Review: Game of Thrones – ‘The Gift’

Well, it’s been a week (more than, as of this writing) and after much controversy, the world, the war, and the narrative continue.

Fortunately, this week manages to (for the most part) bounce back from the uncomfortable note that things were left at before. There are still a few moments that, at this point, can be summed up as an ‘Oh COME ON!’ but there’s at least some advances to off-set that.

game-of-thrones-title-cardFor starters, anyone expecting an immediate turnaround for Sansa after last week wasn’t going to be walking away from this week happy. One thing I will give this week – while the Sansa misery train is still rolling, I did at least take some satisfaction from seeing her give Theon the ‘snap out of it!’ moment. For a character who has had to be passive for so much of the series, it was a nice sign that she may be beaten, but she’s not dead yet.

Of course, that is then balanced by the fact that this week largely just sort of treads water on that story. Despite her pep talk, Theon remains Ramsey’s man, and she’s still stuck in a miserable circumstance while Brienne waits outside for a signal that’s not coming.

More frustrating this week, however, was some of the situation at the Wall. Which is kind of unfortunate because the story up there starts on a strong note this week. With Jon heading out with Tormund, the show says a farewell to the ailing Maester Aemon.

"He wasn't making much sense near the end. Something about money and something called a banana stand. I don't even know if he knew what he meant."

“He wasn’t making much sense near the end.
Something about money and something called a banana stand.
I don’t even know if he knew what he meant.”

I’ll admit it, I’m gonna miss Peter Vaughn’s presence on the show. He was never an MVP, but he did a lot for making Aemon stand out, despite his overall lower presence in the series. To that end, he handled the man’s final moments – complete with delusions of his youth – actually kind of a heartbreaking sendoff.

…then that good will takes a hit with the storyline cooked up for Samwell and Gilly this week. I get that,without Aemon, they’re running out of allies at the Wall (hey, remember when Edd Tollet was still a character?), but after the shocking, but relatively tasteful handling of last week, did we REALLY need to give Sam a George McFly moment as two of the other Night’s Watch try to assault Gilly? Especially when its only real narrative goal at this point was to bring Ghost back?

Also, it’s a little weird that, despite this playing out much longer, and arguably being even more avoidable, this generated much less furor, but that’s a discussion for another time.

"Look at it this way - yes, you're ultimately useless as a character. But despite that, everyone on the web still likes you more than your brother!"

“Look at it this way – yes, you’re ultimately useless as a character. But despite that, everyone on the web still likes you more than your brother!”

The off-book adventures in Dorne, I find myself a bit more split on this week. Seeing Jaime try and reason with Myrcella was an interesting moment for showing how much he’s changed from the cocky and self-assured jerk we started the series with. He’s trying to be more tempered and responsible, but also finding out that’s got a learning curve attached. Bronn’s story, meanwhile, I’m both a fan of and not. His banter with the Sand Snakes was actually pretty fun, but really, the whole thing turned into one of the weirder (without getting creepy) chances for t&a the show has had in a while. I’m hoping the dynamic isn’t dropped though, cause there’s some fun potential for verbal sparring there.

Moving into the positives, again, the show seems to be cutting Stannis a bit more slack this week. He’s still in the process of getting snowed out from his own stubbornness, but it’s nice to see the show is at least exploring that that has limits when Melisandre suggests burning Shireen. Tied with the scene earlier this season, it is a nice reminder that, for as rigid and harsh as he can seem, Stannis is still a human being and not just a sour caricature. I do wonder which way the show will handle this storyline, since they can play it in a few directions now, including rerailing the initial plot this had in the books, but for now, we’ll just have to wait and see. As it stands though, I give the showrunners points for realizing “Yeah, Stannis wouldn’t go THAT far here.”

If any storyline made out well this week, it was King’s Landing. The continued fallout from Cersei’s attempts to manipulate the Faith Militant leads to a couple of strong moments this week, including a welcome scene of plotting between Littlefinger and Olenna Tyrell. Again, I will admit to having some issues with how the show has handled parts of Littlefinger to this point, but Gillen and Rigg have a good rapport, and it’s nice to see it come back again this week.

"Just trust me - Paupa New Guinea is the way to go!"

“Just trust me – Paupa New Guinea is the way to go!”

The fateful moment when Cersei’s plans blow back in her face is one I feel a bit mixed on the delivery of, however. On the one hand, I want to say I genuinely love Pryce’s performance in this scene. He does a good job of turning the moment, going from initially on Cersei’s side before slowly revealing the information he knows of. On the other, the show’s way of revealing the information raises some questions – the scenes leading to this point make it sound as though Littlefinger brokered up the information to Olenna so she could save her grandchildren. Which is all well and good, but as the High Sparrow presents the scene, it’s made to sound as though Lancel confessed the information of his own accord when he first joined the Faith Militant, and they’ve been sitting on it for reasons unknown.

It’s not a major issue, but it was one that did bug me, even as I loved the acting going into it.

Finally, this week made a huge leap from the pages by introducing Tyrion to Danaerys. I can only say just so much on this storyline for now, given we left off on a big note. The scene where Jorah and Tyrion are sold is some great Dinklage banter, but otherwise this is just moving the pieces to their appointed place.

We’ll have to see what comes of it this Sunday when Hardhome airs.

Till then.

Pros:

-A couple of great performances this week by some of the show’s more veteran cast

-Bumping up the timeline for Tyrion has me interested in what the remaining three episodes have in store

-Not sure who had a change of heart on Stannis, but it is nice to see them giving him a break this season

Cons:

-I know this was all in the can months ago, but after all the fallout last week, did we really need an attempted assault on Gilly?

-While the execution of Cersei’s arrest is great, the plot unfolding is a bit of a hole, albeit not bad enough to break the episode

-Winterfell is…just there this week

Rating: 3.5/5

rating35
THE BLACK CELLS

Okay, not much to really add this week that the review didn’t already cover. I do wonder exactly what the show plans to do with Samwell at this point seeing as cutting his Oldtown storyline just means he’s puttering around Castle Black with fewer and fewer allies.
But, like many of these changes, all I can do now is speculate, wait and see.
Speaking of – odds we’ll see Asha/Yara brought back in her role as prospective sacrifice? I’m kind of hoping so, if only to make up for how ingloriously she was written off last season.

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This is what happens when a man takes a degree in English and the excessive analytic skills therein and chooses to use them for... ...is this evil? I'm not sure. But there are monsters and potentially robots, so there's potential for evil. ...we'll get back to you on that.

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