Monthly Favourites – May 2019

Another month, another instalment of my monthly favourites! Today, you can expect a long exposition about my favourite TV show. But, fear not, before that I’ll reveal my favourite book and songs from May. I don’t want to bore you to death if you’re not even remotely interested in the show in question.

May was a complex reading month. I read the final pages of a book that I didn’t like and read in their entirety another three. Regarding the latter, I had conflicting feelings about A Cidade de Ulisses (City of Ulysses) by Teolinda Gersão and liked both The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante and The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier. After some contemplation, I think my favourite was The Story of a New Name. It is the second book in the Neapolitan novels and continues to follow the lives of the friends Elena and Lila. I wholeheartedly recommend this compelling story about female friendship, which is full of conflicting emotions. It also features reflections on class, equality and social mobility.

Music-wise, I loved two new songs by The Black Keys, ‘Eagle Birds’ and ‘Lo/Hi’. Rock songs that we can dance to are some of my favourites, and these are just great for that. I’m really excited to listen to the new album in full.

Two months ago, I would never have thought that having the last three episodes of the final season of Game of Thrones among my monthly favourites would be an unpopular opinion. Nevertheless, I believe that I can say so considering the amount of hate that I saw online. I genuinely enjoyed the eighth season as a whole! Was it perfect? No! There were some things that could have been done better, but it still is my favourite show of all time and the best one that I have watched this year so far.

Season eight made me cry and laugh out loud. It was visually stunning and atmospheric when it needed to be. It managed to be surprising while making sense, at least considering how I interpreted the characters’ paths and personalities. Although the choice of king felt anticlimactic at first, after re-watching the final episode, I came to accept it. The soundtrack was also superb! This season would have benefited from having a couple of more episodes, though, in order to have time for more interactions between the characters. I now want to further explain my opinions, so there will be spoilers below!

The depiction of the attack on King’s Landing in episode five was amazing. It did a good job portraying the horrors of war, which is not a heroic act where good guys fight bad guys. Pure nonsensical violence is what the local population has to deal with most of the times. I’m glad that we were shown their perspectives for once. Loads of people thought that it was completely out of character for Daenerys to burn the city. I disagree! She had been struggling to temper her violent impulses for a long time. I admit that maybe it was easier for me to accept it because I had been dubious about her for years.

Daenerys had a huge problem in my opinion. She thought that everyone had to adore her, she saw herself as some kind of messiah or a saviour with a destiny that should be worshipped by all. That was a consequence of her life experiences – being the unburnt, the mother of dragons, freeing people from slavery… All those titles that Missandei liked to recite. She struggled to deal with people outside of this dynamic, her being the saviour and others automatically showing reverence and adoring her. She had burnt and crucified people before without knowing if they were guilty or innocent. But as they were nobles in a country where there had been slavery no one cared that much. With each victory against people who had done evil things, she became more arrogant. She was not worshipped in Westeros and couldn’t deal with that very well.

She did great deeds for people, true, but she also stated many times that she was willing to “return cities to the dirt”. I assume she was aware that would have caused the death of innocents. Her violent instincts always had to be tempered by her advisors. The difference this time was that Sir Jorah was dead and she didn’t trust Tyrion anymore. Add to this that she decided to rule by fear, partly because she didn’t feel loved in Westeros and also wanted to make sure that Jon wouldn’t claim the throne.

As Daario once rightly said, she was more of a conqueror than a queen. She didn’t want peace. Instead, she intended to keep waging war until all great houses were destroyed and she was the sole ruler. That was what she meant by breaking the wheel. She became a tyrant who believed that she was the only one who knew what was right, because she didn’t trust her advisors anymore. Her tragedy is that she didn’t even realise what she was becoming. She continued to think that she was good and right and that everyone else was wrong.

The way Jon killed Daenerys was the only available option. Drogon trusted him, probably because he recognised him as a Targaryen. If Daenerys had sensed that she was in danger, Drogon would have come sooner. Jon is politically naïve and honest, but he is not that dumb. I fully sympathised with his struggle to come to a decision and not wanting to face the truth about Daenerys during his amazingly acted conversation with Tyrion, although he was obviously pissed off because of her actions. He wanted to believe that she was only that person who had come to their rescue beyond the wall and that he fell in love with. The way I see it, he ended up being the prince that was promised. His role was to unite everyone to fight the Night King and the army of the dead and to kill Daenerys.

At first, I wasn’t convinced by how easily Bran was chosen as king, but it made more sense after re-watching the final episode and not being so excited to know what was going to happen. Tyrion gave a speech about the importance of stories. That persuaded me regarding the Night King, but in this gathering not so much. What made me change my mind was understanding that they had had enough of war. He was a last resort. His understanding of the past and his ability to know what everyone is doing are fantastic resources. But he lacks other important qualities for a King, such as ideas about practical issues. I assume he’s leaving all that to Tyrion, while he goes on his “trips”, because that was what happened in the first council meeting.

Bran may have had a vision at some point that led him to think that he was going to become king, but that doesn’t mean that he knew about it all along. He didn’t “warg” into people so they did what he wanted. Bran can witness events in the past and can know what is happening in the present in other places via the birds. And he has prophetic visions about the future, like the dream he had in season two about the sea getting to Winterfell. Jojen Reed had the same type of visions.

There were so many scenes that I loved in the last three episodes. Jon’s speech at the beginning of episode four was poignant and the perfect farewell to those who had died during the battle at Winterfell. And Tormund was hilarious during the feast. In the same episode, the conversation between Jon and Daenerys was fantastically acted. From her point of view, it made sense not wanting Jon to tell his family about his true parents, but she was also being selfish and manipulative just for power. Had she bothered to think about him and how he felt?

The conversations between the characters were few but wonderful. I loved Tyrion’s interactions with Varys, Jaime and Jon. Sandor convincing Arya to give up killing Cersei was also splendid. I’ve been rooting for her since the beginning and was so glad that she managed to put revenge aside. Jon saying goodbye to the other Starks and reuniting with Ghost had me in tears.

Not everything was perfect, though. I wish there had been more conversations between the characters so their state of mind was even clearer. I would have liked to see more of Cersei, for example. They could have shown the northern armies around King’s Landing during the meeting of the Lords. Sansa said they were there when they were threatening to kill Jon. It would have increased the sense of tension and the pressing need for peace. I didn’t want to see Arya and Sansa being told the truth about Jon’s parents (that story had already been told twice this season), but we should have been shown their immediate reactions somehow. Also, the way Rhaegal died required a huge suspension of disbelief. Those ships were not that well-hidden. This didn’t prevent me from highly enjoying this season, however. The difference is that it could have been perfect and it wasn’t.

The overall message for me is that power and desire for revenge can corrupt people, be they men or women. And, at the end of the day, humans are their worst enemies. Also, hereditary systems are unfair, because there is no way of knowing if the descendants will be worthy of the title. On reflection, that saying about how every time a Targaryen is born the realm holds its breath was justified because regardless of their abilities they would be the ones ruling. The problem was not only the Targaryens themselves, though. It was the system. Robert didn’t have any worthy heirs neither. That is why Tyrion mentions that it’s a good thing that Bran can have no heirs. When he dies, they will choose someone else that they consider worthy.

 

I’m sorry that I turned this edition of my monthly favourites into a rambling essay about Game of Thrones. But I had many thoughts to share, particularly after seeing so much negativity online. You’ll probably be pleased to know that I won’t be writing about it again anytime soon. In case you’re interested in my opinion about the first three episodes, I mentioned them in my monthly favourites from April.

 

These are my favourites from May! Which are yours? Tell me in the comments!

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