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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Last week’s Game of Thrones had an absolutely stunning conclusion, so I was bound to be a bit disappointed by this week’s episode. Seeing the Unsullied lay waste to Astapor is kind of a hard act to follow for anyone, however, so I’m willing to let that go. We did get several great scenes and character moments tonight, and at least one well-choreographed fight. But episode five, on the whole, felt like just a bit too much of a bore. We’re halfway through the season, however, and there is still some great stuff on the horizon. The assault on the Wall has to be coming soon at least, and maybe with it we’ll finally get some more info on Mance Rayder. Likewise, we get some forward momentum from Stannis, but I still want to know what exactly the guy is planning.
I think the big problem this season is that Robb Stark’s campaign against the Lannister family has gone completely nowhere and become predictable, not very interesting, and hard to watch. Robb was hungry and vicious in the first two seasons, and seeing everything crumble around him in slow motion is kind of depressing. In tonight’s episode, Lord Karstark (who is distantly related to Robb and also one of his sworn bannermen) executes two young Lannister relatives in cold blood (we’re talking twelve year olds here). As punishment, Robb sentences the vengeful Karstark to death, along with the men who participated in this elicit raid. Lady Stark and a few others protest, saying Robb should hold Karstark hostage and use him as a bargaining chip for the men instead. But Robb, who has learned this rigid code of honor from his father, executes Karstark anyway, and half of his bannermen desert the cause.
The ghost of Ned Stark looms large throughout the entire episode, actually. Jaime and Brienne, now held captive in Castle Harrenhal, have a long and character-defining conversation about Jaime’s reputation. Jaime has long been known as the “kingslayer,” a name many have used to mock him for his “lack of honor.” Jaime truly did assassinate the mad king in the older days, but only because the king had planned to destroy the entire city of King’s Landing, with all the men, women, and children still inside. Jaime sees his actions as the right and honorable thing to do, but Ned Stark, who was first on the scene, immediately judges Jaime as dishonorable and disreputable. The two men hated each other after that, and Jaime’s legacy of the kingslayer was born. Brienne recoils in horror at the story, but finally comes to an understanding that Jaime did what he needed to do. Both actors get some great work in during this scene. It is fantastic how well the show has humanized Jaime, a character I’ve long hated.
Elsewhere near the Riverlands, Arya Stark watches as Beric and Thoros of Myr sentence Clegane (the “Hound”) to trial by combat. The Hound kills Beric, and Thoros is able to resurrect his friend using the magic of invoking the Lord of Light. It’s a cool scene, and has a pretty great swordfight and some good character work from Clegane, but I’m not sure how it fits in. We do learn that the Men Without Banners plan on ransoming Arya Stark to her brother for much needed gold. When that happens, however, is anyone’s guess. Across the narrow sea, we get some great insight into Daenerys Stormborn’s Unsullied Army, but not much more than that. Barristan and Jorah argue back and forth and share tales of their time in service to Robert Baratheon, and it’s clear that Barristan will soon reveal Jorah’s big secret. But again, this could happen next week or it could happen in episode ten.
All in all, it wasn’t a bad episode of Game of Thrones, but it did lack a signature scene or action set piece. Jaime and Brienne at Harrenhal was good stuff, as was Tywin’s conversation with Tyrion and Cersei, where he informs them that they will be marrying Sansa Stark and Loras Tyrell. However, the ending didn’t hold as much gravitas as last week’s episode. The show has five episodes left to tell this story, so I know we’re getting somewhere. I just hope we get some good forward progress next week.