I know that I shouldn’t try to judge this whole season until it’s done, because something amazing could still happen in the next three episodes, but ‘Game of Thrones’ feels like it’s in a holding pattern this year, slowly circling around the same story points without really going anywhere. This week’s episode hinges on a plot twist that was easily foreseen. (In fact, I called it last week.)
On the plus side, no rape scenes to stir up controversy this week. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. There is an attempted rape. Sigh…
Having gotten nowhere with Cersei, Lady Olenna confronts the High Sparrow. She calls him a fraud and tries unsuccessfully to bribe him. He’s also not swayed by her threats to withhold food shipments into the city. In what turns out to be a really awkward metaphor for the 99% vs. the 1%, he points out that her wealth and privilege will mean nothing when the poor and working classes rise up and revolt, which is what he’s trying to facilitate.
Olenna then secretly meets with Baelish in the ruins of his brothel. He has a proposal for them to join forces again, as they did when they murdered Joffrey.
Tommen may now be king, but he’s helpless and ineffectual. He whines to his mother about Margaery being imprisoned. Cersei offers to speak to the High Sparrow to negotiate a release. How helpful of her.
Of course, Cersei really pays Margaery a visit in the dungeon to smugly bask in the girl’s change in fortunes. She does meet with the High Sparrow, but not to negotiate anything. She just wants to discuss how the upcoming trial will go. He tells her that it’s his mission to strip away all the lies and the finery so that everyone may be judged equally in the eyes of the gods. That applies not just to Margaery, but to anyone who has sinned. He then informs Cersei that Lancel told him some interesting stories about her. Realizing where this is going, Cersei tries to leave, but is blocked and hauled off to the dungeon, screaming that she’ll murder everyone who has crossed her.
The High Sparrow turning against Cersei is such an obvious development that I’m disappointed she didn’t see it coming and prepare a contingency for when it would inevitably happen. I half expected The Mountain to step into the room and crush the skulls of any Sparrows who laid their hands on her.
Also a prisoner is Sansa. Ramsay keeps her locked up in her room every day, then roughs her up and has his way with her every night. Her situation is so desperate that she begs Theon for help. She asks him to light a candle in the tallest tower, as the old maid had instructed her to do.
Theon takes the candle and goes to the tower. He finds Ramsay waiting there. I assume this wasn’t a surprise, that he knew where Ramsay would be.
Of course, Theon tells Ramsay everything. Ramsay has Sansa brought outside so he can show her the mutilated corpse of the old maid he tortured to death. He then gives her the candle back and sends her right back to her room. To her credit, while she’s out Sansa manages to swipe a corkscrew as a potential weapon later. She also plants a seed of doubt in Ramsay’s mind about how his station will be undermined by the birth of a legitimate Bolton son.
Jon Snow releases Tormund from his chains and places Ser Alliser in charge of the Wall while he goes north with the Wildlings. Alliser tells Snow that he thinks the plan is reckless. Before Snow leaves, Sam gives him some dragonglass in case he encounters any White Walkers.
Maester Aemon lies dying, his years having finally caught up with him. He advises Gilly to take her baby and head south, because the castle will not be safe for her. In his last moments, Aemon hallucinates that he’s talking to his long-dead brother Aegon (or “Egg”). Sam eulogizes the maester at his funeral. Afterwards, Alliser warns Sam that, “You’re losing all your friends.”
Later, two surly brothers of the Night’s Watch harass Gilly and try to rape her. Sam arrives to fight them off. They aren’t intimidated by him, and beat the crap out of him, including hitting him repeatedly in the head with a rock. Sam nevertheless refuses to give up, no matter how hopeless his situation. Conveniently, the direwolf Ghost enters the room and scares the other men away.
As she tends to his wounds, Gilly rewards Sam for his bravery by very delicately having sex with him – his first time. Sam’s reaction: “Oh my!”
Where the hell is Gilly’s baby, anyway?
Marching Toward Winterfell
The arrival of winter is bad news for Stannis Baratheon. His army is not as equipped to handle the cold and snow as the Bolton army will be. They’re already freezing and starving, and the “sellsword” (mercenary) divisions have fled. Davos counsels Stannis to turn back to Castle Black and wait out the season – which could be years. Stannis insists that they must press on.
In reality, Stannis has his doubts too. Melisandre must assure him that she’s seen him win the war in her visions. For her magic, she asks him to sacrifice his daughter to the old gods. That much, he refuses to do.
Jaime is allowed to see his niece (really daughter) Myrcella. She tells him that she’s in love with the Martell boy and doesn’t want to leave. “You don’t know me!” she rebukes him. Teenagers are the same all over, I guess.
Bronn is locked in a jail cell across from the three Sand Snake women. The one named Tyene flirts with him. (Cue this episode’s gratuitous nudity.) As Bronn stars to feel woozy, he realizes that she’s the one who cut his arm in battle. She tells him that the blade was poisoned and toys with him a bit, but, because she finds him charming, eventually tosses him the antidote.
The slaver Malko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) auctions off Jorah by embellishing the tales of his exploits to include a claim that he killed Khal Drogo in combat. Tyrion speaks up and convinces the buyer to purchase him too, thus sparing him for the moment from the immediate threat of having his cock cut off. The buyer brings them to Meereen, where Jorah will be made to battle in the fighting pits. Because Queen Daenerys has ruled that no slaves may fight there, he pays them each one coin – while keeping them in chains, of course.
Has Daenerys’ boyfriend Daario always been such an asshole? It seems like, in addition to the casting change to a new actor, the character is written very differently this season than I remember him. Every time we see him now, he’s giving Dany some bad advice. What does she see in this guy? This time, he tries to talk her into abandoning her planned political marriage and marrying him instead, then he suggests that she should slaughter all of the city’s former masters.
While she thinks that over, Dany allows her fiancé Hizdahr to talk her into attending a fighting pit match. Not just the big championship she’s already scheduled to preside over, he tells her that it would be a great honor if she made a surprise appearance at a lower level event first. Naturally, unbeknownst to her, this is the same fight where Jorah is set to make his debut.
During the first round, Dany is disgusted by the savage brutality on display and gets up to leave. Before she does, however, Jorah hears that the queen is in the audience and runs out in full armor, battling his way through all the opponents toward her stage. Dany sees something she recognizes and is intrigued enough to wait for a moment.
After he defeats all his foes, Jorah removes his helmet and reveals himself. Daenerys declares that she doesn’t want to see him and turns to leave again. Jorah yells out that he’s brought a gift for her, upon which Tyrion comes out onto the field and introduces himself.
I’m reminded of the famous gladiatorial episode of HBO’s former series ‘Rome’. In comparison, this episode doesn’t fare nearly as well. Most everything that happens this week is very predictable, and even Jorah’s triumphant moment is pretty underwhelming.
On the other hand, the meeting of Tyrion and Daenerys promises to bring some interesting changes to the show. One can hope, at least.