Given all the carnage and mayhem on display, it might seem unfair to suggest this week’s GOT was a little stagnant story-wise but, after this episode and last week’s, the season is beginning to feel less like A Game of Thrones and more like A Game of Musical Chairs.
Every week, everyone shuffles around a bit – some more enjoyably than others – until the episode stops and we’ve lost another few players. Only for those still alive to get back up again when the next week’s opening music kicks in and start shuffling around once more.
So, this week, Jaime and Bronn arrive in Dorne (with a very sweet little shout-out to Brienne via Tarth en route) and banter and bicker and fight some folk; I love these two together and I’d rather watch them cross the Seven Kingdoms than, say, Reek or Bran cross the street, but, entertaining though Jaime and Bronn are, there’s the unmistakeable sense that, till they actually reach Myrcella, they’re basically marking time.
As are new characters the Sand Snakes who have their father’s impressive sartorial style but not his charm or his principles – scorpions and unnecessary killings aside, till they actually reach Myrcella, they’re basically marking time as well.
Ditto Jorah Mormont and Tyrion, not so much treading water as paddling along it, sailing towards Daenerys but eschewing actually getting there in favour of some unnecessary exposition – one-liners are fun and all, but this is the fourth episode where Tyrion’s been, in one way or another, on his way to Daenerys. I’d like him to arrive there sometime this century if at all possible.
In fairness, I suppose at least Cersei takes matters into her own hands to try and move her story along, arming the High Sparrow and his followers in what seems like a very risky play; sure, she scores an easy first point against Margaery and the Tyrells, but how long before the brutal (and apparently unabashed by rank or power given the horrors they have now wreaked in Baelish’s establishment two weeks in a row) Faith Militant decide to punish some more of the high-profile sinners in the Red Keep? And their children?
Cersei may have given them legitimacy as a religious police force, but those ugly shouts at poor, weak Tommen suggest her initial patronage is unlikely to stop them turning their attentions to the Lannisters and their sins in due course.
Incidentally, do we think the second attack on the brothel was officially Cersei-sanctioned? And if so, is it because she’s onto Littlefinger’s pact with the Boltons? Is that why she’s summoned him back to Kings Landing and we had to watch that slimeball kiss Sansa goodbye with that lying mouth? If so, thanks for that, Cersei. Ugh.
Cersei’s summons aside, that storyline is in a holding pattern this week as well, with some fan service chat about Rhaegar and Lyanna (yes, I know the theory) and some bet-hedging about whether Stannis will win back Winterfell and align with Sansa or whether the Boltons will hang on to it and align with Sansa instead. Obviously, Stannis cannot come fast enough but he’s still busy noodling around the Wall, talking about marching on Winterfell instead of just doing it.
I forgive that, though, because, even if that storyline inflicts upon us Melisandre taking her clothes off yet again (girl, enough already) in order to proposition/terrify Jon Snow, at least it also gives us an unexpectedly lovely and moving scene between Stannis and Shireen which is the best thing about the whole ep. The second-best thing being Ser Barristan whose chat about Rhaegar (more fan service, presumably) is adorable.
Of course, this being Game of Thrones, Ser Barristan getting a moment in the sun to charm us only means his doom is imminent. Sigh. If only, again, the fine old knight’s sacrifice actually got us somewhere rather than keeping us going round and round in the same ever-decreasing circles. Even death upon shocking death runs the risk of becoming more wearisome than shocking when it happens every week.