The North Remembers
“Promise you’ll protect me” – Shireen Baratheon to Davos….my God, please don’t be foreshadowing!
After the rollercoaster ride that was last week’s episode, Kill the Boy, with its ominous title, was a brilliant reminder of how great this show can be sometimes. Apart from the fact that, on the intro map, the Water Gardens is listed as Dorne. I…um…not sure what happened there. Anyway, without any King’s Landing drama, this week’s episode saw us spending a lot of time up North and across the sea. So let’s start at the Wall.
Jon’s always been a fan favourite, but it’s interesting to see him really take a deserved leadership role, whilst encountering hardships. Moreover, it’s great to see that the King of Grammar, Stannis, is becoming more book-inspired; hopefully, fans of the show will now be able to see why he is such a favourite to book readers. It was even more refreshing, like an ice-cool glass of OJ, to hear Stannis’ ulterior motives instead of just “it’s mine by right” – in this episode, he actually mentions saving the realm from the White Walkers. Previously, it’s just been Melisandre banging on about this, with Stannis uttering his aforementioned mantra. Finally, now, we see that the One True King really does care about protecting his people. However, if TV has taught me anything, it’s that when we get an expositional monologue, or develop a sudden fondness to a character, it probably means they are going to die. This is purely speculation, as book Stannis now spends a few hundred pages trekking through snow, but I fear for the Mannis’ life. Fingers crossed. Will the season end with a Bolton/Baratheon brawl? The title of the episode, Kill the Boy, is taken from a rather pithy quote from Maester Aemon: “kill the boy and let the man be born”. He says this, as we know, to Jon. The meaning of this is pretty straight forward: to become a true leader, Jon must overcome any inhibitions he has about himself (think back to an Alliser Thorne quote – “if [a leader] starts second-guessing himself, that’s the end”). He must metaphorically kill this boy, so that the man inside him may flourish like a flower. But more bad-ass. Of course, with all episode titles, this probably refers to something else. But what….
Before we move on, I thought I’d give a bit of information about the Citadel, which Sam mentions. In the southwest of Westeros lies the oldest known city: Oldtown. This beautiful port city houses a population of around 500,000, equal to that of King’s Landing, but lacks to squalor of its somewhat sister city. Oldtown is governed by the Hightowers, who are powerful allies to the Tyrells. Notable Hightowers include Ser Gerold Hightower, who was the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard during Aerys Targaryen’s rein. Oldtown is home to a structure known as the Citadel. Well, multiple structures to be technical. These buildings act as a college of sorts where maesters are trained. I’m sure we are all familiar with maesters now – essentially the doctors, scholars, scientists and academics of Westeros. You may have noticed, through watching characters such as Luwin, Pycelle or Qyburn, that they wear chains. Each link of the chain symbolises an accomplishment, for example, a bronze link represents knowledge of astronomy, where steel is smithing. As you might imagine, the Citadel also houses the largest library in Westeros.
Anyway, Bolton/Baratheon brawl, etc. etc., “kill the boy”…oh yeah. So I thought that this could also tenuously link to Ramsay’s motifs after Roose announces that his wife Walda is preggo. Ramsay is obviously very worried about his position, but through a heart-warming speech about rape and murder, we learn that Roose does actually kind of care for him. It also allows us to see how evil Roose actually is. Cold, calculating; you would be mistaken for thinking he was a lot like Tywin. But Roose doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty – and beyond. In fact, he rather enjoys it. And so Sansa’s torture begins….
Across the sea then, sad to see that Barristan Selmy is indeed dead. Like I said before, this doesn’t happen in the books, so his death was greeted with a mixed response from many. I am pleased, however, that they addressed how awful it was in the episode – Daenerys says something about him being cut down in an alleyway. But at least Grey Worm still lives! Having served the Mad King Aerys, Barristan served as a font of reason for Dany…but with him gone, one wonders what slightly mad decisions Daenerys might make. Like, you know, burning a possibly innocent man alive. Her quote “we’ll let the dragons decide” could well be a throwback to Aerys, who would often ‘let fire decide’ the fate of those who upset him. Nice to see a bit of gore though, wasn’t it? Feels like it’s been a while. By marrying Hizdahr zo Loraq, Daenerys hopes to bring an end to the bloodshed caused by the Sons of the Harpy. But who is/are the Harpy? Will this appease them? Her story currently parallels what is going on in the books: book Hizdahr, in a similar manner to the show, continuously bugs Daenerys about reopening the fighting pits. Eventually, he outright buys them. Daenerys still proposes marriage, though in a more roundabout way, and he seems a little more eager than he does in the show to accept.
The episode concluded with a Tyrion/Jorah scene. If you look at a map of Essos, you’ll notice that between Volantis (where Tyrion was captured) and Meereen (where Dany resides) is Valyria. You probably have an informed knowledge of Valyria, but the gist of it is this: Valyria was a metropolis of advancement. Years ahead of any other city in the world, Valyria was the grandest of its time. Dragons flew about the skies, and it was also the ancestral home of the Targaryens. One day, however, the Doom came. Nobody really knows why, but a chain of volcanos suddenly erupted, destroying the city and desolating the land for miles around. Now, it’s a wasteland, with many people believing it is cursed and haunted. Jorah choses to navigate part of the waters for two reasons: it’s quicker, and there are no pirates. There is, however, a more serious threat: the Stone Men. We have been introduced to the disease of Greyscale through Shireen Baratheon. She, however, was cured…albeit horrifically scarred. Some aren’t so lucky. Many of these are taken to this region of Valyria, known as the Sorrows, and left. These Stone Men eventually succumb to the disease, robbing them of their wits and, eventually, life. The disease is contracted if they touch your flesh. Think a zombie bite. Oh Jorah… We see here that he is taking on the mantle of a book-only character called Jon Connington – whose story has been completely omitted – who contracts the disease whilst travelling with Tyrion before he is kidnapped. Phew. Anyway, next week’s episode is titled Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken, which, as well all know, are House Martell’s words. Fingers crossed we get to see why they are the most awesomest of the Westeros houses!
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!