The Ironborns’ incursion into Bolton territory recalled last week’s confrontation at Craster’s Keep in that it was made-for-TV action requiring more suspension of disbelief than Thrones usually does. In particular, I didn’t understand why Yara & co. just stood there as Ramsay leisurely delivered a weak line about testicles before Unleashing The Hounds. And the Bolton bastard’s “this is turning into a lovely evening” seemed a little too tailored-for-the-trailers to stomach.
But the Ramsay stuff did work as a particularly chilling demonstration of switched loyalties. Theon’s torture took up so much time last season; now we see the horrifying payoff, in that his total transformation into caged, sister-biting Reek feels plausible. This is the worst case of Stockholm Syndrome imaginable, and the mix of affection, humiliation, and implied violence in this episode’s bathtub scene hinted at how it’s maintained.
Meereen offered some less-subtle symbolism when it took about a minute to get through all of Daenerys’s appellations (“the unburnt” was one I hadn’t caught before) as she sat with the Spanish Steps separating her and a lowly goatherder. Remaining a woman of the people won’t be as easy as becoming one was, it seems. I liked the way the scene echoed previous ones in Red Keep’s and Winterfell’s court rooms; whether you’re Khaleesi filling in for the Masters or Ned filling in for Robert or Bran filling in for Ned, the plebs can be tedious. In this case, though, we have world-class facial expresser Jorah to offer a hilarious ¯\(ツ)/¯ to his queen’s wariness.
Jorah’s name came up back west for the first time in a while, in the Small Council chambers. There, the powerbrokers of Kings’ Landing marveled at the defection of two prominent knights, with Tywin scolding Cersei for sending Barristan away—an example of allegiance-swapping resulting from circumstance and genuine desire, rather than from coercion in Theon’s case or persuasion in the Iron Bank’s. I chuckled when the Hand of the King commanded the head of the Tyrells to “be a good man” and fetch his quill. It was pretty much the last laugh line of the episode, which would soon devote itself to Tyrion’s grim trial.
About which, another question: Did all the witness-stand recounting of Tyrion’s greatest hits remind anyone else of the Seinfeld finale? The sad irony being, of course, that the defendant is one of the few good Samaritans left in Westeros.
Chris, Amy, what happens next? Kidding! Don’t you dare tell me (nor you, commenters). Instead: Your thoughts on the episode?
Orr: You think it’s hard to resist the impulse to seek out spoilers, Spencer? Imagine how tough it is for me not to give them to you.
By the lofty standards of this excellent season, I found tonight’s episode a bit of a letdown—though probably as much for what didn’t happen as for what did. In last year’s roundtable, we talked a lot about the pace of the show, and how some episodes moved along at a leisurely amble while others sped through significant developments with scarcely a backward glance. So far, I thought this season had done a much better job of maintaining a steady narrative velocity. But this episode felt slow to me—especially given that there’s a ton of important ground still to be covered in the remaining four(!) episodes of the season.