In this week’s episode of “Game of Thrones” an old frenemy returns, the Jaime-Bronn bromance is back, and a lot of characters act against their own self-interest as a second straight placeholder episode jumps between plotlines like a Braavosi Water Fighter on speed. Let’s talk about what it means and all the reasons I’m pissed after the break. (Of course there are spoilers, silly)
The episode begins in an idyllic valley. Peaceful folks building a church while a crusty Septon (Ian McShane) urges them on with love and humor. Smiling women prepare a meal as teams of men stagger under the weight of the heavy logs… well, except one man, a giant of a figure who walks with a stiff legged limp while carrying a log by himself. The camera pans around and who can it be but The Hound, very much alive after being left as crow-meat by Arya at the end of season four.
That the Hound was coming back was one of the worst kept secrets this season, thanks to Mr. McShane’s flappy gums, but was still one of the more anticipated returns in a season full of them. Unfortunately, we get a story arc that’s so common, every member of that parish should have been wearing red shirts. It was a disappointing misstep from a show that so often delivers excellence.
Margaery continues to play her role as a Sparrow devotee. She appears to have the High Sparrow fooled, and her grandmother as well, until she manages to sneak a drawing of a rose to the Queen of Thorns. I guess these shows her allegiance to High Garden… or maybe that she’s going into art school. Really not sure and I’m having a hard time following her logic, especially after an icky conversation with the head priest where she admits she no longer Feels the Bern for Tommen.
And while I understand Olenna’s disdain for Cersei, I don’t understand the continued mocking of the Queen Regent. Cersei is right, the two sides need each other, and I can’t help but think Olenna’s sharp tongue and stiff neck are going to be her downfall. Everything we’ve seen about Olenna indicates she is unafraid to use any tool she needs to play the game, and while Cersei’s contrition on starting this mess is about as real as Margaery’s faith, she is still has her uses. Apparently the sharpest mind in High Garden can’t see that.
JaiBronn is back, and the former Kings Guard and former sell sword go right back to the banter. It works better here than it did all last season, and if Bronn continues to negotiate his trajectory upward, he might be sitting on the Iron Throne by the end of the series. Nice reminder why the Frey’s tend to stay at the Twins, as that in-bred bunch of royal hillbillies couldn’t win a game of Risk, let alone wage a siege.
Jaime didn’t fare much better, as the Blackfish holds him with as much disdain as Olenna holds Cersei (the old folks got the best digs in this week). Really not much happened except to reaffirm the Blackfish doesn’t give a whit about his nephew and that it’s going to be a looong siege. Apparently Brienne hits the scene next week, maybe she can help move things along.
Hopefully Brienne has more luck than Jon and Sansa are making the North remember. A bit of a dispiriting journey, started somewhat positively as they manage to convince the remaining Wildlings (thanks to Wun Wun’s endorsement) to fight by his side. My immediate reaction was maybe he should have added the Wildlings last, as the rest of the North might not be so keen on fighting alongside their old enemy.
Davos saved the day on the Island of the Bears, netting a whopping 62 little Beorns, but not even Sansa going all high and mighty could get the Glover’s onboard. Jon is starting to sound a little like Stannis now, with all that let’s just fight with what we got stuff. This does not bode well. And Sansa looks like she’s regretted her decision sending Baelish away. I’m a little more worried that she’s going to regret the decision to send a raven even more. Things are looking pretty dark right now, I wonder if the missing Melisandre can cook up a few more smoke babies to even things out.
Out to Sea
It’s okay, Yara and the other Iron Bound refugees, party on. I mean it’s not like there’s a crazy uncle who thinks he’s the reincarnation of the Drowned God chasing you, or anything like that. Really, what’s the worst that can happen? At least we know Yara has a plan. Hopefully she gets to Dany first and the Dragon Queen will buy into the whole ‘girl power’ thing.
I give the show-runners credit, they aren’t afraid to risk the lives of fan favorites, even at the cost of making the fan favorite forget everything that’s happened to her. When we last saw Arya she was blowing out a candle and bringing needle to bed, we assumed to fight the Waif. This was the Arya we know and love: resourceful, courageous, and likely in over her head.
A week later, we get the alternate-reality Arya who apparently grew up without incident at Winterfell and is taking a summer-break in Braavos before starting freshman year abroad (probably at Dorne U). Fine, she secures passage on a ship back home with aplomb, but then takes a leisurely stroll down by the canals, turns her back on the crowd, and then instead of screaming and running away when the sweet, Waif-sized little old lady comes strolling, she stares at her stupidly and gets a belly full of daggers. SHE KNOWS WHO THESE PEOPLE ARE AND WHAT THEY’RE CAPABLE OF… WHY WASN’T SHE READY FOR THIS?
Look, I’m fully prepared for Arya to die if that’s what the plot calls for, but let her go out with a fight. I guess I have to be happy with her staggering down the street, looking for help in a city of strangers. I wonder which long-lost Stark will come and save her?
Where is the rest of Stannis’ army? He lost half his army after he sacrificed Shireen, but before he got the rest of them killed by Ramsay. Where did these thousands of people go, and can’t we get them on team Snow?
OK, so the Brothers without Banners are bad guys now, with no compunction about slaughtering unarmed church goers for a little bit of food? Sure, makes about as much sense as anything this episode.
So many clichés in the peaceful warrior meme playing around The Hound. Of course he’s away when the slaughter happens and finds everyone dead. The priest is strung up separately and symbolically, the camera catches the swiftly moving anti-hero grabbing his weapon of choice (rolling my eyes). Such a waste. The chemistry between Ian McShane and Rory McCann was so great, and there was so much they could have done with this new storyline. Instead, I guess we’re getting Sandor Stoneheart?
Only three episodes to go in a season that until tonight was turning into a great one. Let’s hope Brienne, Mountain, and company can right the ship next week when we find out exactly who is “No One.”