(The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones debuts on April 14th, marking the beginning of the end for HBO’s cultural touchstone. Over the years, we’ve covered all 67 episodes of the series, and are revisiting those original reviews in our new retrospective series titled, “Winter is Coming”. We’re pulling these straight from our vacuum sealed digital time capsules, so step into the virtual time machine with us and read our impressions from way back! With the benefit of hindsight, there is plenty of reasons these reviews will raise some eyebrows)
Winter is coming, and things will only get worse. At the wall, Jon Snow leaves on a mission without the full support of his men. Ignoring Ser Alliser Thorne’s advice, the Lord Commander follows through with his plan to free Tormund Giantsbane and join him in rescuing the Wildlings north of the Wall. Notice how the camera once again lingers on Ollie in the background, further proving my suspicions that the young boy can’t be trusted. Is mutiny on the horizon? Meanwhile, in the North, Stannis Baratheon and his army prepare to march on Winterfell, while Davos expresses his doubts. The winter is getting colder, the snow is falling down heavier, and Stannis’s army is marching slower as their horses die and the sellswords run away. Melisandre reminds Stannis (and us the viewers), that there will be a great battle in the snow which she promises Stannis will win. Only the Lord of Light demands sacrifices and Melisandre suggests offering the blood of Shireen for her king’s cause. If you dance with the devil, be ready to face the consequences. With all the visions and prophesies, Stannis has never once considered if his meddling with black magic could somehow come back and haunt him. Now that things aren’t looking very promising for him and his army, it will be interesting to see if he would actually sacrifice his daughter, the one and only person he truly loves. I’m guessing he will. Every scene in Game of Thrones is there for a reason – to push the story forward – and while it isn’t always clear at the time, there is always some sort of payoff down the road. I’m willing to bet that the earlier scenes spent with Stannis and his daughter, were added simply to set up a powerful betrayal. I’m betting Stannis and Davos will soon be at each other’s throats.
Meanwhile, Jon’s departure puts Samwell Tarly in a dangerous situation. Sam has always been an outcast among the Night’s Watch and now with Jon gone, and poor Maester Aemon dying, he finds himself surrounded by enemies. When two of the men of the Night’s Watch attempt to rape Gilly, Sam tries his best to save the love of his life from harms way; “I’ve killed a white walker. I’ve killed a Thenn. I’ll take my chances with you,” he tells them. But despite his best effort, Sam is unable to defend Gilly. Thankfully, Jon’s dire wolf Ghost comes to the rescue and scares off the two would-be attackers. Lord knows we don’t need another controversial rape scene once again this week. Gilly rewards Sam’s bravery with the show’s most awkward sex scene to date – Ghost gets no reward.
“The Gift” is the best yet of season five
The best moment of “The Gift” comes during an unexpected poignant scene in which Aemon Targaryen dies of old age (a rarity in Westeros). We are treated to a rather touching conversation in which poor Maester Aemon remembers his childhood with his younger brother Aegon Targaryen, a.k.a the Mad King and father of Daenerys. Here’s a man who could have been King, but he chose to serve instead. And now that his watch has ended, Daenerys is the last Targaryen left alive, or at least the last known Targaryen left alive (I’m looking at you Jon Snow).
“Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” ended with the highly controversial rape of Sansa Stark which left me siding with fans, critics and bloggers who were questioning the need for the scene, and questioning if it would serve a purpose other than to shock viewers? The North remembers and House Stark has plenty of allies, but none of them seem able to protect Sansa from enduring Ramsay’s continuous torture. Sansa begs and pleads with Theon Greyjoy, aka Reek, to light a candle in the high tower, which will signal for help. Nearby, Brienne of Tarth, who swore to protect Sansa and her sister, stands by waiting for a sign, only Sansa’s attempt to get Theon to help her is countered, and the kind old lady that reached out to comfort her not too long ago, is flayed alive in traditional Bolton style, and displayed for Sansa to see. Sansa sees how worse things can get – and I’m afraid it’s only the beginning. A part of me still believes that Sansa will be the one sitting on the Iron Throne come season seven, but I’m still waiting for the moment when Sansa finally musters up some courage to save herself. We’ve seen glimpses of a fire within her; last week she had the prowess to speak rather frankly to Myranda, and this week she challenges Ramsay’s claim to Winterfell, calling him a bastard made a Bolton by the decree of Tommen, another bastard. (In case you’re not keeping up – if his mother-in-law gives birth to a baby boy, her son would be crowned the future king and not Ramsey). Sansa, in spite of all the terrible things she’s experienced, is hardly broken the way Theon is emotionally destroyed. And did anyone else notice the small but sharp object she picks up while on a walk with her new husband? Since I’m a betting man, I’m betting that Sansa is going to use that corkscrew, and I’ll double my bet by saying it’s going to backfire, because Sansa can’t ever get a lucky break.
In Kings Landing, we’re treated to a wonderful exchange between the Queen of Thorns and the High Sparrow – and kudos to Jonathan Pryce for his incredible performance this week. His scene with Cersei was great, but his verbal spout with Lady Olenna was the highlight. This is the first time Lady Olenna has truly been at a loss, taken back by how cunning and dangerous the High Sparrow really is – and worse, he’s a true believer – a devout servant of the Seven. Lucky for Olenna, she has one ally left in the city – who goes by the name Littlefinger, and who gives Olenna some valuable information that she’ll need to help bring down Cersei. And of course, there’s a wild card named Lancel, who’s there to testify against the former Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. Cersei has been playing with fire, foolishly assuming that the High Sparrow was an ally, but we all knew it wouldn’t end well for her. Cersei’s scheming and plotting come to a head when the High Sparrow imprisons the Queen Mother for crimes against the church. As I mentioned last week, Cersei could never make a great leader since she lets her emotions get the best of her. She’s always focused on the present, and hellbent on taking revenge, and she never stops to think about the consequences her actions may have. And she has only herself to blame for her current predicament since she’s been playing right into the hands of Littlefinger and the rest of her enemies nearby. The episode draws to a close with Cersei locked up in the very same dungeon she concocted for the Tyrells. The final moment, where Cersei swears vengeance on the nuns who take her captive is made even sweeter by the fact that Cersei had just come from visiting an imprisoned, Margaery. That my friends, is karma.
Once again, not much happens in Dorne this week. Jaime confronts Myrcella and as expected, she has no interest in going back home now that she’s in love with young Trystane, the Dornish prince who she will soon marry. And honestly, I don’t blame her for wanting to stick around. While we haven’t seen much of Dorne, it seems like a much more peaceful place to live than Kings Landing, even if there are a few crazy Sand Snakes running around. Speaking of which, “The Gift” gives us the best Sand Snakes scene so far, albeit with gratuitous levels of HBO nudity – but with reason, since they are trying to increase Bronn’s heart-rate so the poison can take its full effect. Bronn sings to his neighbouring cell-mates, the Sand Snakes, and engages in some back-and-forth flirtation before realizing he was poisoned by the sell-sword during their most recent battle. Lucky for him, the girls give him an antidote to the Asshai poison before it kills him. While this was the most enjoyable scene of the episode, the entire Dornish story still feels a bit watery. We still don’t know much about the Sand Snakes, and I doubt and viewers actually care for Myrcella. More importantly, I’m not sure how this detour connects in any way to the bigger picture, leaving me feeling like we should be spending more time with characters we actually care about.
Across the Narrow Sea, Tyrion and Jorah travel to Meereen in the company of the slavers and are auctioned as fighting slaves. Meanwhile, Dany’s decisions are still questionable. She’s reopened the fighting pits, has agreed to marry Hizdahr zo Loraq, and is still taking advice from her lover Daario, who suggest she kill all the great masters in order to put an end to the Sons of the Harpy rebellion. “All rulers are butchers or meat,” he tells her, insisting it’s the only logical solution. Dany is later invited to watch the opening gladiatorial battles and is disgusted by the senseless violence on display. But before she can sneak away, Jorah Mormont steals the spotlight and rushes out to clear the field of competitors, hoping that with his bravery and mercy, she’ll revoke his exile and take him back by her side. Unfortunately for Jorah, Daenerys is one to hold a grudge and commands her soldiers to take him away. Cue Tyrion Lannister, who swoops in to save Jorah from what is sure to be deathly punishment. “My name is Tyrion Lannister,” he tells Daenerys, “and I am the gift.” It is one of the biggest moments of the season so far and somehow wound up playing second fiddle to Cersei’s fate. The Mother of Dragons needs someone trustworthy and intelligent on her council, and we’ve been waiting for this moment for quite some time – but it’s a payoff that’s still at least an episode or two away.
“The Gift” is one of the best episodes of the season, an episode that ups the ante and sets in motion events that will carry us into what I hope will be a remarkable season finale. All in all, this was a terrific episode that showed us a great warrior and beautifully said goodbye to a beloved veteran. After an entire season of set-up, we finally get some pay-offs. Game of Thrones seems back on track!
– Ricky D
Tyrion kicking ass!
Bronn finally got to finish singing “The Dornishman’s Wife” and he’s got an amazing voice!
Sansa: “It can’t be any worse.” Reek: “It can always be worse.”
Sam: “He was the blood of the dragon, until his fire burned out. And now his watch is ended.”
Ramsay: “We do breed them tough in the North.”
Ramsay: “You should hold onto your candles; the nights are so long now.”
Daenerys: “I am a Queen, not a butcher.”
Daario: “All rulers are either butchers or meat.”
Lady Olenna: “You should stand when speaking to a Lady.”
High Septon: “You should kneel before the Gods.”
Tyrion: “It’s a pleasure to meet you, your Grace. My name is Tyrion Lannister.”
Cersei: “Look at me. Look at my face. It’s the last thing you’ll see before you die.
The overhead shot of Maester Aemon’s funeral was beautiful!
Game of Thrones, Season Five, Episode 7: “The Gift”
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik
Written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss
Featured music Ramin Djawadi
Cinematography by Fabian Wagner
Editing by Crispin Green
Originally published May 24, 2019