(Prepare for book and show spoilers and speculation inside!)
I haven't seen or read anything about this episode, so I'm coming in completely unbiased (except that I'm a book fan first, of course).
Candlelight. Nipple. It's Grey Worm. In bed. And there we have Ser Barristan. On a slab of stone. Two sad ladies looking at one each; Missandei and Daenerys. Hizlok Mo Cap arrives, says he is sorry. Whaaat? Barry is dead! That comes as a surprise for sure. Will he die in Winds? Perhaps this is the character Martin alluded to, when he spoke of a "new plot twist" he had invented, which the show could no longer do? Ser Barristan Selmy is of course a character with lots of potential when it comes to twists, because he is old and has lived a life where he was constantly in touch with all the greats of the noble houses and royal families. You could devise a gazillion twists with him, really; it was really Ser Barristan who killed the Mad King, for example, and not Jaime. That's a big twist all right. A silly example, perhaps, but it shows how far you can go with a character with such a complex background; the twist could involve him and almost any other character in King's Landing the last fifty or so years. Anyway, what a disappointing way to go for the greatest knight of Westeros. I could buy that he went down in an alley, murdered by thugs, if the show had previously set him up as 'not being as good anymore'..I guess they kind of did, back in season one, when he was dismissed. It's harder to buy that a few thugs could kill him so easily, though. And I hate the writers for having him almost die as a cliffhanger, than having him dead by the next episode. Boo and hiss!
A sad start to the episode then, and I feel pretty neutral on this; I'm not feeling it, but that is probably because I feel it's a waste of character life. Whenever important characters in the book die, they have at least fulfilled an important part of the plot; Ser Barristan, in the show, didn't do much besides standing next to Daenerys. I hope he gets a better treatment by George (who am I kidding?). And Grey Worm seems to survive. At least his nipple was standing at attention. Oh, and Hrizdar Ho Befobros is taken captive, Dany believes he is behind the attacks? Mm. Good riddance.
Ominous music has been building up as we move into this scene, with Daenerys, Daario and a bunch of torch bearers stand before the "dragon basement". Oy, she sends Hizdur and some other guy in there, and then gives the rest of the crew a quick lesson. She is showing them she's the Mother of Dragons, all right. So she lets one of her dragons roast a guy and then the two of them rip him apart. does this make Daenerys evil? I think so. That was very harsh. Oh, wait. The shots are confusing me. I thought Hizdahr was thrown to the dragons as well, but he is forced to watch. He doesn't look intimidated enough to me, to sell the scene. Emilia remains truly gorgeous in her wig, and the shot where she stands with her back to the camera, with a dragon flanking each side as they tear into the roasted guy is simply iconic. But do we see a turn in her character arc here, that doesn't exist in the books? Was it always Martin's idea to gradually change our perception - over time - of Daenerys, from a "savior" or sorts to this cruel young woman who only deals in fire and blood? Maybe. I am sure this scene will ignite a few wars on various boards (except at Censoros of course, where you have to log off to change your mind) between those who defend Daenerys Targaryen because they like the character, and those who see, through a deed like the one in this scene, a despicable tyrant. So much for justice... at least the scene was more interesting than the first scene, in my opinion the opening's flow would have been improved by switching these two scenes around. A grimmer, more dramatic opening, and then seague into Grey Worm and Barry would work better. In my uneducated opinion, of course. Shame she just didn't throw Hozdir to the dragons, though. No good riddance for him, yet. Though I suspect TV viewers by now will suspect him to be the man behind the Sons of the Harpy.
Samwell Tarly reads some exposition for
Jon has a chat with my fellow viking Tormund, and we learn the plan - Jon reveals that he wants to let the wildlings south of the wall; but he will need them to fight along with the Night's Watch; he wants to make peace. He goes so far as to suggest Tormund is a coward, which he doesn't like hearing, of course; well acted scene, there is an intensity running through the scene. Hardhome is introduced; Jon and Tormund reach an agreement, and they will both go to Hardhome to escort wildlings per ship south. This works better than in the books, I think. No fooling around with Melisandre's magic, no Mance, just Tormund becoming the next leader of the wildlings (in a sense); it moves the plot at a more elegant pace than the books, without sacrificing much; of course, others, who enjoy Jon's story in Dance will think this is deviating too much, the same I feel with other storylines.
In the Night's Watch mess hall, there is outrage. Bowen Marsh (I guess that's Bowen) speaks for those who disagree with Jon; Sam speaks up for Jon. Or is it the other guy? They really need to establish some names, here, people. Dolorous Edd disagrees with Jon, too. I think we can scratch the "dolorous" moniker in the show version of Edd, though. "Army of the dead"? What? Oh, those things. I had almost forgotten about them. Again. Solid scene, though, setting up the troubles to come, showing us Jon struggling with his duties as a Lord Commander, and giving us a glimpse of how the Night's Watch will divide itself based on their opinions of Jon's crazy idea of making peace with the wildlings - and letting them come south of the Wall. I have to say, his opponents bring some sound arguments to the table, too, which is nice because it shows the viewers that this world isn't black and white (I guess the same can be said for Daenerys, however, I think she goes for a much darker shade of grey than Jon does; they are almost opposite, in fact. And this brings me to the idea that Martin is showing us how everyone is flocking to Dany, while it is JON they should be flocking too, as he is the Prince that was Promised - speculation on my part, but that's how I feel the story is going now). It's like the "King's Landing isn't preparing for the Others" overarching plots of the first three novels, now taken down to character level - everybody is squabbling to ingratiate themselves with the Queen across the Water, yet it is Jon Snow who should be followed. We'll see! But you probably didn't hear it here first.
Clearly Jon's episode this. no? Hey, didn't this guy have a big white wolf or something? Will the direwolves really be that unimportant in the books? Jon goes to his solar, Olly (?) Lolly (?) Satin comes with food. Jon tells Satin to say whatever he wants to say. He asks if Jon really means it - to make peace with the wildlings; Satin believes Jon is playing a trick on them. After all, how come he wants to make peace with the people who murdered his parents before his eyes. Jon says that winter is coming, and that they can't face it alone. Satin doesn't seem to like it. I get the feeling from this scene that Satin will be part of the stabbing drama to ensue later on...
It's Pod! Already in Winterfell! What the hell (it rhymed). Brienne is not in Winterfell. She's watching it from...a tavern..or something...a house? A building that we have never seen on the plains surrounding Winterfell at any rate. I still think Winterfell looks weird with those peculiar towers. I really have no clue where thye are, we saw Pod enter a courtyard of sorts and now they're in some building? Is it a keep? A farmer? Is it the father of the kids Theon slaughtered perhaps?!?! Brienne tells the farmer he needs to send a message to Sansa Stark who is inside Winterfell.
Confusing scene, to be sure. The dialogue was clear enough, all right, but the way it was shot...and as we've seen Winterfell from afar, there's no way the building can be as close as it seems when Brienne stands in the window and can see it a solid stone throw away. And again I wonder how much of this material will be used in the next actual novel. Where Brienne was last seen riding off with Jaime Lannister (who is in Dorne, just to make it all a little less unclear).
We have nudity! There are a lot of parallels so far in the episode - Missandei watching Grey Worm vs. Dany watching Ser Barry; Dany making a difficult decision vs. Jon making a difficult decision; an now, Brienne looking out a window and Nude Myranda looking out a window. Apparently she's just had sex with Ramsay cause he's still in bed with his arms behind his head. The fur coverings make it look as if he is especially hairy downtown. Myranda is jealous of Sansa. I wonder why Ramsay doesn't hurt Myranda - at all - not a scar on her pale body. Ramsay doesn't care about Myranda's feelings. He is a Bolton now, and needs to "further a dynasty". And we have an ass sighting. I also wonder why Myranda doesn't fear Ramsay? What kind of character is she, anyway? Oh, she's not scared, it seems. She even dares to bite him. Perhaps that is why he keeps her; she is the only one who dares to stand up to him? I don't know. And I don't know why they ever needed to add Myranda to the story. She is a distraction; for all the material they excise, why keep in stuff like this?
Sansa is visited by an old woman who tells her she is not alone; light a candle blabla. That would be the message from Brienne, I guess. I like the hope this scene instills. Otherwise it's basically a rehash of last episode's "The north remembers" scene.
Sansa goes to the godswood. Do I dare watch this? Will we hear Bran's voice talking to her? Dammit. Oh, wait. Nope. That's the tower where Jaime threw Bran down. Myranda appears, flattering Sansa (and we now understand why we got the scene before it - we now know Myranda is playing Sansa false), Myranda says she's the kennelmaster's daughter, and takes her to the kennels where she has a surprise for Sansa...okay, is this the scene that is supposed to be very hard for Sansa. Will she get devoured by a war dog? Myranda clearly wants Sansa out of the way because she wants to marry Ramsay... the music is spooky too.. not good...not good. I thought Sansa had developed a sense of savvy but here she walks blindly into the kennel, even though she's afraid. And when she turns around and Myranda is gone...she doesn't even seem to consider to back out. Sloppy. And what has Myranda left for her in the stables? OH! Of course! It's Theon Greyjoy, sleeping! Wow, what is Myranda trying to do here, and is this why Myranda was added to the character roster of the show (though any random character in the Winterfell courtyard could have shown her Theon, or Sansa could just have happened on him)? Silly silly scene.
Theon helps Ramsay get dressed. "You smell particularly ripe" Ramsay tells Theon. What?! I guess Ramsay means that he notices that Theon is nervous. Theon says that Sansa has seen her. Ramsay, totally out of character, says he forgives Theon. I guess he's in-character if he just postpones punishment, or are they trying to show that Ramsay is trying to be on his behavior because he wants to make sure he gets married to Sansa? I'm confused. They spent so many scenes throughout the series showing us what an utterly despicable, disgusting, revolting character Ramsay is, and now..this? Okay, we've seen him be "nice" before - the bath tub scene - which makes the character more unpredictable of course.. Solid acting, though. Emmys to them both.
Winterfell Great Hall: The Boltons and Sansa Stark dine. Ramsay has his freak smile on as he pours his bride-to-be some wine. "Mother," he calls Fat Walda. He stands up to toast; Roose has a look on his face that says "I really hope the boy doesn't say anything stupid", but then looks pleased enough. Walda is pretty dim when she tells Sansa it must be strange to be in this place, when it is actually her home. Theon comes to serve. Bit weird to serve Sansa two seconds after Ramsay filled her cup! Yeah, the editing and sequence of events is a bit wonky this episode. Ramsay shows Sansa that Theon is no longer Theon, but Reek. Nice way of showing how nice Ramsay is...not. He makes Theon apologize to "Lady Sansa for what he did - for murdering her two brothers." Oy! Sophie Turner looks gorgeous in this scene, the look she gives Theon...wow, cool. Theon says he's sorry for killing her brothers...Ramsay is having trouble keeping his twisted personality in check. Sansa is giving Ramsay that look as well. Oh, and Walda is pregnant! Ramsay doesn't like that of course, because then he won't be first in line of succession. Sansa looks happy with it; and I suspect we'll have a Walda murder sooner than later. I like the acting and the suspense here, though Sansa should probably look more heartbroken - or should I assume she's able to hold her mask here..I guess so. Definitely the most interesting scene so far.
Wow, lots of Winterfell today. Wasn't Jon Snow's episode, after all. More Ramsay's, actually. Roose has the social skills to actually tell Ramsay he was embarassed during the dinner, but mostly for "parading that creature" in front of Sansa. And we get to hear about Ramsay's mother.. a peasant girl, pretty in a common sort of way; and now we are reminded that Roose is as cruel and shitty a character as Ramsay - the girl had married a boy without Roose's consent, and so Roose hanged the boy and raped the girl beneath the corpse of her husband dangling from the tree. This is so grotesque and insulting to life that I want to throw my cup of coffee at his face but that would only ruin the monitor. Bah. Tonally very consistent with Martin's perverted mind, though. Good decision to remind viewers that Roose is a bad guy, though. He's been kind of absent for a while in that sense. Roose says that Ramsay must help defeat Stannis Baratheon when he arrives. Because Winterfell is on the way to King's Landing..mm. Doesn't make sense.
Gilly and Sam in the library. "My father is not the most literal man." The Citadel of Oldtown is mentioned, setting us up for a journey there; Lord Randyl Tarly is mentioned (again!), so we will surely meet him, too. Gilly continues to whine, and if I were Sam, I'd throw her out so I could study in peace. Stannis comes to interrupt, soap opera style. Randyll Tarly apparently won a battle - the only battle Robert ever lost. Sam explains dragonglass - obsidian; Stannis knows what it is, "we have it on Dragonstone". Sam tells Stannis that he has seen the army of the dead, and Stannis says that he needs to learn how to fight them - "Keep reading, Samwell Tarly", I guess, is a way of saying, "Find something useful for me."
Stannis goes to tell Davos "it's time". Davos says he should wait until Jon Snow returns with the wildlings. Stannis won't hear it; he must go before winter truly comes. They are marching to Winterfell at sunrise. Davos and Melisandre have an exchange of looks. Just a quick transitional scene. Selyse and Shireen are going with them (the scene is basically built around explaining this, so I guess it's vital to the plot at some point).
Next morning, Stannis' army prepares to leave. Love the first shot, the camera panning to show us riders, shields, banners. Shireen mentions the crypts of Winterfell to Davos; again an obvious inclusion for future development. Oh yes, we'll be seeing some kind of action in the Winterfell crypts! Why else would Shireen mention this at this point? It's rather blunt, the way the show sets up stuff like this, but it works.
Stannis and Jon part ways; Jon thanks Stannis, and Stannis is marching to Winterfell (already)! Wow. The music here does seem to set up a certain.. I don't know, ambience...as if they will never meet each other again. Melisandre gives Jon one last lingering look, though. Maybe they will meet again. Brilliant shot of the army filing out of Castle Black but why does it look like they are going west along the Wall? Should've flipped this shot.
Grey Worm awakes. Boring! I want moar Castle Black and Winterfell! This episode is almost entirely filled up with those two storylines and they are arguably the best season five has on offer so far. I just don't find Grey Worm and Missandei talking to be very interesting. Two disposable characters given scenes when other, more interesting and better material is left out. I'd rather have more Asha Greyjoy. Look at Missandei having feels. And they kiss. Woop.
Daenerys' room. Suddenly Daenerys has changed opinion again. Now she's all about mercy?! I thought feeding people to dragons kind of sealed the deal? Now Missandei is Dany's only councilor. Their dialogue doesn't make much sense to me, but all right. At least there's eye candy.
Dany goes to visit Hiznot Dak Pobar in his cell. Dany tells him she was wrong; and tells him he is right about tradition and about bringing the people of Meereen together. She will reopen the fighting pits, but to free men only. Hizmos seems pleased. She will also marry the leader of an ancient family; her suitor is "already on his knees" - and Hizmus realizes she is going to marry him. Right. Fair enough - close enough to the novel, but what a jump from scene A: Feed people with dragons to B: I'll marry you!
Tyrion and Jorah are still sailing. Tyrion is talking again, about "the Mormont way". That's funny. First funny thing in the episode, really. And it isn't that funny. It's basically the same scene as the previous scene with them. This time, Tyrion however, wants wine. Then Jorah rises because he spots something - oy, Valyria! That's not in the books. I have a feeling we're going to see Stone Men here, the previous episode established this I believe. Ruins. Tyrion throws out exposition while we watch the ruins glide by. So they did add parts of Tyrion's journey in Dance - they only switched out six or seven characters with Ser Jorah. Simpler. The exposition here feels forced, as it has felt throughout the episode to be honest, the CGI isn't entirely convincing (but I'm enjoying it), and then they see a dragon fly past, great wings flapping noisily. Good thing it didn't spot them. Splash in the water! Eerie music. Stone men! Or, to quote Jorah, "Stone men!"
The first real action in the episode and probably the last, a fight ensues as a stone man jumps onto their boat and starts fighting them for some reason. Mormont kills one, Tyrion ends up in the river, is pulled down by a stone man and seems to drown as he descends into darkness...they sure know to use cliffhangers, but fortunately we don't have to wait a week (because they probably realized we know Tyrion will survive this - while with Barry last week we couldn't be sure). Jorah and Tyrion end up on a beach (which is kind of weird as they were inland on a river when they were attacked; once again, I find the assembly of scenes a bit shoddy; where did the river go? The ruins? Did Jorah swim with Tyrion all the way back to the ocean? And where's the boat?! This doesn't make much sense, does it? Oh, a shot where Jorah looks across the water and there they are - the ruins. Didn't go that far then. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT! Jorah has greyscale?! Is he playing Jon Connington too?! Well, that was a surprise. And a neat way to end the episode, though Jorah and Tyrion's journey felt a bit out-of-place when the rest of the episode was mostly Jon, Dany, and Ramsay. Oh well. That obviously comes with the narrative, so nothing to be done about that. It's why this series works best as a binge-watch. Well well. That was it for the week. I didn't see Jorah having greyscale coming, but of course, they can keep that development simmering as slow as they like. It might suggest that we'll see Jorah lead Dany's armies onto the shores of Westeros to take Storm's End (or whatever), replacing Jon Connington, (f)Aegon, and all the rest. Probably. Wow.
This episode, like the four before it, doesn't feel as strong as the four previous seasons, despite everyone from the set claiming this to be the strongest season. Of course, things are going to build up from here on, and traditionally the last half of a Game of Thrones season is more exciting than the first half (though season three had some great early scenes). I did miss Varys, and Arya, and Jaime and Bronn, and Cersei, but at the same time it was interesting (or rather, fascinating) to see where the stories in the North are going. A few surprises too - Ser Barry did indeed die (weak, but surprising); Jorah has greyscale; Fat Walda is pregnant - and some scenes and moments had the right tone - and most didn't. This is no longer A Song of Ice and Fire, this is just Game of Thrones. I can live with it. I won't lose sleep over it..but my interest in this is now purely out of curiosity, not a real desire to watch this because it's awesome to see my favorite books adapted.
I found this episode to be the second best so far, after episode one. But what will the final rating say when I have calculated the scores of each scene? Here we go (whips out Windows Calculator):
Well, wow. It's my least favorite of the season? The strongest scenes here probably overshadowed the fact that most scenes weren't that satisfying to me as a viewer/fan. If only every scene was a strong, cohesive and thematically/tonally right as the best scenes of the episode.
A new re-read post!