Bold decisions by the leaders in Westeros and beyond highlight the halfway point of the season.
For a show that cuts back and forth at a dizzying pace amongst all the many characters and locations it portrays, “Kill the Boy” did a rare thing for Game of Thrones: elaborate for significant periods of time on each location. Now in order to do that, three locations had to be cut out completely. For the first time since Season 3 (I think), there were no scenes in King’s Landing. Dorne, once again, was not even mentioned. And Arya, while we can assume is probably still sweeping and mopping for her own personal Mr. Miyagi, was absent for the second straight episode (que sad faces from all the readers out there who are missing last year’s journeys with the Hound). But the advantage of leaving these areas out was having the time to really see three characters in strong positions of leadership (Stannis, Jon, and Daenarys), receive time to weigh the consequences each action they could take will have, make that decision, and then live with some of the fallout once that decision is made. Just three locations to recap tonight (well four if you count Old Valayria) plus some significant tidbits about greyscale, Valyria, and another character from the shows history (though more recent history) gets a number of references tonight. We’ll start with the fallout from the death of Dany’s protector, Ser Barristen the Bold.
Grey Worm is alive!!!! I have to say, the death of Barristen Selmy last week was tough to take. But taking away two of Daenarys significant allies would have just been too much. But some good comes out of Barristen’s death: the return of badass Dany and her fire breathing children!!! She has the nobles of Meereen rounded up (including Hizdahr, the man whose been begging for the reopening of the firepits this season) and brought before her two chained up dragons. One of them is placed before them, fried, and chewed up real nice. Good to see Dany and her dragons working together again. I believe Daenarys means to flush out the man behind the Harpy, assuming it’s one of these men. Later on, while discussing the matter at hand with Missandei, Dany presents her dilemma: the late Ser Barristen wanted her to show mercy while Daario wants her to use military force to bring peace to her city. Missandei tells Daenarys to follow her gut since it seems like that’s the one she’s been ignoring for a while (best advice Dany’s received in a long time!!!). Daenarys goes down to the dungeon where Hizdahr is locked up and he begs her for forgiveness, which she not only grants but informs him that the fighting pits will be reopened and she needs to marry a noble of Meereen to bring peace to the city. Talk about a day taking a complete 180 for Hizdahr. While I loved most of Dany’s work tonight, I am a little disappointed that more has not been done by the show to build up the political marriage of Dany and Hizdahr. Without knowledge of the books, it kind of comes out of nowhere. And what about Daario, her recent lover? And what about taking the throne of Westeros? Won’t this kind of bog Daenarys down in Slaver’s Bay, keeping her from “breaking the wheel?”
I thought tonight’s episode did a nice job of connecting the different locations of the show. The first such example is Sam reading news from Slaver’s Bay about Aemon’s relative, Daenarys. But we don’t dwell on this conversation long as Jon enters the room seeking the Maester’s council. An interesting tactic hear by Aemon, as he doesn’t even ask Jon want he means to do, only telling him to do it. He tells Jon to “Kill the boy, let the man go free,” setting the tone for the rest of the episode for Jon. The uncertainty with which Jon carries himself into that room with Aemon disappears as he goes to speak to Thormund Giantsbane.
He wants Thormund to rally the remaining wildlings who are still North to come south of the wall and take refuge behind the wall. It’s exactly what Mance Rayder wanted. But much like Mance, Thormund doesn’t want to bend the knee to any leader south of the wall. The men agree to go together to Hardhomme, the land where the remaining Wildlings are, as Thormund will not go unless Jon means to go with them.
The reaction of the Night’s Watch is predictable. They’ve spent years fighting these wildlings (including a really significant fight just at the end of last season, you might recall) and do not want trust them. Jon has the trump card for all arguments against opening the gates to their enemies: every one of them that dies beyond the wall is another soldier in the army of the White Walkers (remember them? apparently they’re some big threat, though we seldom see them in action). It still doesn’t appear to convince the men of the Night’s Watch to openly embrace this plan to bring the Wildlings to the other side of the wall. Especially not Olly, who watched wildling invaders kill his entire family and village. After a season of mostly waiting and reminding us of what was coming, I am loving the action at the Wall this season.
Though the Wall is about to lose one of the best parts of it this season. This season has transformed me from a “Stannis is a bore who would be a disaster as king” into a “Can we get that man on the throne now before winter comes and that zombie army attacks?” Stannis has been awesome all his season, and his solid work continued tonight, encouraging Sam to keep looking for solutions for the impending White Walker threat as well as departing the Wall and beginning his march towards Winterfell, even though he doesn’t have a wilding army yet. Stannis hints that “Winter is Coming” (another thing we’ve been hinting at for five seasons now with no payoff) and he must push his claim for the throne before people forget it. I will miss Stannis and Jon interacting, but I am loving this Stannis who forces the action on his own initiative, not the one who relied heavily on others and sat around waiting, licking his wounds.
We don’t actually start in Winterfell, but are simply given a reminder that Brienne and Pod are outside the Walls still keeping an eye on Sansa. She wants a worker at the inn her and Pod are staying at to get a message to Sansa.
Back inside the walls of Winterfell, Ramsey and Myranda are naked and bickering. Myranda is not happy about Ramsey’s impending marriage to Sansa. Of course, Ramsey doesn’t mean to stop making crazy twisted love to Myranda. But she doesn’t want to be seen just on the side. Ramsey informs Myranda, “You are mine” before they start some aggressive love making again with Myranda biting Ramsey’s lip, drawing blood, and getting him very excited. Now if that is what it takes for Myranda to keep Ramsey interested, then I don’t imagine this ending well for her.
Myranda does have one more interaction, introducing herself to Sansa as she looks up at the tower Bran was pushed from back in that very first episode. She takes Sansa to a set of cages where all those dogs Ramsey uses to hunt down girls he “grows bored with” are kept and tells her to go to the very end. I was fearful for Sansa and what awaited her in here. But all she sees Theon/Reek sleeping in the very last dog cage. That’s right, Theon/Reek sleeps like a dog. Theon warns Sansa (and very wisely in my opinion) that she needs to leave this place. But this is not the last time Sansa sees Reek. He is also the servant at a dinner with Roose, his wife Walda, and Ramsey. With all the experience she gained eating meals with Joffrey and Cersei in King’s Landing, Sansa ought to be a pro at this. Ramsey bullies Theon/Reek into apologizing for what he did after invading Winterfell back in Season 2. But Roose does not like an arrogant Ramsey, so he has Walda reveal that she is pregnant and it is likely a boy. In a private meeting between the father and son after dinner, Roose tells the Ramsey the sick story of how he is the result of Stannis raping Ramsey’s mother under the body of her hanging husband (so that is where Ramsey gets all these sick fantasies). This somehow convinces Ramsey that he is loved and his use will be important when Stannis arrives with his army (Anyone out there want to rewatch reruns of Jerry Springer to see if the Bolton men ever made an appearance?).
When we last left Jorah and Tyrion, they were in a boat. Somehow, everything else in Game of Thrones has advanced at least a couple of days only to find these two still in that same boat. Though it was cool to see, I am not sure why Jorah took Tyrion through Old Valyria (more on this at the bottom). But they seem to have a bonding experience as they discuss the fall of the great civilization the Targaryens share their blood with. Also encouraging was the two men sharing the vision of Drogon flying over them. It’s good to see the show reminding us that he is still out there. But the tender moment is broken up by the appearance of stone men!!! This is what happens to you if greyscale takes full affect and it doesn’t kill you. And the odds are pretty well stacked against the men in the boat considering that one of them is a dwarf who is tied up. Jorah seems to be holding them off, but Tyrion has to fall out of the boat to avoid them where one of them pulls him down into the water. The screen goes black and I expect credits. But instead, we see Tyrion’s eyes open up. He is on shore and alive, Jorah thankful he is ok. But now they must walk to reach Meereen as Jorah can see it across the water. But another thing he sees is a small part of greyscale that has begun growing on Jorah’s arm.
-The Grey Worm/Missandei love story continued with Missandei waiting by his bed and giving him a kiss after he woke up. Though I love their scenes together, I am still not sure what purpose this ill-fated love story (I mean seriously, he missing a little something that’s pretty necessary for that). But at least it hasn’t consumed too much screen time this season.
-I sure hope the Wall keeps its spice with Stannis and all his crew marching off to battle. The interactions between these two factions have been so refreshing with both sides having new faces to interact with.
-I am also interested to see what is in store for the ladies traveling with Stannis. They all stayed at the Wall in the books when Stannis heads to Winterfell, so I am curious to see what purpose they will serve in these new roles.
-For the first time, the show mentioned the Citadel in Oldtown, where Maesters are trained. Sam also mentioned his dream as a boy of becoming a Maester one day to Gilly.
-Valyria was a great empire that conquered much of Essos and had an eye towards Westeros before a volcano burned down the city and all its inhabitants. Jorah and Tyrion sail through the burned wreckage in this episode. The Targaryens are originally from Valyria. They left and set their home on dragonstone before “the doom” came.
-Last week, Stannis mentioned many wanted him to send his daughter to Old Valyria to spend her days as one of those stone men. Jorah seemed to indicate that he knew this, but sailed Tyrion and himself through the burned city anyway? It was also rewarding to see all the dialogue spent the last few weeks on greyscale pay off by providing us with both and understanding of stone men and a reason for that piece of stone developing on Jorah’s skin.
-I also loved the look on Jorah’s face, as it seemed to convey his surprise at how large the dragons have become. Keep in mind, it is unlikely Jorah has seen Drogon in a while so it makes sense that even though, unlike Tyrion, had seen the dragon before, was amazed by its presence.
-I was also very encouraged by Sansa’s confidence at dinner with the Bolton’s. The look she gave Ramsey when it was discovered he was about to have a true legitimate threat to his claim of House Bolton was fantastic. Can you imagine her giving that look to Joffrey back in the day?
-Last week, there were several references to Rhaegar Targaryen, the oldest brother of Daenarys. Another character from the past, Catelyn Stark, was referenced several times (Brienne referring to the vow she made and Myranda and Sansa discussing her). While I believe mentioning Rhaegar will prove to be an important element of the show’s future, not sure if the same will be the case for Lady Catelyn.
-How will Daenary’s shrinking inner circle (primarily Daario) react to her proposed marriage to Hizdahr?
-Will her focus shift away from Westeros permanently? And if so, what is Varys to do if he loses the primary claim to the throne that he’s pushing?
-How will Jon and Stannis return to action now that they are back with people they’ve spent the entire series with?
-Will the men of the Nights Watch embrace Jon’s plan to allow the wildlings south or will they refuse to follow? For that matter, how will the wildlings respond to this plan?
-Will Brienne get any message to Sansa before any harm can come her way from Ramsey? And will Sansa continue to keep her confidence as she did this week at dinner with the Bolton’s?
-Will we finally get an idea for what everybody’s plans are in Dorne? How will Littlefinger respond to all the violent actions against his brothel? And what cult like fun as Arya been up to while we’ve been away from her for two weeks.
I expect there to be a disturbing scene next week. Several actors hinted it would be coming midseason and the preview for next week seem to indicate its coming. My only questions are who will be involved and what will the long-term impact of the scene be? We will see you next week.