After the colorful, swaggering, outlandish last two episodes of “Game of Thrones,” some of the best in the series, “Kill the Boy” slows things way down. This episode features an unusual structure, with two bookending scenes in Meereen, while the rest remains in the chilly, gray confines the North, as the rumblings of conflict turn into louder and louder thunder. There’s also an action-packed coda in another, completely new location, which we’ll get to, of course.
Director Jeremy Podeswa and writer Bryan Cogman resist the urge to location hop and intercut action — instead of collapsing time, they expand it, letting things play out to sometimes agonizing, uncomfortable ends. Leaders are making decisions, and each one is ruled by a different set of values — by the extremes of emotion, by oath, by logistical prowess, and most are ultimately ruled by the desperation for power (well, that’s everyone really, except maybe Jon Snow).
As mentioned, the Meereen scenes bookend (sort of) the episode, so we’ll front-load them here since the bulk of the episode takes place in the North. First, a few things are cleared up: Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) survived the attack of the Sons of the Harpy and is being watched over by Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel). When he awakes, he tells her he was only scared he wouldn’t see her again — cue that “ooowwww” audience track as those two finally make out! And shippers rejoiced in all the land.
Poor Barristan Selmy though, didn’t make it. And Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) is devastated and angry that her old friend was cut down in the alley (um, lady, you told him to go hang out in the streets). While Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) has an idea, she tells him she likes the original plan: round up the heads of the powerful families and bring them to her. Yes, that means you, too, Hizdahr (Joel Fry). (Side note: this yet another episode where Daario’s only purpose has been to spout some random line about a murder/war strategy and then disappear. You are failing Michiel Huisman, Benioff and Weiss!)
Dany takes her former slave owning friends for a tour of her dragon crypt and menacingly mentions that her kids need to eat. They are petrified, being poked with Unsullied spears closer and closer to the reptiles. Hizdahr definitely thinks they’re all going to get it, until Dany has Daario shove one unfortunate soul forward. The next thing you know, it’s BBQd dude for lunch, and the dragons go to town. She decides to spare the rest of them, but just for today.
Later, she asks Missandei for counsel, I guess since all of her other advisors are dead, imprisoned, turncoats, or otherwise compromised. Missandei, though she protests, ends up giving her advice, which is terrible. She tells Dany that she always does the right thing—the right, alternative choice. NOPE. Nope. nope. Dany takes this to heart and marches down to Hizdahr’s cell. First things first, she admits she’s wrong — the fighting pits are in! (So much bloodshed could have been avoided if she’d decided this like, yesterday). Also, the two of them are going to get married, in a show of lasting relationship with Meereen. He looks utterly terrified.
Up in Castle Black, Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) is reading the latest Targaryen news dispatch to Maester Aemon (Peter Vaughan), who laments that his kin is all alone, fighting off insurgents, with no family to guide her, and he stuck up in that castle, an ailing frail man. “A Targaryen alone in the world is a terrible thing,” he says just as Jon Snow (Kit Harington) walks in (an almost laughable allusion to R+L=J theorists — google that if you’re so inclined). Jon’s looking for advice from the Maester — he’s got some business that’s going to make everyone at Castle Black hate him, but Aemon tells him to pay no mind to the haters, he needs to “kill the boy, and let the man be born.”
The bad news is that Jon Snow wants the Wildlings to come in from the cold, get back inside that wall, settle up some land, and fight with them if necessary (also, not turn into White Walkers when they die). It’s a solid idea, if he can just sell everyone on it. First, he convinces Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju), but our favorite gingery giant only agrees on the condition that Jon goes with them, in a show of good faith, and “we’re not going to kill you” spirit. He also wants ships, which Jon, miraculously, gets on loan from Stannis. The Night’s Watch are a bit harder to convince, since they’ve been raiding and raided by Wildlings for years, but despite the misgivings from even his most loyal, Jon just knows that this is the right thing to do: for peace, for protection, and for making sure they don’t end up in the White Walker army.
Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) makes a quick stop in the library to chat up Samwell — turns out Sam’s dad defeated Robert Baratheon in battle once, and Stannis thinks highly of him. But, the real reason he’s there is to probe Sam for info on killing White Walkers. Sam tells him of the dragon glass dagger (happily, there’s plenty of that in Dragonstone Island), and Stannis tells him to hit the books and keep researching. They are gonna need that info and fast. Because why? You guessed it! Winter is coming! Castle Black seems to exist in perpetual November… and as a wise man once said, nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain. Snow Zombies are coming!
Stannis abruptly decides to shove off for Winterfell, because someone’s gotta sack the Boltons, and time is a wastin’. Davos seems surprised at the timing and that Stannis is going to bring his princess and queen along for the ride. Stannis doesn’t trust the Night’s Watchmen, which means they are definitely going to run into some people even less trustworthy. When all the goodbyes and promises are said and done, they’re out.
Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Pod (Daniel Porter) are still watching over Sansa, this time from a nearby inn/Moat Cailin/tower somewhere? While Pod still wants Brienne to give up the ghost (of an oath), Brienne is still doubling down on it, and even enlists their server to get a message to Sansa, which is delivered to her by her own servant, who tells her to light a candle in the highest window of the old tower if she needs help.
Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) is certainly enjoying his last days as a “bachelor,” engaging in some nude chit chat with his lover, Myranda (Charlotte Hope). You may remember her as the random girl giving Sansa the death stare when she arrived. She’s jealous of his marriage, but she goes toe-to-toe with Ramsay, daring to bite his lip and draw blood when he dares her to bore him. They aggressively fuck in the window. Those two seem real fun! Real cool relationship there.
As Sansa (Sophie Turner) is pondering her message under the tower, Myranda approaches her, ingratiating herself: complimenting her dress, mentioning how it’s nice she can remember her mother through her sewing skills. Oh, and there’s something else she should remember, too. Myranda takes her to the kennel (she is the kennel master’s daughter, after all) and sends her down to the end for a surprise. What Sansa finds is a pathetic Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) curled up in his animal quarters. Theon tells her to go, and she does, horrified and shocked.
Theon confesses his “secret” of Sansa seeing him to Ramsay, who magnanimously forgives him (for…what?). Of course he’s got something else up his sleeve, which is to parade Theon into the room during one of those famously fun Bolton family dinners. He makes Theon apologize to Sansa for killing her brothers, and announces Theon’s going to give her away at the wedding. It’s all very awkward and terrible as everything is with Ramsay. Dad Roose (Michael McElhatton) cuts the tension with the announcement that he and his Frey bride Walda (Elizabeth Webster) are expecting a baby and it looks like it’s going to be a boy. Ramsay chugs his wine, knowing his place is threatened by the incoming fetus.
Ramsay and Roose have an after dinner talk where Ramsay, after some rude and unsavory comments about Walda, confesses his insecurity about his baby brother. Roose decides now would be a good time to tell him his birth story, which is truly, truly horrific. Roose raped a peasant woman underneath the body of her hanged husband because they got married without his permission (Boltons are Officially The Worst). When she procured the baby, he almost tossed Ramsay in the river, until he looked at him, as he does now, and knew that he was his son. It’s basically a mirror of the Stannis/Shireen talk from last week, only much more rapey and horrible and not heartwarming at all. Roose needs Ramsay to keep the Bolton name, at least at this moment, because despite the baby on the way, Stannis, and winter is much closer, and he needs to keep his ferocious spawn close.
Volantis to Valyria
Life’s just an endless road trip, or boat trip, for Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), and he’s still en route with kidnapper Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen). Despite his attempts to placate his stoic captor, Tyrion’s getting nowhere — except to Valyria, that is. Jorah decides to take a shortcut through the ruined swamp of the ancient city, the Targaryen ancestral homeland. Now it’s just a flooded ruin, and Tyrion talks of “The Doom,” “demons” and “flames” there. That does not sound super cool, tbh. It’s a chance for Tyrion to give some mysterious exposition about Valyria and its history (time to hit up that GOT wiki, non-bookies).
They spot Drogon the dragon flapping by, but their awe/”oh shit” moment is cut short because they are suddenly under siege by vicious stone men water creatures. So these are the Greyscaled feral people we’ve heard so much about. Yup, this definitely is not the place for Shireen, those stone men are very much Not Awesome. Jorah and Tyrion are battling them from all sides, Tyrion still bound. They’ll get the Greyscale if one of those dudes touches them, and damn, are they agile, and numerous. Tyrion decides to bail out of the boat, still bound, and suddenly he’s being pulled down to the bottom by one of those bad stoney aquatic dudes. It all goes black, until…
He blinks awake to the sight of Jorah, who’s pulled him to safety on the sand. With a “you’re heavier than you look,” the details of his rescue are a bit too conveniently brushed aside (that one takes a lot of suspension of disbelief). They both assure one another they weren’t tainted by the scale, and make a plan to just start walking. But Jorah steps aside to contemplate the sight of Valyria, and pull his sleeve up to reveal the beginnings of a nasty Greyscale infection. No bueno, brother.. Better get Stannis’ maesters on speed dial right quick.
Thoughts on the episode? Definitely a drastic tonal and pace shift, but some important steps made in areas that were a bit neglected last week. As usual, there are a lot of balls in the air, but it’s another strong, if very different, episode in what has probably been the series’ best season to date.