This was what we call a bottle episode…and not just because I (and no doubt many others) wanted to crawl into a bottle on Sunday night. It was not top of my list to write about a violent show that evening. The violence is always my least favorite aspect of Game of Thrones, and fortunately it wasn’t the worst in terms of violence. It was also a pretty lame episode overall. All the more reason to drink up.
The Hound Gets Vengeance
Last week, some rogue Brothers Without Banners slaughtered a group of peaceful villagers—so peaceful, that their leader, Ray, was willing to die rather than be violent, and yet we were left with the sense that he died with horror and regret. That was hard enough to watch; it would have been unbearable this week. This week, we see the aftermath, with The Hound tracking down the men responsible (and a few others). He did his best Jason Voorhees impression, walking right up and mercilessly ripping them each a new one. And because the leaders of the Brotherhood, Beric Dondarrion and Thoros the Red Priest, allowed the Hound his vengeance against the remaining perpetrators (mostly), he actually reconciles with and may join them as they march against what’s coming from the north.
They wasted a good bit of time with The Hound’s first victims, having them joke crassly (and homoerotically) before getting splattered. It was pretty bad, but it actually wasn’t the worst joke session of the episode.
Tyrion Should Not Quit His Day Job If He Doesn’t Lose It
ANOTHER mirthless joke session with Tyrion, Missandei and Grey Worm. Tyrion insists on them drinking and telling re-purposed ethnic jokes and absolutely nothing worthwhile happens. We’re just bored and annoyed that with how rushed certain things have been and how much has been jammed in from so many different storylines, we have to endure this. It’s bad writing on multiple levels.
Things don’t get better in other scenes with Tyrion. As he walks with Varys to survey the temporary peace in the city, the latter is still ambivalent about the pact made with Kinvara and the Red Church to spread the gospel of Daenerys to the commoners. It’s one way of foreshadowing future problems, but everything is stiff and dull and then it feels like the end of a B-grade buddy comedy when Varys slinks off on a secret mission…Something about allying with someone with a fleet. That could be at least two people at this point, both being Lovejoys, but I’m too bored to speculate which.
When the peace is shattered by an attack by the masters of the other slave cities and their own fleet (complete with flame catapults), Tyrion is utterly inarticulate and bumbling in a way that almost seems out of character. It’s not so bad that we wish he were telling jokes and waxing poetic about the vineyard he’d love to have…but almost!
It’s a relief when, finally, Daenerys arrives via Drogon at the top of the pyramid where the leaders have taken refuge. She walks in, looks pissed, and…
Scene. That’s all we get from her this episode, and given that the next episode looks to be entirely devoted to the battle at Winterfell, I’m guessing we’ll see the battle at Meereen brought to some swift end in the season finale. There will be death from above, I’m sure.
Riverrun Is As Anticlimactic As Expected
Again…Bottle Episode. The CGI budget was especially limited this time, based on how laughably bad the landscape Riverrun looked as Brienne and Podrick arrived.
I didn’t get much right in my predictions for this week, but I was 80 percent right about the siege at Riverrun. It ended without a battle, thanks to Edmure Tully being used by Jaime Lannister. (Accurate) The Blackfish dies and Brienne goes home empty-handed and forlorn. (Accurate) She and Jaime reunite and have a small spat, but it’s actually cool between them. (Accurate enough.) But the Freys keep the castle. And what I thought was Gendry in the preview was just Podrick getting hazed by Bronn…in another fairly pointless scene.
At least it’s over, and Jaime gets his wish: He can go back to King’s Landing to be with Cersei. And he’d better hurry up, because…
Cersei Is Up A Creek
When some Sparrows led by Lancel Lannister try to take Cersei back to prison to await trial, Ser Strong does his thing and rips the head off of the most aggressive of the lot. Cersei gets to stay put, but the incident makes clear that her secret weapon would mean her automatic acquittal in trial by combat. That doesn’t sit well with the High Sparrow‘s plans, so off-screen he talks King Tommen into abolishing the practice of trial by combat. In a public decree, and while refusing to look plainly at his mother, he pretty much dooms Loris Tyrell and her to a kangaroo court led by the Septons.
It’s the kind of slimy move we expect from the Sparrows (a bald power play disguised as a move toward greater equity and away from barbarism), but it seems uncharacteristic of Tommen to be so completely taken in by these things when he knows full well that it will convict his mother…which does not square with the way he spoke to her at the beginning of the season as they wept over the loss of Mirsella, the state of the kingdom and their need to be loyal to each other. He’s weak, but he’s not that stupid and fickle.
Whatever. My prediction still stands that he dies in the finale. Cersei loses her last child, and under the circumstances it may be the final sacrifice made for her own life. As Jaime mentions to Edmure, Cersei and Catelyn Stark both loved their children more than life itself. Thanks to the Lannisters, Catelyn got to witness the death of her eldest son before having her own throat cut, while Cersei still had all three. Robb was the first and last Stark child to die (I think Rickon is soon to die, too), but most of the Stark kids are alive and fiercer than ever. Funny how things work out…
Arya Says Farewell to No One
In fact, the episode begins with that play in Braavos again. Lady Crane is playing Cersei as she holds the dead Joffrey, bringing the audience to tears with her sorrow and rage. Afterwards, she finds Arya bleeding out in the dressing room, following The Waif‘s attack (too obvious to call it a sneak attack). The actress mends Arya, who turns out to be a miraculously fast healer. In a matter of days, she’s able to leap from the balcony and run when The Waif shows up and gruesomely kills Lady Crane before chasing Arya (bleeding again) back to her little lair. We don’t see the fight…and neither do they, as Arya whips off the lights with Needle. The next thing we see is Jaqen H’ghar following a trail of blood through The House of Black and White, alllll the way to the inner sanctum where a new face has been added to the wall…The Waif’s. It’s so gruesomely peeled that one doubts it will be used as a mask.
Arya appears and holds him at swordpoint, and he coyly suggests that her training is complete. She’s not drinking the wellwater anymore, though. She’s not No One; she’s full on Arya, and she’s going home. He nods, satisfied with the progress of his protege, ambivalent about her leaving.
And that was that. We may get a glimpse of her in the finale, but with everything else that needs to be resolved at King’s Landing, Meereen and north of the wall (not to mention Winterfell), we’ll probably next see Arya back in Westeros. That’s an exciting development for the plot…a mostly full Stark family reunion in the works. So even if the episode was a dud, one can be hopeful for the future.
Kind of like how I feel about the world in general after Sunday. We can leave the bottle episode behind. Just leave the bottle with me.