This last episode of Game of Thrones is definitively the best one this season. It was by no means flawless, but the flaws tended to be of the minor rather than major kind. We have, mostly, passed the introductory part of the season and things are starting to heat up. As usual, I shall now proceed to pass judgement on what transpired this week.
We got something in this episode that viewers have been speaking of for seasons but never experiencing, namely a Stark reunion. The pink letter also finally arrived, which heralded the bastard-bowl we will see towards the end of this season and made me, as somewhat of a slight book purist, nod in approval. I can buy that Jon in despair had decided to leave the Wall (and probably the North), the things he said about having hanged Olly and been betrayed by his men were convincing as well as excellently portrayed. Kit Harrington’s acting has recently improved, to the extent that I as a layman can identify good acting.
It follows then that it made sense that Sansa had to convince him to stay. Their conversation by the fireplace just after she arrived was quite heartfelt and a nice contrast in a brutal show (light and darkness both being necessary so as to increase the impact of each-other). But I would have preferred Jon to be say 60% swayed by Sansa and then freak the fuck out and yell for his sword and Ramsey’s head after reading the letter, or even better giving the great speech from his last chapter in A Dance with Dragons. This is not to downplay the role of Sansa, but because as it is now the letter did almost nothing. First he wanted to give up and Sansa wanted to fight and tried to convince him. Then he got the letter, and he still hesitated and Sansa had to convince him again, a complete repeat of what we had gotten earlier in the same episode.
In King’s Landing we are, despite what I said in my introduction, still in the build-up stage. The High Sparrow gave yet another speech, an engaging one to be sure, he is coming of as being quite sincere in addition to being a madman. But we are not seeing him hint at his darker side quite as much as would be necessary to have a seamless transition between him being a kindly old man and his organisation torturing people. He did hint, when speaking to Margary, that one of the nuns is unpleasant to prisoners. But he did it in sort of a jolly “she is the way she is but we love her anyway” manner.
The high septon also has militant zealots running around trashing stuff, but at no point do we see how he himself fits into all of this. I’m not saying they should show him ordering mass execution while raising his arm and screaming hail, but there should be something subtle somewhere, a single remark perhaps, that he could make in the middle of his speech about humility that could be interpreted in a threatening manner to show that he is the source of the fire and brimstone preached by the faith militant.
That being said, the main developement in King’s Landing was that Cersei began the process of doing what should have been done a long time ago, bringing the army in and throwing the bums out. The conversation between her and Olena was good, I have nothing in particular to say there.
But the end result of it has me wondering a bit. There is still killing to be done in King’s Landing, in particular of the kind where one named character takes out another. Lancel, Jamie, Qyburnstein’s monster etc have to have a throwdown. This kind of small-scale clash would be pointless if twenty thousand Tyrell loyalists stormed into the city, and the show’s budget for large pitched battles will be spent in the north anyway, so I predict that something will happen to either occupy the Tyrell army elsewhere or change the plans for having it take the city and throw the Faith out. Osha reappeared in one episode and died in the next, Lancel may do likewise. He has been gone for a while now and may perhaps not be relevant to the viewers, but he is the only Lannister without plot armor (yes, plot armor exists in this show to some extent). Lancel goes, in one, two or at most three episodes, possibly in the eight but that is stretching it. Remember that I wrote this, when the time comes.
Finally, we have reached a solution to Daenerys’ captivity among the Dothraki. Jorah and Dario set out on a rescue mission, commando black op style, but she decides that she doesn’t need their help and starts setting things on fire. The episode ends with yet another scene in which Daenerys army grows by the thousands, as usual to the sound of epic music.
The whole sequence, with Jorah and Dario preparing for action, Daenerys and the Dothraki badmouthing each other, Jorah and Dario sneaking into the city and Daenerys than winning over the Dothraki to her side was quite good. The dialog was overall well-written, the acting was solid and the events themselves by no means the craziest ones we have seen in this show. Daenerys succeeding in that plan sure makes more sense to me than Ramsey managing to just take over the Bolton household without any friction with people loyal to his father, to mention just one thing that made less sense than what happened here.
I like how they tied it into the events of the first season, it didn’t feel repetitive at all, it felt more like clearly emphasizing that she runs things now, this is her show. But then I don’t mind slight repetition if the quality of the dialog and the scenes in general is high, which it was here. The flaws in Dany’s story in this episode, minor ones mostly, that struck me immediately when watching it were three in number. The first one of these isn’t really a flaw if you interpret it charitably. Dario was taking the piss when talking to Jorah, bragging about how he has gotten it on with Daenerys and Jorah hasn’t. When last we saw him he was talking respectfully to Jorah about how he saw in Jorah the man he would become when he grew older, or whatever it was. Now he is openly antagonizing him.
The good faith approach to viewing this scene is that they got on well at first, after having bonded somewhat, but after travelling for days in poor conditions and getting fed up with this shit, they then started lashing out in frustration. Or if we are less generous, the writers fucked up, wrote the characters one way for one episode and another way for the next. Given that this show has serious time constraints, where it is impossible to fit in scenes of them just travelling and getting slightly more tired of each other’s company each day, I think we can let this one go.
Number two among the flaws i intend to enumerate her is in how Dario didn’t bushwhack the Dothraki woman when approaching Danerys. Morally things turned out for the best, but Dario has no morals and it makes no sense that he would grab her and wait long enough for Daenerys to have time to interfere before doing the whole knife-to-throat thing. Dario is a nihilistic mercenary who kills for gold, and I doubt he would have taken even a slight risk of being found in the situation he was in just to save a stranger. The hero’s shady ally of convenience being about to kill a civilian but taking long enough time in doing so that the hero has time to stop it is a cliche by now. But whatever, it wasn’t a big deal, and in the grand scheme of things neither was the fact that the whole hut that Daenerys burned down seemed to be smeared with gasoline. Couldn’t they have shown Daenerys having concealed a skin of oil that she let drip on the floor while she walked around or something? None of this is a deal-breaker, but it was annoying.
As a departing comment let me mention that we have now gotten three episodes in a row with no mention of Dorne. I don’t want to jinx it by speaking about it too much, but here’s to that streak going on forever.