Monday, May 02, 2016


Game of Thrones clearly has places to go and things to do, and so in just the second episode of the season, it stuffed in enough major developments to content many other shows for an entire year.

It's hard not to start with the end, the moment that fans spent a year speculating about (and that book readers have been anticipating for nearly five). Ummm.... SPOILER ALERT. (Duh.) I'm talking of course about the return of Jon Snow from the dead. Or something that may be mostly/partly Jon Snow. Considering what we saw a few seasons back with Beric Dondarrion, resurrection can have diminishing returns. Which now gets us to the real mystery. Many people were expecting Jon Snow back from the dead. But just what that means is considerably more murky.

So, shall we go back to the beginning then? The episode kicked off with another event we've been waiting for for more than a year: the continuation of Bran's story line. Right away, we're introduced to his new ability to see into the past, by witnessing a young Ned Stark and a pre-Hodor Hodor. For my money, just as tantalizing as the notion that Bran can now search the past for the answers we're madly seeking is the promise that he won't be staying up north forever. Yes, get that kid (who is looking decidedly not kid-like anymore) back from "Dagobah" and into the action!

Before the big moment at the Wall at the end of the episode, we had another big moment at the Wall in the form of a Wildling rescue of Davos from certain death. And speaking of walls, it was the first of two grisly deaths this episode in which a wall figured prominently, as we saw a giant quickly and ruthlessly take care of business. Stay gruesome, Game of Thrones, stay gruesome.

After a second death by wall, this one at the hands of Ser Robert Strong (aka Frankenzombie Mountain), we got a taste of where the story in King's Landing may be heading. The High Septon may be overplaying his hand behind his veneer of mock humility. Jaime is itching for a fight, as is young Tommen, who is now looking to his mother to show him the path to the Dark Side. She's only too happy to teach him, of course. With all these forces opposed, this cannot end well for everyone. Or probably even anyone.

I give MVP of the week to actor Conleth Hill, who gave us some quality reactions as Varys, watching Tyrion confront Daenerys' two remaining dragons. Because this was Tyrion, of course, it went better for him than the unfortunate soul who served a somewhat similar role in the books. And speaking of the books, Tyrion telling his story of a childhood love of dragons was also a nod to book material -- and quite moving, within the suspenseful context. A nice mingling of old and new there (and not for the only time this episode, as we'll come to in a while).

But not before first seeing Arya's continuing trials as a blind No One. It's a story that could easily stagnate if allowed to continue for too long -- and so they didn't. With the return of Jaqen H'ghar (or whoever is now wearing his face), Arya has seemingly passed a test, and may be starting back into the good graces of her twisted little group.

Though "twisted" is a word that would better describe Ramsay Bolton, and his actions this week. I know that in my loose mental time table, I was expecting the death of Roose Bolton at some point. Perhaps I was even expecting it to come at Ramsay's hand. But I suppose I wasn't expecting it yet. I can't otherwise account for my surprise at Ramsay being the depraved sicko he is, offing his father, stepmother, and brother all in one sequence. With no one now reigning in his instincts, I expect Ramsay to grow even more terrible. But I also expect the number of mistakes he makes to grow.

Bran was not the only one to re-enter the story after a long time away, as we revisited the Iron Islands for the first time in seasons. And here again was a blending of oldbook and new show, as things "backtracked" to an event that transpired much earlier in the books: the death of Balon Greyjoy (the third of Melisandre's leeches). In the book, it occurs off-screen, mysteriously, in an almost blink-and-you-miss it way -- and without a certain culprit. Can't have it that way in a TV show, which led to a confirmation of the suspected fratricide from the books. This sets up another vacant throne, and another battle to claim it. It's a story line from the books that I found a bit lackluster; I hope the show will find a way to spice things up.

Which leads us back to where I started.... the return of Jon Snow. I'll be interested to see not only what he's like coming back, but what his return means for Melisandre, who was in the midst of a deep crisis of faith. Faith restored? Brighter than ever? That too remains to be seen. By an audience who will just have to wait another week.

Until then, I'm quite satisfied. I give this episode an A-.

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