Welcome to our first Glass Candle Dialogue, a new Watchers on the Wall feature in which Maesters Luka & Petra discuss new episodes long-distance —hence the title… get it? It’s a book thing! It’s sort of clever, we swear! There are two main reasons this exists: first and foremost, our benevolent overlord Sue the Fury commanded us to create a new feature, and we are but faithful servants; and secondly, after meeting in Con of Thrones and talking for hours, we just didn’t want to stop. So here we are! Now, let’s get into it.
Luka: So, that was an episode.
Petra: That was an episode, all right. With another cold open, so we knew we were getting something special from the get-go.
Luka: I wasn’t sure we would have a lot to talk about because, you know, no Greyjoys.
Petra: Ok, in the recap at the beginning, when we saw Euron Greyjoy I was like, “Okay, great! I’m definitely going to get my two krakens this episode.” And then we didn’t. But we’re going to get them next week. So it’s fine.
Luka: Of course. And in this episode we got Euron 2.0.
Petra: I thoroughly enjoyed this version of Euron. Pilou Asbæk said in an interview that Euron adapts according to how the people around him want him to behave or what best suits him. We saw that with Jaime and Cersei, though he was still listing his body parts in accordance with whatever someone else in the room was missing.
Luka: I also noticed a tiny detail: he said, “When I was chosen Lord of the Iron Islands…”; He didn’t say “King.” He was being careful not to insult Cersei.
Petra: Ooh. That was smart. He also made it sound like Theon and Yara tried to steal the throne from him, which is partially true. He did win the election. But he skipped over the part where he tried to kill them.
Luka: They did steal the ships but they kind of had to, to survive.
Petra: Yeah, they did what they had to do. But I enjoyed this Euron more. He was funny. Jaime said, “I was slaughtering your own kin” and his response was: “The place was getting crowded.” That’s a villain I can get on board with.
Luka: I want to state for the record that, yes, we have just started this thing and we are already talking about the Greyjoys, but it was my fault.
Petra: That’s true, isn’t it? You brought them up this time. Can I briefly touch on Euron’s much-tweeted costume? Someone compared it to Captain Hook’s outfit on Once Upon A Time. There’s this increasing push for anachronistic costumes on Game of Thrones. I feel like they were fairly “historically” – note the bunny fingers – accurate in seasons 1 – 3 and then Jaime got a haircut. Which I still hate. He started wearing a red leather jacket. Which I also hate. He looks like Prince Arthur on Merlin. And Cersei’s got a black leather dress now which I actually like. It kind of has a different look to it but it’s not medieval. And now we’ve got Euron Greyjoy in his Killian Jones get-up. And I’m thinking, yeah, this is fine for now but it’s gonna really date this show in a few years.
Luka: I don’t know. If all the ironborn dressed that way, I would agree. But it’s a look for this particular character, so I think it works. As long as it’s only for him.
Petra: Fair enough. I guess he was kind of getting his bad boy look on specifically for courting Cersei. He kind of tailors himself – literally – according to who he’s around.
Luka: We’ve see him briefly in the trailers and he wears proper armor in battle. So, it’s not like he’s a fantasy pirate who’s always wearing the cool V-neck jacket.
Petra: He’s not going to be like Ramsay and fight shirtless, showing off his rippling abs.
Luka: I really liked both Arya and Sandor’s arcs. As you yourself pointed out in your Memory Lane for “The Broken Man”, there was some disappointment in the murder of Brother Ray because it brought Sandor back to violence. But I think at the end of “No One” there was a glimpse of a new path — not a pacifistic path like Ray’s but at least a meaningful and less hateful path. But it wasn’t clear; we didn’t see him make a decision, so there was still some concern. But in this episode we see that, though he is more Sandor than Hound, the nickname remains appropriate; he has much more bark, as a defense mechanism, but he isn’t biting anyone anymore, he isn’t harming anyone.
Petra: I thought it was an interesting way to incorporate the Gravedigger moment from A Feast for Crows, in which presumably Sandor has found peace and stays safely on the Quiet Isle. Sandor in the show hasn’t found that sort of closure. But here we see that his experience with Brother Ray really has changed him. He’s not the same man he was in season 4. He is the gravedigger now as we see him literally digging graves for the father and his daughter. It felt oddly reminiscent of a scene in the last Harry Potter book in which Harry digs a grave for Dobby with his own hands, instead of with magic. And I think it’s Ollivander who comments on what that says about Harry’s character. I feel like the same can be said of Sandor taking it upon himself to dig the grave on frozen soil.
Luka: And trying to pray, even if he couldn’t go through with it. Just the fact that he tried to pay his respects was special. I was surprised that he had a vision in the fire, though.
Petra: Yeah, that happened fast. He got in with the Lord of Light really quickly, there.
Luka: It worked just as fast with Stannis at the end of season two. It’s curious that neither Stannis or Sandor were open to it and yet they quickly had a vision. Usually in religion it’s assumed that you must have faith before having these kinds of experiences. You are supposed to believe in it to get something out of it. But in this case, both Stannis and Sandor were really skeptical and yet the Lord of Light —whatever kind of divine entity or force it is— came through anyway. I think this is more D&D than Martin, too.
Petra: I really loved Arya’s scenes, too. I thought that the juxtaposition of Arya’s slaughter in the opening scene with her conversation with the Lannister soldiers was really interesting. She gets to see her would-be victims as human.
Luka: They’re just people. People with families and shitty lives. There was some character rehabilitation work done with Arya and, as I said earlier, Sandor. Maybe “rehabilitation” isn’t the right word but I think we had reason to be worried about Arya. Consider what we’d seen of Arya prior to her meeting with the Lannister soldiers. It was all about killing: killing the Waif; killing Walder; and then killing all the Freys. The last three scenes we’d seen of her had been all about revenge. So it was refreshing and a comforting confirmation of her humanity that she was able to just sit and talk to some Lannisters soldiers. If she really was the true psychopathic murder machine some of us feared, she would have killed them all on sight. The same goes for the Frey woman.
Petra: I had mixed feelings about that, actually. I privately think of Arya as Lady Stoneheart, now. Not literally, of course, but you can’t have a Stark woman wandering around the Riverlands killing Freys and not draw a comparison. So, I’m not sure how I feel about turning her into a righteous avenger in the vein of Dexter from Dexter or Jon Kramer from the Saw franchise. I’ve never liked the idea of mass-murderers who endear themselves to the audience because they only kill the bad guys, that it’s okay when Arya takes a life because she only murders those who deserve it. Particularly when the whole point of Lady Stoneheart in the books is that she’s lost her humanity.
Luka: True, but I don’t think that was the intention here. The show is wisely keeping in mind Arya is Arya. She may have briefly taken on a similar role to Lady Stoneheart but that doesn’t change the fact that we’re following this character. The Arya we know would assassinate those on her list without a second thought, but she wouldn’t murder someone for being tangentially aligned with her enemies — she isn’t a revenge-obsessed zombie. I knew that, but her scene with the Lannisters was a nice confirmation.
Petra: She thought about killing them, though. We saw her looking at their swords.
Luka: Yes, she was tempted.
Petra: And then she tried to refuse food, a gesture of guest right. That was a nice beat.
Luka: The soldier who offered her the rabbit was so pure, so cute. “My mother taught me to be kind to strangers.” They were the most wholesome group of soldiers around.
Petra: Jaime singled out all the cinnamon rolls to send to the Riverlands.
Luka: Even the lighting was much sunnier. There were God rays! It felt like the Shire in The Lord of the Rings. I think this contrast was deliberately done to make us feel on edge. Because, of course, as we mentioned we feared that she may kill them. Maybe we also feared that they were bluffing. She’s a young woman alone in the woods after all, and Game of Thrones is Game of Thrones, so it could have gone really bad, but it didn’t. I loved it! I loved that Arya got to have a genuine innocent moment with these people.
Petra: I think it was also a return to some of the moral ambiguity the show has been edging away from. There’s been this push towards more of a moral binary in recent seasons. Jon Snow vs. Ramsay Bolton, for example. So, it was nice to be reminded that there are good people on both sides of a conflict.
Luka: Exactly, and I don’t think they were there merely to follow through on that theme. Now that the Lannisters are going to war with Daenerys, I think it’s safe to say we’ll see the dragons burning some Lannister redshirts. So, it was a good way to remind us they’re not just cannon fodder. They’re not there because they want to be. They’re an extension of Cersei’s will, but that doesn’t mean they share in Cersei’s culpability.
Petra: We’re going to see Drogon frying each of those soldiers specifically later this season. In detail. We’re going to see Ed Sheeran running away with his hair on fire.
Luka: One can only hope. Anything else about Arya and Sandor?
Petra: I really, really loved it.
Luka: They were my favorite scenes of the episode. Sam in the Citadel too, maybe.
Petra: Ooh, speaking of which —
Luka: What did you think of Jim Broadbent? I was surprised.
Petra: I was surprised at how well he worked. I wasn’t sure how I felt when I heard they’d cast him to play a Maester. I typically associate him with these bumbling characters.
Luka: Professor Slughorn.
Petra: Oh my God. So many Hogwarts references! And I really liked his speech to Sam about the persistence of the human spirit, this notion that people have always believed that the end is just around the corner yet have always managed to persevere through it.
Luka: He has a good point. He happens to be wrong this time, as an apocalypse seems to be coming if it isn’t fought against it, but even if he’s wrong it’s still a really good point.
Petra: It felt oddly hopeful for Game of Thrones.
Luka: Yes. It warmed my heart — this opposite way of thinking to the rest of Westeros. Who would have thought a character in Game of Thrones could say something like “There are too many similarities in these unconnected sources to be pure fabrication.” We’re suddenly in the world of academia and critical thinking. It felt so refreshing!
Luka: What did you think about Cersei and Jaime in their first scene in the map room?
Petra: The first thing I noticed was Jaime seemed surprised by the map… like it was painted overnight or something. I was picturing the old man painting it was young when he started and aged overnight! But to answer your question, I really enjoyed Jaime and Cersei’s conversation and Jaime’s increasing unease at how little sense Cersei’s making.
Luka: I loved that. The moment he really starts to question Cersei’s sanity is when she says Tommen betrayed her. That’s such a twisted way of looking at things. He looks at her like, “What the ever-loving fuck are you talking about?” I believe the tense thread that is their relationship will only continue being strained until it finally snaps.
Petra: A lot of people were expecting him to turn against her as soon as he returned.
Luka: That would have been too fast. When Jaime looked at Cersei that way in her coronation, I think we all knew what will happen, but that doesn’t mean that it has to happen in the first episode. You have to make an arc for the character in the season.
Petra: You have to build up to it. Earn it.
Luka: Jaime can’t abandon her because he doesn’t believe he has anywhere to go; he doesn’t want to kill her because he can’t help loving her; and he doesn’t want to be afraid of her even though he obviously is. Jaime’s trying to check on her sanity. But there’s zero intimacy. They didn’t even get close. I think this may be a controversial opinion, just because their relationship breaks down much quicker in the books, but I love seeing them together. With Jaime always in pain. I may be a sadist, but what can I say — I enjoy Nikolaj’s face contortions, showing Jaime’s absolute, existential, inner pain.
Petra: Agreed. And I like that their relationship is fracturing over more than infidelity, more than Cersei “fucking Lancel and Osmund Kettleblack and Moonboy for all I know.”
Luka: That’s true, but we must take into account that we’re way past the books in this relationship, and I don’t think we’ve seen the end of it there either. A lack of imagination in predictions may be the issue here. At the end of A Dance With Dragons, he goes off with Brienne and whatever will happen with Lady Stoneheart will happen, but I don’t personally think that’s the end of the story for Cersei and Jaime. How this is usually discussed regarding the books is that they broke up, he burnt the letter, and will kill her the next time they see each other. I think that there will be some build up to it. Not as much as in the show, because they want to keep Lena and Nikolaj interacting with each other as much as possible, but some. I don’t think he’ll just show up and shank her.
Petra: Speaking of fraught sibling relationships: Jon and Sansa. I’ve got some strong and probably unpopular opinions. Do you have any thoughts?
Luka: Lots! Unpopular, too, but I don’t know if they’re the same unpopular opinions.
Petra: Let’s hear it!
Luka: I’ll start with something I’ve seen most people say with which I agree: Sansa shouldn’t have publicly challenged Jon’s plan. Fine. I agree with that part. But, equally, Jon should have checked with Sansa and his counselors prior to that meeting, which he obviously didn’t. He was making a final decision right then and there. If he didn’t want to be challenged publicly then he should have checked with Sansa and his other counselors before making such a momentous decision. So, I’m adamant he should have checked with her. I think they both had excellent political points to make but they both failed at proposing them. I don’t know if you agree. What’s your perspective?
Petra: I agree that they both dropped the ball. My main issue with their conflict is that I don’t really know what Sansa’s expectations are. She wishes Jon trusted her more and that she had more authority but, frankly, she doesn’t have any leadership experience. She’s resourceful and she’s smart but she’s never been in charge of other people before. Jon, for all his faults, does have that experience. I get the sense that she envies his authority but with everything else that’s going on, as close to the endgame as we are, Jon and Sansa bickering feels petty, and more than that, contrived.
Luka: When Sansa says, “You’re good at ruling,” I believe she’s telling the truth. She’s with Jon, both rationally and emotionally, but there’s a nagging thought inside of her, which is what Littlefinger’s exploiting. “Are you happy?”, he asks. I think Sansa would feel much better if she was actually recognized as Jon’s right hand. You say that she doesn’t have experience ruling and that’s true. She doesn’t have experience commanding. But she could be a Northern equivalent to a Hand or Master of Whispers, because she has been privy to that way of ruling — the backdoor meetings in court; the King’s Landing way of doing things. As Sansa says, “would it be so terrible to listen to me?” She is the lady of Winterfell, and sister to the king. She’s number two in the hierarchy of Northern royalty and nobility, so in this feudal world she should expect some kind of official position, regardless of experience — which she does have, anyway. All that said, I think their struggle has been blown out of proportion, mostly by interviews in the press. Later, in private, we see that they support each other thoroughly. I think they make that clear.
Petra: That’s true. He accuses her of trying to undermine him and she’s convincingly denies it and reminds him that he needs to be smarter than Ned or Robb, which I liked.
Luka: Yes! I think that some viewers want to paint Sansa as a wannabe usurper manipulated by Littlefinger. But I think they’re ignoring her explicit support of Jon and that she’s keeping Petyr in line — quite deftly, I might add. At the same time, I can understand Jon’s side as well. It’s not that he ignores her. It’s just that he’s focused on what he sees as the immediate threat. For Jon, that’s the Night King. But it also makes perfect sense that, for Sansa, the immediate threat is Cersei.
Petra: They’re both basing their priorities on their own experiences.
Luka: Exactly! Each of them has well-founded reasons to be fixated on their nemesis.
Luka: Have you seen the promo for next episode?
Petra: Oh, yeah.
Luka: You see Lord Royce in Winterfell, rallying against trusting Targaryens, so obviously Jon is making a point about going to Dragonstone, or at least parleying with Daenerys. In relation to the sibling rivalry, I think it’s worth mentioning they will have other things to worry about quite soon. We shouldn’t expect this to be dragged out for long.
Petra: That’s true. The benefit of having fewer episodes this season is that the storytelling has to be tighter. There’s no room for extraneous, petty shit.
Luka: Yes. But there is plenty of room for actual shit. In montage form.