Sunday, June 14, 2015

Game of Thrones Power Rankings (S5, E9)

Season 5, Episode 9: "The Dance of Dragons"

Last Week's Rankings: "Hardhome"

In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. In that spirit, here’s your weekly look at who’s winning and who’s (slowly, painfully) dying.


1. Drogon

Anytime a video gets made with LeBron's face superimposed over yours, flying in to the rescue and literally torching your adversaries, you probably won the week. 

2. Ser Jorah Mormont

Redemption stories are few and far between in Game of Thrones, which is why it was so gratifying to see Khaleesi take the outstretched hand of our favorite Friend Zone champion. And even better for Jorah: Khaleesi's forgiveness arrived just moments after she found herself husbandless! Does anyone know if there's a Dothraki word for "Rebound?" 

3. Doran Martell, Prince of Dorne

Is it too late to add Prince Doran into the Iron Throne sweepstakes? Let's recap the list of character traits he displayed last week: wisdom, patience, forgiveness, strength, sternness, mercy, positive parentage, teaching, restraint, humor, familial loyalty, and not too much familial loyalty. Other than working legs, what's this guy missing on his kingly resumé? 

Oh right, it's because Dorne is a paradise and no one in their right mind would leave there for the awfulness that is King's Landing. Now I remember. 

4. Arya's Death List

Everyone's been waiting for years for the chance to see Arya actually cross a name off her death list by her own causation. And now it might actually happen. And to align the Karma Gods even more perfectly, Ser Meryn Trant really went out of his way last week to show how wretched he is. The words "too old" have never sounded more disgusting. Especially when repeated several times. Arya, stick him with the pointy end. (Or give him poisoned oysters. That's cool too.)

Of course, because this is Game of Thrones, and Arya killing Ser Meryn seems like a sure thing for next episode, it probably won't happen. 

5. Scene Placement

After ending Episode 6 with Sansa's wedding night rape three weeks ago, leaving the worst possible taste in viewers' mouths, It seems showrunners Benioff & Weiss have already learned their lesson. Sure, this episode may have had someone burning his own daughter at the stake, but that was wisely shuffled into the middle, and then, dragon! Yeah, we're suckers with shit memories. 

Honorable Mention: Mace Tyrell & Ser Bronn of the Blackwater

Hey, it's two characters I was worried were goners, alive and well! And Mace was singing while Bronn was offered pie soup! 


1. Princess Shireen of the House Baratheon

As we saw earlier this season when Ser Barristan told Daenerys the happy story about her brother's singing, characters reciting happy stories has a tendency to be the last thing they do. 

But even still, and despite all the not-at-all subtle hints of what was to come, expecting Game of Thrones to actually go through with it and have Stannis burn his daughter at the stake was something very few people had the necessary amount of pessimism to predict. 

I don't even know what else to say here. We listened to a young girl screaming for her father while she was being burned to death, by her father, for what amounts to supernatural good luck. And we watched this in the name of entertainment. And then we promptly got over this a few minutes later, because we got to watch a dragon set people on fire. We. Are. The. Worst. 

2. Hizdahr zo Loraq

First, he received the pointy end of Tyrion's legendary verbal barbs--"My father would have liked you"--and then he received the pointy end of actual blades. Do we know if he and Daenerys ever even consummated their marriage? This guy's married life was approximately 4% better than Joffrey's. 

3. Me

Two weeks ago, I joked about Shireen being one of that week's losers because of Melisandre's interest in her King's blood, and then last week I joked about how excited I was to see Ramsay attempt to go up against Stannis with "twenty good men." 

So of course Ramsay's raid is so successful that it plunges Stannis into dire straits and he needs to actually access Shireen's King's blood. This is all my fault. 

4. Stannis & Selyse Baratheon, Parents of the Year

Let's be serious, Game of Thrones has shown us some truly horrendous parenting over the years. From Cersei's molding of Joffrey, to Cat Stark's ruinous decision making, to Lysa's slightly overzealous breast-feeding, to Tywin's real talks with Tyrion, to Daenerys imprisoning her dragons, to Craster sacrificing his bastards to the White Walkers, to Balon Greyjoy convincing Theon to sac Winterfell, to at least a dozen other examples I'm forgetting, we probably thought we'd seen every possible example of the way a parent can ruin their child's life. 

But we were wrong! We hadn't seen anyone burn their own child at the stake yet! So, ummm, I guess problem solved? 

5. The Brothels of Braavos

Braavos has the worst brothel ever! Seriously, not only do they employ underage staff and hand them over to psychopaths, but this was the first brothel scene in the history of the show without any nudity! If any episode called for soothing-via-gratuitous-nudity, it was this one. Fail. 

Honorable Mention: Ramsay Bolton

Okay, here's a semi-longshot prediction: Stannis is going to kill the shit out of Ramsay next week. See, this is what Game of Thrones does--it makes us want something intensely, and then it gives us that thing in a way that we regret wanting it in the first place. So we all want Ramsay dead, right? Yes, yes we do. So Thrones is going to give that to us. Stannis is going to tear through Winterfell and brutally execute Ramsay. But we'll always know that the cost of getting that was the good-luck-via-king's-blood that necessitated the death of Shireen. 

So when you're happily cheering Ramsay's death in a few hours, first, remember that I predicted it, and second, remember that the cost was a young girl's cries of "Father, please!" while she was being burned to death. 

Confirmed Kills: 8 + Dozens of Horses, Hundreds of Meereen Citizens and Sons of the Harpy, and the Soul of King Stannis Baratheon

Princess Shireen: burned to death, Hizdahr: stabbed to death, the quick one: decapitated, the five fighting pit competitors that weren't Jorah: impaled. And then lots and lots of horses and fighting pit crowd members, which cannot possibly be counted. 

Season Death Tally: 65 + Thousands of Unnamed Wildlings, Dozens of Horses, and Hundreds of Citizens of Meereen and Sons of the Harpy

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Game of Thrones Power Rankings (S5, E8)

Season 5, Episode 8: "Hardhome"

Last Week's Rankings: "The Gift"

In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. In that spirit, here’s your weekly look at who’s winning and who’s (slowly, painfully) dying.


1. Show Viewers

Just two weeks after Sansa's rape scene doubled as the annual "Why do I subject myself to this show?" debate amongst viewers, we suddenly got an episode that shattered the all-time Giving the People What They Want score. Three and a half aspects of this episode had me (and pretty much all Throne-Watchers) absolutely giddy: the amazing Tyrion/Daenerys meet & greet, seeing Cersei suffer while getting slapped in the face with a spoon and slurping water up off the floor, the truly epic battle/slaughter of Hardhome, and the tantalizing possibility of Ramsay actually trying to attack Stannis' army with 20 men and promptly getting his ass handed to him. 

In all four of these cases, we were not only given something we've been waiting years for, but had it delivered to us in the most resplendent presentation imaginable. We're all winners here. 

2. The Night's King

But now for real talk--the real winner of "Hardhome" was obviously this badass: 

He's effectively saying to Jon Snow some combination of, "Go tell everyone in the Seven Kingdoms how fucked they are," "No seriously, you really know nothing, Jon Snow," and "Come at me, bitch." 

As Grantland's Andy Greenwald quipped, seeing the White Walker army in action makes the Iron Throne look like a "particularly heavy deck chair on the Titanic."

3. Tryion's Rhetoric (Yet Again)

I ready a funny piece that listed Tyrion's "Seven Steps for a Successful Job Interview" as 1) Don't provide references, 2) Brag about your criminal record, 3) Bad-mouth former bosses, 4) Undercut other applicants, 5) Insult your interviewer's family, 6) Turn the tables, and 7) Drink heavily. 

Yes, Tyrion did all of these things while convincing the Mother of Dragons to employ his council, and it was amazing to behold. It's times like this, when it's clear Tyrion is playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers, that you realize he and Tywin had more in common than either of them cared to admit.

4. Jon Snow

Ignore, for a moment, the way the battle of Hardhome ended, and our favorite bastard really fulfilled his potential with this episode. He united at least several of the Wildling factions to his cause, he charged into battle while everyone around him was frozen with fear, and he discovered Valyrian Steel can kill White Walkers.

And then there was the way Tormund described him: "He's prettier than my daughters, but he can fight, and he can lead." Words we can all aspire to!

5. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

They endured a lot of criticism a few weeks ago with the way Sansa's wedding night played out, and now they've delivered what might be the best episode of the series. ("Hardhome" has a 9.9 IMDb rating, which is the highest of the series. The Red Wedding episode comes in second at 9.7.) And this wasn't a case where the episode was just great because it had a major death (it didn't), or that it had an awesome battle (though it did)--it also had some of the best dialogue we've ever seen in the show. Do yourself a favor and watch that Tyrion & Khaleesi scene again. The way it's written is just masterful. 

Honorable Mention: Water, which seems to be an oddly effective way of holding back an unstoppable army of the dead. I've been saying this for at least two years, but clearly it's time for everyone to ditch Westeros and go across the Narrow Sea! With the Walls of Qarth, the Titan of Braavos, the brothels of Volantis, and the Fighting Pits of Meereen, it's way more fun in Essos. 

Since Westeros is clearly meant to symbolize England and Essos is the rest of Europe, I'll quote my dad--a frenchman--when I once asked him what's so bad about England: "Bad food, bad weather, and the fucking English." 


1. Westeros

Just to reiterate, in case it hasn't been made clear yet: Things do not look good for the Seven Kingdoms. 

2. Jon Snow

Yes, yes, lot's of things went right for the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch this week, but the episode still ended with him looking like this: 

3. Cersei

I suppose we have to take a moment's break from reveling in her imprisonment to acknowledge that she's highly displeased with her  situation. 

Okay, good form. Now carry on with cheering for her misery! (And don't forget, the season finale is titled "Mother's Mercy!")

4. Jorah Mormont

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Jorah couldn't even get a word in to Khaleesi, then Tyrion outed him as being in love with her and recommended she banish him again (which she did), and, oh yeah, he still has a highly contagious and accelerating disease which is likely to either kill him or turn him into a Stone Man. But hey, at least he has those fighting pits! If he never shouts the words "Are you not entertained?", I will be highly disappointed. 

5. The Walking Dead

Look, Game of Thrones has been a better show than The Walking Dead since Day 1. But it was great this week to see Walking Dead really beaten at it's own game. While Dead has "walkers," Thrones has now given us sprinters. Dead had The Governor, but Thrones just revealed The Night's King (who, allegedly, was the 13th Lord Commander of The Night's Watch). 

If you really want to see a terrifying army of the dead, Game of Thrones is the place. 

Honorable Mention: Wun Wun, the giant who's apparently doggie paddling all the way back to Castle Black. 

Confirmed Kills: 3 + Thousands of Unnamed Wildlings (I mean, what am I supposed to do with that Battle of Hardhome? It was a massacre beyond the capacity of any tallying. So instead we'll just honor the three people who died after having dialogue in the episode: The Lord of Bones, beaten to death with his own bones; Karsi--the attractive Wildling--who made the fatal mistake of telling her children she'll be right behind them; and Loboda, the Thenn who quickly found out that non-Valyrian steel is a bad strategy against a White Walker.)

Season Death Tally: 57 + Thousands of Unnamed Wildlings

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Game of Thrones Power Rankings (S5, E7)

Season 5, Episode 7: "The Gift"

Last Week's Rankings: "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken"

In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. In that spirit, here’s your weekly look at who’s winning and who’s (slowly, painfully) dying.


1. The 99% of Westeros

With Mace Tyrell banished away on business in Braavos, Kevan Lannister abandoning the Small Council to go back to Casterly Rock, Jaime off on his Dornish holiday with Bronn, and Lady Olenna maintaining Highgarden as her home base, King's Landing is currently the home of, I believe, four characters that are members of the Royal Family. Three of them--Loras, Margaery, and Cersei--are now imprisoned. And then there's King Tommen, eternally shackled by his own uselessness. 

As the High Sparrow says to Lady Olenna, "You are the few. We are the many. And when the many stop fearing the few…" And that was when he effectively dropped the mic and walked away. 

2. Tyrion Lannister, "The Gift"

This is how people should always introduce themselves. "I'm the gift." 

But really, the gift is to viewers, who finally get to see two of their favorite characters meet and interact. It only took us 47 episodes to get here!

3. The Unrequited Love of Ser Jorah Mormont

I mean, did you see the way he just tore through the rest of those gladiators? Dude was on a mission! The only thing that scene was missing was for him to scream at Khaleesi, "Are you not entertained?!?" when she refused to give him the time of day. 

4. Sam Tarly's Sex Life

Sure, on the one hand, he broke his sacred vow when he got laid. But we should recall the wisdom of Maester Aemon last season, during Jon Snow's trial for shagging Ygritte: "If we took the heads of everyone who broke their vows, we'd be guarding the wall with headless men." So instead of focusing on the negatives (just scroll down a bit for that!), let's celebrate Sam for officially graduating from the Friend Zone. And now his Watch frustration is ended. 

5. The Memory of King Joffrey Baratheon, First of His Name

15 episodes since his death, there isn't a single person who watches the show that wouldn't instantly take him back in exchange for getting rid of Ramsay. I mean, in retrospect, Joffrey wasn't really that bad, right?? Sure, he might have tormented Sansa, but at least he didn't rape her on her wedding night. Yeah, he might have killed Ros with his crossbow, but at least he didn't flay her alive and then display her in the town square. And yes, he executed Ned Stark, but that's much better than just cutting off his dick and then keeping him around as a sadistic trophy, right? 

The thing with Joffrey's evilness was, it was an evil that made a degree of sense. We could understand where it came from, given Cersei's epic mothering liberties. It was a nurtured evil. But Ramsay is the worst kind of evil: it's just who he is. And he enjoys it. 

Admit it, you miss this adorable face, don't you?


1. The Wine Makers of Westeros

Good God, what will these people do? You're just sitting there, so damn pleased with yourself about Cersei's imprisonment, and you're not even thinking about all of the people that will lose their jobs with no one left to drink their wine! For God's sake, they have kids to feed!

But real talk now, let's chat Cersei. Holy Christ, was that gratifying! The problem with Joffrey's death was we didn't see him suffer, or beg, or have the realization that it was happening. He didn't even know who got the best of him. As far as the deaths of evil tyrants go, it was mildly unsatisfying. But watching Cersei helplessly flail--with both arms and tongue--while getting thrown in jail? Or hearing Margaery shout at her, "Get out you hateful bitch!"? Delectable. 

We should recall what Littlefinger said to her just last episode: "One's choice of companion is a curious thing." Curious and dangerous. 

Side note: When Cersei asked the High Sparrow what will happen to Margaery and Loras if they confess, he says they'll be shown "Mother's Mercy." Now guess what the final episode of this season is called? Yup, "Mother's Mercy." Shit's about to go down. 

2. Shouting "I am the Queen!"

This is the second straight episode we've heard someone shout that as they've been taken away in chains. It has not been an effective counter-argument. 

3. Anyone Trying to Help Sansa Stark

I spent a solid ten minutes looking through IMDb cast lists and reading through episode plot synopses to find the name of the poor woman Ramsay flayed for trying to help Sansa, only to realize she was never even given one. Her official credit is "Old Woman." 

But one of her only lines of dialogue in the show still lingers: "The North Remembers." 

4. Everything About Sam Tarly Except His Sex Life

Here's a quick recap of what happened to Sam last week--his best friend left to go on a possibly suicidal mission, his mentor died of old age, two of his Night's Watch brothers beat the shit out of him, and the acting commander effectively told him that anyone that might have protected him is now gone. And he lost his virginity, which was cool. But everything else? Not such good tidings. 

5. The Princess Shireen, Daughter of King Stannis Baratheon

Suddenly Melisandre is openly pining for her blood, and that portents bad things for her. Hopefully Stannis is more attached to having an actual child than conceiving another smoke one. 

Honorable Mention: Maester Aemon

He died of natural causes at the age of 102, and for this show, that's just not tragic enough to make the top five. 

Confirmed Kills: 3 (1 flayed old woman, 2 gladiators that died in the fighting pits--one via throat-spilling, and one via head-bashing. Maester Aemon doesn't count, as he died of natural causes, and that's just not the kind of thing we celebrate here.)

Season Death Tally: 54

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Game of Thrones Power Rankings (S5, E6)

Season 5, Episode 6: "Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken"

Last Week's Rankings: "Kill the Boy"

In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. In that spirit, here’s your weekly look at who’s winning and who’s (slowly, painfully) dying.


(Disclaimer: This was a pretty depressing episode where basically everyone lost, so I had to get a bit creative to find five "winners")

1. Living

Well, let's start with the good news: for the first time in memory, no one died this episode!

And that concludes our good news for the week. Thank you, and please drive safely. 

2. The Return of Lady Olenna

She's just enough of an ancillary character that you don't really notice the long stretches of episodes she disappears for, but the second she starts launching verbal barbs at Cersei ("Put the pen down, dear. We both know you're not writing anything."), she reclaims her status as possibly the show's best supporting character. And the look she fires at Cersei following the inquest into Loras Tyrell's sexual proclivities portends a great many things to come. Don't forget, she already killed Joffrey, and without the level of ego that necessitated taking credit for it. She's a very dangerous woman. 

3. Tyrion's Rhetoric

Once again, Tyrion's quick wit saved him. But "Guess again" cock-size jokes aside, Tyrion's quick verbal reflexes and persuasive abilities also saved Jorah, redirecting their captors from Volantis (where they would've been totally screwed) to Meereen, where Jorah is likely to be noticed by the Powers That Be. It's those little victories that keep Tyrion alive and relevant, and they help illuminate why he might eventually be of huge value to Daenerys' campaign to take back the Iron Throne. 

4. Tyrion's Cock

It has magic powers! (Allegedly.) And it's not dwarf-sized! (Also allegedly.) And it's worth a fortune at the cock merchant's! (That one, apparently, amazingly, is factual.)

5. Arya Stark

I mean, that's a pretty cool basement she gets to hang out in, right? And lot's of faces to try on, amiright? And maybe soon she'll learn how to slay people more effectively? (I'm grasping here.)

Okay, enough of that. Let's get to the many, many, many (many!) losers this week… 


1. Show Viewers

Look, Game of Thrones has never made it easy for us. The first episode alone saw Daenerys traded into glorified sex slavery by her own brother, and a young boy thrown out a window by a guy fucking his sister. Four and a half years later, we really should be used to this by now. And yet, Sansa's wedding night somehow seemed to tread new ground of Good God, why are they doing this to us?? territory. 

As I'm sure everyone knows by now, that did not happen in the books (nor did Sansa's entire engagement to Ramsay), which means it was proactively decided on by the showrunners. Smart, creative people sat around a room and debated whether or not to include this as a plot point in the show, and they ultimately decided yes. They wanted us to see that. Or, at least they wanted us to see Theon seeing it. After four and a half seasons of truly excellent television, to say the showrunners get the benefit of the doubt is a massive understatement. But this is also the first moment where it makes you wonder if veering off course from the books is a wise idea, and that, just maybe, the people who chose to give us that scene might be going a bit too far with the nihilistic elements of George R. R. Martin's story. 

2. Sansa's Virtue

This is totally my fault. Just last week, in these very rankings, I joked that Sansa's virginity was becoming the biggest prize in Westeros. That joke is no longer funny, and it never will be again. I'm the worst. 

3. Loras Tyrell, Queen Margaery, Tyrion Lannister, Jorah Mormont, Jaime Lannister, and Bronn (just Bronn)

Hey, look, it's six characters who ended last week as captives! Loras & Margaery are now imprisoned in King's Landing, Tyrion & Jorah are being held by a band of pirates and praying they reach Meereen before finding a good cock merchant, and Bronn & Jaime's bromantic holiday in Dorne seems to have reached the end of it's cheeriness. It's easy to be optimistic for Tyrion and Jorah, because they're at least headed in the direction of help. The other four… not so much. 

4. King Tommen and Theon Greyjoy Reek

And here are two characters who emphatically proved last week that they have no balls. (Well, Theon literally doesn't have balls. Or does he? Is it just the main member that got lopped off, or the whole set? Can we get an official ruling on this?) Both characters had a perfect moment last week to step up and prove their worth to the show, and instead they both sat and watched their world spin out of control, without a fucking peep. 

With Tommen, I'm not totally surprised. But I have to admit, I'm starting to wonder why Theon is actually still in the show at all. Two seasons of torture felt like it only could have been there because there was a real payoff looming at a key moment, but that moment should have been while he was watching Sansa get raped on her wedding night. That was his moment to step up and redeem himself by killing Ramsay and saving Sansa, earning back every awful second we spent with him in Seasons 3 and 4. But he just stood there and watched. Like his sister last year, I'm becoming convinced Theon's beyond saving at this point. 

5. Cersei Playing the Short Game

Cersei's the best. There's just absolutely no long-term thought put into anything she does. Kate Moss once famously said, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels." But Cersei operates on the exact opposite side of that logic spectrum. While Moss can prevent herself from eating to maintain the longterm goal, Cersei just ravenously gobbles up every bite of revenge she can get her hands on, no matter how bloated with enemies she becomes. Actions have consequences. 

Confirmed Kills: Zero! (Unless you count Sansa's virginity)

Season Death Tally: Still 51

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Game of Thrones Power Rankings (S5, E5)

Season 5, Episode 5: "Kill the Boy"

Last Week's Rankings: "Sons of the Harpy"

In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. In that spirit, here’s your weekly look at who’s winning and who’s (slowly, painfully) dying.


1. Hizdahr Zo Loraq, Future Mr. Mother of Dragons

He started the episode as an advisor, then almost got fed to a pair of dragons, then got imprisoned, and then was improbably informed he'll be marrying the most powerful woman in the world. All without his say. In a single episode, he basically lived the entirety of the Sansa Stark experience. As all of the "Bill Clinton as First Lady" jokes start ramping up, Hizdahr will provide a nice trial run for how that might go. 

2. Stannis Baratheon

When we first met Stannis in Season Two, he wasn't the most likable character. He was totally humorless, power-hungry, cheating on his wife and making smoke babies with a walking red flag, and plotting to kill his own brother, who, by the way, was one of the most fun characters in the show. As Stannis took a back seat in Seasons 3 and 4, nothing really happened to make him more engaging. He was just an important chess piece, nothing more. 

But this season has been different, and not only has Stannis' personality emerged, but also his depth and integrity. We first saw it a few weeks ago in his conversations about duty and honor with Jon, then it came to the forefront in the last two episodes, with his dramatic "You are the Princess Shireen of the House Baratheon, and you are my daughter" speech, and his recognition of the value Sam Tarly brings to the protection of the realm. And now, suddenly, he's one of the most likable characters on the show. Which almost definitely means he'll die in the next few weeks. 

3. Greyworm

He kissed Missandei! For a guy with no guy parts, that's pretty much a home run. Or at least like getting to first base and then watching someone grab the rest of the bases and pack them up in a truck, then watching that truck drive off and never come back. 

4. Lord Commander Jon Snow

The 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch will either be the first to broker peace with the Wildlings, or the first to give them a fleet of ships with which to attack Westeros. It's definitely one or the other. 

5. The Wisdom of Maester Aemon

The Targaryen family is a strange one. Everyone we've met or heard about falls into one of two categories: Extremely wise, just, and beloved (Daenerys, Rhaegar, Maester Aemon), or one of the worst people ever (Viserys, The Mad King). Within Maester Aemon, you see what Ser Barristan spoke of with Rhaegar, you see the potential with Daenerys, and you see the greatness of his grand nephew Jon Snow. Kill the boy, Jon Snow!

Honorable Mention: Viserion and Rhaegal

They finally got to eat! It's unclear whether half of one person is enough to tide them over, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves. 


1. Jorah Mormont

It's hard to pinpoint the worst development of the episode for the Lord Commander of the Friend Zone. Is it A) his unrequited love, Khaleesi, arranging to be wed, B) losing his boat and finding out he has several hundred miles of walking to do with a detoxing dwarf, or C) catching a disease that almost certainly turns you into a mindless rock person? You're right, it's definitely A. 

2. Family Dinners in Winterfell

Yikes! At this point, we're just running up the score on how awkward any scene with Ramsay and Theon can possibly be. Or any scene with a gentleman suitor trying to torment Sansa. Hey, speaking of...

3. The Battle for Sansa's Virginity

Has Vegas opened betting on when and with whom Sansa will first do the deed? Maybe the Iron Throne is just a MacGuffin, and Sansa's knickers are the real prize?  

4. Ramsay Bolton

Admittedly, karma hasn't tended to mean much in Thrones history, but if there's going to be an exception, it feels like Ramsay will be the victim. How many enemies can one man make? In a span of about 15 minutes, he provided reasons for his father, his betrothed, and his side squeeze to all actively plot against him. And it still feels like Theon will eventually matter again (because if not, why do we have to see him??).  

5. Elizabeth Webster (The Actress Playing Walda Bolton)

A few weeks ago, I joked about how Walda Bolton never had any lines, and her presence on the show really just amounted to an occasional fat joke to lighten the mood. But then she finally spoke, to announce she's pregnant, and now when Elizabeth Webster and her family watch the show to see her big star turn, they get to watch Ramsay asking his father how he found her vagina through her fat in order to have sex with her. Some paychecks just aren't worth earning. 

Confirmed Kills: 2 (1 Valyrian Stone Man impaled by Jorah Mormont, 1 unlucky head of a noble Meereen family, charbroiled and sloppily eaten by two hungry dragons)

Season Death Tally: 51

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Game of Thrones Power Rankings (S5, E4)

Season 5, Episode 4: "Sons of the Harpy"

Last Week's Rankings: "High Sparrow"

In the Game of Thrones, you win or you die. In that spirit, here’s your weekly look at who’s winning and who’s (slowly, painfully) dying.


1. The Jaime & Bronn Road Trip

This is the third season in a row where we've seen two characters essentially go on a road trip together, and they've all been glorious. In Season 3 it was Jaime and Brienne, in Season 4 it was Arya and The Hound, and now we have Jaime and Bronn's bromantic holiday in Dorne. Westerosi road trips always leave a trail of bodies (doesn't everything in Westeros?), and they're always show highlights. 

2. Rhaegar Targaryen

In the 44-episode history of Game of Thrones, we've really only heard about four characters who were dead before the show began: John Arryn (the former Hand of the King whose death kicked off the events of the first episode), The Mad King Aerys Targaryen (father of Daenerys, killed by Jaime), Lyanna Stark (sister to Ned, formerly betrothed to Robert Baratheon), and Rhaegar Targaryen (older brother of Daenerys). 

We actually heard about Rhaegar twice this week, one story (told by Littlefinger) about how his desire for Lyanna caused a countless number of deaths, and one story (told by Ser Barristan) about how beloved he was by the people. We have every reason to believe both stories are true, as well as every reason to believe that their presence serves a greater purpose than mere entertainment and scene filler. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are building the character of someone who's been dead for around 20 years, and there's going to be an important reason for it

3. The People of Dorne

In the words of Bronn, "The Dornish are crazy. All they want to do is fight and fuck, fuck and fight." If that's the case, why did we have to wait four seasons to meet these people?!? I picture an HBO exec hearing those words and immediately demanding at least three scenes per episode now take place in Dorne. 

4. Melisandre

I have no idea how or why she's winning, and she actually lost this week at getting Jon Snow to jump her bones. But Jon Snow knows nothing, and despite empirical evidence, it just feels like Melisandre is getting shit done. As with the way Littlefinger operates, if no one knows you're winning, no one's interested in dethroning you. 

5. The Legend of Ser Barristan

Ever since Ser Barristan was dismissed from the Kingsguard in Season 1 (when he boasted, "Even now, I could cut through the five of you like carving a cake!"), we've been hearing the legend of Ser Barristan's skills in the art of combat. Eventually, we had to see him in action, and we finally did this week. The legend did not disappoint, as we watched a man in his sixties take on eight Sons of the Harpy at once and nearly win. 


1. The Reality of Ser Barristan

Unfortunately, the problem with "nearly" winning an eight-on-one fight is it means you lost. Ser Barristan looked great taking on The Sons of the Harpy by himself, right up until the moment they killed him. 

2. Book Readers

For four years, book readers have had the ultimate Game of Thrones trump card, via the knowledge of what would happen next. That's how we ended up with stories like this one, where a teacher would threaten his unruly class with the reveal of who will die next. 

But with the Season 4 deaths of Mance Rayder and Ser Barristan Selmy--deaths which did not occur in the novels--book readers have officially lost the ace up their collective sleeves. Now they're slumming with the rest of us, victim of the week to week wait to see who lives and who gets got. 

3. House Tyrell

Last week, I wrote that "the paranoid and cornered iteration of Cersei is about to go on the rampage, and I can't wait." Well, I didn't have to wait long! One week later, Cersei practically took House Tyrell entirely off the King's Landing chess board in a single day. First, she sent jolly old Mace off to Braavos, accompanied by Ser Meryn Trant (who, we're to assume, has probably been tasked with killing Mace on the journey). Then, for her encore, she had Loras imprisoned for his sexual proclivities, which drove such a massive wedge into Tommen and Margaery's sex-bed-in that Margaery is fleeing back to Highgarden. 

Cersei is playing with a level of karmic wildfire that will almost certainly blow up in her face very soon. She's never been one to weigh long-term consequences against the instant gratification of sticking it to her enemies, and this is no different. But it's a blast to watch. 

4. The Legend of The Unsullied

We've spent two seasons hearing what badasses these guys are, and now they're getting slaughtered in the streets by a bunch of rich dudes with knives and masks? Grantland's Jason Concepcion explained how The Unsullied's fighting style and choice of weapon (a spear) aren't ideal for street fights, but still. It doesn't seem like they should be quite so easy to kill, nor should Grey Worm be the only guy that can hold his own in a scrap. 

5. King Tommen's Power

On the one hand, it's pretty impressive that Tommen had the maturity and understanding of the moment to walk away when he was prevented access to the High Sparrow. I mean, can you imagine how Joffrey would have handled that situation?? 

But on the other hand… how many aspects of leadership would you really trust Tommen with at this point? Is he the Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, or just some kid who sits in an uncomfortable iron chair, letting his mom and wife tell him what to do? 

It's hard to say what fate awaits him. Game of Thrones has shown us that you'll die for all sorts of reasons, but just being kind of worthless hasn't been one of them. Yet. 

Honorable Mention: Brothels

After being such a fun location in the early seasons of the show that a new word was literally created to describe their function, now they're apparently the most dangerous place you can go. Just in the this season's four episodes, we saw a gruesome throat-slitting at the Meereen brothel, the High Septon was dragged naked out of the King's Landing brothel to be flogged in the streets, Tyrion got kidnapped at the Volantis brothel, and then we went back to the King's Landing brothel this week for a straight-up massacre. It's just terrible when people can't pay for sex in peace. #WesterosProblems

Confirmed Kills: 40 (I think)

It was a bit tricky reaching a number this week, as we saw the Sparrows wreak havoc on Littlefinger's brothel (with a lot of screams that may or may not have resulted from fatalities), and then the Sons of the Harpy and The Unsullied went at it, with a body count that was very difficult to keep track of. 

But 40 is my best guess, with the following breakdown: Ser Barristan Selmy, 20 Sons of the Harpy, 8 Unsullied, 4 Dornish Soldiers, 3 Former Slaves of Meereen, 2 Customers of Littlefinger's Brothel, 1 Pentosi Ship Captain, and 1 Snake. 

Season Death Tally: 49