In the third episode of the seventh season of Games of Thrones, there was a conversation between Cersei Lannister and a representative of the Iron Bank of Braavos Tycho Nestoris, a conversation that brought the fans of the works of George Martin in bewilderment. The Queen of Westeros reminds Nestoris that the slave trade, in which the Bank allegedly invested a lot of money, is in decline because Daenerys “has freed all slaves.” The Bank’s representative becomes bleak and answers, “The slave trade is in decline, it’s true.
The problem is that in Braavos, to which the Iron Bank is accountable, the slave trade is strictly forbidden. Total aversion to human trafficking is one of the main elements for a free city’s identity, founded by fugitive Valyrian slaves. The ban on trade was the first law in the history of Braavos, and its content was engraved in stone. Moreover, throughout its history, Braavos waged wars against its neighbors, demanding the introduction of such a law — the ban on the slave trade became one of the main points of the peace treaty with Pentos, which was defeated during the war.
One wouldn’t want to believe that the writers made such a big mistake. Fans, as it often happens, came up with many possible explanations: Iron Bank is investing in the slave trade secretly, bypassing their own laws and principles; Cersei was mistaken while Nestoris played along with her; technically, Nestoris did not agree that the Bank is engaged in the slave trade, but simply admitted that it is in decline.
But there is a much sadder and more realistic explanation. Most likely, the showrunners of “Throne Games” David Benioff and Dan Weiss, both of whom, according to the credits, personally wrote the script for the series in question, have no clue about the history, laws, and traditions of Braavos. They have never typed the name “Braavos” in a search engine or followed the first link to a fan wiki.
The average fan of “Songs of Ice and Fire” has more awareness of Braavos than Benioff and Weiss — it would be only half a disaster. The central paradox is that Benioff, Weiss and all those involved in the Game of Thrones appear to have never, in any way, occupied themselves with the problem of the slave trade in Braavos.
This is not a judgment toward the showrunners of Game of Thrones, but an observation that can be applied to almost every recent film or TV series based on some large-scale source. If you once understand and accept this unpleasant truth, a lot of things will fall into place: nobody cares.
Perhaps “nobody cares” is not the right word, because it means conscious disregard and negligence. I am convinced that Benioff and Weiss are not being lazy or arrogant, they just think quite differently: they couldn’t have imagined that anyone would care about such inconsistencies in lore. Or at the fact that the commanders of Westeros use absurd tactics by any standards on the battlefield.
They see their task in creating an entertaining cinema as a sequence of moments. In their world, the viewer, who will complain about the catapults, which for some reason set up in front of the infantry, is just a weird, incomprehensible to a normal person nerd.
They simply don’t see anything wrong with this approach — they wouldn’t even know that there can be another one. If you read and watch a variety of interviews and videos regularly, you can see how these people reason. Read any text that asks Ryan Johnson questions about The Last Jedi, and you’ll have no further questions about that movie.
Leia flies through space because Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy thought it would be a great scene. Johnson reports that over the years between the episodes, Luke may or may not have trained his sister — guess what. Ray’s parents are nobody because it seemed to the writer to be the most unexpected turn, and Snoke’s background and motivation are unknown either as it is not that “important” for the story. It’s not speculation, but a real explanation from the film director.
After the film was released, dozens of video bloggers and journalists discussed why no one in the history of Star Wars had ever used a hyperspace ram if that was possible all along, and the Jedi had never used “projections.” Some criticized the film, and others tried to explain the inconsistencies logically. But if you get a little insight into Ryan Johnson’s way of thinking, it becomes evident that all of this is meaningless: he’s just reasoning in another paradigm that’s utterly alien to a typical Star Wars fan.
For Johnson and dozens of people who approved the scene with the hyperspace ramming, the question of how it would affect the rules of the universe, most likely, did not arise at all. If you’d asked them, “but why didn’t the rebels destroy the Death Star with a hyperspeed drone,” in return, they’d have no idea what this question is about. People worked hard, came up with a beautiful, epic scene, while you are here with some strange questions about the lore. Do you propose to reject this fantastic idea because it will break all the logic of space battles, or what?
It is tough to believe that Joan Rowling personally wrote into the script of the second part of “Fantastic creatures” Professor McGonagall, who teaches in Hogwarts 20 years prior to her birth. Whoever did this, he probably thought in the same way: it would be great to show the young McGonagall in the film, period. Do the books and materials on Pottermore show the exact year of her birth, and it doesn’t coincide? Do you really think that’s a reason not to add it to the film? Do you think that’s the kind of thing anyone cares about?
And it’s hard to accept the idea that the author has a lesser understanding of the material than you do. The idea that the author doesn’t care is even harsher one. That’s why all these mistakes, inconsistencies and just unsuccessful moments are invariably accompanied by fans’ explanations — if you wish, you can read on the net about why no one came up with the idea to ram the ships at hypervelocity before, and that McGonagall could have a full namesake and so on.
People prefer to live in a fictional world in which writers have done everything correctly and have considered every single detail. Snoke had a logical background all this time, and it will be explained later for sure. Joan Rowling conceived Percival Dumbledore from the very beginning and fully thought-out his story, and the contradictions in the dates are sure to be explained. The final episode of the fourth season of “Sherlock,” full of nonsense and disappointing turns, is a phony one, whereas the real one was filmed under the pretense of another series and will soon be broadcasted (this is also a real theory).
The worst thing in this context was, of course, having gotten away from the original source Game of Thrones, which for a very long time gave the impression of an extremely thought-out work. By the seventh season, the script of which was not criticized by only lazy, Benioff and Weiss with their completely “movie” thinking finally replaced George Martin in the role of storytellers — so the series suddenly began to function by entirely different laws.
After the release of the series Beyond the Wall, the Internet immediately got filled with questions — practically like after the Last Jedi. How did Gendry run such a distance so fast, and how did Daenerys manage to get a crow and fly to the aid from the Dragonstone? Where did the dead people get the giant chains to pull the dragon out of the ice?
Think about it, the scenario of this episode has probably gone through several stages of approval, and no one had any questions about the logic. Who in his right mind will want to search in Martin’s books for references to distances and calculate the running speed of Gendry and the speed of the raven’s flight? After all, the writers came up with such a dramatic plot — do you want to spoil everything, don’t you? Who cares about the chains if the scene looks cool?
The creators increasingly showed that they didn’t give a damn about it — but the fans continued to build theories that could “explain” everything. Tyrion is not just saying one stupid idea after another — he must have a plan. Littlefinger did, of course, fake his own death. The Night King can’t be just an “evil zombie” — some complicated story should stand behind him, ideally the one related to Bran. Well, there were countless theories about Azor Ahai as well.
In the third episode, the “promised prince” appears to be Arya — and we know exactly why. The Lord of Light had nothing to do with it: in the documentary film about the creation of the series, David Benioff explained that it seemed to him and Weiss that if they gave this part to Jon Snow, it “would feel wrong” — he is always acting as a hero-saver. That’s why it’s Arya.
Arya, as the showrunner admitted, was approved to be the killer of the Night King about three years ago. In other words, at the time of Jon Snow’s death in the fifth season, the creators of the series probably haven’t decided who will fulfill the prophecy yet. As Benioff confesses, he, like Ryan Johnson, sincerely sees nothing wrong with having to make such ideas on the go.
At the time of writing, the fourth episode of season eight has not yet come out. Many people still believe that the story with the King of the Night is not over yet, that something else will be explained and will be presented to us, because such a large-scale storyline, which was fuelled up during eight seasons, cannot end with such a trivial outcome.
I would also have believed that we had some incredible surprise prepared for us — if I wasn’t sure that Game of Thrones was being made by people who were interested in shooting spectacular scenes, but not really interested in Westeros itself.
Perhaps, there is no solution to this problem — fans will always love Game of Thrones, Star Wars and Harry Potter more than the directors and writers who are working on them do, fans are always going to have a more profound and thoughtful understanding of the lore. Maybe the main point is that they have more free time to spare.
But I would love Johnson, Benioff, Weiss, and the person pretending to be Joan Rowling to realize at one point that not every movie can be shot with only spectacular scenes in mind. The approach, which is excellent for The Fast and the Furious, is not that good for Game of Thrones.
© 2019 Pavel