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Monday, April 28, 2014

Game of Thrones Recap: Ser Pounce Edition

Posted by Joe Streckert on Mon, Apr 28, 2014 at 10:29 AM

A bunch of things happened on Game of Thrones last night, but none of them were as momentous or memorable as the on-screen introduction of Ser* Pounce, Tommen Baratheon's cat.

More on the episode, and Tommen's pet kitty, after the jump!

Not pictured: Ser Pounce, for some reason.
  • Not pictured: Ser Pounce, for some reason.

*I love this series, but goddamn is "ser" a stupid word.

Emancipation and crucification. Last week I predicted that the episode would start with Daenerys already having taken Meereen. I was mostly wrong. We did get to see a night raid led by Grey Worm that supplied the city’s slaves with a whole lot of highly useful weapons. We got to see a crowd of newly armed slaves knife their overlords to death, killing one master and his entourage in a cramped street. Cut to Dany being victorious. So, we didn’t quite get a giant battle scene, but it wasn’t totally glossed over, either.

Daenerys ordered the various slavers of Meereen crucified as retribution for killing slaves, and flew her black Targaryen banner over the city’s statue of a harpy. That… That was pretty cool. Here’s hoping that HBO can maintain momentum with Daenerys’ storyline. They’re getting into A Dance With Dragons territory here, and that book is… well, it was better than A Feast For Crows, at least.

Also a clever flourish: Hearing “valar morghulis” used in the context of an actual conversation. That was cute.

The education of Sansa Stark. Everyone claims to dislike Sansa early on, but that’s unfair. Her annoying, Disney princess idealism is meant to be sundered. She learns that Joffrey is a monster, not a dashing prince, and that a royal court is, in fact, a den of politicking vipers rather than a bunch of noblility being all noble at each other. Now, though, she’s learning how to be a viper herself. Now that she’s hanging out with Littlefinger, she knows that something’s amiss, and she’s actively thinking about who would do what in the messy politics of Westeros. She’s figuring things out and coming together after being very badly broken. She’s not a plotter herself, not yet, but she is learning how to play the game.

SER POUNCE! Margaery and Olenna Tyrell had a nice little chat wherein Grandma Tyrell all but told her grandkid that she was involved in the plot to kill Joffrey. Margaery doesn’t seem to put out by this little revelation, probably because she’s relieved at not having to be married to Joffrey. The Queen of Thorns also told the younger Tyrell all about how she sexed up Margaery’s granddad, which was kinda weird. I doubt that I am alone when I say that I do not generally talk about sexing dudes or ladies with my grandparents.

Taking a cue from her grandmother, Margaery snuck into Tommen’s chamber at night. The younger, more pliable Tommen is a very different animal than Joffrey. Joffrey shot animals and people for fun. Tommen has a kitty named Ser Pounce. Joffrey ordered people’s tongues cut out because they wrote funny songs about the king. Tommen, meanwhile, has a cat. Joffrey was a sadist and Tommen (he really doesn’t have any other character traits yet) is a gentle soul who likes cats.

The Tyrells know that he will be easy to control, and Margaery’s little visit (probably highly confusing and flummoxing for a kid who’s probably in his early teens) will go a long way to solidifying that control. He’ll be a good little puppet, a scared kid who likes cats.

It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this. With nothing going on for them in King’s Landing, Brienne and Podrick have been sent off by Jaime to find Sansa Stark and keep her safe. Jaime gifted her his shiny new sword which was forged from Ice, Ned Stark’s old blade, and a set of armor. Pod got Tyrion’s axe. I sort of hate Brienne’s POV chapters in A Feast For Crows, but I’m cautiously hopefully that Brienne and Pod will pal around Westeros like misfit buddy cops on a mission. Or something. TV Brienne seems to have a great deal more agency and depth than Book Brienne (for instance, she names her sword “Oathkeeper,” rather than Jaime christening it for her) so hopefully this won’t all be terrible.

This sequence also underscored how bad last week’s rape scene was. It wasn’t bad because it portrayed rape. It was bad because it banked on the audience identifying with the rapist, Jaime, and not framing the act as any kind of fall on his part or tragedy for Cersei. It clashed horribly with this week, when we’re back to rooting for Jaime getting all misty-eyed over Brienne. Ugh.

Meet your new bad guy of the week. Bran’s storyline doesn’t have much to it, at least not in the back-end of A Storm of Swords. So, we get added conflict. The mutinous members of the Night’s Watch have taken up residence in Craster’s Keep, drinking the dead man’s wine and raping the women he kept as wives/prisoners.
The rape portrayed in last night’s episode was gross, but even though it was more explicit that what we saw last week, it was less problematic. I didn’t like seeing gratuitous rape on screen, but here at least it’s portrayed as something unambiguously horrific, rather than something that could be construed as a deserving punishment for an unlikable character.

The lead mutineer is drinking wine from Jorah Mormont’s skull. A skull totally bereft of flesh. A brief shot of a tray of miscellaneous meat seemed to heavily imply that the mutineers have eaten the dead Lord Commander, setting them up as mustache-twirling villains whose only role it to be hated.

Jon Snow wants to lead a party to take them out, and Bran and Co. get captured by the mutineers, a storyline created, it seems, to make things in the North a bit more interesting. A Storm of Swords has a great ending, but it comes out of mostly nowhere. The new material makes us care a bit more about what’s happening in the blank, boring-er part of Westeros.

Also, that kid who said that he was the best archer in his hamlet? That’s a fully loaded Chekhov’s gun right there. He will arrow-murder a particular someone. You can figure out who.

And lastly, a small reminder that this show has fucking ice zombies in it. The White Walkers are not so much characters in Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire as they are a vague menace that sort of float about in the background. Last night we got a welcome reminder that they still exist when they took one of Craster’s cast-off sons to Icy Stonehenge and turned the little tyke into a baby ice zombie. A really pale dude touched the kid on the forehead, and then the infant’s eyes turned an unnatural blue.

“What the shit?” said a member of my viewing party who had read the books.

“Was that in the books?” asked someone who hadn’t.

“No,” she replied, “it wasn’t.”

It wasn’t, and that’s perfectly fine. I’ve said this before, but one of the biggest strengths of the show is taking the subtext of the book and making it text. It’s implied that Craster’s sons have something supernatural done to them, but never fully explored. Here, we know what happens to them, and (as cheesy as the White Walkers look) that’s sort of satisfying. It’s good to see HBO’s writers cut through Martin’s slogging and get to the point.

See you next week! King Tommen is getting crowned. Maybe we’ll see his kitty again.

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