“We march to victory, or we march to defeat. But we go forward. Only forward.”
Stannis is nobody’s poet, but he lays out the storytelling ethos of the series quite succinctly, one that serves to differentiate it from other TV shows, which are descended more directly from the old network model that designed shows to run indefinitely, pumping out episodes that are interchangeable enough that they could be run out of order and the audience could tune out and back in without worrying about losing important threads. But the advantage of having such weighty tomes for source material is that there is enough plot that the series can enjoy a full and lengthy run without ever letting up on the forward momentum.
The consequences right now seem to be that everyone everywhere is imprisoned. We may see Tormund freed from his bonds in the opening scene, but everywhere else we turn, in Winterfell, in King’s Landing, in Slaver’s Bay, in Dorne, we find major characters residing in cells and chains. Of all the captives, Jaime and Bronn probably have it best. Prince Doran doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to execute them, and Jaime is held in comfort, even if the “hostage” he came to free has no interest in rescue. And Bronn may be poisoned for a hot second, but at least he’s enjoying the scenery.
Sansa, as is customary, has it the worst of all, as her valiant appeal to Theon’s lost self is not enough to overcome his horrible conditioning. And of course Ramsay reveals this in the most sadistic way possible, but he should heed his own words when he muses that Northerners “are used to fighting in the frost.” Sansa may be as hemmed in and brutalized as ever, and she may not be ready to use that corkscrew, but she comes from a line that thrives in winter. So far she’s just stoking Ramsay’s resentments about his position as a bastard as much as she dares, but she’s running out of shit to lose, and Ramsay can’t resort to flaying her. She’s more dangerous than he credits her for.Plus Stannis is still coming. Melisandre finally broaches the topic of sacrificing Shireen to ensure Stannis’s victory, and although circumstances are conspiring to sap his strength and momentum, he has enough decency to reject the idea outright. For now. I still have no doubt that he will eventually make it through to the Iron Throne, but fear for what will transpire in the next couple weeks, what the Boltons may have up their sleeves that will drive him to sufficient depths of desperation for this plot thread to pay off. And I now ask myself whether I’m willing to accept something terrible happening to Shireen if it means finally getting to see Ramsay horribly (I can’t stress that enough) killed. And I think yep, I am. Not that I’d endorse it in a real world scenario, but as a viewer I am so much more invested in seeing Ramsay get his comeuppance that I can stomach quite a lot to get there.
Anyhow, back to imprisonment. Even kings and queens are feeling trapped and hemmed in this week. Daario tells Dany that if she can’t marry him she is “the only one in Mereen that is not free,” which is patently self-serving and hopefully too dumb for her to really consider. I think she already set her sights too low by marrying to secure a single city when she’s eventually going to have seven whole kingdoms to lock up, besides which I just don’t find Daario’s smarminess very appealing. I mean, he’s perfect for a sport fuck, but I think for a permanent match my girl could do a lot better, if not politically then intellectually/emotionally. When it comes down to it, Targaryeans don’t really need more people constantly telling them how special they are and encouraging them to slaughter anyone who looks at them funny.
The biggest changes of all are afoot in King’s Landing, where young Tommen feels impotent and trapped by the imprisonment of his wife (and by the end of the episode, also mother), shouting “I am the king. The queen is in prison, and there is nothing I can do!” Oh, but there is, little king. Even if your mother, in a fit of profound dumbassery, convinced you that you can’t rub out the Faith with the Kingsguard without the prisoners becoming casualties, I think that if you visit her she’ll tell you about a certain tarp with 7 feet of possibly-undead monster under it. A monster that could be unleashed to tear into the Faith with enough plausible deniability that the crown wouldn’t be declaring open war on the dominant religion of the continent. Okay, maybe that is a stretch, but it just occurred to me that there is a circumstance where I might actually cheer on the reappearance of the Mountain, which I never expected, and now I’m all excited at the prospect.