Following last week’s bombshell final scene, this week’s “Game of Thrones” (“The Gift“) was always going to be in a tricky situation. On the one hand, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have established the world as one that is just always going to be filled with horrible sexual violence, where murder and/or assault happen at nearly every single wedding (they and George must have some strong feelings about the institution of marriage). On the other hand, it’s so obvious that rape has become this storytelling crutch for them, this thing that they lean on to show deep, deep evil, or motivate female rage, bitterness, power. But it’s such a loaded device, and they play very fast and loose with it, pretty irresponsibly at times. It’s very confusing and complicated to suss out without seeing the whole season and how it’s going to tie together. I wasn’t even going to bring it up, but they seem to have doubled down on the sexual violence thing this week, in different ways, but its still a bit creepy, and confusing, and weird, nonetheless.
Guess what, winter’s here! Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is prepping to leave with the Wildlings for Castle Black with Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) amongst a fairly heavy snowfall. Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) sends him off with a the blessing that this mission is “reckless, foolhardy and an insult.” Thanks for your support, bb! Sam (John Bradley) gives him something more useful—some dragon glass for White Walker killing.
Sam and Gilly (Hannah Murray) are tending to old Maester Aemon (Peter Vaughan) who is not long for this world. As he slips away, he starts to hallucinate that he’s back with his little brother Aegon (who later became king). He implores Gilly to get her baby South before it’s too late before he loses touch with reality. Eventually he succumbs and the Night’s Watch lays the last of the Targaryens (with a notable exception) to rest on his pyre. After Sam eulogizes him, Thorne whispers that he’s losing all his friends, which is really just a very cool thing to say to someone at a funeral.
Later, some aggressive Night’s Watchmen corner Gilly and start to make threatening advances on her, asking for a kiss. We know where this is going… until Sam shows up and pulls a sword on their asses. They turn their attention to him, violently and graphically battering his head against the stone floor (were that many shots so necessary, director Miguel Sapochnik?). Fortunately, and randomly, dire wolf Ghost sends them packing with a few growls. As Gilly nurses Sam, she chides him for putting himself in danger, says he shouldn’t have done it (??) and just to take care of little Sam (??) and then she straddles him and takes his virginity (“Oh my”- Samwell Tarly). It is honestly the weirdest scene ever because it’s pretty unlikely re-traumatized victim of sexual assault (um, her dad) would be super into fucking a guy with a head wound in that moment!!!!!! Are we supposed to think this is a tender scene? Because it was gross.
Speaking of victims—Sansa (Sophie Turner) is now Ramsay’s (Iwan Rheon) sex slave in Winterfell. Great. We don’t see it (we see her bruised arms) but it’s what she tells Theon (Alfie Allen) when he serves her. She implores him for help, asking him to light the candle (Brienne is literally just staring at that tower), and even appeals to his former identity. Theon reminds her it could be much worse, alluding to his own victimization at the hands of Ramsay.
Sansa is let out to walk around with Ramsay to have him whisper sweet, menacing nothings in her ear and chat about war—specifically Stannis’ impending arrival, and Ram is positively cheerful at the thought, as the Boltons are more used to fighting in cold and snow (it’s really coming down now). Sansa boldly brings up his soon to be little brother and questions the power that bastards can have. Ramsay retorts with the fact that her own brother Jon Snow is the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, which is definitely news to Sansa. But he counters this with some very bad news: the flayed body of Sansa’s Northern friend, the old woman. Reek totally sold her out—so much for Theon’s “progress.”
As for Stannis (Stephen Dillane), he’s in a bad way. They lost their sellswords and this snow storm is really cramping their style, but Stannis insists whether it’s victory or disaster, they have to march toward it. Only forward, like a shark. But when Davos (Liam Cunningham) leaves, Stannis turns on Melisandre (Carice van Houten) who stands by the veracity of her visions. She also tells him they need more king’s blood and they have the perfect source—little princess Shireen. And no leeches this time, real sacrificing. Stannis is pretty aghast at this idea, but he’s so easily swayed by the sexy prophet of the Lord of Light…
In sunnier locales, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is inexplicably posted up in some pretty cushy digs in the Water Gardens. Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) is brought in, and smart girl that she is, has no plans on leaving Dorne for King’s Landing. She was told to go there, she went, and why on earth would she go back to that hell hole? Not when there’s sunshine and flowers and hunky Dornish men!
Bronn (Jerome Flynn) meanwhile, is singing his tunes in a cell (he’s got a great voice—can he cut an album of ‘GoT’ songs?). The Sand Snakes, adjacent, taunt him. Tyene (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers), particularly, wants Bronn to tell her she’s the most beautiful woman in the world. She goes so far as to flash him some boob, and keeps asking about his arm (he was stabbed in the rumble in the Water Gardens). While ogling her bod, he suddenly goes blurry, because of course the Sand Snakes poisoned their weapons. She says she’ll give him in the antidote if he says she’s the most beautiful woman in the world, so he does, and she gives it to him. Am I missing something? What was the point of that bizarre exchange except to reveal the poison?
Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) is set to marry Hizdahr (Joel Fry) and re-open the fighting pits, but she’s having a romp with Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) in the meantime. When he suggests they marry and she says she can’t, he replies she’s the only person in Meereen who isn’t free. He also suggests mass master slaughter. When Dany asserts that she wants to be a queen not a butcher, he volleys back “all rulers are either butchers or meat.” I would take his advice more seriously if he didn’t speak only in metaphors and made up idioms.
Dany heads out for a day at the fighting pits, where Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) have managed to get themselves bought for the fighting. When Mormont peeks and sees her out there, he strides out even though it isn’t even his turn, and just starts clocking dudes left and right. After everyone is concussed to sleep, he removes his helmet, to her dismay, and says he wants to give her a gift. Out runs Tyrion who introduces himself. Dany is all WUT??
Cersei (Lena Headey) is smirking up a storm in the wake of the Tyrell imprisonment. It’s really quite irritating. Sanctimonious, fake Cersei is the worst. Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) is on a hunger strike for his lady love, and has a low-blood sugar tantrum about it. Cersei smoothes it over with lies and ferocious mama bear talk. Cersei even takes her smirk down to the prison to lord it over Margaery (Natalie Dormer) who is not taking to prison life so well. She sells her a line of BS about all the effort they are putting in to save her and Marg doesn’t buy it for a minute. She tosses the bowl of venison at her, punctuated with a “you hateful bitch.”
Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg), meanwhile, is putting in work for her grandkids. She meets the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) and he matches her wits, for once. When she threatens to pull the food supply, he asks if she’s sowed a field and calls her out on her hypocrisy. Those Sparrows are like an extremely violent Christian Right with a 99% percent twist. She also meets with Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) in his smashed up brothel, and he is mysterious and cryptic as always. The two share memories about killing Joffrey, and Olenna threatens to sell him out on that plot, since he’s so cozy with Cersei at the moment. Littlefinger offers her a gift—of a handsome young man (Lancel, no doubt).
Cersei brings her smirk right into her own meeting with the High Sparrow, and instantly drops the act for an all business approach—the details of the trial, who is going to be on the panel, etc. The High Sparrow assures her of the proceedings and then starts to talk about the simplicity and modesty of the chapel they are in, how without vanity, stripped of finery and gold. He flips it on Cersei—what will they find when they strip her finery? Investigate her vanity? The Lancel situation, Cersei’s own victim of incest abuse, has finally been set free. Are the symbolic victims of ‘GoT’ getting a comeuppance of sorts in the form of Lancel? If so, why does it have to be a MALE victim?
Cersei is immediately taken and thrown in jail, all the while screaming about being the queen, sounding quite a lot like Margaery. Oh what a difference a week makes, Cersei. She’s still issuing threats, but to no avail. The dungeon it is for her. Whatever will Tommen do?
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