Critical Intel

Critical Intel
Dangerous Words in Telltale's Game of Thrones: Iron From Ice

Robert Rath | 29 Jan 2015 12:00
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Gared Tuttle Game of Thrones

Gared Tuttle, as a squire, is the most straightforward character. As a longtime servant of House Forrester he serves as a trusted vassal - his choices confined to either following orders in hopes that they're the right thing to do, or taking matters into his own hands. That may sound like an easy choice, but there are grey areas even there - it's true that his lord gave him a message intended only for the castellan, but what if the castellan dies and no one else knows? Then again, is it possible Lord Forrester didn't trust his own family? Gared has to decide whether he'll follow orders he doesn't understand or adapt to the situation as he sees it. His struggle comes from whether to trust authority or himself.

On the other hand you have the young Lord Ethan, an unprepared boy in a dangerous position. While Gared struggles to be a good servant, Ethan struggles to transform into a fitting master. Ethan's youth and inexperience create a no-win situation for him politically. Should he try to project wisdom and diplomacy he may appear weak, but should he try to present strength he will almost certainly come off as a petulant, rash child. Or, and with me this is often the case, he can vacillate between the two and be inconsistent - the worst thing a leader can be. To complicate this balancing act, Ethan's advisers - as well as his mother - continue treating him like a child. The game reinforces Lady Forrester's power over Ethan during a crucial decision moment, when in addition to looking at the two candidates the player has to choose between, they can also look toward Lady Forrester, who's gesturing with her eyes which one to pick. It's an incredible touch, and neatly tears down Ethan's charade - he's trying to appear wise, strong and authoritative, yet everyone around the table knows he's none of those things. It's one of the more deft interpretations I've seen about the problems of child leaders, and brings up interesting questions about trust and governance. Who do you rely on when everyone, including your own mother, manipulates you? And to an extent, is that manipulation for your own good? It's a question I'm still wrestling with a week after finishing the episode.

Mira Forrester Game of Thrones

But for my money the most interesting character is Mira Forrester, an unmarried daughter serving as a handmaiden to Margaery Tyrell. Mira fascinates me, because while Ethan leads and Gared follows, Mira's role stays hazy. A minor intriguer at King's Landing, Mira suddenly finds herself as her Forrester family's only advocate in the capitol. That means navigating allegiances and placating the crown, but it also throws her into nebulous territory involving politics, court intrigues and even espionage. Mira's position - isolated and without steadfast allies - means she can neither tell the whole truth nor rely on confidences to keep her safe. More than any other, her story revolves around trust. Whom can she rely on? Are others trustworthy? Should she cement an alliance with Margaery or aim to please the queen? By the end of the episode, Mira graduates from pulling strings to full-on espionage - or if you're suspicious like me, counter-espionage. (I mean, do you really trust that guy? Seven hells, I don't.) Depending on the player's actions, she may even steal an object that, in the medieval world, could land a person in jail or on the execution block.

Taken together, a theme emerges from the game. While Telltale's The Walking Dead concerned itself around the question who will you choose to save?, it seems Game of Thrones centers around who you choose to trust. Gared must decide whom to entrust with a secret. Ethan has to pick his primary advisers and decide whether to rely on their council or act on his own instincts. Mira, alone in the web, needs to build a network of contacts she can rely on while minimizing risk to herself. For every one of them this involves going against family ties and friendship for the good of House Forrester. A thousand little betrayals to head off bigger ones down the road.

But this is Game of Thrones, where the headsman's blade never stays dry for long and victories are merely a temporary reprieve. For all I know, the seeds of my downfall have already sprouted and taken root - growing in the fertile soil of a forgotten conversation, a rushed answer, a cocked eyebrow along with the phrase Cersei will remember that.

Robert Rath is a freelance writer, novelist, and researcher based in Hong Kong. His articles have appeared in The Escapist and Slate. You can follow his exploits at RobWritesPulp.com or on Twitter at @RobWritesPulp.

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