We begin at Castle Black, where Jon Snow and the Bearded Wildling Dude are exchanging meaningful glances. This confuses me – weren’t Jon Snow and Bearded Wildling Dude supposed to have sailed off on their Wildling Recruitment Run a couple of weeks ago? For one delirious moment, I think “Maybe this is them coming back!” then I remember this is GOT; it’s not them coming back because they haven’t actually left yet. Good grief. I’m all for gradual storytelling, but if this show gets any slower it’s going to turn into a prequel.
Off Jon eventually trots, however, leaving Sam, Gilly and Baby Sam alone to watch over a dying Maester Aemon – some genuinely moving, beautifully-acted scenes – who’s no sooner shuffled off this mortal coil than Sam’s being beaten up and some charming fellows are trying to (of course) rape Gilly, it not being an episode of GOT these days unless it contains some form of sexual violence (FFS). A timely intervention from Ghost saves them both, and brings Sam and Gilly even closer together but I don’t like their chances of holding out or indeed holding Castle Black till season 27 or whenever it is Jon might make it back.
Help from Stannis the Mannis (the fantastic Stephen Dillane) is unlikely to be forthcoming either; he’s stuck in a storm (as you may have heard, Winter is, in fact, coming), losing men and horses but not his will. “We march to victory or we march to defeat, but we go forward, only forward.” Thank you, Stannis. Forward, rather than round in circles like some other characters over the past couple of seasons, sounds awesome. Especially if you stop listening to Melisandre. Don’t go changing your mind now – keep Shireen well away from your psychopath girlfriend. Er, and your psychopath wife.
Speaking of psychopaths…. Ramsay is apparently keeping a distraught Sansa locked up by day and “hurt(ing)” her every night, which means, of course, more rape (GOOD GOD) but I suppose at least we don’t see it this week. Instead, we see Theon/Reek betray Sansa yet again because Theon/Reek is the worst, and then we see the flayed body of Sansa’s second-last hope for rescue. I say second-last because the only saving grace of this admittedly powerful and well-acted but still unspeakably grim storyline is that the magnificent Brienne is watching and waiting. Never mind Winter, Ramsay, Brienne is coming. (Please God, let it be soon.)
Away from the North, things are moving a little faster and significantly less depressingly, thankfully. The Dorne storyline still isn’t wholly working for me: on the positive side, it has an exasperated Myrcella basically telling her bemused Dad/Uncle Jaime to naff off, which makes sense, but, on the negative one, it also has a Sand Snake taking her top off while poisoning Bronn or something, which doesn’t really. Hmm. The Sand Snakes are a real disappointment and nudity’s not going to fix that for me, although I guess some members of the audience may well take a different view.
Never mind Dorne, though. In Meereen, stuff happens! Daenerys and Daario have some pillow talk – Daario is clearly not the most benign influence, you guys, but Michiel Huisman makes him so charming I find myself gazing happily at him, no matter what he says – which does not bode well for that dude she plans to marry (I’d sleep with one eye open, fella) but the big news in Slaver’s Bay is that TYRION finally comes face to face with the Targaeryen Queen herself. Now this could be interesting….
The storylines of the week, though, are the deliciously, maliciously entertaining goings-on in Kings Landing. Diana Rigg and Jonathan Pryce having the BEST time sparring as Lady Olenna and the High Sparrow; the Queen of Thorns reminding Baelish what’s what; and the Queen Mother’s gloating cut short by an absolutely brilliant (if not unexpected) twist – I LOVED all of that. This show is so terrific when dealing with all the political moves and machinations of the Game; here’s hoping the rest of the season focuses on more of that and less of the sexual assault.