Now that we’re one week removed from that controversial scene involving Sansa Stark and Ramsay Bolton, it’s time to continue the game of thrones.
We’ve come to the midpoint of the season with the seventh episode titled The Gift, and things are starting to get heavy as Stannis Baratheon marches on Winterfell, and the Faith Militant continue to hold Margaery and Loras Tyrell in the Black Prison under the Redkeep.
The episode begins as Jon Snow mounts his expedition to go north of the wall. Jon leaves Castle Black under the command of the humorless First Ranger Alliser Thorne who’s quick to voice his own displeasure over the mission. Jon thanks him for his honesty and heads to his horse when Sam Tarly says goodbye and hands him a bag of Dragonglass. “I hope you don’t need them,” he says. I doubt viewers will feel the same — we all want to see more White Walkers, don’t we?
Tarly, Gilly, and her baby settle down for Maester Aemon’s death vigil, and the baby’s laughter reminds Aemon of his younger brother, King Aegon, who he fondly called Egg when they were children. The show hasn’t divulged much about the history of the Targaryens besides the most pertinent bits to continue the story. From the books, Aemon was next in line for the crown, but he passed and let his younger brother take the throne. Fearing he would be used in a plot against his own family, Aemon removed himself from any potential machinations by volunteering for the Night’s Watch. His last words to his brother before he left King’s Landing were the same he gave to Jon in S05E05: Kill the Boy, “Kill the boy, and let the man be born.”
Aemon mentions that Egg had a sweet disposition until he was crowned King of Westeros, and then things get serious when Aemon’s tone shifts, and he commands Gilly to head further south before it’s too late.
In Winterfell, Theon Greyjoy brings food to a beaten and abused Sansa. Reaching out to Theon, she makes him promise to put a candle in the window of the broken tower despite his protests. “Reek! My name is Reek,” he tells her.
“Your name is Theon Greyjoy. Last surviving son of Balon Greyjoy, Lord of the Iron Islands,” she responds, giving him back his name. Theon resolutely marches up the tower and opens the door only to find Ramsay there eating breakfast. Outside the castle walls in the snow, Brienne patiently waits for the signal.
Back at Castle Black, Aemon passes, and Samwell gives a fine eulogy. I can’t help but wonder if the maester’s passing — in Sam’s words, no one was wiser, gentler, or kinder — signifies a change in the guard at the Night’s Watch headquarters. “You’re losing all your friends, Tarly,” Alliser whispers as Aemon’s body burns. Foreboding symbology or a plot twist setup — we shall sees.
When the next scene opens with Sansa meeting up with a smug Ramsay on the ramparts, we sort of know what’s coming. Ramsay tells Sansa about Stannis’ incoming forces and confidently talks up his future prospects of becoming Warden of the North. Sansa sneakily takes a corkscrew and wonders aloud what will happen if Russ’ wife has a son, which could create complications due to the fact that Ramsay’s trueborn brother will have a stronger claim to the Bolton inheritance. “Bastards can rise high in the world,” Ramsay says before he tells Sansa about Jon’s new position at Castle Black to Sansa’s surprise.
Remembering why he called her out of her room, Ramsay then takes Sansa to see what’s been done to the woman that offered to help her. Flayed and put on display, the old woman died without saying a word, though Theon will have to live with another betrayal. Ramsay orders Theon to return Sansa to her room, and that’s the last we see of them this episode.
At Stannis’ encampment, things look dire in the heavy snow. Forty horses have died overnight, and more will die according to Ser Davos who also suggests they should return to Castle Black. Stannis rejects the notion — there’s no way he’s going to become the King Who Ran. Stannis is all-in, and the master tactician has decided to march forward, whether to victory or defeat. Before taking leave, Davos gives the Red Woman a look, the kind you give when you’re at your last resort. Melisandre is the only one who can change Baratheon’s mind, but she’s not about to. Stannis wants to remove doubt, and Melisandre reminds him of her visions. To ensure victory, she’ll need king’s blood. (Un)Fortunately for Stannis, there’s a source available to him — his daughter. Disgusted, Stannis orders Melisandre away.
Returning to Castle Black, Brother Derek and Brother Brant pursue Gilly aggressively, prompting Sam to come in and draw his sword. Sam takes them on, but he’s brutally beaten. When the brothers start to rape Gilly, Sam stands up again for another go, but Jon’s dire wolf Ghost enters and scares off the would-be rapists. Sam passes out, and Gilly takes him to his room for treatment. They spend the night together, and Sam loses his virginity.
If you’re worried that too much time is being spent this side of the world, you’ll be happy to see Jorah Mormont and Tyrion Lannister, though the circumstances leave much to be desired. The slavers have put them up for bid at an auction, and Jorah’s pedigree as a warrior works in his favor and gets him sold. Not wanting to be left behind, Tyrion calls out the buyer, claiming to be Jorah’s fighting partner. The crowd laughs, and Tyrion makes his point by beating the handler who’s been oppressing him since capture.
Nearby in Meereen — and later that day — Daenerys Targaryen and Daario Naharis talk about the Queen’s future nuptials. Daenerys wants to use her marriage to Hizdahr to get the city of Meereen on her side, but Daario would rather she wed him. Daenerys laughs it off and tells him she cannot marry him because it would be political suicide. “Then you are the only person in Meereen who’s not free,” he tells her. Daario notes he’s not in a capacity to advise the Queen, but he gives her one suggestion — on the day of the Great Games, she should round up all of the Masters and kill them all. Daenerys is taken aback, reminding him she’s a queen and not a butcher. Daario tells her all rulers are either butchers or meat.
Returning to Westeros, we get to one of my favorite characters — Olenna Tyrell who meets with the High Sparrow in the High Sept. I love seeing Olenna do battle with her weapon of choice — words. Known as the Queen of Thorns for her verbal barbs, Olenna lets loose on the High Sparrow, but it looks like she may have met her match. Hoping to secure Margaery and Loras’ freedom, she offers the Sparrow wealth, but it falls on deaf ears. Apparently, the High Sparrow has no interest in splendor and worldly goods. When he asks Olenna if she’s ever sowed, her response leads him to tell her, “You are the few, we are the many.” He leaves her with an ominous implication, “And when the many stop fearing the few …”
Meanwhile, Cersei listens to her son Tommen rant over being unable to exert his power over the Faith Militant. Tommen wants to start a war and kill the zealots, and when he tells his mother that he loves Margaery, Cersei offers to talk to the High Sparrow on his behalf. Cersei tells her son how much he means to her, and it’s one of her most humanizing scenes in any season. Lena Headey draws out a lot of emotion from her lines, and you can get a sense that — as insanely focused as she is in her poisoned mind — Cersei does have her reasons. All she wants is to protect her children, and then we’re brought to Dorne where Jaime Lannister tries and fails to convince his niece (and daughter) to return home.
In the prison cells, Bronn impresses one of the Sand Snakes with his singing voice, though the conversation steers to who the better fighter is. Bronn claims it’s against his code to hurt a woman, and he considers the new wound on his arm an honorable scar. When Bronn says Dornish women are the most beautiful, Tyene Sand thanks him. “I said Dornish women. I didn’t say you,” he tells her. When she begins to seduce him, Bronn begins to lose his mind, and Tyene asks him about his arm. Suddenly, the effects of the poison from Tyene’s dagger trigger, and Bronn’s left reaching out for the antidote that Tyene offers. “Who’s the most beautiful woman in the world?” she asks, to which Bronn answers, “You.” She tosses the vial, and Bronn drinks up the cure and lives.
In King’s Landing, Pyter Baelish gets a verbal lashing from Olenna. It’s bad enough for Pyter that his beloved brothel has been destroyed, but Olenna reminds him how dangerous it will be for him if House Tyrell falls. Together, Olenna and Pyter conspired to murder King Joffrey, and she’s prepared counter measures if ever Lord Baelish betrayed her. Olenna wants confirmation that Baelish wasn’t a part of Loras and Margaery’s imprisonment, which prompts Littlefinger to offer a gift — something similar he gave to Cersei: “A handsome young man.”
Near Meereen, Jorah and the fighters get ready for an exhibition where the winner receives the opportunity to fight in the Great Games which will be attended by the Queen herself. Much to everyone’s surprise, Danaerys has made a surprise visit to the lower pit, and when the first group of fighters hail the Queen, Jorah rushes to the gate to get a glimpse of his love. The fighters begin to duel to the death to Daenarys’ dismay. When she gets up to leave, Jorah puts on a helmet and steps onto the battlefield. He beats the competition without killing a single fighter, getting the Khaleesi’s attention, but when he reveals himself, Danaerys’ face is covered with disgust. “Get him out of my sight,” she orders. Jorah pleads and tells her he has brought her a gift, and Tyrion walks out to introduce himself. The look on Danaerys face — priceless.
And you know what else is priceless?
The episode’s final scenes involve Cersei who makes a trip to Margaery’s holding cell. The Queen of Westeros looks miserable and downtrodden in her prisoner garb and dirt-streaked face, but she’s holding out with bitter fury. Margaery knows Cersei is behind the plot, and she eagerly tells Cersei that Tommen was completely agreeable to Margaery’s plan to get rid of his mother. Cersei handles it with the aplomb we’d expect, and she leaves to visit the High Sparrow and bask in the success of her plans as he outlines what will come for Loras and Margaery. The High Sparrow also states there is mercy for confession, but Cersei would rather they get the full brunt of the High Sparrow’s justice.
Speaking of justice, the High Sparrow starts in on something with Cersei. First, he gives her a lesson about the chapel they’re standing in, which gives her more insight on his faith. “Something simple and solid and true,” he says, touching the stone altar. He tells her how House Tyrell have been brought down — much to Cersei’s delight — and then he tells her about a broken man who came to Faith Militant. The man confessed his sins, “And he has much to say about you.” Enter cousin Lancel who knows a thing or three about Cersei’s incestuous relationships. When Cersei tries to leave in a huff, she’s captured by the Faith Militant and imprisoned for trial.
“Look at me. Look at my face. It’s the last thing you’ll see before you die,” Cersei threatens as the door is shut and bolted.
Thematically, the episode has a much more positive slant than the last one, though Sansa’s current situation seems to be getting worse. In each of the plotlines, someone receives a gift — for better or worse. Those gifts look to make a huge impact on the rest of the season, and it’s also important to note the relationships between the givers and receivers. With alliances being forged, strengthened, broken, and changed, the plot points this episode are a sort of gift from the writers, and this episode stands out as one of this season’s strongest.
Game of Thrones
S05E07: The Gift
Directed by: Miguel Sapochnik
Written by: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Starring: Peter Dinklage, Alfie Allen, and Roman Beguns
Previous Episode: Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken: Game of Thrones S05E06 Recap
Next Episode: Hardhome: Game of Thrones S05E08 Recap