Summary: Selyse commits suicide and half of Stannis' army leaves. Melisandre returns to Castle Black. Stannis attacks Winterfell anyways and is destroyed. Brienne arrives to kill him. Sansa escapes her cell and Myranda threatens to maim her. Theon kills Myranda. He jumps off Winterfell's walls with Sansa. Arya violently murders Meryn. Jaqen punishes her by blinding her. Jaime leaves Dorne with Myrcella but Ellaria poisoned her and she dies. Tyrion reunites with Varys and is tasked to keep Meereen safe. Dany lands far away and Drogon is tired. She ventures out and is confronted by a khalasar. Cersei confesses to her crimes and is forced to walk naked through the streets of King's Landing to get to the Red Keep. Sam goes to Oldtown to become a Maester. Jon is betrayed and killed by the Night's Watch.
The Good: Cersei's walk of atonement was fantastic, one of the show's finest moments. To make us feel so much sympathy for such a despicable character is undoubtedly brilliant, providing a ton of conflicting emotions from within yourself as you are left trying to figure out how to feel about this character. It's great, deep storytelling which adds an extra layer to Cersei's character. Furthermore, Lena Headey delivered her best performance so far as she begs to the High Sparrow and portrays Cersei's pain during the humiliating walk. This wouldn't have worked without a tremendous performance, and Lena Headey knocked it out of the park.
I thought Jon's scenes were very good. Sam's departure was a nice moment and I really appreciate the idea of him going to Oldtown to become a Maester. It's also a good storyline to show us more of the world of Westeros and has potential to provide us with a lot of history which I'm always excited for. The final sequence was dampened a little by the rest of the episode (see: The Bad), but it was impactful for the most part. After this season had failed at combining surprise and storytelling in almost every way, it finally succeeded here. This scene was Jon's red wedding as he pays for the mistakes he made as Lord Commander by dying a brutal and painful death, fitting of what has been presented in this show. Jon kept Alliser at The Wall, he didn't do enough to ensure the loyalty of his men while accommodating the wildlings and practically walked straight into his terrible fate. Of course there are some questions to be asked (see: The Unknown), but even if this isn't Jon's true death, it's powerful. It's hard to watch Jon gutted by his own brothers, and is a sad culmination of all of Jon's efforts to save Westeros from the White Walkers.
The Bad: Unfortunately everything else has to be in The Bad because this episode did not deliver. There were so many climaxes in this episode, and almost all of them (barring Cersei) felt rushed and squeezed into an already busy episode. Because of that, the writers once more played these scenes for surprise over emotion, and that meant that all of these scenes fell flat and didn't feel like a climax worthy of the stories being told.
The Stannis storyline was a colossal failure. With him dying so anticlimactically without accomplishing much, it makes his entire storyline pointless. And to clarify, I don't mean his story this season, I'm referring to his entire storyline since the Battle of the Blackwater. Think about it, had Stannis died at Blackwater Bay, would any of these characters be in a different place emotionally? Would the plot be any different? The answer is a resounding no, which is really poor. If we are getting an entire story for Stannis, there needs to be a purpose to it, and sadly there wasn't here. Now I just feel like the past three seasons of Stannis were a waste of time with absolutely no pay off from a lot of interesting story building.
But the fact that the Stannis storyline is meaningless isn't even the worst part here. The biggest offense was this "climax" of his story. Everything was so rushed. It was almost comical how swiftly Stannis kept getting bad news before he was staring death in the face. The pacing was so rushed that it didn't allow any of these moments to stick. Stannis loses his wife and his men and we hardly get any time to see how he feels about this. Without moments showing us how a character reacts to a big event, that event means nothing to us. Everything that happened to Stannis ended up meaning nothing, which is astoundingly disappointing. All we needed were some moments for Stannis to reflect and realize the destruction of everything he held dear and to show some actual emotion. Just putting on a frowny face and telling Brienne to "do her duty" is not how to make us feel emotion for this character. It's all done wrong, and it causes me to feel nothing even though I just watch a character lose absolutely everything. So many other great TV shows have understood that its not the event which causes the emotion, it's the character's reaction, so why can't this one figure that out this season?
Also, Brienne's kill of Stannis is really bad. Again, I have to ask where is the emotion and drama? Brienne did nothing to earn her reward of killing Stannis which makes his death just feel like another moment and not like the culmination of an entire revenge arc for Brienne. All we needed was for Brienne to overcome some obstacles to earn her reward, it's basic storytelling. But just like how the show failed to understand that reactions cause emotion, it also failed to understand that characters need to earn their rewards just like how they deserve their deaths. Because of these fundamental failures at writing, Stannis' storyline, character, and death are all ruined in this episode, continuing the downwards spiral that "Game of Thrones" has been experiencing this season.
Theon finally abandoning his Reek persona failed because of similar reasons. This storyline was three whole seasons in the making, yet the big moment where Theon finally acts against Ramsay is rushed into a two minute scene. Once more, the drama is lacking and I never feel anything for Theon which is awful considering how much his storyline has done. The stupidity of this show has led to Theon's return to form to be played for surprise instead of emotion, ruining any impact the moment could have had. Where was Theon wrestling with the decision of what to do before he killed Myranda? He just killed her for the sake of surprise, creating another unintentionally funny moment when Myranda died. We really needed to get a "Darth Vader saves Luke" moment here. And I'm not talking about Darth Vader killing the Emperor, I'm talking about Vader looking between the Emperor and Luke as he makes his decision. That scene was dramatic and emotional because we got to see Darth Vader wrestling with a decision. Had he just killed the Emperor out of nowhere, it would have been flat and disappointing, just like how Theon's sudden choice was flat and disappointing.
An how about that final moment? We are left with a cliff-hanger that Theon and Sansa jumped out and we don't see their fate. What? Are we supposed to believe that they died? Because that is an awful cliff-hanger to manipulate our emotions like that. Even if we weren't supposed to think that, it's an awful ending. Those walls are huge and snow will never soften a 40 foot fall like that. Sansa and Theon are fatally injured at the very least, so an escape can't be possible. Something like this is a perfect example of how bad this show's writing has gotten.
Even Arya's story was wasted, this time by the show's tone-deaf will to just provide the viewers with horrific experiences. Where is the restraint? Did we need to see Meryn torture and beat minors? No, but it was shown anyways because... just because! Hell, even Meryn's death was robbed of any satisfaction as it was also painfully brutal to an extent that it was uncomfortable. If only this show would make these moments of brutality few and far between, it would mean something when it actually happens. Instead, the show opts for providing us with endless misery and brutality instead of telling us an actual story. Furthermore, it's this endless misery which took away from Jon's death as well, making that scene just feel like another empty piece of despair in a show which seems to have forgotten that brutal moments have to be presented for a reason just like any other moment in an episode. Thankfully, Jon's death had the appropriate storytelling to make it overcome this flaw. It's clear that his death, along with Cersei's walk, was taken straight out of the books since it wasn't butchered badly on the show. I'm sure that the fall of this show has been brought on by the departure from the books.
Speaking of a departure from the books, Dorne was awful once more. The story ended in such an underwhelming and disappointing way. So Myrcella died. Who cares? We hardly know her and the writers once again opted for torture porn as Myrcella gets to have a sweet moment with Jaime before dying in his hands? Why was this necessary? Because misery and pain! It hurts me so much to see what was once one of my favourite show's stoop down to bad television like this. The entire existence of Dorne seemingly served no purpose. Jaime and Bronn didn't go through any kind of story this season and I learned nothing new about their characters. No new characters from Dorne made an impression either, so I really am not interested in seeing more from them. Some of the dialogue between Bronn and Tyene was absolutely atrocious.\
Even the scenes in Meereen were poor despite nothing particularly bad happening story-wise. The writing of the characters was just ridiculous. Tyrion doesn't even sound like himself anymore due to some weak dialogue. Apparently Tyrion wants to fight now, which is nothing like the character we knew before. Tyrion never liked fighting, so what value would he see in going to bring Dany back? The fact that Daario had to take the wise guy role to convince him to stay behind was out of character for him. Furthermore, what was with the verbal sparring between Tyrion and Jorah? It was petty which is insulting to their intelligence, calm demeanour and wisdom.
Lastly, I think I found the one moment that perfectly encapsulated the failure of this season finale. That moment is Davos learning about Stannis and Shireen's deaths. He was given maybe 5 seconds to react to this. Then he was gone. Where was the emotion behind this? The sadness? This man just lost everything he was fighting for and yet we didn't get to spend a single minute to see how he processed this. The pacing is all wrong and the emotion just isn't there, just like the rest of the episode. Awful.
The Unknown: Did Sansa and Theon survive the fall? I hope they did and I would be surprised if they didn't. Don't put it past this show to "surprise" us by having them die though. If they do survive, where do they go? Who can they go to for help? Stannis is dead and so is Jon. Where would they find help?
Arya's blinding is a really odd moment. I know it's meant to be that way, and I think the scene was nicely put together. But what does it all mean? Why was Arya blinded? Did Jaqen do it or was it actually the faces? Also, who was it that actually died? Was it the Waif? Was it all just an illusion? I'm not sure what to make of this.
What happens to Dany now that she has been found by a khalasar? I presume she will recruit them to her army.
Is Cersei's new bodyguard the reincarnated Mountain? What did Qyburn do to him? How has he been changed by this?
Is Jon actually dead? I know it seems like an odd question, but hear me out. I get the sense that Jon is too important of a character to die. Will he be brought back to life? Melisandre just arrived at Castle Black, so would she bring him back to life? Beric's resurrection was an important plot point that hasn't paid off since it has been introduced. Is this the moment it pays off?
Best Moment: Cersei's walk of atonement was fantastic, a rare scene that I actually enjoyed in this episode.
Character of the Episode: Cersei.
Conclusion: This was a pile of garbage with one shining jewel inside of there. Cersei's fantastic moment prevents this from being one of the worst episodes of television I have ever seen, and coupled with Jon's death brings this episode to a slightly more respectable score. But this still wasn't good. It hurts to see this great show derail in quality and the fact that I love this show makes this episode even more painful than it already is. This episode had so many fundamental flaws. A lack of emotion, rushed pacing, no drama and senseless brutality should be avoided by any good TV show. The fact that this episode was a victim to all of these makes it excessively bad.
The season as a whole has to be looked at as a massive disappointment. It's a sharp drop-off in quality following the fantastic season 4, and I'm left scratching my head and wondering what happened to this show. It started off fine with some good set-up but then the middle of the season started to lose focus. I was expecting this to just be some stumbles on the way to a great conclusion, but that wasn't the case. The story worsened to an extreme amount afterwards and it all culminated in a season finale which failed in pretty much every possible way of providing a fitting climax to the season. It was genuinely painful watching some stories get built up really nicely only for the pay off to fall flat, character arcs to be ruined, and twists to be meaningless. But, I will give credit where credit is due. "Hardhome" was awesome and is this season's sole saving grace. I shudder to think about how terrible this season would look in hindsight without that episode. I am extremely disappointed by where this season went and I desperately hope that season 6 can put this show back together.
Summary: Rachel invites Joshua to a fake party and so she has the group stage a fake surprise going-away party for Emily. Ross is upset that his plans for his last night with Emily didn't go as planned. Rachel tries and fails at seducing Joshua. Phoebe develops a craving for meat.
The Good: As a whole, this was really creative and really funny. The laughs in the episode were consistent and they managed to get funnier as the episode went on. Rachel was terrific again as she humiliated herself in hilarious fashion over and over again. Rachel is always funniest when she is humiliating herself due to her being in love, and that remained true here. This was her episode and she shone brightly. I really liked the conclusion to the story where Rachel ended up getting the guy despite humiliating herself, providing a good and funny feel-good moment. I particularly like the irony that Rachel really didn't need to seduce Joshua since he already liked her, making the whole party pointless. Furthermore, I enjoyed the scenes in the hallway a lot. The scene with Ross was excellent as both characters were genuine with how they understood each other without being over-the-top angry with each other again. I thought the writers showed tremendous restraint by not playing this scene for too many laughs. Instead, they saved the best laughs for Chandler's arrival which was a smart decision. The other stories were enjoyable too. Joey and Phoebe were really funny in this episode and I thought that most of their dialogue was brilliantly witty.
The Bad: This episode was inconsistent though and that prevents it from being a series' best. While a lot of jokes were awesome, some of the other ones were painfully awkward and unfunny. The teaser sequence especially suffered from this and it did nothing to make me excited for the episode. Thankfully, things recovered afterwards, but I'm left feeling like this was 4/5ths of a fantastic episode and that prevents it from being special.
Best Moment: I really loved Chandler fact-correcting Joey when he tried to reference a movie. Joey's response of "were you in the movie or something" was hilarious.
Character of the Episode: Rachel.
Conclusion: While this had some awkwardly unfunny moments, the rest of the episode was terrific, "Friends" at its best. Season 4 has been a welcome improvement over season 3, and this is another awesome episode to add on to this season's accomplishments.
Summary: Jon returns to Castle Black with the wildlings. Stannis' camp is sabotaged by Ramsay. Stannis gives in to Melisandre's suggestion and burns Shireen despite his wife objecting. In Dorne, Jaime and Bronn are allowed to leave with Myrcella and Trystane if Trystane is allowed a place on the small council. In Braavos, Arya doesn't kill the gambler after having her focus distracted by the arrival of Meryn Trant with Mace Tyrell. Arya follows Meryn and plots to kill him. In Meereen, Dany watches the fighting pits. Jorah wins his melee. Suddenly the Harpies attack and murder Hizdahr. Drogon arrives to save Dany and burns the rebels. Dany rides Drogon away to escape.
The Good: The most I enjoyed from this were short scenes. I thought Jon's scenes were very good. I liked the tension presented between Jon and Alliser at the gates. I appreciated that Alliser didn't openly rebel by leaving Jon beyond The Wall, but you have to get the feeling that there is more to this conflict. I also liked the Night's Watch gawking at the giant as it walked through Castle Black.
Arya's storyline was the only complete story that I entirely enjoyed. I thought that Meryn's arrival was a terrific moment to get us some inner conflict for Arya who hasn't done all that much this season. She is unable to leave the past behind and is still herself despite all of her training so far. I thought the sequence of her following Meryn was really tense, and I was especially nervous when I saw Meryn notice her several times over. I think Arya has figured out how to kill him (see: The Unknown) but I don't imagine it will be easy for her. Things are set up really nicely for the season finale in Arya's story.
Some other odd scenes were really good. Davos and Shireen had a touching scene, made sadder by what happened later in the episode. It should be impactful to see Davos' reaction when he learns that Stannis burned Shireen. I thought Mace Tyrell's singing was really funny and a good bit of continuity with his character. Bronn's punishment being that he gets smacked hard in the face was pretty funny and fitting of what we know of Dorne.
The spectacle of the ending scene was really well done. Dany riding Drogon was a fantastic moment and an exciting ending.
The Bad: Unfortunately, "Game of Thrones" couldn't keep the momentum from "Hardhome" and this was another poor instalment that did very little to get me excited for what happens in the next episode.
Ramsay conveniently being able to quickly burn Stannis' supplies didn't work for me. I was annoyed that we didn't see how he pulled it off as it left me with too many questions. How did Ramsay locate Stannis so easily? If the answer is that he was just on the Kingsroad, surely it would have been harder for Ramsay to sneak up on his camp. I can't buy that Ramsay and his men not only slipped past the guards somehow, but also lit fires at the exact same time before escaping the camp without being detected. It's an impossible feat which only happened because the plot needed it to happen. The excuse that "Ramsay is a northerner so he has the advantage" is so stupid. It has been summer for 10 years, so how on Earth does Ramsay have more experience in winter combat? As such, I can hardly buy that as a credible excuse.
The rest of Stannis' story didn't deliver either as it was unfocused and downright lazy. Stannis chose to burn Shireen and the scene happened, yet I hardly felt anything. Sure I was horrified by the fact that Shireen was being burned, but that was it. Surely I should be feeling more from a dramatic moment like that but I really didn't. I'm not sure how Stannis felt about this, so I'm not sure how I'm supposed to be feeling about this. Plus, the whole story has been horribly rushed and there haven't been enough scenes to give Stannis time to make this decision. And unfortunately we didn't get enough time to see how Stannis felt about this decision either. Is he heartbroken because of this? Is he conflicted? Is he scared? Confident that it will work? I have no idea, and that is preventing me from getting emotionally invested with what is going on. The scenes are fine on paper, but in execution they are sorely lacking.
I've already complained enough about the show being too focused on horrifying us without much substance, and this continued to do that. There were no other emotions being offered other than "wow that was messed up", and that is far too simple for such a disturbing scene. This show used to expertly make scenes like these feel impactful and earned, but this season hasn't done that. What has happened? And to make it worse, immediately afterwards a man get decapitated and it's played for laughs. The show has gotten completely tone-deaf and, like I claimed in "The Gift", is just trying to play up shock value at the sacrifice of storytelling.
Unfortunately, Dany's story wasn't any good either aside from the final moment. First of all, Jorah should be dead right now. It's amazing how convenient his survival was, as his opponents were vicious and merciless until they just inexplicably let him recover in time to kill them in a "surprising" way. Ugh. Then we have another "surprising" reveal as the Harpies reveal themselves and attack. Yet for some reason they do not swarm Dany and waste time murdering innocent civilians, which seems completely at odds with what I know of them so far. The whole scene felt over-dramatized to make it more exciting. Furthermore, why didn't Dany have more guards? She is the queen and there is an obvious threat from the Harpies in the city.
The Dorne scenes feel utterly pointless and dull. I'm not sure what they are going to accomplish and I honestly don't care at all because they are boring. I have no reason to care about any of these new characters, so this storyline has failed in an extremely basic way. I swear, if Myrcella or Trystane "surprisingly" die in the season finale as the big pay-off for this story, I won't be pleased.
The Unknown: Where will Dany go now? What will happen with the Harpies? Will they be defeated next episode?
What will happen now that Shireen has been burned? Will the Lord of Light save Stannis' army somehow? Or will Roose and Ramsay die somehow? Perhaps Theon will regain his identity and kill Ramsay?
Does Arya plan to pose as one of the girls to please Meryn in order to kill him? I imagine she will. Will Meryn remember that he saw her before? I think he will and that it will lead to a much more intense confrontation for Arya to extract her revenge?
Best Moment: Nothing really stands out. Probably Davos and Shireen's final scene.
Character of the Episode: Arya.
Conclusion: Sadly, the outstanding work done in "Hardhome" was undone this week. This was a big disappointment of an episode. This had several similarities with "The Gift" as both episodes didn't do anything particularly awful, as the main issue was just a weaker, unfocused execution of the story. This season has fallen apart after a strong start and it is disappointing to see a great show make some boneheaded decisions to ruin what could have been another awesome and engaging season. Hopefully the season finale can provide a fitting conclusion, but after the show has presented its two weakest episodes thus far, I'm not getting my hopes up.
Summary: Dany dismisses Jorah again but he is undeterred. Dany and Tyrion become allies. Arya is adopting a new identity and is sent on a mission to assassinate a gambler. Cersei struggles while locked in her cell. Sansa pressures Theon who reveals that he didn't kill Bran and Rickon. Jon successfully makes an alliance with the wildlings. They start heading to Castle Black but White Walkers suddenly arrive with the army of the dead and kill many of the wildlings. Jon is able to kill one of them. The survivors, including Tormund and Jon escape.
The Good: Leave it to "Game of Thrones" to bounce back immediately after the show's worst episode with an epic, intense, consistent and dramatic episode which is easily amongst the series' very best.
I can't possibly start this review without talking about that final attack on Hardhome. The show has always delivered its biggest climaxes in episode 9 of every season ("Baelor", "Blackwater", "The Rains of Castamere" and "The Watchers on the Wall"), so the switch-up to episode 8 caught me completely off-guard. I was taken completely by surprise when the White Walkers arrived at Hardhome and I hadn't even suspected that something would happen until we started to spend an unusual amount of time showing the boats leaving Hardhome. Then I slowly became sick with tension as I suspected that something was about to happen. The way this all built up was downright incredible, the music, the sound effects and the visuals of the cold descending upon Hardhome immediately had my attention. I especially loved the moment where the wildlings behind the gate just suddenly went quiet as a sudden wave of cold fog appeared behind the gates. It was quite possibly the most tense moment in the entire show, and did a terrific job of making me excited for the inevitable massacre that was about to happen.
Then the actual battle happened and it was fantastic, certainly the best one of the show thus far. The production was movie-tier and looked incredible with terrific CGI and snow effects. I actually felt cold while watching the scene which is a real feat, especially for a TV show. Even "The Terror", a show which took place in the Arctic never made me feel cold, but this show managed it with ease. But the production wasn't the only thing fantastic in this battle. The whole thing was 15 minutes of pure chaos and adrenaline; I was engaged and excited the entire time enjoying the pure action. This was helped by the way that the wights were portrayed. Zombies can be tricky, just look at how "The Walking Dead" doesn't really have a scary threat from zombies. They are slow and are portrayed as relatively easy to defeat. But the wights here aren't treated in the same way. They are fast, vicious, and seemingly invincible as the wildlings struggle to defeat all of them. Furthermore, there are tons of them, and the flood never stops which is a terrifying concept to imagine. Nothing exemplifies this better than that final attack sequence when the wights all flood over the cliff and charge at Jon and Edd who both desperately escape. The wights are a fearsome threat, and this episode demands that we must take them seriously now.
The battle sequence also had a terrific section where Jon fights the White Walker. This scene felt so significant as it was the very first time we have actually seen how White Walkers fight. To start things off, I thought the "video game boss" entrance that the White Walker made was surprisingly perfect, as the silent walk through the fire strikes horror into the characters. It was fittingly scary and put Jon in a truly deadly position. The fight itself was extremely tense and I thought it built up brilliantly for the moment when Jon is actually able to defend against the White Walker with Longclaw before killing him in a dramatic slice with his sword. I thought it was smart to have Jon kill a White Walker as it raises some important questions (see: The Unknown) and also builds up Jon as a significant threat to the White Walkers. Perhaps the Night King (the spiky head White Walker) will view Jon as a genuine threat.
Jon's scenes before the battle were really great too. Jon convincing the wildlings to join him went surprisingly well, but I don't think that's a bad thing. Jon was a great leader in these scenes and came off as very convincing in his arguments to get the wildlings to come south of The Wall. It was a great scene to highlight Jon's transformation to a strong Lord Commander.
What sends this episode over the top in my opinion is the fact that everything else in this episode was really good too. Dany and Tyrion's conversation was great and was the best conversation we have gotten in a while. Seeing these two interact is just great, and the writing for the scene held up as they both befriended each other in logical ways while still trying to establish a confident and dominant presence. I thought that using Jorah's situation to get Dany to start to believe that Tyrion could be valuable to her was really good, as I suspect that she started to believe in him as an advisor as he convinced her to spare Jorah with good reasons.
The other odd scenes were really good too. I enjoyed Arya's scene as we get the reveal that she is now doing official work for the Faceless Men, actually getting to portray somebody else's identity. I look forward to seeing how her story ends this season.
Cersei's scenes were strong too. I loved seeing her be so defiant and angry in her cell as she refused to believe that she is actually helpless for once with nobody to go to to help her. I despise Cersei, yet I felt a smidge of sympathy for her as she drank the water off of the floor which is pretty impressive. The show continues to do a good job of making these gray characters.
Theon revealing the truth to Sansa about Bran and Rickon was pretty good. It felt like a significant moment and it continues Theon on the road to potentially accepting his true identity once more. Alfie Allen has played the role really well, and I feel like that detail gets lost in how poor the storyline has been this season.
The Bad: Nothing in particular. I suppose the Hardhome battle didn't get me to worry about the characters in the same way that the Battle of Castle Black or the Battle of Blackwater did since Jon was pretty much the only character I cared about in that scene. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but I think the battle would have been even more intense with more important characters present.
The Unknown: What does Ramsay plan to do with his 20 good men?
Does Valyrian steel kill White Walkers too? Or is there just something special about Longclaw?
Best Moment: The entire Hardhome battle. It was stellar and dramatic from beginning to end.
Character of the Episode: Jon.
Conclusion: This was a fantastic episode. The stories were really strong for the first 45 minutes, a big improvement on the previous episode. But the final 15 minutes were some of the best television you will ever see, providing what was probably the biggest spectacle possible, a feat which shouldn't even be possible for a television show. This delivered on every level.
Summary: Jon goes beyond The Wall to Hardhome, leaving Ser Alliser in charge. Aemon passes away naturally. Some men try to rape Gilly but Sam defends her. They kiss afterwards. Olenna tries to find a way to get Margaery and Loras out of their cells. She isn't able to do that, but she gets Cersei imprisoned along with them. The conditions of the North take their effect on Stannis' army and Melisandre suggests burning Shireen. Jorah and Tyrion are sold to fight at the fighting pits. Jorah notices Dany is watching and so he makes his presence known. He gifts her Tyrion.
The Good: I liked a few scenes in this episode, but not the episode as a whole.
I appreciated that we got to spend some more time with Aemon in his final moments, and they were effective for the most part. It was nice for the show to pay some attention to the death of one of its better side characters, especially considering the pace of this season. If the slow pace has to happen, at least spend time focusing on something with some emotional relevance.
Olenna was fantastic as always. Her conversations with the High Sparrow and Littlefinger were great and really fun to watch. I really enjoyed her attempts to convince the High Sparrow to just let her family go, but the High Sparrow did a great job of rebutting her respectfully while sticking to his motivations. Undeterred, Olenna goes to Littlefinger, not to help Margaery or Loras, but rather to exact her vengeance upon Cersei, getting her imprisoned for all of her sins.
I enjoyed Tommen's anger at how he can't do anything to stop Margaery's imprisonment and I particularly enjoyed how the portrayal was similar to Joffrey (I am the king!), reminding us that they are still brothers despite their differing personalities.
Margaery and Cersei's scene was really good. Cersei taunting Margaery fit in with what we know of her character and her feigned innocence was infuriating in all the right ways. I really liked seeing Margaery properly snap at Cersei due to her helpless situation. Cersei got what she wanted so then she finally left her alone.
I liked some moments in the Dany storyline, though most of it was pretty flat and uninspired. The owner of the fighting pit reacting to Dany's sudden appearance was fantastic and I really liked how he swiftly told everyone to recite a line to respect Dany's arrival. It was a nice bit of world-building. I also liked that we finally got to see Dany interact with another main character as she meets Tyrion. It was a good moment that feels important.
The Bad: A lot of storylines in this episode weren't good sadly.
Sansa and Ramsay's storyline remains a big problem and a total disappointment. Puzzlingly, Sansa's story arc has been stunted and actually reversed as nothing has changed for her. She is still in a place where she wants out and is left with a man who treats her barbarically. I expected her to at least fight her way out, but instead she is left begging for help from Theon. Then Theon fails her, and she is helpless again, showing that nothing has changed from her time with Littlefinger. Well actually she has changed in one way. She becomes stupid as she taunts the man who has total dominance over her, which can only make her life worse. At least she was smart enough to mostly keep her mouth shut with Joffrey, but she has gotten worse here as she openly mocks Ramsay.
Speaking of Ramsay, he is not a great villain. Iwan Rheon puts in a good performance, but Ramsay is lacking in a lot of ways. Joffrey was great because we didn't have to suffer his brutality too often and because he was a weak sociopath who found himself in a position of power. Joffrey was easy to hate because he never deserved to be in his position and was terrible at his job as king. Ramsay is just a cookie cutter villainous character who is getting way more focus than he should be getting. We see him flaying and torturing over and over, and it has happened so much now that it actually bores me. Such unnerving brutality should exist for a purpose, but Ramsay's antics really have no purpose which makes them bad scenes of television. Ramsay just isn't deep enough of a character to justify the amount of time spent on him.
The scenes at The Wall were sadly disappointing. While Aemon got some screentime, he disappointingly didn't say much of importance making the scenes somewhat meaningless. Then we had the threat of rape used again to make us scared for Gilly. After what happened in the last episode, this was insufferable and the writers prove to once more be tone-deaf by using rape to manipulate our emotions once again. It was necessary and I feel like there was a Bette way to make the same point in the story. Also, being threatened by rape is just the thing to make Gilly want to have sex with Sam isn't it. Ridiculous writing.
I wasn't happy with Stannis' story either. Apparently things haven't been going well for him, but we never saw any of it. And Melisandre is already suggesting he burns Shireen to ensure his victory. I can hardly buy that Stannis' conditions are that bad since I haven't actually seen anything bad happen. Furthermore, Stannis seems like a fool, not the best commander in Westeros, for blindly following visions and getting himself into a position where victory is nowhere near as likely as it could have otherwise been.
The scenes in Dorne were pretty bad. Jaime and Myrcella's conversation had no resonance with me because I don't care much about their relationship. The scene with Bronn and the Sand Snakes was awful. It just felt like cheap fanservice with no purpose. Also why include the detail of Bronn being poisoned if it would just be cured mere minutes later?
It was inconsistent for Cersei to not get a proper trial before being thrown in a cell. Olyvar had evidence on Loras so why didn't the High Sparrow just throw him in a cell for that without a trial if he did the same for Cersei? Also, this confirmed my suspicions that Cersei is stupid as she seems shocked that she is being arrested.
This episode suffered from trying to meaninglessly shock us over and over in small ways. It has been a pattern this season but it's never been as bad as it was in this episode. The earlier seasons used surprise sparingly and got by with tension, story and strong dialogue. This episode tried to get by on meaningless surprises. So many scenes had this slapped in there in ways that were pointless. Here comes a lengthy list of all of these moments which were played for surprise not emotion. Oh my god, Tyrion is going to get killed by a man who sees him escaping! Surprise, the man set him free. Oh my god Bronn is so cool! Surprise, he is poisoned. Oh my god Gilly is going to get raped! Surprise, Ghost Ex Machina is here to save the day. Oh my god Theon is going to help Sansa! Surprise, he is telling Ramsay instead. Oh my god Cersei has total control over everything! Surprise, the High Sparrow is going to arrest her. These moments happened over and over again and they detracted more and more from my viewing experience every time as I was left wondering why these scenes were played for shock value rather than for actual emotion.
The Unknown: Is Hizdahr actually in charge of the Harpies? I presume so, because I can't think of anyone else who could be in charge.
Does Cersei have a plan to get herself out of her cell? Does she have any other allies? How about Olenna? Does she have a plan to get Margaery and Loras out?
Best Moment: Olenna speaking with the High Sparrow was the best written scene.
Character of the Episode: Olenna.
Conclusion: This was a disappointing episode with a lot of weak moments. The show seems more focused on surprising its audience rather than telling stories which is really hurting the show. Hopefully this doesn't become a trend going forwards and this episode can just be a blip in the radar. However, there have been signs of this trend in earlier episodes this season, which makes me a little worried. Let's hope that the season can at least end on a stronger note.
Summary: The walkers descend upon the farm. Everyone fights to save the farm but it is overrun and they all leave in groups. Jimmy and Patricia are killed. Andrea is thought to be dead and ends up left behind. She encounters a woman with a sword. The group meets up at the highway and go off together. Rick starts hunting for a new place and the group starts doubting him. Rick snaps and reveals that he killed Shane. Lori is horrified. Rick also reveals that they are all infected. Rick makes it clear that he is in charge and everyone will have to listen to him.
The Good: I enjoyed this. I thought it was an exciting finale which thankfully allowed the characters to leave the farm in exciting fashion. While I don't think it makes up for the extended time we spent at the farm, it was at least a fun climax to the story.
I thought the teaser sequence was well-done and provided a cool origin for the walker herd which descended upon the farm. I like the irony that the helicopter, a symbol of hope for the survivors, ended up bringing death and disaster to the farm, forcing the survivors on the dangerous road once more.
The action scenes at the farm were tense and exciting with a greater sense of urgency than any other scene this season. I was at the edge of my seat, enjoying the focused pacing and tension on screen which is a feeling that I hadn't really felt since the season premiere's walker herd. If it weren't for a lot of little inconsistencies which detracted from my experience (see: The Bad), this would have likely been my favourite walker set-piece in the show.
The best parts of the episode in my opinion were the moments following the big action scene. The storytelling was really good in these moments. I really liked the idea that somebody would be left behind in all the chaos, so seeing Andrea alone and struggling to escape was a joy for me to watch. It was scary to see her left all alone, running away from walkers. I'm intrigued by this new character with her swords and walkers chained to her (see: The Unknown).
Glenn and Maggie had a good moment in the car as Maggie was shell-shocked, driving away from the farm without any idea what to do. I really liked how Glenn took control of the situation and also helped Maggie calm down, finally showing us that Glenn is a strong-willed guy. The story of Glenn has been botched this season as he has been described and portrayed in different ways, but here his storyline came together nicely.
Rick's speeches towards the end of the episode were really great. His anger towards the group felt warranted and had some great layers of storytelling. Rick just killed Shane, and expected that maybe now he can lead without having to worry about somebody pitting the group against him. However he sees everyone questioning his decisions anyways, nobody trusts him and everyone seems to be treating him as Shane does. This causes Rick to snap, angry that killing Shane has achieved nothing, and he unleashes his anger, declaring that the group is not a democracy anymore and he will be entirely in charge (a Ricktatorship?).
These discussions also led to the big reveal that everyone is infected, which is a very good development. Not only is it a dramatic reveal, but it also helps explain why walkers would be such a threat as anybody who dies will turn into a walker, bite or not. Furthermore, I think the reveal served as a great catalyst for Rick's transformation at the end of the episode, bringing up conflict with everyone is the group, and further increasing the doubt surrounding Rick's leadership.
I am beyond happy that the group is back on the road again. The desperation and fear that everyone exhibited while on the road, scared that walkers could attack again was really good. There is a certain vulnerability surrounding the group now that they don't live in a safe haven, and I think it adds a lot of drama and momentum to the show. I hope that we get to see the group on the road for several episodes in season 3. Lastly, I thought that the lingering shot on the message for Sophia was really effective, accentuating the emotion of the group losing the farm.
The Bad: I was annoyed that nobody important died in the walker assault. The "big" deaths were Patricia and Jimmy, characters who have said maybe 20 lines between them both. For this to have been a more memorable spectacle fitting of "The Walking Dead", there really should have been more significant character deaths.
The actual action had a ton of inconsistencies in it which I am going to list out now. Glenn was in a moving car with a shotgun, yet he somehow gets headshots from quite a distance away with perfect accuracy which is completely unbelievable. Apparently everyone became professional gunslingers off-screen. While on the topic of shotguns, Hershel appeared to have activated the infinite ammo cheat to fire 20-30 rounds from his shotgun without reloading once. Jimmy pulled up to pick up Rick and he apparently left the door unlocked so that walkers could come in and kill him easily. Rick fires a gun right next to Hershel's head to kill a walker, something that should be deafening, yet Hershel hardly reacts to it. Rick, Carl and Hershel leave the farm on foot and somehow reach the highway long before the others who had vehicles, which is ridiculous. Also, Rick's group can outrun the walkers but Andrea is somehow unable to get away safely despite leaving mere minutes after them. These moments detracted from the action and stacked up in annoying ways.
One specific moment I want to single out is T-Dog's random idea to go to the coastline. He is so determined to do this, yet I can't recall him mentioning a desire to go east a single time prior to this. Furthermore, T-Dog has had nothing to do this entire season, so this just feels like a failed way to give him something to do. I wish he had an actual story to justify his role in the show a little more. Furthermore, I found T-Dog's sudden decision to go east and declare that they are all alone even though they saw nobody actually die to be unintentionally hysterical. I was laughing when T-Dog declared this which I'm sure wasn't the intended effect of the scene.
The most annoying moment in this episode was Lori's reaction to Rick revealing he killed Shane. She seems supportive at first but then Rick reveals that Carl put down walker Shane which horrifies Lori. Then she inexplicably refuses to talk with him for some unknown reason. Oh man. First of all, why is she mad? Is it because he killed Shane? A few episodes ago, Lori was actively telling Rick that Shane was dangerous and insinuated that he had to do something about it, yet she acts like he is evil for killing Shane. This makes no sense. Was it because Carl killed Shane? No chance because that is all Lori's fault for not watching her own son ever. So I'm left puzzled as to why she reacted like this, and I continue to despise Lori's character for not making any sense and being downright unlikable in every scene she is in.
The Unknown: So there is definitely a helicopter going around. Where is it going? Whose helicopter is it? Is there a civilized community somewhere?
Who is this mysterious woman that Andrea found? Why does she have walkers chained to her? Were they people she once knew?
Where do the group go now? What's next for all of them?
Best Moment: Rick revealing that they are all infected before he explodes in an angry speech. A great moment of pay-off after Rick's leadership had been questioned for a full season.
Character of the Episode: Rick.
Conclusion: This was a very exciting and enjoyable season finale with some really powerful and memorable moments. But some action inconsistencies and a continued weakness in Lori's character brings down the score, and prevents this episode from being as good as it could have been.
Every way to look at it, season 2 was a step down from season 1. The pacing slowed down to a crawl in the first half of the season, and while the back half was better, it still didn't hit the highs of season 1. The slower pace, lowered budget, poor character development and writing inconsistencies didn't help the season at all. However, I still believe it was a good season, and the back half did deliver in a lot of ways. While the first half only really offered two or three good moments, the second half had something memorable happen in every episode. I thought the Randall story and Rick/Shane story provided more momentum and flow than the Sophia story and the farm conflict story did in the first half of the season. In the end, this was a step down, but the show remains enjoyable and I have high hopes for season 3.
Summary: Ross plays rugby with Emily's friends to impress her. Chandler runs into Janice and she is infatuated with him but he doesn't care for her. He tells her he is moving to Yemen to try to get her away from him. Monica gets obsessed with figuring out what a light switch in her new apartment does.
The Good: The jokes here were really funny in all storylines. There were plenty of laughs all the way through and all six characters got stand-out moments to overact to squeeze out tons of laughs. The stories were all fun and memorable, and the sheer amount of laughs made this one of the easiest episodes of "Friends" to enjoy. The entire episode was carried by the terrific interactions between the six friends. Ross and Chandler were especially funny in their roles.
The Bad: Unfortunately, there was a huge degree of suspension of disbelief to take into consideration here. All three storylines were quite silly and there was overacting present in nearly every scene to produce the laughs. Ross playing rugby was unnecessary, as his character never pretended to be tough yet here he decides to act tough for Emily for some reason. Monica and the light switch was funny at times but she did seem to go a little too far with it. Some of the jokes were a bit dumb too. While Chandler and Janice are always funny, this episode's plot made no sense. Surely there are tons of holes with Chandler telling Janice he is going to Yemen. Disappointingly, this wasn't followed up on in the next episode, making it feel quite pointless. Everything was completely over-the-top in these storylines and the episode was only saved by the amount of jokes present in each storyline.
Best Moment: I really enjoyed Chandler trying to buy a fake ticket to Yemen. A ridiculous yet funny scene.
Character of the Episode: Ross.
Conclusion: This episode was a ton of fun and was consistently enjoyable, but it had incredibly silly plotting and over-acting which prevents this from being a series highlight. This ends up being good but nothing more.
Summary: Arya's training continues and she gets better at pretending to be somebody else. Jaqen shows her the Hall of Faces and tells her she will become somebody else. Jorah and Tyrion are captured by slavers. Littlefinger meets with Cersei and turns her against Roose. Olenna tries to get Cersei to release Loras. Loras is tried and found guilty and Margaery is condemned with him. Jaime and Bronn try to get Myrcella out of Dorne. They are noticed by the Sand Snakes who fight them. Both parties are arrested. Ramsay weds Sansa and rapes her on their wedding night, forcing Theon to watch.
The Good: Arya's training continued in enjoyable fashion. I was pleased by the logical progression of Arya's training. By serving, Arya gets to learn how the House of Black and White operates while also getting better at lying and being somebody else. Now she seemingly actually gets to become somebody else before she can be considered no one which makes a lot of sense. This training has been enjoyable to watch and I'm enjoying the thorough details of this process. Now I would like to know more about the Faceless Men in general (see: The Unknown).
Littlefinger was great in this episode as he proves to be many steps ahead of everyone. He seems to have primed himself in a position to become Warden of the North which is a huge development. It appears that he never actually did care about Sansa and faked his affection in order to get her to trust him more and so he could use her for his own gain. Littlefinger is much more despicable and selfish than I imagined and I really love that. Something crazy is going to need to happen if Littlefinger is to be stopped.
Olenna is still awesome. I love her character so much as she is tremendously fun and charismatic. The entire scene with Cersei was just wonderfully put together (see: Best Moment). I also loved her saying she could "smell the shit from 5 miles away" which is not only in-line with her character, but also historically accurate. I really love little things like these.
I liked the trial of Loras. I appreciate how subtly the set-up with Olyvar was included earlier in the season. It was unpredictable and Olyvar's appearance at the trial was surprising but very logical. I also love the use of a birth mark to condemn Loras, a fantastic little detail.
There were some good moments in Jorah and Tyrion's story. Jorah learning of his father's death was a great moment which I never realized we needed to see. It was a long-time coming. I also liked Tyrion using his mouth to save himself once more.
The Bad: Unfortunately a lot of this episode didn't work for me.
All of the Dorne scenes were bad. It made no sense for Jaime and Bronn to infiltrate the Water Gardens during the day, and their attempt to kidnap Myrcella was ridiculously thoughtless and unbelievable. I have no idea what they were thinking by doing that, especially Jaime who you would think would be more fearful about being in captivity after he lost his hand last time he was a captive. Worse yet were the Sand Snakes who are impossible to care about. The fight scene was messy but also bored me to tears because I am not at all invested in Ellaria and the Sand Snakes.
Cersei is presented to be a total idiot which is a problem for me. She has absolutely no leverage with her father dead, Jaime gone, a rebellion in the North and no friends, yet she is attacking her only allies in the Tyrells. I can't imagine what she hopes to accomplish, especially with Olenna's threat to cut off supply of food to King's Landing right before winter. I can't imagine why Cersei thinks this is a good idea and she needs to face consequences for stupidity like this. It feels so inconsistent with the Cersei from before who wasn't this dumb. She wasn't particularly smart but she also wasn't downright stupid.
The final scenes at Winterfell were simply unpleasant and gratuitous. What purpose does Sansa's rape serve? To tell us Ramsay is psychotic? We know! Is it to horrify Theon? He should already be horrified by Sansa simply seeing him, so that can't be the main purpose. Is it for Sansa's character? God no. This is a massive backslide for her character arc as she was just learning how to take control of situations which she doesn't do at all here. The only answer I can come up with is that it exists simply to horrify us which is a poor excuse to have rape in the show. If brutality has a purpose, I don't mind it so much, but something like this is created exclusively to get a reaction out of us, making it feel meaningless and cheap.
The Unknown: What happens to the bodies in the House of Black and White? What are the faces for? Are they the only faces that the Faceless Men can use? Also, what does that water do? Is it poison?
Does Littlefinger actually care for Sansa or is he just using her like everybody else?
How will Olenna bite back at Cersei for imprisoning both Margaery and Loras?
Best Moment: Olenna goes to talk with Cersei. Cersei is hilariously trying to be like Tywin, writing while ignoring the people in her presence, asserting his dominance. But Cersei is no Tywin and against Olenna she stands no chance as Olenna insults her viciously, playing off of the opening Cersei gave her by speaking to her. It's fantastic to watch, further cementing Olenna as one of my favourite characters.
Character of the Episode: Olenna.
Conclusion: This episode was a mixed bag in the end. Some really good scenes, but some really bad ones as well. This season has been worryingly weak in these middle episodes, so hopefully the season's climax delivers like all the previous seasons to make up for these weaker episodes.
Summary: Joey goes on a fishing trip and comes back smelling awful. He has to perform with Charlton Heston while smelling awful. Chandler is in sweat pants and without motivation after Kathy cheated on him. The girls try to make him feel better. Rachel wants to meet Josh but has responsibilities as her boss has entrusted her to take care of her niece. Rachel turns to Ross to help her out.
The Good: This was really fun for the most part. Rachel is at her best whenever she is infatuated with somebody and remains a highlight with her storyline with Joshua continuing on. I particularly liked the storyline with Ross as it felt like a more logical and funny continuation of their relationship. I also quite like the irony that Rachel wanted Ross' help so she could get a date but she ended up getting nothing and gave Ross a date instead. Rachel's moment of realization was very funny. Chandler's story is pretty good too and I think the girls trying to help him led to some genuinely funny moments. The final dream sequence was a pretty funny moment.
The Bad: I thought Joey's story wasn't very good sadly. The reactions to his smell were initially somewhat funny (particularly Chandler's), but then the joke got overused so much. The Charlton Heston scene was weak too as the entire "I stink" joke wasn't funny at all and was a waste of a celebrity appearance. At least previous celebrity appearances led to funny moments, but this one didn't. Lastly, I was really annoyed by the "Pheebs" joke. Phoebe looks foolish for not knowing that it's what they call her. The joke isn't funny and it just devalues a character for no apparent reason.
Best Moment: Rachel's "nooooooo" when she learned that she gave Ross a date was really funny.
Character of the Episode: Rachel.
Conclusion: This was a really fun story for the most part, but Joey's part of the episode was pretty weak and some jokes fell woefully flat which drags the score down a lot.
Summary: Barristan is dead and Grey Worm is injured. Dany is angered and kills a family leader to send a message. Eventuallys he decides to show mercy to Hizdahr who she suspected was behind the attack and decides to marry him. Jon makes a deal with Tormund, allowing the wildlings to go south of The Wall. Tormund demands Jon goes beyond The Wall with him to give the message. Stannis leaves Castle Black to attack Winterfell. Sansa finds Theon in Winterfell. She has dinner with the Boltons. Roose reveals he is expecting another son which unnerves Ramsay. Tyrion and Jorah go through Old Valyria. They are attacked by stone men and barely make it out alive. Jorah contracts greyscale.
The Good: This season has a slower, more patient pace than the previous ones. While some may complain about it, I am appreciating it in these early episodes. It feels like the season is building up to something really big.
This episode had some good moments too. I liked Dany's story. Her actions seem to be bordering on the insane as she took an uneasy pleasure in feeding the master to her dragons, continuing to fuel my theory that she may end up becoming like the Mad King. Having banished Jorah and lost Barristan, her two most trusted advisors, she is making her decisions on her own now which could certainly lead to disaster for her.
Jon's storyline was really great once more. I appreciate him acknowledging the threat that the wildlings pose in the North as they will become wights if the Night's Watch continues to fight them. I like his decision to help them, but what I like more is that his logic hasn't made the Night's Watch accept the decision. This feels very real as all of the Night's Watch have their own reasons to despise the wildlings, reasons which they aren't willing to abandon so easily. I get the sense that this will lead into some important conflict in the future and I look forward to it.
The scenes at Winterfell were nicely put together. While I had my issues with Sansa's behaviour (see: The Bad), I liked the overall developments with Roose and Ramsay. Ramsay tries to charm Sansa while also humiliating Theon, continuing to be in character as a total psychopath. Roose revealing the story of Ramsay's conception was a great scene as well and I like that Roose seems to be acknowledging that Ramsay is a danger to him as well.
I loved the final scenes with Jorah and Tyrion. I thought that Old Valyria looked fantastic and mysterious. I loved the little detail of Tyrion and Jorah reciting a poem about Valyria, just two people enamoured by the beauty of the place. Then Drogon came flying in to create a wonderful moment as Tyrion gets his first look at a dragon (see: Best Moment). This led into the stone men attack which I thought was very good. It was different, tense and creative and I was genuinely on the edge of my seat as the situation made me buy into the fact that Jorah and Tyrion were in danger. Apparently I was rightly tense as we got the terrific reveal at the end with Jorah's greyscale, letting us know why there had been so much talk of greyscale in previous episodes.
The Bad: There were some flaws in this episode however. The Winterfell storyline was the most problematic for me because of how Sansa was treated. She is behaving exactly like she did around Joffrey with the Boltons which is strange because her character had developed so much from her time with Littlefinger. To go back to her timid self feels like a step back in her development. I've already seen her suffer enough at Joffrey's hands, I don't need anymore. Furthermore, her decision to trust Myranda enough to go into the dark cell to find Theon was stupid on every level, especially since she had just learned from Littlefinger to not trust anybody.
While I liked that Roose seems to have identified Ramsay as a threat, I didn't like that he revealed that he had a kid on the way. Surely Ramsay would try to kill this unborn child, and Roose looks stupid for not considering this. He should have just sent his wife away with no word of a child being born so that his child can not only be safe, but also be a surprise so Ramsay wouldn't be able to do anything about it.
I thought that Stannis' decision to leave now seemed odd. Apparently every single day he waits is a risk, so then I have to ask why Stannis even stayed at Castle Black as long as he did. Did he desperately want the Night's Watch's 50 men? Really? That seems like poor strategy from the best commander in Westeros.
The Unknown: What will Ramsay do about Roose's next son?
What will come of Dany marrying Hizdahr? I suspect that Hizdahr was behind the attack, so may he do something similarly rebellious?
How will the Night's Watch react to Jon leaving with Tormund to go to Hardhome? Who will be in charge when he leaves? What will they do?
Best Moment: Tyrion seeing Drogon was a fascinating moment. Peter Dinklage did a great job of conveying the shock and disbelief that Tyrion would feel and the decision for him and Jorah to just watch in silence was a really good one.
Character of the Episode: Tyrion.
Conclusion: This was another strong episode of set-up. While flawed, there was nothing big that I didn't like, making this another solid episode.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.