It turns out this series gets awesome when it drops all the fancy-pants political aspirations and turns into a high fantasy story filled with magical nonsense.
So episode four was whatever. Dany became queen of another nation of brown people, whee. I’m mostly just glad that the Dothraki storyline wrapped up swiftly instead of dragging on and on.
Speaking of dragging on and on, I really, really want someone to just stab the High Sparrow already. Not because the show has done a skilful job of portraying him as an effective villain, but because he’s such a fucking road-block in the middle of the plot. This is clearly yet another one of those plot threads that needs to stay in a holding pattern until it can be concluded at a certain time, so we’re continuing to get episode after episode of characters twiddling their thumbs while the High Sparrow bloviates at them. No, I don’t give a shit about his back story, let’s move the show along.
Happily, all of this was counter-balanced by the fact that YOU GUYS SANSA IS FINALLY DOING SOMETHING. TWO STARKS MANAGED TO BE IN THE SAME ROOM AS EACH OTHER WITHOUT SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUSTING. Seeing one of Littlefinger’s plots utterly backfire and end with him pinned down somewhere he can’t wriggle his way out of or turn to his advantage was enormously satisfying, and the fact that it’s Sansa doing the pinning just makes the occasion all the sweeter. Sadly, I have a feeling her decision to not have Brienne skewer him on the spot is going to come back to bite her; she’s now a variable Littlefinger can’t control, which means she’s an obstacle in his plan to… get the Iron Throne? Is that what he’s after? Because there are about 200 steps between where he is now and getting there, so he must have one hell of a plan.
Speaking of Sansa, this season seems to be on a bit of a feminism kick between her rise in the north, Yara trying to become Queen of the Iron Islands, the distinctly misogynistic bent to the Faith Militant’s actions, and Dany being told she can’t rule the Dothraki because she’s a woman and her being all “lol actually I’m going to burn you all to death with my magic flamethrower braziers (seriously, what was in those things?)”.
I… guess this is a good thing? I dunno, it depends on where the show ultimately goes with it. I wonder if this is all going to be in the next book, or if it’s the show-runners responding to criticism now that they’re out from under the source material.
Episode five is what I really want to talk about, because it marks the point where the series stops dancing around the supernatural fantasy elements and just dives right in. From the beginning, Game of Thrones has been packaged, presented and sold as not being like That Other Fantasy, with the magic spells and wizards and dragons. I mean, there are magic spells and dragons, but they’re, like, hardcore.
And now honest to god psychic time travel has been introduced, and there’s no going back from that.
First, we learn the origin of the White Walkers, which I was honestly not expecting to happen ever. I’m guessing this is also the origin of Westeros’ deadly winter as well, although that wasn’t explicitly confirmed. Then the Night’s King, his knights and hordes of ice zombies invade the Three-Eyed Raven’s cave and it’s all psychic visions and cool ice swords and exploding magic orbs and Bran being some sort of chosen one or something as far as the eye can see. All of a sudden the Night’s King has stopped being this abstract entity off in the far north and is acting like fucking Voldemort, coming to murder one of the heroes with sick ice magic.
And then there’s all the stuff with Hodor. Taking a seemingly inconsequential background detail and revealing it to be massively important is the sort of thing Those Other Kinds of Fantasy Novels do; revealing said detail through the medium of psychic time-travel mind control powers is the sort of thing that exceptionally stupid Other Kinds of Fantasy Novels do, and I couldn’t be happier about that. We’ve had five seasons of people scheming in back rooms and stabbing each other in the throat; bring on the fantasy bullshit. I will happily swim in convoluted magical claptrap.
Oh, and the show has finally found a way to make character deaths shocking again. After how long he was built up, the Three-Eyed Raven seemed like he’d be sticking around to the end of the season at least, while Hodor was widely assumed to be more or less untouchable; the fact that they both died in the same episode was genuinely unexpected. They fact that they got taken out by death metal ice zombies while (sort of) performing heroic sacrifices was just stupidly awesome in a way that I didn’t think the show had the capacity for.
The only let-down in all of this is that the show is still being maddeningly coy about what the Three-Eyed Raven actually wanted Bran for; the last conversation they had implies that he’s now told Bran what all of this business is about, but we the audience haven’t been made privy to that information, which feels like a bit of a cheat.
So, prediction time:
- What’s her face the Red Priestess went on a spiel about people being where they’re supposed to be and events being fore-ordained, and at the end of the episode we got solid proof that this is indeed true in some cases. I’m guessing whatever magic or force or entity gave Bran his powers is the same one the Red Priests are worshipping, either in different guises or filtered through a fallible human interpretation.
- We’re not actually going to see Jorah again. Bye Jorah!
- Littlefinger will throw a spanner into Sansa and Jon’s military plans, probably by interfering with the Vale’s incoming reinforcements in some way (assassinating creepy prince dude?)