Whenever I review an episode of Game of Thrones, I have consider both my personal reactions and those of a hypothetical “average” viewer. I don’t personally like the show anymore, but most viewers do, and I have to account for the fact that my reactions to any given scene or episode are probably not the same as theirs. Then I have to take into account the fact that I don’t know the reactions of the average viewer yet. I watch the episode on Sunday night and then review it right after, and generally speaking other reviews aren’t up yet.
So honestly, I operate in a fog of guesswork. I know what effect each scene and line had on me, but I don’t know what effect it has on people who still like the show, and/or those who still “trust” the writers, for lack of a better word, or what effect it has on those who watch the show casually, for entertainment, and just don’t really fuss over the small stuff.
I also have to decide what order I’m going to write the review in. Like, do I do it in strict chronological order, scene by scene? Or do I divide it up by location, or by character, or by some other factor, or by some mix of all the above?
Now, at this point some of you may be thinking, “Wow, MrBtongue is even more solipsistic than usual today.” You’re not wrong. Here’s the thing: I have to make the decisions I described above on-the-fly, with very little to guide me, so it’s always a little sloppy. I mention this not because I assume you’re all fascinated with my creative processWhy wouldn’t you be?, but to explain why this review is a little more disjointed than usual.
Order of Operations
I’ve decided to organize this review thusly: first, I’ll cover the mission north of the wall to retrieve a fully functional wight corpse. Then, I’ll cover the extremely obnoxious Arya/Sansa conflict. Then, I’ll provide a recap of the season so far to prepare you for the season finale next week. We start with the mission north of the wall.
I think by now we’re all familiar with why this whole mission was a dumb idea from the get-go, but by now our heroes are committed, so there’s nothing left but to hope they succeed.
There are several walk-and-talks between the various characters. Gendry walk-and-talks with Thoros and Beric, with the Hound butting in at the end. Gendry is understandably upset that they lied to him and sold him as chattel to a woman who wanted to violate his body at best and kill him at worst. The fact that he objects to that is played for comedy, believe it or not. If nothing else, this scene clarified for me whether you’re supposed to pronounce the g in the word “whingeing” or not.Laugh if you like, but I had never been clear on that.
Then Jon walk-and-talks with Jorah, and it ends with Jon keeping Longclaw (which was originally the Mormont family blade). Jon is King of the North and really should be executing Jorah, who is still under sentence of death. But the ways in which this show is ignoring the worldbuilding premises set up in the early seasons are too numerous to enumerate at this point, so let’s just skip that.
Oh no, we can’t, because Jon walk-and-talks with Beric Dondarrion, and recalls his Night’s Watch oath (the one that he really should be considered in violation of by becoming King in the North in the first place). This conversation also reminded me that I’m still not clear on who exactly knows that Jon has risen from the dead and who doesn’t.
At some point, the Hound walks-and-talks with Tormund, and we learn that the Hound hates red-haired people, and that Tormund still wants to make the beast with two backs with Brienne. I’m gonna be honest, I don’t like this whole Tormund-Brienne thing. It seems to treat the idea that someone would be attracted to Brienne as a punchline in and of itself. It also considers the fact that Tormund stares at Brienne to the point of making her visibly uncomfortable to be funny.
Long story short, there are a lot of walk-and-talks. On the one hand, I should like this. These are establishing character moments, and they reference earlier events on the show. They’re a chance for each character to move forward, to grow, and for the audience to deepen our connections to them. On the other hand, I couldn’t enjoy a single one! This show is so shot through with nonsense on every level that they just don’t do anything for me.
Next, there’s a sequence with an undead polar bear, who mauls Thoros before the rest of the squad kills it. I have no idea why this sequence was included. Why would an undead polar bear be wandering around in the middle of nowhere? I don’t know. I don’t know why any of this happens. Thoros gets mauled for an unnecessarily long time, then recovers after a swig of booze and an impromptu cauterization.For anyone who’s seen the movie ‘The Revenant’, I have a sneaking suspicion that this overlong bear-mauling sequence was inspired by that movie.
Later, Jon and company encounter a group of wights and a White Walker, who are separated from the main group and traveling alone for no reason. Jon kills the White Walker, and all the wights disintegrate except one. For no reason.Okay, I get the attempted explanation that each wight is raised by a certain Walker and everything, but that explanation falls apart under the gentlest breeze of scrutiny.
They tie up and capture this final wight, then retreat to an island in the middle of a lake. The wights surround and pursue them, but the ice covering the lake breaks under their weight, and Team Capture-a-Wight is briefly safe on an island in the middle of the lake. Can wights swim, or not? I have no idea. The question of “can wights survive in freezing water” has no clear answer. They either can, or can’t, according to whatever’s convenient for the script in any given moment.
A series of chronologically impossible things happen: Gendry runs from some indeterminate place north of the wall to the wall (either Eastwatch or Castle Black, and this is on foot mind you), then a raven goes from there to Dragonstone, then Dany and three dragons fly from there to the previously-mentioned indeterminate place north of the wall, all in less time than it takes for a giant army of wights to attack a rock in the middle of a lake.
I know, I know. I’m not supposed to think about any of this. But you can’t stop me from reacting to it. And my reaction is this: this is dumb. This is all stupefyingly, irretrievably dumb. That reaction is mine, and you can’t take it away from me.
Now, the dumb comes so thick and fast that mere sentences can barely keep up: Dany rescues team Capture-a-Wight, but the Night’s King kills one dragonNot the one that’s stationary on the ground, mind you, but one of the ones that’s flying around overhead and much harder to hit. with an ice-spear, and it sinks below the now-frozen-again lake. Then Dany and everyone but Jon escapes. Jon is dragged below the frozen lake by wights, who either can or can’t swim, I’m not sure. Then he escapes to the surface, because I guess they can’t? Or something?
The wights notice him, but Benjen Stark(!) rescues him. Benjen Stark has an eastern-orthodox style incense burner, which is on fire. He uses it to kill dozens of wights. He puts Jon Snow on his horse and instructs him to ride for “the pass” (what?). Benjen is overwhelmed and killed by the wights. Jon eventually escapes to the wall.
At this point I have to try and figure out a positive interpretation of all this. To someone who was viewing this for the first time, I guess it might have seemed like a tense, well-paced action-suspense sequence. But to me, it just looked ridiculous.
Okay: final scene. The wights have attached underwater chains to the sunken dragon corpse and dragged it back onto land (I guess they can swim, or else how would they have attached the chains?) The Night’s King turns it into a zombie dragon!
If you had told me, at twelve years old, that the phrase “turns it into a zombie dragon” would have elicited a groan of frustration and disgust, I would never have believed you. And yet here we are.
The Obnoxious Arya-Sansa Thing
The obnoxious Arya-Sansa thing continues. I know that I’ve harped before on how nothing Littlefinger has done in the past three seasons has made sense, but today I’m going to try and interpret his actions in the most favorable (to the showrunners) way I can.
- Littlefinger, as established at the end of season six, wants to sit the Iron Throne with Sansa by his side (presumably as his Queen).
- Littlefinger employs the tactics of an abuser, which include isolating his victim from any kind of support network (including their family and friends, such as Arya and Jon).
- Littlefinger doesn’t like prearranged plans, but rather seeks to create political chaos and then maneuver and thrive in its wake.
If we assume all of the above, and assume that the showrunners know what they’re doing and are setting us up for a satisfying conclusion, Littlefinger’s actions (and his existence) still don’t make sense.
- By the end of this episode, Arya is threatening to kill Sansa, take her face, and impersonate her. I can’t imagine how this would help Littlefinger. Or anyone else, for that matter.
- Arya is behaving like an unhinged violent maniac. Any scheme that includes her is subjecting itself to random chance.
- Sansa said earlier this season that Littlefinger was necessary to maintain the loyalty of the Vale Knights. That particular wrinkle seems to have been either forgotten or ignored. Now the Vale Knights are loyal to Sansa. Or Littlefinger. Or maybe Lord Royce. Who knows? It’s been left ambiguous all season.
- I’m creating a numbered list, as though this all makes sense and will stand up to analysis, but the truth is I have no idea how this all works.
- Littlefinger seems to suggest using Brienne, who is bound to protect both of them, in some kind of manipulation or something. Then, later, Sansa sends Brienne to the parlay with Cersei (who, for inexplicable reasons, is sending out invitations before a wight has been captured. Right? Or is this something else that’s happening out of chronological order?) So did that Brienne thing just go nowhere? What was it supposed to be? Did Littlefinger want her to go to King’s Landing? If so, why?
- Am I just straight-up too dumb to understand this? You can go ahead and tell me if I am. From where I’m sitting, it looks like a bunch of nonsense.
- Sansa accidentally admitted that she deserves the bulk of the credit for the victory over Ramsay Bolton. Not really directly related to the Arya/Sansa conflict, but I still like to see that I’m not the only one that noticed that Jon lead his army into catastrophic defeat last season.
Brace For Impact
Next week is the season finale. I feel like I should have mentioned this before, but I’ll mention it now: I don’t read leaks. I do occasionally stumble across them by accident (and don’t know if they’re genuine or not), but I don’t seek them out. So I don’t actually know what happens.
However, based on the “next week on Game of Thrones” bit, it looks like there’ll be a meeting, either in King’s Landing or nearby, featuring all of the major players. Cersei will have to decide on whether to agree to a ceasefire or not. Her decision will depend on whether or not she has the Golden Company, near as I can tell. Will that be revealed this season, next season, or will it be a red herring? I don’t know.
I should briefly mention the Tyrion/Dany scene in Dragonstone. I don’t know what analysis I can pull from it. This show keeps bringing up references to “breaking the wheel,” and “building a better world,” but never spends even an iota of effort on describing what that entails in practical terms. The Tyrion/Dany scene punts on that particular question, for what I suspect will not be the last time.
Later, Jon and Dany have what I guess is supposed to be a romantic scene. I don’t know how I can reconcile how this lands for me with how it lands with a hypothetical average viewer. Is this landing for people? Are there people that get butterflies in their stomach at the thought of having these two hook up? Because I don’t. Jon and Ygritte had actual romantic chemisty. Jon and Dany… no. Though I should mention that Emilia Clarke gets, for the first time in a while, the opportunity to actually emote. She’s pretty good at it! They should let her do it more often.
This week’s review was both more disjointed and probably more negative than usual, I know. But so much of this landed with such an unsatisfying wet thud for me. Maybe next week’s finale will be better. Either way, I’ll see you then.
 Why wouldn’t you be?
 Laugh if you like, but I had never been clear on that.
 For anyone who’s seen the movie ‘The Revenant’, I have a sneaking suspicion that this overlong bear-mauling sequence was inspired by that movie.
 Okay, I get the attempted explanation that each wight is raised by a certain Walker and everything, but that explanation falls apart under the gentlest breeze of scrutiny.
 Not the one that’s stationary on the ground, mind you, but one of the ones that’s flying around overhead and much harder to hit.
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