Broken men are more deserving of our pity, though they may be just as dangerous.
— Septon Meribald, A Feast for Crows.
I think the writing on this show has now reached a point so low that “embarrassing” would be a high point that they should strive to achieve. This was not actually a bad episode, most of it was just average, but there was one scene that truly sunk the whole episode for me. I’ll get to that in a moment.
I actually did like the opening scene, if for nothing else than the fact that it was something new. Hey, a pre-credits sequence! Haven’t seen that since… well, the pilot? At least there’s some variety here and the reveal of the Hound was nice, I thought. Unfortunately, this plot goes downhill from there. First off, we have this random septon and a bunch of people working at building… well, something, a building of some sort, in the middle of nowhere? Who are they? Why are they here? Who are they working for? Doesn’t matter I guess since they’re all fodder for shock value by the end, but still. As has been the case this season, another bit of stunt casting is wasted, as Ian McShane is cast in the role of Septon Meribald (though he is never named as such, so hey maybe it’d be easier to pretend he’s not the same character) and instead of the profound, intelligent lines that his character has in the book, he’s given Show Lines™, which means it’s a lot of obvious crap like “The Gods have a plan for you” and then expository dialogue recapping what happened since we last saw the Hound character. It’s funny – GRRM was originally going to set his post-A Storm of Swords novel several years after the events of that book, but ultimately decided against it because he felt he was spending too much time having characters recount what happened in between the books in expository dialogue. Evidently, Benioff and Weiss disagree as we’re treated to such expository dialogue almost on a weekly basis.
The Hound character himself has lost all his complexity as they constantly kept framing him as a “bad ass,” especially with his team-up with Arya that turned into something of a buddy-cop movie and it was a team to cheer for and to root for (I remember people being sad – seriously, sad – when Arya left the Hound for dead). I still remember that hilarious scene from, I believe, season 4, when the Hound and Arya kill a bunch of people in a tavern and it’s a fairly disturbing scene especially as Arya kills a guy by slowly plunging a sword in his throat, if I remember correctly. I thought that was well handled, but then the next scene, we see the two of them riding off into the sunset basically as the camera cranes up above them and the main theme swells up in the score as we move to the end credits. Talk about tone deaf. And the Hound storyline plays out about as predictably as you would have expected it to and by the end he’s once again being framed as a “bad ass” and we’re meant to cheer for him as he picks up an ax and walks off screen as the screen cuts to black.
King’s Landing this episode wasn’t as unbearable as previous (although Cersei’s presence still is) and I actually enjoyed the Queen of Thorns rip into Cersei. It’s too bad she seems to be talking about the book character and not whatever Cersei is in the show. We also have confirmation that Margaery is just playing some sort of game with the High Sparrow. Why not? I just hope they don’t drag it out too long. Jaime meanwhile goes to Riverrun with Bronn (just randomly having appeared out of nowhere) by his side. We have a few perfunctory scenes that seem to set up a siege next episode. Can’t say I really thought much of any of this, except that it didn’t completely bore me.
Speaking of tone deaf… the Yara scene. Just… ugh. This scene was awful in so many ways that I’m going to tell you all about them. So we’re in some sort of whorehouse or whatever, and we see lots of the Ironborn having sex with prostitutes and just having fun. The camera then singles out Theon. We get a deliberately uncomfortable, high-angle closeup of Theon, looking uncomfortable. Hey guys! Look! Isn’t this hilarious! The man with no cock in the middle of men having sex with women! Meanwhile, Yara is now randomly a lesbian (or bisexual), ’cause, you know, she’s a woman who need no man! Geddit? Ugh. She then makes fun of Theon’s castration. Lovely. She then apologizes, which is okay, but then she turns around and gives him a little lesson in “hard love.” It seems like Theon might argue against this as he tries speaking up but he’s immediately shot down by Yara and told to either slit his wrists and end his miserable existence or man up and be an ironborn. Theon agrees. Honestly, I don’t suppose it would have mattered to me if this was simply a character thing, but the show itself wants you to believe that telling a man who’s suffered a lot of trauma to simply either “man up” or commit suicide is a positive – Theon reluctantly agrees, Ramin Djawadi’s ironborn theme begins playing in the background – it’s all so amazingly misguided.
And I have a question: What are character arcs? Clearly the writers don’t seem to know the answer. Sansa continues to change scene by scene and she has no consistency to her character whatever. I also found it rather hilarious that they seem to be doing the A Storm of Swords ending now, with Sansa sending that letter to Littlefinger who no doubt will show up in the nick of time at the Battle of Winterfell to save Jon. This is pretty hilarious considering they completely refused to do it when it would have actually made sense. I also laughed out loud when Davos mentions that Stannis was the most experienced commander in Westeros. Honestly, that statement is hard to take seriously in the show, especially after season 5. Arya meanwhile just randomly walks about openly in the streets of Braavos and then gets stabbed by the Waif. What? This scene was stupid. Dumb. Just last episode we saw her seemingly prepping for what awaited her, getting Needle, hiding out in some deserted building, now she’s just being stupid? I’ll laugh if this turns out to be some sort of twist like it wasn’t really the real Arya or something like that, but I don’t think so. And really, what is even her character arc at this point? Does anybody know?
At this point, honestly, the writing has gotten so bad, especially in that Yara scene, that if the writers ever look up from their little computer screens, they’d probably see the bottom of a barrel hovering far above them.