Game of Thrones Review

An episode-by-episode review of HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ season five.

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Without a doubt, this was the episode that made you feel sorry for the kings. Quite a lot has happened so far this season (and we’re only four episodes in) but the story has been primarily focussed on reminding us who that character are, and why we should care – especially as the story is changing so drastically now. The previous seasons have followed a rather linear path regarding the War of the Five kings, but with that over in Season Three, Season Four became a wrap-up of the story; now, Westeros and Essos are becoming more prominent and being forced to react to the changes that have happened so far. although there are few peoples who really disappointing with the story line and they really willing to deactivate their hbo subscription as well. there is website tutorial as well of how to cancel hbo subscription.

Oh, and boat travel – there has been a lot of that this season, but that kind of fits in with the new direction of the story.

To that end, ‘Sons of the Harpy’ introduces some new characters in the form of the Sand Snakes –  the bastard daughters of Oberyn Martell. These badass characters from the books are diluted slightly, in part because their first introduction has to be very heavily steeped in exposition. We are introduced to them through Ellaria Sand, Oberyn’s paramour from Season Four, who was seen in an early episode presenting her ideas for war to Prince Doran. Now, she has assembled the Sand Snakes in the desert to explain her plans to start a war behind his back.

In the books, this plan is put together over the course of several chapters, through the point of view of another daughter of Oberyn who is in line to Dornish throne, but still wants to get revenge for the death of her father. While cutting her (as they appear to have done) works for streamlining again, you’re likely to be less invested in their plan, and forcing the Sand Snakes to launch into long speeches about who they are and why they care comes across as very disjointed and strange.

On the other hand, Cersei – while not doing a lot especially – has had enough screen-time this season for her own plots to come across as interesting and intriguing. She has already done her best to sweet-talk the High Sparrow, but now she makes the play to rearm the ancient Faith Militant in the hopes of having an additional army under her command. We get a sweet scene of them then embarking on a crusade across King’s Landing doing their best to bring an end to any sinning in the city. The scene itself is scarily reminiscent of the first episode of Season Two, in which all of King Robert’s bastards were hunted down and killed in one way or another. It appears as a Pandora’s Box of sorts, and it makes you feel more than sympathetic for poor king Tommen, who’s supposed to be in charge and now forced to pick up the pieces.

On the other side of the world, we have King Stannis. Without wanting to talk about his main scene for too long (for spoilers sake), it is by far his most human he has ever appeared, and his tear-jerking scene ranks up amongst some of the best in the series history.

Jon, however, has one of the most awkward. He has done a lot so far, and in one brief scene he is “tempted” by Melisandre. Of course, she’s as subtle usual, so it just becomes a test of Jon Snow’s vows, and his love for the deceased Ygritte.

Sansa and Littlefinger have some more time together, although this episode was more Littlefinger’s than Sansa’s. The two of them talk in the Catacombs of Winterfell, and spend time discussing her aunt, Lyanna. Littlfinger discusses the story of the Tournament of Harrenhal for the first time in the series, and with the inclusion of a single comment Stannis about Ned Stark’s honour, we might be taking drastic steps towards a much loved fan theory (R+L=J). Littlefinger spends his time conspiring with Roose and Sansa, in turn, although it still isn’t clear what he’s up to.

Jaime and Bronn have some great scenes together, as they make their way into Dorne. Bronn appears very doubtful of their success, while Jaime appears hopeful but also lost in the events of the previous season. It appears that he has taken the death of his father very badly, and totally blames Tyrion. The two have great chemistry still, and the blunt comments of Bronn bounce off Jaime’s “honourable” stance on things.

On the subject of Tyrion, he continues to do his best to get one up on Jorah Mormont, his captor from the previous episode. Their scenes are tense and interesting, especially given the change from the books that Tyrion was actively seeking out Dany in the first place. Now he can do his best to openly mock Jorah for the utter stupidity of his plan, as he believes Jorah will still be executed for returning to her.

Which isn’t hard to believe, as Dany did her absolute best to throw away any remaining good will in the city. As previously mentioned, I have given up on Dany and as far as I’m concerned her cause is lost. That was before this episode, when she again takes advise from Sir Barriston about loving the people and supporting their traditions, and goes ahead and refuses to do either of those things in the very next scene.

Also, she may have gotten a great character killed, simply by brutally forcing an entire city of people to give up on their own age-old traditions, simply because she doesn’t agree with them.

In summary, this was a very mixed episode. While I’m not fuming entirely for the stupidity of Dany this time (mainly because I shut down whenever she turns to avoid getting angry), it also wasn’t utterly lighting me on fire with excitement. There was a lot to like, as there were some nice character moments which tease at more interesting things to come, but there are lengthy stages where the action is high, but the content is low.

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With all that happens over the course of a season of ‘Game of Thrones’, we’ve all become used to the less involved episodes every now and again. While season five, episode three (‘High Sparrow’), has a fair amount going on, it still comes across as a smaller, filler episode. That said, it was still thoroughly entertaining.

We only get a few points of view this episode, and thankfully Dany wasn’t one of them. While she’ll no doubt be refusing to own up to her continued mistakes next episode, it was still nice to have a little reprieve.

There is hope for her, though, after Brienne and Podrick regained their greatness once again in a small, character-building scene. They have a chance to do what they’re good at – a funny back and forth with Dan and Dave bringing back some great dialogue for them. It proves that the last episode was a slight misstep, and they aren’t turning into a walking cliché with terrible writing. Once more, I’m invested in their quest, and Brienne’s exposition heavy speech – in which she discusses her childhood and explains how she came to support Renly Baratheon in the first place, is heart-warming and moving.

Arya has perhaps the least to do this episode, as she continues to train under Jaqen H’ghar, with the hopes of becoming a Faceless Man. Her scenes are primarily based around the colossal strangeness of the House of Black and White, and highlighting just what it is that they do there. It’s interesting enough, but the stand-out moment comes when she’s forced to throw away all of her possessions, and change out of the outfit she’s been wearing since the second season, which, if you think about it, is great from a hygienic perspective.

Cersei’s story is a great step in the general plot of instigating her own downfall, as she steadily becomes more and more dissatisfied with her inner circle, and choses to arrest the High Septon after he is found in a brothel by Lancel and the devout Sparrows. When he is accused of sinning and publicly shamed by the Sparrows, he runs to Cersei and demands justice. Enter Johnathon Pryce as The High Sparrow. In keeping with ‘Game of Thrones’ tradition, he serves as the one character that is goodness through-and-through, so you can expect him to die or fall from grace or hide a terrible secret in the coming story – that’s not a spoiler, it’s just a trope.

On the flip side, Qyburn continues to be cartoonish brilliant as ever. The final episode of season four gave him a comically oversized syringe and asked him to do his best Dr. Frankenstein impression, last episode had him casually asking to keep a severed head, and this episode has him talking to Sir Gregor’s corpse as it writhes around under a sheet. Don’t ever change, Qyburn.

And on the subject of comically evil, this episode serves as a triumphant return of my boy, RB! Ramsey is always an utter joy to watch, even when he is doing something utterly deplorable. Whether he’s skinning someone alive, hunting people in the forest, or simply asking Reek to shave him as a power play, Iwan Rheon has such fun with the role that you almost forget how utterly despicable he is. Ramsey has always had more appeal for me in the series over someone like Joffrey, as he had a continuous monstrous presence about him, and came across as someone who wanted to be liked and loved by the people who despised him. Ramsey doesn’t. Instead, he has taken the villain role to heart, and properly run with it.

Roose gets to be the grand negotiator once again, as he is still the Warden of The North, and despite his son being legitimised, the Northerners rightly hate him. Roose’s plan to have people look past their illegitimacy is largely intact with the story from the book, however there is one major change: while in the books, Littlefinger has arranged to send Jeyne Poole to Winterfell and pretend it is Arya (to legitimise the Bolton’s claim to the North), this time he sends the real Sansa.

Yes, it is finally revealed where Sansa and Littlefinger have been traveling all this time, and it is back home. Winterfell is being rebuilt, and while there wasn’t as much time devoted to reminding us how we haven’t really seen it since season two, it was beautiful to be back – despite all the flayed bodies. It’ll be fun to see how the new Sansa storyline plays out, especially as she’s a far more important character than Poole, and she has a motivation for going there. Revenge.

Now, she has the man who stabbed her brother in the heart and the man who burnt down her home in the same castle as her. I’m beginning to feel that she isn’t trapped in there with them, but they’re trapped in there with her…

Jon’s storyline is relatively brief, and serves as him both solidifying his position as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and gaining the respect of Stannis. Davos gets a chance to deliver a fairly compelling speech in their time together, which was nice, as we haven’t really seen enough of him recently. And while Jon’s defining moment in the episode was still a fist-pump occasion, it seemed a little too much like a fan’s interpretation of the books, as the majority of the cold, hard badassery was taken away, in favour of reducing a much hated character into a sobbing mess.

Tyrion has a very short section, based around the fact he is tired of sitting in his wheelhouse, and wants to get out and visit a brothel. From there, we see the greatest triumph of this season so far – showing off the diversity of Westeros and, mainly, Essos. Like with Braavos, Volantis appears as an entirely new place with a different culture and a totally different feel. It’s utterly refreshing and reminds you that Dany has been specifically seeking out the worst and most dysfunctional cities to visit. Until a familiar face arrives to throw a spanner in the works…

‘High Sparrow’ truly works as a great episode, delivering just enough story to keep up  the pace, while focussing on the interactions of the characters and making them all more human once again.
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With everyone caught up once again with what is going on, we can dive back into the general ‘Game of Thrones’-ness in episode two, ‘The House of Black and White’. The story continues the plotlines of each of the characters from the previous episode, with the addition of Arya and the Martells of Dorne.

So, as we arrive back in the world once again, we have a very similar shot to one in season three. Arya steadily approaches the Titan of Braavos by ship, carrying on from the series finale last year. The arrival scene was almost identical to the one where Stannis and Davos arrived in the previous season, yet we have more of a chance to see Braavos itself, and it turns out that it looks like Singapore crossed with Venice. Arya travels to the titular House of Black and White, and spends the majority of the episode waiting outside the door. We get plenty of Arya one her own once again, and continuing to be the brutal shell she has become over the series so far. If not for the final shocker at the end of the episode, her scenes would have come off as incredibly depressing; she sits for days in the sun and rain, chanting her prayer. It seems as though no part of the carefree little girl from the first season is left at this point.

Once again, following on from the previous season, Dorne is out for revenge against the Lannisters for the nightmarish death of the beloved Oberyn. When a beautifully elaborate threat arrives for Cersie, she believes that her daughter, Myrcella, is in danger. For those who forget who that is, she’s the girl that Tyrion sent to Dorne in season two, just before the riots broke out. Jaime takes it upon himself to head into Dorne and rescue her, proving himself to be a good father and a powerful Lannister to Cersie. He also sets up what might be the best possible buddy-adventure storyline since Arya and The Hound.

Before we get into Dorne, it would be good to take a quick look at what is currently the worst buddy-adventure storyline: Brienne and Podrick. When these two set off together last season, I loved it. Throughout their travels in the books, I love it. But in this episode, I found them almost unbearable. Having failed to rescue Arya at the end of the last season and lamenting this fact in the previous episode, Brienne and Pod take a moment to rest in a tavern. In a hilarious turn of events, Littlefinger and Sansa happen to be having a meal in the same tavern, apparently still on the way to their mysterious destination. What followed, was possibly the most awkward and forced dialogue in the entire series so far. When George R. R. Martin writes an episode, you know it is him because everything just sounds a little off, yet it still flows well and the point comes across well. He did not write this episode, however; David Benioff & D. B. Weiss, did.

David and Dan are the people responsible for ‘Game of Thrones’ being on the air. They are two of the greatest screenwriters currently working in television, and I love their work. But for everything good, there has to be something bad to balance it out, and all the tremendous writing in previous 41 episodes was entirely karmically balanced by this single scene. Perhaps it was Michael Slovis, the director who made a mess of it, however. Dan and Dave have churned out utter brilliance over the years, while Slovis has directed… last week’s episode. I was prepared to then discuss how a horseback chase/fight was totally generic and looked very low budget for this show, until I read an interview explaining how the original fight had to be scrapped at the last minute.

For the record, it was only the Brienne and Podrick scenes that were in any way bad in this episode: the introduction to Dorne was fantastic. We have a lovely shot of the Watergardens, and get a chance to meet Prince Doran Martell, and Indira Varma makes a brilliant return as Ellaria Sand, still justifiably bitter over the death of Oberyn. While there isn’t quite the same reaction as in the books, where we learn how up in arms the entire country is over the death, I feel as though there is still a chance to ease us into Dorne’s reaction in the next few episodes.

I was expecting there to be either no storyline at The Wall this episode, or for it to be small and insignificant. However, as Jon has arguably the most to do this season, it makes sense for his story to hurtle forwards at a break-neck pace while everyone is finding their feet. Again, his character is tested (as it is every season) by an enticing offer from Stannis, yet it doesn’t resonate as much as it does in the books. Like with the Tyrion storyline, I feel as though it is probably for the best, as there is still a lot to get through.

Tyrion and Varys don’t have a lot to do this episode. For the first time in a while, this season seems to be a season of traveling. Sansa and Littlefinger are taking multiple episodes to exchange snide comments on the road, and Varys and Tyrion are taking some time to enjoy a rollicking, drunken adventure until they reach Daenerys.

And thus, I was totally done with Dany. I never wanted this to happen. I thought she was great, I thought she was interesting, I thought she was honourable, I thought she was taking on more than she knew how to. But damn it, she just lost me entirely. She threw away any shred of respect I had for her by listening to, and then entirely disregarding, the advice of Sir Barriston Selmy. You do not disrespect Barriston “the Badass” Selmy. Ever.

At the end of the episode, we get a brief glimpse of huge dragon once again, showing off the tremendous CGI in place, yet it was far too little, and just too late.

Overall, this was a good episode. Jaime, Jon, the Dornish and Arya were all brilliant, and I can’t wait to see what will happen as their stories unfold. I’m certain Brienne and Podrick will make their way back from this, as it wasn’t terrible overall, just somewhat mishandled. Dany, however, I am done with.
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Another year, another season of ‘Game of Thrones’. Okay, let’s not make this sound as though it’s a drag – ‘Game of Thrones’ is awesome. The series is awesome, the ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series it is based on is awesome, and a lot of the expanded lore and history is awesome. But with such a high calibre of content, coming back after four fifths of a year is always going to be an apprehensive time. Everyone needs a brief refresher on what has happened up to this point, we need to be reminded of why we care about all the characters and their struggles, and on the off-chance there is anyone alive that has only decided to start watching the series now, they need to know just who are all these people.

And so, ‘The Wars to Come’ – the first episode of the fifth season of HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’. How does it hold up for a first episode? Brilliantly. That said, it is because not an awful lot happens in the episode itself.

The episode begins with a flashback (which I will discuss in a moment), before picking up shortly after the events of the season four finale – Cersie and Jaime Lannister stand over the corpse of their father, and discuss how his death has changed everything. For Jaime, it is a time to prepare for the coming storm, and for Cersie, it is another round of ammunition to use in her hatred for Tyrion. From there, we see the return of Lancel Lannister, now a devout follower of The Faith of the Seven, who reintroduces the most boring religion in Westeros to the audience, while setting up themes of forgiveness and justice – something sorely lacking in this universe.

Tyrion himself is still grappling with the realisation that he murdered his lover and his father last time we saw him, but the self-loathing he is going through (and by all rights he has earned it) is cut short by the laying out of Vary’s plan of action; basically a quick synopsis of what to expect from the pair for the rest of the season. The chemistry of Tyrion and Varys still hold up, with Varys continuing the straight-man routine, and injects just enough life and optimism back into the scene to support the beautiful scenery of their location.

The same location, in fact, that Dany spent her first episode back in season one. Illyrio Mopatis, the hairy man from those few episodes, has been cut – his appearance in the books now being replaced by Varys. It was a change I would have more difficulty with, if it wasn’t for the inclusion of Kevan Lannister (Lancel’s father and Tywin’s brother) returning for the first time since season two. While I would have loved to see a few episodes of Tyrion and Illyrio drinking and making jokes until the former feels fit enough to continue, his omission does streamline the story, which makes sense, seeing that they apparently want to cover two books in one season this year.

Sansa and Littlefinger continue their game of refusing to fully trust each other, while still smiling sweetly and acknowledging a growing respect, yet their story ends on a cliff-hanger (ish) as they leave the Eyrie and head for an unnamed location.

Brienne and Podrick have possibly the shortest part to play in the story, as Brienne grapples with her failure to find and rescue Arya previously, while seemingly still blaming Podrick for her disappearance. The fun dynamic of the two of them has gone (for now, at least) but there is a hint at some more character growth for each of them as the season continues.

By far the weakest part was Dany’s story. My biggest problem with Dany, is that she began back in 2011 as clearly one of the best characters, starting off in a terrible situation, finding her strength, and earning the love and support of her people (and dragons). In the second season, she grapples with what it means to be a leader, learns about who to trust, and goes through the third season as a powerful and wise badass. Then she reaches Meereen. It’s not that I have such a problem with the Meereenese knot – obviously she needed to stay in one place for a while to allow the rest of the story to catch up with her – my problem is that she is becoming a worse leader and a less likable character as time draws on.

Her time in Meereen is spent throwing the established order out the window, and then enforcing her own way of thinking and living upon an entire city that do not want her there. When acts of atrocity are committed against her and her supporters, she continues to retaliate for fear of appearing weak, bringing more pain and suffering upon her supporters. This comes perfectly around in a scene where she revisits the dragons she imprisoned last season, hoping to set them free again. Unfortunately, having been chained up in a cave for a while, they are far from accommodating. Dany continues to make sudden, big gestures, but when she thinks reasonably and tries to change anything later, she finds out the hard way that it is too late.

That said, this episode did show a visual culmination of everything ‘Game of Thrones’ stands for: boobs covered in blood.

Jon had the most story in his section. While Sam and Stannis remind the audience what the plot will cover in the coming weeks, Jon has a personal story about becoming a leader, and learning the value of other people’s points of view. Without wishing to spoil anything, he is forced to offer an option to a character which is refused, and has the decency to respect that, despite disagreeing with it. At the end of the episode, he shows that respect in a powerful, and impactful way.

All in all, the episode was great for wetting the appetites of audiences, as plenty is set up and teased. We also see the sort of struggles – and how well the show handles them – which a lot of characters are likely to face this year. But before we finish – the flashback.

Each year, the first scene has been used to resolve plots or introduce new characters. In season one, we learned about the White Walkers, in season two we met Stannis and learned about the powers of Melisandre, season three was the fallout from The Fist of the First Men, and season four was the symbolic destruction of the Starks and the victory of the Lannisters.

While there is the whole region of Dorne to be introduced, I feel as though this flash-back to Cersie’s childhood was great for giving us a new look at the character. In the books, the first time you see things from Cersei’s point-of-view, everything changes, and she becomes a must more interesting and believable character. This functions in a similar way, as we now know of the prophecy which will colour her views for the rest of the season, and have made her the character we see on screen. This tiny piece of backstory makes her later exploits appear so much more reasonable in their proper context.

That said, I still don’t know why they sexualised the creepy woods witch. Why take a character called “Maggie the Frog” from the books, and give her a pronounced cleavage? Huh, HBO?

I’m still excited for the rest of the season, though.
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