Month: May 2014

Game of Thrones Episode Companion: Season 4 Episode 7

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This article is to be read after the episode has been seen, as and as a result may contain spoilers up to the episode that it’s covering, but no further. So if you haven’t seen the episode yet, go and watch it. Then come back and read this. Then watch the episode again. Then read this again.

The title of this episode, “Mockingjaybird”, is an odd one. On paper, it seems to refer exclusively to Petyr Baelish – his homemade sigil is a mockingbird – but usually Game of Thrones’ episode titles have a bit more depth. I’m wracking my brain trying to think of what else this title may refer to (mockingbirds are known to imitate other sounds – could that be something?) but I haven’t really come up with anything, so if you do holla back, gurl.yMtkUCG

This episode re-reintroduced us to Gregor Clegane aka The Mountain That Rides. We’ve seen him a few times before, but just in case you can’t remember, here is some Mountainformation. Gregor Clegane is…a beast. He is a psychopathic powerhouse. It is alluded to in the books that he suffers from major headaches due to his size, so is constantly on painkillers (milk of the poppy), meaning that he can probably take quite a beating. As you are probably aware, his brother is Sandor Clegane: the Hound. We first met Ser Gregor (yes, he is a knight) in season one. He fought in the Tourney of the Hand, killed Ser Hugh of the Vale (lance through neck) and was then unhorsed by Loras Tyrell, before getting in a fight with his brother and storming off in a huff. A few episodes down the line, it is reported that the Mountain is out pillaging the Riverlands. Ned Stark, as Hand of the King, puts a bounty on his head and sends Beric Dondarrion to “bring Ser Gregor to justice”. The Mountain actually kills Lord Dondarrion (more than once, I believe – Dondarrion then goes off and forms the Brotherhood Without Banners) and ends up in Harrenhal, when Arya and Tywin are there. This is when we see him next – in season 2. He was recast, so you may have missed him – he was the lanky fellow who didn’t look particularly intimidating at all, pottering about. He wasn’t very Mountain-y. After leaving Harrenhal, Edmure Tully attempts to lead Clegane and his army into a trap (remember Robb scolded him for it?), resulting in the Mountain fleeing back to the King’s Landing area, where we meet him now. Once again, he has been recast. This time, he is played by Icelandic strongman Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (no relation), who seems to represent the Mountains physical build a little closer than his predecessor did. Long story short, the Mountain is a big, mean killing machine. And Cersei has chosen him to be her champion.

And he will be fighting….Oberyn Martell! Nicknamed the Red Viper, Oberyn is a fierce warrior in his own right, but also very intelligent.  He blames Gregor Clegane for the death of his sister, Elia: Clegane raped her, murdered her, and killed her children. He also seems to sympathise with Tyrion – we were treated to a lovely, heartfelt speech about how Oberyn and Elia visited baby Tyrion, and how Cersei was…well, a bitch. When Tyrion was born, rumours spread of this monster that Tywin Lannister had conceived – but the truth was, apart from a slightly misshapen head and arms, Tyrion looked relatively normal. This drives home the point that Tyrion made last episode – he has been on trial his whole life for being a dwarf. Oberyn fights for vengeance and sympathy. Some questions have arisen as to why Bronn “abandoned” Tyrion. The truth is, Bronn, as we know, is a sellsword. He never hides it, and in fact not fighting for Tyrion is very consistent with his character: he won’t do anything unless he sees personal gain in it. He has been married off (by Cersei) to Lollys Stokeworth – a noblewoman and daughter of a lord. And then there is Jaime, who, in his current condition, would not stand a chance against the Mountain. Though as Tyrion said, if they were both to die, that would royally screw up Tywin’s direct lineage, as Cersei’s children are Baratheon (in name, anyway).

Whereas the last episode was the first in which we saw zero Starks, this episode gave us another first: the first time we see the Hound without armour! He and Arya were attacked by Rorge and Biter – the two criminals that were in the cage with Jaqen H’ghar in season 2. Arya saved the three’s lives, which is why Jaqen owed her three deaths.  So, to tend to the wound left by Biter, Sandor strips down. Incoming symbolism: when he takes his armour off, he tells Arya the story of how he was burned, leaving him both physically and figuratively vulnerable. This is deep stuff.

Appropriate post-coital clothing.
Appropriate post-coital clothing.

Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys is still being a shit leader. The scene with Daario was a little haphazard, in my humble opinion. This, I think, is largely down to her age scaling from the books, in which she is – at this point in time – about fifteen. Hence, you can kind of see why she falls for bad-boy Daario quite quickly, and might be prone to making rash, cruel (see: Mad King) decisions. It’s just something that hasn’t translated too well, sadly. It all seemed a bit quick and inconsistent with her character. The following scene with Jorah, however, was very good. Remember, the reason why Jorah fled into exile was because he sold slaves for moneyz to please his at-the-time wife. To try and win back favour, he began to spy on Dany for Varys/Robert, but abruptly stopped when he began to fall for the Mother of Dragons. The idea to take back Yunkai is quite grounding for Daenerys, showing that she can’t just conquer three cities and frolic in sunshine and rainbows.

Lastly, the final scene. Sansa building Winterfell in the snow has been a point of inspiration for Deviantartists everywhere since the books were released, as in its own way it is a very beautiful scene. Though fleeting, this is probably the first time that she has felt any notion of safety since leaving home. The cold, the snow, it reminds her of Winterfell. That is, until Robin comes along and gets all spoilt-child-unhealthily-obsessed-with-the-Moondoor on it. Technically he is the Lord of the Eyrie, though his mother rules in his place until he comes of age. Enter creepy Uncy Pete, who has probably had a thing for Sansa since he first laid eyes on her. By eliminating Lysa, the bat-shit crazy bitch, Baelish becomes Lord Protector of the Vale. So, in his possession, Littlefinger currently holds the Eyrie, Harrenhal (Joffrey made him the lord of it), and Winterfell/the North vialf Sansa. This guy, guys, this guy. Not sure how Baelish and Sansa are going to get away with this though – looks awfully suspicious. In the books there is a singer in the room with them, who is a bit of a tool, so they just blame it all on him. One thing, it’s a shame that the climactic scene missed out a pivotal line from the books – instead of saying to Lysa “your sister” before pushing her out the Moondoor, he says “only Cat”, which in my opinion is a lot more impactful. To paraphrase a post from reddit, this line is to Littlefinger what “I am your father” is to Darth Vader. They probably omitted it to avoid confusion, as Catelyn isn’t referred to Cat that often in the series, and some watchers may be like ehhh? Same reason why they changed Roose Bolton’s line at the Red Wedding from “Jaime Lannister sends his regards” to “The Lannisters send their regards”, in case peeps thought that Jaime somehow orchestrated the whole thing. Neither changes really took anything away from the scene.

Well there you have it. Another week, another episode. The next episode is entitled “The Mountain and The Viper”, which is obviously a direct reference to Gregor Clegane and Oberyn Martell. Another weird title, and a bit of a spoiler. We also have to wait two weeks for it, due to Remembrance Day in America next week. So, see you then!

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Game of Thrones Episode Companion: Season 4 Episode 6

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This article is to be read after the episode has been seen, as and as a result may contain spoilers up to the episode that it’s covering, but no further. So if you haven’t seen the episode yet, go and watch it. Then come back and read this. Then watch the episode again. Then read this again.

And ne’er a Stark
Was seen nor heard.

By which I mean this was the first episode of Game of Thrones not to feature any members of the Stark family at all. Which is pretty cool, considering in the first season they are arguably the centre point. I mean, obviously half of them are dead now, so that may have a lot to do with it, but it’s cool to see how the show develops more and more characters (such as Brienne, or even Yara Greyjoy), bringing them into the spot light. This is what happens in the books too – the two aforementioned characters, among others, become point of view characters and we get to see the world through previously unknown eyes. The show reflects this very well, I think, and it’s a credit to the writing. Saying that, there was one scene in tonight’s episode that bugged me, but more on that later.

Fans were treated to a new location in the show’s introduction in “The Laws of Gods and Men”: Braavos.

Braavos The city is located on the north most point of Essos (the continent across the Narrow Sea when Daenerys is) and is steeped in history. Topographically, it’s like a Game of Thrones Venice – built in a lagoon, the city is comprised mainly of canals and waterways. It is the richest and most powerful of the Free Cities (Pentos, Braavos, Lys, Qohor, Norvos, Myr, Tyrosh, Volantis, Lorath) and is ruled by what is known as the Sealord. At the entrance to Braavos stands the Titan of Braavos, a colossal statue that acts as Braavos’ entrance and line of defence – it lets out a loud boom whenever ships approach, to warn the city (though sadly I don’t think we witnessed this in the episode). Braavos was the home of Syrio Forel, Arya’s swordsmaster, who we discussed last week. It is also where the Faceless Men – the elite group of assassins that Jaqen H’ghar is part of – are based. And, of course, the Iron Bank of Braavos.

The Iron Bank has…a lot of money. They are currently helping to fund the Crown, who as we found out as early as season one, are heavily indebted to them (among others). Stannis seeks out the Iron Bank’s aid because he sees himself as rightful king and – as discussed in my last article – if the Lannisters should fall, the Iron Bank would lose a lot of their money. Stannis, obviously believing that he will win the war, wants to convince the Iron Bank that if they back him, they will receive their debts. But the Iron Bank does not make investments hastily. Mark Gatiss brilliantly played the role of one of the Bank’s most prudent representatives, Tycho Nestoris (though it kind of just seemed like Mycroft had been transported into another world and settled into a new job), epitomising how stern, meticulous and tentative the Bank can be. At the end of the day, they don’t care who sits on the Throne, as long as it is a good investment for them. It isn’t until the humble, brave and honest words of Davos Seaworth that they change their minds. This is a massive blow to the Lannisters, as they have now lost the funding of their biggest investors. We already know that, apparently, Casterly Rock is dry when it comes to gold, so how will the Lannisters pay their debts now?

During the Stannis story arc we were also reintroduced to the infamous pirate Salladhor Saan. We first met him in season 2, when Davos (the two were old friends) was trying to acquire ships for Stannis. After the Battle of Blackwater, Salladhor resigned from Stannis’ cause. We encountered him again when he saved Davos at the beginning of season 3, before convincing Lord Seaworth to abandon Stannis too. Naturally, Davos refused, and was rewarded by Stannis with a dungeon. So now we meet him again, frolicking in some Braavos bathhouse. Will Davos’ promise of wealth entice him to fight for Stannis again?

Meanwhile, some few hundred miles away, we see that Dany is struggling to rule. Not much to say on this scene – it was all pretty self-explanatory (dat dragon CGI doe). Essentially, Daenerys doesn’t seem to really have a game plan, and thought that feeding and ruling over hundreds of liberated slaves, Unsullied, Dothraki and mercenaries would be quite simple. Naturally, when you take over a city, there is going to be strife. We were introduced to Meereenese nobleman Hizdahr zo Loraq. The names don’t get any easier. Hizdahr is peed off, as you would be, at seeing his father (a slaver) crucified. We already know Dany has a little bit of madness in her, but no other character has really addressed it until now. But if Hizdahr can see it, and has the courage to point it out, how long will it be until others follow?

I’ve noticed that I have ended the last three paragraphs with open-ended questions, so I will try really hard to finish this one with a good, old fashioned full stop.

Yara's journey.
Yara’s journey. By reddit u/NumberMuncher

Now for the scene that I didn’t particularly like: the Dreadfort. Firstly, Alfie Allen’s portrayal of Theon-turned-Reek is outstanding, terrifying, and very sad. But I can’t help that but think that this scene was just a filler to show that- which would be fine, if it wasn’t so poorly executed. There was quite a lot of suspension of disbelief here, and if you haven’t already guessed, this scene wasn’t in the books. Firstly,  Yara Greyjoy made a big speech at the end of season 3, and another in this episode, about finding her little brother, which was great. Bear in mind, however, that the Dreadfort is right on the other side of Westeros to the Iron Islands, which means that Yara et al would have had to sail all the way around Dorne and up again. Which is fine, it’s obviously been quite a while since she set sail. But you would have thought that after such a long cruise, they would have tried a little harder to get Theon back? So, they break into the Dreadfort – which is currently the ruling stronghold of the North – pretty easily. Before freeing Theon and escaping, Ramsay shows up – topless (but wearing plot armour), pretty much unarmed, and covered artistically in blood from somewhere. Think back to the Greyjoy words – “We Do Not Sow”, and how much Balon Greyjoy was banging on about paying the ‘iron price’ – that is, kill things. The Ironborn are supposed to be seasoned fighters – especially Yara. And yet they are very nearly defeated by a handful of Bolton men and an unarmoured Ramsay, who, if I remember correctly, seems to take out about four of them. Fast forward. The battle is over. Why the hell doesn’t Yara just throw an axe at Ramsay’s face and be done with it? Ok, so Theon is brainwashed and doesn’t want to come, but after sailing literally half way around the world, you wouldn’t expect Yara to just give up like that, would you? And then, and then, these armoured, veteran warriors are chased out of the castle by….dogs? Really? It just all seemed a bit stupid. Don’t get the wrong, the fact that Ramsay would rather chase them out of the castle and humiliate them, rather than kill them, was very in line with his character, but thus far in the series the Ironborn have just been a joke.

Oh well. The series is amazing put it isn’t immortal – I guess they’re always going to have little slipups.

Now the centre point. The scene that is on everyone’s lips as they weep tears of empathetic pain. Oh, Tyrion! As Jaime puts it, that wasn’t a trial: it was a farce. Everyone, including Tyrion, knows what the verdict will be, regardless of any evidence in his defence. Meryn Trant, Pycelle and Varys all give compelling evidence against the Halfman – and whilst the first two generally despise him, I feel that Varys still has a lot of respect for Tyrion. But then, as we all know, Varys has his own agenda, whatever that may be. It was interesting to see Margery’s reactions too, as she is probably the only one in the room, aside from Tyrion himself, who knows for 100% that he didn’t do it. But speaking up would mean the end of her family, and she can’t have that now. Speaking of her family, lol Mace. Roger Ashton-Griffiths plays the bumbling, arse-kissing oaf perfectly – I just want to see more of him gallivanting around King’s Landing, making observations and writing them in his journal (I assume he has a journal of inner thoughts). Shae’s reveal was as heart-breaking as I dreamed it

The Tyrion Dance, not to be confused with the Charles Dance.
The Tyrion Dance, not to be confused with the Charles Dance.

would be, but the standout performance in that scene was definitely Peter Dinklage. His deliverance in the final speech was just…remarkable. Tyrion has finally been tipped over the edge. All of the anger, sadness and betrayal that he must have been feeling at this time – Dinklage channelled it into that speech superbly. But here is a plot twist that Tywin didn’t see coming – a trial by combat! Jaime’s face said it all – he assumes that Tyrion will pick him – which, in his current state, could be very detrimental to both Lannister brothers’ health. Then the question arises who will stand against him? As Cersei is the accuser, it falls on her to pick a champion. Whilst you may assume that she would choose Jaime too, I don’t think that he would ever fight against his brother. So who does that leave? She can probably pick literally anyone in the Seven Kingdoms. There will probably be a mountain of knights piling up, willing to fight for her favour against the evil Imp, but who will she pick?

 

Damn, ending on a question again. I’m so sorry, reader. Or readers, if there is more than one of you. Excelsior!

Game of Thrones Episode Companion: Season 4 Episode 5

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This article is to be read after the episode has been seen, as and as a result may contain spoilers up to the episode that it’s covering, but no further. So if you haven’t seen the episode yet, go and watch it. Then come back and read this. Then watch the episode again. Then read this again.

Oh, Petyr!

It’s taken three and a half seasons, but there it was: arguably the biggest reveal in the series so far. The mystery that started it all: Jon Arryn’s death. A quick recap: Jon Arryn was the Lord of the Vale (the area where Sansa is now), and Warden of the West. He was Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon’s foster father, and was the spark behind Robert’s Rebellion – after Aerys Targaryen, the Mad King, murdered Ned’s brother and father, he demanded that young Eddard be turned over too…because, you know, justice and all that. Jon Arryn declined, and thus the rebellion began. When it ended, as we all know, Robert Baratheon sat on the Iron Throne, and Jon Arryn was his Hand.

Fast forward a good few years, and Jon dies suddenly and mysteriously. Robert rides to Winterfell, jon arrynand Game of Throne s begins. Cast your minds back to the very first episode. Ned was originally going to decline Robert’s offer, until Catelyn receives a coded letter from her sister, Lysa (Jon’s widow) stating that the Lannister’s murdered Jon. This changes detective Ned’s mind – he wants to find out the truth, and protect Robert. His investigation is the basis for most of the King’s Landing scenes in season one, which ends with his execution after discovering truth about Cersei and Jaime. But the mystery behind Jon’s death was never solved, and although many fans may have forgotten about it, just remember that it was the catalyst that started everything!

So here we are. In case you missed it, Lysa Tully/Arryn/Baelish poisoned Jon under the instructions of Littlefinger.  There was probably very little love in the marriage – Jon Arryn was quite a bit older – but would anyone have expected the grieving wife? To cover her back (again, under Littlefinger’s instructions) she wrote the letter to Cat blaming the Lannister’s, who due to their past and nature seemed like the obvious suspects. So, if you needed any more reason to dislike Lysa and her sickly child, just remember that that whole thing with Tyrion’s trial is season one was a farce and she knew it. So this leads us into some new territory – what is Petyr Baelish’s game (of Thrones) plan? He has been the mastermind behind it all: Jon Arryn’s death, eliminating Ned (“I did warn you not to trust me), possibly Joffrey’s death, the alliance with the Tyrells. But why? “He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes.” He’s an ambitious so-and-so, and wants the world. This is the first time we have really seen one of the key players, apart from maybe Tywin, of the Game revealed. Eeek! Also, Sansa is now going by the name of Alayne Stone, so that no one knows who she is. Stone is the Vale’s equivalent to Snow or Sand as a surname: it is a bastard’s name. Lysa revealed her inner insanity, and proposed a marriage between Sansa and Robin, her little putrid cousin. Pretty normal stuff, all in all.

Littlefinge eyebrows

Ok, enough of that. What else did we see… Well, there has been some debate as to what the whole Cersei/Margery scene was about, as they seemed very civil with each other. But I think they both know what the other is playing at. But did you notice that Cersei also spoke with Oberyn (was nice to see him in a quieter, less sexy environment) and her father? With regards to the former, she discussed her daughter, Myrcella – a topic that she has hardly touched on. Showing some humanity perhaps? And with her father, she discussed her marriage to Loras – a subject which usually has her all up in flames. And what do Margery, Oberyn and Tywin have in common? They’re all linked to Tyrion’s trial. Oberyn and Tywin are judges, and the third is Margery’s bumbling father, Mace. In my opinion, Cersei is trying to score sympathy, empathy and friend requests from those who hold Tyrion’s fate. You sneaky mummy! We also learnt that the Lannister’s seemingly infinite supply of money is running out, with more references to how scary and powerful the Iron Bank of Braavos is. The Lannister’s running out of money epitomises one of the most consistent themes: power resides where people think it resides. So you can bet your hat that Tywin will do his upmost to keep this little dry spell a secret!

“What have I done?!”

As mentioned before, all of the Wall and beyond scenes in these last couple of episodes have been original show-only stuff, and as a result have some book fans a tad irate. But in my opinion these scenes have been great to further flesh out certain characters: we see how devoted Bran is to his quest when he decides not to inform Jon of his presence.  We see Jon’s devotion to the Watch, eliminating his former Brothers out of both vengeance and caution. And we see gentle Hodor (involuntarily) kill Locke, who if you remember wanted to kill Bran on Roose Bolton’s orders, therefore strengthening the Bolton domain over the North. Whilst overall I enjoyed this final scene, I did have some issues. In fact, it was all a very large case of deus ex machina. Firstly, the only indication Locke had of Bran’s whereabouts was that he may have gone to the Wall to see his brother. Locke arrives, and Bran isn’t there…but it just so happens that he has been captured by the very ex-Brothers that Jon now wants to go and eliminate. Bran could have literally been anywhere in the world, and whilst I understand that this is a plot device, it seems a bit lazy how easy Locke’s little hunt was. In the same figurative paint stroke, Karl’s (Burn Gorman) death also seemed very happenstance – it just so happened that one of Craster’s wives was in the hut…and it just so happened that Karl then turned his attention to her, for some reason, forgetting about his armed opponent. Maybe he thought that Jon would fight with honour and not stab him through the back, but I don’t know. Just seemed a little bit lazy on the writing side of things. Well, that wraps up that little sub-plot, ending with Jon lighting what is probably the biggest fire the north has ever seen! Wait, didn’t someone else want to do that? Oh raspberries! That’s exactly what Mance was going to do to signal to Tormund et al to attack Castle Black! Has Jon made a big faux pas, or is this all part of his plan? Or maybe this was just an oversight and I’m looking too much into it…? Tune in next time!

On a side note, this episode also slightly reinforced a certain ‘tinfoil’ theory concocted by the A Song of Ice and Fire fans. In the show so far, only a few Kingsguard members have been referred to by name. Excluding Jaime, others you may have heard are Mandon Moore and Meryn Trant. Ser Mandon was the scallywag whom Pod impaled on the Blackwater after he tried to kill Tyrion. Ser

Meryn is the one that fought Syrio Forel (Arya’s

‘dance’ teacher) and frequently beat Sansa. Why is this relevant? Well, this particular theory states that Meryn Trant didn’t actually kill Syrio – Syrio managed to escape (or killed Ser Meryn and is ‘wearing’ his face). The idea behind this stems from the fact that Syrio was supposedly the First Sword of Braavos…you would think that cruel, boastful Ser Meryn would gloat about defeating this great warrior, wouldn’t you? Additionally, in “First of His Name”, the Hound states that a child could beat Meryn Trant. This may just be Sandor Clegane having a jolly jape, but perhaps there is truth it in. Who knows? Perhaps Syrio did indeed escape and he is still

Is this the face of a killer?
Is this the face of a killer?

alive? One extension of this theory is that Syrio was a Faceless Man – the same Faceless Man that was Jaqen H’ghar, the super cool assassin that helped Arya out in Harrenhal in season two. This is all crazy speculation…the kind that happens when readers are left for years between book releases, but it’s pretty cool, no?

 

Also Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s name was like…first in the opening credits, but Jaime only appeared in the background of one scene. That was weird.