Game of Thrones 507 recap/ review
Recaps have spoilers below regarding “Game of Thrones” and George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire.”
It’s no mystery that fans have widely considered the newest season of HBO’s cornerstone series to be the worst for a number of reasons: more streamlined than ever, surpassing the novels, general dive in narrative quality, etc. After last week’s disappointing, however shocking, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,” many viewers decided to quit watching “Game of Thrones,” but not for lack of quality. The disturbing rape scene on Ramsey and Sansa’s wedding night upset many fans, including an American congresswoman. However, the series appears headed back in the right direction after this week’s “The Gift.” Many thought the episode title regarded Arya’s training and the “gift” of death, where others assumed the title referred to territories given to the Night’s Watch from Brandon the Builder centuries ago, called “The Gift.” However, both theories are incorrect. This week we still have to go without Bran, but also Arya & Jaqen and Doran & Ellaria.
Director Miguel Sapochnik (Repo Men, “Fringe”) opens at Castle Black where Tormund is freed from his shackles for his expedition with Jon. Hateful, untrusting eyes follow Jon as he hands command over to Thorne until he returns. Thorne tells Jon his blunt thoughts on the matter, but Jon knows his mission is too important to give in to popular opinion. Before he leaves, Sam turns over a dagger of dragonglass to his friend. Jon’s party departs as the camera turns inside the castle to Maester Aemon, sickly in bed. Gilly and her baby try to entertain the dying man. The child reminds Aemon of his brother, King Aegon, as a baby. The old man tells them to get the child south “before it’s too late.” Staying in the north, we head to Winterfell where Reek enters Sansa’s chambers to serve her meal and see the bruises she bears from Ramsey’s nightly spousal abuse. Before he leaves, she wakes and begs the former Theon Greyjoy to help her get away from her captors. He keeps refusing to help her, but eventually agrees to the candle-in-the-window plan Brienne hatched earlier in the year. The next shot follows Reek through the yard at Winterfell. He holds a candle and looks to the ruined tower as if following the plan. He ascends a spire and arrives at the top to open the door to a room where his captor enjoys a meal. Reek gonna Reek. At this point in the series, one must wonder if this character will ever get the redemption that his arc begs as he psychologically surrenders to Ramsey on a perpetual basis. Across the way, Brienne continues to fix her gaze on Winterfell, awaiting Sansa’s call (that won’t come) at any minute.
Back in Maester Aemon’s chambers, the dying man calls out for his brother Aegon, or “Egg,” as if they were still children living with their parents as Sam and Gilly sit with him. They agree to sit with him until he passes. The camera stays above Aemon for the next scene, as well, except his body moves from the bed to a funeral pyre as Sam gives an emotional, sincere eulogy for the “blood of the dragon.” This is a slight change from the novels where Aemon doesn’t die until he’s left Castle Black with Sam and Gilly. As the brothers pass the torch, Thorne leans in and says, “You’re losing all your friends, Tarly.” These words resonate with Sam when he looks up and sees the loathsome, unpleasant glares from a few of the others. Sapochnik jumps back to Winterfell where Ramsey takes Sansa for an uncomfortable walk (she finds out about Jon making Lord Commander) that ends in more shock and disappointment. He flayed the old woman who offered to help his new bride earlier this season after Reek gave up the plan to him. “You should hold on to your candles. The nights are so long now,” Ramsey warns. The camera then pans over the camp belonging to Ramsey’s upcoming rival, King Stannis Baratheon. Davos warns Stannis to wait out the winter at Castle Black because horses keep dying and several sellswords have split. Stannis, however, refuses to become the king who ran and decrees that the army marches to Winterfell for victory or defeat. Davos excuses himself to allow Stannis to blame Melisandre for the army’s current misfortune regarding the weather. She gets him to agree that they’ve witnessed the same vision of victory at Winterfell, but that she will require yet another sacrifice of king’s blood to ensure the victory. When he hears Melisandre suggest his daughter for the candidate, Stannis dismisses the red lady from his tent. She worked blood magic that killed Robb and Joffrey, but show runners Weiss and Benioff have been lazy in handling Balon and developing House Greyjoy, in general.
We return to Castle Black where Gilly works. Two of the brothers who glared at Sam during the funeral come in the room to corner Gilly, terrifying her with imminent rape. Sam arrives with a sword drawn to prevent them, but they beat him bloody before fixing their attention toward Gilly again. Sam rises and warns them how he’s previously killed a Thenn and a White Walker as Jon’s direwolf, Ghost, appears out of nowhere to scare the rapists in the other direction. The brave, bleeding brother of the Night’s Watch then passes out as the camera transitions to Gilly treating his wounds bedside. She makes Sam promise to stop fighting and to protect her baby no matter what. He agrees to do the same for her as she kisses him before she mounts him and initiates their first love scene together. Sapochnik finally leaves the north for the first in “The Gift” and takes the audience to a slave auction in Essos where Jorah and Tyrion are sold to the same buyer for the fighting pits. The highlight of the scene features Tyrion proving to the buyer that, like Jorah, he is a worthy fighter, and beats down the man who holds his shackles. In Meereen, Daenerys and Daario share some more pillow talk this season. Daenerys assures her lover that her upcoming nuptials are purely political so he has no need to worry if their arrangement has come to an end. Daario suggests she cancel the wedding altogether and marry him because she is the queen and her word is law. She explains that she cannot because it’s simply “inadvisable.” He asks her to massacre all the remaining masters when she opens the fighting pits because, according to him, all rulers are either “butchers or meat.” The queen insists she’s no Targaryen butcher. What’s most interesting in this scene is that Daario indicates Daenerys’ intended, Hizdahr, was behind the Sons of the Harpy because the attacks have ceased ever since their engagement. It was a throw-away line, but hold on to it.
In the Sept of Baelor in King’s Landing, Lady Olenna finds the High Sparrow. They verbally spar as she appeals for her grandchildren. The Queen of Thorns calls him a fraud and tries to bribe him to no avail. The High Sparrow seems completely incorruptible. “The gods demand justice.” As she leaves and walks the streets, Olenna gets handed a note with Littlefinger’s sigil on it. We’re then drawn inside the Red Keep as Cersei and Tommen eat a meal together. Tommen has a meltdown concerning Margaery’s imprisonment and even says that he’ll overthrow the Faith Militant and start a war. Cersei calms him down, saying that she will fix all of this for him. He says he understands her gesture, but the queen mother explains that he won’t fully understand her until he has children of his own for whom he would “burn cities to the ground.” Why does Cersei speak so much like an old Targaryen ruler this year? Every other thing out of her mouth involves the decimation of a city. The camera then rests in Dorne, on Cersei’s twin, Jaime, as Areo Hotah leads Princess Myrcella into his “cell.” Try as he might, Jaime can’t convince his daughter/ niece to leave her betrothed in Dorne and return to King’s Landing with her mother and brother. The next scene takes us to the holding cells where Bronn finally finishes singing “The Dornishman’s Wife” for the jailed Sand Snakes. (People from the 90s Brit-Pop scene recall actor Jerome Flynn [Bronn] of the group Robson and Jerome.) He says Dornish women are the most beautiful in the world, but not necessarily the ones before him. One of the Sand Snakes takes interest in this statement. She asks him if his arm is okay—it is. She then asks about his head as she begins to disrobe and slowly reveal her nude form to him, explaining that she poisoned him with her daggers. Bronn starts to struggle when she asks him who the most beautiful in the world is. He says it’s her which prompts the naked woman to toss a vial of the antidote in his direction. This scene accomplished nothing aside from establishing that the Sand Snakes are (still) deadly and gratuitous nudity.
Olenna meets Littlefinger in his run down, abandoned brothel which the Faith Militant decorated with the seven-pointed star presumably drawn in blood. She indicates that she will give up his role in the murder of Joffrey if she must, but he consoles her by telling her that he has a gift for her, a handsome, young man. Hmmm… We jump back to Tyrion and Jorah, now in a tent with other gladiators. Jorah sharpens his sword as Tyrion endures life shackled to the bench. The buyer tells them that “the gods have smiled” on them and that “today (their) lives start meaning something.” All of the slaves rise to fight, except Tyrion and Jorah, who are confined to the tent for no given reason. The camera pops outside the tent as Hizdahr and Daenerys take their seats to watch the fights. For a woman who sat through her own Dothraki wedding, one would think she’d come to terms with witnessing some violence, but she expresses her continued abhorrence. The queen’s presence surprises the slave buyer. When Jorah hears the hubbub concerning the queen, he takes the slaver’s previous words to heart. He exits the tent of his own volition and enters the arena, making quick work of and defeating every combatant to present himself to his queen as her champion. She isn’t pleased by Jorah’s presence and orders him away. He pleads with her, saying that he’s delivered a gift. “It’s true!” Tyrion emerges from the tent and introduces himself to the queen as her gift from Jorah. She’s shocked to say the least.
The final few scenes take us back to King’s Landing where Cersei visits Margaery, filthy and desperate, in her cell. The queen mother sardonically speaks to the queen, feigning concern for Margaery’s well-being by giving her last night’s leftovers. The queen won’t have this and directly implicates Cersei for speaking with the Faith Militant about her family in the first place. Margaery makes her leave as Cersei half-heartedly chalks it up to madness with an arch grin as if she “won” her fight with House Tyrell and is untouchable. One of the Faith Militant then directly leads Cersei from Margaery’s cell to an audience with the High Sparrow. He answers her questions about Loras’ and Margaery’s trials, explaining “the Tyrell’s finery will be stripped away” in a powerful homily about the sept of Baelor in relation to rich, powerful people. The conversation then takes an unexpected turn when the High Sparrow asks Cersei, “What will we find when we strip away your finery?” Cersei tries to keep a stiff upper lip as he begins telling her a story about a troubled, wayward young man who recently joined the Faith Militant. The lines get less blurry as his story starts to sound like Littlefinger’s gift of a handsome, young man for Olenna. “Piece by piece, he unburdened himself… and he has much to say about you.” A door creaks open and Brother Lancel (formerly Lancel Lannister) stands next to the High Sparrow. Her demeanor sours and she turns to leave as the Faith arrests her for her crimes against those justice-hungry gods. She tells her jailers that her face will be the last thing they see before they die. Anybody feel like a walk?
Director Sapochnik brought new life to a flame that was hardly stoked in the last few weeks. It felt like Christmas in Westeros with all these gift exchanges: Tyrion for Daenerys and Lancel for Olenna. Even Gilly gave Sam a gift, so to speak. Bronn received the gift of life. Melisandre also wanted to give R’hllor a burning gift, but Stannis put the kibosh to it as that gift would have been his daughter. Jon and Tormund left for Hardhome beyond the wall, the namesake for next week’s episode, also directed by Sapochnik. What’s most gratifying, however, was seeing Cersei Lannister finally jailed right after thinking she’d claimed victory over the Tyrells.
Bronn, with the audience, stared at a naked woman for a solid minute, but Brienne, fully clothed, didn’t even get one stinking line for her fleeting time on screen. These are misogynist priorities, HBO.