Monday, April 13, 2015

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: The Wars to Come

"The freedom to make my own mistakes is all I ever wanted."
Well we're back. Season Five is underway. We open up with a flashback memory as ten year old Cersei bullies her friend into accompanying her to visit a local witch who can supposedly see the future. Using the ever effective threat of an angry Tywin Lannister, the young Cersei makes the witch tell of Cersei's future. It's grim. Not only will she not marry Prince Rhaegar but her future husband will be a king who has twenty children while she will only have three. All of her children will have golden crowns and golden shrouds. A younger more beautiful queen will eventually cast Cersei down. This prophecy helps explain why Cersei, who clearly was already a bad seed as a child, has become such a paranoid and vindictive adult with an especial dislike for Margaery. Visiting her father's body before the public viewing, Cersei blames Jaime for releasing Tyrion and urges him to find their little brother. Jaime is well aware that Tywin's death will embolden Lannister enemies. Twyin was a bada$$ but now he's just a dead bada$$. At the wake Cersei can barely tolerate the fake condolences and murmurs of support. She's drinking herself into numbness. Cersei is stunned to see her cousin and former lover Lancel, who has joined the religious fundamentalist group known as the Sparrows. Judging by Lancel's appearance these people appear to be into poverty, chastity and bad haircuts. Lancel tells Cersei that he truly regrets playing "Mama's got a squeezebox" with a close relative and one who was married. He also is contrite about helping her to murder the king. He wants her forgiveness and for her to confess her sins. Unsurprisingly, Cersei is not huge on the whole confession thingie and denies knowing what Lancel is talking about. To be fair, confession really didn't work out so well for Ned Stark, now did it?


Margaery may pretend innocence with King Tommen but we're reminded again it's all an act when we see her interrupt Loras and his lover. Showing a disturbing lack of respect for familial privacy Margaery sits on the bed and forces the other man to leave. She wants to talk to Loras in private. She tells Loras that he should be more discreet with his boy toys but Loras sees no reason to do that now that Tywin is dead and Loras' forced marriage to Cersei is likely off. In fact the more open Loras is about his sexuality the lower the chances of marrying Cersei are. Loras feels liberated and unafraid. No dummy, Loras quickly realizes that Margaery wants Cersei married and far away from King's Landing and her. The siblings' interests are diverging. In the Vale Brienne is depressed about losing Arya and is venting her frustration on Podrick. She's tired of having him around and looking up to her. Podrick reminds her that she swore to find both Stark girls. Sansa (with Littlefinger) is traveling just a few hundred yards away from Brienne and Podrick. Lord Pervert and his charge have left Robin Arryn with Lord Royce after Littlefinger received a message which he notably declined to share with anyone. As Sansa later noticed, Littlefinger told Lord Royce they were going somewhere other than their true destination, which appears to be The North. We'll see. In Pentos while Tyrion grumbles over the indignity of spending the entire sea voyage in a box and the horrors of having murdered Tywin and Shae, Varys plays him the world's smallest violin. 


Varys openly admits that he's been working for the restoration of the Targaryens because Robert Baratheon was a crappy king. He thinks that Tyrion could help with that goal. Varys, like Littlefinger, is a remarkably pragmatic individual, though he seems to lack Littlefinger's deliberate cruelty. Or does he? I mean who could have predicted that a released Tyrion would confront and kill Tywin? In Meereen, an Unsullied soldier goes to a brothel. He just wants some snuggling but once he relaxes he's murdered by a pro-slavery reactionary. These people are known as the Sons of the Harpy. Missandei queries Grey Worm as to why an Unsullied would go to a brothel. This is her way of asking Grey Worm if he just lost his berries or did he lose root and stem. Grey Worm declines to answer THAT question. Daenerys continues to learn that leadership doesn't just mean that everyone does what you say. Hizdahr zo Loraq has returned from Yunkai and pronounced the diplomacy a success. He and the leaders of Yunkai do have one request though. They want to reopen the fighting pits, this time with free men, instead of slaves, though in truth almost of the fighters will be former slaves. Finding the idea abhorrent Daenerys peremptorily refuses.


However later after her special "adult time" with Daario, she learns from Daario that the fighting pits are part of the culture. Daario's a veteran of the pits. He thinks the pits were a good thing. Daario suggests that Daenerys show her strength not by keeping the fighting pits closed but rather by openly displaying the dragons again. Daenerys visits the cave where she chained two of her dragons. They're larger than before and don't exactly appear happy to see their "mother". If you think unruly mastiffs are an issue try having untrained dragons. You are probably aware that people give each other a look when they want to do the do. Melisandre, appearing like she stepped out of an erectile dysfunction commercial, gives that look to Jon Snow when she summons him from training to meet Stannis. She even inquires if he is a virgin, and is pleased to learn that he isn't. Mercifully Stannis isn't interested in Jon's sex life but rather his political value. Stannis reminds Jon that Jon is the illegitimate son of Ned Stark. The traitor Roose Bolton, who murdered Jon's brother Robb Stark, now holds Winterfell. As everyone who saw Roose murder Robb is either dead or allied with the cautious Roose, one wonders exactly how Stannis would know these precise details. Did the normally circumspect Roose send out messages boasting that he stabbed Robb through the heart? Anyway Jon isn't having it, reminding Stannis, Davos and Melisandre that he is a member of the Night's Watch and thus beyond revenge or inheritances.

Davos points out that Jon is not necessarily a well liked member of the Night's Watch, particularly by such men as Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt. As Jon won't be tempted by Winterfell, Stannis appeals to his sense of compassion for the wildlings. Stannis intends to dispose of Roose Bolton but needs additional men to do that. He wants to add the wildings to his army. In return he will allow them to settle south of the Wall and become citizens. It's a good deal. But Stannis being Stannis he insists that the wildling leader Mance bend the knee. Convinced that the wellbeing of the wildings is more important than any principle, Jon tries to persuade Mance Rayder to kneel to Stannis and to authorize the wildings to fight for Stannis. In the episode's most powerful and moving scene Mance bluntly refuses. Jon accuses him of putting his pride above everything else. Mance rejects that frame. It's not about his personal pride. To bend the knee to a king would be to betray the whole Free Folk ethos. Mance would lose his people's respect and involve them in someone else's war. Why should they bleed for other people? Mance embodies the New Hampshire state motto. Stannis respects this but still orders Melisandre, arrayed in her typical cleavage bearing gown, to burn Mance alive. Disgusted, Jon puts Mance out of his misery before the flames can finish doing their work.


What I liked
  • As Jaime pointed out, Tywin can't inspire fear from beyond the grave. Without the dominant personality of Tywin to compel obedience, many people will feel entitled to push back against the dwindling(?) Lannister power. 
  • It's one thing to die in battle. You may never see the sword or spear with your name on it. But to be imprisoned and have time to consider your own death is another thing entirely. Mance is scared because being burned alive is a horrible fate. But like any martyr he holds true to his beliefs even at the cost of his own life. How many people would do such a thing? 
  • Varys being atypically confident and direct with Tyrion. No simpering. Straight honest talk. 
  • Daenerys initially claiming that as she wasn't a politician she did not need to worry about pleasing people or making alliances. After all she won. Well like every other executive, elected or not, she will see that it's always easier when people buy into your program. 
  • The calmness of the fanatic/true believer as exemplified by Melisandre and Lancel is disturbing. They simply aren't able to be reasoned with or influenced by material considerations. You are either with them or against them. Period.
What I didn't like
  • I wonder if the producers were sensitive to charges of too much female nudity. Anyhow this episode had more male butt than a toilet seat in a Turkish bathhouse. Not really my thing but if you like seeing this, this was an episode you didn't want to miss. 
  • Varys was too chatty with Tyrion . It seemed a bit too much out of character. It felt like an unnecessary information dump. 
  • Tyrion's self-pity party.
*This post is written for discussion of this episode and previous episodes.  If you have book based knowledge of future events or have seen future leaked episodes please be kind enough not to discuss that here NO SPOILERS. NO BOOK DERIVED HINTS ABOUT FUTURE EVENTS. Most of my blog partners have not read the books and would take spoilers most unkindly. Heads, spikes, well you get the idea....
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