Note: Spoilers for this weeks episode “The Gift” ahead.
Sorryfor being a day late with this one, if you care. Memorial Day. Fried Foods. Beer. Not watching the Indy 500. Etc. Before diving into what was an awfully momentous yet troubled Game of Thrones episode with this weeks “The Gift”, I’d like to take a minute to share my thoughts on what was, unfortunately, a major talking point in popular culture over the last eight days; the rape of Sansa Stark.
For some reason, a rather large and brassy group of fans apparently had a secret meeting and decided that this was the moment when GOT went too far (there was even a U.S. Senator in attendance!!). “The scene was disturbing. It was unnecessary. It’s desensitizing young people to rape and other sexual violence.” Yadda yadda yadda. Those are some of the things the politically correct police were shouting all week.
To them I ask: WHAT THE HELL SHOW HAVE YOU BEEN WATCHING FOR FIVE YEARS?
Sexualized violence is so tightly engrained within the DNA of this show that it’s simply rash to single out a scene from the middle of the fifth season, a relatively tame scene at that, and decide that it’s the moment when GOT crossed the line. Seriously, we must not be watching the same show.
- The pilot episode concluded with a rape, one shot much more brutally.
- Like freakin’ half of the men on the show have been castrated.
- A king tortured a prostitute with a crossbow.
- And many many more examples to list.
I do think there’s some legitimacy to the claim that GOT hasn’t handled its sexual politics with the most class and grace. Hell, I think this show has blatantly and intentionally used unnecessary sex/violence as selling points. But this is NOTHING NEW.
It’s something for people who get paid to critique GOT to talk about, and something for folks to make self-righteous internet posts about. Nothing more.
Okay back to “The Gift”.
Since Ramsay Bolton, Sansa Stark, and Theon/Reek were the ones being talked about all week, let’s start in Winterfell. After witnessing all the hoopla, Reek still doesn’t want to help a now visibly-bruised Sansa. When she asks him to forward a message to send a signal out of the city, he turns her in to Ramsay, who butchers the woman helping Sansa (Being Ramsay, of course he walks Sansa to stare at her corpse for a few minutes). This was all so unnecessary and frustrating. People betray you in Westeros, and Ramsay is sick fuck much like Joffrey. WE GET IT. We’ve been watching this show for five seasons. There’s no need to keep using stale tropes to beat us over the head with stale themes.
To make matters worse, the episode treads five-year-old water again during the between-the-sheets dialogue between Daenerys and Daario; whose “All rulers are either butchers or meat” quibbling is repetitive and even problematic in the sense that show continually tries to force us to consider what’s supposed to be a universally accepted dualistic philosophy, despite its best character (Jon Snow) having single-handedly proved it false.
Speaking of Jon, much of the best work this season has come at The Wall. In this one, I love the clanking of the steel that opens the episode, and then there’s the subtle warning that Ser Allister doles out. But if there’s one thing this season has taught us; it’s that Jon Snow doesn’t lead the old-fashioned way.
Meanwhile, Stannis and his army approach the Bolton’s in Winterfell. I honestly thought this battle would’ve happened by now; seeing as the groundwork was set up weeks ago and it’s probably not interesting enough to carry an entire episode like the battle at Blackwater or at the Wall. The reason I enjoy the presence of Stannis is that he doesn’t give a shit what people tell him or think about him, unlike every other leader on the show. Davos comes to him to confide that they’ve lost some men and should probably head back to the Wall. Stannis gives him a big YOLO. It’s this mindset that made Stannis such an interesting interaction for Jon Snow, and I already miss their conversations together.
I’m not sure I get the whole “Sam-Gilly staying at the Wall” thing, especially now after Maester Aemon is dead and Jon has headed out. It’s rather remarkable (or, in the Westerosi culture we’re constantly reminded of, perhaps just not believable) that it took this long for some of the men of the Night’s Watch to attempt a rape on Gilly. And then the damn direwolf comes in at just the right time to save the day. It was far too easy, I thought. And some other moments felt that way too.
Take Tyrion and Jorah at the Slaver’s auction for instance. Jorah is bid on quickly because he’s a former knight and all that. But how does Tyrion convince Jorah’s buyer to take him on as well? He beats a guy with a chain, that’s how. Tyrion, the half-man who thrives off his cunning and long-term school of thoughts. The half-man who’s proved that in Westeros strategy and knowledge can in fact be more powerful than brute force. Well, Tyrion uses brute force to keep this all-of-a-sudden very forced storyline moving closer to its endpoint.
I can barely speak on the Bronn/poison/token naked woman scene in the cells of Dorne. If you’re not going to kill Bronn with the Sand Snakes’ poison there, why show it? If you’re trying to establish the Dornish poison as some sort of Chekhovian weapon, well, you already did with Oberyn a season ago. For a literary device like a Chekhovian weapon to be effective, it can’t draw too much repeated attention. Again, like much of this episode, it felt too convenient and very rushed.
The episode was saved by four equally awesome conversations in King’s Landing. First, there’s Olenna Tyrell, the most logical and modern woman on the show, discussing with the High Sparrow the ludicrous and contradictory morality that serves as the basis for his school of belief. Then, Lady Olenna has a battle of the wits with Littlefinger (perhaps her only intellectual equal currently in King’s Landing) where she manages to remind him that he is just as much responsible for a recent act of regicide as she.
Cersei visits a jailed Margaery, offering help , but we all know Cersei was only there to watch her recent foil suffer. It was a delicate scene where director Miguel Sapochnik did a nice job keeping Margaery in both the literal and figurative dark. Then, we have a very Sorkinian conversation between Cersei and the High Sparrow; one of those conversations concerning multiple topics at once where each character has their own separate motivations. It ends in a shock with Cersei being jailed for her affair with her cousin Lancel (remember that?). Book-readers have surely recognized that we’re now set up for one of Martin’s most iconic singular moments, one I will keep my lips sealed about. All I’ll say is that it doesn’t include the surprise death of a Stark.
The other big bang this episode was the arrival or Jorah and Tyrion in Meereen, and the revelation of their “partnership” to Daenerys. We got some rather raw fighting, which was nice, but the best thing ever was when Jorah got FRIEND-ZONED again. Not even friend-zoned, actually, that’s too kind a term. Poor Jorah. Khaleesi wants nothing to do with him, at least until Tyrion is revealed.
While “The Gift” stumbled along the way, its closing moments promise some very interesting moments for the next couple weeks.
Final Verdict: Despite suffering from typical middle-of-the-season forced progression and very repetitive waxing, “The Gift” had some great moments. Decent episode.
5 Quick Tidbits:
- Melisandre more or less demanded that Stannis sacrifice his daughter to the Lord of Light, in case you missed that. Should present a rather biblical moral dilemma for our favorite hardass.
- The actors they cast as Lannister youngin’s Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) aren’t exactly good. I broke out laughing when Tommen told Cersei, “BUT I LOVE HER”. Very Hayden Christensen-esque.
- Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were credited as writers for this one, as well as the next one.
- We’ll see if the PC Police are out in full force this week over the attempted-rape of Gilly and the blatantly unnecessary nudity in Dorne. Doubt it.
- WHEN IS JORAH GOING TO BECOME A STONE ZOMBIE.
Till next week, live long and prosper (Shit, wrong geeky show. May the odds ever be in your favor).