Game of Thrones: okay, seriously, what’s up with that knife?
This is a full-spoiler look at last night's episode. If you have yet to watch it, go do so! We'll wait for you.
There are certain tropes in fantasy that are hard to shake, just as there are tropes in modern story telling that give us hints about where a story is going. We knew that when the slaver insulted Daenerys in a language she wasn’t supposed to understand it was very likely that she merely took the insults on the chin, and the moment her understanding was revealed was likely to be her moment of revenge. Even though Game of Thrones sometimes tips its hand about what’s coming next, the payoff is almost always worth it.
And Sam certainly showed us a vorpal blade of some sort in that opening scene, didn’t he? We suddenly have a fine example of Chekhov’s shotgun on the mantle, and the only question is what that blade is meant to cut. My original thought was that it was forged by the White Walkers, but I pulled up images from the finale of season 2 to find that their blades were white, and Sam’s blade looks to be made of obsidian or something similar.
Is it possible that his knife is made of something that proves lethal to dragons? This would allow the show to play the long game once again while giving an unlikely character a way to counteract Daenerys' main advantage in battle.
It was hard to watch the rest of the episode, my brain was spinning after Sam whipped out that knife.
Okay, but other things did happen
The other bits and pieces of the episode proved interesting as well though, even if the story seemed to take a moment to breathe. Tywin and Lady Olenna bantering about who should and shouldn’t be married was an amazing piece of verbal combat, with Olenna finally meeting a Lannister who lived up to his reputation.
Watching Tywin’s mouth tighten at the idea that he fooled around with another man at some point in his past was amusing, as was his rage at the suggestion that something had gone on between Jaime and Cersei. Still, the idea of no heirs for House Tyrell was enough to give Tywin the advantage, even if Olenna has her doubts about Cersei’s proximity to menopause.
Tyrion's struggle to tell Sansa that they were to be married was another high point, and it’s fascinating to watch these brutal, selfish characters understand just how cruel all of these events have been to the eldest Stark daughter. Watching her cry as the ship pulls away in the final scene, over Littlefinger’s somewhat overwrought monologue about chaos being a “ladder” was a sad moment. For a short time everything seemed to be going well for Sansa, but just as quickly it was all taken away.
The actress who plays Sansa seems incredibly childlike in her moments of joy, and knowing that each one will likely end in heartbreak makes her brief smiles nearly unbearable. No characters gets out of the show unscathed, but the idea that Sansa could be happy seems to lead directly to her being punished merely for hoping about a better future.
None of this can touch Littlefinger's “feeding” another character to Joffrey so he can torture and kill her with that crossbow he loves so much. There was a sense that Joffrey was being heeled, at least somewhat, by Margaery's influence in the past few episodes. Any hope that he was going to rein in his murderous and sadistic tendencies were dashed in that final scene. We also learn that Petyr cares for no man and no land. He just wants to make sure everything is always in flux in such a way that he can benefit from it. He now seems like a version of the Joker who does care about money, and that's a dangerous character to try to maneuver around.
Checking in with Jaime: He can’t cut his own meat, he doesn’t have much bargaining power, and that’s basically that. Theon? Still getting tortured, but the sense of glee and fun we sense in his tormentor is a new twist. These are the acts of someone really enjoying themselves, and at least that's a new wrinkle in a story line that's taking much time to do very little. At least at the moment. We'll have to wait for the payoff to see if this has been worth the wait.
Climbing the wall, and paying for the sins of another
The relationship between Jon Snow and Ygritte (boy howdy how fun it is to look up the spelling of some of these names week after week) has finally begun to pay off. She's aware that his allegiance hasn't shifted this quickly, but she's also ready to give up her place in life as long as they're together. Two against everyone is certainly more interesting than a couple that's simply a part of a larger struggle against the Watch, and it makes it easier to cheer for both characters.
This is a world where nearly everyon is a pawn in bigger battles, controlled by powerful men and women. Who wouldn't want to drop out of the whole system in order to live a simple, peaceful life? On the flip side, it was clear neither character was going to die on the climb up the wall. It's rare that a scene feels safe, but this was one of those exceptions.
One last note: Thoros' speech about how and why he brings Beric back from the dead was spectacular. It's easy to wonder whether holy men believe the words they speak, especially if those words are responsible for their food, wine, and shelter, but the idea that someone would call upon the carefully rehearsed words and rituals at a time of crisis is believable and incredibly human.
Belief in the God of Light doesn't save the character, he's drowning in the bottle as he watches his friend gain scars and possibly lose his soul, but at least now he knows that he's not simply going through the motions.
For a “calm” episode, much went on, and many characters subtly shifted in their interactions with others and our understanding of them. But still… that knife.
As always, please keep spoilers of future episodes and the book out of the comments, but be advised: I'm not policing the comments. Read at your own risk.