We don’t need a trip to see Maggy the Frog, unexpectedly attractive yet creepy fortune teller, to tell us that things are likely to end badly on Game of Thrones. If you’ve been paying attention over the course of four and a half seasons, you know that Murphy’s Law is in effect with the darkest of outcomes. Much of this has been drawn from the books of George R.R. Martin, which means that even book readers were aware of what laid ahead. Now, however, five episodes into the fifth season, we’re deep into uncharted territory. Stories have been changed, non-vital characters have been cut and new paths have been forged. Even if we think we know what’s going to happen, it’s likely that we don’t.
Needless to say, I can’t wait to talk about “Kill the Boy” on this week’s episode of A Storm of Spoilers.
That’s a discussion for Thursday. Today’s column is for everyone, book readers and non-book readers. Because we’re all in this together. It does include show spoilers through season 5’s fifth episode, “Kill the Boy,” so make sure you’ve at least watched that far. As well, there may be some opinions informed by book knowledge, but there will be no direct spoilers. This week we’re talking about the feeling of dread that weighs upon us following the episode. The feeling that of the story lines chosen by Game of Thrones creators Dan Weiss and David Benioff, in an episode written by Bryan Cogman, are all headed for a very dark and unsavory ending. These are the storylines that can’t possibly end well, as told by GoT’s most ominous episode yet.
1. Jon Snow’s Great Divide
The episode’s title alludes to a scene between Jon Snow and Maester Aemon, who after ruminating on how a Targaryen alone in the world is not a good thing, advises the new Lord Commander on his Wildling problem. “Kill the boy and let the man be born,” he explains. Which is Westeros’ version of “Man up.” It’s a catalyst for Jon Snow making a very unpopular decision. He must ally with Tormund Giantsbane (the de facto leader of the Wildlings now that Mance has been barbecued) and convince him to save the rest of his people. As Jon (and the audience) know all too well, Winter is Coming, and with it is coming an army of ice zombies. If the Wildlings are left north of The Wall, they will not only be killed, but also turned into even more terrifying ice zombies. Jon knows that they must go find the remaining Wildlings (who are allegedly holed up at a sea-side village called Hardhome) and bring them to safety south of The Wall.
As expected, this isn’t going over well with the rest of The Night’s Watch, half of which already hate Jon. As much as the idea makes sense from a practical standpoint, there is hundreds of years worth of history of bloodshed between The Night’s Watch and the Wildlings. And as we know from elsewhere in this episode, people in The North don’t easily forget things. This is Jon carrying out his duty and making the decision to fight for what is right. We’ve seen this before from his father, Ned Stark. Remember how all of that ended?
You know that even when your little buddy Olly, who you’ve apparently forgiven for murdering the love of your life and made your little apprentice, is against you, that you might be in trouble. But for Jon, the most important thing at this point is his duty to the realms of men, whatever the cost.
2. Dany’s Desperation
In Meereen, it’s lovely to see the Mother of Dragons finally doing something that’s worthy of her title. But after feeding some Prime Meereen 1%er to her children (love the Mother’s Day parallels in this episode), she realizes that her current course of rule has not been working (insert collective “duh” from the audience here). Her sidepiece Daario recommends that she hunker down in her pyramid, unleash her dragons and her Unsullied and clear out the city. Her now-fallen advisor Ser Barristan the Bold recommended finding a path to peace with the Great Masters of Meereen. And her interpreter/bestie Missandei basically tells her to “go with your gut.”
The choice is clear: Dany needs to make peace. But in doing so, she has aligned herself with Hizdahr zo Loraq, a man who she was about five seconds away from feeding to her dragons a scene earlier. In a desperate move to bring Meereen to order, she’s going to not only reopen the fighting pits and honor tradition, she’s going to marry Hizdahr. This presents two major questions for Dany going forward:
- Is she still interested in crossing the Narrow Sea and taking back Westeros? (A marriage seems like a pretty permanent move that ties her to Meereen. Also, someone needs to tell her about how weddings go in this world.)
- Can Hizdahr be trusted? (We’ve seen him begging for his father’s body, which was endearing. We’ve also seen him urging Dany to respect tradition, which is noble in a sense. Beyond that, what do we know about him? Nothing, really. For all we (and Dany) know, he could be in on the Sons of the Harpy situation. At the very least, our favorite sidepiece Daario doesn’t seem to trust him.)
Dany is clearly in a vulnerable spot. She’s making decisions out of desperation because the Sons of the Harpy have struck down two of her favorite people. Whether or not she can stabilize Meereen and move on to her bigger, more interesting goals of reclaiming the Iron Throne is a big question mark at this point.
Then again, dragons.
3. The Toxic Boltons
We didn’t need a reminder that Ramsay Bolton is the worst, but the show saw fit to give us one anyway. Ramsay shows us how he deals with awkward love triangles (in the most antagonizing way possible) and how he deals with awkward situations that involve his new bride and his pet, who previously burned her two little brothers. It’s all very icky and very Ramsay. The only thing that could possibly be more disheartening is if we also get a reminder that Roose Bolton is also terrible. In much of his screen time since The Red Wedding, we’ve begun to see Roose as a fairly pragmatic, ambitious and cunning lord whose interest in upward mobility seem to outweigh any ethical boundaries. He’s not the sort that anyone is going to actively like, but he’s also not hard to understand. It was almost possible to see him as fairly reasonable, with Ramsay being an outlier of crazy born out of the insecurity that comes along with being bastard-born.
Not so fast, according to this episode. Roose tells the story of Ramsay’s mother (continuing the show’s Mother’s Day theme in a very gross way). How he killed her husband, raped her underneath his swinging body, then considered killing her and tossing the baby in the river when she turned up later with his offspring. For the Boltons, this is about as close as we’ll ever get to a heartwarming father-child moment, a bizarro companion scene to Stannis’ chat with Shireen last week. In Westeros, family matters. Even if your family is awful.
All of this to remind us that Sansa, left alone by Littlefinger, is unprotected and in the hands of the absolute worst people in Westeros. And even though help (in the form of Brienne and Pod) isn’t far away, I doubt lighting a candle at the top of the broken tower (from which Bran fell in the pilot, oh memories!) is going to save her from whatever depravity lies ahead.
4. The Heartwarming State of Shireen
This show has a formula. And no, I’m not talking about the most popular spoiler theory that includes some character math. I’m talking about the a very simple formula for predicting if something bad is about to happen. If a character experiences a number of heartwarming moments in succession, that character is flying too close to the sun.
Take the end of Robb Stark’s journey as the ultimate example. He was winning his war against the Lannisters, he had just married the woman he loved, found out that she was carrying his child (and future heir) and his relationship with his mother had improved markedly. All that remained was a quick trip up to The Twins to marry off his uncle Edmure and patch things up with Walder Frey. It was all going to be just fine.
This is why two weeks of Princess Shireen having nice little moments, first with her father and this week with Ser Davos, has me worried for her safety. Or perhaps the safety of those around her. Despite the fact that Jon Snow didn’t want to join their cause, everything else seems to be going well for Team Stannis. They are marching south on their Holy Quest to Retake The Seven Kingdoms. Their first stop is the liberation of The North from the aforementioned Worst Family of Westeros. Everything seems to be coming up Stannis. We are right to be worried about how this is going to end. Because we the audience, like The North, remember.
5. Ser Patient Zero of House Friendzone
The last of our ominous storylines checks in on the travels of Tyrion and Ser Jorah, who give us a historic tour of Old Valyria, the doomed city that was the height of society for 1,000 years. This is where Daenerys’ ancestors came from before fleeing with their dragons and conquering Westeros. It’s a reminder of one of the show’s bigger themes: that all societies can be brought down, especially when there are greater forces at work. From the sound of things, Valyria was doomed by some sort of volcanic eruption. This scene does a lot of work to unite these two characters and strengthen their sense of purpose. After their Historic Poetry Slam, they are met with a vision of Dany’s HDIC (Head Dragon in Charge) Drogon flying above the ruins. For Ser Jorah, this is a reminder that his beloved queen is out there and that his faith in her was not misplaced. For Tyrion, this seems to be a sobering moment. Up to this point he’s allowed himself to be very flippant about his own place in the wars to come. He’s been a passenger to the plans of Varys and now Jorah. But in seeing this dragon, you can see in the emotive performance of Peter Dinklage that he’s becoming a believer. It’s not just gold and glory that will drive him into Daenerys’ service. Seeing a real dragon would make a believer out of anyone.
This moment of awe is cut short by a visit from the Stone Men, the Valyrian residents who are inflicted with greyscale to the extent that they are just lumbering monsters. This explains this season’s curious obsession with the disease. The gist is thus: greyscale is terrible and if someone who has it touches you, you’re probably going to get it, too. It all leads to an exciting, terrifying, new monster moment for the show that puts two characters who are pretty universally liked in immediate and serious danger. And for a moment, I was convinced that the episode would end when Tyrion being dragged beneath the water by one of the Stone Men cut to black for a long time. That would have been cruel, even by this show’s standards.
Instead, they both make it out of Valyria, but not unscathed. The biggest, most ominous reveal is saved for the episode’s final seconds. Ser Jorah has contracted greyscale. And even though he knows it’s one of the world’s most contagious and horrible diseases, he’s going to cover it up and carry on toward his beloved queen. Which is just what Dany needs. In addition to the uprising, her inability to control all of her dragons and her tangents that seem to be taking her further away from the Iron Throne, she may soon also have an outbreak of greyscale on her hands. Smooth move, Ser Friendzone. As a wise man once said, “the path to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Related Topics: Game of Thrones