Archive for July, 2013


OBR – The Roose is Loose: Reviewing Game of Thones, Season 3

Season Three of Game of Thrones was far stronger than the second on the whole even if its most compelling episode could not quite outdo the Battle of Blackwater Bay. Having still not read the novels but privy to background information due to the always excellent Cast of Thrones podcast, the third season never mishandled the translation from page to screen to the same extent the second when it inexplicably blew Catelyn’s motivation for releasing Jamie Lannister. Instead the only problems were that the budget unfortunately did not include more funds for battle scenes, particularly concerning north of the Wall and the sacking of Yunkai. As in last season, a distinctive tone for Daenerys storyline was absent (my earlier suggestion was to have Tarsem Singh direct these scenes), despite decidedly more surreal quality to it. Even without Singh, one of the more confusing scenes in the entire season was infiltration of Yunkai by Grey Worm, Ser Jorah and Daario Naharis. They seem to be overwhelmed by guards but the next scene shows them victorious, claiming that “they”—the lords of Yunkai presumably—“did not believe until it was too late and their slave soldiers threw down their spears and surrendered”, which seems to raise more questions than it answers given the previous action sequence. Alternatively, there could have been a creative shot of the three warriors picking off guards while sneaking through the alleyways of the city before reaching the gates. Having seized what was effectively the key to the city, they could have convinced the slave soldiers guarding it to throw down their spears when Daenerys’ armies approach the gates and it was too late for the lords of Yunkai to do anything about it. Moreover, an additional scene wherein Daario convinces the Second Sons to vote to join Daenerys would have gone a long way to explaining the situation with them—and the potential problems they may present going forward. Specifically, after his vow to Dany, Daario could have explained his actions to the Second Sons who might object that betraying Yunkai would blacklist them for taking any contract to fight in the future, effectively cutting off their source of income. Daario could have agreed, stating that to join Dany they would lose any future contracts but gain a kingdom. However this sets them up as potential rivals to or sappers of Dany’s unconditional authority.

By the same token, the opening scene of the season shows only the aftermath of the climactic battle of season 2 between the Night Watch and the contingent of Wights lead by at least two White Walkers. Even as COTs intimated, given the fact that they were in the middle of a snow storm, the scope of the battle could have been keep fairly small with rapid cuts between individual fights. This omission and Yunkai were the biggest disappointments in terms of possibly budget prohibitive battle scenes.

While action sequences are well done with the resources available, they do leave the audience wistful for the sweeping cinematic battles of Braveheart, Gladiator or even one of the templates for Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings. However character interactions remained, rightly, the program’s strongest asset, with generally riveting performances across the board including the always inspired Peter Dinklage but the surprising Nicolaj Coster-Waldau who is managing to make an attempted child-murderer a sympathetic and even noble character. The most compelling elements of Game of Thrones are the characters and strategic interactions of various parties are where the program is consistently engaging. In light of this strength, the ten Best Characters as of the third season:

  1. Tyrion Lannister (Peter Linklage): Tyrion almost lost out to his on-screen brother, but Dinklage’s portrayal of a self-loathing drunk at his own wedding was the touchstone acting performance of the season.
  2. Jamie Lannister (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau): It was the speech of how he saved King’s Landing by breaking his vow that vaulted Jamie to new heights but his continued interactions with Brianne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) continued to be compelling as juxtaposed against his extreme despondency at the loss of his sword hand.
  3. Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance): Dance continues to absolutely destroy this role, putting aside his Grampa Tywin moment and engaging in what he does best: strategy. He carefully bid for time and advantage in the war effort wherein he was able to defeat Robb Stark largely by taking advantage of the young Stark’s own mistakes and his allies’ willingness to betray him. Whether it was snapping at Tyrion, negotiating with the Queen of Thornes, or, probably his best scene,  communicating to his grandson where the real power in the realm lies, Dance deftly conveyed a cool demeanor with an ability to instill fear.
  4. Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke): Perhaps it’s merely the juxtaposition to last year’s lackluster role for Dany, but this season Clarke perfected the measured composure of a queen who can use both the force of her personality and her captivating beauty to her advantage in pushing enemies off-kilter or persuading potential allies. She also began flexing a strategic and even darkly cunning mind in second most memorable moment of the season by gaining the core of an army while giving up nothing.
  5. Ygritte (Rose Leslie): with her relationship with Jon Snow blooming, Ygritte’s character deepened and expanded, not only in her relentless teasing of the constantly self-serious and morose Snow but also explicating that though she suspects Jon remains a Night Watchman she wants them to be loyal to each other above all else. As Cast of Thrones indicated, the wildling women typically have greater agency whereby if a man tries to steal them from another (or take them initially), they can either reject their initial relationship or actively fight against that advance. Thus, when Jon captured Ygritte but refused to kill her, she took that as a sign of interest and responded, becoming annoyed at his rebuffs. The wildlings seem to have clan loyalties but their individuality, for both men and women, appears much stronger in contrast to the family-centric Westeroes exemplified by tyrannical paterfamilias Tywin Lannister. Ygritte symbolizes the individuality of the wildlings who may choose each other over the whims of lords.
  6. Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer): Although she faded from view in the later episodes, Dormer was excellent in portraying Margaery’s charm in manipulating Sansa and in particular the difficult case of an increasingly unhinged Joffrey.
  7. Arya Stark (Maisie Williams): the decidedly older-looking Maisie Williams depicted a range of emotions throughout the season, but was focused primarily heartbreak coupled with a grim determination to carry on and exact revenge, whether it was in regard Gendry being sold-off or the tragedy of the Red Wedding.
  8. Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon): although he was in the most difficult scenes to watch, Rheon reprised his “Misfits” role of a creepy loner but took it up a notch to outright sociopathy playing Ramsay as an unabashed torturer with some consideration for strategy to compliment his father’s own calculated ruthlessness and lack of qualms.
  9. Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham): Davos had a larger role this season filling out his role as the uncompromising voice of conscience for Stannis. Cunningham also added depth and sympathy to Davos through his interactions with Stannis’ scarred daughter Shireen.
  10. Hodor (Kristian Nairn): Really looking forward to the 1,000 year reign of Hodor.

Three Most Annoying Characters:

  1. Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane): Dillane continues to seem miscast as Stannis would seem more of a hulking warrior than Dillane’s more slender and older frame (Russell Crowe, or the once rumored Gerard Butler a la Beowulf & Grendel, would seem to be a template for this role). Stannis being an understandably extreme sad-sack after his crushing defeat at King’s Landing didn’t help matters.
  2. Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson): This selection doesn’t have anything to do with Gleeson’s performance, which continues to be spot on for the role, but more that the character has begun, in contrast to nearly every other significant individual, to become highly one-dimensional: a combination of cruelty, incompetence and petulance reiterated endlessly. Not to say that this isn’t necessarily Joffrey’s character, but the fact that he doesn’t seem to have either a redeeming quality or some competency is making him simply a hateful individual and not one who is compelling in any particular sense. Perhaps this will change in the future, as in season one where Joffrey could at least exhibit charm on occasion.
  3. Shae (Sibel Kekilli): Shae and Tyrion’s relationship became almost an afterthought this season and a constant source of awkwardness given Tyrion’s marriage to Sansa. It’s unclear where Shae is headed as she seems unhappy with any potential continuing relationship with Tyrion despite the fact that her expectations could not be a result of naiviete. Her conversation with Varys towards the end of the season was fascinating in large part due its miscommunication. Varys attempts to get her to leave Westeros and restart her life elsewhere so Tyrion can be freed from her distraction. Shae takes Varys as Tyrion’s messenger and remarks to him that if Tyrion wants her to leave he can tell her himself and the conversation ends. Varys could have retorted that this was the salient issue for Tyrion who would destroy himself before ending his relationship with Shae; it had to be her decision. Instead this complication persists and given the gruesome end of Ros, Shae seems to be little beyond an unfortunate pawn to use against Tyrion.

Reviewing post-season 2 predictions and new predictions for the fourth season:

(1)   Hotpie’s thousand year reign as lord of the seven kingdoms begins next season. This is wrong since it is clearly Hodor’s throne to lose.

(2)   I have no idea what Dany is up to next season. – It would have been hard to predict or even determine Dany’s course of events in Season 3 from her situation in Season 2. The audience could guess she was leaving Qarth, but had little clue where she could go beyond that.

(3)   Rob is fucked. To take a line from every horror movie ever, why was marrying Talisa a bad idea? Because it’s really obviously a bad idea. This turned out to be dead on but for reasons differing from my thought that Talisa was some sort of spy.

(4)   What the hell is going on in Winterfell and what are the Boltons up to? I would imagine that the Boltons might have turned on the Starks to play an advantage while their main force was in the South. Why? Roose wants to know what Rob looks like without skin BECAUSE HE IS FUCKED IN THE HEAD. This was likewise accurate to the outcome but not the motivation as Roose turned out to be a high-functioning sociopath as opposed to Joffrey’s brand of annoying and incompetent psychosis. It was always confusing that they played up the mystery of who took Winterfell as it seemed pretty clear after Roose had distinctly offered to send his bastard to retake it in Season 2.

(5)   George RR Martin describes Arya and Gendry’s relationship in graphic detail and inappropriately too early. HBO avoids this like it’s a nuclear device or something. I actually get the impression that despite Martin’s willingness to use creepy sex in his books, Arya and Gendry’s friendship doesn’t take the turn this direction any time soon—more of a brother-sister thing (like her relationship with Jon Snow). Well, they certainly care for one another but won’t be around each other anytime soon.

(6)   Sansa Stark’s position becomes increasingly precarious given her main protectors—Tyrion, Shae and the Hound—have lost most of their power or disappeared. However, she’s smart enough to stave off Lord Baelish’s also inappropriate advances unless she somehow is able to bring someone along to guarantee her safety. I have a strange idea that Ser Loras pursues her, despite her traitor blood and in part because he likes her and feels somewhat abashed at pushing her out as queen in favor of his sister. Ser Loras strikes me as similar to his sister in his pragmatism—though his feelings for Renly were considerably more genuine than Margaery’s, there was an element that the relationship was undertaken to promote the interests of the Tyrell family. He seems like he could be a switch-hitter and showed some affection, possibly only feigned, for Sansa in the season one jousting scene where he handed her a flower before his match (she also displayed, rather unthinkingly, affection for him in worriedly pleading with his father not to allow the Mountain to hurt him). This one is a stretch, but it has an interesting ring to it. Ser Loras seems uninterested in the throne without Renly in the mix and his family’s position is secure with his sister’s ascension. Naturally a courting of Sansa would likely be frowned upon, though it wouldn’t have to be formal or overt, potentially more in the vein of the Hound’s own protection of Sansa. Also possible that at some point he joins with Brienne to hunt down Stannis. It’s unclear whether this is more correct or incorrect. Ser Loras and Sansa are paired at one point, but the notion that Loras is bisexual or cares for Sansa in any way was completely off the mark as the man is full blown gay and treats Sansa largely as an afterthought. Also marriage to Sansa is hardly taboo as one would have assumed as it turns out that Tyrion and her are wed strictly for political reasons.

(7)   Speaking of Stannis, he and the fire witch set about making more shadow babies and Ser Davos, like Lord Varys, becomes increasingly concerned about the reliance on the Lord of Light. Melisandre is decidedly uninterested in any more shadow babies but does continue her magic on Stannis’ behalf. Ser Davos is highly distrustful of the red woman despite it imperiling him repeatedly.

(8)   Jon Snow and Ygritte bump uglies, or at least engage in some heavy non-direwolf petting. Jon’s position becomes more isolated when the double dubs nearly wipe out the Night’s Watch force, a small contingent of which repel annihilation with the obsidian knives. The Night’s Watch, who have made deals with more unsavory characters in the past and have some intelligence from Jon Snow to fall back on, ally with Mance Rayder’s considerably larger wildling force and retreat to the Wall having realized the extent of the double dub threat. The first part was very close to the mark right up until the dragonglass knives, unless one counts Sam’s double dub kill. The Night’s Watch has given no indication that they have appreciated Mance Rayder’s force or what they wish to do about it.

(9)   A reinvigorated Tywin Lannister consolidates his position and finally scores a victory against an increasingly distracted Rob Stark, forcing him to retreat North. The Lannister-Tyrell alliance shows little interest in pursuing Rob Stark, content to harass his southernmost bannermen with the Mountain’s raiders and letting the Greyjoys and possibly the Boltons sap his strength with their own raids while they rebuild their strength in the south and deal with the lingering threat of Stannis. The Lannister alliance also becomes aware that Rob has lost Jaime and eventually discovers Brienne and Jaime. Jaime negotiates Brienne’s safety from Lannister swords having seen her prowess as a warrior, as well as her potentially useful hatred of Stannis or lack of strong allegiance to the Starks. Ser Loras and Tyrion are sent north with Sansa to negotiate a truce with Rob, although this may be trap. Tywin remains irate when he finds out that Arya is unaccounted for. Most of that was untrue aside from the Lannisters indeed scoring a victory over Robb Stark but instead of merely throwing him into retreat, they flat destroyed him and his army. There was definitely no truce but Tywin used Tyrion and Sansa to acquire a key of controlling the north. The Boltons did conspire to wreck the Starks but Roose’s bastard may be taking things a bit too far in his assault on the Greyjoys. And no one seems to be concerned about Arya or her whereabouts, most likely presuming that she’s dead.

(10)                       Arya stumbles in the camp where these negotiations are being held (possibly at the Twins) but does not play her Bravosian coin this season. That was weirdly accurate, though for all the wrong reasons. Possibly the most harrowing part of the Red Wedding is Arya (a large character in the book and show) coming so close to reunion with her family. It is interesting that Robb was a much larger and more defined character in the show (and well-liked by audiences), thus making the betrayal even more gut-wrenching for show watchers.

(11)                       Rob surprisingly concludes the negotiations ceding most territory to the Lannister alliance in exchange for his sister and free reign in Winterfell and surrounding lands, in part because he has received word from Jon Snow about the situation beyond the Wall (as well as the relative safety of Osha, Bran, Rickon and Hodor who have arrived there) and that he needs his southern flank secure to put down the Greyjoy and Bolton rebellions. The Lannister alliance allows Rob to remain in a position of power in part because they trust the Greyjoys and Boltons far less than the more honorable Starks and likewise need a secure northern flank to focus on crushing Stannis. They, except for Tyrion, place no stock in the grave warnings from the Wall and make no offer to help in that regard. The Lannister gambit to destroy Stannis goes about as well as Stannis’ invasion of King’s Landing. Effectively none of this happens although the Lannisters do entrust the Boltons to crush the Greyjoy uprising. It seemed peculiar all season that the Crown seemed weirdly unconcerned with eliminating Stannis, perhaps because such an invasion would indeed be too costly.

Season Four Predictions:

(1)   At the end of this season, it’s unclear what Daenerys’ next move will be after her string of victories but her rapidly growing army (and assumedly her nation of her freed slaves) may cause an attendant multiplication in problems. Dany appears a bit too confident in the sway of her own authority and the oaths of others to her, but if the events of Westeros have taught us anything, assuming that the intangibles will keep one’s subjects and bannermen in line is a fool’s game. Beyond this issue, Dany should be counseled that her actions have no doubt made her a target of other elements of the slave trade (even inasmuch as it might encourage slave revolts) particularly the two most powerful, Mereen and Volantis. Although she now has a respectable, though not overwhelming, army of roughly 10,000, she has no ships to sail Westeros; the long voyage from her current location would also leave her vulnerable to pirates, perhaps hired by her enemies. Striking north to travel overland away from the slavers would take them into the Dothraki Sea where the Dothraki would likely view her as an enemy. Although she has some horsemen as well as her dragons, the talented Dothraki riders would likely be content to ambush and harry her, avoiding direct conflict but severely weakening her force for any invasion of Westeros. Curiously, the show set up two possibilities for Daenerys to expedite her advance towards Westeros, the first more likely than the second. Tyrion remarked that the Crown owed a massive sum of money to the Iron Bank of Braavos, which they have little recourse to repay possibly even with the war subsidizing and the largesse of the Tyrells. One could imagine them defaulting on this debt somehow—possibly a plan would be devised to shift the debt from Braavos to more trusted hands, such as a consortium of Lannisters, Tyrells and Dorne (as the Lannisters and Dornish are now joined by Myrcella’s marriage). However upon an attempt to repay, the gold ships, supposedly secret, were ambushed by pirates, perhaps organized by Ser Davos after a tip from an unknown source. This would launch the South into near chaos and Dany may be contacted by Braavos to serve as a conduit to recoup their losses. Of course if this happened, Stannis and Ser Davos may also be targeted but would likewise be rejuvenated by their new wealth; also Braavos may not care who stole the gold, since it was not in their possession when it was taken. The second and even less likely scenario was hinted at but given the show’s deviation from the novels, seems unlikely. Talisa noted to Rob that she was writing to her mother in Volantis about her marriage and her pregnancy. Shortly after receiving this missive, it’s possible Talisa’s parents, slave-owning nobles according to Talisa herself, would likely have been informed of the Red Wedding and possibly the gruesome demise of their pregnant daughter and her husband. These hitherto unnamed nobles could contact Dany, who would naturally be suspicious, but then offer to help fund her invasion to seek revenge on the Frays, Boltons and Lannisters. Interestingly this would not only present Dany with the challenge to determine whether or not to trust Talisa’s parents but also whether to stifle her desire to free slaves in order to gain a powerful ally. This second choice would likely cause discord within her army no matter how it was decided, with the Second Sons miffed on any delay on riches if it was rejected and her corpus of freedmen disillusioned by her compromising her status as a liberator if she accepted. Regardless, this storyline seems highly unlikely given that in the novels, Rob’s wife is still alive and does not seem to play much of a role.

(2)   It’s unclear what role Gendry will play in the future as Stannis’ attention appears to have moved from him and towards the looming threat in the north. It will be interesting to watch if Stannis rallies to the north, how exactly they will seek to accomplish that expedition and what the Lannisters make of it. Of course, the Lannisters could discover Gendry but that would mean a quick death. Given the development of Gendry, it would seem unlikely to end it simply the way they could have in Season 2. It seems more likely that Gendry fades largely to the background and may pop up again through the interventions of the Red God clergy more than anything else. Whether that occurs this season or later, I would bet on later.

(3)   Tyrion and Sansa’s relationship is growing increasingly complicated although he seems to genuinely feel protective of her and she seems to at least tolerate him, though that was prior to his family nearly wiping out hers. Tyrion’s position seems increasingly perilous not only due to the rather ridiculous risk of keeping Shae around but also the growing risk of the Crown’s finances imploding and the blame somehow missing Baelish and landing squarely on him namely if he schemes to shift debt from Braavos to Westeros and Baelish submarines it. Note for next season: BAELISH IS GOING TO CONTINUE TO RUIN EVERYTHING.

(4)   Ygritte and Tormund Giantsbane appear to be the primary fighters left from Mance’s original sapper force that climbed the Wall, though it’s unclear just how many wildings there are left behind the Wall. It would still seem to make sense that the two forces would ally given the existential threat of the White Walkers, though Mance’s remark about setting an enormous fire remains cryptic. The Night Watch stands little chance of repelling Mance should any gate be breached by wilding sappers or even if they have to attack the main gate. They stand even less chance of repelling walkers without reinforcements. Mance’s force aims to destroy the Night’s Watch which is able to hold out until Stannis arrives. United under Stannis’ leadership, who has thus become a king of sorts, they face off against the double dubs.

(5)   Rickon and Osha are able to reach the Umbers at the Last Hearth presumably to ride out the winter. It’s unclear what losses the Umbers may have suffered at the Red Wedding but in any event will have a difficult time hiding him given Ramsay Snow’s knowledge that Theon did not in fact kill Rickon or his brother. While Bran heads north of the Wall, the most important question, possibly among all storylines, is: since Bran can warg into a human, unlike anyone else, does that mean he also has the power to warg into a White Walker? What does it mean if Bran can control a force of double dubs and their wight minions? Moreover, what if Bran is able to assemble an army of wargs? Stannis will face a different threat all together when Bran assembles a force and winter is indeed coming. South of the wall, this has all the makings of Roose Bolton rounding up Stark children. Then again, if Ramsay should get to them first, that has the makings of some uncomfortable scenes or a scene in which Arya summons Jaa’quen Haqqar to nail Ramsay to the fucking wall.

(6)   Arya’s trajectory with the Hound from the end of Season 3 is almost as nebulous as Daenerys’. The Hound does not seem to be able to double back south with her and try to turn her over to the Tullys, even if he discovers that the Blackfish still lives, as that seems a dangerous course of action into enemy territory and relies on a severely weakened house whose lands have at least nominally been taken over by Walder Gray. Alternatively, he could continue north as was his original plan, and attempt to ransom her to the Reeds at Grey Water Watch (if he can find the damn place) or Moat Caillin, though it’s likewise unclear what losses the Reeds may have suffered also given that two of their children have run off with Bran Stark. That would seem the most likely, since venturing any further north may encounter more Bolton minions. The tenuous détente between the Hound and Arya would indicate that this storyline could veer in any number of directions though it would seem that Sandor Clegane has no intention of keeping her around any longer than is absolutely required. Curiously, although the Boltons or Grays may wish to pay for her as a potential source of an heir to Winterfell in case something happens to Sansa, the Hound seems unlikely to take this course given either his suspicion that they would renege on any deal or what they might do to Arya once they captured her.

(7)   Tyrion welcomes his brother home whose maiming curiously gives them more in common with one another. It’s unclear if Cersei will be able to execute on her Season 3 statement that she will not be marrying Ser Loras, but this seems unlikely barring one of their deaths regardless of Jaime’s reappearance. Regardless of Cersei’s machinations, Tyrion will reinvigorate Jaime’s life by constructing an apparatus to fit over his stump (in the same manner that he created a harness to allow Bran to ride a horse) that allows him to wield a blade with that arm. In training with Brienne to harness this new weapon, Jaime becomes just as deadly with only one hand as he was before. It will be interesting to see just how disappointed Tywin is in Jaime (who would appear to be head of Kingsguard, having originally been named after Ser Barristan was dismissed) but the answer is “very” given that his capture severely complicated the war effort. I am very unclear on why Jaime was able to effectively abandon the Kingsguard to go rampaging in the Riverlands prior to his capture and what, if any, consequences that would have on his service to the Crown. Book readers heavily intimated that something was going to go down at Joffrey’s wedding to Maegery Tyrell but given the Season 3 wrap-up, there is little clue what that is. My only suspicion is that Cersei gets ripped and reveals in public that Jaime is Joffrey’s father but that seems an uncharacteristically stupid move even for a despondent and inebriated Cersei.

(8)   Littlefinger will continue to concentrate power in the shadows through his financial constructs as well as his outright control of the Eyre. Despite Tyrion uncovering his schemes and possibly his tip to pirates to steal gold bound for Braavosi debts, he will be able to back Tyrion into a corner to take the fall not only because the financial stress will appear to be Tyrion’s failing but Littlefinger’s knowledge of Shae will enable him to force Tyrion to take the blame and flee. Littlefinger will have miscalculated however in that Tyrion survives or at least is not held under close watch in King’s Landing crushed by the loss of Shae; rather he is able to regroup and conspire with Varys to bring Littlefinger down. Tyrion naturally finds it more difficult to be unable to use his family’s name or wealth but is able to maneuver with the help of Shae, Bron, Varys, the ever loyal Podrick and curiously Sansa who insists coming with him as she has nothing but trouble for her in King’s Landing should he flee. Though a long shot would be to cross the Narrow Sea and hideout in Pentos or Braavos and possibly even throw in with Daenerys’ crew having been betrayed by his own family, Tyrion will seek out an alliance through his marriage to Sansa with the remains of the Stark bannermen under the control of the Blackfish, who’s desire to avenge his sister and nephew outweigh his distrust of Tyrion. Although Tyrion will have been able to collect a significant sum of money before fleeing (making him look all the more guilty), Bron’s loyalty will be a constant question given the obvious incentive to turn Tyrion’s band in and the declining prospects of wealth from Tyrion amongst the severely damaged Northmen. Moreover, it is likely that the Hound and Arya as well as Rickon and Osha join this group at the safest location for a Northern conspiracy. Tyrion’s goals for this alliance beyond his desire to destroy Littlefinger are difficult to ascertain, but he could eventually challenge his nephew or turn attentions northward to the danger at the wall, eventually forming an alliance with the remains of Stannis’ army and more importantly a warg force controlled by Bran Stark.

(9)   The Greyjoys’ arc is probably the most confusing as they are in a precarious position as one of the last king’s standing but harried by Ramsay Snow. Yara’s gambit up the Weeping Waters to go full ninja on the Dreadfort (the best name in Game of Thrones thus far) seems a fool’s errand. While the Boltons are somewhat distracted with minding the North, no doubt a web of conflicting loyalties and grumblings given the events of the Red Wedding that may well have pissed off even the aggrieved Karstarks, Yara’s assault may not be a complete suicide mission but the chances of success are slim (is anyone even sure that Theon, aka Reek, is even at the Dreadfort or will remain there?). She will not make it to the headwaters of the river as she is intercepted by Stannis’ force advancing north to the Wall. Davos convinces Stannis to spare Yara in order to have the Greyjoys turn their attentions to the danger beyond the Wall with proof of threat from Melisandre and evidence that her brother has become an unrecognizable monster under Ramsay’s unrelenting torture.

Some final points in no particular order:

  • In a generally solid third season, the last scene was remarkably ham-handed and incredibly pointless. The goal seemed to be to establish Daenerys as a beloved liberator but this was accomplished in the laziest manner possible with Dany looking like she just scored the winning touchdown in a football game; this isn’t even to mention the bizarre racial subtext.
  • The COT crew generally objected to Ros’ death at the hands of Joffrey via Littlefinger as unnecessarily sexualized and an example of a female character being sacrificed to advance the arc of the male characters, though admittedly this death did little besides assert Littlefinger over Varys, which appeared to be already happening with Baelish’s ascent to control the Eyrie, and depict Joffrey’s depravity, which was already well known. One might argue that it was still meant to add to male characters but was even more unnecessary since it did little to tell the audience anything it didn’t already know. However Ros’ downfall was in keeping with the theme of the season with enemies being vanquished by being betrayed or sacrificed by those they considered allies or at least believed they could trust to a sufficient extent. And in most cases the victorious betrayers had some cause to affect their back-stabbing: Ros had begun to play for power by informing on Littlefinger to Varys; the Starks had broken their promise to Walder Fray, who in turn lost power, and ignored the advice of the Boltons who were forced to put their family’s interest at risk in an increasingly unwinnable war; the slaver who sold Daenerys the Unsullied was arrogant, insulting and consumed by avarice and OWNED SLAVES; Theon turned on the Starks and ignored the commands of his father and the admonitions of his sister to abandon Winterfell. Ros was victim of her strategic gambles as much as anyone—could it not be claimed that Theon’s torture, despite being a more central character in the show, was undertaken to advance the character of Ramsay Snow? Although Ros’ seems the least justified and most gratuitous but it did hark back to a specific threat by Littlefinger.
  • Although family allegiances are varying, there is a distinct rivalry and substantial distrust between the north and south in Westeros
  • Tywin chiding his children seems to clash with his treatment of Arya last season but that’s belied by two points. First, Arya fears him for obvious reasons but not in the sense of the fear and belittlement Tywin (purposefully or not) instills in his own children since she loved and respected her own father. Secondly, Tywin does not have anything at stake in “spoiling” Arya since she does not factor into his family’s legacy, which he serves above all else, and she, unlike his children, is quick witted enough to riposte him without resorting to a resigned petulance and sarcasm as Tyrion, Jamie and Cersei often do when bolted into a corner by Tywin due to their years of chaffing under his parentage.
  • The war of the Five Kings: (1) Joffrey Baratheon (2) Balon Greyjoy (3) Robb Stark (4) Stannis Baratheon (5) Renly Baratheon?
  • Everyone angry at the destruction of house stark but few consider how the Starks and Baratheons laid waste to the Targaryens, killing all of their children save for those who were able to escape.

For further reference, all of the Game of Thrones episode commentaries by Charlie Jane Anders on io9: