‘Game of Thrones’ recap: ‘The Gift’

25 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Game of Thrones’ recap: ‘The Gift’.

They’re two of the most iconic characters on television, let alone on Game of Thrones: Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen, two rebel outcasts from dynastic families who have never met before … until now.

For five seasons, Daenerys has been on another continent from the other main characters on “Game of Thrones”: the Lannisters, Starks and Baratheons. In a season full of unexpected character pairings, Sunday’s Thrones concluded with the most mind-blowing and eagerly anticipated partnering of them all when the fugitive Lannister revealed himself to the Breaker of Chains as she toured a fighting pit.

This episode was called The Gift, and as well as Tyrion finally presenting himself as a gift to Daenerys, we were given another highly prized offering: Cersei Lannister behind bars, getting the smackdown from karma that she has long deserved. We’ve been told this since the very first episode of Game of Thrones, but the cold season has never felt so imminent as it did in Sunday’s episode, an hour practically covered in snow (literally and figuratively). Showrunner David Benioff said pairing these two characters—played by Emmy winner Peter Dinklage and Emmy nominee Emilia Clarke—was one of the twists the producers most eagerly anticipated this season. “We’re really excited to see these two characters we love so much finally set eyes on each other,” Benioff said. “Creatively it made sense to us, because we wanted it to happen. Sold into slavery, Tyrion and Jorah Mormont are sent to fight in Meereen’s fighting pits, where, luck should have it, Daenerys – the queen of Slaver’s Bay (and arguably rightful queen of Westeros) – is taking in her first gladiator fight. After the decidedly unsettling and controversial scene last week in which Sansa was raped by Ramsay after their wedding (some entertainment websites and even a US senator, Claire McCaskill, have said they will no longer follow the series after this, deemed one rape scene too far), this episode wasn’t quite as bleak.

But we did learn the unfortunate news that since her horrific wedding night, Sansa has been locked up and forced to endure more nightly abuse at Ramsay’s hands, and her chances of escape are currently slim to none. These two media are different, there’s no way around it: one is interactive, non-linear and requires skills to experience, the other moves in one direction, involves real people and moves forward whether you ask it to or not. From the Wall to Winterfell to Dorne to King’s Landing, things aren’t looking so good for the vast majority of our characters, who are forced to make the most of bad situations, a task at which some are exceedingly better at than others. Jon Snow, meanwhile, leaves for a difficult mission without the full support of his men, Sam and Gilly are under constant threat, the Tyrells remain imprisoned, and Jorah and Tyrion remain on the far side of the world, even though things may be looking a little better for them — at least in the short term. As the fifth season builds towards its inevitable climactic ninth episode, it’s easy to see characters being put into places where they will have to make hard decisions.

There are people, like Samwell Tarly (John Bradley), the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), Petyr Baelish (Aiden Gillen), Bronn (Jerome Flynn) and Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg), who know who they are. This is probably the first time a Lannister and Targaryen have been together since Dany’s father, the Mad King, was burning people alive in the presence of Tyrion’s dad, Tywin. And then there is a third category, from which the show derives a great deal of its drama: those who are trying to figure themselves out, including Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), who is grappling with the conflicts between his fanaticism and his decency; Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who has little sense of self separate from his sister Cersei; Dany (Emilia Clarke), whose ideals are being dashed against the reality of Meereen’s politics; and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), who is struggling to find new tools in a world where the ones she was raised to wield are worse than useless.

At this point in this storyline, the show has progressed beyond the books, so I have no idea how this is going to end up, but I can’t wait to find out. Despite the brutality of her beginnings, Gilly isn’t broken: she’s fled her father-husband’s squalid encampment, shown a fierce love for her son, found joy in learning to read and the friendship of a king’s daughter, and taken pleasure in her banter with Sam. It’s hard to come up with a more eloquent explanation, but this just felt right. [Varys] puts Tyrion’s mission out there [in the season premiere] and the mission ends in Meereen.” Tyrion and Daenerys have not yet met in George R.R. We see Reek, tormented by the choice ahead of him, head toward the tower with a candle in hand, but instead he comes across Ramsay, who is enjoying a meal. But that means, as Ser Alliser is so quick to point out, that Sam’s allies are dwindling, and Sam was never much of anything in the Night’s Watch without people holding him up.

If his father insisted that Sam be strong and capable of violence because that’s all he understood men to be, Gilly has given Sam some sense of what strength and power can be used for. But as is increasingly the case on the show, the producers opted to progress the story beyond the characters’ stopping point in Martin’s most recent book, A Dance with Dragons, in order to maintain an intense TV-friendly pace.

Later, Sansa finds the strength to challenge Ramsay’s claim to Winterfell, calling him a bastard made a Bolton by the decree of Tommen, another bastard. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire.” Both of them deal not only with a few charming characters and their adventures, but also with big, sprawling worlds full of endless intricacy.

Benioff and his fellow showrunner Dan Weiss have previously pointed out they prefer to cap the series around seven seasons. “There will always be some fans who will think it’s blasphemy,” Benioff noted. “But we can’t not do something because we’re afraid of the reaction. It turns out that Sam the Slayer has at least one powerful ally left at the Wall: Ghost the Direwolf, who we may or may not have forgotten about with everything that has been going on. Gilly is resisting all on her own, with words and deeds, and so while it wouldn’t quite be correct to say that Sam rescues her, he does bringssomething else to a very dangerous situation. I like to think we’ve always done what’s in the best interest of the show and we hope most people agree.” Next week, Tyrion and Dany will have their first real conversation, and you can expect it to rank among the best scenes of the season.

While some fans were upset by the death of Ser Barristan earlier this year, his demise means that Dany lost an experienced senior adviser with strong knowledge of Westeros at a time when her regime is under attack from insurgents. There’s just a lot about the pacing and the scope of the books that’s not very well-suited to an hour-long TV series, which isn’t really anybody’s fault. After being raped repeatedly by Ramsay, Sansa tries to get help, but Theon Greyjoy betrays her – and Ramsay tortures and murders the old woman who sought to help Sansa leave Winterfell.

But world building only takes you halfway in a TV show, and the story’s inability to find a narrative focus has both lost the forest for the trees and the trees for the forest. They are slowed by an intense snow storm, and Melisandre advises Stannis to cruelly kill his own daughter, so she can use her blood for a good-luck spell.

Sansa’s attempt to get Theon to help her was thwarted, and her only other potential helper was flayed alive in traditional Bolton style and displayed in grisly glory. Maester Aemon draws his last breaths while Sam tends to him. “And now his watch is ended” rings out as the black brothers lay him to rest. “You’re losing all your friends, Tarly,” Ser Alliser tells him. Elsewhere, Ramsay Bolton and Cersei Lannister share very little — not geographical orientation, not gender, not the circumstances of their birth and early years. Meanwhile, Brienne is staring at Winterfell from afar, and regardless of whether or not she knows how dire Sansa’s plight is, Brienne looks of a mind to rescue someone or something.

The measure of Ramsay’s psychosis is the extent to which he thinks he can balance the atrocities he displays publicly with courtly politeness. “Reek told me you wanted to leave. But I chose to take that second and get a better perspective on what was happening in the world, and because I chose to do it, it didn’t feel like an imposition. As you wander Temeria, you can go to the notice board of whatever town you find yourself in: from a practical perspective, this is where you get quests and Witcher contracts. Besides the fact that it includes sexual violence that is gratuitous, horrific and completely unnecessary (rape is not a prop to be used to make an episode more exciting, and this show needs to learn that), Sansa’s story also just completely brings her back to where she began, effectively erasing five seasons worth of character development. In a poignant scene and shocking rarity in Westeros, Aemon Targaryen managed to die of old age at The Wall this week, surely unlocking some kind of Westerosi special achievement bonus in doing so.

But they serve a different function, too: in war-torn Velen, for example you often find people asking for spare coffins to give a proper funeral for a dead family member. In this episode it is most clear when Ramsay forces Sansa to look at the dead, flayed body of her would-be savior, a direct mirror of the scene from season one where Joffrey forces her to look at Ned Stark’s head on the wall of the Red Keep. It might be an honest question, if Ramsay wasn’t displaying the flayed, crucified corpse of the woman who told Sansa that there was help for her if she asked for it. “Her heart gave out before I got to her face,” Ramsay remarks casually. It’s things like this that fill out the world not just with big stories, but little ones, too, the sort of small little glimpses into the lives of the people that occupy this world.

Ser Davos wants Stannis to go back to Castle Black and wait out the bad weather, but Stannis tells him that “Winter is coming” aren’t merely the words of the Starks. Part of the reason Sansa is so dangerous to Ramsay is because she recognizes his dual nature, and he can’t torture her into pretending he is a perfect lord, the way he’s done with Reek/Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen).

He can only threaten her by proxy, even when she’s forcing the point that he’s a bastard who could easily be delegitimized in favor of his new little brother. After a bit of sexy Sand Snake manipulation in the dungeons in Dorne, it emerged that Bronn’s arm had been cut with a poison that is activated, or at least accelerated, by sexual arousal. But it would fit perfectly in a video game: a series of side quests illuminating a smaller faction within a broader world, maybe hitting the main plot once or twice. I’m not sure what the point of this scene was other than to keep up the show’s nudity quota, but if the world’s jilted lovers ever get hold of whatever poison this is, then heaven help us all. Just as everyone and their brother predicted, Stannis’s southern army isn’t equipped to deal with the harsh climate of the North, and their path to Winterfell isn’t going to be an easy one.

Well yeah, Melisandre wants to sacrifice her so Stannis can win the Iron Throne (considering she gives birth to evil shadow assassins, I’m guessing she doesn’t have much in the way of maternal instincts). Here’s to hoping he makes the right decision (side note: Here’s to also hoping this show doesn’t up and kill a little girl just for the hell of it, kthanksbye).

Back in the holding area, likewise, Tyrion sees his chance to try to escape and starts cutting at his chains, but he gets some help from a much larger man. Oh hey Myrcella, what we really needed on this show was another petulant teenage girl obsessed with marrying her prince charming, so thanks for being so completely out of touch with reality. The young Lannister has clearly has been living under a rock while she’s been in Dorne, because all she can think or care about is marrying her betrothed (hey remember that thing I said about Sansa’s story repeating itself?) and there’s little Jaime can do about it.

He advises her to gather all the great masters of Meereen on the day of the Great Games and execute them. “I am a queen, not a butcher,” she says, but he responds by telling her to say all rulers are either butchers are meat. Basically, Tyene Sand wants to know if she’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, proceeds to strip for Bronn at the exact moment that the poison that she stabbed him in the last episode with takes effect.

So glad we got a whole scene complete with female nudity to tell us. “You are the only person in Meereen who’s not free,” Daario tells Dany while the two are in bed together and she laughs at his marriage proposal. It speaks to Cersei’s self-delusion that even after that speech, even after Lancel Lannister (Eugene Simon) — the young man in question and her former lover — appears behind the High Sparrow’s shoulder, she doesn’t quite realize what’s happening. “Lies come easily to you. She’s trapped by her vow to keep Slaver’s Bay slavery-free and also by her dragons chained in the basement and by her own failings in Meereeen thus far. Perhaps that’s why your son was so eager to cast you aside for me.” But Cersei’s contempt for the younger woman was so deep that she couldn’t hear the warning in Margaery’s observations. In true over-the-top fashion, Jorah puts on a mask, defeats everyone in the pit to get Dany’s attention (although it’s actually kind of ridiculous that Dany’s head would be turned by a really good fighter, considering the disdain she has for the whole practice).

Until the moment a Silent Sister grabs hold of her, Cersei actually believes that she’s fooled everyone into believing that she’s a moral exemplar, a deferential Queen Mother. If watching Cersei reap some of what she has sown carried a measure of satisfaction, “The Gift” set in motion a number of important new uncertainties that will test who other characters understand themselves to be. In Dorne, Jaime is taken aback when Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) rebukes him and Cersei for their audacity in daring to fetch her home. “This is my home. This has been my home for years…I did my duty and now she’s forcing me to go back?” Myrcella demands to know, “You don’t know me.” She doesn’t know that she’s just delivered a devastating truth to her father.

This leads the eldest Tyrell back into the waiting arms of Littlefinger, who, despite losing his prized brothel, does seem to have a plan, like he always does. Cersei says she will speak to the Sparrow on Tommen’s behalf, and, after a quick victory lap over the dirty and bedraggled Queen Margarey, Cersei does speak to him, only it doesn’t go quite as she planned.

It was only a matter of time until this came back to bite her, considering the cousin she committed incest with is now a sworn member of the militarized Faith. “What will we find when we strip away your finery?” the Sparrow asks Cersei just before she is thrown in a cell. When Ramsay leans back on the royal decree that legitimized him, Sansa has an answer for that, too. “Tommen Baratheon?” she practically scoffs. “Another bastard.” Maybe the sight of her crucified, flayed helper will crush Sansa as rape and betrayal have not. And outside the castle Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), who also fought hard to claim an independent identity of her own, is waiting for Sansa’s signal.

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