Moving is a pain in the ass. Cliche perhaps… but true. I’ve been back in the 304 since Saturday afternoon (it’s less than a minute away from officially being Wednesday as I type this), and I still don’t feel comfortable yet in my own home. I’m probably sleeping better than I ever did in NYC but that mainly has to do with the almost stark silence that greets you in rural WV compared to the never-ending bustle of noise and activity in Brooklyn. Also, my bed here is simply infinitely more comfortable than my bed in Crown Heights was. Today was the first time since I got home that I really took the opportunity to sit down and get some writing done. I took a day’s break from my late spring cleaning mission (for it is truly a quest worthy of the heroes of yore) to catch up on the many posts I’ve needed to write for this blog as well as an album review that I had to do for work (Bloom by Beach House). So, I apologize to my loyal readers (if you exist which my consistently increasing readership suggests you probably do) for this sizable delay between the airing of Sunday’s Game of Thrones (which I was able to watch as it aired for the first time this season since I was at home where we have HBO) and my post providing my ever-insightful (and ever “far too long and rambling”) thoughts on this week’s return to Westeros (and beyond). This episode will be known as the calm before the storm that is next week’s big-budget epic spectacle, “Blackwater.”
The week begins in Winterfell where Theon Greyjoy believes that he has successfully stopped every last messenger raven from escaping Winterfell so that King Robb will not know that Theon has apparently murdered Bran and Rickon. Theon believes himself to be on top of the world and when his watch reports riders at the gates, he assumes his sister has finally sent him the 500 men he needs to hold Winterfell against a future attack. However, it’s his sister who’s arrived, with hardly any men, and she brings orders from his fathers to abandon the castle and return home. After taking Winterfell with only 20 men, Theon obviously isn’t ready to give up his castle so easily and elects to stay despite his sister’s grim description of his chances for survival. Beyond the Wall, Jon Snow is taken back to the Wildling camp where his fellow ranger Qhorin Halfhand is left as the only living member of his scouting group and they’re paraded in front of the camp’s leader, the Lord of Bones. The Lord of Bones wants to execute Jon but Ygritte evens her debt with Jon by convincing the LoB to spare Jon and bring him in front of Mance Rayder himself to decide his fate. Qhorin Halfhand tells Jon that they need a spy in Mance Rayder’s army and then proceeds to pick a fight with a very confused Jon Snow. In Robb Stark’s camp, another of Robb’s flirtatious scenes with Lady Talisa (I really don’t understand why she isn’t Jeyne Westerling because it seems like such a meaningless thing to change unless she’s actually a red herring) is interrupted with the news that the Kingslayer has escaped for real and even worse, he escaped with the help of Catelyn and Brienne. Catelyn has undermined her son’s leadership, and this is obviously going to sow discord in his camp and Robb orders that Catelyn be put under armed guard. We get a brief scene with Jaime and Brienne as Brienne begins her journey to escort Jaime to King’s Landing to bargain for the release of Arya (who they don’t have) and Sansa.
At Harrenhal, Arya continues her duties as Lord Tywin’s cupbearer when she finds herself in a meeting where Stannis and his advisers face the cold truth that they will likely lose King’s Landing to Stannis Baratheon. This leads to the confusing decision (though it will make a lot of sense next week) to go after Robb Stark. Arya realizes it’s her last chance to cash in her last death that she’s owed by Jaqen H’gar. Unfortunately, she can’t find Jaqen before Lord Tywin rides out with his horses, and Jaqen informs Arya that he would not be able to assassinate Lord Tywin in the timeframe that she’s demanding. Arya’s pissed, and so she finally gives Jaqen his last name, his own. Arya uses this dirty trick to convince Jaqen to help her, Gendry, and Hot Pie escape (which he agrees to while also telling Arya that she has no honor). True to his word, he sets up the corpses on gate guard duty to make it look like they’re still alive and Arya and her ka-tet are able to walk right out the front doors (I may be mixing my fantasy vocabulary words there). At King’s Landing, Tyrion desperately searches his history books for a solution on how to beat Stannis Baratheon’s forces but can’t come up with any solution where he wins. He, Bron, and Varys have an intellectual debate about the lengths they’re going to have to go to maintain control in King’s Landing once the siege begins and how hellish things are just about to get (as in next week, and it’s going to be amazing). This becomes a conversation over defense tactics with Cersei and Tyrion where we learn that Joffrey will be actually fighting during the battle. Tyrion is probably excited about the prospect of his nephew dying in battle, but this decision is honestly about inspiring the troops with the presence of their leader. However, Cersei takes this as another attempt by Tyrion to rob her of one of her children (even though sending Myrcella to Dorne really was in her best interest) and she reveals her hand against Tyrion, or what she thinks was her hand. She taunts Tyrion by telling him that she has one of his whores. We’re led to believe it’s Shae and that Cersei plans to inflict any injuries or death on her that Joffrey may suffer tenfold when it’s revealed that the whore is actually Ros. Cersei may not have had Shae, but she crossed the line and Tyrion threatens to get his revenge against her when she’s most vulnerable.
At Robb Stark’s camp, he gets another visit from Talisa and he complains to her about the burdens of power and leadership, and we finally learn a little more about her backstory and why a high born girl from Vilantis (I hope I’m spelling that right) is a combat medic and not planning parties with the other noble ladies. The sexual chemistry between these two finally reaches a breaking point with Robb declaring that he doesn’t want to marry Walder Frey’s daughter and Talisa obviously saying she doesn’t want him to marry her either, and they proceed to make the whoopie on the floor of his tent/war room. In what can only be assumed to be very close to Blackwater Bay, Stannis and Davos hold council on one of his ships where we finally learn the reason why Stannis puts so much faith in Davos. Stannis also tells Davos that when he wins the Iron Throne, he will name Davos his Hand of the King. In Qarth, Dany wants to enter the House of the Undying to rescue her dragons but Ser Jorah thinks it’s too dangerous. Dany knows (because of the prophecy from the witch) that these will be the only children that she will ever have and she can’t abandon them. Back at Winterfell, Theon decides to finally take down the corpses of the children that he’s been hanging from the castle gates (with no idea that Roose Bolton’s bastard, Ramsay Snow, is going to be breaching his walls any second now). We catch a glimpse of Osha sneaking beneath the walls of Winterfell and Maester Lewin follows her. There we discover Bran and Rickon hiding and it’s revealed that Theon had burned the bodies of the two boys that lived on the farm to preserve his own pride. Bran overhears the whole conversation which should burden that poor kid with even more guilt.
First things first, Peter Dinklage has another episode that can be used as an Emmy submission tape. The antagonistic chemistry he has with Lena Headey is really impressive, and the hatred and tension in the scene between Tyrion and Cersei was just palpable. The craziest aspect about those scenes was just how violently and quickly the mood changed. It started off as this witty repartee back and forth between these two highly ambitious and intelligent foes and while Cersei was upset about Tyrion’s plans to have Joffrey fight (even though Joffrey also wants to fight), you thought this was just going to be another scene of Tyrion intellectually bitch-slapping Cersei across the room. Then Cersei revealed the card she thought she held over Tyrion and the whole dynamic of their relationship changed. Peter Dinklage just nailed the vulnerability and fear that was infecting Tyrion at that moment. It was obvious that he knew Cersei wasn’t going to drag Shae into the room (we can assume that he was the one that gave Ros the Lannister necklace she was wearing), but Peter Dinklage really let us know just how much Shae means to Tyrion, and when he threatened to pull Cersei down when she was at her happiest, you had no choice but to believe the veracity of his threat. These siblings are past the point of no return, and (jesus it’s hard to talk about this show without betraying that I’ve read the books) now it’s a matter of seeing who will have the last laugh. So, seriously, with all of the wonderful episodes and scenes under his belt again for this season, I’ll really be shocked if Peter Dinklage doesn’t win another Emmy for this program.
This was the episode that will ultimately set everything in motion for next week’s epic battle for King’s Landing. It’s not a spoiler that it’s coming considering every character on the show has been talking about it for the last three episodes. And it’s going to be something incredible and virtually unprecedented on television. Still, what’s going to make that episode so special is all of the plotting and character development that’s gone into making us care about all of the players that are involved. Davos Seaworth is going to be pretty central to next week’s story and if we hadn’t gotten to know more about this onion knight over the course of the season (he’s one of the most underrated POV characters in the series imo), we wouldn’t care about how he’s going to fare next week. If Peter Dinklage didn’t give master classes in character acting as Tyrion every week, we wouldn’t have a reason to simultaneously root for his survival while we hope something terrible happens to the sadistic Joffrey (flawlessly played by Jackie Gleason). These episodes might not have the same kind of visceral impact as “Garden of Bones” or “A Man Without Honor” but they’re ultimately the ones that hold the series together on an endlessly complex program likeGame of Thrones. This season may have tested the intellectual capacity and patience of certain subsets of its audience, but I feel pretty confident when I say that everyone will feel like their faith in the series was affirmed when “Blackwater” airs next week.
It’s 1:20 in the morning and I want to read a little bit of Thomas Pynchon’s V. before I go to bed so I’m going to spare you all any more ramblings about another great episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones. I don’t think this show is ever going to be quite as good as my favorite sci-fi/fantasy program of all time, Lost, just because Lost had philosophical and literary ambitions that Game of Thrones doesn’t really want (though book 3 almost got there), but I’ll be damned if any TV show that I can think of (the only real contender is Rome) can match the spectacle and regular display of cinematic grandeur that Game of Thrones achieves on a weekly basis. This will be the show that proves to antsy TV producers out there that if you have the right source material and a committed budget and a confident network, you can make top notch fantasy programming that challenges the so called more “serious” modes of storytelling for dominance of critical praise and emotional depth. This season of Game of Thrones has simply flown by and while I can’t believe that there are only two episodes left, I’m glad that I know just how epic next week will be.
Final Score: A-