Biweekly Binge: What about Jeyne Poole?
A fortnightly column on what’s good – old and new – in the vast ocean of content in the streaming platforms around you
The latest Game of Thrones episode reminded me of Jeyne Poole. Remember Jeyne Poole? She's only the most tragic character in the entire A Song of Ice and Fire? Not safe. Not dead. Suffering things far worse. Pod sings Jenny of Oldstones (an original by Florence and the Machine) in the second episode of season 8 - A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. It's presumably about a Jenny whom Prince Duncan Targaryen loved and intended to wed. The theories are all out there, you can knock yourself out. But the lyrics that go, "Jenny would dance with her ghosts, the ones she had lost and the ones she had found. And the ones that had loved her the most," as melancholic as they are, reminded me of Jeyne Poole, that friend of Sansa, that bully of Arya (not to mention the Arya pretender) whose arc has been the most unforgiving, cruel even, at the hands of George RR Martin. As the privileged characters, heirs, and claimants from rich, noble houses sit together, admit to their mistakes and contemplate their future, I wondered about Jeyne Poole, the relative commoner, forgotten by all, her spirit dancing alone somewhere. Only in the books, Jeyne is amid worse odds. She is alive. Barely.
It's what Game of Thrones, the television series, has become, isn't it? It's the theories-are-all-out-there-knock-yourself-out show for two seasons now. The books long stopped being the crutches to hold the television series. Everyone is in this together and there are no ego clashes. The theories are free for all. A single movement in the chin area by a major character could set subreddits on fire. A word or a place is repeatedly, innocuously mentioned and it is the conversation for the next seven days. We know the Night King has an undead dragon, but for two seasons now every character in Westeros and beyond seems to have found the secrets to air travel. They jump from one end of the world to another in a matter of episodes. News reaches faster, people sprint faster than the few seconds Lord of Light takes to decide on bringing Beric Dondarrion alive. Again.
There will never be a show like Game of Thrones again. There will never be another whipping up of collective consciousness by a pop-culture behemoth. There will never be, well, a lot of things. There will be a lot of shows where we'll be surprised. There will be a lot of shows where things that we had not thought of come to pass. Once upon a time, Game of Thrones was that show. A Song of Ice and Fire was that book series. This is not a tired lament for the book fans, but more about what the show has become. While still compelling, at times it has slowly, but steadily become a parody of itself. A video explaining 14 details in episode 2. Did Podrick's song reveal clues? There is even an explanation video for the scene between Gendry and Arya Stark. If you've watched the episode, you must be falling over now. If it is not an explain-like-I'm-5 video, we are good.
But something like Jenny of Oldstones reminds you of what Game of Thrones could have been. Theon Greyjoy is humanised by his treatment of Jeyne in the books. The series, wanting to wrap things up while they are ahead, replaced part of Jeyne's storyline with Sansa, and we finally saw that Theon-Sansa relationship culminating in yet another reunion this week. Just four more weeks to go in this long-running saga, only a handful of characters remain whose fate needs to be decided. When everything is over, I'll still be here, remembering Jeyne Poole. Just one among the long list of casualties of decomplexifying A Song of Ice and Fire.