This review contains spoilers.
There’s always a little bit of a let-down after a particularly epic episode of Game of Thrones. After all, with last week’s Red Wedding, it’s only natural that this week’s episode take things a little easier, be a little slower, and ease the viewers gently into the off season for our favorite blood-soaked Medieval fantasy drama. That’s not exactly the case this week. Instead, rather than simply having a discussion of the aftermath of the Red Wedding, we see the Boltons actually finishing what they started thanks to a pretty impressive wide shot of Roose on the battlements of the Twins while below him tents burn and Stark men die screaming.
It’s one of a few great shots in this week’s episode, courtesy of the brilliant David Nutter (who crushed last week’s episode as well). We open big, and we close big on one of the most impressive shots the show has ever accomplished, and in the middle, we get a lot of catching-up done on the characters we didn’t get to see last week, or that didn’t actually die last week in the great Stark Purge of 2013. After the show piece of last week, this week’s episode seems to be mostly about the actors and the characters that we’ve grown fond of reacting to the events perpetrated by Roose Bolton and Walder Fray.
Speaking of Walder Fray, there were some brilliant scenes this week. The gloating villainy of David Bradley’s Walder and the quiet menace of Michael McElhatton’s Bolton make for a great pair. A vengeful old man who has murdered his way to the top of the heap in the Riverlands and the meanest non-Balon Greyjoy man in the North who has murdered his way into the powerful position as Warden of the North. They’re only two of the heartless men in this week’s episode; the theme appears to be that there’s nobody worse as a father or person than the high lords of Westeros, because when we leave Walder and Roose’s back-slapping session, there’s nowhere to go but up.
As good as Walder, Roose, and a returning Balon Greyjoy are at being despicable people, there’s nobody quite as bad as Charles Dance’s Tywin Lannister, except for perhaps Jack Gleeson’s Joffrey Baratheon. It seems every week Tywin Lannister gets another great scene in which he praises the strength of his family and doing the right thing for his name and legacy while being despicable, and this week is no different. Indeed, it’s a highlight in a great episode. One minute Joffrey is gloating and throwing his weight around only to be undercut at every turn by his grandfather and uncle during a small council gathering, and in the next moment, Tywin is reminding his dwarf son once again how terrible a burden he is. To Tywin, the only thing that matters is family, but to Cersei, it’s the children that matter more than simply the name.
Charles Dance has proven to be really good at being cruel to his on-screen children, but this week he gets to show a little emotion in the process in his scene with Tyrion. It works really well because this is probably the first moment ever we’ve seen Tywin begin to crack, if only a little bit. It’s a series of great scenes compiled together, and it seems that the show is sticking with its standard way of transitioning between scenes, either via match cuts or following a character from one setting to another. Indeed, while there isn’t a lot of time spent in one place or another, the show manages to pack a lot of good stuff into each little scene.
David Benioff and D.B. Weiss deserve a whole lot of credit for the quality of the show. Yes, they’re adapting a series of great novels courtesy of George R.R. Martin, but even the changes they’re making to the source material (like Theon’s prolonged torture this season or Danerys’ adventure in Qarth) tend to pay off in the end. At the time, it seemed like just being cruel, but this week it finally seemed to click in as Theon is well and truly broken by his Bolton captors and forgotten by his father.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is usually surprised by the end of an episode of Game of Thrones when it happens, and no episode’s ending took him more by surprise than this one. See you next season! Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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