*BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD*
George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones is one of those rarities on television that revels in keeping the motivations and ambitions of its characters a secret. It keeps its viewers on their toes, shuffling and pacing in their steps as they think over what will happen to their favorite characters. And since the show is deviating so much from the books this season, even book readers like me are apprehensive about what they will see next. Hell, even the title cards of episodes are mostly misleading which is why it was a pleasant surprise to watch this week’s ‘The Gift,’ with so many references to its aforementioned title. And a pleasant surprise it was, as Game of Thrones recovers from the low last week to give its strongest episode this season.
Duty can be a foolhardy choice, as Thorne likes to remind Jon as he heads to Hardhome and yet, duty is also owed to something or someone one cares awfully about. Which is why, it is surprisingly poignant when Aemon Targaryen, Maester of the Night’s Watch passes away. Poignant and oddly touching, not only because he was such a good human being, but also because as a viewer, you get to finally see how much Sam cared for him.
And it was perhaps duty too (other than love, of course) that willed Sam to stand up against bullies when they tried to rape Gilly. No, Sam didn’t save the day. Ghost did. But at least, he has proven himself to be the son of Randyll Tarly. Now, that ‘steel’ may not be as important a development as say, Sam finally losing his virginity but, it’s still something.
Random thought: Why isn’t Ghost accompanying Jon on his way to Hardhome? Scared of woolly mammoths, are we?
Things remain bleak in Winterfell as Sansa becomes the new whipping girl for Ramsey’s fancies (And going by the scars and bruises, they are fairly heinous). Seeking help from Theon makes sense, and it was actually pretty good of her to remind him of his true identity but I would have been really surprised if that simple bit had cracked Reek after the season full of torture he had to suffer, which means Theon’s redemption is still a long way off. I am glad however of the fact that Sansa is taking an initiative though (a view also based on the preview for next week) and to see her momentarily wipe the smile off Ramsey’s face was perhaps worth it. Pretty bummed about the old lady though. So much for The North Remembers.
Somewhere in the North, Stannis the Mannis Baratheon finds himself to be in a sort of rut too. And a dilemma, as well. For those including me who thought Shireen’s increasing presence was limited to highlighting Greyscale, the bad news is that Stannis is faced with the difficult choice to or not to sacrifice his only daughter. He refused, for now. But, with sellswords fleeing and Winter coming, only time will tell how long he can stick to it.
Random thought: Why couldn’t have Stannis used Aemon’s blood? Surely he, if not Melisandre knew the history of the Targaryens.
The arc down south still feels a lot less disconnected and isolated with the happenings across the rest of Westeros, and even with the events across the Narrow Sea. Ser Jaime’s daddy issues with fatherhood hit a new low after meeting Myrcella but it feels oddly anemic considering that fatherhood, unlike say, swords and Cersei never came naturally to him which is why this sudden show of affection feels misplaced. Surely the show will not end a great character arc, will they?
Close by, Ser Bronn of the Blackwater and with the great voice found that the Dornishman’s blade is indeed a terrible gift as he finds himself at the end of an odd-little seduction-cum-poisoning at the hands of one of the Sand Snakes (I was right!). Now, this is perhaps the most time we’ve spent with the Sand Snakes this season, but this little sexposition (Read: Myles McNutt) really didn’t work for me.
ACROSS THE NARROW SEA
I for one was not taken aback by Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen meeting face to face this season. After all, every one of us saw the leaked photos. What I was pleasantly surprised by was how quickly and unexpectedly, the show chose to spring upon us this moment (Albeit through a fortunate co-incidence at the Fighting Pits). As if two worlds colliding across the Narrow Sea wasn’t enough, Greyscale Mormont kicking ass before his ‘gift’ is revealed was also pretty entertaining to watch. What Dany will do with the gift however, is a matter for another week, and it has me among many, stoked and salivating. And then there is the prospect of Daznak’s Pit, which I realize is the umpteenth time I have mentioned it myself.
There is this old scene from Season 2 where Littlefinger’s ‘Knowledge is Power’ anecdote almost gets his throat slit at Cersei’s behest. Keeping that in mind, there’s an almost cruel irony to see the Queen of Madness’ chickens finally coming home to roost as Littlefinger’s little information, his ‘gift’ lands Cersei in the same place where she stood gloating over Margery’s fate. Now, I’m still not clear as to how much the show means to deviate from the books. After all in the books, I’m pretty sure Margery, Olenna and above all, Cersei, and not Littlefinger were responsible for her imprisonment; which makes me wonder whether Natalie Dormer is all set to play yet another doomed queen on television, after her portrayal of Anne Boleyn in The Tudors. Using Lancel as I thought they would against Cersei was also shrewdly executed, thus eliminating the contrivances the Kettlebacks were, even though it does make me wonder whether there is more to the High Sparrow than what meets the eye.
Coming back to Cersei, Lena Headey certainly may well be on her way to an Emmy nomination after another fantastic week of acting this week. Thumbs up to Jonathan Pryce, who makes the High Sparrow become perhaps, the most dangerous player in all of Westeros, all because of that one single talent, incorruptibility (Someone’s putting the ‘fun’ back in religious fundamentalism). Another thumbs up to Bond-girl Diana Rigg whose contemptuous and sardonically witty conversations with both the High Sparrow and Littlefinger are yet another expository highlight (Is it just me or would Lady Olenna would make for really good company in a drinking game. I know Cersei would). It would seem that my faith in the King’s Landing storyline is redeeming itself.
Speaking of Littlefinger, I am very curious as to what’s up with our eunuch friend, Lord Varys who last we saw, was searching for Tyrion at a brothel in Volantis. Considering the fact that the books didn’t have a Varys POV and that the show seems to have cut out the entire Young Griff storyline, it seems unlikely he’ll be on anytime soon. But, now that Cersei’s in prison and Kevan Lannister is perhaps set to re-claim regency, I would guess that Varys, will come knocking in the 10th episode, mayhaps. Not as an agent of Young Griff, the allegedly deceased son of Rhaegar Targaryen, but as one of the last dragon, Daenerys of the House Targaryen.
That pretty much sums up all the action on Game of Thrones this week. With the worlds of two fan-favourites finally colliding and a surprising death (Surprising because well, it was of natural causes), Game of Thrones looks all set to dole out action-packed episodes for the remainder of its season. This was easily the best episode this season, and that eerie ‘Godfather’ shot of the doors clanging shut on Cersei more than made up for the disappointment in Dorne.
Until next week, Hodor!