A New Blog for New Projects

This blog has been living in my head for probably two years now, but I’ve finally gotten it out here where it belongs. The impetus for this sort-of move (although I expect I’ll still be doing some Tumblring and may even make an SF Bluestocking Tumblr to complement the longer writing I intend to do here) is twofold. Partly, I’ve become increasingly unhappy with Tumblr as a place for long writing. Partly, I have several longer writing projects that I’ve been planning for some time now, and sticking to Tumblr for the majority of my blogging was (perhaps stupidly) getting in the way of me actually pursuing those projects.

So, here is what I have planned:

  1. I will be continuing my ongoing Game of Thrones episode recaps, analysis, and complaining. For this year, at least, those posts will continue be cross-posted on my personal Tumblr. I will also be moving all of my long posts about the show over here, and all content regarding previous seasons will soon be available for perusal in the archives.
  2. This blog will have a lot of book reviews. Because I failed to tag old book reviews on Tumblr in a way that makes sense, it’s unlikely that any old ones will be making their way over here. However, I’ve been pretty steadily reading two or three books a week this year, so you can expect at least one or two book reviews a week irrespective of other reading and writing projects. I plan to catch up on reviewing all of my 2015 reading list so far, but I won’t be revisiting anything before then unless I reread it.
  3. The first large reading and writing project that I have planned is a complete reread of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. As of today, the plan is that, starting on Monday, May 11, I will be reading and writing about 2-4 chapters per day, Monday through Friday, for the next five weeks, so this will be finished the Friday before the show airs in the US.
  4. After that, I’m not entirely certain what my next project will be, but I’ve got several ideas, and I’m definitely open to suggestions.

I’m pretty excited to be working on something new, and I’m very excited to start really focusing on writing more in general. More updates to come as I get things set up the way I want them to be and settle into a new blogging routine.

Book Review: Born With Teeth by Kate Mulgrew

Mulgrew_Born With Teeth
Born With Teeth by Kate Mulgrew

Over the last couple of years, I’ve found myself developing a real fondness for memoirs, so when I found out that Kate Mulgrew, who I’ve admired since the first time I saw her enter the bridge on Star Trek: Voyager, was publishing one, I was thrilled. Born With Teeth is not a book about Star Trek, so fans of the series hoping for that may be disappointed, but Kate Mulgrew has lived a full and interesting life and has a lot to say about art, love, and finding happiness by being true to one’s self.

From the first pages of this book, as she writes about growing up as a precocious and much-loved child in Iowa, it’s very clear that Kate Mulgrew is not cut out to be a conventional woman. Leaving home for New York, she pursues her career as an actress with a deep and abiding passion for her craft that sustains her over the decades of her life.

Early on, we learn that Mulgrew gave birth early in her career to a daughter who she gave up for adoption, and Mulgrew’s regret over this decision and her desire to be reunited with the child she lost figures nearly as largely in the story as her passion for acting. Mulgrew’s feelings about the adoption consume many pages, and even as she later marries and has two more children by her first husband, she never stops wanting to know her daughter.

I finished this book in just one day, I found it so riveting. Kate Mulgrew is a passionate, intelligent, driven woman who isn’t afraid to talk about her mistakes. She’s also wry and funny, but never cynical, even about her often disappointing relationships with men. Mulgrew’s love for her children and her attempts to stay true to herself while also doing right by them are relatable and compelling.

Born With Teeth is an excellent, fast read about a woman who struggles with balancing her personal and professional lives. The book is light on practical advice, but I think it’s a wonderful story to show that a life doesn’t have to be objectively perfect in order to be rich and fulfilling.  I think one takeaway here is that mistakes shouldn’t define one’s life and that it’s never too late to make positive changes. The other takeaway is that it’s okay to not compromise when happiness is on the line, which is an excellent message, especially for young, creative women, to whom I would most recommend this book.

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 4 “The Sons of the Harpy”

“The Sons of the Harpy” is another mixed bag of an episode. There’s a lot of story here, but there’s also a lot of exposition, and I think the greatest strengths of this episode are in its quieter moments. That said, this episode is one of the bloodiest of the series so far as shit hits the fan in King’s Landing and Meereen while Jaime and Bronn arrive in Dorne, and the bloodshed we see here promises to be just the beginning of the violence in store for us this season.

The show is doing a lot of interesting stuff and a lot of infuriating stuff, and there’s a lot to talk about, and, as always, spoilers are under the cut for both last night’s episode and book related discussion.


The episode picks up where the last one ended, as Ser Jorah steals a boat and absconds with Tyrion from Volantis.

Elsewhere, Jaime and Bronn are sailing south. I loved that we got a shot of Tarth (Brienne’s birthplace), although it’s brief. The conversation here between Bronn and Jaime sets up the first of several interesting narrative disagreements that are showcased in this episode, in which the central theme seems to be a meditation on the different ways in which we frame stories. In the story Jaime wants to tell, they are going to rescue his “niece,” Myrcella, although Bronn refers to it as “stealing” Dorne’s princess and seems to be well aware that Myrcella is actually Jaime’s daughter. Bronn also asks Jaime if it was Jaime who freed Tyrion, to which Jaime responds that it was Varys who did it–another difference between reality and the story that Jaime wants to tell, even though it’s obvious to Bronn (and the viewer) that this journey to Dorne is an atonement of sorts for Jaime, who can’t seem to shake his guilt no matter what story he tries to tell himself and no matter how much he wants to avenge Tywin’s death by killing Tyrion.

In King’s Landing, Cersei continues to whittle away at the Small Council. The Iron Bank is calling the crowns debts, so she sends Mace Tyrell to Braavos to negotiate better terms–with Ser Meryn Trant for protection. With Arya in Braavos and Meryn Trant still on her list, this could get interesting in the next couple of weeks.

Next up, Cersei meets with the High Sparrow, who is now the new High Septon. The High Sparrow is definitely one of the most interesting new characters introduced in this season, and Jonathan Pryce continues to knock it out of the park in this role as a seemingly mild-mannered and reasonable man who nonetheless jumps at the chance of reviving the Faith Militant, a martial arm of the faith of the Seven that was disbanded hundreds of years ago.

The reinstatement of the Faith Militant immediately results in gangs of armed religious fanatics rampaging through the streets of King’s Landing, smashing stuff and beating and arresting people, culminating in the ransacking of Littlefinger’s brothel and then the arrest of Loras Tyrell.

While Cersei at least nominally had to have Tommen sign off on the Faith Militant, we find out that Tommen has no idea what is going on when an enraged Margaery confronts him about her brother’s arrest. This begins one of the show’s most fascinating departures from the books so far, as we see Tommen go immediately to Cersei to demand Loras’s release. Cersei, of course, disclaims responsibility and denies having any power to do anything about it, which sends Tommen himself to the Sept to seek an audience with the High Sparrow. Members of the Faith Militant bar Tommen’s entry, but Tommen refuses to let his Kingsguard kill the men, even as cries of “bastard!” and “abomination!” and “born of sin!” ring out in the background. A disheartened Tommen returns to his chambers, where he has to give Margaery the bad news: not only has he not managed to free Loras, he doesn’t even have a clear plan yet. Frustrated, Margaery leaves to be with her family, and she’s going to write to her grandmother about this.

I actually find this whole plot surprisingly compelling. I’ve never loved the way GRRM handled Cersei and the King’s Landing plot in A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons, and I’ve been very concerned about how this would be done on the show, especially with an older Tommen and more mature and involved Margaery. In the books, Tommen is a very young child, so he’s not a player at all, and book!Margaery, at just sixteen herself, is much more vulnerable to Cersei’s machinations than the more adult Margaery of the show. I didn’t like the way the show handled Tommen’s marriage to Margaery, but I think I might love where things are going now. This Tommen is still very young (Have I mentioned how young this actor looks? My goodness, he’s like a baby!), but he’s starting to realize how fucked up his situation is. His mother is power mad and making terrible decisions, the city is turning against him, his wife is unhappy, and he’s just a kid that no one seems to take very seriously. I’m finding myself really looking forward to seeing how Tommen develops.

My only reservation (and it’s, admittedly, a major one) is that I’m now worried that Cersei’s storyline is going to be sacrificed in order to expand Tommen’s character and make the story all about him. I feel like there is a reason that characters like Joffrey, Tommen, and Robb Stark weren’t given POV chapters in the books while their mothers were, and I worry that the writers of the show might be missing the point of that by spending so much time focusing on Tommen. We already got to see Catelyn Stark’s story turned into Robb’s, and Catelyn was completely discarded by the show following Robb’s death, in spite of the thematic significance of Lady Stoneheart in the books. I’m torn between really enjoying the direction the show is taking and being unhappy at the prospect of Cersei being similarly sidelined in favor of her son’s character development.

All that said, I am unequivocally thrilled about Olenna Tyrell’s impending return, which is the only good news in this whole sequence.

Also, a note on costumes: the fabrics on this show are amazing. I always loved Joffrey’s outfits, and Tommen’s are very similarly gorgeous. Also, did everyone else notice that, while Cersei seems to have given up her armored look this season–I imagine because she feels more secure in her position as she’s weeding out her opposition–Margaery’s dress in this episode featured a metal overlay on the bodice that is definitely reminiscent of some of Cersei’s earlier looks.

Up at Castle Black, Selyse Baratheon is basically awful, hating on Jon Snow and on her own daughter, Shireen. Selyse suggests that Jon Snow is just a bastard of Ned Stark’s by some tavern wench, but Stannis insists that that wasn’t Ned’s way–the first tiny piece of this episode’s R+L=J preparatory exposition. Melisandre shows up to remind Selyse that Shireen is still Stannis’s daughter, which seems ominous. It’s interesting to see Stannis questioning Melisandre a little. He might need her, but it seems he might not entirely trust her, either.

Elsewhere in the castle, Jon Snow is writing to the lords of the North to ask for men and supplies. He’s not happy about asking Roose Bolton for help, but Sam sensibly reminds him that Lord Bolton is the most powerful of the northern lords, and Jon angrily signs the letter after all. He’s still stewing about it when Melisandre pops in to try and convince him to come south with them to Winterfell. Failing that, she tries to seduce him (probably to make another shadow baby, maybe to kill Roose Bolton) which he also rebuffs. So she settles for just freaking Jon out with a “You know nothing, Jon Snow” as she leaves the room.

Meanwhile, Stannis is busily doing paperwork when a bored Shireen comes in looking for validation. We get even more back story about Shireen’s greyscale, which makes me increasingly certain that we’ll be getting greyscale and not the Pale Mare in Meereen later on. Mostly, though, I think this is a great humanizing scene for Stannis, who is often cold and detached, even if he’s not evilly so like Roose Bolton. It’s nice to seen Stannis thaw out a little, and I audibly “aww”-ed when Shireen hugged him. This is probably my second favorite scene of the episode, and it continues the theme of different stories–Selyse may see Shireen as weak and deformed, but Stannis loves her and is proud of her regardless.

Next, we travel to the crypts below Winterfell, where Sansa is lighting candles and visiting her dead family. She’s in front of Lyanna Stark’s statue when Littlefinger shows up to take his leave before heading back to King’s Landing. Before leaving, however, Littlefinger provides the second part of this episode’s R+L=J exposition. He tells Sansa the story of Lord Whent’s tourney at Harrenhaal, where Rhaegar Targaryen passed over his own wife, Elia of Dorne, to choose Lyanna Stark as Queen of Love and Beauty. Sansa replies that Rhaegar might have chosen Lyanna, but then he kidnapped and raped Lyanna–Lyanna didn’t choose him back. Judging from Littlefinger’s sad, knowing look at Sansa, the story the Starks and Robert Baratheon have been telling about these events might not be the whole or correct story. The subtlety of Littlefinger’s look might fly over the heads of viewers who haven’t read the books, but I think everyone who has read ASOIAF got the message loud and clear.

Before leaving, Littlefinger apprises Sansa of the situation in the North and Stannis’s impending attack. He predicts that if Stannis is succesful, Sansa will be made Wardeness of the North in her own right. If Stannis fails, Littlefinger advises Sansa to secure her position by manipulating Ramsay. And of course Littlefinger can’t leave without creepily stealing a last kiss from Sansa, which felt gratuitous to me if the show expects us to believe that Sansa is anything more than Littlefinger’s pawn and completely in his power, but I don’t know why I would ever expect this show to not do the worst things possible with Sansa every chance they get.

In Dorne, Jaime and Bronn have finally arrived at their destination. Breakfast is a snake, and we get a lovely little chat about what the best way to die is. The start on their way, and as Bronn points out the flaw in Jaime’s plan to sneak into Dorne (paying off the ship’s captain), they are almost immediately spotted by a group of four Dornish riders that they have to fight.

Somewhere else in Dorne, Ellaria is riding a really pretty horse (SO pretty) along a beach on her way to meet the Sand Snakes. Of course, the captain of the ship that Jaime and Bronn were on has already spilled the beans (and gotten a face full of scorpions for his trouble). This is the only part of the episode that I think I seriously hated. It just didn’t work for me. Ellaria in the books didn’t want to avenge Oberyn at all, and while Arianne Martell and the Sand Snakes did, they were much smarter about it than they seem to be being here. Declaring Myrcella as Queen of Westeros in the books was an amazing, elegant, vicious plan that made a lot more sense than the plan these women seem to have on the show, which is apparently just killing Myrcella to start a war. I might be in a minority as a true lover of the books’ Dornish plot, but even if the show couldn’t put it on screen exactly the way it was in the books (which I agree would be basically impossible) I think they could have come up with something better than this.

The show also seems determined to flatten all these characters into nearly indistinguishable bloodthirsty martial types, which is absolutely infuriating. One of the strengths of GRRM’s books is that he showcases a wide variety of different female characters, and the Sand Snakes are no different. In the show, however, it seems like the writers really want to squeeze all of GRRM’s myriad multifaceted women into two boxes, labeled “badass warrior type women” and “inept politician type women.” Gone are the vastly different suggestions that Tyene, Obara, and Nymeria have for avenging their father. Gone is Ellaria’s sensible desire to protect her own children and live in a peaceful land. Gone is Arianne’s ambition and resentment of her father’s reticence, because Arianne is gone altogether. Basically, gone is all the depth and nuance that made the Dornish plot such an interesting addition to the books. I’d started to come to terms over the last few weeks with the omission of Arianne Martell from the show, and I’d even started to think that expanding Ellaria’s role was a good solution to some of the problems with introducing a whole new setting and cast of characters this late in the series, as it offered some interesting ways of handling the Dornish plot, but it looks like I’m just going to be disappointed. At this point, I’m no longer going to get my hopes up about it at all.

Back in Essos, Jorah and Tyrion are well on their way. Tired of hearing all the annoying noises Tyrion is making, Jorah finally removes the gag from Tyrion’s mouth. Except it turns out that Tyrion is just going to make some even more annoying mouth noises now. When he learns that Jorah is taking him to Daenerys, not Cersei, Tyrion can’t resist insulting and mocking Jorah until Jorah knocks him out to shut him up. While this scene moves things along and is thematically consistent with the rest of the episode, again picking up the idea of the duality of reality and the stories we tell ourselves, it’s hands down the most boring thing going on this week.

In Meereen Daenerys is talking with Ser Barristan, which starts my favorite part of this episode. Through Ser Barristan, we learn some more about Rhaegar Targaryen in a direct counterpoint to the discussion between Sansa and Littlefinger earlier. The kind, charming Prince Rhaegar that Barristan describes, who loved to sing in the streets of King’s Landing, doesn’t sound like the sort of guy who would kidnap and rape anybody, and he certainly doesn’t sound very much like what Viserys told Dany about their brother. This pleasant interlude is interrupted by Hizdahr zo Loraq returning to pester Daenerys some more about reopening Meereen’s fighting pits.

While Hizdahr is waxing eloquent about the joys of blood sports, the Sons of the Harpy have coordinated a massive attack on Daenerys’s Unsullied forces in the streets of Meereen. Grey Worm and his group are in dire straights when Ser Barristan, now walking through the town, hears the commotion and comes to help. Together, Barristan and Grey Worm manage to defeat the remaining Sons of the Harpy, but the episode ends with both men gravely, possibly mortally, wounded. I loved finally getting to see Ser Barristan in a real fight, as he’s one of my favorite characters from the books, but my question is why are the Unsullied so easily defeated? They’re supposed to be these amazing super soldiers, and the show has already told us that most of the Sons of the Harpy are common men. The Unsullied should have a significant edge, being far better equipped and trained than the Sons, and yet they drop like flies. In the books, the Sons of the Harpy are restricted to sneak attacks and nighttime assassinations–they’re basically terrorists–but here they are engaging in full on guerrilla warfare in broad daylight with what looks like significant help from the regular people of Meereen.

It just seems weird to me, like the show is telling us one thing but showing something entirely different, which is ironic in light of this episode’s overarching theme about storytelling.

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 3 “High Sparrow”

So, the good news about “High Sparrow” is that we’re finally starting to see some stories really moving along. The bad news is that the show is as hit-or-miss as ever.

My favorite thing about this episode is probably the wide shots of King’s Landing, Moat Cailin, Winterfell, and Volantis. The settings are absolutely stunning, and seeing these places this way really helps to bring the world of the show to life and help to make the viewer feel as if they could be real places. Least favorite thing? Well, I’ll elaborate more under the cut.

Spoilers under the cut for the episode and a bunch of book-related talk.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of sexual exploitation, sexual violence. and torture.


In Braavos, everything is dark and gloomy in the House of Black and White, where Arya has apparently been sweeping the floor for days. She’s impatient to start being a Faceless Man, even though she doesn’t seem to have any idea what that even means. On the one hand, this opening scene is a smart piece of exposition that explains to the viewer what this place is. On the other hand, I felt a little embarrassed for Arya here, as she really just doesn’t quite seem to understand what she’s gotten herself into. Frankly, I’m already finding myself a little bored with Arya’s storyline this season. She’s never been one of my favorite characters, and I’ve always felt like her chapters in Braavos were just a very elaborate way for her to cool her heels while all the interesting stuff in the books is happening elsewhere.

A gorgeous wide shot of King’s Landing and the ringing of bells herald the wedding of Margaery and Tommen. We hear the end of the couple’s vows, and then we cut straight from Margaery’s satisfied smirk to her and Tommen’s post coital chatting, which is awkward and something I was honestly blind-sided by. I know they’ve aged up Tommen for the show, and obviously teenagers are into sex, but damn. Natalie Dormer is my age (early 30s, although she might pass for late 20s), and Dean-Charles Chapman is a very young-looking 17 (although he would have been just 16 during filming). While we don’t actually see Tommen and Margaery do the deed, they totally did, and while the scene seemed to be going for sweetness (and succeeded to some degree), I am having a hard time not being skeeved out by it.

The thing is, people aren’t great at recognizing the sexual abuse and exploitation of teenage girls, but when adult women are having sex with teenage boys not only is it not generally seen as abuse or exploitation, it’s seen as something that should be a positive experience for boys–something they should be proud of or that makes them a man. And that’s exactly what is on display here. We’re shown explicitly that Margaery is exploiting Tommen’s naivete, that she’s manipulating him, that she’s subtly emasculating him to turn him against his own mother. But we also seem to be intended to see the sexual aspect of this manipulation as somehow not harmful to Tommen? And it feels like we’re being primed to really dislike Cersei this season, which makes it feel like we’re supposed to see Margaery’s manipulation as actually being for Tommen’s own good, when–really–I don’t see how Tommen will be any better off wrapped around Margaery’s finger than he would be under Cersei’s thumb. Cersei might not be mother of the year, but there’s never been any doubt of her commitment to protecting her children. Margaery, meanwhile, is on husband number three, and show!Margaery, as a mature woman with a seemingly large amount of agency, is very different from book!Margaery, a teenage girl who hasn’t even merited her own POV chapters so far.

I just don’t think this is okay. It’s not the worst thing this show has ever done, but it’s pretty messed up. We’re supposed to see Tommen as sweet and innocent and tractable, but we’re somehow not supposed to see Margaery’s use of sex to manipulate him as a violation? Oh, well, he’s enthusiastic about it? That’s supposed to make it okay, I guess. Having your youth and inexperience exploited by a woman old enough to be your mother can’t possibly be traumatic when she’s a total babe, apparently. And, see? Tommen’s standing up to his mother a little bit now, so Margaery really is making a man of him. Ugh. It’s just a gross example of a toxic and damaging ideal of masculinity, no matter what kind of veneer of sweetness and humor the show wants to slap on top of it.

And that’s all without even getting into the mess of the poisonous rivalry between Cersei and Margaery that is happening over and around Tommen. GRRM gets a lot of credit for subverting and upending ordinary fantasy tropes in his books, but the Cersei-Margaery competition in the books is a pretty straightforward young queen vs. old queen situation that is rooted in fairy tale traditions of women who conflict over sex and fertility. The show is playing this trope even straighter than GRRM ever did, kicking off this season with young Cersei being warned of a younger, more beautiful queen who will displace her. This is expounded upon in this episode as Cersei and Margaery take turns undermining each other in Tommen’s affections, Margaery hinting that Cersei might be happier away from King’s Landings and Cersei suggesting to Tommen that Margaery may not be as wonderful as she seems. Finally, Cersei goes to see Margaery herself, where she endures veiled insult after veiled insult about her age, her drinking, and her diminished role as Queen Mother. I’m not sure how much more I can handle of Cersei and Margaery trading barbs like this before it becomes completely insufferably silly.

Prophecy notwithstanding, it always seemed to me that Cersei and Margaery in the books would have been better allies than enemies, although the much younger Margaery in the books may not have seemed like a viable friend to Cersei. In the show, however, with both women so much closer in age and stature, it seems even more obvious that they would be a formidable team and even more irrational of both of them to be so constantly at each other’s throats. By playing up their conflict as being a petty one over beauty and sex, the show’s writers are diminishing and trivializing these characters even more than GRRM did and insulting women in general while they’re at it.

This episode gives us our first view of Winterfell this season, introducing it with a lovely–if slightly dour-looking–shot of it from afar. Ramsay has been out collecting taxes and flaying some guys alive, which he’s brought back to Winterfell for display, much to his father’s mild displeasure. The Boltons don’t have enough men to hold the North through might of arms, Roose informs his son, so they need to think smarter about how to maintain their new position in the wake of Tywin Lannister’s death. A good marriage is the key to holding the North, obviously, and Roose has found the perfect girl for Ramsay.

Cut to Sansa and Littlefinger, cresting a hill before Moat Cailin (another lovely scenery shot, although a little too reminiscent for me of Weathertop in The Fellowship of the Rings). It finally dawns on Sansa that they are heading towards Winterfell, which Littlefinger confirms. Suddenly she realizes that the marriage proposal he talked about back at the Vale wasn’t his marriage but hers. In a “twist” straight out of my worst nightmares of what this season could bring for Sansa, she’s meant to marry Ramsay Bolton. Even without knowing about Ramsay’s nastier traits, Sansa has good reasons to refuse this scheme, and she tries, only to be manipulated by Littlefinger into going along with it.

Littlefinger’s speech to Sansa about refusing to be a bystander and taking control of her life and getting revenge might be the most disgusting bit of abusive manipulation we’ve ever seen on screen in this show, and the worst part about it is that I don’t think this is what was intended by the writers. In a very sick and condescending way, I think this is intended to be an empowering moment for Sansa, but it also has the effect of making Sansa herself at least partly responsible for anything that might happen to her after this point. Because she’s now chosen to go to Winterfell, chosen to marry Ramsay Bolton, chosen to endure whatever indignities or abuses she might suffer going forwards. And this is presented as a noble decision, or at least as a brave one. But it’s not. It’s just infuriating, because the truth is that Sansa doesn’t really have a choice, and even if she did, she doesn’t have anywhere near enough information to make an informed decision.

On another hill, not far away, Brienne and Podrick are still tailing Sansa and Littlefinger, but their scene in this episode is not about anything in particular happening. Instead, it’s about learning more of who these characters are–about where they’ve been rather than where they’re going–and I mostly love it. I haven’t been very happy so far with the portrayal of Brienne and Pod’s relationship, but this scene actually rights a lot of the problems I’ve had with them up to this point. I don’t like that Brienne sort of minimizes her treatment of Pod as “always snapping at [him],” but it’s good to see their relationship actually evolving and in a positive way. After weeks and weeks of Brienne being so hard and cold, it’s nice to see that she does have a softer side. Her determination to avenge Renly’s death also gives her storyline a little more purpose, as we are about to find out that she and Stannis are soon to be on a collision course. They’re both on their way to Winterfell.

At the Wall, Jon Snow has to break the news to Stannis that he won’t be accepting Stannis’s offer of Lordship over Winterfell. A pragmatic man, Stannis forbears from criticizing or debating Jon, instead just advising (quite sensibly) that Jon send Alliser Thorne away from Castle Black. After Stannis leaves the room, Davos hangs back to plant the idea in Jon’s mind that maybe guarding the realms of men will mean leaving the Wall, one way or another.

Back at the House of Black and White, Arya is struggling to find her place. To become a Faceless Man, she must become “no one,” and this is sharply at odds with her dreams of revenge for the wrongs she and her family have endured. To get her revenge, she thinks she needs to become Faceless, but to do that she has to give up being the girl who has wanted nothing but revenge for the last three seasons of the show. So Arya gets rid of all her things, except for Needle, which she hides in some rocks down by the sea, and returns to the House of Black and White to begin her training in earnest. Except, actually, this just means washing dead bodies in some dank corner of the temple, which is super boring.

Sansa arrives at Winterfell, where she seems almost overcome with emotion at first, but she manages to put on a smile as she meets Roose and Ramsay Bolton, which reinforces that we are supposed to see Sansa as actively choosing this, even though she is in no way prepared for this shit.

I hate that Fat Walda never gets any lines. I feel like she’s basically a sight gag–”oh, that Roose is so suave and evil-sexy, but look at his tubby wife.” Since the show is going so far away from the books this season, it would be nice if they would give Walda a lot more dignity and a bit more to do. I’d love to see her and Sansa become friends. I want to learn that Fat Walda has hidden depths.

And going back to my earlier complaint about the show’s bullshit treatment of woman on woman conflict, I hate the way this shot pans over to Ramsay’s girlfriend, who is staring daggers at Sansa. I am going to be incredibly angry if the show somehow tries to make Myranda more of a villain than Ramsay is, but that would be pretty par for the course.

I do like that Sansa seems to have at least some allies in Winterfell. The old serving woman who says “The North Remembers” is a tiny little beacon of hope that at least someone is looking out for Sansa’s best interests.

Back at the Wall, Jon Snow is giving his first orders as Lord Commander. As Jon talks about the need for a new latrine pit, Alliser Thorne looks like he’s absolutely certain of what his new job will be, but he needn’t have worried. That appointment goes to a ginger, and Ser Alliser gets to be the new First Ranger. Janos Slynt, however, isn’t happy to be told that he’s getting sent off to work on rebuilding another castle, and he refuses the order and insults the new Lord Commander to his face. Jon ends up chopping off Janos’s head, making it very clear that, while Jon might be young, he doesn’t intend to rule the Night’s Watch gently. While Thorne pointedly refuses to support Janos, moving out of the way of the men who take Janos to the block, I don’t think we can be ready any time soon to celebrate anything like a friendship between Thorne and Snow. Stannis, however, seems to approve of Jon’s firm hand. Overall, I really liked this sequence. It was very true to the books, and it does a good job of both establishing Jon’s authority as Lord Commander and hinting at what his challenges will be in the future.

If anyone thought the boob count so far in this season was disappointingly low, it seems that the show is making up for lost time in the next scene, where the High Septon is engaging in some religious-themed sex play at Littlefinger’s brothel. Just as he’s picking which of the “Seven” he wants to “worship,” however, Lancel and some other Sparrow cult members burst in to ruin his fun. The High Septon gets marched into the streets naked and is beaten as punishment for his sins, as he recounts to Cersei and the Small Council in the next scene. He insists that Cersei simply must do something about these religious whackos, but instead she tosses the High Septon in prison and seizes the opportunity to ingratiate herself to the “High Sparrow.” When she returns to the Red Keep, Cersei pops in to see how Qyburn’s “work” is coming along and to have him send a message to Littlefinger, and as she walks out we see whatever it is that Qyburn’s working on spasm under a sheet on the table behind him. Qyburn is such a wonderfully creepy dude, and he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite minor characters.

Back at Winterfell one more time, Sansa is walking around and Theon is avoiding her. Meanwhile, Littlefinger is trying to get to know Ramsay a little, although I’m a little confused at how someone as generally well-informed as Petyr Baelish could really have heard nothing about Ramsay so far. In the books, literally everyone knows about what a monster Ramsay is, and it doesn’t make sense that Littlefinger hasn’t even heard rumors about it on the show. Roose interrupts Ramsay and Littlefinger to let Baelish know that Roose doesn’t trust him. Baelish is a little upset that Roose is reading his mail, but he assures Bolton that they’re on the same side, at least for now.

I honestly can’t say enough just how much I absolutely hate what the show is doing with Sansa this season. It doesn’t even make sense. In the books, Sansa is still in the Vale, keeping her identity a secret and posing as Alayne Stone. The story she’s now being shoehorned into is actually Theon’s story, and Sansa is being forced into the role of Jeyne Poole, whose rape and torture at the hands of Ramsay Bolton is used as a catalyst for Theon to have a sort of redemption arc.

In spite of all the praise GRRM gets for creating complex, dynamic characters, Ramsay is a character that doesn’t grow or change at all in the books, to the point that he’s almost a caricature of evil who represents every single bad trait that a man in a patriarchal feudal society could have. He’s cruel, misogynistic, selfish, a serial rapist and a torturer of men and women who is only kept (slightly) in check by his powerful father, Roose. In the books, this is useful (although still harrowing to read), as we know Ramsay almost entirely from Theon’s POV chapters, where the point of the story is Theon’s character development (such as it is). It makes sense, in the books, for Ramsay to be a demon and for poor Jeyne Poole to be a damsel in distress, because this is that story that Theon is telling about himself, the story where Theon eventually manages to get his shit together to try and rescue Jeyne from Ramsay’s clutches.

The problem I see with this on the show is that putting Sansa in Jeyne’s place seems like it will basically destroy all the character growth Sansa has had over the last four seasons. Because what Ramsay does to Jeyne in the books is systematic degradation and abuse. Poor Jeyne was just a girl in the books who had been groomed for this by Littlefinger, and she never had any power whatsoever. For Sansa in the show, however, who has grown into a young woman who is brave and clever and manipulative and who has at least some small semblance of agency, putting her through marriage to Ramsay won’t just be degradation and abuse–it will be a systematic disempowerment, presumably ending with her being reduced to the same kind of damsel in distress that Jeyne was in the books, in need of rescue by Theon (or possibly Brienne/Pod, who have still been following her). The only way this could even possibly be salvaged, I think, is if Sansa also fills the role that Wyman Manderly had in the books, weakening the Boltons’ hold on Winterfell from the inside, making them a softer target for Stannis, but even this isn’t really a satisfactory outcome for me.

Even if Sansa were to kill the Boltons and Theon with her bare hands and take the North in her own name, it’s not worth it to me if we have to watch her be raped and tortured. And, sadly, I don’t think that’s what we’re going to see this season. Sansa’s story is already being twisted and subordinated in service of those of Ramsay and Theon, and I fully expect that whatever suffering she endures this season will be to further their character growth rather than her own. The fact that the show’s writers seem determined, most notably by framing this all as Sansa’s choice, to make us think that this is Sansa being a Strong Female Character makes me absolutely sick. Sansa’s story in the Vale isn’t particularly thrilling in the books so far, but GRRM gives her something that Benioff and Weiss have denied her–room and time to grow, without being under constant threat of rape and torture.

The episode ends by visiting Tyrion and Varys, who are arriving at Volantis. We get to see a gorgeous view of the city before we are taken on a short tour of it. They watch a Red Priestess giving a sermon heralding Daenerys as a savior. There’s another mention of greyscale, which (in combination with the exposition about it with Shireen and Gilly last week) makes me think that this illness is going to be important later in the season. Perhaps this will be the plague in Meereen instead of the Pale Mare? In any case, they make themselves to a brothel, where there is a Daenerys look-alike, and Jorah is lurking around in the background. Tyrion tries romancing one of the women, only to find out that he just doesn’t have the heart for banging whores like he used to. When he goes for a piss, Jorah grabs him and tells Tyrion that he’s taking him to “the Queen.”

I actually found this whole brothel scene to be an illustrative example of the way the show pulls its punches when it comes to making its male characters look villainous. The writers almost never shy away from torturing the show’s female characters (all in the name of character development, of course, because obviously women must be abused and raped to grow strong), but they seem loathe to explore the men’s most negative moments.

In the books, Tyrion arrives at a brothel in Selhorys still in a misogynistic rage after killing his father and Shae and ostensibly looking for his lost wife, Tysha. Amid tedious repetitions of “where do whores go?” Tyrion rapes a red-headed whore repeatedly, stumbles out drunk, and is promptly kidnapped by Ser Jorah. Ser Jorah, of course, has been banished by his queen, and he’s made his way to the brothel so he can pay to bang a girl who looks vaguely like Daenerys. He only comes across Tyrion by luck, and if he hadn’t he’d probably still be sad-fucking silver-haired girls all over Essos. In A Dance With Dragons, both of these men are shown as pathetic, but GRRM also isn’t afraid to show them being brutal, even evil. Although GRRM still manages to preserve some sympathy for the characters, I think the reader is meant to see their actions as parts of them as whole men who are capable of some pretty dark shit.

The show, on the other hand, mocks the Dany look-alike whore, having her flounce around in a silly manner and no where near Jorah, who seems awful disinterested in being in a brothel, despite being in a brothel. Tyrion approaches another girl, seemingly attracted to her disdain for the Dany look-alike, but he actually finds himself having an attack of conscience and unable to go through with fucking a girl who is charmed by him (in spite of his being such a sad sack) and clearly willing. Not only does Tyrion not rape this girl, he’s kind to her, and has apparently lost his taste for whores entirely.

Way to go, show. Sansa is all set to spend the next half season of the show probably being raped and tortured by Ramsay Bolton so Theon can redeem himself. And Tyrion straight up strangled his girlfriend to death but gets to be redeemed just three episodes later because he’s nice to one sad whore, even though he’s only nice to her because he wants to fuck her and then nice some more because he can’t get a boner. Excellent job, Benioff and Weiss. Fuck you very much.

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 2 “The House of Black and White”

So, I wasn’t particularly impressed with this episode. “The House of Black and White” actually felt much more transitional than last week’s episode, and not really in a good way. While there were some things I liked, as there pretty much always are in this show, I kind of felt like the wheels on this episode were just spinning without really moving things along. As a book reader, I was also really disappointed by one of the few scenes so far this season that drew pretty directly from the source material. Finally, I just don’t think this episode was as thematically cohesive as “The Wars to Come.” I suppose it will work in the context of the entire season, but I can’t help feeling a little let down after last week’s promising beginning.

My full recap and analysis is under the cut, and there will be spoilers for the episode and for some book-related discussion.


The episode picks up with Arya Stark, who was absent from the season opener. Her entrance to Braavos feels a little anti-climactic, however. I liked the shot of the Titan of Braavos from Arya’s perspective, but I found myself a little confused about exactly what kind of mood they are trying to convey with the reintroduction of this setting. So far, all we’ve seen of Braavos is a bank and a brothel when Stannis and Davos were here last season, but now we get to see it through Arya’s eyes and the glimpses we’re given of the city are kind of a confused mess. The Titan is a gateway that Arya passes through on her way to a new life, but it also feels ominous and somewhat less than welcoming. The shots of the dockside market could be interesting, but aside from the oddly strung up watermelons (what even is going on with those?) everything is various shades of mud-colored. The sky is visibly overcast, but there still seems to be a bit more sun than we see anywhere else in the world of the show; however, this doesn’t feel cheery or hopeful, and every shot seems to have an undercurrent of gloomy malaise. This is reinforced when we finally see the House of Black and White which, while fairly close to how it’s described in the books, turns out to look bland as hell on screen. It’s tall and imposing, to be sure, and the wide shot of Arya (who is small to begin with) approaching the building gives us a nice sense of scale and offers an idea of the enormous role this place is going to play in Arya’s story this season, but it just seems a bit, well, blah. When Arya is turned away at the door, I wanted to laugh like she did when she learned her aunt Lysa was dead.

The big problem here, though, is that I never for a moment thought that she wasn’t going to get in eventually. I get the feeling that the writers tried to subvert audience expectations by making us wait a little for the payoff, but I think it was just a waste of precious screen time. By all means, don’t let her in right away; make her wait a little in the rain or whatever. By the time Arya is wandering the streets of Braavos killing pigeons, it just starts to feel like a retread of her experiences in King’s Landing back in season one, and, for me, it undermined the sense of Braavos as a unique or different setting. This might have been intentional–maybe we’re supposed to realise that all cities are essentially the same and maybe the pigeon-killing, confrontation with street kids, and fortuitous rescue are supposed to recall season one scenes–but it doesn’t feel insightful or interesting, and it doesn’t do much to actually move the story along. By the end of Arya’s scenes in this episode, we haven’t even gotten to see inside the doors of the House of Black and White, and this is a disappointment.

Back in Westeros, Brienne and Podrick have managed to wander their way to an inn. While Brienne sulks, Podrick looks around the room and sees Sansa Stark sitting with Peter Baelish in a back corner and surrounded by knights. Sending Podrick out to ready the horses (even though they only have one, which he points out only to have Brienne sneer at him like he’s an idiot), Brienne marches back to Baelish’s table to offer her service to Sansa. It’s been a while since the last time I was this embarrassed for a fictional character. Brienne is clearly out of her league here, and Baelish poisons the well for her pretty much as soon as she introduces herself. Interestingly, Sansa seems less swayed by Littlefinger’s mockery of Brienne than she is by her own memories of seeing Brienne bowing before Joffrey at the Purple Wedding. I liked seeing Sansa showing herself very capable of independent thought, but I hate what is being done with Brienne so far this season.

Last episode, Brienne was cruel and dismissive towards Podrick, and this episode she continues to treat him harshly. I truly despise this particular departure from the books, where Brienne was occasionally rough with Podrick but also felt some responsibility towards him. In the books, she teaches him and trains him to fight, but there is none of that in the show’s portrayal of their relationship.

Mostly, though, I hate how foolish Brienne comes off in her interactions with Sansa and Littlefinger here. There’s not much here that makes sense. Obviously, Brienne isn’t exactly one for subtlety, but why would she just walk right over and introduce herself like this? After her encounter with Arya at the end of season four, why wouldn’t she at least suspect that things might not go smoothly with Sansa either? Especially when Sansa doesn’t exactly look like she’s being held against her will. And why would Brienne run? While Sansa and Littlefinger aren’t exactly traveling incognito, I can’t imagine their whereabouts or purpose are common knowledge, so it makes sense that they wouldn’t want to risk Brienne rushing off back to King’s Landing to rat them out to the queen, but Littlefinger is also not wasteful. If he’d wanted to have Brienne killed, I think he would have had it done outright. If he just wanted to keep Brienne where he could keep an eye on her, then it would have been in Brienne’s interest to join him and Sansa, and that would have given her an opportunity to earn Sansa’s trust through loyal service. It might not have been an ideal situation, but it would have at least put Brienne in a position to fulfill her oath to Catelyn. Instead of anything that makes sense, we get a chase scene as Brienne and Podrick flee. There’s an incongruously slap-sticky bit where Podrick’s horse tosses him off into the river, and Brienne kills some guys. Then she expresses a determination to follow Sansa and Littlefinger, who have resumed their journey.

Speaking of Sansa and Littlefinger’s journey, I’m convinced they are headed for Winterfell, which makes me incredibly worried for Sansa. Before Brienne rudely interrupted them, Littlefinger tells Sansa that his marriage proposal has been accepted, and all I can think of is that it’s Sansa’s marriage that he’s talking about and it’s a marriage to Ramsay Bolton. Iwan Rheon (Ramsay), Alfie Allen (Theon), and Sophie Turner (Sansa) have all teased a shocking scene later this season. Rheon and Allen have both hinted that it’s something so awful that Rheon didn’t even want to do it, and Allen recently said that it makes Theon as much of a villain as Ramsay. I’m increasingly certain that the scene they are talking about is Ramsay’s wedding night in A Dance With Dragons, where he has Theon prepare Jeyne Poole as fake!Sansa for the consummation of the marriage. All I can say is that I really, really hope that I’m wrong, because I will absolutely lose my shit if that happens.

In King’s Landing, Cersei and Jaime receive a threat from Dorne, where their daughter Myrcella is betrothed to Trystane Martell. Jaime decides he’s going to Dorne to bring Myrcella back, but he won’t be going alone.

Cut to Bronn walking along a beach with his betrothed, Lollys Stokeworth. Right as Bronn is hatching a plan to off Lollys’s older sister, Jaime shows up to throw a wrench in things. Bronn won’t be marrying Lollys after all. Instead, he’ll be accompanying Jaime “as far south as south goes.”

And, finally, we get our first view of Dorne. Black-clad Ellaria Sand, in a shot that recalls Cersei’s spying on Tommen and Margaery, is watching Myrcella and (presumably) Prince Trystane flirting in the Water Gardens. I love this parallel so much, and making these kinds of visual connections between characters and events is something that Game of Thrones sometimes does remarkably well. Unlike Cersei, however, Ellaria has someone to keep her in check: Oberyn’s brother, Prince Doran Martell. By the end of Ellaria and Doran’s conversation, no one is happy, but it also seems obvious that both Ellaria and Doran have plans. The question that will be answered over the rest of this season will be whose plans work first and best.

I was kind of devastated when I learned that the show wouldn’t be casting Arianne Martell, but the more I think about it the more I think that omitting Arianne and expanding Ellaria’s role is a smart move for the series. Including Dorne already means introducing several new characters–Doran, Trystane, new Myrcella, Areo Hotah, the Sand Snakes–and keeping Ellaria gives us a familiar face in the new setting. It also means making more use of the wonderful Indira Varma, who would have been wasted if she’d disappeared from the narrative on the show the way that Ellaria did in the books. Ellaria’s revenge motivation makes a lot more sense for the show as well, since it looks as if they are cutting most (if not all) of the Dorne-Targaryen marriage/alliance plot that appeared in the books. As fascinating as I found all that to be on the page, I think it would just have ended up being a convoluted mess if they’d tried it on the show. I would have loved to see Arianne on the show, but at this point I’m content to see how things play out with Ellaria filling that role in the story.

In Meereen, Grey Worm and Daario are hunting Sons of the Harpy. They bring him to Daenerys, which triggers… an argument between her counselors. The freed slave, Mossador, argues that they should simply execute the man and continue to root out the Sons of the Harpy. Daario seems to share this opinion. Hizdahr is disingenuous about the whole situation–”I don’t know this, and I’m the head of a great family” is his response when Mossador insists that “everyone knows” the great families pay poor men to do their dirty work. Ser Barristan argues that they should do nothing with the man until he is given a trial. Daenerys paces back and forth, uncertain of how to please everyone. Finally she gives up and dismisses them all, but Barristan stays behind to tell her about her father, the Mad King. When Daenerys insists that the stories of her father are lies told by her enemies, Barristan disabuses her of this notion, warning her of the dangers of ruling too brutally and reminding her of the value of following a rule of law even when it may seem inconvenient. This, finally, convinces her to hold a trial for the captured man.

Elsewhere, Tyrion and Varys are on their way to Meereen via Volantis. Tyrion is really sticking to his liquid diet, and he’s chafing at staying holed up in another “fucking box,” but Varys informs him that Cersei has offered a lordship to the man who brings her Tyrion’s head. We get a singularly ugly moment as Tyrion suggests that Cersei “ought to offer her cunt,” a line that I, personally could have done without, especially since the writers don’t seem to intend that we’re supposed to think badly of Tyrion for this little piece of misogyny. That said, this scene does contain this season’s (so far) funniest joke. When Varys asks Tyrion if they are “really going to spend the entire ride to Volantis talking about the futility of everything,” Tyrion replies, “You’re right, no point.” Very clever, writers.

Back in King’s Landing, Cersei is receiving dwarf heads. Apparently, if Cersei doesn’t want them, Qyburn will take them for use in his “work.” Creepy Qyburn.

And now it’s off to a Small Council meeting. It’s been a while since we’ve had one of these, and I must say they suffer in the absence of Varys and Littlefinger. Cersei seems determined to arrange the council to suit her own ends, without regard for anything that makes sense. Without Tywin to keep her in line, Cersei is already fucking up left, right and center, and here we see her alienate her uncle, Kevan Lannister, who ought to be a powerful ally for herself and Tommen.

Up at the Wall, Shireen Baratheon is teaching Gilly to read. Apparently, Shireen is a much more patient teacher than Sam, and Gilly is making some progress. We get to learn a little more about the greyscale that has left Shireen disfigured, but I can’t tell if this means that it’s going to be important later on in the show or if the writers just included it to explain what was up with Shireen’s face for people who haven’t read the books. This nice scene is interrupted by Shireen’s mother, Selyse, who has come to warn Shireen away from Gilly, who Selyse suggests could be harboring a vendetta against Stannis for his execution of Mance Rayder. As happy as I am to see more of Shireen, and as delightful as Selyse is in all her Lady Macbeth-ian glory, I’m not sure I see where things are going with this pair. Without Val and the “Wildling prince” and with Mance Rayder already dead for real, it seems like there isn’t a whole lot for Selyse to do at the Wall this season. I’m curious to see where things go, though. I’m wondering if Gilly is going to step into some of the role that Val played in A Dance With Dragons, although with Tormund and some Wildlings already at the Wall, I don’t know what that would look like. It could be that we’re still going to get Sam and Gilly’s journey with Maester Aemon to Braavos and Oldtown, but that doesn’t seem entirely likely, either.

Elsewhere at Castle Black, Stannis is not pleased that Jon Snow killed Mance instead of letting him burn to death. Stannis argues that fear is useful in getting people to follow one. Stannis is far more self-assured than most of the other rulers on the show, and he seems convinced that he has found a balance between acting rightly and lawfully and instilling the right amount and right kind of fear in his followers. With Cersei blundering all over the place in King’s Landing and Daenerys floundering after losing control of her dragons, Stannis’s confidence makes him an attractive prospect as a ruler. All he needs, he informs Jon, is the North, and he offers to legitimize Jon as Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell, in exchange for Jon’s help in retaking the Seven Kingdoms.

I liked this scene, but I think this is one place where, even when sticking fairly close to the source material, the show suffers due to its visual format. While Kit Harington is quite a bit more emotive this season than he has been in the past, I don’t think it’s really possible to convey in this medium what Stannis’s offer means to Jon, who as a boy wanted nothing more than to be a legitimate Stark. Even Jon’s admission to Sam that he intends to refuse Stannis’s offer doesn’t really quite get the point across, although I think it comes as close as it could.

And so commences the election of a new Lord Commander for the Night’s Watch. Janos Slynt speaks for Alliser Thorne, which I don’t think does Thorne any favors. Next up, some dude speaks to nominate the elderly Lord Mallister from the Shadow Tower. As Maester Aemon begins to explain the voting process, Sam stands to put forward Jon’s name as well. It’s pretty obvious that the contest is going to be between Jon and Thorne, and Thorne himself stands up to fear monger about Jon Snow’s ties to the Wildlings. When the votes are tallied, they are tied, and Maester Aemon casts the deciding vote in favor of Jon Snow. Although Jon didn’t seem to want the job when Sam first nominated him, he looks gratified when he wins. Thorne and his faction aren’t happy, though.

Even after watching this scene three times, I still can’t help feeling disappointed with it. In the books, this is Sam Tarly’s crowning achievement and a major sign of his growth as a character, and it’s a pretty big deal as he manipulates the men of the Night’s Watch to support Jon Snow as a compromise candidate. I understand the need to truncate this storyline, but I think it ends up really anti-climactic here. While the show did mention the upcoming election a couple of times before this episode, I don’t think they really managed to convey the enormity of the event and what it means for Jon and for the Night’s Watch. That said, I’m also not sure how they could have done it better. All the backrooms politicking and build-up that we got in the books would have been boring and frustrating in a tv show without the benefit of the close 3rd person point of views in Sam and Jon’s chapters. Also, while this sequence might have been disappointing in comparison to the books, it did a better job of moving along the actually story than most of the other stuff that happened in this episode.

The episode ends back in Meereen, where Mossador has taken it upon himself to kill the imprisoned Son of the Harpy before Daenerys can bring him to trial. This puts her in the position of having to punish a respected community leader instead of simply dealing with a terrorist, and she fucks up bad. After Mossador confesses to murdering the prisoner, Daenerys has him executed in front of the whole city, even as an enormous crowd pleads for her to have mercy. In her desire to look strong, she succeeds not in making her new people fear her but in making them angry as hell.

After a rough day of causing fighting in the streets of her city, Daenerys goes out on the balcony of her pyramid, where she finds Drogon, who is now enormous. Just as she seems to think he has returned to her, though, he flies away again and she’s left alone to ponder the consequences of her enormous fuck-up.

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 1 “The Wars to Come”

Wow.

So, anyone who read my posts on last year’s Game of Thrones probably knows that I didn’t love season four. By the time that shitshow was over, I wasn’t even certain I was going to watch season five at all. Of course, absence really does sometimes make the heart grow fonder, and there were a few things about season four that I liked, so by the time winter arrived (get it?!) and season five promo season began, I was ready to be interested again. And the season five promos were excellent! By the beginning of March, I was really excited about season five, although still skeptical, especially as I know the show is getting into some real uncharted waters this year.

And now, Game of Thrones is finally back, and “The Wars to Come” did not disappoint. I won’t say I was completely blown away by last night’s episode, but I am thoroughly pleased with it and I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the season if this first episode is any indicator of the quality we can expect. That said, probably my biggest complain about last season was that it was uneven–for every sequence I loved, there was another that I despised, and I felt like they really dropped the ball on a handful of storylines–so we’ll see what happens this year. I’m cautiously optimistic, however.

A full recap and analysis is under the cut. There will be spoilers for last night episode and some book-related stuff.


We open with the show’s first ever flashback scene, and this is probably my only sort-of-complaint about the episode. In the books, GRRM avoids flashbacks entirely, although we do get some characters remembering or talking about events that happened before the beginning of the series. The show, so far, has stuck to this rule, so this is new. The problem is, I don’t know what they are trying to communicate here.

Two girls, one of whom we find out at the end of the scene is young Cersei, are walking through the woods to visit a witch. Young Cersei wants to know her future, and the witch lets her ask three questions, although she warns that Cersei will not like the answers. The prophecy of Maggy the Frog (who is much younger than I envisioned her when I read the books) is pretty much what Cersei was told in the books, although the show omits the reference to the valonqar (”little brother” in High Valyrian). Maggy ends with “gold will be their crowns and gold will be their shrouds,” referring to Cerseis’ three children, and then we are taken to the present-day King’s Landing, where Cersei is on her way to Tywin’s funeral.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think this flashback, at this point in the show, gives us any new information or insight into Cersei or the story. We already know what Cersei is like as a grown woman, so seeing that she was kind of a nightmare as a girl doesn’t really expand our understanding of her character. We already know that she married King Robert Baratheon, and people who have not read the books will probably not know who “the prince” is that Cersei is promised to (Rhaegar Targaryen). Although the “younger, more beautiful” queen bit might help to explain Cersei’s jealousy and hatred of Margaery, it feels redundant since the relationship between these two women has already been shown really effectively in the show, and it fits into classic fantasy and fairy tale traditions where older women are threatened by younger ones (think Snow White et al.). “Gold will be their crowns and gold will be their shrouds” might help explain Cersei’s protectiveness over her children, but I feel if that’s the point of the scene it would have been better placed in an earlier season, probably before Margaery arrived in King’s Landing.

Basically, I think everything we learn in this scene has already been shown, and effectively, in previous seasons of the show. I don’t dislike the scene–Young Cersei is wonderfully awful, and I like witches any way I can get them in stories. I just don’t think it fits here, and I’m not sure it was a wise use of four minutes of show time when there’s so much other material that could have been included instead. The valonqar line from the books is a major part of several reader theories about the future of the series, so it seems like a missed opportunity to leave that out. We also didn’t get to see the death of Cersei’s friend, which was significant in the books because it “proved” Maggy’s prophecies. I just don’t know about this. At this point, I think the only way it works is if this flashback is going to be split up and spread out over several episodes, used as a sort of framing for Cersei’s story over the course of the season. And maybe that’s what will happen; I guess we’ll find out over the next few weeks. So, not really a complaint I guess, but just a thing I’m not completely sold on and am trying to reserve judgment on until I see how it plays out.

In King’s Landing, as I mentioned above, we’ve skipped over the finding of Tywin’s body and we’re going straight into Tywin’s funeral. Cersei arrives and has to walk past Margaery on her way to the Sept, and Margaery gives her a look and a half. Natalie Dormer has the most amazing smug face I’ve ever seen, and it’s pretty clear that Cersei and Margaery won’t be burying the hatchet anytime soon.

In the Sept, Jaime is standing vigil over his father’s body when Cersei walks in. He suggests to Cersei that their enemies are going to try and take away everything Tywin has left for them, but Cersei isn’t here to bond with Jaime. She points out that Jaime murdered Tywin as much as Tyrion did, and although we do get an inkling of her hatred for Tyrion, Cersei manages to come off as the more rational twin in this scene. In A Feast for Crows, GRRM wrote Cersei as increasingly bizarre and insane, but this scene gives me a little hope that maybe the show is going to dial that down a little. Here, she’s furious at Jaime, but her fear of Tyrion seems entirely justified rather than irrationally paranoid, and her rejection of Jaime made me want to cheer.

Apparently Varys shipped Tyrion all the way to Pentos in a [fucking] crate, and Tyrion is not happy about it at all. In fact, Tyrion isn’t very happy about anything right now. Varys wants give an impassioned speech about the value of patriotism and the future of their country, but Tyrion responds by gulping down some wine and promptly vomiting it back up. “The future is shit, just like the past.”

In Meereen, the Unsullied are overseeing the toppling of one of the enormous harpy statues that crown the city’s pyramids. Afterwards, one unfortunate young man named White Rat goes to a brothel for some cuddling, only to be murdered by a mysterious figure in a golden mask. We learn that this group of masked rebels calls themselves the Sons of the Harpy, and Daenerys orders that these men be found and brought to her. Next, Missandei goes to speak with Grey Worm to ask why an Unsullied would be in a brothel to begin with. She doesn’t get the answer she was perhaps hoping for, but it does look like we might be getting more Grey Worm/Missandei romance this year.

At Castle Black, Jon Snow is training the boy who killed Ygritte to fight. Gilly is worried about what might happen to her and her baby if Alliser Thorne is elected Lord Commander, and Sam tries to reassure her. I suspect this means that we’ll be getting to see Sam politicking to get Jon elected instead as in the books, but I’m still curious to see how they handle the other major part of that storyline, where Jon sends Sam, Gilly, and Maester Aemon away from the Wall.

Melisandre comes to fetch Jon to speak with Stannis, and she seems to be taking a creepy interest in Jon as they ride up to the top of the Wall in the lift. Stannis wants Jon to convince Mance Rayder to bend the knee and bring the Wildlings to fight for Stannis’s cause. Jon isn’t confident that Mance will do it, but he agrees to give it a try. He has until nightfall, which isn’t very long at all.

Elsewhere, Sansa and Littlefinger are watching the young Lord Arryn trying to learn to fight. They leave Robin with Lord Royce, who promises only that the boy will be safe.

Nearby, Brienne is in a mood and just wants Podrick to leave her alone. This is a storyline that I’m really unsure about this season, as without Lady Stoneheart I’m not sure what this pair has to do now.

Sansa and Littlefinger, amusingly, drive past in a carriage, not a hundred yards from Brienne and Pod. They have a nice little chat about trust, in which it’s made obvious that Sansa has elevated herself (at least somewhat) from pawn of Littlefinger to partner in (probably) crime. I can’t wait to see where they’re going. Somewhere where “Cersei Lannister can’t even get her hands on [Sansa]” could honestly mean just about anywhere at this point. As long as it’s not Winterfell. I will absolutely lose my shit if Sansa ends up anywhere near Ramsay Bolton.

Still at Tywin’s funeral, Cersei looks ready to murder someone. Probably Loras, who is close at hand and struggles to find the words to express his condolences. This scene is the first one of the season that really surprised me. Lancel and Kevan Lannister are back! Lancel has joined the Sparrows cult, but I think it’s debatable how sincere his conversion is. Cersei treats Lancel with disdain, but his reminders to her of how much he knows about her sins seem like a warning that she would probably be wise to heed. This Lancel isn’t the feckless child we’ve met before. He’s very potentially dangerous, and this might be Cersei’s first huge mistake of the season.

Later, Loras is in bed with Littlefinger’s agent Olyvar when Margaery walks in. She’s not surprised; she’s just hungry and they’re late for dinner with the King. As Olyvar gets up to leave, Margaery watches appreciatively as he walks past her. (Me too, girl.) She suggests that Loras might be more discreet, but Loras rather naively points out that there are no secrets in King’s Landing, at least not about his sexual proclivities. She also reminds him of his engagement to Cersei, to which he responds that he doesn’t think there’s any way Cersei will marry him now that Tywin is dead, which is bad luck for Margaery since it means Cersei won’t be going away with Loras to Highgarden. To this, Margaery simply replies, “Perhaps.” I have a feeling that we’re going to see some changes to Margaery and Cersei’s AFFC storyline, with Margaery being more the aggressor than in the books. I can’t wait to see that “perhaps” play out over the next few weeks.

Back in Pentos, Tyrion is cleaned up but in no better a mood than he was earlier. Varys continues his pitch about patriotism and the responsibility of good men to participate in politics. It looks like these two are going together to Meereen and Daenerys.

Meanwhile, already in Meereen, Daario and Hizdahr have returned successful from their mission to Yunkai. However, Hizdahr brings the request for the reopening of the fighting pits of Meereen, which Daenerys rejects entirely. Later, in bed with Daario (who’s got a lovely ass), Dany gets a story about Daario’s youth as a fighter in the pits himself. He advises her to reopen the pits. He also reminds her of the importance of her dragons, but she admits that she can no longer control the dragons.

Daenerys goes down to the pit where Rhaegal and Viserion are kept, but they aren’t very happy about being imprisoned, and she leaves, frightened. This was a little bit of a sour note for me, to be honest. In the books, while she does struggle to control the dragons and doesn’t know exactly what to do with them, she’s never afraid of them like she is here and while they are angry about being locked away they never attack her. To be fair, they don’t exactly attack her here, either, but that almost makes her fear of them even more inexplicable. Really, though, I don’t like this scene, but I also don’t know a better way to convey the seriousness of the trouble she has with the dragons. It just rubbed me the wrong way to see her so scared by them.

Back at the Wall, a stake is being erected while Jon Snow goes to appeal to Mance Rayder. Mance refuses to kneel to Stannis, although he admits that Stannis seems like an admirable man. Jon tries to reason with Mance, but is unsuccessful. Even the threat of burning alive, while it obviously terrifies Mance, isn’t enough to make him sign his people over to what he considers a foreign war. Jon leaves, disappointed, and Mance is consigned to the fire at the end of the episode. Before Mance starts screaming, however, Jon grabs a bow and shoots him, giving him a more merciful death.

There was a lot of talk leading into the season about a “shocking” death of a character who is still alive in the books, and I suppose this might be it. There’s no evidence that Melisandre switched Mance for Rattleshirt like in the books, and Ciaran Hinds is only credited as a guest star for this episode. I don’t find this very shocking at all, however. It makes a lot of sense, since they didn’t include Dalla, Val, or Mance’s son. It makes sense to simplify something that ends up being a pretty convoluted plot later on. And it makes sense to let the character go this way. It feels like an honest end for the character, and I think it’s a fitting end to this episode.

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 10 “The Children”

So, wow. That happened.

“The Children” is another episode of Game of Thrones at its worst AND best. Unfortunately, while there was some great stuff in the episode that I really loved, it’s not enough to make up for what I think are some serious, serious problems.

Spoilers under the cut for the episode and for book-related complaints and speculation.


“The Children” picks up right where last week’s episode ended, with Jon Snow leaving the Wall to walk, unarmed, into Mance Rayder’s camp. Mance is, quite understandably, not terribly happy to see Jon, but he is willing to talk. Mance doesn’t want to keep fighting. He insists that his people just want to hide behind the Wall, and he knows that the Night’s Watch doesn’t have the men they need to hold the Wall against his forces. They drink to Ygritte and to Grenn and the giant Mag the Mighty who died in the tunnel under the Wall. Then Jon twitches as if to go for a knife to kill Mance, but before either of them can kill the other they hear war horns.

Mance thinks at first that the Night’s Watch is attacking, but Jon admits that Mance was right when he said they didn’t have the men for it and they walk outside to find that Stannis has arrived with the army he managed to buy with the help of the Iron Bank. The overhead shots of Stannis’s cavalry are truly impressive and lend an epic feel to the scene, although I wish these first ten minutes had been included in last week’s episode to leave more time for some of the other stories that were tackled in this one. The conversation between Mance and Jon and Stannis and Davos is excellently done and could have been left for this episode, but I definitely think the arrival of Stannis’s forces would have been a much more impressive and dramatically satisfying ending to episode nine than Jon walking out the tunnel, which was basically the most anticlimactic cliffhanger they could have done last week.

That said, I mostly loved this sequence. It’s fairly close to how it happened in the book, which is nice to see considering how far the show departed from the source material earlier in the season. Hopefully, this means that they’ll be adhering closer to the books going forward. The only problem I have with this right now is that they still haven’t introduced Dalla and Val, which I suspect means that we won’t be seeing them. I understand, I suppose, that sometimes characters have to be cut, but Val in particular figures pretty prominently in future events at the Wall, and without Dalla there’s no son of Mance’s to switch with Gilly’s baby later on, which will significantly change the future character development of Jon, Sam and Gilly.

In King’s Landing, Cersei is watching while Pycelle and Qyburn examine Gregor Clegane, who is mortally wounded as well as poisoned after his duel with Oberyn Martell. Pycelle claims that there is nothing to be done for the wounded man, but Qyburn seems somewhat more optimistic. After banishing Pycelle from his own laboratory, Cersei encourages Qyburn to save Ser Gregor, even after Qyburn rather creepily warns her that the “process” will “change him”–although Qyburn also assures her (even more creepily) that it won’t weaken him. This is a short, but necessary scene, and it more firmly establishes Cersei’s favor for Qyburn over Pycelle as well as setting up the return of zombie Clegane later on. I’m glad to see it in this episode, although I wish we had gotten a similar scene in episode ten of last season to set up Lady Stoneheart–but I’m getting ahead of myself, and I’ll complain about that (probably at length) later.

Next, we get to see Cersei arguing with her father over her impending marriage to Loras Tyrell. She’s now flatly refusing to do it, and Tywin isn’t in the mood for it. This isn’t a scene from the books, and I’m not really certain what this and the following scene will mean for Cersei and Jaime’s relationship going forward, but I love it. Of course Tywin didn’t believe the rumors about Cersei and Jaime. But Cersei is here to set him straight and to make it very clear that she will destroy every hope Tywin has ever had for his family before she’ll marry again.

Straight from giving a big “fuck you” to her dad, Cersei goes to Jaime to tell him the news. Jaime is still pissed at Cersei for wanting Tyrion to be killed, but he seems to soften towards her as she makes out with him. This all feels a little out of nowhere, considering that Jaime and Cersei’s relationship has been sort of constantly deteriorating ever since he got back to King’s Landing and in light of him raping her in the Sept after Joffrey’s death. I’m also really just not sure what it means. The show has cut out all of Cersei’s infidelities except with Lancel, who we haven’t seen since “Blackwater,” which is really kind of a big deal for events in A Feast for Crows, and it seems like we’re really nowhere near that stuff anymore. It’s not that I can’t see them still doing some version of the Cersei/Margaery AFFC rivalry and the complete estrangement of Cersei and Jaime, but at this point I just don’t see how it’s going to work. In many ways, I like show!Cersei better than book!Cersei, and I’ve never been entirely comfortable with GRRM’s treatment of Cersei in her POV chapters in the books, but it’s getting really hard to predict anything about these storylines where so much is changed and left out.

In Meereen, Daenerys is holding court. which continues to not be as rewarding as she hoped. First, we see her approached by an old man who claims that he was a respected teacher but is now living on the streets since Daenerys “freed” the slaves of Meereen. He asks for her permission to sell himself back to his old master, which Daenerys reluctantly grants. After he leaves happy, the next petitioner approaches weeping and with a small bundle in his arms, which turns out to be his 3-year-old daughter who has been burned alive by Drogon. I expected this to make it into the finale, but I actually didn’t expect to see Daenerys’s imprisonment of Rhaegal and Viserion in this episode unless they made it the final scene of the season. But they put it at the halfway point, which I thought sort of diminished the moment. This is really too bad because this was the first time in ages where I felt any kind of emotional connection to Daenerys, and the door being closed on the dragons, leading to a black screen, would have been an amazing final shot since they didn’t do Lady Stoneheart (which I’m still not ranting about just yet).

Back at the Wall, Maester Aemon is giving a eulogy for the fallen men of the Night’s Watch who are to be burned before they turn into zombies and kill everyone. We get to see both Pyp and Grenn’s faces before they’re set afire, and I’m really pleased that we got this closure. We get a shot of Melisandre creepily eying Jon Snow through the flames before we move along to a great conversation between Jon and Tormund, who’s been patched up by Maester Aemon. I loved everything about the Jon/Tormund talk, and I loved that Jon took Ygritte north of the Wall to burn her by himself, although I thought it strange that she was posed with her shoulder bared kind of sexily. I mean, I know she’s dead, and he’s going to burn her, but I’m kind of confused about how she got into this state of undress after being so sensibly bundled up all the rest of the time. As in the book, I still feel like Ygritte has been fridged so Jon Snow can evolve, but I’ve kind of started to like Jon in the last couple of episodes, and if they stick pretty close to the books his story gets much more interesting from here on out.

Even farther north, Bran and company have reached their destination, which is apparently the set of the 1985 film Legend. As they move toward a suspiciously beautiful tree, skeletons pop out of the ground and attack them. In another pretty major departure from the books, Jojen is killed in the fight with the skeletons before a fairy comes out and rescues the rest of the party with special effects from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Then we finally get to meet the three-eyed raven, who looks–no fucking joke–like Tim the Enchanter.

Elsewhere, Podrick has apparently hobbled the horses wrong, and Brienne is grumpy about it. I love Brienne and Podrick, but the more I see of them together, the less I like the way their dynamic is being portrayed on the show. Brienne was gruff with Podrick in the books, but she was also awkward and unsure really of what to even do with a squire; in the show, she’s just mean. In the books, Brienne comes to like Podrick and ends up teaching him to fight and helps fill in the gaps in his knowledge that were neglected when he was Tyrion’s squire, and we haven’t gotten to see any of that in the show, which is disappointing.

After Brienne is mean to Podrick, they start to continue their journey towards the Eyrie when Brienne comes across Arya, who is practicing her water dancing. This is another enormous change from the books, but there’s some interesting stuff going on in both Brienne’s short exchange with Arya and then her argument with Sandor Clegane when Podrick recognizes him. As soon as Brienne realizes that she’s been talking to Arya Stark, she tells Arya that she was sent by Arya’s mother to look for her and offers to take Arya to safety. Sandor points out that there is no safe place for Arya and says that if Brienne doesn’t know that she’s the wrong person to be looking after Arya. Between Sandor’s calling Arya his traveling companion (rather than prisoner) two episodes ago and his admission here that he’s been looking after her, it seems pretty clear that he’s come to, in his way, care for the girl, which makes what happens next really terribly sad.

Brienne and Sandor get into an actual sword fight, which turns into a brawl, over which one of them will get to continue looking after Arya. This is not even remotely in the books, but it’s definitely cool (if brutal) to watch. It’s not often that we get to see a woman warrior treated so equally as a man in this sort of fantasy story, but Brienne and the Hound are pretty evenly matched. I really appreciated that there was no threat of rape or any sexualized attacks in the scene–just two pretty much the same size people beating the shit out of each other, and Brienne’s gender never feels like a factor that affects the fight at all. In the end, Brienne manages to win, sort of, although Arya has slipped away during the fight.

We leave Brienne and Podrick searching for Arya and return to Arya herself. She makes her way down to where Sandor has fallen, and it’s pretty obvious that he’s horribly injured. Arya watches impassively as he tries to goad her into killing him by reminding her that he killed her friend and talking about how he wished he’d raped her sister. Unfortunately for the Hound, this has basically the opposite effect on Arya, and she quietly takes his money pouch and walks away as he begs her to put him out of his misery. Rory McCann has done some truly fine acting as Sandor Clegane this season, and I am sad to see him go, but I’m glad to see Arya’s journey finally moving along.

Back in King’s Landing, Tyrion is languishing in his prison cell when Jaime shows up to release him. My complaints about this:

  1. Jaime choosing to release Tyrion seems a little at odds with his seeming reconciliation earlier in this episode, although I suppose it does fit in with the idea expressed by Cersei that, ultimately, they choose their family. I suppose that if Cersei finds out that Jaime is responsible for Tyrion’s release, she will see it as even more of a betrayal after that conversation, but I kind of think she would see it as a betrayal regardless, which makes the earlier Jaime/Cersei scene unnecessary. It just seems weird that we’d see Jaime so clearly reigniting his relationship with his sister only to turn around and choose his brother over her twenty minutes later. It feels confusing.
  2. In the books, Jaime uses this opportunity, thinking it may be the last time he sees his brother, to confess to his role in the abuse and banishment of Tyrion’s first wife, Tysha. Jaime lied to Tyrion at the time, saying that Tysha was just a whore he had hired for Tyrion, which is the only reason that Tyrion allowed Tysha to be gang-raped (and participated in said gang rape) and sent away from Casterly Rock. The groundwork for this revelation was even laid all the way back in season one when Tyrion told Bronn and Shae about Tysha, so I don’t understand why they’d skip that here. I don’t like to make excuses for what Tyrion does after this, but this revelation would have made his homicidal rage feel at least a little more justified.
  3. Along with skipping the Tysha revelation, we also don’t get Tyrion telling Jaime about Cersei’s infidelities. This is also huge. I know that in the show we haven’t gotten to see most of it, but I thought for sure that we’d see Tyrion spill the beans to Jaime about Lancel at the very least. In the books, this accounted for a great deal of the further deterioration of Jaime and Cersei’s relationship in AFFC, but without that being known to Jaime on the show, I expect that the pulling away from the relationship will be more one-sided, which pisses me off because I think we’ll see Cersei being painted even more as the villain than she was in the books, with Jaime being shown as her victim. This especially sucks after the rape scene in the Sept, which is of course probably never actually going to be treated as a rape within the show.

After a brotherly hug, Tyrion and Jaime part ways, with Tyrion taking a quick detour through the secret tunnels to the Tower of the Hand and his father’s chambers. In the book, he was guided by Varys because these are supposed to be secret tunnels in the walls of the Tower, but here he seems to know right where he’s going, which doesn’t make a great deal of sense. Apparently he’s not even a little disoriented after sitting for weeks in a jail cell.

When Tyrion enters his father’s chambers, he finds Shae in Tywin’s bed, and she stirs slowly mumbling “my lion” as she thinks Tywin is returning to bed. As soon as Shae realizes that it’s not Tywin, she grabs for a dinner knife to try and protect herself. Tyrion, however, manages to disarm her and strangles her before whispering that he’s sorry. I just want to say fuck this. After all the effort put into crafting Shae on the show as a much fuller character than she was in the books, she doesn’t even get a chance to explain herself. In fact, there’s no actual conversation at all between her and Tyrion in this scene. He just murders her in a fit of rage before grabbing a crossbow and going to find his father in the privy.

I’m so incredibly disappointed with the way this scene played out. I’d hoped that there would be a sort of element of Greek tragedy to Tyrion’s murder of Shae, which I didn’t really feel here, but I’d also hoped that Shae would be given some amount of dignity in the end, and she wasn’t. The way her murder is filmed doesn’t even really focus on her–her terror or anger or whatever she might have felt in that moment. Instead, it’s filmed so that the viewer is supposed to empathize with Tyrion and his pain. There are some very valid criticisms of this scene in the book, but at least when GRRM wrote it it was pretty clear that this was an act of true villainy on Tyrion’s part, and this is reinforced throughout A Dance With Dragons. Here, we seem supposed to see Tyrion’s murder of Shae as regrettable, but not evil and maybe even justified. Because, see? He feels bad about it! Fuck this scene so much.

Then, of course, it’s off to the privy for some father-son time. Tyrion pays lip-service to being upset about Shae, but what he really seems to be upset about is still Tywin’s rejection of him and Tywin’s willingness to have Tyrion executed for a crime that he didn’t commit. Without the reveal of the truth about Tysha, I really feel like something was lost in this scene, which is unfortunate, and I really just didn’t buy Tyrion’s anger over Tywin’s use of the word “whore,” a word that Tyrion himself used to describe Shae when he tried to send her away before Joffrey’s wedding.

Mostly, I just felt like the messaging throughout this entire sequence, from Tyrion and Jaime to Tyrion’s murder of Shae to Tywin’s death, was left terribly muddled by the omission of the truth about Tysha. In some aspects, the scenes were powerful, but they didn’t have nearly the effect on me that the same (-ish) scenes did when I read the book.

After Shae and Tywin are both dead, Tyrion makes his way to Varys, who spirits him down to the docks packed in a crate to be shipped to the Free Cities. As Varys turns to walk back to the Red Keep, alarm bells start ringing and Varys turns and returns to the ship, presumably off to the Free Cities with Tyrion.

The episode ends, interestingly and to my crushing disappointment, with Arya. She’s made her way to a small port town where she tries, unsuccessfully, to find passage to the Wall. On finding out that the ship is returning to Braavos, however, she fishes out the coin that Jaqen H’ghar gave her, which the Braavosi captain immediately recognizes. The final shot of the episode is Arya sailing off to Braavos, then, with ominously grey skies ahead.

Like the ending of episode nine, this felt really anticlimactic. I was really glad that we’ve finally gotten to this part of Arya’s journey, but as an end to the season it lacked punch. Mostly, though, it just wasn’t the ending that I (and apparently every other person who has read the books) was expecting, which was, of course, Lady Stoneheart.

I’m still not even sure how to deal with the possibility, which seems somewhat and increasingly likely, that we won’t be seeing Lady Stoneheart in the show. I expected, or at least hoped, to see Catelyn Stark’s resurrection in the first episode of season four after it didn’t happen in the last episode of season three. When that didn’t happen, but we knew that Brienne would be starting her quest for the Stark girls this season, I felt certain that Lady Stoneheart would be the final scene of episode ten. Even while watching this episode and seeing how wildly Brienne’s path had diverged from her path in the novels, I still thought they’d somehow get around to Lady Stoneheart. Even, sadly, during this final Arya scene I kept feeling like maybe it would happen–I mean, what better way to segue into the reveal of Catelyn’s undeath than showing it right after Arya has lost all hope of ever finding her family and has left the country? But, nope. No Lady Stoneheart.

The decisions made by the Game of Thrones show runners continue to just be absolutely fucking baffling.

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