This episode of “Game of Thrones” season five was easily my favourite so far. The first two episodes had me slightly concerned that this season would be the start of a downturn in quality from the series, but since then it has gone from strength to strength. Each storyline is compelling and feels as though it has a clear direction, and every line carries with it a certain significance, whether it be a warning for episodes to come, or exposition to help the audience properly connect with what follows. “Kill the Boy” was another dialogue-heavy episode, but for me those are the best kind as long as the delivery is good and the words spoken carry some weight.
The episode began where the previous one had left off, letting the audience know the fates of Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), so as to not keep viewers waiting any longer than necessary after a week of anticipation. It wasn’t too big a surprise that Selmy was the one to bite the dust, because he seemed to take the worse injury and had less of a clearly defined role to play in the future. His death opens up space to have Jorah (Iain Glen) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) at Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) side, if that’s the direction that the show is going to take, so it made sense to have his story come to a close. Grey Worm on the other hand is the only Unsullied that any of the audience actually knows, so to kill him off wouldn’t make a lot of sense, because I’m sure that they’ll have battles in the future that we will presumably need to be invested in.
Grey Worm’s death also would’ve made his interactions with Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) in previous episodes extremely pointless – they already feel that way to me, but to have him die with no pay-off to their clear attraction to one another would’ve been a bit odd. That pay-off came in this episode, as the pair kissed for the first time, but I have to say that I don’t feel invested in either character or their relationship. It’s good to have side characters with defined motivations, but it’s not so good to take time away from a very strong episode for something which ultimately feels worthless.
The scenes in Meereen have been hit and miss for me since the start of this season; there have been some interesting moments, but most of the time I find Daenerys frustrating. However, in this episode she felt more like the character that we loved in season one – a girl out of her depth, who despite everything still manages to be a badass. We want to see the Mother of Dragons and potential Queen of The Seven Kingdoms as a strong woman making her own choices, so it was nice that she finally started doing that in this episode, even if she seemed more like her infamous father than we’d like!
My suspicions regarding Hizdahr (Joel Fry) were all but confirmed by this episode, as Daenerys had him and the other heads of Meereen’s great houses taken into the chambers of her two shackled dragons. It was nice to see that Daenerys still has power over them and that they aren’t just going to hate her forever, because I think that the audience needed to know that going forward. The reason that I think Hizdahr is going to be the antagonist in Meereen is that Daenerys treats him like he’s harmless, which is never a good sign on “Game of Thrones”. In this episode she had ample opportunity to make him a tasty meal for Rhaegal and Viserion, but instead she let him live, and dropped the bombshell that she’d decided to marry him for the sake of her leadership! I just can’t see that ending well for her.
I also thought it was strange that when he faced death he said ‘valar morghulis’ because he’s been made out to be a coward all along, yet now he has the balls to face death as it comes. He isn’t all he seems, so unless there’s a different twist for his character in the works I think he’s the big bad in Meereen. The marriage between the two adds weight to that theory for me, because it’s not all that likely that Hizdahr will be riding one of the dragons to Westeros if Daenerys eventually makes a play for King’s Landing.
Despite the fact that Daenerys made what I take to be another crucial mistake by allowing Hizdahr to live, she showed that she’s the one with all the power – if she wasn’t a kind character then she would definitely have the capacity to be the villain on the series. She has dragons, she has an army, and she has a group of powerful men backing her in the hopes of a Targaryen restoration. Plus, she’s willing to let her enemies become dragon food if needs be!
I really wasn’t expecting that scene, and the way that Daenerys acted as her children mercilessly killed a human being was quite a surprise. She almost seemed to enjoy it, which made sense because it must’ve felt like revenge for Barristan Selmy’s death, but it was vicious from Daenerys considering that it wasn’t entirely necessary. The lighting in the scene made it all the more tense and exciting, because the flames from the dragons reflected off the walls in the dark room and made Daenerys glow, also showing sweat on the faces of her enemies as they feared for their lives. It was an awesome scene, and details like the lighting are all the more impressive when you remember that there aren’t really any dragons casting that light, it’s all being artificially produced in one way or another. This was the best Daenerys scene since the start of season three, and probably the best moment of the episode.
Following these scenes at Meereen we made the long journey to The Wall. The political landscape at the Night’s Watch is intriguing right now, as Jon Snow (Kit Harington) attempts to broker a Wildling-Crow alliance in order to give both parties a better chance of survival, once winter finally arrives. The dilemma for Jon is a serious and complicated one, because if he leaves the Wildlings to fend for themselves North of The Wall then it’s likely that they will be added to the army of the dead, which will make the eventual battle between the Night’s Watch and the White Walkers all the more difficult. However, if he allows the Wildlings to take shelter at The Wall, or gives them land, he’ll be helping the people that killed his friends. There’s no easy decision to be made, but one choice is about sentiment and the other is about survival, and Jon is more interested in the latter.
One of my favourite moments in the episode was when Jon sought advice from Maester Aemon (Peter Vaughan). He’s had a lot of great monologues since the start of the series, particularly in the first season when it was revealed to the audience that he was a Targaryen, but this was probably my favourite so far. The episode is entitled “Kill the Boy”, and when I saw that title I was expecting some crazy plot twist regarding Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) and an assassination plot, or something of that ilk, but instead it relates to Maester Aemon telling Jon to become a man and do the thing which is best for his people. Whether or not Jon will be able to kill the boy inside of him and become the leader that The Watch needs remains to be seen, but I think it could perhaps also be a foreboding nod for what’s to come – beware of Olly (Brenock O’Connor). Either way, this was a brilliant scene, well-acted and well-written – I am loving The Wall in season five.
Stannis (Stephen Dillane) began his journey to Winterfell in this episode, which while exciting, makes me slightly sad because he’s been such a great addition to The Wall so far this season. I think the blow will be eased by the fact that Jon is going to go to Hardhome with the Wildlings, because we probably won’t see much of The Wall in the next few episodes anyway, but I do wish we could’ve had as much time seeing Jon and Stannis interact as we did seeing Stannis twiddle his thumbs in previous seasons.
Before leaving Stannis managed to have one more memorable scene at The Wall, as he spoke to Samwell (John Bradley-West) about his escapades beyond The Wall, and displayed what felt like respect for his efforts. He seemed to value the fact that Sam was trying to learn more about his enemy, which I wasn’t expecting because Stannis is such a fierce character, but when I think about it he also puts a lot of thought into how he can overcome his foes in battle, so it made sense that he’d appreciate what Sam was up to. To be a great war commander you have to understand the worth of those people who research your enemy, because it’s their efforts which ultimately allow fighters to get the upper hand.
So far this season Stannis’ focus has been on the Boltons, as he needs to take the North in order to stake his claim for the Iron Throne, but there are other things to worry about, so it was good to see that whilst the throne is his primary aim, he hasn’t forgotten about the enemy that lurks beyond The Wall. It was also really interesting to hear that they have dragonglass (obsidian) at Dragonstone, because that would seem to suggest that Stannis could get hold of some and make weapons for the Night’s Watch. This scene more than any other so far has led me to believe that Stannis might be along for the long haul on this series, which I was previously unsure of because of how much they’re pushing his character this season prior to meeting the Boltons in combat.
On “Game of Thrones” when you are becoming likeable and being given more screen time it’s likely that your head is edging closer to the chopping block, so recently I’ve felt concerned for Stannis as the showrunners have endeavoured to demonstrate that he’s both a good leader and an honourable man. However, this scene has renewed my hope that he will face a fate that is at least better than death – of course, the writers could still just be placing the rug beneath us, so as to pull it away when we’re getting comfortable.
Stannis faces a formidable foe in Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton), which the writers tried to portray in this episode by revealing that Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) was conceived through rape. Roose thinks back to this event with fondness as he reveals it to Ramsay; he doesn’t show any shame or remorse, instead he revels in the pain that he’s caused. He shows us all that he isn’t just an opportunist willing to stab a friend in the back; he’s a cruel and vicious man down to his core. Up till now Roose was just the man who killed Robb Stark (Richard Madden) to further his own agenda, which doesn’t make him a villain on this show. Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) threw Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) out of a window in the first episode of this series, and he did so in order to preserve the incestuous relationship he had with his sister, which in turn produced one of the most brutal kings The Seven Kingdoms had ever known! Is Jaime a villain because of those actions? I’d guess that many would say no, so Roose’s actions at The Red Wedding don’t make him a villain.
Nevertheless, the way that Roose talks to Ramsay in this episode does show that he’s a villain – words might seem a lot less sharp than daggers, but the mark they leave on an audience can be just as deep. Roose is a man who enjoys being bad, he feels nothing for the people he has harmed and doesn’t need a good reason to cause pain and anguish; he’s manipulating his son to do the things that he can’t do, because if he was flaying people alive left, right, and centre, he’d probably seem overzealous and unpleasant. He might be the man who killed Robb Stark, but he isn’t a tyrant yet – better to have Ramsay do his dirty work because everyone already knows how deranged he is.
The way that the writers are setting things up is intelligent, because they want us to hate Roose as we begin to like Stannis; they want there to be a clear fan favourite when it comes to the clash for Winterfell. What’s clear is that the stakes are high for that battle, because Roose isn’t going to show mercy to his enemies, and Ramsay would do terrible things to characters that the show wants us to like, such as Shireen (Kerry Ingram). A lot of people I’ve heard talking about Shireen’s character seem to think that Melisandre (Carice van Houten) has unholy plans for her, which could well be the case given the power of the royal blood which runs through her veins, but I could just as easily see her being killed by Ramsay, which would be harsh even for this show.
Probably my favourite scene at Winterfell in this episode was the one in which Ramsay struggled to keep Myranda (Charlotte Hope) in check. We didn’t know a lot about her prior to this episode, but this scene did a great job of quickly introducing her motivations and her dynamic with Ramsay, so that she could be a key antagonist in the rest of the season. The writers are clearly trying to make it seem like Myranda is just as evil as Ramsay, which is intriguing because it puts Sansa (Sophie Turner) in a lot of danger and gives us one more reason to feel concerned about her in episodes to come.
The writers did a good job of making Ramsay seem like the bad guy in the interaction between himself and Myranda, because he was very blasé about their relationship but also very controlling at the same time, but what was intriguing was that it also seemed like Myranda was playing him to a certain degree. She wanted him to be angry and she could give as good as she got; she enticed him by biting his lip and made him reaffirm how he felt for her by threatening that she would marry someone else – she has sway over him, at least on some level. Of course, that could backfire badly for her if she gets too cocky, but for now it’s exciting to guess what she’ll do next, given how unstable she seems to be, and I’m hoping she can get away with quite a lot of mischief before she gets her comeuppance.
Myranda’s primary role in this episode was simply to make Sansa seem in even more trouble than we already knew she was, but she also did something very significant by reintroducing Theon (Alfie Allen), a.k.a. Reek, to Sansa. After we were taken full circle, seeing the Broken/Burned Tower where this series really began, Myranda took Sansa to the kennels for a ‘surprise’. That surprise wasn’t presents and cake, instead, it was revealed to Sansa that the supposed murderer of her two brothers was sleeping with the dogs as Ramsay’s personal slave/servant. It’s been so long since the two last saw one another that there was almost a sense of relief behind Sansa’s disgust, because as Ramsay pointed out, Theon is the closest thing that Sansa has to family at Winterfell, but I could definitely see Sansa seeking revenge at some point.
Seeing the two be reunited, even in their dire circumstances, was a great moment in the episode, as it served to show just how much Jaime’s actions in season one changed the course of history and ultimately made the show what it is today. If that had never happened then Sansa might’ve been Queen, which wouldn’t have been great for her, but perhaps it would’ve been better if Ned (Sean Bean) was still alive. If Jaime hadn’t hurt Bran then perhaps Ned wouldn’t have snooped around so much, so he never would’ve realised the truth about the Lannister’s dirty secret, and he could’ve simply been adviser to Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) in King’s Landing. As for Theon, he would’ve been adviser to Robb at Winterfell, helping him decide how to best deal with winter and probably living a fairly mundane life – so Jaime really did make things worse for everyone.
A lot of people were disappointed by the scenes at Winterfell, because it’s been said that Sansa is still acting like a pawn, and that her dialogue isn’t as pragmatic and nuanced as we should expect given that she’s been learning how to play this game for so long. She’s seen Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen), Cersei (Lena Headey), Ned, Tyrion, Tywin (Charles Dance) and even Margaery (Natalie Dormer) playing the game as they see fit, so a lot of people are disappointed that those experiences don’t show when she talks to people like Ramsay and Roose.
However, I disagree with this line of thought, because the smartest thing for Sansa to do right now is be obedient and quiet. She’s stayed alive by doing that so far, so maybe the best thing for her to do is bide her time and to know which lessons apply to which situations. If she suddenly decides to be a smart-arse with the Boltons then she has no one in the immediate vicinity to rescue her – The Hound (Rory McCann) isn’t going to swoop in and save the day this time. She’s alone, so she has to be careful, and that’s how I view these scenes. At any moment things could go array, and I think it’s in these moments that we’ll see if Sansa has truly changed, not at the dinner table surrounded by crazy men. If Sansa has the guts to end a life then she’s changed, and I can definitely see her getting that triumphant moment in the future.
The episode ended with Tyrion and Jorah, as they continued their journey to meet Daenerys – although it’s probably not the best time to be a traitor or a Lannister on your way to Meereen! I haven’t said much about Tyrion in recent weeks, but that’s mostly because he hasn’t been up to much, and to be honest I haven’t enjoyed his scenes. He’s in a place as a character that Daenerys often has been, whereby we like him and want to keep track of his movements, but nothing compelling is really happening while he’s on screen. That changed this week, as Tyrion and Jorah finally faced some adversity to spice up their journey.
Jorah and Tyrion travelled through the ruins of old Valyria, which had many a fan in awe, because there’s never really been a description of what it would look like in the books, and it’s also new terrain on the show. It looked beautiful, and it was very quaint for a few moments as Tyrion and Jorah delivered some poignant lines, but this was merely the calm before the storm. First, the scene we’d all been waiting for since the season five poster was revealed finally arrived, as Tyrion saw Drogon soaring above him, looking as powerful and graceful as you would expect him to in the open air. This was a great moment for the show, because up until now Tyrion has never seen a dragon – now that he has, he shouldn’t need quite as much motivation to want to side with Daenerys!
Second, as Drogon flew out of the shot and into the distance, a shadowy figure in the background fell into the water below. That scene was very cool, because the creature just seemed to let himself fall without a care in the world. It seemed like something straight out of a horror film, and I actually rewound immediately in order to get a better look at what had fallen before letting things play out. I was a bit disappointed in the appearance of the Stone Men once they were up close, because they did just look like middle-aged men with make-up on, but the stakes were still high and the scene itself was quite well choreographed. Thinking back, it was nice that in a couple of episodes before this one we had greyscale properly explained to us, because that saved time in this episode so that the characters didn’t have too much exposition to get through whilst they faced the prospect of death (something which bogs down a lot of film and television – particularly the “Hobbit” movies, and every Marvel film).
When the dust settled and Tyrion had been saved from a watery grave by Jorah, things never felt right. Both characters said that they hadn’t been touched by the Stone Men, but it ended up that both had! It wasn’t clear if Tyrion had lied for a reason, but I don’t think he has greyscale, I think he just said no because none of the men actually touched his skin and he wanted to be left alone. The reveal at the end that Jorah had contracted greyscale was an interesting way to end the episode, because it could potentially spell the end for him, and it will likely add an extra layer of intrigue to the trip to Meereen, which now seems as though it will take even longer.
I don’t know what this means for Jorah as a character, but my best guess would be that this will be the reason that he ends up in the fighting pits. In the trailer a person that looks like Jorah seems to be fighting there, which makes a lot more sense now that Jorah has basically been handed a death sentence, because to prove himself to Daenerys he could fight for her against an enemy, or perhaps he could do something really interesting like fight on behalf of Tyrion – a third trial by combat isn’t completely out of the question! He could even be fighting for himself in that case, because as Tyrion pointed out in the previous episode, Jorah is just as likely to face execution as he is.
This episode of “Game of Thrones” was full of intrigue and promises much for the future. Not a great deal happened again, it has to be said, but I have no particular qualms with that because the pieces are there if you’re truly interested and want to put them together, and the fact that not a lot has been achieved so far just means that they’ve got a lot left to give in the season. We’re halfway through right now, and the episodes are only getting better, which bodes well for the second half of the season. There’s plenty of potential for another crazy ninth episode as well, as we could see Daenerys’ troubles in the fighting pits, a White Walker showdown with the Wildlings (and Jon Snow), or perhaps even Stannis’ battle with the Boltons (although I don’t think that’s on the horizon just yet). The only issue I had with the episode is how many characters it missed out, because we don’t want the show to have a fractured timeline and feel disjointed, but that’s something which can’t be criticised properly without first seeing how next week fares.