Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Show Is Dark And Full Of Terrors

Maybe it was my TV set, but the latest episode of Game Of Thrones, "No One," seemed to have a lot of underlit scenes.  I could barely see what was going on.  No mind--there was enough action and threats to keep things moving.

We start onstage. So we're in Braavos, and we haven't left that acting troupe yet. Lady Crane is still the lead actress, and doing a great job as Cersei. (Though she says her lines pretty quietly--that can work on TV, but I question how well it would play in an age before microphones.) She gets her applause, goes backstage, and discovers a bleeding Arya (while back onstage, Tywin is about to have his bleeding aria).

Arya was stabbed in last week's episode.  You'd think she'd try to retreat to a spot where she couldn't be found, rather than the one place where the Waif has seen her outside the House of Black and White.  But bleeders can't be choosers. Lady Crane has a soft spot for the girl (Arya did save her life) and binds her wounds.

Crane suggests she join the troupe, who will soon play Pentos.  Apparently they're on a tour of the free cities. (We open In Venice/ We next play Verona.)  Our heart sinks--Arya is ready to return home, after being stuck in Braavos for two seasons. Please don't waste your time with some new mentors is Essos.  Next, Crane gives Arya some milk of the poppy--good if you've got wounds, but shouldn't she stay alert right now?

Now we're back in Westeros with a bunch of jerks.  Who are they?  Doesn't matter, since the Hound comes along and kills them with his axe.  He's on his revenge tour, searching for the Brothers Without Banners who killed his friends.

Now we're in Meereen.  We're whipping back and forth a lot this hour.  A priestess is preaching the tale of Daenerys.  Meanwhile, Varys and the Imp walk along the streets in their finery.  Tyrion is happy with how things seem to be back to normal.  Happy or not, it makes no sense for these two to walk the streets--there could still be rebels around, and even if there weren't, he's got a huge bounty on his head (and he's easy to recognize).  They should at least have a complement of guards, but I guess normal safety rules don't apply in Meereen.  We find out Varys is returning to Westeros on a secret mission--so secret they don't tell us what it is.

He's heard something is going on in King's Landing (when isn't something going on there?).  And now we're back in KL, at Cersei's chamber.  Qyburn announces some of the Faith Militant, headed by Lancel, are there to talk to her.  She remembers the day when religion stayed in the Sept (till she changed the rules).  They request--no, command--she present herself to the High Sparrow.  Cersei refuses, and has Frankenmountain rips off one of their heads (alas, not the annoying Lancel's) to demonstrate why she's not leaving. Okay, he's a good guard, but wouldn't she be better with a few more to protect her?--is this a budget issue, because a bunch of Sparrows could still swarm her.

Brienne and Pod approach Riverrun, and see there's a siege going on.  More important, Brienne spots Jaime.  She and Jaime have quite a history--he opened up to her and saved her life, and later gave her his sword and sent her on her quest to find Sansa.

Before we get to their meeting, Bronn and Pod have their own homecoming.  Bronn sneaks up from behind and grabs Pod and for a second we wonder if Pod won't be buying the farm (and I realized that would be fine with me).

Jaime is surprised Brienne found Sansa. But no matter--the two now find themselves on opposite sides.  Brienne has come to convince Blackfish and his troops to join Sansa's army. (She has a letter--is this the letter Sansa wrote last week, or was that a different one she already sent to Littlefinger?) Jaime offers a deal--Brienne can enter Riverrun Castle under a flag of truce to persuade Blackfish to give it up, assuring him he's allowed to leave safely with his army.  Jaime doesn't expect it to work, but it can't hurt.  (And maybe his men will leave without him.) If not, the Lady of Tarth and the Kingslayer realize they may have to fight each other. Neither wants that. And we don't either. We like both these characters, and it would be no fun if one killed the other. Jaime also lets Brienne keep the sword--his sword--that he gave her for her quest.

Once in the castle, Blackfish is predictably stubborn.  Nothing will convince him to give up Riverrun, Sansa or no.  Brienne even plays the Catelyn card (Blackfish always liked her) but to no avail. (Note--I've been reading comments about the episode and some thought--spoiler--that Catelyn would return around this point, but it sure didn't happen, and I guess it won't be happening in the show.)

Cersei goes to the throne room (the actually throne room, that's not a euphemism), but Kevan (and Pycelle) won't let her stand by Tommen.  She's a nobody in this new regime, and must hang out in the gallery with the Ladies of the Court--pretty galling for someone who wants ultimate power (and still loves her son).  Tommen, now fully committed to his religious side, announces the trials of Loras (he's still alive?) and Cersei will be held soon in the Sept, and that trial by combat is abolished.  While the latter may be a good idea, it sure makes all that work to revive the Mountain a waste of time.  Which hurts more, Cersei--that you lose your champion, or that you lost your son?

Qyburn mentions at this point that the rumor he and Cersei have heard about has been confirmed.  And that's all we hear about that.  A lot of tight-lipped conversations on this show.

We cut back to Meereen, where Tyrion convinces the straitlaced Missandei and Grey Worm to have a drink and tell (bad) jokes.  This is a character scene, but it really doesn't give us anything (when we want action) and lasts a full four minutes.  Finally, they hear some danger outside.  The Slave Masters are attacking Meereen with a fleet.  Fine, fine, but we don't care about any of this.  Dany got caught in the Meereen quicksand before, and now Tyrion has.  Let's move on.

Jaime meets Edmure in his prison/tent. (This is one of those scene so dark I could barely make them out.) Edmure doesn't think too much of Jaime, and let's him know it. Jaime doesn't care--he's there to tell Edmure things, not to have a lot of back-and-forth.  Jaime wins the scene pretty easily.  He finally gets down to it--everything he does he does for Cersei (too bad--we could hope his reunion with Brienne might remind him of his better self, but he's backslid), and will be ruthless to get back to her, even if that means killing every Tully on Earth (is it called Earth in this world?).  He'll even take Edmure's baby son and catapult him against Riverrun.

Next thing you know, Eddy-boy is walking up to the castle and demanding they lower the drawbridge.  Blackfish, thinking he's in Star Wars, says it's a trap. But the soldiers can't help but obey Edmure, the true Lord of Riverrun. Blackfish makes the correct legal argument that Edmure's commands are delivered under duress, but theirs is not to question why.  Edmure enters while Jaime and one of those Frey guys wait outside to see if their strategy is working.

Once inside, Edmure commands his men surrender.  That was quick.  The castle is taken with a bolt being fired.  Brienne escapes by secret passage, but--as Jaime noted--Blackfish has been around a while and the best he can hope for is to go out fighting, so he refuses to run.  Jaime is told Blackfish hasn't been captured, but killed. (I assume he'll demand a corpse--Jaime is no fool.) He also sees Brienne and Pod rowing away on a boat (just the way he and Bri used to travel).  They wave bye-bye--a touching moment, and we're pleased there's no bloodshed.

Back at Meereen, there are recriminations.  So Tyrion's plans didn't work. (I'm not even sure what his plans were, but we can all agree they failed.)  Grey Worm says the only thing to do is give up the town and hole up in the pyramid, where they can fight when the Masters come. But then there's a bunch of sound and confusing action (in darkness) and--what do you know--Dany has returned.  Shouldn't we have seen her fly in on Drogon and rain fire on those ships, or are they saving the budget for next week's battle?

We're back now with Sandor Clegane, finally catching up with the Brotherhood--who are hanging the men who attacked the sept.  That's good to know--I thought the BWB was a decent group, so was surprised some of them were such jerks.  A fight commences over who can kill them, and they make a deal--the Hound can take out two of the three, but he can only hang them, not use his axe.  (Is hanging that much nicer?)

After they die, Clegane has a talk with his old pals--who once tried to kill him--Beric and Thoros. (Have many seasons since we've seen them?) Now that he's a free agent, maybe he should fight for the Lord of Light--there's going to trouble when those zombies come down from the North. (The Brotherhood has its own zombies, but let's not talk about that.) The Hound is still his old cynical self, and we wouldn't have it any other way.  But maybe he'll consider their proposition. (Or would he rather fight his actual brother--they've both come back from the dead, after all.)

Back to Braavos, to the moment we've been waiting for.  Arya is waking up, a bit stronger, but you'd assume still pretty weak.  Lady Crane leaves the room for a second and is killed by the Waif--that was her fate, after all, and the faceless men (and waifs) had to deal with that debt.  Now it's Arya's turn.

Arya jumps out the window and lands on the hard street below.  A Waif chase commences and Arya does more jumping.  Along with her wound, she should know have broken ankles.  The Waif has no trouble keeping up, especially since she can follow Arya' s blood (or is it the fruit juice from when she overturns some baskets).  Arya gets back to her hiding place.  The Waif comes in and closes the door.  Needle won't help you now.  But (once again), it's a trap.  And this time, the darkness make sense.  Arya takes Needle and extinguishes the one candle lighting the room.  She's never beaten he Waif before, but now they're playing on her blind turf.

Like the off-screen death of Blackfish, there's no need to see the fight (even if we could).  Instead, we cut to the House of Black and White and discover they've got a new face. The Waif's.  Arya comes up to Jaqen and explains--as if it's needed--she killed her killer.  Congrats, you've taken care of the debt--now you can be No One.  But Arya, Needle in hand (she doesn't plan to kill Jaqen, does she?--don't think she could if she wanted), makes it known that she's of the House Stark and is going home.  Good, that's where you belong.  She exits--what's the opposite of the Walk of Shame, the March of Pride?

Not a great episode, but it worked.  Plenty of violence, and decent strategizing, especially from Jaime and Arya.  Who was missing?  We saw most of the gang in King's Landing, but no Margaery, no Sparrow, no Olenna, no Loras.  The whole Sansa gang, including Davos and Snow, were missing. (And what's going on with Melisandre. Will she be helping Snow, or will she have to pay for her sins?)  No Littlefinger.  No Ramsay or Rickon.  No Sam or Gilly.  No Bran and his gang (make with the visions already).  No Sand Snakes (may they stay off the screen even longer).  No Yara and Theon (I thought that might be them showing up in Meereen) or Greyjoys of any kind.  No Daario or Dothraki (it's hard to keep up with a dragon).  No Jorah.  But we did see the return of some old pals, Beric and Thoros, making you wonder if Gendry and Hot Pie might be around the corner.

Time to bring on the Battle of the Bastards. And time for everyone to start coming home for the final episodes when the biggest fight of all truly starts.


Blogger New England Guy said...

I as thinking the last two episodes were sort of slow but then I ended up watching some old Twin Peaks episodes which just became available on Amazon Prime (post-Bob resolution). Now those were some slow episodes. GoT skims along in comparison. I actually liked the joke scene with Tyrion, Missandei and Grey Worm. Actually I just liked the end where Grey Worm indicated that while he didn't know jokes, he knew bad ones.

How many Got characters have "died" offscreen this season? Stannis, Blackfish, Mrs. Roose Bolton and unnamed baby (though I am pretty sure they were dog food). Red Herrings, I'm sure. Of course with all this coming back from the dead or near mortal injury stuff (Jon, Benjen, numerous wights, the Hound, Arya), you can't really count on anyone staying planted anyway.

Episodes 9 are always big deals so I'm counting on a major casualty list next week.

9:55 AM, June 14, 2016  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Some people complained we didn't get to see the Arya/Waif fight, but the strategy was what counted, not the fight. (As for Blackfish, he was finished, and we don't care to see a character who's maybe not even secondary killed by nameless soldiers.)

The first big off-screen death was, I think, Syrio (unless you want to count someone like John Arryn). Some insisted he'd come back and help Arya with the Waif. I'm glad he didn't.

Stannis died last season. The point of Mrs. Bolton's death (and her baby's) was the dread and terror leading up to it--showing it would have been too repulsive, I'm guessing.

I often don't like Episode 9 since they tend to be in one place, so we don't get to visit a lot of favorites.

10:28 AM, June 14, 2016  
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3:48 AM, July 08, 2016  

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