I'm so happy for Samwell and Gilly. Really.
At least there's one thing to be happy about. This episode had winter really coming. That wedding band really killed it tonight, didn't they?
I very much liked the execution of this episode, which started presumptuously on the edge of optimism and then went red as Walder Frey's wine. I commend the effort for keeping it slow and tense without falling into clichéd territory. The results are far more effective in this situation, and it paid off, slightly moreso now, having been disappointed for the first half of this season.
The episode mainly focuses on the elegy of the Stark family sans Sansa. It started with every bit of melancholy and a bittersweet feeling of demise which served to fuel the nerves (Robb and Catelyn Stark in their sweet, little moment of reconciliation together was rather pale and mushy) and then as the minutes went by, the viewers are slowly lulled into these tiny comical moments in order to hide the atrocity that is about to ensue during the climactic wedding of Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey.
On the way to freedom is the youngest Stark daughter, Arya, who finds herself unwillingly together with Sandor Clegane in hopes to finally reunite with a part of her family that we've grown to care about since the beginning. The whole episode revolved around this nostalgic feeling of wanting to finally reach a certain Homeward Bound-esque resolution for the Starks, and the viewers are intentionally led (or misled) just to reawaken us that we are watching this series because we want to see and hear about a wonderful fairy tale on how this family of honour and prestige struggled through the adversity of politics, of life, of circumstance and the harsh reality, and survived through it all.
Unfortunately, no. We knew deep down in us they had it coming. We knew that during the course of this season and from the events that transpired, something like this is bound to happen. And we knew that this would never end without the sacrifice of blood. We knew it all along, and we rode with it just so we can witness it ourselves. Robb Stark may have won all his battles, but let's face it, he's no gamer of thrones.
Meanwhile, Bran Stark and company had a different reunion with family in mind. It certainly ties things up together. For a moment as well, we could almost taste it. Bran Stark and Jon Snow being merely one step away from each other. Bran had finally awakened his senses as a warg, having mastered it in mere minutes after his first few tries. We finally heard his youngest brother, Rickon, speak. A revelation that the little boy is neither meek nor nondescript. But just as he had his own moment of glory, we see him and Osha walk off into the moonlight and towards a safer path, hopefully. The next moment, we find our resident spy who knows nothing, Jon Snow, despite his minor struggles as compared to his family, once part of the wildling pack (even shortly), now back to being the bloody crow he was always sworn to be, leaving his crow-wife Ygritte in an awkward rut between obsession and pride, but not without avenging himself with Orell, who didn't seem to be that bad of a guy since he was, after all, right, yeah? Poor Orell finds himself warging to his bird-pal right before dying, since wargs can technically do just that.
Daenerys' short scenes here felt like an afterthought, a simple out-of-place element struggling to find a time or place to belong. We see her repeatedly gushing over her newfound confidant, Calvin Klein, I mean, Daario Naharis, while he and Grey Worm and Jorah Mormont took down the city of Yunkai with relative ease, but not without showing some fanciful swordfighting and spearthrusting choreography here and there. However, none of her scenes really seemingly affected anything that matters except only to serve to boost her ego and libido. And, yes, of course, to free the slaves of Yunkai, or so she says.
Certainly there are some scenes I wish I could emphasize more for the non-book readers, in this case, since they at least showed it. One example is the ceremonial eating of the bread and salt at the beginning of the meeting between the Starks and Freys. In the books, this practice is more of a religious practice than a mere gesture of hospitality; to harm a guest once they have eaten your bread and salt is rather indecent or sacrilegious. Catelyn urged Robb incessantly to quickly munch the grub as soon as they arrive to ease her of that lingering discomfort. I understand that perhaps they opted for a less foreshadowing path just so we can eat our throats once the climax reaches its peak. Effectively, it did, and you could almost taste my tears from this sentence itself, let alone the absence of any audio while the closing credits pass us by.
Finally, before the end could even roll, we once again empathize with the rabid Arya Stark, who, for two episode nines by now, has been subjected to the death of another Ned Stark. Poor Eddard Stark. We should have known it all along after what that foolish girl Talisa named their unborn child. Now Arya finds herself yet again stranded in a crossroad and into uncertainty. Her path may clearly be doomed, but she will yet rise above it. Valar morghulis.
Some minor additions:
- No Lannisters in this episode, but make no mistake: This is the biggest Lannister episode of all.
- Roose Bolton smiled. I repeat, Roose Bolton smiled.
- Walder Frey was perfect. That shrug was disturbingly funny.
- I hate Lothar Frey more than I hate Walder.
- Mary Frey was hilarious.
- Roslin Frey was perfect.
- Edmure Tully is a tool.
- It was the perfect moment for a fish to pee, otherwise we would have witnessed a very short-lived Brynden 'Blackfish' Tully.
- Sam the Slayer is now Sam the Wizard.
- You will be missed, Grey Wind.
- Why watch Jorah swing it when we could finally have seen what Ser Barristan Selmy is capable of? We've never even seen him pump it louder on-screen yet.
- No Stannis. Rightfully so.
- No Theon. Expect more of him on the finale. Now don't be sad, it will all finally make sense.