Ah, here we are: the mid-season slump. Of course that’s completely expected, especially given the fact that this is about three-quarters of the way through A Storm of Swords and very little in the way of excitement happens between the Purple Wedding and the attack on the Wall (oh, please, they’ve only been leading up to it since Jon and Ygritte’s messy breakup).
But one thing I wasn’t expecting when I sat down to watch this episode was to keep cocking my head to the side and repeatedly whisper to myself, “I have no memory of this place.” Maybe it’s just a long time since I read the books, or maybe the writers added new stuff that I forgot about, but I tremendously dislike being one of you Muggles and not knowing what’s happening now or what’s going to happen next.
How do you people cope?
This episode skips around a lot. I’m not sure I can recap all of it, since there were so many characters having their little interactions with other characters that are deeply laden with significance and yet not overly interesting. But I’ll try.
In King’s Landing, Cersei and Jaime are being incredibly cold to each other, which isn’t surprising since the events at the Great Sept of Baelor. She asks him to track down Sansa Stark and bring back her head, which is always a mature response to the death of a loved one. Jaime and Tyrion, on the other hand, meet for the first time since Joffrey’s death and have an honest-to-goodness conversation. I keep forgetting these guys are brothers, but Bronn is dead-on when he points out that they’ve always been close, and only a death in the family can keep them apart.
Side bar: this is something I actually really like about Jaime. His entire family has this philosophy of “our family comes first” to the detriment of everyone else. They could care less if anyone else suffers as long as they’re doing well, and woe betide you if you harm a Lannister. Jaime’s like that, too, but it’s not a point of pride or honour with him. He legitimately has a sense of morality that extends beyond ensuring his family’s safety, and that’s pretty recent, ’cause he definitely didn’t have that when he shoved Bran out the window.
But now that I think of it, maybe it’s a result of it, because he started realizing that even if family is the most important thing to him, maybe it’s not worth hurting the innocent to accomplish that. I mean, now he sends Brienne off to find Sansa and keep her safe, even though Catelyn Stark is dead and Jaime doesn’t owe her anything anymore. But he still feels that sense of responsibility and he has the knowledge that, as the person with power, he needs to use his power to keep her safe.
And so he sends away the one person who shares that sense of responsibility, one of the few people in the whole world he actually still cares about, in the pursuit of justice and keeping an oath he made. So last episode notwithstanding (although seriously what was even up with that), Jaime’s shaping up to be less despicable than most of the other characters in this show.
Margaery Tyrell is being characteristically manipulative, as she visits Tommen’s room in the middle of the night (!!!) to form a secret relationship at her grandmother’s advice. It’s actually really good advice, when you think about it: Tommen seems like a good kid who would eagerly fall in love with someone who’s kind to him, especially the way someone like Margaery can be. Of course she warns him that it’s their little secret, but I can see Tommen confiding in his mother because that’s the sort of boy he is — completely disbelieving that anyone who loves him could ever be unkind — and I imagine this won’t end well for Margaery.
There’s an interesting development in this episode, although I don’t think it was revealed as well as it could have been. It was sort of dumped on us that Joffrey’s murder was a joint effort between Lord Baelish, Ser Dontos, and Lady Olenna Tyrell. Of course everyone saw that coming — at least, everyone who paid attention to what Lady Tyrell was doing with Sansa’s hair at the wedding — but they could have dragged it out a little. Neither Sansa nor Margaery seemed particularly surprised by this shocking revelation, and I think they could have acted at least a little shocked on our behalf so we’d know it was time for us to be shocked, too.
In the north at Craster’s Keep, a bunch of guys I don’t remember who apparently killed Jeor Mormont are having unacceptable fun with Craster’s daughters. One of the girls has just given birth to the last of the incest-babies, and it’s a boy. At the advice of the midwife (or a daughter-wife; it’s not really clear), one of the mutineers drops the baby in the woods where it’s found by a White Walker.
There’s a lot of overlap then, because Bran tries to investigate the whole “baby screaming in the woods” thing while in Summer’s body, but Summer’s caught in a trap, because of course he is. And while trying to rescue him, Bran and co. are taken hostage by the mutineers, who are just delighted to find a young Stark in their grasp.
In the meantime, the baby’s taken to what looks like a White Walker fortress in the north, and they turn him into what looks like a full-on Walker, not just a Wight. So that’s interesting because people are making a big to-do about the so-called “Night’s King,” but I don’t actually care one way or the other.
Finally, across the Narrow Sea (the episode actually began with this, but I wanted to end with it) Daenerys successfully busts into Meereen with very little work on her part. I’m actually a little disappointed by that, since I feel like they led up to it for a little while. I mean, I love that the slaves rose up and overthrew their masters, and I love that Dany repaid injustice with justice when she nailed 163 slave masters to signposts just like they did with the child slaves on the road to Meereen.
What I mean is, the whole thing was over very quickly. Dany’s Unsullied snuck into the city and gave the slaves some weapons, and boom, now Dany’s got another city and giant Targaryen flag flapping against the sky. There were a few moments that I remembered from the season 4 promo, like slaves running with torches and surrounding a slave master, but that’s just what they were: moments.
I would have loved to see this entire episode focus on the taking of Meereen and the empowering of the slaves. It was too easy, especially when, as one of the other slaves said, they’d seen slave revolutions before. They failed. I imagine the slaves were executed, and a harsh lesson was learned by everyone, likely at the crack of a whip. So why was this different?
The problem is, I don’t think we know. I mean, we know that Dany is awesome and can do whatever she wants because she’s Stormborn and the Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons and all that great stuff, but the slaves didn’t know that. So why would some random woman with an army be different just because she chucked some chains over the wall? We don’t get to see that progression of thought among the slaves, and we don’t get to see why they suddenly decided to band together and overthrow their masters now as opposed to at any other time during Meereen’s history.
I guess overall this episode feels like it was killing time between story arcs, and that’s a bit disappointing. Especially because there were two great stories right there — the big reveal of Joffrey’s killers and the taking of Meereen — and nobody thought to take advantage of them.
Final Grade: C+
- Aww, Missandei and Grey Worm are having classes in the Common Tongue! So cute. But seriously, how will they do the do. I feel like Grey Worm is not equipped for this.
- Is no one going to ask where Dany got that big-ass Targaryen flag? Did she just have it packed away for such an occasion, because you never know when you’ll need a comically enormous flag?
- YOU GUYS THERE WAS A MOMENT BETWEEN JAIME AND BRIENNE. DID ANYONE ELSE SEE THAT. THE FEEEELLLLLLSSSS.
- How did the mutineers get Ghost? I completely forgot that he wasn’t with Jon. And it’s unacceptable that he’s in a cage, because you do not mess with direwolves, boys.
- I completely forgot that Jojen Reed has epilepsy, so I kept thinking, “Gosh, that boy does not look good,” and then was totally surprised when he started having seizures. That’ll learn me to pay attention.
- This whole thing between Jon and Lord Alliser Thorne is getting old. Like either have a sword fight or just make out already. There needs to be some resolution one way or the other.
- Bran you need a haircut. I understand that you have other priorities because you’re running (not you personally, but you know what I mean) for your life, but seriously, just take like five seconds so you don’t look like a girl.
- WHEN IS MARK GATISS SHOWING UP. I LACK THE NECESSARY PATIENCE. That is all.