Game Of Thrones season 5 episode 7 review: The Gift

A personal vendetta backfires spectacularly against its orchestrator in this week’s slow-building Game Of Thrones…

5.7 The Gift

They say that success in life is all about who you know and who you are more than anything else. Very few people in Westeros are self-made men. Bronn was nothing but a common sellsword until he took a chance and befriended Tyrion Lannister. Now he’s a knight with a castle, doing special favors for the Queen Mother in exchange for a bigger castle and a prettier wife. Littlefinger might have been a nobody as far as lords are concerned, but he was still a lord before he made his money as the Master of Coin and King’s Landing’s brothel master. Essos is a bit more fluid, lacking the traditional nobility of the Seven Kingdoms. A man can make something of himself—or make nothing of himself—more so than anywhere else in this world.

This is something I don’t think I’ve ever given much thought to. Everyone save Khal Drogo, Varys, and various Maesters have been some sort of born-into-it noble person. Even bastards, who have lower fates than true-born children, are typically nobles from one parent or another. Jon Snow is the Lord Commander, and he’s earned it, but he’s also Lord Snow, raised and trained alongside his half-siblings in Winterfell. Daenerys Targaryen may be the sister of the Beggar King, but she’s still royalty and that commands a lot of respect (plus Varys putting her into a position to succeed as a queen and a host of lordly advisers to guide her).

However, we don’t get a lot of shots of the 99 percent of Westeros. Mostly we see them being terrorized by Lannister men or walking along the side of the road while The Hound and Arya pass through, or crowding in a marketplace while import characters walk and talk through them. The closest we’ve come to this world is the High Sparrow and his band of religious fanatics who have smashed and beaten and arrested their way through the nobles. In a pretty brilliant scene, even the Queen of Thorns is no match for the Sparrow, who points out that thing I haven’t noticed this whole time: the lords are the few, and the people are many. Arming the Faith Militant was a huge mistake on Cersei’s part because it’s not like she can get the Goldcloaks or the Lannister army to put down the beast she unleashed. She’d be directly attacking the church, which I can assume has a lot of support among the people of Westeros due to their short lifespan, and an incredible amount of financial resources, given the fact that the Sept of Baelor is a gilded monstrosity, according to the Sparrow himself.

By turning the force of the Faith against the crown’s most important ally over some personal grudge, Cersei Lannister might have just ruined the kingdom. Olenna Tyrell says, in no uncertain terms, that she’ll let King’s Landing starve and she’ll make sure that the people know that the High Sparrow is responsible. Meanwhile, Littlefinger gives Olenna some information that she’ll need to help bring down Cersei, and of course, Lancel is there to give testimony as to the peculiar tastes of the former Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.

That final moment, where a screaming Lena Headey swears vengeance on the nuns who take her into captivity and throw her into a jail cell, is a phenomenal moment. Cersei clearly never thinks things through, and she’s more than willing to slaughter everyone wearing a seven-pointed star after this slight, assuming she gets the opportunity. And if that means the small folk all have to get trampled in the conflict, I doubt she cares all that much. She’s clearly off the rails and the moment where she gets her just desserts for springing that trap on the Tyrells while putting her otherwise useless son on the throne. She’s playing right into the hands of Littlefinger and the rest of the conspirators, even if she makes things more complicated for them in the process.

There’s not a lot that goes on in this episode. It seems to mostly build on what already exists, without giving us much new to contemplate. It’s pushing things forward, and it manages to keep a lot of the plots moving, from Sansa’s torment at the hands of the Bastard of Bolton to Jorah’s debut in the fighting pits and his anticlimactic reunion with his Khaleesi. The overhead shot of Maester Aemon’s funeral was a lovely thing from Miguel Sapochnik, as was Peter Vaughan’s wonderful performance of the man’s final moments. The Reek misdirection was also a very clever bit of shooting and composition, giving us the hint that Theon was going to get captured trying to help Sansa rather than simply betray her to Ramsay, and yet, that rug once again is pulled out from under us and Sansa continues to take abuse—albeit now with some sort of sharp implement she palmed while on a walk with her husband.

There’s no doubt Sansa is going to use that corkscrew, and there’s no doubt it’s going to backfire on her, because it’s Sansa, and she can’t really catch a break. Still, she hasn’t given up, and that’s a credit to her willingness to keep fighting even while her only ally has thrown her to the Bolton wolves (temporarily). Her allies among the smallfolk might give her numbers over the Bolton forces holding her captive, but small folk can only do so much without some sort of higher muscle behind them. The hard part is getting the good folks to do something effective to stop the bad.

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