When it comes to the close analysis of Game of Thrones’s sixth season, it’s clear that there’s a few plotlines where showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D) poured most of their energy: King’s Landing going up in smoke, the battle between Jon Snow and Ramsay Bolton, Tyrion fixing up Meereen. There were other plotlines that seemed tossed in as a bit of fun.
Then there was Dorne, or as it’s lovingly called over here, “Porne”, given its sensationalist focus. During Season 5, D&D’s adaptation of this location was almost universally reviled, thanks to the cartoonish characters, nonsensical plot points (everyone rushing to Myrcella at the exact same time, for instance), and cringe-worthy action sequences.
Season 6 was where D&D took those hated characters, had them up and murder their family, disappear for the entire season, and then pop up in the finale to form an alliance with Olenna and Varys.
Some said it was dark comedy. Some said it was feminist. The Fandomentals editor Julia called it was “Brilliant.” (Context? What context?)
But now that the season is firmly over, she is willing to take a closer look, along with Kylie, to try and get a feel for the nuance and messaging D&D surely considered when crafting these scenes, in what is now “Julie”’s fifth retrospective of the season. With four more to go.
As always, in our never-ending quest to stop the conflation between A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones, we must first explain the names we’ve assigned to these characters, who bare no resemblance to their book counterparts. For full explanations behind the nicknames, we direct you to the Book Snob Glossary.
It may also benefit you to know that Daenerys is called “Deadpan,” Olenna can sometimes be referred to as the “Dowager Sasstress,” and the Lannister queen in the capital is Carol…until she sheds her exoskeleton and becomes Cheryl. Which only slightly worries her brother-lover, Larry.
With the stage set, we can now dive in.
Your mother is a brilliant woman, you know that?
We open in a location that is almost as too good for this shit as Alexander Siddig.
Prince Bashir and Faullaria are bonding “The Watcher” style while Tyene and Showtah follow behind. They’re strolling through the Water Gardens in the presence of, like, a full score of guards. Where were these peeps last season when the Bro-nns snuck in behind a donkey carrying bananas?
The prince is pondering if he wasted his life by not being more like his brothel-dwelling bro. He frames Showberyn’s years of aimless self-destruction around the world as a great adventure. And he’s devastated that he never got in on all of that
heterosexual bisexual action. Faullaria reminds us all to watch out for bisexual erasure. What a feminist!
She also is a brilliant woman, because she points out that Bashir would have been terrible at…getting laid (?) and Showberyn would have been terrible at ruling. Valid, given how he spent his time in Carol’s Landing, we suppose. Though he actually seemed vaguely interested in those trial proceedings.
Bashir is so impressed by this pithy statement that he brags about Faullaria’s smarts to her daughter sitting two feet away.
We’re so touched by this family bonding. This is way better than him coming to a mutual understanding with a daughter after a decade of miscommunication!
But oh no, the Shyster Maester arrives, his pockets still full of that gold he earned after charging Larry to write a letter for him. He’s got a letter to deliver this time (we wonder who he’s billing for that), so Faullaria and Tyene exchange shifty eyes, presumably because they know this is going to be about Madison’s death.
Which, pause. This brings us to our first issue: how much time has passed? The way Prince Bashir is reminiscing, it seems like there was very little time in between Larry’s departure last season and this moment, because it feels as though he and Faullaria had just made up and were catching up on all their bonding. But then that leaves us with the possibility that Larry, upon realizing Madison was murdered, decided to send a raven to the shore that was 50 feet away, but not turn his ship around?
Is this the most logical option? Did Larry think, perhaps, that he would have been in grave danger had he done so, because he could tell that Faullaria and the Fakes were super popular (ignoring that he had the perfect hostage)? Or did Larry want to run this by Carol first, because he’s scared of her and confused in general. Except, no, he decided to send Trystane home on his own accord after he took him to Carol’s Landing, because he was worried about his safety.
There’s also the fact that they do get word in Carol’s Landing about…well…what happens next, but if Larry had truly sent a raven right away, that word would have reached faster, yes? So did he wait until he got back to send the raven? But then how long was Trystane Jonas anchored offshore? Or does Trystane’s scene, which takes place after this scene, actually happen before in the timeline. Or is it months afterwards? We have no clue!
After careful contemplation, we *think* the most reasonable choice is that Larry sent the letter right away, Obara and Nymeria immediately changed into their action outfits after Faullaria couldn’t throw a handkerchief away and somehow swam to catch up with the boat, and the scene that follows this scene in the episode actually takes place weeks later, once Larry’s boat reached the shore. So this is a “flashback” given that Larry was already back having sad conversations/make-out sessions with Carol for the audience, and news travels really, really slowly from Porne to Carol’s Landing at all other times.
Wait, where were we, again? Oh right, shifty eyes.
Even if Faullaria and Tyene hadn’t suspected this was *the letter*, Prince Bashir’s complete lack of poker face sort of betrays that. He even outright shouts “The Princess Myrcella” while giving Faullaria a wtf-face. So she does what any brilliant woman would do and pulls a dagger out of her bracelet, which she plunges into his heart.
At the same time, Tyene whips out her own itsy bitsy dagger and stabs the refrigerator-sized Showtah delicately in the back. The man immediately drops like a sack of potatoes, dead.
The honeypot is that her dagger was coated with poison. The world’s fastest acting poison. As opposed to the boner-activated poison, or the Poison Ivy kiss poison. Porne has really good alchemists!
Tyene also murders the Shyster Maester by pulling her dagger out of Showtah and throwing it at him. Why the Maester was trying to run, or why this was a problem at all is beyond us, since remember that time even Maester Luwin had to serve Theon? Back when this show made sense?
Maybe it just made them more empowered to finally get rid of that extortionist.
While Prince Bashir is bleeding on the ground, Faullaria takes this opportunity to Bond-villain monologue at him. Or feminist-hero monologue at him. You see, everyone hates him in Porne, because he’s such a sissy! He’s not their prince or a Pornishman. Suddenly, Faullaria’s proclamation that he’d be a bad adventurer is taking on a new meaning. We guess Showberyn was “real” or something, right?
As if to prove her point, the many guards watching this unfold just fucking stand there. Like, their ruling prince got stabbed, along with their Captain of the Guard and maester, and they do nothing. We’re not even positive they’re breathing. Their non-reaction is even worse than the Ironboor vaguely blinking as Euron the Pooh admitted to murdering their king.
Prince Bashir, in his last dying breath, asks about his sonion. Then Faullaria says the line that sums of the feminist theme of this season:
“Your son is weak, just like you. And weak men will never rule Dorne again.”
Good thing Bashir hadn’t been secretly working at the downfall of Tywin Lannister since Elia’s death and was about to clue Faullaria in on everything. That would have been embarrassing.
We’re here to kill you
Anyway, speaking of that weak son, we cut to Trystane Jonas (and jump back to the present day?), unattended in his ship that’s anchored off-shore, since Larry
has no idea how to treat royal guests is so worried about him. Proving his weakness, he’s painting eyeball stones, because he’s not immediately over the death of his girlfriend. He’s so upset, in fact, that when the presumed help knocks on the door, he says he isn’t hungry. What a turd. A real man would want to build muscle mass, damnit!
However, the answer he gets may surprise you.
“We’re not here to feed you. We’re here to kill you.”
That’s right, the Sand Fakes Obara and Nymeria emerge with that Emmy-worthy zinger. Trystane, reasonably alarmed, points out that they’re family. Don’t you also want to point out that they teleported onto your ship? They were standing on the docks at the end of last season!
The Fakes smirk at his surprise that his cousins want to murder him, and tell him to choose “her or me.” Luckily, Trystane’s cutlass is still easily accessible, just like it was for his date with Madison, so he draws it and chooses Nymeria. Which…yeah. She has a little strap of leather as her weapon.
They get into their battle-ready stances, but OH SHIT a spear gets driven through his face. Because Obara was that eager, and that dishonorable. Or as Nymeria aptly points out:
Stay classy, ladies.
We’re a little disappointed that they just head straight home from this. Where was their side-quest in which they fuck up Carol’s Landing? Heck, they might have even been able to spring Loras from his ridiculous imprisonment, because everyone in Porne is such a good ally!
But no. Porne disappears from our screens for the next eight episodes.
Do shut up, dear
Be it known, as the season was airing, we assumed Porne was going away forever. This was D&D’s last hurrah, even perhaps a swipe at critics of the Sand Fakes who called them “cartoonish” in Season 5 (the glove fits, boys). But nothing that would influence the end-game. Some laughed, some cried, some reread A Feast for Crows. It was over. Even Carol didn’t give a shit.
But no. What sweet, summer children we were. Following Cheryl’s Big Boom, we found ourselves whisked back to Porne, at the gardens that seem to encompass the entirety of the principality. There, at an opulent table, Faullaria and the Sand Fakes meet with Olenna.
So, really, just take your desperate attempt at a timeline and toss it out the window. Everyone’s already been informed about the sept blowing up, and the Fakes reached out to Olenna in Highgarden (presumably) to get her to come. This means a considerable amount of time had to have passed, right? Except oh wait, the scene where Larry gets back to the still-smoking Cheryl’s Landing is yet to come. And don’t get us started on Varys’s magical mystery tour. We don’t know when this is happening. WE DON’T KNOW.
We also don’t know why Olenna accepted this invitation, and neither does she, since she sits there expositing on how duplicitous the Pornish were because of that one time they murdered a Tyrell who was actively subjugating them. To be fair, she might have been reading Maester Yandel’s account and understanding PoV bias is a challenge.
Obara wisely points out that there’s a reason she’s sitting there, yo, and it’s probably because they’re going to reach something mutually beneficially. So maybe she can stop being antagonistic for no reason? Like, she didn’t get over this on her carriage ride down there?
And seriously, no bullshit: this is a decent point, Obara! Words we will almost definitely never say again.
But Olenna decides the best response is to make fun of her name and gender expression.
Then Nym even tries to apologize for “Barbaro” and her perfect attempts at diplomacy, by being eminently diplomatic herself, just because that’s how badly they want to make Olenna feel comfortable. But Olenna essentially puts her fingers in her ears and goes “nyah nyah nyah.”
Nymeria: Forgive my sister. What she lacks in diplomacy, she makes—
Olenna: Do shut up, dear.
Then, on a roll, she just decides to yell at Tyene for sitting there, and tells her to “let the grown women speak.”
Olenna, seriously. We don’t know if D&D are trying to use you as a meta-mouthpiece for their own shitty character creation, but the irony of wanting the “grown women” to speak while you go and act like a petulant four-year-old is not lost on us. And why she respects Faullaria, of all people, as one of these “grown women” is truly mind-boggling. She already pointed out that the idiot murdered her own prince and is untrustworthy.
Whatever, at least in this case, Faullaria is focused. She has her Larrol-quality game-face on, and is like, “Look. The Lannisters basically declared war on both of us.” That’s…somewhat dubious for Porne since Faullaria was the one who murdered the most Pornish from what we can tell. And if she’s talking about the death of Showberyn, as much as we love the guy, no one put a gun to his head and forced him to participate in Tyrion’s trial-by-combat. Maybe she means Elia’s death 20 years ago? Okay.
But sure. They want to take down Cheryl. Or “The Lannisters.” (Seriously, as many Lannisters got blown up as Tyrells. There’s only Cheryl and Larry left.) Faullaria points out that for that reason, they need each other for survival. Olenna is all, “survival is overrated,” and frankly we can’t really blame her for wanting to go scorched earth right now. Cheryl did, legit, blow-up everyone she cared about, and it’s not like she’s got many years ahead of her to turn things around.
See? Moral ambiguity! Even assholes can be sympathetic!
After Olenna clearly makes it known that all she wants to do is turn Cheryl into a murdered woman (a murdered woman!), Faullaria says that she can give her this “heart’s desire.” But then Olenna apparently forgot what she said four seconds ago, because she outright asks:
“And what is my heart’s desire?”
Could it be she read A Feast for Crows and saw where this was headed? Book snob Olenna is so dedicated to misappropriating book dialogue in its entirety that she doesn’t even care if it follows conversational pragmatics. What a hero!
Faullaria, wanting to make sure this reveal has the maximum amount of drama, tinkles a little silver bell, saying, “Vengeance. Justice.”
And then WHO POPS OUT FROM BEHIND THE CURTAIN? Varys Marx!
“Fire and Blood.”
Was he just… Was he just hiding there the whole time until he could finish her sentence?
What if Olenna had been on-board immediately? And isn’t it rude to keep someone representing Deadpan in such an official capacity hidden behind a literal curtain and then ring for them like they’re a fucking house maid, rather than maybe giving him a place at the table where the negotiations were happening?
Well, no time to worry about that. What’s important is that Olenna looks somewhat convinced to join the Coalition of Women on Top. We mean seriously, just fuck it at this point.
The Princess Refused to be Cowed
Okay. Something so serious is happening right now that Julie has to de-fuse for a second. The Dornish plotline in Martin’s last two books is Julia and Kylie’s absolute favorite. We’re not sure we can adequately explain just how much it means to us, and how many hours we spend thinking about it. Or ficcing about. Or ficcing fic about it.
We’ve said this before, but if we had to give a mile-high synopsis, which apparently we must because D&D are still insistent on bringing in book “moments,” it would be this:
Dorne is Arianne’s story. We would say that the politics are secondary to the personal in this arc, but one of its major points is about the intersection of the personal and the political. Is it ever okay for a prince to go to war for personal reasons? When does “personal” become “political” anyway?
But, at its essence, Dorne is a family tragedy. It’s about a father and daughter (Doran and Arianne) who love each other, but misunderstand each other because of a character failing that they both share. The possible war with the Lannisters that looms over Dorne is not as important as the “war” in Arianne’s mind as she tries to secure not only her political birthright, but also her personal “birthright” to her father’s trust and love.
And yes, all that said, there is still a kind of awesome and dramatic reveal that Doran has been working at the downfall of the Lannisters since his sister was killed during Robert’s Rebellion, and moving into A Dance with Dragons, it’s quite clear that Doran and Arianne need each other on both a political and personal level as they further plans for Dorne.
So, the context of the conversation where there’s a discussion of “hearts desires” and “fire and blood” is a weeeee bit different, even if the end result is that the ruler of Dorne is going to war against the Lannisters. Like, it makes sense for Arianne to not know what their “hearts’ desire” is, since they haven’t openly communicated for a decade. Olenna TOLD Faullaria exactly what she wanted. This is a fundamental level of not-making-sense.
During Season 5’s run, Julia would often tell Kylie that she would not be able to handle any attempted adaptation of this scene between Arianne and Doran. Luckily for us, Season 5 had not only nothing resembling it, but nothing resembling the Dornish plotline in general. It was just about Larry becoming a great dad and eating soup.
However, this year, this scene not only came out of nowhere for us (we thought Porne was done after the first episode), but it specifically mangled the dialogue of our favorite moment. And yet, it was done with such intense ineptitude that we couldn’t be upset. Faullaria had a bell, for crying out loud! This is high comedy!
Our point being, though there was a time in our lives where we might have found it fruitful to discuss the adaptational changes made…that time has passed. This was just D&D writing whatever the hell they wanted, and using Martin’s dialogue out of either sheer laziness, or a mistaken belief that this would somehow appease fans of the books. Which…who can complain when this was the original, Emmy-winning dialogue of last year:
A Team of Greedy Bitches
That said. There is one overriding question: why didn’t they have Doran be the one to ally with Deadpan? Even Alexander Siddig was flummoxed at his early departure, since they paid him for the entire season. Well, four episodes, but we have to imagine that would have been the maximum Porne appeared.
“But there was something wrong about [killing off Doran when they did] because I had been contracted for four episodes in the following season, so if they were going to kill me off at the end of the last season why would they contract me for those four episodes? Because it costs them money whether I do them or not, so it’s not great business sense to do it just in case.” —Alexander Siddig
Yes, Game of Thrones is 100% blazing its own trail right now. But even so, D&D still seemed to be boiling out the basic basic basic idea of a plot-point. Why was Doran just some kindly dude with soup?
Having Faullaria be the one to kill him and control Porne’s fate did three things:
- It made her and the Fakes look like giant assholes. Evil, murderous, unreasonable, family-slaying assholes.
- It meant that Deadpan’s team would be entirely comprised of Women on Top (Faullaria, Olenna, and Yara all reporting to her).
- It told all critics of the Fakes and Faullaria’s scripting to take their STUPID comments and leave them in their pocket!
There are some who earnestly argue that this choice was made for comedy. And we do agree that we’ve had some of our best laughs down in Porne (and that was competing against Pycelle farting!). But we absolutely refuse to believe this was intentionally as laughable as it came out.
Indira Varma was definitely playing her stabbing of Bashir monologue straight this time. We promise. The music also seemed to agree that this was a dramatic moment, and that Faullaria was someone to be feared.
So when it comes to understanding the motivation of D&D here, we have to rule out that this was black comedy. Especially since we’ve seen their attempts at comedy this season:
Looking at the other results, however, the question of whether or not we’re supposed to like Faullaria and the Fakes is…unclear. As two women with a general compassionate approach to life, we don’t see how anyone could ever root for them in this circumstance. In fact, during the show’s run, we argued after the first episode that they were meant to be villains, because of course they were. They were murdering their own family!
But then there’s result #2: Women on Top. And given the contrivances that placed all other women into their politically important positions (Deadpan earning the following of the Dothraki by burning down their temple, Cheryl being handed the keys to the throne for burning down a sept and murdering everyone, Yara still somehow getting all the Ironboor’s best ships to follow her even though she lost a vote), it does feel very deliberate on their part. Especially since the Pornish have no??reason??to follow??Faullaria??. She murdered their prince, and destroyed any legitimate succession. Even Olenna was all “why on earth would I trust you after you pulled this shit?”
To accomplish this, the narrative D&D pushed on us was that this was some sort of populist overthrow, because Prince Bashir was so out of touch. We were told, even last year, that the people were with the Fakes. The guards doing the mannequin challenge as their prince was getting slaughtered are rather indicative of its truth.
So, were we supposed to be sympathetic to the idea that “weak men” who negotiate for peace and eat soup really shouldn’t be allowed to rule Porne? Or just men who wouldn’t declare war immediately in the name of REVENGE?
And the thing is, we think that yes, we are supposed to agree with this on some level. Because Deadpan is unquestionably the good guy in the narrative (if only because she’s aligned with Tyrion), and Faullaria is signing up to help her bring down Cheryl. Also, because this is not the first time that murderous women are presented to us in a positive light. In fact…that’s the only way women can be seen in a positive light. Arya slits a throat to rave reviews. Sansa feeds her abuser to some dogs in cold blood and earns feminist bonus points. And let’s not forget:
Yara: We’d like you to help us murder an uncle or two who don’t think a woman’s fit to rule.
The theme of the season, in so many ways, is that women who murder stupid men are really good and feminist, and we should seal clap for them. Except, and we have no idea why, Cheryl, who actually did burn down some semblance of a patriarchy that was actively oppressing the people in her city—herself included. But she’s evil because she has black shoulder pads.
Damnit! We’re just so confused now!
We are guessing that we are supposed to be sympathetic to Faullaria’s side because “weak men” are always portrayed in a negative light (looking at you, Hizdahr zo Sansa), and women who murder them are good. Cheryl also blew up Marg though, so maybe that’s why she’s bad. Reasonable.
But even if we wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they were creating this morally ambiguous alliance so that when Deadpan gets to the mainland, she’ll have this big conundrum about whether or not she wants to keep Porne in the fold. However, we’d need to ignore the fact that she already allied with a giant asshole named Yara.
…we’d also have to ignore the spoilers that we’ve seen coming from Season 7 filming: the Pornish women and Yara leashed and paraded through Cheryl’s Landing as punishment, at the hands of Euron (and likely Cheryl herself). Which to be fair, we would like to ignore very much.
So, we just don’t see how a logical case can be made that the audience is supposed to be anything other than on Faullaria’s side. Unless D&D truly didn’t give a shit about their reception at all, and this was just meant to be a middle finger to the critics. While they do have the job security to be able to do that (these 8 seasons feel pretty locked-in), even we don’t want to be petty enough to assume it.
The only other possible explanation is that this was all D&D’s cry for help, and that they are trying as hard as they can to do the worst job possible so the show will be cancelled and they won’t have to do all eight seasons. (They seem tired.) There’s plenty of evidence for that just looking at this plotline, to be perfectly honest. And heck, that’s something even the most ardent show fans seem to agree upon. But, this sounds dangerously like tin-foil hat territory, so let’s just assume instead that Faullaria’s overthrow of the patriarchy was meant to be very feminist.
The Grown Women
Empowerment isn’t a new subject for us to talk about in relation to Game of Thrones. The thing is, time and time again, no matter how much we work to come up with alternate explanations to something that seems either unearned or offensive, D&D disappoint. This is the case with their conception of what makes an empowered woman.
Kylie spent an essay detailing it, and we just talked through it in the section above. The way women are portrayed as “empowered” is by eschewing feminine qualities, mocking other women, and murdering. Usually it’s a combination of all three.
Faullaria is the perfect example of this. In Season 4, she was just, like…a nice lady who cared about her boyfriend and wore socially inappropriate clothing to weddings. In Season 5, she’s suddenly stalking around threatening to shove spears up Showtah’s ass, and she advocates for brutal torture and the murder of an honored guest who happens to be a teenage girl. The culmination of this about-face came in the season opener this year when she stabs Prince Bashir and chides him for being weak. Because…he wouldn’t send Madison to Carol “one finger at a time.”
We’re not sure what we’re supposed to find empowering about this, exactly. To us, it really just seems to be an embracing of the toxically patriarchal values of this setting that cause suffering to all genders in the first place (that is, if the patriarchy chooses to exist in a given scene). As Kylie explained:
The “feminist” message of the Season 6 was that violent women are empowered because violence is respected (and male-coded), and apparently feminism is when women demonstrate that they can be just like patriarchy-approved men. Which is an understanding feminism straight out of either the 80’s or an MRA meeting.
However, there’s also one particular quality that comes with Badass™ women on the show, which the Badass™ men do not possess: rudeness. Like, it’s not just rudeness either; it’s a specifically petty form of rudeness. It’s “sass” if you squint, but it’s mostly just behaving like a child. It’s Faullaria dumping wine onto the floor, Marg teasing Carol about her alcoholism, Arya smirking her way around Braavos, or Olenna yelling at “Barbaro” to shut up for being perfectly reasonable.
This is definitely part of the over-employed “all women are catty” trope, but this season it seems to have extended even further where it’s the women we’re supposed to root for behaving like this at all times. Olenna literally can’t get through a single scene without making some completely out-of-place, mean-spirited wisecrack. And it’s often at the cost of the logic of the scene in the first place.
The thing is, in George R.R. Martin’s setting, rudeness in women is something of a rarity because… patriarchy. They are taught (even groomed, if you will) to be docile and submissive, to have an armor of courtesy. The “ideal” woman from a societal standpoint are the women who absorb abuse and never complain, such as the widely praised Queen Naerys.
So in some ways, eschewing these constraints really do show a bit of a resistance. For instance, the Olenna Redwyne of the books is absolutely a rude lady. Her husband is dead so she no longer has the concerns of marital rape that other women face, and she’s nearly at the end of her life so she’s completely stopped caring about performance. And perhaps most importantly, no one takes her seriously, because she’s just some old lady. And this is truly exemplified by her dumbass son replying to everything she says, no matter how reasonable, with “Tut-tut, Mother.”
Oh Mace, never change.
For this reason, Olenna Redwyne can say “shocking” things and even do shocking things, like regicide, without being on anyone’s radar. She just stopped caring because society doesn’t care about her. It’s kind of like misandry meets apathy.
That said, this is still, always, very within patriarchal constraints. Olenna is able to plot regicide with Littlefinger, but she’s by no means invited to negotiate with the Hand of the King on behalf of House Tyrell. Why would that happen? If it did, she wouldn’t need to plot with Littlefinger! If she was taken seriously, the events of A Storm of Swords wouldn’t have taken place, at least as far as the Tyrell’s involvement.
On the show, there seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of this concept. They have Olenna with a general “don’t give a shit” attitude, but she also has official responsibility. She is taken incredibly seriously by everyone in the room, and she’s given a damn seat on the Small Council.
For this reason, it makes her rudeness just seem utterly petty and stupid. And it’s also just rudeness for rudeness’s sake at this point. It’s the reason she ordered her carriage to stop when she arrived in Carol’s Landing in Season 5, just so she could say that it smelled like poop and then yell at the driver for stopping. And it’s certainly the reason that in an official and important meeting with
Princess Faullaria, she chose to take the time to berate the Fakes, even Tyene who was just sitting quietly.
It’s not like this is a mystery: she’s clearly supposed to be funny. But then to have her say, within these jokes, that the “grown women” should speak, it seems to endorse this rudeness. It’s the tacit implication that yes, being an utter asshole is what makes you a player, rather than being one of those women who tries to be nice, or socially appropriate.
This isn’t unique to Olenna, or even the past two seasons. When Sansa came down the stairs in her Tier 8 warlock outfit, we could tell she was empowered because she was smirking at Littlefinger and making not-at-all veiled threats of the leverage she had over him, in direct contrast to her previous character who tried to hide her true thoughts behind an armor of courtesy. Heck, we can look back at Season 2 where Arya talked about how “most girls are idiots”, though not Visenya, who was a badass with her sword, we guess.
The show endorses social inappropriateness, because there’s no actual grasp on the society. Plus there’s the fact that any woman who is nice or tries to work within the system is a fool who dies, like Lady Crane and Season 6 Marg.
We were certainly supposed to take Olenna’s “grown women” remark at face-value, because those Fakes suck so much. They do, we’re not trying to deny that, but the thing is that D&D have no clue how to actually script sympathetic women, because they end up getting undercut by either childish or violent behavior, or in the case of Faullaria and Olenna, childishly violent behavior. This may be the best descriptor of Porne, too.
Don’t presume to tell me what I need
What more is there to be said? This was a cartoonishly over-the-top hot mess where a bunch of horrible women slaughtered their own family, were rewarded with the rule of an entire principality, and teamed up with the character who is serving as one of the most central protagonists. Logic was defied at every turn, from the teleporting Fakes to Varys waiting behind the curtain like a very good boy who’d be given a biscuit.
The thing is, based on the Alexander Siddig interview, it’s clear the scripts were changed, unless they felt they needed to pay him for three extra episodes as an apology (we’d be okay with this sentiment). And we’re a little torn, because we do like when media creators take-in criticism and adapt. A lot. It was clear that Porne hadn’t been working out so well, so they were buried, both within the season, and within promotional material.
However, they didn’t actually get rid of the parts we had issues with. If anything, they brought them forward and endorsed them. Why was Faullaria rewarded? Why does vengeance, no matter how myopic and misdirected, need to be validated as the one great motivation at every single turn in this show?
Then there’s also the part where, sure, they changed the plan. But it showed. It showed horribly. It was so clear that there was no forethought with the way the season opener unfolded. Trystane was given a seat on the Small Council last year, but they decided that they didn’t want to deal with it, so they teleported his cousins onto his ship to murder him. It was sloppy enough that critics earnestly believe it was done for comedy.
And forgive us for not having high confidence that there is going to be an immensely rewarding payoff in Season 7, especially in light of the leaks/filming shots we’ve gotten.
We don’t know how to react to this. With some of the other, smaller retrospectives, we’ve at least been able to conclude on the point “this didn’t need to exist at all.” Sure, that’s the case here, perhaps even more so than with the Ironboor or Sam at Horn Faire. But the final scene, where we find out that these assholes are going to be in Deadpan’s Empowered Army of Women leaves an even worse taste in our mouths. It’s insulting that the showrunners think this is feminist, or what we want, or even remotely engaging.
And they can have Olenna make all the meta-jokes she wants about how terrible the Fakes are, or even punish them next season Nikki and Paolo-style. The fact is, they are entirely the fault of Benioff and Weiss in the first place, and symptomatic of an overall inability to understand what made A Song of Ice and Fire good.
But job well done, because it actually got us to miss this:
At least it was an arc.
If you enjoyed Julie’s thoughts on this plotline, then be sure to check out the Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire podcast starring Julia and Kylie, Unabashed Book Snobbery! You can subscribe/listen on iTunes, subscribe to our RSS feed, search for “Unabashed Book Snobbery” in any podcast app, or find a complete list of UBS episodes on Kylie’s personal blog. The Season 6 Porne episode is available here.
Images courtesy of HBO