All aboard the Hype Train! In preparation of Season 8 of Game of Thrones, Kelly is doing a rewatch for the greater good to refresh our memories, catch the things we might have forgotten, pick up the things we might have missed, and maybe make predictions! Hold onto your fur rugs from Ikea and AWAY WE GO.
Rules of this series: We’re deep diving into these episodes and I’m watching them on a per-episode base because I like digesting the episodes. Spoilers lie ahead. As much as I can, I am going to try and keep things episode/season specific. It’s out of respect to the narrative as well as the later seasons. Onwards!
5.5 Kill the Boy
Kill the Boy kicks us off right after Barristan’s death and Grey Worm unconscious from his fight with the Sons of the Harpy as Missandei sits keeping watch. To say that Dany is upset about Ser Barristan is an understatement, especially after their last conversation about Rhaegar- he was pretty much her only connection back to Westeros. Daario offers to “clean out” the city until its rats have no more hiding spots but Dany asks to round up all the leaders of the noble families in Meereen. The title itself is a reference to a conversation Maester Aemon has with Jon, as he tells him it’s time to become a man and make tough decisions- the ones that will make people dislike him.
Dany, of course, brings them to the dungeon and the Unsullied nudges them forward to meet her dragons. Rhaegal promptly roasts one of the noble patriarchs for leaders. Dany’s doing this to flex and show the possible Sons of the Harpy funders who’s boss. If the attacks don’t stop, she’ll off them one by one in the same manner. Hizdar is part of the roundup and simply replies Valar Morghulis and I guess we’re supposed to suspect that he’s the rat, as she’s stoic and unemotional in her threats but breaks when he speaks. Honestly, I just read it as his shrugged acknowledgment that she’s going to do whatever she wants because that’s how I read her. He and others are indifferent towards her as a leader because they know that she can’t be negotiated with.
Over at Castle Black, Sam reads a scroll of Dany’s determination to bring the former slaves their freedom. Sam immediately thinks Dany is “quite a woman,” but I’m still going with “translation error and slaves just means employees.” If only they know how she was doling out her rule. Aemon is pretty sure he’s dying and adds he wouldn’t be any help to her anyway, but she is all alone. There’s nothing as terrible as a Targaryen alone in the world due to how the family treated others in the past, and on cue, Jon appears in the doorway of the library to check up on him. Jon seeks his counsel on an issue that would not sit well with the Night’s Watch. Aemon acknowledges that part of his job as Lord Commander is to make decisions that other people won’t agree with and if Jon feels that something is the right thing to do in his heart, then he should do it.
Aemon tells Jon to grow up and cast aside what other people think of him and all concerns of popularity in the face of winter- to “kill the boy” so the man can be born. Inspired, Jon sits with Tormund to find out where the rest of the Freefolk are residing North of the Wall. Jon asks if they’ll follow Tormund since Mance is gone and Tormun asks who would follow a man in chains? Jon acknowledges that the Night’s Watch has fallen short of the oath to protect the realms of men and offers his protection to the Freefolk. Jon will allow the Freefolk to pass through the wall, will find some abandoned land for them, and most importantly- won’t ask them to kneel for him, just wants their assistance in the fight against the army of the dead when the time comes. Tormund, influenced by Mance, says that they’ll never fight with the Crows and Jon makes the same argument he tried with Mance- that all of the helpless that the Freefolk have will be doomed to die if Tormund doesn’t overcome his pride. He’s not asking Tormund to fight, but to do that same he is willing to do- put aside their differences for the good of the people. Tormund finally caves, answering that the Freefolk are at Hardhome but Jon will have to go with them as an act of peace- it will let the Freefolk know that it is not a trap and the ships won’t be attacked and so that everyone can see the nature of the mission.
Jon tells the rest of the Night’s Watch what the plan is and they pretty much all agree that this is a bad idea. They don’t mind letting the Wildings suffer since they’ve been so terrible to the Night’s Watch in the past and the less Wildings there are, the better (“Fewer,” corrects Stannis under his breath). Sam reasons with the Night’s Watch that there’s plenty of land and a few abandoned villages they can have- until someone else says they’re abandoned because the Wildings were so keen on raiding them all the time. Jon says the choice it to either fight with them or against them as the army of the dead and it’s a lose-lose for everyone.
Back in his chambers, Jon asks Olly if he has something to say to him and Olly doesn’t understand why Jon would want to make peace with the kind of people that would slaughter his village. Jon is insistent that Winter is Coming and Olly turns back into Steward-mode. Jon’s broken Olly’s trust.
Just south and outside Winterfell, Pod implies that Sansa is better off in Winterfell and Brienne’s like, “Dude, she’s with the people that murdered her mother and brother” and Pod immediately shuts the hell up. Brienne thanks the innkeeper and asks what the Stark reputation is now at Winterfell, sensing that there are still Stark supporters. She states her promise to Cat and that she still serves her, even in death. It’s a tense moment as the two size each other up, knowing that stating their loyalty to the Starks would result in death if the other is actually aligned with the Boltons. Hats off to Gwendoline Christie too, for making Brienne so appropriately serious and level when she needs to be but still bringing those chuckles in with Pod. There’s never a minute in any of her scenes that we sense she’s forgotten Cat and we can tell that she is still mourning her death.
Up in one of Winterfell’s towers, Myranda’s annoyed that Ramsay won’t marry her and Ramsay points out that she’s just a kennel master’s daughter and he’s no longer a bastard- he’s a Bolton. Ramsay’s nearly bored with Myranda’s jealousy and fluffy ideas of marriage until she bites him. Aroused, Ramsay then rapes Myranda. It’s coercion and it’s rape. She doesn’t want to have sex with him right then and there because she’s angry with him, but he sees her resistance as pride. He wants to hold something over her, to control her, and it’s rape.
In Sansa’s room, the maid from the previous episode comes back, closes the door, and tells her that she still has friends. She advises Sansa to light a candle in the window of the highest tower- the one that Bran fell from- if she ever needed help and it would be on the way. Sansa’s naturally a little unsure of trusting the woman and the anonymous offer for help but goes to inspect the tower anyway. She’s approached by Myranda and can I just say that for WINTER, both their cleavages must be freezing.
Sansa is immediately suspicious of Myranda and I hear the groans of “Don’t you think Sansa would recognize Myranda as the kennel master’s daughter?” No. Myranda was the kennel master’s daughter of the Dreadfort- you know, Ramsay’s hounds. Myranda speaks casually of Cat and says it’s great that she taught Sansa how to sew because now Sansa has a memory of her mother and Sansa coolly replies that she’d rather have a mother. Myranda giggles it off and leads Sansa down to the Winterfell kennel- where Theon is sleeping. For a moment it’s almost as if Myranda is going to lock Sansa in with the hounds and set them loose on her but Myranda’s probably ordered by Ramsay to not interact with Sansa. If Ramsay loves the idea of torturing dudes physically, Myranda loves messing with them mentally. They’re perfect for each other.
Upstairs, Theon nearly doesn’t tell Ramsay about seeing Sansa but eventually confesses to seeing her in the kennel. In a very Rise of the Planet of the Apes moment and display of submission, Ramsay asks him to kneel, takes his hand, and forgives him.
At supper, Roose, Lady Walda, Ramsay, and Sansa are chitchatting about her stay and let’s note that Sansa’s dress is no longer the feathered Littlefinger inspired frock, but one that is more reminiscent of Cat’s, particularly in the neckline and collar. Ramsay is being overly sweet to Walda, even calling her mother, and there’s an excellent focus on Roose’s face as Ramsay pours her more wine to imply that Roose still doesn’t trust Ramsay as a respectable heir. Ramsay makes a toast to their wedding which Roose drinks halfheartedly to and we can read on his face that we know this is just Ramsay putting on airs to put Sansa at ease before their wedding.
Walda tries to bond with Sansa, relating that it must be odd for her to be in a strange place and Sansa, in the same manner that she told Myranda off, tells Walda that Winterfell is her home and the only thing strange about it are its new inhabitants. Sick burn, Sansa. Ramsay chuckles and calls for more wine, prompting Theon to come from the shadows and the room goes silent. Ramsay assures that he punished Theon for what he did to Bran and Rickon (nobody really knows they are still alive) and in the background, Roose gets increasingly frustrated with Ramsay’s prodding of Sansa and Theon. He can see that Sansa hasn’t been made comfortable and Ramsay isn’t exactly putting her at ease and any animosity towards Roose’s heir will put their Bolton’s hold over the North at risk. Sansa is a more legitimate leader by name alone and people would gladly rally to her side if she called for it. Not to mention, if she doesn’t willingly have Ramsay’s child, their reign as Warden is fucked.
The last straw for Roose is when Ramsay proposes that Theon walk Sansa down the aisle. Fed up with Ramsay and staring at him straight in the eye, Roose takes the time to announce that Walda is expecting a boy. Roose always has a backup plan for when things don’t work out the first time around, that sonuvagun. It’s a mild threat that Ramsay’s inheritance isn’t as easy as just changing his name and he’s still going to have to prove himself to his father. Sansa is mildly amused that this throws a wrench into Ramsay’s glee and proclaims that she is very happy for Lady Walda- not Roose, just Walda.
Ramsay points out Walda’s size and asks Roose if he’s sure he did it the right way. Roose waves away that Ramsay is just concerned of his standing but Ramsay knows he’s just an option for Roose and that Roose will dispose of him when something better comes along. Roose, realizing that Ramsay is very close to acting out against him, distracts him with the tale of how Ramsay was conceived. Turns out the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree because Roose fathered Ramsay by raping a woman. She had married a miller on Roose’s land without the landlord’s permission and Roose invoked First Right but not before hanging the miller. And the rape took place under his body. It was a terrible rule then, it’s a terrible rule now, and it was made worse by Roose.
“Kelly… what the fuck? Why do you-” Wait, I’m not done. This is about twenty years or so prior to the events now. The full backstory is that the mother left the baby in Roose’s care and Roose for some reason always caved into her requests. This has something to do with Northern Loyalty- when Ramsay was dropped off, Roose was married to a Ryswell with their own son but would often put the miller’s wife’s needs (and thus Ramsay’s) before his own family’s. This may or may not have led to Roose not caring about the death of his legitimate son Domeric, who mysteriously contracted an illness that many think of as poisoning, and that might have been done by Ramsay (who was extremely close with Domeric). The Boltons are fucked up. They have a fascinating backstory and huge string of theories.
“Wait, can we go back to the part where you’re a Bolton fan and they’re terrible?” No, we can’t. They’re here, I like it.
Anyway, this scene is highly reminiscent of the lectures Tywin would give Tyrion that typically started or ended with, “You’re my SON,” especially given both Tywin’s and Roose’s ultra-deep voices and similar appearances. Like I said, Roose was the perfect Bad Guy replacement for Tywin and they did a good job seamlessly transitioning this onto Michael McElhatton. Tywin and Roose use the same tactics to keep their sons in control but let’s point out that Ramsay and Tyrion are very different people- Tyrion is a lover not a fighter and Ramsay is… Ramsay is special. He’s not exactly the grin and bear it kind of fellow, he doesn’t drown his sorrows in wine- he chooses to act out in either violent or cruel manners on third parties. It’s only a matter of time before he snaps against the ones giving the orders.
Roose uses this particular “You’re my SON” speech to convince Ramsay that he has to prove how determined he is to protect the family name and the North against Stannis and Ramsay agrees to take Stannis on headfirst. Roose will walk away from this unscathed. Similar to Tyrion leading the tribesmen in Season 1, Ramsay is sent out as a first line of defense and if Ramsay dies, Roose has another son to raise, doesn’t really have to lose that many men, and at the very least, weakens Stannis just a bit. He’s got, like, seven different paths of thinking.
Up at Castle Black, Gilly’s never seen so many book in her life but Sam says it’s nothing compared to the Citadel, where the maesters train. Gilly doesn’t feel very intelligent when talking to Sam, but Sam points out there’s no chance of him having survived North of the Wall without her. Stannis walks in, spots Sam, and is almost confused when he identifies him as a Tarly, having known his father Randyll. We get one fact about Randyll that tells us precisely how different Sam is from the rest of the men in his family- Randyll led the Battle of Ashford against Robert and he won! It was the only battle Robert ever lost- and we knew how war crazy Robert was, so this Randyll guy must be good.
Stannis asks Sam how he killed a White Walker and that Mel told him that death marches on the Wall- so they do know about the White Walkers. Why the fuck is Stannis so concerned with that stuff south if he’s already North!? They did a piss poor job with Stannis and he’s amazingly inconsistent for a character described to be extremely pragmatic and soldier-like. He’s a character that deserved more. Stannis’s pulling a Robb here but without the marriage to the hot foreign gal.
Stannis drops a throwaway line that there’s a tone of dragonglass at Dragonstone (that would make sense), tells Sam to keep reading, and then just leaves. Bye. He’s ready to start marching on Winterfell the next day, taking Shireen and Selyse with him.
In Meereen, Missandei kisses Grey Worm because we need something to distract us form the fact that Dany’s not doing much while Jorah is away. Next.
Ugh, Dany says if she gave everyone the justice they deserved, she’d have no one left to rule. NO KIDDING. Girl, show some restraint. Dany tells Missandei that she’s fit to counsel the queen because she’s aware of Dany’s mission- not because like, Missandei was a slave… and knows what it’s like to be a slave… and to be liberated… Whatever. And Missandei shows that she’s not fit to counsel because she tells Dany that whenever Dany ignored her counsel’s advice, it was only because there was a better way to go about things that only Dany could see. Wrong. So, so, so wrong. She thought killing Mossador in front of the city was the better choice!? She thought dragging the masters into the dungeons was a better choice? Nailing the noblemen to crosses? You know, that whole thing?
None of this transition to the next scene. I just wish someone had counseled Dany with “We know what you are trying to do for your people. But what are you letting the people do for you?” kind of thing. Counseling commitment and assimilation and all that. Dany goes to visit Hizdar, who admits that he actually doesn’t want to die- he was just trying to be brave. See, we were kind of right before. Dany also admits that she was wrong (finally) about his stance on Meereenese traditions. She agrees to reopen the fighting pits to free men and will also take Hizdar for a husband, to show that she is becoming one with the people of Meereen.
Across the way, Jorah and Tyrion are still sailing (probably past Gendry). Tyrion’s begging Jorah for more wine when Jorah spots Old Valyria off in the distance. This whole scene is well framed. After tales of how Valyria is still consumed by “the Doom,” we get a wide shot of a wall full of arches with shape that look like men crouching. They’re well hidden and it’s enough to be like, “Wait, is that… is that a person?” You can chalk it up to a statue. It basically is.
Then, Tyrion perks up when he sees a pair of wings off in the distance and to the left of this is a shape that is unmistakably the image of a man crouched. Since we’re distracted by Drogon, just like Tyrion and Jorah are, this is easy to miss. As Tyrion turns, the figure slowly stands and falls feet first into the water. The boat passes through an arch way and they two are attacked by Stone Men- victims whose greyscale is so severe that they have become other creatures entirely. It’s similar to what Gilly had described. Jorah tells Tyrion to not let them touch him- I assume this means bare skin- but Tyrion is dragged under water.
And we think the episode ends. It doesn’t. Tyrion wakes up on a beach next to Jorah and he’s 99% sure he wasn’t touched. Jorah says the same and there’s an incredible shot of Tyrion and Jorah on the beach with a perfect mirror reflection of them in the water. Tyrion says anyone with greyscale should be given a mercy kill and Jorah walks away to set up camp- and pulls up his sleeve to reveal he’s contracted greyscale in the tiniest of spots on his wrist. PLOT TWIST. Genuinely didn’t see that coming the first time around.
5.6 Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken (Don’t cringe- we’re all in this together.)