Lands of Always Winter
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 want Jaime’s
After the slight disappointment of last week’s episode, “Oathkeeper” restored my faith (that was never really dwindling) in the series. And it did something even more magical: it made me actually quite excited at the prospect of the series differing from the book. Stay tuned to find out more.
A big theme in “Oathkeeper” seemed to be character relationships – some deteriorating, some growing – most of which had Jaime at the centre. It seems like the show is pulling an X-Men: Origins and bypassing the rape-that-may-or-may-not-have-actually-been-a-rape. So Jaime is back to being likable: huzzah! We’re treated to some wonderfully performed scenes between him and Brienne, Cersei, Tyrion and Bronn. So let’s tackle them in reverse, just for fun. The idea to have Bronn fill Ilyn Payne’s shoes just keeps getting better and better. This week Bronn didn’t just deliver funtastic banter – he actually showed some humanity and persuaded Jaime to go and speak to Tyrion. Not only did give Bronn’s character more depth, but it also showed that he does actually care about the fate of Tyrion, which is nice to know. So, Jaime and Tyrion. Despite the fact that they are obviously quite close, we haven’t really seen that much interaction between the two of them, apart from in the first couple of episodes and some of the most recent, so this is always a welcome scene-share to see. It’s also very reassuring to see that Jaime doesn’t believe that it was Tyrion that murdered Joffrey…for what good it does. As much as I’m sure everyone would love to see Jaime fighting his way out of King’s Landing with Tyrion on his back (waving an axe, obviously) after breaking him free of the cells, I don’t think that that is going to happen. Jaime faces an eternal predicament – does he side with his brother whom he loves and knows is in the right, or does he side with his sister whom he loves and knows is a total bitch. As one relationship grows, the other fades. I think that he is in love with the idea of Cersei rather than Cersei herself: they have been together their whole lives, quite literally, and thus that has become the norm. Anything else is different. And different is scary. Cersei, on the other golden hand, blames Jaime for everything. “You took too long”, “you let him die.” Bear in mind that since his departure, she has also been having sexy sex with her dear cousin Lancel et al. Perhaps the most heart-warming scene in the episode, was Jaime and Brienne. I still don’t know how Brienne sees Jaime: does she love him as a brother, or a lover (though, this is Game of Thrones, so are the two mutually exclusive?) Either way, their relationship grows and grows, and as I said before, I just want to see them ride off and have wacky adventures (with Tyrion on their backs waving an axe, obviously). But unfortunately that also doesn’t look like it will happen anytime soon. Though Pod is joining her!
Part of the reason why the Jaime and Brienne scene (in which he presents her with the eponymous Oathkeeper) was so powerful was because of Brienne’s background: despite being a highborn woman, she has never been treated this kindly before. Her life has been ridicule after ridicule. It wasn’t really until Renly that she saw any kindness, and that ended very quickly. Speaking of Renly, the blue armour that Jaime gifts Brienne may be a nod to, in the bookiverse, Renly’s Rainbow Guard. Yes, the book didn’t have any scenes of Renly secretly porking Loras. Instead, his homosexuality was portrayed via subtle/not subtle hints. Instead of naming his king’s guard his King’s Guard, he names them the Rainbow Guard, and gives them all lovely rainbow cloaks. There were seven members of the Guard (seven gods, you get the picture) and Brienne was ‘the Blue’. The blue colour may also allude to her home of Tarth, the Sapphire Island. So there are some fun facts!
Book fans will rejoice at the inclusion of Tommen’s cat, Ser Pounce. Though he is a kitten in the books, I think that this will suffice. After seeing this story progress a little, I take back my comment about Tommen being too old. It looks like they are drawing on the nativity that he may face as a pre-pubescent male behoved to a super-hot sex diva. I mean, that scene in the bedroom was like every boy’s wet dream. “Shh, it’s our little secret”.
The title “Oathkeeper” may also refer to the scenes surrounding the Night’s Watch. The story up north is perhaps where this episode differed mostly from the books (if you were to draw a book to series comparison chart, it would look like a spikey double-helix, methinks) but it all works. Firstly, Locke is there. You know, the Bolton man that cut Jaime’s hand off. He was told by Reek via Ramsay that Bran is still alive, so it seems that he has come to Castle Black with hopes of finding and eliminating him, thus strengthening Roose Bolton’s claim to the North. Jon has a lovely “oh captain, my captain” moment as he recruits Brothers to help him take back Craster’s Keep, where Bran has now been captured. Interestingly, in the books Jon has literally no idea that Bran is still alive – but it appears that Sam dropped the ball and let it slip. The whole story at Craster’s Keep is written solely for the show too. After the mutiny there, and the death of Jeor Mormont, the Keep is never revisited. But the show gives Jon good reason to go back there, what with Mance on the way, to silence his traitorous ex-Brothers. Also we get to see more of Burn Gorman, which is always welcome. Furthermore, the climactic scenes gave us something that even the book hasn’t covered yet: a look into the Lands of Always Winter, which is, like, mega north. And (now this very exciting) the White Walker community! So it’s confirmed that Craster’s sons essentially became Wights (quick recap, the Others, or White Walkers, are the beings that ‘bring the cold’ and create the Wights, whereas the Wights are the zombies). This is big, guys. This ‘leader’ of the White Walkers has been nigh confirmed as a character called the Night’s King. Long story short, this is a character who features quite majorly in A Song of Ice and Fire lore. He was a Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and fell in love with a female White Walker. Some say that he was a Stark, as his brother (who later killed him) was the King in the North. If he is the Night’s King and/or leader of the White Walkers, this answers a lot of as of yet unproved theories…whilst, obviously, raising even more. HBO referred to the character in various episode guides. Since the episode premiered, the name has been changed to ‘White Walker’. Now, did HBO make a typo, or have they accidentally revealed a major spoiler that not even the book readers have seen yet? This is exciting.
Goodness I’m all giddy. I’ll close with a few comments on Dany’s opening scene, which was very strong, especially considering recently hers have been a bit meh. Talk soon becomes action as Daenerys takes Meereen, the final city in Slaver’s Bay. Grey Worm’s character is fleshed out a lot more than it is in the books, which is brilliant. And Daenerys…well, make what you will of her. Is she doing the wrong thing for the right reasons? Barristan Selmy, who served her father, tries to dissuade her from punishing the slave Masters, but she doesn’t listen. Perhaps, for that moment, he remembered that she was her father’s daughter. Daenerys has already shown a few signs of slight madness – are we seeing her slowly, but surely, fall deeper into insanity?
Oh, also, so Joffrey’s murder was pretty much unraveled (go back and pay close attention!) But now new questions arise: were Littlefinger and Grandma Tyrell working together? Or did Littlefinger find out about Olenna’s intentions and take advantage of it? What’s clear is that Margery was not involved, and had no knowledge of the plan, yet still knows that now she must manipulate Tommen as she did Joffrey. These Tyrells, man – they have a game plan. A Game of Thrones plan. Ayyyyy!