Monday, November 28, 2016

Game of Thrones Rewatch 3.6: "The Climb"

Read the previous entry in this series here.
Read the next entry in this series here.

3.6 “The Climb”
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Alik Sakharov
Commentary by Alik Sakharov, Rose Leslie (Ygritte), and Kit Harrington (Jon Snow)

This is another episode whose title works on two levels—the literal and the figurative. The literal is obvious: the Wildlings and Jon are climbing the Wall. The figurative is also obvious because the writers bludgeon us over the head with it in the form of Petyr’s speech at the end of the episode:

Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb, they cling to the realm or the gods or love. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s a great speech. But it makes the theme of the episode a bit obvious. (Despite Benioff’s claim that “themes are for eighth-grade book reports,” these episodes do have themes, and for the most part they do hang together. I’m only in season three, though; we’ll see if I still think this in season six.)

There are three things going on in this episode that are really terrible—one for its sheer shock value, one for its misogyny (and shock value), and one for its problematic portrayal of homosexuality.

Because you’d better believe we’re going to talk about Ros’ death. Alik Sakharov didn’t in the commentary, and Benioff and Weiss didn’t in the “Inside the Episode” follow-up, and I haven’t found any interviews (yet) where anyone talks about it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important and they don’t deserve to be held to account for how blatantly, horribly awful the whole 30-second scene was.

Ros has spent the better part of this season working with Varys to help hold Petyr back and stop some of his plans. Varys and Petyr have played a bit of chess with Sansa, the Tyrells, and the Lannisters, and Petyr won. Sansa’s not leaving with Petyr, but she’s also not marrying Loras. More importantly, Petyr’s discovered Varys’ mole and taken care of her, by handing her over to Joffrey, who wanted to “experiment”—read: kill a person. The reveal of Ros’ fate is equal parts kind of a throw-away scene and incredibly disturbingly voyeuristic. The scene cuts away from Petyr while his voice-over about “the climb” continues; the bit about those who try but fail and never get to try again occurs over this scene. We see Joffrey sitting on a bench in his room, his crossbow on his knee. He looks pretty pleased with himself. He gets up and walks across the room and out of frame; the camera follows him as far as the bed, where Ros is tied to the canopy-rail, four or five crossbow bolts in her body. There’s a long-shot, where we see her entire body for a couple of seconds, and then a closer-in shot that starts at about waist level and pans up to her face, across her nearly-bare breast and the bolt that’s lodged there.

Narratively, Ros’ death is disturbing to a feminist like me, because it’s not only sexualized (as will be discussed more below) but it isn’t about Ros. It’s about the men. Ros dies because she dared to have agency, to work against her “master,” to help protect another girl (Sansa). She dies to reiterate that Petyr and Joffrey are awful, which we already knew. Her death isn’t about the consequences of her own actions, but the machinations of men. She doesn’t earn her death the way Ned, Robb, Tywin, Jon Snow, and even (to an extent) Catelyn do. She’s fridged after two seasons of being used and abused by the men on the show and just over half a season of trying to stop being used and start dictating her own worth. Rhiannon Thomas has done a much longer and more articulate write-up on this scene, and I pretty much agree with everything she says.

Cinematographically, the scene is beyond disturbing—it’s absolutely disgusting. Apologies for the next couple of screenshots; they’re horrible, but they’re necessary to help make my point.

The long-shot on Ros’ body is understandable. She’s dead; they have to establish that she’s really most sincerely dead and how exactly it happened. The disturbing part about this is the number and placement of the crossbow bolts; we’ve already seen that Joffrey’s a crack shot with that thing, so presumably he put those bolts precisely where he wanted them, and it appears that he played with her a bit before killing her. There’s three bolts in the bedposts, one in her hair, one in her upper thigh, one in her forearm, one in her lower belly very close to her crotch, and one in her chest just to the right of her left breast—through the heart, presumably. I’m assuming that’s the one that killed her and the rest were for torture—unless Joffrey decided that using her body for target practice would be fun. All of the wounds appear to be bleeding, so I’m going to assume that they occurred while she was still alive.

They could easily have stopped here, but they didn’t. The next shot pushes in and up from about waist level to just over Ros’ head, passing over her chest and face. Her dress is torn, but her breasts are still covered (this rant would be a lot more strongly-worded otherwise), and her eyes are open. It’s a relatively quick pan, taking only about six seconds, but it covers so little actual space that it feels a lot slower. And it feels voyeuristic and titillating. This shot goes beyond establishing her death and into torture-porn, this woman’s dead and mangled body on display for the enjoyment and/or horror of the audience. There’s no narrative reason for it; we know she’s dead. We don’t need to see that death this up-close. If they insisted on a close-up, they could easily have just done her face. The pan up across her breasts is extraneous and horrifying.

So much abuse of women is focused on this one character that the death is unsurprising, but still really disturbing. By combining several prostitute characters into one and then visiting all the abuse that happens to them, or showing us the aftermath of abuse (the slaying of the Baratheon baby) through Ros, and then killing her in a throwaway scene that yet manages to linger on her sexualized dead body, Benioff and Weiss (and Sakharov and the director of photography) have created a perfect storm of misogynist portrayals and treatment of women characters.

In contrast, Theon’s torture is shown on screen with similar close-ups on Ramsay flaying his finger. These close-ups are no more necessary than the close-up on Ros; they’re only there for shock value. We know what Ramsay’s doing to his finger; we don’t need to see it, and we don’t need to see it in that much detail from that close of an angle. So far, none of the torture has added anything to the story; only the fake-escape has really done that and it was all in Theon’s character development and admitting something out loud that perceptive audience members already knew. So again I argue that there was no reason to change what the books did with regard to Theon and the suspense over whether he’s alive, where he is, and what exactly is happening to him until he shows up again as a broken man. All it really does is introduce Ramsay early—or late, considering they didn’t bring him in disguised as Reek when Theon was holding Winterfell, but gave the role of getting Theon to be an idiot to Dagmer. There were lots of other ways they could have handled this whole thing, and they went with the one that gave them the most blood and shock value.

I might be able to get behind keeping Alfie Allen and showing his ordeal rather than shelving him for a season if they weren’t so insistent on zooming in on every injury inflicted as it’s being inflicted. What we know of Ramsay in the books we get from secondhand gossip that doesn’t fit in the show and from Theon’s thoughts, so bringing him in and showing him to be awful makes sense. It establishes his character. However, I don’t believe we need to watch the skin being peeled off Theon’s finger at close range to get that character establishment or development.

Finally, let’s talk about Loras. Torben Gebhardt has a pretty thorough exploration of the way the show treats Loras in particular and homosexuality in general, but since that’s in a book rather than something easily accessible through a website, let me kind of sum up what he has to say about this episode in particular.

In his relationship with Renly, Loras was shown to be dominant, even aggressive. He’s a fierce warrior who uses the trappings of chivalry to disguise a Machiavellian willingness to do what’s necessary to win. Renly is the one who’s depicted as obsessed with clothes, food, and all things shiny. After Renly’s death, Loras is feminized, never shown fighting again, and in this episode argues with Sansa over the correct name for a brooch; gushes about the food, guests, tournaments, and bride’s gown (the bride is an afterthought) at his dream wedding; and shows himself much more interested in clothes than he ever was in season two. As Gebhardt points out, this scene and this characterization are unique to the series; they don’t exist in the books.

Likewise, his proclivities are used as a barometer for other characters; “good” people (Olenna) are perfectly fine with it (although she does talk as though it’s a phase and asks Tywin if he never messed around with the other boys when he was a squire), while “bad” people (Tywin, Cersei) see it as gross and abhorrent. Gebhardt argues that this repositioning of Loras’ character is a way of maintaining 21st-century straight American views of gay men and keeping him from “threatening heteronormative values,” while the sex itself is there for “provocative entertainment.” Loras’ clear discomfort with Sansa and his obsession with clothes are obviously meant to be funny, as is the way everyone talks about him, from Olenna calling him a “sword-swallower, through-and-through” to Shae’s “I bet he does” when Sansa mentions that he likes green-and-gold brocade. The reduction of his character to a cliché is really insulting (in my opinion as a straight woman).

RIP: Ros
Bunch of unnamed Wildlings

Next week: Dany tries diplomacy. The Arya- Clegane shenanigans begin. More grossness at the Dreadfort. Jaime steps up.

Gebhardt, Torben. “Homosexuality in Television Medievalism.” The Middle Ages on Television: Critical Essays. Ed. Meriem Pagès and Karolyn Kinane. Jefferson: McFarland, 2015. 197-213.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Game of Thrones Rewatch 3.5: "Kissed by Fire"

Read the previous entry in this series here.
Read the next entry in this series here.

3.5 “Kissed by Fire”
Written by Bryan Cogman
Directed by Alex Graves
Commentary by Gwendolyn Christie (Brienne), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime), and Bryan Cogman

This is another episode with a title that comes from a book line but that works on multiple levels. Ygritte is said to be “kissed by fire” because of her red hair, but there’s a lot of fire imagery going on in other ways, too.

As a slight shift in the usual structure of a Game of Thrones episode, they start off with the big trial-by-combat duel between Sandor and Beric. Because Beric worships R’hllor and has the support of a red priest, he sets his sword on fire. This is Thoros’ signature move from the books, but it’s given a mystical bent here, as it’s not clear exactly how the fire is set. It looks like Beric lights it from his own blood (yet another palm-slice), but it could be a sleight-of-hand trick on his or Thoros’ part.

At any rate, this immediately tips the balance in Beric’s direction because Sandor is extremely pyrophobic and now Beric’s swinging a flaming sword around near his face. (Gwendolyn Christie in the commentary: “I want a sword on fire! Can I have a sword on fire? Can you write me a scene with a sword on fire?”) It seems clear that Beric is going to win this one, especially when he manages to set Sandor’s shield on fire and Sandor freaks out trying to chop it off his arm. The Brotherhood are chanting “guilty! Guilty! Guilty!” and Arya screams “Kill him!” But the thing about setting a sword on fire is that it’s really bad for the steel, and Sandor manages an overhand cut that slices straight through the sword and then a good bit into Beric’s torso.

Arya’s not having any of it, and runs at Sandor with a knife, only to be grabbed and held back by Gendry. Sandor mocks her about Mycah, because he can’t not, and she yells at him to “burn in hell,” which Beric, suddenly alive and well again, assures her he will, “but not today.” There’s a faint echo here of “what do we say to the god of death,” and I’d love to know how purposeful it was.

Arya learns that Beric has been resurrected by the power of R’hllor seven times now, a revelation that would have had a lot more impact if they’d kept all the gossiping at Harrenhal about how Beric had been caught and killed dozens of times. Arya asks Thoros if he could resurrect a man without a head, and Beric says resurrection is tricky and takes something out of the resurrectee, and he wouldn’t wish this life on anyone. Arya would, because at least he’s alive. Again, this would have a lot more impact if they’d introduced Lady Stoneheart later.

There’s more fire imagery, again linked to R’hllor, in the introduction of Selyse and Shireen Baratheon (finally). Now that Melisandre has run off on some mysterious mission, Stannis has remembered that he has a family and comes to visit them. He apologizes to Selyse for sleeping with Melisandre and having a whole emotional affair with her, but Selyse is a True Believer™ and tells him that because he did it for R’hllor, it doesn’t count and she’s actually glad he did it. Melisandre gave him a son, she says (a creepy, murdering, shadow-son, but okay), when all she’s given him are stillborn babies (which she has in jars, because that’s not creepy) and Shireen. Who she clearly doesn’t think much of at all; probably partially because she’s a girl and partially because of her disfigurement from her childhood illness. Selyse doesn’t even want Stannis to go visit his daughter because she’s a “distraction” from being a king. Stannis goes to visit her anyway because she is his daughter, though he then has to tell her that Davos is a traitor locked up in the dungeon.

There’s more out-of-context oddness here; Shireen is singing Patchface’s “under the sea” song, but they haven’t included Patchface in the show. It makes sense that they’d cut him; his whole schtick is singing weird little ditties that foreshadow events in the books (like the Red Wedding) and hint that the Drowned God might actually exist. There’s a lot of fan theories about his further significance, but barring any of those being true, Patchface isn’t necessary for the more streamlined story they’re doing in the show. Also, they don’t want a whole lot of prophecy around so they’re not locked into specific story beats—that’s why they changed up Daenerys’ visit to the House of the Undying. In the books, that whole sequence is full of foreshadowing and clues to the identities of characters—past, present, and future—for readers with the understanding to see it. The show changed it to, as Alan Taylor put it, “the last temptation of Daenerys Targaryen.” So the fact that Patchface’s song, which relies heavily on the fact that he fell overboard, was missing for days and presumed dead, washed up on shore, and was never quite right after that, was handed to Shireen and taken completely out of context, is really weird. What makes it even weirder is that they made it into the closing credits music. That’s where really significant musical motifs go—“The Rains of Castamere.” “The Bear and the Maiden Fair.” But they’ve removed all reason for “It’s Always Summer Under the Sea” to even exist in this world.

The really big scene in this episode is between Jaime and Brienne in the Harrenhal bathhouse. Half-delirious from pain after having the stump debrided and treated—without painkiller—Jaime stumbles into the bathhouse where Brienne is already in one of the tubs and climbs in with her (it’s a really big tub. Like, twice the size of most hot-tubs I’ve seen). Brienne doesn’t like this idea at all, but Jaime starts to tell her about why he killed Aerys, and her curled-up-in-the-corner freaked-outedness turns into horror and pity. She’s had this very black-and-white view of Jaime and how horrible of a person he was for killing the man he was sworn to protect, but his story throws the act into a whole new light. He hasn’t told anyone the whole story before—even Cersei, according to Cogman—but for some reason, he feels like Brienne needs to know or he trusts her enough to tell her. Brienne isn’t sure what to do with this confidence, but when he starts to pass out, she catches him and calls for help for “the Kingslayer.” He corrects her: “Jaime. My name is Jaime.” Which, again, would have had a lot more impact if they’d hit him calling her “wench” and her reminding him that her name is Brienne as hard as Martin did in the books.

Interestingly, Gwendolyn Christie is shot almost identically to the way Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is shot in this scene. Their nudity is exactly equal—for the most part, both are submerged up to the shoulders in the water, but there are shots of each of them from behind, Nikolaj as he’s getting into the water, Gwendolyn as she lunges up to threaten Jaime for something he says about Renly. There’s no full-frontal of Gwendolyn, or even bare breasts, which is very unusual for Game of Thrones. The characters are on exactly equal footing, neither sexualized more than the other, and neither really sexualized at all. It’s a very interesting cinematic decision, and one that I support.

Speaking of impact, Robb is getting the backlash from his choice to marry Talisa instead of the Frey girl. The upcoming Red Wedding isn’t the only consequence; his men are starting to peel away. The North holds honor above just about everything else, and Robb has broken a vow and tarnished his honor. Rickard Karstark also sees his failure to punish Catelyn as a sign of weakness, and takes advantage of that weakness to break into the dungeon and murder the Lannister hostages—two boys, about twelve and thirteen years old. Robb feels this leaves him no choice but to execute Rickard as a traitor (despite the advice from his mother, which he’s shown himself to be really bad at listening to), which loses him the rest of the Karstark army. During a late-night conversation with Talisa, he decides what he really needs to do is take Casterly Rock, to shake the core of the Lannister power. And in order to do that, he needs the Freys.


This conversation also reveals that Talisa has no idea where Winterfell is. The Queen in the North. Doesn’t know where the seat of her power is. The showrunners took away a rather meek yet sweet and politically aware young woman who brought with her a chunk of the Lannister army and replaced her with a “spunky” girl who brings absolutely nothing to the marriage—no army, no political savvy—and doesn’t even know some basic Westerosi geography.

And then they decide that instead of making Edmure’s marriage to a different Frey girl an apology to Walder, that it’s another tactic to try to get Walder to give him an army. As if someone as prickly as Walder isn’t going to see right through that. Anybody who didn’t see something like the Red Wedding coming hasn’t been paying attention.

Meanwhile, in Essos, Jorah and Barristan are dancing around each other, trying to figure out how much of a threat they are to each other and their positions with Daenerys. As is typical, they think Daenerys is young and idealistic and perhaps a bit too soft and female to be a good ruler yet, but there will be lots of men around her to help advise her (that’s very nearly a direct quote). Barristan wants Jorah to step away now, because he thinks Westeros won’t accept him as an advisor to their new queen, what with him trying to sell slaves and then spying on Daenerys for Robert. Jorah reminds him that he was fighting beside Daenerys while Barristan was still serving Robert. Basically they just need to get out the tape measure and have done with it. Dany, on the other hand, is working on actually leading her people, having a conference with the Unsullied and having them name a spokesperson for her council. It’s unclear just how purposeful the juxtaposition between men who are all talk and the young woman who’s actually working is, but it’s definitely funny.

A smaller moment that will pile on other small moments and turn into a landslide of really terrible portrayals of homosexuality occurs in this episode, too. Loras, who apparently at some point has been told he’s betrothed to Sansa, meets a young man named Olyvar who manages to tumble him into bed pretty much immediately. He strongly implies that this sort of behavior is pretty common among the nobility, and then goes back to Petyr and tells him all about Loras’ engagement to Sansa. Petyr, of course, tells Cersei, who tells Tywin, who decides they need to steal a march on the Tyrells and marry Sansa to Tyrion immediately, then marry Cersei to Loras just to clinch the deal. Cogman admits that this was kind of a controversial scene because in the books, after Renly died, Loras joined the Kingsguard and there was no hint that he ever had another lover. All Cogman says about it, though, is “we changed that.” Clearly they used it to show how Petyr gets word of what the Tyrells are up to and get evidence Cersei can bring to Tywin, but there are lots of other ways they could have done it besides further twisting Loras’ character and reducing homosexuality purely to sex.

In contrast, we get an actually really sweet scene between Ygritte and Jon. Ygritte decides that it’s time Jon proves that he’s really broken with the Night’s Watch by breaking his vows—by having sex with her. He resists at first, but then gives in, and christens the new phase of their relationship by performing oral sex on her, something she’s never experienced before. This is probably the healthiest, most equal relationship on the show, and I’m really glad that they kept the scene pretty much exactly as it appears in the books, with both of them discovering something new and falling in love and generally being adorable. Yeah, it doesn’t end well, because it’s Game of Thrones and of course it doesn’t, but we can enjoy this little piece of sweetness in the middle of all the awful.

Beric Dondarrion (he got better)
Willem Lannister
Martyn Lannister
Rickard Karstark

Next week: Wedding shenanigans. Jon climbs a wall. Be prepared for a rant of epic proportions.

All images from

Monday, November 14, 2016

Game of Thrones Rewatch 3.4: "And Now His Watch is Ended"

Read the previous entry in this series here.
Read the next entry in this series here.

3.4 “And Now His Watch is Ended”
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Alex Graves
Commentary by Diana Rigg (Olenna Tyrell), Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), and Alex Graves

This episode deals a lot with consequences, some of them bigger than others. Two big revolutions occur, and lots of smaller things happen in response to storylines that have been building for a while.

The first big revolution is the Night’s Watch rebellion. This one has been building since last season; earlier, if you consider all the groundwork laid about how dishonorable and awful the men of the Night’s Watch tend to be. The events of this season have just given them a reason. Mormont hauled them all this way north, they probably don’t understand why he did it, and now a good chunk of them are dead and the rest of them are dying. And Craster’s sitting here refusing to help and laughing at them for their plight. These are not the kind of men—like Mormont—who can take this sort of thing lying down.

Mormont’s problem is that he overestimated the honorability and obedience of the men under his command. Bringing them all up here was a mistake anyway; sure, he wanted to try to stop Mance before he ever reached the Wall, but he knew about the wights and Walkers and knew they were real and a threat, but brought all this cannon fodder up here regardless. Craster is the only somewhat-ally they have north of the Wall, and he’s a poor one. They’ve been sitting at Craster’s Keep for days, if not weeks, and at least one of their number has died. Everyone’s cold and hungry and angry, and they don’t feel that Mormont has their best interests at heart. A lot of these are men who are here because they took what they wanted rather than getting it through legitimate means—thieves and rapists—and the vows of the Night’s Watch essentially just put a leash on them. But the leash can only hold so far.

Craster demands respect in his own home, but hasn’t in any way earned it, so Karl (we knew Burn Gorman was going to step up at some point) calls him a “daughter-fucking wildling bastard,” daring him to actually make good on all the threats he’s been making. And when Craster tries—lunging at him with his axe—Karl puts his dagger through Craster’s throat. This kicks off a riot, essentially, and when Mormont tries to pull everything back under control, reminding them that there are laws and customs about being guests in other people’s homes, Rast stabs him in the back. Despite his injury, Mormont nearly manages to strangle Rast to death before the wound gets the better of him and he collapses.

Not only does this create a massive rift in the Night’s Watch and lose them yet more men, it foreshadows what Jon will have ahead of him when he becomes Lord Commander. These are not disciplined, trained men who will follow the orders of their commander no matter what; these are loose cannons who have to be bullied and manipulated into doing even things that are in their own best interest. Though it’s on a small and petty scale, they’re playing their own game of thrones at the Wall, and you win or you die.

Mormont fought valiantly. Mormont fought nobly. Mormont fought honorably. And Mormont died.

Sam, Gilly, and the unnamed baby escape the carnage and head south toward the Wall. I don’t quite understand why they chose to have Gilly go ahead and have her baby; maybe they thought knowing it was a boy would give Sam and Gilly more impetus to leave? Or explain why they get attacked by a Walker later? Or it would be easier on the actress to carry a doll than wear a pregnant belly while doing all the walking they have to do? Either way, this completely ruins the baby-swap plot point that would have been coming later.

The other major revolution is Dany’s rise to becoming an actual power rather than a “beggar queen.” She pretends to make the deal with the Astapor slave masters, handing Drogon over to them on a leash, then, once the deal is done, turns the Unsullied on the masters and gives Drogon the order to start burning everything. She offers the Unsullied their freedom, but none of them take her up on it, instead pounding their spears on the ground to show that they’re loyal to her now. Dany leads the remains of the khalasar and her new army out of Astapor and symbolically throws the whip on the ground.

The issues with Dany and slavery are very subtle in the books and I’m not sure how much of it actually comes through in the show (I’m guessing not a lot, since subtlety isn’t exactly this show’s strong suit). Dany believes she’s doing her due diligence by offering the Unsullied their freedom just as she did the slaves taken by the khalasar at the end of season one. What she fails to understand is that the Unsullied weren’t just yanked out of their villages yesterday. They’ve been brainwashed, conditioned to serve, and probably can’t even conceive of the idea of freedom. Their choice to stay in her service is less of a victory than it appears, because it’s less of a choice. Dany is going to continue to use the Unsullied the way they were created to be used, although she will give them a voice on her council. Similarly, Missandei was given to her as a slave, and though she ostensibly frees her, Missandei stays with her and continues to act as her interpreter and scribe. In the books, there’s never any mention of payment or anything beyond care, feeding, and protection—which is not much different than how a really nice master would treat his/her slaves. It seems pretty clear that Martin was making a point about the “white savior” trope and how Dany’s “help” is pretty self-centered, but I’m not sure the showrunners picked up on it.

A similar revenge motif is evident in Varys and Tyrion’s conversation back in the Red Keep. Tyrion wants to know how Varys can be sure that it was Cersei who ordered the hit on him during the battle; Varys says he doesn’t have hard proof. He understands Tyrion’s need for revenge, but advises taking it slowly and carefully. He uses his own life as an example—he was a boy actor, sold to a sorcerer who used his man-bits as fuel for a conjuring spell of some kind, then worked his way up from the gutter to the spymaster of Westeros. The whole time, he’s slowly prying the lid off of a crate, and when it finally comes off, it turns out the sorcerer himself is in that crate. Dun dun duuuuuuuuun.

Something about this scene bothers me, and I can’t quite put a finger on why. It feels out of place and odd. Sure, it gives us some background about Varys and how hard he’s worked to get here. It allows him to show Tyrion what he means about waiting and consolidating your power so you can get revenge. It gives Varys a bit more motivation for backing the Lannisters against Stannis—he distrusts magic and can’t support Stannis when he’s supported by Melisandre. And yet the whole thing with the sorcerer in the crate feels a bit extraneous and over the top. Maybe it’s because Varys so rarely takes a hands-on approach to anything; he’s more likely (in my mind) to have caused the sorcerer to be ruined or ruin himself rather than have him crated up and shipped to Westeros so he can—what, torture him? I don’t remember if we see what Varys does with the sorcerer after this.

Brienne also tells Jaime revenge is important. He’s miserable, sick, probably dying, and letting himself go. She calls him names to try to get him angry enough to want to live and tells him he has to survive if he wants to take revenge. She also asks why he made up the story about sapphires just to save her from rape, and he doesn’t have an answer for her. He might not have an answer for himself.

Theon, on the other hand, is tired of revenge, especially since he realizes he was taking revenge for nothing. He and Ramsay make their way (ostensibly) to Deepwood Motte, where Ramsay has promised Yara is waiting for him. On the way, Theon tells Ramsay all about all the stuff he’s pent up over the last couple of seasons, admitting that he didn’t kill Bran and Rickon, admitting that he always wanted to be a Stark, admitting that this whole thing was because he was told he couldn’t be a Stark, but he knew he was a bad Greyjoy. Only the bit at the end about Ned being his real father doesn’t quite ring true, probably because we hardly ever see Theon and Ned together. Comments about Robb being his brother make sense; without more evidence of Theon and Ned’s relationship, that claim just doesn’t quite float for me. Alfie Allen, of course, kills the whole scene again because he’s amazing as Theon; the not-quite-buying-it isn’t his fault at all.

And then he finds out that all of this has been for nothing, as Ramsay has led him right back into the dungeons of the Dreadfort and he’s tied back up on the cross.

Other scenes are set-up for later consequences. Varys meets with Ros and learns that Petyr plans to sneak Sansa out of King’s Landing. They also have a much-too-long conversation about Pod’s presumed sexual prowess (ugh) and completely harpoon my fanwank from last week about Petyr paying back his debt this way—apparently he didn’t notice the loss of money. Petyr. Master of Coin. Clawed his way up from barely nobility to one of the most powerful men in the realm by working with money. Didn’t notice. That three of his prostitutes are short on their pay.

Right. Sure. Okay.

That whole scene was one thing when they did it in the last episode. Comic relief, fine, whatever. Bringing it back up in this episode is just . . . excessive.

But the scene as a whole establishes that Ros is working for Varys, that she’s smart, that she can read, and that she’s oddly protective of Sansa. This will have horrendous consequences later.

Meanwhile, Joffrey’s showing Margaery all the graves in the Great Sept of Baelor, and he’s really excited about it. Cersei and Olenna are there, too, discussing the seating capacity of the Sept for the wedding. Cersei gets a firsthand look at Margaery’s ability to manipulate Joffrey and how she’s establishing herself as his equal and helper, and she hates every single second of it. She also gets to show a bit of her own political savvy by being extra pious when Olenna questions why men get to run everything. Too bad that political savvy doesn’t continue. We also get a (kind of) subtle bit of foreshadowing from Olenna about Joffrey’s death, which she, of course, is planning right now.

Later Olenna meets with Varys to discuss the possibility of “rescuing” Sansa by marrying her off to Loras before Petyr can abscond with her. Margaery gets to pitch that idea to Sansa, who is clearly delighted. This is another shift from the books, evidence of them condensing the plot and characters a bit; instead of betrothing Sansa to Wyllas, who I think maybe shows up in the books once (if that), they don’t add Loras to the Kingsguard and promise Sansa to him instead. Adding Loras to the Kingsguard added to Cersei’s internal evidence that the Tyrells were taking too much power, but it’s not entirely necessary to make the overall plot work. Unfortunately, it also gives the writers nothing to do with Loras, which comes back to bite them later.

Finally, Sandor is facing the consequences not only for his actions, but his brother’s and all the rest of the Lannisters’ at the hands of the Brotherhood without Banners. All of them are angry, and all of them want revenge for their dead. As is typical for Sandor, he admits to being a killer but refuses to take responsibility for lives he didn’t take with his own hands. Unfortunately for him, Arya is there to lay one he did take with his own hands at his feet—Mycah, the butcher’s boy. Beric Dondarrion (who looks a lot worse than the last time we saw him) sentences him to trial by combat, fighting Beric himself.

RIP: Bannen
Lord Jeor Mormont, Commander of the Night’s Watch
Kraznys mo Nakoloz
Greizhen mo Ullhor
Various other slavers

Next Week: Jon and Ygritte finally seal the deal.  Dany heads to Yunkai. Robb screws up again. Jaime takes a bath.

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