So that was an explosive episode…so let’s get into the episode:
This episode did feel a bit more cohesive than last week’s episode, in part because we have more characters coming together, which means more characters interacting in fewer sets, which means a lot less cutting between sets, and so the virtuous cycle continues.
Certainly, compared to last week, there was a lot less “well, this isn’t happening in the books” and more “well, I think stuff like this is happening in the books, although probably done better than this.”
On the Road to/King’s Landing:
Don’t have much to say here, because the end of the episode makes this all a bit irrelevant. I actually liked them giving Dickon Tarly (recast, unless I’ve missed my guess) some moral nuance, although I thought his father’s “whip the stragglers!” thing was a bit cartoonish. (Incidentally, why the hell has the stolen Valyrian sword thing NEVER come up since last season?)
As for Cersei’s scene with the Iron Bank, well it was less offensive than last week, but only because Cersei is seriously going in a Doctor Klaw direction, what with “control of the whole of the continent and every person on it.”
Arya’s reunion with her sister and brother was quite heartwarming (although everyone’s lack of curiousity/forthcomingness about what they were up to when everyone thought they were dead stretches credulity a bit), her duel with Brienne was nicely choreographed for a change, but yeesh I’m starting to lose my patience with Littlefinger altogether. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that they’re going to kill him off, but rather than it happening b/c he makes any sort of sensible power play and then comes a cropper, he’s just been hanging around Winterfell with no real purpose having conversations with people where he does nothing but remind them of the many reasons they have to have him killed.
And this episode they went to the most ridiculous extent of having him gift Bran with the dagger that was sent to kill him, the dagger that Bran knows Littlefinger lied about to his mother to start the War of Five Kings, the dagger Bran knows Littlefinger slid under his father’s chin when he betrayed him in the throne room. It’s thuddingly obvious.
While I’m at it, really starting to lose patience with Bran’s storyline this season. Clearly, the direction he’s getting is to not emote at all and be very aloof (shades of Leto II Atreides from the Dune series), but just quoting back people’s lines from previous seasons isn’t the same thing as plot development. If Bran’s the Three Eyed Raven, he should be about the Night’s King and being extremely vocal about it while he’s at it…which would nicely raise stakes/tension for that plotline going forward.
Also, as much as Brienne getting a pat on the back is nice, I actually think it’s rather undeserved. Brienne failed to rescue Arya and then straight-up ignored Sansa in order to kill Stannis, and it feels odd to have her rewarded verbally for what is charitably a D+.
For a change of pace, I found Dragonstone the most annoying part of the episode, largely due to how little character development there actually was. Jon taking Dany to the caves to show her the pictograms of the Children of the Forest and the White Walkers was a cool visual, but it didn’t actually change anyone’s position: Dany still wants Jon to bend the knee before she’ll help him, and he’s still not willing to do that.
As for the rest, well Jon/Dany’s eventual romantic connection is becoming even more thuddingly obvious, Davos is funny (I liked his awkward bid to get out of Dany’s argument with Tyrion) but increasingly just a functional character as opposed to someone who actually has character arcs, the scene with Jon, Davos, and Missandei was largely pointless and just there to remind the audience that everyone thinks Jon Snow is Ned Stark’s bastard and that Dany is super, and the whole scene with Theon was a really clumsy way to distract us from the fact that it’s damn odd how Dany and the Dothraki’s departure was staged.
Was damn well done. I have a few quibbles – why does no one have scouts in Game of Thrones? How did the gold get from Highgarden to King’s Landing past a Dothraki horde but the rest of the army was still in the Reach when the horde and the dragon arrived? Why do Benioff and Weiss hate horses? – but overall it was a brilliantly staged bit of combat that, as many people have noted, did a great job of making you feel for people on both sides. (Hence why Tyrion showed up all of the sudden to have feels despite that making not a lick of sense.)
So well done, and here’s hoping they didn’t blow the whole VFX budget on the midpoint episode of the season!