Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 7 Recap

25 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Game Of Thrones’ Season 5, Episode 7 Review: ‘The Gift’.

I never thought I’d see the day when Sam Tarly had something in common with Cersei Lannister and yet here we are, two major characters both totally screwed, and I couldn’t be happier. We knew from the outset of Cersei’s scorched-earth campaign against Margaery and the rest of the Tyrells that eventually the flames would lick her, too.We come to tonight’s episode of Game of Thrones—”The Gift”—on the heels of last week’s horrifying rape scene, only to find that some time has passed, and Sansa is in perhaps even more dire straits than we realized. And so it went on Sunday, not long after her victory lap in Margaery’s cell — presumably the most satisfying moment of Cersei’s recent past — she ended up in her own. Sure, Cersei’s end awaits and Sam got his end away, but it seemed to be an episode of few winners and mostly losers, and the eternal coin-tossing between the two states.

It was a dire development for Cersei in an episode that, Tyrion’s long-awaited meeting with Daenerys Targaryen aside, perhaps, mostly kept the desperate vibe going from last week. 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. Remember, spoiler spoiler spoiler etcetera etcetera, leave now or forever hold your piece, you know the drill, sweet, so let’s start as we mean to finish – with a bang.

The death of Maester Aemon, the last of the “classic-era” Targaryens, flavoured this whole episode not just with a sense of loss but the feeling of losing it. If you happen to be one of the many Game of Thrones viewers who has sworn off the show after last week’s episode—like The Mary Sue and various other confused dissidents—you will have missed all of this.

Aemon Targaryen, maester of the Night’s Watch, passed away in bizarrely normal fashion this week: in bed, surrounded by people who care about him, experiencing flashbacks to his childhood with little brother Aegon, a “jolly fellow” with an endlessly amazing nickname, “Egg.” Before he dies, he advises Gilly to fly south before winter comes—advice that would suit Sam, now entirely friendless at Castle Black, just as well. The centenarian veteran of the Night’s Watch has been an infrequent but calming presence throughout the series, passing on wisdom as well as messages from the ravens.

Sam gets beat unconscious in an attempt to rescue Gilly from two would-be rapists (just another Tuesday in Westeros), highlighting his now-precarious position at the Wall. Martin has called it “the butterfly effect” meaning that when the show changes something that seems tiny, it can have a large impact on the narrative Martin is creating. 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.

He wrote about it earlier this week when addressing Sansa’s controversial wedding night: There have been differences between the novels and the television show since the first episode of season one. Sam Tarly and Gilly made his final moments peaceful and even happy, with the old man remembering his younger brother – the future King Aegon – as a bouncing baby very similar to Gilly’s son Little Sam, before having something of an Inception moment and dreaming that he was old. Gilly’s almost-rape is foiled by a well-timed appearance from Ghost—the direwolf Jon left behind while he rallied the remaining Wildlings north of the Wall with Tormund Giantsbane—and comes with bonus vow-breaking rewards for Sam “Oh, My” Tarly.

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. Gilly’s practicality and strength are the perfect foil for Sam’s sensitivity during these final moments – she urges him to sleep and be strong and it’s not just because he’ll have to speak for Maester Aemon at his funeral pyre.

Turns out she would’ve been better off sticking with raven Skype — once again, as with their undoing of the wretched King Joffrey, Littlefinger and Lady Olenna brought down a Lannister. (Yes, I realize Joffrey and Cersei are technically Baratheons, but c’mon.) Olenna and Littlefinger’s fateful meeting in the latter’s “broken little flesh market” was but one domino in a chain Cersei herself sent toppling weeks ago, when spite and fear sparked her devil’s bargain with a holy man. 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. Her imprisonment made it three-for-three in the Lannister incarceration department — she, Jaime and Tyrion are each in some sort of captivity at this point. 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.

HBO is more than forty hours into the impossible and demanding task of adapting my lengthy (extremely) and complex (exceedingly) novels, with their layers of plots and subplots, their twists and contradictions and unreliable narrators, viewpoint shifts and ambiguities, and a cast of characters in the hundreds. 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. On his deathbed, Aemon observe’s Gilly’s baby, likens him to his own little brother “Egg.” This is Aegon, who would become king when Aemon refused the Iron Throne.

He’s the grandfather of Aerys II, the “Mad King” who killed Ned Stark’s older brother and father, and who Jaime Lannister killed (earning him the nickname “Kingslayer.”) This also makes Aegon the great-grandfather of Daenerys Targaryen, and Aemon her great-grand-uncle. 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.

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. While I did wonder why Jon didn’t take his direwolf with him beyond The Wall – surely Ghost would have been useful up there – it did make for a great, ahem, climax. 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!

But in tonight’s episode the show “spoiled” something book readers will presumably have to wait until the next book to see: the meeting of Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen. Or so this show keeps telling us. (Waiting for this feels like waiting for Daenerys’s dragons to fly to Westeros: a tantalizing promise that somehow never materializes.) Sansa pleads with Reek to seek help from the Starks’ “friends in the North” by lighting a candle in Winterfell’s highest tower, a symbolic call for rescue from the Starks’ old servants. In the most recent book of Martin’s series, the Targaryen queen watched Tyrion perform in the fighting pits without knowing his true identity, but that’s as close as the two have gotten. 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.

Cersei slammed Jaime a few weeks back for his tendency to act without thinking, but isn’t what she did, in arming the Sparrows, a version of the same thing? 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.

Sam’s just lost something very important, but goodness gracious hasn’t he found something very interesting indeed (assuming he found it under all those layers). Now I’d assumed that she was mostly driven by her own sense of malice toward Margaery and self-preservation. (Tommen was making noise about shunting her off to Casterly Rock, remember.) But didn’t that scene with the boy-king make it seem a little more complicated than that? But her attempts to regain control amount to nothing when she finds herself staring her dead servant in the eye, the woman’s flayed body pinned to a wall.

It’s dangerous, if delightful, territory for the two young lovebirds, who will still face challenges in a Castle Black without Jon or Aemon on their side. Clearly Cersei wants to protect her own position, but she also knows that king or not, her son is a lamb among the wolves of the capital, starting with his power-hungry queen. Elsewhere, Ramsay Bolton and Cersei Lannister share very little — not geographical orientation, not gender, not the circumstances of their birth and early years. Further down from The Wall, Stannis is marooned in a sea of white, as winter snows threaten to derail his campaign to capture Winterfell before it can even begin.

No matter who or how strong you are, Cersei told Tommen, “sooner or later you’ll face circumstances beyond your control.” The irony, of course, is that she didn’t realize at the time how little control she had over her own circumstances. 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. He’s losing time and the advantage he had hoped to press, but Kate Bush has a solution, and unfortunately for Stannis it does not involve any tent-based nookie. And the sobering thing for her, aside from a presumed separation from her morning wine, is that her callow little lamb is pretty much the only ally she has left. Melisandre shut that down faster than I shut down Andrew on Grade 8 camp who decided we should totally “snog” even though he ignored me in normal school hours.

Well I’m sorry, Andrew, but girls aren’t readily seduced by the “I’ve got limited options so I pick you” line. 13-year-old Natalie had some RESPECT for herself. (Clearly that’s gone, as I now fantasise about fictional characters, but hey, life happens, you know?) Melisandre reckons Stannis should consider sacrificing Shireen to the Lord of Light because… I really don’t know. We’ve been waiting at least two seasons for these two branches to overlap in some way, so we probably shouldn’t dwell on the implausible string of coincidences that landed Tyrion in front of Khaleesi. 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. 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. Clearly the equation “Kill Shireen + ??? = Stannis Victory” makes sense to her, but she’s operating on a level of maths I could only dream about failing.

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. 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.

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). Fans of behind-the-scenes images and leaked plot info weren’t at all surprised to see Tyrion present himself to Daenerys in this episode; the two actors were photographed together last fall. 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.

Stannis needs to sacrifice those with king’s blood in order to use her dark magic and bring victory (though it hasn’t worked out all that swimmingly in the past.) The only person within miles that has any is Stannis’s own daughter, Shireen. Ramsay Bolton continues to smugly breathe air like some kind of human being, rather than the foetid stain on the side of a privvy bowl that he actually is.

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. The brutality inflicted upon Sansa in last week’s shocking wedding night sequence has not let up, with the Stark heir subjected to degrading and damaging abuse by her so-called husband. 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.

If things haven’t gotten better for Sansa — and they haven’t — they’ve gotten much worse for that sympathetic and now freshly flayed Northern maid. 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.

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. I still suspect Theon will come around eventually, but I’m hoping we don’t have to endure much more Ramsay being Ramsay before it finally happens. If anything, it will be Sansa’s will, her sheer force of personality and courage, that finally convince Theon to help her—if he does help her at all. And yet he continues to sugar coat his violence with phrases like “I’m so glad we are married” and “You’re so beautiful” and by thunder will nobody crossbow this guy in the nads? Elsewhere in the North, Melisandre, that fount of womb-smoke and political sorcery, made her most terrible suggestion yet, advising Stannis to sacrifice his daughter Shireen to ensure good fortune on the battlefield.

Sansa still has iron in her Stark blood, enough to undermine Ramsay’s feelings of absolute power by referring to the possible claim on Winterfell of his soon to be new trueborn half brother. He doesn’t seem very pleased about this, and I shudder to think what he will almost certainly do to her later, but she’s obviously not lost her courage. Put up for a quick sale, Jorah’s cashed-up new owner agrees to shell out a few sheckels for Tyrion as well, because he’s funny and does a passable job beating up on a fellow slave in chains. In a similar fashion, it feels like the writers are messing with us, toying with both our anxieties about our beloved Bronn’s potential demise and our flagging hopes that the Sand Snakes will amount to something interesting. But I digress…) Here the inevitable fallout of all of Cersei’s plotting and conniving comes to a head, with not only Loras and Margaery in chains, but the Queen Dowager as well.

There are three weeks left, I guess, so we’ll see. • For a second I was afraid Gilly was going to be the latest rape victim on this show, but good news: Sam was just beaten to within an inch of his life. It was an uncomfortable scene all around, one that probably portends an unpleasant stint for Sam and Gilly now that their protector, Jon Snow, is off on his way to Hardhome. He supplied Loras’s lover to confess against the Knight of Flowers; and now he’s at least informing Lady Olenna that Lancel Lannister will do the same to Cersei.

Keep your enemies close and your direwolves closer. • “You had more hair,” Myrcella tells “Uncle” Jaime in Dorne. “And more hands,” he said. That was a delightful scene between Diana Rigg and Jonathan Pryce, two veteran English performers who have probably forgotten more about acting than I’ve ever known about anything. • What do you think? This is the first time Lady Olenna has truly been at a loss, though I can’t help but root for her against the seemingly humble, but very dangerous, High Sparrow. 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. He’d bring all sorts of zealotry and horrors to an already horrible world, and the targets of his “many” would not only be pampered noble deviants, but many other disenfranchised people in the lower class as well, no matter his Marxist leanings.

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. 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.

Into the fray he strides, backing up Jorah’s claim that he brought Dany a gift. “I’m the gift,” he declares to a stunned Dany. “My name is Tyrion Lannister.” Ooohhh, two of my favourites actually meeting! Her suggestion was shocking to him, though not to close readers of this season of “Game of Thrones”: She wants to sacrifice Shireen Baratheon (Kerry Ingram) to assure Stannis’s victory. “Have you lost your mind?” Stannis demanded. “She’s my daughter.

She’s happier in Dorne where, other than a few crazy Sand Snakes, things are relatively peaceful and incidents of intrigue, murder, and war are all fairly nonexistent compared to King’s Landing. 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. While the sell-sword was indeed poisoned, the girls give him an antidote before it kills him (thank goodness—Bronn is too great to kill off that way.) It’s a funny scene, with gratuitous levels of HBO nudity/strip-tease. Olenna’s a canny lady with a lot of credible cards to play but even she doesn’t know how best to deal with someone who is a genuine loopy loony fanatic.

The other big moment—one that’s danced around in the books but never actually happens—is Dany and Tyrion meeting at a small fighting pit in Meereen. Be bloody, bold, and resolute, he tells her (in so many words.) But she says she’d rather be a ruler, not a butcher. “All rulers are butchers or meat,” he replies. It’s an interesting scene, with nothing super new about it save to remind us that Cersei is now down a kid and her whole lioness identity has only grown stronger because of it. Whether she is capable of accepting him back into her court will be a critical question for her. (Getting us to this point is another strong edit of Martin’s books, which currently have Jorah and Tyrion bouncing around a sellsword encampment.) And in Winterfell, Sansa Stark is still fighting. This becomes quite clear after she visits Kate Middleton in the Black Cells, where the younger more beautiful queen languishes without her hair stylist.

Despite her rape at the end of the last episode, an event that sparked loud protest from some viewers, and despite the rapes to which she’s still subjected, Sansa continues to resist. Margaery is immediately wise to Cersei’s faux-Samaritan act, tsk-tsking about the conditions and begging her to eat some of her own food. “Get out of here, you hateful bitch!” Margaery cries, throwing her food back at her face.

Cersei, appearing distraught and concerned, turns and leaves, breaking out into the smuggest of smug smiles since Arnold Smugzenegger won the Mr Smugniverse body-smugging competition. Dany thinks so also (okay, no, she’s just disgusted by the senseless violence and not particularly swayed by Hizdahr’s mewlings about tradition) but then a new champion takes the field. Who just happened to be there at this very fighting pit, just like Tyrion just happened to be at the tavern where Jorah was, and this series of very contrived moments just keep coming over here in the east, away from Westeros.

I’m really excited to see where the show takes their meet-up since it was one thing I so desperately wanted to happen in A Dance with Dragons and never got. 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. Surprised for Cersei is one thing, but humbled is another, and she’s not going to head down that path quickly. “Look at my face,” she spat at the Silent Sisters as they threw her into her own Black Cell. “It’s the last thing you’ll see before you die.” Don’t write her off completely – sure, I’m glad to see her cop some sweet, sweet comeuppance, but Cersei is a survivor. Let’s hope they all join forces at some point – having said it was against his code to fight women, it would be marvellous to see Bronn acknowledge the skill female fighters can have.

Jaime had a brief audience with his daughter-niece Myrcella Water in Dorne, in which she got stroppy about his attempts to remove her from Dorne for her own safety. As far as she’s concerned, she was doing her duty as instructed by Cersei, and her mother has quite a cheek demanding she return to King’s Landing now. It’s grand to see Cersei brought low (though poor Tommen is now truly alone) even though we book-readers know what’s coming, or at least think we do.

But Petyr Baelish still believes he’s the kind of ally a smart gal like Olenna needs, and claims to have information about another young man who could be of importance. Clearly macking on with Maario himself would be preferable and obviously I can make myself available if needs be, but being a third eye in their cosy bedroom is a close second to the action. What’s not so cool is Dany’s sense of being trapped by her status, as evidenced by her refusal when Maario suggests she marry him instead. “You’re the Queen, you can do what you like,” he says, half covered by an irritating bedsheet. What’s helped make her so different is her relative mercy towards enemies; but her grasp on her personal philosophy seems to be slipping (even if her grasp on Maario’s glutes remains strong).

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