Possibly one of the most interesting episodes of this season so far and we’re talking about a season where four episodes in we have witnessed the death of a major antagonist and a controversial incestuous rape scene between the Lannister twins. But what this episode did was give us a lot of food for thought. As a reader of the books, I was more excited to see not just a flesh-and-blood version of things I’ve already read and imagined in my head but a veering off from the main course into unchartered, unmapped territory. Ladies and gentlemen, Game of Thrones has at least partly, gone off the GRRM Song of Ice and Fire books radar.
“I will answer injustice with justice”
After Daenerys storms Meeren by a stealthy night-time mutiny involving former-slaves instigating the ones trampled beneath the feet of their masters to raise arms (knifes) and breaking the proverbial and literal chains, she takes the city and climbs to a high point from where she orders 163 of the masters to be nailed (crucified) cruelly in much the same way as she had witnessed the nailed children marking every mile on her journey to the city. And then perched atop the Meeren pyramid, she surveys her terrible new conquest, which is to be her domain (book spoiler coming up) for a long time yet. And while people may rightly question whether her sense of ‘justice’ was not, in fact skewed, there remains the question of how bad a revolt does she want on her hands? Perhaps she did not foresee the one that is coming anyway, when she ordered the merciless crucifixions of those masters but maybe this was her way of telling them that freedom will be strictly imposed! It’s hard to know what the characters are thinking on a show unless they express it in so many words because you have no access to the thoughts.
“A man with no motive is a man no one suspects. I’d risk everything to get what I want. My new friends are predictable and reasonable people. As for what happened to Joffrey, well, I think it was something my new friends wanted very badly.”
Littlefinger reveals his plot to the innocent and yet-naive Sansa with a flourish- telling her how the necklace Sir Dontos had given her played an important role in the death of the horrendous young king. While he plans to marry Sansa’s aunt at the Eeyrie where he means to keep Sansa safely protected, he is reaching out with his little fingers into the realms of kings. And he does chime that he will risk everything to get everything.
At the same time (or so) Lady Olena reveals to her granddaughter Margaery that of course she wouldn’t have let the poor little girl stay married to a tyrant like the obnoxious Joffrey. Margaery had been all prepared to take on the role of loving wife and generous queen hanging on the arm of a quickly distracted and sadistically explosive husband but now she must turn on her charm-o-Tyrell for the young Tommen who is on the other side of the spectrum. Innocent, gullible, lovable and cute, the new king is as far from evil as his brother was close to it. And so starts the power struggle for control over him by the two women who will fight to be the all-powerful ruler.
If I told you to find that murderous little bitch and bring me her head, would you do it?
While Tommen is vulnerable and in danger, Cersie for now is concerned only about his protection. She and Jamie share a curt, cool scene where they’re both partly formal. And though Cersie confronts her brother and lover, it becomes clear to her that he is on the side of Tyrion and Sansa for he refuses to kill either of them.
‘It will be our secret. If we’re going to be man and wife we’ll have a few secrets from her I hope’
And while Cersie reels under this disaster with a wine glass always in her hand, Margaery takes advantage of the opening to sneak into Tommen’s room and win over his loyalty, which isn’t difficult because he is immediately swooned over by the pretty girl who is to be his future bride, creeping into his room in the middle of the night and lighting candles. There’s a lot of seduction inside the little girl (she’s supposed to be) who is to take her third husband and hasn’t had any marriage consummated.
“I say the best swords have names. Any ideas?”
Jaime Lannister does the right thing once again (beyond last week’s rape) by handing over the freshly forged Valyrian steek sword to Brienne and entrusting her with a task and with Podrick Payne. The task is to find Sansa and keep her safe because that’s the promise he made to Lady Stark and although she is dead, he will keep the promise. And in return Brienne takes her leave from him after naming the sword in his honor. Whether this unlikely duo will ever meet each other again or not needs to be seen.
“Our survival may depend on us getting to this mutinous before Mance does.”
But some of this episode’s most interesting developments took place at and beyond the wall. There is a Jon Snow uprising at the wall; whether the Commander-in-Chief likes it or not, the black-cloaked men are behind Snow. Showing military acumen and cunning beyond what he is given credit for (‘You know nothing Jon Snow’), he is getting ready to gather a group of men and head north of the wall for Craster’s Keep, meaning to suppress the turn-cloaks who have made camp there before the wildings led by Mance get there and discover how unmanned and easily take-able Castle Black really is.
And at Craster’s Keep the turn-cloaks have taken Craster’s wife-daughters for their own, raping and beating them and sacrificing a newborn as ‘tax’ to the White Walkers in return for safety. It is not a pretty scene. Nor is the site of Jon’s direwolf Ghost caught in a cage and taunted at.
“And I thought this was going to be another boring day”
But this is where the show takes a major turn from the books because Bran and his troope are nearby and they get captured by these turned Night Watchmen. While the Reed twins struggle against what is to be an assault, Bran reveals his truth to Karl by yelling out loud, ‘I am Brandon Stark of Winterfell’. Jon Snow’s brother, not to mention the high-born heir to Winterfell.
Where the show is going with this storyline is exciting and unexpected for book lovers. What I predict is that Jon Snow will storm the Keep and save his brother, perhaps have a reunion (or maybe just a goodbye from afar) along the way before Brandon will insist upon continuing with his journey towards the three-eyes crow. Of course, with Game of Thrones you can never tell but this clear departure from the storyline is exciting.
So is the sneak-peak into Kingdom White Walkers as an innocent baby is given up to the undead in a chilling closing sequence of cold-clawed conversion from wide-eyed baby to icy-blue zombie. Giving the White Walkers this third dimension was a wonderful turn of events because so far we’ve only seen them walking purposelessly through the snow. It’s funny how often we forget that they’re a part of the show because we’re so involved in the politics down south that we refuse to see how irrelevant all of that will become once the White Walkers start descending. Even though the Jon Snow storyline is continuously haunted by undead-references, their fight against the wildlings takes precedence over the rest. If the dragons are ultimately going to be pitted against the White Walkers, for now they are so far off that it’s hard to expect any collisions until the very climax of the series.
Still with all these tweaks that the show has brought in, this episode was thrilling and brilliant.
Until next week.