If you hear the sounds of bells tolling, it’s probably the death knell sounding for a whole bunch of characters as we hit the halfway mark of the fifth season of Game of Thrones. The most obvious upcoming death is that Jorah Mormont, who has been infected with the deadly greyscale disease but he is far from the only one. Stannis Baratheon, the One True King of Westeros, makes him way to face the Boltons, the new Wardens of the North. He has the superior firepower and is the more experienced commander, which, in any other series would, be factors in his favour but here only serve to foreshadow his defeat. A similar fate awaits Jon as his incredibly unpopular decisions divide his sworn brothers. Sansa gets better acquainted with her new family to be, which is exactly as horrifying as it sounds, as Ramsay Bolton demonstrates how you don’t need knives and other lovely sharp objects to make someone very, very uncomfortable. This episode felt a lot longer than it actually was, but in a good way; it was filled with excellent scenes from all the storylines, with a nice balance of character development and plot advancement. This episode left out a few story lines, of course; we will be seeing the drama in King’s Landing, Sunspear and Braavos unfold next week, but for now, the North gives us plenty of food for thought.
Each new episode of this season brings us further and further away from the published source material and the uncertainty it brings with it is both exhilarating and terrifying. No character’s story emphasizes this more than Sansa’s. It would be an incredible understatement to say that she is in a nest of vipers – with Ramsay as sadistic and volatile as ever, Sansa is one snarky comment away from seeing the kind of horrors she her life has lacked since Joffrey. The jealous presence of Myranda will certainly not help matters as between the women, Ramsay’s deep-seated psychosis is sure to be triggered in some form or the other. Of course, the fat Walda Frey nee Bolton might very well be the first target of Ramsay’s mental instability; now that there is a new baby Bolton on the way, Ramsay’s place as heir is in serious jeopardy. This episode featured Iwan Rheon at his finest as Ramsay Bolton – there was an almost innocent pleasure in the way he yanked Sansa and Reek/Theon around at the dinner table.
If Roose and Sansa are in for marital woes, then just imagine how poorly Hizdahr Zo Loraq’s married life is going to go. It’s hard to go from being dragon food in one scene to being the potential prince consort in the next and in fact, that particular sequence of events makes Dany’s decision all the more uncomfortable. If her decision to feed a man to her dragons was meant to give off a vibe of righteous anger, then it was very much off the mark – instead, Dany comes across as cruel, sadistic and more than a little crazy. When your entire lineage is infamous for quite regularly producing leaders that are off their rockers, the last thing you want to do is add fuel to that particular fire by feeding people to your ‘children’. In fact, calling dragons your children is probably as quirky as you get to be before people starting getting nervous. With Dany’s most reliable advisors gone though, she must surely be wishing that she hadn’t been quite so quick to dismiss Jorah from her service.
Not that it makes any difference – Jorah has been spending the last couple of episodes trying his level best to return to his queen’s side and for some reason, thinks that Tyrion is the key to open the lock guarding Dany’s heart. At this point, anyone that can help Dany solve the conundrum of Meereen is welcome though, so perhaps he isn’t too far off the mark. The unlikely duo’s journey through Valyria was easily one of the best scenes of not just the episode or the season, but possibly the whole series. Apart from shots of the Wall, Winterfell and a small handful of others, the fantasy elements of the show have not really featured the foreign, alien nature of the Game of Thrones universe – the cities and peoples we’ve seen have all been vaguely familiar Medieval/Middle Eastern archetypes. Valyria, however, was different – you really got the sense that this was a different world, that this was a place with a rich, haunted history. The stone men added to that effect and while it’s a little weird that they all forgot how to talk or that Jorah was able to fight them off so easily, make no mistake – they were terrifying and certainly gave the audience a healthy respect for Valyria and the Doom. Jorah’s infection with greyscale is the final indication that Aegon VI will not be making it into the show and that Jorah will be taking the place of Jon Connington as he fights against time to return to Dany and see her take the Iron Throne