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.
“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!
This article is to be read after the episode has been seen, as and as a result may contain spoilers up to the episode that it’s covering, but no further. So if you haven’t seen the episode yet, go and watch it. Then come back and read this. Then watch the episode again. Then read this again.
Meereen looks a bit like Aku-Aku from Crash Bandicoot in the opening credits.
Let’s kick off with Arya’s story in Braavos. We saw Braavos very briefly in season 4, when Stannis and Davos visit the Iron Bank to ask for money. But now we get to see the city alive. So, Braavos is one of the Nine Free Cities – that is, cities in Essos (the eastern continent) that do not follow a king. Instead, Braavos is ruled by a Sealord. Cast your mind back to season 1, and the wonderful Syrio Forel (“not today”). Syrio was the First Sword to the Sealord of Braavos. Kind of a big deal. Braavos is a bit like Venice with Britain’s weather. It’s built on a load of canals, so boat travel is the most efficient way of getting around. We follow Arya as she finds the House of Black and White, the episode’s namesake. This is home to the Faceless Men: the organisation of assassins that Jaqen H’ghar is part of. OMG book spoiler – the old man in the books is never actually revealed to be Jaqen, though there were theories, so this is an interesting turn of events. Side note: one other thing that I did notice is that Arya’s list has gotten substantially shorter…no more Thoros, Beric or Mel, or Ilyn Payne. Has she forgiven or just forgotten…?
Sticking in Essos (it’s a pretty gosh darn big place), we caught up with Varys and Tyrion on their way to Meereen via Volantis. Volantis is another of the Free Cities, located at the very south of the map (Braavos is pretty north). Notably Volantians include Talisa – Robb Stark’s baby momma. Whilst we wait for Varys and Tyrion to catch up, let’s travel to Meereen ourselves, kids! As you can see, this episode saw Daenerys making a tough ol’ decision. The title House of Black and White may well refer to Dany’s decision of killing Maran…Meren….Maranana…I can’t remember his name. Not important. That guy. Personally, I think she did the right thing, though as we saw, it led to a riot between the old Masters and the freed slaves. Interesting, parallels can be drawn here with both Robb and Joffrey: Robb had to execute Rickard Karstark for killing his prisoners, just like Daenerys. Joffrey had to run from the lynch mob throwing rocks and poo, just like Daenerys (though maybe not the poo). What does this mean? Who knows!
Over to Westeros. Once again, Brienne’s bad track record proceeded her. Though, I can’t help but think that she didn’t try very hard before running off in a huff….though it did prove how bad-ass is she is. Notice as well, Sansa’s bird-like outfits, mirroring Baelish’s mockingbird sigil. Could the title Black and White refer to them too, or is that too tenuous?
In King’s Landing, we see just how highly Kevan Lannister thinks of his niece. Kevan is very much his brother’s brother. He idolised Tywin, so you can imagine that Tywin’s death has affected him pretty badly. But Kevan ain’t no fool. He can see right through Cersei for what she is. Along with complimenting bumbling (but wonderful) Mace Tyrell, Cersei seems to be slowly manipulating what remains of the Small Council. She obviously hates Pycelle (who doesn’t?) and is trying to worm Qyburn in there. I’ve talked about Qyburn before, but we’ll have a quick recap. We first met him in season 3 in Harrenhal, where he came to serve Roose Bolton. After Jaime lost his hand, Qyburn stitched him up and escorted him and Brienne back to King’s Landing. Qyburn is a Maester, like Pycelle, Aemon and Luwin (RIP). However, Qyburn was banished from the Citadel (their HQ) for…unethical experiments. What these were exactly, we don’t know. But we do know that he used his knowledge to potentially save a dying Gregor Clegane (the Mountain) and he had a curious fascination with the dead dwarf’s head…hmmmm.
At the Wall, Stannis finally starts being awesome like his book counterpart, offering Jon Snow the goddamn North. The letter that Stannis received was from Lyanna Mormont, who is niece of Jeor Mormont (the old Night’s Watch Lord Commander) and cousin of Jorah Mormont. The letter is pretty awesome as it declares that, even though Roose Bolton holds the North and Stannis wants to take it, the Northerners bow to one king, and his name is STARK. Frickin’ awesome. One day, I hope that the Seven Kingdoms are ruled by the Starks and Martells. WHICH BRINGS US NICELY ON TO:
Dorne. Hell yeah. Personally, the Martells are my favourite house. About 300 years before the events of Game of Thrones takes place, Aegon Targaryen, known as Aegon the Conqueror, landed in Westeros with his dragons and armies and tried to take over. The whole country bent the knee, apart from Dorne. The Martells words “Unbowed. Unbent. Unbroken.” is a symbol of their resistance. Throughout the ages, the Martells have often been pissed on, but have never faltered and always risen above it. They are a strong house, somewhat isolated (both geographically and politically) from the rest of Westeros. Our first encounter with the Martells was through the fantastic, late Oberyn. We know that he was bent on revenge against those that murdered his sister, Elia, and her children. Elia, if you remember, was married to Rhaegar Targaryen, Dany’s older brother. The Mountain “raped her. Murdered her. Killed her children.” But you know all this. So the Martells are a bit bitter. But do they incite open war? No. Doran Martell – Oberyn’s older brother and head of the family, Lord of Sunspear – is cleverer than that. We briefly meet Doran in this episode. He is pretty much wheelchair bound due to severe gout (caused by the lavish Dornish lifestyle, some say). Doran may seem weak, but he is patient. He will bide his time, like so many Martells have before him. Partially, this is why I am so scared for Jaime and Bronn going to Dorne. I love the Martells, but gosh darn I hope those two are safe (this is a diversion from the books so I have no idea what’s going to happen!). We also briefly saw Myrcella (who has been recast) walking around the Water Gardens with a young man, Trystane Martell. Trystane is Doran’s son. In the books, he has another daughter, Arienne. Unfortunately, she seems to have been omitted from the show, but it appears though Ellaria Sand, Oberyn’s ex-gf, is taking on her character responsibilities. So there’s a little history lesson to wrap up this week’s episode companion. Now, please join me in staring at Daenerys’ ridiculous eyebrows until the sun rises.
It’s that time of year again! I thank you for taking the time to visit. Like last year, I will be writing spoiler free (beyond this episode) episode companions for Game of Thrones season 5. These companions will serve to clarify certain points in what can often be quite a convoluted plot. Now, George R. R. Martin has actually gone out and said something along the lines of “book readers are going to hate this season because it’s so different”. Personally, I’m excited to see where the show deviates from the book – it will be exciting to see new and interesting things and spoilers that I’m unaware of…so, I will try try try not to fill these reviews with WELL IN THE BOOKS THIS HAPPENED!!!. Try. I won’t be able to help myself a bit.
One of the first things you may notice in The Wars to Come was a little addition to Winterfell in the opening credits: it now displays the flayed man sigil of the Boltons. Lovely detail. The episode kicks off with a flashback from Cersei’s childhood, in which she meets a witch called Maggy the Frog (not Osha!). This is the first actual flashback we have seen in the show so far. Interestingly, the books are full of ‘em (see, I can’t help myself), and show headers Benioff and Weiss went on record to say that they wanted no flashbacks, dreams or prophecies. Yeah….that’s…that’s never going to work. For those who didn’t pick it up, Cersei was supposed to marry “a prince” (Rhaegar Targaryen). Maggy says in her prophecy that Cersei won’t marry a prince; she will marry a king. Which she did, in Robert. That is, until a younger, more beautiful comes to take her place (Margaery Tyrell). Robert will have twenty children (all of his bastards), but Cersei will only have three (Joffrey, Tommen, Myrcella). If you think back to season 1, Cersei mentioned to Catelyn that she and Robert had a son that died in infancy – whether this is a show continuity error, or whether Cersei was simply lying to Cat, we shall never know. One thing they omitted in this scene from the books was a third piece to Maggy’s prophecy, which I shan’t ruin in case it pops up….but it seems pretty important in the books so here’s hoping. #Valonqar. In real time, Cersei appears to be becoming more and more paranoid – emphasised in a strong scene between her and Jaime, degraded only by Twyin’s omniscient googly-eyes.
Sticking in King’s Landing, we once again are reunited with Lancel Lannister. Lancel was Robert’s cupbearer in season 1, and played a part in his death. In season 2, he bedded his cousin Cersei before suffering a wound on the Blackwater. He has now cut off his luscious blonde locks and found religion. We also see the return of Kevan Lannister, Lancel’s father and Tywin’s younger brother. Kevan, like Lancel, appeared in seasons 1 and 2 but was omitted in 3 and 4. Thankfully, he’s back, with the same actor playing him. With the Lannister name now in peril, how will this new family dynamic affect their future? There was also mention of the Sparrows, who are a group of pious folk, who we will see more of in future episodes. My qualm with this episode follows Loras’ scene. Loras Tyrell’s sole purpose in the show seems to be that he is gay. It defines his character. In the books (sorry), he is one of the best knights in the Seven Kingdoms. After Renly, his love, his killed, he becomes angry and seeks to avenge him by joining the Kingsguard. He is arrogant, rash, and a total bad-ass, looked up to by Tommen – somewhat mirroring a young Jaime. He’s still a homosexual, but it is nowhere near as prominent as it is in the show…and there is no OlyvAR either. But it has enabled me to use the word ‘qualm’, so I guess I’m thankful for that.
Across the Narrow Sea, we know have two main characters! I’m glad to see that Varys is travelling with Tyrion – hopefully we get to see some super dynamic adventures between the two of them. They arrive in Pentos. Cast your minds back to the very first episode. Pentos was the place where Viserys and Daenerys lived, before they went off with Drogo. The “colleague” that Varys mentions, Illyrio Mopatis, was the large man from season one: a magister in Pentos. It is revealed here that Varys intends to put Dany on the throne. Will be see some Dany and Tyrion action? Goodness I hope so.
Speaking of the Mother of Dragons and so on, what a heartbreaking scene that was, with the Unsullied that just wanted to be cuddled. They are eunuchs – castrated at a young age – so they feel little to no sexual desires towards the women….they just want someone to hold. Which raises questions about Grey Worm and Missandei’s relationship; again, another show-only inclusion as she is about 10 in the books. It’s a nice relationship, don’t get me wrong, but I think it will backfire if they add a sexual aspect to it. The man that killed the Unsullied was a member of The Sons of the Harpy – the Harpy being the animorph for the slave Masters or Meereen, a statue of which we saw being destroyed at the beginning (along with half of the CGI budget – though did anyone else notice the rope graciously caressing the harpy’s bottom? No? Just me. Moving on). The Sons of the Harpy are, as you would imagine, quite angry at Dany for abolishing slavery. Ruling isn’t easy, but at least she has sexy Daario to suggestively stroke his dagger hilt at her. Emilia Clarke’s acting seems to have improved slightly too, which is a plus. Oh, and the others two dragons’ names were finally mentioned in-show: Viserion and Rhaegal, named for Daenerys’ brother and son respectively.
There were some scenes around the Vale of Arryn with Sansa, Littlefinger and Brienne and Pod…but that’s all quite self-explanatory. Young Robin Mumbreast has been left in the care of the Royces, a family sworn to the Arryns, in order to make him more lordly. And to remove him from Littlefingers plans. Which leaves us with the events at the Wall. With proposals for a new Lord Commander imminent, and the captured Wildlings getting restless, tensions are high…not entirely helped by the arrival of the one true king, Stannis the Mannis. As a side note, Janos Slynt, the guy that follows Alliser Thorne around everywhere, ex-captain of the City Watch in King’s Landing, seems to have been given the stereotypical coward treatment. In da books, he was a buffoon, but not a coward (and often referred to himself in the third person, yes he did). Someone on reddit compared this to The Hobbit’s dreadful display of “the funny coward”…I can’t even remember that character’s name as I have blocked it from memory. Anyway, The Wars to Come ends with the execution of Mance Raydar, the King Beyond the Wall. A scene that gave me chills, I have to say. Up until the recent emergence of the White Walks, Mance was the biggest threat to the Seven Kingdoms. He was able to unite the Wildlings under one king; a feat that has not been achieved in…well, ever. Though different from the books, I loved Ciaran Hinds portrayal, and am sad to see him go. This scene, however, was significantly altered from the books, and it seems like they have omitted an entire future storyline because of it. A very cool story line. They have also butchered Stannis; he seems to just care about conquering the North, whereas book Stannis was a lot more conscious about the threat of White Walkers. I’ve said before, but it’s important to be aware that the books and series are very different – it’s an adaptation – but that doesn’t stop me from wallowing in pity and crying “BENIOFF AND WEISS WHYYYYYYYYY”. Either way, Jon Snow’s actions of mercy killing him old friend will have consequences I’m sure. Also I’m putting money on him and Melisandre getting it on. He does have a thing for red heads…
Next week (or a few days ago, if you were naughty and watched the leaked episodes online), we get to take our first trip to Dorne, home to my personal favourite house, the Martells. See you then and stuff!