‘Game of Thrones’ recap: Jorah’s reunion with Dany turns nasty

25 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Game of Thrones’ recap: Jorah’s reunion with Dany turns nasty.

We’ve reached a fascinating point in Game of Thrones: Not only is the show departing dramatically from the plot of George R. Daenerys Targaryen’s ancestors are coming up more frequently on Game of Thrones, suggesting that there are parts of her family’s past that Dany could stand to learn from.Determined to regain the trust of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) braves the fighting pits of Meereen in “The Gift,” Episode 47 of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Jorah, who was exiled by Dany for spying on behalf of rival House Lannister, arrives in Meereen after being attacked by diseased Stone Men, captured by slavers and sold at auction as an aging gladiator. It was logical advice from Reek, who knows how quickly Ramsay’s knife can go from gentle skimming to full-fledged chopping — and, indeed, it proved to be prophetic. Even when not directly involved in an individual’s life, parents cast a long shadow in any universe centered on a system that includes so much in the way of lines of succession, family crests, and, well, incest.

All the worst things in the world kept happening to Sansa, Daenerys continued bowing to pressure from the Masters, Littlefinger continued spinning his inscrutable web of double- and triple-crossings, and Cersei kept right on digging herself into a hole that even she can’t extract herself from anymore. At Castle Black, meanwhile, Night’s Watch Lord Commander Jon Snow (Kit Harington) begins a perilous journey with wildling warrior Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju).

Time and again throughout “The Gift,” we see individuals forced to a point where they must choose to abide by the standards set by their parents or make their own path. It’s not something that’s gone unexamined by the show before, (a theme perhaps best explored in this piece that suggests the only way for the remaining Stark children to survive the series is to stop being Starks) but “The Gift” showed a renewed commitment to the question, with father figures passing on and actual fathers forced to choose whether or not to sacrifice their children for their own glory. This week several very precious gifts are either demanded or offered: the life of a daughter, vengeance against a hated foe, the antidote to a deadly poison, and Tyrion Lannister himself. Jon’s departure and the death of his ally, Maester Aemon Targaryen (Peter Vaughan), leave Castle Black in a precarious position as vindictive Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) takes command. The episode begins at the Wall, with Jon taking off with the wildlings to meet up with more of their brethren and leaving Castle Black under the rule of First Ranger Thorne.

As they lie in bed together, Daario offers a proposal to the newly engaged Daenerys: “Marry me instead.” She rolls her eyes a little, and essentially says that she’s way too smart to pull a Robb Stark. Alliser warns Jon that his mission with Tormund is “an insult to all the brothers who have died fighting the wildlings.” And Alliser warns Jon’s supporter Samwell Tarley (John Bradley) that “you’re losing all your friends.” Those words prove prophetic when Sam is beaten and his wildling girlfriend Gilly (Hannah Murray) is nearly ravaged by two Night’s Watch brothers. Jon’s choice to become Lord Commander of the Night’s watch and eschew the opportunity to become a Stark both bears out his father’s wishes by abiding by his oath to the Night’s Watch, the honorable thing to do, particularly by Ned Stark standards, while also cutting himself off fully from the family he knew as his own. Marching south from Castle Black to conquer northern Westeros is wannabe king Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), whose demoralized troops are caught in a worsening snowstorm. “I retreated from King’s Landing,” Stannis says of his humiliating defeat at the Battle of the Blackwater. “If I retreat again, I become the king who ran.” Offering a ghoulish solution to this predicament is priestess Melisandre (Carice van Houten).

Not quite as rousing as Missandei and Grey Worm’s first kiss, but Sam’s I-can’t-believe-this-is-actually-happening look, plus the earlier moment when Gilly breaks free from one attacker and flies at the other with her teeth bared and claws outstretched, snarling “LEAVE HIM ALONE!” felt like this bleak episode’s biggest wins. And it’s not even solely to do with the continued struggles of Sansa. (Although I must say, if there’s anyone out there still buying producer Bryan Cogman’s line about how Sansa is somehow “a hardened woman making a choice,” I have some oceanfront property in the Red Waste to sell you.) It’s this grinding sense that Theon’s words aren’t just a warning, they’re standard operating procedure; that in any situation in Westeros, the worst case isn’t a threat, it’s a guarantee. In less pleasant consummations, Sansa is imprisoned in a tower in Winterfell, spending her days weeping and her nights being raped, leaving her so desperate that she begs Theon to help her, by placing a candle in the broken tower to signal the North of her distress. With Ser Barristan Selmy gone, there’s a vacant place in Daenerys’s inner circle for a politically savvy Imp with knowledge of—and a vendetta against—the rulers of Westeros. He offers another suggestion, this one far more practical: on the day of the great games, gather all of the opposition leaders together, and slaughter them. “I am a queen, not a butcher,” says the woman who crucified 163 men when she conquered Meereen. “All rulers are either butchers or meat,” Daario replies.

The lack of sentimentality that I once heralded for making the show truly unpredictable might now be the most unpleasantly predictable thing about it. If Stannis does conquer the north, it can’t come too soon for Lady Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), who’s held captive at Winterfell by sadistic Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon). Not so far away, Jorah and Tyrion get sold off by the slavers and quickly find themselves at a fighting pit, preparing for their glorious deaths in a scene ripped straight out of Gladiator. Theon, being a useless sack of shit, takes her faith in him and craps it all out on Ramsay’s floor, giving him both Sansa’s candle as well as her intentions with regards to her escape.

Waiting around for Littlefinger to return is no longer an option; Ramsay has been raping Sansa every night and keeping her locked inside her room during the day. As the men start to murder each other “for [her] glory,” Dany seems disgusted, and almost laeves—until Jorah bursts into the arena, his identity obscured by a helmet, and dashingly defeats every man in the pit without killing a single one. On the bright side, Sansa returns from their ambulation with a handheld weapon she manages to secret into her skirts, so maybe she can do everyone a favor and bury it in someone’s brain before the season ends. The most curious factor of Sansa’s storyline, a repurposed plot that in the books involved a character named Jeyne Pool posing as Arya Stark and being married off to Ramsay, is the idea that it’s the Stark name and the fate that befalls Sansa that would drive the North to rise up and protect her. But while, say, Season 2 Sansa would have met her fate with little more than sheer resilience (and lots of praying), this new Sansa is an active force to be reckoned with!

It’s not just that the young Lord Commander has, in Ramsay’s words, “done very well for himself.” It’s about the way he’s done it: by smashing through orthodoxy and expectation like a fist through ice. Finally, Queen Mother Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) pays an unwelcome visit to Queen Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) in the King’s Landing dungeon. They eventually end up as sellswords in the Second Sons company, which is currently fighting against Daenerys (not for her), though Tyrion hopes to turn them to her side. She’s imprisoned for seeking to protect her homosexual brother Loras (Finn Jones) by lying to the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce). “I know you did this,” Margaery snarls, aware that Cersei empowered the fanatical Sparrows as part of her ruthless gambit to regain control of the Iron Throne. But once Reek gets up there and unlocks the door, he finds, of course, Ramsay, just as he’s settling in for a plateful of dismembered limbs or dead puppies, or whatever it is sadists have for lunch.

Davos slinks off with his tail between his legs and Melisandre suggests that they could probably move things along if Stannis would just let her sacrifice his daughter to the Lord of Light (which, honestly, feels like Melisandre’s solution for everything). Sansa does score verbal points during a later walk with Ramsay by casually pointing out that he is still a bastard, no matter what King Tommen (another bastard) wrote on some fancy piece of parchment. Ready to expose Cersei’s many sins is her cousin Lancel (Eugene Simon), a zealous follower of the faith. “I am the queen,” Cersei screams as she’s dragged away. “Look at my face,” she furiously tells her captors. “It’s the last thing you’ll see before you die!” But Stannis, as evidenced in the last few episodes, is a loyal father to Shireen and rebuffs the Red Woman, sending her away and leaving him alone with his thoughts and contemplating the fight to come. But, as likely comes as no surprise given the recent loss of their patriarch, no family struggles as mightily in the shadow of their father as the Lannister clan.

Only forward,” says Stannis, who is facing a fierce winter storm, dying horses, deserting sellswords, and a dwindling food supply en route to Winterfell. As far as she’s concerned, her mother traded her like chattel to Dorne and now that she’s happy, wants her to abandon her happiness and return to King’s Landing, merely because she bids it.

Naturally she is, thanks to her magic fire visions, but she announces there will be a previously unmentioned cost for this victory: the blood of his daughter, Shireen. In this moment, Jaime yearns for the authority that a father has over his child, that Tywin never shied away from using with his own children, but serving merely as Uncle and messenger, he has no such sway over Myrcella, a realization that leaves him wanting.

Furious at the idea, Stannis throws Melisandre out of his tent, but afterwards we see the opposing impulses warring on his face: his love for his family, and his ambition. While the answer might seem obvious—don’t murder your daughter!—he faced a somewhat similar struggle once before with his brother Renly, and it didn’t end well for the family side of things. When Jorah realizes that winning means an audience with the queen, he rushes into the battle and lays waste to the competition before revealing his visage to Dany. The Queen Mother’s incestuous indiscretion with her first cousin, Lancel—who helped murder King Robert but is now a devoted Sparrow serving the Faith of the Seven—emerges and Cersei is thrown into prison, the smug look on her face from seeing Margaery in a cell barely evaporated.

Perhaps we’re headed to a true moment of humanity in which Stannis forgoes his magical mojo and enters battle high on love and decency.1 But we’ve certainly been conditioned to expect the opposite, that Stannis will go ahead and do a truly terrible specific thing in the hopes it will lead to some vague, general good. Unmoved, Dany tries to dismiss him, only to have Tyrion present himself as the eponymous gift and finally bring two of the show’s finest characters into contact. Whispers of Cersei’s incest-lust have been getting louder around King’s Landing all season, culminating with actual Flea’s Bottom-level peasants shouting “bastard!” at Tommen in front of the Sept of Baelor. It’s curious how far Tyrion has come from the man we saw only episodes ago, uninterested in Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons, and intriguing to think how his murdered father would react could he see his son’s actions.

Arming the Faith Militant, a religious organization so conservative they make Puritans look like hippies, was a colossally stupid idea, even for the queen of self-sabotage. Theon brings a plate of food to Sansa, who now spends her days locked in her room, crying softly, until Ramsay arrives in the evening to rape her again.

With King Tommen refusing food, heartsick at the imprisonment of his queen, it’s his mother who takes to the cells to visit Margaery and offer “comfort.” He’s moved by his mother’s empathy, almost as angrily moved as Margaery is by Cersei’s gloating visit. Cersei has always prided herself on being the most like her father when it comes to matters of cunning, a title that almost certainly belongs to her brother Tyrion, a fact made obvious by how blindsided she is by what transpires next. To inhabit a universe so richly sculpted, so teeming with stories and then be constantly railroaded into familiar brutality is disheartening to say the least. And over in Essos, Tyrion and Jorah find themselves, as promised, pawned off to Meereen’s fighting pits, re-opened as a gesture of Daenerys’s political goodwill. Her marriage to Hizdahr Zo Loraq has mysteriously stopped all Sons of the Harpy attacks (guess we know who was behind that) and she’s agreed to reopen the Pits as a nod to Meereenese culture, even if she hates their barbarity.

Some are trapped by chains and cells, some by lies and deceit, some by duty and obligation, but all are bound by the expectations of the family that raised them. And no matter the chains that bind them, no situation will ever be as insurmountable as learning how to navigate the family you’ve found, the legacy they’ve left, and the life you’ve yet to lead.

Shortly before entering his first fighting “pit,” (small dirt circle?) Jorah, with that familiar sparkle back in his eyes, glimpses his eternally unrequited love through a gate—then promptly straps on a helmet, jumps his place in line, and gets his Gladiator on to impress her. Cersei’s self-orchestrated downfall has been agonizingly obvious to observe, but if her character is trapped on an express elevator to hell, Lena Headey hasn’t gotten the memo — or perhaps she just tore it up. More than that, as mhysa to the freed slaves, Dany also carries the burden of motherhood and the responsibility that goes with it, for thousands of citizens. Like a schoolboy’s daydream come true, he cuts down one enemy after another until he triumphantly takes off his helmet and looks to his queen, eyes screaming “LOVE ME!” Of course, she’s disgusted.

Sansa has taken a lot of shitty walks with self-congratulatory, sadistic fiancés, and she fearlessly deflates him by saying the dreaded b-word not once but twice: “You’re a bastard.” It’s a comment that might cost Theon a finger or two, but even Ramsay knows that he needs to keep Sansa in one piece, his nightly rapes not withstanding. There’s no way to sufficiently capture the grief of Sansa after being raped because there are fifteen other characters that need servicing in each episode.

After they are married and Ramsay starts to abuse her, the cries are heard throughout the castle; it’s said that the weeping of Ned Stark’s “daughter” could be more dangerous to the Bolton cause in the North “than all of Lord Stannis’ swords and spears.” Jon heads north with Tormund to recruit the remaining Wildlings to his cause, prompting unpleasant glares from both Allister Thorne and that little kid whose parents were murdered in a Wildling raid. This union has been the biggest promise of the season—now that Daenerys and Tyrion are together, a whole crop of new, exciting possibilities are in reach. It’s unfortunate timing, as Maester Aemon is in the midst of dying, muttering about his younger brother Egg (aka King Aegon Targaryen V) as he fades away.

It’s that they should stop featuring rape because it is physically impossible for the show to portray it in the sufficiently grave light that it deserves. She’s made something that could have been one-note ring out like a symphony. (Or, in terms Cersei would appreciate, she’s taken a single grape and squeezed it into a Jeroboam.) So rich and perversely sympathetic is Headey that I found her touchdown celebration in Margaery’s cell unnecessary.

As it stands, Sansa’s fate leaves two possible options for resolution: Either she rises up, more powerful than before and uses her rape as PROOF that she is a STRONG WOMAN and she has OVERCOME ADVERSITY (which conveniently overlooks the fact that she’s already overcome the razing of her home, the ritual slaughter of her family, her near first marriage to a sadist, etc.) or she’s rescued from her terrible fate by outside forces. But it’s equally unnecessary to make someone a villain when they’ve already accomplished the much more dangerous trick of outing themselves as human. The set-up is delicious and these set of seemingly disjoint sequence of events may finally unveil one giant pattern about which side finally finds favour with the old gods and the new. The idea of fantasy hoi polloi rising up en masse is fascinating — too often they’re reduced to dragon kibble or merely tossed onto death wagons — but I wish the most prominent avatars of the forgotten classes weren’t anti-buggery religious fanatics and turquoise-clad slave traders. (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Meereen is the worst.

She and Sam do develope a sexual relationship, however, including an infamous scene where his penis is hilariously described as a “fat pink mast.” George R. This has been my home for years,” she shouts, every bit the teenager. “I love Trystane and I’m going to marry him.” She sounds quite a lot like Sansa did once, though her Romeo seems considerably kinder than Joffrey. After seeing the jokers Daenerys has surrounded herself with thus far, it’s a wonder she’s able to hold on to her hat, let alone three teetering megalopolises. Eagle-eyed viewers might have noticed that Bronn was cut by one of the Sand Snakes during the fight, and as we learned from Oberyn, the Dornish are fond of poisoning their blades. We’re also told that she seems to have inherited the high intelligence of her uncle Tyrion (and grandfather Tywin), and is particularly good at the chess-like game of cyvasse—perhaps an indication that she might good at other games as well.

While Myrcella and Jaime argue in Dorne, Tommen and Cersei have their own parent/child confrontation over Margaery’s imprisonment, or at least as much of a confrontation as the young king can muster. Margaery lies on the floor, dirty and unkempt, as Cersei practically slathers her in faux-sympathy. “We are making every effort on your behalf,” purrs the Queen Regent. While Cersei’s brand of sadism is different from Ramsay’s, this is the sort of role play they both enjoy: pretending to be the perfect lord or lady on one hand while dishing out abuse with the other. He offers a little parable about vanity and humility that quickly turns personal. “What will we find when we strip away your finery?” he asks, his once-kindly eyes now glittering with accusation.

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