Game of Thrones: Mother’s Mercy

The season finale of Thrones once again pushes the boundaries of television drama – this little show about kings and dragons is shaping up to become the greatest mainstream art project of the ages.

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George R.R. Martin and The Winds of Winter
After watching the fifth season, there are two things I’m curious about. Certain scenes haven’t happened in the books yet – such as the encounter between Daenerys and Tyrion – so David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had to take an educated guess how these interactions would take place. They’ve done exceptionally well, I would say, so what if George R.R. Martin shares that opinion and decides to incorporate the exact scenes and dialogues into The Winds of Winter – the 6th entry of A Song of Ice and Fire; would that be plagiarism?
The second thing’s related to it, namely: Martin knows his books will eventually be put on screen, so would that make him write even bigger and more disturbing scenes, just to see if HBO has the guts to go through with them? I guess we’ll know in two years; the 7th season of Game of Thrones will reportedly still be the series’ last.

Melting Icicles and Double Vengeance
But let’s focus on Mother’s Mercy. What did Ramsay Bolton mean, a few episodes ago, when he said he only needed ‘twenty good men’ to defeat Stannis Baratheon? Whatever his plans were, it doesn’t matter now. Half of Stannis’ army has fled – that’s what you get when you burn your daughter alive – so he didn’t stand a chance against the forces of Winterfell, no matter how many melting icicles the Lord of Light put outside of Melisandre’s tent.
At first, Stannis survives the battle, but is then confronted by Brienne of Tarth. Her consolation prize for not doing anything this year is killing Stannis, who’d killed his brother Renly – the one who’d granted Brienne’s wish to serve in his Kingsguard, despite her being a woman (yes, everything in Westeros goes back a long time.)
Brienne’s not the only one who’s given the opportunity to avenge somebody she loved. As predicted last week, Arya Stark gets close to Meryn Trant and literately punches his lights out – with a knife. It seems to come with a price, though. When she returns to the House of Black and White, faces start flying everywhere, until she loses her own eyesight.

Kiss of Death
In Meereen, everything’s kind of back to normal, except Daenerys is missing. Her entourage has made it out of Harpy Arena alive and well, nonetheless. Jorah and Daario are off looking for the Queen, while Grey Worm and Missandei rule – with Tyrion as their advisor. And guess who’s back: Varys shows up like a jack-in-the-box.
Bronn, Jaime and his daughter are finally going home, after a very laid-back visit to Dorne. However, the Sand Snakes are crazy about poison (and antidotes). Before stepping aboard, Ellaria Sand gives Myrcella Baratheon the kiss of death. A few minutes later the poison on her lips takes effect and she starts bleeding from her nose.
It won’t be long before Jaime figures out what happened and the Lannisters declare war against House Martell. If Jaime survives going back to King’s Landing, that is, of course. No doubt he has to answer for his sins before the High Sparrow, too.

Walk of Atonement
Speaking of sins: Cersei finally confesses, or should I say: makes something up. She still denies her relationship with Jaime – I wonder if Jaime won’t just tell the truth, if the High Sparrow puts him through the same ordeal. We’ll know next year. One of the things Cersei has to do, is something called the ‘Walk of Atonement’ and here Game of Thrones crosses the line between fantasy TV show and straight up performance art. The scene is similar to the movie Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, in a way, but in a totally different context, of course. For a solid number of minutes, without any music, the little show about kings and dragons becomes pure art, when it sends a bare naked Cersei through the packed streets of King’s Landing. It’s everything good television (and good art) should be. Heartfelt, gut wrenching, honest, shameless, uncompromising and beautiful.

Hit That
But that’s not all Mother’s Mercy had in store for us. Samwell has left Castle Black – to become Warden of Libraries, or something – but not before admitting to Jon Snow he ‘hit that’. Very carefully, of course, due to his injuries. Jon smiles; he hasn’t forgotten the cave.
At least he had a nice thought in his head when he finally got betrayed by Alliser Thorne. His resentment for the Wildlings run deep – too deep – and Jon Snow had to go. ‘For the Watch’, his brothers of The Night’s Watch say, before planting their swords in his body, as a result breaking many young girls’ hearts all over Westeros, Essos and beyond.

Game of Thrones: The Dance of Dragons

The Dance of Dragons. With a title like that, expectations were once again sky high – following last week’s superb episode about the Attack of the Dead Clones. We’d see our most beloved mythical creatures – perhaps only superseded by the Fraggles – in action again; Drogon, Viserion and Rhaegal; Queen Daenerys’ pet project. So did we?

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So did we?
Well, sort of. A little. Definitely not plural. The title’s actually a reference to the book Shireen (Stannis Baratheon’s daughter) is reading. However, just when you thought Daenerys’ dragons wouldn’t come out to play this week, Drogon shows up. He couldn’t have come at a better time. It seems Weiss and Benioff have been saving the best for the last few episodes. Another huge scene of Gladiator proportions concludes The Dance of Dragons.

The Sons
Daenerys may have thought the uprising of the ‘Sons of the Harpy’ would be nipped in the butt by reintroducing the fighting pit, but it turned out to be the ideal location for an attack on the Queen of Dragons. Suddenly golden masks pop up everywhere and everybody has to run for their lives. The doors are blocked, and Daenerys’ entourage is hugely outnumbered. Luckily, it takes one handshake to summon the dragon, Drogon – the prettiest one out of the three, I suppose – comes roaring in and burns some bacon. The Queen climbs on and flies away, leaving Tyrion, Jorah, Missandei and Daario behind. It’s the Queen the Sons want, but that certainly doesn’t mean they’re safe now.

The Brothel is your Oyster
Meanwhile, in Braavos, oyster girl Arya gets a blast from the past. Lord Mace Tyrell comes ashore, and she recognises his security detail; Meryn Trant, knight of the Kingsguard. He’s the one who (presumably) killed fan favorite Syrio Forel, Arya’s sword fighting teacher. She follows him into a brothel, the perfect opportunity for the series to show some skin, however Game of Thrones has become a bit of a prude as of late.
Trant’s a dirty old man, who prefers his prostitutes not ‘too old’. I’d say, given Arya’s still got a bone to pick with him (and she might fear her cover’s been blown), she’s going to volunteer for a position at the brothel that clearly has a shortage of young girls. That way, Arya can get close to him and we might see Needle again too. Revenge is a dish best served with an oyster.

Snake City
In Dorne – the ‘Spain of Westeros’ – Jaime Lannister’s breaking bread with Doran Martell. He’s negotiated Bronn’s release. Tyrion’s got the best lines on the show, but Bronn’s a close second. When his cell door opens, he asks: ‘Am I going to be happy at the end of this walk?’

Shireen Baratheon and the Lord of Light
The episode started with an overview of Stannis Baratheon’s camp. Then, suddenly and seemingly randomly, fires break out. Tents go up in flames; the Lord of Light strikes again. It’s either this incident or whatever’s twirling in Melisandre’s warped head, that makes her convince Stannis a sacrifice has to be made. Unfortunately, it has to be Shireen, apparently. The character with the best makeup out of everyone on Thrones, gets burned at the stake. The episode should’ve been called ‘The Merciless Tango of George R.R. Martin’.

Game of Thrones: Hardhome

There it is: this season’s epic over the top battle episode of Thrones. Jaime and Bronn, Margaery, Littlefinger, High Sparrow, Stannis Baratheon, they’re all given a week off to make room for the arrival of something we’ve been hearing so much about: Winter.

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Poison
While Jon Snow’s on his way to Wildling Capital, his halfsister Arya has got the whole pretending to be someone else trick down. Of all the storylines, hers seems to be the most insignificant. Sure, it’s Arya Stark, and her family lies at the heart of Game of Thrones, but do we have to know everything she’s doing? Her reprogramming program at the House of Black and White couldn’t be more unrelated to everything else that’s going on. Unless her next task is to poison Daenerys Targaryen.

Confessions
Cersei’s still locked away, and freaking out. Her only option is to confess, which she refuses to do. It’s quite a list, too. One who does make a confession, is Theon. Sansa’s little brothers are still alive. The children Theon had unrecognisably burnt, weren’t Bran and Rickon. I’m curious to see what Sansa’s going to do with this information. Her husband Ramsay Bolton’s busy discussing his game plan against the forces of Stannis Baratheon. He claims he only needs ‘twenty good men’ to defeat his army. I wonder what that means.

Game of Adaptation
There are not one, but two scenes between Daenerys and Tyrion Lannister. Apparently, in the books their encounter hasn’t happened yet, but this hasn’t had an effect on the quality of the episode. Both scenes are equally great. With two more seasons and two more books to go, I can only assume the series finale will air years before the 7th book will be finished. It’s a risky decision, this Game of Adaptation.
The first seasons stayed very true to their source material. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss followed the books almost religiously. And although they know where the story of A Song of Ice and Fire will end, they don’t know exactly how. We could end up with two seasons and two books that kind of tell the same story, but are completely differently told. That’d make Game of Thrones not a faithful Song of Ice and Fire adaptation, but more of an ‘inspired by’. I can imagine we’d be losing out on a lot of great scenes that’ll never see the HBO light of day.

Snow Storm
After quickly addressing the few other players, it’s time for the annual big action sequence. Jon Snow and Tormund arrive at Hardhome, to discuss a peace treaty. The Wildlings’ leader doesn’t feel like talking. Judging by his head gear, that doesn’t really surprise me; he’s wearing a sort of skeleton mask, borrowed from the movie Willow. Tormund brutally knocks him down. That’s the Hardhome way to settle an argument, clearly.
Jon Snow manages to convince half of the Wildlings to come with him. While they’re getting aboard his ships, the town’s getting overrun by White Walkers, who let themselves fall off the surrounding mountain cliffs – being dead has its privileges. It’s a scene of Peter Jackson proportions, including a fitting Helm’s Deep soundtrack.
During the battle, Jon Snow looks up and standing on top of the mountain he sees four White Walker horsemen. A not so subtle reference to the beginning of the apocalypse. The army of the undead is too strong and Jon Snow retreats. When he looks back, everyone who was killed, gets back up, their eyes a shiny shade of blue. Winter has finally come, and it ain’t pretty.

Game of Thrones: The Gift

While the storylines of Sansa Stark, Jon Snow, Stannis Baratheon and Jaime Lannister are put on the back burner – and once again no mention of Arya Stark -, there are interesting things happening in King’s Landing, Castle Black and Meereen.

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Castle Black
After a week off, you’d think Jon Snow would be well on his way to the wildlings, but he isn’t. He’s still lingering around Castle Black. It’s obvious a coup is just a matter of time, no doubt initiated by Alliser Thorne, so there couldn’t be a worse time to leave as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Jon doesn’t really care about what’s smart or not, and this time’s no different.
It does give Samwell a chance to shine, when he tries to protect his girlfriend-but-not-really-his-grilfriend Gilly from a couple of kiss hungry colleagues. He’s been transforming into a courageous member of The Watch, unfortunately he’s not quite skilled enough to actually win a fight. Eventually they’re saved by the direwolf, that kind of comes and goes as it pleases, doesn’t it? Later, when Gilly takes care of Samwell’s wounds, their awkwardly platonic relationship goes to the next level. Samwell finally breaks his oath, if you know what I mean.

Dorne
The storyline of Jaime Lannister and Bronn has never really gotten off the ground. They’re one slapstick scene away from becoming Westeros’ Laurel and Hardy. However, just when you think Game of Thrones started to suffer from a shortage of exposed bosoms, Bronn comes to our rescue. One of the Sand Snakes shows him her breasts. I can only assume it’s because he gets turned on, that the poison in his wound starts to work. Otherwise, the scene is even sillier than I thought. She gives him the antidote, just to hear him say she’s the prettiest woman he ever saw.

Winterfell
I didn’t quite realise Sansa Stark was at Winterfell – all those castles look very much alike – but now it’s even stranger she didn’t know Jon Snow had made Lord Commander. There are always crows and ravens flying about, delivering messages back and forth, and she never got one? No one’s told her? The Westeros Postal Service isn’t what it used to be.
She does have other things on her mind, to be fair. Such as giving an important assignment to Reek, which is the perfect way to let everybody in the Seven Kingdoms know what you’re up to. Sansa surprises me on a weekly basis how utterly naive someone can be.

King’s Landing
Cersei’s finally getting what she deserves, it seems. Her allegiance with the High Sparrow has turned the religious fanatic against her. It won’t be long before King Tommen will be shoved aside as well – the show’s still called Game of Thrones after all – and King’s Landing will be renamed Sparrow’s Nest. It looks like the only person to put an end to the rise of the Forehead Tattoo Boys is, believe it or not, Littlefinger.

Meereen
And then, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Tyrion and Jorah come eye to eye with Daenerys Targaryen. Conveniently sold as slaves, to fight before the queen, Jorah takes out the other gladiators and in true Russell Crowe fashion, takes off his helmet and reveals his face to her. He’s brought a gift, he says, as the gift himself – Tyrion Lannister – comes walking out. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Game of Thrones: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

A wedding, an inquiry, a room of heads and talk of finding a cock merchant; the second half of season 5 of Game of Thrones starts off with a bit of a mixed bag.

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Truth and Lie
Arya’s still cleaning dead bodies in the House of Black and White – which is just another way of saying Ministry of Truth and Lie – where she’s tested. Does she really, no, really, with sugar on top, want to become ’no one’? When she’s interrogated, we learn a few things we already knew – her fondness for The Hound, for example – but it’s also clear she doesn’t want to/isn’t ready for ‘no one-ness’. She’s finally led into the room where the dead bodies are taken anyway, though.
It turns out it’s a place where only their heads are stored. Many pillars, filled with many faces, eyes closed. It’s television, though, so you immediately assume eyelids could start popping out any second.
That doesn’t happen. It wouldn’t have made sense anyhow. Arya’s not ready to become no one, however, she is ready to become someone else. Her touching one of the heads can only mean she, well, gets a new face. Literately. Right?

Cock Merchant
It’s no easy sailing for Tyrion and Jorah, who stumble upon yet another obstacle on their way to Daenerys. It seems you can never go from A to B rather easily, neither in Westeros nor Essos; there’s always somebody trying to kill you, or in Tyrion’s case, getting dollar signs in their eyes when they realize a dwarf’s cock’s worth a lot of money. There are even so-called cock merchants making a decent living in George R.R. Martin’s world, apparently.
This time it’s a slave ship, led by Mr. Eko. Tyrion talks his way out of a premature circumcision, and directs Eko’s attention to Jorah, a great warrior, who’s willing to prove himself. And off they go again, taking yet another detour.

Jaime & Bronn
Our other dynamic duo: Jaime Lannister and Bronn find themselves in a silly scene with the Sand Snakes. Talking about a group who sound more terrifying than they actually are. For some reason the Snakes are a fan favorite because of the books, but on screen, it’s just young girls with whips.
Jaime and Bronn are captured by Doran Martell’s men, so we’ve got a nice meeting to look forward to, between them and Doran, who’s portrayed by Alexander Siddig – the man who could’ve saved the 6th season of 24 (as Hamri Al-Assad) but was killed off by the writers way too early.

Cersei
King’s Landing isn’t quite the city it once was. Littlefinger’s back and bumps into the tattoo boys, before seeing Cersei. He sort of betrays Sansa, but it’s not quite clear why. She’s not in Winterfell as he says, therefor he knows he’ll never get what he’s asking – being crowned Lord of Winterfell – so it’s hard to tell what his endgame is.
Speaking of Littlefinger, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen Varys. Is he still out looking for Tyrion? Can he return to King’s Landing? I sure hope we see him again before the season’s over.

Hook, Line, Sinker
There’s more happening in the capital. Cersei’s plan to get rid of Margaery worked, albeit a bit too obviously. Everyone could’ve guessed the gay lover of Margaery’s brother Loras would be asked to testify during the inquiry. She never should’ve sworn the accusations were all false; even though she’s the queen, she’s put in holding to wait for the trial.

Sansa
Sansa, Sansa, Sansa. You’re all doing this to yourself, girl. It’s not that her new husband Ramsay Bolton’s that scary. The scary part is how everyone around him doesn’t just slap him across the face. Joffrey had a certain tenacity about him, Ramsay’s just a gangling freak. Once Sansa dyed her hair, I’d hoped she would act more as a grownup, but she still just goes with the flow, and in Game of Thrones, the flow’s rarely something you want to go with.

Game of Thrones: Kill the Boy

‘You know nothing’, but despite that, Jon Snow seems pretty confident in his decision making as Lord Commander of The Night’s Watch. He does have a pretty risky plan, though, as do Daenerys and Jorah Mormont.

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Castle Black
Despite being the bad asses of Westeros, The Night’s Watch rarely sees any real action. They’ve mostly been preparing, for Winter – which is ‘coming’, lest we forget – and the dead army – which has been marching somewhere off-camera for quite a while now. Jon’s affection for the wildlings, and the fact that he’d be totally outnumbered if the dead come knocking, makes him make a deal with them; a peace treaty. They won’t have to kneel, but they will have to fight. That sounds good to Tormund, but Jon has to come with him to explain the deal to his people. A very risky move, given heads roll easily in Westeros.

The Boltons
My least favorite house is House Bolton. Maybe it’s Ramsay Bolton, who’s a bit too goofy, and who’s having mistress problems even before he’s married to Sansa Stark. Sansa, who’s going from one Joffrey to the next, sure has an odd taste in men. Of course, this time her wedding is purely platonic, arranged by man behind the curtain Littlefinger, but still.
Thousands of miles away, something similar is happening. Daenerys is ready to wed again, if only to keep those golden masks from killing her soldiers. Marriage solves everything in the world of Game of Thrones.

Theon Greyjoy
Sansa’s given a surprise by Ramsay’s mistress: Theon Greyjoy. Locked away with the dogs, ‘Reek’ as he’s now called, sees Sansa and recognises her. He used to be completely stoic and brainwashed, but he slowly gets his senses back. The question is why the mistress gives Sansa this ‘gift’. I suppose to scare her away, to make her cancel the wedding. That didn’t quite work, so we might be in for more ‘surprises’.

Valyria
Tyrion and Jorah are still on their way to Daenerys, but they’re getting close; a dragon flies overhead. They’re sailing through a beautiful, mystical, deserted, scary place, called Valyria. This way, they won’t encounter any pirates and there’s no reason to be scared anyway; it’s all superstition, isn’t it? Well, Jorah forgot to take the ‘stone people’ into account.
They manage to fight them off, but Jorah accidentally touched one of them. Greyscale is highly contagious, and it will spread all over your body, so he will be turning into a stone flake – unless he finds a way to stop it (which is possible, proven by Stannis Baratheon’s daughter Shireen).
This whole Jorah/Tyrion scene is one of the best scenes ever on Game of Thrones. Tension in the air, an awesome looking ghost town, a dragon, a poem, the camera movements, the stillness, the humour; sheer perfection.

Game of Thrones: The Sons of the Harpy

Season 5, episode 4. Game of Thrones can’t give us more pleasure than adding another city on the map of the 7 kingdoms. There’s a new one this week: Dorne, home of House Martell, including their famous symbol; a snake.

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You Know Nothing
Whether it’s an oath or a vow, Jon Snow has backed himself in multiple mental corners. The oath of the Night’s Watch keeps him from succeeding his father as ruler of Winterfell, and his love for a dead wildling keeps him from tasting the forbidden fruit of Melisandre. That last one’s not such a bad move, though. You never know what’s going to crawl out of her at some point.
‘You know nothing, Jon Snow’, she says, before walking out the door. I have a feeling Jon will be persuaded, sooner or later. In the world of George R.R. Martin that’d only lead to one thing: disaster.

Jaime
The episode catches up with Jaime, who’s passing Tarth on his way. With a sense of nostalgia he watches the island go by. He must be thinking of Brienne, right? Later, he claims he’d want to die in the arms of the woman he loves. I can’t for the life of me picture Cersei to be that person. I’ve never really believed their love was that strong, between Jaime and his sister. I can’t think of one scene that showed a deep affection for one another. The fact that Cersei’s anything but a loving woman doesn’t help either.

Who We Didn’t See
We didn’t see Brienne this week. Arya – who must be close to invisibility by now – and the dragons were absent too. Instead, we got scorpions in a bucket and snakes for breakfast. Because Tyrion was snatched, Varys has been left behind, which is too bad. He’ll probably return to King’s Landing. I would’ve liked to see him serve Daenerys Targaryen.

Exposition
Tyrion’s job this week was to recap the first four seasons of Game of Thrones. He summarised what had happened to Jorah Mormont, his captor. Littlefinger also had some exposition to do – besides giving Sansa a littlekiss. If we didn’t get it before, we now know precisely what Stannis Baratheon is up to – attack King’s Landing by land this time -, that Littlefinger knows it and pretty soon Cersei will know it too. The question is: will 6 episodes be enough time for Stannis to arrive there?

The Sons of the Harpy
The time of artificial chitchat is over. Cersei goes after Margaery, by having her brother arrested by an army of religious fanatics. She’s forged an allegiance with High Sparrow, which means angry guys with frightening head tattoos are plundering the streets of King’s Landing. Could it be any worse? Yes. Daenerys has got platoons of men in golden masks after her; the sons of the Harpy. It seems Grey Worm and Barristan Selmy were killed. That leaves room for Jorah and Tyrion to step (back) in, but I always felt there’d be more to the story of Grey Worm.
Castle Black might be the safest place to be right now. Maybe Jon’s not as ignorant as we all thought he was.