Let the Flayings Begin! “Game of Thrones” Returns
Spring is here, the lilacs and cherry blossoms are in full bloom, and, as usual—oysters, clams, and cockles!—winter is coming, and “Game of Thrones” has returned. Let the flayings begin! This weekend, once I remembered what had happened in Season 5, beyond Jon Snow being stabbed into snowflake smithereens by the Night’s Watch (thanks for nothing, brothers), I had many questions that I wanted answered in last night’s season première. Did Sansa and Theon break their legs after leaping from the ramparts? When they landed, did they at least say “oof”? Would Brienne of Tarth finally find and protect a Stark? Does Dany remember her conversational Dothraki? How was Cersei after her awful walk of “Shame!”? If that horrible spooktress Melisandre manages to reanimate Jon Snow, can I still despise her? Can the White Walkers be made more fun, or at least be melted? Can we just forget about the Sand Snakes? What will be chopped off of whom, and when? This season, the “Game of Thrones” showrunners, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, will be moving narratively beyond the Wall, having used up George R. R. Martin’s books. Where will they lead us? And can any of this be as interesting as “Lemonade”?
Many of those questions were gloriously or repulsively answered; many were not. (Spoilers follow.) Though I wasn’t really expecting Jon Snow to be resurrected in this episode—he’s too big a plot point to kill and unkill lickety-split—it was nice to see him again, dead though he is, lying in that pile of ice blood. He seemed peaceful enough, handsome as ever, and at this point none of us are that worried about him. We’ll wait.
For every soaring dragon rescue or thrilling moment at the Moon Door, “Game of Thrones” tends to give us a surfeit of disgustitude and misery. So it was a nice surprise when, early on, Sansa, of all people, had a very good day. When we first see Sansa and Theon—oh, hell, let’s call him Reek—they are running through the snowy woods, not rolling around Winterfell cursing their shattered femurs. Good for them. After they cross the icy river, trouble arrives, in the form of guards on horseback; Reek urges Sansa to go north, without him. “Jon is Lord Commander of Castle Black—he’ll help you,” he says, reassuringly. (There’s our oof.) The thugs catch up. “I can’t wait to see what part Ramsay cuts off you this time,” one says. (Later, Tyrion teases a eunuch. Not cool, guys.) But then—kablammo—here comes Brienne of Tarth, galloping in like Brom Bones, whomping somebody off his horse. Better late than never. Clang, clink, slash, slosh, gloosh, pant. Good-hearted “G.o.T.” fans everywhere were cheering. Bad guys vanquished, Brienne kneels and offers Sansa her services once again, and Sansa, with a little line-feeding from Podrick, graciously accepts. “And I vow that you shall always have a place by my hearth, and meat and mead at my table, and I pledge to ask no service of you that might bring you dishonor.” I wanted them to hug, or maybe go out. Honor prevents this, but we’re off to a good start. A scene of hard-won joy—extremely hard-won joy—in a snowy, bloody wood.
The rest of the episode, of course, was less cheering: Jaime Lannister on a boat on a sunny afternoon isn’t always as fun as it sounds. When Cersei rushes out to greet him, and then sees his grave expression and their daughter’s coffin behind him, watching her expression change is quite moving. Her eyes tear up, but she doesn’t seem surprised. After all, as she tells him later, a witch prophesied that three of her children would die.
“Fuck prophecy! Fuck fate! Fuck everyone who isn’t us!” Jaime says. He’s a romantic. It’s rather touching. These two jerks have been chastened and hurt; now they’re being good to each other. And they’re handling their daughter’s death much better than they handled Joffrey’s.
At this point in the series, “Game of Thrones” has had miles of plot; watching it, when you remember what has happened to everybody, is an odd emotional and dramatic experience. It’s hard to drum up actual feelings about the goings on when they’ve become too pulpy, magical, or absurd. And there are so many characters scattered all over Westeros and Essos that our relationship to each is necessarily a bit thin. (Thinking of them all last night, I was reminded of Henry Huggins and the gallons of guppies in jars in his bedroom. It’s hard to love each one.) These early scenes with Jon Snow, Sansa, and Cersei and Jaime give us what we want from “Game of Thrones.” But soon enough we’re back in silly season.
In Dorne, more sunny trouble: my wish about the Sand Snakes was horribly betrayed. They just stab the place up, killing Doran and Trystane Martell and others. I will give them this: I didn’t see that through-the-back-of-the-head nose stab coming. Neither did Trystane. Like an ogre, I laughed with glee when his face unexpectedly became a bloody nose-spear. Who have I become?
A fellow-devotee who sent thoughts from Massachusetts said that she thought the episode was mostly stage-setting, and that’s true; we’ve all had “G.o.T.” vacation, and it takes a long time to catch up with the whole gang. And not even the whole gang—Bran Stark, for example, has not yet Teen Warg-ed his way back into our hearts, and we haven’t been reacquainted with the Samwell Tarlys of the world, or Littlefinger, or the Harpies, or the dragons, and we were spared any kind of White Walker baloney. But that’s fine with me, because, for one thing, I’ll take all the orienting I can get, and, for another, a little joy for Brienne of Tarth goes a long way. We got a pleasantly comic and informative stroll with Varys and Tyrion, disguised as merchants, checking out Meereen, lost without Dany. “Fear has brought Meereen to a standstill. Whoever you are, wherever you go, someone in this city wants to murder you,” Tyrion says. Then part of the city catches on fire.
Ser Jorah and Daario Naharis are riding manfully around on black horses, looking to save and protect Dany, like a couple of reverse Briennes of Tarth. Daario trots happily along. “I want to see what the world looks like when she’s done conquering it,” he says, smolderingly. Jorah glumly looks at his grayscaled arm, to remind him and us of the ravages of time and the existence of magical diseases. Perhaps grayscale has given him X-ray vision: he manages to spot Dany’s ring lying in the long wild grass. “They have her,” he says.
Dany—glum and dirty, hands bound—is unfazed. Even the derisive laughter of rape-happy Dothraki warlords doesn’t break her spirit. She does remember her conversational Dothraki: it gets her rope handcuffs cut off and an offer of a great place to live out her days. A home for widows of dead khals. Maybe she can liberate them, too, and add them to her armies.
Arya Stark, meanwhile, is about as happy to be blind and homeless as we are to see Maisie Williams in gray contacts all season long, possibly forever. (Maybe she’ll switch faces again? I’m not sure how that whole situation works.) For now, she has her helpful antagonist the Waif, who shows up and fights her with a stick, and promises to return tomorrow, and, we presume, tomorrow and tomorrow.
Finally, as the remaining good men of Castle Black scramble to figure out what to do post-Snow stab, Melisandre, alone, by a hearth, strikes fear into our hearts. She takes off her wrap dress, looks in a mirror, removes her statement necklace, and turns hideously old. (“Do you guys like how I look?” Amy Schumer tweeted this morning, attaching the grim image.) I surprised myself by being annoyed at Melisandre for not using more magic, but I’d like to trust that her foray into wrinkled old age before bed will lead to some sort of spooky sleep journey in which she’ll teleport somewhere, scrape together some smoke and blood and enchanted leeches, and start resurrecting our hero. It was a creepy ending to Episode 1, but it could have been much worse. When she started getting naked, I thought, Oh, no, please, Melisandre, don’t necrophilia Jon Snow back to life. And, reader, she did not. On to Episode 2.
Source: www.newyorker.com, April 26, 2016