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: 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: 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: 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.
Summary: Cersei reinstates the Faith Militant and they punish sinners. Loras is thrown in jail, angering Margaery. Tommen tries to get him out but is too kind to properly utilize his authority as king. Jaime and Bronn arrive in Dorne. They kill a group that discovers their presence. Jon continues to adjust to life as Lord Commander. Littlefinger tells Sansa he has to go back to King's Landing. He tells her to use her new ability to manipulate to stay in control of Ramsay. The Sons of the Harpy attack Grey Worm's group of Unsullied. Barristan comes in to help. Both men are grievously injured or killed in the battle.
The Good: There remains a lot of solid build-up in this episode. There are more good moments that we have come to expect from this show.
I liked Jaime expressing his anger towards Tyrion for what he did. Jaime feels guilty about what happened and disappointed that his brother would betray him like that after he set him free. It's good storytelling to show Jaime's emotions after everything that has happened in the last season. I thought the action set piece was pretty good, and it was my favourite in the episode. Bronn was consistent to his character, being sneaky in combat and smart as he lies seamlessly to the Dornish people. Jaime was very good too as we got to see the results of him training his left hand. One of my favourite moments in this episode was Jaime using his metal hand to save his life, showing him use his disadvantage to his advantage in a good way.
I was pleased by the continued development of Cersei and Margaery's cold war. Last episode Margaery took the advantage, but now it's Cersei in control as she reinstates the Faith Militant to give herself some power. Margaery may have Tommen on her side, but his inability to use his power as king doesn't help her cause very much. I love how Tommen is unfamiliar with how to be king in this world, as he wasn't raised for royalty like Joffrey and is still passive, having not seen the horrors of Westeros yet. It also makes me hate Cersei more as she cruelly exploits Tommen's innocence to her advantage just to get back at Margaery for taking Tommen from her. It makes me feel satisfied to know that the Faith Militant will likely turn against her in the future but she is too driven in her revenge to see it coming like we can.
The scenes at The Wall were fine. I liked Jon fulfilling responsibilities of Lord Commander and I appreciated that he signed off a request for men from the Boltons, showing his change in character. The scene with Melisandre was interesting (see: The Unknown) and I liked that she used Ygritte's line (you know nothing) as a last-ditch effort to get Jon to join her cause. Stannis' story to Shireen was sweet and a good showcase to Stephen Dillane though I had reservations (see: The Bad).
I was pleased to hear Littlefinger's plan for Sansa to keep control in her wedding, though it did come a little late. I would really like to see Sansa manipulate Ramsay and get this psychopath to somehow listen to her, just like Margaery did to Joffrey back in season 3.
The Bad: Sadly, I thought a lot of this was sloppy and rushed. The Faith Militant were reinstated shockingly quickly and I don't think I have enough information about them to truly understand their significance. The High Sparrow came off as kind and genuine, but the Militant are violent and brutal, which was an extremely odd inconsistency. I appreciated the embarrassing naked walk that the High Septon was forced to do as it was a fitting punishment from religious zealots. So to see the Faith Militant murder and castrate people for their sins was tonally inconsistent and didn't feel like a religious group at all. Furthermore, I'm confused as to why the City Watch doesn't do anything about this group. The Kingsguard seemed eager to kill all of them, so why don't the City Watch?
The Sons of the Harpy attack at the end was disappointing too. This episode had three action set-pieces, and with this one being the final one, it tried to feel more epic than the previous two. But the grander scale ended up making this action scene feel forced and out-of-place in the story as it just happened without any real reason. The problem is that I understand the Sans of the Harpy even less than the Faith Militant. Why are they attacking? What are their goals? Without knowing important things like these, it makes a grand battle fall completely flat. Furthermore, the actual battle was really badly put together. The Unsullied are supposed to be professionals, yet they don't form ranks and just engage in a random melee with these untrained soldiers who somehow seem to be on equal footing with the Unsullied.
Furthermore, if Barristan and Grey Worm were killed here, and it does seem that way, this is a really disappointing way for them to die. Especially Barristan, who had been hyped up as the greatest fighter of all time. Yet he is beaten after like 30 seconds of fighting against some untrained fighters in an alleyway? Talk about disappointing.
I had issues with Stannis' story because it didn't serve much of a purpose. I predict that Melisandre will attempt to burn Shireen and I feel like this scene is just there to make us feel bad when she inevitably dies. It just doesn't serve much purpose despite it being a good scene. The other lengthy story in this episode was with Ellaria and the Sand Snakes who just aren't interesting at all so far. A story like the one Obara told can be a good way to introduce a character (see: Karl Tanner in season 4), but it didn't work here as the actress was dull and I didn't get any sense of how I'm supposed to feel about the character.
The Tyrion and Jorah scene felt like a waste of time. I like Tyrion recognizing him so quickly, but I didn't like that the scene was played entirely to sum up Jorah's story. We know what happened, so it was quite dull. I also don't know what Jorah expects will come of him sending Tyrion to Dany, and I don't know why he thinks that this will prove his loyalty to her when she banished him.
The Unknown: Will Margaery help Tommen learn how to be a king? Will the Faith Militant be taken care of?
I was interested by the information given about Rhaegar and Lyanna. I'm still happy to get more history on Westeros and this is an interesting development to get. I wonder if that will lead to something?
Are Barristan and Grey Worm dead?
Best Moment: Honestly it was probably the Bronn and Jaime action scene as it was the best written.
Character of the Episode: Jaime.
Conclusion: This episode had more solid developments, but some story aspects were rushed which takes away from the experience.
Summary: Margaery continues to befriend Tommen after they are married. She manipulates him and turns him against Cersei. Cersei subtly threatens Margaery after Tommen suggests for her to go to Casterly Rock. Cersei allies herself with the High Sparrow. Littlefinger has organized with Roose Bolton to wed Sansa and Ramsay. Roose and Littlefinger explain to Sansa and Ramsay why they must wed and they both end up complying. Stannis and Davos try to get Jon to help their cause but Jon declines. Janos questions Jon's orders, so Jon has him executed. Arya is doing chores at the House of Black and White. Jaqen tells her to get rid of her belongings to become no one. Arya does so but can't bring herself to throw away Needle. Tyrion and Varys arrive in Volantis. Tyrion is kidnapped by Jorah.
The Good: This was a great episode which continued to set up the story in exciting ways with really strong developments.
Everything surrounding the Margaery/Cersei/Tommen storyline was wonderful. Margaery's manipulations of Tommen were terrific and I loved the subtle way that she began to turn him against Cersei. She is really good, and the drama is heightened by the fact that we know she will potentially be the one to overthrow Cersei. I love how she provoked Cersei too because Cersei has no leverage. With Tywin gone, she is essentially powerless, just a Queen Mother, so what can she do? All she can do is try to turn Tommen against Margaery, but that isn't going to happen because Margaery has already ensured that Tommen is on her side. It's great manipulation and puts all the eggs in the Tyrells' basket for the moment. I particularly loved the moment as Cersei walked away with all of the girls' laughter in her head, showing that Margaery's attempts to get in her head are working.
But Cersei makes an unpredictable move to try to get somebody on her side. She befriends the High Sparrow, desperate to get anybody on her side. This is a really interesting development because the sparrows seem genuinely threatening. The humiliation of the High Septon was pretty intense and is a significant moment. You would think that Cersei wants to get something like that to happen to Margaery, but this has serious potential to backfire. I wonder what the sparrows would think about incest?
I think the development of Sansa and Ramsay's potential wedding is an interesting development. I have reservations (see: The Bad), but I can understand why it is taking place and I hope it allows us to see another side of Ramsay and not more torture of Sansa. The move is really strategic and it opens up the story, for a big conclusion as there are now three major forces in The North all searching for their own gain (the Boltons, Stannis and The Vale). Also, I once more loved Roose Bolton's scenes. His character is dynamic and continues to be a backstabber as he tries to get The North on his side through the most devious means.
Brienne and Pod had a terrific scene too. I loved that we got more backstory on both characters so we can understand why they tick. The origins of Pod's position and loyalty are suitably dark for a "Game of Thrones" character, but it's Brienne's story which is the highlight. Brienne reveals that she was always laughed at and abused in a heartbreaking story and her affection for Renly stemmed from how kind he was to her when nobody else was. It's a powerful moment and makes me appreciate Brienne's character even more.
The Jon/Davos/Stannis scene was really good. Stannis's argument is strong, especially with Davos' help and it's easy to see why Jon may be swayed to putting the Night's Watch onto Stannis' side. But Jon proves that he is ready for his new job as Lord Commander, keeping his conviction strong. That's not the only scene where Jon gets to show how well he has matured either. He rewards Ser Alliser for hard work instead of punishing him for being a cruel man which was a surprise, but more significantly, he executes Janos for disobeying orders in a terrific scene (see: Best Moment), sending the right message and showing that he understands the responsibilities that come with his new role.
Arya's brief scenes were really good. The House of Black and White is fittingly eerie and I love the set design and atmosphere in the location. The stand-out was when she had to get rid of all of her stuff to truly become no one. Her tears at the thought of getting rid of Needle was really sad and powerful and I'm overjoyed that she kept it. If Arya was to lose her personality and become no one, that would make her character pretty dull. So to tell us that she isn't entirely committed to being no one is meaningful because it tells me that Arya won't lose herself and her motives in whatever happens next.
The final scenes with Tyrion were really good too and provided a solid cliff-hanger. I liked seeing that Tyrion couldn't get enjoyment out of whores anymore after all that happened, a nice character detail to show us how he has changed after the monumental events in "The Children". His sadness is logical and it makes it more believable that Tyrion would get captured by Jorah. That final moment is a great cliff-hanger as Jorah will presumably take Tyrion to Dany to get back in good graces.
The Bad: I found it hard to believe that Sansa would willingly be forced into another deadly marriage without trying to find any other way out of it. Surely she would have fought harder to get into a better position. Furthermore, if this wedding will only feature Ramsay being Ramsay to Sansa, I would rather not be subjected to that. We have seen Sansa suffer enough, she needs to keep moving forwards.
The Unknown: What will Arya's training be? What goes on in the House of Black and White? Who was the other girl with her? What is the game of faces?
Sansa and Ramsay's wedding is a big question mark. Will Ramsay be different towards her? Does Littlefigner have a plan to protect Sansa? Will Littlefigner or Roose betray the other first? Will Myranda take issue with Sansa and do something? How will Theon react to seeing Sansa again?
Why was the red priestess staring at Tyrion? Does he have a significant role to play?
Does Jorah just plan to take Tyrion to Dany or is there more to it?
Best Moment: Jon is forced to execute Janos who presumes it's just a threat. But when Janos realizes the truth about what is happening, he is crying and begging. Jon hesitates and I thought he would spare Janos, having scared him. Jon hesitated to kill Ygritte and let her go and I thought he would make the same mistake here. But to my surprise, Jon showed his growth by ruthlessly killing Janos in what was a stellar moment.
Character of the Episode: Jon again. That's three in a row for him.
Conclusion: This was a really great episode. The build-up was effective and there was great focus on emotion throughout, making this high-class television. This is a great way to build up storylines for the future.
Summary: Brienne finds Sansa with Littlefinger but she rejects her offer. Brienne and Pod follow them anyways. Jaime offers to go to Dorne with Bronn to bring Myrcella back to Cersei. Cersei agrees to it. Daario and Grey Worm catch a boy who is in contact with the Sons of the Harpy. Dany wants to put him on trial but a former slave Mossador kills him. In return Dany executes him, angering the people of Meereen. Stannis offers to make Jon a Stark if he fights for him but Jon refuses. The Night's Watch hold an election and Jon is elected as the new Lord Commander. Arya arrives in Braavos and is taken in by Jaqen.
The Good: This was a strong episode. The stories are still building, but I still really enjoyed this as there was much more content to latch onto than the previous episode.
Brienne finding Sansa was a significant moment. I enjoyed the scene and I thought that the way Pod was able to get a look of Sansa was filmed pretty creatively. The scene did good to make us root for Brienne to notice that Sansa is in the same building. Brienne offering her loyalties and Littlefinger subsequently destroying her credibility was well done. The conversation was engaging and it was a logical roadblock for Brienne who now has to prove her worth to get what she wants. I also like how Brienne trying to force her service to Sansa mirrors how Pod forced his service to Brienne, which does bring things full circle.
I liked the follow-up with Dorne after Oberyn's death. The displeasure from Ellaria made sense and her anger towards the Lannisters felt sensible. Doran is interesting as he seems like a pacifist who has no desire for war, and I'm interested to see where this character goes. Jaime's mission to go to Dorne is worth getting excited for as he is going to be going with Bronn which should lead to good dialogue and character development for both. The expansion of the universe with Dorne has been done well so far, and I hope that there are more new characters to meet in Dorne to make the storyline even better.
Cersei's attempt to gain power in King's Landing isn't working out as she would have hoped which I really like. Jaime and her always relied on their father's reputation to be threatening, and now with him gone Cersei isn't worth fearing. I enjoyed Kevan putting her in her place and letting her know that she is the kind of person who can easily be overthrown. While she does have her loyalists on the small council, it's hard to see her desperate grasp for power ending well for her.
I really enjoyed the content in Meereen this time because it seems to be promising real change. The sequence of Daario and Grey Worm hunting down the Sons of the Harpy was really fun and led into a very interesting storyline. Dany debates on what to do with this kid and ultimately decides to do a fair trial, only for her plans to be ruined when the kid is killed by Mossador. Dany has to be just and executed Mossador only to make the people hate her. This story is really good and is a natural way to put Dany in a position to lose the lvoe of her people. I like that it mirrors Robb murdering Lord Karstark and losing half of his army as a consequence. I wonder if they are setting Dany up for a fall from grace here. Barristan's conversation with her about the Mad King adds on to this as it opens up the possibility of Dany becoming somebody who is no better than any of the other leaders in the past. No fate for her character feels more "Game of Thrones" than that one so it feels like a real possibility to see it come to fruition.
The scenes at The Wall were the highlights once more. There was a lot of genuine emotion in all of the scenes that took place there. Shireen teaching Gilly how to read was sweet, and Selyse trying to discourage her was pretty telling of their hostile relationship. It was a short but good scene. I also liked the little add-ons to Sam's character by having him try to get Gilly to practice more. Additionally, I thought that Stannis' offer to Jon was a powerful moment. We know how much being a Stark means to Jon, so to see him get the offer and decline it because of his dedications is really good as it proves Jon's loyalty, furthering his character development into becoming the ideal leader. Then it all caps off with a wonderful scene as Jon is elected as the next Lord Commander. It's a great scene with genuine joy to be felt as Jon unseats Ser Alliser. Sam's speech for Jon was a lovely moment too, very well-performed. I also got some genuine laughs as Sam trashed Janos, showing how much more confident the character has become in a funny way. Overall, the story at The Wall has been extremely good this season and I look forward to seeing what happens now that Jon is in charge.
There were a few other moments which stood out. Tyrion and Varys had another great conversation in this episode unsurprisingly. I would be more than happy to get more of their interactions in the next few episodes. Arya standing up to the people on the street was really good as well. To see her threaten them with this chilling confidence she has developed is pretty unsettling and dramatic. Her character is getting a lot darker.
The Bad: Nothing I would call bad.
The Unknown: Will Dany become a Mad Queen? Is that a possible direction to take her character in?
We got a lengthy conversation about Greyscale in this episode. Did that happen for a reason? Will somebody come down with Greyscale in the future?
What does Jaqen mean by saying he is no one? And why does he say that Arya has to become no one? Also, I'm going to keep calling him Jaqen to avoid confusion. Also, why did he make Arya wait before bringing her in? Was he testing her somehow?
What is Drogon doing now? Where has he been going? Will he be a threat in the future?
Best Moment: Jon winning the election was the most satisfying moment.
Character of the Episode: Jon again.
Conclusion: This was a strong episode of set-up with some really good moments added on as well.
Summary: Flashbacks show Cersei getting a prophecy from a witch. In the present, King's Landing deals with the fallout of Tywin's death. Lancel returns, having joined a new religious group called the sparrows who arrive following Tywin's death. Dany learns of a group calling themselves Sons of the Harpy causing an uprising. Tyrion arrives in Essos with Varys. Varys takes him to meet Dany. Stannis wants Mance to kneel to him and give him his men. He enlists Jon to help. Mance refuses so Stannis plans to have him burned. Before Mance is burned, Jon mercy kills him.
The Good: This was a quiet, but solid season premiere.
I liked the first scene due to what it uncovers for the story. Through this prophecy we are given some more information about what will happen to Cersei, and thankfully it adds to the plot. Cersei's fate to be unseated by a younger, more beautiful queen and to lose her children are very interesting reveals (see: The Unknown).
I really liked the fallout of Tywin's death. Cersei is as insufferable as ever as she torments Jaime for his role in Tywin's death and further condemns Tyrion for murdering Tywin. What's more interesting is that Cersei is likely in charge now that Tywin is gone, so it should be intriguing to see what she does to King's Landing. The best development of the episode in my opinion was Lancel's return. He has become part of a religious group called the sparrows who have only now arrived because Tywin is gone. This is an exciting development because it implies that there are organizations waiting in the shadows for a time to rise, and the sparrows could be setting up for the formation of a new faction, or even a new set of factions within King's Landing. With Tywin gone, it appears that there is nobody left to stop them.
I was pleased with Tyrion's story. His drinking habits continuing after everything that has happened made sense and I enjoyed his interactions with Varys. Their pairing is excellent and I think it will lead to good television to see them together in Essos. I also like that we got the reveal of who Varys is actually supporting, as he is clearly trying to get Dany back in charge of Westeros.
Finally, we get to the story at The Wall which I thought was the strongest. The conflict of Stannis wanting Mance's men but Mance not wanting to kneel was well fleshed-out. Mance's motives for not wanting to kneel to Stannis made sense and I appreciated his scene with Jon, who tried to save Mance's life. Of course it just wasn't meant to be and Mance ended up being burned anyways. The stand-out moment however was Jon showing his heart and shooting Mance with an arrow, giving him a merciful death.
The Bad: Dany's story is feeling pretty repetitive. It feels like largely stalling to keep her away from Westeros until it is time for her to invade. I enjoyed the developments in her story in the past few seasons, but the big moments were all setting up for something big which never came. Dany keeps learning lessons but she isn't really applying them, making everything feel like a waste of time. Because of that, it's hard to invest in this new storyline which is being introduced because I fear that it won't lead to anything particularly enjoyable.
This episode suffers from being extraordinarily slow. That in itself isn't a problem, after all "Better Call Saul" is one of my favourite shows and it is extremely slow. But "Better Call Saul" is put together with more innovation and care than "Game of Thrones" and because of that, the slow pace isn't an issue. For "Game of Thrones", a show driven by a sprawling narrative rather than a condensed character story, this slow pace feels dull and doesn't make for a particularly enjoyable episode. I'm not saying this episode was bad, but it is certainly weaker than the exciting episodes last season.
The Unknown: Who is the beautiful queen that was referred to in Cersei's prophecy? Is it Dany? Margaery? Or perhaps somebody else altogether?
Apparently Tommen and Myrcella are both doomed according tot he prophecy. Who is going to kill Tommen now that he is king? Does Stannis successfully attack and take over King's Landing? Is Tommen assassinated like Joffrey? A lot of questions. And what about Myrcella? Is she a casualty of Dorne going to war against the Lannisters? That seems likely, especially after Oberyn's death. We still haven't seen how Dorne has responded to that.
Who are the Sons of the Harpy? Will they provide an actual threat to Dany? Or are they just another force that will be easily taken care of?
Who are the sparrows? Why did Lancel join them? What did they do to him? Will the sparrows make any moves in King's Landing? Or are there other organizations to worry about in King's Landing?
Best Moment: Jon killing Mance.
Character of the Episode: Jon.
Conclusion: This was a slow, but solid season premiere. While this episode doesn't do much to stand out on its own, it does nicely set up for the rest of the season.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.