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“Mockingbird”, the seventh episode of this season of Game Of Thrones, was another peculiar episode. It was one that felt that while the writers have a firm grip on their characters and an uncanny knack for writing engaging and riveting dialogue, their hands aren’t quite as sure when guiding the story forward. As such, there was plot movement, to be sure, but it came with its own pacing problems and at times dragged quite a bit.
The worst of those scenes was no surprise. Any scene in Dragonstone that doesn’t involve Stannis — and in particular Davos — generally fails to resonate. We had a strange and uncomfortable meeting between Melisandre and Queen Selyse. Now I will say that this was the rare occasion when nudity actually played an effective part in the scene, serving to demonstrate the vast differences between Selyse and Melisandre. The contrast between them is almost unnerving, and the languid, powerful sense of confidence that the Red Woman displays was markedly different from the tense, self-doubting awkwardness of her queen. Yet beyond that, there was little to be offered with this scene, other than to reinforce some themes that had already been demonstrated, and to tell us that there is a greater role to be discovered for young Shireen.
In Meereen, the opposite was the case. A great deal happened in these scenes — we saw a new, more confident Dany, one who finally seems to have a sense of agency about herself and isn’t merely reacting to events. She vowed to rule a couple of episodes back, and that fierceness is truly on display. She takes what she wants from Daario, and then dispatches him to carry out her wishes. She heeds Jorah’s counsel, but uses it in her own distinctive manner. It was a good bit of character building, even if the story-building aspect of it seemed a bit stilted and clumsy at times, as if the retaking of Yunkai was almost a secondary element.
At the Wall, things are getting… tiresome, I must confess. The show runners have been working for some time to show us how Jon Snow is developing as a leader, but they’re doing it in the most ham-handed ways. The raid on Craster’s Keep was a paltry effort at demonstrating leadership — a couple of spoken lines and a swordfight, coming after a single powerful speech, and suddenly he’s the second coming? Yet even if one disagrees with that sentiment (and I know many will), what grows even more tiresome is the relentlessly stupid, arrogant opposition he faces back at the Wall. Giving a protagonist idiots and fools for enemies is a poor, lazy way to demonstrate his strength, yet since the death of the Lord Commander, that’s been the order of the day. I confess, each scene at The Wall grows more and more suspect, and this one, full of sneering ignorance by Alliser Thorne and his cohorts in the face of overwhelming and obvious evidence, is a lackadaisical effort at character growth.
As for Arya and the Hound, theirs is a curious story, as they make almost no progress in terms of the larger story. Yet for them, the journey truly is the story, and that journey continues to be enjoyable. This one covered a range of emotional issues and events, from sparing a drink for a dying man before ending his pain, to taking the life of two more on Arya’s list. It’s been fascinating watching The Hound become some twisted version of a mentor to Arya, and their relationship is easily one of the most intelligently written and complex ones on the show. By the end of their final scene, after Sandor Clegane shows uncommon vulnerability and Arya shows unexpected kindness, it’s as if everything between them — all the anger and bravado and bitterness and resentment — all has been stripped away, leaving them to simply be there for each other with a sort of begrudging codependence.
Perhaps the strangest, least satisfying scene — and one that should have been immensely satisfying — was the one in the Eyrie. While I always enjoy witnessing the madness of Lysa Baelish née Tully, the rest of it rang so falsely. There was an interesting moment with Sansa and Robin (whoever that child is, I hate to admit, he’s rather terrible), where she was momentarily swept up in the petty cruelties that power avails itself to. Similarly, there was an unexpected moment of surprising honesty by Petyr Baelish, as he revealed more of himself than ever before, even if it was followed by a moment of immense creepiness. Yet the moment at the moon door, something that I know book readers have been eagerly awaiting, was a hollow one. Perhaps it’s because it was so clearly telegraphed, or perhaps it was because Littlefinger’s decidedly unsubtle manipulations have lost much of their luster, particularly given how effective a character he once was — whatever the reason, the ending of that scene failed to move me.
Yet unsurprisingly, the episode belonged to Tyrion once again. Three scenes, all brilliant, each time paired with another terrific actor, each time allowing us to see the twisting path that Tyrion must travel. First, with Jaime, a tragic moment filled with pride and frustration and sourness, but also dosed heavily with brotherly love and gallows humor. There was a terrible sadness to them both realizing that Jaime, for all his great feats, for all his accomplishments, could do nothing for him. Then, with Bronn, another of Tyrion’s rare allies must turn away from him. In a world filled with killers and thieves and betrayers, none is quite as interesting and honest as Bronn. He truly bears great affection for Tyrion, but this was an amazing vignette where two men, close friends, fully and totally understand each other, understand that their friendship has limits, making it unlike any other.
But that final moment with Oberyn was one of the best one-on-one dialogues the show has had to offer, and two absolutely blistering performances. Tearful and bitter and showing a vulnerability in Tyrion that was almost unbearable to watch, it was a perfect few minutes. Pedro Pascal has been thoroughly enjoyable for this season, and it culminated in this moment, where you see his that the depth of his fury is matched only by that of his compassion. At the same time, he lays Tyrion bare, telling the tale of young Cersei’s loathing and how it all led to this, a sad fate for Tyrion, destined from the time he was born.
This was not a great episode, but like even the weakest of Game Of Thrones episodes, it was peppered with great moments. Sometimes it’s the small ones, like Brienne and Pod’s conversation (I could spend all day just analyzing the looks she gives him) and the utterly delightful appearance of Hot Pie, and sometimes it’s the big, momentous ones, like all things Tyrion. Those are the moments that demonstrate the show’s greatness, even in the midst of inconsistency. Those great moments outweigh the ones that drag and stumble, allowing Game Of Thrones to continue to draw us into it’s dark and tragic world.