Posts tagged Catelyn Stark
“catelyn was obligated to love jon, he was basically her stepson-“
And then… Catelyn. Where to begin? In many ways, the writers have so simplified the setting, and so altered some of Catelyn’s basic motivations, that we probably should not have been surprised by the scene with Talisa. She’s not really the same character any longer, reduced mainly to the trope of protective mother and losing some of the qualities that complicated and made her one of the most realistically-depicted, fully-fleshed out characters in a series bursting with memorable characters. But for those who harbored some hope that this season would at least hew close to the novel when it came to Catelyn, would veer away from some of the infelicitous changes and bring back the Catelyn they know and love… that isn’t happening. In that scene with Talisa, Catelyn reveals a few things. Among them: she made a votive figure for Jon Snow (a figure that she says only a mother can make for her children), that she prayed for his death, then for his life in return for promises to love him and even see Ned legitimize him and give him the Stark name, that she failed to live to those promises, that she thinks those broken promises may be the reason all this tragedy has befallen her family.
Looked at in complete isolation, it’s a finely wrought acting moment. Looking at it in terms of character, however… you can see, perhaps, how the writers thought this might make her more sympathetic. Who hasn’t wished ill on someone? Who hasn’t been able to live up to a promise? But the scene so fundamentally betrays the character and her relationship to the setting she’s in that it’s hard to see it as anything but a very poor choice by the writers. The whole point of Catelyn Stark refusing to do anything more but tolerate Jon Snow’s presence—and that unwillingly—is that she is not his mother, and in Westeros she does not have a social or moral obligation to be his mother. She is not his step-mother, he is not her step-son—that’s not how things work in the Seven Kingdoms. Might a young Catelyn have prayed for the gods to contrive to send Jon away? Sure. Might she even have prayed for his death? I’m dubious, but in a moment of weakness even the god-fearing might do as much, so lets say it might happen. Would she regret having done so? Absolutely. But would she at any moment have considered herself a mother to Jon and responsible for him in some way? Never. Would she have put the inheritance of her own children at risk by urging Ned to legitimize Jon? Never, ever. The writers have made a fundamental change to her character. She’s still recognizably Catelyn Stark, one supposes, but it’s one who deviates sharply.
And it’s a deviation that both diminishes her, and leaves me baffled. If they were going to make a point of Jon Snow’s bastardy and his uneasy relationship with Catelyn in this episode, why in the world did they fail to use Jon’s real explanation to Mance Rayder for why he wanted to join him? Turning, as it does (and does so memorably), on Jon’s place in the world as a bastard. It seems a baffling missed opportunity, but then the story of Catelyn Stark on Game of Thrones is the story of missed opportunities. Catelyn Stark is bar none my favorite character in A Song of Ice and Fire, and it’s rather gutting to not be able to say that about the TV show’s version. Through no fault of Michelle Fairley’s own, I have to add—the blame rests squarely on the writers. I could write at greater length about all this regarding Catelyn… but I just can’t muster the energy; the disappointment is still too sharp. Year after year, I’m hopeful they’ll recover the Catelyn that s such an exceptional character, and year after year it’s a matter for unhappy rumination on the ways the writers have chosen to undermine the character.
In the end, it remains a solid episode, “character assassination” of Catelyn aside. It’s not perfect, it’s still slow, but I do think it’s safe to say that after these first two episodes, the pace does indeed start to pick up, and there’ll be much, much more to say.
My comment on this went:
You are the only reviewer I have read yet to note that it’s Catelyn who B&W have made fixate on Jon at a point where, in the books she never did, but simultaneously made Jon NOT fixate on his own bastardy at a point where, in the books, he actually did. It was an extremely poor choice to play Catelyn has having wanted to have been Jon’s mother. I would go so far as to call it unfeminist. A well-written, well-acted poor choice.