Passing time with blond babies in Spain

We have a bit of news for Game of Thrones S6, as reported by Twitter-Block on the Wall, that they’re looking to cast a baby, age 9-12 months and with blond hair, in Canet de Mar.

The significance of this casting call is, according to Sue the Fury:

Canet de Mar is the home of the Castell de Santa Florentina, the medieval castle that has been the subject of speculation since it was confirmed as a season 6 location.  Baby Sam in Canet de Mar presents a strong likelihood that Castell de Santa Florentina is Horn Hill, the Tarly family home. We know from casting breakdown spoilers that we’ll be meeting Samwell Tarly’s parents and siblings in season 6, so it seems likely he and Gilly will stop by Horn Hill on the way south to Oldtown.

At first read, I thought maybe this was assuming a bit too much on squishy evidence, but I went and looked at Castell de Santa Florentina online, and I agree: that looks like Horn Hill. The landscape looks like southern Westeros, but not so far south as Dorne. Some of the interiors use Islamic designs, which is a more Dornish aesthetic, but the production can pick and choose which interiors it uses for filming. It does not look like Essos. Honestly, I can’t think of a better setting for a vassal family’s castle in the Reach. Horn Hill, it is! A blond-haired baby age 9-12 months could be any one of several characters, but if the baby is needed at Castell de Santa Florentina, then it’s probably Baby Sam with his mother Gilly. Horn Hill + Blond Baby = Sam introduces Gilly to his family. I’m on board with that.

So now I see a lot of people complaining that a) Baby Sam should be much older by now, because 1 season = 1 year, and b) why should Gilly’s baby have blond hair?

I’ll answer the easier question first: there’s no Earthly reason why Baby Sam shouldn’t be blond. First off, dark-haired parents can produce blond children. It’s when two blond parents have a dark-haired child that you start wondering about who’s been paying Mommy a visit. Second, lots of white people are blond in early childhood but not later. My brother and father were both very blond when they were little, and dark-haired in adulthood. I have dark auburn hair now but I was strawberry-blond as a toddler. Gilly carrying a blond baby around needs no explanation.

The question of how time passes on the show is trickier, but there is no reason to think that 1 season equals 1 year passing for the characters. It doesn’t. My criticism of how time passes on the show is that it’s inconsistent, but no, the characters are not going through time at the same rate the actors are. For example, when we see Cersei talking about having been queen for 20 years, that’s the part that doesn’t add up.

The real challenge for how time passes on the show has to do with the younger actors: Sophie and Maisie are in their late teens while Sansa was only 14 last we checked, and I don’t think a year has passed since her marriage to Tyrion. (She was not yet 13 at the same stage in the books.) Isaac has the same issue; Bran should not be that tall and deep-voiced by now, but here we are. We’re asking young adult actors to play early-adolescent or younger characters. We have to suspend disbelief.

One of the more obvious squishy areas in the timeline is how Tommen and Myrcella suddenly got much older since we saw them in S2. Remember Tommen sitting on Cersei’s lap in S2:E9? He’s not so little anymore. Myrcella also got much older while the Stark kids didn’t age nearly so much. At this stage in the books, Cersei’s remaining kids are still much younger. Their jumping forward in time doesn’t make sense for narrative, but it makes a lot of sense for production. In the audio commentaries, we hear the directors and showrunners talking about how they were so lucky to get such gifted actors to play the Stark kids, because it’s really difficult to find child actors who can perform drama. (Usually, they’re just good at being cute.) Cersei’s kids being teenagers also allowed the writers to have them doing things like, Myrcella being really excited about marrying Trystane, and Tommen being so in love with Margaery. (I’d characterize their relationship in the books as, like, a hot babysitter with a sweet little kid.) Short version: I think the showrunners decided to make Cersei’s remaining children suddenly get a lot older so they could hire different actors and have more fun with Tommen and Myrcella. As far as the story goes, their age is nonsensical.

Another character who is older than she should be by now is Dany. The conversation with her and Tyrion suggests that she’s at least 20, whereas last we saw her in the books I don’t think she was any older than 16. It makes sense, though, to say that all the responsibility she’s taking on is more fitting for a 20-year-old than for a 16-year-old.

With the series as a whole, though, there’s no reason why each season needs to span the same amount of time, and there’s no reason why any season needs to cover a year’s time for the characters. I think the longest time span was within the first two seasons, when Dany went through most of a pregnancy and later, when Jaime remarked that the Starks had held him captive for a year. So, between the end of S1 and late-mid S2, about a year passed. Even there, he may be exaggerating. If they held him for more like 10 months, he might have rounded up to a year. A month in that pen must have felt like a year.

Since he got out of the Starks’ camp, though, the idea of 1 year for 1 season doesn’t pass the smell test. S3 did not take a year. It may have taken longer for some characters than others, and that is where we’re asked to suspend disbelief, but it didn’t need to span a year for anyone. Brienne and Podrick have not spent the better part of two years looking for Sansa since they left King’s Landing. No. They have not. Tyrion did not spend more than maybe a handful of months incarcerated following Joffrey’s death. S5 picked up right where S4 left off (just after Tywin’s death), and Jaime did not spend the better part of a year in Dorne. Maybe they hung out with the Martells for a few weeks after the agreement was hammered out. But that journey did not represent anywhere near a year’s time. Gilly’s son still being a little baby makes perfect sense. When we see Sam and Gilly in Book 4, her son is still a tiny nursing babe. Him being 9-12 months in S6 is fine.

Someone else also notes that for production, a little baby is easier to work with than a toddler, and I believe that. So it makes further sense for the show to want to keep Gilly’s son in that helpless babe-in-arms stage as long as possible. But it also makes sense, for narrative reasons, for the child to be still in his first year. There is no reason why the blond baby of 9-12 months at Canet de Mar can’t be Gilly’s son.