MANY SPOILERS BELOW! So if you want to remain unsullied, don’t read it until you’ve watched the episode.
So last week, Jon finally took Maester Aemon’s advice and killed the boy, Arya decided to see again (and so took a well earned holiday this week) and Zombie Mountain continued to be the greatest sight gag in Thrones history. This week, stuff get’s back on track. I’ve been quite harsh on the first three episode of this season and I still think with good reason. The reason being, GoT is capable of producing barnstormers like this week’s and it just doesn’t seem to do it enough in the early days of any season. It’s always a good sign when Benoiff and Weiss are the writers of an episode because it normally means something is going to happen and in almost every scene, something did. This is how an hour of television should look: characters interracted with actual stakes, we gained some new-ish pairings or at least fresh ones, and beyond the requisite Ramsay does something nasty scene, it all pushed forward while being well done within itself. Anyway, let’s get on with the blatant exposition/synopsis:
Jon Snow is leaving the Nights Watch in search of a purpose when up turns Sansa, the two siblings bond and smile, there’s actual smiling, from Jon and Sansa, amazing, then Sansa suggests fighting the Boltons and Snow gets mopey again, Brienne turns up and says words to the effect of ‘Hey Davos and Melissandre, you know how you killed Renly, I killed Stannis, so there’s that’ and wins at threats for now, Littlefinger is back and has still left his English accent I Season Three, plus he’s back with Lil’ Moon Door Aryn and they’re heading to Castle Black to help fight Ramsay, Fantastic Four: Mereen Edition try to forge peace with the slavers by which I mean Tyrion bribes them with women – he’s a classy guy, Missy and Wormy don’t agree, Varys seems to have been paid by the word in this scene, Jorah and Daario make it to the Dothraki tribe and Daario’s pretty beard finds out that Jorah’s arm is now in greyscale and he’s been claiming to be #NoFilter, Daario gets it, they find Khaleesi but she doesn’t want to get out, she wants something more, The Radicalisation of Margaery Manning continues, Grey Sparrow continues to be oddly convincing in a puritanic dickhead way, Margy sees Loris and he looks like a broken man but Margy is all badass and tells her brother not to let them win yay Margy, Cersei and the Queen of Thorns continues to outwin everyone, they’re rescuing margy, Loris and Pathetic lannister and going to do it all without killing people apparently, shits happening guys, and when I thought shit was happening, Theon,wait even Theon’s scene has meaning and purpose, this is great guys, he’s really sorry for all the shit he’s done (he says sorry. A lot) backing his sister for Kingsmoot, Ramsay and Osha have a lovely scene in which definitely no one dies and they all live happily ever… a nice, awkward dinner is interrupted when Ramsay sends a threatening note to Jon Snow saying he’s going to basically continue to be the Joker and Jon Snow is going to be his Batman (they’re not so different if you think about it…), Sansa has actual drive in this scene and not just passive desire to escape, go this episode, and finally back to Dany who approaches the Khals and tells them she’s taking over, they threaten to have their horses rape her so she burns them all to death and stands in the flames, Dany is back to being socialist psycho queen and in an episode full of wins manages to win at this episode, everyone bows to her because she bloody deserves it.
It has to be said, this episode was all about the female characters. Even with nothing for Arya and basically nothing for Melissandre – Sansa, Brienne, Cersei, Olenna, Margy and Dany are the MVPs of the episode. Quite often it’s important to note that established male characters like Jamie and Loris are set-dressing in their scenes, allowing the female characters to take centre-stage. Finally after five seasons of being dragged through figurative and probably literal mud, Sansa has emerged as a woman with a fire for revenge upon Ramsay and re-claiming her home while Jon sits around looking like a particularly pretty mop. Even Osha is given a moment before she is taken from this world where she is unimpressed by Ramsay’s flayed man sigil (“You eat them after?” “No” “Then I’ve seen worse”). It also can’t be ignored that this episode worked particularly well and didn’t feature the Dorne or Bran plotlines, though Dorne would have fit in well here with the theme of ‘women taking shit for themselves’ (that might just be that this episode was about the good girls, not the bad pussy. I’m neverr going to let them forget that they wrote that fucking line). I can see why a lot of people might dislike Dany’s story. There’s an element of uncomfortable imagery to a small white woman being the saviour of non-white slaves but in this episode, she is (once again, literally and figuratively) on fire with rage at her current captors and it’s not Jorah and Daario’s pretty bearded face that save her, they’re just there to help her do it for herself. Purely from assosciation both Dany and JoRio (the Jorah – Drio bro-ship name) had extra momentum in their scenes , together and apart,, I especially appreciated the understated way that Jorah’s illness is just revealed, no big deal, it’s just a thing plus Daario smashes a guys skull with a brick so that they don’t notice he’s been stabbed. That’s fun. Also Book of the Stranger wisely makes us miss her iron rule of ‘All slavers must die’ by showing Tyrion’s desire to keep slavery going to avoid further war, a decision that is definitely coming back to haunt everyone’s favourite English dialectically challenged man.
Of course, this episode also brought back our second favourite English dialectically challenged man, Littlefinger. He continues to sway through scenes like Michael Sheen in Twilight, hamming and chewing at every available piece of scenery and basically just moustache twirling. Plus he has full control of the Arryn power-base now as he’s distracting lil’ tweenage nipple sucker with a falcon. To give him his due, it was a very fine falcon. This scene and Ramsay-Osha didn’t quite do it for me but I like where it’s building. Immediately having one of the major Northern families lending their support to the cause of SansNow (the new name for the brother-sister team of Sansa and Snow if you didn’t guess) creates a belief that Sansa has a chance of defeating Ramsay. Ramsay, we know by now he’s the worst, we don’t need to see it further. While I don’t miss Osha in terms of characters, she didn’t really have much left to do since Bran got out of Castle Black but this scene established nothing we didn’t already know about Ramsay beyond reminding us that he once spent an entire season torturing Theon and learnt something from it. This was not something I’d forgotten.
Down in Kings Landing, Cersei continues to re-invent herself as the best damn character, putting aside her personal feelings towards Margy in order to save her for her son and for Westeros. It might also just be that the High Sparrow paraded her naked through the streets, shaved her head and still wants her to stand trial but let’s assume for now that Cersei might actually be doing the right thing and is going to turn around when this is all all done and have The Mountain crush Jamie’s head. Meanwhile, High Sparrow continues to quite cleverly not be openly villainous and actually make some worryingly convincing points. It’s more interesting to have a villain who isn’t really villainous as we already have Ramsay, Littlefinger and a handful of other men around to provide unadulterated villainy. The best thing about this episode is that as well as suggesting it’s going somewhere and doing something while we’re here, it managed to create multiple different possibilities for how it could end. If there are two running themes throughout the entirety of Thrones, they are Valar Morghulis and Valar Dohaeris – all men must die and all men must serve. Eventually everyone is going to reach a terrible fate (especially as we keep forgetting that winter’s not here yet but there are a bunch of ice zombies beyond the wall) but along the way, the big question is who is going to win the game in the end. I still can’t call it (though my bests are on Dany, Sansa or Cersei to have the throne come the end). I guess the only thing to do is just say that I’m glad they finally remembered how to make things happen and how to make them happen entertainingly. The simple answer is no episode can be bad if it ends with Dany burning a room full of dickheads.
Still, next week, KINGSMOOT!
Silicon Valley and Veep Update:
So the box project is progressing well until Jack (Tobolowsky) reveals that he was going to give exclusive rights to their entire algorithm for five years away. So Jack’s gone and he’s been replaced as CEO by his chair. I don’t know what any of this means yet but I know I’m enjoying it. Plus Bighead’s back and he’s built his own incubator but it was mostly because his house has too many rooms and it gets scary at night. I pray one day we all become as wise as Bighead.