Okay, yes, I’ll get to that—but first: I’m glad that, as I predicted, after last week’s hour that consisted mostly of characters walking around and saying, “Hey, remember all the stuff we’ve being doing recently? Isn’t that crazy?”, things seem to be full steam ahead here in episode two, though one particular sequence, despite carrying a lot of narrative weight, nearly threatens to derail every bit of positive momentum the show has developed, this season thus far and throughout the run of the series as a whole. We had check-ins from just about everybody (except Littlefinger. Where the hell is Littlefinger?), save for Daenarys, though it’s pretty safe to assume she’s either en route to or getting used to her new digs in the widow temple/tower/thing she was banished to in the last episode—Have no fear, though, as Tyrion took the reins on that end of the plot, as it were, and released the dragons chained in the dungeon. Apparently the dragons are wasting away and refusing to eat because—who knew?—they don’t like being chained in the dungeon. This does bring us to a point where the viewer is required to suspend disbelief for the sake of allowing the story to move forward, because if simply releasing the dragons is a Good Idea that won’t cause any problems, why did the dragons cause problems that led to their being chained in the dungeon in the first place? And we got Bran back, too! But, he only got two minutes, in the opening, which seems a bit off, after a season-long absence where he was literally living inside a tree cave learning magic from forest sprites. I do have a little inkling of worry, though, that Bran, after being gone entirely for so long, and essentially a non-player in the story even when he was a series regular, is being set up as almost a literal deus ex machina, to be the hero who will ultimately save the day—but I’m prepared, and hoping, to be wrong in the end. Other big things happened this hour, as well—again, I’ll get there—including Arya being allowed to return to her training. Others, I know, will take issue with what a quick transition it was: there were all of two blind stick fights before the Faceless Man takes Arya back under his wing. What I did love about this scene, though, is how it allowed Maisie Williams to show she’s learned how to act pretty damn well over the past several years. First, the Faceless Man tells her if she says her name—basically, if she says she wants to go back to her old life—he’ll give her a roof to sleep under. That’s an easy one, of course, and she says, “A girl has no name.” Next temptation: say her name, and she gets food, but no dice—Arya won’t fall for that one. But when he says he’ll give her back her eyesight, if only she speaks aloud her own name, you can see it on her face: the simultaneous knowledge that this is a trick, a test, just like the other two temptations, and that she’s this close to being forgiven for her transgression… but also, that giving in may be worth it. She hesitates, only for a moment, but it’s a heavy, meaningful moment, and then says, “A girl has no name.” You go, Arya. So all that is good, even Bran, and especially the ending. But then there’s also Ramsay—Jesus. We all knew he was evil. Whether it was the torture and castration of Theon or the physical, psychological, and sexual brutalization of Sansa that pushed you over the edge of outright loathing the guy, this was a new low for him. After learning he has a new baby brother, Ramsay murders his father—a move which, admittedly, I did not see coming; though it was the only part of the next couple scenes that wasn’t completely obvious. And frankly, what came next was the hour’s weakest link by a mile. (I’m tempted to say weakest of the entire series, but I’m not sure how healthy an exercise it would be to go back over fifty episodes worth of death, destruction, and mutilation to definitively say “That! That is the worst moment!”) Look, I’m not opposed to the violence of Game of Thrones. I’m not even particularly angry/offended when said violence is especially graphic or when its victims are the only true innocents of the series: children. What bothered me, though, about Ramsay’s murder-by-hounds of his new baby brother and her mother was that it existed solely for shock value. Again, we’ve known since last season, when Bolton began tormenting his son with reminding the latter that a full-blooded heir would take Ramsay’s right to that title, that if said child was ever born Ramsay would dispatch with him quickly. Subsequently, we also knew, the moment the messenger entered the room in this week’s episode and announced the birth, that Ramsay’s very next move in his quest for power would be to kill the baby. The only surprise was murdering his father—but it was a necessary surprise, and let the viewers know that there are literally no boundaries Ramsay won’t cross in his quest for power. Immediately after stabbing Bolton and calmly wiping the blood from the knife, he calls for his new brother to be sent to him. At this point, the viewer knows, unequivocally, that the newborn is doomed. The protracted scene of Ramsay finding his stepmother in the courtyard, asking to hold the baby—while the audience holds its breath, hoping Ramsay won’t do… well, what Ramsay does—then leading mother and child into the pen with all the hounds…. It was all totally unnecessary, and was only “effective” on the same level that a woman thrusting her hand into a box full of hypodermic needles is “effective” in a Saw movie. Granted, the deaths here weren’t on camera, so the showrunners did display that restraint—instead, we stared straight on into Ramsay’s eyes and heard the sounds of his stepmother screaming, the baby crying, and the dogs’ teeth ripping. It reminded me, honestly, of a tonally similar moment from another otherwise-great show—The Shield, when one of the few true good guys of the entire series, a murder detective and master interrogator, strangles a stray kitten just to see what budding serial killers feel like when they torture animals. And, just as in that series, this moment from Game of Thrones isn’t just offensive because it’s violent, but because it’s lazy. It adds nothing. Consider: Ramsay spent a whole season torturing Theon, then was so cruel as to pretend to be a friend helping him escape, only to lead him back into the dungeon where he started; proceeded to continue torturing Theon, ultimately castrating him; raped Sansa while forcing Theon to watch; and now stabbed his own father in the chest to preserve his own power—the same man who gave him that power in the first place. After all that, then, what, really, is lent to his character development by twenty or so odd seconds of literally hearing what it sounds like when dogs eat a newborn child? Now, how the hell I transition from that to the next thing, I have no idea, but here we are: Okay, okay, the big reveal: Jon Snow is back from the dead. Though I do admit there was a moment, after several close-up shots of the sleeping dire wolf (good doggie!), where I thought that when Jon came back it would be in the body of the wolf, it was a welcome relief, if not exactly a surprise, to see him open his eyes and gasp for air just as the screen faded to black. I can envision an alternate universe where Game of Thrones is a far lesser show and this will-he-or-won’t-he-stay-dead? thread carries on throughout the whole season and ultimately becomes the season finale reveal (or, if they really wanted to be assholes, a cliffhanger leading into the next season). I’m glad, then, that Game of Thrones is not that lesser show, and gave us what we knew had to happen—and wanted to happen—so soon into the season six run. And the fact that so much of episode one teased his return and episode two ended with his resurrection implies that not only is Jon back, but that he’s going to be back in a big way. And in a show that is running out of good guys to root for at an alarming rate, this is welcome news, indeed. All in all, a solid second entry in the sixth season. The gratuitous murder by Ramsay almost ruined the entire hour, and in an inferior show that hadn’t earned my trust would have been enough to make me swear off watching it entirely, but the course was corrected by Arya’s seeming redemption, Tyrion’s bonding with dragons, and the return of that one character we’ve all missed so much: you know, Bran. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.