Game of Thrones – 62

When this season of Game of Thrones was being discussed by showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (and most of the cast) they made it sound as if it were going to be an action shitstorm of epic proportions.  We wouldn’t be able to turn our heads fast enough to keep up with all the eventfulness they were going to pack into its shortened 7 episode length.

Well, after two episodes I’m kind of surprised by how talky it is.  I like talky Game of Thrones (when actors are your greatest strength, dialogue is a good strategy), and we’re certainly seeing meetings we haven’t seen before (or for a long time) left and right.  But there hasn’t been a tremendous amount of event, truth be told, and we’re already down to five episodes left.  Is that going to be enough time for all the work this season has ahead of it?

Basically, this episode is built around three royal council rooms, with a couple of lone wolves connecting them.  Of course we have Daenerys, still coming to terms with what kind of queen she’d like to be.  Her grilling of Varys may be the strongest part of the episode – not for her part in it, but his.  Varys’ steadfast refusal to bend the knee if worship is perfectly in-character.  At this point I’ve pretty much come to believe him when he says his allegiance is to the realm, and more specifically to its common people.  Unlike Tyrion – who’s undeniably clever and one of Westeros’ more long-thinking nobles – Varys has lived the life of a commoner.  He’s been abused and spat upon and sold as chattel.  Daenerys could do far worse than to give his counsel good heed.

Tyrion’s remark that Dany shouldn’t want to be the “Queen of Ashes” is the line of the episode (it’s so good she she steals it herself later), but it doesn’t do much for the segments of Daenerys’ coalition that are in this for revenge.  Olenna Tyrell and Ellaria Sand are preaching the opposing gospel – namely that only be terror can Daenerys ever inspire loyalty.  Their problem is that she’s seen the limits of that approach in the East.  Tyrion has lamped out the Lannister strategy – to recall the horrors of the mad king and paint this as a foreign invasion – and nothing would prove their point better than her dragons laying waste to a King’s Landing besieged by an army of Dothraki “savages” and the Unsullied.  His plan makes much more sense, if you ask me.

Meanwhile, in King’s Landing, Cersei and Jaime are taking the pragmatic approach of doing just what Tyrion suggested they would.  To be fair it’s not as if they have much choice – Cersei is universally loathed, and can only cling to power by convincing her remaining bannermen that a greater threat exists for all of them.  Going after Highgarden with its wealth of the Tyrells makes sense – just as much sense as Tyrion’s plan to take Casterly Rock with the Unsullied.  It’s fitting that Jaime should focus on Sam’s vile father as his chief lackey – he and Cersei deserve each other.  There’s a part of Jaime though, surely, that hates the company Cersei’s mad brutality now forces him to keep.

The thread connecting Dragonstone and Winterfell is the mutual respect and affection Tyrion on Jon share for each other after their trip to The Wall (even Sansa now admits that Tyrion was always good to her).  What those two also share, of course, is a belief that the army of the dead represents the ultimate threat to Westeros.  And given that Sam’s raven arrives just a few days after Daenerys’ invitation to “bend the knee”, the timing seems fortuitous to say the least.  Sansa may disapprove of Jon leaving the North in a time of crisis, and the hatred for both the Targeryns and Lannisters among the northern lords is understandably intense.  But as always it falls to Jon to argue for the more difficult and painful choice – and it usually comes back to the fact that he’s seen what the white walkers are, and those arguing against him have not.

The lone wolves that bridge these three settings are Samwell and Arya.  For Sam, his sad fate seems to be to star in a series of unfunny gross-out montages that feel totally out of place.  As ever, though, he displays great courage in his quiet way – risking both greyscale and expulsion from the Citadel (or worse) to try and apply an ancient and banned cure (which was teased last week if you looked at Sam’s books closely).  He does so out of a sense of gratitude to Jorah’s father, of course – but also because there’s a great kindness in Sam.  Having taken on Jorah’s cure and given Daenerys and Jon something to talk about, Sam has already established his importance to the season in spades.

As to Arya, she’s still very much a little girl lost, though she does re-acquaint with a couple of important friends.  It was great to see good old Hot Pie, who hasn’t changed a bit.  The metaphor runs thick for Arya in this episode, and the news Hot Pie tells her – that Jon Snow has won the Battle of the Bastards and taken Winterfell – literally takes her to a crossroads in her life.  Does he continue her pilgrimage of revenge, heading to King’s Landing to kill Cersei?  Or does she turn to the north, and reunite with some small remnant of her family after all this time?

Perhaps Arya’s choice – to go home – augers well that she might still be saved from the darkness which calls out to her.  My God, how can you not feel for her, not having seen any of her family for so long?  But the other reunion is a more foreboding one for Arya’a character – in the woods on the way back to Winterfell, she runs into no less than Nymeria herself.  Nymeria initially doesn’t recognize her, amd even when she does, rejects her – lets her live, yes, but declines Arya’s invitation to go home.  It’s as if these two are looking in a mirror, really – neither of them is what they were before everything went to Hell.  And Nymeria’s actions suggest that they never will be again – both have changed too much, lost too much, to ever return to their old lives.  Arya returning home is a good thing, but I fear her homecoming won’t be the one she expects – and that runs deeper than just the absence of Jon.

Finally, as if to allay the deficit of violence and spectacle, we have Euron attacking and savaging Yara and Theon’s fleet – on the way to Dorne to pick up and ferry the Dornish army to besiege King’s Landing.  Anything involving the Sand sisters and their mother is inherently a debacle, a harsh reminder of this adaptation’s most comprehensive failure.  But the special effects are good (as always) and we do get a rather poignant moment in the end.  After an impressive orgy of gore, Euron has seized Yara and invites Theon to try and take her back – and his response is to dive into the ocean and save himself.  He’d have died otherwise, of course – but it’s a rather sad turn for poor, dismal old Theon, who’s still broken inside from what Ramsay Bolton did him.  Perhaps there’s another opportunity at redemption out there for him somewhere (he earned it in his final hours with Sansa) but it will clearly start from a very, very dark place.

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12 comments

  1. W

    There’s a lot of typical Hollywood gimmickry here together with B&W who keep asking us to suspend disbelief, just one more time. Not sure what purpose of that end scene was other than, this our Joker and he’s pretty crazy. GoT doesn’t do action well. It’s like the teen who can’t tell the difference between bodybuilding and powerlifting, but will post to instagram a shot of a chrome plated 25 lb dumbbell. But enough of the axe.

    Talky GoT happens to be the most interesting GoT; the Arya and Hot Pie reunion had all of this great displacement. Hot Pie’s grounded and Arya’s out there pretty much grifting herself. She can’t even quite look him in the eye because his flat authenticity will mess with someone who’s not quite all there. When she tells him not to get killed, it’s not the same as the first time when they both walked the same ground.

  2. Go watch “Hardhome” and tell me GoT doesn’t do action well. I think it’s given that they do it well technically – I’d agree they don’t always integrate it well narratively, but there are examples both positive and negative there.

    Yeah, as I said, I like talky GoT too – when actors are the best thing about a show, go talky. I’m just surprised, given that this season is only 7 eps long and has a huge narrative load to carry.

    As for the final scene, if it means we never have to look at anyone in the Sand family again, it definitely served a purpose as far as I’m concerned.

  3. Y

    I actually liked Dany’s line to Varys about how he should address her directly and tell her how to fix her mistakes instead of conspiring behind her back if she were to fail her people. It’s been a while since she has seemed compelling to me in any way, but I genuinely felt she was right in that moment to ask that of him — switching sides and turning tables every time something (or someone) doesn’t work out in your favour can be just as costly as stewing in incompetence, given time.

    On that note, am I the only person in this entire audience who is sincerely annoyed with Euron and anything he says and does? I just feel like his character is semi-pointless at this point, and serves only as a plot device to bring more shock value and “shake things up” in the “needlessly cruel” department. Also, I should’ve mentioned this before, but how the flying fuck did he manage to build all those ships in just a few months? The Iron Islands don’t have enough wood for that, and neither do the surrounding shores; and he hardly had enough people for the job. It just felt like he magicked them out of nowhere for the plot to move along since he said he was gonna have them. Also, Theon and Yara’s back and forth was interesting at first, but now it just feels repetitive — I know it’s in-character and technically well-written, but with how often they get in trouble and how Theon’s confidence inevitably fails him on a semi-regular basis, it just makes me feel disappointed and tired.

    Lastly, the bits with Arya made me smile. She probably won’t meet Jon unless they run into each other on the road, but a reunion with Sansa would be just as good. I hope she helps her sister keep a clearer head and stray from Petyr’s sticky influence. He’s bound to try something, though at this point I am hoping real hard that it won’t work and he’ll die in a ditch. Please.

  4. Not just you. My comment above was aimed at Euron as he is this season’s Ramsay.. That’s a B&W weakness. Enzo had once mentioned their predilection torture/shock porn.

  5. Alone? Seems to me like every comment I hear about Euron is negative – I’m not sure there are any viewers that like him.

    The whole time issue is pretty much a sailed ship (pun intended) at this point. People zip from one end of Westeros to the other in a day or two, ravens arrive instantaneously, ships get built in weeks. GRRM – for all his flaws – does worry about that stuff. It’s clear at this point that Weiss and Benioff have decided they can’t afford to if they want to crank this out in 13 episodes.

  6. Y

    Really? Frankly every second comment I see on YT or Twitter praises him for being crazy and/or “badass”. Huh. Well, in any case, if what you say is true, then I’m happy he’s not as well-liked as I thought he was. I normally have very little patience for his type of character. Joffrey I could tolerate — barely — for what he brought to the story, originally. But Ramsay and Euron fall flat on their narrative arses, and can rarely do more than disgust me, both as people and as characters.

  7. You may be right – I mostly go on what I’ve seen on sites like WinterisComing. My hope is that Euron ends up being more like Joffrey than Ramsay – his actor claims there’s more to him, but we’ll see.

    Charismatic rogues (no, Joffrey wasn’t that, but he did have an essential role) are way more interesting than cartoon villains. I think to some extent what we’re seeing is the difference between villains crafted by Martin, and those essentially created by the TV series.

  8. S

    When it’s that blatant, like the raven from Daenerys to Jon, I don’t think it’s fair to say they are ignoring issues with time. There’s a clear implied time skip there (and thus, everywhere). And Sam sent the raven to Jon last episode, and it arrived only now (a whole week later! =)). Or have you detected anything that can’t be explained by an implied passage of time? The books did the same, even if you disregard the whole splitting the timeline into two books thing… Speaking of books, wasn’t the Varys-Daenarys Grilling actually in the book, but on a different continent? hmm.

    I’m not certain when Arya did what here. Jamie mentioned the Frey massacre last week, so that puts these two scenes into some order, but the rest is hogwash. She might as well meet Jon just outside Winterfell, or weeks later, if/when Jon comes back. who knows.

    Thirdly, I’m happy the fucking sand people died. They were stupid in Star wars too.

  9. I find that the logistics of pretty much anything in this show stretch my disbelief to incredible extent. Talking, conspiring, politicking is fine. But when it comes to travel, troop movement, and battle… oh boy. This episode, besides ravens travelling at plot-mandated speeds, we got Euron’s fleet emerging from hyperspace next to Yara’s. At night, at such close quarters they could board a few seconds after being spotted, in pitch darkness, and of course without ever having been sighted by a lookout (I stopped hoping any of these clueless incompetents would send *scouts* to spot potential dangers a long time ago).

  10. G

    Who was it that was swinging from the noose at the end? Theon’s sister or one of the women from Dorn?

  11. I was under the impression that it was Ellaria and one of her daughters. I assumed Yara was going to be Euron’s “gift” to Cersei.

  12. J

    I think Ellaria will end up at King’s Landing with the daughter that was with her as they were both captured alive (as was Yara). The two Sand Snakes that fought Victarion were the ones on the ship’s brow – the spear girl impaled, and the whip girl hung, both with their own weapons.

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