This season is shaping up to be REALLY interesting, isn’t it? Much has been made of the fact that the show has pretty much exhausted the source material on which it is based, and the reigning consensus I’ve seen among fans of the books is that the material that is left is, well, rather bloated and tedious. Personally, I have to admit that I am one with this camp. It took me forever to get through Feast of Crows and I still haven’t finished Dance with Dragons.
That said, I think the show so far has done an admirable job of adding, changing, and just all around streamlining the events of the books in particularly interesting ways, and in two stories in particular.
One of those big changes featured heavily in this week’s episode, concerning Sansa Stark. By taking her back to Winterfell and having her actually be betrothed to Ramsay Stark instead of some proxy posing as Arya, the show-runners have succeeded in both trimming a lot of fat and upping the tension tenfold. We all know how much of a monster Ramsay Bolton is, and putting Sansa face to face with him is nerve wracking to say the least. I just hope it doesn’t devolve into more victimization. And who knows what the hell is going to happen when she finds out Theon is around, or what this take on the story will have Theon do.
The other story being streamlined to hell and back is Tyrion, and it’s better for it. Rather than spending hundreds of pages with a character that mostly undermines Daenerys’ story while ultimately amounting to nothing, Tyrion gets to straight on to Volantis. We get some important plot building here, of course, with the Red Priestess talking about a savior (and I guess putting the faith surrounding the Lord of Light firmly in Dany’s camp, at least for now), and Ser Jorah showing up and capturing Tyrion mid piss. This was done a bit awkwardly, I think. Unless I missed it, there didn’t seem to be a shot of Jorah spotting Tyrion and figuring out who he was, though Tyrion was being pretty damn obvious about it (“I’m known for paying my debts”). And there’s a halfhearted attempt to make us think that Jorah is going to take Tyrion to Cersei when he mentions an ambiguous “Queen”, but I think we all know he’ll try to use the son of Tywin Lannister to get back into Dany’s good graces.
Back in King’s Landing, Tommen and Margaery are wed, and nobody dies. But Tommen does find himself a pawn between his new Queen and the Queen Mother. This all led to my favorite exchange of the night, the gut wrenchingly passive aggressive conversation between Margaery and Cersei. Since her first appearance on Game of Thrones I’ve seen Natalie Dormer in a few other things, and I have to say she’s quickly becoming a favorite of mine. And the way the writers and director have shown Cersei’s slow loss of relevance and her reaction to it has been really well done, two examples being the palanquin ride to the sept for the wedding in which the crowds expressed their support of Margaery, and then as Cersei was walking away from the new queen and her friends as they laughed.
Cersei’s not out of the fight, though, and sees an opportunity arise in the form of the Sparrows, who have taken it upon themselves to publicly humiliate what I guess is Westeros’s version of the pope.
Up on the wall, Jon Snow gives Stannis a reply to his offer to make him Lord of Winterfell. Being appointed as Commander has only re-enforced Jon’s commitment to his vows, and he seems fully aware that not everyone is happy with his appointment. Janos Slynt voices this opinion quite loudly and loses his head for it (YAY!). Jon does get an interesting tid-bit to mull over however, when Davos points out that, despite the Night’s Watch charter of neutrality in Seven Kingdoms politics, perhaps being the protector of the realms of men might mean stepping in to sort shit out. After all, I’ve said it time and again that the greatest threat Westeros faces is being divided by petty squabbles when the White Walkers show up. Perhaps by standing idly by and letting politics divide the living while the dead march on unopposed isn’t exactly in line with his vows after all.
Finally, over in Braavos, we are reminded that the Faceless Men, like those of the Red faith, have only one god as well. The god of many Faces is a clever concept, however, because it allows for the existence of Westeros’ disparate pantheons, as Aryan points out that The Stranger, the Drowned God, and the Weirwood tree are represented in the House of Black and White (perhaps no coincidence that all of these gods are associated with Death).
Arya, like Jon, faces a choice concerning her identity. In order to become Faceless, she must shed her identity as Arya Stark. As Not Jaqen points out, she’s wearing Arya Stark’s clothes, using Arya Stark’s name, and carrying Arya Stark’s sword. Arya manages to throw most of her possessions into the sea, but in great emotional beat she just can’t bring herself to toss needle into the brine, instead opting to stash it under a cairn.
All and all a strong episode that worked to re-invest us in the remaining Stark children, particularly Sansa, who has returned to Winterfell, and Jon, who was offered Winterfell should Stannis win. And out there, somewhere, Brienne and Pod wander (their exchange was really cool as well, with Brienne finally warming up to Pod and agreeing to teach him to fight). ‘Til next week!