“I drink, and I know things”
In a world of magic, dragons, zombies, and shadow demons, someone coming back from the dead is right in line in A STORY OF ICE AND FIRE. Resurrection isn’t even a new concept for GAME OF THRONES by any means. Hark back to season three, and the introduction of Thoros of Myr, another priest serving the same Lord of Light as the Red Woman. Thoros reanimated his friend Beric Dondarrion seven times, leaving even the self-assured Melisandre incredulous to the scope of his power.
The whale (or giant) in the realm is the fate of one Jon Snow. In last week’s season premiere, producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss gave us an emphatic answer to the result of the traitorous stabbings. He is slain! they shouted from the top of The Wall, but in this world, dead doesn’t always mean dead. A still reluctant Melisandre, huddled underneath robes by the fire, is summoned by Davos to work her witchcraft, and after cleaning Jon’s wounds, and tossing some shorn hair into the flame, her spell is successful and everyone’s favorite bastard is back amongst the living (we think). In the books, each subsequent time Dondarrion came back to life, he lost a little bit more of his humanity. I’m curious as to what direction Benioff and Weiss take with Snow.
This rising couldn’t have happened with the timely interjection of Tormund and his Wildlings, who storm Castle Black and stop Alliser Thorne from completing his rebellion. The Night’s Watch lay down their swords, but not before one brave (see: foolish) soul shoots an arrow into Wun Wun’s sizable shoulder, and the giant grabs his legs and absolutely ragdolls him into the castle wall, leaving a bloody stain. There will be no second resurrection.
GOT’s massive cast can be one of the show’s weaknesses (an odd one to gripe at honestly), and characters and their storylines can be lost in the shuffle or just shelved entirely for long periods of time. No one embodies that more than Bran and his band of misfit toys. Sitting out the entire fifth season (and the first episode of this one), his reintroduction is he and the Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow) having a tag-team warg and shooting themselves back to the past. There we meet young Ned and Benjen Stark, and the first appearance of their sister, Lyanna. Also hanging around? A talking Hodor going by the name, Wylis. The Raven and his protegé return to the present where he tells Bran there is a war coming. But which one? Specificity is key when speaking in such ominous terms.
So far this season (and perhaps throughout the series), no character has been as menacing as the Mountain, the gigantic, newly-minted zombie who is the Queen Regent’s personal bodyguard. We haven’t heard him speak–and we’re not even sure if he’s able to–but his purplish skin and bloodshot eyes poke through his gold helmet, striking fear into everyone, including me. The Mountain continues the thread of bodies exploding against walls when he punishes a drunkard who’s greatest sin was talking up the size of his member, and implying that Cersei wanted a piece.
Also in King’s Landing, Jaimie has a very interesting conversation with the High Sparrow, the two hovering over the dead Myrcella. Jaimie threatens the life of the priest, but his ploy for vengeance is cut short when the Sparrow’s scarred minions pop out from behind the columns, demonstrating just how powerful the lower class can be. I have a feeling this won’t be the only interaction these two will share before the season closes.
Another hazard of the multi-layered narratives is Pyke, in the Iron Islands. The home of the Greyjoys hasn’t been visited that much, and you know there’s a problem when you have to struggle to remember who the scraggly, old guy is (it’s Balon, Theon’s father). Continuing a trend for anyone in power, Balon is not long for this world. After meeting with his daughter, Yara, he heads to his quarters across the world’s creakiest bridge and meets a cloaked stranger blocking his path. Turns out, it’s Balon’s younger brother, Euron, a man whom we’ve never met, and only heard of in passing back in season one. After a tense showdown, Balon is flipped over the overpass, and lands in the ocean, meeting the Drowned God that the Iron Islanders speak commonly about. And with his passing, the blood leech magic trick trio that Melisandre performed in seasons past has finally come to fruition (the other two being Robb Stark, and Joffrey Baratheon).
Balon isn’t the only ruler that meets his unceremoniously end. After his wife gives birth to a son, Roose Bolton makes the grave error of allowing Ramsey to get within knife’s distance of him. His punishment is a swift death. Earlier touched briefly on GOT’s flaws, and the character of Ramsey is a touchy one to say the least. A few seasons ago, it would have been tough to imagine a more hateful character than Joffrey, he who berated his wife, and shot whores with arrows for glee. But now, he looks like Mother Teresa compared to the abomination that is Ramsey Bolton.
The producers have (probably rightfully) taken some heat for the depiction of women and the atrocities that they suffer throughout the series. Whether it be the brother on sister assault that Jaimie forced on Cersei (beside their dead son no less), the ultimately pointless sacrificial death of Stannis’s daughter, Shireen, and possibly the most egregious of all, the brutal rape of Sansa by the aforementioned Ramsey. It’s not so much the acts that were committed (though they are heinous), but the fact that they leap past the point of uncomfortableness. Once Roose died, everyone from the Narrow Sea to the North Gates knew what Ramsey was going to do to his stepmother and half-brother, but was it necessary to linger as his dogs maul the woman and her hours-old infant to shreds, where cutting the scene after he whistled his death command would have fully sufficed and still got point across. Benioff and Weiss have never shied away from the blood and horror, but one wonders if the need for prolonged sounds of anguish further the story along or are just there to make us feel queasy and dirty.
Aside from the literal term, resurrection can also designate the return of one’s honor and place in the world. No one battles for this more than Tyrion, the pint-sized quick talker who has overcome all odds to not only remain alive, but somehow now leading the way in Meereen in Daenerys’s sabbatical. It won’t be easy of course, not with the burning of the entire harbor by the Sons of the Harpy, or with the slave owners reclaiming the surrounding cities. Fueled by liquid courage, he heads down to the dungeon to release Rhaegal and Viserion. It’s a beautifully touching moment to hear Tyrion recount a story from his youth about wanting a dragon of his own, only to be told the heartbreaking news that they were presumed extinct. In a tense few moments, Tyrion releases the two beasts, before respectfully skulking away and remarking to Varys, “Next time I have an idea like that, punch me in the face.”