After a controversial episode last week, Game of Thrones continues pushing forward. With only three episodes remaining, "The Gift" makes some serious progress in a few of its storylines, yet others are left meandering.
Of those aimless narratives, Jaime and Bronn's adventure in Dorne is the worst offender. After finally bringing all its players together, whatever progress could have been made was squandered this week by an awkward family reunion between Jaime and his daughter-niece, and a pointless threat on Bronn's life that's carelessly dispelled within a single scene. For all the excitement that surrounded the narrative switch-up of having Jaime travel to Dorne instead of the Riverlands, there has yet to be any real payoff.
Yet on the other side of Westeros, the changes happening in the storylines at The Wall are proving to be most enjoyable. The same beats from the novels are being hit - in this case, Maester Aemon's death and Sam and Gilly's relationship becoming more intimate - but having them occur with Castle Black as the backdrop (instead of a sea voyage) ties them closer to The Wall narrative. Plus, Aemon gets a beautiful funeral the books don't allow for, which seems deserving given how crucial actor Peter Vaughn made the role feel.
Winter Is Coming
When it comes to changes from the novels, no change is more contentious than what's happened with Sansa Stark's narrative. After last week saw her become Ramsey's bride, many hoped this wouldn't mean she'd meet exactly the same fate as poor Jeyne Poole. But "The Gift" dashes those hopes rather quickly when it depicts Sansa bruised and locked away in her room.
However, Sansa hasn't been entirely broken by Ramsey's treatment of her - at least not yet. A few times throughout the episode there were sparks of defiance from her, like her goading of Ramsey with mentions of his legitimacy in light of another Bolton heir. He may still hold the upper hand - and Reek's loyalty, apparently - but Sansa hasn't given up, and with winter coming, who better to weather this storm than a Stark?
Sansa also isn't entirely without allies. Brienne may not have gotten her message, but she's patient, and there's no doubt she'll come when called. Then there's Stannis, who is determined to arrive at Winterfell before the season truly changes. Whether he arrives before winter comes remains to be seen, but more distractions for the Boltons only means more opportunities for Sansa.
Where Power Resides
King's Landing has always served as a focal point for the power struggles in Westeros. Not only because it's the capital, but because there the high born and the low live in close proximity. Throughout Game of Thrones there have been instances of the lowborn rioting over their ill treatment at the hands of the highborn, but that's all coming to a head with The Faith and their sparrows.
This episode features a huge upheaval in power when Cersei finds herself arrested by The Faith (a moment book readers have been eagerly anticipating), but it's actually Lady Olenna who is most baffled by how power is shifting. At this point in the novels, Olenna is already back in Highgarden doing who knows what, but here (thanks in no small part to Diana Rigg's performance) she's an avid player in the game.
Watching that marvelous scene between her and The High Sparrow it's impossible not to think back on Varys' line from season 2: "Power resides where men believe it resides." And just where does the power reside now? Clearly not with Cersei or Tommen, the boy king. The Tyrells, for all their wealth, are swiftly losing control. And The High Sparrow seems to believe it's with the people. But what of the master of secrets and manipulation, Littlefinger?
It's interesting that when Lady Olenna can't make any headway with The High Sparrow, she seeks out her regicide co-conspirator. Littlefinger bucks the notion that power is a matter of impression because no one is aware of the real power he holds - that's his trick. And it's implied that Cersei's arrest comes thanks to Olenna and Littlefinger's scheming, which does hint at this duo being one powerful alliance. (But how long until Littlefinger betrays her, too?)
A Most Expected Meeting
The meeting of Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister has been telegraphed from this season's first episode, but that didn't stop the actual moment they set eyes on one another from being a turning point in the season.
Making this meeting even more momentous is the fact that it's something that has yet to happen in the books. Again, like in the show, Tyrion coming to Daenerys is all but a given in the novels. Though, of course, Game of Thrones has found an easier and more condensed way of getting these two together than George R.R. Martin ever could. And now that Tyrion's journey is over, it's hard to argue that much was lost in the translation.
Now that they're together it'll be curious to see what sort of an alliance (if any) is formed. Presumably, the reason Ser Barristan made such an early exit was to make room for Tyrion, but if that's to imply Tyrion takes Barristan's place as an adviser, that leaves only three episodes for him to earn Daenerys' trust. And arriving with Jorah - the absolute last person Dany wants to see - surely isn't going to help matters.
Unless it does, because as quickly as Daenerys' is losing allies, a friendly face may be what she needs most. Sure, Jorah ruined any shot he has at being her best friend (or lover), but he has proven his worth as a warrior and council more times than not. Both he and Tyrion bring with them a wealth of experience, and with Barristan out of the picture, that's what Daenerys is going to need most. (Well, that and dragons.)
Game of Thrones season 5 is now in the homestretch and all the changes it's been making from its source material are either proving warranted or not. What deviations have you enjoyed the most? Which serve the story better than what transpired in the novels? Which have been the most questionable? Continue discussing in the comments below!
Game of Thrones will continue next Sunday @9pm on HBO.