***Contains spoilers for Game of Thrones***
Farewell, Charles Dance. Yes, the little shit shot Lannister père on the can before sailing away in a crate (one can almost hear the keyboards of Freudian acolytes clattering away). This was the climax of the Game of Thrones (HBO/Sky Atlantic) season finale and we can only presume that the downward spiral of Tyrion’s tailspin is far from its presumably fiery impact. As scenes go, it probably could’ve had more impact of its own: Tywin (Dance) didn’t seem particularly shocked by that first crossbow bolt, and the disavowal of his son lacked the proper intonation of his customary malicious indifference. That being said, it had to happen – what with Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) listing all the names for murder two episodes ago – and now we can move on: I expect, next year, to see a flock – or murder, if you will – of new characters prowling, skulking and, of course, sulking around Westeros and Essos, one of whom had better be a better villain than either Roose or Ramsey Bolton.
Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) also sailed away, but you’d have to be a fool to be tricked by the hopeful overtones of her departure and seaward gazing. No hope, that’s the message of this programme and part of the franchise’s proud realism – but is that also a trick? In the real world, even in wartime, people are, thankfully, not so eager to kill each other. Hence, on screen, it was perfectly natural for Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and The Hound (Rory McCann) to have a grizzly brawl. As I gather this scene did not come from the books, one supposes it was usefully crowbarred in to give all parties concerned something to do, and meet the minimum requirements for sword fighting and groin kicking. I enjoyed their squaring up as a true ‘Sopranos with swords’ moment because the threat of violence – a field in which Tony Soprano yields to no man – is always more thrilling than actual event (putting aside what this writer might’ve said about Mountain vs. Viper a couple of weeks ago…). But I will miss the blunt charm of McCann’s Sandor and dearly hope that he somehow makes a recovery akin to his brother, Gregor 2.0.
Death was everywhere in this episode: skeletal assailants literally popped up to hack down Bran & Co. (and huzzah for Jojen’s death! – one less kid to care about); bodies were burnt in the North; and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) – she of the thousand names (and I should like to add ‘Gelfling’ to that list) – figuratively buried the free-spirited nature of her dragons. One can only assume that the CGI budget was blown in the previous episode, what with Mag the Mighty (yes, Stan Lee would be proud), to explain why we didn’t get to see Drogon incinerate a child – or did the showrunners not have the stomach? All children must die!
The only thing missing was Charles Dance doing a soft-shoe musical number à la Bert Cooper in Mad Men – but, no, no, that’s just a wheeze. Game of Thrones succeeded as it always does, as pure knock-down, drag-out Grand Guignol ham entertainment.
Inevitably, some people will begin to miss the egos of the Westeros power players and yearn for exposure to the lowest forms of human behaviour, if this is you then look no further than this summer’s Big Brother: Power Trip (Channel 5). The level of self absorption abounding in these lunatics makes Cercei Lannister look like a recklessly-generous organ donor. I won’t name names because, well, who cares?, and there’s really no difference betwixt man or woman. It’s loathsome alright, so why can’t I stop watching? Despair, and die!