This review contains spoilers.
5.5 Kill The Boy
There comes a moment in every episode of Game Of Thrones where I inevitably groan angrily at the television. That’s when the episode goes to black and ends for the week. However, this week’s episode of Game Of Thrones had a little fun with that black-out convention and used it to create a little narrative tension while still making me yell at the television over a potential cliff-hanger yet again.
Last week’s cliff-hangers are resolved pretty quickly. Left bloody in an alley, Grey Worm and Barristan Selmy’s fates are quickly sorted out this week by Bryan Cogman’s script. Grey Worm lies in a sick bed, being tended to by Missandei, and Ser Barristan The Bold lies on a funeral bier, with Daenerys Targaryen, Daario Naharis, and a very unlucky Hizdahr zo Loraq (Joel Fry) discussing the future of the people of Meereen in the wake of such an unfortunate uprising. After all, Barristan was the one who backed making peace, while Daario preached war. Now it looks as though Dany, a Targaryen alone in the world, will be forced to decide the course of action without one of her most trusted advisers.
Also making decisions on his own is Dany’s frozen northern parallel, Jon Snow, who seeks council with Maester Aemon (the brilliant Peter Vaughn) before being told in no uncertain terms that Jon Snow needs to man up—the episode title Kill The Boy comes from Aemon’s monologue—and make the choices himself, because he’s the Lord Commander and it’s not like he’s the most popular guy at The Wall right now. Jon’s idea is going to be risky, and it’s going to take him away from The Wall for a couple of weeks, but it might be the only thing that will save the realm of men from the White Walkers. Unfortunately, it will be without the assistance of King Stannis, who is ready to march south for Winterfell and the Bolton family, then onwards and downwards to King’s Landing once again. That’s going to be interesting, particularly since Stannis is bringing his family with him on the war march, while the Bolton family has made Winterfell their home.
Again, we were presented with a fairly simple study in contrasts. Stannis has a mean wife and a wonderful daughter (and the three of them plus Davos and Melisandre make for great television) while Roose has a… well, I guess she’s nice, we don’t know much about Walda except that she was worth her weight in silver and she’s currently pregnant, which kicks off a great downward spiral for Ramsay. The various family members we’re comparing: Michael McElhatton’s Roose, Iwan Rheon’s Ramsay, Stephen Dillane’s Stannis, and Kerry Ingram’s Shireen, are all really well performed by their respective actors. While watching, I commented that I really like the Baratheon family’s dynamic, particularly with uncle Davos and creepy aunt Melisandre (not a huge fan of Selyse Florent as a character, but I’m sure everyone else in her family feels about the same way that I do about her).
It isn’t so much that Game Of Thrones is breaking new ground for television, or even for the fantasy genre. It’s a sexier version of Tolkien, among other fantasy and historical inspirations. Yes, it’s more violent and naked than the medium would be on a different television network, but what makes the show is that it’s so well-executed. Benioff and Weiss deserve all the credit in the world for making it work, and double credit for the difficult task of adapting a beloved series of books into a television series without making it hard to access for those, like myself, who haven’t read them all yet. But it’s not just the writing or the creative team, it’s the actors that really keep things working. I mean, Peter Dinklage is now a bonafide star. Lena Headey is more than just the woman who played Sarah Connor on TV. Stephen Dillane has been putting his stage prowess to work. Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams have come from obscurity to become household faces.
Game Of Thrones is worth checking out because it’s brave, bold, gutsy television. It has strong source material to lean on, but it’s becoming something above and beyond. Week in and week out, you know you’re going to get something interesting to watch, and the worst episodes of Game Of Thrones are still water cooler talking fuel destined to get an 8 on the IMDb rating page (the lowest-rated episode, 2.2 AKA The Night Lands, still has great stuff happening within the hour). I can’t think of another show that’s been on for five seasons that’s been this consistently excellent, or one that has worked so hard to challenge perceptions of what the fantasy genre can be without leaving the boundaries of the genre itself.
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