It is with a hint of sadness that I note that we have now passed the two-thirds mark of this year’s season of Game of Thrones. Today’s episode was just like the previous one focused on buildup, on setting up the wars to come. There are many such separate wars that are being set up, in the few remaining episodes we need a resolution to what is happening with Daenerys and Tyrion, one for Arya, one for Sansa and Jon, one for the riverlands and one for King’s Landing, as well as some minor stories that may get put on hold until next year, like Bran and the Greyjoys and Samwell Tarly. All of that is going down in the three remaining episodes, but lest we get ahead of ourselves lets now cover this one.
The Stark storyline in this episode is a buildup almost in the literal sense, we spent some times watching Sansa and Jon travel the world and build an army. Perhaps travel is not the word I’m looking for here, travel implies some work in getting from place to place, Jon and Sansa were speeding across an area the size of Western Europe in a manner implying that in this show, either distance means nothing, or time means nothing. And I thought Littlefinger was the only one able to do that.
This was not the only technical issue in this episode that bothered me. The riverlands for some reason look like Ireland or perhaps Scotland rather than the Rhineland, which I take it is the original source of inspiration for that particular location. There were too few trees and to many hills and/or mountains, which is a function of the location where it all was filmed but it stood out a bit too much. Another possibility is of course that the scenes with Sandor in particular are supposed to take place in the Vale, where he was last seen, but in the books he surfaces again in the riverlands and the brotherhood, if what we saw was indeed the brotherhood, is supposed to operate there. The actual story we got however, concerning the return of the Hound, was great.
First of all Ian McShane is a great actor, anyone who has seen Deadwood can testify to this. He was as expected great in this episode as a simple septon of a community parish, or whatever we call it, he put out a marvelous performance. But he would have done so playing almost any role in this show, it’s a pity he wasn’t given more a bigger character to work with. He would have made a great Walder Frey for example.
The improvised story about how the Hound had retired to a simple and honest life but was pulled back into the bullshit is, as far as the showrunners doing their own things go, not bad. It is believable, it doesn’t involve offences against the consistence of anything else that is happening and somehow it simply works. It’s like some of the better dialogues between Varys and Littlefinger from back in the day, Martin didn’t write it but I accept it anyway without further ado. Having this kind of stuff in the show is great, and a great complement to some of the original content we also go this week. I am talking about the scenes with Jamie and first the Freys followed by the Blackfish, the inclusions of which made me happy.
Jamie spends most of his arc in A Feast for Crows travelling the riverlands before arriving at Riverrun and there setting shit straight. At the siege we get some of the best dialog in the entire series, and it was reproduced here with remarkable accuracy, at least for being this season and not the first. Now if we are really lucky this will keep going on, and in the next episode we will get the tent meeting with Marq Piper, the Freys, Strongboar and Jamie. There is however one detail that stands out here. Brienne will arrive in the comming episode according to its trailer, that is as it should be, but I don’t see how the Hound fits into all of this. He and Brienne should meet again, that is how this show works, but I’m not yet certain it will be done in a way I will be satisfied with. The Hound is in the episode preview shown killing people, I doubt Jamie and Brienne have anything to do with that, but I also doubt there is a good way for him to come south to King’s Landing on his own. Yeah, some question marks left here.
As for Arya, she is clearly not dead. A couple of stab-wounds in the guts and say at least fifteen minutes until care is received should lead to intestinal acids ruining your insides to the point where any doctor you call will in turn tell you to call a priest. But Arya will make it and hey, this is clearly just the third technical issue in this episode that bothered me. This was pure filler, nothing happened except that Arya’s rival, having been revealed as a skilled face-changer, now seems more dangerous. But Arya will kill her, Jaquen will be seen saying that the god of death has been paid his dues and has no particular fuck to give. The question is just what Arya does after that.
Having almost finished this review I was struck with what may perhaps be a touch of madness. Arya is in Braavos and will after killing her former classmate have nothing to do. She will, having settled business in an episode or so, look for another Westerosi to travel with. Well, Yara and Theon are there, they are from Westeros and speak her language, but they aren’t going west, they are going to see the dragons. A longshot, yeah, don’t bet money on this but weirder things have happened.