Fork on the Left, Spoon on the Right
There was a good deal of “table setting” this week on Game of Thrones, so much so that the whole episode was a giant anti-climax. Each character was carefully moved from one place to another with so little finesse that it’s clear that they are in their “season endgame” positions. With the rapid movement of each character, none of them were given the room to breathe that they needed.
The biggest “gloss over” this week took place at Riverrun, with Jamie, Brienne, and the Blackfish rushing through their actions in a way that left a bad taste in my mouth. Brienne explains to Jamie, and the viewer, of the proposition she plans on making with the Blackfish. There’s some respectful back and forth between the two, but then there is a hard cut to the Blackfish shutting her down point blank. It’s unfortunate because the negotiation would have been far more interesting if we saw the Blackfish think and react to the deal in real-time, and Brienne had to think on her feet in order to win over (but ultimately fail at turning) the Blackfish. Likewise, Jamie’s convincing of Edmure Tully was incredibly hackneyed. Although the specifics were surely meant to be ambiguous (as the baby-in-a-catapult threat couldn’t have been all it takes to turn Edmure), it was ultimately a letdown to see the moral dilemma of the soldiers and the noble end of the Blackfish occur so quickly. The siege only lasted, what, two episodes? In this time we really can’t draw a definitive conclusion about how the survivors’ emotional states grew or cite the fall of Riverrun has a strong emotional blow (à la Winterfell).
Arya is in a similar boat, but for kind of opposite reasons. Her story has had room to breathe…two seasons worth of room, to be exact. And now it’s shaping up to be all for nothing. You could argue that her personal journey was to find her independence and disavow her desire to be a merciless killing machine, but that was an arc that started way back in Harrenhal with Tywin and continued with the Hound. The House of Black and White was a far more mythology-heavy plot, and to see it limp across the finish line is sad. The finish line, too, was entirely off-screen. While some of the action was spectacularly shot (I especially love the out-of-focus threats approaching from behind), the climax occurred in a dark room and was left completely to our imagination. The logic that Arya is now no one doesn’t really make sense to me, so I’d be eager to read some explanation by those who are more familiar with the religion at hand, but on the whole, her renouncing the Many-Faced God still feels like a cheap ending. I’m still hoping for a payoff in the next two episodes, but I’m not counting on one.
The happens in Essos were so non-existent that you can barely call them happenings. I was really hoping to hear some great Game of Thrones-themed jokes out Tyrion, but the “you had to be born-and-raised in Westeros to get it” gimmick really got my goat. Weiss and Benioff…you couldn’t think of one joke that the viewers would get? You had to just write the first thing that popped into your head and say “Ehhhh, we’ll just say the audience had to be there.” Maybe this scene was an attempt to humanize Missandei and Grey Worm, but it fell so horribly flat because, well, none of them seemed relatable, unless you really enjoy watching people taste wine. The big payoff here, too, is that Dany comes back after the Masters attack. I actually had to go back and see if I missed a set-up for the masters being unhappy with their deal with Tyrion since it felt so out of place. I’ll save you the trouble and let you know that there was none. It was all just an excuse to get Dany back in Meereen. So, yes, this was the least interesting of the many threads this episode put forth.
Counter to all of this was Cersei’s story, which was the most natural of the bunch. Her son has been suckered into this religion, either by the High Sparrow or by a deceitful Margaery. Either way, he eliminates the Trial by Combat option that Cersei had been so reliant on all season. This came right after a display of The Mountain’s brutal head-ripping-off abilities, too. What’s more is that Cersei now has no one on her side. Jamie, her usual confidant, is in Riverrun, Tywin is dead, and while her and Tyrion never saw eye to eye, at least they both shared a rational self-interest at times. Now it’s just Cersei and whoever that old guy is with her. This’ll be interesting to see play out, but I get the feeling that Cersei won’t show up until the tenth episode, as the ninth tends to be the “big” episode each season (Death of Ned Stark, Battle of Blackwater Bay, Red Wedding, Battle at Castle Black, Walkers Attack Hardhome). See you in two weeks, Cersei.
The final component to this episode was the Hound, which was as logical as Cersei’s story, but admittedly carried less weight. The happenings at King’s Landing concern the whole kingdom, whereas the Hound’s concern…pretty much just the Hound. Actually, I take that back…this story could have larger implications if the Hound rides north with Dondarrion and gets involved with Jon Snow’s inevitable attack on Winterfell. Realistically, where else is the Hound going to go? Back to King’s Landing? If his story is going to continue, it’ll likely continue with the Starks, at least for the near future. We do know that wherever he goes, he’ll be bringing that famous Clegane brutality with him wherever he goes. It’s quite clear his blood lust hasn’t been tempered.
This episode really boiled down to a “table setting” installment, which is unfortunate. Setting up stories is important, but when it’s done in such a transparent and, dare I say, lazy way, it makes for some pretty boring television. The excitement comes next week, so as long as you know where every stands, then the showrunners met their goal. Jamie took Riverrun, Brienne and Pod are on the run, Arya walked away from the House of Black and White, Dany returned to Meereen late at night, Cersei’s Clegane is useless going forth, and the other Clegane might head up north. Got all that?
Odds and Ends
- Like I said, the action directing this episode was top notch. Great use of space and focus. I did, however, find some of the shot-reverse-shot to be clunky at times, particularly when Brienne was on the boat from Riverrun.
- How many fictional characters does it take to make a good fictional joke? More than three, apparently.
- Lady Crane met a rather brutal end at the hand of the Waif. The Many-Faced God wanted her dead, that’s for sure.
- I really can’t stress enough how much I want to understand Jaqen’s logic about being no one. Tweet me if you’ve figured it out.
Alex Russo likes to talk about television. You can read more of his insane ramblings on Twitter.