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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

27 Comments

  1. TheOncomingHurricane
    June 7, 2015 @ 7:11 pm

    What a load of…bollocks.

    Fridging Shireen? Putting Trystane in the role of one of the Sand Snakes that was cast? Does consistent characterisation or internal logic count for anything? Or like themes, are they merely for 8th grade book reports?

    Of course creatively this made sense, because they wanted it to happen.

    Reply

  2. arcbeatle
    June 7, 2015 @ 7:11 pm

    I'm following your posts and my friend's posts rather than watching at this point, as the Sansa plot made me stop, and this is the first positive thing I've seen on the episode. The general thing I've been getting is that people thought the Shireen scene seemed really forced and didn't fit at all with what they'd been doing with Stannis with some added misogyny added via her mom.

    I mean, I haven't seen it, but the dissatisfaction of people I trust with most of this season is disheartening towards picking this up again.

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  3. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 7, 2015 @ 7:21 pm

    I think it's entirely consistent with Stannis, who is at the end of the day a ruthless fanatic, and has always been presented as such. The snapping of one of the few vestiges of humanity and kindness he had was always an inevitable endpoint of his character.

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  4. TheOncomingHurricane
    June 7, 2015 @ 7:45 pm

    Fanatic or not (which book Stannis is decidedly not), burning your only heir is probably not the most sensible of moves.

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  5. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 7, 2015 @ 7:49 pm

    Neither is starving to death in the snow.

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  6. Froborr
    June 7, 2015 @ 8:27 pm

    I mean, ever since Melisandre brought up king's blood it was obvious to me we were heading for an Iphigenia situation? And it's absolutely in character for Stannis to do it. I agree with Phil, the only person out of character there was Selyse.

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  7. Ciaran M
    June 7, 2015 @ 8:54 pm

    I think my only real problem with it was how they bungled up the setup of it over the season to make it feel both tragically inevitable and also irritatingly contrived.

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  8. Ciaran M
    June 7, 2015 @ 8:57 pm

    Whoops. That was meant to be a reply to the above discussion of flaming Shireen.

    Reply

  9. Matt Marshall
    June 8, 2015 @ 12:37 am

    Well I'm glad someone liked the bizarre assassination of Stannis' character! I find it really hard to believe he'd want his only child and heir burnt to death, especially because the blood magic hasn't actually proved itself to be that powerful or even do much (Balon is still live and kicking after all). Really the only blood magic that worked is those two leeches and that was just leeched blood. Did Stannis get any clear magical benefit from burning Mance alive?

    I can see Selyse and Mel burning Shireen on their own initiative and Stannis getting pissed, but not him doing it. That's baffling.

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  10. liminal fruitbat
    June 8, 2015 @ 1:49 am

    Show Stannis or Book Stannis? In the books Stannis is in the same situation for long enough for people to resort to cannibalism, and he refuses to burn anyone. He might well burn Shireen in the face of a full-on zombie invasion, but for this, from a man famous for surviving the siege of Storm's End?

    Shireen's blatantly doomed, and maybe even by Stannis' hand, but this is just contrived.

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  11. Alex Antonijevic
    June 8, 2015 @ 2:04 am

    It's misogynistic to show a mother reacting poorly to her only daughter being burnt to death.

    Good to know.

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  12. Elizabeth Sandifer
    June 8, 2015 @ 2:15 am

    No. It's sexist (although I think in common usage "misogynistic" is now essentially a synonym for sexist, and will thus not quibble with someone who uses the term, I am inclined towards the precision of "sexist") to suggest, as the scene did, that women possess some fundamental maternal trait that will always lead them to protect their children, and that men lack.

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  13. William Whyte
    June 8, 2015 @ 2:19 am

    I thought the Shireen scene was well-executed as spectacle, and it left me very sad, but at the same time it was deeply unsatisfying. Lots questions went unanswered that for me would have both made it a better scene and made it develop the ongoing story more strongly.

    When did Shireen know? What did she think was going to happen? Was she going willingly?

    What exactly does Stannis think he's going to get? When?

    Did Stannis tell Shireen? How can he think he has the moral strength to be king when he isn't brave enough to be with his daughter at the hour of her death, which he ordered?

    How does no-one in the crowd speak out against this?

    What do they think of Stannis's cowardice in not coming forward? Do we seriously believe that every single soldier in that crowd agrees with horribly killing a child? Will anyone step forward and challenge him on it?

    I don't know. It was effective at the time but the more I think about it the more I think it wouldn't have happened that way.

    I liked the dragon scene though. I take your point that it went on too long for the narrative purpose necessary, but I like dragons.

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  14. Matt Marshall
    June 8, 2015 @ 4:42 am

    It may be mixing a bit too much of the book into it, but of the pair, Selyse is the religious fanatic who would absolutely be more enthusiastic about burning her only child alive to serve her god than Stannis. But of course, women all have a magical motherly power that trumps their personality (and mean old Stannis does not as he is an evil man).

    Of course, that's not to say that it's unrealistic for anyone to have a "Wait, oh boy, now we're doing it maybe burning our daughter isn't the right move"

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  15. nataliesaidihaveto
    June 8, 2015 @ 4:51 am

    If I might offer a dissent on Selyse, I would argue that the scene serves to show just how far Stannis has descended. Even Selyse breaks at this point, whereas he doesn't, not because women possess some fundamental trait, but because Stannis lacks humanity.

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  16. TheOncomingHurricane
    June 8, 2015 @ 5:08 am

    The thing is, Selyse has never had even a hint of humanity about her, whereas Stannis has.

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  17. David Ainsworth
    June 8, 2015 @ 5:24 am

    I also felt it was consistent for Selyse's character, although unfortunately nobody seems to have bothered to tell Tara Fitzgerald to perform the charactor in a way which offers any genuine hints at this result. Selyse has two notable characteristics: her faith, and her unhealthy obsession with her stillborn sons. She's deeply self-loathing because of her reproductive failures. Is that misogynistic and deeply connected with reproductive futurism? Certainly, but it's well-established years ago and this moment isn't a departure from it. One could easily offer a redemptive reading that the show wants us to be deeply uncomfortable with the expectation that she should be blamed for not bearing Stannis a male heir.

    Of course she wants her (in her mind) deformed daughter locked up, hidden away. Of course she hates her as a living symbol of her own failure. But those stillborn children whose bodies she hangs onto are also symbols of her failure, and she can't put them to rest, either. From a reproductive standpoint, Shireen may be a huge disappointment to Selyse, but no child at all is worse still.

    Selyse's lines justifying the murder right before she breaks sounded to me more like she was trying to convince herself, not reassure Stannis.

    In addition, her fanaticism regarding the Lord of Light always struck me as being a commentary on the kind of self-righteous religious fanatic whose beliefs are grounded in self-hatred and a desire to feel superior to others, not in genuine faith. At the moment when Selyse realizes that she is losing something with Shireen's murder, she breaks.

    Stannis, on the other hand, at least show Stannis, seems to have a core of faith; one imagines that the lore about Azor Ahai sacrificing his wife would be in his mind here, though I don't think the show told us that story so one has to imagine. More to the point, though, Stannis has a strong streak of duty, obligation and self-sacrifice. Sending Shireen to safety when her death could save his men would, to him, be like running away himself and leaving them to die.

    I doubt Stannis dies in the next episode. His fate is tied to Melisandre and she'll definitely survive. Stannis only dies if she abandons him, and I don't think she's ready to do that quite yet, though she may jump ship for Jon Snow. I also don't think Stannis will last another season of the show.

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  18. David Ainsworth
    June 8, 2015 @ 5:34 am

    The scene makes it obvious she has no idea until she sees the torchbearer and the stake. Melisandre has never explained what she's doing to Stannis prior to doing it, and he's gone along because she's gotten results. And yes, Stannis thinks he's doing something extremely courageous but does it in a cowardly way.

    The open question is what the army has been told about what's going on. Given that others have been sacrificed to the Lord of Light, I presume they know something, at least that Stannis is making this sacrifice to save them. In that situation I'd expect the soldiers to be deeply uncomfortable but also secretly relieved that Stannis may have found a way to save them all. In one twisted way, if this sacrifice works, the soldiers all owe their lives to Stannis' decision.

    On the other hand, they're likely to be grateful to him alongside hating him. I've not seen a better example of how Stannis can be so disliked while always trying to be inflexible but fair. One can't picture Tywin killing one of his children under any circumstances: they are special and soldiers are common rabble. Stannis represents a bunch of principles we'd generally want to accept but twisted in horrible ways.

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  19. tom harries
    June 8, 2015 @ 6:59 am

    "I also don't think Stannis will last another season of the show."

    I don't know; Agamemnon lasted for ten years after executing his daughter at the start of the Trojan War – and ended up getting killed by his wife, after he'd taken the Trojan Priestess Cassandra as his .. well, as his, basically

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  20. tom harries
    June 8, 2015 @ 7:04 am

    I saw an interview years ago with Irene Papas, who was in a Greek film version of the original Iphigenia story, which I haven't seen, and she said that in that version, the soldiers cheered the girl as she was led to her death for saving them. According to Papas, it wasn't scripted – it was what the actors felt they should be doing.

    Reply

  21. David Faggiani
    June 8, 2015 @ 7:33 am

    See, I actually don't think it was sexism to have Selyse break down like that, I thought it was a brilliant bit of (gender-irrelevant) character work. And it surprised me, in a really effective, desperately sad way.

    Stannis and Selyse's relationship with the Faith of R'hollor has been very different for both of them, and founded on very different things, different sorts of hope and pragmatism. I think having her morality overcome her dogmatism (although too late), while a very different argument wins out in Stannis' head, was a dark and terrible illustration of faith, family, pragmatism, delusion, fatalism, and all the grounds which overlaps and merges there. The effect on both characters should be shocking to behold. RIP Shireen.

    P.S. When Davos finds out, I would fear to be Stannis. Or Mellisandre. Or anyone there in the camp. The Onion Avenger is coming for you all!

    Reply

  22. J. L. Webb
    June 8, 2015 @ 10:43 am

    This posits the existence of 'gender irrelevant character work' which, like most apoliticism, assumes a vacuum where in fact we have a very charged society. This is a dangerous assumption at best, and often self delusion or active deception (not a slight on you, just indicating the dangers).
    And character work is of course going to be at some of its most gender-politicized in relation to themes of parenthood.

    For what it is worth I found the idea of this dimension to Selyse welcome texture to a character who had been shown rather… flat, as yet, the issue however is the timing, that is the lack of foreshadowing, which brings her maternalism to the fore at a point contrasting Stannis such as does neither of them great favours.

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  23. Tymothi
    June 8, 2015 @ 1:38 pm

    The impression I got with Selyse breaking down was that it was more about Shireen begging her for help. Which seemed to have been the first time in a long time (ever?) that Shireen asked her mother for any kind of help. As far as I remember, we don't ever see any affection between the two of them, it seemed like the first time Selyse ever saw her as a person, and not a means to an end. Stannis, on the other hand, only ever really saw her as a means, even his saving her when she was an infant seems to me to have been more about the fact that she was a Baratheon, than any actual empathy to a fellow human being. Davos was the only one who he had to really worry about saving Shireen, because he was the only one who always saw her as a human.

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  24. phuzz
    June 9, 2015 @ 5:30 am

    I enjoyed the heightened levels of snark in this episode, especially in Dorne (and yes, it was nice to see Alexander Siddig finally get some lines), but there was a few zingers in Mereen as well before it all kicked off (although what kind of sword did the big guy in the first bout have? It looked more like a plank painted silver.).

    As for the dragon action, I felt it played out a little slow. They could have cut it down a bit and it would have been more action-y imo. Maybe I just thought that because I had a good idea of what was coming.

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  25. Re-animator
    June 9, 2015 @ 12:16 pm

    There are some parallels between Stannis' character arc and the biblical story of Abraham. Besides the obvious – forsaking the religion of his people to worship a strange monotheistic cult that demands sacrifices of blood and burning people, I mean. In this episode, he has his binding-of-isaac moment but no miracle comes to prevent the death of his firstborn. He gets all the doubt and hesitation of Abraham but none of the surety – he can't even address the Lord directly but only via a priestess. He is locked into a path he can't stray or return from, since that would mean making all the sacrifices (literal and figurative) meaningless. I read the queen's last-minute regret slightly differently – being a fervent believer in the goodness of the Lord of Light ("this is good, this is necessary" being her mantra as Shireen is tied to the stake) she might have expected a miracle to take place, a substitute found, or maybe, as with Abraham, the Lord would have deemed the willingness to go through with the sacrifice a sufficient substitute for it. But seeing her daughter burn gives her a realization that her Lord may not be that good after all. He might be as indifferent or encouraging to the death of her child as to the death of anyone else in Westeros.

    Also, as a first time commenter but year-long reader, thank you for the blog! It's been a great companion as I made my way into Doctor Who.

    Reply

  26. Daru
    June 13, 2015 @ 8:11 am

    I do generally agree Phil. I had hoped, really hoped that Stannis's hard-headed reaction would be to refuse Melisandre and find another way through. So I was shocked when Shireen was burned as I did really adore the way she was played.

    Great to watch Arya in action in Braavos.

    And I do admit to loving the spectacle of Drogon appearing even if yes it was easily telegraphed. Yes it wasn't a game changer, so I'm with you there – I did love the sight of it though.

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  27. Seeing_I
    July 9, 2015 @ 5:14 am

    "I have quibbles, most obviously that Selyse's change of heart is a dreadful and sexist cliche; given how consistent her character has been up to this point, the only possible explanation for it is some sort of essentializing comment about women and motherhood."

    Another possible explanation is just that while she could convince herself in her mind of the action's righteousness, actually seeing her child burning alive was too much. Nothing to do with being a mother or a woman, but being, you know, human.

    Or, it's just a sexist cliche. Sometimes I feel you're being more reductive than the show itself.

    Reply

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