Baby White Walkers
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Writer Bryan Cogman returns after the splendid Season 3 hour Kissed by Fire, and he does not disappoint. Oathkeeper above all is a set-piece episode, but one that has enough “oomph” to keep it going. Michelle MacLaren comes back behind the camera for this one, and the difference is immediately noticeable. Game of Thrones has a slew of fantastic directors, but MacLaren’s eye for visual panache is nearly unmatched. She is pure brilliance behind the camera and every scene has a key angle and color to it that is just breathtaking. But what lies in Cogman’s largely excellent script is arguably the largest deviation from the source material A Song of Ice and Fire yet. Jon, Bran, and the White Walkers especially have their story altered in ways that have left book readers and show viewers alike at the edge of their seats. I’m okay with alterations in adaptations if they fit well into the overall story lines, and I love it when they enhance the original story lines themselves. The Jon and Bran arcs are more exciting than ever and really, I dip hope they get a chance to meet at least once. The Starks need some love already. But at least those story lines have a general arc covered in the books. The ending scene with the White Walkers has no covered scene in the books and perhaps, for the first time it seems, the show has spoiled the books. This is exciting stuff and I cannot wait to see how it plays out.
That shot (Oh, Michelle, we love you). The episode unusually opens up with Daenerys (we’re used to her ending episodes at this point), specifically with Grey Worm taking advantage of Hooked on Phonics that Missandei loaned from Ser Davos and Shireen Baratheon. They discuss the horrors of their childhoods in quiet repose and it’s haunting stuff, but oddly sweet. #spinoff (This is going to be used quite a bit from now on, just FYI). Daenerys then sends Grey Worm and some of the Unsullied through the sewer doors into Meereen’s slave tunnels to convince them to rise up against the masters. These Slaver’s Bay cities have really shoddy security, don’t they? Anyhow, the slaves agree after some rousing convincing from Grey Worm. The scene cuts to a Meereense master, who stumbles upon a bloody, Chamber of Secrets-style wall writing that says “Kill the Masters” (inexplicably in English). Suddenly he hears a rousing number of footsteps and watches in alarm as his guards quickly abandon him. Slaves from all three sides rush at him with daggers and in a very Ides of March-kind-of-way stab him to death from every angle possible. The shot cuts to all the slaves (presumably the uprisings took place all over the city) shouting “Mhysa!” at the top of their voices and throwing their chains at Daenerys’s feet. She makes a decision to crucify 163 slave masters in retaliation for their actions of crucifying 163 slave girls in the Season 4 premiere, Two Swords. Ser Berristan says mercy is the key, while Daenerys argues it is justice. Perhaps not the strongest leadership decision there, but understandable nevertheless. We look towards her standing at the very top of the Great Pyramid of Meereen, staring out at her newly conquered city. The camera does a 180 and as we move onto the next story, MacLaren focuses on Daenerys with the enormous Targaryen flag standing at the zenith of the monument. It is a moment of absolute triumph, but with the obvious fascist architectural elements in play, as MacLaren’s camera moves outwards while keeping a focus on the Mother of Dragons, it is obvious that the fight is far from over. Westeros still awaits.
Jon Snow is busy training the crows for their fight against the mutineers and Throne is still being a complete ass for no apparent reason at all. Slynt makes an observation that Lord Commanders are elected and his douchy attitude makes him far less popular than Jon. Thorne agrees and allows Jon’s mission to go forward. In a very Spartacus moment, Jon rouses members of the Watch to go help him, and one of those members is Locke. This is the deviation from the books. Locke was sent by Roose Bolton to find Bran and Rickon and this march gives him an excellent opportunity to do so. This had never happened in the books but it adds an element of surprise and thrill that is very well done overall. It’s ominous yet hilarious how obvious Locke’s cheerful disposition is as a facade but only the audience knows so. Jon’s company is on the march and in the next episode we’ll see everything come to a head. This should end well, I think.
Jaime is still training with Bronn, who expertly knocks him out with his own fake hand. He mentioned that Tyrion believed that Jaime would ride day and night to rescue him when he was in the Eyrie. Jaime looks obviously guilty when Bronn correctly surmises that he hasn’t visited the dungeons yet. He does so consequently and Tyrion looks absolutely abysmal in the dungeons. “Did you do it?” Jamie asks quietly, and Tyrion’s look of disbelief is heartbreaking. “Kill me then” is Tyrion’s attitude. Both arrive at a realization that Tyrion wouldn’t kill Joffrey and that Jamie wouldn’t kill his brother. Tyrion asks Jamie to release him but he refuses, citing his duty. He names the judges, and Tyrion is surprised at Oberyn’s inclusion. But he knows the trial is a sham and that Cersei wouldn’t rest until his head was on a spike. Jamie informs him that Cersei wants Sansa’s head but Tyrion, acknowledging that Sansa had the best motives, absolutely refuses to believe that Sansa murdered Joffrey. She simply wouldn’t do such a thing. The scene ends quietly between the two. Cersei greets Jaime icily (which in retrospect after last week makes sense) and tells him to bring Sansa’s head on a spike. The rape scene was never mentioned and outside of Cersei’s heightened iciness towards her brother, there wasn’t much exploration there. Maybe in the future.
Sansa is still on the boat with resident Westeros creep Petyr Baelish. He reveals how the necklace Sansa received had the poison hidden in one of the stones and it was slipped to Joffrey at the reception. Sansa questions why he would kill a Lannister after everything he had received from them and despite all of Littlefinger’s explanations, she doesn’t buy any of them. She surmises that there is something far more concrete waiting for him as he’s too smart to risk so much for little gain. He does, however, reveal their course for the Vale and the Eyrie. That should be fun. Honestly, the bubbling back of the cynical and sharp Sansa here is a welcome development and it should be bloody fantastic. She doesn’t believe a word he says and it is wonderful. He ends with describing how his new friends were more valuable than the Lannisters, and it cuts to Margaery and Olenna in the gardens.
Olenna makes a note of how much she detests the gardens in King’s Landing and it seems she is leaving King’s Landing for Highgarden. (Cue crying, she should be in every episode). She makes it clear that she was a part of the plot to kill Joffrey with Lord Baelish. Margaery tartly notes of how she would have been queen, but Olenna’s wise words are far from over. She notes how she wanted to marry Luthor, to whom her older sister was supposed to be engaged to. “Marrying a Targaryen was all the rage back then” she tartly remarks, noting the Targaryen she herself was supposed to marry. But she didn’t like him and “accidentally” visited Luthor in his bedroom. Unsurprisingly, she married Luthor through her self-proclaimed skills in bed. She was good, but Margaery according to her was even better. If Margaery could control Joffrey to an extent, then Tommen should be even easier. She visits Tommen in the night (boy, the Kingsguard are really about as good at defense as the Meereenese security system, aren’t they?) MacLaren makes brilliant use of light as always and the cinematography here is astounding. Margaery’s face is basking in a glowing golden light as Tommen’s is enshrouded in a darker blue eminence. She makes candid conversation with him, promising to keep her secret visits their “little secret”. She gives Tommen the illusion of sex in the future, but thankfully she just kisses him on the forehead. She’s perfectly friendly yet tantalizing at the same time. Perfect balance walking. Cersei should approve, right? But most importantly, Tommen has a cat named Ser Pounce (which is hands down the best cat name ever), which Joffrey had apparently threatened to skin and cut into Tommen’s stew. How lovely.
Jamie gives Brienne couture with an awesome new armor and Brienne looks badass in it. The camera rolls to Podrick in the episode’s most hilarious shot as he stands right next to Jaime, waiting for Brienne to arrive. Jamie sends the two of them off (#spinoff), giving Brienne his Valyrian steel sword and assigning her to keep her oath to Catelyn to find Sansa safely. Since Pod had refused to testify against Tyrion, Jamie assigns him to be Brienne’s squire (how kind). Brienne names the sword Oathkeeper and rides off with one last look. It’s a heartbreaking scene, but every time Jamie is on screen, last week overshadows a lot of the proceedings. It’s a shame, considering the chemistry between the characters. I don’t love Jamie but I really do hope they address last week in the future. The emotions are there, but are somewhat sullied. Knowing the books anyhow, this departure of Brienne and Podrick is tragic and exciting. Viewers are in for a treat and even more of a shock.
Let’s head to the second major deviation from the books. Craster’s Keep is now in the hands of the mutineers and includes even more rape. Karl Tanner, whose name sounds as if it’s from another world in Westeros-verse, is drinking wine out of the deceased Lord Commander Mormont’s skull. Hygiene is necessary, people. At the same time, Bran notices Ghost and uses his warging ability to try and get Summer to rescue Ghost. Meera makes an observation that Bran is overusing his warging abilities, but can anyone blame the kid for wanting to run and feel the wind at his back? The rescue itself ends greatly, with Summer trapped. Meera notices the rape and the horror on her face needs no dialogue to explain anything. The gang ends up being kidnapped by Tanner’s crew and Hodor gets stabbed through the leg. The internet broke with the furious cries of fans everywhere. Karl slaps Bran and makes him bleed (not cool, Karl) and Jojen begins to have a seizure. Karl keeps Meera from helping him before Bran blurts out who he is, Jon Snow’s half-brother. So Jon and Locke are on their way to Craster’s Keep, where Karl has Bran & Co. in captivity and Sansa and Arya both are headed towards the Eyrie. Double reunion? Something tells me that’s too happy for Thrones. We’ll see next week.
Now for the most exciting scene (the best was Margaery and Tommen in my opinion). Craster had one last son who was born and Karl orders his henchman Rast to drop it off in the cold. Rast does so and then a White Walker comes to grab the crying baby (the cries are what attract Bran’s attention to the captive Ghost in the first place). He takes him to The Lands of Always Winter, a forbidding landscape that is permanently frozen. It’s frigid, an Aurora Borealist-like phenomenon lighting the pitch black sky. Jagged, towering mountains are piercing the sky every which way and the White Walker leads the baby to an icy Stonehenge. He places him in the middle on top of a circular platform and a horned, Darth Maul-like White Walker comes, picking up the baby and touching its cheek with a dark nail. The baby’s eyes immediately begin to turn into an icy blue and his skin greys. The entire sequence is shot from the baby’s point of view (again, great work from MacLaren here) and it heightens the unpredictable nature of the events unfolding. The audience is just as in the dark as the child. This is without a doubt the most spoilerific moment from the show in regards to something that has not happened in the books and it is incredibly fascinating. This is the farthest north we’ve ever been and this look into the White Walkers was unprecedented and it might be something from as far back as The Winds of Winter or A Dream of Spring. I for one cannot wait to see how this unfolds.
Written By: Bryan Cogman
Director: Michelle MacLaren
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