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Monday, 11 May 2015

Game of Thrones S5E5: Kill The Boy.

Game of Thrones
Series 5, Episode 5
Kill The Boy.

No bingo this week, if only because I wouldn't be able to fill in any of the squares on it.

We're approaching the halfway point of the series now, and as such, my expectations of it are rising rather dramatically - it's acceptable to get off to a slow start (although I don't think this series did), but not acceptable to build to a slow finish. So these reviews might well become a shade harsher.

In this week's episode, Daenerys deals with the fallout of Barristan's death, and makes an important decision; elsewhere in Essos, Jorah and Tyrion pass through the ruins of Valyria on their way to Meereen, and have an encounter with the stone men. At Castle Black, Jon presses ahead with an unpopular plan to allow the wildlings into the Seven Kingdoms; meanwhile, at Winterfell, Sansa encounters Theon and Roose reveals that he and his wife are expecting another son, whose legitimacy would challenge Ramsay's claim on the North; near Winterfell, Brienne conspires to send a message to Sansa. 

One notable thing about this episode that I didn't realise while watching is that it focuses on relatively few storylines. King's Landing, Dorne, and Braavos are completely absent, leaving the focus completely on the North and Essos - and even then, Brienne only has a single short scene in service of Sansa's storyline, meaning that functionally there are only four viewpoint characters in this episode (Sansa, Jon, Tyrion and Daenerys) in contrast to the usual nine or ten.

'I'm On A Boat' plays in the distance.

I approve, because as I've said before, Game of Thrones works best, is more tightly plotted and paced, when it's more focused. The wider and less specific its spread of storylines, the more meandering and aimless each storyline becomes.

There's some good movement on those four storylines, too. Stannis has finally left Castle Black, setting up the promise of a siege of Winterfell by the end of the series, if not within the next three episodes - a promise I do hope that they fulfill. 

Jon, too, has ventured out of Castle Black, albeit in another direction, but to be honest, I'm less pleased by that, since it seems we'll get an episode of Jon negotiating with the wildlings, and that doesn't strike me as the most interesting thing possible. I dunno, maybe somebody will try to stab him. That'd be fun.

In general, I don't find Jon or his storyline that interesting, which is a shame because Jon has that most fertile of plot opportunities located right nearby him: The White Walkers. As ever, they're oft-mentioned and little seen in this episode, which is fine, they're scarier that way.

Maester Aemon actually looks a little like a White Walker.

This episode did give us something that I think fans have been craving to see, though, and that's our first glimpses of Valyria. It's not much: A few minutes of Jorah and Tyrion sailing through it, as they recite a poem about the Doom of Old Valyria that makes it abundantly clear that at least part of said doom was a series of volcanic eruptions. They also see Drogon flying over it, which is interesting - partly because this first glimpse of a dragon is treated as an almost religious experience for Tyrion, and largely because it implies something that I don't think is ever stated or implied in the books, but has very interesting implications: That Drogon (and possibly by extension all of the dragons) is instinctively drawn to Valyria, ancestral homeland of the Targaryens and the place that, purportedly, dragons came from; and that Valyria may have something to do with Daenerys' trouble controlling her dragons (remember, the Targaryens of old could control dragons well enough to ride them).

Jorah and Tyrion's storyline also shows us the stone men, mentioned in passing by Stannis last episode. They're more or less what you would expect after all the clues and hints that were given to us last week: People afflicted by greyscale who have lost their minds due to the illness. This leads into what might be the biggest plot twist of the series so far, and one that is almost certainly going to have a very lasting effect both on the rest of this series and the next.

We also got Sansa meeting Theon again, something I mentioned before that I've been looking forward to. In rather an odd turn, this led to Ramsay flaunting him, despite the fact that previous episodes had Ramsay seeming to be on his best behaviour. I'd assumed that was at least until the wedding, but maybe it was just until Littlefinger left. Obviously, this means Ramsay's chances of survival have plummeted - not only does Sansa know now that she's not anywhere remotely in the region of safe with him, she's also got allies both in Winterfell and outside of it, and Roose himself might well be gunning for Ramsay now, as Ramsay and his uncontrollable nature could very easily lead him to make an attempt on the life of Roose's new and properly legitimate child.

Unless they're beaten to the punch, one of these two will be murderising the other.

With Joffrey dead, though, Ramsay is essentially the New Joffrey, and that kid lasted way longer than I think anybody imagined he would, so who knows? Maybe Ramsay will survive until the very end of the show. More likely, I think, is that Ramsay either dies to make way for Littlefinger as the new Villain People Love To Hate on the show (Littlefinger definitely has it in him, after all), or he dies in time for the White Walkers to take their true place as the main antagonists. Or Sansa just stabs him to death before series five is done.

That leaves Daenerys, who oddly had the least meaty storyline of the bunch this week. It culminates in her making a decision to marry Hizdahr, which seems a little odd - the Sons of the Harpy seem to primarily take issue with not being allowed to keep slaves, which wedding Hizdahr is not going to solve.

Overall, a good episode, but I'm still waiting for this series to blow me away. Series four never did, and while I enjoyed it, it was undeniably the worst series of the show so far. Series five has been markedly better, so I'm hoping for great things in the latter half. Don't be letting me down now, show.

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