Tonight’s hour has a relatively weak theme of altruism running throughout, but that potentially interesting narrative slant is overwhelmed by the relentless shuffling of characters. Let’s see where they all ended up.
In an effort to ally himself with the Wildlings north of the wall, and to offer them sanctuary south of the wall in the area of land controlled by the Night’s Watch known as “The Gift,” Lord Commander Snow rides north with Tormund Giantsbane (and a satchel of dragonglass weapons). And that’s about all we see from him this hour. See ya next week, Snow!
Meanwhile, Gilly, Sam, and Little Sam pay a visit to the dying Maester Aemon, who soon passes away and is set aflame by the men of the Night’s Watch. Sam’s eulogy isn’t exactly noteworthy, but Aliser Thorne’s reminder that Sam is now without any allies is certainly foreboding. Cue yet another attempted rape scene as two of Sam’s brothers-in-arms make aggressive passes at Gilly. Lucky for Sam that, despite his best attempts at defending his lady love, fan-favorite dire wolf Ghost is there to scare the scumbags away. Gilly rewards Sam’s bravery with perhaps the show’s most toned-down sex scene to date. Nice moment for the fans, but narratively speaking, a more interesting story is happening just south of the Wall.
While Davos reports to Stannis that their army’s supplies are dwindling, their horses are freezing to death, and their sellswords are abandoning them, Lady Melisandre encourages Stannis to stay the course. He’s resigned to march on Winterfell regardless of whether they march to victory or defeat. And though Davos councils retreat in order to protect Stannis’ claim to the throne and preserve his forces, the Red Woman has another plan in mind: sacrifice Stannis’ daughter Shireen in order to conjure the necessary power to assure victory.
Do we think that Stannis will go full-on crazy religious at this point? Have his earlier scenes with Shireen simply been to establish his undying love for his daughter, and thus setup a powerful betrayal of her trust? Or will Stannis find another way to protect Shireen instead? I guess we’ll have to wait to find out since this is where we leave the Man Who Would Be King.
Last week’s episode ending with Ramsay’s off-screen rape of Sansa was certainly an inflammatory bit of television, but it seems that things have gotten worse for the Stark heir in the intermittent week. It wasn’t simply Sansa’s wedding night that was horrible, but every night since then. She (finally) seeks to make good on the offer of help from her friends in Winterfell, and enlists Theon/Reek’s assistance in the matter. Too bad that Reek is totally Ramsay’s man, through and through. Sansa is further emotionally brutalized when she witnesses her secret ally flayed and put on display for all to see, a stark (ha!) reveal of Theon’s betrayal.
And yet there’s hope for Sansa yet. Stannis will eventually march on Winterfell, Littlefinger may or may not send the Knights of the Vale into battle, and Brienne waits in the wings to help save her. But how long will they all stand by, and will it be soon enough to save Sansa? Or will she have to save herself?
Speaking of failed rescue attempts, we are witness to a clean-cut and freshened-up Jaime talking to Myrcella, who doesn’t understand why she needs to go back to King’s Landing when she’s perfectly happy in Dorne with Trystane. Fair enough, see you next time!
Meanwhile, in the Dornish prison cells, Bronn entertains the Sand Snakes with a song before nearly succumbing to “The Long Farewell,” the effects of the poison on Tyene’s weapon. She only offers up the antidote to Bronn when he admits that she’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen; it helps that she takes her clothes off for pretty much no reason. What happens in Dorne stays in Dorne.
And now to some slightly more interesting moments in tonight’s episode. If you’ll remember, Ser Jorah and Tyrion were picked up by slavers in last week’s episode, and by the end of tonight’s hour, they’re put on display for none other than Daenerys. How did they get there? Through a quick sale at the slave market (thanks to Tyrion’s unmatched marketing ability) and an even quicker bout of gladiatorial combat. Jorah defeats his competitors (in a rather underhanded manner) and Tyrion presents himself as the titular gift.
So what do we expect the Mother of Dragons to do with her new gifts? Have Jorah executed as a traitor? Serve Tyrion up for her dragons? Your guess is as good as mine.
There are a few parties vying for control of King’s Landing on a number of levels. Behind the scenes, Littlefinger and Lady Olenna have what appears to be their first face-to-face meeting since the death of King Joffrey. For anyone who missed their past machinations together, this episode should have cleared that up a bit. Olenna is clearly shaken from the imprisonment of Loras and Margaery, and is threatening to expose Littlefinger should anything happen to her, too. Littlefinger, as always, has an ace up his sleeve.
Meanwhile, Cersei offers to chat up the High Sparrow once more on behalf of Tommen, though the king’s mother has no good will for the Tyrells. Instead, she confirms that the impending trial of Loras and Margaery will end in the stripping away of the Tyrells’ wealth. What she doesn’t expect, and what was easily the most interesting moment of the episode, is that the Sparrows intend to start with the Tyrells before moving onto the Lannisters with all due speed. Remember that ace up Littlefinger’s sleeve? It’s a safe bet it was Lancel Lannister, who spilled the beans about his unhealthy relationship with Cersei to the High Sparrow. The shocking final moments of “The Gift” see Cersei seized by the religious commoners and thrown into the Black Cell, for a crime to be named later.
So while many of the characters acted in defense of their loved ones in this episode – Sam for Gilly, Davos for Stannis, Jorah for Daenerys, and Cersei for Tommen – there wasn’t much in the way of accomplishments. I know many of you are frustrated with the lack of progress in this season so far, and while I think that season five has done an exceptional job of getting the pieces into place for what I hope is an epic conclusion, “The Gift” is certainly worthy of that particular criticism. Let’s hope the tempo picks up in the final three episodes.
Rating: ★★★ Good
Sansa: “It can’t be any worse.” Reek: “It can always be worse.”
Sam: “He was the blood of the dragon, until his fire burned out. And now his watch is ended.”
Ramsay: “We do breed them tough in the North.”
Ramsay: “You should hold onto your candles; the nights are so long now.”
Daario: “You are the only person in Mereen who’s not free.”
Daenerys: “I am a Queen, not a butcher.” Daario: “All rulers are either butchers or meat.” Has Daario been watching The Walking Dead?
Lady Olenna: “You should stand when speaking to a Lady.” High Septon: “You should kneel before the Gods.”
Myrcella: “You looked different when I left. You had more hair.” Jaime: “And more hands.”
Tyene: “Now, who’s the most beautiful woman in the world?”
Tyrion: “It’s a pleasure to meet you, your Grace. My name is Tyrion Lannister.”
Cersei: “Look at me. Look at my face. It’s the last thing you’ll see before you die.”