Oliver Davis reviews the seventh episode of Game of Thrones Season Five….
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik.
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss.
Short term vs long term, that’s always been Cersei’s (Lena Headey) issue. She’s too focused on the immediate satisfaction of revenge. That’s what you get with her spoilt, richkid upbringing. Even the recently passed, blind Maester Aemon (Flash Fact: only the show’s second death of natural causes) could see problems coming Cersei’s way.
After seven episodes of using their fundamentalism to her advantage, Cersei is realising the Sparrow-shaped monster she’s created (the Mountain-shaped monster, presumably, will come later on). Yet she somehow manages to maintain her fearsomeness. Despite her slender frame and pretty dress, it’s still intimidating when she shouts, “look at my face. It’s the last thing you’ll see before you die” at that Sparrow member.
Elsewhere in this episode, many characters are gifted scenes together that aren’t present in the books. George R. R. Martin’s source material has its chapters divided by perspectives, each one taking the viewpoint of a different character. One of the television adaptation’s many strengths is giving the books’ perspective neglected characters their own voices. Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) and the High Sparrow’s (Jonathan Pryce) verbal sparring this episode is a terrific example, where the Queen of Thorns quickly realises the Septon’s purpose isn’t driven by Westeros’ usual political manoeuvering or lust for power. No, it’s something considerably more dangerous: that of an idea, of overthrowing Westeros’ feudal system to create an equal society in service to the Seven Gods.
It doesn’t matter how many crops Highgarden can grow, nor how much gold Casterly Rock can mine, ideas like that can spread their influence much quicker given the right conditions. As the High Sparrow perfectly illustrates when leaving Olenna hanging: “You are the few. We are the many. And when the many stop fearing the few…”
Whoever knew Westeros had a 99%?
Stannis’ (Stephen Dillane) role in episode 7 was far too brief. But you can say that about the rightful Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms in any episode. Hell, if the show was called ‘Sunday Night with Stannis’ and featured him as the main character in every scene, you’d still be left wanting.
Much like how the show did with Joffrey, Benioff and Weiss – along with Dillane’s perfectly protruding jaw performance – have made Stannis’ character infinitely better than in the books. Again, this is partly because of Martin’s preference to devote his chapters to characters not in power. In the source material, Stannis is portrayed mostly through the eyes of his Hand, Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), lending the King a one-dimensional, justice-obsessed appearance (a similar dynamic occurs in Dorne, when Prince Doran is seen entirely from the perspective of his bodyguard Areo Hotah).
The show treats Stannis with far more complexity, as seen in his brief scene marching on Winterfell. Littlefinger’s praise from a few episodes back is given tangible form as Stannis explains why they can’t return to Castle Black, discarding the wooden statue that represented his abandoned sellsword company. “One of the greatest military leaders Westeros has ever seen.”
He’s a single-minded force of nature, but he’s also a father who cares deeply for his Greyscale-afflicted daughter – a trait all the more sympathetic considering his wife’s disdain. Their “You are Princess Shireen of House Baratheon, and you are my daughter” scene in episode four was the most touching in the season so far.
Now, Melisandre wants to do the shadow assassin baby thing again, for which she needs royal blood. She wants Stannis to murder his daughter. “Get out,” he whispers, both hurt and conflicted.
These are the sorts of lofty debates Stannis wears on his shoulders so well: should I sacrifice my daughter to save Westeros? A lesser man would crumble under their weight. He might not be the most important character in Game of Thrones, but season five has seen Stannis emerge as its best.
Tyrion and Daenerys
After 47 episodes, and for the first real, significant time, the television show has fianlly surpassed the books in plot. The Saga’s first instalment, Game of Thrones, was published all the way back in 1996, almost 20 years ago. THE SERIES HAS ONLY BEEN RUNNING FOR FIVE. So, you know…hurry up, George.
The meeting of Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) has been confirmed to take place in the as-yet-unpublished sixth instalment, The Winds of Winter, but here it takes place amongst the events of book 4 and 5. It marks the first time a Lannister and a Targaryen have spoken to one another on-screen (extra bonus trivia: with Maester Aemon’s death this episode, Daenerys is now the show’s only surviving Targaryen) and surely sets up Tyrion’s inclusion into Khaleesi’s inner circle.
Speaking of ‘Khaleesi’, how lovely was it to hear Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) breathlessly utter that word on winning the fighting pit? Since his exile, his life has lost all meaning. His relief to just be near her again is exhilarating. Hopefully, in time, he may once again become Ruler of the Friend Zone.
Which re-raises another point about Game of Thrones – this is not a sexist show. After the outrage at last week’s cliffhanger, where Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) raped Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), this episode reaffirms its strong female characters. Sansa emasculates Ramsay about his bastard status, Daenerys marries one man while having an affair with another and Cersei continues her increasingly complex character development – and this is all without even mentioning Arya (Maise Williams). Depicting a rape is not the same as condoning it.
But as for Tyrion and Daenerys, they’ve ran out of source material now. For once, television viewers and book readers are all flying blind together, and it’s never been more exciting.
SEXINESS TALLY (in lieu of the Hodor Count):
Boobs – 2
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.