Game of Thrones: 505 “Kill the Boy” Review
Reviewed by Mark McCullough.
Game of Thrones opened with a shocker this week: Barristan Selmy was revealed to have died in the cliff-hanger showdown in last week’s episode. Not only does this curveball come as a major twist for book readers, but it also nullifies my major criticism of The Sons of the Harpy having no real weight in the series narrative. I guess that rectifies the episode slightly, but I still stand by my general verdict on the episode. Thankfully there are no such worries of a negative review this week as Game of Thrones swings back into form with aplomb.
Narratively the writers decided to restrict the focus of the episode to Meereen and The North. This allowed for a lot of expansion on the characters and led to significant plot developments in both locations. Something which contributes to the success of the episode is the fact that the locations are united in that they both have a young leader newly thrust into power and facing difficult decisions about how to rule. The name of the episode “Kill the Boy” reflects the journey that the two main characters this week complete by the time the final credits roll. In both cases we see the leader seek counsel from someone they have not yet this series. The outcome for both is the same, they realise that they have to be true to themselves and make whatever decision they feel is best.
This complies with the growing up theme of the episode and is complemented by the effective ‘removing of the stabilisers’ for each character. In Dany’s case she can no longer rely upon the deceased Selmy, whereas Jon Snow no longer has Stannis and his army to aid his cause. At the start of the episode we see both characters struggle because of their decision, Dany channels her inner mad king as she plots to feed the leader of the slaver families to her dragons, whilst Jon risks friendships in favour of doing what he thinks is right. By the time the narrative reaches its denouement, things begin to look hopeful for both Daenerys and Jon. A pleasant reward at the half way point of a series which has focused heavily on the two.
There is no doubting the fact that the battle for Winterfell is coming, it has been mooted in every episode this series so far. This week we finally see things kick into gear as Stannis finally marches south from the wall. However before the battle can begin, the narrative uses the lull as an opportunity to force us to pick sides. The Boltons have been vilified since their betrayal of Robb and Catelyn, however things are pushed even further here. Ramsay is portrayed to be a horrible man with no respect for others, the fact that he views people as his property does not bode well for a Winterfell ruled by him, or for future wife Sansa. Ramsay’s father Roose is painted in an even worse light as we learn in gruesome detail of what happened with Ramsay’s mother.
As if we needed another reason to hate the Bolton, Sansa treatment is also something I found rather difficult to watch. It was inevitable that she would encounter Theon eventually, however the circumstances which Ramsay engineered robbed us (and Sansa) of a proper reunion. Thankfully Brienne is still on the case and is able to get a message to Sansa. Brienne’s nobility has also been her defining characteristic, and here it is used to elevate her to a role vacated by Barristan Selmy: the greatest knight in Westeros. In contrast to the Bolton’s negative depiction, Stannis continues to show a softer side which makes him a lot easier for the audience to empathise with. His decision to bring the princess and queen with him for the battle is also an indication as to where the writers want us to pitch our alliances for the battle of Winterfell.
Greyscale has been a subtle arc for the series thus far, and it here that it becomes evident why. Tyrion and Jorah’s journey towards redemption (in the form of Daenerys) leads them to Valyria and it is here where things get interesting. The narrative itself is pretty exciting from this point up to the conclusion, but that is not what makes this scene stand out for me. Having already deviated greatly from the books, it is apparent that the writers are taunting readers who think they know what’s coming. This is further evidenced by Jorah’s cheeky remark on pirates being too afraid to use the route. Valyria is the ancestral home of the Targaryens which is why it is an intriguing location to take Jorah and Tyrion on the road to Daenerys. This is particularly prominent in Jorah’s case as he is effectively given a death sentence as he has contracted Greyscale, which is fitting for the character.
It is Drogon’s appearance that provides the most food for thought. I have already mentioned that I feel the writers are toying with fans slightly. I think that’s what this scene was about, a subtle tease at the popular fan theory about Jon Snow’s parentage. The dragons proving to be a distraction for the real threat, the stone men (a form of the living dead). The connection to the white walkers and by extension to Jon is not a huge stretch. It is also worth noting that earlier in the episode, Aemon mentions that a Targaryen alone is never a good thing, and look who enters just as he says it. I’m not saying that this implies the show will go down that route, but it provides a nice link that can tie the various plotlines this week together.
A very strong outing this week marks a significant milestone for Game of Thrones. The series has now well and truly parted from its source material meaning that everyone will be kept on their toes trying to guess what is next. We have also reached the halfway point in the series, so it was imperative that this week advanced the characters in the way that it so successfully did. I do however have a few worries at this stage: fan favourite Arya Stark has only appeared in two episode thus far, and the Dorne storyline is also lacking sufficient screen time. With this week being highly location focused, I can only assume next week will cover the neglected areas to prevent them from lagging behind.