Well, things sure have changed a lot since last week. Much like the previous episode, so much happened that there wasn’t a real consistent through line, more just several plots occurring in parallel. Let’s start with the big storyline.
Jon’s journey north of the Wall didn’t go as planned, or as I thought. They did capture a wight. Jorah survived (Thoros didn’t. The least important of all those characters). They also lost a couple red-shirted ensigns, which really felt like a departure for this show. Game of Thrones built its reputation on killing off important people, not nameless pawns. And then Gendry pulled a Pheidippides and ran all the way back, only to collapse at the finish. But at least the message got out. The waiting game was well-executed and really stressful to watch. We were all literally waiting for water to freeze. And then the Hound got bored and all hell broke loose.
My initial reaction when the dragons arrived, honestly, was disappointment. All the important characters were going to get out of it. And then, the Night King…
The Fucking Night King hit a full-grown dragon, in full flight, from a seemingly impossible distance. He would be the javelin champion of the world. And now, the Army of the Dead has a fucking dragon! But really, we all should have seen this coming. The book series is called “A Song of Ice and Fire,” for crying out loud. Can’t have that title without an ice-dragon, can you? Well, you can, but it’s still a pretty big clue. I’m pretty excited to see how this shakes out.
Allow me to say this: I dislike what they’ve done to Arya. She was such a brilliantly gray character, but also remarkably intelligent and more than willing to wait for revenge. I feel as though she would totally understand why her sister had to write that letter. It doesn’t work for me. And they’ve turned her into kind of a villain, when she should be a complicated part of the heroic side. Yes, Sansa is horrified, and the effect of Sansa’s letter from season 1 is exactly what Littlefinger would want: make Sansa fear her sister to drive her back to him. The only character that feels off is Arya. Hopefully, change comes soon. I still hope to see her kill Littlefinger, but I doubt we will get that satisfying ending.
And why, exactly, did Sansa send Brienne away? Maybe she should have sent the Mormont girl. I feel as though that would have made more sense. Plus, then we’d have gotten more of that amazing character. But, maybe we’ll get to see Tormund put the moves on Brienne again, which is always pleasant.
But, despite all of these things, the most important conversation this week, in my opinion, was between Daenerys and Tyrion. Not the “You can’t go, you’re the queen” conversation that appears to happen weekly now, but the first one, in the map room. Because that conversation, in fact, most of their conversations, deal with the essential question of the entire series: can one gain power in a brutal system without becoming tyrannical themselves? Can you ever actually “break the wheel?” or are we doomed to repeat this cycle of brutality forever? Because, like Tyrion, I’ve become wary of Daenerys’s tendency to demand absolute loyalty or death. However, she is equally correct when she asks, “which war was won without deceit and mass murder?” Because the answer is obvious. You can’t topple a brutal, deceitful government without brutality and deceit.
So, can Daenerys win the war, then switch off her brutality? History is not full of examples of rulers doing that. In this show, and in reality, brutal systems breed brutality. I would say that the jury’s still out on Daenerys in that regard. Perhaps the love of an honest man could help. Of course, Jon is her nephew, so maybe that option might be off the table.
And yet, it might not matter if she can shed her brutality or not, because death is coming for them all. And now, it has a dragon.