It’s strange to have an episode where House Bolton is featured this prominently and still start it off by saying ‘After the bloodshed last week, this week’s Game of Thrones is a more reserved affair.’
But then, this season’s breaking a lot of expectations that way, and this week is a necessary time to reflect after the various outbreaks of brutality last time.
This isn’t to say nothing comes of it, however. In fact, this week sees some good advancements for several characters.
Equally strange about this week is realizing that, for as much as the series has made prominent focus on the intrigues of King’s Landing, and the outburst of violence there last week, the only Lannister we here from this time around is Tyrion. Instead, much of this week focuses its attention North and across the Narrow Sea.
Actually, I should clarify – this week sees some violence, and honestly, it’s part of a development I have to give the showrunners some points for. Going into this season, Daenerys’s arc was a risky prospect. Her naive approach to politics in A Dance with Dragons is the kind of thing one can forgive in print when one remembers Martin wrote her character to be several years younger. Since the series had to up her age for obvious reasons, to keep this plot with give Dany a serious case of Suspiria syndrome.
Having the series reframe her learning curve to be one born less from naivete and more a heavy hand that risks turning her into her father is one of the better changes I think the show has made in the last two seasons. Watching her use her dragons to intimidate and then murder this week evoked all manner of memories about the horrors her father carried out on those he suspected, and also helped reaffirm Barristan’s role in trying to steer her away from that path.
The show hasn’t always had the best record with writing for Dany, despite Emilia Clarke’s performance making the most of it week after week, but this season they’ve hit a good beat for her and I’m hoping they can keep it up.
Likewise, this season has been probably one of the best for both Jon and Stannis in a while. I already spoke some on Stannis last week, so I’ll keep that brief and say the show really does seem like it’s trying to make up for all the crap he’s been dealt of late. Jon’s arc, meanwhile, is streamlining better than I was expecting.
When Aemon gave the titular “kill the boy and let the man be born” talk, it felt like the perfect point in Jon’s arc to bring it up. After the harsh, but necessary snap judgments with Mance and Janos, we see him handle the wildlings this week from a more tempered perspective that stands to distill the main points of his arc in this book well.
On the somewhat mixed side of things, Sansa’s arc has some good and bad this week. For Sansa’s own part, she really doesn’t have a lot to do this week, and the extra drama with Theon feels like a lot of buildup that doesn’t really pay off this time. Meanwhile, the scenes between Roose and Ramsey are shaping up to be the most interesting the two have had in the series so far – the show is doing well with leaving it ambiguous if Roose still has any value in his bastard or if he simply plans to use him as a shield against Stannis now that he’ll have a trueborn heir coming. Michael McElhatton has been kind of hit or miss for me with the part, but I do concede he does well at playing the poker faced aspect of Roose, especially here.
After last week, this feels like a lull, but it’s an overall necessary one. Several characters are at turning points and they needed the extra time to unpack their arcs and lay out what was in store for each.
Given next week is titled Unbowed, Unbent, and Unbroken, the words of House Martell, it’s safe to say we’ll be back into the action soon enough anyway.
-New direction for Daenerys is a great way to address what could have been a really clumsy arc with the upped age
-Show is doing a great job tightening up Jon’s somewhat meandering plotline
-Taking a week off of King’s Landing and Dorne after last week was a bit of a jolt
-Sansa’s back to a passive role again this week which is a little frustrating after the last few weeks
THE BLACK CELLS
So Jorah and Tyrion got the Stone Men encounter this week. Not a badly done scene, but having Jorah become the one infected with Grayscale is a bit of an odd choice. I mean, as far as we can tell, they can pretty easily drop the Young Griff storyline almost wholesale. To keep that one particular aspect of it feels a bit odd to me. Will have to see how far they plan to take it from here.