Did anyone else watch the television program Game of Thrones? I did. Did anyone else regret this decision? I did. Once again, nothing made sense.
This show went through a lot of book plot this episode, so this recap is going to be an especially long one. Buckle up.
Maester Aemon is dying. Rather than dying due to travel or the metaphor that cold is a preservative (copyright Garrison Keillor) and the heat of the south has finally brought him to his doom like in the books, Aemon is dying for no other reason than he’s old. And also there hasn’t been a single moment of buildup to this. He’s just dying now. Go with it. But first, he imparts some of those notorious Targaryen visions and the wisdom that comes from a 100 years of leal service.
He mentions his dead brother “Egg” who Sam tells us is Aegon Targaryen. Who is this “Egg?” Did he have marvelous adventures with Ser Duncan the Tall? Is he a literal egg that fell off a wall? Did he need to “kill the boy and let the man be born” to become a king? We’ll never know, I guess.
Who accompanied Maester Aemon to the Wall? Was it some guy who had a thousand eyes and one? Would that reference make more sense if the guy to which they’re referring only had 1 eye? Would telling that story tie together Bran and Jon’s story providing a greater overall narrative and theme? We’ll never know.
Did Aemon hear of Daenerys and comment on her prophesy, further tying her to the Taragaryen dynasty and prophesy of the Prince Who Was Promised? We’ll never know.
But he did dream he was old. That’s something, I guess.
I’m not really sure what the point of Aemon in the series was. He seemed more like Jorah Mormont when Jorah could no longer fulfil his plot purpose. So let us remember him as he lived; at Summerhall and not King’s Landing.
Also, he got to die with Hannah Murray in his bed, which is how I want to go.
Sam gives Aemon’s eulogy and does not mention that Aemon could have been a king, if he wanted. Alliser Thorne mentions that all of Sam’s friends are leaving.
And by “plot,” I mean needless sexual assault. This show rarely knows the difference.
Gilly is doing work when some random Night’s Watch guys come in and assault her. Sam, the hero, shows up to save her. You know Sam is a good guy because he saves a girl from being sexually assaulted. I don’t know how else one could show that.
Sam gets the Ba-Jebus beat out of him, but he gets back up to save Gilly because he’s a hero. A Deus Ex Wolfina shows up and scares away the would-be rapists who face no further retaliation. I don’t know why Ghost couldn’t have saved Gilly in the first place, but there it is. I also don’t know why Ghost is even there after Jon left. Didn’t those two share an unbreakable bond forged by their…blah blah blah blah.
I might point out that rape is supposed have consequences in Westeros as some of the first Crows we meet are at The Wall for the crime of rape. The punishment is castration. It was a horrific crime with horrific consequences, even in the medieval era.
But not on HBO!
Gilly is so grateful for being saved, she decides to “plot” Sam right there on his sick bed and make him forsake his vows. Which are never mentioned again. He does not protest. A scene which, in the books, is a great indicator of Sam’s worldly naivety and Gilly’s need to reach out for a modicum of human contact after her child and home were taken from her, while both are in mourning is now reduced to “You saved me. Now I must sex you!”
Which is especially annoying as Gilly is a victim of a lifetime of sexual assault. Putting her in that situation again and re-traumatizing her isn’t exactly the thing which should lead to a rediscovery of sex as a tool of connection and healing. The books provide a juxtaposition of how the Summer Islanders view sex as a holy rite, a celebration, in contrast to heathen barbarians of Westeros. Sex, to them, is a life affirming celebration of joy to the God of Life. A God who would shame the physical act of love is, surely, a God of Death.
But all this is perverted if sex is an act of violence. Which, in the show, it just was two minutes ago. It mixes and perverts metaphors until they no longer mean anything. It’s just shock value for shock value. Again.
Sam and Gilly making love no longer means anything. It’s just a moments that needed to be created, rather than being a part of an overall story.
Once again, nothing makes sense.
Me, too, Cassie
Speaking of sexual assault and nothing making sense, we get to see the results of That Sansa Scene™ as Reek comes upon a visibly bruised an beaten Sansa. It’s hard to watch. She’s locked in her room where, she tells us, Ramsay hurts her every night. For anyone who said that Ramsay couldn’t rape her because they were married and she consented to the marriage, I’ll leave that there for you to suck on.
Wasn’t it last season that Sansa dressed like Mia Sara from Legend and this was supposed to be her transition from victim in to a true player in The Game of Thrones?
Well, she’s doing a bang up job. Master manipulator, that Sansa. She went from victim of sexual assault to victim of more sexual assault in five short seasons.
But she has a plan. She’s going to use her Littlefinger powers of manipulation to convince Reek to light a candle in the Watchtower so Brienne can save her.
I don’t know why she didn’t think of that before the wedding. Or why she decided to go through with the wedding at all. Or why Brienne didn’t come rescue Sansa when she, I don’t know, heard the screaming? I don’t think I, or anyone, knows what Sansa’s motivation is. Right now, it is merely to advance the show and create moments. She’s more performance art than anything, at this point.
There is a bit of camera trickery here where we think Reek’s going to save her. He doesn’t. Thank the gods. The show honestly made me think they were going to undue all of Reek’s character and make him the One True Hero of Westeros. I wouldn’t put it past them. I did not see that coming. The show used the fact that it sucks to lower my expectations. Well done there.
Reek tells Ramsay about Sansa’s plan and Ramsay flays the old lady who told Sansa “The North Remembers.”
The North, apparently, doesn’t remembers that the Boltons flay people.
Ramsay walks Sansa around the courtyard to show her the flayed lady. For some good reason, Sansa is very sassy to the guy who rapes and beats her every night. Good for her, I guess, but it just rings false. It seems a very cartoony way to show “The Strong Woman” and not at all indicative of people who are presently suffering physical and sexual trauma. But I probably shouldn’t complain when Sansa is not being treated as a victim. Even though she just was. Five minutes ago. Did George Lucas direct this season?
In the grand scheme of things, I should be glad that Sansa has any sort of character and defiance of Ramsay is a good thing, but it just seems to come out of nowhere for someone who, a couple episodes ago, agreed to marry this monster for reasons still unclear.
She grabs a Chekhov ‘s knife or something on the way out, which is appropriate because she might as well be in The Cherry Orchard for all the decisions she’s making.
Stannis is stuck in the snow. The Stormcrows are name-dropped! Remember how we couldn’t mention them back is Season 3 because having Daario lead them instead of the Second Sons would be too confusing? Well, they’re back! Aaand now they’re gone. It makes no sense.
Melisandre wants to burn Shireen. Stannis doesn’t. This very sensitive plotline is bulldozed over. We are chewing through story at a ridiculous pace this episode.
Oh, no, she’s read the books! Quick, kill her off!
Speaking of which, Tyrion and Jorah Mormont zip through a ridiculous amount of book plot and trample their characterization along the way. All aboard the plot bullet train.
They are sold in a slave auction.
This is where things go completely off the rails for Jorah. In the books, Jorah’s captivity is part of his redemption. Lest we forget, he is a slaver. He sold people. He has been able to fight his way out of every problem in his life. When Tyrion talks back to him, he punches a bound captive half his size as hard as he can. He loves Dany, so I feel empathy for him, but we shouldn’t forget that he is a brute. When Jorah is made a slave, he is broken. He is beaten and branded. He is beaten so badly, he no longer wants to live. In slavery, Jorah is on the other end of the “Might Makes Right” doctrine and can’t lift himself up from it. Every man chooses to be a slave, even if the other choice is death. Johan chooses death. Penny chooses to be a slave. Tyrion finds another way. He uses his mind to escape slavery and, in the process, he rescues Jorah. Tyrion is the one who insists Jorah be bought with him and Penny. He demands it, saying Jorah is part of his act. He frees Jorah, beaten and bloody, and takes him to the Seconds Sons.
It’s an amazing arc for all three characters and I really can’t do it justice. It really must be read.
So, of course, the show ignores all of it.
Jorah is just chained up and put into the fighting pits like Russell Crowe. Slavery is, at most, a minor inconvenience. He is then Super Jorah in the slave pit, beats up all the other slaves without killing them to impress Khaleesi BAE and plead for her to take him back. I think he starts singing Crazy by K-Ci & JoJo. Why not? It would make as much sense as anything else.
Tyrion’s arc is even more ridiculous. In the book, Tyrion makes a big show about how valuable he is. He talks of his skill with Cyvasse. He makes jokes about killing his father. He makes more jokes about his sexual prowess. He plays the bombastic dwarf in an effort to affect an escape plan. No to mention, he is hilarious. He uses his mind to escape his captivity. It also shows that he never truly accepts his captivity.
In the show, he beats a boy with a chain. It is not funny. But the show says he’s funny, which is supposed to be the same.
No, Roots wasn’t a comedy
Lack of humor has been a running theme this season. Tyrion isn’t funny. Tormund Giant’s Bane isn’t funny. Heck, even Dolorous Edd isn’t funny. No jokes are made by anyone. Remember the Tormund who would laugh and constantly joke about his penis? Or the Edd Tollett who made jokes about…everything? I’d kill for a dead prostitute joke from Tyrion now and again.
All of this is sacrificed on the altar of grimdark this season. The only person who gets to make light of anything is Bronn.
Speaking of Bronn…
What is there to say about this scene? Jerome Flynn has an amazing singing voice and Rosabell Laurenti Sellers has amazing breasts. Really, both are top notch. A main event in any area in the world.
But neither adds anything to the story.
Bronn is singing and Tyene beckons him over to tell her she’s pretty. Bronn says other girls are prettier, so she gets naked. Bronn gets light headed and Tyene reveals she’s poisoned him.
But she has…A MAGICAL ANTIDOTE!!! All he needs to do to get it is tell Tyene she’s the prettiest. He does. She gives him the antidote. Scene. If you want to call it that.
What just happened?
Nothing here makes sense. Why does Tyene get naked for Bronn? To toy with him? Fair enough, I guess, but she doesn’t really get anything out of it. Maybe she just likes to toy with men using her sexuality? I can respect that.
But why does she give him the antidote? She’s the one who poisoned him! What was the point of poisoning him if she was just going to cure him later?
And that’s not even getting into how ridiculous and contrived an insta-cure for poison in a necklace is. That’s the sort of thing you’d see on an episode of Gummi Bears!
No, wait, Gummi Bears would make a whole plot about getting the antidote and making it and the characters would have to earn it.
This show is officially more childish, in every way, than Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears.
A good barometer for evaluating a scene is to ask who is fighting for what? It’s how actors determine motivation. Bronn’s motivation is clear; he wants to see Tyene naked and he wants to be given the antidote.
Tyene’s motivation makes no sense. It is unclear what she wants or what she’s doing to get it. You could “No Prize” it and make up whatever you’d like, but it’s not true. The text gives no motivation and, indeed, no character to any of the Sand Snakes. Tyene is there to show the camera her incredibly nice breasts.
I have no problem with Ms Sellers being naked. That’s her choice. But couldn’t she be naked for an in-character reason? Or couldn’t she be naked in a scene which advances the story? Couldn’t she at least be naked in a scene that doesn’t make her a woman preening for a male’s approval?
At this point, I have to think the show runners are just trolling the book readers. In the books, Tyene is the blonde, chaste-looking maid. She’s Baby Spice. She makes use of the fact she looks so pure and innocent to hide the fact she probably just poisoned you. She takes your expectation of her role as a woman and uses it as a weapon against you.
Show Tyene gets naked, fights with knives and UN-poisons you. This character could have been named anything else. I think they named her Tyene as just a big middle finger to the book readers to show us that they can do whatever they want.
Contempt for your audience is always a good thing, I suppose.
Meanwhile in King’s Landing, Olenna Redwyne has no power. Remember her scenes with Tywin? Those were pretty cool. It was good dialogue and it showed that Olenna had obtained a massive amount of power within a patriarchal structure. She served as a good foil for Tywin and Cersei. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked. Also, they found a way to cram it into as many episodes as possible.
Now it’s all taken away. She tells the High Sparrow to release her daughter. She says she can tell what a man wants. This power is immediately revoked when the Sparrow says, essentially “No, you can’t.”
It’s the type of character denial you usually only find in middle school improv troupes. But there it is, right on the television.
Olenna then threatens to starve the city and her bluff is called.
Why? Why doesn’t she starve the city again? She’s done it before. Come to think of it, why doesn’t she just send her army in there? In the books, Margaery is released when Worst Person in Westeros Randyll Tarly shows up with an army.
Peasant armies used to crop up all the time in Medieval England and were quickly struck down with the fury of God’s own wroth. Heck, one of my ancestors saved London from John Mortimer, cut him into quarters and sent him to all four corners of the kingdom. Then he billed the crown for the expense.
So if The Salted Fish Knight could do it, what’s to stop one a Lord Paramount? A bit is made later about how Margaery would die from an armed incursion, but the threat of mass slaughter should be enough.
Heck, why not pull a Maegor and offer a silver stag for the head of every sparrow? You’d know what they look like with the weird head scars!
The fact that the richest people in the land, even the King, have no power and no options when dealing with guys in V-necks & sticks seems absurd.
What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?
Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?
Four knights of The Kingsguard perhaps?
Nope. It’s Littlefinger, for some reason. He concocts a scheme to help the helpless Lady Olenna. I’m sure it will be as brilliant as it is Machiavellian.
We then go to helpless King Tommen not being able to save Margaery. He says he’s going to raise an army and rescue Margaery, which is a good idea. His mommy tells him it’s a bad idea, so he just cries about it. Cersei, being the sainted noble she is in the show, agrees to go talk to the High Sparrow for him.
We get a weak, diluted scene from the books where Cersei meets Margery in the cell. Natalie Dormer owns the scene, but is given very little to work with.
Then Cersei talks to The High Sparrow even though she presently has everything she wants and could not possibly have anything to work for in this scene. For some reason. We don’t know why. At this point the show makes about as much sense as Rose McGowan’s plastic surgery.
The High Sparrow gives the same monologue that he gave a few minutes ago about bringing the high low. Then, it’s time for the big reveal. What was Baelish’s cunning plan? What will bring Cercei down?
Wait, what? Wasn’t Lancel with the Sparrows the whole time? Isn’t he Justice? Surely he told a confessor about killing Robert and bedding his cousin when he got his cool face tattoo? What did Littlefinger have to do with this? Did he just go to the High Sparrow and say “Talk to Lancel?” Why didn’t Cersei see this coming after he told her he confessed his sins several episodes ago?
Nothing. Makes. Sense!
In the books, all of this makes sense. Cersei is hoisted on her own petard. She is brought low by her own machinations which were wholly unnecessary. She concocts evidence. She tortures people. She covers her own behind by evaluating what Lancel would have told the High Sparrow. She’s evil, but not an idiot.
More importantly, each move is the direct result of a different move. Because of the Prophesy, Cersei mistrusts Margaery. Because she mistrusts Margaery, she concocts evidence. Because of the evidence is fake, she gets caught.
This therefore that.
The trouble with the show, is that they’ve taken away way too many thing like The Kettleblacks and moon tea. They’ve taken away the valonqar and Taena Merryweather. They’ve taken away so many elements of the story, but the show still insists on showing specific moments of that story. So, in getting to those moments, nothing makes sense.
We have Margery captured by The Faith, but we don’t know why.
We have Cersei foiled by her own scheme, but it doesn’t make sense.
We have markers on a map, but we have no clue how we got there.
It’s like having Cinderella lose a shoe at the ball, but leaving out the Fairy Godmother.
(See what I did there?)
Keep this in mind when Cersei’s Walk is coming up. A great many show watchers are going to wonder if it was really necessary. Is it just an excuse to show more gratuitous HBO nudity?
The showrunners had to get to that scene, but we aren’t old why and it’s going to fall flat.
There will probably be a few think pieces asking “Was The Walk Necessary?”
And it’s not. If you’re not going to tell the whole story, then none of this is necessary. We’re not curing cancer here. We can all go home.
But the Walk is necessary to the story. And the story is good. It’s worth telling.
I just wish the show would tell it.