WHAT DOES A boy do? A boy has no name. A boy desires nothing but to warn you of incoming spoilers.
So apparently you’re all still a lot more emotional about last week than I was. I mean don’t get me wrong, these sequence itself was well done and I liked Kristin Nairn’s portrayal of the big guy, enough in fact to pay about ten quid to see him DJ for an hour at Aberystwyth Union, but it wasn’t emotional heartbreaker that everyone seemed to think it was (for my money, that was making Arya sit through Ned’s beheading, or dare I say, beNeding, again). Still, last week represented a key point about the TV series, even if you’re alive in the books, you’re not safe. As every actor in Thrones casts away their copies of Dance with Dragons and begins checking their contracts to see how many series’ they have left, we plunge into episode 6, let’s see what delights we had in store:
Bran is stuck in his own personal version of The Tree of Life till he wakes up to find himself surrounded by zombies and rescued by a mysterious man with a fiery mace who definitely won’t be Benjen Stark, Sam and Gilly are stuck in their own version of Meet the Parents as they are riding off to meet Sam’s parents, his Dad hates wildlings by the way, Arya goes to see The Most Lamentable Tragedie of Joffrey Lannister Pt.II but can’t kill Lady Crane because she’s the only good actress in it or she sees parallels between her own plight and that of Cersei either way the Waif’s coming to get her so that should be fun, The Radicalisation of Margaery and Tommen Manning hits a new peak as Jamie’s plot to rescue Margy and Loris is interrupted by them being freed after Tommen converts to Sparrowism and then strips Jamie of his Kings Guard position because fuck off Jamie, Walder Frey’s back because we’re still building up to the Blackfish and he wants Jamie to go fight the Blackfish, then Cersei and Jamie make out and I still can’t forget what happened in the crypt, that mysterious stranger from earlier was Benjen Stark after all, shock horror, but he’s nearly dead now only kept alive by a shard of dragon glass in his heart making him Westeros’ version of Iron Man (Stark – house of MCU parallels), this week Dany goes on a vision quest to find herself… and her dragon, she gives an inspiring speech earning her the respect of the khalasaar and whatever happens Dany on the back of a dragon is never not cool, Dany is going to ride across the sea with her armies and take the seven kingdoms because no one ever got anywhere without dreaming big.
This week’s episode was all about people gaining new or lost weapons: Dany has a dragon back, Arya has recovered Needle, Samwell has a Valyrian steel sword, Bran has a Benjen, High Sparrow has basically unlimited power and for some reason Walder Frey has the power to tell Jamie what to do. It seems appropriate that just after the loss of the internet’s beloved Holdthedoor, they gave us an episode all about trying to get back what was lost (oddly, in Bran’s story, Holdthedoor isn’t even mentioned). Even Benjen Stark is a reminder of how far the series is from when we last saw him and how impossible it seems to be to get back there. This is very subtly shown in Samwell and Gilly!/ story where father Tarly has immediately got a bye through to the semi-finals of Westeros’ least nurturing father and by Westeros standards that’s impressive. I like Sam, I like Gilly, I like Samantha Spiro (who was fantastic in a brief role as Sam’s mum) but this story did nothing for me. It was entirely to get Samwell to Heartsbane but it did it in such an unsophisticated way, one scene he’s off to his home, the next scene he’s home, ten minutes later he’s running away with Gilly, Sam Jr. and Heartsbane. Much like Dany’s scene later, it reunited a hand with a weapon but beyond making their arms complete, it wasn’t the smoothest way to make these things happen. That said, I struggle with disliking anything that involves either dragons or awkward dinner table discussion.
Over in Kings Landing, the plot continues to get more heated. Kings Landing is now effectively governed by the power of High Sparrow and his shit-eating grin which was worth seeing just because Jonathan Pryce can grin and eat shit with the best of them. I don’t know how to judge what happened here because I don’t know whether to take Margy’s glazed expression as actual brainwashing or longform plotting to gain her freedom. It’s important to note that Loris wasn’t actually seen in this episode so we still don’t know what shape he’s in. The integral detail of this week is Cersei’s realisation that she can’t just cut down the Sparrows and go back to normal as they have the support of the people and the King. She kills him, he wins, she doesn’t kill him, he continues to win. The High Sparrow somehow is rising up to be the most powerful member of Westeros’ league of supervillains without having to rape and flay everything (luckily this week didn’t have to remind us Ramsay is a bastard. It let us remember that). Bran’s adventures continue to be visually fascinating and finally dramatically stimulating but still seem to talk about having to get places fast without ever seeming to want to.
This week wraps up one Arya plot and starts another. I’m disappointed we only got two episodes with Braavos’ best theatre troupe because Richard E Grant hamming it up is the best hamming it up, the actor Kevin Eldon was having a lot of fun with limited material and Essie Davis (miles away from her superb turn in The Babadook but equally superb) manages to get so much said in so little time with Arya that part of me hopes she would do as Lady Crane did and run away with this band of players, I didn’t notice Arya in their play so she could play herself. It has so many levels to the scene and Davis’ subtle playing of the audience as she raised her cup up and down taunting the audience with her own death was masterfully tense. In any other show, I would assume she would live but this is Game of Thrones. Anyone and everyone can and will die. Also top marks to Maisie Williams for her giggling cutaways during the stage death of stage Joffrey, it was delightful.
Momentum is a hard thing to maintain. Book of the Stranger was the best episode in years, The Door had a lot of commendable qualities and maintained that breathless reinvention but this week’s episode had a lot of flab and inconsequential elements. It’s still for me a far distance better than the weaker opening half of the season so far (I swear I will stop complaining about them one day) and it can’t be a coincidence that it has got a lot better since this series has stopped returning to Dorne. With four episodes left this season, there’s still time for some seismic shifts in the Thrones-verse but it needs to find something closer to a consistent pacing. For all the pulsing sequences like last week’s Branventures, we have Sam and Gilly this week going home just to leave the next scene. Still, I hope that we can come back to Braavos occasionally, just to see how Izembaro and his players interpret whatever happens next.
Silicon Valley and Veep Update:
This week moght be the most tech-heavy failed love story I’ve ever seen. Richard falls in love with a girl then out of love with her because she uses spaces instead of tabs in her code. Dinesh flirts with a girl over chat and re-codes their video chat to be smoother so he can see her clearer. And Jared? Russ was right, that guy fucks.