I pointed out last week that this show only gives the viewer small morsels of hope and sunshine, and that the ratio of good to bad is never in balance—and whenever we have a particularly long string of good guys not dying, that only means the show will enjoy ripping our hearts out (figuratively, for once) all the more when it inevitably kills, maims, etc., some character we’ve come to love. That, of course, came to brutal fruition last week with Hodor’s Last Stand: After an hour of empowered women gaining agency and Daenerys finally realizing that, hey, that Jorah guy isn’t too bad a fellow, there really was no other way to end things besides killing the sweetest, most gentle character we’ve met over the course of the last six seasons. Which makes this episode’s lack of murder and mayhem all the more foreboding. But let me get this out of the way, first: Overall, this was definitely one of the season’s weakest episodes, though that judgment carries one hell of a big caveat when the worst hour of GOT is better than the best of most other television shows. There really wasn’t one big “bad” moment to point to as the culprit; rather, we had a whole heck of a lot of “meh” going on from start to finish (with notable exceptions, of course, which I’ll get to in due time). There was a lot of setup, but not much action, and we ended on a scene that was intended to rally the audience into anticipation for events to come, but which actually was just a retread of things we’ve seen in the past. What we got this week were, in true Game of Thrones fashion, several brief check-ins, along with a trio of unusually long sequences that all seemed to build to payoffs that didn’t quite come. First was Arya, who returned to the theater troupe she visited last week. After going so far as to actually poison her target’s drink, she returned at the last moment to knock the glass out of the woman’s hand, and, really, that sealed her fate: we next see her readying all her worldly possessions for an escape. The Waif, though, witnesses her failure, and reports back to the Faceless Man, who gives her the go-ahead to kill Arya—a confrontation I’m sure will take center stage in the coming weeks. While I’m happy, from a fan’s perspective, to see Arya decide, finally and fully, that avenging her family is more important than becoming a faceless assassin, I do wonder why Arya’s refusal to give up her identity is such a cardinal sin—when the Waif so obviously harbors a deep grudge against her, and the Faceless Man doesn’t seem to care a bit about that little bit of personality. No matter, though, Arya’s back, and the Girl with no Name is, hopefully, gone for good. The second pillar of this trio of storylines took us to the conflict between Cersei and her semi-allies, and the Sparrow and his acolytes. Jamie had finally readied an army to forcefully break the king’s wife out of captivity and stop her Walk of Shame, but at the last moment, while acknowledging his side would like nothing more than to die in defense of the Faith, the Sparrow abruptly announces an alliance between King Tommen and the Faith Militant. The look shared then between Jamie and his forces look less like a “we got outsmarted” moment than it does a “holy shit, this guy’s gone off script” one. It’s a logical conclusion, story-wise, to this plot, at least at this particular juncture, but it nonetheless feels more than a bit underwhelming. Indeed, I think all the soldiers sitting on their horses, in the moments after realizing that there isn’t going to be a big battle, could be stand-ins for the audience, thinking, “Wait. Isn’t something supposed to be happening here?” Finally, we took a long, strange trip with Samwell, Gilly, and their son to Sam’s father’s house. I say “strange” only because in the grand scheme of things, the show hasn’t provided a more minor character than Samwell. And in a week when we sacrificed so many storylines completely—Jon Snow, Littlefinger, Sansa and Ramsay didn’t appear at all—it felt a little… off to spend so much time in a plotline so at odds with everything else going on, it almost feels like a different show. It wasn’t a bad diversion, though—Sam’s father finds out pretty quickly that Gilly is a Wildling, and makes no attempt to hide how much he despises her and his own son. And after Sam makes no effort to defend Gilly at all, we’re left wondering how this might damage their relationship—until she tells him that his keeping quiet didn’t bother her: what bothered her was how mean people get away with being mean to good people. Our stop with them ends with Sam basically saying screw this, stealing his dad’s sword, and sneaking away with Gilly and their son into the dead of night. So… we had a lot of sound of fury, signifying maybe something, but with none of the catastrophe and violence we’ve come to expect. And it’s not that we necessarily need those things—we don’t need blood and guts and crying survivors—we just don’t trust their absence, and with good reason. Arya almost committed murder in the service of the Faceless Man… but pulled back at the last moment. Jamie almost started a war with the Sparrow and the Faith Militant… but the situation defused right before the explosion. And Samwell almost abandoned his family to whatever horrors his father would undoubtedly have in store for them… but decided instead to run away. Nobody died, no one was maimed—except for some CGI zombies early in the episode, and even they were just cartoony bones exploding across the snowy countryside. No one really suffered. Which lets any Game of Thrones fan know that the hammer is about to come down. We even had a haphazard, unearned moment of triumph in the episode’s final moments, as Daenerys, riding across the desert with her new converts, saw a dust cloud in the distance that she knew immediately meant one of her dragons was near. Which, okay. Whatever. But then she flies onto the scene on her dragon’s back, and gives a big, triumphant speech of “Will you follow me into the blah, blah, blah,” and really, we’ve heard and seen this before, and none of it was nearly as stirring as it was intended to be. It almost seemed like there was a bigger Daenerys storyline scripted for this week that had to be abandoned for one reason or another, and the showrunners decided to at least keep the dragon-y bits. All told, this felt like an episode that just didn’t quite work on its own. It felt like the first half of a two-hour extended episode. There was tons of setup, lots of missing, important characters, and a great big heap of conflict-just-avoided. Game of Thrones will rebound next week, of that I have no doubt. But when you wait around all week for a single hour of television, you can’t help but feel a little cheated when things fall a little flat. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.