|Ice to fire|
g) What about the White Walkers?
Violence of thrones: Ok by GoT standards. A real carnival of shivving between Arya and ‘The Hound’ plus one maimed hand in a brothel.
|Only 2 movements: Arya and Jon Snow|
I'll do the wedding scenes first, then chronological review.
The Purple Wedding (from the beginning)
We get an interesting exchange between Oberyn Martell (“the Red Viper”) and the Lannisters, where, if I’m not somehow mistaken, Martell produced a veiled threat to hurt Myrcella Lannister, who had recently been sent to Dorne:
“People everywhere have their differences…in some places, the highborn frown upon those of low birth. In other places, the rape and murder of children is considered distasteful…but the fortunate thing for you, former Queen Regent, is that your daughter Myrcella has been sent to the latter sort of place.”
After a protracted sequence in which Joffrey makes Tyrion his personal servant, this happens.
[Oh my god, Tyrion, why are you ACTUALLY HOLDING THE OFFENDING CUP?! Just run!]
And now the internet will break, as people speculate on the killer.
Let me be the first to say...I'm sorry to see him go. He really brought some spark to the proceedings and history is full of "mad idiot Kings". Although actually, he was King in the same way I’m Kate Winslet from Titanic…not at all. Tywin was clearly King. I’ll tell you what Joffrey was - a very real nuisance, to the level where he could publicly humiliate his uncle and bride-to-be and nobody in the arena would dare to tell him to stop.
All I can think of is Olenna Tyrell’s phrase, earlier: “What sort of monster would do this [kill a man at a wedding]?” All things considered, I can only think of two with both motive and temperament - Olenna Tyrell and Tywin Lannister. My money is on Tywin, but then Olenna Tyrell (a) provided the cake and the food and (b) doesn’t want her granddaughter to marry a tyrant who is already insane before he does any real Kinging. Still, an extremely bold move. Lord Varys has the poison knowledge, whilst Sansa is very long-suffering. Dammit, if only Poirot were around!
Rest of the episode
|"How can I protect the King when I can't even wipe my own arse?"|
Off we go to Dragonstone, in which we learn that the religious persecution that Melisandre had initiated is beginning to reach fever pitch, so much so that wives are happy to see their husbands burned, in the name of their god. Ser Davos makes the point to Stannis that his ancestors believed in the same gods as the ones being burned. Stannis doesn’t really care, although he knows it’s all bullshit. He doesn’t care about “the lord taking their souls”. But he HAS come under the sway of Melisandre and her admittedly quite convincing sorcery. Davos, ever a practical man, points out that Florent (Stannis’s brother in law, no less) brought him many men and ships. Stannis still doesn’t care. Will he chip away at his army until there’s nobody left? I can’t imagine Davos sticking around too long, especially as Stannis reminds him he brought even fewer resources to the table than Florent, and look what happened to Florent. Stannis still has the remnants of an intelligent, gathered mind, but is almost hostage to Melisandre’s near-total control of the Dragonstone.
Finally, we’re still waiting to hear from (1) Osha and Rickon (2) Lord Baelish / Littlefinger (3) Jaqen H'ghar and (4) the Vale of Arryn.
Violence of thrones: Lots of veiled threats, a few burnings and an epic poisoning.
|Biggest movers: Joffrey (down to zero), Tommen Lannister (up 4), Cersei and the Tyrells (down 1).|
A decent episode and bags of fun - some good development but also a couple of weak and pointless storylines. Theme of the week is that weak men must die. Episode included Jaime the raper, the return of Lord Baelish, Daenery's final conquest of slave cities, the education of Tommen Lannister and a lot more.
1. What happened to the bastard Gendry? Maybe he's in Dorne, where they like bastards.
2. What happened to Theon's sister, Yara? Wasn't she looking for him?
Americans often amuse themselves by telling stories about their heritage, real or apocryphal. Have you heard the one about the difference between "lace-curtain Irish" and "shanty Irish"? No, not "lace curtain Irish came to America in a cabin on a ship, shanty Irish got locked below decks", but "lace curtain move their dirty dishes out of the way before they piss in the kitchen sink". Well, Game of Thrones is NOT lace-curtain. This is why, this week, we were treated to the spectacle of Jaime Lannister, one-handed head of the Kingsguard, raping his sister and mother of his three children next to the murdered body of one of said children.
According to Alex Graves, the Director, this ended as 'consensual' by the end (www.blogs.indiewire.com/womenandhollywood/rape-culture-sidetracks-game-of-thrones). This reminds me of Straw Dogs, Sam Peckinpah's 1971 film, which played a rape scene where the victim is shown 'enjoying' it near the end, which was also a play on the victim's husband's impotence subplot. Anyway, I do not approve this message - it didn't move the story on and made me feel slightly queasy, partly because I realised I wasn't that shocked by it. I mean, it's GoT. The other reason why this is immensely problematic is because we were just coming round to Jaime being a decent human being, rather than an swaggering, incestuous dirtbag. We're either meant to infer that this is the result of grief, or simply accept it as Jaime at his worst. It doesn't make sense. Anyway, I'll come back to this later, so we can follow chronologically.
Baelish: "He's a drunk and a fool."
More interestingly, we get to see the aftermath of Joffrey's death from Sansa and Lord Baelish's point of view. Before I go any further, what the hell has happened to Baelish's voice and accent?! He seems to have gone somewhere from his existing accent to the one he sported in The Wire. As for his voice, it sounds like he's doing an intentionally bad Bond villain! The change from previous seasons is very noticeable.
Anyway, you may remember that as soon as Joffrey was declared dead, Sansa was whisked away by Ser
Two key scenes about Baelish for me are (1) the Sherlockian game Tyrion played in Season 2 where he told different stories to different characters about the same incident, in confidence, and saw who was snitching: Baelish was the first to snitch (2) Baelish gave Cersei a sermon about how knowledge is power, but then Cersei had her guards point their daggers at him, saying "no, POWER is power". Baelish has always been the outsider with something to prove. He thinks by marrying Lady Sansa (who is less than half his age, and certainly well under 18, but whatever), he may get some shred of respectability (whether he'll actually enjoy that is another matter). I suspect he won't have moral trouble with 'consummating his marriage' with a child, unlike good ol' Tyrion.
Olenna: "Nonsense, your circumstances have improved markedly. You may not have enjoyed watching him die, but you enjoyed it more than you would've enjoyed being married to him, I promise you that."
Margaery: "But I would've been the Queen!"
Olenna: "Our alliance with the Lannisters is as important to them as it is unpleasant for us. You did wonderful work with Joffrey. The next one will be easier."
|I'll let a younger Charles Dance (Tywin) make my feelings clear (reactionimages.tumblr.com).|
Then we get to see the most dysfunctional family in the GoT universe - the Lannisters. Furthermore, the death of Joffrey has had devastating consequences: some quietly devastating, and some loudly devastating. For some reason, Tywin starts grooming Tommen to be the next King right next to Joffrey's body, even though it's barely gone cold. Tywin's lack of compassion is quite staggering, but as I've noted, he's a very pragmatic man. Having said this, I find it hard to believe he'd carry on like that right next to the body. A pragmatic man would've had the conversation with Tommen elsewhere, given that Cersei was radiating fury and loathing in the same room. Tywin quizzes Tommen on what makes a good King (I guessed "judgement"...that's the same, right?), and Tommen gets it pretty quickly...for a 12 year old, anyway.
Cersei's eyes suddenly dart towards him, either because she thinks Tywin's getting a grip on him already, or because she thinks he's smarter than Tywin. Or will be eventually. The supreme irony in this would be if Tywin orchestrated Joffrey's murder in order to elevate the more malleable Tommen, just for Tommen to outgrow Tywin and kill him, or worse, give him a crap job. Anyway, it's at this point that some of us must be thinking: where is the bastard Gendry? Wouldn't he be true heir to Robert Baratheon? I wonder if and when we'll find out.
The Hound: "He's weak and will be dead come winter!"
Then we had another weak storyline: Arya, the Hound finding and then robbing a nice father-and-daughter family who give them food and shelter. I wasn't sure what the point of this was - was it to show that she still had some love left for innocent people? I thought we'd established that she was still basically good and so was the Hound, but with considerably rougher edges. Or was it to show that nice people don't last long, like we've been seeing in GoT throughout the last 4 seasons? Yawn.
Tarly: "They all think you're just a wildling!"
Speaking of incest...we catch up with Samwell Tarly, Gilly and inbred baby (handsome though he is). This feels like a completely futile storyline, although they're not annoying as such. Plus it's good to spend some time with ordinary people rather than pretenders to the throne. Anyway, Sam tries to ship Gilly off to a nearby town to protect her, although clearly putting her in the hands of dangerous people.
Stannis: "If I do not press my claim, my claim will be forgotten. I will not become a page in someone else's history book."
Stannis continues to have an epic sense of entitlement, like Daenerys and all the other pretenders. Apparently because one of his ancestors killed the right people, he deserves to be King too. However, his story is quite tragic - it would appear that Stannis's army is all but destroyed, he has very little food and only magic to go on. In fact, I'd be willing to bet the less food they have, the more people believe in magic. Ser Davos has brought him nothing after months of work. And then suddenly, reading about pirates, he gets an idea about how to get some gold, with the Iron Bank of Braavos. It's hard to properly engage with this storyline as it's quite isolated. How does this affect Westeros in any way? Also, why hasn't Melisandre tried something outrageous with her magic? Killed Tywin, perhaps?
Then we get a pointless nudie scene with the Martells, where Oberyn says something like "make sure you've had as much sex as possible by the time your body gets saggy". Real sage advice. Tywin then bursts in and basically accuses Martell of trying to kill Joffrey.
In amongst all this is the implication that Tywin doesn't think Tyrion didn't kill Joffrey and so is on the hunt. If it's not Tywin himself, I suspect he'll make sure the killer is captured - not because he cared about Joffrey, of course, but because they cannot be seen to allow a Lannister-killer to live free...a Lannister always pays his debts. Then we get a war crimes allegory about soldiers committing rape and murder during war, without their superiors' knowledge. Oberyn wants revenge for his sister Elia's rape and murder by The Mountain, one of the most unpleasant characters in GoT (http://gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Gregor_Clegane). Tywin offers Oberyn a position on the small council, which will allow us to see Oberyn as a character rather than just a wild sexual creature. In return for Oberyn sitting in on the trial and the small Council, Tywin will provide an audience with The Mountain, although how that will end in anything other than the Mountain's death is a mystery to me. The Red Viper does not make empty threats (he hasn't actually made one yet but he will). I suspect Tywin will come to regret all this, although he has managed to give the trial legitimacy by having an outsider sit on it.
Tyrion: "I will not have you die on my behalf!"
Tyrion's storyline has suddenly come to a halt, understandably on account of his incarceration. Fortunately, he might be able to call upon Jaime, who cannot seriously believe Tyrion was behind this, particularly after their cute little bonding session over food and Bronn, in episode 2. Also, Oberyn sitting in on the trial surely improves Tyrion's chances. Oberyn is temperamental and angry, but he's a man with a code, unlike Tywin or Baelish. Tyrion is ultimately the key to Kings Landing and so it's important for GoT to keep him reasonably safe. Killing him off would be a huge mistake, in my opinion. The death of Robb Stark nobbled the narrative in the North, but this would be worse. However, there's another dark cloud - some mysterious man has been trying to isolate Tyrion through Podrick. Stay tuned.
We get a brief scene showing some real brutality from Ygritte and the rest of the wildlings. Just when we'd come to like Ygritte, she goes and shows her true wildling colours! She must be angrier still, given Jon Snow's betrayal.
"Thought you'd have blue eyes by now"
The Northern story just got interesting - a set of mutinying Brothers of the Night's Watch know how many Brothers are at Castle Black and if Mance Rayder finds out, Castle Black will be laid to waste. It's interesting to note how events at Craster's Keep are coming back to haunt Castle Black. On another note, I'm amazed there's no more word on the White Walkers.
Finally, we come to that Targaryen girl in the East. Although it's bags of fun, this segment of GoT is also slightly troubling, for many reasons. And I'm not even going to go into why the slaves are dark skinned and the leaders white and blonde (e.g. Jorah and Daenerys). But anyway, all I could think of in Daenerys scene is "she should have been the one to take a piss". I didn't understand why she made that long speech when all she really needed to say was:
|Credit: HBO. And me.|
She has a motley crew of exiles, ex-slaves and of course, dragons. Unlike those in Kings Landing, she hasn't had to make any hard choices recently, although she hasn't had what we'd consider an easy life. Therefore, there's less to discuss with her, except how cool she is. Daenerys is an internet sensation and a fan favourite. I think of her as a counterbalance to the depravity and pessimism of Westeros, where all good men die and bad men rule. Interestingly, she calls herself "Stormborn", not "Targaryen". Let us remember why:
"No squall could frighten Dany, though. Daenerys Stormborn, she was called, for she had come howling into the world on distant Dragonstone as the greatest storm in the memory of Westeros howled outside, a storm so fierce that it ripped gargoyles from the castle walls and smashed her father’s fleet to kindling."
-A Song of Ice and Fire: A Storm of Swords.
Let us remember what Jorah said about her:
"You have a good claim: a title, a birthright. But you have something more than that: you may cover it up and deny it, but you have a gentle heart. You would be not only respected and feared, you would be loved. Someone who can rule and should rule. Centuries come and go without a person like that coming into the world. There are times that I look at you, and I still can't believe you're real."
Aww! So he was a little bit heartbroken when upon seeing Meerenden's pissing contest, Daenerys declines his offer:
Violence of thrones: 8/10. A knife in the mouth of a horse, a slashing of a Meerenden 'champion', a beating of an innocent and weak father and a crossbow at point-blank range on the seas for a former Knight. Phew.
Big 'up' movers: Daenerys (0.5), Sansa (1) and Tommen (2) & Martells (2).
SEASON 4, EPISODE 4
EPISODE RATING: 7/10 | IMPORTANCE IN SERIES ARC: 6/10
"I will answer injustice with justice!” | "I’ll call it Oathkeeper”
A decent episode that laid the groundwork for fireworks later in the story. Themes of the week are (1) what justice means to different characters and, duh, (2) the keeping of oaths. Lord Baelish’s new Irish accent is coming along nicely, while Cersei seems to have forgotten all about her, um, disagreement with Jaime in the previous episode, Tommen gets to feel the full force of Margaery and Daenerys spills some blood.
Welcome back (or hello if you're a first-timer). I’ll be writing a short, sweet ‘flash review’ of GoT episodes as soon as possible (same day if possible). Let’s go!
Dorky name of the week: “Ser Pounce”, Tommen’s cat. That boy has so much to learn from Margaery.
Main plot movements:
Locke infiltrating Night’s Watch – this is potentially very serious, since we’re being set up for a major fall even if Jon manages to find Bran. Particularly dangerous if House Stark is to be rebuilt by Bran (Arya and Sansa seem a bit less equipped to do this in terms of temperament…for now). On the other hand, could Locke turn good upon seeing Jon Snow’s own benevolent nature?
Bran being captured by bad boys of Night’s Watch (Craster’s Keep edition) – Bran again. I wouldn’t put it beyond Game of Thrones to kill a crippled young boy who is one of the very small number of truly good people on the show. We deserve to see his powers wreak havoc on the Lannisters and the Freys.
Daenerys winning Meereen – seems like the conquest era is over and the governing era is beginning. Will she be as good at ruling as she is at winning? Remember Tywin’s words from episode 3, describing Robert Baratheon’s particular brand of failure: “…a King who thought winning and ruling are the same thing”.
Baelish+Sansa and Arya+Hound heading for the Vale of Arryn + Brienne (and Pod) set off looking for Sansa – there is the potential for all these characters to meet in the Vale, and this being GoT, I'm scared for them...
How and why did the slaves in Meereen write in English (“the common tongue”) on the walls?
Why does Cersei only seem slightly miffed at being raped by Jaime?
What exactly do the White Walkers want?
WHERE THE HELL ARE GENDRY, OSHA/RICKON and YARA?!
Game of Thrones draws in a lot of people who just want to see zombies or dragons, and ultimately that’s what goes on the ads. But I get the feeling that the show’s heart is really only in the human and political stories (particularly in Kings Landing), which although full of detestable characters, is painted with more care and colour than the rest of Westeros and Essos. This week, we saw a parable about how people care about keeping their promises and what happens when they don’t. Robb Stark didn’t keep his promise about marrying Walder Frey’s (ugly) daughter and paid for it with his life – not a result that seems proportional to the crime, but remember: in this game, you win or you die. Brienne made an oath to Catelyn, although for the above reason, Catelyn ended up dead. Jaime promised to return Sansa when he got back. Podrick swore an oath to Tyrion and turned down a Knighthood for it. Jon Snow swore an oath to the Night’s Watch and must now defend its existence…basically, a whole lot of oath-swearing going on.
[Imagine if Robb hadn’t broken his ‘oath’ to marry the Frey girl…Frey would never have turned against him for Tywin Lannister. With Robb Stark alive, House Stark would probably have wiped the floor with Tywin Lannister, even if the wily old dog would’ve found new ways to fight back. What this shows us is that events in GoT seem to turn on decisions that initially seem small, although in reality they form part of a big picture. A classic example of this are illegitimate offspring, produced by one night of passion, e.g. Gendry, the bastard who would be King.]
Anyway, on to the episode: we started off with the Targaryen girl. We finally get a more nuanced view of her world, which we've missed since the early days when she had nothing. We get to hear Grey Worm and Missandei's history. Then we get the usual Daenerys-taking-over-a-slave-city story but this time ending with an unusually vicious attempt at justice. Then we get back to more of Daenerys looking fabulous and pouting and posing on top of a building. Still kicking arse. Still no dragons though (are they on holiday or has GoT blown its special effects budget?!).
It's at this point that a potential Queen might stop to think whether it really is worth going all the way to the uncivilised lands of Westeros, when she has a great army, a loving people and (as someone pointed out to me recently) lots of hot dudes in her entourage. In fact, the charm of Valyria and the remains of the old Ghiscari Empire leave her with a lot to play with - she could build rebuild the old Valyrian empire. WHat's more, she could do it her way, without slaves [she's been quite lucky that all the people she's freed have wanted to work for her and none of them yelled "FREEEEEDOM!" as they flew out the door]. But no. Instead, she wants to 'reclaim' what is “rightfully” hers - for the simple reason that her father sat on the throne at some point...never mind that other people sat on that throne before and after, somehow it just belongs to the Targaryens. But no, Westeros it is, no matter how many slaveowners have to be crucified. As Cersei Lannister noted once, "Half the Targaryens went mad didn't they?... What's the saying? 'Every time a Targaryen is born the gods flip a coin'." Cersei would know about madness.
"You gonna fight for him now?"
Meanwhile in Westeros, we’re seeing more of Jaime, whose character arc is completely barmy. He went from Kingslayer to incestuous, preening bumhole to Bran-crippler to desperate captive of the Starks to buddy-caper guy with Brienne to own-sister-rapist to possible saviour of Tyrion. It looks like Tyrion finally has an ally with some real power (Bronn is sort of useless outside a fight).
In our Bronn/Jaime bromance, Bronn essentially guilts Jaime into going to see Tyrion and performing the role of 'knight in shining armour'. By the way, remember Bronn's line from earlier in the season about becoming a Knight by "killing the right people"? Well, with Jaime, he's face to face with a man who killed a King, which surely ranks at the very top of that game. GoT is full of little parallels like this, which serve to add to the richness of the story. It's hard to imagine that Jaime is the same man who is responsible for Bran not being able to walk (although was the fall what helped him become a warg?). In some cruel irony, Jaime crippled Bran and is now a "cripple" himself (in his own words). Now that this particular inequity has been evened out, Jaime is suddenly a good man with a mean streak.
"What're you waitin' for, a kiss?!"
In developments that could have potentially significant repercussions, Podrick and Brienne are off to go looking for Sansa, as per Jaime's promise to Catelyn. By the way, did you see the look on Podrick's face? I can't imagine what it is he thinks he'll be doing with Brienne on their odyssey. Anyway, Jaime remains one of the few game-changing characters in GoT because if the game in Kings Landing was to change dramatically, he seems best placed for it - a Lannister, on the inside, with a big heart and a bigger reputation. I think his story will be most interesting. Anyway, like Tyrion, he had to ship his true love off for reasons bigger than them both - in this case, to go find and protect Sansa and because Cersei is gunning for Brienne. On another note, Cersei doesn't seem too upset about her rape. I think this storyline is a misstep for the show, as it's not clear that (a) they understand that we all thought it was a rape and (b) it's not acceptable for Jaime and Cersei to just go back to normal after that. Even GoT doesn't get away with that.
“You don’t think I’d let you marry that beast, do you?”
Speaking of Cersei and Jaime, we finally get told (not shown, mind) who killed their son. Olenna 'fesses up to having Joffrey killed, casually throwing in a reference to Margaery’s necklace as well. My detective work had thrown her at the top of the table so perhaps I should be gloating…but actually, it feels odd, because this explosive fact is revealed almost as an afterthought (a lot of people will say they'd guessed, but the players in the GoT still have no idea). I was expecting scenes of commoners talking about the King’s death (nope), main characters speculating on whom it may be (not really) or Tywin doing a tour of KL trying to find out (nope, although we got some last week).
We also get an obligatory Margaery-and-Olenna-Tyrrell-in-the-garden (your city is called Highgarden, ok, we get it) scene. Lady Olenna also recounts a bawdy tale about her pre-marital sexscapade with Luthor Tyrell, although I’m having trouble understanding what exactly went on between them such that Luthor was the one having trouble walking the next day. My head’s saying “don’t go there” but my heart is saying “hmm?!”…
The Starks just couldn't BUY themselves any luck, could they? Bran stumbles upon the crazed former-Brothers of the Night’s Watch and is basically captive along with his entourage. After last week’s strange rape-that-was-meant-to-be-somewhat-consensual, we have an orgy of rape again, and I’m told this was not in the books. HBO appears to have a contractual boobiness quota and is sure as hell trying to meet it. Craster’s Keep has a new resident psychopath - Karl Tanner, an utterly insane former Brother, drinking from Mormont’s skull who, let's be honest, couldn't give less of a damn about anyone or anything.
Also up North, we get Jon's plan to get to Craster's Keep and subdue the mutineers (before they give away any info about Castle Black) is in motion, but with Roose Bolton's henchman Locke in tow. The internal politics of Castle Black mean that Jon Snow is safe for now because of his popularity, but Ser Alliser is trying to find a way to get rid of him. We'll find out if Jon Snow really does know nothing on the trip to Craster's Keep.
Then we get a short sequence with the White Walkers converting more babies into WWs in order to…bolster their baby army?! Not much to say here for now, except the visuals were mediocre, with the borrowing of some lo-fi Walking Dead extra.
Boobs of thrones: Unpleasant scenes in Craster's Keep with non-consensual nudity.
Violence of thrones: 8/10. No-one dies in Westeros but plenty of torture and crucifixion across the Narrow Sea.
SEASON 4, EPISODE 8
Victory has to be earned
EPISODE RATING: 8/10 | IMPORTANCE IN SERIES ARC: 8/10
"SAY HER NAME!...YOU RAPED MY SISTER. YOU MURDERED HER. YOU KILLED HER CHILDREN!"
Valar morghulis. Oberyn and the Mountain sort out their differences, while Jorah and Daenerys don’t. Roose Bolton dismisses Bran as “unimportant…a cripple, a young boy”, while Lord Baelish later says “sickly little boys sometimes become powerful men”...hmm! Sansa plays the Game and bails out Baelish, while Grey Worm gets some boob and says "I love you, sorry about not having a ding dong" in the longest way possible. Game of Thrones is back and it's taking no prisoners. Oh, and yet another wild prediction from me. Dive in for the most intelligent and detailed Game of Thrones analysis you'll see on the interweb. (Read the first page for key points and the rest for more detailed stuff).
So George R R Martin again illustrates his utter contempt for the twee morality shows that permeate TV today – this is no NCIS, no 24 or even the venerable Walking Dead. There are no heroes and the “good guys” don’t win…not easily, anyway – the good guys have to really, really earn it. Nobody is safe - and you know what, you can’t blame them. The tagline for this season is “valar morghulis”.
Game of Thrones is entirely a different beast from those shows - it’s about narrative over individuals and circumstance over heroism. This is no Walking Dead, where a campaign to keep Daryl alive probably keeps the showrunners awake at night. A Song of Ice & Fire is basically sado-masochism in poetry. The only way Oberyn’s death could’ve been worse was if the Mountain had sexually assaulted him afterwards and this being GoT, that’s a real relief. Now we'll see if really nobody is safe: next week is the dreaded penultimate episode of the season, with previous ones being Baelor (Ned Stark's death), Blackwater (Battle of Blackwater) and of course, Rains of Castamere (Red Wedding). So this season, will it be the death of Tyrion? His death might be just too much for viewers and so I'd be surprised if he dies. I just hope this doesn’t get dragged into season 5.
Before I go any further, I’d like to point out a cross-parallel: Roose Bolton dismissing Bran as “unimportant…a cripple, a young boy” and Lord Baelish later saying “sickly little boys sometimes become powerful men”…very much a “hmmm!” moment.
We also bade goodbye to another character, although only from a storyline: Ser Jorah and Daenerys. This was somehow even more heartbreaking, since we’ve followed these two for so long. Jorah lost his customary calm and bared everything, only for Daenerys to throw him out. In GoT, secrets don't stay buried forever. Now a wiser ruler might have looked beyond Jorah's indiscretion and accepted that he was crucial to the operation now, but Daenerys is increasingly becoming a short-sighted tyrant. No doubt we’ll see Ser Jorah again, maybe with a rival camp.
[In case anyone is wondering why he needed a pardon, he was convicted of slave-trading, which is forbidden in Westeros. He fled prosecution and so has lived in exile since then. Why did he do this? To pay for an exorbitant lifestyle for his beautiful wife, who left him anyway.]
Amongst other notables, I love how Littlefinger tried to corral the troops at the Vale by referencing Ned Stark’s death (“Do you support the Lannisters, the house that executed your friend, Ned Stark?!”) as if he had nothing to do with it. As we now know, he
Generally, the show has a massive ‘eunuchs’ motif: the opening scene in the tavern (“I thought you were a eunuch!”) and Grey Worm and Theon, both castrated. The former believes castration enhanced his power and dignity, whilst the latter had deposited all his honour into his penis and so was devastated at its loss.
THE REST OF THE EPISODE
MOLESTOWN / CASTLE BLACK
"Too bad you got a hangnail for a cock”Eddison: "Once I’m done with this world, I don’t want to come back"
I did think, in my recap, that this and the Tyrion story were the most urgent storylines, and so the episode show bookended this episode with those two stories. The plot wasn’t moved along in a meaningful way, so I won’t spend too much time on this. In short, Ygritte can’t be all bad, because she refuses to kill babies (never mind the hundreds of dead adults in her wake). Did she recognise Gilly as a wildling as well? Wildling solidarity, y’all! I presume we’ll now spend a whole season watching Gilly and Sam slowly inch towards eachother.
Castle Black is really desperate, with 100ish against 100,000, although we haven’t seen anywhere near the numbers they keep talking about. Jon Snow and co. will have to come up with something truly extraordinary to get out of this.
Or maybe, just maybe, and I’m giving you fair warning of a Fourth Wall prediction, just as the wildlings are about to get stuck in at Castle Black (in a very literal sense), maybe the White Walkers will attack! Suddenly the Wildlings and Night’s Watch will find themselves fighting together! Now wouldn’t that be interesting…
“If the masters never cut me, I never am Unsullied, I never stand in the Plaza of Pride when Daenerys Stormborn orders us to kill the masters. I never am chosen to lead the unsullied, I never meet Missandei from the island of Naath”.
Greatest line in Game of Thrones. Ever. Grey Worm, you silver-tongued devil, you.
Ironically, the GoT character who speaks the least "common tongue" is also the most poetic. This could very easily have been a cornball speech in any other show, but here it comes off quite sincerely and well earnt. Here is a man (well…) who has known only military service, suddenly beginning to understand humanity, affection and boobies. Dammit, I’m almost afraid to like him lest he gets his face crushed in by [random bad guy], but right now, he and Missandei are easily more interesting than Daenerys.
One more note: yet again, in Westeros, profanity is used quite prodigiously (a mere 15mins ago, in fact), but in Essos we continue to get polite euphemisms such as “pillar and stones”…
Roose: “Unimportant…a cripple, a young boy”
Ramsay: “What are we without our history?”
Kenning: “The Ironborn will not surrender”
Oh, Theon. Oh, Ramsay. Both of these guys are products of a system that desensitises men and allows them to do shocking things, but with a key difference. Theon was brought up by Starks, so he feels remorse and certainly started to feel a tinge of disgust as he saw the burnt corpses of the two children (season 2), while Ramsay
It’s hard to identify Theon's character arc now, except perhaps in the context of penance. Unfortunately, Theon is doing penance for far fewer crimes than those committed by Tywin, the Mountain or any of the long list of villains in GoT. Also, he’s become so infantilised and traumatised, it’s actually more disgusting than the brutish violence.
Anyway, this was a vindication of sorts for Ramsay
The scene of Kenning receiving an axe in his head shortly after a bombastic display of manhood was a bit like Theon’s triumphalist war cry at Winterfell, halfway through which he was smacked in the back of his head by one of his own men. The flaying was yet another example of why nobody in Westeros is worth their word. Finally - why do I get the feeling that Roose Bolton’s dismissal of Bran as a ‘cripple’ will come back to haunt him?
Lord Yohn Royce: “And when Jon Arryn named you Master of Coin, no-one cared. It’s always been a grubby job, why not let a grubby man do it?”
Sansa Stark: “I have been hostage in Kings Landing…a plaything for King Joffrey to torture or Queen Cersei to torment”
Petyr Baelish: “Sickly little boys sometimes become powerful men”
Lots of great lines here, including a very pointed Westerosian putdown by Royce. The way Royce was cross-examining Baelish came off like a House of Commons session or a telling off at an English Public School! (FYI, in England a “public school” is actually private and often upper-class). The Fourth Wall has often found itself being told off by public school Headmasters.
So in a way, the most quietly interesting storyline is the one where we follow Sansa finally coming of age in a brutal, uncaring world. She finally has some power and the will to use it, even making Baelish out to be a hero. We have yet another dysfunctional GoT relationship in the making: Littlefinger loved Catelyn Stark but now she's dead, he's transferring this 'affection' to her daughter (yeah, that’s not weird at all) and she’s decided ‘better the devil you know’. Hell, it’s Cersei all over again.
About being a grubby man: Littlefinger is FORCED to be grubby…in a nepotistic world where bloodlines determine who will be King, backstabbing, betrayal and whispers are the only way a commoner can grab power for himself.
We also get a short edition of the Hound and Arya show – Arya seems to be going insane. Why do I get the feeling Arya and Sansa won’t meet?!
"Deciding a man’s guilt or innocence in the eyes of the gods by having two men hack eachother into pieces…tells you something about the gods”
Tyrion has long been the ‘viewer’ in Game of Thrones, making the same remarks as us, pointing out Westeros’s fallacies, inconsistencies and just plain weirdness. That he is just tickled by trial by combat (which he survived previously thanks to Bronn) just masks his nervousness. He’s lost the fatalism and bravado he displayed in the previous episode and is again worried about saving his own bacon.
Tyrion then starts bumbling about nepoticide and how there’s no family-killing that doesn’t have its own word. The story about the cousin who kept killing beetles was interesting in that it got Tyrion focused on something from his childhood, which he was holding onto as comfort. It’s interesting to note that the Orson story almost resembles a vengeful god who just “crushes the beetles” without having some sort of grand plan or great redemption. In retrospect, it seems like Tyrion’s voice was the Song of Ice and Fire warning us of what was to come.
So, onto the showpiece of the episode: Oberyn to beat Mountain, avenge Elia Martell and save Tyrion’s dwarf ass. Oh wait, this is Game of Thrones, and so naturally Oberyn dies in the worst way possible – just after appearing to win, the Mountain crushes Oberyn’s head and eyes (the internet is a bit cross because this wasn’t realistic, but atleast dragons are ok).
There's a parallel here: Arya’s lessons with the Hound. 'Water dancing' is out, brute force is in. Oberyn’s prancing with the lance was ultimately pointless against the Mountain’s sheer size. Ultimately Oberyn wasn't that interested in winning, but in forcing out the truth.
Emotions ran high: Ellaria was completely horrified by the end, but when Oberyn was winning, the look of excitement and utter joy on Jaime’s face was absolutely priceless. On the other hand, while Cersei continues to cement her reputation as Queen Bitch of Westeros, her own look of smug joy when the Mountain finally does win was quite repugnant. Tywin genuinely looked uncomfortable. But then as with so much in life, victory for the heroes was too good to be true. However, the crowd got to hear of what the Mountain did.
Boobs of thrones: Missandei. That is all.
Violence of thrones: A particularly violent episode, mass murder in Molestown, flayings and axe-head in Cailin's Moat, crushed skull in Kings Landing and crucifixion in Meereen.
#GameOfThrones fans, fancy a funny and intelligent review of the latest episode? #OberynVSTheMountain. Try http://t.co/Mx1w6U0zkA. C u soon!
SEASON 4, EPISODE 9
...and now his watch is ended.
EPISODE RATING: 9/10 | IMPORTANCE IN SERIES ARC: 6/10
“Love is the death of duty”
Or is duty the death of love? Jon and Ygritte test the old saying. In this episode, an irresistible force meets an immovable object, Game of Thrones style. We get a non-stop thrill-ride directed by horror film star Neil Marshal, who returns after directing the Battle of Blackwater Bay in season 2. And guess what – this is faster, mightier, bolder and way longer. The entire episode focuses on the men of the Night’s Watch, and deservedly so. Faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, the Night’s Watch fought back, as did the imperious Castle Black. Dive in for the usual dissection and analysis.
“Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands and father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honour to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.” PLEDGE OF THE NIGHT'S WATCH
Valar morghulis. Boy, the North just can’t catch a break. I was beginning to feel like George RR Martin was about to sucker-punch us AGAIN, pitting 100,000 wildlings, wargs, mammoths, giants and anything else he could get his meaty hands on, against a puny 100 or so Night’s Watch (plus a boy of 10, a Targaryen and a dog). The Night’s Watch was hopelessly outnumbered and seemed to be staffed by scared little boys. But these scared little boys stepped up, as power passed from the older Ser Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt (more on him later) to the younger Jon Snow, Eddison Tollett and Sam Tarly.
But the real star here was in front of us the whole time: Castle Black. The effects are brilliantly executed and there is a real heft when the Gates or the Mammoth shake. In Westeros, Bran the Builder (not Bob the builder…) built this imperious watchtower using good old hard work and allegedly some magic too, to a length of 300 miles and height of 700 feet. Castle Black fought back along with the brothers of the Night’s Watch, throwing scythes, cold-rolled steel and barrels of fire at the wildling invaders. Consequently, Castle Black is safe…for another 12 hours or so.
This is why TV is so entertaining and epic these days: the battle scenes in this episode would hold their own in any fantasy film. Except unlike in a fantasy film, we’ve spent a good portion of the last 40 hours watching these characters and so every movement and every death is meaningful. When Ygritte or Grenn die, we really feel it.
These episodes often provide the ‘payoff’ lacking in the rest of Game of Thrones (like if Oberyn Martell had defeated the Mountain). Here is when the hours of patient character-building pays off. Having said that, very few characters in Castle Black are as fleshed out as the ones in Kings Landing and actually, we’re only properly invested in Jon Snow, Samwell/Gilly and Ygritte. Nonetheless, the Night’s Watch is the most sympathetic part of Westeros (even if allegedly some of them are rapers and serious criminals) and even Ser Thorne departed having warmed our hearts a bit.
In terms of the action, we’ve got several different set pieces: the giants at The Gate, wildlings at the South gate and arrows being exchanged all over (those pesky medieval ground-to-air missiles). The Battle of Blackwater Bay was more impressive in some ways because of the wildfire, but the ground mano-a-mano action was way more impressive here. This feels the more expensive of the two episodes and the graphics are much better too. Overall, this episode felt a bit more ‘Hollywood’ than the rest of the season: all this talk of love (“You love her…I heard it in your voice”) and the usual Hollywood clichés about war ("Castle Black will stand!" and "you must hold the Gate!").
Although it didn't mesh with the rest of the season, it still felt earned and helped give the Brothers a sense of vulnerability. They were all obviously thinking about death. In amongst all this action, it’d be a mistake to think there were no themes, because there were: love, duty and who we are when we kill. This is inferred by Tarly’s monologue about forgetting who he was when faced with a White Walker (“I wasn’t Samwell Tarly anymore…when you’re nothing at all, there’s no reason to be afraid”). This is how these neglected, persecuted men become the rocks that Castle Black needs them to be.
At this point, many people would point to the difficult lives of people in the North in contrast to the rosy urban lives of Kings Landing and Highgarden: this is the point. The Night’s Watch does it for the whole continent but rarely gets the reward or resources (we’ve seen Cersei, Joffrey and others reject their request for reinforcements before). This is clearly a military allegory: a dangerous and thankless task done for very little money or recognition, but for a sense of duty.
Ygritte: “We’ll be up and over before they know what’s happened!” NO YOU WON’T!
A nice moment occurs when Sam asks about being in love (or having sex?) and Jon Snow pontificates about...something.
Jon Snow: “There’s this person, this whole other person, you’re wrapped up in them…for a little…for a little while you’re more than just you…oh, I’m not a bleeding poet.” Tarly: “No, you’re really not.”
Anyway, several strands were picked up here:
Jon Snow and Ygritte: ah yes, the ultimate star-crossed lovers, literally from different sides of the wall. Although there’s a lot going on, the key thing here is that in any other society, these two would be together and regularly go at it like lion seals on meth. Instead, Jon Snow is a “Southerner” and Ygritte is a “wildling” and so they are always diametrically opposed. A man must do his duty - Jon Snow is a Stark, after all, which means it's only a matter of time before his goody-two-shoesiness kills him. As Omar would say: a man's gotta have a code. Like Sam Tarly, Jon Snow became something else in order to be a good Night's Watch Brother.
Ygritte makes the point earlier that these lands were theirs, until they were pushed out and separated by a wall. One could make a comparison to real life, like in China, Palestine, England/Scotland being the obvious one, but GoT hasn’t spent a lot of time on it and neither will we.
“All I want to think about is how each one of these arrows will find its way into a crow’s heart”
Ygritte had a good long look at Jon Snow before she was shot, meaning that she just couldn’t bring herself to do it. What she had shared with Snow in the cave and elsewhere was just too strong – remember “I'm your woman now, Jon Snow. You're going to be loyal to your woman”?
Game of Thrones has a real problem with happy couples, in that it has none. Apart from the now deceased Starks + Khal Drogo & Daenerys (although their relationship seemed to have started with rape), these two were the only functioning couple in GoT, and now GRRM has extinguished that hope as well. Well, atleast we have Littlefinger and Sansa to look forward to! Hey, don’t run away, come back…
The moment when Jon Snow holds her in death was a true Hollywood moment, but it’s been earned; there was real pathos here.
Janos Slynt: Here's a list of things Slynt has done: (1) turned the City's Watch against Ned Stark (at Littlefinger's behest) (2) massacred Robert Baratheon's bastard children. (3) personally murdered a baby and (4) called Jon Snow a "bastard son of traitors". I hope he dies soon.
“I made a promise to defend the wall and I have to keep it…because that’s what men do!”
Samwell Tarly & Gilly – Samwell finally confronts his feelings for Gilly and they kiss, in no small part due to Aemon Targaryen. Don’t forget that Gilly is only alive because Ygritte saved her…
By the way, is Olenna Tyrell the lady Targaryen was talking about? He’s about 20 years older than her so it’s unlikely, but she did say a while ago that Targaryen boys were all the rage back then…
Pypar, Grenn and many others: we didn’t get to know them too well, but their non-witty banter with Jon and Samwell will be missed. They were true brothers and the only friendships in Game of Thrones that you knew were unbreakable. And now their watch is ended.
Aemon Targaryen: Haters gon’ hate, but playas gon’ play.
So what next? We’ll get to see some sort of “Heart of Darkness” parallel with Lord Snow going deep inside Mance Rayder’s territory to coax or kill. This is what Game of Thrones likes best, stripping narrative down to the bare bones. But if this takes him longer than a few hours, will there be anything left to defend? Where are the Greyjoys, Boltons etc. to defend the North?! It wouldn't have happened in Ned Stark's day, I tell thee! Also, hopefully we’ll get resolution on Tyrion’s storyline next week. Oh, and we haven’t seen Stannis and Bran for a while, have we?
Game of Thrones just gets more and more eloquent: “a nice juicy slice of ginger minge” was a particularly poetic turn of phrase. They simply don’t give a damn.
Also poetic was the justice served cold by the child Olly on Ygritte with an unusually well-aimed arrow. Who knew Olly was so good?
Apparently, the wildling version of a weird drunk sexy story involves copulating with a bear…“She was nice and soft down below”.
The Yorkshire accent seems to be the go-to Northern accent: both Jon Snow and Ygritte are Southern actors putting on ‘Northern’ accents.
“And she never offered”. Poor old virginal Sam…well, atleast you kissed her now! On a related note, he seems to have read the pledge a little too closely…
Aemon: “Old age is a wonderful age of ironies”. He must regret not taking the throne – look where it’s gotten Westeros.
Boobs of thrones: Nope.
Violence of thrones: A LOT. That is all.
SEASON 4, EPISODE 10
EPISODE RATING: 9/10 | IMPORTANCE IN SERIES ARC: 10/10
“Your legacy is a lie”
All men must serve - Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow, Stannis Baratheon and Jaime Lannister all served. We got great visuals, shocking twists and a radical change in Westeros’s power balance, in the best episode of the season. In an episode mostly about the men of Game of Thrones, we saw Stannis taking Westeros from the North downwards, Tywin shot on the shitter, Tyrion conducting an act of brazen vengeance, Jon Snow stalling long enough to save the Night’s Watch, and Jaime, the incestuous raper, salvaging some decency in freeing the only nobleman in Kings Landing. Elsewhere, we caught up with Bran’s fantastical adventures, Cersei’s refusal to marry, Daenerys struggling to rule, a nasty end for the Hound and Arya finally on her way to the late Syrio Forel’s homeland. For a story-by-story recap and analysis, dive in.
The invisible hand of destiny was heavy in this episode, with a step-change in many lives. This step-change was defined variously by freedom from Tywin’s tyranny, leaving Westeros, invading Westeros, and of course, death. Arya and Tyrion left Westeros, Stannis, Davos and Melisandre took their place and Jojen, Tywin and Shae left the world entirely. Well, the show must go on.
This episode feels like the best of the season, but I suspect it’s not because of its own inherent quality, but because it was the payoff in a long, unbalanced season. It provided the rebalancing needed after the bad guys won battle after battle. The episode itself had all of GoT’s classic qualities: the brooding calm, the tragic stories, the adrenaline-junkie action and the sudden paroxysms of violence. Some of the individual parts don’t always add up (like Hound v Brienne), but history has shown those insane events coming out of nowhere, so why not on the screen? Sometimes a storyteller’s bravest gambit is to put something inexplicable on the page. Why are Cersei and Jaime attracted to each other? Why did Catelyn release Jaime when she had him? Who knows. Who cares. In this game of Thrones, you win or you die. All else is pantomime. And such glorious pantomime.
What this episode also did was show small, personal stories like Arya’s and big stories like the Night’s Watch, and how the two can intermingle, vis-à-vis Tyrion. His personal tragedy resulted in the transformation of Westeros’s power balance and unlike other shows with a final reckoning, this really feels earned. We've seen Tyrion humiliated by his own family, Ned Stark’s beheading, the Red Wedding and Oberyn’s death, but then in balance, Joffrey & Tywin are dead, Daenerys is alive and Stannis is about to sort everyone out. Anyway, let’s look at the individual storylines!
Castle Black/The North/Stannis Baratheon
Jon Snow: “I know he’s the King…my father died for him.”
Well, well…George RR Martin, you old dog, you. And here with all my ideas about Oberyn and Daenerys teaming up, with white walkers forcing wildlings and Night’s Watch to work together, etc etc, I thought if I threw enough crazy ideas around, one of them would hit. Suddenly STANNIS BARATHEON SHOWS UP BEYOND THE WALL! Bravo. Now I think about it, it makes perfect sense: it’s the least guarded part of Westeros and if you can’t win starting with Kings Landing, take over everything else. The North would fight for a Stark or a Baratheon, and we’ll see if Littlefinger was serious about the Arryns, Baratheons and Starks riding together, since we could have a union of Jon
Does this see Jon Snow become Stannis’s Lieutenant (after the Onion Knight, of course)? I suspect not – although the temptation to rebuild Winterfell must be strong, he needs to rebuild the Night’s Watch. Also, I dread to think what passed between him and Melisandre, staring through the fire…that lady is just trouble. Anyway, Ser Davos is the damn best Knight around! If it hadn’t been for his moxy / chutzpah, Stannis would be eating grass in Dragonstone. So what next? Stannis lends a few soldiers to the Night’s Watch and moves onto the Boltons? Capturing the North proper would be a massive coup for Stannis, particularly given the events in Kings Landing.
Mance Rayder: “…all the same, we don’t kneel”
On Mance Rayder: it’s hard to imagine, but he almost looks statesmanlike (maybe because it’s Ciarán Hinds). There seems to be a certain old world charm to Rayder, rather than the vulgar comportment of a wildling King. He almost seemed disappointed in Jon Snow. Too bad. Loyalty is a double-edged sword.
“You’ll never be a kneeler”
Duty is indeed the death of love. You know nothing, Jon Snow.
TYWIN & TYRION
"...you refused to die. I respect that. Even admire it. You fight for what’s yours!"
One of my favourite scenes of Games of Thrones since the beginning has been Tywin’s scenes with Arya in S2. It was here that I realised that GoT/A Song of Ice & Fire had ‘gears’: it could do 5th gear stuff like warfare, but it could also do 1st gear stuff like Tywin just generally talking about himself to Arya. One particular exchange has always stuck in my head and it’s worth repeating (from www.imdb.com/character/ch0242185/quotes)
Tywin Lannister: This'll be my last war...win or lose.
Arya Stark: Have you ever lost before?
Tywin Lannister: “You think I'd be in my position if I'd lost a war? And this is the one I'll be remembered for. "The War of Five Kings," they're calling it. My legacy will be determined in the coming months. You know what "legacy" means? It's what you pass down to your children, and your children's children. It's what remains of you when you're gone. Harren the Black thought this castle would be his legacy. Greatest fortress ever built. Tallest towers, the strongest walls. The Great Hall had thirty-five hearths. Thirty-five, can you imagine? Look at it now. A blasted ruin.”
That one exchange said more about Tywin than the subsequent 1.5 seasons did (not coherently, anyway). It said that he was not Master and Commander of his destiny, he was fighting somebody else’s war, again. It also said that, despite being the man who helped bring down the Mad King, his entire life’s work would rest on this new war. Consequently, he became obsessed with his family: regardless of what happens in the war, he wanted to leave behind a secure and powerful family. In these moments, I saw him not as evil (say, like Walder Frey, Ramsay Bolton or the Mountain) but simply pragmatic. He did what was required.
Remember the Red Wedding? Upon questioning by Tyrion, he replied: would you rather I warred with the Starks, leading to 50,000+ deaths, or 5 deaths that killed the rebellion dead cold? [I believe the Stark army was destroyed anyway so not quite]. His logic was unassailable. I would’ve preferred the characterisation to stay like this, portraying him almost as a tragic anti-hero, but alas, his actions across the last 2 seasons have been thoroughly detestable and he officially crossed into the evil camp by trying to kill Tyrion (you don’t think we believed you, did you, Tywin?!). So when Tywin met his end whilst defaecating, it was a complex character being unceremoniously dumped (thank you, thank you) out of the show.
CERSEI & TYWIN
Cersei: “I’m not interested in hearing any more of your smug stories about the time you won. This isn’t going to be one of those times!”
Oh, Cersei…you are at once a loathsome, loving, complex creature. As usual, Cersei was at the centre of Kings Landing, partaking in conversations with Jaime, Tywin and Pycelle. Game of Thrones, like many medieval stories, has a particular obsession with what goes in or comes out of a woman’s vagina. Yes, I’m being a bit sensationalist, but let’s see: the bombshell to bring down House Lannister is apparently not the ultimately senseless murders of half the Stark family, the killing of babies or people starving in Kings Landing, but the fact that the Queen Regent is having sex with her brother.
Men have always coveted women’s bodies (in Lord Varys’s words, “a collection of profitable holes”) because, tragically, women’s bodies are “of great consequence”. The ability to create life is an unrivalled power, particularly in a world where bloodlines determine everything. So Cersei finally standing up to Tywin and essentially making him go “ew” was a landmark moment for her, even if ultimately moot.
CERSEI & PYCELLE
Grand Maester Pycelle: “his curiosity was deemed dangerous and unnatural”
The first image was a brilliantly disgusting visual. So Cersei’s finally had it with Pycelle – I still think he must’ve touched her when she was a child, which is why she snapped so vigorously at him when he was hitting on a girl, in the episode where Joffrey dies. I can’t imagine him staying intact very long if this had come out, so it seems unlikely. I hope Tywin doesn’t find out that Cersei sacked him…oh wait. Never mind! Anyway, as I hoped, (episode 7 review) Oberyn tried to poison the Mountain to ensure his death whether Oberyn lived or not. However, this Dr. Mengele of Westeros seems intent on bringing him back stronger than ever…
CERSEI & JAIME
Cersei: “I love my brother…I love my lover…people will whisper and tell jokes, let them, they’re so small I don’t even see them. I only see what matters.”
Let’s talk about Jaime for a minute – having spent so long being sandwiched between Tywin, Cersei abnd Tyrion, he finally took care of two of those problems in one go. You know the Lannisters are a broken family when Jaime Lannister is the one you feel sorry for. Gazing through his entry in Westeros’s Wiki, he must’ve thought “well, I’m already the Kingslayer, how could things possibly get worse?” In the meantime, Jaime and Cersei are free to continue their incest, while they still have Kings Landing, which can’t be long, surely. There is a small part of my brain that thinks that Jaime planned for Tyrion to happen upon Tywin’s room and maybe even placed a crossbow there…we may never know.
Oh, and Varys? Is he on the boat to the Free Cities as well? Poor guy. Oh well, back home it is!
Cersei’s insistence that Tyrion “killed” their mother would be very childish, if it wasn’t quite so malevolent. But atleast this time, there can be no doubt: he definitely killed their father. Although this time Cersei might be happier.
Tyrion’s story is instructive of what happens when you take a good man and strip him of his position, love and dignity. In the end I’m not surprised at what he did, although I’m surprised that a Kingslayer is housed so close to royal quarters. In reality it would be outsourced to a company working 100 miles away, right? But anyway, Tyrion got his chance and he took it. However, the appearance of Shae was a trademark George RR Martin gutpunch – I had NOT seen that coming (well, it didn’t seem significant). Until he saw Sahe, I'm not sure Tyrion intended to kill Tywin (handy having a crossbow lying around), but the sight of Shae really pushed him overboard. This is again Game of Thrones at its finest: taking a small-scale story and giving it repercussions on the national stage. Watch Peter Dinklage's face in the 'toilet' scene: there is literally nothing left in Tyrion's life. Nothing.
Also, I look forward to hearing songs about Tywin on the toilet next season (GoT doesn’t play gently with deceased people, like the incident with Robb Stark’s head).
Speaking of repercussions, let’s chart the chain of events that precipitated in Tywin’s death: Littlefinger kills Jon Arryn, Ned Stark comes to Winterfell, Robert Baratheon dies, Ned Stark tells Stannis that Joffrey is illegitimate, Joffrey becomes King anyway with Tyrion as Hand of the King, someone tries to kill Tyrion at Battle Blackwater Bay but he’s saved by Podrick, Tyrion is implicated in Joffrey’s murder, trialled, Oberyn fails to win the duel and the night before his execution, is released by Jaime, to kill Tywin. Phew.
Essos / the Targaryen girl
"The young may rejoice in the new world you have built for them, but for those of us too old to change, there is only fear and squalor"
Poor old Daenerys is still having to deal with ordinary peoples’ troubles, learning that freedom is sometimes a curse. Oh well, you can't please everyone all the time. Her solution to slavery is short term contracts, although Selmy thinks it’ll be like slavery. She’s really been bogged down, but surely with the fall of Tywin, this is her best chance to bear down on Kings Landing? I’m aware that the timelines are out of sync with the book, but what the hell!
Unfortunately, her main weapons are decommissioned for now, following a horrific burning of a child. Daenerys is paying for not cracking down hard on them after the livestock issue a few episodes ago. The scene with the burnt child was genuinely horrific and affecting and the actor was horrendously effective. I think this was easily the most powerful scene in the whole episode, acting as a shadowing of the kind of brutality towards children that is happening in conflicts like Syria and elsewhere in real life. In real life, it's not the teenage dragons who do the killing.
Anyway, back to the show: the image of her having to lock up the dragons (her children) was also heartbreaking – ironically, she is the breaker of chains. Compare and contrast with Tywin’s children: atleast the dragons aren’t screwing each other. I hope.
On another note, Tyrion, Arya and Daenerys will be in Essos in season 5. By my reckoning, Braavos is barely 1,000 miles from Meereen. This could be EPIC.
Way up North
“He died so you can find what you have lost…you’ll never walk again, but you will fly”
We now come to the Lord of the Rings section of Game of Thrones, replete with zombie Knights, fireball-throwing ‘Children’, warging and prophesying. At first, I was dismayed at this sequence, but on second viewing I understand: this is GoT’s sop to the fans angered by the Red Wedding and Oberyn’s death. It’s fast, kinetic, pure fantasy and for my money, superbly executed. Game of Thrones can shift pretty quickly from 1st gear to 5th gear and this episode again shows how: we saw lots of talky bits in Kings Landing and the North, and suddenly we’re in the middle of a massive fight scene with zombies and fireballs. It’s a bit ‘by-the-numbers’ but atleast Benioff & Weiss are aware that they owe the fans unadulterated fun.
But then this was also about plot. We got to see a “Child of the Forest” for the first time, but even more so that Mr. More-Tree-Than-Man had been watching Bran, Hodor et al since the “beginning” and that Jojen had known he would die all along. Although none of this is fresh in the fantasy canon, it adds more value in Game of Thrones than in most films or TV shows. So is the whole of Westeros subject to people like him? Is he basically ‘God’? Will this relate to Melisandre somehow? Did he see things like the Red Wedding? Or is all this just a hallucination caused by some mushrooms we haven't seen? It’s all just so barmy…here’s my face when I saw this originally:
Arya Stark, the Hound, Brienne of Tarth & Podrick Payne
“Her aunt in the Eyrie’s dead. Her mother’s dead. Her father’s dead. Her brother’s dead. Winterfell is a pile of rubble. There’s no safety, you dumb bitch. If you don’t know that by now, you’re the wrong one to watch over her.”
Brienne wasn’t kidding when she said she’s not a lady. But then neither is the Hound. What I did find a bit odd is that he almost WANTED to die, unless that’s just his fatalism shining through. For now, I’m going to assume the Hound is dead, although we don’t actually see him die. Nonetheless, he went out with some dignity, a very particular GoT type of dignity: as far as I can tell, he had nobody to ‘sell’ Arya to, but he protected her from the (perceived) Lannister threat anyway.
I wondered initially why the Hound didn’t ask himself why the Lannisters would send some a squire and a WOMAN to go get Arya [of course, Brienne subsequently clarified this matter for the Hound]. But again, the invisible hand of fate was present – we somehow knew there was nowhere for this storyline to go, but more importantly nowhere more for the Hound to go. Westeros had become pointlessly ruthless and barbaric, and instead of revelling in it, he became tired of it. As the final shot of this sequence shows, the last year or so had softened him up, but hardened Arya.
Speaking of whom, despite having two strong characters trying to protect her, Arya's more adrift than ever. So does she become a real assassin in Braavos, come back to Westeros and tick off her kill list? People on her list seem to die without her help, so a few years away might make the list redundant.
Oh, also, Podrick lost some horses.
Boobs of thrones: Nope.
Violence of thrones: Lots of indiscriminate killing North of the Wall, two arrows in the chest in the “privy”, a whore’s garrotting, lots of dead zombies, a multiply-stabbed Jojen, a probably dead beaten, stabbed and fallen Hound and worst of all, a burnt child.
P.S. I'll put up the usual irreverent review of all Game of Thrones seasons so far a bit closer to season 5!