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.
This article is to be read after the episode has been seen, as and as a result may contain spoilers up to the episode that it’s covering, but no further. So if you haven’t seen the episode yet, go and watch it. Then come back and read this. Then watch the episode again. Then read this again.
“I’ll never hurt her” – Oh, Ramsay, you bugger. You might not, but your jealous bitches might….
This episode seemed to feature a lot of paths crossing – which is pretty much all A Feast For Crows, the forth book, is. Let’s work our way from north to south, then. Many book fans continue to rejoice this season as we get to see Stannis for the stoic badass he is. He still seems to be all about power, whereas in the book he does actually want to save the Realm, but one thing at a time. Offering Jon the North (and the surname Stark) would grant him a massive number of allies (“the North remembers”). Jon, however, honourable as ever, turns it down. Now Lord Commander, it seems he really has his work cut out for him. He shows great signs of leadership by acknowledging Alliser Thorne’s worth, despite their dislike for one another, and belittling gingers. His choice to execute Janos Slynt was not an easy one – due to TV limitations, we don’t get to see Jon’s inner monologue like we do in the book, but he spends a time arguing with himself about what to do with Slynt; imprisonment, he believes, would lead to revenge and desertion. No, Jon must send a message. A book-famous line in which he calls to Edd “Edd, fetch me a block” was sadly omitted for “Olly, bring me my sword”. It’s one of those lines like “Only Cat” that is somewhat iconic in d’book world. Anyway, Jon follows in his father’s footsteps – “the man that passes the sentence should swing the sword” – and arguably avenges him. Remember back in Season 1, it was Littlefinger that held the dagger to Ned’s throat, but it was Janos Slynt, Commander of the City Watch, who was subdued by gold…the very reason Tyrion sent him to the Wall in the first place. And then, we get that very, very subtle nod from Stannis. Badass.
In the rest of the North, fans cry out in anguish as Littlefinger’s plans are revealed: to marry Sansa to Ramsay. As stated before, Sansa’s book story ends with her departing the Eyrie, so this is all new territory. Book Ramsay actually marries Sansa’s childhood friend, who has been made up to look like Arya, giving the Boltons another key to the North. This will be an interesting turn of events….I fear a bit for what Ramsay might do to Sansa, but Sansa is beginning to come into her own, becoming braver, cleverer, more manipulative. The North remembers. An interesting interaction is seen here between Roose and Littlefinger. Remember Littlefinger currently holds the East in his pocket, whilst Roose governs the North – though Roose clearly expresses that, now that Tywin is dead, he doubts the Lannister’s support. Are we going to see a Bolton/Baelish team-up? A little down the line, Brienne’s story is also new territory and very hard to predict. The main thing we get from her this episode is a bit of exposition and more Pod-love from the audience.
This episode featured perhaps my favourite Cersei/Margaery exchange. The young queen has been taught well, and knows exactly how to get on the Lannister’s tits and penis. Bear in mind that Tommen is only about 12 or 13, bless his cottons. I mean, in the book he’s 8, chubby, and would much rather spend his days stamping letters than ruling. I take back what I said last year, though, about not liking him because he is too old – I think that the direction they have taken his character in is a very interesting one, and allows Margaery to use her feminine wiles to manipulate him, but retaining Tommen’s innocence and charm. As a side note, it’s interesting that an underage actor has been featured in a sex scene like this. Obviously you don’t see anything, but book-Sansa has numerous, erm, encounters of a somewhat sexual nature, but due to Sophie Turner’s age they didn’t show it. So who knows why they have changed their minds…? Maybe it’s a female thing. Either way, I’m sure actor Dean-Charles Chapman had a great and awkward time filming. Margaery gave a li’l dig a Cersei for her drinking too; this feature is much more apparent in the books, as Cersei begins to put on a bit of weight and is never seen without wine, but the show has hinted at this just enough that watcher will go “OOOOHHHH!!!! NO SHE DIDN’T!” Sticking in King’s Landing, we meet the eponymous High Sparrow. So far, we have seen this holy man’s influence spreading in the form of the Sparrows (which Lancel Lannister is part of). The man in the brothel earlier was the High Septon, who is basically like the Pope. The High Sparrow seeks to eradicate the corruptness from the Faith of the Seven and restore it to purity.
So, before we have a quick check in with Arya, let’s look at religion in Westeros. You have the Old Gods, who are nameless, worshipped by the North partially through the Wierwoods. Then there is the Seven, the predominant religion throughout Westeros. The Seven consists of the Father, Mother, Maiden, Crone, Warrior, Smith and Stranger, each representing different parts of existence. Then there is the Red God, R’hllor, the Lord of Light. We see Melisandre worship this deity, as well the Red Priestess at the end of the episode. Then there is the Drowned God, worshipped by the Iron Born. Lastly, we have the Many-Faced-God, “the true face of all the gods”, whose statue can be seen in the House of Black and White. The Faceless Men believe that he is the only god, and he is the god of death. He is the same as the Stranger in the Faith of the Seven. There are many other little religions and cults across the world, but these are the biggest. As (another) side note, I often find that these articles are seven paragraphs long. A sign? A coincidence?
In fact, in the books, over thirty god statues stand in the House of Black and White, though it’s a little harder to make out which ones made the cut in the show. The important thing to remember is that the Faceless Men worship Death. Perhaps just a simple nod or a reveal, but the phrasing that Jaqen used to explain this to Arya was a lot like what Syrio said in Season 1……. To become a Faceless Man, Arya must lose her identity and become ‘no one’. Conveniently, though, she was able to find a hole in a rock just big enough for Needle to fit neatly in, so we won’t be losing that any time soon!
I think that’s all that needs explaining really. Tyrion’s story was quite self-explanatory – though which queen is Jorah taking him too? OoOoOoOoO! Let’s take a quick moment to appreciate the beauty of Volantis, where slavery runs rampant, and home to late Robb Stark’s later wife, Talisa. Now, the actor that played the Red Priestess Tyrion shared a moment with, Rila Fukushima, has appeared in films such as The Wolverine and numerous episodes of Arrow, implying that we may well see more of her. The actress was born in Japan, and is the first Asian person we have seen in the series. This is largely due to the fact that George R. R. Martin’s world’s equivalent to Asia, Yi Ti, largely keep to themselves. They may venture into Essos, as we see here, but rarely Westeros. That concludes this Episode Companion. See you next week!