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Was King's Landing Worth Saving?

Spoilers are coming.
May 19, 2019, 5am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Dubrovnik, Croatia is definitely worth saving, not that there are currently any fire-breathing dragons to worry about.
Julian Worker

Feargus O'Sullivan chimes in on the big question of the day: What are we to think of the fate of King's Landing?

Social media channels has been overwhelmed this week with discussion about the events in the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, aired last week, ahead of the finale episode tonight, so it's only fair that someone finally found an urbanism angle to report.

O'Sullivan writes:

In the midst of the recent hullaballoo about “The Bells,” the penultimate episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones, something got missed in the confusion. The true star of the episode was neither a newly unsympathetic Daenerys nor her fire-breathing baby. The real focus was the city of King’s Landing itself, shown up close and in remarkable detail just at the moment when it, and its unlucky residents, were being scorched to smithereens.

According to O'Sullivan, The Bells presented Kings Landing with new detail, showing the city's "true extent" for the first time. What we see is a beautiful city, with reasonable comparisons to Dubrovnik, Valletta, Malta, Girona, and Istanbul. The effect is a "Pre-Ottoman Constantinople," according to Feargus.

All of those comparisons are familiar, however. The world learned in The Bells that Kings Landing might better described like Denmark in Shakespeare's Hamlet.

…King’s Landing may be impressive to look at, but it’s largely a miserable place to live in, and the world that created it is rotten.

This is a civilization that can construct buildings so impressive that they make soaring real-life medieval cathedrals look like shrubs in comparison. The streets beneath the citadels, however, are largely mean, dingy warrens so tightly packed with people that a jumping flea could travel the city’s circumference without ever leaving a body. In “The Bells,” incinerated spires crash from the sky and onto the terrified folk below—death by authoritarian architecture. Faced with a dragon, not even the city walls are much use to the people shown desperately trying to press through their gates to what they think is safety.

Such dichotomous realities are familiar in the real world, notes O'Sullivan, including some of the cities listed above.

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Published on Friday, May 17, 2019 in CityLab
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