TV Show Review

TV Review: GAME OF THRONES: Season 5, Episode 7: The Gift [HBO]

HBO’s Game of Thrones The Gift TV Show Review. Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 7: The Gift kicks off with Jon Snow (Kit Harington) on the wall, preparing for his journey north. We don’t get to see much of Jon this week, the episode lingers on him just long enough to watch as he says his goodbyes. Jon’s brief screen time is understated considering what a momentous occasion in Westerosi history he is embarking on. As Jon takes his final walk along the wall, we can hear smiths hammering steel in the background, an apt metaphor for the historical peace that Jon will attempt to forge with the wildlings.

Not only have the tensions between the people north and south of the wall existed for thousands of years, neither side has ever shown interest in making the first move to negotiate a truce. It is unlikely that Jon’s word will carry enough weight to pacify the wildlings when even his sworn brothers of The Night’s Watch are unwilling to accept his plan. As if travelling into hostile territory to broker peace with the wildlings wasn’t enough, it’s all but a sure thing that Jon is going to encounter the white walkers while he is out there. There is no way the episode took a moment to show Sam (John Bradley-West) give Jon the dragon glass if he will not resort to using it.

It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that two sworn brothers of The Night’s watch cornered Gilly (Hannah Murray) in order to work off their sexual frustration. Even if The Night’s Watch wasn’t predominantly made up of thieves and rapists, there are no women on the wall and even most well adjusted dudes would be mad thirsty. It was inevitable that a confrontation with a woman was bound to happen, however, the timing of the assault couldn’t have occurred at a worse time. The poor execution of last week’s controversial rape scene didn’t sit well with viewers and to see the show retread the same territory in the very next episode felt as though there writers were tormenting the audience.

There is no emotional tit for tat when it comes to the raping of women. Sam’s valiant intervention in Gilly’s rape is not restitution for what happened to Sansa (Sophie Turner). While we did get a, “yay Sam” moment as he withstood the beating at the hands of his brothers, the save by Ghost diminished the value of his heroics. Although Sam was brave enough to take a stand against some insurmountable odds, he isn’t very far removed from the clumsy putz we met back in the first season of the show.

Bravo Game of Thrones. After viewing The Gift, the incredible “you are my daughter” speech that Stannis (Stephen Dillane) gave to Shireen a couple of episodes back became even more powerful. Melisandre’s (Carice van Houten) desire to sacrifice Shireen will force Stannis to confront his unwavering values. With his military resources diminishing due to the treacherous northern climate and an impending winter looming, Stannis is aware that the odds for successfully overthrowing Winterfell are no longer in his favor. Stannis wholeheartedly believes that his victory is the only thing that stands between prosperity for the Seven Kingdoms and imminent catastrophe, but will his heart allow him to save the realm at the expense of sacrificing his own flesh and blood?

Although the show continues to tease the redemption of Theon (Alfie Allen), having him ignite the candle that would initiate Sansa’s rescue was too easy of an escape from Ramsay’s (Iwan Rheon) tyranny. Game of Thrones likes to make its character suffer, and then suffer some more before letting up on their copious servings of misery and despair. I felt bad for Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) as she stood vigil outside of Winterfell like a bored Bruce Wayne, hanging out on his balcony in anticipation of someone turning on the bat signal. Game of Thrones isn’t a show that guarantees character redemption, so there is a good chance that Theon is long gone and all that is left is Reek. Still, there remains the possibility that Theon/Reek is playing the long game, snitching on Sansa and earning Ramsay’s  trust before making his move to free her.

After last week’s debacle, the Game of Thrones showrunners came out and said that Sansa is a hardened woman who made a choice (marrying Ramsay) as a way to get back her homeland. I have to call B.S. on that. In this episode, Sansa came across as a helpless damsel, battered, bruised and begging for Theon’s help. It’s hard to believe that Sansa was using Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) style manipulation tactics as she agitated Ramsay, pointing out that his low birth standing will hold him back from attaining power. Sansa’s barbs came across as spiteful name calling from a petulant child and not calculated insults meant to through an insecure adversary off his game.

After the events in the previous 6 episodes, I had lost all hope that Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) would find his way to Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) this season. Jorah (Ian Glen) and Tyrion dilly-dallied for so long that it was a shock the enslavement story-line fast forwarded them to where they were trying to go. The arena battle scene in front of Daenerys was as brutal and unrelenting of a sequence as we have come to expect from the show. Although the scene wasn’t up to the standards of most of Game of Thrones action sequences, it wiped away most of the memory of last week’s shoddy, low budget battle between Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Bronn (Jerome Flynn) and the Sand Snakes. A lot of time has passed since Jorah looked as strong and in control as he did in this episode and watching him hack and slash his way through the fighting pits reminded us why he was so valuable to Daenerys.

Daenery’s marriage to the head of a respected house has temporarily quelled the Sons of the Harpy uprisings and also been the root of some deep inner conflict. Daario (Michiel Huisman), a warrior and not a political adviser, rose a step above his pay grade when he offerd Daenerys some invaluable perspective on ruling. First, Dario pointed out that Daenerys’ obligation to her marriage will make her as much of a slave as the men she looks to free. Daario then offers the most pragmatic solution to the city’s turmoil, vanquishing the leadership of her opposition while they least expect it. Using the temporary peace to get the jump on her adversaries makes the most tactical sense, but goes against what Daenerys believes. As Danery’s reign as Khaleesi has proven to be an overall success on a macro level, her problems navigating the minutiae of ruling are only snowballing and she requires the input ofstrong counselors before she loses control of her burgeoning empire. Whether or not the situation in Meereen is settled, its long overdue for Daenerys to make her way back to The Seven Kingdoms. Hopefully the combination of Tyrion and Jorah’s greyscale will finally get these characters out of Meereen and back in the fight for the Iron Throne.

The Dorne storyline continues to be under-served. Jaime’s reunion with Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) resulted in a 2-minute bratfest that played out like a scene from MTV’s My Super Sweet 16. Meanwhile the show continues portraying the Sand Snakes as angry, 2-dimensional, ambiguously ethnic caricatures with bad accents. What was the point in poisoning Bronn just to save him so soon? Was the show trying to endear the Sand Snakes to the audience by saving Bronn, a fan favorite character? The sequence came across as a cheap way to make the audience appreciate the Sand Snakes without spending time developing the characters.

It’s shocking that the show took the Cersei (Lena Headey)/Sparrows storyline to the logical conclusion when the outcome seemed so obvious right from the beginning. Attentive viewers could see Cersei’s short-sighted plan to unleash the Sparrow’s on the Tyrells backfiring from a mile away. It became clear that once the pious Sparrows were finished with the Tyrells, they would turn their sights upon Cersei as well as Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman).

The episode did give Cersei a moment to put her mother of the year cred on display when she shed a tear professing her love to Tommen, but it was all in vain. Cersei has been one of the show’s central villains right from the start of the series, and there was no way that this episode could reinvent her as a sympathetic character before her downfall. Game of Thrones is a show that stubbornly refuses to give fans the victories that they want or expect, and it is difficult to imagine very much time will be spent servicing fans by giving them a down and out Cersei, as she grovels for her freedom.

To say that the The Gift was a marked improvement from Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken is like saying Sam’s reward for saving Gilly was just a minor display of affection. Thankfully, The Gift proved that the last episode’s poor execution was an aberration. Even as the show continues to fumble the events in Dorne, there were enough exciting and important events going on in Meereen, Winterfell and on the wall for Game of Thrones fans to walk away satisfied with the episode and feeling  good about the 3 final hours left in the season.

Notes:

On a show known for shocking and heartbreaking deaths, Maester Aemon’s (Peter Vaughan) subdued passing was the antithesis of what we have come to expect on Game of Thrones.

When it was time for Tyrion to prove his worth at the slave auction, it was an odd choice to see him resort to violence rather than prove his worth with his razor sharp wit.

The episode leaves us pondering how much greyscale Jorah has spread while on his journey from the slave trade route to the  fighting pits.

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About the author

Victor Stiff

Born and raised in Toronto, Victor has spent the past decade using his love and knowledge of the city to highlight and promote significant cultural events such as TIFF, The IIIFA awards, and the Anokhi Gala. He is an avid reader of Sci-fi and Horror and constantly sits through indie film marathons in rabid anticipation of the genre’s next great film auteurs. He also contributes sci-fi and fantasy movie reviews to www.zone-six.net

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