Reunions, scheming and manoeuvring, and a lit ending (like, actually lit. What else should we have expected from the Mother of Dragons, the Unburnt?)
In all seriousness, Daenerys’ story, which so far has felt like the most plodding of them all, has gained some much needed momentum. I appreciated the call back to season one’s finale; where she rose from the ashes — naked, unharmed, and clutching her baby instruments of death. Only this time she doesn’t need those dragons to be a serious contender. The brutal manner in which she killed the Dothraki leaders was completely gratifying and the best display of Emilia Clarke’s acting prowess since that episode where she ordered the deaths of the slavers back in Season 3. I think that we’re all for Daenerys making proper moves to “break the wheel” that forever spins Westeros now, c’mon. I mean we’re in the 11th hour of the series and the Mother of Dragons, and now, once more, Khaleesi has never been more believably deadly. And it’s a nice ‘full circle’ kind of thing.
As badass as she is, is she a good queen? Well, perhaps not yet. She left a pretty big mess in Meereen and the other slave cities by abolishing a thousand year tradition of slavery and not replacing it with anything else. It was a perfect breeding ground for the guerilla fighters such as the Sons of the Harpy who’ve been murdering her soldiers and confidants. Tyrion and Varys have been left to deal with the mess and their solution is not so much a solution as it is a bid to buy more time: Tyrion offers the slavers 7 years to end their practice.
Up in the freezing North things got surprisingly warm as we were treated to our first ever Stark reunion. It was a joy to see Sansa and Jon Snow reunite – and what’s even better is they were never even united, really! I don’t believe they’ve ever shared a single scene together before this episode, but these actors have grown so much and have such great chemistry that it doesn’t detract at all from the emotion of the scene.
Following his resurrection, Jon Snow is apathetic and quite done with fighting. It takes the urging of a newly resolved Sansa and a vicious taunt from Ramsay Bolton to get him into the fray. Isn’t it spectacular to see a non-victim Sansa Stark making active decisions? It’s what the end of season 4 promised but season 5 failed to follow through on. Better late than never, though.
We’re also treated to another reunion, this time of Theon and Yara Greyjoy. It’s a cold scene, but it works because Theon promises to help his sister secure the Iron Island throne (or salt throne, whatever). Can you imagine Theon being so humble as to let his far more capable sister be in charge of things way back in season 2? Guy’s come so far, and all it took was genital mutilation and years of unspeakable physical and emotional abuse.
Where these guys fit into the bigger picture is not clear yet – they’ve repeatedly failed at every thing they’ve ever done, so there must be something that will go there way in the wars to come, right?
It was definitely a Sisters Doin’ It For Themselves kind of episode, even if Ramsay’s next victim was wildling sister Osha. Though as far his killings go, this one was considerably less gross and perverse. Nevertheless, Sansa Stark taking Ramsay Bolton’s life can’t come soon enough. The showrunners are doing a fine job of making us want Ramsay dead, but he’s a villain who fails to live up to Joffrey in many ways ( and make no mistake, they’re intending for Ramsay to be the new Joffrey). In terms of performance from the actors it’s roughly equal, both of them do a fine job…but Joffrey was just so disgusting and repugnant in a very sort of real way and he had qualities that, while not vile in and of themselves, amplified his overall vileness. He was quite a complex character, even as hate-able as he was. Ramsay has all the depth of a cartoon henchman and everything seems to go his way—even at the expense of the intelligence of other characters– so he doesn’t have quite make the same impact.
Speaking of complex villains, we get what I believe is our first check in of the season, to what Littlefinger has been up to. He’s still Lord of the Vale in all but title, and with some well modulated intimidation, he readies his forces to take back the North from the Boltons.
In my opinion, it’s a foregone conclusion that the Boltons will lose the North. What’s most interesting, and where the real interest of the series lies, is what the fallout of the battle will be.
Jon and Sansa butting heads with Littlefinger over their home, Winterfell, is something I desperately hope happens this season.