This wasn't a unique episode in its format, but having the focus on four stories was a nice way to de-clutter some of the plot-line chaos.
There was a sense of transition, as Jon made his plans with Tourmond, and Stannis got bored and decided to march on Winterfell. It's interesting that every single important Wall character showed up in this episode. It was as if the show was reminding us of who everyone was, and what their potential motivations will be. Like there is some massive event looming over the wall that will force everyone to make hard choices.
I liked the fact that Stannis was the only King candidate who was thinking about the stuff beyond the wall. The White Walkers (referred to as Walkers several times), are this ever-present threat, even though we haven't really seen or heard from them in a while. The fact that Sam is still researching the reasons why the dragon glass killed that White Walker outright is good.
Jon's actions, on the other hand, were both troubling and impressive. He sees a much bigger picture than most of his Watch brothers, and knows the Wildlings are one of their only hopes in surviving the winter. Yet there is a heavy counterpoint to trusting them. For a very long time they have scaled the wall and done horrible things to the northerners and crows. It is bad enough that twelve villages were abandoned. I guess making Jon's decision cut and dry would be too neat, but this might be too risky.
It makes me worried for Sansa who is still not confident about using manipulation. In fact, she seems almost as if the idea of playing along with these men is abhorrent to her. It's clear she realizes her situation, and isn't fool enough to believe the Boltons won't kill her at the first chance. And it is pretty obvious she understands Ramsey's nature now, with that horrible dinner scene with poor Theon. I just hope she learns to play the game before it is too late.
At least Brienne is still trying to protect Sansa, and has quickly picked up on the fact that the Northerners don't like the Boltons, and could be used as an underground to help protect Sansa.
I'm a little torn about the choices Daenerys is making. In the wake of Ser Barristan's death, she makes a violent choice and kills one of the heads of the prominent families in an attempt to root out the Harpies. While I'm glad she is making some progress with Rhaegal and Viserion, it might have been a bit too brutal for her to feed up a man to them. On the other side of this scene, Dany speaks with Missandei who basically says she needs to trust her own instincts. So here come the fighting pits and yet another marriage.
In a show rich in visuals, the long boat ride through Valyria was perhaps my favorite. The ruins were detailed and amazing. The lore about the fall of Valyria was equally well done, especially that long poem recited by Tyrion and Jorah. I could've done without the Stone men assault though, who seem like zombies almost.
Unfortunately, one single touch from those things is enough to spread their disease. Dragonscale seems pretty awful, and there has been enough talk about it in recent episodes that we know what poor Jorah is about to go through. Will he actually go all the way to Daenerys and risk giving it to her? Is his obsession with her that strong? Or will he let Tyrion go, and find a way to take himself out?
The nudity in this series is always done in the most tasteful and purposeful of ways. So it makes sense for Ramsey's scene with Myranda about jealousy to be done totally in the nude. /sarcasm
Drogon showing up in Valyria so that Tyrion could see a dragon first hand was pretty awesome.
Sansa discovering what happened to Theon was a powerful little moment. It showed her what the Boltons are truly capable of.
Grey Worm survived the ambush, and finally had a real romantic moment with Missandei. That was very sweet, even though I still don't know what purpose this romantic pairing serves.
Sansa: "This isn't a strange place, this is my home. It's the people who are strange."
Ramsay: "You're right, very strange."
Tyrion: "Long sullen silences, and an occasional punch in the face. The Mormont way."
Tyrion: "They held each other close, and turned their backs upon the end; the hills that split asunder, and the black that ate the skies. The flames that shot so high and hot, that even dragons burned; would never be the final sights that fell upon their eyes. A fly upon a wall, the waves the sea wind whipped and churned --"
Jorah: "The city of a thousand years, and all that men had learned; the doom consumed it all alike, and neither of them turned."
Tyrion: (looking at his bound hands) "I would clap."
Occasionally stunning but a bit slow, this episode might not have been the best, but it was far from the worst.
3 out of 4 Dragons and Stone Men
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J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related. He reviews Arrow and Farscape and cool new movies that strike his fancy.
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