2011-06-19 : Previously on Game of Thrones

A summary just before the season 1 finale.

Contains spoilers, sort of.

In the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, King Friday the 13th has been murdered by the Fairchilde family. Prince Tuesday isn't the son of King Friday and Queen Sara Saturday, oh no, he's the son of Queen Sara Saturday and Lady Elaine Fairchilde! Shocking, I know. X the Owl discovered this, and so was not allowed to remain the King's Hand (and then some).

Poor X the Owl. He thought he could trust Cornflake S. Pecially, but couldn't! He thought he couldn't trust Robert Troll, but could! And now look what it's got him.

Meanwhile, Henrietta Pussycat has become queen of Someplace Else and is pregs with Donkey Hodie's son. They call the child-to-be "the Donkey who will mount the world." Early on there was something about raising an army or something to seize King Friday's throne, but nothing's come of THAT.

Bob Dog HAS raised an army or something to seize the throne, though. I think he got the help of the Platypus Family, but honestly I'm vague on some of the details. Whatever, the Platypus family is pretty weird; Elsa Jean Platypus' relationship with Ana Platypus isn't entirely age-appropriate. Anyhow Bob Dog super hates Prince Tuesday. Oh how he hates him!

Daniel Striped Tiger got in some kind of trouble with the Platypuses, but got out again. He's pretty much the only reason to watch the show. He gets to make wry remarks and steal every scene he's in. He fools around A LOT with Lady Aberlin, too, despite his... shyness. Ugga mugga.

Oh, and there's some dude who looks an awful lot like Bob Dog - maybe it's also Bob Dog? Who knows. Anyway he's gone to live in Northwood with the Goats, on constant lookout for the Purple Pandas. We saw Purple Pandas in the opening minutes of the first episode, and not really since, but still everyone keeps saying that Planet Purple is coming! They get all grim faced. "Planet Purple is coming, Bob Dog." "I know, Old Goat. Planet Purple is coming." I hope it comes soon already, or maybe they could just give Daniel Striped Tiger his own spinoff show.

1. On 2011-06-19, Nathan said:

I would so watch this show.


2. On 2011-06-19, Larry said:

You're a funny, funny guy.

In the interest of being pedantic to the extent of completely missing the point, I think it's supposed to be styled King Friday XIII, with Roman numeral. I'm a little delighted I remember that detail!

I forgot all about that stable of characters!


3. On 2011-06-19, Simon C said:


I can't tell if that's a summary of what's happend so far on the tv show, or what's happened so far in the books. Which probably does not bode well for your Purple Planet hopes.

And yet, every week I get all excited when I hear the theme music. I'm like pavlov's dogs. Show me a grim looking dude with a sword and I'll drool happily.


4. On 2011-06-19, Chiaroscuro said:

What is it that you don't like about the GoT show?


5. On 2011-06-19, Vincent said:

Sure! So the interesting characters are the ones who fit poorly into their circumstances. Tyrion, the horse dude queen, the little Stark girl, Joffrey. What I'd hope from the show would be for larger-scale decisions to be thrust onto these poor-fit characters, but that's never what the show does. Instead, so far without exception, the show does one of two things:

(1) It carefully reserves larger-scale decisions from the interesting characters. Here in episode 9, for instance, Tyrion, who would make a game-changing general, got clocked in the head instead of leading his wild men into battle. Story of Tyrion's life! Put him in a position to make decisions and he'd change everything, and so instead they keep him scrupulously to the side.

This is why Jon Snow isn't on the list of interesting characters. He's a potentially really bad fit, which is great, but he got shunted out of relevance practically as soon as they introduced him.

(2) It robs the characters of their interesting qualities, fitting them squarely into their circumstances, so that they can make the larger-scale decisions from the position of the boring status quo. This is what they did to Joffrey here in episode 9. When he was like "wait a minute. Why would Stark say that I'm not the legitimate heir? What's going on?" he was interesting. I'm like, (spoiler!) if you knew you were a child of incest, not of the king's line, what kind of king would you make? That's an interesting position for a kid to be in! But no, they closed his eyes to it and they made him into just another boring frickin' Lannister.

By the time the horse dude queen becomes relevant to the main action, I predict, she'll be just as boring as the rest of them. By the time the little Stark girl does, I predict, if she ever does, she'll be too.

Now, I haven't read the books, so all I've got to go on is the first 9 episodes of the show. Whether the books are better, and whether the show will get better, well, sure, maybe so. I'm not confident!


6. On 2011-06-19, Chiaroscuro said:

I haven't read the books either and I certainly can't read the books now.. 'as seen on tv' ! ;-)  I was wondering if what you didn't like was an artefact of the tv show, but after your explanation I guess it must just be G.Martin's style.

I find interesting that what you don't like is what I find interesting in the show.

It is exactly how you say: you feel like all pieces has been put in place for the obvious next step that will make a character shine and BAM, the fate hits hard, or just ignores him.

It seems to me that many of the standard tropes just break down in GoT and that keeps me engaged and on the edge.

Characters that seem big are never assured to be protagonists and secondary characters can suddenly get the limelight. It just feels like the underlying narrative logic does not care so much about the characters as long as it can keep strife and conflict and setting exploration going.

I keep observing myself thinking "oh so the show is not about John Snow, it's about the little boy", then "oh it's not about the boy.. it's a Stark family saga".. "hey no wait it is really about the Lannister" and every time I build an after-the-fact explanation on what the show is about, but I can never second guess it.


7. On 2011-06-19, Chiaroscuro said:

well this trope seems to apply:


8. On 2011-06-19, Simon C said:

Yeah, so far what I loved and hated about the books is what I love and hate about the show. It has great characters, but they never get to do anything.


9. On 2011-06-19, Julie, aka jrs said:

I agree about Daniel Striped Tiger; he's the main reason I'm still watching the show. Queen Pussycat mostly sets my teeth on edge. Her story in the first episode almost made it the last show for me. I've been sad to see that Baby Owl hasn't gotten much attention. As it goes on, I'm having a hard time caring for the lot of them. I have a glimmer of hope for Baby Owl's big sister, but I'll have to see what happens in the finale

I'm also watching Sharpe's Rifles which has been more engaging.



10. On 2011-06-20, Brand Robins said:

Oh, I love Sharpe's Rifles!

Right up until they kill Lady Tiger so that Sharpe can go back to banging Mrs Roundbottom.


11. On 2011-06-20, Chris said:

Yeah, I like the idea of the book series, but I don't like the book series.

Reading them, I'm most aware of George Martin, writer, plugging away, much as I am while reading Stephen King. I get the sense that Martin is just randomly plotting until he suddenly notices that he's come upon a big moment in the fiction. Then he decides to do the opposite of convention.

His skill as a line by line writer and story-crafter don't measure up to his ability to world build and it's noticeable.


12. On 2011-06-20, Chiaroscuro said:

We often complain about how movies and shows slavishly follow tropes, then we are annoyed when they are not followed. Is there something here for us to learn when designing (or running) games?


13. On 2011-06-20, Vincent said:

I don't think that's what's going on here at all! You can tell interesting stories perfectly well in defiance of tropes. That's not what the show's doing. It's telling a boring story.

In fact, my biggest problems with the show right now (I haven't watched the finale yet) are where it's making its interesting characters into tropes before letting them contribute to its unfolding events.


14. On 2011-06-20, Vincent said:

Well, those, plus the fact that I can't tell any difference between the noble families, so I can't possibly care which has the upper hand at any given moment. Oh no! One faction of indistinguishable grim-faced hardasses has the advantage over another! The Neighborhood of Make-Believe is doooomed! Nope, not me.

The problem is having a king, not who is the king. If the people aren't yet rising up to overthrow them, then I'll take comfort from the fact that at least they're murdering one another, and don't even ask me to pick sides.


15. On 2011-06-20, Judd said:

This all reminds me how much I want to run a BW game where the players take down the feudal system, shiv the warrior caste and hang the royalty.


16. On 2011-06-20, Chris said:

A few years back, a noble PC in my BW tried to use his nobility to force democracy onto everyone in his land. Interesting themes occurred.

As far as GoT tropes and conventions, I mean that Martin sets up things that seem like they're going to go down a conventional fantasy path. But then they don't. I don't mean that he does something else, like subvert or defy a convention. I mean that he sets them up and then nothing happens with it.

Some shows play with this kind of stuff. Community makes its living by setting tropes, subverting them, breaking them, rearranging them etc. But GoT?

All the characters are these two-dimensional cartoons, which isn't terrible in and of itself, but they set up expectations that aren't subverted or broken, they're simply not fulfilled. It   draaaaaa   aa a a a a g g g g g s s s.


17. On 2011-06-20, Brand Robins said:

"Oh no! One faction of indistinguishable grim-faced hardasses has the advantage over another!"

This is exactly why I stopped studying early-medieval European history.

Prof: How the Angles killed a lot of Jutes, before the Danes came in an butchered everyone!

Young Brand: Wait, didn't we already do that?

Prof: No, that was how the Vandals killed a lot of Goths before the Franks came in and butchered everyone.

Young Brand: ... so... when does the butchering stop?

Prof: With Columbus mostly, though then they just start butchering non-white people.

Young Brand: Fuck this shit, I'm going to read romantic poetry instead! I predict this will get me a lucrative career and increase my life happiness!


18. On 2011-06-20, Brand Robins said:


Or to actually post on topic...

You will never like GoT. Its a show that, like the books it came from, is about the emotional context and state of the characters. Not "what they do" not "consequences and actions" or any of that "shit that actually matters on a structural level" nonsense.

It is a series entirely about how the characters feel about where they are, and how you feel about them for feeling that way.

For example, take the scene several episodes back where Cersi talks to Jeoffery in one scene and in the very next Ned talks to his daughter. Both of them, without any hesitation, tell their child the same thing "We are good and us, they are they and bad. We will beat them, trick them, and suborn them and in the end we will make sure we eat and they serve."

But Cersi says it in a creepy way with lots of inappropriate touching of her incest born son who pouts and has tempter tantrums while she says it. She's happy about the killing and hating! And he's just an ick!

Ned, otoh, says it grimly and with something that could be misconstrued as regret. He says it with his daughter looking at him lovingly as he permits her to bend (but not break) her assigned gender roll. And she pouts, but comes to accept the honorable wisdom of her honorable father.

Thus Lannisters = bad, Starks = good.

Sure, they're both going to fight the same fight. Sure, they're both rich and ruling families who are going to fuck each other. But one feels gleeful and wicked, the other mournful and sad. So that's what matters.

Knowing you, you can't abide with that. And so I advise cutting your losses.


19. On 2011-06-21, Alex D. said:

Yeah, as I recall, wasn't that your (Vincent's) issue with Sons of Anarchy (one of them), that two characters do the same thing with different emotional states and the writers expect us to treat them different?


20. On 2011-06-21, Christian Griffen said:

Brand is wise.

A while back, I was trying to explain the difference between conflict games and interaction games. Lisa and I play(ed) a lot of the latter, which are not at all about conflicts and big decisions and consequences but about the interactions between characters, exploring their emlotional states, writing (as we do this mostly via chat) about their interplay with sensual details and just trying to Be There with those characters. Several hours of play time often pass without major changes or choices.

Not surprisingly, we both love the books (moreso than the series, which loses a lot of the emotional detail and introspection in the transition).


21. On 2011-06-21, Matt Wilson said:

I haven't seen the show yet, but the book—I only read the first—bugged me in that it tried to engage me by either having the characters make the stupidest possible decisions or by continuing to escalate dire situations even further. Like you can make a bad song sound good if you just play it really loud and fast.


22. On 2011-06-21, Jon Hastings said:

I was reminded of that "Sons of Anarchy" exchange while reading Ignatiy Vishnevetsky's review of "The Color Wheel":

Specifically, the line: "In a world where every action is equally wrong, rationale counts for everything..."


23. On 2011-06-21, Vincent said:

24. On 2011-06-21, Robert Bohl said:

Vincent hates something?!


25. On 2011-06-21, Vincent said:


Thanks, Brand. I'm sure you're right.


26. On 2011-06-21, David Berg said:

I kinda like the Weight of Expectation issues in the GoT show.  Everyone becomes a trope because of overwhelming pressure (culture, family, survival, brainwashing) to do exactly that.  Tyrion should be a playwright or something, but the only reason he's alive is because of his noble privileges, which he only gets to keep if he acts the part of a noble as defined by his asshole dad.

By not running off to write plays, he's constantly making the big choice of "conform & survive" over "self-actualize and die".  Which is refreshingly candid in one way and gratingly anticlimactic and defeatist in another.

Which is kinda the whole show, for me.  I was loving it when I thought it was going somewhere, but now I'm no longer sure it is.

I do like intrigue plots and scarce-but-major magic, though, so they've probably got me for another season as long as the script/acting/shot quality remains.


27. On 2011-06-22, stefoid said:

Geez, lighten up.  He is still establishing the platform.  Its only the first book.


28. On 2011-06-22, Ben Lehman said:

Its only the first book.

I may be behind the times, but I was under the impression that books were supposed to have establishment of characters and setting, tensions, rising conflict, action, a climax, and a denouement. Is this still the case?


29. On 2011-06-22, Simon C said:

This first season has been entirely about raising the stakes. The situation is essentially unchanged from start to finish, but now even more is on the line. The bad guys are even worse, the good guys care even more, everyone has doubled down on their original positions.

Which I'd be ok with, Ben's entirely reasonable point about what we'd normally expect of a book notwithstanding, if


the next three books weren't all exactly the same thing.


30. On 2011-06-22, Brand Robins said:

I just read .NET For Dummies.

It is a book.

It has none of the things Ben is talking about.


31. On 2011-06-22, Dan K said:

I slogged through all of the books when I was in high school.  I remember them fondly.  I tried to reread the first book before the show started.  I couldn't do it, for all the same reasons y'all are saying.  I'm rereading the second one now, and it's fun but slow.  IIRC, the second and third books were very good, and the fourth one kinda sucked.

I think the second season's going to be really good.  Tyrion, Jon, and Dany get pushed into the thick of it (in a real decision kind of way).  And I think they'll do a good job of speeding up the pacing.


32. On 2011-06-23, Vincent said:

Dear Game of Thrones episode 10,

I know kill them all. I've seen kill them all. You're no kill them all.

Sincerely, Vincent


33. On 2011-06-23, Joao said:

It will be.


34. On 2011-06-25, Valamir said:

I really like both the books and the show.  I rather don't get the criticism.  One of the things I really like was that the story is one of the more real stories I've read, where real = most like actual history and the way events really happen; as opposed to the contrived "gotta make it interesting" manufactured plot of most intentional stories.

I guess in RPG speak this is my old sim background rearing its head. There are times I want to shout "fuck story now and addressing premise, give me something believable"

None of these characters are people that I can totally root for without reservation.  Even the best of them have flaws that make me want to give them a good smack.  And none of the villains are so reprehensible that you can't find something to sympathize with or respect, even if, in the main, you want to kill them slowly with a dull spoon.  They're all very believable characters.

Unlike the current rash of YA fiction the stories don't take kids and thrust them into unrealistic positions of sudden responsibility where they get to make meaningful decisions...they're all overshadowed by the adults who have power and have no intention of turning it over to a child...whether Joffrey or Rob Stark.

I found the "nothing happens" aspect of the first book to be its most compelling feature.  The first book is about establishing the status quo and the extraordinary lengths everybody...even rivals...would go to to maintain it.  Even the Lannisters in their quest for power had no real desire to overthrow the king.  Everybody was out for just a little bit of something and were being very careful not to tip the apple cart completely over.

It was only the oh so noble and oh so foolish Ned Stark who, with his inability to play the game (or even see it) ran around like a bull in a china shop pushing things past the tipping point.

The book did a great job of illustrating the mad despirate scramble to ensure that "nothing happened" was a brilliant case study in Balance of Power politics with Ned Stark's death taking the place of Arch Duke Ferdinand.

I think its the very realness of it that's made it so hard for him to actually wrap it up.  The story is so driven by "what would happen next" that...just like history...its threatening to continue on forever with no actual end.  I don't think he actually has a vision of where the story needs to go or how he's going to wrap it up.  I suspect he's just going to keep writing it like it were history until things fall into a convenient place to stop.

Its definitely a slow cooker meal, not a microwave dinner...but that's why I like it.  It feels like it could be an actual history of a real people and a real place.


35. On 2011-06-27, stefoid said:

I may be behind the times, but I was under the impression that books were supposed to have establishment of characters and setting, tensions, rising conflict, action, a climax, and a denouement. Is this still the case?

Dunno, I thought they were supposed to be entertaining.  Ignorance is bliss.


36. On 2011-06-27, Gabriel Verdon said:

I smell sour grapes.


37. On 2011-06-27, Christian Griffen said:

See, Martin knows this Fiction Writing 101 stuff. He's an award winning writer with decades of experience. So to try and tell him that his story doesn't fit the principles people read about in Fiction Writing for Dummies is... a bit naive. He's purposely subverting expectations and established conventional wisdom. It's much like modern art in that way, and the reaction is similar.

It may not float some people's boats, and that's fine and good. But these books are written with full knowledge and skill of conventional fiction writing.


38. On 2011-06-27, Ben Lehman said:


Is it a daring play on narrative form?

Or that all successful modern fantasy novels are based on "get them hooked" style serial writing and here's someone who wants to write to genre?

Nothing wrong with writing to genre, mind you. If I were going to write fantasy, I'd do it the same way! Just, it's hardly avant garde.



39. On 2011-06-27, Ben Lehman said:

Note that this means my previous post was just grouchy crankery about established genre forms.



40. On 2011-06-27, Christian Griffen said:

I didn't mean to say he's writing's Picasso or Joyce :)  Just that he knows the literary structure and has shown that, if he wants to, he can abide by it and create good stories that fit that mold. So to the extent that he doesn't abide by them, it's by choice, not lack of skill. These choices won't appeal to lots of people, of course, but given the series' popularity he seems to be appealing to plenty of readers despite (or because) of these deviations (and, yes, despite or because of the plentiful stuff that's still genre-compliant in there).

And Ralph is right that this series is more resembling historical accounts (highly dramatized, of course). A lot of the stuff that happens is actually taken from (his perspective of) British history. Have you guys watched The Tudors? Not that different.

In fact, I just realized that playing Microscope felt like the most apt I've experienced so far to creating a Game of Thrones-like narrative.


41. On 2011-07-02, Gordon said:

Just another opinion - the first book *brilliantly* succeeds at both playing to existing genre norms AND subverting them, so much so that I remain amazed by the achievement.  You probably need to have read way-too-many average-or-worse fantasy series to get the full impact, and while I wised-up some years back (hey, maybe in part *because* of A Game of Thrones), I certainly fit that bill before starting the first book.  The next two books continued to succeed, and the fourth didn't fail, but did falter.  He's taken so long with the fifth that I probably won't be reading more until the series is complete - it's certainly his right to take as long as he feels necessary, I just can't stay interested when the delays are SO long.  And . . . there is a danger that series has simply become a mediocre instance of what it was once both being a superior exemplar of and also illuminating by subversion.  But Martin is talented.  I'm hoping he brings the whole thing back on course.  He just won't get more of my money until he proves it :-)

I haven't seen the show yet - some friends have the whole season on DVR, and we'll start watching 'em in a week or three.  It is hard to imagine they'll capture everything that made the book special, but maybe there's enough.  Some of the comments here make me quite nervous; while the books do have a fantasy-tinged "historical fiction" feel, it's (again, of course, IMO) GOOD historical fiction, which is to say the "historical" does not overwhelm the "fiction."  There seems to be some indications that the opposite is true of the TV series, or that the subversion of conventions isn't as compelling as it was in the book.  If so, that's too bad - especially since the TV series is apparently commercially successful, the next season has been approved, and the success of a bad adaptation is never a good thing.


42. On 2011-07-16, cc said:

Bravo on posts 18, 26 and 34, especeically Brand's use of "misconstrued".

I write as someone who has NOT seen the TV series, but has read the books, and also a fair quantity of historical material on the Wars of the Roses, which this scenario most resembles.  This, for my my money, was a hugely refreshing change from most fantasy fiction, because it is historical and "sim" in the way Valamir mentions.  Rather than the stock tropes of peasant-boy-undertakes-long-journey-becomes-king-in-the-end, this has real people in real situations doing and thinking exactly the kind of thing that real people did and thought in those situations.

I agree the story ran out of steam, as it were; I kept waiting for all the hinted-at fantasy tropes to kick off and they never really did.  But I didn't care, because the depiction of real people was so compelling, and that's actually very rare in period pieces.

And who are you the proud lord said,
that I must bow so low?
Only a cat of a different coat
that's all the truth I know.


43. On 2011-08-01, Larry L said:

Hey, you wanna know something really weird? Daniel Striped Tiger is getting his own spinoff show.


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