While pacing was surprisingly rapid in the half of “The Gift”, the episode served us up some big, although fairly quiet, developments. Similarly to last weeks “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” focus was on the smaller character moments here, with storylines leaping forward involving Sansa, Tyrion, Cersei, and Sam.
Let’s start with the more negligible part of the episode: once again, Dorne. Jamie meets resistance from Myrcella and has that fatherly twinkle in his eye as his daughter storms off to find Trystane. Meanwhile Bronn banters with Tyene while him and The Sand Snakes are all in custody down in the cells. It turns out Tyene slashing Bronn’s arm with her dagger last week did have significance; the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and Tyene reveals to Bronn that he has been poisoned, before quickly giving him the antidote after he tells her she’s beautiful. It’s as teen drama as Game of Thrones has ever been but at least we got to hear Jerome Flynn finished “The Dornishman’s Wife”. I’m hoping that what Tyene gave Bronn is actually antidote because I don’t think I’m ready to watch one of the show’s best characters sent off with a dull storyline.
Each Game of Thrones season is only 10 episodes, and so there’s is never going to be enough time to catch all the slow-burning, intricate build-ups of the book. To remind us was the sad, unceremonious death of Aemon Targaryen, sent off with a breathe-taking shot of snow, sticks, and eventual fire around his body. Aemon always had an on-screen warmth to him, one that would make his scenes always interesting and engaging. His final, with Sam and Gilly watching over him as he had a fever dream about his young brother, Aegon (AKA “egg), was brought on suddenly without any build up whatsoever. This attempt to rush to pivotal moments in the book is completely understandable and it’s handled quite well, a testament to the art of brevity.
With Aemon’s passing comes an opportunity for the show to push Sam’s character forward. We haven’t really seen Sam do much of anything since Season 2, and with Jon gone and jerk brothers still being an issue, there’s room for Sam – who has always struggled with his idea of masculinity – to step forward. Olly must also be playing a role in something soon enough, since the camera keeps showing him. He must do something other than nod quickly at people.
While fallout in the real world continues following Sansa’s fate in “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”, and people still persist on thinking real world morals can be applied to Game of Thrones, her story at the mercy of Ramsay Bolton continues. Sansa underestimated the amount of mental rewiring that Theon/Reek has been put through, taking a big risk by trusting him with her (and unbeknownst to her, Brienne’s) plan. Obviously a bad move; Reek runs straight to Ramsay with news of Sansa’s escape and so Ramsay flays the elderly woman that has been feeding Sansa’s escape plan. So far, Game of Thrones’ current season has shied away from more vivid depictions of the world’s brutality and I’m hoping that’s not because of pressures to censor the show; but violence came back here, showing us the poor woman’s skinless body as she was hung similarly to the Bolton sigil.
Could we just take a second to appreciate the acting here. Sophie Turner, Iwan Rheon, Alfie Allen are all doing such an excellent job at this awkward dynamic.
A quick visit to camp Stannis had the show again making it’s short time count. The Red Woman is trying to convince Stannis to take advantage of Shireen’s blood and sacrifice her for his cause. Since Davos has let Gendry go, Shireen is the only one close to Stannis with ‘kings blood’ that could be a sacrificial lamb. Now the big war in the north has another big, looming question. Will Stannis actually do it? I’m hoping he doesn’t, but I can’t see anywhere else Shireen’s story could go, or any other significance of her and Stannis’ wife coming along on the journey.
Long, important conversations are what we find at King’s Landing in this episode. Olenna is at her best when she’s making subtle threats and at leas trying to be half as manipulative as Cersei. Her scene with The High Sparrow was brilliant drama, with Jonathan Pryce truly stepping up and earning his place amongst the cast here. The High Sparrow’s genuine dedication to the seven has so far been helpful to Cersei; her only real weapon against the lofty Tyrells. Watching that weapon slowly turn towards her, with Littlefinger pulling the trigger, was a satisfying conclusion to the episode and ramps up the situation at King’s Landing significantly. The Sparrows are now well and truly established as powerful pieces in King’s Landing.
Littlefinger giving Olenna the ‘gift’ of information (about Lancel and Cersei) once again uses what little time we spend with this character to show flecks of the most powerful and dangerous man in Westeros. It also gives the episode it’s first real ‘gift’, with the second being what is undoubtedly the episode’s finest moment: “My name is Tyrion Lannister”.
Tyrion beating down a pirate with chains to convince a lord that him and Jorah are to be purchased as a package deal was hilarious, and it probably – sadly – marks the end of our time with the great Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. It did push the story forward unexpectedly fast though, towards a very, very important meeting.
Jorah’s affliction with the beginnings of greyscale has seemed to make him all the more desperate to reunite with Dany and so as soon as he realises that she – along with Hizdahr lo Loraq – is witness to the unnamed lord’s fighting pit auction, he rushes out for a bloodless victory. Him unmasking himself to Dany is tense; I’m still not quite sure if the majority of GoT fans – especially the ones who fashion themselves as progressive thinkers – view Jorah as a bad guy or not (he is a “nice guy” after all), but watching Dany quickly turn to rage was heartbreaking. And then it was confusion; “I’m the gift” Tyrion says, waltzing out from the ‘locker room’, “my name is Tyrion Lannister”.
Having these two together is going to make for some very exciting television. Dany needs his council, and this gives space for Peter Dinklage to really shine as he is thrust into this new world. This is one of the biggest developments of the series since it started, and for that “The Gift”, despite a few pacing issues in the first half, is a landmark episode.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
– Tyrion meeting Dany
– Tyrion beating a slave
– Littlefinger telling Olenna about Lancel
– Olenna vs The High Sparrow
– Cersei screwed herself over
– Episode really using it’s time wisely
– Sam and Gilly scene
– No build up to Aemon’s death
Game of Thrones airs in Australia on Showcase, Foxtel every Monday at 11am with a second screening at 7:30pm