I am not the guy who regularly speaks to his television or a movie screen—all the Final Girls can die, for all I care. But after Jon Snow’s mic drop moment at the end of this episode, I literally said, “Oh, bullshit!” as the screen faded to black. In an hour that was long on fan service and repetition masquerading as story progression, there wasn’t much in the way of real plot development, and this week’s Game of Thrones installment suffered mightily for it. We had another visit with Bran this week, as was generally known would happen. With this most recent vision, the Raven let Bran see a younger version of his father engaged in some hand-to-hand combat with a seriously badass two-sword-wielding knight, a fight which ends with Ned, moments from getting his head chopped off, being saved by his buddy who stabs the bad guy in the back (side note: Bran really seems offended that the knight was stabbed in the back, even though the alternative was, what? Your father gets decapitated? Hey, how’s all that honor business been treating you Starks, by the way?). And then, as Ned hears cries coming from the Tower of Joy in front of him and makes his way in that direction, we are led to the moment that book fans in particular and fans of the show generally have been waiting for, for so long: the big reveal that Jon Snow is, in fact— Nope, sorry, just kidding, as the Raven steps in at the last moment to tell Bran he (and, of course, we) has seen enough for one week. He may as well turn to the camera and wink at the audience, so obvious this tease is. And more than obvious, it’s also narratively dangerous, as twin tight ropes are being walked: on the one side, you have book fans and show obsessives who scour the Internet for every little clue about where everything is going, who all freaking know what’s in that tower and what it means, and by the time the show actually gets around to explicitly acknowledging it, the risk is that the reaction is going to be a collective shrug and mumbled, “Well, yeah…. We knew that.” And on the other side, the more casual fans are being led to believe that the thing Bran just simply cannot see right now is some big, huge, world-shaking event—maybe Daenarys isn’t the Mother of Dragons…. Maybe she’s actually a dragon!… Or maybe the Night King is Ned’s father!… Or maybe….—so when the truth actually is revealed, though it will definitely be momentous and game changing, the built up expectations probably won’t be able to live up to what’s actually on screen. And back to Jon Snow: He bookended this episode, as he has—alive or dead—in the previous two. This time, his first scene is comprised mostly of him walking among the men of the Night’s Watch and taking in all their “holy shit, thought this dude was dead” looks. When we return to him at the episode’s end, it’s just to see him preside over the hanging of the men who killed him, including young Alliser Thorne, who delivered the initial killing stab, and who here, when asked if he has any final words, just stares at Jon with pure, unbridled and unrepentant hatred. Though the show does deftly provide us a moment where we wonder if maybe Jon will, in fact, spare the traitors, he ultimately cuts the cord that sets them to hang, and we’re given a parting close-up of Alliser’s face in death—the shot holds, first appropriately and with real narrative weight, but as the seconds tick by the moment becomes unsettling, and then turns downright macabre and unnecessary. This, just like the whoops-sorry-just-kidding scene with the Tower of Joy previously, is another moment dubiously intended to tease-slash-please the fanboys (and girls): the showrunners almost breaking the fourth wall to say, Yeah, we know how much you hated this little shit. I know these moments are intended to be little shout outs (or whatever you want to call them) to the show’s most dedicated fans, but what they really do is deprive us of time that could be—should be—spent on moving the story forward. Consider: In this 52-minute episode, only two storylines were afforded more than a single scene, and one of those, with Jon Snow, consisted of the aforementioned and really-shouldn’t-count sequence of the Commander of the Night’s Watch just… walking the grounds and exchanging a few one liners. The other? Varys interrogating a local villager (scene 1) and then informing Tyrion that he’s learned who’s behind the attacks on the city (scene 2). And all Varys/Tyrion scenes really did was remind me that someone let the dragons out of the basement last week and now nobody really seems to care too much about what they may be up to. Elsewhere, the theme seemed to be “Let’s not really do anything and pretend it’s progress.” The biggest offender in this regard—and the most frustrating storyline of the season thus far—was our check in with Daenarys, as she arrived at the temple where, as a royal widow, she’s to spend the rest of her days. Here’s a rough translation of all that occurred in this storyline: SISTERWIFE MATRIACH: Hey, remember all that stuff they told you about staying here forever? DAENARYS: Yeah? S.M.: It’s true. D.: I am the Mother of Dragons! First of my name! -scene- Other spots were nearly as egregious in their pretending to move things forward. (Former) Queen Cersei has had an undead killing machine for a bodyguard for three weeks now, and nary a head has rolled on his account, save for one poor, random villager. And her son, King Tommen, gets all righteously indignant toward the Sparrow—like he’s just now realizing the man threw his wife in a dungeon and made his mother walk naked through the streets of the city—only to end up sitting beside the man a moment later on a stone bench and listening intently to his “words of wisdom,” like they’re two old men feeding squirrels in the park on a Sunday afternoon. And there’s Ramsay, too: As he holds court in his new position of power, a lord who wants to join him in alliance delivers, as way of peace offering of sorts, young Rickon Stark, the former Wildling slave Osha, and the head of Rickon’s direwolf, Shaggydog. So, great: Ramsay gets another Stark to torment and a woman to (presumably) sexualy brutalize. Though since we now have two different characters to inhabit those roles, I guess we can call that progress of sorts? Look, there really is a fair amount to love here. Though it was a rather anticlimactic end to the episode, Jon’s decision to leave the Night’s Watch was nonetheless a surprising and interesting turn. Meanwhile, Arya continues her badass evolution, and has shown a remarkable and expertly crafted amount of growth through the life of the series—a growth unmatched by any other character, save for maybe Jon Snow and, arguably, Theon. And the dialogue, even when it doesn’t really serve to move the story forward in meaningful ways, is very well written, and delivered by, top-to-bottom, perhaps the most talented ensemble cast on television—and it’s no small feat to make talk of dragons and honor and kingsguards seem serious and full of gravitas, rather than hokey and reminiscent of summer LARPing conventions. But these nuggets aren’t enough—at least not yet. We’re three episodes in, 30 percent of the way through the season, and more, simply, is needed. If the equivalence were a cross-country, east-to-west coast roadtrip, we’ve just crossed the border into Oklahoma. Yeah, there’s plenty of road ahead of us and ample time for adventures to come, but the miles we’ve already traveled are nothing to sneeze at, either, and there should be something more to show for the journey thus far than gas receipts and empty Taco Bell bags. Here’s to hoping that things return to form next week. And it is, truly, the mark of a great show that I am legitimately hopeful. There have, of course, been dud episodes of Game of Thrones over these past six seasons, but an entire season as a whole has yet to disappoint, and none have been anything less than grandly spectacular by the time the credits roll at the end of episode 10. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.