Kevin Wetmore is an author and professor at Loyola Marymount University. His books include The Theology of Battlestar Galactica, Post-9/11 Horror in American Cinema, and The Empire Triumphant: Race, Religion, and Rebellion in the Star Wars Films. For more information about Kevin, check out his website, Something Wetmore This Way Comes, and to purchase his non-fiction and fiction books, see Amazon.
Forget the Battle of the Bastards, the Battle of the Loot Train is my new favorite thing. In fact, let’s take this episode in reverse order, because the last twenty minutes was the second best fight scene in the series. (And damn, the best fight scene in the series was in the middle twenty minutes, but more on that!) This episode was not only in the top five of episodes EVER, topping the three that preceded it in the season, but contained so many beautiful moments. Let’s look at this episode, end to beginning.
The title of the episode is one of Daenerys’ designations. She is “stormborn,” so named as the night of her birth a terrible storm ravaged Dragonstone, the ancient home of the Targaryens, her current headquarters, and the biggest motherlode of dragonglass in Westeros.
A tangential note before we begin: This episode premiered the day George Romero passed away. Romero was a remarkable filmmaker and a kind human being who made movies in Pittsburgh, PA, away from Hollywood. In this episode of GoT, I could not help but think of his influence on our culture when we saw the Night King leading an army of the frozen dead towards the wall – if there had been no Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, then popular culture would be very different. Raise a glass to the man who gave us the modern zombie and so many other fascinating and enjoyable films.
Many tributes have been pouring out over Facebook and other social media. I understand why. First, 2016 has taken a lot from us. Not that every year doesn’t do its fair share of reaping, but this year’s “in memoriam” looms larger than most, I suspect because those of us who are Gen X (the original fanboys and fangirls, thank you) are seeing our childhood literally pass away. We are used to seeing the elderly pass, those whose achievements we have collectively filed in “the past.” But this year seemed to take those still very much present who also shaped our lives. George Michael, Prince, David Bowie, and Glenn Frey - whether or not you cared for their music, they were the soundtrack of childhood and early youth. Nancy Reagan, first lady for most of the eighties, passed away, as did Gene Wilder - the only Willy Wonka for a certain age set - Florence Henderson (C’mon - Mrs. Brady?), and even Kenny Baker - R2-D2 himself. Alan Rickman hit many of us hard - raise a glass to Professor Snape, one of the bravest fictional characters I have ever read. And now, to lose Carrie Fisher right at year’s end seems wrong, somehow - just cruel.
Okay, at this point you HAVE to know there are going to be spoilers here. It’s unavoidable. Like, even here, in this spoiler alert, I’m just going to throw out that the chick in The Crying Game is really a dude, and that Rosebud was Citizen Kane’s sled (and, apparently, William Randolph Hearst’s nickname for his mistress'…know what? Let’s not go there.) The point is: There be spoilers here! You have been warned. No refunds past this point.
For those not inclined to classical music, “The Well-Tempered Clavier” was written by Johann Sebastian Bach in two books, each consisting of a prelude and fugue in each of the 24 major and minor keys in chromatic order from C major to B minor. The “well-tempered” of the title refers to a type of tuning in which the keys will be in tune with one another. An interesting choice of title for an episode that also shows off intricate patterns, fugues, and characters coming in tune with each other. The entire episode is a bravura score, touching on all the keys of the show. Plus, it’s really hard to play.
HBO’s Game of Thrones played the episodic series structure differently. Think back to the number of genre shows that would end their season with a big climax and perhaps a cliffhanger. This structure was de rigueur. (I’m looking at you, Walking Dead and every Star Trek series from the nineties!) Then, along comes GoT and suddenly the penultimate episode (number nine) is the big climax. The finale is for cleanup, reset, and setting up the next season, not as a cliffhanger, but as the next arc of an ongoing story. Westworld might be following this model.
If you have not seen this episode, or if you are waiting to watch the series, STOP READING! IT WILL RUIN IT FOR YOU!!!!
(Oh, and Bruce Willis is dead. That’s why Haley Joel Osment can see him.)
SEE!?! TOLD YOU!!! STOP READING!