Game of Thrones season 5 episode 5 review: decision-making with Daenerys

SPOILERS: Jon makes a tough choice, Daenerys gets a new fiancé, while Jorah and Tyrion meet some stone-faced killers

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No sign of King’s Landing, Cersei or Arya in this week’s instalment, but with a number of important plotlines actually developed it finally feels like this season has a bit of momentum behind it. Also, it had poetry! Not nearly enough poetry in most HBO dramas, I’ve always thought.

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Anyway, it was a bad day to be an advisor for Daenerys Targaryen (current or former) this week, with the episode opening with the death of Ser Barristan following his attack by the Sons of the Harpy last episode, and closing with Jorah noticing a rather deadly spot of eczema. Dear oh dear – and a sad farewell to actor Ian McElhinney, who brought real gravitas to the role of the noble knight. 

And it’s becoming clearer than ever that Dany could use some more sage advisors – despite Missandei’s little speech about how Daenerys could come up with better solutions than anyone, her decision-making this week seemed a little, well, erratic.

After her commitment to justice caused her such problems earlier in the series (when she executed one of her followers for killing a prisoner despite the follower’s loyalty to her), this week Dany breezily flambéed one of the city’s high-born former slavers with one of her dragons, because he might have been involved with the people who killed Barristan. He might not, though…

Uppity nobleman Hizdahr stood tall and refused to show his fear in front of her scaly kids – until the queen dropped by his prison later, when he basically begged for his life. Apparently that does it for Daenerys; she’s done what he asked and opened the fighting pits and now they’re getting married, according to her.

Bit of a rollercoaster cell visit for him, but an odd choice for Dany. I can’t imagine marrying a wet blanket will mollify her enemies in Mereen (who want to return to their slaving ways), and Hizdahr’s no good when she wants to head home and take Westeros. Plus he’s almost definitely one of the rebellious Sons of the Harpy, right? (Or is that just me?)

Across the narrow sea, other wedding plans were also being made as Sansa took part in one of the most awkward family dinners ever at her old home of Winterfell, and nasty sadist Ramsay Bolton suggested that the tormented Theon/Reek (whom she’d recently reunited with) walk Sansa down the aisle at their upcoming nuptials. Sounds almost as cheerful as the last wedding the Starks and the Boltons both attended.

Too soon?

I have to say, the Winterfell stuff worked least well for me tonight; Sansa seemed a little too naïve given her recent transformation and the plotline about Theon killing her brothers (which he didn’t actually do; they escaped but everyone thinks they’re dead) comes from about three seasons ago and was tricky to remember without proper exposition.

I’m a little worried for Sansa with Ramsay’s homicidal girlfriend around, too. Brienne might be able to help her but, as noted a couple of episodes ago, she doesn’t have a great track record of protecting anyone she swears to protect…

Still, the Boltons might get the routing they thoroughly deserve if wannabe King Stannis has his way – and woe betide them if they don’t know the proper usage of less/fewer as he grimly noted in a Night’s Watch member (a great throwback to when the remaining Baratheon corrected Ser Davos’ grammar back in series two. Sub-editors everywhere support Stannis’ claim to the Iron Throne).

That said, Stannis leaving Castle Black could leave newly-minted Lord Commander Jon Snow less backed up in a precarious position. While his decision to let the Wildlings basically be serfs south of the Wall makes more sense than most of Daenerys’ ideas this week, it didn’t look popular even amongst his friends. I’d watch out for little Oliver in particular, especially considering he prepares Jon’s food. He already shot your girlfriend, Jon!

All that, and we barely have room to talk about Jorah and Tyrion’s lovely boat ride/poetry recital through ruined Valyria, the former great civilisation that fell centuries before the start of the series (Gawd, there’s a lot of backstory in this show). Sadly, we couldn’t enjoy the beautiful visuals (shout-out to cinematographer Gregory Middleton), dragon-spotting or bromancing for too long because the pair were swiftly set upon by the Stone Men.

This scene was actually quite tense, with the two men fighting for their life on the tiny boat while trying to stop themselves getting touched by the afflicted (who have the same Greyscale disease that Stannis’ daughter Shireen used to have, though much further along).

When they escaped, Tyrion seemed unaffected, but sadly for fans of squinty Jorah one of the Stone Men got a fingerprint on him and he’s probably a goner. Hopefully he can get back to his Queen Daenerys before it’s too late. Even if he drops at her feet, Tyrion’s bound to give her a few better ideas for her monarchy than ‘kill people randomly sometimes’ or ‘marry the guy from Plebs because he’s nearby’.

So in summary from this week’s episode: Jorah will probably die, Sansa might die, Jon might die and generally everyone we know and care about on this show could die at any time.

Business as usual, then.

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Game of Thrones is on Sky Atlantic on Mondays at 9pm