Monday, May 30, 2016

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: Blood of My Blood

The show has moved past the published books, but nevertheless still has a few plot lines from the published books to explore. Although I think some of these worked better than others I am impressed with how well the show does with some themes that bored me to tears on the written page. But then again there are also some story lines which seem to be pretty circular. More on that in a moment. Anyhow we open up with Meera doing her best to drag Bran and his cart through the snowy forest. But Meera is not Brienne. And Bran is not a little kid anymore. Meera does her best but the walking dead are gaining on her and Bran. Bran is time traveling again but this time he's seeing events happen almost all at once. He's seeing his father's murder, the Mad King's pronouncements and death, battles, etc. The cart gets stuck. Meera is exhausted and finally can't go on any longer. At that point a horseman with a covered face rides up. He has a flaming flail which he puts to good use against the dead. He seemingly effortlessly lifts Bran and Meera onto the horse and rides off. Later on this fellow, who doesn't quite look all that healthy, kills a rabbit for food while telling Bran the last time that he saw him he was much younger. Yes you guessed it. It's long lost uncle Benjen Stark. When last seen Benjen was leading an expedition north of the Wall looking for White Walkers. Well he found them. He got a spear through his guts for his troubles. But the Children of the Forest healed him or rather, slowed the change from human to Wight. Benjen is certainly not completely human anymore. But neither is he the walking dead. He's something else. Benjen says that the Three Eyed Raven summoned him to protect Bran. And since he says Bran is the Three Eyed Raven now it's not clear if Bran has always been the Three Eyed Raven or if Benjen was referring to the previous man with that title. Bran says he's not ready but Benjen says that the Night King will come to the Wall where Bran will meet him. Only all of human existence may rest on Bran's shoulders.That doesn't look good for the humans, let me tell you.
Sam and Gilly are riding to Sam's home of Horn Hill. They have what appears to be an official escort. Sam yammers on about different trees and climates throughout Westeros but Gilly can tell that he's just talking because he's nervous. That's okay as she finds that preferable to uncomfortable silences. Sam reminds Gilly that it's a matter of some importance to remember that (1) as far as his family is concerned Sam Jr. is his biological son and (2) Gilly doesn't need to mention that she's a wildling. Sam's father Randyll, who is apparently one fierce dude, doesn't like wildlings. Sam is apprehensive of seeing his father again. Being around people who promise to kill you unless you leave home will do that I guess. Upon arrival Sam's mother and sister are happy to see him. His father and brother are out hunting. At the family dinner Gilly is uncomfortable with the finery and the silverware while Sam is downright petrified. Do you remember the last time one of your parents was really angry or frustrated with you? I don't mean normal annoyance but actual rage or contempt. Well multiply that by about ten thousand and you'll still not reach the intensity of the "What a putz" death glare that Randyll Tarly is giving his first born son. He doesn't think the Night's Watch has changed Sam at all. Randyll is direct and surprisingly canny. He's unimpressed with Sam's stories of small game hunting. When Sam asks for more bread from his mother his father interrupts to say "I guess you aren't fat enough already." Gilly can't take any more of this. She tells Randyll of Sam's deeds of daring, including protecting her north of the Wall and killing White Walkers and Thenns.
Well nobody believes in White Walkers, but Randyll picks up on the "north of the Wall" slip that Gilly made. He figures out that she is a wildling. He is disgusted that his son is literally sleeping with the enemy. He says that he thought Gilly was just a Molestown whore but apparently he overestimated his son. Imagine that. The women leave the dinner table., disappointed with Randyll's biting cruelty. Randyll gets down to brass tacks. He says that it's disgraceful that Sam brought such a woman to his dinner table. Gilly can stay and work in the kitchens but Sam needs to leave. He is not welcome. Not now. Not ever. Sam meekly accepts this. Later on Gilly tries to cheer up Sam. Sam apologizes for not standing up to his Dad. He says that making sure that she and Sam Jr. are safe is the most important thing. He leaves. But then showing he has some stones after all Sam says f*** it and comes back for Gilly and Sam Jr. He also takes his father's prized Valyrian sword, Heartsbane. Sam says that if Daddy wants it back he can come and get it. Tommen goes to see the High Sparrow (THS). Tommen is not happy about Margaery's upcoming walk of shame. Tommen is trying to find a way to stop this. THS lets Tommen see Margaery. Margaery is very calm. She speaks in platitudes. She claims THS has actually helped her understand and deal with her sins. Tommen's confused as usual. Margaery says that everyone needs to atone. Margaery seems to be bursting with happiness of all things. Jaime watches the Tyrell army enter, led by Mace Tyrell. The true Tyrell leader, Olenna, is in a coach listening to her son's bluster. No one seems super inspired by Mace's speech but orders are orders. Spears are lowered and shields are raised. Margaery, attended by THS and surrounded by crowds and the Faith Militant, is about to start her walk when Jaime, virtually radiating bad intentions, rides up to THS and tells him to back down. Give up Margarey and Loras or there will be blood. 
THS tells Jaime to a) come get one in the yarbles and b) he and his don't fear death, they welcome it. There's some more "Yeah you're gonna do what???" tough guy talk before THS seemingly backs down. He says there will be no walk of atonement for Margaery. But the reason for this is that THS says that Margaery has atoned by bringing someone else into the true light of faith. The doors of the Sept open and out walks Tommen, with Kingsguard wearing the seven pointed star of the faith. Mace doesn't understand but his mother peevishly tells him that THS has beaten them again. Shortly after this clusterf***, Tommen removes Jaime as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. Attacking the faith is a big no-no. He's sending Jaime out of the city to go take Riverrun back. It seems that Littlefinger was telling the truth about the Tully regrouping. Later on, as the incest doublemint twins engage in foreplay, Jaime tells his sister that rather than leave her to go to the Riverlands, he'd rather kill THS. He thinks he can hire Bronn and a few good men to do that. Cersei, of all people, counsels patience. Sometimes you must smile in your enemies' faces. Jaime is worried about his sister's upcoming trial but she reminds him that she has the (undead) Mountain. We cut away before the twincest commences in earnest. Speaking of Riverrun Walder Frey is very angry that his sons have lost Riverrun and allowed the Blackfish (Catelyn's uncle) to make it a center of resistance. Walder reminds them that the Tullys have lorded it over the Freys for three centuries, but that the Red Wedding should have put an end to that. The Frey sons protest that it's not their fault but that some other families are rising up in support of the Blackfish. Sounding like several middle managers I have known Walder says that it IS their fault. Don't give him any excuses or bring him any bad news. He's tired of people laughing at the Freys. He tells his sons to make the Blackfish yield or else. To help them on this mission he tells them to take Edmure Tully with them and threaten his life.
In Braavos Arya watches the actors depict the events of the Purple Wedding, where Joffrey died. She likes seeing Joffrey die. She's impressed by Lady Crane's soliloquy as Cersei. The actress playing Sansa also watches Lady Crane closely even though she's not in the scene. Arya steals backstage. After a brief period of hesitation she poisons Lady Crane's rum. The play is over. The actors, excited and squabbling as usual, come backstage. One of the interesting thing about humans is that we are prone to recognizing faces after we've seen them a few times. Lady Crane recognizes Arya. Arya claims to be a fan named Mercy and even suggests a few changes to the script. Lady Crane is amused. She says she can only work with what she's given. THIS statement causes a big fight as one of the other actors, who apparently doubles as writer, takes offense. He's sarcastic about his writing not being good enough for an actress of Lady Crane's talents but it will have to do won't it? Resentments flare all around as the other actors seem to know that Lady Crane is better than they are. But Arya has deduced who wants Lady Crane dead. Arya's made a decision. She slaps the poisoned drink out of Lady Crane's hands. Arya points to the actress playing Sansa and tells Lady Crane to be careful of her, she wants you dead. However the Waif has also infiltrated the troupe. As you might expect she can't wait to run and tell Jaqen H'ghar what went down. Busy slicing a face off a corpse Jaqen says Arya's desertion is a shame because she had gifts. Oh well. He tells the Waif that when she kills Arya, don't let her suffer. Meanwhile Arya has retrieved her sword Needle. She's hiding out underground. In what I thought was the night's most pointless scene Daenerys reunites with Drogon. In a deliberate echo to her husband Khal Drogo's speech she asks her men if they will cross the black sea, kill the men in the iron suits and tear down their stone houses. When they reply in the affirmative she tells them that they are all her bloodriders. She will ask them more than any Khal has ever asked but they will accomplish more than anyone else ever has.

What I liked
  • The conclusion of the Arya training storyline. She's Arya, not no one. It might have been more effective if we had ever had any doubt that she wasn't but so it goes.
  • Randyll Tarly was everything that I imagined he would be. That "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" scene was well written and well acted. No death. No nudity. No magic. Just uncomfortable family dynamics.
  • The show seems to do better, even though this episode was mostly transitional, when it cuts down on jumping between multiple scenes.
  • Margaery is playing a long game. I'm not sure how it works yet but she knows that she can't trust Tommen to stand up for her. And she loves her brother very much. Of course Margaery didn't know of her father's and grandmother's plans.
  • Good to see Walder Frey again. I wish him a slow painful humiliating death but it was still good to see him.
  • Interested to see where this Tully last stand goes.
  • The Daario throwaway line that Daenerys is a conqueror, not ruler could portend some changes in how the show depicts Daenerys. She's mostly been seen thru the lens of grrlpower and rightful ruler and liberator of slaves but that might not be how the people at the bottom see her. Remember that Robb Stark was the good guy but as that scene with Brienne showed us Robb had rapists and murderers in his army. You don't engage in war without harming innocents.
What I didn't like
  • The Daenerys travelogues are starting to get more than tedious. Surprise the nasty misogynist men who underestimate you? Give inspiring speech? Burn enemies? Been there done that. Less talking more doing.
  • As long as Uncle Benjen is going to show up just in time why couldn't he have been there before Hodor and Summer went the way of all flesh?
  • Wouldn't Cersei and Jaime and Olenna have figured out by now that Tommen is the weak sister of the group. They should have ensured that Tommen was kept away from THS.
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