Well, they managed it. I’ve finally run out of excuses for the show runners, and I’m more than happy to lump them in with the rest of the lazy, derivative, reductive male writers kicking around prestige television.
This, of course, has to do with the final scene of the episode. And it’s such a disappointing, insulting, offensive scene that it really makes discussing the rest of the episode a non-event. So I’ll be brief.
Arya is still in the House of Black and White in Braavos. She’s washing more corpses and learning to respect the dead, but ultimately hasn’t yet let go of her past identity. Like Daenerys refusing to open the fighting pits and Jon refusing to take Winterfell, Arya’s refusal to give up her past has been padded out across several episodes now, to the point of tedium.
Even Arya senses this, and lashes out at Jaquen: ‘I don’t want to play this game anymore.’ But, in one of the few solid moments in the episode, he replies: ‘We never stop playing.’
It’s a deft piece of thematic clarity that shows up the rest of the episode’s script for the ham-fisted mess that it is.
Arya does keep playing, and learns how to lie convincingly, allowing a dying girl the opportunity to entering death peacefully. As a reward, Jaquen shows her where the faces are kept, and that while she isn’t ready to be no-one, she might be ready for a new identity.
Tyrion and Jorah are still on their way to Meereen, and in an episode that doesn’t go near Daenerys or Jon Snow, manage to bring both of them into a conversation. Tyrion reminds us that Jorah’s father used to be Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, but has now died. And Jorah speaks of why he came to follow Daenerys, describing his service as that of a true believer, giving Daenerys’ storyline an added dynamic it has been sorely missing since Season 1.
The show, if anything, is getting better at having all the different storylines talk to each other.
It’s not long though until some slavers catch them, incluing Mr Eko, who promises to keep them alive while leading them toward the fighting pits. ‘Finally’, everyone says.
In King’s Landing, Littlefinger encounters the Faith Militant, personified by Lancel ‘Justice’ Lannister. He is nonplussed by this however, and has more important business: informing Cersei of Sansa’s presence in Winterfell, and her betrothal to Ramsay Snow, legitimising the Bolton’s hold on the North.
Lady Olenna is back to sort things out with Loras and Margaery. So while Cersei is in over her head with the politics, and despite Olenna knowing exactly what buttons to push, the inquest into Loras’ activities will continue.
The High Sparrow’s manoeuvres to implicate both Loras and Margaery in a crime is pretty obvious stuff, it’s really a wonder the Tyrells didn’t see this coming, considering they had managed to successfully poision Joffrey last season. The handling of this diminishes their intelligence, while hinting that Cersei doesn’t realise how isolated she is making her own family.
In Dorne, Myrcella gets some lines.
Bronn and Jaime are still bent on rescue-napping Myrcella, but their effort dovetails with the efforts of the Sand Snakes and Ellaria Sand to kill Myrcella. The show is working overtime to get this convergence to happen to quickly, with only one previous scene with the Sand Snakes to give it context and motivation.
This is either an attempt to inject more action into a talk-heavy first half of the season, or a way of getting the Dorne plot over and done with in favour of more invested characters getting more time later on. As it is the whole thing feels rather amateurish, on behalf of the characters, and the show.
So, on to Winterfell. It’s all dour, and we’re treated to a scene between Sansa and Myranda that is all about exploiting Ramsay’s cruel nature, drawing out the danger Sansa is in before it turns at the end, and showing us just how far she’s grown as a character.
And this would all be fine if it proved to be the way the episode goes. After all, Littlefinger himself said he trusted Sansa to be able to look after herself, giving the audience the hope that there’d be some unexpected surprise from Sansa, relieving her of the terror that is Ramsay Snow.
But that’s not the case. They draw out the terror, and then it goes as badly as we might have predicted. Only that’s worse, because it shouldn’t have. It was needless.
If we could forgive what happened with Daenerys on her wedding night to Khal Drogo, for reasons of fidelity to the story and the future agency of the character, then that’s one thing. If we could get around Joffrey’s torturing of women because Joffrey is evil, then that’s another. And if we could get across last season’s scene between Jaime and Cersei because, well, at a stretch it was poor adapting of an existing scene (but if we’re honest it was pretty horribly reprehensible), then what are we meant to do with this?
None of the justifications that were present in the other instances are there in this one. It has no correlation in the books. And yes, we don’t know what is going to happen to Sansa in the future, she may castrate Ramsay and wear his appendages around her neck for the rest of the season for all I care, it doesn’t change how needless this final scene was.
Are we just meant to see her as strong because she is conscious of Ramsay’s awfulness yet stoically heads toward her fate? Find another way to show her strength. Hell, we’d seen her strength already, and so have to ask ‘why was this necessary’?
If this is incentive for Theon to regain his identity and rescue Sansa, again, why was this necessary?
And if this was merely more motivation for us to see Ramsay as the main antagonist and push us more firmly toward hoping Sansa gets her revenge, well, we were there already. We didn’t need this. Why was this necessary?
Because it wasn’t necessary.
Find a better way to write stories, please.
- Valar Morghulis: the girl in the House of Black and White, and that’s about it.
- Ever get the feeling Littlefinger has no plan, and he’s just messing with everyone because he can?
- Never thought I’d say this, but I preferred it when we were in Meereen.
- Next week: Oh who cares? Hopefully a lot of grovelling from Benioff and Weiss.