Please tell me I’m not the only person who keeps wanting to call this episode “Mockingjay.”
A really interesting episode this week. Lots of compelling character moments, a fair bit of tension, pretty pretty snow, and cute flashbacks to friendships of days past. Not bad, for an episode that contained one of my most anticipated moments (snow Winterfell!). Of course, all the character moments also gave the show ample opportunity to be rage-inducing. A mild sort of rage, compared to some of the things the show has done this season, but a bit rage-y none-the-less.
Since there was so much going on this week, I’m going to split things up by character/plotline.
Brienne and Podrick:
What has happened to Brienne’s character over the past couple of weeks? The show has always presented a much tougher and less emotional one than the rather naive young figure we see in the books, but those changes seemed especially blatant this week.
In the books, Brienne comes to care a lot for Podrick. It’s a key part of her story going forwards. But here, she’s so dismissive of him that she becomes cruel. She tells him he’s “not interesting enough to be offensive,” with a dismissive eyeroll, and she dismisses pretty much everything he says or does. She’s not just irritated by him. She acts like he’s beneath her, like he’s a waste of space — an attitude that’s fundamentally incompatible with Brienne’s caring nature and her desire to act like a true, good knight. It’s almost as if the show feels that someone can’t be physically strong without also being a “badass” in other ways. Like they’re trying to squeeze Brienne into the idea of the “Strong Female Character,” totally confident, full of sass, a woman who needs no one (except perhaps for Jaime, her love), trading her depth in for one-dimensional (and fairly unlikable) cliché.
These changes have also made Brienne extraordinarily stupid. She’s searching for a traitor’s daughter who is wanted for the murder of the king and probably has a pretty big bounty on her head, so of course she tells everyone precisely who she’s looking for and why. I guess maybe we viewers might have forgotten what she’s doing in the past two weeks, so they had to remind us? And when she does have a lead, not on Sansa but on the Stark daughter she thought was dead, she tells her informant to give her “the quick version,” missing the fact that any detail could be vital to figuring out where Arya might be. Not to mention the fact that Strong Female Character Brienne has no reaction to learning that her lady’s missing daughter is alive after all.
By the time we learn that Brienne didn’t know about Lysa, has no idea where Sansa might be hiding or who her allies might be, and in fact is less qualified for this journey than the squire she’s been belittling, my eyes had basically rolled right out of my head. Who is this overconfident idiot plunging through the countryside and being mean to every child she encounters along the way? And why does the show think we’ll like her more than the Brienne we see in the books? Heck, why does the show think we’ll like her more than Cersei? At least the Lannister sister owns her meanness.
Tyrion, Bronn and Betrayal:
All this raging really can’t be good for my blood pressure, but ugh to all the Bronn stuff this week. Just… ugh. It’s not surprising that Bronn would betray Tyrion. He’s a ruthless sellsword who’s only out for himself. Of course he would take whatever money the Lannisters offered and ditch Tyrion when things looked iffy. Of course he wouldn’t risk his life to fight against the Mountain when better alternatives presented themselves. The only question is why Tyrion didn’t expect this in the first place.
My only problem with all this is that it presents Bronn as sympathetic. We get to see his reasoning, and it all seems very reasonable. He’s thrown Tyrion to the lions as much as Shae has, but he and Tyrion get to part as friends, with Tyrion being all understanding and telling him not to be sorry. Bronn’s ruthlessness was part of why he liked him, after all.
And yet, in the same episode, we also have Tyrion raging and angsting about Shae. About how she betrayed him. How he was a fool for thinking she’d fallen in love with him. There are so many layers of nonsense with this that it’s difficult to know where to start. Tyrion knows that Shae loves him. That was, in fact, a pretty major plot point earlier this season. He needed to convince her that he didn’t love her to force her to leave for her own protection, because otherwise she wouldn’t leave. Because she wasn’t being mercenary or full of self-preservation. Because she loved him. During the trial last week, her only moment of spite was when she called herself his “whore,” pretty clearly showing that she’s only doing this because she thinks that he never loved her, not because she never cared for him. Tyrion knows all of this. And even if he didn’t, he knows that Shae is a prostitute. He should have similar standards for her as for Bronn. They were allies, but she can’t be expected to die for him. Except not. Shae is a horrific, cold-hearted traitor, while Bronn is still ultimately a pretty good guy, for doing basically the same thing.
Perhaps it would be better if we got a peek inside Shae’s motivations, as we did at Bronn’s. Tyrion doesn’t have to hear her side of things, but Shae’s an independent character from him. We could see her talking to Cersei or Tywin. We could learn what happened between her supposedly getting shipped off and her appearing in court. We could get even a hint of her side of things or what she has been going through. But we don’t. Because Bronn and Tyrion are bros, and so both of their perspectives in their relationship count, but Shae is merely Tyrion’s love, and therefore has nothing to say or no life of her own beyond him.
Daenerys in Meereen:
They’re moving the Daenerys stuff along really quickly. As in, I think we’re now in A Dance with Dragons territory quickly. She and Brienne are both pretty far ahead at this point, and I think (although I’m not sure) that Bran is somewhat ahead of schedule too. At this point, the show could finish all the remaining books in one season, two at the most. And then they’re either going to have to start making up their own ending or reveal George RR Martin’s first. I really hope he has a detail in the contract preventing them from doing that. Because that would not end well.
But in the meantime, this means we get to see Daenerys starting to give in to her Targaryen tendencies and go slightly mad with her obsession with “justice.” Her dramatic, trailer-worthy statements and speeches do get a bit tiring, but we’re finally getting into the consequences of her moral crusade, the cost of her increasing bloodlust, and the fact that, for all her posturing, she doesn’t know how to actually be queen. I know some people tire of Daenerys being in Meereen, but I think there’s a lot of interesting things to explore here, and I’m looking forward to seeing it.
Melisandre and Selyse
Yes, a conversation between Melisandre and the other woman who actually truly believes all the Lord of Light stuff. Character depth for Selyse! An interesting conversation for both of them!
Shame Melisandre had to be naked for the whole thing. But I guess the show had to balance out Daario somehow.
Sansa, snow and the moon door
And now for one of the most creepy and intense scenes the show has ever produced. Once again, we got to see how talented Sophie Turner is at conveying emotion without saying a single word. Her look of wonder as she watched the snow, her sadness as she remembers home and her family, her fear of Littlefinger, and the sheer terror when Lysa holds her over the moon door… she’s absolutely fantastic. And although her scene with Robin initially seemed like an overreaction — he damaged the castle by accident, at least at first — I think it was important to establish that Sansa is still an emotionally traumatized child. She might be playing the gentle grown up around Robin at first, but she’s still just a young teenager herself, and there’s pretty much nothing in her life, nothing that she loves, that hasn’t been taken from her or destroyed by others. Her little snow Winterfell is just the last straw, and for once (if unfairly) she’s in a position to stand up for herself and do something about it. It’s not her most likeable moment, but god, she doesn’t have to be nice and sweet and kind every moment of the day, and her immaturity only highlights the intense creepiness of Littlefinger’s behavior in the very next scene.
Unfortunately, I do think the whole thing was incredibly rushed. She’s been at the Eyrie for little more than an episode, this was her final scene in A Storm of Swords, and the next book doesn’t have much material for her. There was no need to hurry through this, and although there were some good moments, this plotline didn’t really feel like it had room to breathe. I don’t want to imagine what the show will add for her to fill in any gaps.
In short, the show is racing through the book material far quicker than I expected, and it has barely managed to portray its female characters well when given books to guide it. There are exceptions, and some of the show’s additions have been really interesting to watch (Shae before this season, Arya and the Hound recently), but overall, the characters really aren’t in safe hands with these writers. So please, George RR Martin, release the sixth book soon. I’d hate for the show to be left to come up with plots on its own, or, worse, present events from the books that haven’t yet been released.