So there is a lot to cover with this week's episode, and as always be read up on all the books and be up to date on the HBO series before reading this, unless you don't mind spoilers. Before I get into episode seven though, there were actually a few tidbits I forgot to bring up with episode six. So let's get that out of the way to start.
First, in complimenting the city of Braavos in the opening credits, I should have mentioned another extra touch of theirs I really appreciated. When we see the city rising, there is a coin rolling along a slide before it falls into one of the buildings. I'd have to imagine that is all an allusion to the Iron Bank of Braavos, and how the money just rolls in, which I thought was rather clever. Second, in the scene where the Dany's dragon burns the flock and makes off with one of the sheep, at the beginning of the scene there was a child. Based on the camera angle, I don't think the child was engulfed in the flames, and you have to assume that if he was, it would have been mentioned in when the shepherd visits Dany. I mention all this because in A Dance with Dragons, the bones of the child were brought before Dany. So right now I'm thinking that we're going to see another scene this season or perhaps next when Dany is confronted with the exact same situation, only this time she'll be exposed to the charred bones of the child. Escalation is the name of the game, as they already emphasized earlier in the season that dragons are wild creatures and cannot be tamed.
The third and most important tidbit--and I can't believe I forgot to talk about this--was that scene between Varys and Oberyn near the Iron Throne. Now that obviously wasn't in the book, and it raises all sorts of questions about the direction they're taking things in the HBO series. In the latest book (and a little bit in the book before that), we finally start to get some hard answers about Varys and Illyrio that were only vaguely hinted at in the very first book, and only ever so briefly. In a nutshell, we learned that Illyrio and Varys had an elaborate plan to the Targaryens back on the Iron Throne. From what I recall, Arianne was supposed to marry Viserys, but those plans got blown up when Khal Drogo gave Viserys his crown of gold. Now there is also the Dany angle, not to mention the sudden return of Elia's child, but recounting all that would take up too much time. But it seemed a bit odd to me in the HBO series that Oberyn and Varys should have a scene together, and would be seemingly oblivious to the fact that Oberyn's brother, Doran, is working in tandem with Illyrio and Varys, especially when Oberyn mentioned how he spent five years in Essos. Now granted, Varys, Illyrio, and the Dornish all fall into the plans-within-plans mold, meaning all of them have been very careful about tipping their hands, and they all doubtless still have a few tricks up their sleeve. But ...would Doran really not have told Oberyn about Varys? I mean, it almost defies belief that the Dornish wouldn't know about Varys working in tandem in with Illyrio. So while this scene was intriguing, it almost felt like a mind-fuck, because it left with me A LOT of questions.
OK, let's move on to episode seven. First, I need to comment on something that puzzles me, and slightly bugs me. In the opening sequence, we saw Winterfell, Braavos, and the Dreadfort, but nary a sign of the Eyrie. This doesn't make much sense to me. None of the characters in this episode were in Winterfell, Braavos, or the Dreadfort. I can sort of understand them showing Wintefell--I view Winterfell, King's Landing, and the Wall as the anchors of the map to help viewers anchored, along with wherever Dany happens to be at the moment. But why show Braavos or the Dreadfort this episode and omit the Eyrie? It makes a lot more sense to focus on the places on the map, where the action is currently taking place in a given episode ...or am I crazy? I guess maybe I can understand Braavos too, since Stannis will now be sailing there with his fleet to save the day at the eleventh hour up at the Wall. They want that steady reminder of where Braavos is. But choosing the Dreadfort over Eyrie baffles me completely, especially if Theon and Ramsay will be at Moat Cailin next episode, as shown in the trailer. This isn't the first time they've done something like this, and it just makes no sense to me on any level whatsoever.
But onto other matters. This episode we were ever so briefly introduced to First Builder Othell Yarwyck. There is also a mention of Lollys Stokeworth and her sister, Felyse. They changed around Bronn's wedding to her somewhat. In the books, Lollys gets raped after the riot at King's Landing, and Bronn kind of walks into the situation since her family is desperate to find the slow-witted Lollys a husband, especially since the rape left her pregnant. Here we see Cersei arranging the marriage in order to separate Tyrion from one of his few remaining allies. In the books, Cersei actually sends someone to deal with Bronn, and the plans go awry, because killing Bronn is more difficult than anticipated. I suppose they can still go in that direction if they want, so it's not necessarily a deviation. But I'll be curious to see what they do with Bronn going forward. His role has been pretty minimal in the books after he refuses to be Tyrion's champion. I suspect he'll stay in the memories of the viewers by having him continue to interact with Jaime.
What else? Well, Dany finally got her freak on with Daario. This is interesting as compared to the books, because by the time this comes about in the source material Jorah Mormont has been long banished, and he kissed Dany ages ago. In this verison, we see Jorah aware of the relationship. Obviously he's not be pleased by it, so now I'm wondering if Jorah is going to make his move on Dany while Daario is gone, before things become too serious between them. Daario riding off for Yunkai often leaves me wondering where things are heading. In the books, he rides off as an ambassador to Lahzar before coming back and getting together with Dany. Toward the end of the book, he becomes a willing hostage of the Yunkai army as proof that Dany is suing for peace. So going right to Yunkai begs the question of whether he'll be taken captive there ..except he's going with Hizdahr zo Loraq, who should be returning since in the book he marries Dany to help foster peace in Meereen. I guess zo Loraq could take place in some sort of double-cross that allows him to return while Daario is captured, but that would be a big deviation from the source material. So at this point I'm really not sure where things are going here.
What else? Well, I rather enjoyed the scene where Oberyn tells Tyrion he'll be his champion. That final look on Peter Dinklage's face was just priceless. It said to me: "I have a chance after all." Nothing really to add about this scene, I just had to take a moment to praise it. I'll say it again: Dinklage is really making a case for another Emmy this year. At the very least he deserves to be one of the nominees. And with that said, I can't wait for Oberyn's battle with the Mountain in the next book. It is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. They better get it right!
Not much to say about the scene over at Castle Black. It was basically just a placeholder, letting viewers know that Jon and company made it back, and another reminder that a big battle is coming. But I have noticed that Donal Noye--the one-armed blacksmith at Castle Black--seems to have been cut from the HBO series. That's a shame, as he was one of those supporting characters that GRRM succeeded in rendering to life so brilliantly. Speaking of characters that have been cut, I'm still holding out (fading) hopes that Strong Belwas gets introduced next season through the fighting pits of Meereen. Maybe Dany decides that it would behoove her to have a warrior she can trust from Meereen as one of her councilors. Enter Belwas. He was just such a colorful character that added a lot of personality. It would be a shame if he gets axed entirely.
OK, onto Brienne. That scene with Hot Pie never happened. The last we saw of him was in A Storm of Swords. But I admit, in a visual medium I get a kick out of seeing these characters return, which is why I enjoyed it so much when they found a way to bring back Khal Drogo in season two. And as long as we're talking about Brienne, that makes for the perfect segue into Arya and the Hound. Umm, hmm. We've seen a lot of ripple effects from the changes made in their scene. First of all, Arya and the Hound never fought Rorge and Biter. Brienne fought them in A Feast for Crows, killing Rorge and getting her cheek chewed off by Biter before Gendry put a sword through the back of his head, saving her just in time. The equivalent scene for the Hound and Arya was some episodes back, back in the inn when they killed Gregor's men and Arya reclaimed Needle. Sandor sustained a wound to his leg, and Arya left him soon afterward to die. So Biter chomping on Sandor's neck should now serve that function, but it means Sandor will not have the limp he has in book four when he's the silent hooded brother on the Quiet Isle that Brienne sees without realizing. In book four, Rorge had also claimed the Hound's dog helm and was wreaking chaos throughout the Saltpans, pretending to be Sandor. It's what led Brienne to him, so this whole angle now goes out the window.
Now when Gendry saves Brienne from Biter, Brienne loses consciousness. When she wakes up, she meets Stoneheart. So now we're left to wonder how Brienne will meet with Stoneheart, and also if the HBO series has any intention of reintroducing Gendry. I always felt like GRRM had more planned with him, so this is a big question in my mind. All this aside, the scene with Rorge and Biter in the HBO series was very sloppily handled. Neither of these characters were nearly as vivid or creepy as they were in the books, and it felt awfully flat when Rorge was just standing there, having a merry old conversation with the Hound after he killed Biter. Umm, why didn't the two of the attack at the same time if the Hound didn't see them? When they fought with Brienne it was also WAAAAYYYY better. This was pretty weak, even if I wholeheartedly approved of Arya being a little killer. This aside, all these deviations leave me further convinced that the first time we meet Stoneheart will not be in the fashion depicted at the end of book three, but rather with Brienne's reunion with her at toward the end of book four. This actually makes me wonder if Catelyn's return might be delayed until next season. Given that their reunion leads to Brienne seeking out Jaime and Jaime is still in King's Landing, and probably will remain there at least until he frees his brother, this feels entirely possible.
The scene between Melisandre and the Lady Selyse didn't accomplish much in my eyes besides reinforce something I've believed about the books for a very long time now: there will come a point when Stannis's seeming heart of stone crumbles for his daughter. It is the one soft spot he has (well, soft for Stannis). That's why they need to bring her along as far as I'm concerned.
And lastly we come to the Sansa scene. First, I have to say that moment when Sophie Turner walks out into the courtyard and sees the snow, the look on her face along with the musical accompaniment was just perfect. It was one of those small but intimate moments where I felt like I was transported back into the book, experiencing things through Sansa's eyes as she's reminded of Winterfell. The ensuing scene with Robin had some minor variations, which I sort of expected. Since they decided to make Jojen Reed an epileptic, I figured they would do away with Robin's seizures. This seems to bear out, since in the book after he ruins Sansa castle while pretending to be a giant and Sansa ruins his doll, Robin has one of his seizures, further destroying the castle. with his flailing. Not that I minded the change--it was very gratifying to watch Sansa slap that little shit. :) He kiss with Petyr lasted longer than I envisioned in the book, and Sansa seemed much more freaked out in the printed version. Of course she's also younger in the printed version, but even so, she seemed a bit too easygoing about breaking off that kiss. Of course, this feeds into one of my darker theories about the books, i.e. Sansa might end up getting together with Petyr willingly, because "that's not supposed to happen," which means there is a definite likelihood it will. So a less freaked out reaction from Sansa in the HBO series might make it easier to bring about this development since they don't have time to explore all the nuances of characterization that GRRM does in the books.
Now when Petyr pushes her out the Moon Door, I noticed two distinct differences. First, Lysa screamed. In the books, she accepts her fall and betrayal in a sad, shocked silence. This didn't bother me. What did was what Petyr said right before he pushed Lysa. In the HBO series, he said, "Your sister." In the book, he said, "Only Cat." It's a small difference, but it irked me a lot. Using Cat's name is far more intimate, which means it will cut Lysa far more deeply. This should be obvious to Weiss and Benioff. The only reason I can imagine like they changed it is because they worried that the viewers would have to stop and think, trying to remember who "Cat" was. "Your sister" doesn't create that problem. But if this is their reasoning, it's beyond silly. Viewers spent three seasons with this character. They know who Cat is. And in the previous scene, Petyr goes on at length to Sansa about his love for her mother. So it should be plainly obvious who "Cat" is. Again, I acknowledge this is a small change, but they lost a moment of intimacy for no good reason.
As to bigger changes, obviously I have to make a mention of the singer Marillion. In the first book, he travels with Tyrion, Bronn, and Catelyn to the Eyrie. Everyone eventually leaves except for Marillion, who remains as one of Lysa's singers. When Petyr brings Sansa to the Eyrie in book three, Marillion begins making lecherous advances on her. This comes to an end after Petyr pushes Lysa out the Moon Door with Marillion watching. Afterward he instructs Sansa to alert the guards that the singer killed his wife.
In the HBO series, things play out rather differently. After accompanying Tyrion and the gang to the Eyrie, Marillion eventually makes his way back to King's Landing. He lands in hot water with Joffrey for a song he wrote mocking Joff, at which point Joff has Ser Ilyn Payne tear out Marillion tongue with hot pincers (this following offering Marillion a choice of losing his tongue or his hands). I believe that was back in season one, but the point is that he was nowhere around at the time of Lysa's death. Nor was anyone else besides Petyr and Sansa. So explaining away Lysa's death next episode will be that much trickier, though I'm sure they'll find a way to finagle it. It's too bad that we're getting more Sansa next episode though. Her story from book three is over, and her story from book four is rather minimal. Hopefully they can stretch it out enough next year that I can keep watching the show, and maybe by then The Winds of Winter will come out and allow me to watch into season six. That's a best-case scenario though. We'll just have to wait and see.
Whew! This has to be one of my longest write-ups ever. I am briefly thankful for that two-week break before the next episode. More to come after episode eight!
ETA: Umm, what was the deal with the Mountain slaughtering people through "combat" at King's Landing? I guess they were prisoners of some sort, but the scene doesn't make much sense. So the Mountain just hurried over to King's Landing as Cersei's summons, and "Oh, I think I'll immediately slaughter some people in King's Landing in public without explanation or context." This scene was very poorly conceived by Weiss and Benioff. They just wanted to make the Mountain look bad-ass, and decided this would suffice.