Spoilers, spoilers, blah blah blah…
Well, then – another pretty solid episode of Game of Thrones. What I especially liked about it was the fact that it was incredibly dense and eventful without relying on pure action and violence (though there was some – this is Game of Thrones, after all). What I didn’t like was that there’s a sad predictability to certain storylines – and I’m especially thinking of the events towards the end of the episode which just piss me the fuck off.
I know he’s the headliner and he started the episode, but we all know he’s alive now so I think it’s safe to end with Jon Snow (after all, the episode did – Castle Black was the only locale that got two visits) rather than start with him:
I think Bran’s trip to the past wth the Three-Eyed Raven is at least a co-headline this week. This was the goddam Tower of Joy, for crying out loud! Few moments in Westeros history hold as much fascination for hardcore fans as this one. It must be said first that the actor playing young(ish) Ned Stark, Robert Aramayo, looks enough like Sean Bean to comfortably suspend disbelief. This story, of course, depicts the fight between Ned Stark and the man held to be the best swordsman in the realm, Ser Arthur Dayne (Luke Roberts) – an event recounted to young Bran Stark countless times. But you know what they say – the winning side writes history.
There are several fascinating elements to this development, not least of which is that it seems very likely Benioff and Weiss would never have included it if a certain theory about a certain bastard’s lineage weren’t true. But setting that aside, why did the Raven take Bran here? I suspect it was to teach him a lesson about the elasticity of truth – to teach him to always question that which he thinks he knows. The look on Bran’s face when he saw that his father only “won” because Howland Reed (now there’s a loyal bannerman) stabbed Dayne in the back was gutting, but it’s a good lesson – and it’s also the first time we’ve seen that Ned had this sort of deceitful behavior in him. It was also highly relevant that Ned seemed to hear Bran speak to him (implications galore), and that the Raven told Bran he “won’t be here forever”. What does Bran’s fate hold for him?
Varys is always one of the highlights of this series, no small thanks to the genius of Conleth Hill. We finally see who his little birds are – orphans and urchins, the children he trusts far more than adults (and Qyburn is making use of his old flock in King’s Landing). Speaking of K.L., poor decent Kevan Lannister makes a return, along wth Olenna. I can’t imagine Kevan is long for this world, since for him the realm comes before blood.
I quite liked the scene between Tommen and the High Sparrow. Jonathan Pryce is a ridiculously good actor, and this is an appealingly difficult character – he’s no con man, he believes what he preaches. Tommen at heart is a simple, decent (and doomed) kid, and it’ll be interesting to see if he falls under the Sparrow’s sway. I also thought Arya’s arc upticked markedly this week, which is good because it’s been stuck in neutral for way too long. I was most interested here by her admission that she took The Hound off her list – that she was conflicted about him, in the end. Remember – we never saw the body, and haven’t given up hope. As for Danerys, I continue to find her storyline a yawn, and shudder at the thought of her ending up on the throne. I dislike her more and more each season.
Now we come to the third co-headline of the week. Yes, the “gift” Ramsey received was exactly what it seemed likely to be. To be blunt, I’m sick and tired of Ramsey winning all the time. I’m sick of him committing atrocities against children and innocents and never paying a price for it. And I’m sick of northern lords being reprehensible scumbags. What happened to “The North remembers”? Did it forget? I’m just not buying Smalljon Umber’s argument for why he’s screwing the Starks to side wth Ramsey Bolton. How many Umbers died at the damn Red Wedding? It just doesn’t pass the sniff test.
Frankly, if this follows the predictable path and Rickon and Osha end up flayed on a Bolton cross, my patience wth Game of Thrones will be stretched very thin. This whole Ramsey arc is a broken record. I’ve always chalked it up to wishful thinking, but even before this Rickon development there was a theory called “The Great Northern Conspiracy” which suggests that the North really does remember – that the northern lords (Umbers, Manderlys, Reeds, Mormonts et al) are secretly plotting towards a rebellion against the Boltons. This theory would hold that what we saw this week was a ploy by the Umbers – that Rickon is in on the plan (or at least that the plan is to get a Stark into Winterfell, and tongues to wag about it), and that wolf’s head was not Shaggydog’s, but just a wolf. I would love for that to be true, but I have serious doubts.
If in fact there is meat on the bones of the Great Northern Conspiracy, it would seem to rest in the hands of Jon Snow to ride at its head. But I suspect he’ll be calling himself Jon Stark if he does, and probably even if he doesn’t. Thank goodness for Jon that it was Davos Seaworth he saw first – practical, sensible Davos Seaworth. We don’t know yet how Jon has been changed by his experience, but at the very least it’s traumatized him brutally. “Nothing. There was nothing.” he answers when Miracle Mel asks what he saw after he died (which seems to put to bed the notion that he warged into Ghost). But Jon has good, loyal friends – Davos, Tormund (who gets a rise out of him with a pecker joke), Dolorous Edd. “Hold of on burning my body for now” Jon tells his friend – a touching way of saying “Don’t worry – it’s still your friend in here”.
Lord Commander Dolorous Edd? Words I never thought I’d say, but it seems as if that’s where we’ve landed. Jon executes the traitors, including of course Thorne and Olly – he probably had no choice, but being a Stark at heart he’s not going to fob off that duty on anyone else. Thorne goes down true to himself, to give him his due – he too seemed to believe he was doing the right thing. But for Jon, this seems to be the final straw, the final act of his service. He seems to feel he’s given the last full measure of his devotion to the Watch, and while he never asked to be brought back, now that he is he intends to follow his own desires for once. That presumably means paying back the likes of the Boltons and the Freys – and eventually the Lannisters – back with interest for what they did to his family. And if indeed that’s the case I don’t begrudge him one bit – he’s earned that, and for fuck’s sake, somebody needs to do it.