We’ve reached that hideous moment of the year again, folks; that moment when you realise we’re already half way through this season of Game of Thrones and you haven’t done any of the things you meant to do by this point. You meant to clean out your wardrobe, finish writing that novella, and find true love – well hard cheese, I’m afraid, because Westeros waits for no-one.
‘Kill the Boy’ is probably the best episode of season five so far, mostly because something’s actually happening, Reg! Or about to start happening, anyway. We’ve got through the ‘sitting around drinking wine and insulting each other’s grammar’ stage of the season; Stannis (Stephen Dillane) does manage to sneak in a solid ‘less or fewer’ correction, but still, characters are starting to make literal moves rather than figurative ones.
We’re reminded once again of the fact that blind old Maester Aemon (Peter Vaughn) of the Night’s Watch is in fact Aemon Targaryen, the great great (great?) uncle of Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). Of course, once you join the Night’s Watch, your previous self is forfeit – but the showrunners wouldn’t keep prodding our memories about who Aemon really is unless it was important in some way. It’s Aemon that counsels Jon Snow (Kit Harington) to ‘Kill the boy, and let the man be born’. In other words, to finally get shot of that naïve inner self and get down to some serious business.
Stannis, who strikes me as someone who killed his inner boy quite some time ago, is finally leaving Castle Black to begin his march on Winterfell, meaning that pretty soon we might be treated to some hardcore battle sequences when his army attempts to rout the Boltons out of the North. This episode reminds us how doubly interesting the assault on Winterfell is going to be, reacquainting us with the exact situation inside the former Stark stronghold – Sansa (Sophie Turner) is still there, and still engaged to Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon), who is still as mad as a March Hare in April, if his interactions with Myranda (Charlotte Hope) and Reek/Theon (Alfie Allen) are anything to go by. His dad Roose (Michael McElhatton) isn’t much better, and that deliciously awkward ‘family dinner’ scene is one of the crown jewels of this ep.
In truth, I can’t wait to see the Boltons get their asses handed to them (who could like a House with a favourite pastime of skinning people alive?). But it’s going to be very intriguing to see exactly how the battle for Winterfell is going to go, given that we know Sansa, a few faithful Stark cohorts, and perhaps even what’s left of Theon Greyjoy, are working to bring down the Boltons from within. There’s also the Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) factor – she’s still hanging about outside Winterfell, suggesting that she might be a significant agent for change when the shit starts hitting the fan. Sansa and Theon will hopefully make for some tense onscreen interaction; after all, both of them have had their ‘inner boy’ cruelly ripped away from them.
In Meereen, the death of Ser Barristan (Ian McElhinney) spurs Daenerys into making some moves of her own. We get another brief glimpse of the dragons as she parades the city’s aristocracy in front of them, with one unlucky man becoming their flambéed lunch in revenge for their perceived complicity with the Sons of the Harpy. After this show of strength, she manages to surprise us for the first time in quite a while with her next idea; marrying Hizdahr Zo Loraq (Joel Fry) in order to bring peace back to Meereen. However, there’s going to be more to this than meets the eye – we can’t see Daenerys just up and marrying some dude without some sort of serious pre-nup.
Finally, let’s talk about what might be my favourite scene, not only in this episode, but in the entire season so far. Jorah (Iain Glen) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) sailing into the ruins of Old Valyria is the sort of sequence you’d show to somebody who’s never watched any of GOT before; it’s packed to the gunnels with all the good stuff. We get our first ever glimpse of Valyria, the doomed city of the Targaryens. Once the centre of the civilised world, it’s now an eerie ruin that looks as though Edgar Allen Poe was the architect (props to the technical types for that).
Tyrion continues gamely firing banter at Jorah until he’s distracted by the looming ruins of Valyria, and they both descend into poetry (could this be the start of a beautiful friendship, perhaps?). Then we’re treated to the delicious triple-whammy of Drogon flapping ominously overhead, the sudden attack of the stone men, and the classic ‘oh shit’ zombie movie trope of Jorah discovering he’s been infected with Greyscale. A more intense and perfectly plotted sequence than this, you’d be hard pushed to find.
In conclusion, let’s look ahead a little to what’s waiting to kick our teeth in further down the road. Regular watchers of GOT know by now to expect something a bit spectacular in episode nine of every season. In season one, it was the execution of Eddard Stark. In season two, it was the battle of Blackwater Bay. In season three, it was the Red Wedding – everyone’s favourite. In season four, it was the epic battle between the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings. Now, there are only three episodes (three!) between us and this season’s Grande Fromage.
It’s anyone’s guess what’s going to happen (unless you’ve read the books), but the one thing we do know is that the title of season five’s ninth episode will be ‘The Dance of Dragons’. I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to get pretty stoked.
Best Scene: The whole of the sequence in Valyria
Best Line: “Long sullen silences and an occasional punch in the face. The Mormont Way.” – Tyrion