14 May 2012

Objection, Your Honor

Last night's television was all tangled up in honor, be it intentional, accidental, or just totally absent. From stealing dragons to keeping secrets from a 12 year old girl, the gangs did their best to figure out which priorities belong at the top of their lists. But as Game of Thrones's very own Kingslayer puts it, "No matter what you do, you're forsaking one vow for another." So I guess they're just going to have to pick out their favorite honor and go for it because, chances are, everything else will fall by the wayside in pursuit of it.

Game of Thrones
"A Man Without Honor"


It's the morning after Osha's great escape, and Theon's pitching a fit. Somehow it's everyone else's fault that the little lords got away, and their successful flight makes Theon look even less powerful than he is. So he tracks them to the farmer's house where Bran sent a few orphans two episodes ago, and then he returns to Winterfell with two small burnt corpses. Wow, Theon, what a ruse. Those bodies must obviously belong to Bran and Rickon because (1) we totally got to see it all happen, (2) it's not like there'd be burnt Osha and Hodor bodies too, and (3) Theon's super great at killing people and things. J/K to all of that.

If Theon fakes warrior-honor by fake-killing two boys, does that mean he has double-fake, thus real, honor? Nah, probably not.

Jon Snow, on the other hand, has so much honor that he refuses to whip out his privates even though Ygritte (the saucy redhead wildling) seems pretty into his "stohnes and bohnes." To be fair, she is a con artist. To also be fair, Jon needs to get laid, and soon. Unfortunately Jon's chastity doesn't keep him from walking right into a wildling trap. Aw, stohnes.

In King's Landing, Sansa has the ultimate OMG Most Embarrassing First Period Story EVER. She's dreaming about the time she almost got raped, and when she wakes up with blood on the mattress it's like WHOAAOAOA! Finally, finally, Shae comes in and helps Sansa out in her own special way - by physically threatening a would-be tattletale handmaid. These two together could work magic, if only the Hound weren't so on the ball. But he is, and he alerts the queen to Sansa's new childbearing capabilities, and it's all downhill from here. Damn Hound honor!

Queen Cersei feels bad about all the incest she's been having. Citing the Targaryens' incestuous and lunatic history, she confides in Tyrion (for some reason?) that she might be guilty for Joffrey's cruelty. She stops short of really blaming herself, though, and treats it more like maybe she just did a goof. Not much honor in blaming oneself for creating a child tyrant, so why dwell on it?

Over at Harrenhal, Tywin has basically figured out Arya's deal, but for some reason he's keeping her secret intact, at least for now. She freely blurts that she grew up well-fed, and it's clear that she has an education. Tywin knows she's lying to him about being lowborn, but he doesn't feel the need to act on it -- maybe it's that she doesn't present a physical threat, or maybe it's because Tywin is honor-bound not to kill innocent young girls. It's strange that, to me, Tywin seems like the most principled and disciplined character on Game of Thrones (especially now that Ned is gone) , yet I'm not really sure what he stands for. Just winning, I guess. And money. Capitalism?

Maybe coming to Qarth wasn't such a great idea after all. Daenerys's dragons have been stolen, and her trusted host, Baron von Ducksauce, takes every three minutes as an opportunity to remind her that he's done some bad shit to get where he is. So it's only natural that when Daenerys speaks to the 13 Kings of Qarth, Ducksauce does more bad shit to get even higher up. He and the Wizard King have been plotting to make Ducksauce the only king of Qarth, though I'm still not clear on what's in it for Weirdo. Maybe he gets to keep the dragons he's hiding at House of Freex. At any rate, he becomes a bunch of assassin clones and thereby takes Qarth for Ducksauce. And Daenarys is like "huh?"

In this universe, honor is the struggle to attain one's ambition, forsaking all opportunities for kindness and mercy that might get in the way. Except in the case of Jon Snow, of course, who definitely should have taken the opportunity to do it with Red when he had a chance. What a dummy.

Mad Men
"Dark Shadows"

I like watching Mad Men after Game of Thrones because it's like watching an allegory before looking at its implications in (semi-)modern life. If GoT deals in battles, allegiances, and dragon stealing, then MM echoes that in business rivalries, romantic entanglements, and pitch stealing. On Madison Avenue in the 1960s, honor takes on more contemporary values, such as etiquette and forthrightness. But just like in Westeros, it's still up to these characters to decide what's most important to them.

The episode opens on Betty trying to lose some weight. She spends the week leading up to Thanksgiving minimizing her sundae intake and going to Weight Watchers meetings, and bit by bit, she seems to be shedding pounds. But physical fitness isn't Betty's ultimate goal - the "honor" that Betty wants to get back has much more to do with self-esteem. She wants to be Alpha Betty again, the version that models clothes and wins over handsome ad executives. Unfortunately, that's going to be pretty tough quest.

Betty sees Don's new apartment for the first time when she comes to pick up the kids. Not only does it have a beautiful view, but it's also co-owned by a beautiful woman (who's beautiful in a way Betty is no longer capable of). Megan has a sense of honor, too, which is why she gave up advertising to pursue her dream of acting. All of this is a threat to whatever it is Betty holds dear.

So Betty tries to "poison" Don and Megan (and Sally's) relationship by telling her daughter about Don's first wife. That's right, Betty tells Sally about Anna Draper. She plays it off like Megan purposefully lied to Sally about Anna Draper's existence just to screw Sally over on a Language Arts family tree project. Oh dear lord, Betty.

All in turn, Sally gets mad at Megan, Megan tells Don about Betty's misdeed, and Don almost completes the cycle by calling Betty to chew her out -- until Megan stops him. Instead of deriving pleasure from Don yelling at Betty, Megan takes the high road and Don follows suit. From this it's clear to see that Megan values her relationships with sane people over a nonrelationship with a total jerk. Well prioritized, Megan. You might say that Megan's honor lies in her ability to maintain mental health.

Granted, mental health is something Don's still struggling with. He finds Ginsberg's pitches for Sno-Ball, the icy 1960s treat, and decides to start a competition without telling Ginsberg he's in the race. He comes up with his own pitch idea and then sabotages Ginsberg's pitch by leaving it in the cab. Yowza, that's a shady management style. For Don, it's a question of reasserting himself as SCDP's Alpha Don. For Ginsberg, it's a question of letting someone take advantage when he's already at such a disadvantage. The poor kid lost his entire family in the Holocaust, and now some rich white asshole with self-esteem issues wants to ignore Ginsberg's work just to feel better about himself? Not today, sir. That's how Ginsberg feels, anyway. Someone should tell him that bosses generally do get to do whatever they want. Accepting that may help him avoid getting fired.

In the meantime, we find out that Roger's sense of honor really only does go as far as handing out wads of cash. Additionally, Pete Campbell is still fixating on Rory Gilmore, which leads me to believe he's finally about to do something miserable to mankind. Obviously Pete has always considered personal glory and respect to be the most important thing at all costs, so I won't be surprised when he tries to earn it by wearing Rory's small intestines as a freaking necklace around the office, looking for compliments.

So the world of Mad Men is just as cutthroat as the embattled continent of Westeros, and it contains just as many people pretending their ambitions are "honor." Hopefully the violent streak within Game of Thrones inspires Bobby Draper to keep drawing big, fat, blue whales with harpoons sticking out of her fat, mean side.

And PS, I have to admit that I'm starting to like Henry Francis a lot more. When he and Betty tell the kids what they're most thankful for at Thanksgiving, they absolutely nail it:
Betty: I'm grateful that I have everything I want. And that no one else has any better.
Henry: Me too.

photos courtesy HBO and AMCtv.com

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