Oliver Davis reviews the third episode of Game of Thrones Season Five….
Directed by Mark Mylod.
Written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss.
Dying your hair black usually signals an impending evil turn. Siding with power-hungry, vertically challenged brothel owners usually confirms it. But, oddly, Sansa (Sophie Turner) remains a Stark – more willing to bend the concept of duty than her bastard brother, but still, a Stark nonetheless.
In High Sparrow, Little Finger (Aiden Gillen) promises her to Westeros’ hottest bachelor/post-Joffrey psychopath, Ramsey Bolton (né Snow; Iwan Rheon). It’s a testament to Rheon’s performance how charming Ramsey comes across when not flaying the flesh from people’s fingers. Looking into those cool, blue eyes, disarmed by his smile you think, ‘aww, he’s gonna make her so happy.’ Then you remember when he chopped off Theon Greyjoy/Reek’s (Alfie Allen) penis. He might just be the most insane person in the Seven Kingdoms. And that’s saying something.
Sansa is understandably reluctant. The Bolton’s slit her mum’s throat and stabbed her eldest brother in the heart. But Baelish, ever the schemer, subtly hints that one day, by marrying Ramsey, Sansa can have her revenge. Eventually, she’ll be able to kill her betrothed. CAN’T ANY WEDDINGS IN THIS REALM BE NORMAL?!
And that’s the Stark in her. She’s not turning evil, despite the company she’s keeping. She’s just approaching revenge in her own way. While Arya (Maisie Williams) actively seeks out its means, Sansa is more discreet. She sent Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) away from the tavern last week to protect her from Baelish. She’ll marry into the Boltons to flay them from within. The spoilt princess has become a shrewd operator.
Benioff and Weiss are handling this so much better in comparison to the books. In A Dance with Dragons, Ramsey marries a Sansa lookalike to take control of the North. In the show, he marries Sansa herself. It’s far more dramatically succinct.
At The House of Black and White, Arya is learning to become a deadly and mysterious Faceless Man assassin. The first lesson is their adapted mantra: all men must serve by sweeping floors.
This is a standard martial art discipline trope. Performing menial tasks, practising the same move over and over again is just as much about improving mental fortitude as muscle memory. That’s what Arya’s being subjected to here, Karate Kid-style…just with a temple where people commit suicide and say naughty words.
Hanging out with The Hound hasn’t done Arya’s language any good. After being whipped by The Waif (the always tremendous Faye Marsay), Arya drops a C-bomb so abrupt they heard it in the Iron Islands. The Westerosi use such words as punctuation, but – just like when Arya kills someone – her cussing feels more significant. It reminds you how young she is, that reciting a list of people you want to kill over and over again, and then going to a school that teaches you how to make that so, isn’t really how 12-year-old girls should be.
And speaking of things that seem normal in Game of Thrones, but are pretty frowned upon in our reality, Jon (Kit Harington) beheaded a Night’s Bro for disagreeing with him.
Will Jon ever have an easy decision to make? Samwell’s (John Bradley) hardest choice is which muffin to scoff. Jon, however, weightily decides who should be executed by the minute. If the Night’s Watch knew of decision fatigue, Jon Snow would be exhausted (although he did make a cracking ginger joke this week).
At least he got to say his catchphrase – “Winter is coming” – in a wonderful scene with Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham). Stannis’ obvious respect for Jon is deeply engrossing. Well, as obvious as Stannis can be. His jaw is slightly less gritted, perhaps.
The talk of his father, the friendly advice of sending Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, the slight nod as Jon lifts his greatsword to come down on Janos Slynt’s (Dominic Carter) neck – it’ll be a shame when these two characters go their separate ways.
That last act, executing Slynt, was this episode’s moral centre. The scene plays out with so many subplots at work – Slynt had a large part in betraying Ned all the way back in Season One; appointing Thorne as First Ranger; the echoes of Rob Stark executing Rickard Karstark back in Season 3. Killing Slynt isn’t as morally straightforward as Jon’s previous acts have been. There is too much power playing, political maneuvering and potential revenge in the background. Still, as the famous rice brand spokesperson once said, ‘with great power, comes great responsibility.’ Duty, again, shackles him as much as it empowers.
SEXINESS TALLY (in lieu of the Hodor Count):
8 boobs (4 pairs)
3 female buttocks
1 male bottom
Oliver Davis is one of Flickering Myth’s co-editors, curator of its Super Newsletter and Lead Producer of Flickering Myth TV. You can follow him on Twitter @OliDavis. Check back here every Monday for his episode-by-episode reviews of Game of Thrones Season 5.