I probably ought to have worked on it yesterday but I took another lazy Sunday instead, mostly playing chess and finished by watching the new Game of Thrones. The episode ended precisely the way I wanted it to end--I haven't read the books and I've kept myself free of spoilers. There was some more incredible stupidity in the writing but there were a few things I really liked.
I'm always a little amused that people talk about the violence in Game of Thrones as being a necessary element of realism. Yes, in this fantasy mediaeval world of dragons and impossibly beautiful people, ridiculous economics and convenient private hot springs in the wilderness for super steamy sex scenes, you're going to have to have ultraviolence, I mean, what're you gonna to do?
But I'm not quite saying that the violence is there because people like it--though I think a lot of people do. I think it's there because it's part of our truth now. There's so much violence revealed to us now as part of the basic mechanics of the world that I think viewers feel uneasy if it's not in our fiction, too. The good things can't be enjoyed if one doesn't feel a certain amount of credible bad things happened before we get to them. For all of its notorious killing of so many beloved characters, Game of Thrones is still a fantasy wherein it's possible for audience avatars to overcome all this in the end.
Now, I'm talking about sword and axe violence, not sexual violence. The rape scenes inserted into the show by Benioff and Weiss--which weren't in G.R.R. Martin's original books--are straight forward rape fantasies, revelling in the sexuality of the scenes, an example being Khal Drogo raping Daenerys in the first episode of the series. Instead of the passionate desire to take revenge most violence seems to inspire in surviving victims on the show, being raped by Drogo eventually seems to cause Daenerys to fall in love with him. This was something that made me reluctant to continue watching the series when I started it but I don't believe people who fantasise about rape are necessarily potential rapists or even sexist--fantasy rape, as demonstrated by the show, is very different from real rape. It's not my cup of tea, however.
Spoilers in my review of the new episode after the screenshot.
Sort of an ironic mirror of this is the S&M fantasy of the current Theon Greyjoy storyline where Ramsay Snow has somehow turned Theon into a completely obedient android by castrating him. I guess some people might get off on this but the whole plot just seems incredibly silly to me. There's nothing in this trajectory for Theon's personality that makes me say, "Yes, that's how a human being would respond." It would be like the Nazis recruiting spies from concentration camps. But the Theon/Ramsay scenes had some gorgeous location shots.
I was really hoping the Mountain would kill Oberyn (it's so hard for me not to type "Oberon"--too bad he wasn't more like Alberich) in the trial by combat. Not because I didn't like Oberyn--I thought he was kind of charming--but because Oberyn winning the fight would have been a very uninteresting outcome. The fight scene itself was very unconvincing with a lot obvious uses of doubles and a Mountain who seemed too clearly lacking in strength and prowess, particularly in the part where he overpowers Oberyn, somehow grabbing Oberyn's neck after tripping him, which was about as convincing as watching a muppet walk. It's somewhat made up for by a very effective prosthetic of Oberyn's head being crushed.
The shot, and the Mountain's personality as exhibited in the previous episode, were obviously reflected in Tyrion's anecdote about his cousin who liked to smash beetles, and Tyrion's obsession with trying to figure out what compels people to commit pointless acts of violence. Sadism and where it comes from is one of the most interesting aspects of the series. It's a truth, as I said, people seem to need now, and like Arya's storyline, a familiarity with violence can eventually lead to taking comfort in it.