It’s the halfway point of the season! I’m going to try my hardest to not be too verbose here and to make this the shortest of my write-ups as I’m aware that they’ve all been thousands and thousands of words so far. Here’s hoping Theon/Reek actually gets some dialogue this episode!
First up, in Meereen, Grey Worm is maybe dead, and Barristan Selmy is definitely dead. Cue me screaming, “That didn’t happen in the book!!!”. What even is the point of killing him off if not to provide extra screen time for stupid stuff like the dumb Grey Worm and Missandei romance. Barristan is lying dead in a funereal pose in Daenerys’ royal chamber and she is pretty much ready for revenge. Hizdahr zo Loraq enters and gives his apologies for Barristan’s death. Daario has plans to clean out the city until the rats have nowhere to hide, but Daenerys knows better – she wants the leaders of the great families of Meereen brought to her.
She takes the leaders of the great families of Meereen to her dragons (just Viserion and Rhaegal though, Drogon is off and away) who are still chained underground. Daenerys gives a speech to the leaders of the great families and basically shows them that if they oppose her, that they’ll get burnt alive and eaten by her dragons. She pushes the leaders forwards until one is burnt and eaten. Hizdahr presents as brave and says to Daenerys, “Valar morghulis” – all men must die. Daenerys watches with a psychotic look on her face as Viserion and Rhaegal eat the leader. This scene proved to me that maybe she’s going a bit crazy with power, or maybe craziness is genetic – remember her father, the Mad King Aerys who burnt his enemies alive and laughed? This is Daenerys’ kind of justice – using her dragons to her advantage.
At the Wall, Sam Tarly reads a report on Daenerys Targaryen and Meereen to Maester Aemon (who revealed himself to be a Targaryen in season one). Maester Aemon says he is dying and I really don’t want that to happen (but it will). Jon Snow enters and asks Maester Aemon for advice on a difficult decision he must make. Maester Aemon gives him some sound advice – “Kill the boy, and let the man be born”; essentially telling Jon to grow the heck up and start making some tough decisions as that’s what leaders have to do. I, for one, am relieved that the episode title of ‘Kill the Boy’ doesn’t refer to any literal boys that would be killed.
Jon goes to see Tormund Giantsbane and asks him where the free folk (also known as the wildlings) are. Tormund says that the free folk will only follow Mance Rayder, who is now dead. Jon says he wants to change things, to gather the free folk and resettle them south of the Wall so that they can fight with the Night’s Watch against the white walkers. Jon unchains Tormund and allows him to leave and gather the free folk, to “make peace to save your people”. Tormund says the free folk are gathered at Hardhome (important name to remember), but he will need ships and men to get them. Plus he needs Jon to go with him to ensure the safety of the free folk and that his promise is carried through. Will Jon go? In any case, Jon’s face at the end of this scene is pricelessly hilarious. And the lighting was very nice in this scene indeed.
Jon communicates this uncomfortable decision to the Night’s Watch who pretty much unanimously disagree with him, except Sam, who of course agrees with Jon. Even Jon’s good friend Dolorous Edd disagrees. Jon makes the point that the free folk alive are better than an army of the dead descending upon the wall, which makes sense. My favourite part of this scene was witnessing my favourite Stannis Baratheon be an amazing grammar Nazi again. I love Stannis. Evidence for grammar Nazism here. Also, his penchant for correct grammar actually made news here – amazing.
Jon then goes to his office and is confronted by his assistant Olly, who asks if Jon is really for real about bringing the wildlings south. Jon says yes and Olly reminds everyone that the wildlings killed his whole family. Jon reminds Olly that winter is coming, but Olly is too annoyed to really understand. Does Jon regret his decision? As Maester Aemon initially told him – unfortunately, making unpopular decisions is just part of being a leader. Both Jon and Olly give good performances in this episode. I really think Kit Harington is improving as an actor and this episode is definitely evidence of that.
Brienne and Pod are somewhere near Winterfell, close enough to see the castle from a window at an inn. Brienne knows Sansa is there and reiterates that she has made an oath to protect her, particularly as she’s stuck with the Boltons and may not realise that she is in danger. Brienne reminds us that the Boltons killed Sansa’s mother and brother, as if we could ever forget that traumatic moment. A servant enters and tells Brienne that he knew Ned Stark and his father before him. Brienne gets him to send a message to Sansa in Winterfell.
At Winterfell, Ramsay and his girlfriend are having a post-coital discussion and there is no real reason for Myranda’s blatant nudity. Ramsay establishes that he will marry Sansa even though he told Myranda that he would marry her when he was just a lowly bastard, as she is the kennel master’s daughter. Now that Ramsay is a Bolton, he must marry a high born girl. But he’ll still mess about with Myranda as his mistress, he claims her as “mine” and then basically threatens her to not bore him or else. Still, she doesn’t seem to mind. More sexposition from Game of Thrones, no surprises there.
Sansa is in her room in Winterfell and the older female servant from an episode or so ago visits and reminds her that she has friends in the north, and if she ever needs help she should light a candle from the highest window of the broken tower. Sansa then goes out to look at the tower and is approached by Ramsay’s mistress Myranda. Myranda is quite nice to Sansa but there’s something suspicious about her as she touches the sleeve of Sansa’s dress unnecessarily – she’s just as creepy as Ramsay, match made in heaven. Myranda says she has a surprise for Sansa and my creepiness alarm bells start ringing. She takes Sansa to the dog kennels and tells her to go down the back to where the surprise is. Creepy. Sansa goes toward the back, which is silly because this could easily have been a trap. But instead of being trapped she finds Theon/Reek at the end, lying in a dog kennel. She says his name – Theon – but he shakes his head because that isn’t his name anymore; his name is Reek. He tells her she shouldn’t be there and I can’t help but agree with him.
Theon/Reek is then helping Ramsay undress or something, and he finally gets some dialogue! Ramsay asks if he has anything to tell him and Theon/Reek shakes his head no. He is asked again, and Theon/Reek cannot lie to his master – he tells Ramsay that Sansa saw him and that he’s sorry. He begs for forgiveness and Ramsay says that he shouldn’t keep secrets. Theon/Reek is made to go down on his knees and give his hand to Ramsay. In a moment of utter creepiness, Ramsay smiles as he holds Theon/Reek’s hand and says he forgives him. This moment is the perfect example of why I love Iwan Rheon as Ramsay Bolton. He knows exactly how to maximise Ramsay’s creepiness and not go too overboard. I think during this scene I was particularly anxious as in the book, Theon/Reek’s fingers (from what I can remember) are skinned down to the bone. I was worried that they would do that to Theon/Reek in the show and it seems we’ve been spared that for now.
Later, at an awkward dinner with the Boltons, Roose Bolton’s wife Fat Walda Frey is there as well. Ramsay raises a toast, a drink to his and Sansa’s impending wedding. Sansa doesn’t drink and is awkward. Ramsay calls out for wine and Theon/Reek enters to fill everyone’s cups. Ramsay reminds Sansa that Theon killed and burned her brothers Bran and Rickon (but we know this isn’t true), and makes Theon/Reek apologise repeatedly to Sansa. Ramsay is emotionally torturing Sansa when he is unable to torture her physically as per his usual tastes. Roose’s face is hilarious as he knows what his crazy son is doing. Ramsay reminds Sansa that all of the Starks are dead, but we know better. But, given that all Sansa’s family are “dead”, Ramsay decides that Theon/Reek will give her away at the wedding – the ultimate insult as he is someone who supposedly killed her younger brothers. Then Fat Walda drops a bomb – she’s pregnant, and it’s a boy. How does this affect Ramsay’s claim to the Bolton dynasty? In any case, Sansa appears very pleased indeed.
Roose and Ramsay have a nice chat where Roose ensures Ramsay and the viewers that Fat Walda is indeed pregnant and it is indeed a boy. Roose says Ramsay embarrassed himself, but then paradoxically embarrasses himself by saying that he raped Ramsay’s mother as her husband was hanging from a tree. Roose pretends he is a very genteel and respectable man but he is still as brutal a Ramsay, he’s just more subtle about it nowadays. Roose gives a nice speech about Ramsay being his son. Which is nice. He then says that Stannis won’t stay at the Wall long, and he knows that the road to King’s Landing goes through Winterfell and that therefore Stannis will be coming through soon. He asks Ramsay if he will help to defeat Stannis and Ramsay’s answer is a resounding yes.
At the Wall, Sam and Gilly are getting sassy with one another about libraries. They mention the Citadel’s huge library at Oldtown and from the tone of this discussion I’m predicting that Sam and Gilly will be making a trip to Oldtown in the future. Sam and Gilly discuss/debate different intelligences until Stannis enters the room and Gilly leaves. Stannis informs Sam that he is technically just as good a soldier as his father Randall Tarly, given that Sam has defeated a white walker all on his lonesome. Stannis wants to know how and Sam says he had a knife made of dragonglass. Stannis asks how this was possible and Sam says he’s trying to find out. Stannis says that death marches on the wall and Sam says he’s seen it. Stannis tells Sam to keep reading to find a defence for the wall – finally, Sam’s real strengths (aka, being a bookworm) are being valued!
Stannis goes to see Davos who is whittling something out of wood, which I find funny for some reason. Stannis says it’s time to go before the Boltons at Winterfell have the upper hand. He says that Queen Selyse and the Princess Shireen are to go with them as he doesn’t trust them with the murderers and rapists of the Night’s Watch. Stannis and Davos leave and Davos notes that Melisandre watches from afar.
Then, either the next day or later on in the day (timelines are unclear here), Stannis and friends are off to Winterfell. Shireen tells Davos that she isn’t scared of going to battles with Davos, and vows to protect him as her his request. Queen bitch Selyse scolds Davos for discussing battles with Shireen, clearly refusing to acknowledge Shireen’s superior bravery and inner strength. Sam and Gilly watch as their friend Shireen leaves. Stannis and Jon talk – Stannis has given Jon ships and men to get the wildlings from Hardhome, which Jon promises to return. Melisandre watches creepily again from afar. Stannis and his army then march south to Winterfell. I’m really sad that we won’t see any more moments with Stannis and Jon together, I thought that Stephen Dillane and Kit Harington’s on-screen charisma was pretty top notch.
Back at Meereen, we’re treated to more of the most pointless story ever as Grey Worm wakes up, alive, and is met with Daenerys’ right hand woman Missandei. Grey Worm says that he is ashamed that he failed to defend Barristan Selmy, who is dead (not in the book though!), and also he’s ashamed that as he was lying injured he was afraid he’d never see Missandei again. Then they kiss. I am seriously very angry that this ridiculous, imaginary plot that isn’t even in the books is taking up screen time. Mostly, this is a huge waste of time – wake up Missandei, he’s a eunuch, literally nothing can happen in this relationship. I wish Barristan Selmy was alive instead of this Grey Worm and Missandei romance. I hate it.
Then, Missandei and Daenerys are consulting with one another. Daenerys wants to know whether Missandei has any feelings on whether she should tread the path or mercy or justice with regards to the leaders of the great families of Meereen who are stashed away in the dungeons. Should she have them burned and eaten by her dragons? Missandei says that she has no opinion, but that she has noticed that Daenerys has listened to everyone fairly, but has also made good choices herself. Missandei essentially tells Daenerys to listen to her own opinion instead of consulting with others so much.
Daenerys goes to see Hizdahr who thinks that he’s going to be eaten by a dragon and says he doesn’t want to die. Daenerys tells him that she was wrong and Hizdahr was right – leading me to compare this scene with something hilarious from Happy Gilmore (1996); “you’re very good looking, and I’m… not… attractive”, I seriously laughed out loud. Daenerys says that Hizdahr was right regarding the traditions of Meereen and about uniting the people through them. She says that she will open the fighting pits to free men only, no slaves. Additionally, in order to forge a bond between herself and the great families of Meereen, she will marry the leader of one of the families – namely, Hizdahr himself. He doesn’t look too happy though, I think any straight male would be beyond ecstatic at such a proposal.
This was another “this didn’t happen in the book!!!” moment for me. In the book, Daenerys receives the guidance that she’s more or less obligated to marry Hizdahr to keep the peace. The show seems really intent on making sure that Daenerys is an independent female 100% of the time. I love me some third wave feminism and I am all about female empowerment in the media but Daenerys has to have some kind of weakness, otherwise she is insufferable. Anyway, we’ll see where this goes.
Back to Jorah and Tyrion, who are still on the boat in the way to Meereen in exactly the same position they were in last episode. They’re out on a big river and Tyrion is trying to make conversation but Jorah isn’t having it. Tyrion comments, “Long, sullen silences, and an occasional punch in the face… the Mormont way”, which I loved. Tyrion and Jorah are funny together, even if Jorah won’t give Tyrion his wine. Tyrion and Jorah approach the ruins of Valyria, and they’re hading through there to avoid the pirates who are afraid of passing through. There is some lovely exposition on the ancient Valyrians here, a part of the wider plot of Game of Thrones that I’ll always be intrigued by. Tyrion and Jorah recite the following poem:
They held each other close and turned their backs upon the end.
The hills that split asunder, and the black that ate the skies;
The flames that shot so high and hot that even dragons burned;
Would never be the final sights that fell upon their eyes.
A fly upon a wall, the waves the sea-wind whipped and churned –
The city of a thousand years, and all that men had learned;
The Doom consumed it all alike, and neither of them turned.
Tyrion then spots something in the distance – it’s Drogon, flying elegantly over Valyria and away from Meereen. There was something about Drogon flying above and Tyrion’s astounded face that made this a goosebumps-inducing moment for me.
But behind the two – a man who was camouflaged into the black rocks of the ruins jumps into the water. The Stone Men of Valyria – people who have been exiled to the ruins after suffering greyscale, kind of like a leper colony – attack Jorah and Tyrion’s boat. Jorah tries to defend himself but Tyrion has his hands bound together and is relatively defenceless. Tyrion backs away from a Stone Man and falls into the water, being dragged into the black depths of the water by one of the Stone Men (finally – just like in the book).
We get a good false ending here – the screen is black for a moment and maybe a cliffhanger is expected, but then we get a vision of Tyrion’s blinking eyes to see Jorah who has awoken him from his watery slumber. Jorah asks if Tyrion was touched and he says no – he was grabbed by his boot. Unfortunately now that the boat is gone, Jorah and Tyrion have to walk to Meereen. Then Jorah shows the camera that in fact he was touched by one of the Stone Men and has contracted greyscale on his wrist. This did not happen in the book. Nice ending.
So much for my promise that I wouldn’t write much for this episode. I really enjoyed this episode, even though there is a sense that this season is a lot more low key in comparison to season four where everything was happening all of the time and there was a lot of action throughout. I get the sense that this season is much more of a slow burner, which is definitely a change of pace. Still, I’m enjoying it, even if some of the changes from the book are infuriating me to no end.
Next episode looks to be a doozy! We get to see more of Arya and Jaqen in the House of Black and White, Prince Trystane and Princess Myrcella in Dorne, the fierce Sand Snakes, Olenna Tyrell (she’s back!), Margaery and Cersei, the High Sparrow and some kind of trial involving King Tommen, Littlefinger in King’s Landing, Sansa and the Boltons, and Littlefinger promising Cersei that he lives to serve (I think not, he’s a slimey one). Looking forward!