Thoughts on HBO’s Game of Thrones, Season 6, Episode 7, “The Broken Man”

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Thoughts below the cut to avoid spoilers, as per usual:

I almost feel as if I watched two separate episodes this week – one that I liked very much, because it had compelling characters acting in ways that felt true to their character, and another that I felt immensely frustrated by, because it had the raw materials for glory and yet was failed by clumsy plotting, poor characterization, or just missed opportunities.

So let’s start with what I liked about the episode:

The North:

  • Finally, finally, finally, (link) after seasons of depicting Northern politics in an opaque or uninteresting fashion, we got an episode absolutely crammed with great material. I’ll get into the specifics in a second, but I liked that, throughout, you saw people wrestling with both their immediate interests, their ideologies, their past experiences, etc.
  • The wildlings were interesting as both a political asset and a political liability, but also as people who have their own sense of their interests. The push-pull between “this isn’t our fight,” (technically true but founded on an unrealistic isolation that isn’t going to fly south of the Wall) and Jon’s argument that a Bolton-ruled North will destroy the Wildlings whether they fight or no, felt very real. And I loved Wun-Wun ending the debate with a single vote.
  • I loved the Bear Island sequence, both because Lyanna Mormont is a tiny badass, but also for the complexity of Northern politics that the scene showed: the complexities of what it means to be a Stark in Jon and Sansa’s complex cases, how Lyanna is trying to balance the best interests of a small but proud House, and Davos’ arguments about how our political interests need to be recalibrated in the face of the Night’s King’s existential threat.
  • The Deepwood Motte sequence was also interesting, although I felt a bit more frustrated by the arguments that Jon and co were putting forward. On the one hand, Robett Glover has a point in that House Glover has suffered in the service of the Starks. On the other hand, I’m really surprised that neither Jon nor Sansa argued more forcefully that much of House Glover’s losses happened because of the Boltons attacking them at the Red Wedding.
  • Totally not surprised that Sansa goes for the pragmatic solution and sends a raven to Littlefinger to get reinforcements beyond the “2,000 wildlings, 200 Hornwoods, 143 Mazins [Masons? dunno], 62 Mormonts,” when Jon gets stubborn about fighting “with the army we have.” And I like that pragmatic Sansa doesn’t trust Davos because she hasn’t shared the same experiences with him that Jon have – although I’d note that they’ve now name-dropped the Manderlys repeatedly, and Davos has an urgent need to get himself down to White Harbor to get those last-minute reinforcements…

King’s Landing:

  • Finally in this episode, we get an answer about whether Margaery’s genuinely converted or is running a scheme, and the answer is the latter. On the one hand, I agree with those who think that she’s running a Lysistrata scheme – in this case, to drive a wedge between King Tommen and the High Sparrow. Now that there’s a grand alliance, the High Sparrow has a certain amount of buy-in to the regime (always one of the problems with outside movements making deals with the establishment), and if he can’t deliver Tommen the pliant queen he wants, a thirsty Tommen is going to get frustrated with him. And the High Sparrow’s options are limited by the way that Margaery keeps using her religion as a judo-flip. It actually reminded me quite a bit of Anne Boleyn’s tactics with Henry VIII vis-a-vis Cardinal Wolsey, which is appropriate since Natalie Dormer got her break playing the former and Jonathan Pryce just got finished playing the latter.
  • On the other hand, I’m not sure what her plan is with Olenna (who is not going to join in with Cersei’s plan to cut off the Sparrow movement at the head by having Gregor assassinate the High Sparrow during her trial). Clearly she’s signalling a tactical withdrawal of House Tyrell to their base of power – possibly she wants Olenna to cut the capitol off from food and blame the High Sparrow? I’m also very confused how the High Sparrow thinks the solution to Loras’ imprisonment is going to work: he now needs House Tyrell to stay around as one of the props of the new alliance, and they need a male heir for that.
  • There’s also some really interesting parallels with the Vale scenes with regard to religion. The High Sparrow and Septon Meribald are in some ways very similar men, but Meribald seems to have kept closer to a more genuine faith by retaining his pacifist impulses, his emphasis on active service, his ecumenical nature, and his humility that he doesn’t have a perfect understanding of the will of the gods or their nature. By contrast, for all that the High Sparrow talks about “there are some who know every verse of the sacred text, but don’t have a drop of the Mother’s mercy in their blood and savages who can’t read at all who understand the Father’s wisdom,” it is his certainty that he knows the will of the Gods that has let him drift into militarism and political ambition.

Riverrun:

  • It’s a season late, but I was absolutely thrilled by the execution of Jaime’s Riverlands plot. The Riverrun siege looks quite impressive – the details of the defenses are all building up to making an assault impossible, thus teasing Jaime’s ploy with Edmure next episode. Clive Russell, who has sometimes been played as too gruff for my tastes, works very well here as an embittered Blackfish who has seen too much injustice happen to his family to give up either fighting (“as long as I’m standing the war is not over“) or debating. Likewise, this is the closest to AFFC Jaime that we’ve gotten in Game of Thrones to fate.
  • More in Lady Stoneheart Watch 2016: The loathsomeness of the Freys is re-emphasized constantly throughout the episode, especially with poor Edmure’s torture, and Catelyn is repeatedly mentioned: the Blackfish brings up “the vow you made to my niece,” Lothar brings up his murder, and the Brotherhood Without Banners is all over this episode. I’d be putting my money on a Lady Stoneheart appearance in Episode 10 of this season. (Episode 8 seems to be Riverrun setup and giving Blackfish a potential character path out, Episode 9 is likely to be the big battle at Winterfell, etc)

The Vale:

  • So let’s talk about the big thing in this episode: the revelation that, as per AFFC, Sandor Clegane is alive and living in a religious commune, although here Ian McShane seems to be portraying both the Elder Brother and Septon Meribald. I liked Rory McCann’s ambivalence towards his own redemption, his continuing sense of alienation, and his somewhat more pragmatic attitude to violence. However…
  • While Ian McShane made his character completely believable, I really really do not understand why Bryan Cogman didn’t give a great actor the chance to give one of George R.R Martin’s best monologues. Let’s be honest, the speech he had was ok, but only just ok and elevated considerably by the performance. And this is what I mean by missed opportunities for glory, because I truly believe if you’d given McShane this material to work with, it would have been an Emmy-worthy episode.
  • I’m also not sure I like how they’re going with this: while some people have said that this sets up Cleganebowl because now Sandor has a reason to fight for the Seven, I think instead Sandor’s going for revenge against the Brotherhood, and thus will be in a position to save Brienne and Pod from LSH, which isn’t how it’s going to go in the books at all, and is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the larger importance of the Brotherhood by the showrunners from Season 3 onwards.

Volantis:

  • Well, we definitely have confirmation that Yara Asha likes the ladies! I also found the interaction between Asha and Theon quite touching in a siblings can’t really talk about emotions so hide it in shoving kind of way.
  • As I suspected, Asha and Theon’s play is to try to beat Euron to Dany and make their own pact, which loosely parallels Victarion’s plan in ADWD. I think it’s going to work out better for them than it will for Victarion, however.

Braavos:

  • I am infuriated at the continual ham-fisted plotting and staging of the Braavosi plotline this season. If Arya got Needle in the last episode, why didn’t she have it in hand to fight the Waif with? And since she knows she’s on the run from the Faceless Men, why the hell would she let anyone (especially someone as clearly suspicious as the old witch from Snow White) get within stabbing range? Likewise, for an peerless order of assassins, why would the Waif not confirm the kill?
  • This is what I mean by the difference between good and bad characterization and plotting. Arya and the Waif are acting out of character because the writers want Arya to be in danger (most likely so that she’ll be rescued by Lady Crane) and couldn’t think of a compelling and fluid way to get from A to B.

 

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86 thoughts on “Thoughts on HBO’s Game of Thrones, Season 6, Episode 7, “The Broken Man”

  1. olisimpson88 says:

    I was disappointed that they didn’t include the septon speech from Crow’s, it’s one of GRM’s greatest bits of writing he has ever done, is one of the most tied in monologues to the theme of his works as he stated himself along with Vary’s power riddle.

    Waste of Ian when he is so capable of doing so much more, though this may have happened because of him wanting to walk away from the role after learning that buddies Charles and Stephen were not on the show anymore. Well at least he didn’t screw up what he did and give the finger to the show more than he has already with his comments.

    I also liked the Yara and theon scene for fitting how an Ironborn would approach theon’s ptsd and other issues, very reminiscent of how veterans of Vietnam got told to suck it up like Theon does. Even today much vet’s still get no sympathy for what they have gone through.

    Yara was actually to some degree’s progressive considering the world they live in and the values that all of the society’s embody.

    Marg stuff continues to be the main thing keeping me invested at KL, Nat and Pryce play off each other so well, Diana and Lena great as always and so satisfying for someone to point out to Cersei what a tit she has been in her actions.

    Liked the north stuff as well, Lyanna cast perfectly and Davo’s works his magic. Though I wondered where Melisandre was in this episode, I’ll just go with praying.

    The Glover scene was definitely one of those scenes where it felt like the writer made the characters forget facts to make their problems harder to overcome. Same with Arya in Braavos conflict ball it feels overall.

    I’m getting the feeling that we are going to get some paper done by Robb to be revealed to everyone that the BF has kept secret by episode 10. Along with other revelations on John we all see coming. For reasons I will say below.

    I’m expecting LS to appear sooner rather than later, my money is next episode just because. Though with episode 10 being the longest episode ever at 70 minutes, this points to appearing by then at least.

    Riverlands stuff great, nice to see Bronn back and can’t wait to see what happens with him and pod next episode if preview is anything to go by.

    I doubt Clegane bowl is happening form the way Sandor stuff went, my money now is Lora’s get pardons if he fights in combat trial for the fate instead, that’s the main reason why I feel the writers are keeping him locked up outside of the HS keeping him there for power play.

    Everything else fine but not great or bad.

    Either next week we get all build up for stuff, and then battle of bastards and hopefully Ramsay’s death

    • McShane was always going to be a one-episode-and-done situation, so I’m not bothered with that. But if it’s going to be that, make it as memorable as possible.

  2. I suppose you could think of this as a broken episode (if I can be meta) with one side laud worthy and the other not so much. I thought the cold opening was interesting and practical given that Rory McCann’s name would be in the credits. I was hoping for that Broken Man speech, too, and the gritty, practical, often potty mouthed septon was a great counterpoint to the HS who despite his rags seems to think himself high indeed.

    The Arya scene was annoying and predictable in the tritest way possible. I agree with all of your assessments. Why have her with Needle in the final scenes of last episode and then she’s just walking around in broad daylight knowing they’re after her? Arya has lived through the utter horrors of war. It’s completely OOC for her to just drop that caution now. It was unforgivably sloppy.

    Glover might have also recalled that the Bolton betrayal was also founded by Robb’s break in fealty with the Freys? Maybe that’s reaching, but the downfall of House Stark had many internal authors mores the pity. I’m looking forward to your political analysis of the northern situation.

    • Yeah, I felt they were leaning a bit heavily on “it’s all Robb’s fault,” which is odd, considering that the entire tone of the Northern political plotline in ADWD is emphasizing the injustice done to Robb and the way his memory is held onto as a positive.

      • I suppose the show runners were showing different povs with certain northern lords. The ones who’d lost more or significant people might be more bitter at Robb for his actions, but you’d think being northern houses they’d be more infuriated at the Freys breaking guest right.

      • Steven Xue says:

        Do you think in the book people were more forgiving of Robb because he was younger than his show counterpart and had a more honorable reason to marry Jeyne instead of just being madly in love?

        Plus although Jeyne was from a lowly house in the Westerlands, she at least is from Westeros. Talisa on the other hand wasn’t and unfortunately for Robb the nobility scorn the idea of marrying foreigners even more so than marrying smallfolk. Hence why Karstark called her “that foreign bitch” which is a sentiment shared by Glover and probably dozens of other Northern lords.

        • Jim B says:

          Steven, I think your first argument is a reasonable one, if you want to try an in-universe justification for it.

          I’m just going with the meta-explanation (would this be the Doyleist interpretation? Still getting the hang of those terms) that the show is at a different point narratively. In the books, GRRM can show that there is a lot of residual goodwill to the Starks because he’s just laying the groundwork for their comeback — the more immediate problem is that there’s nobody to lead the cause yet: Sansa is in the Vale and presumed missing by most, Jon is still in the Night’s Watch, Bran and Rickon are generally believed to be dead (and even those like the Manderlys who know better still only have rumors as to Rickon’s whereabouts), and Arya is either missing or married to Ramsay Bolton.

          The show right now has a different narrative problem. House Stark has some leadership (Sansa and Jon), at least one legitimate male heir is known to be alive (Rickon), and they already have at least a small army. The writers want to throw an additional obstacle in Sansa and Jon’s way so that they have something to do this season before the showdown with Ramsay, so the obstacle they’re given is that they have difficulties in rallying support for the Stark cause. So we’re shown a slightly more bitter or cynical version of the Northern Lords, with less residual loyalty to the Starks.

          Which strikes me as a perfectly reasonable thing for the TV writers to do. After all, there is no shortage of book readers who take the view that Robb was an idiot and the Red Wedding was all his fault and really weren’t the Freys justified etc. etc.— so I don’t have a big problem with some Northern leaders adopting that view, especially ones whose houses and bannermen were particularly damaged.

          • Sean C. says:

            The problem there is that the writers have completely sacrificed any sense that there are consequences for Ramsay’s villainy, or any character growth for Jon and Sansa. The characters have been saying over and over since the Red Wedding that “the North will never forget” and that Sansa is the key to the North and that the Starks are inherently a threat to the Boltons and that there will be consequences for Ramsay acting like a “mad dog”. Hell, Roose said all of that right before he died.

            But there aren’t. Ramsay has gotten away with all of it, and from the looks of it, will only lose because of Littlefinger, who was going to attack him all along. So nothing mattered.

          • Jim B says:

            Sean, you may be right, but I’m still hoping that it won’t play out completely that way. Whether it’s a betrayal by the Umbers, or the Manderlys or some other house joining specifically because Ramsay is a maniac, I think that Littlefinger’s forces will not be the sole determining factor of Ramsay’s downfall. But we’ll have to wait and see.

    • Evette says:

      Although the show left this detail out, carrying a sword in Bravos does make you a target for attack, as Sam Tarley found out the hard way. Possibly reason for Arya not to carry her sword.

      As for the Northern plot, tongue-tied Jon is just OOC. Although it might have sounded repetitive, why didn’t he tell Glover why the Wildlings were south of the Wall and what is coming after everyone in the North. I love Davos, and I love the way he made his argument to Lady Lyanna, but the Jon who persuaded the Wildlings at Hardhome seems not to have survived the rebirth.

      Do we think Jaime might eventually get to his redemption arc?

      • A lot of the Northern plot seems to be shoehorned in to fulfill the show runner’s agenda, and I agree it’s making characters act OOC or non consistent. I’d like to say that Jon’s death/rebirth are the cause, but that’s inconsistent, too, nor do I trust the show runner’s with such subtlety. It didn’t seem like much of Jon had changed, and another question, where the hell is Mel? Are they just waiting to use her as a red priestess ex machina when it’s convenient again (maybe I should phrase it deus ex red priestess. Either way…)? Maybe we could also chalk it up to Jon truly being tired of fighting and only doing so because he must.

        I hope Jaime gets back on track. Currently, it’s like he learned nothing from his time with Brienne. He’s still just as arrogant as before. The whole journey of him with Bri was supposed to be eye opening. He was supposed to also fit the mold of the broken man lifted to redemption through suffering and humility. He WAS that hand. After losing it, he had to figure out who/what he was. That has not translated to the show in the least. Hopefully the arrival of Brienne will remind him and force him to look at Cersei and by extension himself more critically.

        • Ser Biffy Clegane says:

          There was a discussion on Tumblr recently about whether Jaime is ultimately destined for some kind of redemption. Book Jaime wants to be honorable, but he’s in the Riverlands working for a King he knows to be illegitimate, fantasizing about beating his sister’s teeth out with his golden hand, advising the Blackwoods or Brackens to exterminate the other house root and branch, and I think he would have launched that baby out of the trebuchet if it had come to that. (Alternatively, you could read him as bluffing to try to fulfill all his vows simultaneously, but you still have to guess what Jaime would do when his vows conflict.)

          B&W don’t seem to have much interest in the redemption arc – they had a couple references to Jaime’s pathetic entry in the White Book and he sends Brienne on her quest, but if they really wanted to do it, they would need to give him some more dialogue that shows his desire to be more like Dane or the Blackfish, and they passed up a golden chance here. Jaime could have told Bron or the Blackfish how much he admires Tully, but he didn’t.

          My guess is that GRRM has one more heel turn planned for Jaime, and it’s going to hurt like heck, and that B&W have just cut out most of the face turn for time.

      • Arya wasn’t afraid of the bravos when she was just carrying a knife, so I don’t think that’s why she’d leave off carrying Needle.

      • Jim B says:

        The Jon we’ve seen for the last couple of seasons was Lord Commander Snow. He was at least the equal of everyone he was dealing with, other than Stannis, and even Stannis at least needed him as much as vice versa. Even before that, he had a position of some respect as the best-trained recruit, then Mormont’s steward, etc.

        Now Jon is back to being Jon Snow, bastard son of Ned Stark. And he’s forced to deal with lords and ladies who look at him as a bastard. Perhaps he’s a little tongue-tied because he’s reverting to his Episode 1 self — the bastard who isn’t welcome at the head table.

  3. Keith B says:

    Lord Glover definitely has a point about the Starks, and Robb in particular. Why should they follow someone who’s going to get them killed? If they want to make the case that the Starks have screwed up so badly that they’re no longer fit to rule the North (or anything else larger than an outdoor privy), it’s hard to argue with them.

    Lots of fans are thrilled by the meeting between Jaime and the Blackfish, but for me it fell flat. The point of the confrontation is Jaime’s sense of disappointment, resentment, and injustice that the Blackfish, someone he greatly admires, is treating him with such contempt. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is a good actor and I don’t have any complaints about his performance, but I don’t think he’s quite good enough to convey those feelings.

    Yara took almost an entire season sailing to the Dreadfort in an attempt to rescue Theon. It takes her two episodes to get to Volantis. Those new gas turbine-powered longships are really something, aren’t they?

    Jonathan Pryce is wonderful as the High Sparrow, but the script has him talking too much.

    Was it really the BwB who massacred the villagers? That doesn’t sound like the Brotherhood. Anyway, the Hound is back, so that’s good.

    Looks like Arya is going back to Westeros as part of the theatre troupe, which is a great idea. Too bad the books seem to be taking a different direction. KL is now her likeliest destination.

    “Arya and the Waif are acting out of character because the writers … couldn’t think of a compelling and fluid way to get from A to B.” I’ve felt the same way about the books, many many times over.

    • olisimpson88 says:

      I got Glover’s arguments and the point of it, I just thought that Jon or Sansa should have been able to refute it like they did with Lyanna, though a 10 year old is easier to persuade than a 40 year old grumpy grizlly man who has lost his wife and kid. That and the Bolton’s helping him take deepwotte back also tides in as well, scene was fine but could have been better.

      Forgot to mention that detail before, maybe one of the greyjoy’s turned into the sea god and blew them all the way.

      Yes HS monologues just go on and on at times, padding I suspect.

      I wonder myself if that was BWB massacring the village.

      Travelling via theatre toupe, where have we heard that before, Arya bold and being a whisperer. I can see it now.

      The salvers bay knot knot comes to mind for that point. Or Tyrion’s journey in AWAD.

    • winnief says:

      Huh yeah too often Martin’s thumb was on the scale in the books and it’s happening in the show too.

    • Chinoiserie says:

      I agree with High Sparrow, I think that since the show got actor as good as Pryce they are using him too much, the scenes are too repetitive.
      Regarding Yara’s travels. From Bryan Cogman: “The timelines between the various storylines don’t necessarily line up within a given episode. For instance, the “Northern Tour” Jon and Sansa embark on would probably take a couple weeks, but Arya’s storyline over the past few episodes only spans a few days. We realized awhile ago that if we tied ourselves in knots trying to make all the “story days” line up between all the characters the momentum would suffer. ”

      So I do not know why people can not accept that episodes are not the same length.

      • Jim B says:

        “I do not know why people can not accept that episodes are not the same length.”

        And/or that events shown in the same episode aren’t necessarily exactly synchronous.

        For example, I would suspect that the Hound’s scenes are from an earlier time period. Since he was left for dead, Brienne has had time to journey to Winterfell, hang around waiting for Sansa to escape, kill Stannis, rescue Sansa and take her to the Wall, and then start her journey to Riverrun. Arya has voyaged to Braavos and gone through at least weeks if not months of training. I don’t recall McShane’s character saying exactly how long ago he found the Hound, but it can’t be too long. That sept doesn’t seem too far along in its construction, the Hound acts as if he hasn’t heard the septon’s backstory before, and the Hound is only now being asked how he survived — that all suggests to me that it’s been enough time for the Hound to heal and get back on his feet, but not too much longer or they would know each other better.

        Bran skipped an entire season, and while he presumably spent a fair bit of time in training, I doubt it matches up exactly with the entire timeline of last season.

        • eagrierson says:

          What’s “too long”? Sandor had a compound femur fracture, which with modern medicine would take 4-6 months to heal, plus he had a festering wound on his neck, and then there’s the time it would take to go from “healed bone,” to “able to walk around and lift really heavy objects.” That’s a good chunk of time (and he’s not the chattiest Cathy – so I don’t think Brother Ray not knowing him well is indicative)

          But yeah, I agree it’s best not to get too hung up on show timelines. Things are going to happen with the showrunners need them to happen.

      • Grant says:

        Things like Baelish traveling from Vale to North to King’s Landing back to Vale back to North and back to Vale, while interacting with characters like Sansa who’s having much quicker events than his.

        If the writers didn’t want that confusion, perhaps some mention of time passing and cutting out things like King’s Landing would help.

        • Jim B says:

          Is it really confusion, though, or just the kind of thing that some hard-core fans will always complain about, and that everyone else just shrugs off? I don’t think it really detracts from anyone’s enjoyment of the show. The average viewer is too busy trying to remember who this Blackfish guy is to be concerned with nitpicky stuff about timelines.

          I’m reminded of J. Michael Straczyinski’s answer to a fan question about how what speed the Starfury fighters could travel in Babylon 5: “they travel at the speed of plot.”

    • Grant says:

      It wasn’t Robb’s decisions that got them killed. It was Bolton, Lannister and Frey decisions. Made even weirder by how Houses are for some reason loyal to Ramsay, the guy who practically defines “axe-crazy”.

      • Steven Xue says:

        Well in the show Roose wasn’t actively undermining the Northern war effort and purposely sending men to their deaths. He told Walder his reason for turning on Robb was because he kept ignoring his advice which consequently resulted in him making serious mistakes. But yeah you’re right, after the Red Wedding and the fact that Roose had a hand in it and Ramsay is now running the show, its weird that Jon and Sansa haven’t been able to rally more houses to their cause.

        • Grant says:

          Exactly what advice did Roose give to Robb anyway? The only bit I can remember was arguing for the torture of prisoners for information, something Robb rejected on the logical basis of it putting his sisters in danger. Arya was gone and Sansa was already being tormented, but Robb didn’t know that at the time.

    • The counter-argument would be that: A. House Glover’s suffering is largely due to House Bolton and their Frey allies, and B. Ramsay’s going to kill you anyway.

      Yes, it was the BWB, Sandor called them out explicitly.

      Disagree about the books. GRRM’s pretty good at rooting decisions in character, even surprising ones like Dany staying in Meereen or Jon breaking his vows.

      • Keith B says:

        Varys goading Tyrion into confronting his father had no realistic prospect of success, and risked losing an asset that Varys clearly considered valuable. Robb Stark’s plan to release Theon should have been shot down by his lords before it even started. Rodrik Cassel and Maester Luwin thought it was a splendid idea to leave their castle undefended in the middle of an invasion, and it worked out so well for them that Leobald Tallhart did the same thing at Torrhen’s Square. Stannis, allegedly one of the best military commanders around, decided not to attack the south winch tower, although he must have known what it was for. I could go on. And you think that Arya letting down her guard for a moment and the Waif taking advantage of it is simply unbelievable?

        I could make similar criticisms of other works of fiction I’ve enjoyed. I don’t want to single out GRRM, but it’s unfair to attack the show and ignore the books. In some cases the show has tried to fix a few of the problems with the books, although not necessarily successfully.

        • s.t. says:

          Fair points. No one is perfect, and much can be forgiven or neglected for the sake of a good narrative.

          It all rests on the good faith that a storyteller has with an audience. Martin’s story has its less successful moments (the Dothraki attitude toward killing one another at weddings is one that I find deeply problematic), but he’s built up so much good faith with so much of his story: the characters, the themes, the memorable scenes, and the grand sweep.

          Yet in my opinion, the show runners used up their good faith credits several seasons ago. I know longer give them the benefit of the doubt. There’s just too much sloppiness, too many hackneyed action film tropes, too little that actually makes sense, too few scenes without cheap “bawdy” humor or easy titillation. My faith in their vision died long ago, and so every mistake they make (and there are plenty per episode) really stands out. And if they didn’t have their hands on such a superb bast of actors, cinematographers, designers, etc (not to mention the source material), the mistakes would be all the more glaring.

        • Grant says:

          Varys specifically left the crossbow where it could be found for Tyrion and didn’t push him to go find Tywin, he just made it possible. Remember that Tyrion’s useful alive and as the Lannister working for Varys, but he’s not irreplaceable. Varys has Tyrek and even without Tyrion, with Tywin and Kevan dead (and I’m sure Varys would murder them himself if he had to), House Lannister was headed for major instability.

          As for Theon, at this point Theon had actively fought in Robb’s campaigns and their interactions seemed to be that of brothers. If they needed ships to sufficiently threaten the Lannisters to end the war, they might have thought that Theon would be a good, pro-Stark man to send to convince his father of this.

          Winterfell is certainly inexcusable, and makes me wonder why Martin didn’t give Theon a somewhat larger force to make it more realistic.

  4. Sean C. says:

    although I’d note that they’ve now name-dropped the Manderlys repeatedly, and Davos has an urgent need to get himself down to White Harbor to get those last-minute reinforcements…

    If anybody is going to White Harbour in the show, it’s going to be Sansa, not Davos or Jon, since Davos and Jon have given up on recruiting more houses, per Jon and Sansa’s last conversation about Lord Cerwyn.

  5. winnief says:

    Great analysis Steve.

    LOVED Ian McShane and his character. Did miss the Broken Man speech…hoping against hope we get it in a flashback. And yeah the contrast between him and the HS was night and day.

    So happy Rory is back. When he appeared I actually yelled out “fuck yeah!”

    Enjoyed the Blackfish mightily and can’t wait for Jaime/Brienne’s reunion. Also laughed aloud at Bronns impatience with the Lannister’s always pay their debts bit…but it also foreshadows a BIG problem for House Lannister in that people DON’T believe that anymore. Not to mention their Frey allies are not only despicable but worse yet incompetent. In fact as in AFFC, Jaime’s contempt for them and disgust at working with them might well influence his future actions.

    Adored Olenna’s speech to Cersei. It needed to be said.

    Have a theory that it actually *wasn’t* the BWB who committed the massacre but some other party… (Freys or Lannisters maybe?)

    I still think we’ll get Clegane Bowl…but the Hound might rescue Brienne and Pod too.

    No one mentioning Roslin or the baby yet makes me doubt they’ll ever appear on the show…which suggests they aren’t going to survive long in the books. Sansa might well end up heir of Riverrun.

    • Thanks!

      I think it’s the BWB for reasons of conservation of narrative.

      Likewise, I don’t think we’re going to get Cleganebowl b/c the trial is next episode.

  6. Brett says:

    I’m really hoping that Arya finally gets to actually use those assassin skills to take down the Waif (and maybe sow some chaos in the House of Black and White). If her storyline ends up with a sword fight versus the Waif followed by her jumping on a ship, then it will be a disappointing end to a disappointing storyline. Ugh.

    The Siege of Riverrun was great, although I still prefer the book version because it has Ser Daven complaining mightily about the Freys (in what I think was the funniest section of AFFC). This was good, though, and definitely Lady Stoneheart watch.

    Speaking of which, the last three episodes of this season are going to be incredibly crowded. We’ll have Daenerys heading west after hitting Mereen (probably), Bastard Bowl, the Wall possibly coming down, the KL situation finally blowing up, and the Riverlands Arc coming to a possibly violent conclusion. All of that in three episodes! One of which is probably going to be mostly devoted to only one of those things!

    • Winnief says:

      I was thinking about how everything’s coming to a crowded conclusion too…but that’s not necessarily a bad thing! Remember last season that meant we got Hardhome, (which remains the best episode of GoT ever and possibly the best television of all time,) the Dance of Dragons, and then Mother’s Mercy and while there were some issues you can’t deny it was *interesting*.

      For Season 4 We got the Mountain and the Viper, followed by Watchers on the Wall, and then “The Children.” Again the hits didn’t stop.

      IMO, the last scene of the season will be either Dany sailing or getting ready to sail west, OR the Wall coming down. An outside chance might be the Big Reveal…

    • Yeah, that was strange. Why have Arya grab Needle if she’s not going to use it?

      • Evette says:

        Agreed, except carrying a sword in Bravos does get you attacked. Which is why Sam went for a swim in the canals. But that was book detail, not show writing convenience.

  7. artihcus022 says:

    Making the Brotherhood into a Mafia is Sand Snakes worthy in my view. It was a disgusting change that doesn’t even make sense…why would the Brotherhood still be at large and not be ratted out and informed to the Freys if they treat people this way?

    • Captain Splendid says:

      That’s actually pretty believable. The practicalities of running a resistance for any length of time means you’re going to have to dabble in “pure” crime. Add in a few years of mission creep and voila, you’re the latter-days IRA.

      • Rufus Leek says:

        Robbing peasants is one thing, but slaughtering them just because they follow the wrong religion is something Daesh would do, and isn’t consistent with anything in the Brotherhood’s past. Even the perverted BwB in the books under Lady Stoneheart only goes after people with ties to the Freys and/or Lannisters.

        • Steven Xue says:

          Yeah it is kinda out of place for them to be massacring entire communities like that because they are trying to get the support of the people. But their plan might have been to pin it on the Freys and Lannisters and make them look even more tyrannical so more people will join their cause.

      • The problem is that we haven’t seen the mission creep – from Season 3 when they sold Gendry to Melisandre on, the BWB have been all latter-days and no before. So there’s no variation.

    • Agreed. GRRM handles this much better by having the BWB’s growing darkness be about how they treat their enemies not their friends.

  8. Lann says:

    With regards to Arya I think it they are trying to get her in the same place she will be in in WoW. After the Mercy chapter Arya notes that her actions will bring trouble with the Sealord. This is very likely true as she killed someone tied to a Westerosi envoy. She also did it in a way that Mercy will obviously be implicated and used a language Mercy was not supposed to know. Izembaro likely knows where she comes from and will tell the Sealord so when he is questioned.

    The HoB&W will not be happy about any of this and it is Arya’s second offense after Dareon. Also this has much more serious consequences than Dareon. The HoB&W will want to get rid of her. However she has now learned a most important secret about their methods. So they cant just expel her and let her go her way. They will want to have her killed (by an agent she never met not the waif because they cant kill someone they know). They are experts at this so a clean escape would be hard to sell. A seemingly successful attempt (cliffhanger)with an improbable survival if done properly could be a way out of Braavos and given that there already is a fake Arya Stark in Westeros the HoB&W might not give much credit to rumours about her eventual return.

  9. Ser Biffy Clegane says:

    The jury is still out, but the whole Bravos plot is starting to feel like a Dorne-style nothing burger. Aria learned to be a little bit better of a fighter and to be a better liar and that’s it for two seasons of plot?

    Without giving Aria some faces, and without the books’ FM technique of making almost all killings appear to be natural or accidental causes, I’m not sure what the point was. And the ability of GOT characters to avoid death and recover from apparently fatal wounds is approaching Shown levels.

    It was fun to see Aria with some swagger, though.

    • Winnief says:

      Yeah, I’m increasingly wondering what the point of Braavos was myself, except maybe more world-building on Martin’s point that D&D got sucked into. Frankly it seems like most of the lessons could have happened had Arya stayed with the Hound anyway.

    • Ser Biffy Clegane says:

      Shown = “shonen”. Grrrr

    • Jim B says:

      I think the weakness of the Arya in Braavos plot is due to a combination of it being hard to adapt, and a little lack of courage by D&D.

      The adaptation issue is that a novel can recap months of training in a few pages; on screen, that requires either spending gobs of time on the storyline (which would be boring), or a “training montage” (which is tiresomely cliched at this point, though we got a bit of it anyway), or cherrypicking the highlights (which is what they mostly did).

      The lack of courage is that I think D&D have in general shied away from letting Arya’s storyline get too dark. So we weren’t going to get her murdering the crooked insurance guy, or taking it upon herself to kill the Night’s Watch guy, etc. Show viewers have never really had to wonder if Arya was getting too violent and murder-happy. So the moral conflict or journey or whatever you want to call it has been watered down, and all that’s left is hoping to see Arya learn to kick some ass, and frankly we’ve been let down on that score so far, too.

    • Yeah, they don’t seem to have had much of a grasp on the FM. They haven’t really explained what they’re about, how they fit into the whole Valyria story, nor have they really tried to show Arya learning how to method act building up to the faces thing.

  10. Tywin of the Hill says:

    1. Riverrun: Now that’s how you make a castle.
    The scenes were so faithful to the book I almost shed a tear.
    2. I don’t think those outlaws are supposed to represent the BwB. The men we saw on this episode aren’t the kind of guys who rally the commoners against the Freys.
    Seems to me they’re just bandits who use the BwB name to extort money from the smallfolk. Or a rogue group from the BwB who attack the peasants and then blame the massacre on other bandits or the Lannisters (hence why they leave no witnesses).
    3. The Stark army camp on the same place Stannis did. Seems like there was no easier way for Davos to learn of Shireen’s death. BTW, I would have liked that Melisandre had told Davos that Ramsay had kidnapped or killed Shireen. It would have made him siding with the Starks more believable.

    • Winnief says:

      Agree with 1&2 and as for 3, I think Davos took Jon’s resurrection along with recent events at Hardhome among others as proof that Jon is the *real* AA-or at least their best shot against the White Walkers and *that’s* why he’s siding with him.

      • Tywin of the Hill says:

        I’m not saying I don’t understand Davos motives for joining Jon, only that it would’ve been better if he had had a personal grudge against the Boltons.
        With that being said, I don’t think Davos sees Jon as some kind of God. He’s always been a sceptical, and Melisandre already told him that she saw a priest doing that to another man. And in episode 4, he even made fun of Melisandre for believing Jon to be the PtwP so soon after Stannis.death.
        I think his motives are that focusing on a new campaign helps him to forget about the one he lost. In a sense, I think he’s trying to “atone” for not helping Stannis enough.

        • Rufus Leek says:

          I think it makes more sense to just take Davos at his word that he views the zombie horde as the biggest threat, and sees a leader who thinks the same way in Jon.

    • Ser Biffy Clegane says:

      3. I’m assuming that since Stannis didn’t get “pray harder” or the successful defense of the Crofters’ Village, Jon is likely to get both, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ramsay’s cavalry end up in that river.

    • Noseflower says:

      to pt 1: I don’t know, I really liked Jaime’s conversations with Daven and Jemma in AFFC, it was probably the highlight of Jaime’s arc in that book. I know its way too much for the show to squeeze those characters in, but the whole “Go be my General for your castle Bronn” bit was a poor substitute. I don’t think these guys have a clue what to do with Bronn, who should be much more despicable.
      to pt.2: Man I hope you are right, but don’t think you are. Everything about them screamed BWoB to me. Having them pretend to be BWoB (Or the People’s Front of Judea version) seems too much plot for the show.

    • 1. Agreed.

      2. Disagreed. Narrative conservation says that it’s the BWB.

      3. Hadn’t thought of that. Good point.

  11. Joseph Nobles says:

    Maybe they are going to give the broken man speech to someone else. Why, I don’t know – I would have thought that’s the reason they hired Ian McShane.

    I saw a suggestion that the GoT Waif is now or has always been Arya’s Tyler Durden. The idea excited me when first I heard it, but now I’m soured on that notion.

  12. jcbhan says:

    Re: your question about High Sparrow’s endgame with Loras, I think you just need to put two and two together. He can’t kill Loras until the Queen is pregnant and the Kingdom (and House Tyrell) has an heir. When she’s pregnant, Loras becomes disposable, and the High Sparrow can kill him without jeopardizing his own power in the process. If Loras is killed, Olenna might retaliate, but if Loras is no longer relevant for succession issues (Margery’s baby would become heir to Highgarden and the Iron Throne), perhaps she decides to stand down. So Margery is withholding sex to keep her brother alive, effectively. All about them Roses…

    • I don’t think that would be wise for the HS. In addition to violating the tradition that no one controls more than one great seat, it greatly empowers the King to the point where the HS will have trouble controlling him. Far better to have multiple players the HS can play off against each other.

    • Jim B says:

      I don’t think Margaery is withholding sex to keep Loras alive. I don’t see why the High Sparrow would be so concerned with the who inherits Highgarden.

      But the Iron Throne, on the other hand…. with Myrcella dead, Tommen doesn’t have an heir, does he? If anything happens to Tommen now, it’s chaos. Which might give the High Sparrow an opportunity to take charge, but maybe not. House Tyrell might be in the best position to seize power, as they already have household troops in both the city and the Red Keep itself. Hard to say.

      But once Margaery gives Tommen an heir, then she and Tommen become expendable, if the High Sparrow can get his hooks into the youngster.

  13. Steven Xue says:

    You got to feel for Jon and Sansa in their struggle to recruit the Northern houses to their cause. Lucky for them Davos is there to pitch for them and managed to turn things around in getting the support they need just as he did with Stannis and the Iron Bank. You’ve got to hand it to Davos, for a smuggler and crabber’s son, he sure has quite a talent for petitioning powerful people for support. That guy would of made one hell of a lobbyist. Jon and Sansa should have just let him do all the talking when they were trying to woo Glover to their cause.

    To me the Riverrun scene was the highlight of the episode which in my opinion has been long overdue. But it was all worth it cause they really did a good job at designing the castle and making it look pretty badass. Plus the scenes there were pretty great as well. Jaime bringing in the cavalry, laying down the law and beating the snot out of Black Walder was just an awesome moment of crowning for him. Its as if Tywin’s spirit has just taken possession of him. I also loved his exchange with the Blackfish and how true to the books it mostly was.

    Although I loved the scene with Ian Mcshane as the Elder Brother, its ashamed they killed him off at the end. They should have kept him for at least another episode and do sort of a face heel turn when he’s forced to fight to either defend the Hound or those people in his commune against brigands. Also did the Brotherhood massacre those villagers? Because that’s very out of place seeing how they are supposed to be the resistance moment against the Lannisters and Freys and trying to get the people on their side. Slaughtering unarmed civilians doesn’t help their cause. But now that the Hound’s going after them, he may end up face to face with Lady Stoneheart.

  14. E O says:

    In response to your King’s Landing summary, Margaery is neither genuinely converted (to the ‘Faith’) nor running a scheme (of her temporal House): she is genuinely converted to following a scheme of devotion to “the faith” on the stage that the High Sparrow’s Secret Counsel has laid for the Crown. Recall what token Margaery gave to her grandmother in secret: a platitude on paper in honor of remembering the Family’s crest, the thorny Rose of Tyrell. But this Rose offers a glimpse into the psychic state of mind within Margaery: the coalescent petals form the twisted path of the mythical labyrinth. The signet Rose has become a magical sigil denoting the confluence of wills between the self-sacred and the sacral-other of the Faith. She acts obedient to save her honor but in doing so has actually betrayed the sovereignty of the crown and all allegiances to that sovereignty. Her act was ritualized before the people of King’s Landing in order to provoke their dissent against the powers of man. None of the ascendant Houses of Westeros have any honor left to bear in arms – they lay the weaknesses of their own countrymen upon them and manipulate them to be subjects of their own licentious warfare and vainglory. The High Houses are as much lost as the Others are to their spellbound sleep. The minor Houses of Westeros are done with the conquest of self-righteous fools, both religious and secular as they come.

  15. Brett says:

    I forgot to add this, but

    Anyone else hear Yara talking about the “real Theon Greyjoy” and think, “Hell no – that guy was an arrogant, feckless, treacherous jerk”?

  16. beto2702 says:

    People arguing that that’s not how the BwB works. People arguing that wasn’t the BwB at all. I don’t know, I’ll wait and see if those guys were really them. However, the color of that guy’s cloak seemed kind of Lemon to me.

  17. djinn says:

    It’s going to be interesting to see pro-slavery notAsha interact with anti-slavery Danaerys.

    Alas Jaime, too little too late.

    Which of these actors was more underused: Alexander Siddig, Ian Mcshane or Ciaran Hinds?

    So Areo gets stabbed in the back, drops dead. Roose gets stabbed in the gut, drops dead. Robb gets stabbed in the chest, drops dead. Jon gets stabbed all over, drops dead. But the little girl lives!?

    • Jim B says:

      Look, it’s not as though Arya was stabbed by someone who’s been trained to …. ah, never mind.

    • It’s pretty obvious the stab was done in a way to prolong suffering. It’s what will allow Arya to survive and get a return match.

      • Jim B says:

        Yeah, that’s a good point. After all, Jaquen specifically had to tell the Waif to make Arya’s death quick and painless, which implies that she has both the knowledge and the inclination to make it slow and painful if she chooses.

  18. Ser Biffy Clegane says:

    Come to think of it, it’s surprising that the Northern lords didn’t give Jon more grief about abandoning his vows. From their perspective, that has to be nearly as threatening to the social order as the Red Wedding and Ramsay’s kinslaying, so the Lords have a desperate choice between two bad options.

    “Well Lord Snow, the Boltons would want me to capture you as a pretender, and your Lord father would want me to execute you as a deserter, so which would you prefer?”

    “No, you see, I’m not a deserter because the vows are only until death, and I totally came back from the dead, as a result of ritual to a foreign demon god. Don’t ask who brought me back. You wouldn’t know her – she’s from Ashai.”

    “First of all, that’s rediculous. Second, even if true, it would be an absurd technicality. Next thing, you’ll be telling me you have a friend who thinks he can have a family as long as he and his common law wife don’t get formally married and stick to anal.”

    “Well, actually …”

    • SFC B says:

      I think Jon being south of the Wall could be hand-waved away by him still being viewed as the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch (it’s not like the mutineers had a ton of time to send off Ravens announcing their actions) and/or assuming the NW agrees with Jon’s interpretation of “I died, my watch is over” and he is released from service, it’s not like Edd is going to put out an APB for him as a deserter.

      • Ser Biffy Clegane says:

        Maybe, but I’m doubtful.

        One of the essential characteristics of the Night’s Watch is that they don’t take part in the power struggles South of the Wall. Having either Jon or Edd authorize Jon taking up arms in a fight between his family and their rivals threatens the very idea of the Watch.

        The Lannisters and Boltons could allow Mormont to groom Benjen and Jon for promotion specifically because they could count on him not to interfere, and Jon’s presence in Stark colors is in direct conflict with that value.

    • Noseflower says:

      That’s an excellent point which I hadn’t thought of, especially considering the opening of the entire fucking story back in GoT Bran 1! It is extremely clear that desertion from the NW is grounds for summary execution regardless of the circumstances. That whole “well I was dead so there’s that” loophole would sell … pretty much like you laid it out!
      Given Jon’s desertion and Sansa’s multiple marriages, they should REALLY be letting Davos do all the talking.

  19. Matt says:

    Did anyone else get the idea that we’ve just seen Davos 3 get adapted with the Glover standing with the Bolton’s as opposed to Manderly with the Freys?

  20. beto2702 says:

    Just saying, Imdb is showing the yellow cloak outlaw guy as “Lem Lemoncloak”

  21. RD says:

    I like reading a lot of your stuff but I am really disappointed with Yara. It’s a totally different character to Asha (then again who isn’t totally changed by this point) and there’s been severe character assassination that isn’t praiseworthy at all.

    Asha is not a lesbian or bisexual and has never indicated such an orientation. Her first lover was a Lysene sailor and her current lover is Qarl the Maid. I don’t think it’s necessary to create a ‘strong woman’ character by essentially have her fight like a man and have sex with women, that’s the sort of ideology that belongs to book Cersei. It just feels like Loras’s gay cartoon, instead with Yara as the woman who is a man in all ways except her external appearance.

    The kingsmoot was a disaster. They could have invented just one other claimant to go first, and have Yara mention in an aside to Theon that the first is worst the same way as Aeron recognizes in the books. They also had to have Theon (who has zero respect among ironborn) endorse her, as though she couldn’t advocate for herself. Her plan was awful, just to build more ships and easily co-opted by Euron claiming ‘oh i’ll build ships too!’

    The teleportation stuff is less of an issue than the constant character assassination the show engages in. Every single character is motivated in the show by revenge, except Davos. It’s really lazy and offensive to the audience that all they are doing is trying to hit bullet point events instead of building anyone as a complex individual with various motivations and flaws and strengths.

    • jossedley says:

      I’m OK with Yara given the limitations of the show.

      1) I think they do as great job representing Yara’s feelings about Theon (which seem to be basically that she loves him as long as he’s not trying to get her job).

      2) The gay or bi thing is OK, although if they’re really planning merge Victareon with Yara and have her attempt to marry Dany, I’m not sure how that will work out.

      3) I think in light of all the criticism the show got after Ramsay and Sansa, they’re not ready for what would happen if they included Asha’s apparent rape roleplay with Qarl, and they don’t have the time to characterize people like Qarl and Tris Botley.

      4) What I most miss is that Asha seems to be one of the only Ironborn who can envision a life beyond raising and being assholes, although she is definitely good at those things too. The Glover children and the proposal to settle the war in exchange for land are both things that I miss from Yara.

      5) To the extent that the show is using Yara’s swagger with prostitutes to show how manly she is, I’m a little uncomfortable. It probably makes sense for the character, but it has shades of Cersei and Tania – that assuming traditionally male power requires subordinating other women.

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