We're nearing to the close with "The Gift" and this week's episode is directed by Miguel Sapochnik (another first-timer) and written by the Showrunners themselves, David Benioff and Dan Weiss. Miguel's directing is more distinct than the rest of the season, with more variety of shots, and while a lot of people-- myself included-- may sometimes question David and Dan's creative choices with the plot, they've got a strong handle on the characters and how to write them. So let's recap!
- Maester Aemon passes away
- Sansa Stark is locked away and abused; Ramsay catches Theon trying to help her
- Melisandre suggests Stannis sacrifice Shireen and he's disgusted.
- Gilly and Sam get attacked by Night's Watchmen and are saved by Ghost
- Olenna Tyrell tries to convince the High Sparrow to free her grandchildren from imprisonment
- Myrcella tells her uncle/father Jaime that Dorne is her home and she doesn't want to go back
- Bronn and the Sandsnakes are trapped in opposing Dornish cells
- Jorah and Tyrion finally reach Danaerys after being sold to a slaveowner
- Tommen is distraught without Margaery and Cersei offers to bring her back but is thrown in the black cells herself instead
What We Liked:
- Before being burned on the funeral pyre, the last thing Maester Aemon sees his little brother Egg (Aegon V Targaryen, Danaerys' great grandfather). He says "Oh Egg! I dreamed I was old." This is another in-book line that I'm so happy that they kept in. Because Aemon has been blind for so many years on his deathbed, and he finally again gets to see his little brother, and he thinks that he's woken up from a terrible, long dream. We're glad he died peacefully: I feel like everyone can agree on that. It's just too bad that, if he had any information about Jon Snow's birthparents, it died with him. (+10)
- While I am not comfortable with all of the sexual violence in this show (it's getting harder to watch, not easier), the characters are nothing if not realistic. Ramsay gave us a glimmer of hope that he wasn't going to absolutely abuse Sansa but-- of course he has to-- it's in his nature. And they don't need to show that, just what it's doing to her. It's breaking her. Sansa and Theon have now traded places, with Theon being spineless and Sansa calling the shots in this dynamic. She doesn't take no for an answer, and demands he lights the candle in the tower. And he almost does. There's not some blatant message here, it just happens, and that's great. It's maybe a testament to the potential Theon almost had. He was even willing to light the candle and go so far as to take it to the tower. But in the face of someone with a bigger bite, Theon caves. And I think that, no matter what name he goes by, that's who he is at the heart of his being. (+5)
- We're not entirely sure what Melisandre's game is, or even if she's mostly magic or mostly crazy, but we know now that she needs to slow her ropes. Stannis is a man of straight lines. The quickest course of action while still being moral. He is disgusted at the thought of sacrificing his daughter: it's out of the question, and in a brutal world like Westeros, that's admirable. Still, he says, "We march to victory or we march to defeat but we go forward. Only forward." That, also, is what Stannis is. The opposite of Theon: he sees the straight line and walks it all the way through, even if there's nothing but death on the other side. (+10)
- Sam the Slayer, don't you ever give up. I mean, I genuinely thought we'd see some sort of plot twist here and you'd be dead, but you keep on kickin'. 4 for you, Sam Tarly. (+4)
- Olenna finally meets The High Sparrow, a man who cannot be bought or threatened, and she's lost. Cersei has similar troubles. I think the High Sparrow, without making direct commentary, embodies what religion is. It is an empowering thing, meant to give power to the people. It is often with good intentions, and often does so much good in the world, but such an ironclad faith can lead a person down a dangerously misguided road. He believes so deeply that he is right-- and he is in a lot of respects. "A Man of the People" Olenna calls him, because he lives like a beggar and treats everyone equally. But that only contributes to blindness when he's wrong, like in imprisoning Ser Loras for his sexual preference. Entertaining, and meaningful. (+10)
- Cersei being sent to the black cells. Wow. First of all, her little speech to Tommen captures (again) exactly who she is: a proud lion mother protecting her cubs. If she is crazy, it's only because love for her children has driven her there. (+5)
- It's such an excellently subtle conversation that she has with the High Sparrow, too. There's not a single line that causes everyone to make a snap realization: those lines are enjoyable but they're very common. This is a very subtle dance, that embodies the Game of Thrones surrounding Cersei. She thinks she's got the High Sparrow in her hands the whole time until she realizes she doesn't. It's a slow turning in the conversation, like seeing a dagger just a second before it hits you. Unguarded around who she thinks she can trust, Cersei has finally misstepped and found herself in an excitingly miserable position. Excellently written, and Lena Heady herself, who plays Cersei, is one of my favourite actors. She's so talented. (+10)
- Most of the characters were written so impressively: at least the ones Dan and David have had time to get to know. While they're still getting their handle on the Sandsnakes, they really got to the heart of what their regulars are all about, and then let the plot revolve around that, which is a really huge plus, and really works in their favour. (+10)
What We Didn't Like:
- While Bronn's got a singing voice like oak trees and honey, I couldn't appreciate the Dornish cells scene. Did Tyene have it down to the exact second that he'd start to pass out? Was she really doing all of this so that he'd call her the most beautiful woman in the world? And I know that Tyene is a poisons master, but I feel like that should have been slipped in earlier so that this "oh btw you were infected with slow acting poison hours ago" didn't come out of nowhere. It had something there, but it was so contrived and poorly executed that the whole thing fell flat. The gratuitous nudity and Bronn's singing voice are the only things about this scene that an audience member might enjoy. (-5) FUN FACT: Bronn, played by Jerome Flynn, used to be in a British singing duo called Robson and Jerome. Look 'em up. He's got blonde hair.
- WHY WOULD YOU SEND JORAH AWAY??? This isn't really a fault of the show, but SERIOUSLY Danaerys? At least make it look like you're trying to think about your decisions.
- Myrcella is randomly so angsty? I mean, she loves her uncle (*cough* father *cough*) Jaime, and Myrcella is a smart girl. I understand not wanting to go back to King's Landing-- they have not been her family for years-- but why is she throwing a teenage tantrum right down to the "you don't even know me!" cliches? (-5)
- Clunky pacing. This is the biggest misgiving in the episode. It has a lot of strong, individual scenes and storylines but the pacing from one storyline to another and then back again seemed so unsmooth. Was it the cuts? Was it just how the writing ended up? I honestly can't tell, but the episode seemed to drudge by without any overarching highpoint-low-point. I understand that in episode 7, there are a lot of plot-bombs to drop ("WHOA HOW IS SHE GOING TO REACT TO TYRION WHOAAAA"), but each scene seemed so contained within itself, it didn't feel natural. (-5)
Final Score: 49
Ultimately, S05E07 is a really solid episode. It just doesn't come together as one, single episode. I feel like I could more accurately describe it as a solid set of mini-episodes. While it wasn't put together as neatly as it could/should have been, it still is solid in the content, both entertaining and subtextual. Only 3 more weeks to go before the countdown for Season 6 begins!