[Better skip this post if you haven't seen the episode if you care]
Game of Thrones 4.4: Oathkeeper, then. So I sat down to watch it, knowing little of what to expect and not having read any reactions on any of the many dedicated fan sites. After seeing it, the episode and especially the ending kept lingering in my mind, and now, well ten hours later, the episode still won't let go. If the writers were worried that last week's scene between Jaime and Cersei was going to continue to be a hot topic, they don't have to worry anymore. Not that there wasn't some gratuitous raping going on in this episode as well. But when Darth Maul himself returns from the dead (and the freezer), you know people will have something new to discuss - which I found out quick enough when I went to check out the reactions to the episode at Tower of the Hand, Winter is Coming (obviously) and even Westeros. And it is not at all surprising that people are excited, upset, and debating this week's episode and especially that last scene. What I didn't expect was to see people stating that this episode was a real deviation from the books, as if the previous episode was much better. Maybe it's just me, but I found there to be far more similarities to the books in this episode, only perhaps it was overshadowed by everything at Castle Black basically being not in the books. And I don't know if I liked the changes or not. On the one hand, the scenes in the North had some fantastic acting by Burn Gorman as "Karl", instantly entering the top ten list of most despicable villains in the series, and any scene where a baby is not having a good time gives me the fucking chills all over and not in a good way, and I can see why they chose to have Bran and company meet up there. On the other hand, it is rather ridiculous that these idiots at Craster's Keep managed to imprison Ghost (the only counter argument that makes some sense might be that someone managed to imprison Grey Wind as well - and that Nymeria needed only a rock to her head to yield), and the CGI monster scenes became, for me, too over the top (but I felt the same way about the ending of season two, for example) - the dragons usually look great in the show, but the Others / White Walkers always look like crap, which is a shame. They aren't much horrific at all the way they are portrayed - but maybe that's the point.
|Actor of the episode!|
Anyway, this episode belonged to Ser Jaime Lannister anyway. All his scenes were great, and my top three scenes of the episode were all with him: His visit to Tyrion in the cell, where the story is at its most humane and realistic - a total contrast to the cartoon ending. In the books it is easier to accept the supernatural elements because they are usually confined to certain chapters; for example, I totally believed in the Others when they appeared in A Game of Thrones' prologue, and while there's always a somewhat jarring contrast when you read about the politics in King's Landing in the next chapter, the jarring effect is tenfold when shown in relatively quick scenes. It's like someone taped over the last ten minutes of your Braveheart VHS copy with a scene from a monster film.
After the cell scene with Tyrion, I really enjoyed Jaime and Bronn saying goodbye to Brienne and Pod. A very nice scene, with real emotions that came across. For the third scene, I just can't dislike Bronn and Jaime's interaction no matter how it never happened in the books.
It was a nice change to have an episode start in Essos, though, I have to admit. Though the Grey Worm/Missandei-scene felt completely unnecessary to me, the following sequence with Grey Worm leading Unsullied into Meereen to hand the slaves of the city weapons was well directed and written. Still, the Essos scenes took more than ten minutes, and had I been on the writer's team I'd ditch Grey Worm/Missandei for an instant, as they are secondary characters at best. Loved the Targaryen flag draped over the Harpy though, even though the CGI was very apparent here. Those precious first minutes with Grey Worm and Missandei could have been used to give us something more from the book, if you ask me.
Sansa and Littlefinger's scene aboard the ship was good, although it still seems as if Aiden Gillen feels really uncomfortable playing Littlefinger; he's better than he was in the previous episodes (he doesn't sound so overly evil this time) and Sansa is beginning to learn to play the game of thrones, which is good. It was about time she had some nudge toward her arc. Nice to see her in a different place, too. Littlefinger's implied lust for Sansa is well played - and that last line of Tyrion before this scene is just goosebumps. So Sansa hasn't killed anyone...yet. Sounds like clear foreshadowing to me.
Not sure we needed Olenna Tyrell to rehash the information we already got in the previous scene, but I know the books fairly well - for new viewers it might be necessary. I believe it was a smart choice to give people the answer to the mystery of Joffrey's murder in this episode, because it really isn't that important who did it; the important thing is that Tyrion is incarcerated for it, and Cersei wants Sansa arrested, so that two new plot lines emerge: Tyrion's trial and Brienne's quest. I'm also in the camp who just don't buy Anne Boleyn as Margaery Tyrell unfortunately. I know most fans think she's great, but to me there's something...off about her in this role. I don't know. Probably a matter of taste.
I like Jon Snow showing the new recruits - including that little boy who is guaranteed to replace the book's Satin character - love the actors playing Grenn and Pyp. Slynt's his usual nasty self, as is Thorne, and I totally understand why they put Locke in the Night's Watch - it adds tension. But can you imagine a A Storm of Swords with Vargo Hoat at Castle Black, slobbering all over Jon and Sam? To be honest I'm getting a little tired of Ser Alliser Thorne, he needs a few new insults for Jon. It's just "bastard" all the time. There's a short glimpse of Jon tending to swords which is reminscent of a scene from Game of Thrones 1.1 which is nice.
Jaime and Cersei have a scene, last week's altar debacle forgotten. I like their interaction but I wish we had a scene where Cersei tried to rekindle the flame before realizing she no longer loves Jaime (kind of like last week's scene then, but without the implications). No, seriously, the show feels more like A Feast for Crows than A Storm of Swords by this point, and I am not sure I like it. Not only does the story grow weaker (personal opinion!), it feels like the writers have skipped too much material from A Storm of Swords. Now, I'm all for them pumping out the story fast, as that may help us get The Winds of Winter...sometime...but...yeah. Their screwing with the timeline is not helping the show right now.
Tommen comes into his own, and every fan rejoices as Ser Pounce's cameo. Seriously, that cat owned the scene. Otherwise a fine little scene, and again a total contrast to the episode's end scenes.
|A Song of Ice and Fire?|
But that Karl guy! The way his eyes flicker, that insolent look...he really is a nasty piece,well acted to be sure. Worse than Joffrey, if you ask me. I wish Bran Stark looked like he did in season 1, he was so cute and adorable then. Now he's this awkward teenager who doesn't look like cute adorable Bran Stark anymore.
And how that baby didn't freeze to death long before Rast put him on the forest floor, only the Old Gods know.
And then come the final shots, and fans all over the Internet are gasping in shock as they witness the Heart of Winter - the fortress of the Others! I was like WTF WTF WTF like the rest of the fandom, and right after I just had to put on Immortal's "At the Heart of Winter" and try to grasp what I had just witnessed. Had the series gone into spoiler territory even for book readers? I do think that what is shown on screen has been implied in the books - that Craster's offerings - his sons - are the Others (or White Walkers dammit), and then we get Darth Maul appearing all white and blue-eyed and I was like WTF WTF WTF ALL OVER AGAIN and he puts his nail in the baby's face and the baby's eyes become White Walker-eyes and I was like WTF WTF WTF WTF and then I read that this might just be the Night's King but now it's not (HBO put up a description calling him "Night's King", then removed it) and I was like WTFH WTFH?! The implications here are just staggering. According to legend (in the books), the Last Hero rode out with twelve companions, and what do you know, here we have this Icy Sith Lord accompanied by twelve other Others. I really didn't like the look of that horned guy, was he the Great Other perhaps? Shit. Maybe I should stop watching now? It's also a bit disappointing that the Others reside at a rock not unlike the Fist of the First Men (although, this might suggest that the Fist and the Heart of Winter are similar "magical" locations) and have these strange crystals just handily protruding from the ground reminding me of Superman-movies. Some of the magic and mystery of the series has been stripped away, today. We still don't know the hows and whys, of course. How did Craster end up sacrificing his sons like this, and why do the Others not just take all the Wildling babies north of the Wall (or do they?), and why does the Other on the horse have such nice feminine boots? I liked that the reflection of the Other in the ice crystals was already shown in Bran's vision last time (or was it 2.2).
|The stronghold of the Others, as envisioned by Norwegian black metal prophets IMMORTAL way back in '99.|
A very strange and jarring experience, these last scenes in the Land of Always Winter. I don't appreciate the look of the Others (and in particular, the horned one), and it is weird that this is how I get to know more about these beings after waiting for the answer since '00. I am interested to hear what George R.R. Martin and/or the writers will say about this material. Some people doubt its "canonicity"; I don't - it is such a vital piece of the plot line of the Others that Martin wouldn't let them get away with this if it isn't the way he wants it to be.
The episode once again reinforces, for me, the fact that what makes the series so fantastic to me, are the military and political conflicts between the noble Houses of Westeros, and not so much the supernatural elements - even though I'm a fantasy buff. Martin has made the medieval parts of his story so ridiculously compelling that the supernatural elements can't compete, not even the admittedly kewl dragons.
And poor Hodor. Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?!?!?!
Dammit, I am going to lose sleep over this episode tonight! They might not be telling the story I'd love to see (that is, the story as written), but they sure know how to make me want to see the next episode FASAP.
|Something's wrong with the perspective here, but still it's a nice shot. I wonder what they eat there. Ice cream?|
I just can't stop thinking of the implications of these last scenes, it's quite annoying to be honest. And I can't stop thinking about how they have gone well into books four-six territory while they could have kept the season to book three, part two. I miss you, Ghost of High Heart. I miss you, tomb of Tristifer. I miss you, ferry across the swollen river. I miss even you, Penny. All I can do is either stop watching and try to forget, or keep hanging on to this crack. I have a feeling I'll stay on.