This is a book reader review for Game of Thrones, which means that below the dragon there will be discussion of plots from the TV show up to the most current episode that has aired on HBO, as well as spoilers from all five books that have been released. Chapters from books that have not yet been released are still off-limits. Thank you for cooperating!
Jon is off to Hardhome with Tormund leaving Alliser Throne in charge of Castle Black, and we get yet another mention of dragonglass so I hope that someone starts stabbing White Walkers soon. Immediately afterwards we go to a bedridden Maester Aemon cooing over Gilly’s son while hallucinating his dead brother Aegon, and I feel like we didn’t really get enough build up to this. Maybe they could have spent another 30 seconds on this instead of talking about dragonglass in one of the previous episodes. Aemon dies, and at his funeral Alliser whispers to Sam that he’s losing friends left and right. Then two members of the Night’s Watch menace Gilly while she’s trying to do her chores GODDAMIT, are we really doing this again?
The problem with the way the show handles things like what happened to Gilly, and even what happened to Sansa, is that they aren’t horrible tortures from a fantasy world. Virtually none of you know anyone who was flayed. I can assure you that at least one woman you know has been menaced by a man in a sexually intimidating manner, if not sexually assaulted. Sexual threats and assault are things that happen, now, every day, and it’s not just something done by mustache-twirling villains. By using rape and sexual intimidation in this manner, over and over again, Benioff and Weiss misunderstand the reality of these crimes. This apparent insistence that the only way to provoke audience sympathy for women, particularly young overtly feminine women, is by showing them as sexually vulnerable is simply insulting in a show that gave us the nuanced pairings of Arya and the Hound, and Jaime and Brienne. As Nick Rheinwald-Jones of Previously.tv points out, “If there were a show created and written by women where every episode had some guy getting his dick cut off (or at least a knife held up to it), it’d take about half a season before the cultural alarms started going off. GoT writers, be thankful you’ve gotten a pass for as long as you have, and start doing better.”
In the book, Sam and Gilly have sex at Maester Aemon’s funeral. Why change that? Perhaps have Sam realize he had to train to become a maester, and when Gilly freaked out that he was leaving her, he assures her that wherever he goes, she goes. You still create a scenario where Sam has to be brave and take a chance, and manage to have actual plot advancement. We know the Watch is full of rapists and thieves because two episodes ago, Stannis told us that. And why is Ghost still there? I get that the wolves are expensive to animate, but why bring him back to help Sam and Gilly rather than Jon? I feel like the bond between the wolves and the Stark kids is being diluted and it’s upsetting.
We find out that Sansa’s been locked up in Winterfell, and she pleads with Theon for help which of course he doesn’t deliver. Sansa’s situation still makes no sense. Even if Roose is indifferent to how Ramsay is treating his bride, physically restraining her movements around the castle will be noticed by the Northerners that Roose is wary of. Also, the marriage to Sansa was to help Roose Bolton secure the loyalty of the Vale through Littlefinger. If he comes back to find an abused Sansa being kept hostage, or mysteriously dead, it seems like he might not make good on his side of that bargain. He stated to Roose that Sansa was important to him. Even if Ramsay himself is a cruel, dumb animal, Roose is supposed to be smarter than this. But I’m still wondering where the rest of the Northern Lords are, so I feel like it’s pointless to nitpick a storyline when the wheels seem to have come off the logic train long ago. This seems to be mostly “It happened to Jeyne so it has to happen to Sansa” without really stopping to think through what the change of character means for the story. Everyone seemed to know, without saying it, that the “Arya” in the books was a fraud. They KNOW this Sansa is real. You can’t handle her the same way.
Then Ramsay has Sansa brought out to him so he can screw with her psychologically, but Sansa’s been through the Lannisters and doesn’t scare that easily anymore. When he gets to her flayed maid, she is rattled. But her expression is less hopeless than it is disappointed and sad, and I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Sansa’s will yet. Especially since she managed to snag some kind of small tool.
Jorah and Tyrion are bought by a man purchasing Not-Slaves for the bush-league fighting pits. Daenerys makes an unscheduled visit with Hizdahr and her reaction is basically ‘I’m not a sports-ball person’ while Hizdahr tries to convince her that it’s definitely worth hanging around. And it turns out that it is! Because Jorah wins the fight but loses his big rom-com moment, which is immediately stolen by Tyrion. Again, Tyrion is getting the best changed storyline in the show, and I’m looking forward to his time with Dany.
As for Dany, while she and Daario are in bed he reveals that the killings by the Sons of the Harpy have stopped which would be great if DANY HAD MADE HIZDAHR PROMISE TO STOP THEM TO PROVE THE VALUE OF THE MARRIAGE! Daario makes some noise about how all rulers are either butchers or meat, and that she’s not really ‘free’ that’s probably meant to sound wise but let’s remember the source here; Daario’s business is war. He only sees rulers when they’re at war. He’s not really the guy to go to for information on how to achieve peace.
In Dorne, we get a weird interaction with Bronn and the Sand Snakes where Tyene teases Bronn and reveals that he definitely was poisoned. But then she gives him the antidote immediately which makes this the most pointless poisoning ever. All of this seems to not be needed at all, but we get tits and Bronn singing so I guess that’s more important than spending a couple extra minutes on ANY OF THE OTHER PLOTS that could have used more time in this episode.
The King’s Landing machinations get more water-treading. Despite Olenna herself always being a delight, her scene with the High Sparrow tells us nothing new about either of them. Then her meeting with Littlefinger is apparently necessary to bring out Lancel’s revelations, but why? Lancel has been a true believer for the previous six episodes. We end with Cersei’s arrest, but it seems like it could have happened at least two episodes ago.
Frankly, I think the show is rushing headlong towards a finish line without a lot of thought as to how they’re getting there. Now that they know the ending, it feels like Benioff and Weiss are sacrificing good storytelling in favor of shoving people around like it’s a giant chess board. The situation in the North should be more robust, with the other Northern lords present to pay fealty to Roose. It creates a more interesting story by setting up conflicts inside the walls of Winterfell. And it doesn’t make sense for Brienne to be trusted by the Northerners trying to help Sansa. The last two Lords of Winterfell and their heirs were killed by people who were considered trusted allies, but this random woman comes sauntering up from the South all “I’m here for your last Stark. It’s cool, guys, I knew her mom!” and they’re all “Sounds good!”
In King’s Landing; Margaery and Loras have to go to prison first so no one points out that Olyvar could have seen Loras’s birthmark while squiring for him, Olyvar’s “proof” is somehow also taken as proof that Margaery is lying about being aware of the relationship, and there’s so many holes in this story line that Cersei could wear it on her upcoming walk and still be considered naked. And, as pointed out here, it’s been kind of spoiled by having the previous High Septon forced to do a similar walk while specifically avoiding showing him naked.
Then there’s the mess in Dorne, and the fact that the most important part of that area (Doran’s long-term scheming) has gone unrevealed. Replacing the plot to crown Myrcella with a plot to kill and/or abduct her again switches out a complex idea (forcing Cersei to choose between her children) with a simple one (driving Cersei to war by killing one of her children). I’ve seen this simplification happen with characters for a while now, but I thought that the change of format made it more difficult to shade internal motivations. Apparently, the writers either can’t or won’t see nuances that make this story interesting and compelling, and are leaving those nuances out in favor of “shocking” moments.
Also this week: Melisandre is definitely going to get Selyse to help her kill Shireen, Jaime got told off by his teenage daughter/niece, and I sincerely hope that someone at HBO is looking for a new script supervisor for the next two seasons.