Monday, May 25, 2015

The Gift

I feel compelled to start near the end of this week's Game of Thrones episode, with the moment that made me want to stand up and cheer: Daenerys and Tyrion finally met! This is a moment of gratification that the books still stubbornly delay, making the development on the show even sweeter.

Perhaps the decision to move this meeting forward was part of the reason Barristan was killed prematurely a few episodes back? That death leaves Dany an empty position in the "wise councilor" department that Tyrion can potentially fill -- though of course he'll have to use that silver tongue of his to avoid a vengeful execution at her hands. Show Dany is flirting much more with her darker side than Book Dany was at this point. She's talking about continuing her relationship with Daario even after her marriage, something Book Dany expressly discontinued. (And in doing so, she also made a symbolic break with all his violent ideas.) What Dany will do with Jorah is also a very open question. It all makes for the biggest "can't wait for next week" moment the show has served up all season.

There were other intriguing departures from the books, though they were more subtle by comparison. Sam is long gone from the Wall by this point in the books, on a long journey south with Gilly and Aemon. It turns out that this was a far safer place for him to be than still up at the Wall! As was pointed out to Sam (callously, at Aemon's funeral), all his friends are leaving him. Well, all but Ghost (who didn't go with Jon?!). But even if Sam wasn't on a heroic quest this week, he had a few key heroic moments -- dealing with the loss of a mentor, and stepping up to try to defend Gilly.

Melisandre took a major turn this week too. A Dance With Dragons gave us one odd chapter from her perspective, which seemed mainly about telling the readers that she's sincere in all her beliefs, and that she truly does mean well. That seems quite a contrast with her asking Stannis to offer up his own daughter as a sacrifice! And Stannis' reaction seemed remarkably tame, less than the total rejection of the idea and Melisandre herself that it really ought to have been. Dark times ahead for these two, it appears.

In the Sansa/Theon storyline, it was the lack of a major turn that was the big development. In the books, Theon slowly pulls out of his Stockholm Syndrome one chapter at a time (in one of the book's more satisfying threads). Here, it appeared at first that Sansa single-handedly pulled Theon back from ruin to use him in her rescue. (Which would have been a great moment for her, coming on the heels of the outrage last week's episode generated online.) But no such luck. That Theon remains Ramsay's creature was the surprise for book readers, leaving us to speculate just how Sansa will get out of her predicament.

It's equally unclear how things are going to develop in Dorne -- though I think in this case, not in a good way. The brief conversation between Jaime and Myrcella was less than satisfying. And what was the point of poisoning Bronn just to immediately cure him? (My best guess, to foreshadow a more permanent poisoning in the weeks ahead?)

Lady Olenna continued to do what she does best, verbally sparring with first the High Sparrow and then Littlefinger. Every scene with her is a delight, even though she's failing to get the upper hand at the moment. (Though the implication was that Littlefinger told her about Lancel, and she in turn brought him to the Sparrow's attention.)

The thread most likely to elicit cheers from non-book-readers was Cersei's comeuppance. After a scene with Tommen that pointedly foreshadowed the end of episode, and one last scene of Cersei in power (as she gloated to Margaery), the High Sparrow sprang his trap on her. For a man who claims only to be doing the will of the gods, he certainly seemed to enjoy toying with and ensnaring Cersei. He's a sort I'd like to see brought low at some point too. But for now, he brings us Cersei's downfall, which is enough to make us like him.

Overall, this episode was much more about setting things up than paying them off, but that's bound to change starting next week. I'd give the episode a B+ overall.

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