Hello, friends and bannermen. Game of Thrones' latest episode totally blew our minds by its unpredictability. How did it match up with the books? How did it differ? (Hint: Greatly!)
This weekly chat series is for fans of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books, upon which HBO's fantasy drama is based. It's meant to be a safe haven to discuss spoilers and changes from the novels and how they have played out or will play out in the TV series. Hanh Nguyen and Sadie Gennis are longtime fantasy fans of varying levels of geekiness who will sound off on all things Westerosi (and beyond!).
[Warning: If you're a Game of Thrones fan who has stumbled upon this chat and haven't read the books yet, begone! Instead, check out our recap for "Oathkeeper" for a spoiler-free discussion.]
Sadie: I'd just like to start this off by saying WHAT. THE. FRAK?!?!
Hanh: Haha! I know! There wasn't just one, but two HUGE moments for us book readers to go nuts over. It was a game-changer. Or should I say, Game of Thrones-changer?
Sadie: I don't even know where to start. Actually, yes I do. Baby wight walkers. The idea of which is really making my head spin. I thought wights were always just dead creatures who were reanimated, but this puts a whole new mythological and supernatural layer to it.
Hanh: Ooh yeah, well, let's slow down and get this straight. There are wights, which are zombie-like reanimated dead that can be killed with fire, like the one that attacked Jon Snow. Then there are White Walkers, which is what the books call The Others that create the wights. They're actually a race of beings, but I guess they don't procreate the usual way, which is why we saw the baby get the blue-eyed treatment.
Sadie: True, I always just sort of mash them together as being two subsets from the same general species.
Hanh: Yeah, it doesn't help that "wight" and "white" are homophones either. White Walkers can be hurt by dragonglass/obsidian, right? So that's why they'll need Stannis, assuming they do that plot.
Sadie: We never got a real glimpse at the White Walkers outside of battles before, so this was a lot of fun for me to see. They have a whole culture and ritual system all their own, which actually made them much more sympathetic than in the books, where they're just faceless monster-types on corpse horses.
Hanh: Yes, it was totally exhilarating to see what happened after the babies were taken and that ritual at the altar. It definitely gives more credence to this theory about The Others. Do we think that dude was the Great Other? He kind of had a bumpy crown forehead.
Sadie: I was thinking the same thing!
Hanh: And if that's a baby White Walker, are they all sort of grown that way? Are there all only boys being sacrificed? Any girls? Where's my Smurfette White Walker? Too many questions!
Sadie: I'm only guessing, but I think either gender can be sacrificed, but since pervy old Craster only sacrificed boys to keep his incestuous harem alive. And before this I had always assumed White Walkers didn't age in a human way, but I guess I was wrong. I wonder what George R.R. Martin thinks of this and if it's in line with his ideas. Since the last few scenes deviated so far from the books, there's a huge chance it does come from GRRM's thoughts, as well.
Hanh: Right, methinks he must have clued in Dan and Dave about some of this. Going off book is one thing if they know the end game, but creating mythology would be too blasphemous. He must have given them info. I also wonder if any of these White Walkers maintain any vestige of memory or humanity in them. So many of them would be Craster crazy!
Game of Thrones' Kristian Nairn answers questions Hodor-style
Sadie: Did we just get our first Book 6 spoiler?
Hanh: Yes! I think so. I feel like I'm on speed. Learning this has reenergized me, like those chapters (crumbs) GRRM has been releasing.
Sadie: They seemed so human! And if Coldhands is a White Walker, they really might not be the big bads Melisandre thinks they are. (I'm also just opposed to anything Melisandre thinks.)
Hanh: She has some effed-up thoughts in general, starting with human sacrifice and Stannis being Azor Ahai. I am still waiting for Coldhands, which is a good segue to Bran. Talk about your off-book moves!
Sadie: My heart broke when poor Hodor was being tortured like that. But luckily, we know that Jon is on the way! I can't believe we might actually see a Stark reunion.
Hanh: Yes, this was a pretty smart move on the show's part. Instead of having Jon in jail for a long time, having him out and about meeting Bran is so much more interesting. The producers did promise us that characters who didn't meet in the books would encounter each other in the series this season. I thought that would be Arya and Brienne, but perhaps it's Bran and Jon. (Or both?) Even if Bran and Jon do reunite, they'll have to split at some point: Jon to defend the wall, Bran to get his learning on.
Sadie: It was a smart move on the show's part, but a terrible move by Thorne. By sending Jon out to Craster's, he's only going to win more men over. It's really lucky for the Night's Watch that Thorne is such an idiot, because they really do need a leader like Jon right now, and Thorne pretty much just handed him the keys. This also saves us from having to watch two separate attacks on the Wall, which would be fun and gory, but also a tad repetitive.
Hanh: Right. I figured they'd combine that siege with the Thenns and mammoths (yay!) with the other one, which means Ygritte gets to live a bit longer. I hope that when they do the choosing for Lord Commander, there is actually a crow that says Snow.
Sadie: Oh, there has to be. It is such a little thing, but also so important to his appointment. I really just can't wait to see Jon's face get all flustered and blushed under that beard of his. Can we talk about one of my other favorite things that happened this episode that wasn't in the book? Olenna Tyrell's advice to Margaery! She basically just told her granddaughter to f--- her way into power. Thank God they aged up Tommen! Though, she does seem to be taking things slow.
Hanh: Right, I was kind of skeezed out by that, but I'm hoping it's just that she'll wind him around her finger like with a schoolboy crush and nothing more. Also, the best thing about that scene: SER POUNCE!!!!
Sadie: Best cameo ever!!!!
Hanh: When I heard Tommen say Ser Pounce's name, I cheered. It totally makes sense that Margaery didn't give him kittens, but I'm glad they kept one name. I hope he comes back.
Sadie: Agreed. And is it weird that I actually think Margaery and Tommen, if allowed to rule without Cersei's influence, would be really great together? I totally ship them in a non-get-it-on way
Hanh: Yes, she's savvy, and he's kind. As political marriages go, that's not a bad combo. I have to say the ick factor in that scene may have just been magnified because we also got Littlefinger in another scene stroking Sansa's arm and telling her he wants "everything." Margaery's intentions I feel can still be pure, if seductive in an innocent way. I do not trust Littlefinger.
Sadie: I actually became physically uncomfortable when he touched Sansa's arm like that. But at the same time I'm glad they aren't toning down the pedo-perv in him. It was also so much fun to see him take on such a mentoring role with Sansa. Like, he's a total creep, but if I were playing the game of thrones there is no one I'd rather have teach me the rules.
Hanh: Aidan Gillen is an awesome creeper! And she's smart. I liked hearing her work things out in her mind, sort of that Socratic method going on.
Sadie: This was definitely the beginning of Sansa dropping her ingenue act and showing people how smart she is.
Hanh: I think being away from King's Landing is going to be such a relief to her that we'll see different sides to her. The worst of the episode though was all of that debauchery and mistreatment of Craster's women by Karl & Co. I mean, it's true to the novels and is meant to be completely vile, so mission accomplished. But it was so extreme! And I did not like him fondling Meera's curly hair.
Sadie: Having gratuitous sex is one thing (not that I'm condoning it), but having gratuitous rape is really unforgivable for me — especially after last week (which conveniently was narratively dropped). Even just when Karl was talking, you saw women being sexually assaulted in the background. It was really too much for me to handle. I get that it's supposed to be "bad" and all, but it was really unnecessary in my opinion.
Hanh: There was definitely way too much of it. But I wonder if they're going to let the women fight back later on this season because it just seemed so heavy-handed otherwise.
Sadie: Honestly, after the character assassination that happened with Jaime last week, I don't trust the producers to handle rape with anything but a heavy hand. It's sort of par for the course at this point.
Hanh: Rewinding to the top of the episode, I did very much enjoy that we got to hear the former slaves Missandei and Grey Worm tell their stories. That was something that was always missing for me from the novels. It's great and all that Dany is such an emancipator, but we only had Missandei's story because she was a little girl in the books.
Sadie: Yes! I was so relieved to have them expand that story from being just another white savior tale. And to see the former slaves take their fates in their own hands and emancipate themselves was really wonderful. Although, I could do without Dany nailing up the 163 masters. I tend to side with Selmy on the issue of mercy over justice.
Hanh: Agreed. I totally get that she has to show strength, but to be as cruel as those masters makes me feel there might be too much of that bad Targaryen blood in her. But let's move this back to King's Landing. We're both happy with Brienne's three gifts, yes?
Sadie: Pod's face when he was presented mirrored mine exactly here.
Hanh: Tee hee.
Sadie: I'm really glad they got the two of them together immediately, rather than draw it out. I really can't wait for their buddy roadtrip to start.
Hanh: There's nothing more amusing than Brienne being annoyed. This will be good for her though. She'll actually have someone respect and listen to her.
Sadie: It was very odd seeing her cry at saying goodbye to Jaime, though. She's always so tough in the books and keeps her emotions hidden, so I never expected such a damsel-esque farewell.
Hanh: There is something about making these characters flesh and blood that can make them more sympathetic. There are definitely times when you feel GRRM is seeing things more from a god's-eye view, whereas here, we feel more. On the flip side of that is why the horrors are so much more powerful to see such as poor Hodor. He has to be saved, right?
Sadie: He has to be! If anything bad happens to him — well, I won't quit watching, but I'll be very, very sad!
Hanh: Hodor! (translation: I agree!) Let's see what our readers thought of the deviations and new info in the episode.
What are your theories about where this is going? Did you enjoy the deviations from the book, or are you purists when it comes to the source material? Want to relive the White Walker baby christening again? Re-watch "Oathbreaker" here.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.