Game of Thrones s8 ep 5


In television, as in life, you can’t always get what you want. With this deeply frustrating episode and the one before, though, Game of Thrones seems determined not to give us much of what we need, either.

We begin with Varys, plotting away till the end. ls that last chat with his last little bird about trying to poison Daenerys? Or just trying to cheer up Her Royal Sadness with a tub of the Seven Kingdoms equivalent of ice cream? (Haagen-Daariozs? Ben’n’Jorah’s? Never mind.) Maybe we’ll find out next week, maybe we never will – either way, Tyrion adds another to his very long list of bad decisions, and shops him to the increasingly moody Dragon Queen who seems more upset about her nephew/ boyfriend’s “betrayal” / reasonable refusal to hide his own identity having waited 8 seasons to find it out (you say potato, I say potahto, etc) than anything else. Still, at least she doesn’t let it spoil her sense of the dramatic – Varys, er, “goes Dracarys” on a dark, windy Dragonstone night, with everyone but Her Grace and Grey Worm looking profoundly uncomfortable because nothing says “I’m not going the full Targaryen” like flame-grilling the guy who suggested you might be.

Goodbye, Varys. Conleth Hill’s performance over the years has been such that l’ve forgotten practically all the deceitful things the Spider ever did and will remember him with fondness. His death is sad but it’s fitting, in terms of the development of the character and the story over the years, and it makes sense. Would that the same could be said about some of the others this week, though, as the show lays waste not only to Kings Landing but to years of writer and audience investment in Jaime Lannister who, it turns out, is doing exactly what he told Brienne he was: going back to Cersei and, in the process, as legions of distressed fans have pointed out today, going back on years of character development because, in the end, everything Jaime did to redeem himself in our eyes and his own matters naught to him. All that matters is Cersei.

Sigh. At least he gets a sweet, final scene with Tyrion first, as his little brother repays a favour and helps him escape. I don’t believe he means it when he says he’s never much cared for the common people either – the very reason he became the Kingslayer gives the lie to that. That’s just some of the old Golden Lion bravado coming through, but it’s the old Golden Lion that the show seems determined to leave us with: battling his way back to Cersei’s side to save her or die trying. It’s a sad, ignominious exit for a character who should have been one of GOT’s greatest triumphs – when we first met him, he pushed a child (a Stark child!) out of a window, to stop his own nasty, seedy family secret getting out. You’d think there could be no sympathy for him and there could be no coming back from that but, somehow, thanks to patient writing, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s fantastic work, and his wonderful partnership with Gwendoline Christie’s Brienne, there was and he did. Until this week. Jaime and Cersei dying together is an ending that makes sense too, yes, but Jaime and Cersei dying together with him back in her arms as if he never left them is an awful, nihilistic one that doesn’t, made even worse by that smirking idiot Euron being a smirking idiot right till the end.

Sigh. I’m talking around rather than about the basic plot, I know, but then the basic plot is exactly what I thought it would be: Dany has a tantrum because she’s lost her friends, and she might not get the cool crown she wants, so Kings Landing and everyone in it has to burn.

The outrage on the Lannister army’s faces when they realise their surrender is being dishonoured in this way; the horror on Jon Snow’s as he tries fruitlessly to stop the fighting; the men, women and children of the city running from the flames and the fighting but dying in their thousands nonetheless – it’s all beautifully, majestically shot and fantastically acted, with each scene its own perfect tableau of violence, terror and senseless, merciless bloodshed. None of this needs to happen, none of it, but Daenerys must be queen, or kill everyone else trying because the First of her Name has always sought revenge and the throne above all else. She only wants the wheel broken if she’s the one who gets to do the breaking, and since the only people she would have allowed to talk her out of fire and blood before are now either dead or standing in her way to the Iron Throne, then fire and blood it must be.

What Dany does this week, then, what she has finally become is, unconscionable but, like Varys’s fate and unlike Jaime’s, it’s fitting and it makes sense. Contrary to a lot of online chatter and a lot of criticism I’ve levelled at GOT over the years, I don’t think this particular twist is misogynist, and I don’t think it’s sexist – I just don’t think she was ever the hero people thought she was, and the show did a better job showing that over the years than it did with Jaime, even if the ultimate goal was to show that neither of them could ever really escape the families and family traits that made them what they were.

In one sense that is the ultimate theme of the episode, I suppose. After all, the Hound and the Mountain are family who couldn’t ever truly escape each other too, albeit their mutual self-destruction is both horrible to watch and absolutely perfect. And at least their ending gives rise to one of the few moments of humour in the episode when Cersei, realising that the Mountain is more interested in fighting his brother than looming about behind her any longer, quietly slides past them and scoots off. I don’t know if I was supposed to, but I smiled.  The Hound’s also semi-responsible (in a very roundabout way) for the one time I laughed during the episode, too. His last redemptive act may be one of vengeance and death, but his last truly good deed is to persuade Arya (if nobody minds me borrowing from Wham here) to choose life. Nothing funny in that, even though Arya’s subsequent doomed attempts at heroism as she tries and fails to save Michelle from Line of Duty (!) and various other unfortunates border on the farcical. But the sudden, random appearance of a horse for Arya to ride out on reminded me of this and made me shout “HORSE!” again for the first time in years. I know I wasn’t supposed to, but I laughed. After all that, I needed it. See you next week for the big finish.

7 thoughts on “Game of Thrones s8 ep 5

  1. Traxy May 15, 2019 / 12:03 am

    This whole season feels like such a mess, but I guess that’s what happens when the creators get fed up with it and just want it over and done with. What about the prophecy about her brother killing Cersei? “He was there at her time of death” isn’t really the same thing, and neither brother were directly involved with dragonfiring the Red Keep.

    Ugh. It’s all so messed up. I hope at least Arya takes that horse and goes to kill Dany for the sake of the people, like Jaime killed the Mad King, and not that she is in fact running to Lord Blacksmith and goes “I’ve changed my mind, I’m totally lady material!” At this point, though, that wouldn’t come as a surprise. Dany flipping? Not a surprise in the slightest. She’s been talking about getting rid of tyranny in a way rather typical of tyrants for a few episodes now, and not as if she hasn’t burned people en masse before this. And NOW both Tyrion and Jon realise that the pile of ashes formerly known as Varys was right.

    Oh, and how can a guy who’s been stabbed twice manage to climb all the stairs from the beach to the Keep, and part way back, without bleeding out? Not as if it was a scratch, he was properly skewered!

    Oh well, at least there’s only one episode left. WhAt cOuLd PosSibLy gO wRoNg?

  2. Bill May 15, 2019 / 10:27 pm

    I have to admit that I might be the only person not feeling cheated by this final season; but I do remind myself that the books will give me more answers than the show and I can patiently wait for them. Each episode is pretty epic and while I thought it inevitable that Daenarys would lose it, I really didn’t see that level of destruction coming. Cersai and Jaime’s end was a weak point. I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen in the last episode. It seems inevitable that Daenarys will die, will Jon wield the blade, will Arya start a new list with only one name, or will Tyrion bring about her demose?! There is a lot to resolve in just 80 minutes!

  3. CJ Cregg May 15, 2019 / 10:40 pm

    Aw I’ve liked a lot about the season, Traxy, but agree with the Jaime/Cersei issues as I said and yeah, after a nice leisurely start to the season, it does suddenly feel like DB &DBW are hurrying it along to the finish line with these last two eps. I’m not too bothered about the prophecy not panning out though. I think it would be fine if the moral of the story was that a lot of these witch/wizard/seer types are just talking nonsense, but because Cersei et al believed in them, she let it influence everything she did and it blighted her entire life and everyone around her.

    Bill, I haven’t read the books so I have no skin in that game, but do you think GRRM will ever finish them? I haven’t read them, but it doesn’t seem like GRRM has any real incentive to get them done now he’s waited this long. He’s made a load of money from the series, people will know how it ends. If I were him, I’d just retire. Or maybe hand them over to those people that run the ASOIAF website he consults because of their encyclopaediac knowledge of the books….

  4. lizholliday May 18, 2019 / 3:01 am

    I had the very great pleasure of interviewing George RR Martin before Game of Thrones was A Thing (when he was planning the first book of the series, in fact). He was a brilliant writer long before that. (If you have a taste for Southern Gothic and vampires, check out Fevre Dream. If you don’t, find some of his early short stories – Sandkings is a masterpiece. And don’t forget his earlier TV series Beauty and the Beast. I could go on and on….) But anyway – what I wanted to say is that I spent a couple of hours with him (long lunch!) and I didn’t at any point get the sense that money was a huge motivation for him. So I don’t think having made a ton of it means he’s lost interest. I think his own perfectionist nature might be more the issue…

    As for the rest – I thought Dany’s rampage was entirely in keeping with her previous actions: a slow build finally revealing her true craziness. But I thought ignoring the prophecy was just lazy (I wanted something unexpected that would twist it but seem totally plausible and logical in retrospect).

    Jaime’s flipflop just broke my heart – as does the thought of Brienne alone again.

    But what happened with Arya really made me angry. It’s not that I want her to be an assassin (though I very much wanted either her or Jaime to do in Cersei) it’s that her ‘redemption’ was cheap. She’d spent years becoming who she was. The idea that a couple of sentences from anyone would move her away from her chosen path just seems easy and cheap – as much a betrayal of her character as running back to Cersei’s was of Jaime’s.

    But at least Euron’s dead.

  5. CJ Cregg May 18, 2019 / 7:47 pm

    Hi Liz, welcome to unpopcult. That is so exciting re GRRM! You must have some great stories! Jed and I were both fans of that iteration of Beauty and the Beast, but I hadn’t realised GRRM was involved. I do like a spot of Southern Gothic and vampire stuff….

    I see what you mean about Arya and it ties in with the rushed pace of this part of the season, but I was never that keen on her assassin arc so tbh I would be glad if she peaked at the Night King and retired, if you know what I mean. Not run back to Gendry or give up her independence entirely but maybe just travel for a bit? I hear Essos is nice this time of year 😉 I suspect her assassin work isn’t quite over yet, though, unless Jon actually manages to do something for the first time this year and steps up to kill Dany himself. Or the show ends in super-nihilistic fashion with her continuing to rule over the ashes of what’s left and burning a Stark or two just like her dad did. (I *really* hope it doesn’t end that way.)

    I think someone should sell t-shirts with “At least Euron’s dead” on them – just about everyone agrees on that 😁

    • lizholliday May 19, 2019 / 6:29 am

      Thanks CJ – that wasn’t the first time I’ve commented, but I’ve done so rarely enough that I can’t blame you for thinking it was! Back in the day I did a lot of interviews of science fiction and fantasy authors – everyone from people like Ursula Le Guin to first time authors. I’m considering whether to make a book of them, use them as bait (sorry, rewards) for a Patreon or what… if anyone here has any thoughts about that, I’d love to hear them (sorry for hijacking the blog!)

      Emotionally, I kind of feel that Jon needs to be the one to kill Dany – but then, I felt the same about Jaime and Cersei.

      I think one of the major problems is that D&D were so concerned with not doing fan-service that they went the other direction and tried so hard to think of quick (because hey, Star Wars) but unexpected ways of tying the various arcs up that they made seriously bad decisions.

      • CJ Cregg May 19, 2019 / 1:09 pm

        I vote book! But then I’m very much behind the times as I’m not too clued up on Patreon. What about starting up a podcast? Each ep dedicated to a different author or theme?

        I’m about to be super-controversial here: I am really, really bored with Star Wars. I thought the original films were fine, the 2 prequels I saw (couldn’t bring myself to watch the second one) were bad, and The Force Awakens was ok but basically fanfic/ a greatest hits compilation. That’s not an insult – I like fanfic and indeed greatest hits when they’re done right – but I left the cinema basically shrugging after it. I’ve not bothered with any of the other films since. I know the new movie will be super-successful anyway, and good luck to them, but I read that HBO wanted ten episodes of this season and D&D insisted on six instead, and if that’s a) true and b) because they were so keen to go off and do Star Wars – literally a massive empire that they will never be more than a tiny cog in, unlike GOT which their names are now synonymous with – that is really disappointing.

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