Monday, June 15, 2015


Man, five years in and I still really, really suck at predicting where Game Of Thrones is going.  And I continually underestimate its ruthlessness, as “Mother’s Mercy” featured fuck all of its eponymous virtue, with the deaths of at least a half dozen named characters, depending on how big an optimist/skeptic you happen to be.  I don’t think anyone is expecting Myrcella, Selyse, Myranda, or Meryn Trant to make a comeback, and Jaqen still seems to exist in some fashion (though the show is likely done with him), but other fates are apparently more ambiguous.  I’m actually kind of perplexed that so many people think Brienne might have pulled her killing stroke, as the shot makes it clear that she did not, everything we know about her indicates that she has neither the motivation nor inclination to do so, and Stannis’s story reaching a definitive and appropriate end.  On the flip side, there’s no way Sansa and Theon offed themselves in such an offhand fashion so early in the episode.  That was an escape, and I’m quite satisfied with how it played out, with Sansa’s determination to die “while there is still some of me left” being what jars Theon out of his Reekness (and his turn inspiring her to take the arm she refused on her wedding night) rather than Brienne swooping in to save the day.  But in any case, I’m sure we’ll be seeing them next year, searching the North for her brothers.

"I would totally do a flip if you weren't so chicken, by the way."
“I would totally do a flip if you weren’t so chicken, just by the way.”
That leaves one other death, but we’ll get back to that.  First I want to figure out how after writing 29 of these recaps, wherein I’ve examined at length the tactics the show uses to deliver its shocks and twists, I can still be as consistently surprised by it as I was by “Mother’s Mercy”.  And perhaps the best place to start is with the fact that it was a finale.  For its first three seasons, GOT’s final episodes were unusual beasts.  In years past, several of its HBO forebearers (The Wire most consistently, but The Sopranos more prominently) had developed a structure of placing the most violent climaxes in their penultimate episodes, while the finales examined the fallout from those big twists.  Those shows, however, still functioned on something more like a traditional broadcast production model, with harder breaks between seasons, which were not guaranteed to be coming when the prior season was in production.  So when one of their finales was devoted to falling action, it would be leading into a large gap (in real and story time) between the finale and subsequent premiere, which would then whip up a bunch of new threads more or less from scratch.

Game Of Thrones, on the other hand, was born with the full might of the HBO machine that those shows built behind it, which could reup even such a mammoth production for multiple years at a time.  And it had source material as a story blueprint right from the start.  On top of which, that source material has such a vast web of rather distinct storylines running concurrently that it would require forcing things rather inelegantly to bring them all to a proper stopping point simultaneously.  The result is that with a clearer eye for both its immediate and long-term future, GOT’s finales tended to be more like a traditional premiere, establishing new status quos and reshuffling characters to place them on new paths in the wake of the beheading/siege/wedding massacre du jour.

Sorry, you don't even rate
Sorry, you don’t even rate on this scale
This was true until last year, when “The Children” included such bombshells as the deaths of Tywin and the Hound, Stannis breaking the Wildling army and Bran meeting his…erm, geriatric raventreewizard? I must be misremembering that, right?

Nope? Huh.
Nope?  Huh.
This meant that this year had the most distinct storylines to drum up “from scratch,” like the Dorne misadventure, Arya’s time in Braavos, Tyrion in Essos, and the Sparrow drama.  But it also continued to eschew the “9th episode” trend, as the finale is even more packed with incident than its predecessors, even if it lacks the elaborate setpieces that the last two episodes delivered in Mereen and Hardhome.  And I give the showrunners all the credit in the world for this, as it seems like one of the sharper bits of adapting the spirit, rather than the text, of the source that they’ve pulled off.  Martin’s work is about, in large part, undermining our expectations for how a “fantasy epic” is supposed to play out, and using those expectations (which stubbornly persist even how many years into the narrative) against us.  It feels as though Benioff and Weiss have also figured out what is expected of their show as an HBO prestige drama, and tweaked the format to keep us viewers similarly off balance.
One result of all this is that, as I mentioned, the show is light on storylines that start at the beginning of a season and conclude definitively at its end.  Which means that I have a hard time judging one season or episode as being significantly better or worse than another.  I bring this up because on the boards there has been a decided feeling that this season has been the weakest of the series, and while I don’t necessarily disagree, it’s because I can really only judge the show against itself on a more granular basis.  While on most shows you can describe a season by identifying its major antagonist (or Big Bad, in fan lingo), or an episode as “the one where so and so does…”, GOT has too many moving parts for that to tell you what’s going on in the rest of the episode, even in hindsight.  For instance, you probably remember “The Mountain And The Viper” as a standout, but do you remember any developments as particular to that episode, beyond the titular sequence?  If I told you Jorah was exiled an episode earlier or later, would it raise an eyebrow?  Would you be able to tell me what Bran did in his scenes in the Purple Wedding episode without consulting a wiki, or stellar publication like Schwartzblog?

Did you remember that that was the episode where Oberyn was put on the Small Council?  Maybe.  I'm not going to look it up.
Did you remember that that was the episode where Oberyn 
was put on the Small Council?  Maybe.  
I mean, I’m not going to look it up.

So the best I can do is say that certain seasons were best for certain storylines and worse for others.  Like the first season was definitely the best for Dany, who has languished since she marched the Unsullied out of Astapor.  Season 3 was best for Jaime and Brienne, but worst for Stannis and Theon, whose highs came in season 2 along with Tyrion.  The Wall material only really started to pick up in the 3rd season, and managed to maintain its peak the last two.  And Arya’s been pretty darn consistent from the start.

So with that in mind, with a gun to my head, I think I’d say the best season for my money was the second.  While the Essos material was a step down from what preceded, I liked Westeros best with the War of Five Kings in full swing and Tyrion as Hand trying to help his family maintain power in spite of itself.  And Blackwater was one hell of a climax that the show has topped in presentation, but not impact, as they’ve never packed as many vital characters into another setting as they have with King’s Landing pre-the mass exodus of Lannisters.  But for this season?  I guess it could be the worst, or maybe the first season, but that doesn’t mean I think they’re less than excellent. I’d say that season 5 gave us the best of Cersei and Jon Snow, a slight upswing in Dany material, and a change of pace for Tyrion that was if not an definite improvement, very necessary at this point.  Conversely, it gave us the worst of Jaime (though it was the unripe plotline more than the character or performance) and it did further the show’s one true, unadulterated failure in its increased, intense focus on Ramsay.
I’ve griped about this in previous recaps, and you might have to reach to even remember whether he showed up in this episode at all, but that’s my whole point and beef.  Ramsay has very little story and no arc whatsoever this season, and yet we still spend almost a full minute of screentime in a (gloriously) overstuffed finale on an utterly superfluous scene of him stabbing a wounded enemy for kicks.  It’s the 46th least striking example of his beyond-established sadism, it serves no plot function at all, and there is no even slightly inventive or amusing twist to the dialogue or situation.

Pictured: the height of Ramsay's wit.
Pictured: the height of Ramsay’s wit.
I know that runtime is not really a concern here, and if it were, then Cersei’s interminable walk also could’ve been shaved down, but that sequence did need to be drawn out to make its point.  Ramsay’s scene just sits there, between two hugely important ones, adding absolutely nothing.  Which is why, more than the cartoonish supersadism, I’ve come to hate Ramsay not just on the “love to hate” level that is proper for hissable villains.  Joffrey was every bit the monster that he is, but at least I never rolled my eyes when he showed up on screen.  And while it’s nothing unusual for even truly great shows to have characters and storylines that are less compelling than others, on a show so overcrowded with compelling characters and plot, it stands out more than when a slower paced show like The Sopranos took a side trip to New Hampshire, or Breaking Bad focused an episode on a side character’s compulsive shoplifting.

Even he knows there's better stuff going on in New Jersey
Even he’d rather watch what’s going on in Jersey
Gonestly, what is it that Iwan Rheon has on Benioff and Weiss?  Not that it’s the actor’s fault, but Ramsay is an utterly one note character, who only ever interacts with the same handful of others, and for some reason they seem to find every single breath he takes utterly fascinating.  Well, I’m here to tell you it’s not, and it’s certainly not because he’s just too hardcore for me.  I can handle murder, rape, child sacrifice and genital mutilation.  What I cannot abide is dead air.

Speaking of dead air, I’ve been hard on Dany’s end of things in the past for being the one part of the show where it really felt like wheel-spinning. Her steady rise has felt like the show’s most foregone conclusion (outside of Jon Snow’s success on the Wall, which…), but the main problem has been the underpopulation of her storylines. Mereen has just as many extras to fill the background of scenes, but in the two seasons we’ve spent there, they added only one recurring character to represent the entire local political scene.  And Dany’s entire crew kicked him around without much concern until his unceremonious offing last week.  Westeros feels so vast and developed that it is bigger than any one storyline that plays out there, which infuses those storylines with their delicious unpredictability, but after 5 years in Essos, that setting still feels smaller than Dany’s storyline.

"....just as long as they don't deserve a speaking part."
“….just as long as they don’t deserve a speaking part.”
But there is hope! The scene in the throne room, with Jorah, Tyrion, Daario, Missandei and Grey Worm finally started to deliver on the promise of a Targaryen Small Council that is livelier than the smattering of Yes Men she’s previously surrounded herself with (special props to Dinklage’s annoyed insistence that he mostly talks and drinks, but “I’ve survived this far!” after all), and Varys finally catching up only sweetens the pot.  Plus Dany herself finally has a problem!  For the first time since she lost her shit in Qarth, it’s one that she couldn’t just walk away from or dragon her way out of, were she inclined.  A khalessar riding into Mereen feels like an actual obstacle, as the one season we spent with the Dothraki 5 years ago still served to make them more vivid and formidable than the Mereenese have been in the last 2 seasons.  We know they don’t give a shit about birthrights or titles, and their culture is such that they may relish the chance to hunt a mighty dragon, even if Drogon recuperates enough to come bail mom out again. In any case, anything that gets Dany out of that pyramid is a positive step.

" guys want to play Apples To Apples, or..."
“So…you guys want to play Apples To Apples, or…”

Also positive is Arya’s expulsion from the House Of Black And White.  This is the one sequence that went pretty much as I predicted last week, but her dispatch of Trant is even more vicious than anticipated, and worth the wait.  Plus it packs in some twists at the end with the wtf-ness of Jaqen’s suicide and apparent Borgness of the Faceless Men, and Arya’s blindness.  The former manages a neat trick of restoring/maintaining the mystique and otherworldliness of this fanatical order of magical assassins, after an entire season of a POV character being taken behind the scenes of their operations.  The latter may be great or terrible for the character, but was genuinely shocking to me and fits with the series’ ethos that nothing, particularly justice and particularly not for those named Stark, comes easy or without a steep price.

Speaking of justice, Brienne continues to fail in the most awesome ways, as she proves Oathkeeper to be aptly named by killing Stannis, and even procures the confession that Oberyn failed to get from the Mountain, but unwittingly loses Sansa in the process.  Stannis, for his part, learns about steep prices.  He got the immediate results he wanted from Shireen’s sacrifice in the form a supernatural thaw, but his complete unwillingness to even countenance that his people might react like, well, people, to the horrific spectacle he put on dooms him and his campaign.

Perhaps I am just as guilty of putting too much faith in the Red Woman’s prophecy as he is, because I really thought that Stannis would make it on to the Iron Throne, however briefly, at some point.  But it also makes sense that his utter lack of pragmatism would walk him off a cliff at some point.  This is not a world that reward principled stands, and principle was all he had in the end.  Blood magic and a greater level of cruelty towards his enemies might have taken him further than some Starks, but even dumb old Ned would’ve rolled his eyes at the idea of attacking a fortified castle with a smaller army and no cavalry, food, or siege weaponry.  In fact, Stannis’s plan seemed to be less of a siege than a highly belligerent form of camping.

"If I'd sustained a few...fewer stab wounds, this totally would've worked."
“If I’d only sustained a couple…fewer stab wounds, this totally would’ve worked.”
But while it may have been dumber than a sack of marmots, it did look cool as the Bolton army swooped down upon them, and Stephen Dillane acted the hell out of it.  His death scene may be the best in a series known for them, and in almost any circumstance, his look when he realizes there isn’t going to be a siege and draws his sword would be the best bit of acting in the episode.

But unfortunately for him, Lena Headey is still knocking around, and she has a tour de force in the form of a tour de shame (SHAME! SHAME!) of King’s Landing. Headey has been an All Star since the beginning, and I’ve sung her particular praises as recently as two weeks ago, but there’s just no way that this isn’t her Emmy submission, and it’s no doubt deserving of a nomination.  Heck, just the scenes of her confession and the nuns hacking her hair off may have been enough for that.  I’ve always been more sympathetic to Cersei than the most, but even if you started that sequence reveling in the character’s comeuppance, you have to feel some sympathy for her by the end of that long, looooong walk.  I’ve heard some complaints about the digital modeling putting Headey’s, um, head on a non-pregnant body double, but I didn’t notice any obvious seams.

If anything, I was a bit distracted by everyone's first response being to wave their own junk at her
If anything, I was a bit distracted by everyone’s first response
 being to wave their own junk at her. People are weird.
What I saw was the cracks in the character’s armor growing steadily wider, to the point that I can’t have been the only one to do a little fist pump at the end when the FrankenMountain showed up, all armored up and ready to eliminate all of the king’s enemies.  And between the Sparrows, Martells, Tyrells, Littlefinger, and Boltons, he shouldn’t lack for work.

Oh, and Jon got stabbed a bit at the end.

You guys think he’ll be okay?

And is it 2016 yet?

Monday, June 8, 2015


Tonight’s Game Of Thrones contains one of the most difficult to stomach deaths in the history of a series known for particularly brutal demises. A character that we did not know all that well, but everyone had to like, an innocent who did nothing to deserve their horrific fate.

Save Tonight, Sweet Prince
Save Tonight, Sweet Prince
I’m actually speaking of the princess Shireen of the House Baratheon, of course, who is horribly and publicly burned at the stake by her own parents, for reasons that no one, least of all her, will understand.  Davos certainly won’t, and while I don’t see him throwing in with the despicable Boltons (sidebar: I’m half convinced Ramsay is as magical as Melisandre at this point, with his ability to teleport in and out unseen while setting 2 dozen perfectly timed fires in freezing, wet and windy conditions), I could see him despairing over it to the point that he would start wearing black. Furthermore, it seems that it may have been too much for Stannis’s wife, of all people, whose faith seems to have reached a breaking point that not even she knew it had.  What remains to be seen is whether watching their “king” act so monstrously will have a significant effect on his bannermen.  By which I mean both his soldiers on the show and those in our world that identify(ied) as Team Stannis.  I’ve never been on board that train, but I admit that even I doubted he would stoop so low.
To that end, I wonder if this will drive some viewers away from sheer brutality fatigue.  On the one hand, I’d kind of think that by its fifth year the show would’ve shed most anyone who wasn’t pretty hard-hearted about such things, but on the other this has to be particularly traumatic for any parents in the audience.  I suppose it has a silver lining in that the Red Woman should have a full store of mana for raining terror down on the Boltons, but even though I half-jokingly said otherwise last week, I’m no longer sure that giving Ramsay the same treatment would make up for having to hear the girl’s screams as she burned.

Look, I don't have a joke ready, and I think we all deserve this
Look, I don’t have a joke ready, and I think we all deserve something like this.
What makes this arguably bleaker than even the Red Wedding is that despite our not being as attached to Shireen, this is not a “twist” in a plotting sense, and thus lacks any charge of roller-coaster excitement that those tragedies carried.  Where those deaths dropped your jaw, here your stomach just sinks.  Because this is not set to have the same immediate, seismic narrative consequences that offing the nominal hero(s) carries; there is no violation of storytelling rules at work here, only of human decency at its basest level.  After all, even Cersei loves her children, as even her enemies acknowledge.  Hell, the Boltons suddenly seem a reasonable alternative in light of this;they at least stick mostly to “throwing stones at cripples”, rather than killing those devoted to them (not that Ramsay is above offing a servant or two for his amusement).

As if I could forget, show.
As if I could forget, show
 That arena scene just keeps ramping up the action, giving us the most intensive dragon work of the entire series, and the biggest spectacle since…well, last week.  And kudos to HBO for not blowing their spectacle load for these sequences in their season promos, but this is nowhere near as exciting as Hardhome, for a few reasons.  A minor one is that Emilia Clarke is misdirected in the flying sequence at the end.  It seems like she should be either exuberant or terrified climbing on to the dragon, but apparently they were going for serene (maybe?) and ended up on….just kind of there. More significantly, the Sons of the Harpy are so clearly placeholder antagonists, compared to the Walkers’ Final Boss status, so I didn’t buy for a second that either Dany or Tyrion would die at their hands.  Plus I’d spent the whole sequence thinking about how they wouldn’t have bothered to set up Jorah getting greyscale only to have him fall in battle before anyone finds out.  Since I’ve never given a shit for Daario, the worst possible casualty left was Missandei.  And as pleasant a presence as Nathalie Emmanuel is, I’d just listened to a young girl scream as she was roasted alive by her parents.  I had just about no shit left to lose at that point.

I find this pic especially soothing because neither of them are burning alive
I find this one especially soothing because neither of them are burning alive
 And I do think the triumphant ending was intentionally placed there to counteract that giant downer, but for me and quite a few others it was nearly completely overpowered by it.  And so I think it might’ve been better if the finales of the last two episodes were swapped.  Hardhome is even less of a victory than the dragon flight, but that means the tonal shift might not clash quite as hard, and besides that it would’ve kept the focus in the North and served as a timely reminder that Melisandre’s horrors are in service of more than Stannis’s personal vindication.  Or maybe it would just cater to my personal preference for the Wall storyline getting more prominence than the Essos one.
Or maybe it would’ve soured one of my favorite sequences in the show’s history by proximity to such a nauseating development.  Because I can’t even muster any real attention for the Dorne, Braavos or Castle Black scenes from this week.  So I’ll throw out a few predictions for the finale before check out:
Arya steals a face to take out Meryn and is tossed out of the House Of Black And White.  Nothing much happens in Mereen.  The FrankenMountain tears through the Faith Militant to free the captives, which leaves Cersei free but completely on the outs from the regime.  Ellaria sends a Sand Snake back in the Prince’s entourage to kill Cersei.  Olly does something terrible to sabotage the Wildling alliance, and I’m going to say it’s Sam that takes the loss.

So is it Sunday yet?

Monday, June 1, 2015


“Hardhome” seems for its first half like it’s going to be an hour of solidly written, very well acted wheel-spinning.  Arya performs half an assignment to kill some Robert Durst-looking asshole, which is stylishly put together, but changes nothing about anything.  Sansa finds out her brothers are alive, and Ramsay plans a guerilla strike on Stannis’s forces, but nothing actually gets in motion at Winterfell.  No sign at all of the Baratheons, or the Dorne storyline.  Cersei’s scenes give Lena Headey a welcome chance to show some different aspects of Cersei in her mounting desperation (while also affording us some classic deathstares), but overall she’s stewing in her juices.

It seems like the scenes between Dany and Tyrion would be the main event here. This is the show’s two breakout characters, finally coming face to face after 5 years.  But even that only establishes the foregone conclusion that she would accept Tyrion as her advisor (as unpredictable as the show can be, there’s no way a summary execution would be the end of his arc on the series). When the two meet over drinks, they reiterate a lot of history that we technically already know, but it is good to remind us that the links and blood between their families, while ancient (i.e. pre-show) history to us, are rather more direct for them. Tyrion’s brother did murder Dany’s father, after all.  It also is good to see her finally interact with someone who is neither entirely deferential nor a cartoonish asshole to her.  I look forward to seeing how Daario reacts to the Imp.  He has styled himself as the one person who will shoot her straight, but as much fun as the two could have as drinking buddies, I could see easily see the Halfman puncturing some of his more self-serving flattery with the true don’t-give-a-fuckery of suicidal drunk.

But as well acted as it is, it doesn’t present any development that we didn’t know was coming from the first promo of the preseason, and it’s a bit of a shame to see Jorah’s return result in immediate re-exile. He did bring Tyrion in, so it’s not as though it was a complete waste of time, but it dumps him back into banishment and the fighting pits with no change in his relationship to anyone.  Dany may talk of breaking the Game’s wheel, but it seems to be spinning as idly as it ever has.

But that’s the first half.  Then we go over to Hardhome, north of the Wall, and watch Jon and Tormund perform the negotiations we saw them plan previously, and give or take the sudden bludgeoning death of a minor character, it goes about as expected.  Again with an entertaining smattering of personality, particularly from the newly introduced Wildling chieftainness (acknowledging her ancestors’ shame at what they’re considering, she shrugs “…but fuck ‘em, they’re dead.”), but nothing too jaw-dropping.

“Well, I didn’t see it coming..”
But then with almost no warning, shit gets realer than all fucking hell, and my jaw didn’t close for fifteen minutes straight.   This is not the zombie action I expected to see this week (though Qyburn mentions that “the work continues”, so the Mountainbomb is still awaiting deployment), but holy shit. This doesn’t quite match the scale of “The Watchers On The Wall”, but it remains beyond impressive for a TV show, and it is terrifying and awesome in the most literal sense of the word.  Even beyond the top notch effects and clear, brutal choreography, there are an entire season’s worth of striking images to savor in this sequence alone.


The giant bursting out of the cabin, covered in wights. The chilling sight of the shadowy Walkers ringing the cliff, mounted like the four horsemen of the apocalypse, or the even more chilling sight of zombie children freezing the chieftainess in her tracks. The wights going full Lemmings on the cliff (and subsequent realization of how the avalanches that kicked off the sequence started). Jon Snow and the Walker’s mutual shock at Longclaw’s survival (plus the great bit of sound design that accompanies it – also the eerie cue for the zombie kids, come to think of it). The rising of the dead at the end. Amazing, nightmarish stuff, all of it. Any one or two of those moments would’ve been enough to end this episode on a strong note, and earn a more than passing grade. All together, it puts this in the running for best of the entire series.


And it’s worth the all the effort, because the sequence does more than look cool, or provide that occasional kick of high fantasy epic action mixed with the horror-movie ruthlessness that gets my blood pumping like nothing else on TV. It solidifies the Wildling alliance, and its importance. It established that Valyrian steel can kill Walkers in addition to dragonglass. It gives us a proper evil overlord in the Night King, and puts he and Jon Snow on each other’s radars. It takes the army of the dead, introduced in the cold open of the very first episode and mostly sitting the ensuing four seasons out, from offscreen, shambling hypothreaticals, to an actual army of ripping, feral monsters that have done some real damage and promise to do more.

It also gave us a shot of a giant swinging a flaming trunk through a crowd of zombies.  Respek.
It gave us a shot of a giant swinging a flaming 
trunk through a crowd of zombies. Respek.
But what it does more than anything is reestablish the show’s ability to surprise us at any moment.  We had reached a point this season where we kind of knew what was next in the major storylines.  The Snakes were going to thwart Jaime’s attempted rescue.  Cersei’s machinations with the Sparrows were going to alienate the Tyrells and eventually blow up in her face.  Stannis was going to march on Winterfell to oust the Boltons.  Arya was going to gradually learn to assassinate people from the Faceless Men.  Tyrion was going to worm his way into Dany’s inner circle.

Though I suppose how he did it was an open question
Though I suppose how was an open question
Now this really only means that the show properly set up these conflicts, and after 5 years, we who spend inordinate amounts of time picking apart and arguing and speculating about it should be getting pretty good at predicting how it will move.  But even at its most linear, the show is still only half predictable. What’s more, it’s the opposite half than most shows at this point in their lifespans.  Other shows I love, which managed to consistently surprise me, tend to become predictable in their outcomes, with the joy coming from the twisty paths they would take to get there. On Breaking Bad, Walter White’s rise was a foregone conclusion, but seeing just how tight a spot he could get himself into, what devious plan he would concoct to get out of it, and who exactly would become collateral damage to it was a constant guessing game. Or on Justified, I never doubted that Raylan Givens would get his man in the end, but how he did it, and how Boyd would slither his way out of everyone’s sights, was a continual, delightful surprise.

Here, when I can see what conflicts are brewing, and even predict a specific move like Qyburn dropping the Mountainbomb, the show’s kaleidoscopic perspective means I’m still not sure who will come out on top.  The Starks were the obvious heroes from the start, but they have taken more grievous losses than I thought possible early in the story.  The Lannisters almost took over the role of protagonists at a certain point, but they are about to find themselves nearly as depleted as their former rivals despite technically still controlling the Iron Throne.  The Tyrells and Martells are latter additions to the show’s conflicts, but this series won’t simply let them be antagonists to be triumphed over in their own turns.  It’s not surprising because it’s arbitrary, it’s unpredictable because it’s thorough enough to muddy the waters between not just “hero” and “villain” but “protagonist” and “antagonist” to the point that no conclusion is foregone.

With a few notable caveats
I mean, I’ve got my predictions.  Dany won’t decide to want something besides the Iron Throne, and there’s no way the series ends with the Night King ruling the frozen ruins of the Seven Kingdoms.  In the shorter term, I’ll bet my bottom dollar that the Braavos storyline won’t end with Meryn Trant murdering Arya.  But I don’t know who the Mountain will free or get killed in the process, what Ramsay plans to do with his 20 good men, or how the situation in Dorne will resolve itself.  And I certainly didn’t expect a zombie siege sequence that puts most action and horror movies to shame to break out at the end of this episode.

And we still have episode 9 to look forward to!  For reference, episode 9 of season one brought us Ned’s execution, season two gave us Blackwater, three the Red Wedding and four the hourlong battle of Castle Black.  The most predictable structure the show has been willing to stick to has been that the penultimate episode contains the season’s largest fireworks, either in terms of spectacle or gutpunching deaths.


By the Old Gods and the New, is it Sunday yet??