RIP Old Flaydy.
Season 5 of Game of Thrones has indeed been a rollercoaster of mixed emotion to some. Whilst certain areas have most definitely dipped due to bad writing, directing or acting, I think that it is important to note that the good outweighs the bad. After season 4’s GO-GO-GO action packed attitude, it’s easy to look at 5 as being nothing but filler. It’s slower, definitely, but not slow. Personally, I thought that this episode was one of the better – they seem to be going in a bit of a pattern: good, ok, good, ok, good etc. The title The Gift is a bit of an odd one; it’s apparent that towards the end of the episode numerous characters have mentioned “gifts” – Ramsay’s ‘gift’ to Sansa, and obviously Jorah’s gift of Tyrion to Daenerys. However, the Gift is also the name of a stretch out land south of the Wall given to the Night’s Watch by an old Stark king. Funny that that wasn’t mentioned at all.
Let’s kick off by addressing the death of a fondly looked upon character, Maester Aemon. By now, we all know that Aemon was a Targaryen, so I thought I would provide a bit of information on his background, and “Egg.” At the beginning of A Game of Thrones, Aemon is already one hundred years old – an outstanding age to reach even by today’s standards…even more-so in cutthroat Westeros. Aemon was the third son of (who would later be king) Maekar Targaryen, who himself was a fourth born and only became king due to a string of unexpected family deaths. As a third born son, it was unlikely that Aemon would inherit the throne (that, and the Targaryen family tree is so complicated that there were tens of potential heirs). As such, he was sent to Oldtown, to the Citadel, to train to be a master at the age of nine or ten. When he completed his training, Aemon was sent back to sit on his father’s small council. However, good natured Aemon thought that this would undermine the current Grand Maester, and so he retired to Dragonstone to serve his older brother, Daeron. After Daeron’s death, many urged that Aemon take up the throne and become king. Aemon refused, and the recommended the crown go to his younger brother, Aegon (or “Egg” for short). Aemon then took himself to the Night’s Watch, thus quelling any uprising or rebellion that might be sparked in his name against his brother. Aemon served in the Night’s Watch for over fifty years, seeing many commanders rise and fall, including Brynden Rivers, a Targaryen bastard, who went on to become the Three-Eyed Raven (Crow in the books) that Bran seeks out. Aegon’s adventures can be read about in George R. R. Martin’s prequel novellas Dunk and Egg. So, all in all, Aemon Targaryen was a very nice man who gave up the throne and heard about the decline and decimation of his house from thousands of miles away. And now his watch has ended.
Further on south, we see the Sparrows orchestrating their own decline and decimation of not one, but two great houses. Whatever the outcome of these trials, you can bet your bum that the Tyrell’s name has been tarnished, as emphasised by Olenna’s lack of words during her exchange with the High Sparrow, who is revealing himself to be an extremely dangerous man. If found guilty, Loras and Margaery will be given the Mother’s Mercy, whatever that is. Additionally, if found guilty, I imagine that that’s the end of Margaery’s queenship right there! Similarly, the Lannisters now find themselves in a similar pickle. You may remember that cousin Lancel has a lot of beef on Cersei – including their own incestuous relationship, as well as hers and Jaime’s. This is where the religion of the Seven falls slightly short, though, as Targaryen families would often wed incestuously (causing some ill-fated offspring), and no one really bat an eyelid…not openly, anyway. If the accusations against Cersei prove true (I mean, we know they are), then you can bet your other sweet bum that Tommen’s kingship will be null, resulting in the throne passing to Stannis. This is purely speculation, as the books haven’t gotten that far yet, but I can’t help fearing a little for Tommen’s life. Myrcella’s too, though she is protected in Dorne and I don’t really care about her because this new actress is a bit pants. If Stannis is declared rightful king though, how will the Sparrows respond to his newfound Red God religion…? Either way, karma’s a bitch, Cersei.
As a side note, the terrifying women that imprisoned Cersei are known as the Most Devout. These are different from the Silent Sisters, who you may or may not know about: Silent Sisters are women who take a vow of silence and swear to serve the Stranger – the god of death. We have seen them quite a few times throughout the show’s history, tending to the dead. Usually they dress themselves in robes and bare a standard with the seven-pointed star on it. If you rewatch the series, have a look at the background detail and see if you can spot them. Make a game out of it. Most Devout, however, are the ruling council of the Faith. They used to serve the High Septon, but since his imprisonment they have become supporters of the High Sparrow. The only named Most Devout in the series so far is Septa Unella, the one that actually grabbed Cersei. Think of them as strict nuns.
Before I end, I think it’s important to comment on Theon/Reek’s position and why he told Ramsay about Sansa. Reek isa broken man – completely. We have seen this multiple times throughout season 4, such as when he was shaving Ramsay and Ramsay told him about the Red Wedding, or Yara’s awful rescue mission which I pretend never happened (she should have taken a leaf out of Sansa’s book and shouted “YOU ARE THEON GREYJOY!!!”). Theon is petrified of the Boltons. We know what Ramsay did to an extent – physically – but the emotional damage goes a lot deeper. He’s trained Reek like a dog: rewarding good behaviour, but severely punishing any sort of bad behaviour. This is why, I think, he has not told Sansa that Bran and Rickon are still alive – he knows what will happen to him if Ramsay finds out he told. Bad things. Very bad things. But Sansa is strong. She has endured this much, and with Stannis coming in from the north and Brienne watching from the south, I am really hoping that she gets what can only be described as a Game of Thrones happy ending.
That’s all for this week – nothing else really needs to be touched on. Jorah and Tyrion’s escapades were pretty self-explanatory, with the slavery and fighting pits mirroring that of ancient civilisations such as the Romans (see Gladiator). Meanwhile Stannis continued to become more and more likeable by refusing to burn his daughter. What a nice guy. Though I’m still certain that his batshit wife is going to do it. And Sam…..Sam became a man! Oh my. And even the Dorne scenes weren’t too bad this week! Of course, the real MVP is that brute that cut Tyrion free and Dany’s perfectly ironed dress.
Littlefinger….what is your endgame? You crazy man.
Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken, or, Burning Cersei, is the sixth episode of season 5. Gosh we’re already over half way through! Interestingly, this is the third episode to feature a house’s words as its title, the first being the very first episode Winter is Coming, and the second being the end of the first season Fire and Blood. Fun fact. Anyway. Whilst some argue that season 5 has been a bit slow, I think the biggest disappointment is some of the plot changes. Now, this isn’t a book-fan complaining because there are changes; this is a book-fan complaining because some of the changes are absolute crap. For example, Loras’ trial. I have already expressed how they have ruined this bad-ass knight’s character, but what the hell was the trial? Granted, the outcome is interesting, and leads itself into a book-based plotline. However, the way it was executed was absurd: let’s listen to this one lower-class brothel worker against the whole of the royal family. Squires may be required to bathe their knights, which is a perfectly plausible reason for seeing this birthmark. The whole scene just felt rushed for the sake of moving the plot along. And what will happen to OlyvAR now that he has confessed? The Sparrows are ridiculously militant – which means that they should probably kill or torture him (the latter being part of their confession technique, in a fashion). And what was OlyvAR’s motif for confessing? Perhaps Cersei (or maybe Littlefinger?) paid him off? Nevertheless, one man against the entire royal family with no real proof? Not even the Sparrows are that insane. Guess we will see how this plays out… We alsoOl once again got to see how wet Tommen is, bless him.
My next aggression is with the Sand Snakes, again. Bronn aptly sums it up: “oh, for fuck’s sake”. These daughters of Oberyn are just ridiculous. Book Sand Snakes, whilst equally annoying, do at least have some logic behind what they want to do – albeit flawed. These guys? No idea. Oberyn repeatedly said that in Dorne, they do not hurt little girls. What do the Sand Snakes want to do? Hurt Myrcella. I think. I don’t even know. What I do know is that fight scene was all a bit too silly. Yes, yes, we understand that these are your trademark weapons, you two-dimensional shits, but really? A whip? REALLY? And Obara, the spear one…Jesus it’s just a bit cringey really! And if that cut somehow festers and kills Bronn, I swear down…! They’re misguided, I get that, but to the extent that I just want them all to die – Ellaria included. The Martells are my favourite family…in the books, but now it just seems to be show-Doran I like. Their resilience, patience and cunning has been replaced by misplaced vengeance and bad acting. As a side note, the setting of the Dornish scenes, the Water Gardens, is a small palace just down the road from Dorne’s capital, Sunspear. Oh, also, how the hell did Jaime and Bronn sneak into the Martell’s PRIVATE gardens in blood stained uniforms? JUST as, coincidentally, the Sand Snakes were doing their…thing. God I’m angry.
Moving on. Tyrion appeared to be the voice of reason, raising many good points as to how Daenerys would probably suck at ruling in Westeros. Jorah’s luck seems to go from bad to worse; not only did he learn about the death of his father, but has also contracted greyscale and been captured. ‘Tis not a good day to be a Mormont (though not as bad as Stark….). If you remember, the reason why Jorah fled Westeros to Essos was because he sold poachers into slavery – so it’s a somewhat ironic twist of fate given the position he is now in. His father was Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Jorah’s crimes brought dishonour to his family, much to his father’s disappointment. In fact, the sword that Jon wields, Longclaw, was originally Jorah’s before he left.
Some quite interesting parallels can be drawn between Cersei and Tywin in this scene. Firstly, we see that she has taken up residence in his old office (is she acting as Hand of the King now…?). Additionally, during her scene with Olenna, the Queen of Thorns (yay!), she uses the Jack Donaghy technique of making her opponent wait, mimicking Tywin’s letter writing performance. However, this doesn’t stop her from getting burned by both Olenna and Littlefinger!
Before we discuss the ending I thought that I would touch on the Faceless Men. Essentially, these guys are elite assassins. This makes me doubt the Waif’s (the other girl in the House of Black and White) story, as Faceless Men cost an arm and a leg to employ. Only the richest can afford them. They can be hired to kill anyone, but at a lofty price. Furthermore, there is a theory that the Jaqen we see here is not the same as the one Arya met before; rather, Jaqen is just one of many faces! Oooh!
The climax of the episode (no pun intended) saw an emotional end to Ramsay and Sansa’s dream wedding. Poor Sansa can’t catch a break. Her character has gone a long way since she was last at Winterfell – to the point where she is beginning to become a player. We saw how brilliantly she handled Myranda earlier in the episode. Whilst the consummation of the marriage was awful, I think that she knew what was coming (no pun intended). Now, I’m in no way saying that what we saw wasn’t rape; it was, and it was horrible. But I think that it is important to note that Sansa, to quote producer Bryan Cogman, “isn’t a timid little girl walking into a wedding night with Joffrey. This is a hardened woman making a choice and she sees this as the way to get back her homeland.” It was horrible, unfair and quite emotional to watch (give Alfie Allen an emmy!) but she isn’t a silly little girl any more…she knew what to expect. The next question is, how will she react? I am just thankful that they changed this scene from the books, in which Ramsay makes Reek sexually…interact with his new wife (a cut character), which is extremely disturbing.
To conclude, it seems like episode most counterbalance one good scene with one bad. As I said before, I’m completely happy with a lot of the changes being made (you know, because my opinion matters), just not when they are replaced with flawed, badly written shite. Bring on episode 7, which looks a lot colder…
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.
Mace 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 could 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.
Alright, 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.
Also, don’t go to a wedding in Westeros.