Game of Thrones: Episode 5 reviewed

There’s nothing more dangerous than a totalitarian do-gooder, says James Delingpole

“Evil men don’t get up in the morning saying ‘I’m going to do evil.’ They say ‘I’m going to make the world a better place” – Christopher Booker

Well we always knew Daenerys was a wrong ‘un. I certainly did. If you listen to old episodes of the Thrones cast I do with Toby Young, you’ll often hear me grumbling what a ghastly liberal fascist the Mother of Dragons is: so priggishly high-minded and earnest and sure that she knows what’s best for the people, like totalitarian do-gooders everywhere. Sometimes Thrones can be a bit too woke for my tastes but the politics in this one were so splendiferously un-PC I feel I could almost have written the episode myself.

What did we learn?

1. That women are unstable, extremely dangerous when crossed and in no wise to be trusted with untrammelled power. If that Iron Throne doesn’t have a man’s name on it then the Seven Kingdoms will never enjoy peace.

2. When you ask them what’s wrong and they say “nothing” – or just go all sulky and quiet like Dany did when Jon Snow indicated he no longer fancies her – be afraid, be very afraid.

3. In such circumstances, try gently to slip a foot spa, a box of chocolates and an Adele box set under their bedroom door. Do not let them anywhere near their pet dragon. Once she has mounted her dragon, that’s it. You are a toast.

4. Communism is bad too. I forget the line exactly because I was too lazy to jot it down, but Daenerys said something about how she really didn’t mind slaughtering all the innocents at King’s Landing if it meant peace and justice for ‘future generations.’ This is the essence of Marxism: any amount of suffering – eggs broken – in the present is excusable in order to attain the golden omelette of equality at the end. Very glad that my daughter interrupted her A level history revision to have this key message reinforced.

What went wrong?

I’m being quite generous here, though. You’ve probably seen some of the memes going round, like the one of a drawing of a horse representing Thrones through all 8 seasons: at the beginning it is beautifully, accurately drawn with its musculature delineated and the shading perfectly done; by the end it looks like something a three year old might draw. Yep – it’s funny because it’s true.

One theory about Thrones’s decline, I read on Twitter, has to do with “plotters” versus “pantsers.” These represent the two differing approaches to writing a screenplay (or epic fantasy series). Plotters are mainly concerned with the mechanics of plot and treat characters more like wooden chess pieces than plausible humans. Pantsers – of which George RR Martin is one – fly by the seat of their pants, letting their plots grow organically as their characters decide, making their narrative delightfully unpredictable and rich – but also making it much more likely it’s never, ever going to get finished. According to this theory early Thrones is pantser; later Thrones – inevitably, because the showrunners have got to wrap it up somehow – is plotter.

Everything about Thrones now feels perfunctory, like everyone’s going through the motions. “Is it my turn to die yet?” you can almost hear each main character saying. “Righty ho!” Then we viewers sit there, mentally grading out of ten, how satisfyingly grisly/heroic their final scene is. Euron? Disappointing. 4/10 – I wanted him impaled, anally, by the giant arrow from one of his scorpion ballistas, not killed in a pointless fight with Jaime. Jaime and Cersei. 5/10 Not even sure they’re actually dead. But if they do come out alive from beneath all that rubble it will be very silly, won’t it? Hound and the Mountain. 8/10, redeemed by that final tumble into the flames.

But I’m not blaming the director for this. Visually, I thought Miguel Sapochnik did a fantastic job. It’s probably the best depiction of the sacking of a city there has ever been on film. His fight scenes were the opposite of the murky, impressionistic clashes which mildly disappointed in the Battle of Winterfell episode: here you saw every slash, every severed limb, every blackened corpse of a mother clutching her child.

Did anyone expect the final big battle to take place in the penultimate episode? I didn’t. Nor, frankly, did I expect Cersei to go down in the end with such a whimper. Dunno where that leaves us for the finale. I suppose Jon Snow will have, somehow, to kill the woman he once loved. And we’ll all feel quite sad, not so much for Dany – who would certainly have voted Remain – but more for ourselves that a show that was so much part of our lives for so many years has finally gone the way of all flesh.


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