Let’s just jump in here right away and say that, as a non-book reader, I have no real idea who Ser Arthur Dayne is, but ‘The Sword of The Morning’ is a complete badass with a badass name and his dual-wielding choreography was so effortless it almost wiped away the Sand Snakes of last season. My god.
I’ve seen mention that one of his swords was called ‘Dawn’ and was a famous greatsword in the books. I mean, I didn’t even know people could one hand a greatsword, much less tuck it back door, reverse-grip like Ahsoka Tano. And they didn’t do that awful TV and movie trope where one dude attacks at a time. They encircled Dayne, attacked him all at once and yet he managed to skate through and get them all on one side where he begins to cull the herd. That was just awesome. You see that and you think “this is a show that gets it. These are people who aren’t doing the same old shit.” It was a pleasure to watch.
Bran, though, seemed put off by the fact that Howland Reed stabbed The Sword of the Morning in the back. Like there was some dishonor to that. Or maybe he imagined his father’s victory was more noble. I don’t know. After the things we’ve seen? It’s Bronn fighting above the Moon Door. However you need to win — whatever it takes to breathe one more breath — be it shooting your father on the commode or walking naked through a city while having feces splashed on you or even being raised from the dead, what do we say to the god of death?
There was so much to appreciate about this episode, which was largely about rolling various plots forward. It was great that we opened with Jon, and didn’t hold that off until the last segment. We see him hyperventilating, tracing his wounds with a finger and Ser Davos wraps him in his cloak. A positive because he won’t freeze. A negative because very rarely do you get to see a more appealing, heaving alabaster body. We didn’t get to see his pecker, but Tormund did, and he reports some shrinkage.
It doesn’t matter how far you travel, friends. It doesn’t matter how highborn you are, how steeped in culture or how recently you’ve been raised from the dead. Nobody is safe from a really timely dick joke.
In the opening scene, I enjoyed how The Onion Knight chased the Red Woman out of the room. Jon was like “I’m alive. What the hell?” (His first words back: “I got stabbed” weren’t exactly the profound, kingly words of a phoenix-born Azor Ahai as much as they were the confused utterings of a sophomore linebacker accidentally impaled by a bottle of Coors light, but y’know. Beggars can’t be choosers.) So Jon is just trying to get his bearings and two seconds later, Melisandre is recruiting him for Stannis’ job. “Someone must be the prince who-“
OK, out you go, witch.
Ah, Davos. Go fail again. You are the alpha and the omega.
The only thing I wasn’t crazy about in that scene was that Jon saw nothing in death. That’s bleak and kind of stoically realistic, but I like a liiiiiittle mystery in my dead heroes. Like if he had said nothing, we could have all talked at length about what he might have seen. Even if he had started to speak and stopped, it could mean something. Now it’s just like: “My king! When you met god, what did he say to you?”
“He didn’t say shit because I didn’t see him. I just remember getting stabbed, then I smelled my rectum release, and then I was here with you two.”
“Oh! Well, that’s…good too, I guess.”
I’m sure Mel will spin it like, he didn’t see anything because it wasn’t his time to go, but sometimes silence is golden.
I will say, I really enjoyed this episode and I’m a die-hard who will defend this show like The Sword of the Morning in a bouncy house with sixty-five unarmed Joffrey Baratheons, but we may be seeing a teeny tiny waning of the dialogue quality now that we’re ahead of George R. R. Martin. I think that’s where we’re getting Tyrion’s cock jokes and some relatively uninspired grousing from Cersei and a scene where Tyrion talks to two robots for what felt like precious goddamn screen time. Like precious. Like every solitary second of this show is a second closer to the end of this season. Every second of Grey Worm, who is a real mensch — don’t get me wrong — saying ‘patrol patrol patrol,’ is a second we’re not following Brienne or Jon or Davos or Tyrion. Wait, it was Tyrion. That’s what’s so hard about it. Because I want him in the Game of Thrones, not the Game of Drones. There’s no art to the politics in Essos. Valyrian may be the High Language, but there’s no magic to it. There’s no Queen of Thorns saying “Yes, things can be confusing in your family.” Aaaaah, she’s so brilliant.
That’s really the unfortunate thing here. Because, once a character crosses The Narrow Sea, they sort of downshift. I was excited about the steps that Arya took this week in Braavos, but I know many people have been tapping their fingers a bit hoping for more advancement of her training plot. I actually think it felt right. It felt like she has finally earned the right to repeat those words back to Jaqen. The best part about her scene, by the way, was that she had taken The Hound off her list. Also, I don’t know the significance of ‘The Waif’, or if The Waif is also Jaqen, but that character did a solid job Apollo Creeding Arya through her training montage. When Arya pauses before drinking from the fountain that had killed so many people before her, I may have held my breath too long. Whew. She’s awesome.
But the rest of what’s going on in Essos isn’t, frankly. Only because I still can’t figure out why Dany walked away from her dragon. That’s like breaking down on the side of the highway in a thunderstorm and thinking “I’ll leave my car and go walk into a dark forest to look for help.” So we have her in the tent of eternal yawns, with a bunch of former Khal’s wives giving her a JV level tongue lashing in subtitles and some stern looks. I was the wife of Khal Savo (never heard of him) and he promised me a Mercedes Benz, so why am I driving this Saturn?
Do I care, lady? No. Jesus. I don’t care.
Once upon a time Daenerys would take a bloody bite of a horse’s heart to sexually entice her king or lock traitors in an empty vault or free thousands of slaves or command little tiny dragons to roast people alive and now she’s like “Hey! Gimme back that necklace!” She keeps barking these little threats at everyone. It’s not reading as powerful. It’s reading as one step below Cersei Lannister in the pantheon of entitled divas.
“I’ll have your heads!” Okay, settle down, honey. And don’t get me started on the infinite pleasures of having a major character back among the rape-culture Dothraki. Is there a less interesting people on the face of the Known World than a horde of murderous, uneducated horsepeople? Ugh.
If there was any part of me that thought Daenerys was in actual danger maybe her entire storyline wouldn’t feel like filler. But I’m not even worried a little bit. She’s the only person in Game of Thrones that isn’t in danger of getting killed. What’s worse is that, even though this felt a little bit like a filler episode, next week it looks like we have the Westerosi Thunderdome of who gives a fuck as we combine Ser Jorah + Dreamy Daario + Vaes Dothrak + Ironborn + That kid in the Vail who nursed until he was 11. Oooooooh! Paint me like one of your French girls, Littlefinger.
But let’s get back to more of what worked this week. I don’t know if this was in the books or not, but I was pretty happy that all of the Stark children were safe. When Osha was taking Rickon to GreatJon Umber I was like ‘Good!” I don’t know who GreatJon Umber is, but I just had this feeling that the Umbers were good, loyal Stark folk, and that anyone named GreatJon would be kind of kick-ass. You don’t get that name for being a wimp. It’s not GoodJon. It’s not HumbleJon. It’s GreatJon. (Kind of made me think of Robin Hood’s Little John, I guess.) But as it turns out, GreatJon is dead (if you believe his son) and now Rickon is the property of the biggest douchebag in the Seven Kingdoms.
We opened up this season with people like me jumping out of their sofas, pumping their fists in the air as Brienne galloped in to save Sansa and now that air has started to seep as Ned’s youngest (and dumbest, apparently) is given as a gift to a psychopath. But is he? I liked how that young Lord Umber was talking. I liked how he called Roose a certain C word and refused to kneel. I like how he made a dig about Karstark liking little boys. Are we really to believe that every second generation leader in the North is a complete twat? Karstark literally has -Stark in it! And he just stands there like a doofus as Ramsay stabs Roose? Huh? So the heirs of the Boltons, Karstarks and Umbers — all former Stark bannermen — are all trashpeople? C’mon! Come on, I say! These are the three least Lord-y Lords I’ve ever seen. It’s like three Mountain Dew guzzling donkeys who failed Intro to Metalshop are in charge of everything north of Pyke. I don’t know. I hope ‘Lord’ Umber isn’t one of them. The dead Dire Wolf is a pretty big thing to fake, but if he is gambling Rickon’s life, I hope he’s got a good plan, because it took Ramsay all of about thirty seconds to Mr. Burns the last male heir to Winterfell.
Made me think: Rickon, come on, Boy-O! I hope you’re better than you looked when that hood came off. Don’t be the Stark’s Tommen!
I also thought, if you’re going to have to sacrifice a Stark, it may as well be the one we’ve never met, really. You can almost put yourself with David and D.B. in the writer’s room and saying, “what are we gonna do with Rickon, guys? As long as he’s alive, people are going to think he’s going to show up and save the day. What’s the fastest way to eliminate him?”
“Um…give him to Ramsay?”
Elsewhere, we see how utterly brutish and artless Cersei is. She’s out of the inner circle and no amount of zombie accompaniment is going to help her to force her way on to the Small Council. It’s funny, because you feel like a power move like that might have worked in the past. The only thing that would have made that scene more awkward is if The Mountain was carrying a boombox playing Nickelback. But goddamn, Uncle Kevan ain’t playing that shit. (How telling is it that the two heretofore Lannister darlings can’t weasel their way into a Small Council run by a goddamn Lannister Hand of the King?!!) We also get this asinine speech from Cersei to Maester Qyburn about how she wants to know who is laughing at her anywhere in the universe and he’s like “uh, yeah, I know.”
We all fucking know, Cersei! You’re a half-smart, toxic, hatred junkie. Yes, yes. We get it. My Dickensian street rats are on it!
But et tu, Jaime? Et tu?
After all those nights with Brienne? Remember how you lost your hand and how you sort of changed and we almost forgot that you were the fucking golden prick who pushed a little boy out a window? Every time you hang with Cersei I lose a little more respect for you. She’s the spirit of everlasting misery.
Meanwhile, her son, Tommen, adorable little rabbit that he is, is quite the opposite. There’s something truly unsettling about radical religious fanatics like the Faith Militant, but is Jonathan Pryce killing it or what? The High Sparrow will never be beloved like Ser Davos, but he’s approaching Queen of Thorns levels of conversational brilliance. And he’s doing this Columbo thing that’s so effective. Every time he talks about his knees, and how much he fears death, he only seems that much more resilient. How he lulled the young king to sit with him in the light? It was effortless statesmanship. A coddled, sheltered boy with such little experience and no concept of the world is like silly putty to a man with that much age, wisdom, and experience. It remains to be seen how that will play out.
Was it a filler episode? I mean, we did get to see Sam puke a few times. That’s not Hardhomme, to be sure, but deciding where Gilly is going to live is-
OK, so let’s go back to Castle Black.
Any last words?
“You shouldn’t be alive. It’s not right!” “Neither was killing me.” OOOOOHHH BURN! YOU WALKED INTO THAT ONE, FUCKER!
Write me mum! Tell her I ain’t a shit! DIDN’T YOU STAB ME? RIGHT. NEXT.
I didn’t actually mind Alliser’s last words. He’s not wrong. He’s not right, either. It’s like when you’re a Democrat and you have an eloquent family member who can lay out the Libertarian agenda like an all-you-can-eat buffet. You can see it. It’s not the way you’d go, at all, but you can see it. Alliser Thorne’s Castle Black Reclamation and Murderin’ Speech. Say what you will, at least it’s an ethos.
OK, go ahead and rest, Alliser.
Then, the moment the fanbase has been salivating for. The most hated boy since Justin Bieber. He just stares daggers at Jon. What a goddamn waste. Remember Jon training him to fight like young Ned and Benjen? And this is where they end up? But it was a great choice by the writers because I don’t know how you make any line better than just silence there. Silence is golden. A good piece of acting from Kit Harrington as he golfs the hangman’s line asunder and then a nutty piece of fanservice as we get a one-er of the now hung Olly.
“Oh Jesus! I don’t need to see a dead little kid.” Said Lady Castleton.
“Game of Thrones, baby. Game of Thrones.” I said.
And with that, Jon hangs up his spurs and fucks off. “My watch is ended.”
Now, literally anything is possible. The writers burned the fleet in Meereen as fast as they could to let us know that Khaleesi wasn’t going anywhere this year.
But Jon Snoo? Lord Snoo? He can do anything. He can be anything.
And as he marches out of frame, you can almost feel the landscape rise up to meet him, because Jon Snow has places to be and things to do, and family to save and assholes to kill. Right now, the heads of the other families of the North may be a bunch of homicidal, patricidal pedophiles, but the North Remembers, and Jon Snow Remembers.
And Winter is Coming.