A Feast For Crows
9.9 this episode scored on IMDb! 9.9!! The highest rated Game of Thrones episode (on IMDb, anyway). Interestingly, this episode also featured a wide range of ‘show-only’ content. Which backs up my point that with the whole Dorne thing, book readers aren’t annoyed because it’s different: they are annoyed because it’s bad. Show-only folks feel the same. But this episode greatly restored my faith (which was never really dwindling, I swear) in the writers’ ability.
The book-to-show adaptations this week focused solely on Arya and Cersei’s stories. Cersei’s is pretty straight forward, continuing on from last week’s cliff-hanger. Arya’s, on the other hand, is slightly more convoluted and confusing. The question is, what is Arya actually doing? Well, it seems like she is training to become a Faceless Man, that’s for sure. To understand how to be another person, Arya must live the life of another person. Hence, she becomes the oyster seller. In the books, she talks the name Cat of the Canals – a nod to this can be seen during the scene when multiple cats cross her path. The ‘skinny man’ sat at the desk was essentially an insurance dealer (boo!) who had cheated a family out of their money. Arya has killed before, but for her own reasons, so it will be interesting to see how she deals with taking the life of someone who has done her no wrong.
Breaking away from the books, we are treated to a fantastic couple of scenes between the little Lion and the Dragon. As Tyrion has not yet met Daenerys in the books, this is all original stuff, save the “wheel” speech, which is said to another character. As Barristan is now sadly deceased, it appears that Tyrion will be taking his role (as advisor, anyway, not knight…though that would be good). Tyrion, obviously, knows the political scape of Westeros more than Dany, and doubts she would gain many supporters. However, the Martells were Targaryen supporters until the bitter end, after years of a love/hate relationship between the two. We still haven’t really seen the extent of the Martell’s power, as they tend to keep themselves to themselves…though I’m hoping more light will be shed on them in the final two episodes of the season.
Ok, time for the biggie. Beyond the Wall (which apparently has some sort of magic spell on it to stop Baby Sam from aging??) is a vast wasteland: the Lands of Always Winter. Very little is known about this area, save a few leagues from the Wall where rangers have explored. The Wildlings have scouted further, as far as Thenn, which is where the bald cannibal people from. Beyond that, however, it is largely uncharted, and the map just kind of fades off. Hardhome is a settlement situated on the east side of the Lands of Always Winter, geographically roughly the same distance north of the Wall as the Fist of the First Men (where the Night’s Watch set up camp in season 2). Hardhome has acted as a refuge for Free Folk all over. Leaderless, they have become shambles, and appear to be governed by a group of ‘elders’ representing each faction. We see the (brief) return of a character from season 2: Rattleshirt, or the Lord of Bones, before he is brutally bashed down by Tormund. This not only shows Tormund’s brutality, but also acts as a final nail in the coffin for another character: Mance. In the books, Melisandre puts a glamour spell on Mance, and disguises him as Rattleshirt, and vice versa. So, it’s actually Rattleshirt that dies on the pyre at Castle Black. Meanwhile, Mance goes incognito and heads south on a secret rescue mission. Book-readers may well have hoped that the same happened in the series, but, alas, it’s not to be.
The climactic scene gave us more information about the White Walkers than we have received in the books. Largely, this is due to the fact that this scene is show-only, and a lot of information on the White Walkers comes from gossip and Old Nan’s stories! Exciting times. Obviously, we still know very little about them – such as their motives, their intelligence, community etc. But it’s apparent they are a serious threat, which many Westerosi seem to poo-poo. Suddenly, the tribulations of King’s Landing seem irrelevant, now that we have seen the real enemy! It’s important to note that this isn’t just a ‘medieval Walking Dead zombie apocalypse’; this is full out war. These undead soldiers (known as Wights) are relentless and brutal, as opposed to your classic zombie which survives on instinct. No, these guys want to hurt you. And now we know how easily the White Walkers (also known as the Others in the books) resurrect their undead Wights. Just a simple ‘come at me, bro’ gesture and you’ve got yourself an army. We also got to see how they really do ‘bring the cold’, and the Wight’s sheer determination as they flung themselves off of a cliff in order to kill their prey. Another big reveal was the importance of Valyrian Steel. I think I have talked about this previously, but Valyrian Steel, as the name suggests, was originally forged by the Valyrians (see my post on episode 5 for information about them). It is said to be the strongest, sharpest metal around, and only a gifted few know the secrets of how to forge it. Known Valyrian Steel swords are few: Ned Stark’s massive sword, Ice, was melted down and presented to Joffrey on his wedding day, and to Jaime, who later passed it to Brienne as Oathkeeper. Samwell Tarly’s family also own one named Heartsbane. Littlefinger’s dagger that was used to try and assassinate Bran is also Valyrian Steel. To my knowledge, these are the only blades that have been mentioned in the books. There were many more, but they have been lost to time
This whole final scene was brilliantly shot, with some wonderful cinematography, and, in my eyes has made up for the awful Dorne scenes (especially choreography wise). And the sound; oh, the sound! I’ll be interested to see how the rest of the Watch react to Jon bringing bands of Wildlings and a Giant (whose name is Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun, or Wun Wun for short, if you were interested) to the Wall. Also, I’m awfully suspicious about that hooded figure navigating Jon’s boat at the end. He didn’t even turn round! I was half expecting it to be some sort of disguised White Walker…or, and I had my fingers crossed for this, that we would hear a voice “Jon?” *Jon looks down* “Uncle Benjen?!” BLACKOUT!
Next week’s episode is titled The Dance of Dragons, which is an obvious allusion to the title of the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons. Ramsay also mentioned how he would leave Stannis’ army as “a feast for the crows”, which is a nice little nod to the title of the fourth book, A Feast for Crows. Whether you think this season has been slow or not, it’s definitely apparent that it’s picking up now, with next week’s episode looking pretty darn epic, and episode ten will apparently “break the internet”…! Also, Oberyn died this time last year. Just saying.
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.
“I’ll never hurt her” – Oh, Ramsay, you bugger. You might not, but your jealous bitches might….
This episode seemed to feature a lot of paths crossing – which is pretty much all A Feast For Crows, the forth book, is. Let’s work our way from north to south, then. Many book fans continue to rejoice this season as we get to see Stannis for the stoic badass he is. He still seems to be all about power, whereas in the book he does actually want to save the Realm, but one thing at a time. Offering Jon the North (and the surname Stark) would grant him a massive number of allies (“the North remembers”). Jon, however, honourable as ever, turns it down. Now Lord Commander, it seems he really has his work cut out for him. He shows great signs of leadership by acknowledging Alliser Thorne’s worth, despite their dislike for one another, and belittling gingers. His choice to execute Janos Slynt was not an easy one – due to TV limitations, we don’t get to see Jon’s inner monologue like we do in the book, but he spends a time arguing with himself about what to do with Slynt; imprisonment, he believes, would lead to revenge and desertion. No, Jon must send a message. A book-famous line in which he calls to Edd “Edd, fetch me a block” was sadly omitted for “Olly, bring me my sword”. It’s one of those lines like “Only Cat” that is somewhat iconic in d’book world. Anyway, Jon follows in his father’s footsteps – “the man that passes the sentence should swing the sword” – and arguably avenges him. Remember back in Season 1, it was Littlefinger that held the dagger to Ned’s throat, but it was Janos Slynt, Commander of the City Watch, who was subdued by gold…the very reason Tyrion sent him to the Wall in the first place. And then, we get that very, very subtle nod from Stannis. Badass.
In the rest of the North, fans cry out in anguish as Littlefinger’s plans are revealed: to marry Sansa to Ramsay. As stated before, Sansa’s book story ends with her departing the Eyrie, so this is all new territory. Book Ramsay actually marries Sansa’s childhood friend, who has been made up to look like Arya, giving the Boltons another key to the North. This will be an interesting turn of events….I fear a bit for what Ramsay might do to Sansa, but Sansa is beginning to come into her own, becoming braver, cleverer, more manipulative. The North remembers. An interesting interaction is seen here between Roose and Littlefinger. Remember Littlefinger currently holds the East in his pocket, whilst Roose governs the North – though Roose clearly expresses that, now that Tywin is dead, he doubts the Lannister’s support. Are we going to see a Bolton/Baelish team-up? A little down the line, Brienne’s story is also new territory and very hard to predict. The main thing we get from her this episode is a bit of exposition and more Pod-love from the audience.
This episode featured perhaps my favourite Cersei/Margaery exchange. The young queen has been taught well, and knows exactly how to get on the Lannister’s tits and penis. Bear in mind that Tommen is only about 12 or 13, bless his cottons. I mean, in the book he’s 8, chubby, and would much rather spend his days stamping letters than ruling. I take back what I said last year, though, about not liking him because he is too old – I think that the direction they have taken his character in is a very interesting one, and allows Margaery to use her feminine wiles to manipulate him, but retaining Tommen’s innocence and charm. As a side note, it’s interesting that an underage actor has been featured in a sex scene like this. Obviously you don’t see anything, but book-Sansa has numerous, erm, encounters of a somewhat sexual nature, but due to Sophie Turner’s age they didn’t show it. So who knows why they have changed their minds…? Maybe it’s a female thing. Either way, I’m sure actor Dean-Charles Chapman had a great and awkward time filming. Margaery gave a li’l dig a Cersei for her drinking too; this feature is much more apparent in the books, as Cersei begins to put on a bit of weight and is never seen without wine, but the show has hinted at this just enough that watcher will go “OOOOHHHH!!!! NO SHE DIDN’T!” Sticking in King’s Landing, we meet the eponymous High Sparrow. So far, we have seen this holy man’s influence spreading in the form of the Sparrows (which Lancel Lannister is part of). The man in the brothel earlier was the High Septon, who is basically like the Pope. The High Sparrow seeks to eradicate the corruptness from the Faith of the Seven and restore it to purity.
So, before we have a quick check in with Arya, let’s look at religion in Westeros. You have the Old Gods, who are nameless, worshipped by the North partially through the Wierwoods. Then there is the Seven, the predominant religion throughout Westeros. The Seven consists of the Father, Mother, Maiden, Crone, Warrior, Smith and Stranger, each representing different parts of existence. Then there is the Red God, R’hllor, the Lord of Light. We see Melisandre worship this deity, as well the Red Priestess at the end of the episode. Then there is the Drowned God, worshipped by the Iron Born. Lastly, we have the Many-Faced-God, “the true face of all the gods”, whose statue can be seen in the House of Black and White. The Faceless Men believe that he is the only god, and he is the god of death. He is the same as the Stranger in the Faith of the Seven. There are many other little religions and cults across the world, but these are the biggest. As (another) side note, I often find that these articles are seven paragraphs long. A sign? A coincidence?
In fact, in the books, over thirty god statues stand in the House of Black and White, though it’s a little harder to make out which ones made the cut in the show. The important thing to remember is that the Faceless Men worship Death. Perhaps just a simple nod or a reveal, but the phrasing that Jaqen used to explain this to Arya was a lot like what Syrio said in Season 1……. To become a Faceless Man, Arya must lose her identity and become ‘no one’. Conveniently, though, she was able to find a hole in a rock just big enough for Needle to fit neatly in, so we won’t be losing that any time soon!
I think that’s all that needs explaining really. Tyrion’s story was quite self-explanatory – though which queen is Jorah taking him too? OoOoOoOoO! Let’s take a quick moment to appreciate the beauty of Volantis, where slavery runs rampant, and home to late Robb Stark’s later wife, Talisa. Now, the actor that played the Red Priestess Tyrion shared a moment with, Rila Fukushima, has appeared in films such as The Wolverine and numerous episodes of Arrow, implying that we may well see more of her. The actress was born in Japan, and is the first Asian person we have seen in the series. This is largely due to the fact that George R. R. Martin’s world’s equivalent to Asia, Yi Ti, largely keep to themselves. They may venture into Essos, as we see here, but rarely Westeros. That concludes this Episode Companion. See you next week!