. Watching it, I must say I'm very disappointed in the manner in which I presented my Grand Theory of Significant Asses. It deserves to be taken more seriously than the words used to refer to the human bum allow. Enjoy!
Attewell is brilliant, as per usual; SEK is scattered, as per usual. Enjoy!
I apologize for not posting this sooner, but unfortunately my voice deserted me Monday and Tuesday and, as I make clear in the podcast itself, I'm an asshole. We discuss, among other things: set pieces and jump shots; the threat of rape; great moments in horse cinema; hands; musical chairs; and silence. I think that just about does nothing resembling to justice to what we discussed. Also, for the first time ever, some awkwardly included visuals! Enjoy!