Game of Thrones: ‘The Gift’ that keeps on giving

the-gift-coverThere was significant fallout (and controversy) following the previous episode of Game of Thrones. Moves were made, lines were drawn, and innocent characters paid the price dearly, as they always do. Now, as the smoke clears, opportunities are beginning to present themselves once more. But is anyone willing to take risks this late into the game?

Jon Snow is no stranger to risk. His next move, however, is his biggest risk yet, one that could see to the end of his days as Lord Commander. He’s already losing key allies on that front. This episode we had to say goodbye to Maester Aemon, which crushes any hope of him ever meeting his niece, Daenerys, still stuck across the Narrow Sea. With Aemon gone, it seems the pieces are falling into place. Should Jon Snow come back from Hardhome, will he find a welcome party? Or sealed gates?

At Winterfell, snow is falling. Sansa is as desperate as we’ve ever seen her. Brienne was her only hope, one that faded quickly with the flaying of Sansa’s poor lady friend. Turns out Reek wasn’t here to help after all. There goes my theory that the events of the last episode would awaken Theon. Judging by Stannis’ current position, I don’t think help will be coming for Sansa anytime soon. Brienne will have to wait in the snows a bit longer, though I wonder how much of Sansa will be left to save when the time comes…

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Stannis isn’t faring better either. Winter is looming, and the battle may be over before it even began. But it appears we won’t have to wait much longer. Lady Melisandre presents an opportunity at an inopportune moment. To secure a victory against the Boltons, Stannis must sacrifice Shireen to the Lord of Light. Victory, as always, comes at a cost. A dire one, in this case. This is all happening at a rare time for Stannis. Just a few episodes ago, we saw him soften in front of Shireen and accept her as his daughter. It’s been a long time since we found him burning his own men on the beaches of Dragonstone. His sins have now caught up with him. Will he do the unthinkable in order to take the Iron Throne? I think we already know the answer.

In sunnier parts of Westeros, things are looking just as grim. Jaime realizes he cannot contend with his naïve daughter, making this trip to Dorne pretty much worthless. As I said in my last recap, Game of Thrones has failed its Dornish storyline because the supposed “conflict” here practically resolves itself. Look no further than the scene between Bronn and the Sand Snakes. Tyene informs him that her dagger was laced with poison, and Ser Bronn was unfortunate enough to sustain a wound (here I was trying to forget about that awful fight). Tyene makes a show of her body before teasing Bronn with the antidote. After a flirtatious exchange, she gives it to him just like that, which makes us wonder why this all happened in the first place. Maybe Bronn was better off at Castle Stokeworth.

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Back at King’s Landing, Olenna contends with a brick wall in the form of the High Sparrow. As a man of the gods, he cannot be bought or bribed, which makes him a rarity in the Seven Kingdoms. Everyone, as she points out, wants something. But how can you possibly reason with the gods? Olenna finds herself stumped and meets with Littlefinger for the first time in the show’s history. The two were responsible for pulling some major strings last season. If they want to maintain their current positions, they have to pull off another game-changer. It seems they have something in mind, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Cersei is once again very pleased with herself now that Margaery is well away from Tommen (“I’m in love,” he says. Ha!). But since episode 3, it’s been pretty clear that she set something in motion that she can’t possibly control. It’s given her plausible deniability in the face of the Tyrells. Ironically enough, it also leads to her downfall. She, out of anyone, has committed the most monstrous perversion of all and gave birth to three abominations as a result. And, in case you’ve forgotten, she also slept with her cousin Lancel (trying to keep it in the family I see). How she managed to sit at Loras’ trial with a straight face is beyond me. But Christmas came early this year as Cersei finally gets what she deserves. All the lies, the tricks and the schemes, effectively bought her an indefinite stay in the dungeons. It’s been a long time coming, but it was well worth it.

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Something else happened that’s still a long time coming in the books: Tyrion finally meets Daenerys. Jorah and Tyrion happen to find themselves in the presence of the Queen herself. Seizing the opportunity, Jorah proves himself in battle and makes way for Tyrion. As someone who knows how close yet so far Tyrion is from actually meeting her in the books, this was enormously rewarding (take notes, George Martin). “I am the gift,” Tyrion says. You have no idea how true that is.

As Westeros slides back into chaos, I wonder how long it will take for Daenerys to strike the Seven Kingdoms. The land is almost vulnerable, nearly ripe for the taking. Will she be smart enough to seize it when the time is right? With Tyrion now at her side, I imagine/hope it won’t be long now.

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