PA­TRICK FREYNE

Are too many ran­dom deaths, and the abil­ity to shrug them off, scup­per­ing Game of Thrones?

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The last se­ries of Game of Thrones (Mon­day, Sky At­lantic) ended with the shock­ing sight of (spoiler alert) Jon Snow ly­ing dead in the snow. Oh dear, how will he ever (spoiler alert) grow up to be­come the Channel 4 news­reader we know and love if he’s got loads of holes in him?

Last week’s episode ended with the shock­ing rev­e­la­tion that old peo­ple are some­times naked too. It turned out that Melisan­dre aka Witchy­poo is ac­tu­ally a very old per­son wear­ing the glam­our of youth. This is, of course, a well-worn fan­tasy trope. Only in Game of

Thrones would they throw in the ex­tra bonus of gra­tu­itous nu­dity.

Any­way, the mur­der­ous pol­i­tics of Game of Thrones are now pretty com­pli­cated and it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore the an­i­mated ge­og­ra­phy-spanning credit se­quence and “pre­vi­ously” clips are longer than the ac­tual show.

This episode be­gins with Bran, who was ab­sent through­out the last sea­son. He turns up as a nearly grown man hal­lu­ci­nat­ing un­der a tree with some hip­pies. It’s how a lot of peo­ple spend their teens, to be fair. Bran hal­lu­ci­nates his own fa­ther’s past (back when his fa­ther had a head) and sees that his lin­guis­ti­cally-lim­ited, piggy-back dis­penser, Hodor, was once a talk­a­tive young­ster called “Wil­lis”. No way. “Whatchoo talkin’ about Wil­lis?” I shout at the screen (as do, I dis­cover later, half of the peo­ple on the in­ter­net).

Then Bran’s friend Meera, stand­ing in for the viewer, sulk­ily laments that noth­ing much else is hap­pen­ing with this sub­plot. An­other char­ac­ter prom­ises that awe­some stuff will hap­pen in fu­ture episodes, hon­est, and that’s that (there’s quite a bit of place-hold­ing so far this sea­son).

Else­where Ramsay Bolton is hav­ing a bad day be­cause Theon and Sansa, whom he en­joyed bru­tal­is­ing, have run away with the help of Bri­enne (the lady knight) and Pod (not the for­mer Dublin club). Now there’s a chance he won’t get to rule the north. He is not happy. He is a typ­i­cal only child, re­ally. He has a tantrum on dis­cov­er­ing his fa­ther, Roose Bolton, is hav­ing a new baby. Sadly Roose has been read­ing books of mil­i­tary tac­tics in­stead of par­ent­ing man­u­als and so is blind­sided when Ramsay vi­o­lently stabs him to death. “How could I have fore­seen that my amoral, psy­cho­pathic son who en­joys tor­tur­ing peo­ple, might some­day turn on me?” screams Roose (or some­thing to that ef­fect). Then Ramsay has some vi­cious dogs eat his step­mother and in­fant brother.

Clas­sic Ramsay

Ramsay is the new Jof­frey, a char­ac­ter so evil that an in­ces­tu­ous, child-mur­der­ing rapist like Jaime Lan­nis­ter seems pos­i­tively Han-Soloesque by com­par­i­son. Of course, our views on Ramsay may change. Game of Thrones spe­cialises in un­ex­pect­edly al­ly­ing ne­far­i­ous bad­dies with beloved char­ac­ters. Pre­vi­ous hate fig­ures such as trai­tor­ous Theon, the brutish Hound and the afore­men­tioned Jaime can, a few atroc­i­ties later, be­come side­kicks for char­ac­ters we love, such as Sansa, Arya and Bri­enne. Be­fore long Ramsay will be best chums with Hodor and we’ll re­alise that, a few in­fan­ti­cides not­with­stand­ing, he’s quite nice.

Ramsay is not the only per­son in the north mur­der­ing for fun and profit. Though if I was a Wes­te­rian in­ter­ested in profit, I’d forgo killing and be­come a fam­ily ther­a­pist. On the Iron is­lands, Balon Greyjoy finds him­self be­ing flung from the flimsy rope bridge that leads to his cas­tle by his own brother. “I should have known that walk­ing across this bridge in a storm was a health and safety risk from the very start,” screams a plum­met­ing Balon (or some­thing to that ef­fect).

His fam­ily seem pretty sto­ical about it. Bloody mur­der is just how new chief­tains are cre­ated in Wes­teros. I’m pretty blasé about it too. It might seem more bru­tal to me if I didn’t live in a pro­por­tion­ally rep­re­sen­ta­tive multi-seat sys­tem. Al­though, it’s also pos­si­ble that un­ex­pected ran­dom death just isn’t do­ing it for me any more. In the early sea­sons of Game of Thrones the con­tin­u­ous in­sta­bil­ity had a dark, ex­cit­ing en­ergy to it. Af­ter a while, con­stant tu­mul­tuous change and death gets mo­not­o­nous and (whis­per it) bor­ing.

Bro­man­tic fren­e­mies Varys and Tyrion know what I’m talk­ing about. Over in the city state of Meereen they’re try­ing to keep or­der in the ab­sence of Daen­erys Tar­garyen, the First of Her Name, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the An­dals and the Rhoy­nar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven King­doms, Pro­tec­tor of the Realm, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, called Daen­erys Storm­born, the Un­burnt, Mother of Dragons (and you thought dou­ble-bar­relled sur­names were pre­ten­tious), who is off be­ing held pris­oner by a Dothraki horde (ba­si­cally the band Sys­tem of a Down on horse­back).

They’re learn­ing that regime change is more dif­fi­cult than it ap­pears. Their war fleet has been de­stroyed by an elu­sive in­sur­gency and many of the peo­ple are hun­gry and/or an­noyed. Tyrion de­cides on a pol­icy change – not “cre­ate a san­i­ta­tion sys­tem” or “form a rudi­men­tary so­cial wel­fare net”, but “un­chain the dragons”. He goes down to the dun­geon to do just this, only to find, to his sur­prise, that they don’t eat him. This means, I think, that at some point in the fu­ture we’re go­ing to see Tyrion rid­ing a dragon.

That will be amaz­ing. But it prob­a­bly won’t hap­pen un­til sea­son 12.

Boaty McBoat­face

Any­way, we’re run­ning low on he­roes. So Davos Sea­wor­thy (Davos is a sailor with a very lit­eral name – it was this or Den­nis Boat­good), who is now in league with a bunch of “Wildlings” from over the wall (an­gry hip­pies), vis­its se­cret nude old per­son Melisan­dre. “Melisan­dre, could you have a go at con­ve­niently res­ur­rect­ing Jon Snow from the dead? He’s fierce hunky and I’ve never heard of res­ur­rect­ing peo­ple from the dead back­fir­ing in any way,” says Davos (or some­thing to that ef­fect).

So Melisan­dre goes and ut­ters for­eign in­can­ta­tions over Jon’s near-naked corpse (learn­ing a lan­guage is a good way to get a job in a multi­na­tional call cen­tre or as a necro­man­tic witch).

It ap­pears not to work. Melisan­dre and Davos look sad and leave the room. But then . . . drum­roll/spoiler alert . . . Jon Snow leaps up with a start and be­gins to read the news.

Un­ex­pected ran­dom death just isn’t do­ing it for me any more. In the early Game of Thrones, the con­tin­u­ous in­sta­bil­ity had a dark, ex­cit­ing en­ergy to it

In to­day’s head­lines: Jon Snow (Kit Har­ing­ton)

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