Several big moments and reveals combined to make this week’s Game of Thrones a fine addition to the season, and an altogether satisfying precursor to the inevitable carnage that awaits as things wrap up in just a few short weeks. First and foremost, though: the return of The Hound! Or, Sandor Clegane, his given name, as it seems in his new life that he’s given up that part of his past (also, as has been pointed out elsewhere, “The Hound” was never a name he gave nor addressed to himself). His apparent death was an off-screen one, which let us all know he had at least a chance to come back (side note: what, if anything, could this say about the likelihood of Stannis’ demise?). Indeed, on a show where even characters who die right before our eyes aren’t necessarily dead-dead, The Hound’s return wasn’t that much of a surprise in the macro sense, but it was nonetheless jarring—and thrilling—to get that first close-up on his scarred, weary face. Apparently, a fairly jolly wilderness-dwelling sort of preacher figure found The Hound close to death and nursed him back to health, then brought him back to live and work with his seemingly nomadic tribe. They are a hardworking, peace-loving folk, and so it is of course pre-ordained that they all must die horrible, terrible deaths—with The Hound coming upon the hanged, lifeless body of his rescuer in the episode’s closing moments, deciding that the whole giving-up-my-violent-past thing wasn’t for him, and then picking up the axe he had been using to chop firewood to go put the tool to more weapon-like use. Casting a known quantity in Ian McShane as the leader of the group that takes The Hound in was a good move, and lent instant credibility to the idea that he was an important figure in the latter man’s life—an effect that couldn’t have been achieved by casting an anonymous actor in the role and expecting us to care about him “just because,” as too many other shows tend to do in mid-stream when they want to force the narrative into a new direction. Also, starting this storyline with a cold open full of light-filled camera work and peaceful nature sounds further contributed to the overall, otherworldly effect. The whole return of this perplexingly beloved character was handled quite well, and the viewer, after spending two seasons only barely wondering at his existence, was suddenly made to care, fully and completely, about his return and forward-moving arc. It’s perhaps no coincidence, too, that the episode which gives us the return of The Hound also gives us the biggest shakeup in Arya’s storyline this season. Shortly after securing passage back to her home, she is attacked by the Waif, and stabbed repeatedly in the stomach, falling into the sea—side note: had her lifeless, obviously dead body floated to the surface then, I would have turned the television off and informed our humble webmaster that Game of Thrones was dead to me and he could find someone else to review the rest of this season and beyond. Don’t eff with Arya, is basically what I’m saying. Alas, she is not dead, at least not yet, as we see her drag herself out of the sea and walk, blood pouring from her body, through the city streets. The look of abject fear on her face as she looks at all the people around her, wondering which of these seemingly innocent citizens could actually be the Waif in disguise, is perfectly executed. For a couple weeks now, Arya has been too comfortable and fearless in her chosen path, and it is, perhaps, a good thing for her to be reminded that her choices—even the right ones—will not come without cost. Unless she dies. Then I’m never watching the show again. Elsewhere, Jon and Sansa went on a tour of the countryside, trying to rally support for their upcoming attack on Ramsay. This was a very well-executed sequence, beginning with a triumphant and optimistic meeting with the Wildlings. They all fall in line behind Jon so easily it gave the impression that this whole venture would just be a matter of going house to house and waiting for the lords to say, “Of course we’ll join you!’ But the mood slowly, gradually sours, as they first nearly fail to convince one house to join, and the preteen ruler reminds them she’s only in power because her mother died the last time they supported the Starks. And then they are flat-out turned down by a lord who grants that, yes, for generations his family has served the Starks—and the last time they did his wife and children were kidnapped, tortured, and killed. It all culminates with the ragtag group they have managed to assemble barely able to keep from killing each other, and Jon and Sansa having a heated argument over how to proceed: he wants to attack with the forces they have, and she wants to gather more support. The two separate without having reached an agreement, though it’s understood that Jon is the leader of this mission, and they’re going to fight now, reinforcements be damned. But Sansa, perhaps in a sign that things aren’t so rosy between them after their initial reunion, steals away to write a letter to… somebody, likely asking for more support. The most obvious recipient of her message is Littlefinger, who only a couple episodes ago gave Sansa advice as to where to turn for reinforcements. At the time, of course, she wasn’t going to take his advice on anything, but she may have now reached the point where she has no other real choice. It represents, potentially, a fascinating evolution of her character. She started as a love-struck teen in the show’s early days, graduated to traumatized survivor, and has, this season, been developing her own sense of agency. The most telling evidence of her turn comes early in her and Jon’s rally tour, as, when accused by a potential ally of really just marrying whomever happened to be convenient to whatever her present situation happened to be, she responds by saying, “I did what I had to do to survive.” She is, in other words, using her trauma not as a crutch, but as a tool, and maybe even a weapon. Where her character may be going as the show moves on, the rest of this season and beyond, is maybe the most interesting storyline we have. Finally, we got proof of what was already suspected in Myrcella’s storyline: she’s only playing the High Sparrow, either to save her own skin or (more likely) to position herself to enact revenge for the treatment she and her brother have received at the hands of his Faith Militant. During a brief conversation with the Sparrow, he informs her that her grandmother is an unrepentant sinner—no doubt setting off warning bells in her head of an impending Walk of Shame. So she hastily decides to meet with her grandmother, ostensibly to get her to “atone,” but actually implores her to leave the city, and passes the woman a secret note making her own, true allegiances clear. This is by far the most frustrating storyline on Game of Thrones right now, as we’re being forced to choose between rooting for two sides that, frankly, we have no real rooting interest in. The only likable character of the bunch, Jaime, was wisely sent away last week, so now we can enjoy him as something other than a mopey, weepy incest creep. The only potential saving grace is that, between all sides, the High Sparrow and his Faith Militant are somehow even more detestable than the Lannisters or the Tyrells. Maybe, if we’re lucky, they’ll all just kill each other. We only have three episodes to go this season. That in itself seems like a crime against humanity. And with so many outstanding storylines—Ramsay’s house of horrors, Jon and Sansa’s march against him, the Lannister/Tyrell/Sparrow soap opera, Arya, Littlefinger, Sam and Gilly, etc., etc., etc.—the concern, the fear, is of course that they won’t all be wrapped up in the next three hours of television—that more than a couple characters will pull a Bran, and hop into a metaphorical magical tree, not to return until next season or even the one after. That said, though, Game of Thrones has given us a lot of progression this season (along with more than a little ill-advised fan service). My guess is, again, that a lot of stories will go unfulfilled until next season or later, and next week will set us up for whatever big battle is to take center stage in episode nine: my money is on the assault on House Ramsay, or maybe that’s just my hope. Either way, things are building, in a good way, toward something big. And this episode, while not the be-all-end-all of GOT installments, was nonetheless a solid entry that set the stage for conflicts to come. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.