A commentary with spoilers by Nalini Haynes
Game of Thrones becomes ever more complicated, with characters reaching new highs and lows.
Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is tortured by Bolton’s men. When he falls from his horse into the mud, he eats shit. Or, at least, mud. Literally.
Jaime’s given a flask to drink from.
Ironically, he doesn’t realize he’s drinking horse piss until dude says, ‘I’ve never seen a man drink horse piss that fast’. THEN Jaime spits it out.
Who puts horse piss in a flask and carries it around? Anyone who needs to carry their own supplies should be sufficiently burdened without bringing along toys to play with.
Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) talks about the day he was castrated. If I recall correctly, the book referred to his genitals still being ‘over there’ somewhere, with the potential to recover them. It’s not his genitals he wants to recover.
‘Influence grows like a weed,’ Varyis says, as he describes his rise from near-death in the slums to the Small Council in Westeros. He opens a crate to show Tyrion the extent of his influence: the man who castrated Varyis is prisoner within.
Varys is cold. Terrifying and cold.
Then the action moves to where the weather is cold. The crows are shoveling shit while the snow sets in and they should set out for home. Considering how inhospitable Craster is and how he doesn’t feed them properly, why are they delaying their departure? Stoopid.
Apparently it’s so the ill can recover but, without decent food, they’re not going to recover.
Sam admires Gilly’s baby. Gilly’s begs for help to save her son’s life.
A bit south, where it’s warmer — not snowing — Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) dreams of running and the crow again. Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) tells him to go after the crow so he climbs the tree. Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) comes to Bran in his dream and yells at him; she hurls him from the tree just like Jaime did from the tower. Does someone have mummy issues? Did this happen in the book? It seems out of character, inconsistent.
Varys and Ros discuss Pod’s encounter with the sex workers and how they refused payment before their conversation moves on to Littlefinger and his upcoming journey. This was such a hit they just can’t let it go. There was a point — apart from gratuitous interest in sex — for this conversation. Blink and you’ll miss it.
Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) blithely follows his ‘rescuer’, Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon) right back to where he began. Iwan Rheon plays psychos; see Misfits for a case in point. There are points at which Game of Thones becomes a soapie. However, while Theon goes on his adventure, he realises the error of his ways, confessing more overtly than he did in the book.
‘You have a taste of the real world where people have important things taken from them and you whine and cry and quit. You sound like a bloody woman,’ says Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) to Jaime. The irony is not lost on either of them and Jaime decides to be more like Brienne. To be more like an admirable woman.
Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) is thoroughly unlikeable. Whenever even his children come to speak to him, the putdowns are vicious. This time Cersei (Lena Headey) is his target.
Diana Rigg as Olenna Tyrell steals the show every time she appears. This time she’s ranting against the golden rose and acquires an accent. I wander if her plum is acquired. “look, there’s a spider in the garden!” Rigg is English and spent her childhood moving around. She says her time in Yorkshire influenced her more than years in India where she learnt Hindi, so, perhaps, she acquired various accents during these years.
Every time Olenna Tyrell is on screen, everything else ceases to exist. I want MORE OLEANNA TYRELL.
I adore Varys when he’s focused on the good of the country. Littlefinger ‘would see Westeros burn if he could be king of the ashes’ and Varys wants to protect the country. I love that Varys is so complex.
The crows mutter at Crasters: It’s not a broke foot that killed him (one of the Night Watch), it’s Craster starving him to death BUT WE’RE STAYING AND SLAVING FOR HIM WHILE WE STARVE.
The crows have their funeral. Mormont says the words then everyone choruses ‘And now his watch has ended’. Lucky guy.
…and the argument in Craster’s hall starts. Blood flows. Didn’t see that happening. Nope. Not at all.
A crow stabs Mormont (James Cosmo) in the back. If you’re surprised, I want to know why: these men are nearly all convicted criminals given a choice between death and the Night’s Watch. I’d be more surprised that more of that kind of thing didn’t happen in the months and weeks leading up to this debacle.
Arya (Maisie Williams) is on horseback, double-dinked by the brotherhood’s priest. She’s hooded because they don’t want her to know the way. Because a 12 year old girl is such a threat, especially when she’s one of the most wanted people in Westeros.
The Hound shushes his words. I wonder if he has false teeth that aren’t quite staying in place.
The guy with the dirty cloth wrapped around his head concealing one eye has been born in the light of the one true God — he sounds like Melisandre. Even with IMDB at my fingertips, I’m struggling to tell the actors apart. It’s been too long since I read the books, so I can’t remember minor characters’ names, either. Hence certain omissions.
Daenerys arrives with her entourage to collect her Unsullied army and hand over a dragon as payment. Her dragon is pretty damn fine and I love her sense of justice! Hell hath no fury like a woman who’s pissed off. The end of the episode shocks Daenerys’s top guys — they didn’t expect that. Epic.
This episode of Game of Thrones passes the Bechdel Test with Oleanna Tyrell’s ranting at the very least. Women are depicted as strong, smart, having agency, not being as smart as they think they are, sexual, manipulative and, in the case of Margery, her motives towards Westeros may be as ‘pure’ as Varys’s and Tyrions, in which case she should be applauded.
Daenerys is learning to lead, learning politics and perceptions of power. She raises the Bechdel score by talking to her handmaiden. Although men are looking on, they are not party to the conversation. I think that, in the case of a powerful ruler who is rarely alone, some flexibility is warranted, as in the conversation depicted below.
Men scrabble in the mud, fighting over the spoils of war, ignoring the larger threat of the Others coming from over the Wall. The analogy is obvious: politicians and CEOs are making money by the millions in the knowledge that they are preparing the world to burn while inflicting poverty and deprivation on their almost–slave labor workforce. When fire causes a settling of accounts, they believe that ‘the one with the most toys wins’. Future for humanity is irrelevant as long as they have more money than they could ever reasonably spend in a lifetime.
As vicarious entertainment, a distraction from Trump and Turnbull threatening impending doom, Game of Thrones is excellent. Pity that, to watch it, Australians must line Rupert Murdoch’s pockets while experiencing frustration at the 480p resolution, repeated buffering and crashing, in spite of the $50 per month price tag.
You may notice I’m reviewing episodes that are out on bluray in preparation for reviewing season 5, which Roadshow sent on DVD for review. The reason for the significant lag is that I saw lots of online spoilers when I was unable to watch the series legally and now I’m catching up. Australian viewers have choices: pirate (naughty!), suffer Foxtel or wait and watch the series late. Millions are pirating the series and others are giving up because the series is spoilt then stale when they come to watch it.
HBO needs to come to an arrangement that enables prompt legal viewing in high quality at a reasonable price.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Director: Alex Graves
Writers: George R R Martin (novels), David Benioff, DB Weiss
Stars: Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey