After a week of singular focus, we get to visit all of our major storylines in the season finale. They fit a lot of storytelling into a little bit extra time this week. Not a minute of wasted screen time.
Richard, do I have a mark on my face? - Tommy Boy
Tyrion wakes to find his face wrapped in bandages and Grand Maester Pycelle smirking down at him. Tyrion sends Podrick to find Bronn or Varys. Pycelle is in good spirits, and can't wait to share the good news with Tyrion. Stannis has been defeated, thanks to Tywin. Tyrion is no longer the Hand of the King, with Tywin back in town. Thus he's been moved into less elegant quarters. Cramped quarters. Pycelle holds out a coin and tosses it dismissively to Tyrion "for his trouble" (and did you notice that his hand didn't shake when he held out the coin? Compare that to how exaggerated his shakes were when handing essence of nightshade to Cersei last episode). You'll recall that Tyrion outed Pycelle as the leak on the Small Council, and had Bronn cut Pycelle's beard and humiliate him. Pycelle feels that Tyrion holds no more threat to him. What kind of reward is that for Tyrion's service to the throne? After all, while Tywin may have ridden in at the last minute, even Tywin's forces wouldn't have been enough without Tyrion's craftiness and heroism.
This episode is 100% devoted to one event - The Battle of Blackwater. We don't see Jon, Daeny, or Arya. We don't check in on Brienne & Jaime, Robb & Talisa, Theon & Yara.
All centers around King's Landing, and the clash of Baratheon and Lannister.
This was another very satisfying episode. More veerings coming back into the book. More great acting (was the scene of the week Tyrion with Shae? Stannis and Davos? Arya and Jaqen? Tyrion and Varys?). More buildup to next week's big battle, scripted by George R.R. Martin himself.
Theon wakes to find Osha has left his bed. He then discovers she's left more than his bed. After stomping the scapegoat guard (which is better than the throat slashing that the responsible guard got), Theon calls for the hounds and horses, as he intends to recover the refugees Bran, Rickon, Osha and Hodor. Maester Luwin is dragged along on the hunt, as well. He pleads with Theon not to hurt the boys when he catches them. Along the way, we hear Theon's plans for holding Winterfell. Ned Stark said that 500 men could hold out against 10,000 besiegers, and Theon has sent a raven to his sister Yara to bring her 500 to Winterfell from Deepwood Motte.
I find it interesting how the dynamics of filming a story, trying to turn something incredibly complex into an hour of TV, must start to influence the story itself. The fact is, Arya was never Lord Tywin's cupbearer in the books. However, I find the most compelling screen time of late is that when Maisie Williams and Charles Dance are doing their thing. Riveting stuff. So for those who might bemoan some diversions from the book - I understand it, but you have to look at it fairly and give these guys credit for turning storytelling concessions into strengths.
The cast of Game of Thrones is like the '27 Yankees - just a murderer's row of a lineup. Jorah had a great scene, as did Davos and Stannis. Catelyn and Brienne do solid work. But the Ruth/Gehrig duo is Tyrion and Arya, and they deliver again. And the pacing of the show is such that you are always on the edge of your seat - it's always the bottom of the ninth, and yet they keep ratcheting up the tension, as we go into extras.
The episode opens with Robb, his wolf Grey Wind, and his army beating Stafford Lannister's army. Stafford is a cousin of Tywin and was in charge of a newly gathered army, and Robb continues his streak of victories at the expense of Stafford. Have no doubt, though: Stafford is in the minor leagues. Robb hasn't engaged Tywin on the field as of yet.
Most of the action is happening in the South this week - no Daenerys, no Robb, very little of Bran and Jon. And as was said last week, there was a lot of setup that comes to fruition with this episode.
North of the Wall
Craster has beaten Jon up pretty good, and for good measure demands that the Night's Watch leave. Lord Commander Mormont kicks Jon out of the house while he tries to patch things up with Craster.
This was a setup episode - not a lot of action, but a lot of precursors to action. It was dominated by Tyrion, which from an acting standpoint is a good thing, but there wasn't a whole lot of meat here. Overall I thought it was not one of the more compelling episodes.
Also a number of deviations from the book, if memory serves (and maybe it doesn't, so feel free to jump in if I'm wrong). I will note these deviations with spoiler alerts unless they're too minuscule to matter. There are a lot, though. Don't read the italics if you don't want to get any spoilers at all.
It's been too long since we visited Westeros. It feels like, after a long day's physical labor, slipping into a soothing, hot bath of violence, brutality, betrayal...and chamomile. Very excited to have the show on again.
We have met some new folks, and caught up with some old friends.