Game of Thrones – 30

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Game of Thrones is a great series, but there’s one awful thing about it – waiting almost ten months between seasons.  Of course, that beats waiting seven years between books…

It’s been a sort of tradition for GoT to go big in the 9th episode, then make the season finale a quiet and reflective one – but I’d adjudge that to be only partly true here.  No doubt there was some serious reflection on the awful events of the Red Wedding – from the gloating to the grieving – but there was an awful lot of important stuff happening, too.  Although one really big thing a lot of us were expecting to happen didn’t, but that’s a subject for next March (and not the comments section to this post).

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“Mhysa” took the opposite tack to the one we’ve seen the last few weeks with their relatively narrow focus.  Instead we had a broad and far-reaching episode, touching base briefly with almost every major character in the story (indeed, I think Littlefinger was the biggest name who didn’t get a glimpse).  I think that’s a wise move for a season finale, and due to David Nutter’s brilliant direction the ep didn’t feel disjointed or rushed in the slightest.  There’s no way I can do my usual recap on all the major threads, so I’m just going to hit the major high points (and a few low).

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Themes: For starters, family is everywhere, and so are bad fathers.  From Roose Bolton to Walder Frey to Balon Greyjoy to the magnificent bastard Tywin Lannister, bad Dads are omnipresent.  So is their influence – in Samwell Tarly, Brienne of Tarth, Gendry and Ramsey Snow.  There are good Dads here too, like dear old Davos Seaforth – a humble man from Flea Bottom who took a Lordship he didn’t want to try and help his son, who died following him into battle.  And memories of good Dads passed on, from Arya.

The family theme runs deeper, to the subject of the family name – something that means everything in a feudal society like Westeros.  Tywin uses it to justify every atrocity he commits, Balon uses it to justify abandoning his son to torture and death.  Every scene Varys appears in is seemingly great – seriously Conleith Hill is a clear standout even among this cast – and his moments with Shae speak to this theme of “what’s in a name?”  Varys always manages to couch his actions in context of what’s good for the Kingdom, and he’s consistently said what he told Shae – that Tyrion is one of the few men with both the character and position to influence it for the better.  It’s true, but a sad comment on the state of affairs in King’s Landing and elsewhere.

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New (old) faces: It was great to re-acquaint with some characters we haven’t seen in an age, like sweet old Maester Aemon and Pyp of Castle Black, Balon Greyjoy (anything but sweet, but Patrick Malahide is never less than spectacular in any role) and Yara.  This storyline continues to look quite different than the books, and Yara’s rescue mission is uncharted waters for book readers.  Also, the torture scenes with Ramsey and Theon Reek continue to be one of the rare misfires of the adaptation, far worse than they were in the books (and they weren’t one of the better parts of the books).

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Goodness still lives: In its way, I found this episode truly heartwarming because it took great pains to show us that genuinely good, kind people still exist in the brutal terror of a world. GoT has more right bastards in starring roles than almost any series, but it also has achingly good characters.  Davos is a remarkably noble man, by birth or no – he shows it over and over again.  “What does the life of one boy mean against an entire kingdom?” a furious Stannis asks after Davos covertly frees Gendry before Melissandre can burn him. “It means everything.” Davos replies.  It’s everything you need to know about the man, right there.

Again – and at long last – Bran’s arc truly shines.  This arc is full of good and noble souls, from Bran himself through to the Reeds, and Osha, and even Hodor.  And this week it ran up against another of those good souls – two, actually – in Sam (I guess now his leaving the dagger behind isn’t so great a sin) and Gilly.   I was thrilled the “Rat Cook” story made its way into the narrative, and Isaac Hempstead-Wright nailed the telling.  It sheds a good deal of light on the Red Wedding and just how grievous a sin against all Westeros holds dear it was.  Sam calling Bran “Brother” was a great moment – but somehow, what really got to me was when Bran was sadly telling Sam how he couldn’t go to Castle Black to be with Jon.  When Hodor put his arm around Bran’s shoulder, I don’t know why but I lost it a little bit.  That small gesture coming from that character was the epitome of the old parable of one candle, lit against the darkness.

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There are several other fine moments in the episode, starting with Ygritte showing her love for Jon by pumping three arrows into him.  I also loved Sam’s speech to Aemon, reciting his oath and reminding the old man that The Wall wasn’t built to keep out men (something most in Westeros seem to have forgotten, including those who need to know better).  Seeing Sam with a subtle confidence upon his return to Castle Black was really gratifying.  Tywin giving Joffrey smackdowns is something that never gets old, and it’s always interesting to see Cersei and Tyrion realize they have more in common than either would care to admit.  And of course, we see Arya take a very important step – a first step on a long, dark journey – though at a different time and in a different place than she did in the books.

As we head into Season Four, it’s fairly easy to see from this episode where the main building blocks of the story are.  Danerys’ thread continues to leave me pretty consistently unmoved and this episode’s scenes were no different, but there’s no denying she made big strides this season both personally and strategically.  Aemon’s 44 ravens were a crucial moment, most obviously the one that found its way to Stannis via Davos.   Jaimie has returned home a very different man than he was, Tyrion and Sansa have been sundered anew by the Red Wedding just as they were beginning to connect, and the other surviving Stark children are scattered to the four winds – each following a very different path, but alive, and with them the family name.  The Starks are in retreat, Winterfell is in ruins, and much has been lost that can never be regained.  But the Starks are Lords of the North, the night is cold and holds many terrors, and winter is coming.

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  1. e

    I concur the episode really went smoothly and didn't feel rushed. There was a point just before Ygritte let her arrows ( I admit my memory here presented me with a certain Kikyo moment ) where I paused and checked the running time fearing we would be much closer to the end and marvelling – with relief – at how we had already comfortably covered a lot of ground in such a relatively little time. The only moment where I rolled my eyes and hoped the sequenc wpuld be over soon was – oh surprise surprise – Theon's torture du jour. But even then you won't succed in ruining my relationship with good sausage oh you GoT script you. And that mustard coating seemed like some good stuff :Q___.
    On the other hand the delivering of hostages bits by bits is so very Italian… not that there's much to be proud of a few criminal fellows in my country.

    Back on Ygritte, I fund her (re)actions interesting. Those arrows make for a nice treason cover for Jon now that he's back home…

    I must say I cheered at Tyrion, Davos, Hodor (the latter looked so genuinely delighted when Sam called his name :,) ) while I both cheered and felt a pang of anguish for Bran. Even with the extra dragonglass ammo. Mah Bran please be well D,:. Ok, rationally if Martin he's sendind him North and with the kind and degree of mind power he's developing I suspect he's one likely candidate to make it in the end or to at least survive for a long time. Then again this is Martin. And being a Stark is suffering.
    And in a darker way I was totally rooting for Arya doing what she did given the circumstances this time around. Once she turns her Zoldyck switch on there'll be no way out for the recipients…
    On the side of good, Davos yay. Have I already mentioned Davos?
    Also, nice speech Sam. Sooo proud of you. And how much dragonglass are you hiding on yourself exactly?
    Jamie's return was suitably very subdued and low-key. I'm a tad worried for Brienne now. Which kind of reward will be bestowed on her by Tywin I wonder.
    Sansa… baby :,). You couldn't even savour some bonding and naughtiness with your hubby properly.

    On Dany's scene… well, it looked pretty. Faaabio – I mean, Daario – was just a background detail and the overhead shot of her among the crowd made for some sort of evocative human mandala.

  2. j

    >the night is cold and holds many terrors,

    I think you could have phrased that better, given what a certain woman has been repeating since her appearance in GoT…

    I loved this episode. Didn't feel rushed and covered a lot of ground. Oh how I *laughed* at the council meeting at the beginning; mocking Joffrey is a good way to cheer us up after last episode.

    Really, really beautiful episode. CG dragons were awesome, but what I loved the most was that shot in which Bran's group marched off in the darkness, with that small opening of light at the end. Badass'n'cool.

    But yeah, now comes the waiting. Here's to hoping the kids don't grow that much more for next season! Stop it hormones, stop it! You're ruining my immersion!

  3. i

    There was a line in Lord of the Rings were Galadriel said: All shall love me and despair.

    I feel that this is somehow similar to how Dany feels, that all shall either love her or despair in her hypocritic cruelty and lust for power. The people of Westeros will not so openly accept her as freed slaves do.

    If last week's episode was one of the greatest despair and cruelty in the Westeros then I think this was the opposite. That the characters that will lead the charge for good have all set off on their quest to protect the realm. This was an episode of hope, the first probably in the series. The battle against the white walkers begins now for me.

    Also for the first time I think I can see more good people than bad. I feel of Tywin's children have either changed for the better or realized their sins, though I expect least action on Cersei's part as long as Joffrey sits on the iron throne. This was also the first episode I really, truly felt that the Hound was a better man than he's given credit. Robb and Cat are dead, their is no money to be had from Arya and yet he protects her and I honestly feel that she is starting to realize that since she didn't stab him with the knife she stole.

    Theon should just die but he probably has some part to play, probably to restore the Starks to Winterfell. Other than that three scenes with Sam was great, good that he had a bunch of those anti-walker weapons. Until S4.

    Also I really now want to read the novels, so GE could you just tell whether I should buy A Storm of Swords or did the season cover all of it and I should move to A Feast for Crows?

  4. A

    Ishruns, here's what I think:

    As a reader, I think there's enough great stuff in book 3 (Storm of Swords) to finish next season, but I also think that the show should just skip the majority of book 4 (A Feast for Crows) and book 5 (A Dance with Dragons), instead help Martin finish his books 6 and 7.

    For the nonce, the story has gone beyond Martin's control.

  5. I think you should read all of it, personally. No, they didn't adapt all of the third book – but they didn't adapt all of the first two either. It's effectively an alternate retelling at this point (which is perfectly fine) so Martin's work should be treated as a separate exercise. But if you just want to more or less pick up the narrative and have an idea what's going on, you could start with A Feast for Crows and you'd be at roughly the same point in the narrative (with at least one major reveal missing).

  6. M

    Ishruns start from the beginning of Storm of Swords if at least to read Martin at his best. Also you will miss a lot of important moments if you skip ahead to AFfC. Frankly, it's bizarre that Enzo would recommend going straight to that.

  7. i

    Everyone thanks for the advice but I've been forced effectively to start from A Feast for Crows. Someone else I turned to advice spoiled the remnants of A Storm of Swords and told me its only enough for 2 episodes next season so to just start with AFfc and save myself $15 for the paperback.

    However I feel I might just buy all the books, for the sake of collection and will read all of them.

  8. M

    I seriously doubt your friend's advice – they could get a good half seasons worth out of it with a bit of addition. The third is his best in the series to date, while AFfC and A Dance With Dragons disappointingly split the character threads geographically which hurts the narrative structure a bit. I'd stick to the TV version if you're just of the mind to skip stuff anyway.

  9. Why not just read the whole series? There's stuff in there you won't have seen in the TV version, in every book. A good deal of it.

    As for what they didn't cover in Storm of Swords apart from simply changes, there are two "major" events they'll need to cover for sure, plus some miscellaneous stuff. Two episodes sounds about right, though I suspect we'll see the banner headlines in the premiere. The thing is, though, that because of the structure of the books (I'd rather not say more) getting somewhat odd at this point, the TV version is going to take a very different approach to the timeline starting next season anyway.

  10. i

    10 months is a long time, I probably won't read A Game of Thrones but the rest I'm really started to get excited to read. I will start with AFfc first though. On the structure of the books as Maxulous described, I'm guessing the story will simply continue without the geographic splitting.

    Also I recently heard that A Wind of Winters will be published before the TV series catches up, so is that in about three years time, you think? Or is it Martin's fabled deadlines?

  11. i

    story = Tv series

  12. Never, ever take GRRM's deadlines seriously. It could come out in 2014, it could be 2016 – who knows. As his wife replied to a question about it from Nathan Fillion, "Every time someone asks George when the next book will be out, he kills a Stark."

  13. T

    And for Enzo and all the others asking I have read that they are adapting the story in a linear timeline and now as it was in the books.

  14. b

    Ishruns,I really wouldnt recommend starting with AFFC , its probably the weakest book of the series, and goes at a low slower pace than the rest of them. You are likely to be disappointed with it and then miss out on the awesomeness of the rest of the books.

    Also, there are quite a few things that still need to happen next season(second part of ASOS) ,muuuuch more than 2 episodes worth for sure. You will just be spoiling it if you skip ahead…

    Just start with AGOT, there is so much that the tv series missed out on, so its not like you will find it boring because you know what happens from the tv series.

  15. M

    Agreed with Brent. You will miss out on a substantial amount of context if you skip to book 4. The end of book three really sets stuff up. The TV version has a ways to get to that point too assuming they don't jumble everything – there's several essential plot points they haven't covered this season.

    Ideally though reading from the very beginning will serve you much better.

  16. G

    Hodor is a rare character on tv these days (playing a mentally challenged person). The guy playing him (Kristian Naim) has had an interesting life. He was partially deaf as a child and became a DJ and a musician in later years. He has a large tattoo on the right side of his head but they cover it in the show with makeup to look like a bad scar. All he says is 1 word but conveys many emotions anyways.

  17. M

    Honestly this episode wasn't worth rushing through the material in the earlier episodes to get to this point. The RW would have been a been better place to end considering they still have a bit of novel to tread.

    Overall the episode did feel clunky and the parts with Stannis were horribly rushed. The return of Jaime was so lackluster they should have left that thread for S4. I did enjoy the meet up with Sam-Bran and was fairly content with how they've "elaborated" on Theon's thread-keenly faithful to the recounts of Reek. I also enjoyed the extra inserts with the aftermath at The Twins (what can I say? I fond of TV Roose).

    A big misfire was where they left the season. It didn't leave me excited for the next like the previous season finales did. A certain reveal was very much missing.

  18. G

    Good point on Jamie. Of course they want to show his thread in the finale but it would have been better to show him and Brianne heading to Kings Landing and leave it at that.

  19. L

    I haven't read up to book 3 yet. Did Ygritte miss her shots on purpose?

  20. Wouldn't answering that question be a book spoiler?

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