Game of Thrones s7 ep 2

*SPOILERS*

“It won’t be long till the fighting starts,” says Lord Tarly, Father of Sam, Friend of Olenna, and, in a week where we are reminded prophecies are tricky things, something of a soothsayer himself. Before we get to the actual fisticuffs – and the stabbing! So MUCH stabbing – though, much of “Stormborn” is taken up with various factions trying to consolidate and organise their teams for the war to come.

In Kings Landing, Cersei tries to recruit the unimpressed Tyrell bannermen, but with Tarly’s glorious “We’re not oath breakers, we’re not schemers. We don’t stab our rivals in the back or cut their throats at weddings” speech suggesting they might not be too keen on being recruited, Jaime falls back on a “Brexit! Stop the foreigners!” type argument which looks suspiciously like it might work. In art, as in life, I suppose. Sigh.

Team Daenerys, or at least Tyrion, is alive to the sensibilities of the “Westeros for the Westerosi!” brigade, however, and comes up with a plan to send the Martell, Greyjoy and Tyrell forces to Kings Landing, while Grey Worm and the Unsullied are sent quietly off to Casterly Rock on the basis that since we haven’t seen it in 7 seasons, presumably nobody in the rest of Westeros is watching it that closely and/or will care.

Before Grey Worm heads off into the night, however, he and Missandei come off the subs bench and score a couple of goals of their own (yes, that is a euphemism). With only 11 episodes to go, ever, I wouldn’t have thought there’d be quite so much time for these two to fill and I would frankly rather there hadn’t been – separately, I find each of them dull, and as a couple, they’re soporific – but hey ho. This particular pairing has a lot of fans, and with its season one-esque display of breasts and backsides, this particular episode might have won them even more.

While the quietest couple in the cast seek solace in each other, meantime, Dany sulks a bit and threatens Varys (who is more than capable of holding his own – TEAM VARYS FTW) with fire, and I wonder why it is people on this show keep choosing to follow someone so teenage and vicious as their supreme ruler. I don’t suppose I’ll be getting to select my own monarch at any point but, just in case there is anyone out there with aspirations to the title, please note that the promise of doughnuts is far more likely to win my undying love and loyalty than the threat of immolation.

This show has no such qualms – at the moment, anyway – however, as this week we find out the “Prince that was promised” might actually be a Princess, which fills the feminist in me with pride and the GOT viewer in me with dread because, FFS, Daenerys Stormborn, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, already thinks she has a divine right to rule, and now you’re telling her she’s even more special? Never mind crowning her Queen – there won’t be a crown in the Seven Kingdoms big enough.

Since last season hinted that the Targaryen madness hasn’t skipped a generation, though, I’m hoping this is a feint, Daenerys is a fake, and the real Prince is a King, the King in the North being an entirely different type of ruler. When he’s summoned by Tyrion to “bend the knee” to the Dragon Queen, neither Sansa nor Davos are too keen on the idea, and when Sam’s Raven makes it a foregone conclusion that Jon will go anyway, everyone’s apoplectic. (Except Littlefinger whose smirk remains firmly in place.) Jon seeking Sansa’s counsel in private first shows he has learned some lessons from last week, bless him, but Jon announcing he’s changed his mind without warning her shows he needs to learn some more. Still, the look of understanding that passes, along with the reins of Winterfell, between them when he tells her he’s leaving the North in her hands is – since I love them and I don’t want them to fight – significant and reassuring. Although not quite as significant and reassuring as Jon Snow almost killing that reptile Littlefinger with his bare hands. Violence is a bad way to settle your differences, kids. Unless it’s Littlefinger, in which case, carry on.

Of course, talk of violence brings me to Westeros’s assassin du jour Arya who somehow passes the week without killing anyone, reconnects with Hot Pie and his, er, hot pies, has some sort of existential crisis when she bumps into the long-lost Nymeria, and finally heads off towards Winterfell – which Jon has just left, natch. Remember when the Starks in this show kept just missing each other? I’m hoping we’ve moved on from that and she’ll meet him on the way. Ideally in less violent fashion than the Greyjoy family reunion, which might prove Lord Tarly right but still comes as something of a jolt at the end of this otherwise quiet but compelling (apart from the Grey Worm sex and Sam and Jorah’s horrible adventures in scale-scraping, that is) episode. Since we’re not going to blow the whole budget on the Greyjoys, the battle isn’t as heartstopping as Blackwater or Hardhome, and it does have a very studio-based apocalyptic rock video look about it, but the fireballs, blades and blood spurting everywhere – so much blood spurting everywhere – are pretty impressive nonetheless, and if it does for the unspeakable Sand Snakes, I’m down with it. Even if the whole gory business proves too much for Theon, who is living proof that what doesn’t kill you (unimaginable torture at Ramsay’s hands, unimaginable danger at Euron’s) does not, contrary to popular belief, necessarily make you stronger. Never mind Theon, not long to go now – another gripping episode, another week closer to the end.

Game of Thrones s7 ep 1

*SPOILERS*

“Shall we begin?”

Since we only have thirteen episodes of Game of Thrones left, it’s tempting to complain that much of this first one seems, at first blush at least, a little self-indulgent. Arya (who has somehow managed to make bloody, brutal revenge a little dull, she’s done it so often) obliterating the repugnant House Frey with such ease; Ed Sheeran popping in with a bland new ditty (Galwesteros Girl?); the Hound’s somewhat unpredictable conscience making one of its sporadic visits – come on guys, I thought. Move it along! You don’t think the Night King’s hanging around knocking out ballads or apologising to skeletons, do you?

But, thinking out loud (sorry), it turns out these moments are as important in their own way as any battle. Ok, the Ed Sheeran cameo is jarring because, like him or not, he’s there because he’s an international pop star not because he has anything to contribute to the story, but so soon after her mass Freyicide, his band of Westerosi buddies are essential to reminding increasingly amoral killing machine Arya (and the rest of us, hardened by years of this show’s ruthlessness) that there is still humanity and life and decency out there and, even in the Seven Kingdoms, people don’t always have to be enemies or victims; sometimes they can just be people too.

The Hound’s lesson is along similar lines. Faced with the all-too-vivid consequences of past misdeeds, he offers up an atonement of sorts, albeit too little too late for the unfortunate skeletons, and a reminder to the audience that Arya for her part has humanised him too. Which is just as well, since if there’s to be a Cleganebowl, we need to be able to root for one of them, eh?

Sam’s endless pee, poop and soup montage, however, may be a step too far for me; did finding the Dragonglass book or what became Jorah Mormont really require so many “comedy” bedpan shots? Still, these are minor quibbles over what is, on the whole, a cleverly-structured, gorgeously-shot, calmly measured but hugely significant start to the season as, while Arya, the Hound and Sam all learn lessons which might help their chosen sides and everyone else plans for War in earnest, the show demonstrates that it has learned a lot of lessons of its own.

In what’s left of Kings Landing, Cersei plots and flirts with the charmless Euron Greyjoy that they might “as rightful monarchs, murder (Team Dany) together.” Jaime’s disgust and incredulity are magnificent, the one thing he and Euron having in common being their (delightfully meta) contempt for the Iron born. After years of Theon and the Greyjoys getting on the audience’s nerves, it may be fan service for Jaime to acknowledge that they’re “angry, bitter” people “not good at anything” but it made me smile. (And simultaneously wonder if, with Daenerys and Tyrion’s help, they might prove him, and the rest of us, wrong.)

At Winterfell, meanwhile, Jon – still a Snow for now, but given Bran’s arrival at the Wall to creep Edd the eff out, possibly not for much longer – lays out his plans for the defence of the North, and never mind Sansa and Jon, Lyanna Mormont is the true queen as far as I’m concerned. I’ve written a lot about Game of Thrones’ terrible attitude to women over the years, but Lyanna – and Sansa, Brienne and Davos’s smiles as they watch her – is a reminder that a lesson’s been learned there too. As last season suggested, the show seems to have grown out of its casual misogyny; sisters, be they Northern, Southern or Dragonborn, are now most definitely doing it for themselves.

Although that’s not entirely without its challenges, at least as far as the Starks are concerned. Sansa and Jon arguing in front of the Northern lords isn’t a good look for anyone (except Petyr Baelish, for whom it’s tremendous) but their scene afterwards is quite sweet and even a little comforting for those of who are worried Lady Stark might mean the King in the North any harm. And for those of us worried about the influence of others who do, Sansa’s dismissal of the slimy, malevolent Littlefinger afterwards is a joy: “No need to seize the last word, Lord Baelish. I’ll assume it was something clever.” HEE.

With the few remaining Great Houses manoeuvring into position then, Daenerys’ arrival at the eerily silent, beautiful Dragonstone to resurrect House Targaryen is a terrific, apt way to finish up. I’ve no love for Miss Born to Rule, but her return home has been a long time coming, and its quiet power ends a great episode on a momentous, majestic note. Brilliant.

Public Service Announcement 28 of 2017: Game of Thrones

It’s been a long wait for what’s going to be a short season but Game of Thrones is finally back. Yes, it’s international simulcast time again as season 7 starts on Sky Atlantic at 2AM on Monday morning (UK time), after an evening of Thrones-themed programming including the South Bank Show special on George RR Martin, the last four episodes of season 6 and The Story So Far re-cap of, um, the story so far. Which, as far as I can remember, had Cersei killing off half of Kings Landing, Team Dany on a boat, Littlefinger still sniffing round Sansa, secret Targaryen Jon at very high risk of being killed again, and the ice zombies most definitely on their way. *punches air* Reviews as soon as I calm down enough to write’em, you guys. Winter. Is. Here.

Game of Thrones s6 ep 10

*Spoilers. Loads of them.*

Wow.

imageThis time last year, I’d become somewhat disillusioned with Game of Thrones. The “brutal, controversial” season five had spent forever on torture, sexual violence, and faffing around at the stupid Day Spa for the Dead, and then it went and added insult to injury by killing Jon Snow.

What a difference a year makes.

At the end of last season, I wanted Jon to come back to life. Check. I wanted Ramsay Bolton to die. Check. I wanted Sansa to escape him and come in to her own. Check. I wanted Cersei to get revenge. Check. And I wanted Arya to take the rest of the series off.

Oh well, we can’t have everything. But we’ve come very, very close, haven’t we?

Jon, bless his curly head, came back to us a while ago, of course, but, resurrection not being quite enough for his CV, this week has him not only elected King of the North – thanks to the tiniest, fiercest, ten year old in the Seven Kingdoms, all hail Lady Lyanna Mormont! – but confirmed, in Bran’s head anyway, as the scion of two noble houses, and a prince in his own right. Yes, R + L now officially, finally equals J, even if it’s not entirely clear how anyone’s going to prove it. (FYI Bran: I don’t think “I had a vision!” is really going to cut it.)

Although most people have been convinced of Jon’s parentage for a long time now, having it confirmed at last is hugely significant, but then “The Winds of Winter” is bursting with things that are hugely significant. What an absolutely tremendous finale it was.

imageRamsay’s nothing but a memory now, of course, but, after last week’s power-play, Sansa, the Lady of the North, is almost as dangerous as he was. However, her apology to Jon seems sincere, his forgiveness of her genuine, and her “thanks but no thanks” to the prospect of another Littlefinger liplock terrific, both for her character development and for her prospects of not being married to any power-crazed psychopaths this time next year. Please don’t let her betray Jon next season, writers. The poor boy won’t be able to take it, and neither will I.

Talk of poor boys reminds me, meanwhile, of the dim, doomed Tommen. Cersei’s revenge this week is merciless and absolute, with only Margaery, her worthiest opponent, realising in time that “Cersei is not here, Tommen is not here…. We need to leave NOW.” Oh, Margaery. Having found a (somewhat painful – I had to mute the sound when they were “marking” him) way to save Loras, freedom with a big stupid star thing on your head being better than no freedom at all, she comes so close to getting away! But not close enough, thanks to the idiot High Sparrow, who, after a season’s worth of outplaying everyone, suddenly forgets one of the most important rules of the game: the Lannisters always pay their debts, High Sparrow. Cheerio!

imageThe entire Kings Landing sequence is breathtaking. The opening, ominous scenes of fine clothes and fine jewellery. Loras’s confession. The Little Birds setting their traps. The horrible moment when Margaery works it out…. And then the explosion itself. Followed by the Septa’s awful fate, the eerie calmness before Tommen’s silent end…. And the look on Jaime’s face as he arrives in time to see just who and what his beloved Cersei has become.

My God.

Everything about it is exquisitely, beautifully, devastatingly done – a day and a half later and I’m still reeling from it. But I wish we hadn’t had to sacrifice Margaery in the process. She was fantastic; one of the few players smart enough to win without losing herself and her humanity in the process, and her death was abrupt, surprising and a waste of a formidable character, even if it did, indirectly, give the Sand Snakes their only decent scene ever. Not because they have anything useful or interesting to say, but because Lady Olenna Tyrell speaks for the entire audience when she can’t remember any of their names and tells them to shut up and let the grown-ups talk. *punches air*

But Cersei’s revenge isn’t the only one of the ep, of course, with the increasingly crazy-eyed Arya serving hers up to Walder Frey, having already carved up his wretched sons. Ugh. It’s not my idea of entertainment, but Walder Frey was long overdue a reckoning, and he certainly gets a gruesome, effective one, with its echoes of both Greek mythology and Shakespearean drama keeping it just the right side of horror porn. Just. Shudder.

So a mostly terrific season – give or take an ep or two – ends then, with a whole lot of plotlines coming to a head, and a whole lot of women taking charge all over the place. Jon may be the King in the North, but only because three women – his sister, a tiny little girl, and a Red Witch – chose to put him there. (Will letting Melisandre go free turn out to be a mistake? I wonder.) Cersei’s on the Iron Throne at last. Arya’s presumably coming for her. And Daenerys, after talking about it for what seems like several hundred seasons, is finally on her boyfriend-less (Daario, hon, you can do better) way back across the sea to break chains, free slaves, destroy her enemies, etc etc. Which is all to the good. I may like some of them much more than others, but, after years of writing about GOT’s misogyny and rapes and deeply worrying sexual politics, this season’s focus on all these women’s victories instead of their exploitation or their bodies might be the most significant thing of all.

Game of Thrones s6 ep 9

*Bloody, Sweaty Spoilers*

We’ve been waiting such a long time for the Battle of the Bastards that it’s something of a surprise when this week’s GOT makes us wait some more. Not much longer, though; thankfully, the Battle of Meereen is dealt with quickly and goes just as you’d expect it to.

In lieu of an actual plan, Dany – her words and expression almost robotic now, she’s recited this so many times – gives her usual “I’ll slaughter all my enemies and burn their cities to the ground etc etc etc” speech, but by now even Tyrion has started to see the light of lunacy in her eyes. So, for both her benefit and that of anyone in the audience who needs a reminder (given the speculation online as to what Cersei might be planning for next week), he recaps why the Mad King had to be deposed in the first place and suggests – pretty bravely, given the recent Targaryen family history of not responding all that well to sense, reason or any form of dissent – an alternative plan which obviously works great, especially if you enjoy barbecuing the enemy, because nobody wants to waste too much time on the undercard match when we have the main event still to come.

Masters thoroughly vanquished, then, we’ve time for a quick, entirely too amicable chat (oh sure, no problem, we’ll give up our entire criminal way of life, it’ll be fine) with Yara and Theon and our business in Meereen is done. Tyrion’s disgust for Theon, the human black cloud, may be entirely justified – we can’t ever like him because of the awful things he’s done, but we can’t enjoy hating him because of the awful things that have been done to him, so all we can do is watch him shuffle around, raining large drops of misery on us all – but Daenerys is too pleased with new BFF Yara to care. 100 ships and a new gal pal to flirt and compare stories of mad, usurped dads with? Sign the Mother of Dragons right up. After all, if she can control the Dothraki, the Iron Born should be fine, right? Right?????

We’ll see. But not this week, because we have the title match to get too! In the Bolton corner, we have the unfailingly, cheerfully psychotic Ramsay Bolton and twice as many men as the good guys. And in the Stark corner, we have the weary, far-too-straightforward Jon, with the unhappy Sansa angry that her brother hasn’t asked her advice but unable to offer anything concrete when he does. I say “unable,” mind you, but I mean “unwilling” since her failure to mention that there may be some latecomers to the party is glaring. Had he known, it might have changed Jon’s mind about waiting. And saved a few hundred lives? Maybe.

Sansa, who is proving to be the smartest of the Starks by far, does prove to be right about both the awful Ramsay and the doomed Rickon, though, as thanks to a particularly Ramsay-esque piece of sadism, the littlest Stark quickly joins his Great-Uncle the Blackfish and poor Osha in the ranks of characters brought back after years of absence just to be properly killed. Because Jon is Jon, he can’t ignore his brother being murdered in front of him with such glee – I’m not sure anyone sane could – and the plan, such as it is, is thrown out the window. “Prepare to CHARGE!” says Ser Davos, “Follow your Commander!” And “Charge!” and “Follow!” they do, but they’re outnumbered and outmanoeuvred. Jon is brave and Jon is honourable, but Sansa is right; Bolton is clever and Bolton has more men, and that one-two punch is way too much for the ragtag Stark forces.

The battle itself is grimly, uncompromisingly visceral; men cut down every second, hordes scrambling over walls of bodies, blood and dirt and death everywhere. And the Karstark shield manoeuvre gives us a horribly beautiful sequence where Jon, trampled underfoot by his own men, gasps and struggles for breath. For a moment there, I wondered: I had gone into the episode thinking not even GOT would bring Jon Snow back just to kill him again, but, in that scene, as he grasped and clutched and was trampled again, my faith began to waver. I was right the first time, though, and this battle ends the way we all thought it would, too. The Knights of the Vale (literal knights in shining armour) ride in when all hope is just about lost – just as Tywin’s forces at the Blackwater and Stannis’s at the Battle of Castle Black did before them – and all of a sudden, the battle is won, Winterfell is back in Stark hands and Jon is pounding Ramsay Bolton’s head relentlessly into the ground.

Victory at last! Hurrah! But at what cost? Countless men lying dead (including the quietly majestic Wun Wun, sigh) and Littlefinger smarming around cock-a-hoop, with Sansa and Jon forever in his debt. Lord Snow is no match for the stratagems of Lord Baelish, of course, but then again, this episode, where the dialogue is as important and as powerful as the violence, suggests that maybe, just maybe Lady Sansa is. “No one can protect me, no one can protect anyone” she tells her poor, sweet, well-meaning brother, coldly, and if any further evidence that the old, trusting, naive Sansa is gone were required, her final, brutal scenes with Ramsay are proof enough. I’m loath to agree with the worst person in Westeros but he’s right when he says that, even in death, “I’m a part of you, now.”

I’m delighted Ramsay’s gone, and I’m all for Sansa taking charge and taking names, but the old Sansa would never have picked, could never have stomached so cruel and so slow a method of revenge on anyone. She learned that from him, and she walked away smiling as he screamed. If I were Jon, I’d be very careful of my sister. And if I were Littlefinger, I’d be very worried indeed.

Game of Thrones s6 ep 8

*Spoilers. And Grumpiness.*

Hmm. A curiously, disappointingly unsatisfying episode, this one. Unless you particularly enjoy the Hound storming around the countryside butchering the uncouth and wise-cracking all the way, in which case, fill your boots.

I understand the Brotherhood Without Banners are supposed to be important to the overall plot eventually but, as far as I’m concerned, now we’ve rediscovered the Hound, we’re spending a little too much time and the writers are having a little too much fun – this is GOT, not Lethal Weapon, you guys – with him and his stand-up comedy/ search for motivation, when there are plenty of other things we could be doing. Other things that ideally do not involve axes to the genitals or random sexual assaults played for comedic value.

Ugh.

But now I’ve pursed my lips and shaken my head, onto the rest of the ep, and this week’s quick but brutal trip to Kings Landing which reveals that, while the Mountain is a lot less chatty about it, forcibly detaching people’s heads from their bodies is something of a Clegane family hobby. A Lancel-led team of Faith Militant come to the Red Keep for Cersei, Cersei’s not for going, the Faith Militant try to make her and…. The Faith Militant will not be trying that again.

Cersei’s smirk is fun but short-lived, however; Turncoat Tommen promptly ruins everything by outlawing trial by combat because the High Sparrow told him to and the High Sparrow’s obviously not too keen on losing, be it trials by combat or heads of his followers. I don’t think those who want to see the Hound vs Mountain grudge match should worry too much, though – the smart money suggests it’s coming at some point, even if it’s now looking more like next season than this.

At least this season has finally got another grudge match out of the way, meantime, with Arya vs the Waif coming to a bloody end what feels like several thousand years after I stopped giving a stuff. Poor Lady Crane, a woman whom Arya just cannot allow to drink her rum in peace, tries to help, but the Waif/Terminator will not be stopped: Arya surviving last week’s stabbing stretches credulity enough, but the sequence where the Waif is in pursuit like she’s the T-1000 and this is Game of Terminators is completely ridiculous and would have made me laugh had I not been far too busy rolling my eyes. As for Arya winning? Knowing it would happen doesn’t make it any less unbelievable or this entire No Name storyline – seasons of it – any less of a total waste of time. “A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell and I’m going home” would have made me cheer three years ago, but now I’m just annoyed it took her this long to work out the bloody obvious.

What a bad-tempered post this is turning out to be. The problem is that while “No One” isn’t a bad episode, it’s such a frustrating one – with the (plentiful) good stuff overshadowed by the opportunities squandered – that the more I think about it, the grumpier I get.

Even the charm of Varys and Tyrion’s farewell by the docks, for instance, is diluted by a) them splitting up and b) Tyrion having to hang out with the insanely dull Missandei and Grey Worm instead. Tyrion’s “A Stark, A Lannister and a Martell walk into a bar…” joke is a valiant, witty attempt to lighten the mood, but by the time we get to everyone desperately pretending to laugh at Grey Worm’s attempt at a punchline, it’s a relief when the Masters attack and Daenerys turns up. Although if this turns out to be nothing more than an excuse for yet another of her “rallying speeches,” I will be far from amused.

One grumble at a time, though. The main reason I’m in a mood just now is Riverrun, the storyline which somehow manages the bizarre job of being both the best and worst of the week.

Jaime and Brienne’s long-awaited reunion is lovely, courtly and over way too quickly, of course, with their respect and affection for each other evident throughout. Would a snog have hurt anybody? No, but even if I do agree with Bronn as to how both parties feel about it, it’s never going to happen so respect and affection is all we’re going to get. Fine. But did we really have to sacrifice the Blackfish in the process? A genuinely exciting, fresh character, brought back after years of absence, just to die a completely pointless, off-screen death, one week later? What on earth is the point of that?

Yes, I did need reminding that Jaime’s no Prince Charming, his loyalty is to Cersei, always, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was particularly terrific this week. And, yes, I’ve been complaining a lot recently about characters not dying so you might think the writers just can’t win with me. But I’d sooner the Blackfish lived to fight another day than Arya or the Hound; throwing away an engaging character like that and abruptly cutting short what could have been a much more satisfying plotline in such lifeless, disappointing fashion doesn’t do the show any favours at all. No, Riverrun didn’t need to go on much longer, but it didn’t need to end like that either. Hurrumph.

Game of Thrones s6 ep 7

*SPOILERS*

Well, Lovejoy wasn’t with us very long, was he?

Ian McShane’s much-anticipated GOT debut is over almost as soon as it begins, but he arrives with some fanfare by way of (GOT’s first ever?) cold open, playing a constantly, slightly irritatingly smiling Septon – nobody can be that happy all the time, especially in the hell on earth that is Westeros – who runs some sort of religious commune of suspiciously clean and healthy-looking extras, with very special guest the good/bad old Hound hanging around looking hangdog as ever.

Yes, having established its reputation early on as a show unafraid to kill folk off, GOT has spent this season bringing them back instead. And yes, I know we never actually saw the Hound die, and a tv death without a body isn’t a death at all, but still. If GOT were as brave as it wants to be, the Hound would’ve died on that hillside where Arya left him, so I guess it’s not. Which means that no matter how bad Arya’s injuries are this week, she’ll be fine for this season at least; there’s a very good chance that Lady Stoneheart may appear after all; and who knows, Dead Septon Lovejoy might well pop back to life of a sort too, if the writers are in the mood.

We shall see.

Meantime, as the Hound – his perpetual bad mood not in any way improved by yet another narrow escape from death – and his axe head off across the countryside, Margaery is treading very carefully around a religious leader of very different style. The High Sparrow smiles too much as well, but the menace underlying every word is palpable: “I only pray your grandmother follows your lead….you must teach her the new way as she taught you the old or I fear for her safety. Body and soul.”

Uh-oh….

It’s been some time since we saw the real Margaery, but that quick, unmistakeable flash in her eyes and the Tyrell Rose she presses into her grandmother’s hand tell us the real Margaery is still in there, still brilliant, and, oh thank heaven, still playing to win. Never mind the blinkered Daenerys, absent from this week’s episode, and entirely unmissed, or the increasingly desperate Cersei, reduced to rubble by the imperious, magnificent Olenna; Margaery is a queen I can root for, and both Natalie Dormer and Diana Rigg’s performances are wonderful.

Of course, the delicately-plotted politics of Kings Landing are miles away, both in nature and geography, from Jon and Sansa’s more inelegant attempts to gather up support in the North. Great-uncle Brynden – a canny, indomitable old soldier Olenna would get on famously with – makes quick work of both the Freys’ callow threats and Jaime’s more considered attempts to resolve the siege at Riverrun, but Jon and Sansa aren’t quite as formidable or as clever as the Blackfish, as yet, bless them. Their blundering efforts to butter up the joyously tiny and blunt Lady Mormont are both funny and endearing – Jon’s desperate expression when he turns to Sansa, all “what do we say now?” is adorable – and while Davos’s earnest, empathetic way with young Princesses (poor Shireen) gets them out of that particular jam, House Glover isn’t so easily swayed. Tormund and the Giant keeping the Wildlings on board is great, but, in an episode all about getting ready for the big fight, both Sansa and I think we need more troops. Getting involved with Littlefinger again to get them, though? Oh, Sansa. Trusting Baelish didn’t work out for your dad, it didn’t work out for your mum, and it didn’t work out for you last time you tried it, either. Let’s hope Brienne and her sword come back soon; you’re going to need them.