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The Tournament - Too violent, just the right violent, or not enough?


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This is a thread for discussing the King's Tournament and how it was handled in the show. It was a bit like a Dothraki Wedding with at least three deaths or it would be a very dull affair. However, I think it was very well done contrasting against the violence of the Queen's birthing. I also feel like it did a good job of establishing some facts about this version and time period of Westeros.

* It's far more grandiose and important an affair than Robert's tournament, though that is partially budget, I think it also represents how much more prosperous the Seven Kingdoms (Six Kingdoms + The Riverlands really) are in this time period versus after the mismanagement of Robert's Council as well as the decline of the Targaryen dynasty.

* The tournament is violent, bloodthirsty, and results in multiple deaths of both highborn as well as lowborn. I think this is meant to represent that there's a simmering violence and lack of outlet for it under the surface of Westeros' knightly class. Sort of like the early Shogunate for samurai where they had no use for their martial skills.

* Rhaenys also can tell these people are all poseurs and not actual seasoned warriors but like Renly's forces in that they were all hat and no cattle. They may be killers but that doesn't actually make them warriors, especially since they're fighting over nothing.

* Daemon, of course, twists and abuses his position repeatedly to show off for the crowds and uses a dirty move to humiliate Otto Hightower. But, of course, Criston Cole shows that there's limits to his battle prowess as well as skill.

* I also like how the unmasking shows the racism toward what is presumably a Reachman of Dornish descent.

* I also like how Rhaenyra is into the tournament while Alicent almost certainly isn't. Except when Daemon is involved.

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I absolutely hated it. TV shows are about telling the audience something about the real world (either because it's an allegory to what happens in the real world, or because it depicts eternal moral questions). But the real world has absolutely nothing to learn from insane murders at a tournament.

Also, the tournament was supposed to contrast child birth (as Aemma Arryn makes that comparison), but that falls completely flat when the violence is completely pointless. Even if you argue that Aemma Arryn shouldn't have taken the chance of being pregnant in her fragile state just to satisfy some dumb sexist interpretation of some vision, the point is that she believed that she was doing the right thing and that it was a noble sacrifice for her to be pregnant. None of these knights could possibly have believed it's the right thing to to be a sore loser and murder your opponent.

Edited by dbergkvist
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The violence exhibited here is part of a trend of emphasizing the decadence of the era, as envisioned by the show. It's deliberately over the top and out of keeping with the canon of the books (and even the TV show), because it's a piece of hyper-reality to drive home a point. It will not be the last time you'll see some of this hyper-realism, where a thing that might happen (e.g. a knight accidentally killed on the tourney ground) gets greatly exaggerated (i.e. half a dozen knights gleefully murdered as the crowd cheers on.)

As a piece of fight choreography and so on, I think it was great, especially the variety of equipment among the knights. The attendant spewing his guts out was a little on the nose, though.

Cole, BTW, is a Marcher, a Stormlander, not a man of the Reach.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, dbergkvist said:

I absolutely hated it. TV shows are about telling the audience something about the real world (either because it's an allegory to what happens in the real world, or because it depicts eternal moral questions). But the real world has absolutely nothing to learn from insane murders at a tournament.

Also, the tournament was supposed to contrast child birth (as Aemma Arryn makes that comparison), but that falls completely flat when the violence is completely pointless. Even if you argue that Aemma Arryn shouldn't have taken the chance of being pregnant in her fragile state just to satisfy some dumb sexist interpretation of some vision, the point is that she believed that she was doing the right thing and that it was a noble sacrifice for her to be pregnant. None of these knights could possibly have believed it's the right thing to to be a sore loser and murder your opponent.

I disagree strongly as I believe that in real life, plenty of people would be killed to make sure that you won a high profile tournament.

https://www.historyandheadlines.com/june-30-1559-8-people-injured-killed-jousting/

There's been other excessively violent tournaments as well historically.

Edited by C.T. Phipps
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9 minutes ago, C.T. Phipps said:

I disagree strongly as I believe that in real life, plenty of people would be killed to make sure that you won a high profile tournament.

https://www.historyandheadlines.com/june-30-1559-8-people-injured-killed-jousting/

There's been other excessively violent tournaments as well historically.

This is not an "injury" during a joust. This is murder in front of everyone by somebody who is pissed that he lost. It's like if a guy in a chess tournament is losing, so he pulls out a gun and murders his opponent, and everyone is just "oh, well, I guess that means that that is a the winning move" and the murderer then goes on television and brags about how great at chess he is, and is never punished in any way.

Edited by dbergkvist
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13 minutes ago, dbergkvist said:

This is not an "injury" during a joust. This is murder in front of everyone by somebody who is pissed that he lost. It's like if a guy in a chess tournament is losing, so he pulls out a gun and murders his opponent, and everyone is just "oh, well, I guess that means that that is a the winning move" and the murderer then goes on television and brags about how great at chess he is, and is never punished in any way.

Yes, that kind of thing does suck. If it had been a melee or if it had otherwise been established that folks could kill each other or were fighting to the death it would make sense ... but here we just get a weird take on what a tourney actually is.

I think if they wanted to show decadence they should have just tried to go with opulent feasts, extreme fashion, etc. In the bloodsport department there could have been contests to the death and the like, but not in this weirdo take on tourneys.

But I don't really like the decadence theme, either, since I'd not view this as a decadent time but rather as a prosperous time. As a golden age which was just that - a golden age. And the rot that set in there wasn't something that had anything to do with the larger society or their way of life but rather the way how the royal family dealt with their own quarrels.

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13 minutes ago, dbergkvist said:

I don't get the "decadence" argument. So the show runners' point is that good times makes people bored to the point they start committing murder to get some action in their lives? So, in the real world, we should be happy about the current economic woes?

Frankly, you seem very focused on the idea this is murder versus a fight until one party yields. If a party yields, it's murder if they're killed.

It's not murder if the other party doesn't yield.

Pretty simple arithmetic.

And yes, I don't see anything strange about the argument that in peacetime, the knightly warrior class is jonesing for battle to give their lives meaning.

Rhaenys even says as much. They're Summer Knights who don't know what real war is like and are playing at it.

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12 minutes ago, dbergkvist said:

I don't get the "decadence" argument. So the show runners' point is that good times makes people bored to the point they start committing murder to get some action in their lives? So, in the real world, we should be happy about the current economic woes?

I guess they want to send the message it is like Roman gladiatorial games.

But it makes no sense, of course, because knights are (1) not forced or paid to kill each other, nor (2) would noblemen kill each other to entertain crowds of smallfolk.

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Just now, Lord Varys said:

I guess they want to send the message it is like Roman gladiatorial games.

But it makes no sense, of course, because knights are (1) not forced or paid to kill each other, nor (2) would noblemen kill each other to entertain crowds of smallfolk.

I think the question is:

1. How much shame is losing?

2. How much honor and glory is in there winning?

The Mystery Knight makes it clear tournaments are the bread and butter of an entire class of knights. I think plenty of these people would fight to the death versus surrendering due to their pride.

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Most in that list were genuine jousting accidents. 

There absolutely were cases where many people died at a melee, although in almost all cases that we have evidence for they sound like accidents -- someone crushed by a falling horse, someone's helm gives way and they're brained, etc -- but we can't rule out deliberate efforts to kill people masquerading as normal melee behavior. And, you know, the death toll here is mild in some senses. There was a tournament in Neuss in 1241 where reports claim 60 to 80 men were killed... though that appears to be because it was an excessively hot and dusty day, and they basically die of suffication and heat stroke.

Again, I think this whole thing needs to be seen as a hyper-reality depiction of the violence of the tournament, to match the suggestion that this is a decadent, "anything goes" sort of time. It doesn't make sense within the canon, but it matches the intended themes.

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30 minutes ago, C.T. Phipps said:

Frankly, you seem very focused on the idea this is murder versus a fight until one party yields. If a party yields, it's murder if they're killed.

It's not murder if the other party doesn't yield.

A guy is knocked off his horse (which by the rules of jousting means he has lost the game), so he takes an axe, and attacks the winner in the back. That clearly depicts a guy who is pissed that he lost so he murders his opponent.

Edited by dbergkvist
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I also disliked the number of deaths depicted. There are 14 participants in the jousts, and we see four or five deaths (a Darklyn, a Lannister, a Stark, a Mallister and perhaps a Corbray). That amount of extreme violence is not to be expected in a tourney where the Prince of Dragonstone, the Lord of Storm's End and the son of the Hand are participating, specially when it's supposed to celebrate a joyous event such as the birth on an heir. Also, the deaths of members of houses of that importance should not be waved away ignoring the consequences. If the Blackwoods were willing to go to war because the Brute of Bracken killed Lord Quentyn with a blunted axe, how would those houses should react to a brutal intentional kill?

If they intended to show 'decandence', I think the made a bad decision. This tourney didn't give the idea that we are living in peaceful times and people are relaxing their attitudes and becoming complacent. Quite the opposite. One would guess that this is a very martial society, where people value victory at all costs.

If they wanted to show gore to juxtapose it to the childbirth scenes, it would have been better to show accidents happen because the knights were too green: badly strapped armors, horse falls, etc.

Besides that, there are some less significant things I disliked about the tourney:

  • The 14 participants are Daemon Targaryen, Gwayne Hightower, Bolton, Tyrell, Mallister, Corbray, Lefford, Cole, Stark, Lannister, Baratheon, Tully, Darklyn, and Tarly. The choice of this lot is a little weird. Stark and Bolton are completely out of place (specially the later). And one would expect a greater attendance from the Vale in a tourney to celebrate the birth of Aemma's son.
  • Lots of the shots do not seem to be in order. We see the Tarly knight fall from the horse three times (two of them tilting against Cole). The Darklyn knight seems to be killed twice. It's impossible to make any sense of the rules of the tourney, or how the matches are organized.
  • Ser Harrold Westerling mentions to Rhaenyra that Cole has "just unhorsed both of the Baratheon lads", but he says that right after Cole is introduced and when we have seen him unhorse only Ser Boremund.
Edited by The hairy bear
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2 hours ago, C.T. Phipps said:

Eh, I think there's probably hundreds of participants. This is a massive-massive affair.

The ones we see are just the most important and violent ones.

That’s what I thought of, they were showing the violent altercations to contrast the birthing scene. Perhaps they should have wrote this somewhere in big giant letters before the scene so the audience would know.

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6 hours ago, C.T. Phipps said:

Eh, I think there's probably hundreds of participants. This is a massive-massive affair.

Those are the knights that appear before Daemon when he must chose an opponent, and it's only their banners (save Cole's) that are shown on the tourney grounds. Each is repeated three times.

You can make of that what you will, but if they intended to have a multitudinary event, why repeat their banners?

Edited by The hairy bear
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Yes, while the tournament is very grand, it's clear they only had a few performers that they worked with and they shot multiple takes of things to try and represent more. Isn't the Tarly unhorsed by Cole the one who then randomly runs up and drags down and then kills the Darklyn knight?

They have a grand budget, but it's still a budget, and they found ways to cut corners to get what they wanted done.

I think as the show progresses folks will find other things where they are going to scratch their head and think "Well, that's cool, but it doesn't really make sense except on a thematic level." For my part, because the source is thin, because the GoT universe is already compromised by the previous show, and because they are managing to capture at least some of the things I do want to see (the pageantry, for example), I'm (mostly) not bothered by it.

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I liked how it looked (the pageantry, the colours, the heraldry, the horsemanship, the violent impacts of splintering lances). This felt, finally, like a Westerosi tournament.

The fighting to the death, on the other hand, made no sense to me at all – culturally, historically, narratively. The participants are often the heirs of houses, the most valuable “thing” that a noble house has. If tournaments were routinely and nonchalantly deadly they couldn’t exist – certainly not with important participants. In a time of opulence and decadence, this is even more true. I was very annoyed with this.

Finally, it is thematically dumb. Imagine if the scene had cross-cut the childbed struggle – actually deadly –  with foppish, prancing knights that merely play at war, merely pretend, in a public display of manliness (while the woman actually dies, in secrecy.) That would have been a much better juxtaposition, and hammered home the modern feminist angle much stronger. (For the record, I find the feminist angle aesthetically, politically, and intellectually embarrassing, as I do with all the insertions of contemporary coastal US elite attitudes into entertainment. It pulls me right out of the immersion.)

Edited by Happy Ent
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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, The hairy bear said:

Those are the knights that appear before Daemon when he must chose an opponent, and it's only their banners (save Cole's) that are shown on the tourney grounds. Each is repeated three times.

You can make of that what you will, but if they intended to have a multitudinary event, why repeat their banners?

I assume because Daemon is choosing from the only high lords in the event. Take note this isn't just me making assumptions, though, because the Small Council talks about how a massive number of lords are making the trip to the tournament that it is actually a major concern about the safety, security, and their travel expenses. If it was only just the ones on display, it wouldn't be an issue.

Quote

The fighting to the death, on the other hand, made no sense to me at all – culturally, historically, narratively. The participants are often the heirs of houses, the most valuable “thing” that a noble house has. If tournaments were routinely and nonchalantly deadly they couldn’t exist – certainly not with important participants. In a time of opulence and decadence, this is even more true. I was very annoyed with this.

I mean, historically, tournaments were almost NEVER the playground of actual heirs. The fact that we have a King of France killed in one and Henry VIII got injured in another is notable because of how little they were in RL. Most often they were the playground of spares or third sons or noninheritors.

Even in the show, Ser Otto's son is participating and he's not anywhere near to the heirdom of Hightower. He's the eldest son of the second son.

Edited by C.T. Phipps
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9 hours ago, Ran said:

but we can't rule out deliberate efforts to kill people masquerading as normal melee behavior.

Uthor Underleaf was paid to kill Dunk in the joust. But still, it was meant to appear as a jousting accident, not a deliberate strike to the head instead of the shield.

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