Well, THAT escalated quickly.
I’ve spoken well of the departures from the books in prior writeups, but this episode is a great example of why I’m getting behind this. A lot of this week was made up almost whole cloth, and I was really getting into seeing these familiar characters in whole new settings.
It’s actually even stranger that the one arc that actually hewed closest to the books last night, continuing Tyrion’s kidnapping from last week, is probably one of the less interesting stories to come across. It’s not even like it’s a bad arc – Dinklage is still enjoyable as he baits Iain Glen, but there’s not a whole lot they cover – despite the impressions last time, they’re still heading for Meereen. All this changes is whole Dinklage bandies words with.
By comparison, all the other arcs are almost all new material, albeit taking inspiration from events in the original text, and it’s fascinating to watch them unfold.
One of the developments that actually really stuck with me out of all of this was Cersei’s decision to reactivate the militant branch of Westeros’s religious group. As the story initially presented things, it was more about Cersei’s carelessness in appeasing the zealots that were growing under Lannister rule. Here, she goes the extra mile to suggest it herself.
That new development actually highlights how much I’m actually really liking the way the show is handling the High Sparrow. Besides the fact I have a soft spot for Jonathan Pryce as an actor in general, I really do like what the show is doing with him playing up the softer side of the faith right now. To Cersei, he comes across as almost a pushover, which then makes the acts of increasing brutality – underscored this week by an effectively harsh montage of the faithful running rampant in King’s Landing – even harsher by contrast.
It’s a great way to underscore the real nature of the character – you play ball with him, and he’s like a favorite grandfather, but under that is a man just as cold as the followers under him, and I hope we get to see Pryce bring some of that out soon enough. Given Cersei’s tendency to bite off more than she can chew, I don’t doubt we will.
Meanwhile, the situation in Dorne is heating up with two promising elements this week. First we see Jaime and Bronn make landfall this week. There’s not a lot of major changes, but it’s always fun to watch these two together. Especially thanks to the fact Bronn’s candid nature makes him one of the few people willing to question Jaime where most would button up due to his status as a Lannister. It’s one of those teams I never thought I’d enjoy as much as I have.
Alongside them, we get our first encounter with the Sand Snakes – Oberyn’s bastard daughters. They don’t get a lot to do this week, but their first scene makes a great first impression for what to expect from them. The idea that this arc will turn into a race between them and Jaime and Bronn has me really liking an arc I expected to be disappointed with when it was first speculated.
The situation in the North, I feel a bit less certain about. The scenes at the Wall are actually some of the best they’ve had in a while, and after how the show’s treated Stannis to this point, it was genuinely surprising to see him get some humanizing scenes this time. I also have to hand Stephen Dillane some points for that – his scene with his daughter could have been easily played with a flatness that would kill it otherwise. He manages to instead show the closest thing a man like Stannis can offer for affection, and it makes the moment when his daughter hugs him, and his subsequent reaction, arguably one of the most touching moments the series has had in a long time.
Appropriately, my biggest concern regarding this area of the series is also regarding Stannis. The idea of Littlefinger trying to ally himself with the longest running contender for King of Westeros appeals to me on the base level that I like both characters. But I also can’t help but feel how incredibly out of character it would be for Stannis to trust a conniving snake like Littlefinger, which has me concerned there’s either more here than we know or the showrunners may be about to slip.
Finally, this week ended on one Hell of a note with a substantial change-up of things in Meereen. The titular Sons of the Harpy carry out another successful strike this week, and in the process deal a severe blow to Dany’s reign. It’s going to be strange to see the show’s advances from here with two of Dany’s enforcers/councilors dead, but that may be the point. Without anyone to guide her, Dany may either have to grow and learn from her mistakes or this could lead her to have to retreat from Meereen after she errs without their insight.
There’s a lot that remains up in the air, and I’m genuinely fascinated by it all right now. At this point I genuinely have no idea what to expect from Kill the Boy, and it’s fun to feel that way about Westeros again.
…there’s a word I hadn’t thought I’d hear myself use about this setting.
-A couple of really effective sequences in the episode (the Faith Militant, the Sand Snakes introduction, the end of the episode)
-Departures from the text now increasing interest where earlier they frustrated
-Arguably the best Stannis has been since this show began
-Gonna miss Barristan. Sorry, but it IS a con for me.
-Still not sure where the showrunners plan on taking Littlefinger’s story at this point
THE BLACK CELLS
So, with the death of Ser Barristan and Grey Worm this week, is it safe to assume that Meereen is officially done once Dany leaves? If so, a moment of silence for another plot line being laid to rest early. It will be buried on the same hill as Lady Stoneheart and the Greyjoy family intrigues, with the possibility that House Manderley may soon join it. We’ll have to wait and see.