Last episode (S5:E8, Hardhome) was about half Lannister-Stark-Bolton, half White Walkers. I hear that a lot of people really liked the White Walker battle, but to me it felt too much like World War Z. Maybe I just couldn’t enjoy the battle because I was annoyed about not seeing any Jaime. Anyway, I’m not here to talk about the battle at Hardhome. I want to talk about everyone else. I will indulge in some book/show comparison, because that’s the sort of geek I am. But mostly I’ll just talk about what happened in the episode.
Sansa is well past her turning point, she is ready to kick some ass, but she still needs to figure out how. To that end, she is dragging Theon back to himself, kicking and screaming, and he hasn’t yet reached his turning point. Ramsay still frightens him more than Sansa, so the cost of getting away from his abuser is greater than the cost of staying. He thinks the cost to Sansa will also be greater if they escape from Ramsay. And if they don’t get their escape right the first time, Ramsay will make them wish for a quick death. Sansa still doesn’t know the extent of Ramsay’s violence on Theon, but a good thing happened this episode! Now Sansa knows her little brothers weren’t killed! She doesn’t know where they are, or even if they’re still alive now, but she knows Theon didn’t kill them, and that is big news for her. Doesn’t exactly speak well of Theon that he killed a couple of little farm boys and charred their bodies, but she spent all that time thinking Bran and Rickon were Theon’s murder victims, and now she hears they could still be out there.
(I’m just…really fucking proud of Sansa and Theon for having that conversation. I want to hug them both.)
Meanwhile, Ramsay fucking Bolton is a problem that appears to be solving itself. Roose is happy to seal up the castle and wait for Stannis’s army to starve in the snow, which is a sound defensive strategy if the castle is sufficiently provisioned! Ramsay does not appear to have inherited his father’s foresight, prudence and desire to live to see the next summer. He’s asking for “20 good men” to go out there and bring the fight to King Stannis and his quite large, quite well-trained army, because Ramsay fucking Bolton wants to hold a cock-measuring contest with King Stannis even if it gets him and his 20 good men killed. That’s not exactly surprising. The interesting part is that Roose is willing to go along with Ramsay’s jackass plan. I think Ramsay is responding to Sansa’s needling him about Walda’s pregnancy; the thing is she’s absolutely right about Ramsay’s place in his family. Ramsay’s hatching this plan to prove to his father that he’s the best son Roose will ever have. Roose sees that as an opportunity to solve his Ramsay problem. Either Ramsay succeeds with his absurd idea of bringing the fight to Stannis, which is good for Roose, or Ramsay gets himself good and killed, in which case Roose has another child on the way and won’t have to deal with his wretched bastard’s playing the Joker of Westeros anymore. The practical upshot for our surviving Stark and her foster brother is that they will have a solid window of time without Ramsay in the castle. That’ll be a good time to take another stab at the highest window in the broken tower.
And I think Brienne and Podrick will be happy to tell Sansa that Arya was perfectly healthy when she told them to fuck off.
Cersei is a victim of her own success. Here’s a quick compare/contrast: the way she’s acting in that cell is faithful to the books, but the way they’re treating her is much worse. They give her food and water in the books. They keep her awake all hours, which is a form of torture, but they don’t try to starve and dehydrate a confession out of her. Tommen’s reaction is much worse than in the books, but that fits with the changed circumstances. He’s older and more aware of events, and he’s more invested in Margaery.
So now the boy king has his wife AND his mother locked up and has no idea what to do about it, and he’s not taking it well. He’s staying in his room and refusing food, which is not what was supposed to happen in Queen Cersei’s scheme.
The charges are all deeds of which Cersei is clearly guilty, and she would’ve gotten away with all of it if she hadn’t been so determined to drive a wrecking ball through the Tyrells. She could’ve let the little queen get on with her life, thus allowing her own offenses to stay either unknown or unconfirmed. Because of her overreach, her sweet little Tommen is suffering. Her children are among the precious few people in the world that Cersei actually loves, and now she’s hurting them. How does she think Myrcella would feel if she received word of her mother’s death after not seeing her for years? Is this what she wanted? To separate her children from their new families and then rob them of their mother?
Tyrion presents himself to Dany as the “greatest Lannister killer there is,” and here’s where the book/show differences get really colorful. I’ve already written about how the show chucked out a major (and negative) development in Tyrion’s rapport with Jaime. Now the show has confirmed that it’s completely uninterested in pursuing Tyrion’s anger over Jaime’s role in separating him from Tysha. And I guess that’s fine. I like the idea of the brothers being happy to see each other when they meet again. It’s sort of a shame that we’re missing out on the degree of rage Tyrion shows for his family in A Dance With Dragons, though. It’s not just his parents. Tyrion’s talking to Jon Connington (Griff) and his peeps when he gives us his notorious history of kin-slaying:
“Lord Tywin was sitting on a privy, so I put a crossbow bolt through his bowels to see if he really did shit gold. He didn’t. A pity, I could have used some gold. I also slew my mother, somewhat earlier. Oh, and my nephew Joffrey, I poisoned him at his wedding feast and watched him choke to death. Did the cheesemonger leave that part out? I mean to add my brother and sister to the list before I’m done, if it please your queen.”
Griff ignored the request. Instead he touched the letter to the candle flame and watched the parchment blacken, curl, and flare up. “There is blood between Targaryen and Lannister. Why would you support the cause of Queen Daenerys?”
“For gold and glory,” the dwarf said cheerfully. “Oh, and hate. If you had ever met my sister, you would understand.” (pg. 132, A Dance With Dragons, Kindle Edition)
The farther we get into Tyrion’s misadventures, the more we see how ambivalent he feels about Jaime. Either way, he keeps telling people that he wants to kill both of his siblings. He cheerfully explains how he plans to advise Dany on defeating all the Lannister-Tyrell alliance, including Jaime as a battle commander (pg. 133). He’s not so pleased with Varys, either, yet in this episode he tells his dragon queen that Varys and Jaime are the only people in the world he trusts.
Another important element in Tyrion’s motivations, which the show seems to be ignoring for now, is that he wants the lordship of Casterly Rock (pg. 32). Remember when he went to see his father, following the Blackwater battle, and said he should be the heir to Casterly Rock? His siblings are completely uninterested in their childhood home, but Tyrion still wants it. He has these ideas that he keeps coming back to, in ADWD. Referring to his first wife: “Where do whores go?” He keeps thinking spitefully of how he killed his father. He keeps going on about how much he hates his siblings, especially Cersei, though that much is hardly surprising. And he really, really cares about the Rock. He promises epic loads of gold and other riches to a long slew of ally combatants, and he expects to be able to pay these debts because he’ll have that much wealth to spread around when he gets the Rock. He’s not on board with Daenerys’s plan to “break the wheel” because he is a spoke on that wheel. He’s willing the risk his life to help Dany take over, but not give up his nobility.
He may think that much of his service to Dany will be in advising her on how to defeat and destroy Cersei. We probably won’t hear him say this on the show, and that’s a shame:
Cersei is as gentle as King Maegor, as selfless as Aegon the Unworthy, as wise as Mad Aerys. She never forgets a slight, real or imagined. She takes caution for cowardice and dissent for defiance. And she is greedy. Greedy for power, for honor, for love. Tommen’s rule is bolstered by all of the alliances that my lord father built so carefully, but soon enough she will destroy them, every one. (pg. 307)
That’s Maegor the Cruel, in case you’re wondering. Too bad Cersei’s already destroying herself without Tyrion’s help. She attacked Margaery and ignored Dany. Now their Uncle Kevan is taking over as regent, and he’ll do a better job. For at least a little while. Doing a good job is nowhere near enough in Westeros. It’s an environment that tends not to reward decent guys like Uncle Kevan.
Now I’ll close with a quote that encapsulates how Tyrion feels about Jaime. This is why I’m annoyed at the show for erasing the truth about Tysha. We miss out on nuance like this:
That night Tyrion Lannister dreamed of a battle that turned the hills of Westeros as red as blood. He was in the midst of it, dealing death with an axe as big as he was, fighting side by side with Barristan the Bold and Bittersteel as dragons wheeled across the sky above them. In the dream he had two heads, both noseless. His father led the enemy, so he slew him once again. Then he killed his brother, Jaime, hacking at his face until it was a red ruin, laughing every time he struck a blow. Only when the fight was finished did he realize that his second head was weeping. (pg. 89)