Now that another season of Game of Thrones has come to an end, life is a bleak ten months of waiting, thinking, speculating, theorising, and cursing George R.R. Martin.
I know what you’re thinking – every show has fans waiting for an entire year. But no, it’s deeper than that. You see, I assume you have a job, a social life; or perhaps you go to college, have exams and stuff to take care of. I belong to the occult cult called Research Scholars. We are the White-Walkers of the academic world, meandering about in the harsh winter, without hope, happiness or warmth.
Our lives are not determined by targets, success, or failures. Life is but one endless pasture, and we are buffaloes cursed to graze till the end of time. The grass isn’t greener anywhere, the grass is a dank, dark brown and the peddler charges 500 bucks for amounts that would make you cough blood in disgust.
In such circumstances, it is only George RR Martin who brings us something to cheer. For you see, Research Scholars are a twisted lot. You’ll never find a Research Scholar bingeing on Friends. Or How I Met Your Mother, or any of that fluffy stuff. You’ll find them hooked on crooked TV shows – from Breaking Bad for starters, to Hannibal for those in their final year of research. And Game of Thrones is the proverbial mango (what the hell is a ‘proverbial mango’ – you see what an academic life does to you?).
But perhaps the biggest reason why Research Scholars love The Song of Ice and Fire series is the fact that George RR Martin is a bit like us. He promises earnestly to submit his work by the end of the year, and then turns in absolutely nothing. He then asks for another year of extension, knowing fully well that there isn’t much hope.
And perhaps for the first time, a book series and TV series are taking two different paths. With earlier works of fantasy, be it The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, the films were merely an extension of the written word – if you read the books, you knew how they would pan out. But with The Song of Ice and Fire, fantasy has become a reality show. More than the storylines, the characters, the overarching story arcs, what keeps me riveted from a writer’s perspective is how the old man is going to tie all the threads together.
The point of my rather weak argument above was that I have to spend another ten months in penance, thinking about imaginary kings, their wives, and their imaginary kids.
Season Six wasn’t the favourite for a lot of people. But so high are the standards set by the TV show, that a mediocre season still far outshines the other tripe that passes off as television around the world.
True, there weren’t shocking moments like The Red Wedding, or sharp twists and turns like the earlier seasons, but perhaps this is the middle phase of the series. May be the series is taking a breather, just running slow in the penultimate lap, saving up energy for the flaming final burst that’s coming at the end.
The Battle of the Bastards was a visual spectacle, and a genius bit of filmmaking. But it was expected to be epic. GRRM has reached a stage where people would be disappointed if their minds weren’t blown away.
And yet, I hold a few grudges, primarily against Jon Snow and Davos Seaworth. For a quick rewind, Jon Snow has collected his forces to face off against the Boltons. Snow’s army consists of the Mormonts led by a young Uma Bharati, and a few other houses. There are also the Wildlings, who have no real skill or experience in the battlefield, as their armies were mostly cobbled together by relatively less-evolved forms of battle.
They were being led by Jon Snow, the Sri Ram of the show. The man who can do no wrong, the Maryada Purushottam, the most predictable character on the show. While Jon is known to be a terrific fighter, and has witnessed more gruesome gore than all the Northern bastards put together, I’m not a fan of his leadership skills. But even Jon Snow can be overlooked. The guy died and came back to life; it must take a while to recover from that kind of an experience.
My real grudge is pinned against Ser Davos Seaworth. The Onion Knight, as he’s referred to by acquaintances, is known to be a master planner, an uncanny strategist. He was given the title after smuggling onions to help Stannis Barthomley survive a war. He also regularly gives Melisandre Swami Vivekananda-esque lectures on morality, goodness and the right thing. However, in the Battle of the Bastards, Davos Seaworth’s contribution was equal to that of Shatrughana, the useless brother of Lord Ram.
While the Battle of Bastards was heavily skewed against them both in terms of numbers and tact, their deployment of Wun Wun, the absolutely callous nature of it – has given me sleepless nights.
Wun Wun, whose full name is Wun Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun, was your strongest bet in an army that comprised carpenters, butchers and blacksmiths. What were you thinking, making him rush into the battle with his bare hands?
Wun Wun wasn’t just a giant with brawns, he was more intuitive than that. When he is first introduced at Hardhome, he is seen keeping the Dragonglass for himself, refusing to return it to Dolorous Edd. Wun Wun was also the first Wildling to stand by Snow when he asked for their help in fighting the Boltons. When the White Walkers attacked Hardhome, Wun Wun was the only one who put up a fight, ripping their skeletal bodies to bits. He also wielded a huge log of burning wood, which proves he wasn’t really what Ravi Shastri would call ‘a bunny with the bat’.
Wun Wun was the only saving grace in a battle that seemed to have been planned not by a master strategist, but a five year old boy high on Butterbeer. For one, why wouldn’t you give him a shield of sorts?
Protective armour made of metal to keep away the arrows and spears, which would seem like mere toothpicks to him anyway. It couldn’t have been the weight, obviously. One could argue that the giant didn’t want to don protective armour, but Wun Wun was certainly not the unreasonable kind. He might not be able to sing a Frank Sinatra ballad, but as Sunil Gavaskar would say, ‘the boy had a firm head on his shoulders’. Surely he could have been coaxed into wearing protective armour if it made him near invincible.
And secondly, why would you send him to battle unarmed? He is your (only) trump card, and you send him running in empty-handed? Are you kidding me, Jon Snow? How do you think Eddard Stark would feel about this? He would’ve given you a nice little shave with his longsword ‘Ice’.
Just think of the options available before Jon Snow and Ser Davos Seaworth.
1. Wun Wun wielding a giant axe.
Not only was Wun Wun blessed with gigantism, he also had immense strength, as witnessed by earlier incidents when he expressed his fascination for popping people to their death. If Wun Wun had been given a giant axe, one swipe could lead to the death of twenty Boltons. It would have neutralised the military formation that the Boltons used to screw Jon Snow’s army over.
2. A burning log of wood.
If the Boltons chose their sigil (The Flayed Man) to intimidate Jon Snow’s army, why does he always need to play by the book? They should have combated fire by fire, using Wun Wun to strike fear in the hearts of the opponents. Imagine Wun Wun running wild with a burning log of wood, swatting and roasting Boltons wun by wun.
3. A swinging mace of fire.
This would have made for spectacular viewing. Wun Wun swinging a giant mace of fire at the end of a huge chain. This not only intimidates those watching from a distance, it also ensure that the enemy cannot match forward, as they’ll have to beat the centrifugal force of a rotating ball of fire. Come in touch with it, and you’re roasted. Try to breach the force, and the metal chains send you flying off into the distance. Jon Snow had 2,400 men in total, and Ramsay Bolton was leading an army of 6,000 men. Assuming one swing of the ball eliminates 20 enemies, Wun Wun could have made mincemeat of the enemy army, sweeping away thousands in an hour. But, no! Jon Fucking Snow has to charge in and save his brother himself!
4. Intimidatory tactics:
It is known that Ramsay Snow is a master intimidator. He feeds off fear, flashes it around and drives it deep into his enemy’s hearts. He began the Battle of the Bastards in stellar fashion, stumping one and all with his innovative tactics of shooting a teenage boy from the back. Jon Snow, unfortunately had no such tactic. He has grown up watching Sunny Deol’s Gadar on Zee Cinema and wants to enter Pakistan and uproot handpumps by himself. Imagine before everything began, Jon Snow positioned Wun Wun at the back, holding a giant placard, just to show Ramsay who’s the boss.
But no, Jon Snow and Davos Seaworth had to use Wun Wun like TCS uses an MBA from Wharton University. Underutilised, undervalued, and left to die a sad death in the hands of a cruel man. Is this what he deserved, Ser Davos Seaworth?
I have spent considerable time with you in the books, and you were one person I had immense respect for. You stood up for what is right, risking your life and your neck for it. You held deep resentment for the Lady in Red and rightfully took her to task. Your heart bled for little Shireen when no one else seemed to care. Why did you have to do this, Ser Davos?
Wun Wun didn’t need to die such a ghastly death. He should have lived, that gentle giant. He should have been frolicking in Winterfell right now, feasting on fresh fruits, lying down on a warm bed, planning the future endeavours for The King of the North.
He died because you and Jon Snow can’t stop thinking about your own selves. Your trips, your moods, your dumb-ass ideas. He deserved better, Ser Davos.
And Ygritte was right. You know nothing, Jon Snow.