Monday, June 02, 2014

The Mountain and the Viper

This week's Game of Thrones may have been titled for the climatic battle that closed the episode, but it was another story line that most entertained me -- the one following Sansa Stark in the aftermath of Littlefinger's murder of Lysa.

I know I say often that it's been a while since I've read the book, and that because of that, I don't remember all the particulars of how it unfolded. But I feel pretty confident in saying that I don't recall Sansa becoming so shrewd. It was wonderful to see her finally take charge in her own story. She clearly learned something about the art of deceit from her time in King's Landing, with a carefully modulated story that contained plenty of truth up front to clear a path for the lie at the end. I don't think that she really knows who she's siding with, as Littlefinger himself intimated, but it certainly seems like the best of possible evils (for now). In any case, Sansa chose it for herself, which makes it a huge moment for her character.

Closely connected to that story were the "adventures of Arya and the Hound." The reaction of Arya to hearing of her aunt's death was priceless. One more hope dashed, and all she could do was laugh maniacally. The scene was also interesting for its opening, particularly the discussion of poison being "a woman's weapon." It was a nice way to comment on a revelation yet to come in the next episode or two.

But backing up to take things chronologically, we opened with a Wildling attack on the village where Gilly is hiding, and it offered up a small moment that showed us that despite her anger, Ygritte has not totally given in to "the dark side" just yet. Ygritte found Gilly and her baby, yet spared them. But I think the story of the inexorable push toward the Wall (from both sides) has been stalled long enough. It seems certain to come to a head next week.

Back with Theon/Reek, we got to see the deceitful taking up Moat Cailin by Ramsay. The two interesting moments in this story were: first, when Theon almost broke down in fear of having to return to Ramsay without success; and second, that the show spent time on the moment of Roose Bolton bestowing his family name on Ramsay. The former illuminated just how far gone the real Theon is right now, while the latter... well, it's interesting to show this moment that tried to soften a character surely beyond all tempering.

Over in Meereen, the romantic subplot between Grey Worm and Missandei didn't really do much for me, but the revelation of Jorah Mormont's spying was a moment long coming. I like the way Emilia Clarke played the scene where Dany exiles Jorah. She didn't emphasize the shock of betrayal, nor did she play the typical "I'm so disappointed" cliche. Instead, she seemed to show us a healthy dose of the Targaryen family craziness. You got the sense that with one wrong word from Jorah, she'd bark some order as her brother might have, and Jorah would have been in a very bad situation indeed. I like this reminder that Dany has crazy in her nature.

Finally, King's Landing. There have been a lot of great Tyrion-in-captivity scenes this season, though this week's was not among my favorites. I don't know if it's that the meaning of the tale of "simple Orson" seemed unclear, or if the notion of such a character somehow felt redundant to Hodor, or if we were all just eager to see the fight already, or if I already feel that Peter Dinklage has delivered scenes that ought to win him an Emmy this season. In any case, the scene with Jamie didn't quite do it for me.

But then came the fight. It was every bit as intense as promised. And ultimately, bloody too. Even knowing as I did that Oberyn was not going to survive, his death in the final moments was simply shocking. The sheer brutality of it, in a show you'd think had plumbed the depths of shocking brutality, was incredible. And just like that, a fan favorite character of the new season is no more.

I'd give this episode a B+ overall. I suppose, given the high quality of this season, that's actually a low mark. But it was still great entertainment.

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