Friday, June 24, 2016

HBO Series Game of Popes

HBO's Game of Thrones intro.

What if the last 50 years of Church history took place in 
Westeros, the fictional land of the hit HBO series, Game of Thrones?
Never heard of Game of Thrones? Might not make much sense. But it
doesn't always make sense even if you have watched it from Season One, either.

Nothing whatsoever to do with the story. But cool. Maiden fair fights Bear with wooden sword.
Don't worry, the Bear survives.

Our Story So Far

The Treason of the Maesters

People still speak of The Mad King, the Last of the Targaryens, because they remember the wildfire and destruction that swept through Westeros. However, the true story, like all true stories, remained secret. It was written only in the whispers of Small Council members, and the schemes of the Most Devout, who conspired in the dim and empty corridors of King's Landing.

Its public face was the Great Council of the Seven, convened shortly before the last Targaryen died. It was hopefully known, unofficially, as "The Red Wedding," due to the coming together of so many different ideas, and, of course, the distinctive red clothing worn by the Most Devout in their hundreds. It was immediately hijacked by a new sect, however: the Sparrows.

The Sparrows first arose in Riverrun, to the north of King's Landing. They quickly spread as wildfire of a different kind. "Sparrow" was a reference to the ostentatious humility practiced by their devout, especially their unofficial leader, "The High Sparrow." It also meant the smallfolk.

The Sparrows claimed to bring reform to the Faith of the Seven, by "opening the windows of the Sept and letting the sparrows in." However, many, including Maester Alfredo, who sat on the Small Council, saw instead the coming demolition of the faith.

There ensued an upheaval known as The Treason of the Maesters. Riverrun was the intellectual center for the Sparrows, if "intellectual" is the right word. The Sparrows hated tradition, and, in practice, they hated thought itself. "A single sparrow may swallow the greatest contradiction," they boasted contemptuously. Their influence would spread beyond the Faith, and eventually corrupt every institution of Westeros. They were too numerous and well-organized for Maester Alfredo and his party, but the old Maester nonetheless ensured that the Great Council's teachings were seeded with contradictions and ambiguities.

On the last day of the Great Council, Maester Alfredo and the others of his party were shot down with crossbows from the choir lofts of the Great Sept. Despite public mourning and investigations, no one was charged with the crime. It is generally believed Lord Frey supplied the soldiers at the request of Lannisters. "The Red Wedding" took on the entirely new meaning we are familiar with today. Westeros woke up to a fait accompli. The time-honored practices of the Faith were changed overnight.

King John Paul Arryn, Second of His Name

The death of the Mad King occurred some time after the Council, and a war for the possession of the Iron Throne ensued. The fearless and noble Benedict Stark led a large army from the far north, and fought House Lannister in the final battle for King's Landing. The Lannisters were defeated by the unexpected arrival of a large cavalry force led by John Paul Arryn, Lord of the Vale, a province to the east.

The victors agreed upon the dashing and proven John Paul Arryn, Second of His Name, as King of Westeros. Benedict Stark was named Hand of the King. As Hand, Benedict had authority second only to the King. Benedict Stark had sided with the Sparrow faction at the Great Council, but repented of his error after The Red Wedding and following abuses.

During Benedict's long term as Hand, he discovered much corruption in the capital. He carefully compiled evidence of grave misconduct by certain Lords of Westeros and their confederates, especially the powerful but sinister Lannisters. The Sparrows were up to their necks in it. King John Paul, however, believed that moving against the corruption would be a distraction from his chief business, which was to improve the political landscape, roll back the influence of the Sparrows, and restore reason to the maesters.

King Benedict Stark, First of His Name

King John Paul had a long and popular reign. It is said that he ruled Westeros without a single sword being drawn from its sheath. But some thought he did not do enough to correct the Great Council and suppress the Sparrows. Upon his death, his faithful Hand, Benedict Stark, Lord of Winterfell, was named king by acclamation, John Paul leaving no heir.

King Benedict, unlike King John Paul, was not universally loved. The Sparrows despised him, especially his "reform of the reform," which included an option for the ancient rite of the Seven. He was mocked by many, and his efforts were largely ineffectual where they were not simply blocked outright. He never felt he had the strength to go after the corruption he had uncovered as a younger man, while King John Paul's Hand.

When he grew very old, he was given an ultimatum by the Lannisters. He would abdicate the Iron Throne, while retaining some ambiguous royal prerogatives as "King Emeritus." From Dorn, the uttermost south, an unknown Lannister would be installed upon the Iron Throne before anyone could do anything about it. [Dorn? You don't remember Dorn? Neither does anyone else.]

King Francis Lannister, First of His Name

The smallfolk of King's Landing literally woke up one day to find that Benedict Stark was no longer king, and their new king was Francis Lannister, First of His Name. He was young, and had the blond Lannister hair, just like his aunt Cersei and uncle Jaime, as well as a streak of sadism. He named Lord Kasper Frey as his Hand. Some, those not familiar with the rules of the Game of Popes, were shocked, given Frey's connection with the Red Wedding. Others were simply confirmed in their suspicions: Francis Lannister and the Sparrows had not just blown in through the window together by chance.

Initially, nearly everyone was charmed by King Francis' simplicity. It was said he slept naked in a pile of dung spread over iron spikes beneath the stars, no matter the season. He ate nothing but sawdust wetted with vegetable broth, while servants beat him with canes. These, at any rate, were such stories as he enjoyed hearing about himself. He did not wear shoes, famously saying, "carnival is over," and so was rumored to be a Sparrow.

Benedict Stark publicly turned over all the evidence he had been collecting over the years. Rumor has it that King Francis personally burned it with wildfire as he sat upon the Iron Throne, repeating, "burn them all," as he watched the flames erase history.

"Here We Stand." (But Not For Long.)
The smallfolk loved their seemingly common king. However, the great houses, and many of the uncorrupted Most Devout and maesters were alarmed at his ignorance of the fundamentals of The Seven. "I've been all over the world, and everywhere I go people tell me about 'the true God.' They all think they've found the right one!" he once said, speaking extemporaneously to a huge crowd. Within an hour, ravens were carrying his scandalous message to the four corners of Westeros.

He also suggested that The Seven, the Old Gods, the Drowned God, and the Lord of Light were all just different names for the same, true God. He even said, "the Six themselves worship The Stranger, therefore, so must we as our One True God."

A small, but growing movement began wondering how Francis Lannister had come to be made King, and what should be done about his increasingly bizarre ideas. Some even began remembering The Mad King. The Lannisters are not the most genetically hygienic, shall we say, family. When Ser Eddard Burke publicly, but respectfully, challenged King Francis, the King demanded Ser Eddard's head on a spike. However, his Small Council advised him not to make a martyr of Ser Eddard. Instead, he was exiled to Bear Island, far to the north, and awarded the mocking title, "Admiral of Ice Bay," where he remains to this day.

Preview of Game of Popes Seasons 7 & 8 -- Bears

Benedict Stark had many children. The bad guys have been hunting them down, one by one, but there are still plenty left, and they're pretty angry at everyone kidnapping and killing them. Even the youngest daughter, Arya, not yet a teen, is a trained assassin who has killed about fifty men and one girl in single combat.  They and their allies remain a force in Westeros far greater than their numbers suggest. (Exception: Rickon -- serpentine, kid, serpentine!)

A new Targaryen threatens from across the Narrow Sea with dragon fire and barbarian horsemen. Beyond the wall, undead are stirring in the north.

And forgotten on freezing Bear Island, Sir Eddard Burke finds an unexpected ally. [SPOILER] Thousands of Bears. (Seriously.)

Who just happens to be from Bear Island? Everybody's favorite Friend Zone dweller, Jorah Mormont, weird father figure and advisor to Daenerys Targaryen, First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Mother of Dragons, Khaleesi of the Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, Genetically Predisposed to Pyromania,  etc., etc., etc.

So it is entirely possible that after the fleet finally brings the Khaleesi's army across the narrow sea, Jorah Mormont nips up to Bear island, picks up Ser Eddard Burke and loads up on lots of Bears. So maybe it's dragons, Dothraki horsemen, the Unsullied, Second Sons, whoever else Daenerys manages to pick up along the way, and thousands of Bears versus Francis Lannister. But who will wind up on the Iron Throne?

Since we know everyone is going to be killed by ice zombies in the final episode, it doesn't matter. Not the Bears, though. They go back to Bear Island and live happily ever after.

Winter is Coming. The North Remembers. The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors. This Show Has Too Many Tag Lines.

Game of Popes has been renewed for two more seasons. With Bears.


  1. Probably love it or hate it, depending on your familiarity with the series. But thanks!

  2. I've never seen GoT, but I get most of this.

  3. Yes, I would agree that GOTs has a very "catholic medieval" feel to it. However, in the book, just about every major male character is violent, relishes a good nasty fight, and thinks nothing of committing repeated fornication and adultery. But, the GOTs in the Vatican is performed by the most part by very effete, highly educated, homosexual pacifists. The Pope's Ghostwriter wrote a book titled, "Heal Me with Your Mouth." I cannot imagine any of these Vatican personalities taking on The Mountain or a Dorthraki. For their weapons of choice are gossip, lies, social media, and whispers of deceit.

    1. True, but this was the only way I could make the mash-up work. They have to be nobles fighting for the throne. Although King Francis is somewhat similar to the psychopathic Joffrey. But I take your point.

    2. P.S. we got them beat on the information front. We actually produce stuff people want to read. Not fortune-cookie papal tweets, and paint-by-number intentions, and lengthy, boring and nonsensical documents. We're just getting started. He who has the better agitprop wins!


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