Monday, June 13, 2016

No One

This week's Game of Thrones episode, though not "slow" in the grand scheme of television, did feel slow to me by Game of Thrones standards. I suspect that feeling comes from the fact that so much of the episode was tied up dealing with plot threads only recently introduced to the show, or that felt of little consequence to the story.

As an example of the latter, take the Tyrion plot line. Yes, it seems crazy to call a siege by fire-throwing trebuchets inconsequential, but as we've all known all season, nothing Tyrion does this season really matters -- he's just biding time until Daenerys returns. That's why he spent most of his screen time this week cracking jokes with Grey Worm and Missandei. (A fun scene, sure, but one that dragged on awfully long before the siege began.) Yes, Tyrion's scenes this week did give us a playful tease about Varys heading off on a secret mission (one I think book readers have a strong guess about), and it did give us the actual return of Dany at last... but both of those matters will wait until a future episode.

Lots more screen time was taken up by the siege of Riverrun, but it failed to engage me in the show just as it did in the books. Jaime's resolution to the conflict was suitably ruthless, but you have to believe that Edmure Tully would care that deeply for a child he's never seen (and conceived on the night nearly all of his family was slaughtered) over some of the only family he has left. I guess chalk it up to years of captivity wearing him down? The episode also deprived us of actually seeing the Blackfish go down swinging, as it made Brienne's mission of the last several weeks amount to nothing. So a lot of time spent on a not-terribly-compelling conclusion.

The Hound's quest, at least, was a lot more quickly resolved. It was expected that he caught up with the men who slaughtered the church builders. Less expected, he caught up with Beric Dondarrion. His immediate future seems uncertain, and book readers have nothing to hold over anyone here: The Hound has yet to fully return in the books, while Dondarion is actually dead there (and past being resurrected).

In King's Landing, Cersei has had the prospect of trial by combat whisked away from her by her own Sparrow-manipulated son. That puts a damper on fans who were somehow expecting a "Clegane Bowl" between Mountain and Hound as an officially sanctioned legal proceeding. We did get to see the zombified Mountain rip off a head though, so you get a bit of action there. The Mountain feels like a loaded Chekhov's Gun that we're being reminded of regularly. But exactly where Cersei will end up pointing it? We'll have to wait and see. (Though the episode did serve up another playful tease here. What rumors are Cersei and Qyburn talking about?)

The one story line with undeniable and compelling momentum was Arya's, in her final showdown with the Waif. As with the confrontation with the Blackfish, we were denied seeing the clash. Here, however, that served to show the audience what Arya takes away from this two season long arc: combat skills and smarts. I'm not sure if Arya's ability to fight blind will literally ever come into play again after this, but at least putting that on display here tells us that her time spent in Braavos did amount to something. Now she's planning to go "home," presumably with her list of names still intact. Now that's a prospect that should delight just about everyone.

But overall, I'd say this was the series' weakest installment of the season. Still entertaining, still a B... but the high bar the show  has otherwise set makes that a weak mark.

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