Oh, man. Do I have some shit to say about this episode. First of all, I missed out on my prediction to the end of the episode. Of course, if you want to go by the books, I did correctly figure out what would be the last scene from the books. Everything afterward was either new storylines created for the show, or possible spoilers from future books! (but more on that later). But due to the way the last twenty minutes of this episode unfolded, I am retiring my weekly predictions concerning how the episodes will end. When they are creating new material not in the books and drawing on possible spoilers from future books, it takes the fun out of making these guesses, because it feels like playing against a stacked deck. So going forward, I'm afraid it will only be the write-ups, sorry.
So with this said, let's get into this week's episode. As always, spoilers will abound for the books and the show, so be up to date or immune to being bothered by spoilers. No new characters of note to report this week ...well, beyond Ser Pounce and that possible White Walker Witch King we glimpsed at the end of the episode. There were also no new deaths or locales on the map during the opening credits, which means we can jump right into this episode.
Taking it from the top, we already see the showrunners exploring a new subplot they hinted at in a previous episode, this being the budding attraction between Grey Worm and Missandei. In the books, Missandei is only ten or so, meaning this wouldn't make much sense. In the show I suppose it's fine, but since Grey Worm is missing his procreation tidbits, it does make me wonder if at some point HBO will unveil their version of eunuch sex, because I don't think we've seen Missandei naked yet, and far be it from the showrunners to miss an opportunity to strip an attractive down to her naked skin. (Yes, my snark meter is up this week--you probably already have an inkling why, and if not it will be crystal clear come the end of this entry). Beyond that, the infiltration of Grey Worm and the other Unsullied into the city to smuggle the slaves weapons was something entirely new to HBO, though their use of the sewers draws on the books. Given that Yunkai fell in the HBO series due to some infiltration from within--a distinct change from the books--I suppose the change in the taking of Meereen makes sense to avoid repetition. And I have to admit, that shot at the end of the scene of Daenerys looking down upon the city while the Targaryen banner fluttered behind was a gorgeous shot.
Moving to King's Landing, things immediately become more complicated (though we're saving the best for last on the WTF meter). As I suspected would be the case (for me), all of Jaime's scenes lacked the proper emotional punch following last week's RapeGate. Perhaps some of this could have been alleviated had they tackled what happened more directly in the scene between Jaime and Cersei, but nope, we'll just go on la dee da like nothing has changed. Not that the showrunners or anyone at HBO cares--this week's episode scored an all time series high for ratings (6.9 million viewers in the 9:00 p.m. slot, 8.4 million on the night if memory serves correctly). I can't judge anyone for still watching since I'm still watching myself, but geez, if there was any chance of Benioff and Weiss deciding they should tone down the gratuitous rape, I think it's safe to say that idea flew out the window with Bran. But I did the tirade about these decisions last week, so I'm not going to rehash them again any more than I have.
But there are some other interesting takeaways from Jaime and Cersei's scenes. First, with Jaime giving Oathkeeper to Brienne, his storyline from book three has essentially reached its close. The only thing left to cover from book three is when he frees Tyrion from prison, and that's assuming it still goes down this way in the HBO series. They could just as easily make it Varys who frees him and not miss a beat. The other tidbit from they covered from Jaime in book three this episode was his conversation with Tyrion in the prison when they talk about Joff's death ...only in the book, Tyrion is so angered that Jaime would even suspect him of killing Joff that he lies and says that he did it, just to hurt Jaime's feelings. And speaking of wrapping up storylines in book three, they've done exactly that with Brienne. Her accepting Oathkeeper and setting out to find Sansa was the end of her story in book three. And more than that, Pod doesn't join her until A Feast for Crows. He originally follows because he's at a loss what to do following Tyrion's flight in book three. This change for the HBO series makes sense given the way they're tinkering with the timeline, but damn, they've officially entered material from A Feast for Crows with this episode.
They've actually started drawing on AFFC from multiple angles at this point, because Margaery's seduction of Tommen doesn't begin until the fourth book either. Tommen is younger in the books, so it's a far more innocent seduction in there, though this was fairly tame by HBO's standards. Still, there was sexual undercurrents here, which weren't present in the book due to Tommen's younger age.
So the next time Jaime and Brienne appear in episodes, both of them will also be into book four with their storylines. A lot of Cersei's storyline will also enter book four with her interactions with Jaime, Margaery, and Tommen, though there are still important pieces of Cersei's storyline from book three to tackle. So going forward, they'll be mixing and matching with her the rest of the season.
Shifting to out at sea, Petyr and Sansa's scene was fairly straightforward, with one notable tidbit, this being that Petyr said they're on the way to the Vale. In the book, they first made a stop at Pety's old home in the Fingers. Nothing too significant happens there in the books, but unless they come up with ways to pad Sansa's storyline, there really isn't that much left for her that's been published. She only has a few chapters left in book three, there are only a few chapters in book four, and she's absent from book five. So by seemingly cutting out this stop at the Fingers, we're being left with precious little for Sansa going forward.
And this brings us to the last twenty minutes of this week's episode. Man oh man. OK, the Wall first. Locke never went to the Wall in the books searching for Bran and Rickon. Of course there is no Locke in the books--the closest we come is Vargo Hoat, although these two characters have significant differences. That brings us to Jon and Samwell ...ugh, Sam never told Jon that Bran was alive in the books. Martin made a big deal about keeping this secret, so it's a little disappointing to see them go in the opposite direction in the show. I understand the reasoning why they made the change though. If Sam doesn't tell Jon, they don't talk about it. If they don't talk about it, Locke never overhears them and thinks there might be a chance that Bran or Rickon is at Craster's, at which point he has no reason to go with Jon north of the Wall. Clearly the showrunners are intent on having him north of the Wall, so that his storyline intertwines with Jon and Bran's at Craster's.
Of course, never went north of the Wall in the books to deal with the renegade Brothers. I actually don't mind this concept that much ...I think the problems start to emerge when they start (seemingly) setting up his story to intersect with Bran's at Craster's. First, Bran and company never come into contact with the renegades at Craster's Keep. Now I understand the writers' thinking here. Bran has very chapters remaining in the books, and they needed something to pad out his story so they don't run out of material for the show. So they think to themselves, "Oh, we can have him interact with the renegade brothers at Craster's."
And here's where everything starts going to hell when you take a step back and think about it. First, considering that the Wall extends hundreds of miles from coast to coast and that Bran and his group got north of the Wall through a different castle than Castle Black, it seems highly improbable that his path would lead him right to Craster's doorstep in this vast unchartered wilderness, and right when Jon is going back no less. But that's just the beginning of the logic flaws. Jon and Bran already had one near miss last season at that tower near the Wall when Bran warged into Hodor. Now you're telling me that their paths are going to cross again? But wait, I'm just getting started here. George R. R. Martin very deliberately spread the Stark children out. None of them have been together since Bran and Rickon parted ways at the end of book two. The idea that two of the kids might interact at an earlier point than George intended is a poorly conceived decision. The poignancy of these possible reunions need to be preserved for later in the story, so while it now seems bloody unlikely, I'm praying to the Seven, R'hollor, and the Other that somehow their paths don't cross in the next episode or two. Now that Bran has been captured by the wildlings, I would prefer to see he and his friends escape through some help without Jon, like maybe Bran wargs into Hodor, sets the wolves free, and then the three of them kicks some ass. But then why tell Jon that Bran is alive and send him to Craster's to deal with the renegade brothers? It seems like they're destined to meet, even if Bran wargs into Hodor anyway (which seems quite likely).
But as long as we're discussing logic flaws, let's go full tilt. So let's see ...the renegades need to preserve food, so they were willing to kill one of their noble hostages, even though Hodor and Ghost are still alive. Each of them probably consumes more food than those three kids combined. And why in the world would they keep Ghost alive to begin with? The only thing to be gained is possible meat if their stores run out, but then you may as well kill, butcher, and freeze him instead of feeding him extra food. And I guess we're just supposed to accept that they somehow captured Ghost, even though there's no sign of wounds on him, and no mention of any brothers he killed getting captured. I guess he just wondered into that cage like some stupid beast. Right? Right? Riiiiight.
All right, I suppose I beat up on that poor scene enough. So let's hone in on that final scene with the White Walkers and the baby. Sure, it was cool. I read online about someone complaining that the baby would have frozen to death long before they reached their destination, but I was willing to believe the White Walker prevented this with some modest sorcery. So I don't have an issue there. What I do (maybe) have an issue with is that everything we learned in this scene has not been revealed in the books. Now it's possible this doesn't happen in the books. But it's possible it does, that these are things we learn in books six and seven. And not knowing is driving me fucking crazy. I've had a few people tell me that if these are details from future books that they're small spoilers. Sorry, but in my world there is no such thing as small spoilers when it comes to A Song of Ice and Fire. There is only one kind, and they're called unacceptable. No matter how much I may be tearing apart the show in this write-up, I do enjoy it. I enjoy it quite a bit. But Game of Thrones is secondary. It is inferior entertainment compared to A Song of Ice and Fire. ASOIAF is the greatest story I've ever encountered, even if it is ongoing. I do not want to learn how anything from this story unfolds through a secondary product, and for all its pluses, Game of Thrones is clearly that.
So with this in mind, I want to know if I had a spoiler dropped on me regarding future books. If the answer is no, they're taking the HBO show in a different direction, I can rest easy. But if the answer is yes ...well, I can't un-see what I've already seen, but if they dip into future material again, I'm going to turn off the TV in mid-scene and stop watching the HBO series until the next book comes out. The though of doing that this time didn't even occur to me. I was so shocked that they were possibly showing something from an unpublished book that I couldn't stop watching, even though I wanted to. I was like a deer in the headlights! So I'm hoping either HBO or GRRM cast some light on this matter. And if they don't and something like this happens again, then I have no choice but to turn off the TV mid-scene and stop watching the show until the next book comes out. I will not have my favorite story ever spoiled for me. So from hereon in, I am on high alert with every single episode, ready to turn it off at a moment's notice. Other fans of the books are going to have to face the same questions at some point, because it's becoming ever clearer to me that the HBO series is going to catch and pass by the show. It's all a matter of what your threshold is for spoilers concerning unpublished books. My threshold is ridiculously low. We're already past it, but again, I can't un-see what I've seen, so I may as well keep watching.
So what exactly did I/we see in that final scene? Well it appears the White Walker took that babe to a secret holdfast in the Land of Always Winter. The White Walker that changed the babe looked different--its face was smooth, and its forehead was ridged like Darth Maul. This was a different breed of White Walker, presumably some sort of witch king that is the leader. However, it appears this witch King is a part of a coven. When it approached the babe there were twelve other shadowy figures that stayed in the background. That makes thirteen total. A traditional witch coven is thirteen. I doubt this number is a coincidence. And most importantly, the White Walker Witch King changed the human baby into a White Walker. Apparently this is how the White Walkers create more of their own kind in lieu of procreation. When they reanimate the dead they come back as wights. This was a live person, and presumably a baby because that makes the transformation easier.
I learned all of this from that one small scene, and I didn't want to know about any of it if it's from the books. If this stuff is from the books, it would be nice if readers received some advance spoiler warnings, but HBO doesn't give a shit about doing that. They just want their ratings. Hopefully GRRM can come to the rescue in the future. Regardless, my stance going forward is clear. If this sort of thing happens again without assurances that this material isn't from unpublished books, I'm done with the HBO series until the next book comes out.
More next week ...assuming they don't try to spoil me!
P.S. Guys, if you have different theories about what the last scene means, please don't share them with me. This is my interpretation. If you have a better one, I'd rather not be spoiled any further.