HBO seems to have decided that it was long overdue to give the women something to look at as well, and so, open the curtains for a naked Joe Dempsie (I guess Maisie Williams shat her pants) and the new Daario, nothing like the old Daario and therefore loveable for us eurocentric bastards. But let’s go with this as usual, piece by piece. We will have to break up the locations a littlebit more since the episode was concentrated almost exclusively on three locations, a format that definitely benefits the pacing but can’t always be done.
|Let's drink on this.|
After a hiatus, we get back at Sam, who found a little hut besides a weirdwood (the village of Whitetree?). The imagery is beautiful again, with the creepy tree and the abandoned hut being the only thing visible in the surrounding darkness. When Sam and Gilly enter the hut, anxiously looking around, you just feel their underlying fear. Very well done. There’s a little exchange about names (Gilly still doesn’t come out with the “don’t name children until they’re two because it’s bad luck” wildling tradition; I wonder whether it was cut), and Gilly and Sam agree that they both don’t want to name the child after their fathers. Gilly’s complains about Sam’s “fancy speech” are a nice backdrop too, highlighting the fact that he is noble born and she just a wilding’s bastard. She comes around as a bit daft in the scenes, but there you go.
|At least she acknowledges the existence of roads.|
Any further discussion and awkward flirting are cut off when suddenly ravens start quorking. We had one raven watch them enter the hut before (I first thought it was the Old Bear’s, but then I realized he didn’t have one in the show), but now the whole tree is filled with them, creating a beautiful, haunting imagery. Sam knows instantly something’s amiss, and cold winds blow in his face. He draws his sword as our favorite Other emerges from the trees like it’s an episode of “The Walking Dead”, shatters Sam’s sword to pieces and makes for Gilly, who confusingly cries out that he “comes for the baby”, which the Other immediately validates. Sam remembers his obsidian dagger, and lo and behold, it shatters the Other in turn in a nice effect shot. I’m still not sure about the design of the Others, as they seem pretty zombie-esque, but I prefer the show to the ice elves Martin envisioned that are depicted in the graphic novel (which I seriously don’t recommend reading). Sam and Gilly close the episode fleeing before a swarm of quorking ravens, of course leaving the dagger behind. I love you, Sam.
Barring any other scenes from the North (and sparing us for two weeks from the gelded Theon, not an experience I’m particularly fond of having all too soon), we immediately jump into action in the Riverlands, where we don’t meet Robb (still underway to the wedding, I guess), but with Arya, who decides in a beautifully done close-up to smash the Hound’s head in with a rock. Go, Arya! The make-up-department did a great job in this scene with all the carefully administered dirt on Arya’s face and under her fingernails. It’s these little details I loved about the show from the start, when we saw the dirt clinging to the bottom of Eddard’s coat. But I digress; I can get pretty gay about such stuff. The Hound of course doesn’t really sleep and scares Arya off, who is forced to sit on his lap as they ride through the landscapes of Middle Earth. Beautiful shots, again. When Arya complains about being dragged to King’s Landing and expected to sit still, the Hound just laughs and tells her that he intends to sell her to Robb. Arya has to chew on this for the rest of the episode, since we don’t see her again. Guess she will be at the Twins just in time for the wedding!
|The ideal makings for a buddy comedy.|
Sam and Arya where only distractions from the three real locations of this episode, though, where all the other plot takes place. The first of these is Dragonstone, where Stannis and Davos finally get a little bit more face time. Both characters definitely differ from the books, but the core is still visibly there – Stannis the unyielding, unsympathetic king, breaking before he bends, and Davos as the utterly loyal commoner risen high. Before we see the two, however, Melisandre tells Stannis that she has to sacrifice Gendry (surprise for no one except Gendry). Stannis accuses her of torturing the boy because she orders him bathed and put in good chambers, but Melisandre calls him on his bullshit and tells him that the lamb mustn’t see the blade. Stannis is clearly uncomfortable with the whole situation, and it seems like he’s not sure whether there’s a blade out for him as well.
|Hey, Davos, wanna team up against Melisandre a bit?|
So, Stannis does the only reasonable thing and comes to Davos for a little chat, and it’s so like him to simply ignore the fact that Davos has been imprisoned by himself for high treason. He wants to talk to him and be counseled, and so it’s Davos’ goddamn duty to deliver. Doesn’t matter that Stannis could burn him on the stake in the next five minutes; before, he has to function. Love this. The acting is great in this scene, as Stannis talks uncomfortably around the bush and delivers a de-facto-confession to Davos. He doesn’t want Melisandre to burn Gendry, but he can’t really say it because Melisandre’s argumentation has something for it, too. Davos, as so often, acts as Stannis’ conscience and gives him an excuse not to with Melisandre’s plan: he simply questions the efficiency of the sacrifice. Hey, fire lady, prove what you’re claiming before burning people! Clever, and defining both characters in the process. Really good writing.
Melisandre, of course, can deliver. She seduces Gendry in an absolutely unnecessary sexpositon scene to put leeches on him in order to get his blood. Now, I said it. The scene is totally unnecessary. Melisandre doesn’t seem to enjoy it, judging from her facial expression with Stannis after, and it’s not like Gendry could object if forced to give up some blood at swordpoint. But it’s not really hurting that we see the guy naked, because we had plenty of boobs before that weren’t really necessary, neither, so fair game. It also makes Melisandre a little bit more sadistic and evil, which might or might not be a direction the show wants to take. When they burn the leeches, I was a bit surprised at first by the lack of pomp and pathos, but it’s Stannis, after all. He wants to get it over with, and he doesn’t enjoy playing the evil lord. Great acting and writing, again.
|Holy sixpack, Batman!|
With that, we go to King’s Landing, where the first of the three major weddings scheduled takes place. It’s the Golden Wedding, Tyrion marries Sansa. Has there ever been a less joyful wedding, Catelyn asks herself in the books, and the viewers before the screen agree. It starts with Tyrion declaring to Sansa that she will continue to live her life in a prison, but now with him. Yeah, pep talk! Tyrion is in turns hilariously and creepily awkward in that scene. After that, it’s to the Great Sept, where Margaery publicly calls on Cersei as a “sister” and tells her how grrrrrrrreat all this is, to which Cersei basically responds that she will kill Margaery and her whole family. Diplomacy at work! At least, Cersei is consistent with it when she tells Loras to bounce later in the wedding. I’m not sure whether she’s simply pissed off or thinks it clever to “put the Tyrells into place” like she does in the books. A little bit of both, I guess.
|I have a feeling of just who will come out on top of this.|
The ceremony itself would be of a certain grandeur, at least, if Joffrey wasn’t dead set on ruining it. At first, he leads Sansa to the altar (because your father is dead, REMEMBER?), and then he removes Tyrion’s stairs so he can’t put the bride’s cloak of protection around Sansa’s shoulders. There are people complaining that Tywin’s a little bit soft here, silencing the humiliating sniggering and laughing at Tyrion, but I find this to be more in character than in the books. Tywin cares about the Lannister family name, after all, and he doesn’t want to make a public mockery of Tyrion’s wedding. Of course, that’s exactly what Tyrion’s up to, since it’s the only possible course of defiance left, but you can’t blame Tywin from trying. I guess he wanted to strangle Joffrey himself in that scene. The High Septon delivers his words with as little passion as possible while Tyrion and Sansa both look like they wanted to cry. Again a little side note to the books: Sansa doesn’t kneel there, so Tyrion has to stand on a fool, but on the one hand we don’t have a fool in the show and I’m not sure it would look as good as it sounds, and second, in the show, Tyrion explicitly asks Sansa to kneel down, which he doesn’t do in the books. Therefore, the dynamic between the two isn’t really changed in this scene, I find, contrary to other people reviewing the episode.
|Really, guys, there's a point where canon gospel becomes obsessive.|
The wedding feast then goes on as a long list of embarrassments by Tyrion, who continues to deliver acting gold. Cersei can’t really enjoy it, neither, because she knows she has to marry Loras soon. Loras himself doesn’t look happy about it neither. The wedding ends with Tyrion threating to cut off Joffrey’s cock, which forces him to act even more drunk than he is and then retreating to his chambers, where he refuses to bed Sansa in the first decent move in ages. All of this will create a shitload of problems for Tyrion not too far down the road, I’m certain, but the acting was so great that I am willing to enjoy these scenes without feeling sorry for the things certainly in store for him. Did you notice the little facial expressions in the whole bedroom scenes? Man, these guys can act.
|And looking good in the process.|
In the meantime, beyond the Narrow Sea, Danaerys has found out who the mysterious “friends” of the Yunkish are: a sellsword company named “The Second Sons”. First mistake there, Yunkai. Sellswords never are friends. They are bought. And why they think that 2000 of this rabble will stand against Dany’s Unsullied is beyond me. Anyway, Dany, continuing her tradition of inviting people to her tent, greets the three captains of the company: the Titan’s bastard, one guy whose name cannot be pronounced and Daario Naharis. Let’s linger on Daario a little bit. In the books, he’s got hair dyed blue and a golden tooth, wearing blue and yellow and purple. I’m glad they didn’t go for that peacock look in the show, because it would simply look ridiculous. Perhaps fandom will be more inclined to a love affair with Dany and this Daario than with the book version. Anyway, the Titan’s bastard makes a good impression by threating to rape Dany, showing her his tongue and declaring his intent of enslaving everyone. Dany keeps a good poker face, but when she orders Barristan to kill Mero first, it sounds a bit feeble.
|The Hun, the Rude Guy and the Boychick|
In the mercenary camp (I was positively surprised that we got scenes there), the three captains argue about what to do. Mero wants to assassinate Dany, but before any plan is devised, we get a little bit of exposition on Daario’s motives (fucking only girls who like him instead of slaves and killing those who want to kill him), and Mero can abuse his slave girl. It is interesting, however, how the sellswords describe themselves as whores, too. In Mero’s part, this is of course an act: he’s an insolent bastard, and describing himself as the whore of the battlefield gives him any excuse to behave the way he does. When they draw coins to decide who will have to sneak into camp to kill Dany, of course the Braavosi does the deed (nice touch), and Daario draws it. “Valar Morghulis.” Chilling.
|I will get naked in some later episode.|
Of course, Daario intends nothing of the sort. True to his boost to serve beauty, he delivers the heads of his two co-captains to Dany, who chills in the bathtub and is a little bit surprised to be ambushed like that. Oh, and Dany – I know it’s nice to protect the life of your underlings, but next time when an assassin holds his knife to your servant’s throat and threatens to kill her if you scream, scream. Because else, you die, and your servant too. Anyway, Dany really shows great restraint as she hears Daario out and then climbs out of the bathtub slowly (yay, boobs!). Daario is awestruck and swears her loyalty. Dany’s army has grown again. I take a wild guess for the next episode: we won’t see anything of Dany and next to nothing of Dragonstone or King’s Landing. Instead, it’s the wedding at the Twins and Jon and the wildings (who, if the attack on Castle Black should happen in episode 10, needs to develop himself and his relation to the wildlings a little bit more). If they keep episode 9 coherent on three major locations as well (Twins, the Wall, wherever Bran is), I’m content. So, we’ll see ourselves again in two weeks.