Season Five, Episode Seven — “The Gift”
By Jarrod Jones. It only took seven episodes to do it, but Game of Thrones is finally all business. Pour one out for Maester Aemon, and fear for Samwell and Gilly; Jon Snow is off to make snowmen with Tormund Giantsbane and the rest of the Wildlings, and with the kindly Targaryen running off to the great beyond, Mister Tarly is — as moody shithead Alliser Thorne put it — losing all his friends. This week does a pretty remarkable job of bouncing around all of its disparate subplots, and it certainly helps that “The Gift” gets the show on the goddamned road for Tyrion and Daenerys. Ramsay is still an unfathomable piece of shit. Tommen realizes how useless he really is. And Cersei finally gets that smug grin wiped off of her face.
WHAT WORKED: Even though it took a daunting seven episodes, every one of them featuring a dizzyingly wide spectrum of quality, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) finally reached the hem of Queen Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). Yeah, the episode robbed us of getting a glimpse at a bonafide “cock merchant”, but it was all worthwhile once Tyrion finally (fucking finally) met the gaze of the Mother of Dragons.
And speaking of faceoffs, the tête-à-tête between the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) and Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) was a testament to how well-written this show can be (when it’s, y’know, not raping women or peeling the flesh from their bones). Diana Rigg’s saucy old bird runs up against the chilliest character Thrones has ever conjured, and if you listen carefully you can almost hear her crash against the wall of ice Jonathan Pryce just threw her way. “I imagine this is strange for you,” the Sparrow chuckles. “Everyone you meet has a hidden motive, and you pride yourself on sniffing it out. But I’m telling you a simple truth: I serve the gods. And the gods demand justice.” Brr.
But the show wasn’t near done with Mr. Pryce; not by a long shot. Not with the small matter of Lancel spilling the beans on his cousin, Cersei (Lena Headey). “What will we find when we strip away your finery?” the High Sparrow ponders aloud, but I guess that was a rhetorical question, because he has Cersei’s ass tossed in a dungeon faster than you can say “oh, snap.” And right after she went and had a gloating party in Margaery Tyrell’s (Natalie Dormer) cell too. Ooh. *eats bon bons* That’s good.
WHAT DIDN’T: Am I the only person who thinks Daenerys is dating beneath her? What’s that dude’s name, anyhow? (Ah, Daario Naharis. Thanks, Google.) More post-coital scheming this week, as the Queen lays around in bedsheets with the most generic-looking dude in all of Essos. (Seriously. It’s like nature took all the “reasonably good-looking white dudes”, tossed them into a blender, and tried to make someone not look like Sharlto Copley. And failed.) All this unsexy petting was enough to send me straight into the kitchen to fix myself a rather strong cup of coffee. And what also doesn’t help is that she’s about to marry the leader of the Sons of the Harpy. *sighs* I think this woman needs to learn to be alone for a while.
So Bronn (Jerome Flynn) gets to flirt with Tyene Sand (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers) across jail bars because… does anyone really know why? Bronn gets poisoned (last week) only to be swiftly healed by the Sand Snakes in this episode’s most perplexing sequence. For no other reason other than to allow the show to meet its “laughably unnecessary nudity” quotient for the week. I’m not anti-nudity, but jeezus, nothing from this sequence meant anything for anybody. And it only made the Sand Snakes look even more ridiculous, if that’s possible.
“Get her south. Before it’s too late.” – Maester Aemon.
“We march to victory, or we march to defeat. But we go forward, only forward.” – Stannis.
“Don’t spar with me, little fellow.” – Lady Olenna, to the High Sparrow.
BEST MOMENT: Cersei, the jailbird. I know I’m not alone in absolutely loathing Cersei Lannister, and to see her tossed into a jail cell like any common criminal satisfied me in ways that ought to arouse concern. And watching Jonathan Pryce’s generally agreeable mug shift ever so slightly into terrifying malice as she was hauled away sent the old chills on a waltz right up and down my spine. Whatever’s in store for Cersei — especially since we’re aware all bets are off this season — we know it’s probably not going to end well for the Queen Mother. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer lady.
EPISODE’S MVP: The High Sparrow. Even though I still feel that the “religious fanatics running roughshod over King’s Landing” subplot steers Game of Thrones dangerously close to parody, the Sparrows have one hell of an ace in the hole. Jonathan Pryce is a prestigious asset in any production, and there’s relief in knowing this show finally realized how lucky it is to have him.
– It’s truly a rare thing to see someone die a natural death on Game of Thrones. Aemon’s watch has ended, and the show is that much lesser for it.
– It’s funny that Cersei would use “burn cities to the ground” as an example of what she’d be willing to do for her family. Not, say, “donate to her favorite charity.”
– Ghost! Where the hell has that direwolf been hiding? Ah, it doesn’t matter. I’m just glad he showed up when he did.
– So. Sam had a pretty big week. *ahem*