Monday, May 11, 2015

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: Kill the Boy

"Kill the boy and let the man be born."
The Unsullied are said to be the finest warriors in the world. They ask for no quarter and give none. And yet so far they've yet to impress with their battles against the lightly armed and generally unarmored Sons of the Harpy. One reason for this is that the Unsullied are not designed or trained for police or occupation duties. As mentioned before, seven to nine foot spears can be devastating when properly massed on a battlefield. But in a street fight the weapons and tactics of The Unsullied might be more hindrance than help. The Sons of the Harpy have forced The Unsullied to fight when and where their supposed advantages are neutralized. GRRM and to a lesser extent the show creators are apparently making commentary on the types of wars the US and other Western colonial nations have fought since World War Two. Often the stronger military is unable to completely or thoroughly defeat the indigenous resistance and must come to terms of some kind. Sometimes they even get ignominiously kicked out. The White Man's Burden gets heavier and heavier over time. Obviously Daenerys Targaryen doesn't see herself as a colonialist. She thinks of herself as a liberator. Her primary opposition is more akin to the southern terrorists in post-Civil War America than it is to the Kenyan struggle against British colonialists. All the same she is down two of her military leaders thanks to the rebellious Sons of the Harpy. Ser Barristan is dead while Grey Worm is unconscious for three days. Angered, Daenerys flirts with the idea of just feeding all of the upper class leaders to her dragons, whether they are guilty or not. She makes an object lesson of one. The dragons burn him alive and squabble over the smoking remains. The others, including Hizdahr, are arrested and imprisoned.  Daario thinks that Daenerys needs to retrench in one section of the city and slowly go house to house looking for insurgents Sons of the Harpy.

When Grey Worm finally wakes up he's sad to learn of Barristan's death and the deaths of his men but he's happy to have Missandei hovering over his bed. Most men would be happy to see her I think. Supposedly the only thing Grey Worm feared was not seeing Missandei again. Impressed and apparently a little turned on, Missandei kisses Grey Worm. It's all good. But again as one of the prime requirements of being Unsullied is that Grey Worm didn't get to keep his little grey worm, one wonders what the point of all this is. Grey Worm has no love gun. He doesn't have anything in his pockets that keeps a lot of folks alive. He can't be Missandei's driver and ride her wonderful machine. No matter how much Missandei calls his name, Grey Worm can't be her sledgehammer. So this whole subplot seems pointless. Later on, perhaps feeling a little guilty at having summarily executed someone who, while likely politically opposed to her, had not been proven guilty of anything, Daenerys asks Missandei for advice. Well like anyone else who would like their head to remain attached to their shoulders and not become brunch for hungry dragons, Missandei tells Daenerys that Daenerys' impulses have often been wiser than those of her advisers. Daenerys goes to see the imprisoned Hizdahr. She admits she may have been a tad hasty with the whole feeding people to dragons thing. She remembers how Ser Barristan advised patience and mercy. So Daenerys agrees to re-open the fighting pits to free men only. She also decides to marry the representative of an old respected upper class family in order to make her rule more palatable. That lucky groom would be Hizdahr.

Speaking of political marriages to old respected families, Myranda and Ramsay Snow are evidently taking a short breather from doing the do when Myranda explains that she's not very happy about Ramsay's upcoming marriage to Sansa Stark. She explains this while standing nude at a window, which doesn't quite seem to make sense but for those keeping count there is male nudity here as well. Ramsay reminds Myranda that although he still intends to keep her as a mistress, she's only a kennel keeper's daughter and would be wise not to irritate or bore him. He's getting married and that's that. He doesn't want to hear her mouth on the matter. After some mild pouting, Myranda bites Ramsay. It's time for more nasty S/M sex. Sansa hears from yet another servant that she has friends around and to light a candle in the highest window of the broken tower should she ever be in dire straits. OK. This is starting to irritate me a bit. When we last saw Winterfell it had been occupied by the Greyjoys and later sacked by the Boltons. All the inhabitants were dead or had fled. So where are all these Stark loyalists in Winterfell supposed to have come from? Even if the Boltons had taken them away to the Dreadfort, would it make sense to allow them back at Winterfell? Brienne watches from afar and finds another Stark loyalist to carry a message to Sansa Stark, over Podrick's feeble objections. Anyhow Myranda catches up with Sansa at the broken tower. There's some awkwardness as Sansa can sense that this girl doesn't really like her. When Sansa says things are different Myranda enthusiastically agrees with that assessment. She directs Sansa to a crate in the kennels where there is a surprise waiting for her that will hopefully help her remember just how different things are now. That surprise is Theon, who, caked in his own filth and that of the dogs, won't answer to his name.
Later Sansa has dinner with the Boltons. To mess with Sansa and Theon, Ramsay has Theon do all the serving for dinner and apologize to Sansa for murdering her brothers. (The viewers, Ramsay, Roose and Theon know this isn't true but Sansa doesn't). Given the emphasis Ramsay continues to put on the repeated phrase "he murdered your brothers" it's pretty obvious that he's employing some twisted psychological torture against both Sansa and Theon. Sansa is after all sitting directly across from Roose Bolton, who murdered Sansa's brother Robb. But the sight of Theon or Walda's clueless remark about Sansa being in a strange home have no visible impact on Sansa, who says (paraphrase) "I'm not in a strange home. Winterfell is my home. It's the people who are strange." Not satisfied with the relative lack of response from Sansa, Ramsay announces that as Theon or Reek as he calls him is the closest thing to a relative that Sansa still has, that Theon will give away Sansa at the wedding. This finally gets a response from Roose, who coolly announces that his wife Walda is pregnant. It's probably a boy. Ramsay isn't happy about this at all. He doesn't want any other heirs. Afterwards, in a private meeting with his father, Ramsay crudely insults his mother-in-law's weight and questions how Roose managed to impregnate her. Roose finds Ramsay boorish. He thought Ramsay's baiting of Sansa unnecessary. He also doesn't care to have his wife mocked. Showing that his depths of cruelty are far deeper and more refined than Ramsay's, Roose reveals that he raped Ramsay's low born mother (a miller's wife). He killed the miller. He considered killing both the woman and the baby Ramsay when the woman showed up at his doorstep a year later. He decided against killing Ramsay because Ramsay looked like him. But that's all the past. Stannis is coming. Roose wants Ramsay's help. Bolton family values at their finest folks.

At the Wall Sam is reading information about Daenerys to Maester Aemon, who is upset that Daenerys stands by herself as the last Targaryen. Jon enters and wants to speak to Aemon alone. He wants some advice but Aemon tells Jon that he must man up and make his own decisions."Kill the boy" is how he puts it. Many people will dislike Jon as Lord Commander. There won't be any joy. But he may find strength. Aemon is not interested in being a wet nurse to a Lord Commander. Jon has reached a decision. It's not popular. Jon decides that the Wall's purpose isn't to protect the Seven Kingdoms from the wildlings but to protect all of Westeros from the White Walkers. Allowing the White Walkers to attack and convert the wildlings would be bad. So Jon has asked Tormund to lead the wildlings thru the Wall to resettle lands south of the Wall. Tormund agrees provided Jon accompany him to show good faith. But Jon's Night's Watch brethren don't like this idea. Not one stinking bit. There's too much bad blood. They've been fighting the wildlings for generations. They've lost loved ones (Night's Watch members and actual blood relations) to the wildling attacks and raids. Even Jon's supporters like the boy Olyvar are not in support of this decision. Seeing your parents murdered and butchered in front of you can have that impression on you. Olyvar's pain and disappointment in Jon is visceral. Despite Sam's non-martial appearance Stannis is impressed with the fact that Sam killed a White Walker and urges him to continue his research on how and why White Walkers are vulnerable to obsidian. Stannis decides the time has come to march on Winterfell. He's bringing Shireen, Selyse and Melisandre with him. He thinks they're safer with him than hanging around men who haven't seen women in years and/or are rapists and thieves.

Jorah and Tyrion are taking the long way around to Meereen, sailing close to the ruins of ancient Valyria, the ancestral homeland of the Targaryens, and something akin to Numenor/Atlantis in GRRM's legendarium. Jorah hopes to avoid pirates and really other people altogether. Tyrion still wants some wine. Drinking is what he does. Tyrion sees Drogo flying by. Tyrion is reciting a poem about the doom of Valyria which Jorah also knows. This halting attempt at some sort of reconciliation is interrupted when the Stone men (insane humans completely given over to greyscale) attack. They are contagious. They can spread greyscale just by touching you. Neither Jorah nor Tyrion are wearing full body armor. A desperate fight ensues during which Tyrion is knocked overboard. As he struggles for air a dying Stone man pulls him deeper. Tyrion blacks out. But we learn that he's still alive. He's on the beach. Jorah saved him. Jorah wants to know if anyone touched Tyrion. Tyrion lies and says no. Jorah also denies having been touched. Jorah says that for now they will continue their journey on foot. But Jorah wasn't truthful about his condition either. We see that he was touched and has the first markings of the greyscale infection.

What I liked
  • Little hints that despite her "good" nature, Daenerys may well have some of the same capriciousness and cruelty as her father.
  • A blink and you missed it shout out to a fan favorite theory.
  • Most of the story was given over to the political situation in the North. I found these sections to be the most compelling.
  • I like that I don't know what's coming next in the story even if some people (like GRRM's editor Jane Johnson) are not super happy with divergences from the books.
  • Myranda's reintroduction of Theon to Sansa was fantastically creepy in the best horror movie sense. Myranda is not someone you turn your back on or let near your food.
  • It's worth pointing out that legends claim that the Wall was built by Bran the Builder, the supposed founder of House Stark. Who better than another scion of House Stark to decide what the purpose of the Wall should be?
  • Stannis the grammar Nazi remarking on the correct usage of less and fewer.
  • Davos' quiet but solid loyalty. He's honest and will tell you when he thinks you're wrong. But if he's with you he's with you for life.

What I didn't like
  • Given the implacable hatred towards the wildings shared by most of the Night's Watch I wished this episode or some of the previous ones could have taken some more time to portray Jon struggling with the idea of letting the wildings thru the Wall. This is a huge step. I don't think that the show explained enough why Jon wanted to do this. Jon certainly didn't make a compelling case to his brethren. Not at all.
  • Rather than show Stark loyalists working and serving in/around Winterfell I would rather have seen a few of the northern lords who are Stark diehards away in their own castles and holdfasts pondering their options.

*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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