Category Archives: Episode Recaps
And thus season 4 comes to a close. There’s a lot to be said about the finale, but I’m only going to talk about one character: Tywin Lannister.
I know I’ve said it before, but Tywin Lannister is my favorite character from the book series, and was my favorite character from the show. The first scene we see with Tywin he’s cutting up a deer carcass. It’s a good scene, but the sense of Tywin I got from Charles Dance was different from what I got from the books, so I wasn’t immediately sold on him. Of course, as the season wore on, Charles Dance’s Tywin not only grew on me, but overpowered and replaced the Tywin Lannister I had in my head from the books. That Tywin—book Tywin—was more of a monster in my head—almost savage. Dance’s Tywin is the epitome of gentility. He is stern, he is cold, but he is always in control of every situation, and of his own emotions. He isn’t actively menacing the way I imagined him in the books.
But, of course, Dance’s Tywin is, I feel, the more accurate of the two. No matter how powerful or rich you are, you can’t get on as well as Tywin does if you’re an outright monster. And we do get the sense that if you remain on Tywin Lannister’s good side, he’s a fine guy to be around. A prime example of this are the few scenes with Arya and Tywin in season…two, I want to say? It may have been one. Even in a very kind of creepy way the scene with Tywin and Tommen, where Tywin is giving the new king a “lesson” on what it means to be king. It’s really easy to see how he could build a legion of followers who can see him treating others poorly and rationalize it by believing that they deserve to be treated poorly (if they didn’t, why would he do it? Tywin’s always so smart and sees things so clearly, after all!).
Now, before I go too far, make no mistake: I think Tywin Lannister, the character, is a bad person. If this were a real person, I would definitely not want to have any dealings with him, let alone have him as a father. But you don’t have to like a character as a person to like what they do for a particular story, and love the performance of the actor that portrays them.
And, honestly, I think the master stroke for Charles Dance was his very last scene. Tywin Lannister is always in control. No one ever catches Tywin with his pants down (though Cersei gets to him in this episode, doesn’t she?). And then Tyrion does—literally. This is a position that pretty much no human on Earth would be able to play off well—and yet Tywin does! He’s literally sitting on a toilet with his pants down, and somehow he still manages to be in control of that situation. He has all the right responses for Tyrion! The only thing that shifts the balance of power in that scene is the fact that Tyrion is armed and Tywin is not. Even here Tyrion can’t beat Tywin in a battle of wits or passions (something that Arya ends up doing with the Hound). Tywin doesn’t break. He doesn’t beg for his life. He doesn’t apologize. He doesn’t back down from his beliefs even in that position. Truly incredible, and a very well-executed scene from all concerned.
So something that I wondered—and perhaps other fans have wondered, as well—is if Tywin is so smart and so powerful and so rich and so cunning, how is it he still ends up on the wrong end of a crossbow on the privy? While there’s a lot to be said about his feelings regarding his dead wife and how his children continually fail him in his eyes, one thing keeps coming back to me. One of Tywin’s key failings is that he likes to teach lessons. If you’ve seen Arrested Development, perhaps you’ll remember the fellow with the one arm, and Michael’s lesson about not teaching lessons. That last lesson is one Tywin should have learned. It wasn’t enough for him to stick a false conviction on Tyrion: He wanted to teach Tyrion a lesson about falling for whores. Honestly, he didn’t need Shae’s testimony to convict Tyrion: it was just a cruel, public humiliation. Ultimately, this is what did him in. Without Shae, recall, Tyrion probably would have gone along with Jaime and Tywin’s plan and taken the black. And in fact even if all the events had transpired as they did up to Jaime’s rescue, consider: What would have happened if Tyrion had snuck into Tywin’s bedroom and found him alone? We’ll never know, but it’s worth mulling over.
Alas, Tywin is gone, and along with him Charles Dance. Truly, though, this was a masterful performance. I never met Charles Dance, but I will now look for him in other things just based on this performance. Sheer brilliance. And, of course, my hat is off to George R. R. Martin as well. He created the character who is just as electric in the books and paved the way for this outstanding role. Mr. Dance, you will be missed.
As for the rest, there’s too much to say, and I bet everyone else will say it, so I’ll leave it to them. I do want to praise the performance of the actor who played the shepherd, though—the one who lost the daughter. His lines were all in Meereenese Valyrian, but the emotion was raw. You didn’t need to understand what he was saying to feel it. A heartbreaking moment, and he acted it superbly.
And now we wait. Just a year, though. These things go by in the blink of an eye nowadays. Season five will be here before you know it!
As the title portends, I will be talking about Monty Python in this post, but first a brief commentary on “The Laws of Gods and Men”, written by old friend Bryan Cogman—who, by the way, is back on Twitter, so give him a follow!
There were some great speeches in this episode, but I feel like Tyrion’s trial overshadows the awesome scene with Stannis, Davos and Tycho Nestoris at the Iron Bank. It’s really awkward and uncomfortable for Stannis, which is the point, but then Davos comes back with this incredible save out of nowhere. And while we don’t know what the outcome is precisely, we get the sense that he made a positive impression—which is made all the more powerful after you think about how Tycho has just gone over how they at the Iron Bank are swayed by nothing but numbers. Yes, Davos does give him some facts, but he also lays his heart out there in front of these stuffshirts—and it works. It’s a Hail Mary to end all Hail Marys, and I loved it.
In Dany’s scene, I didn’t know we were actually going to see the dragon doing dragon stuff. That was pretty intense! Though I can’t help but feel bad for the sheep. They even have him bleating as he’s being carried away in the dragon’s claws on fire… Or wait, was that a goat? Let me check… Take that back, it was a goat. I know this because I just searched my Low Valyrian dictionary for a word for “sheep” and came up empty. “Goat” is there, though. (And hey, that’s the second time that word has been used—but only the first time in reference to an actual goat!)
Hizdahr zo Loraq looks a lot younger than I pictured him in the books. Then again, since I listened to the audio books, all of my mental images were painted by Roy Dotrice (or John Lee, for one book), so my mental images were dependent not just on the words but on the performance. The—
Whoa, hang on. Just realized I was about to write something spoilery. This is always a tough one. I’ve only read each book once, so when I start watching the show, I sometimes get confused about stuff that has happened or hasn’t—and whether it was in the books or the show. I had that confusion during the Theon scene, actually. Did that happen in the books? Also, from that scene, Ramsay was all cut up before that fight started, right? What was he doing beforehand?! That dude is straight up creepy; I love him.
Oh, and another question: I missed the “red shirt” punchline that the girls shout. What is it?
Back to Dany, looking back at the script, it looks like a couple of the Meereenese Valyrian lines with the goatherd were cut (likely for length). Still a lot left in there. Here’s a few of those lines. Dany first speaks to the goatherd in High Valyrian:
- Zūgagon daor, ñuhys raqiros. Skoros ynot epilū?
- “Don’t be afraid, my friend. What would you ask of me?”
And he responds saying that he doesn’t understand:
- Yeng shijetra, osh eghlish. Tha shifang.
- “Forgive me, your grace. I don’t understand.”
I was really fond of that osh eghlish for “your grace” or “your highness”. It’s the characteristic phrase of MV. Then Missandei says:
- Ye Thal poghash koth nyesha she yedhra.
- “The Queen says you may approach and speak.”
Funny how close thal is to khal (total happenstance), but with this line here, Miss Nathalie Emmanuel became the most linguistically diverse actor in all of Game of Thrones! She has officially spoken:
- Common (i.e. English)
- Astapori Valyrian
- High Valyrian
- Meereenese Valyrian
Or, hmm… Actually, I guess Dany never speaks AV, so I think this was a title Missandei already claimed, but still, it’s further cemented here. She’s the only actor who’s had to deal with all of the Game of Thrones languages, and for that, I salute her! And, in fact, if the White Walkers’ language and Asshai’i were not used in the show, as I suspect, she’s also the only actor to speak every language featured in the show. That is boss!
Before leaving this episode, Tyrion’s trial was incredible (everyone knows that Tywin is my favorite character, so him doing anything is a treat), but I feel like the things I want to say about it are going to spoil at least one thing from the remaining four episodes… And since I’m liable to get confused, I’ll just hold off. All I’ll say for now is that I think Shae’s progression is done better in the show than it is in the books—either that, or I wasn’t paying close enough attention to the books. Frankly, it feels that way a lot when I’m watching the show (e.g. like the time I actually said, “Wait… Renly’s supposed to be gay?”). Also, “trial by combat” are possibly my three favorite words from Game of Thrones.
If you’ve read this interview with me over at the Making Game of Thrones blog, you’ll know about yet another one of Dan Weiss’s practical jokes. The insults that the Meereenese champion was hurling at Daenerys et al. were translations of the French Taunter from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If you don’t know what Monty Python and the Holy Grail is, you should probably stop reading this blog and find a way to watch the movie immediately. At the very least, you can see the speech being referenced here.
Also, I know I mentioned this in the interview (which, by the way, D&D gave their blessing to), but just to be clear, I don’t get credit for coming up with this idea; that was all Dan Weiss. Usually after I’m done translating the bulk of the material for a season, Dan gets an idea for something fun after the fact, and I get an e-mail starting with something like, “Hey, I had an idea for a joke…” I know I’m generally a stickler for realism when it comes to the languages, but when this opportunity presented itself, it was just too good. I like to think (though I don’t know either way) that Emilia Clarke, Nathalie Emmanuel, et al. had no idea what the champion was actually saying. This would amuse me to no end. But anyway, if you’re wondering, “Does this mean there are hamsters in Essos?”, or “Does this mean there were elderberries in Valyria?”, I honestly have no idea. I had to Wikipedia “elderberry”—both when I coined the word, and just right now again, because that’s how much I know about elderberries. The relevant words lie somewhere in between the holy mountain of Canon and the dry wastelands of Non-Canon. I’ll not sort it out beyond that.
Without further ado (and I’m not sure exactly how much of this made it onscreen):
- Byjan vavi demble eva o, trezy eme verdje espo jimi! Oa mysa iles me nýnyghi, si oa kiba tuziles espo tomistos!
- “I fart in your general direction, son of a window-dresser! Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!”
So you don’t have to look for it, “hamster” is nýnyghi (which may have been inspired by the Knights who say Ni). Also, tomisto, from High Valyrian tōmītsos, was an homage to my friend Tom (a.k.a. Tommy) Lieber. I’ve found a way to work him into each one of my languages, but “elderberry” is the best, I think.
- Já si hojgá oa gundja, trezy eme mero dovodedha!
- “Go and boil your bottom, son of a silly person!”
Note to the Wiki folks: If it’s got a j in an odd place, it’s probably Ghiscari in origin.
- Kiman nya másina orvorta va oi sodjistos!
- “I wave my private parts at your aunties!”
There were some edits made to the text:
- Do eban av kimívagho dombo, o doru-borto pame espo gruzi evi havor espo begistos!
- “I don’t want to talk to you no more you empty-headed animal food trough wiper!”
- Ghorgan ji pungo va o, nynta Dare espo Zaldrizes, o si une oi dovodedhi, Vesterozi azzzzzantys.
- “I blow my nose at you, so-called Dragon Queen, you and all your silly Westerosi kaniggets!”
And there it is.
But let me apologize to the Valyrian students out there. In the interview, I said that I didn’t think anyone had figured it out, but I sold you short! Mad Latinist and at least one other person did guess right; I guess I just didn’t hear about it (probably because I was traveling at the time). Well played! And you didn’t even have the words for “hamster”, “elderberry”, “aunty” or “fart”… That’s excellent sleuthsmanship!
We are officially half way through with the fourth season of Game of Thrones, and after last night’s episode, I know exactly what’s on everyone’s mind. Two words:
You kidding me?
Cersei and Tywin are sharing a pretty good scene—finally getting down to brass tacks with one another—and then Cersei drops this one on us (speaking of the Iron Bank of Braavos):
Cersei: But someone does work there; it is comprised of people.
Tywin: And a temple is comprised of stones.
When I heard this, I felt like Bender attending his own funeral. WHAT?! I mean, it’s one thing for Cersei to say something like this (she tries to act younger than she is), but for Tywin Lannister to say “comprised of”?! I…just…
Listen. You’ve got exactly two options, and they are these:
- is composed of
That. Is. It. You cannot hope to create a timeless it’s-not-television-it’s-HBO classic and date yourselves thus. What’s next? Is Tyrion going to use “whom” in subject position when he’s trying to sound formal? Why even have the British accents? Where’s that guy that played Benvolio in Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet? Why not have him play Jaime Lannister?!
(Oh, and a note, as I put my responsible linguist’s hat on: This is a fight that’s already been lost. At present, the best we can say is that you can still use “comprise” as an active verb. “Comprised of” is totally the norm now, and will continue on its path to becoming the only correct way to use “comprise”.)
But, yeah, with that out of the way, welcome to my first post in three months! I’ve been intensely busy, and have less to show for it than I should, but much more than I would if I’d been keeping up with everything I’d been keeping up with. One of those casualties has been this blog, which I never intended to abandon (and still don’t), but from which I’ve had to take a step back for a bit. It’s actually been quite encouraging to hear from a few people that they’ve missed the episode recaps I did the past couple of seasons. In fact, it’s because of one person on Tumblr specifically that I’m writing this post (because I promised I would).
There’ve been a lot of big talking points this season, which, honestly, has kind of surprised me. I mean, the Purple Wedding, sure, but there are some other things that really caught me off guard. I’ll try to hit them all.
But first and foremost, I want to talk about one dude: Jack Gleeson. I never got a chance to meet him (I’m sure we’ve been at the same thing at some point in time; I just never ran into him), but now that Joffrey is gone and Jack is done with the show, can we please give this guy a standing ovation? What a challenge. Joffrey is awful, of course, but he’s also vulnerable, and at times quite pathetic—and then sometimes he turns right around and plays Prince Charming to a T! There may have been another actor that could have done one or two of these traits very well, but Jack Gleeson embodied that little so-and-so named Joffrey so well that he became the face of the character—for the books as well as the show. He owned that role. And if he never acts again, which is what he’s claiming at the moment, his place in television history is cemented. He doesn’t need to do anything else. His skill is on screen for the ages, and he can do whatever he wants now for the rest of his life. He earned it.
Other minor notes: Love Prince Oberyn. Can’t wait till he gets revenge on the man that killed his
father sister. Love every single gif that came out of the Purple Wedding. Pure genius. Lena Headey deserves an Emmy nomination (she was wonderful in yesterday’s episode), but probably won’t get one, because I know the Emmy dudes are real grammar sticklers. Would love to see a spinoff entitled something like Arya and Her Dog—or, maybe when she gets a little bit older, The Fox and the Hound? (You can boo now.) I know people felt bad for Hodor when he was being attacked, but I bet Hodor probably felt worse when he awoke from a trance and saw what he did to Vargo Hoat Locke. Love Pod, Love Bronn, Jaime and Cersei…
Oh yeah, that.
There’s already been a lot that’s been said about Jaime raping Cersei. I know book readers probably felt betrayed, since this is at least the second time this has happened (Dany and Drogo being the first), but my wife had an interesting point. At no point in time is the rape portrayed as consensual (duh, it’s a rape, I know, but bear with me). After seeing that scene, there can be no argument that Cersei starts to “enjoy” it, and so it’s not a “legitimate” rape (a shockingly common argument made by rape apologists). Public opinion, for some crazy reason, loves to side with the rapist when there’s any potential “gray area”. There was none in this scene. No matter what way you look at it, that scene, both in world and out, was negative, and the reaction was supposed to be negative—and it was. So, at the very least, we’ve come that far, I guess.
But here’s what really bothers me about it. After that scene is over with, it’s like it never happened. It’s not as if Cersei’s not trying to think about it, or anything: it’s like it literally never happened. The very next episode, we see Jaime right back on his upward-trending arc, giving armor and a sword to Brienne, and Cersei out to avenge her dead son. In the book, that scene was supposed to be disturbing because it happens next to Joffrey’s dead body, and is supposed to further characterize Jaime and Cersei’s bizarre relationship. In the show, the scene—or that act, rather—has absolutely no dramatic function. This is actually one of the problems I had with Battlestar Galactica. Often you’d have an episode where some really tense, really dramatic stuff happens, and then the next episode, it’s like none of that stuff happened: two people that are mortal enemies at the end of episode X are suddenly friends in episode X+1. This is something I expect to happen on a show with a dozen or more writers. But Game of Thrones is literally shrinking its writing staff as the show goes on. It’s now down to four, and I don’t expect it to grow. There’s no excuse for this. It’s weird.
(Note: I won’t delete the above, since it already appeared, but this was worded much too strongly, and there’s a key piece that’s missing. We’re only five episodes in—and four seasons. The dramatic function of the rape scene is to produce a clear and obvious rift between Jaime and Cersei. This rift may play out later this season; it may play out later this series. It has the potential to be a defining moment between these two characters. The show has done an outstanding job at planting seeds that bear fruit several episodes or even several seasons later. We have to give the writers the benefit of the doubt and see what happens as the story unfolds. -DP)
All right, on to language stuff.
Now for a positive surprise. I didn’t get to watch the episode “Breaker of Chains” live because I was on a trip to Colorado (shout out to the CU Linguistics Department! Thank you guys so much for having me; it was awesome!). I ended up watching it right before “Oathkeeper”. Consequently, I was puzzled why I was getting so much Twitter love after the episode aired.
It’s not as if I didn’t know what was in that episode—I mean, I translated all that—I just didn’t think it would be particularly memorable. With the scene from episode four of season three, I knew beforehand that that was going to be good. I’d read the books; I knew the scene; and the script was great. I didn’t get that sense from this one, though. I mean, it was cool, and all (it’s Game of Thrones), but I had no idea how awesome that scene was going to be. And man, the ending—with the slave holding the collar, the master right behind him? That was badass! That scene played way better than what I was imagining in my head, and Emilia Clarke’s really got the rhythm of High Valyrian down. It’s wonderful to hear.
Here’s her full speech. You’ll have to forgive me, because I know for a fact I’m going to miss some of these long vowels. There’s a lot of text, and, as I’ve said before, Final Draft (the program I use for the scripts) doesn’t allow macrons, so I have to reinsert them where I remember them. Eventually I’ll get it all right.
- Daenerys Jelmāzmo iksan. Kostilus jevi āeksia yno bē pirtra jemot vestretis, iā daoruni jemot vestretis. Daoriot jemas. Doriar udra pōnto syt eman. Mērī jemī ivestran.
- I am Daenerys Stormborn. Your masters may have told you lies about me, or they may have told you nothing. It does not matter. I have nothing to say to them. I speak only to you.
I’ve always wondered how they could hear her—or how anyone could hear anyone in our world in the days before amplification—but maybe everyone in Meereen has HBO GO. Continuing, Dany says:
- Ēlī Astaprot istan. Astaprot dohaertrossa sīr yno inkot iōrzi, dāeri. Hembar Yunkaihot istan. Yunkaihī dohaertrossa sīr yno inkot iōrzi, dāeri. Sesīr Mirinot mastan.
- First, I went to Astapor. Those who were slaves in Astapor now stand behind me, free. Next I went to Yunkai. Those who were slaves in Yunkai now stand behind me, free. Now I have come to Meereen.
Okay. Dude. Like, you have no idea how much I was laughing at the fact that I literally got to use a pluralized nominalization of a past habitual participle. This has happened several times in Game of Thrones, actually, where I created some word or some grammatical form and thought, “This is cool, but it’ll never see the light of day.” Then all of a sudden I get to use the Dothraki words for “duck”, “rabbit” and “cooking pot”—and now this. The fact that High Valyrian even has a past habitual form still makes me chuckle (this is a form of the verb that is approximately equivalent to “used to” in English). I remember when I first looked at these sentences and had to translate them, I kind of rolled my eyes, and was like, “Oh, brother, I’m going to have to do a big old relative clause…” Then I paused, looked again…and my eyes got wide. It’s kind of like going for a royal flush as a joke in Texas Hold ‘Em and then the last card is the jack of hearts you’ve been waiting for. I laugh right now as I’m thinking about it.
But before I get too far ahead of myself, let me back up. Dohaeragon is a verb that means “to serve” (everyone should recognize it from the expression Valar dohaeris). Dohaeran means “I’m serving (right now)”. Dohaerin means “I serve (generally)”. Dohaertin means “I used to serve”. Each of these can be turned into participles. For example, dohaerare is the adjective “serving”, and you might use it to say dohaerare vala, “the serving man”, or “the man who is serving us at the moment” (e.g. a waiter). You can turn the participle itself into a noun to shorten things up, though, and say dohaeraros, which could mean something like “waiter”, so long as it’s understood that it’s temporary. You can do the same with other participles, as well. For example, the High Valyrian word for “slave” is dohaeriros, or “someone who serves habitually”. Dany uses the word buzdar, a Ghiscari word for “slave”, so the slaves in Astapor will understand what she’s saying (they may not know the High Valyrian term).
In this case, though, Dany turns the past habitual into a participle and nominalizes it. So dohaertre becomes dohaertros, which, when pluralized, is dohaertrossa, which means, “those who used to serve habitually”—and, if you put Astaprot in front of it (the locative version), you get Astaprot dohaertrossa, which literally means “those who were slaves in Astapor”.
All of that in two words! Man alive, this is what makes the job fun!
Yeah, so what was I doing when I got side-tracked? Oh, Dany’s speech. Still a lot left, actually. Here’s the next bit:
- Jevys qrinuntys ikson daor. Jevys qrinuntys jemo paktot issa. Jevys qrinuntys jevor riñar laodissis ossēnīs. Jevys qrinuntys jemo syt mērī belma se boteri se udrāzmī ēzi. Udrāzmī jemot maghon daor. Iderennon maghan. Se jevo qrinuntoti pōjor gūrotriri maghan. Naejot!
- I am not your enemy. Your enemy is beside you. Your enemy steals and murders your children. Your enemy has nothing for you but chains and suffering and commands. I do not bring you commands. I bring you a choice. And I bring your enemies what they deserve. Forward!
(Note: Above, ēzi should be ēza, but I misconjugated. I was thinking of the subject as “the masters” not “your enemy”.)
And finally, when she tells them to fire the catapult, this is what she says:
That is, “unfasten” or “unleash” (she’s talking about catapults, after all). An incredibly awkward word, with four long vowels in a row. If all the vowels are long, how can you even tell?
Anyway, there’s been other Valyrian, but I don’t have time to go into all of it (this post is getting a bit long). I was pleasantly surprised by Michiel Huisman’s performance in 401 (another Dutch actor!). His Low Valyrian was great. Jacob Anderson, though… Well, but who could ever top the master?
In 404, we got to hear some of Meereenese Valyrian (MV), which we’ll get to hear more of in the second half of the season. I know that Mad Latinist has been conjecturing that it’s not as close to Astapori Valyrian (AV) as I let on, but, I mean, it is literally the same language—I promise you this. I don’t have a separate document; just a section in the AV grammar entitled “Meereenese Shift”. It’s just AV with sound changes. There are a lot more Ghiscari-derived words in the MV dialogue, but they now exist in AV, too. They were new words. They weren’t created specifically for MV, but were created because there was a need for them in the MV dialogue. I thought of them as just new Low Valyrian words.
Here’s a nice comparison of all three Valyrians (this is an actual line of MV):
- MV: Shka ma khurf. P’ashkesh she kraj waov.
- AV: Ska me gurp. P’aeske si kotovi uvuve.
- HV: Mittys iksā. Āeksia tolī kostōbi issi.
- English: You’re a fool. The masters are too strong.
You can see each thing I mentioned at work here. Gurp is a Ghiscari word for “fool” that surfaced for the first time in MV, but is now in AV as well. Schwas are unmarked, but if it’s written a and occurs at the end of a word and is unstressed, it’s a schwa in MV. The word kraj has a reflex in krazi in AV, where it means “large”. MV is more Ghiscari in this way, since kraz- is a Ghiscari root. Otherwise it’s all sound changes. Radical sound changes, to be sure, but sound changes nonetheless. To give you an example how of just how radical the sound changes are, here’s the word “Unsullied” in all three Valyrians:
- MV: Thowoá
- AV: Dovoghedhy
- HV: Dovaogēdy
- English: Unsullied
Dave and Dan wanted MV to sound different enough that Dany wouldn’t be able to understand it, so I did that. Still, though, if you speak AV fluently, I contend that you can figure out MV without too much trouble. It’s just a thick accent with a lot more Ghiscari vocabulary.
All right, at almost 2500 words, I’m going to bring this to a close. I likely will not have an episode-by-episode recap for the last five episodes, but I will post again before the season’s over (or the day after it’s over). Fun stuff coming!
P.S.: If you’re wondering about the title, let me tell you: Silicon Valley is definitely worth watching. Absolutely loving it. Veep is killing it, too. Add John Oliver, and we’ve got some great Sundays ahead of us.
And now its watch is at an end (it being season 3)! Good show, D&D! I know there haven’t been many seasons, but this was by far the best. That said, it’s understandable if as a viewer you felt this finale was a little anticlimactic after last week’s showstopper. There’s absolutely no event that could top the horror of the Red Wedding (well, except for the event that many thought would happen last night that didn’t. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’ll have to wait till next season [or read A Storm of Swords]). Instead of trying to do that, they tried to tie up as many story lines as possible and set the table for next season, and I thought they did a good job. But there was also some fantastic stuff in this episode that it’s easy to forget about upon reflection.
Certainly at the top of my list was the Small Council scene. Tywin Lannister is, as you know, my favorite Song of Ice and Fire character, and you can’t ask for more than Joffrey being Joffrey and Tywin being Tywin at the same time. There’s rarely more electricity in the room than when someone publicly threatens Tywin Lannister. What genius! At the various premiere events I’ve been to, I have yet to run into either Charles Dance or Jack Gleeson, but I’d love to shake both of their hands. The quality they bring to their work and the life they’ve imbued in their characters is, for me, one of the highlights of the show. Game of Thrones is filled with twists, action and some great special effects, yes, but for me some of the most fun I have watching the show is witnessing the verbal repartée between characters with massive egos—one of the same reasons I enjoy watching Downton Abbey so much, in fact.
Since we’re in King’s Landing, I also wanted to tip my cap to Lena Headey. Cersei is an extremely unsympathetic character if you read the books. Some of the things she does have been left out of the show, but they’ve added some new scenes which really help to round Cersei out—and one of them came in “Mhysa”. I thought it was a lovely scene with her and Tyrion, and it adds a little something extra to this whole Joffrey question (i.e. how does the worst person ever come to be the worst person ever? What went wrong?). Not even she is blind to how awful Joffrey is, and yet he is her son. Lena Headey does a good job conveying just how tough that is.
Also I actually like that the reunion of Cersei and Jaime is a bit overshadowed and understated. It’s not a triumphant return, but also theirs is not the best relationship. It’d feel a little weird to be cheering that reunion like it’s Ross and Rachel (and before anyone comments, yes, I recognize that a good chunk of America was not cheering for that reunion [I was among them], but I don’t know how many would be familiar with Florentino and Fermina). I think the scene laid the groundwork for what’s going to become of their relationship rather well.
Another book comment. I like that the scene with Davos was allowed to play out. In the book, as I recall, that’s one of those chapter enders that George R. R. Martin is fond of: Davos is being carried away to be executed, and to save himself he pulls out a slip of paper and begins to read. You don’t know what or why; you have to wait until it’s explained later. Bleh. I’m a busy man. I’ll take my answers now, thank you.
As I’ve been watching this season with friends, I can say with confidence that Ramsey Bolton is a crowd favorite. He introduced acquitted himself quite well this season, what with his little horn and his sausage from this episode. That’s classic mirth-making. Ditto to Arya and the Hound. I hope we get a few more good scenes out of that pairing next season.
Before getting to the scene in Yunkai, I’d also like to mention a point of discussion that came up in regard to the “Wolf King” bit. This is something from the books, but we all found it to be quite a bit more awful than we were imagining—and I think this reaction has been a common one on the net. I think one thing that’s surprising is both my friend and I had the exact same reaction, which is that we thought the wolf head thing would be a lot cleaner than it actually was—but, realistically, there’s no reason it should have been. It should have been shoddy work, and, indeed, the wolf head should have looked like it didn’t fit on their properly. Still, when we read and imagined the season, we somehow imagined precision tailoring: a perfect fit for the wolf head, neat stitching… It’s comical, if you think about it, how unrealistic that expectation was. My friend contends this is on account of the fact that unless something is described in vivid detail (in the books it’s just an anecdote related by Salladhor Saan), our imaginations probably aren’t going to try to shock or horrify us. After all, such a thing isn’t pleasant. Thus, we get the Nutcracker Mouse King version of Robb with a wolf head in our imagination.
The season ends in Yunkai with some darling little dragons. I’m quite certain that if my cat had wings, she’d be Drogon. At first Missandei addresses the crowd (one wonders how many could actually hear. What did they do in the old days without sound systems…?):
- Bizy sa Daenerys Targarien, Jelmazmo, Dorzalty, Dāria Sikudo Dārȳti Vestero, Muña Zaldrizoti. Sa va zer sko enkat jiva derve.
- “This is Daenerys Targaryen, the Stormborn, the Unburnt, the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, the Mother of Dragons. It is to her you owe your freedom.”
The astute reader will note that this isn’t actually pure Low Valyrian, but rather a mix. Dany’s name and titles are done in High Valyrian, and everything else is done in Low. This was intentional.
Next, Dany says a good portion of the following:
- Dāervose jevosy yne enkot daor. Jemot ziry tepagon koston daor. Dāerves jevys tepagon yne sytilībos daor. Jemēle mērī sytilības. Lo ziry arlī jaelāt, jemēlo syt ziry mazemagon jemo bēvilza. Tolvies jemys.
- “You do not owe me your freedom. I cannot give it to you. Your freedom is not mine to give. It belongs to you and you alone. If you want it back, you must take it for yourselves. Each and every one of you.”
If there’s a controversial bit in that translation, it’s the choice of verb and tense in lo ziry arlī jaelāt—i.e. “if it again you want”. There are a couple of ways I could’ve gone. One would be, for example, to use the verb emagon, “to have”, in the subjunctive. I felt that was too hypothetical. This translation I felt was more direct (i.e. using the indicative rather than the subjunctive and using the verb for “to want”), and I liked it better for the content. It was a choice, though, so feel free to skewer me in the comments.
After that, Dany commands her dragons to fly with sōvētēs (all three of them—hence, the plural command), and she asks her Unsullied to let her pass by saying Ynot rebagon. I know you’re probably looking at that and you’re all like, “Whaaaaa…?” so let me explain. Permissive commands (“let me pass”, “let him speak”, “let my dragon roast him like Roseanne Barr”, etc.) are done differently from other commands. The verb in the imperative is actually gaomagon, but it’s pretty much never used. Instead what you have is gaomagon in the imperative preceded by a verb in the infinitive (the main verb of the sentence) preceded by an agent in the dative. Thus instead of it being something like, “Pass to me”, it’s “Let me pass”.
Oh, and a note since folks have asked, the lyric in that final chant was based on the last speech Dany gives, but was altered for the choir. I don’t think you can necessarily recover any of the text at this point. I haven’t checked, though. I didn’t write it and wasn’t involved with it.
Now to close the discussion of this season: Talisa’s letter. Before getting into the issues, let me just give you the whole thing. Here it is in High Valyrian:
Olvie hen embraro tolmiot nykēlot avy ivestragon issa. Nykēlo syt ūndon daor luo valzȳro ñoghossi ōressiks. Dārys issa vestris, se prūmio ñuho konir drējior issa. Ȳghāpī īlōn rāelza, kesrio syt lanta iksan, rūso zȳhosy gōvilirose zijo syt pyghas lue prūmie. Vīlībāzma ajomemēbza, yn aderī, mōrī, aōt māzīli se hēnkirī īlvi biarvī manaerili.
And here is the original English, written by Cat Taylor:
So much news I have to give you from over the seas. I find myself held by the arms of a husband I never expected to have. They say he is a king and of my heart that is true. He holds us safe, for now I am two, with his child beneath the heart that beats for him. The war rages on, but soon, when it is all over, we shall come to you and celebrate together.
Okay. The Valyrian’s all there, so those who are interested can work on it. For those who were interested in the letter specifically because of the theory that Talisa was a Lannister spy (if you’re unfamiliar with this theory, go here for a full breakdown), obviously you can now see that the letter reveals that, in fact, she was not—or, at the very least, that she was actually writing a letter to her mother. You might be able to say it was a code, but if you go back to the letter that Arya saw from a Lannister spy, that doesn’t make much sense, since Arya had no trouble (a) reading it (i.e. presumably it was in Common), and (b) judging its content. In reality, all the letter does is point up the fact that there really is no actual evidence for Talisa being a Lannister spy.
That said, the original video was very clever (even though it misses some obvious things. Everyone from Essos has an accent? What about Varys?), and I felt that revealing the contents of the letter right after episode 7 would have pretty much torpedoed the theory (though note that the author of the video says at the end that the theory was a joke. Others thought it quite plausible). Conspiracy theories are fun when they’re about television shows (Who shot Mr. Burns? Who killed Laura Palmer? Who is Number One?), so it’s no fun to have someone with inside knowledge rain on everyone’s parade.
Plus, if fans can have fun generating conspiracy theories, can’t I have fun teasing? I’m probably never going to get another chance!
But, yeah, the Lannister spy theory would’ve been a tremendous break from canon, I think. And even though they’ve broken from canon before (and will again), there are certain lines that they can’t cross, and that’d be one of them. Plus, I’d expect much better of Tywin. Plant a random girl in Robb’s army of thousands and expect that not only will he run into her, but he’ll fall in love with her? There’s way too many variables in that plan for someone as awesome as Tywin.
Anyway I guess that does it for season 3. The first season, Game of Thrones was just getting its feet, and the second was building an audience. This season, I thought, was superb, and I would not be surprised to see it garner some serious attention when the Golden Globes and Emmys roll around. I contributed to the first two seasons, but I’m really proud of the performances in this season. Wonderful, wonderful work.
And, to close the chapter on this season, I’ve got two words, and two words only.
Now, I’m not a superstitious man, but there was no word for “rain” in High Valyrian when I went to the dictionary to translate the title of tonight’s episode. After creating it (and the verb “to rain”) it brought the official word total of High Valyrian up to 666:
Admittedly, even knowing what was coming, that was pretty harsh—even harsher than hearing it from Roy Dotrice. So well played, D&D!
But leaving the bad, let’s get to the best part of the episode: the adonis Jacob Anderson fighting like a lajak. Dude is awesome. The only thing more I could’ve wanted from this episode is to see that scene continue. It was a little 1960s Batman, but I’ll take it. I was mightily entertained.
Unfortunately there’s no good news for the High Valyrian in this episode. What I sent was, apparently, altered, so I’m not sure, on first blush, what they’re saying. First, Jorah says a line in English that was to be Dany’s in High Valyrian. Then Dany says…something (I’ll get to it; need to rewatch that bit), and Grey Worm says:
- Odaban sko ydras drejikydho.
- “I think he is telling the truth.”
That’s translated as “I trust him”. Same intent, really, so no big deal. I did, however, recommend strongly that he say “this one” instead of “I”. What I should have done is simply translated it how I wanted to and sent it to them (noted for the future). Perhaps they’re suggesting he’s in the process of developing some agency (clearly true), but I never took the use of “this one” as anything more than a linguistic pattern—just something that happens on account of the idiolect spoken by the Unsullied—or perhaps even just a way of showing deference. Of course if it was the latter, perhaps this is a way of unassimilating himself. There’s a thesis in here somewhere, I swear!
Okay, back to Dany’s lines. Let me try and figure out what she’s saying, and then I’ll see if I can figure out where it comes from… Ahh! Okay, I’ve got it. First, here’s the line as I delivered it (it’s split into two parts, but it was written as one line):
- Lo jention mirre nūmāzme ēza, iderenna qopsa verdagon issa.
- “If leadership is about anything, it’s about making hard choices.”
If you go and listen, this line was split at the comma, and each half was translated as (respectively): “You are a leader now” and “Do you trust him?”
So, first, let me just comment on the writing here. I like the scene as it actually appears in the episode much better than what’s written. First, Jorah wouldn’t actually have that much of a footprint on this scene if he didn’t have the line that was originally in Valyrian (i.e. “You command the Unsullied. What do you think?”). It also changes the dynamic a bit. Jorah’s going to Grey Worm as an ally, more than anything else. Almost as if he’s a Vulcan, or something: Grey Worm can tell no lies. So if Grey Worm thinks the plan is a bad idea and Daario’s leading them into a trap, it must be true. I like that better than Dany asking him, so kudos there. Furthermore, I also like the idea of Jorah addressing him in English, and then Dany kind of coming back to him in Valyrian. It makes it look less like he’s suddenly learned to understand Common (even though the dialogue, as written in the show, would make it seem like he does. How else could he understand the plan well enough to comment? All Daario was doing was pointing at a map—and that only slightly).
Second, I also like the change to Dany’s lines. The lines as written are much more didactic—like Dany’s teaching him how to be an individual. As it’s written, it’s more like Dany is simply acknowledging his agency and giving Grey Worm the opportunity to step up and be a part of the conversation. The result is an exchange that’s less paternal (or maternal) and more empowering, in my opinion.
Of course, I could easily have translated the actual lines if they’d asked (seriously, what else do I do? Translating for Game of Thrones is cake! It’s a treat I give myself after a long day of doing hard work on Defiance). They didn’t. Perhaps they thought there wouldn’t be enough time or I was too busy. Whatever it was, though, there’s no match between the lines and the subtitles. Even so, the direction of the scene didn’t change, so it’s not at all an implausible course of events (i.e. if you just read the subtitles or just listen to the Valyrian, it shouldn’t be a surprise what happens).
For the sake of completion, here’s the other line from this episode:
- Jentys Dovaogēdyro syt iksā. Skoros otāpā?
- “You command the Unsullied. What do you think?”
I know there’s not a lot of Valyrian in this episode, but perhaps it’ll help to fill in some holes.
Also, to return to an earlier topic, I was waiting for this episode to air to say anything about Talisa’s letter. The point is, I think, now moot, but I believe the subject deserves its own post. So bear with me; it’s late and I have to be on my game tomorrow. I’ll put up Talisa’s letter soon (perhaps before the post accompanying the last episode of the season).
Didn’t I tell y’all there would be some Dothraki this season? Ta da! There it is!
If I may come to things out of order, I thought the VFX of the White Walker dying were outstanding. Must be pretty satisfying to stab something and then have it turn to ice, fall and shatter that way. Pretty cool! Of course, Sam should’ve retained his knife (what was he so afraid of? He killed it! No way you can come back from that!), but the action north of the wall has been replete with horror movie tropes, so it is fitting. For those who remember the specific action of the book better than I do, though, what was up with those birds?! I don’t remember that from the book. And why would they have been so excited about this encounter as to opposed to the others that we’ve seen in the series already? There were no crows in those scenes (or, at least, no literal crows). Oh, and one more question: Isn’t it a bit of a coincidence that that White Walker is the exact same White Walker we saw in the season 2 finale?
I thought the scenes surrounding and during Tyrion and Sansa’s wedding were done very well. Reading those scenes initially, it was so frustrating how much Tyrion wants to convey to Sansa that he’s not a bad guy, and how miserably he fails to do so. I thought they captured that aspect of the books quite well in the scenes we saw here.
There has been a bit of controversy in some corners regarding the scenes on Dragonstone. I would like to go on record saying I thought they were fine. I have no complaints, and found everything to be in keeping with what ought to have been expected.
In today’s scene from Slaver’s Bay, we’re introduced to Daario Naharis, who looks nothing like I thought he would. You know who does look cool, though: Prendahl na Ghezn (played by Ramon Tikaram). Dude looks awesome! He’s even got the blue hair! (If there was any glare on your screen, you might not have noticed it, but his hair was dyed blue, I can assure you.) Alas, his role is a bit short-lived… It’s too bad. Honestly, I hope I see more of him in some other feature. He looks like a leading man, to me.
The main scene begins with Mero leading Prendahl and Daario into Dany’s tent. There is an exchange where Mero is even more insulting than Kraznys, and he provokes the incredible, invincible and indomitable Jacob Anderson, a.k.a Grey Worm, a.k.a Torgo Nudho, who says:
- Nya dare, beza unehtelas jaa engo ozy?
- “My queen, shall this one slice out his tongue for you?”
And for those keeping track, yes, that is a Dothraki-style hiatus there with jaa, in addition to Dothraki-style post-vocalic h in unehtelas, both of which he nails, because Jacob Anderson is a Golden God.
Anyway, Dany responds in High Valyrian:
- Bisi vali īlvyz zentyssy issi.
- “These men are our guests.”
The word vali was cut due to length, I’m guessing, but the result would still be grammatical (it would just mean “These ones [probably animate] are our guests”). If the form of the possessive adjective looks odd to you, then you’re really keyed in to the phonology of High Valyrian. As I mentioned somewhere at some point in time, adjectives in High Valyrian have a different form depending on whether they come before or after the noun they modify. In this case, the full form would be īlvyzy. The final y drops out if the adjective precedes the noun it modifies, though, and the z devoices unless the next word begins with a voiced sound. Since “guests” is zentyssy, then, the form of the adjective is īlvyz and not īlvys.
After many more insults and a scene between the three Second Sons, we see Missandei bathing Daenerys. Though this scene was, of course, planned, this bit of dialogue was added by Dan Weiss very late in the game (he asked for the translation in mid-September). Personally I think it’s kind of a meta joke since this is literally the only Dothraki that appears in the entire season. What he did was he gave me the English line and asked if I could get athjahakar (the Dothraki word for “pride”) at the end of the sentence. Ultimately this is how I did the translation:
- Zhey Drogo ast me-Dothraki thasho h’anhaan ven anha ray yol mehas. Me azh maan atjakhar.
- “Drogo said I spoke Dothraki like one born to it. It gave him great pride.”
Those who know Dothraki will note that this line features the (somewhat) rare invocative use of zhey (i.e. bringing to the listener’s attention a person who hasn’t yet appeared as a topic of discussion). You’ll also note that athjahakar is misspelled. Indeed, this little exchange was supposed to reveal that Dany was never as good at Dothraki as she is, of course, with High Valyrian or Common. And the specific word is a call-back to episode 103, I think it was, where Dany’s handmaiden
Jiqui (or Zhikwi) Irri is shown teaching Dany Dothraki by teaching her to say the word athjahakar.
Looking at the above Dothraki line, you’ll note that Dany mangles it pretty badly. That was the intention, but personally I think Emilia went a little too far. Neither Dany nor Emilia was ever that bad! Of course, if Dany hasn’t really been speaking Dothraki much, I can see her getting out of practice (perhaps Jorah is the only one that speaks to the Dothraki now [or, actually, now Missandei can too]). She puts together a rather grammatically complex sentence, though. Pretty impressive for a second language learner!
Second Sons was a little light on language, so to add some girth to this, here’s the full declension for vala, the High Valyrian word for “man”:
Oh, also I wanted to mention that the word for “son” from our title comes from Twitter user @Tracee2ez, who was my 3,000th Twitter follower! The word is trēsy, which is nicely symmetrical with the word for “daughter”, which is tala. Both are lunar words, but tala is first declension, and trēsy second. There are a number of dualities that work this way, where two words which are intended to be in some sort of semantic relation to one another differ either solely in declension class or gender, but in systematic (or semi-systematic) ways. This word, then, turned out to be quite the fortuitous coining, since I already had the word for “daughter”.
Also, for those in the Bay Area, I will be at BayCon this Sunday. If you’re in the area, stop by and say M’ath!
Oh, and one more also (consider this a public service announcement): The penultimate episode of this season of Game of Thrones will not be airing a week from yesterday! I guess due to a ratings slump on Memorial Day, HBO is skipping a week, and episode 309 will air on June 2nd. Perhaps I can put together a post next week trying to answer some questions. Or I can take a break and enjoy the weekend. We’ll see.