Tag Archives: Game of Thrones

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Wun Wun Didn’t Need to Die

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 might be thinking – that this is common, that 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 fuck is ‘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, you knew how they would pan out if you’d read the books. 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 who is 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 huge 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 shows that 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.

 

 

wun wun large axe2. 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.

 

 

wun wun fire3. A swinging ball of fire.

This would have made for spectacular viewing. Wun Wun swinging a giant ball 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!

 

wun wun ball of fire4. Intimidatory tactics:

It is known that Ramsay Snow is a master intimidator. He feeds of 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.

 

wun wun intimidatory tacticsBut 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, Jon Snow. He deserved better, Ser Davos.

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Game of Bahus

We all have skeletons in our closets – big, small, heavy, or inconsequential.

 

I have a giant Smriti Irani-sized skeleton in mine. Why?

Because I used to watch saas-bahu serials as a kid.

Yeah, go ahead. Snigger.

 

*

Around the time when the saas-bahu genre was at its zenith (the late 90s, early 2000s), I was among its billions of consumers who stayed up waiting to watch what would happen the next day. I watched Kkusum, Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki, and Kyunki Saas Bahu Thi (in that order, not as if I had a choice in the matter).

With the school’s subtle hints at avoiding TV and films during holidays, my folks ensured I was insulated from all sorts of bad in the world by locking up the TV in an almirah. But they couldn’t do the same with my relatives and so during summers, I stayed at their place and got a glimpse of the evil world that lay in store for me.

It began in a very inconsequential manner – I would be reading the newspaper in the same room, and look up every now and then to see what was going on. Gradually, they expect you to be there when the show starts. On a good day, they even call you into the room when the tunes of the title song begin playing.

On days when I had done something evil (like not going to a temple to attend bhajans), I did not have the license to watch the serials unabashedly. I would lie down on the cot and squint out of the corner of the eye. Or pretend to be asleep, my ears eagerly soaking in every word that the television offered.

And on a good day, I would sit bang in front of the television and gape right at it.

 

 

The stories affected me.

When Kkusum faced problems at work, I rooted for her success. If only that smug asshole boss of hers would appreciate the problems she faced back at home. And why were Om’s and Parvati’s children being such nutcases? Why couldn’t they see that their parents had their best wishes in mind? And poor Tulsi. Why wouldn’t Gomzee just see that his mother is only looking out for his best interests? That Ganga might not be as innocent as she plays herself out to be? Why do they not understand? Why? Why??

But cruel as life is, just when I was comfortable with the storylines and the characters – Bam! –summer holidays would end. Come June, and I had to return to the school. There was just one another guy in the class who watched TV serials (or at least admitted to it). I discussed as much as I could with him, informing him of my theories, and listening to his justifications.

In the next ten months, I would think of the shows fondly, wondering what was going on. I thought of the characters and their lives. The songs ran in my head every once in a while, and after carefully ensuring there was nobody around, I would hum the tunes under my breath.

There was simply no information about my favourite shows anywhere, it was like Azkaban in a way. Normally, newspapers have an entire page devoted to TV shows, some of them even venturing into broad summaries of the week’s proceedings. But The Hindu being The Hindu, it chose instead to regale us with the latest figures of buffalo vaccinations in the state, leaving banalities of TV shows to lesser newspapers.

But when you are a teenager, you have other things on your mind, you move on with life, stumbling through your obstacles. And just like that, the ten months of school would be over, and I would be back again, at home.

 

 

Now, going back to a TV show was tricky as hell.

Firstly, I couldn’t simply plop myself in front of the television and start watching the shows. I had to prove that I had better things to do, and was watching the shows only because I had no other option.

So I would spend the afternoons doing the stupid homework that the school gave, reading novels on the sly, or cycling like a maniac out on the roads. Afternoons seemed like molten wax flowing down a slide at an agonizing pace. Evenings sped past a little faster, and when it was night, the theme songs would waft into the room, I would pick up the newspaper, and walk into the TV room innocuously.

But that wasn’t the end of the complications. Half the characters from last year  would have simply vanished from the show. Some of them were dead, some had come back from the dead, others had gone through a plastic surgery, or leaped 20 years ahead in time.

And it wasn’t as if I could simply turn around and ask, ‘Mother dearest, what happened to Tulsi’s nephew, that Sahil fellow?’

So the first week back at home involved stock-taking. I had to deduce what was happening, grasping at strings of hints that the show offered me, drawing links and analyzing family relations. In the absence of a Wikia or the internet, I had to use my superb deduction skills to understand the characters.

And just when I got comfortable and involved in the lives of others – Bam! – back to school again.

 

*

 

And so the cycle went on and on.

But when you reach your late teens, you have other issues at hand. Pimples, shitty jobs, and a girlfriend.

I stopped watching home-grown TV shows, opting instead for F.R.I.E.N.D.S because a girl I had the hots for in college kept raving about it. A friend of mine had a ten DVD set of the series, and I simply had to slide the colourful chapathi into the machine and watch all the episodes one after the other.

The only TV show that I began watching earnestly on cable television was Kyle XY, which I later learnt had gotten horrible reviews and was stopped after two seasons.

Somehow, I did not have the same connection with angrez shows. Yes, they were funny, and moving, and stirred parts of my body that Tulsi and Parvati would not dare consider, but they weren’t my own. They belonged to a different culture, a different universe.

 

And then, came Game of Thrones.

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Having first heard of it across a bonfire with Old Monk in my hand, I had stayed away from the show since I had never felt a connect with the fantasy genre. But the raves got too much to handle last year, and I finally decided to give the show a chance.

So hooked was I, that I began reading the books, and having finished all of them, am one of the legions of fans who prays for the long life of George RR Martin on a daily basis.

Even if I know what’s going to happen in the next episode, I wait for it with bated breath. In spite of torrents, I still whip up imaginary scenes in my head, wondering how this line will be said, and how that character will be slashed at the neck.

In spite of all the TV shows and films that are floating around in the clouds for me to pick off and enjoy, I still long for Monday, for the next episode of the show.

In a way, it is a revisiting of the days of saas-bahu shows. Of afternoons spent thinking of what had happened, of speculating what is going to happen. Of passing time doing inconsequential things, with a TV show running at the back of my mind.

 

*

 

I am seated across a friend, telling him of my thoughts.

‘But you do realise that this is true of every show, right?’

‘As in?’

‘As in, everybody who watches a show waits with baited breath for the next episode…?’

‘Yeah, but…’

‘It’s just that you haven’t watched a TV show in decades, and now that you have, you keep romanticising the fuck out of it.’

‘…Do you have anything to eat?’