Was man mit der AfD hätte machen sollen, solange es noch ging

In den Rechtsaußen-Bezirken der Politik ist seit jeher shady business zu beobachten, in direkter Kontinuität von Tätern der NS-Diktatur zu ihren geistigen und manchmal sogar leiblichen Nachkommen sowie interessierten kapitalistischen Kreisen, die schon die ursprünglichen Nazis finanziert haben, unter anderem weil es nützlich ist, unzufriedenen Arbeitern sagen zu können: “Da, der Jude/Ausländer/Flüchtling ist schuld!!!!!!1!!!11!!”. Dieser lesenswerte Artikel geht ein paar Spuren der fragwürdigen und möglicherweise in Teilen illegalen Finanzierung der AfD nach. Und hier werden ein paar ihrer Bundestagskandidaten mit ihren widerwärtigen politischen Positionen vorgestellt.

Bevor man endgültig Normen verändernde Fakten schafft, indem man zulässt, dass die gefährliche faschistische Partei AfD nach dem Einzug in etliche Landtage auch noch in den Deutschen Bundestag gewählt wird, hätte eigentlich folgendes Verfahren angewendet werden müssen:

  1. Die AfD wird per Einstweiliger Verfügung des Bundesverfassungsgerichts vorläufig verboten. Die dadurch eben nicht mehr “irrelevante” NPD auch.
  2. Die Bundestagswahl wird um so viele Wochen verschoben, wie es nötig ist, neue Wahlzettel zu drucken, auf denen AfD und NPD nicht mehr vorkommen.
  3. Alle Indizien gegen AfD und NPD werden gründlich geprüft – es ist davon auszugehen, dass ein endgültiges Verbot gerechtfertigt ist. Wenn man den lächerlichen Popanz des “Kampfs gegen links”, den de Maizière und zum Teil sogar Maas betreiben, aufgibt, ergeben sich auch genügend freie Ressourcen, um das Ganze zügig und gründlich zu bearbeiten.
  4. Nach dem endgültigen Verbot dieser faschistischen Organisationen werden ihre Vermögen eingezogen und an die zahlreichen Opfer rechtsextremer Gewalt ausgezahlt.
  5. Individuelle PolitikerInnen dieser Parteien werden nach Maßgabe ihres individuellen Beitrags zu Volksverhetzung, Aufstachelung zu Straftaten, Beleidigung etc. strafrechtlich verfolgt, vor Gericht gestellt und bei Feststellung einer entsprechenden Schuld rechtsstaatlich korrekt verurteilt.
  6. Sollten einige der radikaleren Neonazis und/oder Pegida-Anhänger das Verbot ihres politischen Arms zum Anlass nehmen, einen vermeintlichen “Bürgerkrieg” anzuzetteln, ist ebenfalls der Rechtsstaat gefragt, sie im Zaum zu halten. Das könnte zumindest der Versuch einer Wiedergutmachung für die Versäumnisse beim Pogrom von Rostock-Lichtenhagen und ähnlichen Vorfällen vor 25 Jahren sein: wären die Behörden damals konsequent gegen die Täter und ihr johlendes, hitlergrüßendes und sich in die Hose pissendes Publikum eingeschritten, gäbe es heute vielleicht überhaupt keine AfD oder Pegida.
  7. Die künftige Bundesregierung – wie auch immer sie zusammengesetzt ist – muss, um glaubwürdig zu sein, eine konsequent antinationalistische, antichauvinistische, antirassistische, feministische und LGBT-freundliche, mithin antifaschistische, Politik betreiben. Zu guter Letzt muss diese Politik auch antikapitalistisch oder zumindest stark reformorientiert sein, denn Kapitalismus und Faschismus bestärken einander in einem endlosen Teufelskreis.

Natürlich ist das alles nur ein schöner Traum, denn man scheint ja bis weit in die Mitte der Sozialdemokratie hinein immer noch den alten Glaubenssatz herunterzubeten: “Der Feind steht links.” Insofern: genießen wir die letzten drei Tage in Freiheit, bevor erstmals seit Gründung der Bundesrepublik eine zu überwiegenden Teilen offen rassistische, nationalistische, chauvinistische, homophobe und frauenfeindliche, also kurz gesagt faschistische, Partei in den Bundestag einzieht und nachhaltig das politische Klima vergiftet. Und schaut euren Abgeordneten auf die Finger, insbesondere denen von CxU und FDP: nicht den geringsten Versuch des Fraternisierens mit der AfD-Fraktion darf man ihnen unwidersprochen durchgehen lassen!

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Incompetent Leaders Refusing to Fight Forces of Nature?

We’ve seen it both in the real world and, recently, in the Seven Kingdoms. Some leaders think that climate change (global warming in our world, global cooling in Westeros) is just a hoax made up by their foes. Some of them even tweet about it:

Posted in English, Fantasy, Game of Thrones, Politics, Reading, Society, Television | Leave a comment

You Can Win A “Game of Thrones” Season 7 Blu Ray/DVD Box!

Now that Season 7 has come and gone and I have covered each episode in a recap blog post, you can enter a little giveaway reading these posts. Here’s how it works:

There’s a Harry Potter reference in each of the seven blog posts (starting here). Write an email to contest@sascha-kersken.de and write down a list containing all seven of these references, in the following format:

“Episode 1: [Quote]
Episode 2: [Quote]…”

Out of all participants who answer correctly until September 30, 2017, one lucky person will win a Blu Ray or DVD box of “Game of Thrones”, Season 7 (similar to the image below) that will probably come out in December 2017. Please include in your mail whether you would like Blu Rays or DVDs.

To be eligible to win, you must reside in a country that Amazon delivers to. I will choose the localised version of the box from the Amazon that is closest to your country.

If you should spoil the solution in the comments to this post or to my social media posts about the contest, I will delete said comment, and you will be excluded from a chance to win. Recourse to the courts is not permitted.

Have fun, and good luck everyone!

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Game of Thrones Season 7 Recaps: Episode 7, “The Dragon and the Wolf”

Hi everyone and welcome to the seventh of the weekly episode recaps I’m doing for the new season of my favourite television series, „Game of Thrones“. These recaps contain MASSIVE SPOILERS, so please proceed with caution: DO NOT READ if you haven’t seen the episode yet and intend to do so later.

Kings Landing

The army of the Unsullied is standing in front of the city walls of Kings Landing. On top of the battlements, Bronn and Jaime are supervising the Lannister army’s preparations. In other words, both sides have taken certain precautions just in case something should go wrong with the negotiations. Bronn wonders what motivates the Unsullied, as eunuchs, to fight in the first place. He also notices that Tyrion has sided with them, to which Jaime replies that he “has always been a champion of the downtrodden”. A war horn sounds, and the Unsullied are joined by an enormous horde of Dothraki on horseback. “I think we’re about to be the downtrodden”, Bronn remarks drily.
Jon, Tyrion, Davos, Missandei, Varys, Theon and many others arrive on a ship with Targaryen sails. Jon learns that there are a million people living in the city — more than in the entire North — and wonders why anyone would choose to live that way. “There’s more work in the city”, Tyrion explains, “and the brothels are far superior”. The Hound climbs below-deck and knocks on a heavy crate. It shakes heavily and a primal scream can be heard — the wight they captured during last week’s episode must be in there.
Meanwhile, Jaime has returned to the Red Keep where Cersei is talking to Qyburn. She wonders why Daenerys is not with all the other visitors and whether Tyrion is with them, which her Hand confirms. “If anything goes wrong”, the Queen commands the Mountain, “kill the silver-haired bitch first, then our brother, then the bastard who calls himself King”.
Jon’s group is on the foot march to the Dragon Pit, and they talk about how it came to be, protecting the city from the dragons the Targaryens could not allow to roam free. Tyrion thinks that it must have been a sad joke with the last few dragons, sickly creatures smaller than dogs, but “the most dangerous place in the world” in the day and age of Balerion the Dread. “Maybe it still is”, Davos jokes because a Lannister group is approaching from the other side. Brienne and Podrick are with them; Bronn, who is leading the soldiers, explains that they arrived earlier.
Tyrion and Podrick happily greet each other until Bronn urges them to walk on: “Come on. You can suck his magic cock later.” Then, the Hound and Brienne meet again; she last saw him when she left him for dead after defeating him in a duel. When he learns that Arya is alive at Winterfell, he asks who is protecting her when Brienne is so far away. “The only one that needs protecting is the one that gets in her way”, she answers. “It won’t be me”, the Hound decides.
Tyrion renews his offer to Bronn, to pay double of whatever the other side pays him. He also thinks that Bronn put himself at risk by arranging the meeting, but the former sellsword corrects him: he actually put Tyrion at risk and delivered two traitors right to Cersei’s door; she can chop their heads off if the meeting doesn’t go too well, “all thanks to Ser Bronn of the fucking Blackwater”.
When they arrive at the Dragon Pit, Sandor warns the soldiers about the crate with the wight, which is being pulled on a donkey cart: “Anyone touches it, I’ll kill you first.”
Everyone enters the ruins of the Dragon Pit. Jaime and Cersei arrive, too, with the Mountain, several other Frankensoldiers Qyburn has obviously created, as well as regular Lannister soldiers. Qyburn and Euron Greyjoy are with them. Sandor confronts his zombie brother and promises that he’ll be coming for him.
“Where is she?” Cersei asks impatiently. A moment later, Dany arrives on Drogon’s back, accompanied by Rhaegal. She dismounts, and the dragons take off to the air again. When Tyrion wants to start the formal meeting, he’s interrupted by Euron who reminds his nephew Theon that his sister Yara is his prisoner. “I think we ought to begin with larger concerns”, Tyrion takes up the original conversation again. “Then why are you talking?” the pirate asks. “You’re the smallest concern here.”
“We are a group of people who do not like each other”, Tyrion euphemistically takes up his speech for the third time. He explains that they’re perfectly capable of waging war on each other without meeting face to face. The gathering is about something much more important, Jon explains. “The same thing is coming for all of us: a general you can’t negotiate with, an army that doesn’t leave corpses on the battlefield. Lord Tyrion tells me a million people live in this city. They’re about to become a million more soldiers in the army of the dead.” — “I imagine for most of them it will be an improvement”, Cersei jokes. She realises that Jon and Daenerys are asking for a truce during which the other armies can defeat the White Walkers. She fears that it’s all a trick and that if she agrees, the joint Targaryen/Stark armies will come back to conquer the capital. Daenerys promises that they won’t, but Cersei scornfully says: “The word of a would-be usurper.”
Instead of arguing any longer, Tyrion says that they have something to show Cersei, and the Hound brings in the crate with the wight. He opens it, but for quite a while, nothing happens. It almost looks like the things slowly cease to be animated in the South, and a smirking Cersei seems to think that they’re all taking her for an idiot. Sandor violently kicks at the crate, makes it tumble, and now the wight comes out, screaming, and lunges at Cersei, yanked back only by a heavy chain around its neck. The Hound cuts it in half with his sword, but both head/torso and hips/legs continue to move independently. Now even Cersei looks a bit worried, while Qyburn stands up and walks toward the wight with a fascinated look on his face. He picks up the thing’s moving hand that Sandor has cut off next. Jon takes it from him and sets it ablaze, demonstrating that they can be defeated by burning them or using dragonglass, which he uses to kill the wight for good. “If we don’t win the fight”, he explains, “that is the fate of any person in the world”.
Euron walks up to the ex-wight and asks: “Can they swim?” When Jon denies that, the pirate decides that he will take the Iron Fleet back to the Iron Islands: “I’ve been around the world, but this […] is the only thing I’ve ever seen that terrifies me.” And off he walks. “The crown accepts your truce”, Cersei declares, “until the dead are defeated. They are the true enemy”. In return she demands that Jon remains in the North and won’t take sides in the Lannister/Targaryen conflict: “I know Ned Stark’s son will be true to his word.” He replies: “I am true to my word, or I try to be.” Meaning exactly what he just said, he explains that he has already pledged himself to Daenerys. His true Stark heritage shines through; his allies must think that he shows exactly the same traits that got Ned killed, and Cersei walks off with all of her court, saying: “Then there is nothing left to discuss.” Brienne tries to sway Jaime: “Fuck loyalty. This goes beyond Houses and honour and oaths. Talk to the Queen.”
When the Lannisters are gone, Daenerys and Tyrion both tell Jon that they’re disappointed; Tyrion thinks that Jon should have learned to lie, while the King in the North insists that stacking lie upon lie will never build anything stable. Tyrion makes a very brave decision: he will go to the Red Keep alone and try to talk to his sister (who probably still wants him dead for murdering their father).
When he arrives, Jaime has just left her chambers because she kicked him out after not listening. “I think we should just say goodbye”, he concludes, “one idiot to another”.
“I shouldn’t be surprised”, his sister greets him in her unique style. “She’s your kind of woman: a foreign whore who doesn’t know her place.” They argue about Tyrion killing Tywin, especially because Cersei thinks that his death was what got her two remaining children killed. Tyrion lists all the thing he did that she would consider crimes and challenges her to have the Mountain kill him immediately. Interestingly enough, she won’t. Tyrion helps himself to some wine. He slowly realises that she, unlike usually, doesn’t drink any. And when she holds her belly during the ongoing conversation, he understands: “You’re pregnant.”
Jon and Dany talk about the decline of her family, for which locking up the dragons in the very place they’re standing in was just a symptom. She also repeats that she can’t have children, but he thinks that “the witch who murdered [her] husband” might not be the most reliable source of information. In any case, they conclude: “We’re fucked” because of Cersei’s decision. But right then, Tyrion comes back, and Cersei, Jaime, Qyburn and several Frankensoldiers follow him. Apparently, Tyrion has managed the unimaginable: Cersei has decided to send her armies north and to fight the dead alongside the other armies. “Call our banners”, she commands, “all of them”.

At a later day, Jaime is discussing the march north with his generals. Cersei comes in and wants a word alone with him. “I always knew you were the stupidest Lannister”, she tells him. She says that she had never planned to cooperate with the Targaryens and the Starks, but to betray them. “This isn’t about Noble Houses”, Jaime tries to argue, “this is about the living and the dead.” His sister says that she intends to stay amongst the living. “I made a promise”, Jaime says. “Let the monsters kill each other”, Cersei counters. “And then we rule.” The Queen finally reveals to her brother that Euron didn’t really run away from the fight, but he’s sailing the Iron Fleet to Essos to pick up the Golden Company. “No one walks away from me”, she concludes. A moment later, Jaime intends to do exactly that. Ser Gregor gets in his way, and just like Tyrion, he tells her to give the order if she really intends to have him killed. She doesn’t, and Jaime gets the hell out of Kings Landing on horseback to ride north and to honour his pledge. As soon as he has left the city, the first snowflakes fall. Winter has come even to the South.

Winterfell

Littlefinger is playing his favourite game: make Sansa suspicious of her family. This time about Jon and his motivation to bend the knee to Daenerys, and possibly to marry her. “He was named King in the North”, Baelish whispers to Sansa, “he can be unnamed”. When she argues that Arya would never agree to it and murder everyone who betrays her family, he once again tries to play Sansa against her sister, too: “Sometimes when I try to understand a person’s motives, I play a little game: I assume the worst.” The worst reason for Arya to come back to Winterfell could be to murder Sansa, she muses in front of Petyr.

Many days later, Sansa walks the battlements of Winterfell in a black cloak and hood and tells a guard: “Have my sister brought to the Great Hall.” There, she and Bran are sitting at the High Table when Arya is led into the Hall. Many Lords and knights are are gathered, including Littlefinger. It must look to everyone like Arya is standing trial. Baelish is smirking, and Arya asks Sansa: “Are you sure you want to do this?” — “It’s not what I want”, her sister answers. “It’s what honour demands.”
“You stand accused of murder”, Sansa continues, “you stand accused of treason. How do you answer these charges…” She takes a long break during which Petyr’s smirk intensifies. And then Sansa finishes the sentence: “Lord Baelish?” His look is surprised, shocked even, while Arya looks quite pleased and adds: “My sister asked you a question.”
Sansa clarifies that she accuses him of murdering her aunt, Lysa Arryn, as well as having conspired to poison her husband, Jon Arryn, with Lysa’s help before that. He tries to tell the Starks that Lysa was “a troubled woman”. Sansa, however, paints the whole picture of how he singlehandedly created the whole Lannister/Stark conflict, had their father murdered, and so on. “None of you was there”, he tries to tell them, but Bran tells him: “You held a knife to his [Ned’s] throat. You said, ‘I did warn you not to trust me’.” Arya goes on about the knife which was not Tyrion’s, like Baelish claimed, but his own.
Littlefinger clearly starts to feel desperate and tells Sansa that he could easily explain everything if only he could talk to her alone. She just coldly repeats his own words about assuming the worst to him. “That’s what you do”, she concludes, “turn family against family, turn sister against sister”. Baelish then tries to command Lord Yohn Royce to escort him back to the Vale, but of course the old knight just replies: “I think not.” So Petyr finally falls to his knees and begs Sansa for forgiveness. “I loved your mother since I was a boy”, he practically cries. “And yet you betrayed her”, the Lady of Winter fell answers. “I loved you!” — “And yet you betrayed me.”
With this implicit sentence, Arya steps forward and slits Littlefinger’s throat with the Valyrian Steel dagger that he once gave to the assassin he sent for Bran. He tries to say a final sentence, but then he collapses on the floor of the Great Hall.

Another few days later, Samwell, Gilly and Sam jr. arrive at Winterfell. Sam proceeds to talk to Bran immediately. He tells him that he came back to help Jon in the fight against the Night King’s army, and Bran replies that Jon is on his way back to Winterfell with Daenerys. “You saw this in a vision?” Sam asks, but Bran shows him a raven scroll. And then Sam learns the truth about Jon’s real parents: Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Since he was born in Dorne, Bran concludes that his last name should really be Sand, not Snow. But Sam remembers the information about Rhaegar’s annulment and remarriage in Dorne that Gilly found, and he concludes that Jon isn’t a bastard, but the true born heir to the Iron Throne.
Bran goes back to their wedding in a vision (we see that Rhaegar looks somewhat similar to his siblings, especially Viserys), and he confirms: “Robert’s Rebellion was built on a lie. Rhaegar didn’t kidnap my aunt or rape her. He loved her…” (cut to Jon who reluctantly knocks at Daenerys’s cabin door on the ship) “…and she loved him” (Daenerys opens the door). We also get full audio on Ned’s last encounter with his sister: “His real name is Aegon Targaryen. You need to protect him. Promise me, Ned. Promise me.” Meanwhile, in the here and now, said Aegon and his aunt Daenerys are consummating their alliance and their love. For some reason, Tyrion is walking up and down the corridor in front of the Queen’s cabin, looking very worried.
Arya and Sansa are standing on the battlements and discuss the aftermath of Littlefinger’s death. Arya tells Sansa that she did the right thing by passing the sentence on him. They have truly started to forgive and to understand each other. “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives”, Sansa quotes her father’s words. “I miss him”, Arya says. “Me too”, Sansa answers.

Dragonstone

Back from Kings Landing, Daenerys plans her next moves with her allies and advisors at her castle. She agrees to Jon’s suggestion to sail to White Harbour together instead of heeding Jorah’s advice to fly there on her own for safety reasons: “I’ve not come to conquer the North. I’m coming to save the North.”
After that, Theon talks to Jon; he thinks that back when they were young, Jon was the only one who always knew what was the right thing to do. Theon argues that choosing between Stark and Greyjoy was impossible for him, which made it hard for him to try and do the right thing. Jon says that Ned was more of a father to Theon than his own father Balon ever was, and that Ned will always be a part of him despite the fact that Theon betrayed him. “It’s not my place to forgive all of it”, Jon says, “but what I can forgive I do”. Theon then decides to go and save his sister, just like she once tried to save him when he was Ramsay’s prisoner.
When he comes down to the beach and tells the remaining Ironborn of his plan, the commander who fished him out of the water weeks ago says that “she’s dead”. They want to leave and find their own island, just like Euron said he would leave. He spits into Theon’s face and insults him once more before he starts to seriously beat him up. But he hasn’t taken two factors into account: that Theon has a remarkable tolerance for pain (from his horrible experiences at Ramsay’s hands), and that a kick in the groin won’t fell him like it does to men with intact genitals. And so Theon wins the upper hand against all odds, leaves the commander for dead and tells everyone else to set sail for Yara’s rescue.

Eastwatch

Bran watches what is happening at the eastern end of the wall, warging into a flock of ravens as usual. Tormund, Beric and some other rangers are on top of the Wall when the army of the dead steps out of the frozen forest. They come to a halt in front of the Wall, but suddenly, the Night King appears on Zombie Viserion, flies over the Wall, and the beast breathes blue fire against it. The Wall starts to crumble and to fall. The rangers run down the stairs as fast as they can, but more and more fall to their death when part of the Wall comes down. The Night King’s army marches over the ruins and invades the Seven Kingdoms.

Takeaways

  • Did anyone really think that Cersei would agree to fight alongside her enemies? Of course she betrayed everyone and plans to conquer all of Westeros while they’re distracted fighting the zombie army. What she fails to understand, of course, is that each and every fallen Stark or Lannister soldier and any civilian who has the misfortune to cross their path will be added to the Night King’s forces. By the time they reach Kings Landing, they will crush the city like an avalanche.
  • Kudos to Theon for standing up to the commander and for his brave decision to try and save his sister.
  • Even greater kudos to Jaime for finally realising what his sister has become and for walking away from their toxic relationship.
  • Jon/Aegon’s true origins have now been fully revealed, and it will be interesting to see how he and his aunt/lover/Queen will react to the news. Since Targaryens used to wed brother to sister for centuries, a relationship between aunt and nephew wouldn’t even seem incestuous to Daenerys, but what would Jon think? And how does Dany feel about only being second in the line of succession? (Not that it really matters: Jon has pledged fealty to her and will stay true to his word even under the changed circumstances, and besides it looks like they will get married and be King and Queen anyway.)
  • One thing that has been pretty obvious for some time will now definitely happen: Jon will ride Rhaegal, the dragon named for his deceased father.
  • Littlefinger’s death was the most satisfying since Joffrey’s, even more so than Ramsay’s. He took the phrase “overstaying one’s welcome” to a whole new level. It’s also remarkable how masterfully the three remaining Stark siblings staged the whole event. A nice plot twist, too — not quite of “Prisoner of Azkaban” proportions, but still great.
  • Now the army of the dead is truly upon the Seven Kingdoms, and upon the living. It will take Jon’s and Daenerys’s full attention to try and defeat them. This may have been the main reason for Tyrion’s concerned look after Jon went into Dany’s cabin: how can they celebrate their young love when everyone is doomed and needs to fight for their lives?
  • Have Tormund, Beric or any others stayed alive through the collapse of the Eastwatch part of the Wall? I guess Tormund will (we need to see these monster babies who will conquer the world, or him joining Ser Jorah’s friend zone club if Brienne should end up with Jaime or no one), but Beric was warned by the Hound that he was on his last life, which now looks like foreshadowing.
  • Speaking of the Hound: Cleganebowl was teased this season, but hasn’t happened yet. There’s still hope that it will.
  • Will Arya travel to Kings Landing, wear Littlefinger’s face and give Queen Cersei the gift (preferably after Sandor has killed his big, bad brother, for he might be too much even for Arya)? After all, we don’t have the valonqar part of the prophecy on the show, and so the showrunners could go for it. In the books, my money is still on Jaime as the Queenslayer.
  • Speaking of which: What will come out first? Season 8 or “The Winds of Winter”? I’m not sure.

Conclusion

A solid finale to an overall good season, this episode deserves another five out of five Gold Dragons. And now the Long Night comes, in which we have to wait for the last season. Reports say that they will start shooting in October and that it may take up to 10 months, so I guess the release date will be late autumn of 2018 or even winter 2018/19.

The episode also fulfilled two of my predictions from last week: 1. The dagger which was passed around between the Stark siblings was indeed used to kill Littlefinger, and of course by the person everyone would have expected to do it (a nice story arc for Arya this season: she started it killing the remaining Freys and ended it removing one of the most dangerous players from the board, by her sister’s command). 2. The Night King has indeed both flown over the Wall on Viserion’s back and brought part of it down.

That’s it for the recaps, but I’ll be back next season with more of them. There will be one more followup article with conclusions for the current and predictions for the upcoming season. During the Long Night, I also plan to rewatch all seven seasons that have been released so far, and there will be posts about them, too.

Posted in English, Game of Thrones, Review, Television | 4 Comments

Game of Thrones Season 7 Recaps: Episode 6, “Beyond the Wall”

Hi everyone and welcome to the sixth of the weekly episode recaps I’m doing for the new season of my favourite television series, „Game of Thrones“. These recaps contain MASSIVE SPOILERS, so please proceed with caution: DO NOT READ if you haven’t seen the episode yet and intend to do so later.

Eastwatch and beyond

Jon and Company are on their expedition beyond the Wall. The blizzard we saw at the end of the previous episode is gone for the moment and they make good progress while talking about this and that. Gendry who has never been to the North before is freezing while Tormund likes the fact that you can breathe there, as opposed to “down South” (Winterfell, from his point of view) where it stinks like pig shit, or so he claims. He also says that the only way to stay alive in the cold is to keep moving: “Walking’s good, fighting’s better, fucking’s best”. When Jon points out that there are no women anywhere near them, Tormund suggests that “we have to make do with what we’ve got”, getting just what he wants: a somewhat uncomfortable look on Gendry’s face.
Changing the subject, Tormund asks Jon about Daenerys. When the King in the North answers that she wants him to bend the knee before she fights with him, Tormund indirectly advises him to do so, remembering Mance Rayder: “The King-beyond-the-Wall never bent the knee. How many of his people died for his pride?”
Next, Gendry confronts the remainder of the Brotherhood without Banners because they “sold him to a witch” years ago. “A priestess”, Thoros of Myr corrects, and Beric Dondarrion adds that wars cost money. The Hound points at Beric and says that he has been killed six times, but “you don’t hear him bitching about it”.
Jorah agrees with Jon that his dead father Jeor was a good man, but he says that “he deserved a better son”. Both their fathers were honourable men who died in horrible ways, Jon says. Jorah also remembers that Ned wanted to execute him many years ago, and rightfully so, but in retrospect they’re both happy that Jorah escaped. Jon wants to give Longclaw back to Jorah, but Jeor’s son won’t accept it because he brought shame onto his house and his father was right to give it to Jon.

Later, there’s a nice little encounter between Tormund and the Hound who are both “kissed by fire” (Tormund as a redhead and Sandor in the literal sense). Tormund tells the Hound about the woman he’s in love with and is surprised that the latter knows her (and was nearly killed by her, which remains unsaid). Tormund dreams of one day having babies with Brienne: “Great big monsters — they’ll conquer the world”.
Beric remarks to Jon that they have both been brought back from the dead by the Lord of Light, and that they’re soldiers in a (supernatural) war. “What are you fighting for?” Jon asks. “Life”, the six-times-resurrected answers. “Death is the enemy, the first enemy and the last.”

During the long march, weather conditions worsen again; the blizzard is back when they see an undead polar bear. Soon enough, it charges, immediately killing one of the few additional Nights Watch men who accompanied them. It even continues to fight after Beric and Thoros set it ablaze with their flaming swords. It takes the whole group to finally defeat it, but Thoros is badly injured.

Jorah later remembers how Thoros charged through the breach on Pyke during Balon Greyjoy’s rebellion against the Starks, swinging his flaming sword and scaring the somewhat superstitious Ironborn. Thoros doesn’t remember it, or so he claims, because he was too drunk as usual.
From some height, the group sees a few of the walking dead march by, and they ask themselves where the rest of their army is. After walking down the slope, they see that it’s a small patrol, led by a single White Walker, and they attack them immediately. It’s easy enough to defeat the patrol, but it proves quite hard to capture one of them — well, alive is the wrong term, so let’s say — moving. Among other inconveniences, the thing screams very loudly, alerting the whole army of the dead. They finally manage to put a sack over its head and to bind it with rope. It’s the “gift” they plan to bring to Cersei, should they make it out of the frozen wilderness alive.
Jon tells Gendry to run back to Eastwatch as fast as he can and to send a raven to Daenerys. Tormund convinces him to give him the war hammer because he’ll be even faster without it (the fact that the Hound was seen swinging the hammer in the episode’s trailer brought some people to the conclusion that something might have happened to Gendry).
All the others start to run away as well, but they soon reach a frozen lake. The ice is too thin and cracks under their steps, but when the Night King’s army arrives behind them, they go on anyway, reaching a tiny island in the middle of the lake. When the zombie army charges, the ice breaks, and some of them fall into the frozen water. So they gather around the lake, outnumbering Jon’s men several hundred to one, but they don’t attack yet. They probably know from experience that humans cannot stay alive for long in the freezing cold, and so they can simply wait until their enemies stop breathing and join their ranks.
After a long and tiresome run, Gendry reaches Eastwatch and tells Davos that they need to send that raven.
Many hours later, the half-frozen, half-unconscious party is still sitting on the island. During the night, Thoros of Myr has succumbed to his injuries. The Hound remarks that “it” (freezing to death) is “one of the better ways to go”, unceremoniously inherits the dead alcoholic’s bag of booze and takes quite a few slugs while Beric says a prayer to the Lord of Light. “We have to burn his body”, Jon says, taking the rest of the booze from Sandor and pouring it over Thoros’s body as fuel. With his flaming sword, Beric sets the corpse ablaze.
Jorah has noticed that nearly all of the patrol fell when Jon killed the White Walker. Jon thinks that he might have been the one who turned them. Jorah suggests going after the Walkers to defeat the whole zombie army, but Jon thinks that they need to take “that thing” (the captured wight) back with them and that Daenerys is their only chance. Beric suggests that there is another, pointing at the Night King who is on horseback on the other shore: “Kill him. He turned them all.” After all, the Lord of Light must have brought Jon and himself back from the dead for another reason than to freeze to death. “Careful, Beric”, the Hound warns. “You lost your priest. This is your last life.” A Video Game of Thrones.

Again, lots of hours must have passed, probably a day or more. The Hound throws a rock at the dead men’s army in frustration, hitting a particularly rotted skeleton in the jaw. He hurls another rock that doesn’t reach the opposite shore but hits the ice instead. Now the White Walkers know that the lake has frozen enough to be crossed again. The skeleton wastes no time and walks over the ice toward the island. “Oh, fuck”, the Hound regrets his mistake while more wights follow. They start fighting the approaching corpses, and they fight bravely and relentlessly, but more and more enemies come closing in, attacking everyone. Especially Tormund is in serious trouble some time later, being pushed and pulled toward a hole in the ice and into freezing cold water by several zombies. With the help of both Jorah and Sandor, he manages to barely avoid his demise. But they will never be able to make it alive out of the endless onslaught; their cause looks truly lost.
Then, when it looks like it’s time to abandon all hope, a great beast’s war cry and an immense firestorm come to their rescue: Daenerys and her dragons have arrived. Everything looks good for the moment: the dragons set the army of the dead ablaze and instantly unfreeze the lake once more; zombies sink underwater by the thousands (but we must of course remember that they’re already dead and will always be able to come out again as soon as there is no ice).
Daenerys lands on the island with Drogon, and everyone is getting ready to climb on his back as well. While Jon fights on to allow his friends to do so, one of the White Walkers hands a very long ice spear to the Night King. The leader of the dead takes aim and thrusts the spear with all his force and, to Daenerys’s great demise, hits Viserion right below his wing. The dragon crashes down, lands on the ice and closes his eyes, dying while he slowly sinks into the lake. Jon’s men and Dany all look absolutely shocked. When Jon sees that the Night King is getting another spear ready, he shouts at the others to leave while he holds off the rest of the dead men’s army. Some wights push him into the lake, while the others fly off on Drogon’s back. Thankfully, the Night King misses with the second spear.
While the White Walkers and their army seem to leave, Jon climbs out of the water again and tries to march off even though he must be half frozen. Someone arrives on horseback, swinging a fiery mace to charge through the retreating army of the dead. Once again, Uncle Benjen (or his mortal coil, animated by the Three-Eyed Raven, in this case Bran) has come to the rescue. He puts Jon on his horse and makes them ride off, staying behind and dying for good this time, taking a few final wights with him.
At Eastwatch, Tormund and the Hound load the captured zombie into a boat and say goodbye to Beric who will stay at the Wall. Daenerys and Jorah are standing on its top while she has her dragons search for Jon. “It’s time to go, Your Grace”, Jorah says, convinced that the King in the North is dead. Suddenly, a horn is sounded. Just once, which traditionally means that rangers are returning. It’s Jon on horseback.
Everyone embarks on a ship with Targaryen sails where an unconscious Jon is put to bed and peeled out of his frozen clothes. Daenerys watches and sees his various injuries, but she looks very relieved that he has come back alive.

Jon regains consciousness, and Daenerys is sitting by his bedside. He profoundly apologises because he feels guilty of Viserion’s death. The Queen takes his hand though and still thinks that it was important for her to see the army of the dead for herself to really believe in it. “We’re going to destroy the Night King and his army”, she decides, “and we’ll do it together”. “Thank you, Dany”, Jon replies, but she never liked that nickname since her brother Viserys used to call her that. So Jon calls her “my Queen” instead and feels ready to bend the knee. As for the Northern Lords, “they’ll come to see you for what you are”. They continue to hold hands, and we cannot be sure whether the (for now metaphorical) bending of knees is meant as an oath of fealty or as a marriage proposal.

Beyond the Wall, the Night King’s army pulls the dead Viserion out of the ice with heavy chains. Upon the Night King’s touch, the dragon opens his eyes that have turned deep blue like a White Walker’s before the end credits roll.

Winterfell

Arya and Sansa are on the balcony from which Ned used to watch them when they were children. Arya remembers how the boys trained to shoot arrows, and then Bran left his bow lying there, and a single arrow in the target. So Arya started to train on her own, and when the arrow finally hit the bull’s eye, she heard clapping and saw her father standing up there, smiling. “I knew what I was doing was against the rules, but he was smiling, so I knew it wasn’t wrong. The rules were wrong.” She blames Sansa for helping the Lannisters kill Ned and shows her the letter she found in Littlefinger’s room. Sansa argues that they forced her to do it, but Arya replies that she would never have agreed to something like that, but rather be killed than betray her family. Her sister says that they told her it was the only way to save her father – “and you were stupid enough to believe it”, Arya concludes.
She remembers the day of Ned’s execution (of course Sansa had no idea that she was there), and they somewhat unfairly blame each other for not having done anything to stop the actual execution (which would not have worked with Sansa being surrounded by Lannister soldiers and Arya standing at the other end of the crowded square).
Sansa then says that Arya should actually be grateful to her because it was the Knights of the Vale who made the difference in the Battle of the Bastards, and those had come because of her. Their argument goes on, changing the subject with every sentence. Sansa, for instance, thinks that Arya would never have survived what she had to suffer, while Arya suggests to her sister that she’s probably scared the Northern Lords could read the letter and not think too much of her: “What would little Lyanna Mormont say? She’s younger than you were when you wrote this. Are you going to say: ‘But I was just a child’?”

Sansa speaks to Petyr Baelish about the letter. She’s worried that the Northern and Vale Lords and their armies are just looking for an excuse to go home, which Arya could give them if she chose to show them the message. When Baelish points out that Jon chose her to rule in his absence and that she has indeed ruled wisely and ably, which many of the Lords appreciate, she finds the fact that they might even consider betraying Jon for her even more disturbing. Littlefinger advises her to talk to Brienne concerning her suspicions about Arya. (Please note that I’m simply reporting what is said; an attempt at interpretation will follow below in the “Takeaways” section.)

The next day, Sansa receives a raven scroll, inviting her to Kings Landing. Apparently, Cersei or someone else from her inner circle wants all of the remaining Houses of the Seven Kingdoms to be present at the big meeting. Sansa decides not to go, she will not set foot in Kings Landing while Cersei Lannister is Queen. “If they want another Stark prisoner, they can come and take me.” Instead, she decides to send Brienne to the capital to represent her interests. Brienne, of course, thinks it’s not safe to leave Sansa alone with Littlefinger. Sansa says that many of her guards would just love to imprison or to behead him if he should misbehave, and she commands Brienne to be on her way immediately in order to try and arrive in time: “You won’t be travelling on summer roads.”

An undisclosed time later, Sansa sneaks into Arya’s room and starts to search through her sister’s stuff, finding a bag with faces, for example Walder Frey’s. Arya comes in, too, and they start a conversation about who the Faceless Men are and what they do, and how both of them wanted to be other people when they were younger: “You wanted to be a Queen”, Arya says, “… I wanted to be a knight”. With the faces, she explains, she can become someone else, speak with their voice and live in their skin. “I could even become you”, she says to Sansa, which sound somewhat threatening as she picks up the famous dagger while saying it. Then, however, she turns the dagger, hands it over to Sansa, hilt first, and leaves without another word.

Dragonstone

Daenerys has a talk with her Hand. She says what she likes about him is that he isn’t a hero because heroes do stupid things and get killed for them. Tyrion remarks that all the heroes she names (“Drogo, Jorah, Daario, even this — Jon Snow”) fell in love with her. Dany says that Jon isn’t in love with her, but Tyrion jokes “I suppose he stares at you longingly because he hopes for a successful military alliance”. The Queen smiles mildly, then says “he’s too little for me”, which she instantly regrets when she realises to whom she just made that careless remark.
Tyrion wants her to be a good Queen who isn’t just respected out of fear, like all the rulers before her, starting with her ancestor Aegon the Conqueror. After all, he reminds her, she promised to break the wheel, the very wheel Aegon once built.
They’re also talking about how they’re going to meet Cersei soon, in the meeting Tyrion agreed upon with Jaime who promised to hold back the Lannister army, while his brother vowed to do the same with Daenerys’s various forces. Tyrion warns her that Cersei will likely say something provocative, to which Dany must not lose her temper as she has done before — for instance recently when she executed the Tarlys instead of allowing them to “contemplate their mistakes in the solitude of a cold cell”. And Tyrion does agree that he does indeed take his family’s side: “You need to take your enemies’ side if you want to see things the way they do.”
Tyrion is curious about succession once Daenerys takes the Iron Throne: “You say you can’t have children.” He suggests other ways of choosing a successor, naming the Nights Watch and the Ironborn as examples who have an open election or a Kingsmoot, respectively. But Dany decides that they will discuss succession after she wears the crown.

When Gendry’s message arrives, Daenerys wastes no time at all — she walks straight to her dragons to fly off with them and to rescue Jon and company. Tyrion tries to convince her otherwise: “The most important person in the world can’t fly off to the most dangerous place in the world.” The Queen asks who else can, and what she should do. “Nothing”, her Hand suggests. “Sometimes nothing is the hardest thing to do.” She mounts Drogo and says: “You told me to do nothing before and I listened to you. I’m not doing nothing again.” And off she flies with her complete dragon force.

Takeways

  • The fact that Benjen shows up in the last minute to save Jon proves that Bran is really watching over his family and stepping in when necessary. But that might also be the reason why the Night King knew that Jon and his friends, and later Daenerys and her dragons, were coming. The link to Bran that the Night King created when touching him during his vision seems to work much like the mutual telepathic connection between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort.
  • What’s up with the whole Arya/Sansa/Littlefinger/Brienne dynamics? Superficially, it looks like Arya deeply mistrusts Sansa and might even be plotting to kill her sister. But as some people have rightfully pointed out, she has not only studied to be an assassin at the House of Black and White, but also to be a great actress with Lady Crane. For me, all of this looks more like a trap the sisters are setting up for Littlefinger, and the fact that Arya hands Sansa the dagger makes it clear to me that she does in fact trust her, but it also looks like she has been testing her loyalty before. I predict that this very dagger will kill Littlefinger in the season finale — you can’t pass around something that screams “I’m Chekhov’s gun, ahem, dagger” for a whole season and then not use it.
  • How will the first face-to-face meeting of the two Queens go? According to the episode 7 trailer, it will take place in the Dragon Pit of Kings Landing where Daenerys’s ancestors used to keep their dragons. A truly symbolic and historical place.
  • Jaime and Brienne are going to meet again, too.
  • The last episode of the season will be called “The Dragon and the Wolf”. Do I hear wedding bells ringing? Oh, bummer, the bells of Kings Landing were last seen crushing people when Cersei blew up the Sept.
  • Speaking of which: is there more wildfire? Will Cersei try to use it to kill all her enemies at once? And will Jaime repeat his heroic deed to step in and once again kill a Mad Ruler, even if she’s his own twin sister and lover? It would at least confirm the version of the valonqar prophecy I’ve been believing in for years. On the other hand, they never had that part of the prophecy on the show, so they can take certain liberties.
  • My prediction for the last shot of season 7 is that either the Wall will come down or that the Night King will fly over it on his new Ice Dragon’s back.
  • Maybe the Night King and Bran will struggle for control over the dragon next season. But I don’t really believe the “Bran is the Night King” rumours.

Conclusion

Many people have complained about technicalities and logistics concerning the timing of the events in this episode, claiming that running bastards, ravens and even full-grown dragons are too slow to make it to the rescue of Jon’s party in time. But this episode is so incredibly epic that suspension of disbelief will not really suffer for such petty reasons. After all, we cannot know how many days Jon’s group stayed on the island. At least long enough for Thoros to freeze to death, probably because of a major blood loss. And the rest of the patrol looks half frozen, too, when Daenerys finally arrives.
With everyone except for the Stark sisters heading to Kings Landing, we also have a great setup for the upcoming season finale.
This episode deserves another five out of five Gold Dragons, or shall we say Ice Dragons? I think the real reason people were disappointed is because they’ve come to expect more from a season’s penultimate episode — we’ve had stuff like the Red Wedding or Blackwater in previous seasons. But what’s not to like about a major battle of Ice and Fire?

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Game of Thrones Season 7 Recaps: Episode 5, “Eastwatch”

Hi everyone and welcome to the fifth of the weekly episode recaps I’m doing for the new season of my favourite television series, „Game of Thrones“. These recaps contain MASSIVE SPOILERS, so please proceed with caution: DO NOT READ if you haven’t seen the episode yet and intend to do so later.

The Battlefield

Bronn emerges from the river at the opposite bank of the battle, and he pulls Jaime out behind him, the latter still wearing his full armour and golden hand. The sellsword makes clear that he won’t let Jaime die until he gets what he wants (a castle). Jaime is quite worried about Dany’s dragons: “That was only one of them. She has two more. If she decides to […] really use them…” – “you’re fucked”, Bronn completes.

Meanwhile, Tyrion sorrowfully walks the charred battlefield while the Dothraki round up the surviving remains of the defeated Lannister army. Daenerys gives them a speech in which she once again expresses her will to destroy “the wheel”, the inevitable cycle of ruling families that “rolls over rich and poor to the benefit of no one but the Cersei Lannisters of this world”. She offers them to either switch sides or to die. Many of them bend the knee, and almost all of them after Drogon roars.
The only prominent ones who do not kneel are Randyll Tarly and his son Dickon. Randyll explains that he did in fact make a hard choice in betraying Olenna for Cersei, but that he will not support a foreign invader, her patricidal advisor and her “army of savages”. He also denies Tyrion’s suggestion to be sent to the Wall, claiming that he doesn’t accept Dany as his Queen. This leaves her no choice but to execute him. When Dickon weighs in that she will have to kill him as well, his father tries to save him by convincing him to bend the knee, but Dickon will have none of it. And so father and son die hand in hand — to Tyrion’s demise not by beheading, but burned alive by Drogon’s fire.

Kings Landing

Jaime comes home to talk to Cersei. She informs him about her plan to hire mercenaries in order to make up for their lost army. He’s not convinced because he has seen both the Dothraki and just one of three dragons in battle. Cersei asks him what to do instead: sue for peace or even have Tyrion intervene on their behalf, after he murdered both their father and son? Jaime then brings her the news that their brother had nothing to do with Joffrey’s death, and he is convinced that Olenna told the truth because Tommen was so much easier to influence than his monster brother, so if it all had played out to Olenna’s plans, she would have been the true ruler of the Seven Kingdoms through her granddaughter Margaery and her husband, the King. “So we fight and die or we submit and die. I know my choice. A soldier should know his”, Cersei concludes.

Later, Tyrion and Davos arrive at the shores of the capital so that Tyrion can secretly meet with Jaime. Meanwhile, Davos goes to Flea Bottom on his “own business”. Jaime is taken down to the basement of the Red Keep by Bronn who pretends that he will give him a round of sword training. But instead of some clumsy fighting with the wrong hand, Jaime is surprised to find his brother there. He’s still quite angry that Tyrion murdered their father, but he listens anyway. Tyrion tells him that Daenerys doesn’t even want Cersei to bend the knee for now, but that she has a more important request instead.
Meanwhile, Davos has arrived at a blacksmith’s workshop at Flea Bottom and finds Gendry! The showrunners must have noticed the hundreds of Internet memes because Davos says: “Thought you might still be rowing.” The young blacksmith found out that “the safest place is right under the Queen’s nose”. He immediately agrees to come with the old smuggler — and he will bring his weapon of choice: just like his father, King Robert Baratheon, he will be using a massive war-hammer instead of a sword.
When they’re about to embark onto the boat, Davos advises him not to mention to anyone that he’s Robert’s son. They’re surprised by two guards, and Davos is shocked to learn that the bribery rates have skyrocketed since his smuggling days: they now demand fifteen Gold Dragons per person instead of five in total. Just when they’re about to leave, Tyrion comes back, and so Gendry is forced to swing that hammer twice.

Jaime tells Cersei about his meeting with Tyrion — that Daenerys wants an armistice to fight the army of the dead first. The Queen thinks about agreeing because it might be easier to defeat Dany by plotting than by openly fighting. “Whatever will stand in our way, we will defeat it”, she echoes Jaime’s words from last season — and reveals to him that she’s pregnant. She will even openly acknowledge Jaime as the father because “the Lion does not concern himself with the opinion of the sheep”.

Dragonstone

Jon Snow is standing on the rocks in front of the castle when Dany lands, sitting on Drogon’s back. The dragon slowly approaches Jon who takes off his glove to pet the great beast’s snout, and Drogon obviously enjoys it. Daenerys watches in amazement — if Drogon approves of someone that much, he must be a good guy because “they’re not beasts to me […] they’re my children”. She tells him about the battle that she now has fewer enemies than before. She also asks Jon about that “knife in the heart” Davos talked about when they first arrived. “Ser Davos gets carried away”, the King in the North brushes it off. Before they can elaborate on it, Jorah Mormont arrives, cured from greyscale and ready to once again serve his Queen. They greet each other quite affectionately.

Still shocked about the way in which the Tarlys died, Varys is talking to Tyrion who tries to defend Daenerys’s action. He is appalled enough to drink wine, something he usually doesn’t do. It reminds him too much of Dany’s father who used to burn people alive as well, albeit without the help of dragons, making the process much slower and more painful. “I’m not the one doing it”, he used to tell himself when he was forced to watch what the Mad King did to his (alleged) enemies. He agrees that Daenerys is not her father, but that Tyrion has to severely intensify his counselling to make sure she will never be.
Jon receives a message from Bran about the Night King’s army that is slowly marching toward the Wall. He decides that he has to go home to fight them, and use just the few men he has unless Dany joins him. In order to make Cersei believe that the White Walkers are real so that even her armies join the final battle for civilisation (thus allowing Dany’s to do the same), Tyrion suggests to capture a wight and to bring him to Kings Landing. In turn, he needs to talk to Jaime first to make sure that Cersei would even allow them into the city without murdering them at first sight. Davos agrees to smuggle him in so that he can meet his brother. Meanwhile, both Jon and Jorah will lead the raid beyond the Wall. In what looks more like worry than like a command, Dany points out that she hasn’t given Jon permission to leave, which he claims he doesn’t need since he’s a King himself. He trusted her, a stranger, because he felt it would be the best chance they would have, and asks her to do the same — she reluctantly agrees.

Davos and Gendry come back, and they enter the cave in which Jon and his men are mining dragonglass. Davos once again instructs the young smith not to mention his heritage. Gendry soothes him, walks straight towards Jon — and says: “I’m Robert Baratheon’s son; bastard son”. Their meeting almost mirrors Robert’s and Ned’s at Winterfell, in season 1; they’re even teasing each other: “You’re a lot leaner”, Jon says, and Gendry replies: “You’re a lot shorter.” He decides to go to Eastwatch with them, and so he, Jon, Davos and Jorah say goodbye to Dany.

Winterfell

By way of warging, Bran sends a whole flock of ravens from Winterfell beyond the Wall. They cross at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, and soon enough find the massive army of the dead. When the Night King looks at the ravens, he startles Bran and subsequently the birds, too. Snapping out of warging mode, Bran tells Maester Wolkan that they need to send ravens through the realm, telling everyone about the approaching walking dead.

Some of the Northern Lords start to feel unrest about Jon’s prolonged absence, up to the point where some of them think they should have chosen Sansa as their Queen instead. Arya watches in disbelief and anger about what looks like Sansa’s growing sense of entitlement — her sister even moved into their parents’ old chambers. “They were insulting Jon and you sat there and listened”, Arya says. “I sat there and listened to their complaints, which is my responsibility as Lady of Winterfell”, Sansa replies. Arya also accuses her of really wanting to become Queen in the North.

Arya spies on Littlefinger because she is sure that something’s foul with him (and of course that should be the default case with that dangerous man). He thinks that he outsmarts her for the moment: he badly hides a raven message in his room, Arya sneaks into it and finds it (we can be sure that if a man like Baelish doesn’t want you to find something, you won’t be able to). The message is the one Cersei once forced Sansa to write to Robb — that he should come to Kings Landing to bend the knee in order to save his father’s life. Petyr’s intentions are clear enough: he wants Arya to become even more suspicious of her sister.

Oldtown

One of Bran’s messages arrives at the Citadel where the Archmaester and some of his old colleagues talk about it, not too favourably — they put the Three-Eyed Raven and all similar business into the realm of fairy-tales. Samwell comes in with some parchments he just finished copying and weighs in that he knows Bran who survived beyond the Wall for years despite being a cripple, something neither the Nights Watch nor the Wildlings managed to do in recent times. Sam suggests that the Citadel uses all of its authority to advise the Lords of Westeros to send their armies northwards, and that they use all of their own resources to research how to defeat the White Walkers and to end the Long Night. But the Maesters think that it could be a ploy by Daenerys to lure all armies away from the lands that they defend against her, and so they decide to do nothing of what Sam suggests. I also have to revoke my former comparison of the Archmaester to Professor McGonagall — she used to believe Harry, Ron and Hermione what they told her, no matter how strange and unusual it must have seemed to her.

One evening, Sam and Gilly are reading as usual. She reads the journal of High Septon Maynard, who was in office during the reign of King Aerys II. Sam only wants to learn how to defeat the Night King, and so he isn’t particularly interested in how many windows the Great Sept of Baelor used to have or how often the High Septon went to the privy — and so he misses the great moment when the love of his life discovers the most important information in Thrones history: that Rhaegar Targaryen had his marriage to Elia Martell annulled to marry someone else instead, in a secret ceremony in Dorne.
In any case, Sam has had it with sitting around in Oldtown, away from all the action. And so he goes on one final raid into the library, and then he, Gilly and Sam jr. leave the city to go back north.

Eastwatch

Jon’s crew arrives at the eastern end of the Wall to go on their suicide mission. They not only meet Tormund who is the commander of the castle, but also the Hound, Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr who have arrived there to help with the war against the White Walkers. Tormund is keeping them in a cell, but after some banter everyone agrees to go on the raid. Jon makes the most important remark: “We’re all on the same side: we’re all breathing.” And so they set out into a raging blizzard, quite a motley crew, the Magnificent Seven, no, Eight, of the Far North.

Takeaways

  • Many people have complained that Daenerys’s burning of the Tarlys was just as bad as what her father used to do. But let’s face it: if Alys Karstark or Ned Umber had refused to bend the knee to Jon, he would have been forced to execute them, too. He would have beheaded or hung them for want of a Dragon (who really seems to like him, doesn’t he?), and the method of execution is a mere technicality.
  • Speaking of Jon and Dany: they’re growing closer to each other by the hour; at some point, Jon was even shocked when he caught himself staring at her once again.
  • So Cersei is pregnant? Until now, the prophecy was right in everything, and it said that she would only have three children. So there are three possibilities: she lied to keep Jaime going, she will have a miscarriage or she won’t survive the next nine months.
  • Gilly’s discovery means that Jon Snow is a) not a bastard, but the true born son of Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark, and b) the rightful heir to the Iron Throne in the original Targaryen line of succession. Of course Ned, who must have known that, took the secret to the grave with him because his innocent nephew’s life was of course much more important to him than the defenceless baby’s theoretical claim to the throne. Besides, with the Mad King’s death, the Targaryen reign was over for him — he accepted and supported his old friend Robert as the new King.
  • I sincerely hope Littlefinger has underestimated Arya and will meet his end soon. Playing the Stark sisters against each other, he’s a serious threat to the North’s safety.
  • Let’s keep our fingers crossed for Jon and his merry men. The other interesting question is: if they really catch a White Walker or a mere wight, will Cersei really listen, or will she think that there’s some trickery at work? Maybe Qyburn can be useful for once and figure out how to defeat those guys more easily by studying a living, pardon, dead specimen.

Conclusion

The season just keeps getting better and more suspenseful. This episode was even better than last week’s, and it once again deserves five out of five Gold Dragons (the new unit since the faith of the seven was denounced as the official religion of the realm when Cersei blew up its central sanctuary).

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Game of Thrones Season 7 Recaps: Episode 4, “The Spoils of War”

Hi everyone and welcome to the fourth of the weekly episode recaps I’m doing for the new season of my favourite television series, „Game of Thrones“. These recaps contain MASSIVE SPOILERS, so please proceed with caution: DO NOT READ if you haven’t seen the episode yet and intend to do so later.

Highgarden

A very long line of Lannister soldiers is marching back from Highgarden to Kings Landing, bringing home the Tyrells’ gold to pay the Lannister’s debts to the Iron Bank, as well as supplies they took as tribute from the local farmers. Jaime opens the carriage that is full of gold and hands a big bag of gold to Bronn who can’t help but notice that Jaime looks somewhat gloomy. Of course he doesn’t know that Jaime was just reminded of Joffrey’s death in the most unpleasant way possible, but inadvertently, he almost guesses right: “The Queen of Thorns gave you one last prick in the balls before saying goodbye?” Besides, he thinks that all the gold doesn’t really pay for his service; he’s still after a castle. Jaime reminds him that “the more you own, the more it weighs you down” (and as a son of Westeros’s richest family he should know what it feels like to own a lot).

Kings Landing

Tycho Nestorys is surprised how Cersei is actually managing to pay all the debts at once (which is in fact pretty easy when you just went full Rains of Castamere on Westeros’s second richest family). Tycho isn’t too pleased, though, because the full payback actually causes his institution to lose a lot of interest payments, and of course he offers a followup loan. Cersei could indeed use that since she asked Qyburn to make “overtures” to the Golden Company, an elite mercenary company over in Essos.

The North

Littlefinger has a very interesting gift for Bran: the Valyrian Steel dagger that the assassin used when he tried to kill the unconscious Bran in Season 1, stopped by Catelyn and then by Bran’s now deceased direwolf, Summer. Baelish also claims that he will always be their to protect the Stark children since he wasn’t able to save their mother whom he used to be in love with. He tells Bran that the question whom the dagger belonged to started the War of the Five Kings, and bemoans all the “chaos in the world”. Bran loses no time and throws Petyr’s own words from the great monologue in the Season 3 finale back at him: “Chaos is a ladder.” Littlefinger tries — a little too hard — not to twitch.
Next up, Meera Reed comes to say goodbye to Bran. She finds his rather emotionless “thank you” a bit weak: “My brother died for you. Hodor and Summer died for you. I almost died for you.” So he tells her his secret: “I’m not really [Bran] any more.” Meera concludes: “You died in that cave” and leaves in tears.
Then we see Winterfell from afar, in the Snow. Arya is on her horse, looking at her home. Next up, she’s at the gate, and the guards don’t believe a word of what she says (much like the guards of the Red Keep in Season 1), especially because she doesn’t have current information; she cannot know that both Rodrik Cassel and Maester Luwin are dead. They have a nice bit of back and forth until Arya has had enough: “I’m getting into this castle one way or another. If I’m not who I say I am, I won’t last long, but if I am and Sansa finds out you turned me away…” She doesn’t have to finish the sentence; the guards let her into the courtyard. Of course, while they quarrel over who will stay and watch her and who will go tell Sansa, Arya is gone. So they both go to Sansa and promise her to find the “intruder”. She just smiles and replies that she knows where Arya is.
And so, after all those years, the two sisters meet in the crypts. “You shouldn’t have run from the guards”, Sansa says after their hug. “I didn’t run”, Arya replies, “you need better guards.” She also complains about their father’s statue in the crypts: “It should have been carved by someone who knew his face.” Besides, she says she was angry when she heard that someone else got the chance to kill Joffrey: “No matter how long my list grows, he was always first.” Sansa is somewhat bewildered when she learns that her sister has that kill list, and at first she tries to shrug it off as a joke.
Even though Bran claims that he isn’t himself any more, he does hug Arya back, and he checked in on her as he seems to do with all family members: “I saw you at the crossroads.” He suspected that she might go to Kings Landing (which was in fact what she had planned before she had learned that Winterfell was taken back by its rightful resident family) because “Cersei is on her list of names”. Now even Sansa has to admit that said list is in fact real. Arya and Sansa notice the dagger Littlefinger gave to Bran. “He’s not a generous man”, Sansa says, “he wouldn’t give you anything unless he thought he would get something back”. Which doesn’t matter, according to Bran, because it’s of no use to him, and so he gives it to Arya.

A few days later, Arya sees Brienne training Podrick at swordplay in the courtyard. Arya wants a round of her own since the Master-at-Arms didn’t beat the Hound, unlike Brienne. Soon enough, a very fine swordplay sequence ensues, ending in a draw. “Who taught you how to do that?” Brienne asks quite surprised. “No one”, Arya answers. The subsequent exchange of stares between Arya and Littlefinger, who has watched from the balustrade with Sansa, is quite interesting — Arya clearly looks threatening while he cannot fully hide a bit of fear.

Dragonstone

Daenerys and Missandei are walking down the long staircase from the castle to the beach. The Queen’s trusted advisor is worried about Grey Worm who hasn’t returned from Casterly Rock yet. Daenerys tries to soothe her and also asks about the relationship her and the eunuch officer: “What happened?” Missandei just replies: “Many things.”
At the bottom of the stairs, they meet Jon Snow who has been waiting for them. He leads them into the cave where they’re mining for dragonglass. Walking on with the Queen alone, he shows her ancient carvings made by the Children of the Forest. The pictures tell the story of how they were in that very cave together with the First Men, overcoming their differences and bonding against their common enemy: the White Walkers. Interestingly we know from one of Bran’s visions that the Night King himself was created by the Children who pierced a mortal man’s heart with dragonglass in order to fight the First Men. It looks like they weren’t able to control him in a kind of “the spirits that I called” fashion and had to ask their former enemies for help. “We need to do the same if we’re gonna survive”, Jon tells Dany. “I will fight for you”, she decides, but of course she keeps insisting that he bends the knee. It will be interesting to see who of them falters first, especially as it looks like they’re slowly warming up to each other.
Right when they come out of the cave, Tyrion and Varys are there and inform them that the Unsullied have conquered Casterly Rock. What sounds like good news is in fact just Jaime’s trap they ran into, and so Dany soon is furious: “All my allies are gone!” Tyrion tries to convince her that besieging Kings Landing is still the right plan, but she’s had it. “Enough with the clever plans”, she declares, looking at her dragons who are circling over the sea. She wants to fly to the Red Keep and to confront Cersei herself, but first she asks Jon for his council. He says that by hatching dragons, she made something impossible happen, and that people may hope for her to make other impossible things happen, especially to build a better world “than the shit one they’ve known.” By burning cities and castles, however, she would only prove that she is no better but just more of the same.

When Daenerys is gone, Davos asks Jon what he thinks of the Queen. “She has a good heart”, the King in the North replies, which makes his Hand joke: “I’ve noticed you staring at her good heart”. Missandei asks Jon whether his alleged father and he don’t share a last name. When learning why, she explains that they don’t have marriage in Naath, which makes the concept of bastards unknown to them. She also makes clear that everyone who followed Dany from Essos did so out of their own free will, choosing her as their Queen because they believe in her.
While they’re all standing at the shore, a Greyjoy ship arrives. It’s the one that saved Theon. The confrontation between the latter and Jon is not too friendly because the King cannot simply forgive what Theon did to his family. The only reason he doesn’t kill him right away is that he saved Sansa from Ramsay. Theon has come to tell the Queen that his sister Yara was taken prisoner by their uncle Euron. Jon replies that “the Queen is gone”.

The scene switches to the Lannister Army, most of whom have already crossed the Blackwater — we learn that especially the gold has made it through the gates of the Red Keep. Randyll Tarly suggests flogging stragglers to speed up the rest of the process, but Jaime proves once again to be the better man by suggesting to “give them fair warning first”. Bronn has his “Bronn moment” when he laughs about Dickon Tarly’s first name (and the latter doesn’t even go full Draco Malfoy about it). The latter didn’t expect war to smell that bad, but of course Bronn tells him that “men shit themselves when they die”.

All of a sudden, a horde of Dothraki on horseback can be heard, and soon also be seen all over the horizon. The remaining Lannister force hastily forms a line of defence. But they have no chance against the mightiest weapon that also approaches: Daenerys on Drogon’s back. The large dragon has been compared to a fighter jet attacking a medieval army by many commenters — he quickly burns an opening into the line of defence so that the Dothraki can easily overrun their opponents. One must admit that the Lannister army fights bravely, but they don’t really stand a chance against the superior numbers.
Meanwhile, Dany makes Drogon burn down the long trek of supplies — this will probably make the siege on Kings Landing much quicker.
Finally, Jaime decides to use the scorpion device Qyburn has built to shoot the Targaryen Air Force out of the sky. With his one hand, he cannot use it himself, and so Bronn gets his chance at being Bard the Bowman. Before he even gets there, he loses both his horse and his bag of gold.
Tyrion is standing on a hill with several Dothraki. One of them says in his mother tongue: “Your people don’t know how to fight”. We don’t know whether Tyrion understands it; his sullen look may well be due to the horror of the battle he has to witness.
Bronn’s second shooting attempt succeeds. Drogon doesn’t die, but he’s forced to perform an emergency landing and destroys the scorpion once he has done so. When Dany tries to pull the scorpion bolt out of her child’s hide, Jaime gets desperate and charges at her with a spear. He must truly be afraid that she will burn the city to the ground, just like her father whom he once killed to prevent just that. “Flee, you idiot”, Tyrion mutters under his breath, watching his brother on that suicide mission. Drogon turns around and breathes fire, but in the very last moment, someone (probably Bronn) arrives on another horse, shoves Jaime off his, and they both fall into the water. The episode ends with Jaime slowly sinking to the ground due to the weight of his armour and his golden hand.

Takeaways

  • So Cersei wants to hire the Golden Company. In the books, they were founded by Blackfyre (a bastard branch of House Targaryen) loyalists who had fled to Essos after a failed coup d’état. They have never broken a contract before we meet them, but now they do because they support a young boy called Aegon. That boy, who posed as the son of exiled knight Jon Connington, is believed by some to be the elder son of Rhaegar Targaryen (who was switched with a peasant boy before the Mountain killed Aegon’s sister and said boy). Many readers, myself included, believe that he isn’t really Aegon VI Targaryen, but a Blackfyre because that would be the only reason for the Golden Company to break a contract for him. (He might be the son of Illyrio Mopatis and his deceased wife, Serra, whose description fits with the features of a Targaryen or Blackfyre.) Now, I don’t think that they will introduce Aegon, fake or not, at the eleventh hour of the show. In the show, the Golden Company might willingly fight for Cersei out of their contempt towards Targaryens in general and the current one, Dany, in particular. I have a crazy idea who might have ended up among their ranks: Gendry! He could have rowed from Dragonstone to Essos, joined them as a blacksmith and kept a low profile for a few years. Maybe they even support his claim for the throne as Robert’s last living heir (and stick the finger to Cersei), but in any case I think we’re going to meet him among them.
  • Jaime will probably survive, or at least I hope so. The Internet is speculating about the person who saved him. I’m pretty sure it was Bronn, but some think it was Dickon Tarly or even Tyrion (which is ridiculous because the person was way too tall).
  • Did the Tarlys survive the battle? And is that of any consequence anyway?
  • And of course: is Littlefinger finally out of tricks, or will he pull something new and unexpected out of his sleeve?

Conclusion

At just 47 minutes, this was thee shortest episode not only of the current season, but of the series as such. And it was quite intense, especially the dragon action battle at its end. Once again, I have to give it the full five out of five seven-pointed stars. Besides, I may have to find a new unit. As Jaime and Bronn correctly pointed out at the beginning of the episode, there is no more High Septon – and even the window of the throne room in the Red Keep now sports a Lannister Lion instead of the ancient symbol of the faith.

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Game of Thrones Season 7 Recaps: Episode 3, “The Queen’s Justice”

Hi everyone and welcome to the third of the weekly episode recaps I’m doing for the new season of my favourite television series, „Game of Thrones“. These recaps contain MASSIVE SPOILERS, so please proceed with caution: DO NOT READ if you haven’t seen the episode yet and intend to do so later.

Dragonstone

Jon and Davos arrive at Dragonstone. At the shore, they are greeted by Tyrion, Missandei and several Dothraki whom they reluctantly hand their weapons upon Missandei’s request. On the long ascent, Tyrion and Jon talk about the former’s sham marriage to Sansa. “She’s much smarter than she lets on”, Tyrion remarks, to which Jon replies: “She’s starting to let on”. The Hand of the Queen also says that he would have advised Jon not to come if he were his Hand because “Stark Men don’t fare well when they travel south”. Right after saying he isn’t a Stark (but of course unaware who he really is), Jon ducks quickly because one of the dragons is flying closely over him. So, just like in the books, there is no automatic “I’m a Targaryen, I like them and they like me” notion.
Meanwhile, Melisandre says goodbye to Varys; she is about to travel to Volantis and will not meet Jon and Davos again, which would be very awkward anyway, given their last parting. She’s also convinced that she has done her part in bringing “ice and fire together”, unaware that Jon himself already is both. She reveals to Varys that she will be back because they both will have to die in the “strange land” of Westeros.
When Jon enters Dany’s throne room, Missandei enumerates the Queen’s various titles, to which Davos rather awkwardly replies: “This is Jon Snow… he’s King in the North”. In the following direct conversation between Jon and Daenerys, both stand their ground — the Queen insists that he bends the knee to become Warden of the North like his ancestors, while he insists that the old order was cancelled by her father, Mad King Aerys, when he burned Jon’s grandfather and uncle alive. From that low point, the conversation does get a little better. Jon isn’t here to play games of thrones but to convince the new Queen to fight the real enemy with him: the Army of the Dead. Even Tyrion has a hard time to believe a word of it, but he must admit that he doesn’t take Jon for a liar or a madman.
Dany descends from her throne to look him in the eye, and she tells him how she survived numerous assassination attempts and all kinds of dishonour: “Faith – not in any gods, or myths, or legends, but in myself”. To which Davos replies that the King in the North is being believed in by those who named him King, just like the men of the Nights Watch chose him as their leader before. He argues that Jon fought the things Dany doesn’t believe in for the good of his people, but he stops at “he took a knife to his heart for his people, he gave his own l…”, realising too late what he said. Dany concludes that by declaring himself King in the North, he’s in open rebellion to her, the “rightful Queen of the Seven Kingdoms”.
Before she can elaborate on a conclusion to that, Varys comes in and whispers something in her ear. We can assume that it’s the bad news of Yara’s sunken fleet and of her uncle Euron capturing her and the Dornish Ladies. The composure Dany shows is royal as always; she will never admit any weakness in front of strangers. Instead, she offers them baths and meals before she excuses herself. “Am I your prisoner?”, Jon asks the leaving Queen, to which she replies: “Not yet.”

Later, Jon and Tyrion meet at the shore, where Tyrion tells the King in the North that he does in fact believe him about the White Walkers: “I trust the eyes of an honest man more than I trust what everybody knows”. Tyrion has no idea how to convince Dany to help Jon fight an enemy she has never seen and probably doesn’t believe in. He’s full of self doubt anyway because he was unable to predict the Greyjoy attack. But being a good advisor, he still wants to make the unlikely deal between his Queen and Jon Snow happen, seeking common ground (“She protects people from monsters, just like you”) and asking Jon whether there’s something he can do, something that’s in his power. Well, there is in fact something: Tyrion is next seen trying to convince Dany of allowing Jon to mine the cache of dragon glass under the castle. This turns out difficult because the Queen seems to question his advice more than she used to. She even sees through his usual “a wise man once said” quotes (in this case: “You should never believe a thing just because you want to believe it”), thinking he’s masking his own words as historic wisdom. His answer is true Tyrion again: “I would never do that… to you”.
In her next scene with Jon, Daenerys behaves a bit more diplomatic than before, seeking common ground with him, like dead brothers. There’s also that little gem of an exchange in which Jon says that Tyrion “enjoys talking”, to which Dany replies: “We all enjoy what we’re good at”. Jon disagrees: “I don’t”. (He said he was done fighting after his resurrection, and yet he has hardly spent a week without continuing to do so.) Daenerys has also decided that she will allow him to mine dragon glass.

In the war council, Dany decides to go after Euron’s fleet with her dragons, but her advisors do not approve it. They talk about the attack on Casterly Rock, which is shown during Tyrion’s speech about it. However, it proves far easier than Tyrion thinks from afar, even though he built a secret entrance while Tywin had made him overseer of the castle’s sewers. The Unsullied take the Rock easily because there aren’t nearly as many men as Tyrion expected. And as soon as the Unsullied have taken the castle, their fleet is burnt down. Grey Worm asks a dying Lannister soldier where the main force is.

Instead of an answer, we see Jaime, Bronn and the traitor Randyll Tarly lead a massive army to Highgarden, which falls and will provide the Queen with the means to pay back the debt to the Iron Bank. Lady Olenna calmly watches the whole affair from her tower chamber. When the Lannister army has won, Jaime enters her chamber alone. They talk about Joffrey (“He really was a cunt, wasn’t he?”, Olenna says) and about his dear mother who is “a monster, you know that”. She even goes as far as concluding: “She’s a disease. I regret my role in spreading it. You will, too”. He is decent enough to allow her to drink poison instead of having Cersei find new and creative ways to torture her. After drinking the whole glass of poisoned wine, she reveals the final, painful truth to Jaime: that it was her who poisoned his son (her words; she knows exactly who Joffrey’s father was). The episode ends with Olenna saying “Tell Cersei. I want her to know it was me”, Jaime blinking away tears and leaving the room, and “The Rains of Castamere” playing.

Kings Landing

In the aftermath of Euron’s attack, Theon is fished out of the sea by the crew of a ship, one of the very few of his sister’s ships that survived the sea battle. He tells them that Yara was taken alive. Next we can see Euron parade her, Ellaria and her daughter through the streets of Kings Landing. The people enjoy the show, cheering him on and throwing stuff and insults at the captured women. He rides into the Red Keep’s throne room on horseback, just like Tywin way back in season 3 (his horse doesn’t shit into the aisle like Tywin’s though). So the gift he has for Cersei are Ellaria and the surviving Sand Snake. Cersei is impressed and promises him what his heart desires (her hand in marriage) “when the war is won”. Of course, the crazy pirate can’t miss yet another chance to insult Jaime, asking him for sex advice about his lover and twin sister. At this point, Cersei’s and Jaime’s special relationship must be the worst kept secret of the Seven Kingdoms.
Next up, Cersei is in the dungeons to dish out punishment, or rather revenge, to Ellaria. She has decided to give the temporary ruler of Dorne a taste of her own medicine by poisoning her daughter, just like Ellaria murdered hers. Mother and daughter are tied to opposite walls, just out of reach of each other, and the mother will be forced to watch her daughter’s agonising death.
In the following scene, we can see how much of a Mad Queen in the image of Aerys II Targaryen Cersei has become: it is said about the Mad King that burning people alive used to sexually arouse him. Likewise, Cersei walks straight into Jaime’s chambers after punishing Ellaria and the Sand Snake. In a reversal of roles from the scene in the Sept in season 4, it’s Jaime who says no, which Cersei ignores. Later, she opens the door to her knocking handmaiden because “I’m the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, and I do as I please”. Since said handmaiden has been in her service for years (but adopted the Queen’s new hairstyle), we can assume that she doesn’t gossip too much, but at this point, Cersei doesn’t really care either way.
Tycho Nestorys, everyone’s favourite clerk of the Iron Bank of Braavos (portrayed by Mark Gatiss) is back, reminding Cersei of the crown’s considerable debt to his institution. After some back and forth, she assures him that the debt will be paid off in a fortnight because she is very sure of something that we will learn later in this episode.

The North

At Winterfell, Sansa proves to be a very capable leader, making sure that everyone will remain fed and warm during the upcoming long winter. She has also stopped to listen to Littlefinger, even though not all of his advice is bad. He encourages her to “fight every battle always, everywhere in your mind”, but we can see that she has started to do so some time ago — against him, among other people. He also allows insight into how his own mind works: “Everyone is your enemy, everyone is your friend. Every single possible series of events is happening, all at once. Live that way and nothing will surprise you”.
Bran and Meera arrive at Winterfell. Sansa notices quickly that he is emotionally distant, which makes sense because his mind is overloaded with an endless supply of events, past and present. He truly is the Three-Eyed Raven but he hasn’t fully adapted to it yet. And of course he “can never be Lord of anything”, refusing his rightful place as Lord of Winterfell. He gives her a glimpse into how much he can see by reminding her of the most horrible experience of her life: her wedding to Ramsay Bolton.

Oldtown

The Archmaester examines Jorah and finds out that the greyscale has disappeared. He seemingly plays along with Jorah’s version that it must have been “the rest and the climate” that cured him, but of course he doesn’t believe it for a single moment and asks Sam to come to his study in the evening. Jorah and Samwell bid each other a warm farewell.
Next, the Archmaester scolds Sam for trying to cure Jorah, and at the same time he commends him for achieving it. Then he goes on to assign the equivalent of writing “I must listen to the Archmaester” a hundred times or more often to him, in the form of old, rotting manuscripts that need to be copied. If he resembles any teacher figure from fiction, it would be Minerva McGonagall. (And maybe the manuscripts are even interesting or useful, and the Archmaester is really doing Sam a favour while making it look like punishment.)

Takeaways

  • Will Dany and her three children warm up to Jon’s northern charms? So far, their conversations have been a little chilly, but it’s interesting to see how proud they both are and how they have been standing their ground.
  • We can look forward to seeing some dragon battle action soon enough — it’s the only way Daenerys can hope to turn the tide in the war. So far she’s looking like the loser; all of the great plans she made in last week’s episode have failed, except for taking Casterly Rock, but the Lannisters managed to turn even that into a pyrrhic victory.
  • Where was Arya in this episode? She’s on her way to Winterfell now, so we can hope for an even greater Stark reunion next episode.
  • The good people of Kings Landing seem to enjoy whatever show is offered to them. It makes no difference to them whether it’s a naked Cersei walking through the city by the command of religious fanatics, or three women being paraded through the streets by a pirate.
  • Jaime must be near the point of snapping — first that impertinent pirate Euron Greyjoy is threatening to take Cersei away from him in the most unsubtle manner imaginable, and then Olenna reveals to him how his son Joffrey really died.
  • The final exchange between Jaime and Olenna may be one of the greatest in Thrones history; the incredible Diana Rigg and the equally fantastic Nikolaj Coster-Waldau deliver the performance of their lifetimes.

Conclusion

This was the best episode of the new season so far. Finally, after more than six seasons, Jon and Dany have met, and it’s interesting to see these two we have known individually for such a long time interact. This episode deserves the full 5 out of 5 seven-pointed stars, even though I’m sure that there will be even greater things coming up.

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Game of Thrones Season 7 Recaps: Episode 2, “Stormborn”

Hi everyone and welcome to the second of the weekly episode recaps I’m doing for the new season of my favourite television series, „Game of Thrones“. These recaps contain MASSIVE SPOILERS, so please proceed with caution: DO NOT READ if you haven’t seen the episode yet and intend to do so later.

Dragonstone

Tyrion, who famously remained silent in last week’s episode, the first time to do so since he appeared on the show, has one of the first important lines, discouraging Daenerys from taking the direct approach: “Conquering Westeros would be easy for you, but you’re not here to be Queen of the Ashes.” Varys puts in a history lesson about her father and Robert Baratheon after Dany questions his loyalty: “There have been few rulers in history as cruel as the Mad King. Robert was neither mad nor cruel; he simply had no interest in being King.” He assures Daenerys that he will be the best advisor she can ever hope to have: “The one the Realm needs. Incompetence should not be rewarded with blind loyalty.” Melisandre arrives at Dragonstone, discussing the possibility that Dany might be “The Prince that was promised” from the prophecy (Missandei points out that the Valyrian word has no gender; it can easily mean both Prince or Princess). Both Melisandre and Tyrion advise the Queen to ally with Jon Snow. Dany agrees. “Send a raven north”, she says to Tyrion. “Tell Jon Snow that his Queen invites him to come to Dragonstone – and bend the knee.”

In a war council, Yara Greyjoy and Ellaria Sand try to convince Daenerys to attack Kings Landing at once with their joint fleets and the dragons. Tyrion dislikes the proposal, claiming tens of thousands of innocents would die. When Ellaria counters that “it’s called war”, he reminds her how she poisoned his innocent niece Myrcella. “She was a Lannister. There are no innocent Lannisters”, she says to Tyrion, still grief-stricken about her lover Oberyn’s death as Tyrion’s champion in the trial by combat. Dany reminds her, however, that he’s also Hand of the Queen and has to be treated with respect. She will not attack Kings Landing because she’s “not here to be Queen of the Ashes.” Instead, she decided to follow Tyrion’s plan to lay siege to the capital – without Dothraki and Unsullied (because Cersei could use that to appeal on Westerosi patriotism), but with the combined Tyrell and Martell armies; the latter will be shipped to the capital by Yara’s fleet. Meanwhile, the Unsullied will conquer the Lannisters’ ancestral seat, Casterly Rock. All three Ladies – Yara Greyjoy, Ellaria Sand and Olenna Tyrell – eventually agree to the plan.

In a private conversation afterwards, Olenna tells her that she outlived many clever men by ignoring them. “The Lords of Westeros are sheep. Are you a sheep? No, you’re a Dragon. Be a Dragon.”

Missandei and Grey Worm say goodbye to each other because he will sail off to Casterly Rock the next day. He declares his love for her by saying that she is his weakness – unlike any other Unsullied (who are subjected to brutal “therapies” to either overcome their fears or die in the process) he never was afraid of anything until he met her. In the first intimate scene of the new season, they act upon their mutual love despite the fact that Grey Worm was castrated at a young age, like all Unsullied. But the very tasteful scene shows that true love knows more than one way.

When Yara’s fleet has sailed off, she can be seen drinking and then making out with Ellaria. They don’t get anywhere before their fleet is being attacked by Uncle Euron’s. The first real battle of the new season breaks loose, and for the first time, we’re getting a taste of the crazy pirate who was promised. He slaughters sailor after sailor while laughing happily, and also kills two of the three Sand Snakes. The third one and Ellaria are captured alive by his men. We also witness live how Euron cuts someone’s tongue out, something he has allegedly done to all of his crew (who never talk, in line with that claim). When he finally captures Yara herself and holds a knife to her throat, her brother Theon snaps back into Reek mode, with the fearful look upon his face. He cannot hope to help Yara, and so he jumps over board, followed by his uncle’s maniacal and very amused laughter. The episode ends with him in the water, looking at the burning remains of the sunken fleet and Euron sailing off.

The North

Tyrion’s message arrives (and is nothing like the one Dany asked him to write). Jon, Sansa and Davos consider the options: should Jon go and meet the new Queen, or should they stay at Winterfell?

Then a raven arrives from the Citadel with a message by Samwell, telling Jon about the mountain of dragon glass under Dragonstone. This convinces him to go there for real with Davos, to mine the dragon glass and to ask Dany for assistance in the war against the White Walkers. For once, even Lady Lyanna Mormont agrees with the other Lords; they all think he shouldn’t go there because they think it’s a trap, “a Targaryen can’t be trusted”. Lyanna adds that they need the King in the North to stay in the actual North. Sansa, too, isn’t too fond of the idea, until Jon assures her that he’s going to leave Winterfell in good hands: hers. This earns another smirk from Littlefinger, who is subsequently down in the crypts with Jon. He tries to assure the King that he is not one of his “many enemies”. But when he says that he loves “Sansa as I loved her mother”, Jon confronts him, almost exactly mirroring Ned’s “You’re a funny man” moment from way back in the first season. “Touch my sister, and I’ll kill you myself”, he swears.

Kings Landing

Queen Cersei tries to win over more allies, including sworn Tyrell Bannerman Randyll Tarly. He reminds her and all the summoned Lords that Dany has three dragons, “the same as Aegon when he conquered the Seven Kingdoms”. Qyburn assures him and everyone else that they’re working on a solution. Jaime pulls him aside and tries to convince him to be the principal General in the coming war. Randyll is very reluctant because his oath to House Tyrell means something to him as it always has for his family. Jaime tries to depict Daenerys’s army as “foreign savages” and finally appeals on Randyll’s ambition: “When the war is won, the Queen will need a new Warden of the South, and I can think of no better man than Randyll Tarly.” This will be interesting, given the fact that his Liege Lady agreed to helping the other side.

In the dungeons below the Red Keep, Qyburn and Cersei look at the dragon skulls and talk about how to defeat a dragon. Qyburn uncovers a device and asks Cersei to pull a lever. Surprisingly, the spear that is released with full force easily runs through the skull of Balerion the Dread, Aegon’s largest and most dangerous dragon.

Oldtown

The Archmaester is convinced that Jorah’s greyscale is far too progressed to be stopped – and indeed we can see that it now covers half his chest. “You should have cut off your arm before the infection spread”. The next day, he says, a ship will take Jorah to the ruins of Old Valyria to live out the rest of his life with the Stone Men. During the conversation, Sam learns that his last name is Mormont.

Later in the Library, Samwell tells the Archmaester that he may have found a way to cure Jorah in the works of Archmaester Pylos. His modern-day successor is aware of the procedure but also states that it has been forbidden since because it is too dangerous: Pylos himself died of greyscale.

At night, Jorah spends what he thinks of as his last night in civilisation to write a letter to Daenerys, when Sam comes into his room with a trolley full of medical supplies. He makes the knight drink a lot of rum because the procedure will be painful. It consists of removing all of the infected tissue and then applying some ointment. It is incredibly painful, but Jorah must not scream for fear of the forbidden treatment to be discovered. It also looks quite disgusting.

The Riverlands

In a tavern, Arya meets her old friend Hot Pie who is treating her with a very tasty, well, hot pie. She compliments him because it’s much better than the ones she prepared recently (and she doesn’t go into details of their main ingredients). When she learns from him that the Boltons are dead, defeated by Jon who is now King in the North, she postpones her Queen-killing plans and decides to ride north instead. Hot Pie keeps calling her “Arry”, but also concludes: “I can’t believe I took you for a boy — you’re pretty.”

Resting in the woods and shivering by a small campfire, she notices that her horse is growing more and more restless. Soon, they are surrounded by a large pack of wolves. It looks somewhat menacing until the alpha arrives, a huge direwolf: Nymeria! They haven’t met since the season 1, when Arya had to chase her wolf off to avoid her being killed by Cersei (who then had Sansa’s direwolf Lady killed instead). When Nymeria refuses to come with her, Arya decides: “It’s not you.” She sounds somewhat sad when she says that.

Takeaways

  • The meeting of Jon and his aunt Daenerys is now well under way, but Jon left Winterfell before Bran arrived there. This means he has no idea they’re related. How will it play out?
  • The conflict of interest Randyll Tarly is heading into will be interesting: the Lannisters asked him to switch allegiance (or to support the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms) while his Liege Lady wants his armies to lay siege upon Kings Landing. He doesn’t know the latter yet, but a message will probably wait for him once he arrives back at Horn Hill. Also, in this episode we learned that there’s more to him than the racist asshole we met last season – he’s a loyal bannerman (“I’m a Tarly […] We are no plotters and schemers”) and a competent military leader, too.
  • Randyll’s son Samwell has meanwhile proven beyond all doubt that he is one of the bravest people in Westeros: he knows full well that he could be killed by greyscale (“or worse, expelled”, my inner Hermione Granger whispers) if he applies Archmaester Pylos’s cure to Jorah, but he still goes along with it. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that he will be rewarded for his bravery and not attract the disease himself.
  • Now that Jon has left Winterfell and Sansa is in charge, will Baelish plan his ultimate move on her, in terms of relationship and/or power? And if so, how will she respond? Is she finally fed up with him?
  • What will happen if Bran arrives during Jon’s absence and tells Sansa about Jon’s true parentage. He is half a Targaryen, after all, and many Northern Lords believe that this family “cannot be trusted”.
  • One of the greatest differences between books and show is finally confirmed: while all Stark children are wargs in the novels, only Bran seems to be one on the television series: Arya cannot really communicate with her former direwolf Nymeria. Or is her wolf simply as stubborn as she is and will make her own decisions?
  • When Euron sails away, someone is pierced by a spike on the ship’s bow (Ellaria? The last of the Sand Snakes?) and someone else is hanging from it. I don’t know whether anyone has properly identified them, but it might be important.
  • Has Theon switched back into Reek mode for good, or has he made the right decision, knowing that he couldn’t possibly help Yara aboard the ship? Could he plan to get help and be able to do it?
  • Will Qyburn’s device shoot a living dragon from the sky? On the one hand, it is strong enough to pierce a dragon’s skull, but on the other hand, a flying dragon is incredibly fast. It will be interesting to see the outcome of this.

Conclusion

More and more wheels are being set in motion for the upcoming wars, and we were treated to the first battle, and it looked fantastic. We also got the first taste of Uncle Euron’s alleged brutality and madness. And finally, there were two very heartwarming but bittersweet reminiscences of season 1: Jon confronting Littlefinger Ned-style, and Arya meeting Nymeria again. This episode has once again earned four out of five seven-pointed stars: all in all it was great, but some parts feel a bit rushed while others take too much time. Extra kudos for the cut from the very graphic greyscale treatment to someone cutting a meat pie in the tavern.

Posted in English, Fantasy, Game of Thrones, Review, Television | 2 Comments

Game of Thrones Season 7 Recaps: Episode 1, “Dragonstone”

Hi everyone and welcome to the first of the weekly episode recaps I’ll be doing for the new season of my favourite television series, “Game of Thrones”. These recaps contain MASSIVE SPOILERS, so please proceed with caution: DO NOT READ if you haven’t seen the episode yet and intend to do so later.

The Riverlands

The new season starts with a cold opening, and we first think it’s a flashback. Old Walder Frey, who was killed by Arya Stark in the season 6 finale, is in his Hall, giving a feast for his large family. He is also delivering a speech: “The finest Arbor Gold – proper wine for proper heroes. … Butchered a woman pregnant with a baby… But you didn’t slaughter every single one of the Starks… leave one wolf alive, and the sheep will never be safe.”

Walder toasts, everybody drinks the wine he gave them, and we see that something is wrong when they start to breathe heavily, to retch and to fall to the ground. During their last, dying breaths, Walder tears off his face, and Arya tells Frey’s latest young, shivering wife with her own voice: “When people ask you what happened here, tell them the North remembers. Tell them winter came for House Frey.”

It’s remarkable how very much in character Arya’s Walder performance is; most of the criticism could have been the real man’s, and even more so the line with which “he” refuses to have the new wife drink the wine: “I’m not wasting good wine on some dumb woman”. It all reminds me of Barty Crouch jr. posing as Mad-Eye Moody in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”: he doesn’t need to play his hatred for Draco Malfoy, he does indeed hate him with all his heart: he thinks the Malfoy family are traitors who abandoned his Lord and Master Voldemort.

Later in the episode, Arya rides through the Riverlands and hears someone sing. You may recognize the singer’s voice before you see him and even if you haven’t heard beforehand that he would make a guest appearance: Ed Sheeran plays one of a few young Lannister soldiers who sit by a campfire, roast squirrels and sing. They are a quite friendly lot; poor Lannister foot soldiers are by no means the Lannister family. They offer Arya food and drink. One of them says that his wife just had their first baby, and that he hopes it’s a girl: “Girls take care of their poppas when their poppas grow old. Boys just ride off to fight someone else’s wars.” She tells them that she’s on her way to Kings Landing, and when asked what she’s going to do there, she says: “I’m going to kill the Queen.” After a moment of surprised silence, everyone laughs, including Arya. Seems like the best place to hide something is still in plain sight.

Somewhere else in the Riverlands, the Hound and the Brotherhood camp in the house where Sandor once stole a poor family’s little purse of silver after they allowed him and Arya to eat dinner with them and to stay over night, back in Season 4. Father and daughter are dead, assumedly the father killed both of them before they would starve to death. For the first time, Sandor learns that his careless deeds can have consequences. He still wonders why the Lord of Light keeps bringing Dondarrion back when better men than him stay dead. Instead of a direct answer, Thoros of Myr invites him to look into the flames — with Sandor’s life story it is like asking an arachnophobe to take your pet spider into their hands, but the Hound is a very brave man, braver than even he himself thought, or he may be ridden with guilt over the little girl’s death. So he looks into the flames in earnest for the first time, and he discovers a surprising talent: he can see faraway places and events in the flames, just like the Red Priests, in this case Eastwatch-by-the-Sea and the army of the White Walkers. To do what little atonement he can for the poor family, he digs graves in the frozen ground and buries them. He even tries to say a formal prayer over them but can’t remember it properly, so he settles with a heartfelt: “I’m sorry you’re dead. You deserved better, both of you.”

The North

Once again, we can see the endless armies of the Night King, slowly coming closer and closer to the Wall. We find out that we’re sharing Bran’s latest vision when he snaps out of it while Meera and he have arrived at the Wall. Bran tells the new Lord Commander, “Dolorous” Edd Tollett, what the latter already knows. “You were at the Fist of the First Men”, Bran says. “You were at Hardhome. You’ve seen the Army of the Dead. You’ve seen the Night King. He’s coming for us, for all of us.”

Jon wants every Northerner to dig for dragon glass, and he wants every man, woman, boy and girl to train for the war to come. He wants the Free Folk to man the castles at the Wall. The first open conflict with Sansa arises and has Littlefinger smirk with delight — she should have taken attention in Management 101 where they should tell you in lesson 1 that you don’t criticise the CEO in a public board meeting, but pull them aside before or after it to tell them what you really think of their decisions. Unlike Sansa, Jon doesn’t want to strip the Karstarks and the Umbers of their ancestral homes. Instead, he makes clear that he does indeed punish treason with death (and has done so as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch), and asks these houses’ surviving heirs, Lady Alys Karstark and the quite young Lord Ned Umber, to renew their families’ oaths of fealty. As usual, the most impressive performance in the meeting is delivered by young Lady Lyanna Mormont who shuts down Lord Glover over the question whether the latter should put a spear in his granddaughter’s hand, making clear that at Bear Island, all women and girls train to fight just as much as the men and boys.

Privately, Sansa later tells Jon that she still thinks he’s a great ruler, “but…” Jon remembers how Ned used to say that “everything before the word ‘but’ is horse shit”.

As usual, Littlefinger tries to whisper to Sansa, but she’s not having any of it (yet?). “No need to seize the last word, Lord Baelish – I’ll just assume it will be something clever.” Ouch, the burn.

Kings Landing

Cersei sees “enemies everywhere, we’re surrounded by traitors”. Jaime is sure that Daenerys’s forces will land at Dragonstone for a lot of reasons. Jaime says that no one would ever want to fight on the losing side. “Right now, we look like the losing side.” Cersei reminds him: “I’m the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.” But Jaime corrects her: “Three Kingdoms at best.”
Behind his back, Cersei has invited Euron Greyjoy’s armada to Kings Landing. Jaime is not convinced. “How are they different from the Freys? They both broke their promises and murdered their former friends as soon as it suited them.” He also seems distressed about the idea that his twin sister and lover could accept Euron’s hand in marriage.

Cersei reminds Euron: “You murdered your own brother.” Euron encourages her: “You should try it. It feels wonderful.” Even though she might think of Tyrion, the camera shows her other brother, and his look is even more uncomfortable than before.

Euron eventually leaves, but he promises Cersei to come back with a gift. We can only wonder which gift he wants to give her. A dragon? In the books, he possesses a dragon horn that is believed to bend a dragon to the horn blower’s will. That horn has never been mentioned on the show, so maybe he wants to give her a dead dragon’s head instead? Or a dead Lion’s (Tryion’s)?

Oldtown

We are treated with a great, accelerating suite of Sam placing books back into library shelves, emptying chamberpots (retching and nearly vomiting each time) and dishing out soup. Then he admires the restricted section of the library but can’t enter yet.

He talks to the Archmaester who is performing an autopsy, who once again refuses him entry into the restricted section, but believes his tale of White Walkers since he knows a great number of tales about them and doesn’t think that this many tales can be made up.
“In the Citadel, we live different lives for different reasons. We are this world’s memory, Samwell Tarly. Without us, men would be little better than dogs. Can’t remember any meal but the last, can’t look further forward than the next. And every time you leave the house and shut the door, they howl like you’re gone forever.”

Eventually, he takes the key to the restricted section from the sleeping librarian and unofficially lends out a few books.

In the small hours, Sam and Gilly read the books Sam has borrowed, and they learn that there is a whole mountain of dragon glass under Dragonstone. Sam sends a raven to Jon.
When he next collects empty bowls from what looks like the sickbay of the Citadel, a hand reaches out of the hatch, startling Sam. The hand is attached to an arm with greyscale getting worse and worse, and a well-known voice asks for news of “Daenerys Stormborn, the Dragon Queen”, but sadly, Sam doesn’t have any.

Dragonstone

Meanwhile, said Dragon Queen lands at Dragonstone with a boat and her inner circle of advisors. In a long sequence without dialogue, they can be seen entering the castle where Dany tears down Stannis’s banner and retakes her ancestral seat. Her only line is the last of the episode: “Shall we begin?”

Takeaways

  • Soon, Jon will have to ask Dany for cooperation because of the dragon glass. Davos’s words from the trailer seem to fit with this scenario: “If we don’t put aside our enmities and band together we will die, and then it doesn’t matter whose skeleton sits on the Iron Throne.” (There is also a hint in it that Jon will know about his true parentage by then, which makes sense because Bran has reached Castle Black and will soon continue to Winterfell.)
  • Arya hasn’t crossed Cersei off her list yet, and given her recent success in ridding the world of Freys, we can be sure that she means what she says, even though the young Lannister soldiers do not.
  • How long will Sansa remain immune to Littlefinger’s whispering? There will definitely be further disagreements with Jon, and Petyr knows how to use something like that. But Sansa has grown up to be a successful player of the game, too, so I wouldn’t cross out the possibility that, one day, she’ll be fed up with Littlefinger and get rid of him.
  • What is the gift Euron wants to bring Cersei? Will it impress her enough to say yes to marrying him? And if so, what will Jaime do? Will he fulfill the Valonqar prophecy and strangle her? For a long time, I’ve been sure that he would one day kill her and then himself — but what about Arya?

Conclusion

All in all, a great start to the new season. I’ll give it a solid 4 out of 5 seven-pointed stars. With only seven episodes in this season, you wonder whether they aren’t wasting some time. But on the other hand, Game of Thrones has always been about human interaction. You wouldn’t want a season consisting solely of battles – and looking back at the trailer, we will get quite a few of them anyway. Another small drawback is that this episode lacked true surprises, mind-boggling “what the hell” moments. The only one was in the cold opening when Walder turned out to be Arya wearing his face.

Posted in Books, English, Game of Thrones, Review, Television | 2 Comments