And we’re back with a whole new season of Game of Thrones! I hope you’ve remembered where we left off because it’s straight back into the story with this episode…
Opening in the dark desolation that is The North we are greeted with a sound that, I have to be honest, I mistook for an air raid siren at first. I thought it was an odd direction for the show to take… but it was actually just Ghost; poor dead Jon Snow’s direwolf howling in anguished mourning for his lost master. And actually, while we’re here, there is something I have to address right now, on the record: I do not believe that Jon is staying dead. Not for one moment. There. I’ve said it. Moving on.
So, this opening scene really did take us straight back into what was going on. Treacherous swine Alliser Thorne gave what he and the other remaining Night’s Watchmen seemed to feel was an inspiring speech about Jon basically being the ruin of them all, pretty much requiring Thorne and the others to kill him. Mini-traitor Ollie is right in the middle of it and, to be honest, I felt my blood boiling the moment he appeared. I hope Ghost eats him.
Thankfully there is some sense left at Castle Black, in the form of Ser Davos and Jon’s few remaining friends. Apart from dear old dedicated Dolorous Edd, these friends are not necessarily all characters we know and love, they’re more background filler types – although the scene was so dark that it could really have been anyone in that room with the Onion Knight, literally anyone. Ned Stark maybe. And sadly, this is my general complaint about interior scenes at Castle Black: I just want to see what’s going on guys! Gloom aside, the faithful few decide to fight back – and with Edd in charge they are under no illusion that this might be a battle they can win. That is, however, until Davos reminds them that they are not the only people loyal to Jon…
Moving a wee bit south, we catch up with the goings on in the Bolton Family. Which, as usual, are pretty horrific. Ramsay briefly displays genuine emotion at the death of Myranda (and if anyone forgot: she was chucked off a rampart in a glorious Theon revenge-moment) before deciding her body ought to be fed to the dogs – ‘Good meat’. Well, you can’t say he’s not practical. Credit is certainly due here to actor Iwan Rheon who consistently rises to the challenge of portraying this monster: Rheon seems to know exactly when to go ‘full on creepy’ and when to rein it in, making his statements in a voice so calm and measured you could almost believe he’s not violently insane. It’s also enjoyable to watch his scenes with Roose: even Ramsay knows that this creepy torturer schtick is not going to fly with Daddy Bolton. As ever, Roose is plotting and planning: they need Sansa back STAT (or they need his Frey wife to birth a boy. Either would work for Roose, apparently.)
Speaking of Sansa, she’s off doing what she does best: flailing around wildly in the face of danger. That’s right, she and Theon are being chased by those blasted Bolton dogs (who must be excited for their meal later) through some utterly gorgeous countryside. They do pick their locations well on GoT. What appears to be a standard Sansa piece of disappointment, as the Bolton men surround them, quickly turns into one of the episode’s best moments: the triumph of Brienne! She’s really upping her score these days: first Stannis, now she’s actually found and saved a Stark daughter! Cheers were heard around the world, I’ve no doubt. Oh and for Pod – and even for Theon who manages to stab a Bolton guard just before he makes a kebab out of Pod. It’s rare to feel so happy during Thrones, savour this moment. Savour as well, wonderful Brienne: the lady knight who is literally the one single living example of the knightly ideal of chivalry.
Speaking of other badass ladies, Daenerys is really having a rough time of it at the hands of Random Dothraki Tribe who, as usual, underestimate her language abilities and make several unsavoury comments in her general direction. Alas, this time her reeling of off titles in the native tongue doesn’t have the desire effect: in their eyes she is nothing. Until she reveals the identity of her deceased husband. This saves her from a hideous fate that night but unfortunately dooms her to a trip to Vaes Dothrak, where she’ll live out her days with the other widows of various Khals. Brilliant. Just brilliant. Not for one moment is our Khaleesi going to put up with that one, that’s for sure.
Hopefully she’ll be finding a bit of support soon: the ever-dedicated Ser Jorah and Daario Naharis are hot on her trail. As they travel Daario insults Jorah, Lord of the Friend-zone, and Jorah pretends he isn’t succumbing to a deadly and contagious illness. Fun times for everyone there.
In other news, the Martell family continue to be wiped out as Ellaria and the Sand Snakes get stabby. As annoyed as I am at this (what was the point of Doran and Trystane? Can anyone tell me? They did nothing and then died) at least the Snakes are finally doing something vaguely interesting. Last season, theirs’ was one of the plots that nearly did me in from boredom/disappointment so I’m really, really holding out for something good this time around.
Back on the shores of King’s Landing, I am finally forced to feel sorry for Cersei as she mourns the death of her second child. This scene swings wildly from tragic to ghoulish to touching and finally rather alarming as Jaime begins what appears to be a descent back to the dark side (ok, maybe he began that in the awful rape scene last season. There may be no hope for him). Cersei offers the episode’s saddest lines as she states that Myrcella was ‘good. From her first breath, she was so sweet. I don’t know where she came from. She was nothing like me. No meanness, no jealousy, just good… I thought if I could make something so good, so pure… maybe I’m not a monster.’ The Lannisters are truly an epic tragedy, one which makes me feel a mix of pity and revulsion that I never expected!
Speaking of pity, we finally check in with Arya. She’s still blind but now she’s homeless and begging too. Her life has seriously gone downhill. Things don’t get much better when the mean girl from The House of Black and White shows up and starts bashing her with a stick. Arya’s failure to fight back due to blindness is met with nothing but scorn and I have the sinking feeling we’ll be getting this scene on a regular basis until she learns to ‘see without seeing’ or some other such business. So that’s not a trope that’s been run into the ground over and over, or anything. Tell me I’m not the only one that finds The House of Black and White pretty tedious?
And finally. The big reveal. The episode’s bizarre closing moment: Melisandre is incredibly freaking old. Like, really, really old. And she sleeps naked (ok, not a surprise). Beautifully played by Carice Van Houten, what could have been a simple shock moment actually turns somewhat poignant: the sadness and pain in Melisandre’s eyes show a very human moment of weakness, something the arrogant Red Lady would never dream of showing.
Overall, this was a pretty solid opening episode: it struck a decent balance between reminding us where we were – no easy feat with a cast this large – and starting off some new story lines. At this point, deciding which scenes were good or bad seems even more a matter of taste than ever: if you like Brienne, you’ll like her scenes; if you hate the Sand Snakes you’ll probably still hate them! Unless they do something really awesome next week, of course…
Final grade: B+
- Loved the Tyrion/Varys scene – ok not much happened other than reminding us what had happened but it was well-written, reminded us that Meereen is a fear-soaked city on the edge of chaos, and provided the fabulous line: ‘She thinks you want to eat her baby.’
- Margaery in the dungeon was such a sad sight. How could anyone not want to give her hug and tell her it’ll be ok? Please don’t make her do a shame walk (though I bet she’d do her own nudity if she did. Just saying).
- Thought we were having a whole episode without boobs. Foolish thought. It won’t happen again.
- I still cannot think of Edd as anything other than Pramface. I just can’t. Sorry.