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…
So….Meryn Trant likes…kids?
First, let’s take a moment to appreciate Doran’s awesomeness. Finally. After nine episodes, he is finally given his due. Doran is very smart man, and not at all rash like his brother: he bides his time. We see in this episode, though, that despite being in a wheel chair (from severe gout, if you remember) he still holds great power and is well-respected. It is unfortunate that these Dorne scenes have been pretty filler…and pretty awful filler at that, but it least it has nearly concluded without any serious causalities, and has provided us an insight (albeit small) into how Doran rules, and his motives. And Trystane’s weirdly hairy chest.
In all honesty, most of episode 9 was largely self-explanatory, so I’ll just focus on the two ‘big’ scenes of the week: Stannis and Daenerys. Let’s begin in the north. With winter closing in around them, Stannis and his army are truly struggling. Especially when scoundrels like Ramsay come and set stuff on fire. I can’t help but laugh at the irony as Melisandre steps out of her tent to a sea of flames and a Ponyta. How brilliant would it have been if the downfall of Stannis’ conquest was fire? I mean, after this week’s episode, but proxy it just may be! So, yes, Stannis sacrificed his daughter to the Lord of Light. Now I feel it’s important to add here that this has not (yet) happened in the books – book Stannis is currently trudging along in the snows with his army still, whilst Shireen and her mother stay at Castle Black. The main things that afflict book Stannis’ army is the lack of food and endless marching. This whole section of the book is also told from the point of view of a character that hasn’t even encountered Stannis once in this entire series, though whether or not they pop up in episode 10 remains to be seen. Despite not appearing in the books, Shireen’s sacrifice was apparently headed up from the evil mind of George R. R. Martin himself, and not from Benioff and Weiss – which is who most people will turn to blame when something happens in the show they do not like! So, why did Stannis do it? Well, this is my quarrel with the whole thing. We saw that lovely scene earlier in the season between Stannis and his daughter. Then, last episode, he shooed Melisandre out from his tent when she merely hinted at the notion of sacrificing Shireen. I feel that his decision would have been more believable if we had seen one more episode – one more scene even – of Stannis pondering it over, as opposed to this apparent sudden choice. My personal opinion on Stannis hasn’t really changed because of it – he did it because he thinks that it is the only way he can save the realm, essentially, and you could see the pain in his eyes as the execution is carried out. I’m not saying it was right, or even justified, but in his mind it was the only option. The sacrifice itself, I feel, was almost inevitable, what with the amount of time dedicated to building Shireen’s sweet, innocent character this season, as well as the ominously foreshadowing conversation between her and Davos earlier in the episode. Also, Davos said something about hearing about her story “when he gets back”…and from past experience we know that in Game of Thrones, if someone says that, they (or the recipient of the conversation) are going to die… My personal prediction was that Selyse, at Mel’s bidding, was going to go behind Stannis’ back and do it, to which Stannis responds with a firm backhand, but in fact it was her mother’s crying, along with Shireen’s screams, that really made this whole scene very haunting. Stannis is truly desperate. He has made a number of speeches about the needs of the many over the few, and that sacrifices aren’t easy, “that’s why they are sacrifices”, but one cannot help but pause and wonder if the Stannis hype train is really going in the right direction… But then again, he sneakily murdered his brother and has sacrificed countless people in the past, so what’s so different about a daughter…?
Say what you will on the episode as a whole (though I quite enjoyed it), but you cannot deny that once again we were treated to an epic ending. What began with some well-choreographed fighting and a bit of Daario suave ended in what can only be described as slightly-bad-CGI-dragon-epicenes. Meereen, as we know, is plagued by the gang known as the Sons of the Harpy (RIP Barristan). These ex-slaves and Masters loath Daenerys for what she has done to their city, and won’t rest until her head is on the edge of a rusty blade. Apart from that, we still know very little about them, such as whether they have any ulterior motives, or even who their leader is. One of my guesses was Hizdahr, so I was extremely shocked and surprised to see him viciously stabbed to death (and felt a pang of sympathy). Now, there are those on t’internet who believe that Hizdahr’s death was staged, and that he is in fact still alive, and it was all a ruse…but I think it looked pretty convincing. I think he is pretty dead. This scene is somewhat similar to its book counterpart, the key difference being that book-Jorah is somewhere else (and Tyrion, too). Still, Drogon is drawn in by the scent of blood and lands in the pit, singeing all who come near, until Daenerys mounts him and soars into the skies, leaving behind the chaos to her bemused followers. Despite the questionable CGI, I thought this scene provided another brilliant end to a decent episode. Even Jorah’s Dark Souls inspired forward roll kill was pretty epic…though not as epic as the Spartan inspired spear throw. Well done Jorah.
Before we conclude, the word “Graces” was uttered by a character during this final scene – I forget who. Anyway, the Graces are a group of healers or priestesses in the area surrounding Meereen, led by the Green Grace, who acts as an advisor of sorts to Dany in the books. So far, they have been omitted from the series, so it’s interesting to hear their name dropped, even if it was for a second. Will we be delving more into the political side of Meereen next season? I’m also curious about the Unsullied, and how, for lack of a better word, shit they have been this season. The argument here is that they are not trained for this kind of combat, and lack proper field training, but nevertheless they got pretty much butchered by…well, civilians. I hope someone has an answer for this! I assume Grey Worm was resting in bed as this whole shabang went on…
As mentioned last week, The Dance of Dragons’ episode title is taken from the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons. Obviously, the title prominently refers to the climactic Meereen scene and Drogon, but it was also referred earlier in the episode via the book that Shireen was reading. The final episode of the season is titled Mother’s Mercy, so put your speculation hats on now and start guessing what that’s about!
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.
“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.
Pyp….Grenn…..THAT WASN’T IN THE BOOKS 😥
There isn’t really that much to say about this week’s episode; it was pretty self-explanatory. What I found interesting is that with all the goings on in King’s Landing and the rest of Westeros, you could be forgiven for forgetting about the imminent peril that the Night’s Watch were about to face. Jon’s story in this season so far has been mostly filler, but it has all been leading up to this moment. You may even have forgotten who the hell Mance Rayder is (in my opinion they should have shown him in this episode, even briefly, to remind watchers what his biz is), but his threat is ever looming, and, like the rest of Westeros, we may well have thought not much of it. Mance wants the Freefolk to destroy the Night’s Watch, and then Westeros. It all comes crashing down, seemingly quite suddenly. To the north of the Wall, Mance Rayder sits with his massive army of Wildlings, giants and mammoths, ready to attack. To the south of the Wall, on the Westeros side, Tormund, Ygritte and Styr await the King-Beyond-the-Wall’s signal. The signal is given, and both armies pincer-attack Castle Black. The story that Tormund was telling, by the way, was about him having sex with a bear. Tormund’s…member…is a subject that he likes to discuss often – we saw a glimpse of how raunchy he can be in season 3, but yeah, pretty much he allegedly has a huge Johnson, and engaged in coital activities with a bear (not realising it was a bear at the time…apparently).
For obvious reasons, this episode shares many similarities with “Blackwater”, so it’s hard not to compare the two. Whilst “Blackwater” have the awe-inspiring wildfire sequence, “The Watchers on the Wall” was not without its merits. For starters, how great was that awesome Wall-scythe-anchor-thing? That may or may not have been a nod to “Blackwater” – in the books, Tyrion has a massive chain built around the bay to trap Stannis’ ships in before igniting them. Some fans were a little peeved that the chain didn’t make it into the show, so maybe this is a little tribute to it. And we finally got to see some giants and mammoths in action, squishing and squashing all in their paths. Whilst their arrows did look a bit like a weapon from a JRPG, it was a good way to show just how fierce and powerful they are. Additionally, I think that a lot of the battle choreography was better than “Blackwater” – it looked sloppy and unpredictable, which makes sense when this episode focused on fights with Wildings, who essentially trained themselves and are undisciplined, whereas the soldiers featured in “Blackwater” were castle trained military men. Plus, dat panoramic shot.
Ygritte’s death was mega sad and very well done. The build-up, with Jon, seeing her alive and safe, smiling, was heart-wrenching. I’m not sure if, given the chance, she would have opened fire – if she wanted to kill him, she would have done last season when she shot him. But it’s ok, because Olly the kid gets there first. In retrospect, there was a lot of foreshadowing indicating that he would be the one to kill her – firstly, she very obviously arrow’d his parents, and the two exchanges a look before he runs to the Wall. A few episodes later, he claims that he is a great shot with a bow. During the battle, he finds one on the floor, and off he goes. Foreshadowing…this show is full of it! The scene ends with a beautifully heartbreaking shot of Jon cradling Ygritte in his arms as the battle rages around him. On the subject of sad things, although Pyp and Grenn’s deaths were pretty upsetting, I also found myself sympathising with the giants: there is a moment when Mag Mar Tun Doh Weg, (or Mag the Mighty for short) the giant that opened the gate in the tunnel, sees his fellow giant get killed. He pauses for a second, before letting out a cry and anguish. Mag is witnessing the extinction of the giants – in the books, there is a song called “The Last of the Giants” that explains this – right before his eyes. It’s only natural that he is a bit peeved.
This episode also saw quite a lot of character development – not just from Jon, who became stone-cold following Ygritte’s death, but also Sam and Alliser Thorne. Sam, who is usually the source of a bit of comic relief, really came into his own in this episode (and said a swear!) and it is apparent that he is no longer the snivelling craven that first arrived at Castle Black in season 1. And Ser Alliser, who has, quite frankly, been a total knob up until this point, was actually rather likable in this episode! During his 1 on 1 with Tormund, I didn’t know who to root(?) for. Not Janos Slynt though – the slimey coward! Although he will earn no XP from the fight, so that’s ok. Also, I love that Jon spat blood in Styr’s (the bald cannibal guy) face – something dishonourable that he must have picked up from Karl “Fookin’ Legend” Tanner earlier this season. It’s nice to see, as highlighted in the Jon v Karl fight, that Jon Snow isn’t invincible; I mean, Styr very nearly kills him before Jon decides to fight dirty. Though he does survive an anvil to the face, so kudos on that, Jon.
At the end of the episode, Lord Snow heads off to try and assassinate Mance – he believes that without leadership, the Wildlings will fall into disarray. A similar thing happens in the books, although in this instance Janos Slynt and Alliser Thorne coerce Jon into going. I don’t think that there is really anything else to say about this episode. I am gutted about Pyp and Grenn – who are both very much alive in the books – but they both died honourably and in service to the Watch, and to be honest, it would have looked a bit silly if all of Jon’s comrades had survived. Still, unexpected and sad. Oh, also, Ygritte was probably pregnant with Jon’s child (I can’t really see them having a spare pigs intestine contraceptive in the sex-cave) so there’s that….
Anyway, next week is the final episode of the season, which is extremely upsetting. We have a lot of loose ends to tie up, and I for one can’t wait. Also, I am very curious to see when this scene comes into play –
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.