Not last night, but last week and the week before – did you notice what the writers did?
They invoked the Writer’s Mantra… Less Is More.
Less can also mean cutting corners. But for now let’s consider the concept, Less Is More.
Two scenes– one which gives us great insight into two significant characters and their developing relationship, one which… well, let’s take a look at the insightful scene first.
The King Slayer, Jaime Lannister, and Brienne of Tarth share the bath at Harrenhal. Brienne protests. She’s shocked at Jaime’s naked intention to share her bath. But her indignation is all bluff. It’s phony baloney and Jaime’s possesses the innate ability of the consummate cynic to cut through the crap. He dismisses her phony indignation for what it is, a play at convention, all the while valiantly attempting to hide his shock, pain, and suffering at the loss of the only thing he values aside from his twin sister Cersei~ his sword hand.
Brienne’s true feelings are exposed by her immediate disregard of any play at modesty when The King Slayer collapses into the water. We see her terror at his distress, her obvious concern and rapidly growing respect for the man who (spoiler alert) becomes one of the truly heroic players in The Game of Thrones.
The scene is told in few words and in even fewer, spare, brilliantly choreographed actions/reactions by two vulnerable and honorable people made even more vulnerable by their nakedness. If the viewer hasn’t already guessed, the bath scene makes it crystal clear– Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth have become a mutual admiration society of two.
Brienne of Tarth is quite possibly the most loyal, trustworthy and yet naive character in the series, even more naive than the dense block of cement, otherwise known as Sansa Stark.
When we meet Brienne she is a bit of a dull lumbering beast of burden, a dumb ox– her loyalty to Renly Baratheon and her image of him as the ideal of chivalry illustrates exactly how her sense of honor has blinded her, not only to reality, but also to the larger stakes. It is only after prolonged contact with Jaime, a man who understands The Game far too well, that the rose-colored glasses slip down her nose and she begins to see the big picture. More important, she begins to question where her true allegiance should lie.
Their scene in the bath is terse, laconic, powerful. There is no fluff, no wasted space. Every word, every action, has meaning. It illustrates and illuminates the evolution of a relationship between a cynical man who scoffs at convention and a woman for whom convention is all. And yet as a woman warrior, Brienne of Tarth already bucks convention.
To be honest, Brienne bored me to tears in the books. Fortunately she’s quite engaging in the HBO series. Jaime, on the other hand, remains true to his original character– he’s a hero. He may play the role of an anti-hero, but in his own way he’s an honorable man… Not as stubborn and honest and, frankly, suicidal as Neddard Stark– a man who had no clue how to play The Game, but almost as honorable as his brother, Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf.
Which leads me directly to scene two which I’m going to describe as, Less=Less. It’s a technique writers use when they either haven’t the time or the wherewithal to write a complicated and emotionally-laden scene – open the scene, skip over the meat of it entirely, and merely show the reader or viewer the results. It’s the equivalent of writing– “The bullet slammed into his chest and he fell to the ground. Three months later…”
Tyrion Lannister has been ordered by The King’s Hand, his father Tywin Lannister, to marry Sansa Stark and thus keep hold of the North and possibly checkmate Robb Stark, the King of the North. The move is also intended to undermine the Lannister’s scheming allies, the Tyrells, another family that understands what’s at stake and can play The Game with the big boys.
Tyrion Lannister, the benighted dwarf, is a wonderful complicated character. He’s a pragmatist, a realist, he’s cunning, he understands the natures of both The Game and his cold calculating family, yet he’s remained an honorable courageous man and a true romantic at heart. He believes in love. He doesn’t want to marry Sansa Stark for many reasons, most of which involve his belief she’s suffered enough. To punish her by forcing her to marry a deformed dwarf more than twice her age is just too cruel. Besides…
He’s hidden his paramour, Shae, in plain sight, placing her in service as Sansa Stark’s trusted handmaiden. Thus killing two birds with one stone – keeping his true love alive and protecting Sansa to the best of his somewhat limited ability.
The scene opens with Sansa and Shae. Sansa is glowing with happiness because she believes she is about to marry pretty boy, (and sword-swallower… thank you Lady Olenna Tyrell!), Sir Loris Tyrell. Thus she’ll be freed from the horror of King’s Landing and married to a man she admires for his great beauty and chivalry. Sansa is dumb as a post, or nearly so. Although she’s managed to survive, she never seems to grasp the existence of The Game or realize her value as a piece in The Game.
The reluctant Tyrion is assigned an unpleasant task. He must destroy Sansa’s dreams, Shae’s dreams, his own dreams. He knocks on the door to Sansa’s chamber. He faces both Sansa and Shae. He says, “I have something to tell you…”
The next thing we see is a stone-faced Shae standing behind a dewy-eyed sniffling Sansa, who watches a ship sail away. There goes Sansa’s last shred of hope.
What happened behind closed doors? This viewer wants to know. I wanted to see the look of dawning horror in Sansa’s eyes, the pain of betrayal in Shae’s. I wanted to hear Tyrion’s halting words of explanation and apology.
Granted, the scene would have been tough to write. But I believe the actors could have carried it off. This was an opportunity to include another stellar character-driven scene, but the writers opted for Less=Less.
Just something to think about…