Thoughts on Thrones: A little bit of bickering

26 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

5 things we learned from this week’s Game of Thrones: ‘The Gift’.

Rheon, 30, told Radio Times magazine that he doesn’t know how long he will be in the series and says it is more disturbing than any other project he has worked on.

‘The Gift’ lived up to its name as Game of Thrones finally brought a number of separate storylines together to deliver game-changing events in Meereen and King’s Landing. The episode’s title refers to Jorah Mormont’s attempt to reclaim Daenerys’s favour by bringing Tyrion as a gift, albeit not in the manner he originally intended.

However, we’re finally starting to see momentum gathering, as the characters are being pushed to the brink as we find out what they are willing to sacrifice to achieve victory, and whether the gods will view those sacrifices favorably. 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. In Meereen, Jorah Mormont is willing to murder a half-dozen men with barely a second glance to once again stand before his queen, only to find himself once more a prisoner when Queen Daenerys doesn’t react favorably to her prodigal knight. Jorah uses his brawn to eliminate his fellow candidates without killing them, allowing him to effect a historic reunion between the Targaryen and Lannister families as Tyrion strides out and introduces himself to Dany. The queen, meanwhile, has sacrificed her hand in marriage, if not her sexual independence, in the hope of uniting all those within the walls of Meereen.

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. Daario Naharis, her erstwhile lover (who wouldn’t mind the idea of becoming her third husband) thinks that Dany should use the occasion of the opening of the fighting pits to execute all the masters, and indeed raises the question of whether Hizdahr zo Loraq, future King Consort of Meereen, is in fact the leader of the Sons of the Harpy who have mysteriously ceased their campaign of terrorism. Can Tyrion really help Daenerys in her quest to capture the Iron Throne and fulfil Varys’s vision of strong but fair leadership for the Seven Kingdoms?

Sam gets beaten 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. The Queen Mother smugly lectures a distraught Tommen about facing events that cannot be anticipated before a sequence of entirely foreseeable events set in motion by her own actions comes crashing down on her. Olenna tries to find leverage over the High Sparrow, only to discover his motives are purely religious rather than selfish as he talks about the many rising up against the few.

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. Far from being free men as Hizdahr had promised, Jorah and Tyrion are clearly slaves, bought at auction and saved from an ugly death in the sands only by the Mormont knight’s skill at arms.

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. 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. At the very other side of the known world, another ruler is being made to choose between his deepest desires and the most painful sacrifice imaginable. For all that Stannis is the better general, for all that his army is bigger than that of the Boltons, the Northern winter that we’ve been waiting for five seasons may be his undoing.

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. I was just as grossed out by the gratuitous rape scene at the end of last week’s episode as everyone else, mostly because it was deplorable, but also partially because it didn’t serve to teach us anything new about these characters. 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! Just like the High King Agamemnon, Stannis is now faced with a choice between the will of the gods and his daughter’s life, the life he fought so hard to preserve when she was struck down by greyscale. 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.

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. She claims that the power of king’s blood held in Shireen’s veins will lead Stannis to victory, and reminds him of the three leaches which he cast into the fire that seem to have struck down two kings…but Balon Greyjoy still lives. 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. From that evidence, we might say that Melisandre is a fraud and a crank – and yet, we have the evidence of Renly’s death and the rebirth of Beric Dondarrion to remind us that R’hllor really does have power in this world.

And that’s something of the sticking point: In our own world, we view the idea that a king might sacrifice his daughter because the gods demand it as abhorrent, in no small part because we don’t believe the sacrifices work. 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. But in a world where we know that there really is going to be an apocalyptic conflict between the living and the dead, where the gods might actually answer prayers in the form of fiery miracles, it becomes a very different question. However, Reek remains true to his master, betraying his childhood friend and resulting in the old woman who had offered her support to Sansa being flayed to death.

And at last, Cersei has sacrificed everything to gain a momentary victory as she stands over an imprisoned Margaery offering the same table scraps that the two women feuded over at the Purple Wedding. Genuinely believing that Margaery Tyrell is the mortal enemy foretold in her prophecy, Cersei has rendered the crown helpless to protect its own, as she finds out herself when she’s thrown into the dungeons, right next to her daughter-in-law. But with the situations in King’s Landing, Meereen and Dorne far from stable and trouble aplenty brewing in the North, when will things boil over into full-blown conflict? 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.

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. 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. For his part, Littlefinger is perfectly happy to sacrifice his last surviving prostitute in order to preserve his ties with the Tyrells (and coincidentally thwarting the Faith who ransacked his brothels, another neat example of killing two birds with one stone).

Perhaps the only good man in the seven kingdoms steps up and defends his girl, mostly by getting punched in the face so many times that it tires the bad dudes out. And over in Essos, Tyrion and Jorah find themselves, as promised, pawned off to Meereen’s fighting pits, reopened as a gesture of Daenerys’s political goodwill.

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. Khaleesi starts the episode in bed with Daario who, after proposing and getting turned down, advises her to chop off every head of every family leader in the city. (That conversation took a turn, eh?) Dany ignores him though and continues with her plan to win back the hearts of her adopted city. 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. For weeks, the showrunners have been hinting that Cersei was perhaps not as in control of the religious zealots as she thought she was, and in this episode, the sparrows have finally come home to roost.

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