ellaria sand

Game of Thrones Episode Companion – Season 5 Episode 4

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Some humanisation of Stannis!

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This week’s episode, The Sons of the Harpy, certainly had its ups and downs.  So let’s discuss the lower points before moving onto the arguably better aspects. Firstly, the Sand Snakes. What a load of monkey poo. The Sand Snakes are the bastard daughters of Oberyn Martell, with various women. In the books, there are eight in total, so you can see why Benioff and Weiss have cut that down a bit, which is fair enough. Naturally, they are pretty pissed off about Oberyn’s death, as is Ellaria Sand. I mentioned before about how Ellaria is partially seeming to take the role of Arianne Martell, who is Doran’s daughter and overall great character, sadly. So why was it a bad scene? Believe it or not, this is largely due to TV-stuff as opposed to “that didn’t happen in the book-stuff”. Book Sand Snakes are still bent on revenge, and filled with anger, so no real problem there. The problem was that their introductory scene was so bland that it was cringey. I think a mixture of bad acting and bad writing is to blame – the Sand Snakes themselves just seem extremely wooden, especially Obara and her bloody exposition. Yes, we understand; you’re the ‘tough one’. And Tyene is a mummy’s girl. Brilliant. Established. Game of Thrones is chocka-full of monologues – some of which are brilliant (Jaime in the bathtub) and some…are not so. This was certainly one of the latter. Ellaria too. She was great in Season 4, but seems to just be so awkward this season. Such a shame – the Martell’s are my personal favourite house, due to the likes of Oberyn, Doran and Arianne. Here’s hoping that we see more Doran action in the next few episodes to redeem this. This is perhaps one of the worst scenes in the series far (though not quite as bad as Yara’s rescue mission of Theon in S4 and Ramsay’s plot armour).

Artist's rendition of Sand Snakes.
Artist’s rendition of Sand Snakes.

Moving on, to somewhere in the middle. We got to see another side to Margarey. Away with the façade of purity and kindness, is this her true face? It was certainly interesting to see the type of king that Tommen is – a bit of a wet wipe. Knock Joffrey all you want, but he would have sorted those religious fanatics good. Their whole ideology, combined with their violent approach, makes the seemingly docile High Sparrow even more terrifying. They represent the Faith Militant – an army that serve the Gods. We discussed last week how big religion is in Westeros, so if it were to come down to crown vs religion, I think we would see a close fight on our hands. Of course, Cersei describing a sinner hid behind gold…could very easily describe her too, couldn’t it?

Before we look at the closing scene in the episode, I think it’s important to note how often Rhaegar Targaryen was mentioned this episode, leading many fans to believe the truth behind a certain theory surrounding this character. By now, you should know all about how Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna Stark (Ned’s sister), sparking Robert’s Rebellion. It all began at a tourney in Harrenhal. As Littlefinger explained whilst Sansa was in the Winterfell crypts, Rhaegar won the tourney. However, instead of presenting the traditional flower to his wife, Elia Martell (you raped her, murdered her etc.), he gave it to Lyanna Stark (who was with Robert Baratheon). Cue gasps. Rhaegar then kidnapped and raped Lyanna….that is, if you ask a supporter of the Baratheons and North. If you ask a Targaryen supporter, they will tell that Lyanna willingly ran off with Rhaegar; indeed, Barristan himself, a good friend of Rhaegar’s, states how he would go into the town disguised as a bard and sung to the poor folk. Here’s where the theory kicks in. As this is all just a theory, there are no spoilers, but if you want to bypass this anyway JUST IN CASE then please skip down until after the next image.

..ok?

I might well have mentioned this before, but there is a huge fan theory that Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark are Jon Snow’s real parents, making Jon a Targaryen. There a numerous reasons and nods to this, but I’ll just go over the most basic. Firstly, as Stannis points out in this episode, Ned Stark was extremely honourable (to a fault), so it seems extremely unlikely that he would be unfaithful to his wife and sleep with another women. Secondly, after the Battle of the Trident, in which Robert kills Rhaegar, Ned travels to Dorne to a place called the Tower of Joy. After killing what remains of Aerys’ Kingsguard (excluding Barristan and Jaime), Ned enters the tower to find his sister, Lyanna, dying in a bed of blood. She keeps saying “promise me, Ned. Promise me.” In his point of view chapters, Ned never reveals what he was made to promise, but many fans believe that Lyanna gave birth to Jon and died. Ned promised not to tell anyone the baby was hers because Robert would have had Jon killed. Hence, Ned, sacrificing his honour, pretends Jon in his. There is a wonderful extract in the book detailing the events at the Tower of Joy, which can be watched/listened to here.

 

And there was this. This was  cool.
And there was this. This was cool.

 

Righty right. That last scene. I’ve expressed before my feelings towards Emelia Clark’s ok-ish acting (though she has gotten better), but on top of that, Daenerys has very little idea of how exactly to rule. Can you fault her? Kind of. She had queen-hood thrust on her quite literally in the form of Drogo’s penis. After his death, she makes it her mission to liberate the slave cities in the aptly named Slaver’s Bay. But, ultimately, she has no idea what she is doing. Her people are too many to feed, and she has a massive uprising in the city. She completely underestimates her enemy – an enemy at her front door. Which resulted in the climax of this week’s episode. The Sons of the Harpy are a rebellion group that seems to be comprised of ex-slave Masters and even some ex-slaves, who do not want to live in Dany’s new world. Whilst the final scene of this episode did provide us with some fancy sword fighting, I can’t help but feel disappointed at the outcome. The Unsullied are supposed to be the greatest warriors…well, ever. With such strict discipline, they become master fighters. Even when outnumbered like they were in this episode, they still kick-bum. Arguably, fighting with a spear in such a confined place may be what led to their downfall, but I still think that they should have had a better chance than they did. But then again, they lack ‘real’ combat experience – all they know is training. Whilst the Sons of the Harpy are made up of civilians, some of these may well have been pit-fighters, explaining their skill in battle. Nevertheless, what went down will certainly leave a certain khaleesi most angry. Most angry indeed! This brings us on to Barristan Selmy. Barristan the Bold is one of the greatest knights in the Seven Kingdoms. He has so many bad-ass accolades to his name, such as the time he singlehandedly snuck into a fortress after Aerys was kidnapped and rescued him. His skill and mentality reflect that of a typical Arthurian knight. Finally, we got to see him fight. Obviously now he is an old man, and was wearing very little armour, but he still held his own. Whilst his (and Grey Worm’s) fate is left unknown (unless you watch the preview for the next episode, in which it I spoiled in the first five seconds…), I think we can all agree that he fought brilliantly. They are both still very much alive in the books, however, so keep your little fingers crossed!

 

He's out there somewhere...
He’s out there somewhere…
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Game of Thrones Episode Companion – Season 5 Episode 2

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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.

Meereen looks a bit like Aku-Aku from Crash Bandicoot in the opening credits.

ikr
ikr. Mind blown.

Let’s kick off with Arya’s story in Braavos. We saw Braavos very briefly in season 4, when Stannis and Davos visit the Iron Bank to ask for money. But now we get to see the city alive. So, Braavos is one of the Nine Free Cities – that is, cities in Essos (the eastern continent) that do not follow a king. Instead, Braavos is ruled by a Sealord. Cast your mind back to season 1, and the wonderful Syrio Forel (“not today”). Syrio was the First Sword to the Sealord of Braavos. Kind of a big deal. Braavos is a bit like Venice with Britain’s weather. It’s built on a load of canals, so boat travel is the most efficient way of getting around. We follow Arya as she finds the House of Black and White, the episode’s namesake. This is home to the Faceless Men: the organisation of assassins that Jaqen H’ghar is part of. OMG book spoiler – the old man in the books is never actually revealed to be Jaqen, though there were theories, so this is an interesting turn of events. Side note: one other thing that I did notice is that Arya’s list has gotten substantially shorter…no more Thoros, Beric or Mel, or Ilyn Payne. Has she forgiven or just forgotten…?

House_of_Black_and_White

Sticking in Essos (it’s a pretty gosh darn big place), we caught up with Varys and Tyrion on their way to Meereen via Volantis. Volantis is another of the Free Cities, located at the very south of the map (Braavos is pretty north). Notably Volantians include Talisa – Robb Stark’s baby momma. Whilst we wait for Varys and Tyrion to catch up, let’s travel to Meereen ourselves, kids! As you can see, this episode saw Daenerys making a tough ol’ decision. The title House of Black and White may well refer to Dany’s decision of killing Maran…Meren….Maranana…I can’t remember his name. Not important. That guy. Personally, I think she did the right thing, though as we saw, it led to a riot between the old Masters and the freed slaves. Interesting, parallels can be drawn here with both Robb and Joffrey: Robb had to execute Rickard Karstark for killing his prisoners, just like Daenerys. Joffrey had to run from the lynch mob throwing rocks and poo, just like Daenerys (though maybe not the poo). What does this mean? Who knows!

ImpracticalCapitalAlbatross

Over to Westeros. Once again, Brienne’s bad track record proceeded her. Though, I can’t help but think that she didn’t try very hard before running off in a huff….though it did prove how bad-ass is she is. Notice as well, Sansa’s bird-like outfits, mirroring Baelish’s mockingbird sigil. Could the title Black and White refer to them too, or is that too tenuous?

Selyse Baratheon, remind book readers that no one is safe.
Selyse Baratheon: reminding book readers that no one is safe.

In King’s Landing, we see just how highly Kevan Lannister thinks of his niece. Kevan is very much his brother’s brother. He idolised Tywin, so you can imagine that Tywin’s death has affected him pretty badly. But Kevan ain’t no fool. He can see right through Cersei for what she is. Along with complimenting bumbling (but wonderful) Mace Tyrell, Cersei seems to be slowly manipulating what remains of the Small Council. She obviously hates Pycelle (who doesn’t?) and is trying to worm Qyburn in there. I’ve talked about Qyburn before, but we’ll have a quick recap. We first met him in season 3 in Harrenhal, where he came to serve Roose Bolton. After Jaime lost his hand, Qyburn stitched him up and escorted him and Brienne back to King’s Landing. Qyburn is a Maester, like Pycelle, Aemon and Luwin (RIP). However, Qyburn was banished from the Citadel (their HQ) for…unethical experiments. What these were exactly, we don’t know. But we do know that he used his knowledge to potentially save a dying Gregor Clegane (the Mountain) and he had a curious fascination with the dead dwarf’s head…hmmmm.

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At the Wall, Stannis finally starts being awesome like his book counterpart, offering Jon Snow the goddamn North. The letter that Stannis received was from Lyanna Mormont, who is niece of Jeor Mormont (the old Night’s Watch Lord Commander) and cousin of Jorah Mormont. The letter is pretty awesome as it declares that, even though Roose Bolton holds the North and Stannis wants to take it, the Northerners bow to one king, and his name is STARK. Frickin’ awesome. One day, I hope that the Seven Kingdoms are ruled by the Starks and Martells. WHICH BRINGS US NICELY ON TO:

Doran1

Dorne. Hell yeah. Personally, the Martells are my favourite house. About 300 years before the events of Game of Thrones takes place, Aegon Targaryen, known as Aegon the Conqueror, landed in Westeros with his dragons and armies and tried to take over. The whole country bent the knee, apart from Dorne. The Martells words “Unbowed. Unbent. Unbroken.” is a symbol of their resistance. Throughout the ages, the Martells have often been pissed on, but have never faltered and always risen above it. They are a strong house, somewhat isolated (both geographically and politically) from the rest of Westeros. Our first encounter with the Martells was through the fantastic, late Oberyn. We know that he was bent on revenge against those that murdered his sister, Elia, and her children. Elia, if you remember, was married to Rhaegar Targaryen, Dany’s older brother. The Mountain “raped her. Murdered her. Killed her children.” But you know all this. So the Martells are a bit bitter. But do they incite open war? No. Doran Martell – Oberyn’s older brother and head of the family, Lord of Sunspear – is cleverer than that. We briefly meet Doran in this episode. He is pretty much wheelchair bound due to severe gout (caused by the lavish Dornish lifestyle, some say). Doran may seem weak, but he is patient. He will bide his time, like so many Martells have before him. Partially, this is why I am so scared for Jaime and Bronn going to Dorne. I love the Martells, but gosh darn I hope those two are safe (this is a diversion from the books so I have no idea what’s going to happen!). We also briefly saw Myrcella (who has been recast) walking around the Water Gardens with a young man, Trystane Martell. Trystane is Doran’s son. In the books, he has another daughter, Arienne. Unfortunately, she seems to have been omitted from the show, but it appears though Ellaria Sand, Oberyn’s ex-gf, is taking on her character responsibilities. So there’s a little history lesson to wrap up this week’s episode companion. Now, please join me in staring at Daenerys’ ridiculous eyebrows until the sun rises.

EqualIllinformedBilby

Game of Thrones Episode Companion: Season 4 Episode 2

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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.

Murder! But who dun it?

Ok, the ending of “The Lion and the Rose” was arguably the most climatic scene in the episode, so we’ll pop on to that last. Firstly, let’s look at some new characters and concepts introduced.

 

GoT - MaceMace Tyrell, the Lord “Oaf” of Highgarden. Mace is Margery and Loras’ father, and Olenna’s (the Queen of Thorns) son. We don’t see too much of him in this episode, but what we do is fantastic. Mace is supposed to be a bumbling fool – on paper, he may be the head of the family, but everyone knows that really it’s his mother ruling the roost. Roger Ashton-Griffiths does a fantastic job of perfecting Mace’s ridiculous facial expressions, mannerisms and characteristics; the epitome being the scene where he’s plodding down the stairs, looking so chuffed with himself, to acknowledge his other… who completely disregards him. Also, that facial hair.

Meanwhile, in the north (not the NORTH north, just the north) we get to spend some loving time with Ramsay, Reek and a girl called Myranda. Myranda is a character created solely for the show, though as of yet I’m not entirely sure why. She was one of the minxs that tantalised Theon before Ramsay cut off his todger.  In the books, Ramsay has a band of merry men called “The Bastards Boys” who do his bidding. Myranda seems to have replaced them in the show.  I’m still not sure how I feel about this, as having a female counterpart arguably humanises Ramsay, and shows that he does hold compassion towards some people. But we shall see, eh?

Briefly we also saw Roose Bolton’s new wife, Fat Walda. If you cast your minds back to episode 3.09 (prior to the Red Wedding), Roose explains to Catelyn that Walder Frey said that if Roose would marry one of his daughters or granddaughters, he could have her weight in gold. So, Roose, the sneaky devil, chose the fattest one he could find. Oh Fat Walda, you don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself in to…

 

M’kay, scene and themes breakdown. Firstly, Alfie Allen’s portrayal of Reek was…incredible. Every tiny movement was thought out – the way he hobbled along during the forest, the way he barely looks Roose or Ramsay in the eye, and the sheer heartbreak you see on his face when he learns of Robb’s fate. There has been some criticism that his transition from Theon to Reek was too rapid, but I don’t think there was really any other way they GoT - Reek shavingcould show the ‘brainwashing’ without it getting boring and tedious. I mean, judging from the state that Theon was in at the end of the last season, you can imagine how much torture he must have gone through up to this point.

Staying with the Boltons (sounds like a sitcom), it was great seeing some interactions between Roose and Ramsay. Ramsay seems to have major daddy issues, and is constantly reminded that he is a Snow, not a Bolton. Parallels can be drawn here with Oberyn and Ellaria Sand discussing bastards with Cersei and Tywin in King’s Landing: “bastards are born of passion”. Dorne has a completely different way of looking at bastards compared to the rest of Westeros. Just look at Jon, for example. He joined the Night’s Watch because he knew that, as a bastard, he would inherit nothing, and become nothing. Ramsey probably feels the same way. Bastards are frowned upon in the majority of Westeros, whereas in Dorne they are accepted for who they are, not what they are.

Over on Dragonstone, we were reintroduced to Stannis’ lovely wife Selyse, and get a deeper look into his belief in Melisandre’s god. The scene opened with some sacrificial burnings. No biggie. One of the lucky chosen was Selyse’s brother, Axell Florent. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that Stannis is becoming obsessed with obtaining the Iron Throne through any means. He seems Melisandre as his key, and doesn’t seem to mind if he has to use black magic to obtain his goal. I mean, we’ve already seen Melisandre birth Shadow Baby, so what else is she capable of?

In the north north north north, Bran is becoming a moody teenager who just wants to be a wolf. The three that he caresses is a weirwood tree (also known as a heart tree). These trees have been mentioned a few times (one appears prominently in Winterfell) as they are remnants of the Old Gods. The trees all have faces carved into them, which, combined with the blood-red sap, makes them look like they are crying. Upon touching the tree, Bran is presented with a strange and interesting vision that hasn’t been getting enough internet attention!! This is Game of Thrones, so one can assume that all the visions had some significance somehow: Ned in the black cells, Ned honing Ice, Bran falling, the three-eyed raven, the crowstorm from when Sam killed the White Walker, the undead horse, and, perhaps most prominent, King’s Landing: once covered by the shadow of a dragon, and again in the throne room. This one, if you remember, is exactly the same as Daenerys’ vision at the end of season 2 – the Red Keep, destroyed, coated in snow (or perhaps ash?), in ruins. Is Bran seeing what is to come, what may come, or what has come? Either way, a voice spoke out to him, and now he must continue north north north north…north.

GoT - WineAlright, King’s Landing. It’s wedding day. And OH MY GOD SO MUCH FORESHADOWING. Let’s firstly pay quick homage to the scene between Jaime and Bronn sparring. In the books, Jaime enlists the help of mute Ilyn Payne (the King’s Justice), but tragically, Payne’s actor, musician Wilko Johnson, has terminal cancer and will not be reprising his role. The choice to have Bronn step up to the mark, however, was a great one by the show’s writers. At this point in the books, Bronn kind of drifts off into the background, for the most part. But Jerome Flynn’s portrayal of the sellsword has been brilliant, and it makes sense for him to remain in King’s Landing as a semi-prominent role: Jaime needs someone who will be discreet – if  word got out that he could no longer fight, he would lose his dignity and what little remains of his honour. That, or if his king died whilst he was supposed to be protecting him. Oops. Plus, we get to see some awesome banter between him and Jaime.

Ok, right, the Purple Wedding. I think that a lot of respect needs to be paid to everyone that made this scene possible. It’s shot in real time, and features (I think) the most members of cast in one place at a time. It managed to jump from character to character, without feeling disjointed or erred. It would have been nice to see more of the actual  wedding, but the afterparty was where it’s at. So, Joffrey’s dead, eh? That makeup was outstanding. In fact, that whole scene in general was just…ahh. I imagine his death was met with screams of both joy and regret – joy because he is an evil bastard (heh) and regret because he’s such a good character, and Jack Gleeson played him brilliantly. It’s a shame to see such a talented actor go: it’s something really special to make an entire fan base absolutely loath and despise you! Jaime and Brienne’s inclusion at the wedding was interesting too, as in the books they’re not near King’s Landing at this point. Though one thing that did bug me was Brienne’s lack of interaction with Sansa – you’d think that she would at least acknowledge her, maybe mention her mother or something, instead of just walking straight past her. But Jaime’s presence added a new level of emotion: as mentioned, all he can do now is protect the king. I think that he is aware that Joffrey is his son, but his sprint to the dying king’s side wasn’t out of love for a child – it was because he knew that this was his one task, his one duty, his one chance to redeem himself. And he failed. That’s just my opinion anyway. Having a ‘villain’ die can often feel a bit clichéd, but this scene was written and shot in such a way that, in the end, we’re looking at a scared child, looking to his mother to help, and she watches her firstborn die in her arms. It really humanised both Cersei and Joffrey, even if for only a second. Sidenote, on recasting, that blond boy sat next to Cersei was Tommen, the youngest of Cersei and Robert’s Jaime’s children. He was played by a different actor in previous seasons, but has recently been replaced. The actor playing him now actually played Martyn Lannister – one of the children that Robb captured before Rickard Karstark murdered them.

So, who did it, and how was it done? Was it Tyrion? What about Sansa, escaping with Dontos at the end? Could it have been Oberyn, with his hatred for Lannisters and knowledge of poison? Or the Tyrells, perhaps? Tywin, wanting to be rid of a useless king? Maybe Melisandre and her leeches – remember them? If you would like to find out, there have been a few explanations as to how it was brilliantly done and filmed online, such as this one nyah – http://imgur.com/a/2DtPH (click at your own risk!).

 

So that’s it for “The Lion and the Rose”. Next week’s episode, entitled “Breaker of Chains”, will have Westeros realling in the aftermath of the Purple Wedding. Who sits on the Iron Throne now? Dun dun duuuuun.GoT - Joff slap

Also, don’t go to a wedding in Westeros.