The Right Kind of Terrible: ‘Game of Thrones’ Recap for ‘Mother’s Mercy’

Some acts felt like retribution, others like sheer misfortune. Regardless, there was not a smile to be found in all of Essos or Westeros on Sunday evening.

With the death toll so (relatively) low this season, I really should’ve expected what was going to happen in the finale. These characters went far too long going (again, relatively) unscathed to avoid their fates. Some acts felt like retribution, others like sheer misfortune. Regardless, there was not a smile to be found in all of Essos or Westeros on Sunday evening.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 9.28.03 PMStannis’ filicide from last episode hit him harder than he expected. Sure, the Lord of Light may have melted the snow to make it easier for Stannis and his troops to get to Winterfell, but what the Lord didn’t do was make sure he didn’t lose half his army and all his horses in the process. As expected, a good deal of his men abandoned the quest to make Stannis king after he mercilessly burned his child to death. Stannis may have been able to push on without the burden of guilt weighing on his conscience, but Selyse could not, and hanged herself on a nearby tree. And as Melisandre predicted, Stannis did march upon Winterfell to meet the Boltons on the battlefield. What she did not foresee is that they would have an army three times the size of his, each soldier on a horse, surrounding what was left of Stannis’ forces.

The defeat came so quickly and easily that the battle didn’t even need to be shown. There was no rousing call to arms, no look of determination in Stannis’ eye; only fighting out of obligation for all of the pain and suffering he caused the people that were aiding in his quest for the throne. When Brienne happens upon him, he is broken and has no fight or honor left in him. She is finally able to avenge Renly’s death, and when she asks Stannis if he has any last words, his response is an empty, “Go on. Do your duty.” He knows he did literally everything he could do become king, and every single one of those acts has failed. Apologies don’t matter to the dead. There is no one left alive to forgive him. Oathkeeper swings, and the Baratheon line ends.

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 8.05.52 PMIn order to condemn Stannis to death, Brienne left her post where she was watching the highest window of the broken tower for a sign that Sansa needs help. The object that looked like a corkscrew turned out to be a key, and rather than use it against Ramsay by, say, thrusting it in his jugular, Sansa unlocks the door to her room and hurries to light the candle in the window.  In the moment Brienne left, the candle was lit. Upon attempting to return to her room, Sansa happens upon Myranda with a bow and arrow aimed right at her and Reek by her side. That candle was Sansa’s last hope, but she has already accepted the idea of dying, saying, “If I’m going to die, let it happen while there is still some of me left.” But Myranda has no intention of killing her, because Ramsay needs her (or some of her, at least) to create an heir.

And then, something I had suspected (and mostly hoped for) this whole season happened: Theon Greyjoy found his way out of Reek and threw Myranda over the railing, and she lands with a bloody splatter. Sansa and Theon hear the gate opening and know staying alive with Ramsay is worse than death. They come to the edge of the walls Winterfell and hand in hand jump off the ledge together. There is no fear in their eyes, no tears of pain or regret. Only determination and the satisfaction that, after everything Ramsay has done to them, they are able to claim their lives for themselves. Though, as we did not see or hear them hit the ground, perhaps they are not dead after all, only likely very sore.

Screen Shot 2015-06-15 at 8.48.52 PMThe remaining Stark daughter, as stubborn as ever, defied Jaqen’s commands to kill the gambler, and seeks out Meryn Trant to cross off the first name on her list. Arya even goes so far to steal a face, which happened to be the face of the girl she euthanized earlier this season, to get through the brothel to his room. Her Faceless training of being slapped with a stick has come in handy. Once she has him alone, she unleashes years of pent-up rage on Meryn, using a dagger to stab both of his eyes and then his torso repeatedly. Before she slits his throat, she reveals her identity and says, “Do you know who you are? You’re no one. You’re nothing.”

It seems as though Arya’s forgotten that she is supposed to be No One. She is caught by Jaqen and the Waif upon her return to the Hall of Faces, and the Faceless Men do not take her thievery lightly. Her impatience and vengeful streak has clouded her judgement. She never learned all of the rules of the House of Black and White, and her inability to consider the consequences of her actions has cost her what she took from Meryn Trant before she took his life. In payment of the life she stole from the Many Faced God, Arya loses her sight.

By some miracle, Tyrion, Jorah, Daario and Missandei escaped the fighting pits in Meereen after Daenerys flew off on the back of Drogon. In short order, Daario decides he and Jorah must head out to find Daenerys, leaving Tyrion, Missandei and a still-recovering Greyworm behind in Meereen to rule in place of the queen. Tyrion is left to try and keep peace in a city “on the brink of civil war,” and in the exact moment when it was feeling too overwhelming, Varys slides up next to him. “A grand old city,” he comforts Tyrion, “choking on violence, corruption, and deceit. Who could possibly have any experience managing such a massive, ungainly beast?” Tyrion may have his work cut out for him, but at least he has Varys and all his little birds on his side to help.

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 8.08.02 PMThe mother of dragons, meanwhile, is stuck in a remote section of landscape, trying to comfort a dragon who is either too sick, too tired, or too full to carry her back to Meereen. In search of food, Daenerys wanders off and finds herself in the middle of a swirling hurricane of Dothraki. She takes off a pearl ring on her hand and drops it to the ground. Did that symbolize her now defunct marriage to Hizdahr zo Loraq? Did she do it in case she gets taken away and someone tries to find her? (Immediately, I thought of this moment from The Lord of the Rings.) Daenerys has earned the respect of the Dothraki before, and at least this time she already knows the language.

The plot line that I assumed had concluded in the previous episode came to its actual end in the finale, but it did not end as prettily as expected. Jaime and Bronn set sail from Dorne to King’s Landing with Myrcella and Trystane in tow. Before departing, Ellaria bids Myrcella farewell with a kiss on the lips, which was odd, but not entirely out of character for her. They’re not far in their journey before Jaime decides to tell Myrcella who he is to her, but she instinctively already knows. The moment after the two share their first father-daughter moment, Myrcella’s nose begins to bleed. Ellaria laced her lipstick with the same poison that Tyene used on Bronn in an earlier episode. Her revenge plot in the name of Oberyn wasn’t dissuaded by Doran’s threat to have her killed if her rebellion persisted. She was willing to put her own life at stake to get back at Cersei.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 9.29.30 PMAs it turns out, Ellaria didn’t need to go to such extremes to take revenge on Cersei. Had she known what was happening to Cersei in King’s Landing, Ellaria would have likely sat back, laughed and finished her glass of wine, then would have possibly spared Myrcella’s life, believing that it was perhaps a bit too much. But karma has a way of coming back around full-force on Game of Thrones. Cersei relented and confessed her sins before the High Sparrow to end her torment in the dungeons, though still denying her relationship with Jaime. What she didn’t know, however, was that confessing was not the end of it. Before a trial, before seeing her son, and before all of this could be over, she had to face her atonement.

Among a host of deplorable characters living and dead on this show, Cersei was one of the worst. Seeing her arrested unleashed a shriek of glee from my throat (the same one was also heard this week when Myranda fell to her death), but there are few characters that deserve being put through the severe punishment she had to endure in this episode. To enjoy her pain is cruel, and to absolve her of any wrongdoing seems naive, so we are then forced to deal with the uncertain emotions drudged up while watching Cersei walk to through the streets of King’s Landing. She deserves something, of course, but is it this? Naked and utterly vulnerable, being assaulted verbally and physically, she keeps her eye on the Red Keep, the place where her son is and the place where she has power. She takes it as well as anyone could; she never shouts back and she never objects. She just continues on through King’s Landing at the same steady pace until she reaches the gate of the Red Keep, and Qyburn can cover her up and Zombie Mountain can whisk her to safety.

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 9.31.40 PMCersei’s ordeal is long from over. In coping with this humiliation and then learning of the death of her only daughter, on top of being put through a trial where it’s dubious that she will be found innocent, the majority of her role in the next season will likely have something to do with her psychological fortitude.

And then there’s Jon Snow. Of all the 997 Lord Commanders before him, it’d be a feat if any of them served as leader of the Night’s Watch for a shorter period of time than he did. Narrowly securing the position in the first place, his high aspirations led to risky moves that did little to win the esteem of those that didn’t vote for him. The fewer his friends in Castle Black, the more precarious his position. Had he the time to earn their trust and prove his worth, he may have gradually convinced his brothers the value of forming an alliance with the Wildlings. But his farsightedness was outmatched by a handful of mutineers armed with the delusion of honor. If only Alliser and Olly and the rest were present at Hardhome to hear the Wildling elders debate joining with the Night’s Watch. “My ancestors would spit on me if I broke bread with a crow,” says one Wildling. To which another retorts, “So would mine, but fuck ’em, they’re dead.”

To believe the latter sentiment is necessary for the situation in which both the Wildlings and Nights Watch find themselves. The dueling morality of both of the sentiments goes back to Tyrion’s theory on the right kind of terrible. For some, it would be terrible and dishonorable to betray the doctrine of ones ancestors, and actively doing so should result in the penalty of death. For others, the terribleness would come in upholding an ancestral doctrine that no longer applies to the present situation. Jon decided that the right kind of terrible was the kind that prevented his people “from being even more so”; to stop fighting a bygone enemy in order to more adequately fight an imminent one.

At the end of this episode, show runner David Benioff says that Game of Thrones is not a story about ultimate good versus ultimate evil, which is very unlike many stories of this nature. Sauron with the Ring and all his minions were the definitive evil forces in The Lord of the Rings, while Frodo, Aragorn, Gandalf, et. al. each operated as a paradigm of good not simply because they were actively trying to destroy evil, but because they had a vested interest in the wellbeing of others. There are a scant few characters on Game of Thrones that operate in such a way; the vast majority functions with their own self interest at the helm of their decision making. Jon happened to be one of the good, but unlike Frodo, his selflessness and righteous core were not enough to save him. In a world without a conclusive moral compass, what happens when good cannot combat evil?

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One Coin to Spend: ‘Orange is the New Black’ Recap for ‘Ching Chong Chang’

Chang, who was highlighted with flashbacks this episode, has grown from a verbally disinclined background character with substantial upper lip hair to a verbally disinclined but fully realized character with actual business.

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When Orange is the New Black deals with the stories that take place in the present, the social commentary dealt with is typically of socioeconomic or racial themes. When the show features flashbacks, they tend to provide a better understanding of the marginalization of women in society, particularly when the women featured are some of our older inmates.

Something to appreciate about this show mid-way through season three is the evolution of some of the most minor characters. Case in point: Chang, who was highlighted with flashbacks this episode, has grown from a verbally disinclined background character with substantial upper lip hair to a verbally disinclined but fully realized character with actual business. Who saw that coming?

In her youth, Chang was brought over from China for the purpose of being sold off to someone as a wife for a mere $800. (With inflation, and assuming they’re in the 1970s, the price is about $5,000. For a human life!) Unfortunately, she lacked both the looks and charm to win even anyone over, and absorbs insults like she’s a “squatty peasant who still smells like sheep shit” like a champ, but perhaps she’s just used to hearing things like that. Rather than subject herself to the abuse of a stranger, Chang insists on staying with her brother and working in his shop. And they don’t just sell groceries; the main moneymaker for the store is in the black market trade of smuggling animal parts and fluids (bear bile is a thing!) for medicinal use. Chang’s knack for blending into the background lends her to becoming the perfect dealer for the operation. “She’s invisible,” her brother says.

Her invisibility has only gotten better with age. Chang is able to get away with things few people can at Litchfield, simply because no one notices her. She’s able to smuggle food out of the cafeteria to make what look to be pea and Frito latkes and enjoy them in the yard with hot sauce. She hides oranges just outside the fence as a snack while she watches tv on her hidden phone. (And it’s even a smartphone!) But the price of being invisible is a lack of friends, or at the very least, people who take you seriously.

During Berdie’s drama class, Chang has inmates to perform her dramatic reenactment which involves a man telling her she’s beautiful and strong, and she subsequently eats his gall bladder after he’s died. Berdie claims Chang took the exercise “a little too far to be constructive,” and no one else likes it except for Crazy Eyes. However, Chang took the exercise just far enough to change the dialogue, but her flashback shows that her dramatic reenactment is actually fairly close to the truth.

Her addition of the line “Girl power” at the end of her scene is telling. In a time when women hardly had power at all, let alone an immigrant who was about to be sold, Chang used whatever she could to make her life better. Had she been born a man, she may not have had to do the things she did in order to have control of her life. If Chang spoke more, she’d likely perform a monologue like Red’s to Healy, as he calls her out for using him to get back into the kitchen. Red says, “You take a woman’s power away. Her work, her family, her currency. You leave her with one coin: the one she was born with. It may be tawdry and demeaning, but if she has to, she will spend it.” And she did, and she’s back in the kitchen. Girl power.

– I really loved O’Neill’s diatribe on red velvet. I have similar feelings.
– They’re teasing television chef Judy King as a Martha Stewart-like character. Will she end up in Litchfield?
– Morello’s scheme to get random men to deposit commissary money was bound to fail. At least she found one nice and normal one.
– The new hot inmate doing work duty with Piper is going to be a problem for her. They can’t just add someone that hot on this show without having some repercussions on Piper and Alex’s relationship!
– Gloria’s food must really be slacking if everyone wants kosher meals. Speaking of which…
– Best line of the episode: “We don’t got enough to deal with around here, now we got Jews?”

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Words that Rhyme with Bleak: ‘Orange is the New Black’ Recap for ‘Fake It Till You Fake It Some More’

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The flashbacks for episode five feature Flaca in all her goth glory, and as her mother prepares to sew a Calvin Klein label onto a no-name patterned dress, she tells her daughter, “People believe what you tell them.” That advice influences this whole episode because there is some serious delusion floating around Litchfield, and it’s more than Red not understanding that her look is off-putting. (Though we do have to give Piper a point for implementing her new social skills.)

There’s an announcement of a new job assignment in Litchfield that reportedly pays a dollar an hour, but what exactly it entails no one is saying. To further entice the inmates, the new management company running the prison has the ladies take exams to be chosen. But rather than an aptitude test for a new unspecified job, the exam is more like a personality test with true or false questions like, “Ideas are more important than real things.” As it turns out, the test is just bullshit from the internet.

But the questions actually incite some introspection among the girls and they being to measure their own lives by the standards of the test. Flaca defends her answer when she believes it’s true that people are basically moral, saying that while she is indeed in a room of felons, she thinks that “people want to be good… but they just fuck up.” I’m not sure what “good” Flaca was intending when she was selling fake acid to her schoolmates, other than making some extra cash for a new pair of flatforms, but at the very least she wasn’t actually trying to hurt anyone. The fault of a pretentious teenager’s fall from a three story building because he pretended he was tripping was hardly Flaca’s, though if she didn’t sell them the fake acid he wouldn’t have done it in the first place. People believe what you tell them.

Another delusion belongs to Norma, who is graduating herself from Gloria’s School of Santeria and becoming a practitioner of her own. She is visited by Soso, who admits she’s in a “pretty dark place,” and would like some help by the gentle mute guru herself. Norma’s silence is the best situation for someone in need of guidance; there’s no judgment coming from her mouth, only understanding radiating from her eyes so people can interpret what they want through her. Soso’s right when she says, “This is your thing. You give people this meaningful stare and people project their feelings onto it.” Even the awareness of Norma’s “gift” doesn’t change the impact on Soso. She feels better, and the delusion continues.

But as Crazy Eyes says, “It’s good to have something to believe in.” Whether that’s Santa Claus, “giant drunky squirrels”, Norma, or the idea that all people are basically good. Everyone has a coping mechanism, some are just a little weirder than others.

– With Cesar confirming that Bennett’s house is empty, he seems to be really, truly gone. In lieu of this news, she tells Pornstache’s mom that she can adopt the baby. I’m holding out hope Bennett will make a triumphant return to rescue Daya and their child.
– Alex is getting increasingly more paranoid that someone has been sent from the outside to kill her. Every new face is taking her a little closer to the deep end.
– Alex may or may not be full of it, but Piper should do a better job of being understanding.
– As the less interesting plot lines of the corporatization of Litchfield continue, the officers are starting to lose hours. It’s not that I don’t care about them as people, but I’m not sure that I care more about them than the inmates.
– How the hell does Leanne know German?!
– So Red was really leading Healy on. All she wants to do is get back into the kitchen. Healy’s a shmuck but I feel bad for him every time someone does or says something bad to him.
– Turns out the new job is basically a sweat shop to manufacture underwear. At least we know Flaca will be good at it!
– Best line of the episode: “That squirrel is not giving one shit.”

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Leviticus 24601: ‘Orange is the New Black’ Recap for ‘Finger in the Dyke’

After Bible lessons from Sister Ingalls and a “hetero” makeover by Sophia, Boo meets with the Reverend of Pennsatucky’s bankrolling church to find her way onto the payroll.

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Unlike Piper and Nicky in previous episodes of season three, who are on their way to understanding that they are their own worst enemy, “Finger in the Dyke” presented us with a character whose problems don’t come from within, but actually stem from other people.

We are treated to a flashback of an adolescent Big Boo, being forced to wear a (hideous) dress by her mother and being told by her father to suck it up in exchange for a root beer. One has to imagine that this was not the first or the last time this happened, and the girlish clothes obviously didn’t stick because Boo’s next flashback involves her at an undetermined age, looking as butch as ever. The discrimination toward her outward appearance is something she has had to battle her whole life, and the anger that fosters manifests itself while she’s about to take her femme date home with her. She threatens to kill a young kid who called Boo and her date dykes, and left him running in fear down the sidewalk. Her date explains that she can’t blame the kid when she’s the “poster child for all things butch.” To deal with her parents’ berating is one thing, but to receive criticism for her appearance from a fellow lesbian is the real disappointment.

Her insistence on a lack of a dramatic origin story to explain her vitriol is slightly untrue, but still telling of Boo’s nature. She says she’s “just a big old dyke who refuses to apologize for it.” In forging ahead with her DGAF attitude, she has refused to allow anyone to determine how she feels about herself.

Presumably some years later, she goes to see her dying mother, but her father stops her from entering the hospital room on the grounds that Boo’s appearance would just upset her. Boo tries to defend herself by positing, “Don’t you think she could’ve spent some of that time accepting me for who I am, instead of mourning every fucking thing that I’m not?” But her father lectures her on how her outer appearance is simply a costume, much like the suit and tie he had to wear five days a week as he went to work. “No one gets the privilege of being themselves all the time, Carrie,” he says.

While the costume logic may make sense to a straight white male because his identity is never in question, he can’t understand that Boo’s outward appearance is inextricably linked to who she is as a person, and that appearance is consistently met with criticism and prejudice. A similar argument was made to Sophia by her wife in season one, when she asked Sophia not to take the final step in transitioning. To everyone else, Sophia looked like a woman, but she couldn’t be happy until every part of her on the outside matched her on the inside. Boo leaves without saying goodbye to her mother, while also proclaiming, “I refuse to be invisible.”

In the present, Boo gets the great idea of fleecing the same Evangelicals that fund Pennsatucky’s commissary… by pretending to have turned straight through God. After Bible lessons from Sister Ingalls and a “hetero” makeover by Sophia, Boo meets with the Reverend of Pennsatucky’s bankrolling church to find her way onto the payroll. Sure, she can bullshit about how prison has rehabilitated her, she can even deal with the “f” word, and she probably would’ve been able to stick through being referred to as a “thieving dyke” until he tells her they’d need to cover up her “BUTCH” tattoo. So she cursed him out and was escorted out of the visitation room, and subsequently assigned to extra work duty. But at that moment, a few extra dollars wasn’t worth the price of being made invisible.

– Boo and Pennsatucky’s relationship has evolved in such an organic way. Tucky’s still the same person at her core (at least when it comes to her racism) but Boo’s logic has been able to make its way in. At this point, their relationship is the healthiest one on this show.
– Soso’s spirit is not what it used to be, and her ex-BFF Meadow is exactly what I thought she’d be.
– I do not know what’s happening with Red. I think she’s stringing Healy along but she’s also not showing any signs that she is. This doesn’t seem like her.
– And now we know Piper’s birthday is June 7th. Should’ve pegged her for an indecisive Gemini.
– Whether it’s true or not, Caputo told Daya that Bennett is totally gone, not coming back. I really hope that’s not the case. I know her family is difficult, but I don’t think he’s that shitty of a guy.
– Though, he could have been saying that because of the corporate big shots taking a tour of Litchfield, assessing if it’s worth buying it. Their focus is all about bureaucracy and cutting costs, rather than the welfare of the inmates.
– The best moment of the show was the surprisingly emotional one with Taystee and Crazy Eyes. What an intense scene.
– Best line of the show: “Everybody knows my people are stage managers.” As someone with a theatre degree, I can’t disagree with that statement.

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We All Think We’re Good Guys: ‘Orange is the New Black’ Recap for ‘Empathy is a Boner Killer’

Perhaps the first several times she delivered that monologue, she almost believed it herself, but this time she was hardly trying to be sincere.

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Ever wonder why Nicky’s never had a relationship on this show? And a real one, not the kind that only involves going down on someone in the chapel now and then. Morello may have been the closest thing back in season one, but their “break up” wasn’t emotional more than it was about Morello prepping her lady parts for Christopher. Nicky liked her, but she moved on quickly. “Empathy is a Boner Killer” made me realize the reason Nicky’s never been able to love somebody: she’s already deeply in love with heroin.

“You use people and you throw them away,” Soso says to Nicky, after Nicky purposefully hurts her feelings as she’s trying to be cordial. What Soso doesn’t know is that in the moments before she snuck up on her, Nicky was having a moment with her heroin. It’s not that Soso talks constantly (which she does, of course), but it’s that she got in the way of Nicky’s true love. Nicky is deflecting Soso’s friendship like she’s done with any other person because heroin comes above everyone and everything else.

We’ve known Nicky’s mother was emotionally absent since the first season, and the foundation for Nicky’s abandonment issues was laid in the first episode of this season. But it’s in this episode where we get a broader picture of their relationship, including the sense that Nicky’s mom does love her, even if she did everything wrong in the upbringing of her child. As Nicky is taking the cash out of her mother’s wallet and refusing the credit card, you have to wonder how many times they have been in this situation before. Nicky’s apologies about the accident, her empty promises to get clean, and the “let’s get a coffee soon and catch up a little” speech seemed scripted. Perhaps the first several times she delivered that monologue she almost believed it herself, but this time she was hardly trying to be sincere. Rather than take the card to bail her friends out of jail for her mistake, Nicky walks in the opposite direction with her cash to reunite with her heroin.

Alex’s speech to new counselor Rodgers about everyone’s justification of their lives and how everyone thinks they’re the good guys can be true of almost anyone, but it’s particularly true of Nicky in this episode. She lies to Boo and Luschek about the heroin going missing, and only told the truth because Leanne and Angie took it. She says to Soso, “I look out for my friends you just don’t happen to be one of them.” That may be the case when Nicky’s not under the spell of heroin, but when it has her in its grasp, she’s only out for herself. But isn’t that the consequence of addiction?

The real shame is that Nicky had to get involved with the drug in the first place, but the ripples of Vee’s stay at Litchfield are affecting more than just Crazy Eyes. Was Luschek a dick for ratting her out? Yes, and he was also a dumb ass for letting Nicky anywhere near the heroin after he found it. But I can’t say that he was wrong for pinning it on her. It was, in fact, Nicky’s fault for getting caught with the heroin. If she hadn’t stuck that one little bag under Luschek’s desk, they both would’ve gotten away with their plan. Instead, Nicky’s headed down the hill to Max. She did want to get out of Litchfield, didn’t she?

– Bennett hasn’t been around for a few days, and Daya is beginning to get worried. I’m not sure it’s looking good, since when he drove off last episode, he left Daya’s old crib behind. That’s some symbolism.
– Hate sex in the library is pretty hot but not when it’s doused with actual communication. The drama class was fun until it turned Piper and Alex’s relationship down seven notches.
– The return of Fig! At least she and Caputo have this fun nickname repartee going.
– Red said some really nice things about Healy in the heat of the moment, but don’t think this will be good for Red. Healy seems like he’d be a Stage 5 Clinger to me.
– Best line of the episode: “The ultimate book return.” – Taystee
– Also, that was the best scene of the episode, even if it had little importance. “The Jonathans!”

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It’s a Ghost Itch: ‘Orange is the New Black’ Recap for ‘Bed Bugs and Beyond’

She tells Alex the truth, and when Alex flips out Piper is momentarily gratified in her little white lying. She may as well have said, “Look! This is what happens when people know the truth! They get mad at me!”

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Who else noticed Lucy scratching her head under Daya’s bunk last episode? Because I did and figured it was just a kid doing kid stuff. Nope. Little Lucy most likely brought Bed Bugs into Litchfield. And while the infested clothes are being stripped away, so is Piper’s pretension.

Piper’s history of playing innocent goes back to the first season. Her M.O. at the time would usually manifest in her finding herself in some unfortunate circumstance, succumbing to the raw emotions of the moment and act irrationally, then throw herself a pity party. Soon thereafter she’d throw up that unfortunate crying face and someone would tell her it’ll all be okay. More recently, she’s figured out how to take at least some responsibility for her actions, but will still skirt around the truth for her own betterment. But in “Bed Bugs and Beyond,” Piper learns that her little white lies are not without consequence.

Right before Piper’s furlough last season, Red basically begged her bunkmate to visit her store and to bring back word on how it’s doing in her absence. Turns out, it had closed. But upon returning to Litchfield, in a moment of confidence and mercy, Piper told Red that “business was booming.” Why? Because it made Red happy, that’s why. And Piper went to bed with a smug smile, believing she had done some good. Also last season, Alex was having a hard time on parole. She was paranoid that her ex-crimelord boss was coming for her, and so on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Knowing that Alex had a gun, which violated her parole, Piper effectively snitched on Alex in order to get her out of that situation and likely back into Litchfield. And Piper went to sleep with a smug smile, again, believing that meddling in the affairs of other people’s lives did some good.

Piper was caught in both of those lies in this episode. Red calls her out on telling her that the store was “booming,” and while Piper backpedals and quotes an NPR show to justify her actions, Red remains unconvinced: “You are a selfish little person. You wanted me to like you. Now I like you less.” Then, Piper tries it Red’s way when Alex believes that the brutal truth is way better than ignorance. She tells Alex the truth, and when Alex flips out Piper is momentarily gratified in her little white lying. She may as well have said, “Look! This is what happens when people know the truth! They get mad at me!”

Piper’s lack of foresight is the cause of most of her problems, but so is her WASP-y, privileged upbringing. In general, she doesn’t act much differently than her mother when she finds out her husband is cheating on her. Don’t acknowledge it, look away, turn your attention to something else. Piper behaves like the denial of uncomfortable truths is the way to solve problems, and that any problems that may arise are never her fault because her actions were rooted in good intentions.

For the first time, Piper is realizing that she may in-fact be manipulative. “From what I see, to get what you want, while telling everyone how clean you are, you play dirty.” From now on, no bullshit from Piper Chapman. Just really hot revenge sex in the library.


– Bennett is having a rough time of it. Aleida and Daya are starting to believe that the baby should be adopted by Pornstache’s mother, as she suggested. He goes so far as to propose to Daya to prove to her that he’s committed to their life together, but a visit with Cesar and his baby mama makes Bennett second guess his plan. There’s very little wiggle room here.
– I wasn’t crazy about Bennett’s flashback. We already know he’s a good guy, but I guess we found out how he lost his leg.
– Just when Caputo’s on top, he finds out they’re closing Litchfield. I really appreciate the duration of the script’s vagueness. They really pulled me along.
– Nicky goes out on a limb and asks Luschek to sell their heroin, and turns out, he has no morals! No shocker there. Now, where has the heroin gone?
– It’s good to see the girls backing up Crazy Eyes. Her lack of Vee should be an easier transition with their support.
– Best line of the episode: “I will potato her at a future time.” – Crazy Eyes, who else?

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Piñatas are Metaphors: ‘Orange is the New Black’ Recap for ‘Mother’s Day’

Pennsatucky’s flashback was almost hilarious, if not for the waterboarding-your-kid-with-Mountain-Dew-to-get-government-assistance part.

MV5BMjQyMDM3NjgyMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDQzOTM5NTE@._V1__SX1194_SY611_An enviable feat for any television show is overcoming the second season slump. It’s easy to make 13 episodes of a new series when no one knows how it will be received, but the follow-up season often falters in its efforts to establish the focus, continue the arcs of characters, and sustain the overall tone of the show. The challenge for the showrunners is how to deliver on what the fans love about the show while also setting it up for the long-term. (Great case study on what not to do: The Newsroom.) Fortunately for us, Orange is the New Black soared over the slump and presented us with an even better second season than the first.

With the (five hours early!) release of season three, it seems as though OITNB has hit its stride. Delivering a quality second season is hard enough, but this show has accomplished something that very little (if any) television show has ever done by creating upwards of twenty characters that all have extraordinarily distinct personalities. It’s not up to a handful of lead characters to carry the show, but each of them individually carry a small piece together. It’s like how people can lay on a bed of nails without being impaled; one nail will go right through your back, while several dozen can equally distribute your weight. This is how OINTB has struck its balance. In episode one, “Mother’s Day,” we’re reintroduced to each and every one of our favorite inmates, and they all have an equal share of the time.

This episode provided a small amount of plot development from last season: Morello’s psyche is still fragile after she loses her van job; Alex is back because Piper ratted on her for breaking parole; Red’s mostly healed and turning over a new leaf by cementing up the manhole in the greenhouse; Nicky and Boo discuss how to get rid of the heroin hidden in the laundry room; Daya’s baby daddy troubles continue. One of the most promising plots so far is with Crazy Eyes and how she’ll cope with the loss of Vee, one of the only people in her life that seemed to actually understand her (even if Vee was using her the whole time.) Poussey’s plot seems to involve her interest in Gloria’s dark arts, but for exactly what purpose it’s too soon to say.

These developments are necessary, and are what one expects most in the first episode of a new season, but “Mother’s Day” didn’t dwell too long or hard on any of them. Rather, it dove right into a deep societal issue at the root of most (all) people’s problems: how they were treated by their mothers.

Instead of flashbacks that involved just one inmate, we were treated to several inmates’ backstories, and they were all about their childhoods. Some were pleasant, like Poussey’s comic reading with her late mother, and Aleida’s, in which she was surprisingly tender and loving toward a newborn Daya. There was also Sophia’s old persona, Marcus, sweetly rubbing the feet of his pregnant wife while she’s pregnant with their son, Michael. (Shoutout to Laverne’s brother, M. Lamar, for channeling Laverne’s Sophia into Marcus. It was the exact same character, just with a lot more facial hair.) Nicky’s flashback was absolutely heartbreaking. (“She didn’t read my card.” LOST IT.) The real treat was a flashback for Healey, even if it involved his obviously psychotic mother drawing on the walls with lipstick and throwing an ashtray at his head.

Pennsatucky’s flashback was almost hilarious, if not for the waterboarding-your-kid-with-Mountain-Dew-to-get-government-assistance part. The highlight of this whole episode involves Pennsatucky and her six little crosses, for all six of her unborn children. As pours a capful of Mountain Dew out for each of them, she laments to Boo about how she’s going to hell. A very scary looking Boo then pontificates about the drop in crime in the 1990s, likely due to the passing of Roe v. Wade. She explains that these children, “if their mothers were forced to have them, would have grown up poor and neglected and abused, the three most important ingredients when one is making a felon.” Through all of its episodes’ flashbacks, OITNB has uncovered the acts that landed these ladies in prison, but in this scene the show exposes the root of it all.

It takes real balls to launch a new season with such a heavy subject, and “Mother’s Day” proves that this show has never been a soap opera about woman prisoners. It insists on addressing the implications of crime and all of the ripples it causes. To really drive the point home, the inmates are forced to lay on the ground during a lockdown, while their children remain standing and confused, imploring their mothers to get up. Later, as Maria hands her baby to her boyfriend, he tells her he will not be bringing their daughter to Litchfield anymore. “I don’t want her to see her mother in prison and think this is normal.” And you can’t blame him. OITNB punches you in the face with logic, and then forces you to deal with the pain.

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Everything is on Fire: ‘Game of Thrones’ Recap for ‘The Dance of Dragons’

An audible gasp was heard throughout the country at exactly 9:46 PM.

The penultimate episode of the fifth season of Game of Thrones resembled less a song of ice and fire and more like an exclamation of, “Oh shit! Everything is on fire!” But in a show whose bottom line includes the invariable arrival of Winter with a capital W, of course ice still showed up to the party.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 9.48.54 PMAmong that ice is Jon Snow, strolling up to the Wall with a couple hundred Wildlings and a giant in tow. The man of the hour at Hardhome isn’t met with cheers and congratulations upon his return. Rather, a disapproving Alliser Thorne waits to let them all through the Wall just long enough to make me (and Jon, probably) wonder if he was going to let them in at all. But the gates open and those Wildlings filter through Castle Black, much to the chagrin of the Night’s Watch. Jon considers the mission a failure, since so many people were killed by the White Walkers, but his voice of reason, Sam, insists that it wasn’t. I always appreciate the never-ending optimism of Samwell Tarly, and to a point he’s right, fair enough a good amount of Wildlings were spared. But Jon’s mission was to get people to fight alongside the Night’s Watch, and the vast majority of what would be good fighters are now the Fighting Dead. The rest of the Crows are rather miffed at Jon’s decision that has forced them to become Wildling allies. Even little, resentful Olly, whom Jon looks to for a smile among the grimaces, is annoyed with his Lord Commander.

Alliser offers his sympathy: “You have a good heart, Jon Snow.” (Aww!) “It’ll get us all killed.” (Oh.) Jon’s usual pout is replaced with a full-on frown at the prospect that his first big decision as Lord Commander was a failure. Optimistically, if he didn’t go to recruit more Wildlings, the Night’s Watch would still be only 50 men strong and they’d have no chance in the Seven Hells at winning the war against the White Walkers. Cynically, Jon gave the White Walkers more numbers in their army. But to be cynical would be wrong, because if Jon hadn’t shown up then the Wildlings that did survive would have never had the means to, since there would have been no boats with which to escape.  So chin up, Jon Snow! You have at least a few more people to stave off the dead things when they come to decimate the world’s population.

Meanwhile, in a climate less resembling a snow globe, the most boring plot line of this season seems to have wrapped itself up. Remember when Ellaria was inciting a war? And when Jaime and Bronn were journeying on a dangerous mission to smuggle a pawn of that war out of Dorne? Never mind all that. Let’s drink wine and toast to King Tommen’s reign! Blech. This plot had a climax as steep as an anthill. Even Bronn, who was super close to dying, was saved by the person that almost killed him for seemingly no reason. I appreciate Prince Doran’s levelheadedness, I do, since it is it’s a very rare commodity in this world, but it sustains zero dramatic weight. Doran’s agreed to let Jaime go back to King’s Landing with Myrcella. Jaime’s agreed to bring Trystane with them and make him a member of the Small Council. They’ve all agreed Bronn needs a good elbow to the face. Look how great it all worked out!

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 9.32.07 PMEven Ellaria, with her brooding vengeance, comes around once Doran threatens to kill her. The old Ellaria would’ve spit on the lot of them and sacrificed herself for love and honor by throwing herself off a bell tower, landing beautifully but gruesomely among the flowers in Dorne’s gardens. The new Ellaria weeps on her knees for forgiveness. Where did your spunk go, woman?! No matter. If her lame surrender allows this plot line to conclude then I’m all the happier for not having to be dragged back to Dorne in the middle of the other, better plot lines in other parts of the world.

Among the better plot lines, Arya is still pushing around her cart of seafood. (I really hope she gets a new identity soon. I don’t know how much longer I can go on hearing her yelp about her oysters, clams, and cockles.) As she approaches the Thin Man, knowing her mission to give him a gift of liquid poison, Arya actually seems nervous. For someone who used to nightly recite a long list of people she wants to kill, her trepidation seems misplaced. That is, until she sees one Meryn Trant arriving via boat with the jaunty Mace Tyrell. Oh yeah! Remember when Cersei sent Daddy Tyrell to appease the Iron Bank? Initially I assumed it was to get him out of King’s Landing long enough for Cersei to imprison his children, and that was all we were going to see of him. But the link I missed is that the Iron Bank is in Braavos, and Meryn Trant is now in the same city as Arya.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 9.32.35 PMArya rolls right passed her appointed target, even though he’s yelling after her for some oysters, and proceeds to follow Meryn and Tyrell around Braavos, up to and including the fanciest brothel in the city. Presumably she was going to use the poison intended for the Thin Man on Meryn, but never gets the chance. What she actually did was walk herself right into a trap of her own making; there is a look of recognition on Meryn’s face as Arya sells oysters to his companions. Perhaps he can’t place her face in that moment, but I’m willing to bet there’s a deleted scene of him sitting up in bed in a cold sweat, realizing that the long lost Stark girl is in Braavos.

So how does Arya get away with not assassinating the Thin Man? She tells Jaqen he wasn’t hungry today… and what happens next does not include Jaqen hitting her with a stick. Does he really buy her lie? The lingering shot of him looking over his shoulder at her says no, but why wouldn’t he call her out on lying to him? He’s done it literally every other time before this, even when it’s a mistake as little as saying the wrong street name. If she really did fool Jaqen, Arya may be the best Faceless Man in history.

Though seldom given on this show, I feel that we should all take a moment to award Mace Tyrell the honor of Most Delightful Character, for being the friendliest goofball in all of Essos and Westeros. Greeting people with a shake of both hands, regaling his new friends with banking tales of old, singing from his belly in the middle of the streets. (It’s worth noting that his singing was in celebration, so he must’ve been able to settle the royal debt crisis.) He brought some joy into an episode otherwise drenched in anguish.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 9.51.04 PMTo give him some credit, and hear me out, Stannis has had a hard go of it in his attempt to be king. Though he had the most legitimate right to succeed Robert, few people took him seriously. Initially he was one of two Baratheons vying for the Iron Throne, so followers were hard to come by. He had a rough time getting money for an army and other necessary war accoutrement. Stannis’ description in season one by Loras, saying that he has “the personality of a lobster” is not wrong; he does little in the way of inspiring his troops and I’m more than positive he has never smiled once in his life.

And here he is, in the brutal North, supplies dwindling, already losing troops to the bitter cold. And now Ramsay deals him a massive blow by setting fire to Stannis’ camps and several hundred horses. (Did anyone else think of Anchorman when you saw that horse on fire? Would’ve fit right in.) The loss of resources are hard, but what really smarts is the hit to Stannis’ ego. His terrible luck has officially gotten worse, and the worry that weighs on Stannis seems to have aged him about 15 years since we last saw him.

So, yes, Stannis’ journey hasn’t been easy. But come ON, man. You don’t have to be such a dick about it. Where was the person to convince Stannis that it’s time to throw in the towel, send all the freezing and starving troops home, and toast to the fact that you really gave it shot? It could’ve been Davos, but Stannis sent him off to Castle Black to get more people and supplies. It’s certainly not an odd request, because he desperately needs those, but he sent Davos away because Stannis knew he’d prevent him from engaging in the one of the most vile acts anyone has done on this show.

Shireen’s book of choice in this episode was “A Dance of Dragons,” which tells a story of two Targaryen siblings hashing it out over who would be the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. She explains, “Both of them thought they belonged on the Iron Throne. When people started declaring for one of them or the other, their fight divided the kingdoms in two. Brothers fought brothers, dragons fought dragons. By the time it was over, thousands were dead. And it was a disaster for the Targaryens, as well.” (Who doesn’t love literary allusions, right?) This anecdote, while contextually having more to do with Baratheons than Targaryens, brought Stannis’ story full circle. And it was a disaster for him, as well.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 9.39.04 PMStannis labors under the belief that coercing a young girl into saying she’d do anything to help her father, and his feeble “forgive me,” absolve him from the responsibility of putting her to a torturous, miserable death by fire. His cowardice in hiding from her sight as she screamed for him is indicative of his whole ruling ethos: it doesn’t matter who dies as long as it takes Stannis to the throne. Even Selyse, who has resented her child from birth for being a girl and displayed very little love towards her, changes her tune when Shireen begs for her mother’s help. Most importantly, his army looking on showed disgust in the act. If a ruler is meant to garner the respect of his subjects, Stannis has officially lost respect in many of his followers. In this, the most desperate act to change his fortunes, Stannis has sealed his fate. Even if he does become king (which narratively makes little sense at this point), he’ll always be known as the king who killed his own child for the sake of his own selfish goals.

Daenerys, on the other hand, makes it a point to disapprove of any kind of killing that isn’t politically justified, whether it’s killing slaves or killing for sport. Her view is much unlike her betrothed, Hizdahr, who believes murder comes as a “necessary condition of greatness.” (Following that statement, Tyrion says Tywin would have liked him, and we may as well go and put Stannis on that list.) Daenerys doesn’t try to hide her distaste for the fighting pits, and has no stake in its outcome until Jorah shows up. The great Westerosi knight against five seasoned warriors.

The pacing of these final scenes is just outstanding. Jorah isn’t winning the fight. He’s getting stabbed and sliced and beaten down, and the dramatic build leads one to believe the importance of this fight will ultimately lie in Jorah’s poignant death. As the fight proceeds and Jorah’s chances at surviving wane, Daenerys seems to realize she still does indeed care for his wellbeing. In the moment immediately following Jorah’s victory, as the crowd of Meereenese boos him, he launches a spear right at Daenerys’ seat.

Who is he trying to kill?! Daario for sleeping with Daenerys? Hizdahr for marrying her? Daenerys herself for the cruelty she’s shown him? Nope. A Son of the FREAKING Harpy, who unbeknownst to everyone in Daenerys’ camp was creeping up behind them. An audible gasp was heard throughout the country at exactly 9:46 PM.

And the build that we thought was going to end with Jorah’s death proceeds to continue building upon itself, when dozens of Sons of the Harpy emerge from the crowd, killing former slaves and former masters alike. Is this what Hizdahr wanted all along, and that’s why he wanted to reopen the pits? Is that what he meant when he was late and said he was “just making sure everything was in order”?  We’ll never know, because among the screams and stabbing and blood shooting everywhere, Hizdahr himself becomes a victim. Soon Jorah comes up to protect Daenerys, and dammit if a tear didn’t form in my eye when he held out his hand and she took it.

Before long, Daenerys and crew, protected by the few remaining Unsullied, are surrounded by an endless stream of guys in gold masks. Jorah, Daario and the Unsullied do their best to stave off the attackers, but things are looking dire. Deaneries takes Missandei’s hand in a moment that felt very similar to the climax of Toy Story 3, and they prepare for certain death.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 9.57.21 PMAnd that’s when the episode turns it up to 11. Drogon appears through a cloud of fire, roaring and screeching as he comes to his mom’s aid. Though repeatedly stuck with spears, Drogon proceeds to tear several people in half and set fire to most of the rest. Daenerys, though still unsure of her relationship with her largest dragon, tries to help by removing a spear from Drogon’s side. He, in turn, roars in her face. (Translation: “JESUS CHRIST MOM, THAT REALLY HURT.”) Following the grossest smelling breath one can imagine, Daenerys reaches out for some recognition of motherly love from Drogon. When he doesn’t bite her arm off, she climbs atop his scaly back, and commands, “Fly.” And he does. Up and away from the fighting pits. Though the implications here are good news (Daenerys still has control of her dragons), one can’t help but state the obvious: Tyrion, Missandei, Daario, and Jorah are still down there. Whoops.

As the fifth season closes in on its finale, there still remain a fair amount of plot lines that have not been properly concluded. I’m not sure that they can all be tied up in a way that makes sense and is also satisfying, but at least the ninth episode provided us with some literally jaw-dropping final moments. On that note, let’s all appreciate Game of Thrones for its ability to get under our skin. It may be unpleasant at times, but it’s a show that succeeds in putting out some of the most complex, rewarding, and downright ballsiest stories on television. If you care about the show’s characters enough to be upset with it when it puts them through the ringer, it’s doing its job.

Tyrion and Daenerys Have a Conversation: An Unnecessarily In-Depth ‘Game of Thrones’ Scene Study

Not to undermine the badassness of the second half of that episode, but an equally as thrilling, if not substantially more quiet, scene also took place: Tyrion and Daenerys had a chance to talk.

There’s little argument the recent Game of Thrones episode, “Hardhome,” was the best of the season (at least up until the most recent episode, but that’s for a different time.) The seven episodes leading up to it, however, bordered on tedious. They mainly consisted of establishing plot lines, people traveling, and scant bits of action; all of which hardly satisfied the rabid viewer that has become used to a certain level of excitement on this show. The seven episode build of tension finally broke in episode eight with the culmination of the battle (massacre?) at the Wildling village of Hardhome. Unlike “The Watchers on the Wall” in season four, which was solely dedicated to the tremendous battle of the Night’s Watch against the Wildlings, “Hardhome” was such a surprise that it stole the show and it became all that the Internet talked about the next day.

Not to undermine the badassness of the second half of that episode, but an equally as thrilling, if not substantially more quiet, scene also took place: Tyrion and Daenerys had a chance to talk. Here are two of Game of Thrones‘ most significant characters, who up until now had no reason to be in the same room, bringing each of their uniquely specialized backgrounds to the table. They’ve never met before, but they already know each other, if not partially, because they already know each other’s respective biographies (and reputations). Though their conversation was quite the momentous occasion, it had no alternative but to be overshadowed by the battle that took place after their meeting. So while I have already written a recap for the whole of the episode, it’s only fair to give Tyrion and Danaerys’ scene its proper due, and analyze the hell out of it.

It didn’t start out very friendly. Daenerys has Tyrion and Jorah supplicate before her and argue the reasons why she shouldn’t have them killed, particularly Tyrion in retribution for what his family did to hers. Tyrion reminds her, however, that he killed both of his parents, so really he’s his own family’s best assassin. She quips, “So I should welcome you into my service because you murdered members of your own family?”

If Tyrion wasn’t the first person to use reverse psychology, he’s certainly mastered it better than anyone in the history of ever, because he combats her skepticism with, “It’s too soon to say if you are worthy of my service.” Dany plays hard to get, but she’s also never been one to turn down a verbal sparring match, and reminds him she can send him back to the fighting pits at any moment. Tyrion proceeds to recount the tale of a girl born without wealth, lands, or an army, growing up in a world that hated her, forced to live on the run because of her name. Ultimately, this girl born with nothing, “in a very short span of time,” acquired all three things she was born without, as well as three dragons. “I thought you were worth meeting at the very least,” he says.

Since the show’s inception, Game of Thrones has exceled at the task of packing a ridiculous amount of people and plots and histories into each of its episodes while still somehow managing to maintain its overarching purpose. It’s an admirable skill, but sometimes buried beneath all of that packing are truths that have no time to come to the surface. Namely: how absolutely and utterly goddamn impressive Daenerys is. Though we watched the majority of Tyrion’s anecdote from the start of the show, it wasn’t until he put it in that context that I truly realized how far she’s come. The relentless nature of Game of Thrones could never allow Daenerys the opportunity for retrospection, or even a small moment for her to appreciate her own achievements. She’s been on a mission from the beginning, and her determination won’t end until that mission is complete. You go, girl.

She’s flattered by Tyrion’s recounting of her life, but of course she’d never show it, and insists he convince her why he was worth meeting. Tyrion’s time as the Hand of the King made him realize something he never knew about himself: he’s good at something other than drinking. His whole life he had been underestimated and underappreciated (and also constantly in the shadow of his dashing older brother), and his reaction to those things was to get very good at thinking. His regal upbringing exposed him to the politics of war (and warring royal families), and that background is exactly what Daenerys never knew she needed. His gift of rhetoric and talent for strategy frame his first piece of advice for Daenerys: “Killing and politics aren’t always the same thing.” Surely she’s thought of that before, but considering her reign began amongst the consistently violent Dothraki, perhaps violence was what came most naturally to her as a queen. One could never call Daenerys unjust, but maybe she’s just a tad hasty.

Sufficiently convinced for the time being, Daenerys puts Tyrion’s advisement skills to the test and asks him what to do about Jorah. She did, after all, swear to kill him if he ever came back to Meereen. Though Tyrion points out that Jorah is utterly devoted to her (and probably definitely in love with her), and that “a ruler who kills those devoted to her is not a ruler who inspires devotion,” he still maintains that she shouldn’t keep him around.

For as much as I find Tyrion and Daenerys’ interactions in this episode some of the best dialogue in this entire series, his recommendation to send Jorah away is still one that I don’t quite understand. The circumstances lend themselves to the notion that he’s acting selfishly; that if Jorah stays he may become Daenerys’ adviser again, and Tyrion’s status, and therefore his safety, could be in jeopardy. But that didn’t seem to be his intention. His recommendation for when Daenerys crosses the Narrow Sea “you cannot have him by your side when you do.” The emphasis of this line seemed to stress that Jorah’s presence could make her look weak if she did indeed allow a man she swore to kill come back into her council. More than anything, the weakness comes in Jorah’s banishment itself. But off he goes anyway, the greyscale slowly eating away at his forearm. He glances forebodingly up at the destroyed faces of the Harpy statues before returning to the fighting pits to become a slave again and fight for Daenerys. He’s a dead man, no matter what happens.

Tyrion’s savvy with wordplay has aided him once again, and he graduates from being on trial to conversing one-on-one with the queen. Satisfied with his first glass of wine in a very long time (by Tyrion’s standards, anyway), he and Daenerys engage in a verbal barrage of wit and candor, brimming with the implications of several generations of familial conflict.

Other than the obvious significance of having Tyrion and Daenerys in the same room, there’s something so refreshing in having these two characters together. Neither of them talk in riddles or metaphors or soliloquies laden with deception like 98% of the characters on this show. They say exactly what they mean all the time, if not a bit strategically when the need arises. So without all of the fluff and ulterior motives, these two are free to be completely candid with each other. Beginning with questions like, “Have you decided yet whether you’re going to have me killed?”

When Daenerys responds that killing him is (in theory) her safest option, Tyrion responds, “It’s what your father would’ve done.” And, of course, it’s what Tywin would’ve done too, since he was trying to kill Tyrion throughout the entirety of season four. Their respective fathers were some of the most influential in the Game of Thrones storyline, and have heavily influenced the behavior and actions of their children. Tywin’s influence manifested itself in Tyrion’s aforementioned critical thought development, and though Daenerys never knew her father, his reputation has likely determined her royal ethos.

Daenerys admits to Tyrion that she knows what her father was: “I know the Mad King earned his name.” I’m not sure when she found out about Aerys’ reign, and I can’t remember if she’s mentioned him on the show before, but that admission says it all: somewhere between being sold off to Khal Drogo by Varys and becoming queen, she decided she was going to be more rational than her father and more humble than her brother. (Even if she displays a little bit of irrationality and arrogance now and then. She is still a Targaryen, after all.)

So here they are. “Two terrible children of two terrible fathers,” as Tyrion puts it. Daenerys reproaches that observation with, “I’m terrible?” (There’s that classic Targaryen arrogance.) But not just any kind of terrible brought Tyrion to Daenerys, but he “wanted to see if you were the right kind of terrible.” And doesn’t that just summarize the whole show? There are very few, if any, characters on this show who haven’t had a terrible moment, with the exception of those too young to know what being terrible entails. So ruthless is the world in which these characters exist, that anyone would be dead without a least one terrible moment here or there. The only way to stay alive and thriving in this world is to be the right kind of terrible.

Tyrion is looking for the kind of terrible that prevents the world from “being even more so.” He applauds Daenerys’ decision to marry someone from Meereen’s great houses and her concession to reopen the fighting pits; doing so means that she’s allowed for the betterment of her people to supersede her own desires. However reluctant she may have been (and however pointless it all ended up, because Sons of the Harpy), Daenerys showed that the needs of the greater are more important than those of the few. The foresight is admirable, at the very least.

Tyrion’s mention of Varys, and how he may have been right about Daenerys, could’ve sent her over the edge if it weren’t for her growing trust in her new friend. Varys was the person Jorah was sending her secrets to, and thus the person that made Jorah betray her. You can’t blame her for being dubious of Tyrion’s faith in him, but Tyrion gives the Spider the benefit of the doubt: “he did what he had to do to survive,” and points out that Varys’ actions were likely the reason Daenerys wasn’t killed as a child. Furthermore, Tyrion says that Varys may be the only person in the world that he trusts, except for his brother. “The brother who killed my father?” Daenerys clarifies, reminding us how deep their shared history runs.

She tries once more to shake Tyrion’s resolve by saying, “Perhaps I will have you killed, after all.” But Tyrion is unshakable, particularly so after several glasses of wine, and says if she does kill him, at least his final days were interesting. Ever the optimist.

But finally, Daenerys decides she’s not going to kill Tyrion. “No? Banish me?” he asks, letting his underlying fear peek through for a moment. No, she’s going to have him advise her… “while you can still speak in complete sentences,” she jabs, and pries the goblet from his hand. It’s a hard, but logical, price to pay for sparing his life.

The now wineless Tyrion asks her on what he’s going to advise her. “How to get what I want,” Daenerys replies, and what she wants is what everyone wants: the Iron Throne. Tyrion’s first piece of advice for her is to want something else. After all, “there’s more to the world than Westeros,” and things are devolving into chaos pretty quickly over there, though she doesn’t know it. But Daenerys’ ambition for ridding the world of slavery and cruelty doesn’t stop in Meereen, and she wants to bring that ambition with her across the Narrow Sea.

Tyrion is quick to point out that she has few supporters in Westeros, particularly supporters with money. She assumes, not unjustly, considering her experience, that the common people will be enough to bolster her position to queen in King’s Landing. Tyrion reminds her that it is only the common people that support her in Meereen. “What was that like? Ruling without the rich?” he asks. Well, a militant group of the rich and former slave masters behind gold masks are killing a lot of people. He insists that she will need the support of the rich if she’s going to rule.

Tyrion runs through the list of Houses in Westeros and paints a grim picture: the Targaryens are gone, the Starks are gone, the Lannisters will never support her (“not ever.”), Stannis’ “entire claim to the throne rests on the illegitimacy” of Daenerys’. All she’d have left is House Tyrell, and though “not impossible, not enough.” There are not enough rich people to support her if she should ever return to Westeros.

And if Tyrion’s “right kind of terrible” is indicative of the characters in Game of Thrones, Daenerys’ analogy to the Houses of Westeros as spokes on a wheel is demonstrative of the entire plot: “This one’s on top, then that one’s on top. Round and round it spins, crushing those beneath it.” These families and more (Martell, Bolton, Greyjoy) play their game with no concern of how it affects the majority of the population, which happens to be the antithesis of everything Daenerys has worked for during her rule. And thus, she doesn’t just want to stop the wheel, she wants to “break the wheel.” It’s a worthy goal, and the most logical one, since when does the wheel stop even if she were to get to the Iron Throne without breaking it? Someone else with misguided aspirations of being the ruler of Westeros will probably try to dethrone Daenerys eventually. So we have the what she wants to do, but exactly how she is going to do it is something for a different episode, and likely a different season altogether.

With the meeting of these two great orators, Game of Thrones has graduated from a show that generated excitement in ruthless violence to one that pursues stimulation in the development of its characters. Both Tyrion and Daenerys exhibit characteristics worthy of their last names, but have cultivated the better parts of those to develop personalities that are strong, but inherently good. Their goals are the same and their alliance will likely bring justice and (hopefully, eventually) peace into the world. The real battle of this episode may have been at Hardhome, but the best battle happened in a quiet room in Meereen.

Fear the White Walking Dead: ‘Game of Thrones’ Recap of ‘Hardhome’

“I put an arrow through his heart,” says Jon, to the dismay of the room full of people who already hate him. (Someone seriously needs to take a public speaking class. Maybe some context would be beneficial, Lord Commander?)

A mere week had passed between the last episode of Game of Thrones and this one, and so much can happen in a week. But every so often, something so momentous occurs that you can’t get your mind off of it, and seven days can give you the time to ruminate enough that the occurrence takes root in your brain and blooms into a wonderful memory. For me, the image of Cersei being thrown onto the dirt ground of the prison cell had hardly left my mind’s eye all week.

How long it had been coming?! How many people had to suffer at the hands of the cruelest bitch in Westeros? Her arrest felt like the kind of sweet redemption that one has when they witness Mordor crumbling to pieces. (Okay, well, at least I do, being the Tolkienphile that I am.) That image was so satisfying that I almost forgot… Cersei is still in there!

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 10.47.23 PMAnd so we return to the blonde queen, cowering the dark corner of her cell; her luscious locks flattened and dull from lack of care, her attitude surly from lack of wine. Oh yeah, that and she’s about to be on trial for fornication, treason, incest, and the murder of Robert Baratheon. (More on that last one later.) There’s no word on Jaime in Dorne, her recently arrived Uncle Kevan hates her, and Tommen won’t leave his room. Cersei’s only friend in the world is Qyburn, who visits her and explains the only way out is to confess. Ever the supplicant, Cersei’s reaction to that is: “I will not kneel to some barefooted commoner.” That’s the spirit.

And so Qyburn leaves with, “The work continues.” Does he mean that the work to get Cersei out continues, or that the work he’s doing on the Mountain’s dead body continues? (Because I think that line was code for the latter.) But Cersei’s charge for the death of Robert is a fun addition to the rest of the charges that we knew about with varying levels of certainty. Definitely hinted at but never officially stated, anyone could have guessed back in season one that Cersei made Lancel stuff Robert full of a wine that made him drunker than usual and even more susceptible to a boar’s tusk. And considering Lancel cleansed his soul to join the Sparrows, that tidbit was likely in the mix.

Until next time, Cersei! This week I shall dream of you lapping up water off of a dirt floor because your pride prevents you from seeing you’re totally and completely screwed. Delicious!

Anya’s also up to something delicious in Braavos. Or rather, selling something delicious. When we last saw her, Jaqen told “a girl” she was ready to be someone else, and someone else she has become. In what I have to believe is playing the Game of Faces (also known as the most intense acting lesson ever), Arya excels in manipulating herself to become Lanna, a seafood merchant trolling the streets with a cart of clams and oysters for the people. She performs so well at gaining the trust of a street gambler, Jaqen gives her a “gift” to give that gambler: a vile containing some liquid that I can’t imagine is anything other than poison.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 10.50.46 PMSo pleased at her progress is Arya that she grins as she exits the room, when suddenly the Waif appears (nobutreally where the hell did you come from?!) and expresses reluctance in Arya’s ability. “It’s all the same to the Many Faced God,” says Jaqen. This line must have some kind of greater significance that I don’t get yet. Because what I heard was, “Eh. The Many Faced God really doesn’t give a shit. So why the hell not let this girl go out and kill some guy?”

Preoccupation with death was the topic of conversation for the bulk of this episode. Sansa waits in her room for Reek to bring her food, with what must be her only candle melted down to nothing on the table next to her. (If that was her savior candle, that’s quite the symbolism!) She is seething with anger towards Reek, for telling Ramsay about the candle and for killing her brothers. “If I could do what Ramsay did to you right here, right now, I would,” she says, because if it weren’t for him she’d still have a family.

But as far as Reek was concerned, snitching on her was actually helping to keep her safe. He knows from experience that trying to escape “the master” is not going to achieve anything except torture and result in missing appendages. In what is likely the most introspective moment of the season, Reek admits, “I deserved everything… I did terrible things. Turned on Robb. Captured Winterfell. Killed those boys.” And behaved like an all around prick? Yeah, you really were terrible. For as much as that’s true and as much as he may have deserved to be knocked down a few pegs (and as much as I really hated him once upon a time) it’s difficult not to feel sorry for Reek after he acknowledges his past behavior. He may have deserved a small portion of what he got, but no one should have to go through the torment and humiliation that Theon went through to become Reek.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 10.55.11 PMNeedless to say, referring to her brothers as “those boys” did not go over well with Sansa, and in a moment of weakness, Reek confesses, “They weren’t Bran and Rickon!” If Sansa had little hope before this conversation, she must have a lot now. The Stark children have been apart for so long, doing their own things, that one forgets that Robb is the only dead one. Sansa now knows that Jon is alive and well in Castle Black and Bran and Rickon could be alive somewhere. If she survives the ordeal of being married to Ramsay, I’m willing to bet her next move will be to find her little brothers. A Stark reunion would be the most uplifting moment on this bleak, morose show.

Oh, who am I kidding? This is Game of Thrones. Those moments don’t happen. And even we don’t know where Rickon is! (Seriously, where is Rickon?!)

And up there in Castle Blake, Sam is basking in the afterglow and making it weird. “How are you?” he asks Gilly, like she’s never done this before. Come on, Sam. She has a child. His usual optimism is magnified after his deflowering and helps young Olly get through an existential crisis involving the small matter of the Wildlings (particularly Tormund) killing his parents and the rest of his village. What seems like a throw-away scene hammering home the incessant trope that Winter is coming, Sam’s speech actually makes it sound like Winter will be the great equalizer. The White Walkers don’t care who you are or where you come from or who you hate. They just want to kill you. Sooner or later, the Wildlings and the Crows can’t afford to be each other’s enemies; they’re both going to be the first victims of the White Walkers.

Exactly how soon that was going to be brought home was something I was unprepared for. This episode had some of the best pacing of any episode this season. It was quick to address certain things out of necessity, but switched between plots efficiently so that by the time the last half of the episode came, you had no idea what you were in for.

Jon Snow and Tormund arrived at Wildling village of Hardhome, with what looks like Stannis’ naval fleet behind them. It doesn’t take long for these once-enemies to become real allies. Tormund asks Jon if he trusts him, and without answering yes, Jon asks if that makes him a fool. “We’re fools together now,” Tormund responds. Kind of adorable.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 9.35.11 PMOn they go, presenting an unwavering united front against several hundred Wildlings who all think Tormund’s gone soft. That is until he bludgeons the Lord of Bones to death with his own scepter. (The man just wanted to talk!) Once through the gatekeeper of Hardhome, Jon speaks to the Wildling elders with Tormund at his side, admitting that the Free Folk and the Night’s Watch will never be friends, but urging them to join together to fight against the White Walkers. He presents them with dragonglass daggers and reminds them that Mance Rayder never wanted a war between them.

Where is Mance Rayder, you ask? “I put an arrow through his heart,” says Jon, to the dismay of the room full of people who already hate him. (Someone seriously needs to take a public speaking class. Maybe some context would be beneficial, Lord Commander?) In swoops Jon’s new BFF Tormund to set the record straight, explaining the arrow was mercy and Jon defied Stannis’ orders in doing so, displaying a kind of courage that the Wildlings need. Not courage to defend themselves against White Walkers, but the kind of courage it will take to join with people they’ve been fighting for hundreds of years. “He didn’t have to come to Hardhome,” Tormund says. “He came because he needs us. And we need him.”

After some opposition from the lady elder (who was also the German chick from Pitch Perfect 2 that confused Anna Kendrick’s sexuality), some foreboding shots of the lone giant in the corner of the room, and the second reference to Jon Snow as the prettiest man alive (no one’s disagreeing), most of the Wildlings agreed to join with Tormund. All, in fact, except for the tall dude with very symmetrical scars. “That’s our enemy,” he says. “That has always been our enemy.” Well, we know what happens to stubborn people in this world, don’t we? (Hint: they die.)

The next shots of Wildlings getting into row boats reminded me of the early scenes in Titanic where the women and children were being taken off the ship first. The ship’s already sinking, but you know by their faces that something else is about to go down.

And boy, does it. Dogs bark. There’s some gusts of wind and rumbles of thunder. What looks like an avalanche of snow pours over the mountains and I think it’s actually happened: Winter has come. But this just any shift in weather patterns; the White Walkers have brought Winter to Hardhome.

What happens next can’t really be described. You just have to experience it. But the implications of impending Winter and White Walkers and war and joining with ones enemies are made clear: there comes a time when the talking is done and all you have left to do is act.

As the White Walkers descend on Hardhome, one can’t help but think of The Walking Dead and how SO MUCH INSANELY WORSE it is to have the dead attack you on Game of Thrones. They’re equally as terrifying to look at (though eerily beautiful, depending on which one you’ve got staring you down), but they’re also fast moving and know how to use weapons. They’re not just after you to eat your flesh, they’re after you for your very life.

Jon doesn’t hesitate and joins in the defense against the White Walkers, however pointless it is. It seems that the dead can only be slowed down by arrows to the head and slices of a sword. The only way to take them down is with dragonglass. Oh yeah, and also with Valyrian steel, turns out! Jon’s battle with the Big Bad White Walker (proper name currently unknown) was looking dire until he found his sword amongst rubble, and it turned Big Bad White Walker’s body to glass with one swift swing. That’s super good to know, even if a sword made of Valyrian steel is pretty hard to come by these days. Well, at least we know Jon and Brienne will be fine. Yay!

The episode concludes with a cascade of dead bodies, a mostly annoyed giant trudging through the water, and the most meme-able moment since ‘The Mountain and the Viper.’ I wouldn’t say Jon and the Wildlings won this battle, but they made it out alive, which is more than can be said for most people in Hardhome. I think we’ll soon see thousands of White Walkers scaling the Wall, but let’s all take a moment and thank the Old Gods and the New for not granting the dead with the ability to swim.

Note: This episode was very much about what happens with Jon and crew at Hardhome and it’s impossible not to stress the importance of what it means and gloriousness of how amazing it was. However, a just as significant, though definitely overshadowed, portion of this episode is the conversation between Tyrion and Daenerys. In the efforts of giving every moment its due credit, I’m going to write a separate recap addressing just that scene. What a great freaking episode!