Sunday, May 31, 2015

Game of Thrones (S5E07): "The Gift"

Episode 7 of Season 5 of HBO's Game Of Thrones is titled "The Gift." As with most episode titles, "The Gift" could refer to many things in the episode, but the reference that most thrills me as a reader (and fan) of the books that the show is based on is the event at the very end of the episode where Tyrion Lannister is presented to Daenery Targaryen as a "gift" from Ser Jorah Mormont. In the books, Daenerys' storyline has not intersected with Tyrion's despite the two being two of the most important and compelling characters in the entire series.

It is clear that at least one meaning of the title is Tyrion Lannister (he does in fact waddle into the arena after Mormont has dispatched several fighting slaves and say "I am the gift!" after all)  but there are several others. For example, one of the Sand Snakes (Tyene Sand, daughter of Oberyn Martell) rehabilitates the entire misadventure which has been Season 5's foray into Dorne when she gives two gifts to Ser Bronn (the first gift is a pulse-rising striptease which activates the poison that she had cut him with during their fight in the previous episode; happily the second gift is the antidote to that same poison.)

In Winterfell, newlywed Ramsay Bolton has a gift for his bride, the former Sansa Stark. Since he's a disgusting psychopath, his "gift" is the flayed body of the old woman who had told Sansa that "The North Remembers" and gave her hope by telling her that if Sansa puts a candle in the highest window of the old tower then help will come to rescue her. Ramsay, like all abusers wants to extinguish hope in his victim and make them think that he has complete and absolute control over them. Things are not looking good for Sansa. (The slight glimmer of hope is that while Sansa was outside her quarters she seized the opportunity to grab something small and sharp and hide it in her clothes.)

At the Wall, two gifts are bestowed. Master Aemon (who was actually Aemon Targaryen, the youngest brother of the last Targaryen King of Westeros) is given the rare gift of a peaceful death. He died in his sleep surrounded by people who love him (Gilly and Sam) and after playing with baby Sam. Later, after getting the crap beaten out of him by two "brothers" of the Night's Watch for defending Gilly from an attempted rape, she gives him the gift of sexual awakening by gently having sex with him, finally consummating their relationship.

In King's Landing, Ser Petyr Baelish has a gift for Lady Olenna: "a handsome young man," which he describes as the same kind of gift that he had previously given Cersei Lannister. We know that Olyvar is a handsome young man, that he used to work for Littlefinger as a male whore and that he provided the evidence which resulted in Ser Loras Martell (Cersei's fiance!) from being arrested by the Faith Militant on charges of "buggery." How could Baelish's gift to Olenna be "the same thing" that he gave Cersei? Hopefully we will find out in the next episode (S5E08) "Hardhome."

Cersei Lannister brings a gift of food to Margaery Tyrell in prison. The bedraggled Margaery does not take her mother-in-law's dishonest protestation of charity well and their scene together ends with her shriek of "hateful bitch" and throwing the proffered plate of food violently to the ground.

The final gift is a gift to the viewers. After fifty-seven episodes of lying, scheming, adultering and smirking, Cersei finally gets the comeuppance we have been all waiting for. The High Sparrow reveals that Lancel Lannister has unburdened himself of his knowledge of his distant cousin's illegal exploits and they both watch impassively as the Silent Sisters drag Cersei to a cell awfully close to one where she had visited Margaery a little bit earlier in the episode.

The best parts of the episode were:
  • I already revealed the best line of the show (Tyrion's "I am the gift!") but a close second was Margaery's "You hateful bitch!"
  • The look on Cersei's face as she finally realizes (way too late) that she might be in danger from the High Sparrow is priceless.
  • The verbal badinage between Bronn and Tyene while both are imprisoned was a highlight, especially since it represents a significant departure from the story in the books.
  • The beatdown that Ser Jorah gives the rest of the slaves in the fighting pit as he battles to impress his Khaleesi to hopefully get the opportunity to present his gift and hopefully win her forgiveness was very cool.
The parts of the episode I could have done without:
  •  No specific lowlights, except that it was very depressing to see that Ramsay's grip on Theon is so string that even when Sansa begged him to help her by sending the rescue signal Reek went directly to his master instead. 
Grade: 9/10.

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