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Ross Douthat
1. A brief thought on the Battle of Winterfell vs. Tolkien's major battles. One of the cliches of writing about Game of Thrones is the idea that its darkness and violence and shades-of-gray characters are a departure from "classic fantasy," meaning by implication JRR.
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Ross Douthat Apr 29
Replying to @DouthatNYT
2. It's true that GRRM's Wars of the Roses landscape is more morally ambiguous than a lot of Tolkien ripoffs, and that many of his villains are more interesting than Sauron. But Tolkien was very effective at dramatizing temptation and corruption among the well-meaning + the good.
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Ross Douthat Apr 29
Replying to @DouthatNYT
3. The fall of Boromir, the corruption of Saruman, the sedation of Theoden, the despair of Denethor and the temptation of Frodo -- in each case what's interesting isn't the Big Bad himself, but the effect of evil on people trying to resist it.
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Ross Douthat Apr 29
Replying to @DouthatNYT
4. And where this cashes out really effectively is in the final battles, Pelennor Fields and Black Gate/Mount Doom, where you have a sweeping good-versus-evil conflict overlapping with a struggle within a family, a company, a human heart.
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Ross Douthat Apr 29
Replying to @DouthatNYT
5. At the moment Sauron's armies are breaching the gates of Minas Tirith, the steward of the city is trying to burn his own son and himself alive. At the moment the armies of Gondor are making their last stand, in the Sammath Naur Frodo decides to claim the ring for himself.
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Ross Douthat Apr 29
Replying to @DouthatNYT
6. That kind of drama, the drama of Denethor burning Faramir and Frodo and Gollum struggling for the ring, was what was missing from the Battle of Winterfell. For all GoT's vaunted ambiguity, at the crucial moment everyone was united and heroic, the bad guys absent or killed off.
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Ross Douthat Apr 29
Replying to @DouthatNYT
7. No doubt we'll get ambiguity again in the last three episodes. But its absence here was an epic (literally) fail. And a reminder that the old master, old JRR, knew a thing or two about complexity that the GoT showrunners, at least, do not.
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Ross Douthat Apr 29
Replying to @DouthatNYT
Coda: Peter Jackson botched Denethor's arc in certain ways but this is still a useful tonic after last night's Avengers: Winterfell:
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