Game of Thrones – Eddard Stark

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“The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.”

In this modern world of long-form story-telling on television, the quality of ‘virtue’ almost always proves to be a death sentence. Although “Game of Thrones” is based on a series of novels that were initially published in the mid-1990s, this new age of “literate programming” has brought audiences a greater depth of character development and a newfound fearlessness on behalf of networks, writers, and show-runners to visit harm on beloved characters.

If audiences don’t care about the characters on the screen, audiences won’t feel anything if a terrible fate befalls them. That’s why we are seeing fewer and fewer “immortal” characters (central characters that audiences know will never ever die). With “Game of Thrones,” the show-runners established, during the climactic moments of season one, that absolutely nobody is safe. This ramps up interest in the story and multiplies the value of the drama.

Eddard “Ned” Stark is the enduring symbol that expresses how dangerous the continent of Westeros actually is.

In the series, Ned Stark is arguably the most honorable character, ruling over the northern kingdom of Winterfell, patriarch of House Stark. He is the moral compass of the story, inherently compelled to remain away from politics, courtly intrigue, and deception. Literarily, the family name, Stark, serves as a clever indication of his resistance to moral compromise.

After being appointed the “hand of the king,” he is duty-bound to travel to the capital city of King’s Landing. After the accident death of King Robert, we watch as Ned becomes increasingly entangled in the political upheaval of the city. He begins to struggle as his own sense of honor draws him into corrupt dealings at court. Near the end of his story arc, he is forced to choose between his family’s safety and his own sense of honor.

This is one of many paintings I have made in my ongoing series, “The Portraits of Westeros.” I hope you enjoy the work, and implore you to tell me who you would like me to paint next!

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Game of Thrones – Catelyn Stark

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Born into House Tully of Riverrun, Catelyn Stark was initially introduced to audiences as the wife of Eddard (Ned) Stark, as the Lady of Winterfell. Her marriage to Ned was arranged, but it’s clear from the beginning of the series that this is an arranged marriage that has experienced unique success; the love between Catelyn and Ned is apparent, and they have a brood of handsome children as proof.

Proud, strong, kind, and generous, Catelyn also flexes her political and diplomatic skills after the death of her husband and the ascension of her eldest son, Robb, as the King In The North. Like other prominent female figures in Westeros (especially as a foil for Cersei Lannister), Catelyn is predominantly guided by the desire to protect her children.

Little good that does Catelyn. Little good that does for Cersei, for that matter.

Despite her abrupt and tragic end, fans of the novels were hopeful that Catelyn would be resurrected (as she was in the books). None of us would be so lucky, it seems, but actress Michelle Fairley won critical acclaim for her final performance in “The Rains of Castamere” in season three.

We love and miss you Catelyn.

Let me know what you think about House Stark in the comments. And don’t forget to Like LenseBender on Facebook and Follow Me On Twitter.

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Game of Thrones – Brienne of Tarth

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“Brienne’s ugly, and pig-head stubborn. But she lacks the wits to be a liar, and she is loyal past the point of sense.”
~Jaime Lannister

The distinctly un-feminine Brienne of Tarth makes her first appearance in the second season of Game of Thrones, besting Loris Tyrell in a tourney and winning a seat in the kingsguard in the service of Renly Baratheon. Because of her stature (standing at six-foot three-inches), Brienne is considered extremely unattractive by Westerosi standards, and she is often mockingly referred to as “Brienne the Beauty.” But the tall, muscular woman with straw-colored hair is one of the most honorific characters in the entire series.

Like Eddard Stark, her sense of honor and duty often works against her interests.

Her character, much like Samwell Tarly’s, is a sympathetic one. As a child, she was met with mockery when attempting to dress and act like a proper lady. Once she turned to a career more suited to her talents as a warrior, she likewise received contempt and resentment because of her gender, despite her obvious and considerable skill. Having spent most of her life as an object of scorn and rejection, Brienne yearns for respect and acceptance, and she easily gives her love and loyalty to those few who treat her with courtesy.

Renly Baratheon, Catelyn Stark, and Jaime Lannister are the primary objects of Brienne’s friendship, love, and service.

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Fallout – Stephen King’s “The Shining”

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Today’s “Fallout” easter egg is a simple one, but it’s also one of my favorites.

To the uninitiated, there’s a location on the map in The Capital Wasteland where people have survived, barricaded behind a mountain of k-rails, slabs of salvaged pavement, and the walls of a lone surviving structure. Tenpenny Tower, a rotting spire of concrete named after it’s founding inhabitant, is a fortified settlement in the territories west of the Downtown DC ruins. Formerly a luxury hotel, it is the tallest surviving building on the map, with the Washington Memorial a likely second.

The residents of Tenpenny Tower are a collective of elitist snobs who, behind their reinforced concrete barricades and a well-armed security force, do not take a liking to the poor and hungry drifters who occasionally stumble across the dusty cracked monolith. Allistair Tenpenny only allows affluent and “cultured” individuals inside his hotel, prejudiced against the pour and against the ugly so-called “ghouls.”

For those of you who don’t know – and if you don’t, the why the heck are you even reading this?! – ghouls are humans who have been deformed due to exposure to high levels of radiation. Some ghouls are feral and will attack anybody on-sight, but there are underground societies of mentally acute ghouls. These are perfectly sound, rational human beings with a serious case of flesh-rot. Prejudice against them is rampant in settlements across the wastes because of their unsightly appearance and fears that they may become feral. Their presence in the “Fallout” universe is a clever way to inject themes of racial prejudice into the narrative without invoking actual real-world ethnicities.

(this is also one of the reasons I’m such a huge fan of “District 9”)

On the mid-floor apartments in Tenpenny, there’s a tricycle in the hallway, along with blood-stains on the walls and an overturned chair. This is a direct reference to Stanley Kubrick’s classic horror film “The Shining,” based on the novel by Stephen King. Midway through the film, Danny Torrence happens upon two little girls dressed in blue while riding his big-wheel through the corridors of the hotel. In a flash, Danny sees a murder scene with the two girls laying on the ground, butchered, with blood covering the walls and an upturned chair on the floor.

Little nods like this are everywhere in the “Fallout” universe, but this one is absolutely marvelous.

For ever, and ever, and ever…

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Bonus Game Fact: Emil Pagliarulo, lead game designer and lead writer on the “Fallout 3” project confirmed that Tenpenny Tower (and its associated game quest) was partially inspired by Fiddler’s Green, the skyscraper in George A. Romero’s “Land of the Dead.” The story line is similar enough, with arrogant elites inside, and ghoulish creatures outside, looking for a way in.

 

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