Every week, a handful of Vox's writers will discuss the latest episode of Game of Thrones. Check out the recap for this episode here, and follow the whole discussion here. This week, we'll be hearing from deputy culture editor Jen Trolio, executive editor Matthew Yglesias, foreign policy writer Zack Beauchamp, and culture editor Todd VanDerWerff. Come back throughout the week for entries.
Matthew Yglesias: To say something nice about a bit of a dog of an episode, I thought the material in King's Landing that centered on the inquest into Loras's sexuality was excellent.
Some of that is simply because the Diana Rigg/Natalie Dormer/Lena Headey acting troika is superb. But at the same time, the acting sings because the story is actually interesting. Per what Zack and Todd have written, this is a morally ambiguous situation full of complicated characters. The High Septon seems appealingly incorruptible and to be a genuine spokesman for the views of the common people. However, he's also promulgating a crude anti-gay ideology and perhaps advancing an as-yet-unknown nefarious agenda.
Cersei is, at this point, not a cartoon villain but a person with a genuine problem. With her father dead, the masterful diplomacy that won the War of the Five Kings has left House Lannister dangerously dependent on its nominal vassals. She has no real way to enforce her rule in the North, or in the Vale, and she's in a very difficult situation vis-à-vis the Tyrells. By changing Margaery into a much more active and self-possessed character than she is in the book, the television adaptation has brought some real drama and stakes to a plotline that the novels handle a bit clumsily.
There are no knights in shining armor here, but there are also no Ramsay Boltons. Just human beings, caught up in a Game of Thrones they know they can't afford to lose.
And it's great.
Contemplating the situation in King's Landing does, however, bring me back to the interesting question of the interplay of magic and religion. Much of Westeros appears to be undergoing a trauma-induced awakening, with the smallfolk turning to the Faith for comfort and the Sparrow movement rejuvenating the Faith as an institution.
At the same time, Red Priests of R'hllor (the one true god) are bringing the dead back to life and birthing demon assassins. It's not clear that the Old Gods are doing anything quite so useful, but the (currently paused) plotline with Bran and the Reeds clearly confirms that there's something mystical happening connected to their mythology.
At the moment, mainstream political players in the Seven Kingdoms don't seem any more interested in priests performing miracles than they are in White Walkers or the return of dragons. But clearly these supernatural plot threads are meant to converge over time. Does that mean the Faith is about to be exposed as a fraud, incapable of matching the supernatural achievements of rival traditions? Or does it mean we're about to see septons capable of wielding some mystical powers of their own?
And how does the new High Septon fit into this? In the book I found him to be somewhat of a crude plot device, but on the show he's an intriguingly enigmatic figure. Is going after the Tyrells part of some larger, well-conceived plot (à la Littlefinger), or is he really just lashing out without fear or favor?
The mere fact that I have so many questions about where the King's Landing story is going is why it's my favorite.
Read the recap. Come back soon for more discussion.