There are many ways to ruin a perfectly good scene. Even without trying particularly hard, a scene can ruined by bad acting, by poor directing or by awkward dialogue. Any of one those things can ruin a scene but having those elements present right from the scene’s start signals to the audience that the scene is going to be a wash from the get go. The truly infuriating scenes are the ones that are inches away from being perfect but then collapse under the weight of a single calamitous mistake. It’s especially bad if the mistake in question was completely avoidable and unnecessary. The death of Lysa Arryn was a big moment in the source material – it was the moment that Littlefinger’s ubiquity in the various political conflicts since the beginning of the first book was unveiled. It was unfortunately ruined by an entirely needless change of dialogue that derailed the otherwise perfectly acceptable execution of an important scene. As the last scene of the episode, it also detracted from the episode’s strength, which is unfortunate because the episode was chockfull of solid scenes from each of the show’s various plotlines.
The last news from Dragonstone is troubling. Melisandre admits, indirectly and to her blindest follower, that she is a phony. It’s a fascinating scene despite the gratuity of the nudity; Melisandre is basically pulling back the curtains and quite literally showing the audience her bag of tricks. She is admitting that many of the magic tricks she has pulled off in the show are a result of a working knowledge of chemistry rather than her faith. However, it’s clear that not all of her miracles are the results of elaborate hoaxes – the shadow that killed Renly was real and we have seen first-hand how the Lord of Light brought Beric Dondarrion back to life. This is the real menace of Melisandre – there have been and always will be religious fanatics but Melisandre is dangerous not because of the strength of her faith but because she also understands human nature and knows how to manipulate the masses. It is an extremely effective combination and so far it’s worked wonders on Stannis and his cause. The more shocking revelation wasn’t that Melisandre was at least partially a phony; that’s something the fans have suspected for ages, but instead that Shireen’s death is a near certainty, at least on the show. Melisandre does everything, short of actually saying so, to indicate to us that Shireen will die in the North. It’s unclear how certain that outcome is given Melisandre’s patchy track record in interpreting what she sees in her fires, but one thing is certain – Shireen’s death will be a plot point going forward.
Our weekly update from across the narrow sea is a short one this time, perhaps because the majority of the region’s conflict has been settled for the moment. Daario’s seduction of Dany is commonly seen as the point at which the whole storyline begins to sink under the weight of its own drudgery but hopefully the show runner will be savvy enough to identify it and side-step the dreariness of the subsequent dozen chapters by condensing them into better paced scenes. For now though, Daenerys is walking a dangerous path. As Jorah rightly points out, punishing murder with murder is a decidedly poor form of governance and two rights don’t make a wrong. At this point in the proceedings, it seems like Dany has lost herself to this notion of righteous vengeance and it is only with great difficulty that Jorah is able to temporarily dissuade her. There is, of course, a secondary layer to his despair; he isn’t just upset at how harsh and cruel she has become (a reminder to all of us that just because someone has good intentions, it doesn’t mean that they are good people), he is also reeling from the fact that Daario has just had sex with the Queen. His love for Dany is an important part of his character and a big part of his motivation in serving Dany. Since it doesn’t seem like his character will be expelled any time soon, it will be interesting to see how the show handles the rising tension within Dany’s camp.
Pedro Pascal might be best one-season wonder since Sean Bean. If last week’s episode was Dinklage’s shot at the Emmys, this week was Pascal’s shorter but no less powerful reply. In a direct comparison, the vast majority of viewers might opt for Dinklage’s rage and spite last week over Pascal’s more restrained declaration this week, but that comparison itself should say enough about Pascal’s performance this season. Pascal’s scene is the second of two very well executed scenes in that oddly spacious dungeon cell. It’s unfortunate that Bronn and Tyrion’s partnership has come to an end and not just because the characters played off each other very well; Jerome Flynn and Dinklage has excellent chemistry together but while that particular duo has been taken apart, it’s encouraging to see that we haven’t seen the last of Bronn just yet. Each of Tyrion’s meeting in that cell have showcased a rawer, more emotional side of the character as it dawns on him that he is getting closer and closer to his death. The various partings are emphasized with a finality that seems to be preparing the audience for the worst though on hindsight, it’s clear that they were only meant to set up Oberyn’s big moment better. Pascal has been a better Oberyn than anyone could have dared dream of but next week will be his true test. Will HBO butcher yet another iconic scene?