It’s ok guys, it’s ok; there are THEORIES!
So the winner of the War of the Five Kings is….Balon Greyjoy!!! Ah, so another season of Game of Thrones comes to a climactic end. Whilst this season has arguably been the worst (of the best) so far, you cannot deny that the finale had some wonderful moments. Well, depending on your definition of wonderful. As it stands now, essentially every story has caught up or even overtaken the books – save for an entire side plot featuring the Greyjoy family which fans are hoping will make an appearance in season 6. This episode popped in to say hi with pretty much every ‘main’ character, so let’s start in the east and do a little banana shaped trip across Westeros and Essos.
The climactic scene of episode 9 was, of course, Daenerys flying off on Drogon. Now, Drogon is still a young’un and not fully grown, so it is understandable why he was hurt so badly from a few blades. We aren’t exactly sure where Daenerys has landed, but due to the arrival of the Dothraki, you can assume it’s somewhere within the Dothraki Sea, which is north of Meereen. It wasn’t revealed who the Khal of this particular khalasar is, but we know that what remains of Dany’s ties with the Dothraki is limited; will she be greeted with welcome arms, or a sword to the face? In the books, Drogon makes himself a home in a cave, which Daenerys calls Dragonstone after her old home. She also gets very ill and has the poos before she seen by a lone Dothraki scout, who then sends for the rest of the khalasar.
Further east, in Braavos, we saw the concluding chapter for Arya this season. After a bit more overkill with Meryn Trant’s evilness (yes, we get it, he’s a dick) Arya is able to finally act out her revenge, wearing the face of the girl that she helped mercy kill a few episodes ago, which was a pleasant scene to watch! What was interesting here was that we saw, in some form, how the faces actually work. They appear to literally be masks that the Faceless Men can chop and change as they please. Additionally, the show also implied truth behind a theory that many fans already speculated – that Jaqen H’ghar is just a face, not a person. Seemingly as punishment for going against the Many Faced God, Arya is now blind, and even that does happen in the books, but under slightly different circumstances.
Over the Westeros now. The slightly seemingly irrelevant Dorne scene concluded with the unexpected death (we assume, anyway) of Myrcella. It was kind of obvious as soon as Ellaria kissed her on the lips what would happen, but my mind was briefly taken away from thinking about it too much as soon as Tyene Sand said “bad pussy” and I cringed. I mean, really? As if the Sand Snakes couldn’t get any worse…. As mentioned prior, this whole side story differs quite dramatically from the books. To avoid mild book spoilers (for scenes that I am 95% sure will not appear in the show), skip ahead to the next paragraphs. Ok? Ok. Well, for starters, Jaime is off in the Riverlands, and nowhere near Dorne. Mycrella is still there, and is guarded by a member of the Kingsguard named Arys Oakheart. Doran Martell’s daughter, Arianne (who sadly does not appear in the show) seduces Arys and convinces him to make Myrcella queen, seeing as in Dorne, age matters in succession, not gender. The reason for this is to largely defy the Lannisters. Without going into too much detail, someone snitches, and Arianne’s little rebellion fails, with Myrcella losing an ear in the process and Areo Hotah (the big guy with the glaive that protects Doran) killing poor Arys. What do the Sand Snakes have to do with this? Well, not much…they kind of just bang on about revenge until Doran imprisons some of them, whilst Ellaria…also doesn’t do much, and is a lot nicer! So, anyway, the question that arises now is 1) how will Jaime react? And 2) how will Doran react? I’ve said before about how much I like House Martell in the books, and unfortunately they haven’t really shone in the series, but there is still in in season 6!
Right, King’s Landing. It was a shame that we didn’t get to hear of Margaery’s fate; so at this stage we have no idea what the High Sparrow has in store for her. In the books, Loras is off fighting on Dragonstone, and so the whole trial surrounding his sexuality doesn’t happen. Instead, Margaery’s own virginity is taken into question (bear in mind that book Tommen is about 8 or so, so they didn’t seal the deal). Nevertheless, I’m sure light will be shed on her early next season. No, instead, the focus was on Cersei and her brilliantly done walk of punishment. It was horrible to watch, in a good way…and it was just about long enough that you felt uncomfortable and, despite what you may think of the Queen-mother, sorry for her. The question that now of course is how will Cersei respond to this? Will she get revenge, or is she truly broken? As an interesting side note: lads, this was just a body double with Lena Headey’s head CGI’d on. Some people are complaining that it looked a bit rubbish, but honestly I don’t think you would know. We very briefly saw the return of Kevan Lannister, standing with Pycelle, in the Red Keep. Kevan has been acting ruler since Cersei’s imprisonment, whilst Tommen pouts in his room. We were also introduced to a new member of the Kingsguard….who looks somewhat familiar…but I can’t quite put my finger on it….
Everything that surrounded Winterfell was show-only stuff. In the books, we last we see of Stannis is that he is marching…forever marching. He does not engage the Bolton force. Sansa is still in the Vale with Littlefinger – in the series, she has taken the role of a character called Jeyne Poole, who marries Ramsay as a fake Arya. Nevertheless, Theon still steps up and leaps from the walls of Winterfell with her to freedom…only to run into Stannis’ army. Right…let’s talk about Stannis. Despite being a Stannis fan, I don’t feel as upset about his death as I thought I would. It was almost inevitable. He became such a tragic figure, and as I mentioned last week, truly desperate. But, like the man he is, he went down a trooper, in the most stoic, Stannis way possible. So, yes, whilst I am a bit gutted that the One True King is dead (in the series, anyway….), it’s almost a relief. Now, all the legit Baratheons are dead… On the plus side, Brienne finally got her revenge…at the expense of forgetting all about Sansa. Shame we didn’t actually get to see the fight, but I guess a lot of the budget was spent on Drogon and Lena’s head. Now, Melisandre…what is your game? You got the impression that her confidence in Stannis was waning as this season went on, especially after her interactions with Jon. Which brings us on to…
The Wall. Firstly, Sam. Now this conversation is carried out a little differently in the books, and it’s actually Jon who insists that Sam go to Oldtown to become a maester, pretty much as soon as he is elected Lord Commander. Sam also takes Gilly, the baby, and Aemon with him, the latter of whom still passes away, but during the journey. Melisandre never actually goes with Stannis, and stays at the Wall. As do Shireen and Selyse, who are still very much alive. The climactic events happen in a slightly different albeit somewhat similar way too. In the books, the Night’s Watch are annoyed at Jon not just due to his empathy with the Wildlings, but because he wants to attach Winterfell to remove the Boltons from power (and existence). The attack on Jon happens through the teary eyes of the Watch brothers, and is not led by Alliser Thorne. Jon is also not tricked about Benjen either – no, no one has heard from Benjen since A Game of Thrones. Also, Olly isn’t there, because that little bastard is a show only character. Nevertheless, Jon is assassinated “for the Watch”. This is where book readers are; “[h]e never felt the fourth knife. Only the cold.” BUT DON’T WORRY!!! Since this happened in A Dance With Dragons back in 2011, fans have been scrambling together any theories they can on how Jon might have somehow survived this assassination. Now, show Jon looked pretty darn dead to me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he will stay dead. One theory is Melisandre. She returns to the Wall, but for what purpose? We know she has a bit of an interest in Jon, and know that Red Priests have some sort of power that allows them to bring back the dead – think back to season 3 with Thoros and Beric. I believe that she will use her power to resurrect Jon. This may well change the Stark bastard, but changed Jon is better than no Jon, isn’t it? Kit Harington has said in a very recent interview that Jon is dead…but my argument is that he wouldn’t really turn about and go “nah he comes back”, right? RIGHT?! It also seems kind of weird that they would kill off our only real link to the Wall. Sure, Melisandre and Davos are now there too, but they are more supporting characters. There are also dozens of other theories surrounding Jon, such as his parentage, or whether he is some kind of ‘chosen one’, and whether the title A Song of Ice and Fire alludes to him partially. Also, he had his stare down with big baddie White Walker, the Night’s King in episode 8…surely that was not for nothing….right?! Well, until either The Winds of Winter or season 6 are released (the latter, I’m sure), I guess we can keep on speculating.
Well, now you have just under a year to kill. My advice? The same as last year: read the books. They are phenomenal, and further expand on this world that we know and love. As for me, I need to find some games to review…
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.
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…
Some humanisation of Stannis!
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
This episode was fantastic, in my most honest and humble opinion. Whilst sections diverged from the books slightly, it was all very well written and coherent. My only gripe this week was the Meereen scenes, so we will dust over that first.
Some people are outraged/confused about the whole Grey Worm/Missandei thing. Two arguments have arisen here: 1) THAT’S NOT IN THE BOOKS! And 2) but he is a eunuch! Whilst these are both true, I believe that this little filler story is just a harmless side plot. Firstly, no, nothing like this is in the books – I mean, book-Missandei is only ten years old, for starters. And Grey Worm has no interest in her. In fact, if I remember correctly, the two barely interact. But that isn’t a pivotal plot point, I don’t think, and ergo it can be altered and changed to add some show content. So calm your booky faces. Now, I’m no scientist man, but I think that the fact that he is a eunuch may mean that he has no sexual desires at all – isn’t that the point? So I think that his attachment to Missandei is purely on an emotional level. In the books, it is stated that the Unsullied often go to the brothels to lay with the girls, just for comfort. Perhaps Grey Worm’s infatuation is driven by the same desire? Also boobs. But anyway, that scene wasn’t what let the episode down – no, that honour goes to Daenerys. Jorah’s exile should have been a much bigger deal. I mean, how many “Lord Friendzone” jokes are there out there? In the books, this scene is heart-breaking, and unfortunately I think it is one of those ones that just hasn’t translated too well. I think that this is partly down to the writing for that scene, and partly down to Emilia Clarke’s acting, who seems to be getting progressively worse. I don’t know. I think that she was going for the whole “numb” approach, which is fine, but it just didn’t have the emotional impact that it should have. To add some context, in the books, Barristan and Jorah’s ‘reveals’ happen at the same time: Before Joffrey dismisses him, book-Barristan sat on Robert’s Small Council meetings, and as a result knew about Jorah’s spying from day one. After leaving King’s Landing, he dons the disguise of Arstan Whitebeard – an old man – and seeks out Daenerys. He finds her as early as Qarth, still under the guise, and joins her. For obvious reasons, this couldn’t really be done in a TV adaptation, as we would all know who he was. Anyway, eventually Barristan’s disguise is revealed, and Jorah’s all like “you’re spying on her!” and then Barristan is like “mate, you’re spying on her!” The reason why Jorah is exiled and Barristan isn’t, in a nutshell, is because Barristan comes clean straight away and apologises (Dany still punishes him), whereas Jorah just makes excuse after excuse about his spying and never actually apologises. With a heavy heart, Daenerys banishes him. It’s a shame that this hasn’t been translated well, because obviously it’s quite a big deal, and one that has been bubbling for a while now. I’m starting to think that every episode has one ‘meh’ scene in it…
But there were plenty of good ones to counteract it, s’not all bad! At the Wall, the Wildlings have reached Mole’s Town, and are closing in fast. In fact, episode 9 of this series is going to be another Blackwater-esque episode; that is so say, one fat off battle at Castle Black. According to the episode director, it’s going to dwarf Blackwater. Is that a pun? That might be a pun.
Staying in the north, can we please just take (another) moment to appreciate Alfie Allen’s portrayal of Reek? I know I keep going on about this, but it’s absolutely brilliant. You could see how constantly petrified, broken and terrified he is, especially considering he was this cocky little so-and-so in the earlier seasons. So the story here is that Ramsay wants to please Daddy Bolton by taking the stronghold that is Moat Cailin (we saw it in the opening credits). Moat Cailin is an extremely strategically placed fortress, built in the centre of the swampy lands that separate the Northern Kingdom and the south of Westeros. The Ironborn took it over when Balon Greyjoy decided again that he wanted the North…and just kind of sat there. Reek manages to convince them to leave, promising them safe passage…and then they get flayed. If you were wondering what Reek was muttering through the scene, it was “Reek, Reek, rhymes with meek” – a rhyme (or variation of) that he repeats consistently throughout the book to remind himself ‘who he really is’. Anyway, in a “one day, all of this will be yours” kind of manner, Roose Bolton, pleased with his bastard, rewards him by legitimising him – he is no longer Ramsay Snow, but Ramsay Bolton. And if you didn’t work it out, that castle that there were heading to at the end of their scene was Winterfell – Roose, as Warden of the North, is claiming the castle as his seat of power.
In the Eyrie, Littlefinger is being confronted about Lysa’s sudden, suspicious death. The three people interrogating him are Lord “Bronze” Yohn Royce (who lead the interrogation), Lady Anya Waynwood, and Ser Vance Corbray. The former two are the heads of houses sworn to House Arryn, and the latter is a knight from another noble house in Vale. What’s interesting here is that this may well have been the first time that we see Littlefinger without a plan. Pushing Lysa out of the Moon Door was quite impulsive, I think, and he may not have considered the consequences. For all he knew, Sansa would spill the beans, which would probably have resulted in fox lord Baelish following in his wife’s footsteps… But, luckily for him, Sansa has picked up a few things in her time at King’s Landing, and uses her own weapon – her tears – to defend Petyr. Oh yes, introducing a new player to the Game: Sansa Stark. These two are going to make quite a formidable team, I think – especially when you think about how much combined influence they have together: Petyr Baelish has the Vale (which is pretty darn big) and Harrenhal (also pretty darn big), whereas Sansa is the key to the North (pretty darn biggest). Fun bit of trivia – Lord Yohn Royce’s son, as Sansa mentioned, joined the Night’s Watch. He was one of the first people we saw brutally die in the very first Game of Thrones episode, in the prologue. So that’s nice to know.
Ok, so once again the climax of the episode was King’s Landing, which is generally where shit’s going down. Tyrion’s beetle story was a show-only inclusion, and fans have been baffled about what it meant. There is no right answer, really, so you can decide for yourself – though I think it may allude to how pointless all the killing in Westeros is, and how the gods (if they exist) really don’t seem to care. Another lovely speech though.
On to the main event of “The Mountain and the Viper”…the Mountain and the Viper! In my opinion, this scene was done perfectly. I was worried that Oberyn’s shouting may have been drowned out by
the sound of steel on steel, but the fight was paced very well, allowing intervals of mocking-to-hysterical shouting. It was brilliant, epic and gave me chills. Sure, some of the choreography was different to how it is described in the book, and the Mountain didn’t accidentally slice an innocent bystander in half during the fight (yeah…) but who cares – it was exciting, tense and very impressive. But, alas, Oberyn’s hubris got the better of him. See, he had multiple chances to kill the Mountain where he stood. But Oberyn didn’t simply want to kill Gregor Clegane: he needed a confession. There is a passage in the book where Oberyn says something along the lines of “if you die before confessing, I will hunt you through the seven hells”. The Red Viper of Dorne is a renowned fighter, and it shows – and to take down the Mountain is no easy feat. But unfortunately Oberyn makes one wrong move, and it costs him um…pretty dearly. Whether the Mountain died or not is not yet revealed, although even if he did, Tyrion still lost the trial as his champion died first. What’s important to remember here too is that Oberyn wasn’t just some knight or sellsword; he was a Prince of Dorne…I don’t imagine that his death, despite the fact that he willingly put his life on the line, will go down well back home.
I have seen a lot of posts on t’internet in the last few days in which people have been posting their anger at Oberyn’s death. Not the gruesome, horrible manner of it – but the death itself. People claiming that it was only done for shock value, for example. This is all wrong. Events such as Ned’s death, the Red Wedding, and the outcome of this fight are obviously shocking, but that’s not why they’re there. There are very few “good guys” or “bad guys” in Game of Thrones; pretty much everyone is morally grey. Oberyn, no matter how awesome, died due to his own neglect. In a recent post I read on reddit, one user summed it up perfectly: “the whole point of the Song Of Ice And Fire is that characters face the consequences of their actions whilst playing the game of thrones. Ned died because he was naive and put his trust in the wrong people. Roose/Ramsay are still alive because they are playing the game correctly by being intelligent in regards to their alliances.” There is a much deeper meaning than just ‘GRRM likes to kill off characters’ – there is a reason behind all of their deaths. I just hope that fans can see that, and don’t just look at is as ‘an attempt to top the Red Wedding’.
To tide you over, here is Arya’s slightly maniacal laugh, accompanied by the biggest “….fuck” face I have seen, on the Hound. DON’T READ THE YOUTUBE COMMENTS.
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.
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.
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
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!