Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"Wierzbowski and Crowe Are Down!": Schrodinger's Water Dancer

WIERZBOWSKI: You know, maybe it's a personal thing, but I only really have one question about Game of Thrones.

CROWE: I bet I know what that question is.


CROWE: Yes, I wrote it down on this piece of paper when you started reading. Would you like to ask the question first, or should I read it?

WIERZBOWSKI: I'm impressed by your presumptuousness. I'd love to hear what you think my question is. After all, we are talking about a single question drawn from five books written over the course of roughly fifteen years, literally thousands of pages of, sprawling characters, convoluted plot developments, unanswered questions, themes of choice vs. predestination, death and life, responsibility and duty, the struggle to match ideals with reality, not to mention some problematic issues with women that--

CROWE: (reading) 'Whatever happened to Syrio Forel?'

WIERZBOWSKI: (long silence) Fuck you.

CROWE: Am I wrong?


CROWE: But am I wrong?

WIERZBOWSKI: No. No, you aren't wrong.

CROWE: It's a fine question. Certainly worthy of discussion. In fact, Syrio's ultimate fate has been the recurring subject of many an online discussion. Frankly, when I first read the passage, I thought he had perished heroically at the hands of Meryn Trant. The only reason we did not see his demise was that Arya, our point-of-view character, had fled the scene. Certainly, there is no evidence that he escaped or was imprisoned.

WIERZBOWSKI: Agreed. Except that there is never any confirmation of his death either. And let's be honest, despite the series' reputation as one where no character is safe, there are far more examples of characters being reported dead and then showing up again than there are main character deaths. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the author's consistent use of such cliffhangers weakens the series as a whole. Between false reports, identities being switched, magical illusions, magical resurrections, and authorial fake-outs mixed with the occasionally legitimate death it becomes impossible to trust what we are reading. Not only that, most of the characters lives seem so fraught with physical, political, and psychological misery that death doesn't seem like such a bad alternative. When A Dance With Dragons climaxed with yet another such event, instead of being shocked breathless or wondering what really happened and what would happen next, my reaction was a combination of emotional numbness towards the character and annoyance at the author. Instead of feeling dramatic, it felt cheap and manipulative.

CROWE: Yes, but it most of the cases you're citing involve major characters. Syrio Forel played an important role, but the former First Sword of Braavos was not an important character in and of himself.


CROWE: Does that depress you?

WIERZBOWSKI: You know it does.

CROWE: Because of your own uncertain fate?

WIERZBOWSKI: Exactly. A scream and a camera going blank. Was I killed? Was I captured and impregnated by the facehuggers? Did I escape only to be killed when the Atmospheric Processing Plant exploded?

CROWE: Maybe you escaped and got clear of the blast. Perhaps you are a lone wanderer on LV-426.You know, walking the earth, meeting  people... getting into adventures. Like Caine from Kung Fu.

WIERZBOWSKI: So I decided to be a bum?

CROWE: Heaven and Earth, Horatio.

WIERZBOWSKI: Given the choice, I would pick Earth.

CROWE: I believe you. I think I would too. But our discussion raises an interesting point.
By ending Syrio's tale the way he did, the author has given himself an out. If he ever needs the character to make a surprise reappearance, the door is open. If he doesn't, the character can continue to rest among the non-living. Until then, he remains Schrodinger's Water Dancer, neither alive nor dead.

WIERZBOWSKI: Bully for the author. On behalf of minor characters everywhere, I would like to voice the opinion that I would have appreciated knowing one way or another.  Even minor characters appreciate closure.

CROWE: No offense, 'Ski, but calling you a 'minor character' is a gross exaggeration of the part you played in the narrative.

WIERZBOWSKI: Fuck you, Crowe. I'm glad you got killed in an explosion.

CROWE: Me too. At least I can rest easy with the satisfaction of knowing what happened to me.

WIERZBOWSKI: Like I said. Fuck you.

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