So there I was, kicking back in my office chair (I misspelled that office hair at first, for some reason I found that funny for a few seconds. Okay. It's over now) with the latest episode of the world's most interesting TV show, and again I felt confused. Those first scenes didn't appear in the books, so no wonder. Not for the first time, I realized that with this show, I have to first watch it to let the scenes just kind of wash over me, allowing myself to be annoyed at changes that I feel are weaker than what was in the book, and then see it a second (or third) time to make this alternate vision work for me. Which it usually does. In this episode, however, the strange thing was that it kind of worked right away - while we never saw Stannis and Davos sail to Braavos or treat with the Iron Bank in the book, I liked the scene well enough with its austere chamber, Stannis' sullen look, the shots of Davos' maimed hand. I also appreciate the idea of having them go there in the first place, because it sets up the Iron Bank as a player in a much stronger sense than we got in A Dance with Dragons (which goes for several characters/factions in said book), so while it was at once like pulling on a too tight new itchy woolen shirt, it was also wool of the highest quality. Uhm. It wasn't an exciting meeting with the Iron Bank, but the bankers did radiate a certain cold indifference that suited the scene perfectly. And, of course, that establishing shot of Braavos was great. One nitpick: Stannis is the, at least according to himself, rightful king of Westeros and he goes off on a single two-mast ship with a maimed smuggler as his only bodyguard? All in all, good strong and somewhat different opening to the show today. Long too! Ten minutes or thereabouts.
The show stays in Braavos for the next scene, which is basically Davos showing up at a brothel to pick up Salladhor. Several sets of boobs to appease the less discerning viewer, rather unnecessary. For a change, they could've had Salladhor engaged in some crime stuff instead. Or be aboard his pirate ship loading cargo. Anything to show that there's more to the world of Ice and Fire than whores. No, I do not mind boobs. But there's something called variety. Now, of course, they did set up Salladhor as a womanizer back in season two...but he's also a pirate.
Next up is another return of a character long absent, Asha Greyjoy. Yara whatever. The first scene aboard her ship is her basically reading Ramsay's letter (the one he sent along with Theon's toolset to her father), with clips of Ramsay having sex with his archer girlfriend alternating with clips of Asha and her men rowing a boat to the Dreadfort. Again, the boobs do nothing for the plot (other than telling us that Ramsay, perhaps surprisingly, does seem to like conventional sex); as someone suggested over at Winter is Coming, the scene would have been much stronger if the clips of Asha's approach were alternated with clips of Theon wasting away in his kennel cell. I guess the clips also showed us that Ramsay was awake, explaining why he's ready for combat later on. All in all, the weakest sequence of the series, though the acting is solid on all accounts. And I really have a thing for show-Asha, she's cool. And boy does Alfie Allen play his part as Reek! Now viewers will definitely know that he is Reek, not Theon, so that's one thing this sequence accomplishes. But the way they just row to the Dreadfort, and run off afterward (without Reek)...it all seemed a little implausible. Still, a brave scene to choose to include when you consider that Asha just leaves empty-handed. The scene also wins the "most annoying scene of the episode" award this time for the constant barking of the hounds.
The follow-up scene is powerful, though, a quiet scene between Ramsay and Reek further showing us how "lost" Theon Greyjoy is, ending with the almost twist-like suggestion from Ramsay that Reek will have to go to Moat Cailin and act like someone else - like Theon Greyjoy. I like that one. Also, the guy playing Ramsay is doing a very good job, too. That smile when he looks down at Reek...shudder-worthy. And Theon expecting a lashing but getting a bath instead, the music suggesting, preparing the viewer for nastiness...Well played. Also, getting a look at all those scars on Reek's body, you got to have some sympathy for the guy even after all he's done.
Now that's what I call a contrast: From the intense character study between Reek and Ramsay to a goat herder and his son being surprised by Drogon, flying up a gully and look at the size of that thing! Entertaining scene, for sure, especially that look on the boy's face when Drogon appears to roast a goat. But what a cop-out, especially for a show that really isn't afraid of much, to have the herder present a goat's bones to Daenerys instead of the bones of his son in the next scene!
And the next scene is the first scene where I'm actually worried about the series, because we are firmly in A Dance with Dragons territory with Daenerys now, and her chapters in that book weren't all that, were they? I like her throne room in Meereen, although it could use a little more...inventory? I ended up thinking the scene was better than I expected though, but the tension has kind of been lost in Dany's storyline now, both in the book and in the show. We can look forward to many talky scenes with Daenerys now, and if you remember how exciting and powerful her scenes were in Season Three, well, this is something else. Jorah and Barristan look bored where they stand, Daario's just not there...I think the show makers might just be in a wee bit of trouble when it comes to this character from now on. I'll reserve judgement. The introduction of Hizdahr oy What'sHisName was pretty good, though, in the sense that we were given a sense of who this character is and what he represents, and it gives us some food for thought regarding Daenerys' arrogance. Also, he looks like he could be Lando Calrissian's son, so smooth bonus points for that. I suppose. But I can't hide it. I'm worried. There is no tension here. Also, more inventory! It's a bit empty in there, which only accentuates the fact that her story's lost its energy as well. Shouldn't it be a little more extravagant? I like this rendition, from the Fantasy Flight Games collectible card game (I think it's the plant that makes the difference):
|Queen Daenerys' Command (c) FFG|
All right, all right, let's get on with it.
Oberyn Martell. He is the best in this episode. The way he sits, the way he gives Cersei that insolent, perhaps lustful, look...and his polar opposite, the dry and dull Mace Tyrell, across the table, becoming Tywin's servant. My favorite scene of the episode, much because of Oberyn really being Oberyn in the scene, I had to laugh out loud at him. Surprised Tywin doesn't seem to care, but then, he knows Oberyn is lusting for Lannister blood. The scene did remind me that they shaved off a lot of Cersei's sexiness from the books. Oh man, that insolent look Oberyn gives Cersei when he says the Unsullied aren't much in the bedroom! Favorite line of the week. And Mace Tyrell looking all forlorn and useless, great. "Lord Tyrell, be a good man, fetch my quill and paper."
The next scene, between Varys and Oberyn, I didn't like that much. I did like how we saw the throne room being prepared for the trial without being told why the throne room looks like it does; I think the exposition here was a bit heavy, what with Varys slowly turning his gaze on the Iron Throne. Still, it feels almost like a tradition now that we have two characters talk in front of the throne, and well, they have to remind the audience what it's all about. The Iron Throne.
Which leaves the rest of the episode (well almost, they tucked one additional scene in there) for Tyrion's trial. I didn't get the feels the way many seemed to do, but maybe I will the next time. I loved how they played it, although it was a tad predictable with the witnesses coming forth one by one (although, that's how it should be); but I just couldn't get over the fact that they skipped some of the best, funniest dialogue from the novel here, especially those involving Oberyn. He was great earlier in the episode but dang. Of course, the Shae in the episode seems a tad more realistic than the Shae in the books (who can forget her line, "Men call me...a lot" ?); I miss Oberyn bending forward with interest as Shae relates some of her exploits and he asks to hear more; on the other hand, I should be more than satisfied with what we got, with Tyrion going from resigned to, well, almost cackling mad toward the end. Nice buildup. Well acted. I didn't buy it totally, I felt that something was a little off, perhaps, though I can't put my finger on precisely what I felt the scene was missing.
Ser Jaime's quick meeting with Tywin was a surprise, and worked well within the context of the show, and it sets up Jaime as Tyrion's eventual aid. Tywin himself was imposing where he sat on the Iron Throne. I want to re-read this scene as it is in the novel to see how close they stayed. It didn't feel quite right for some reason - beyond Oberyn's funny lines missing.
And with that, I bid thee a fond farewell.