“Kill the Boy” is quite possibly the best season five episode so far. The adviser crisis is really becoming apparent as Daenerys falls desperately short of counselors. Yet, when Jon asks for advice, he is told to lead. Winterfell’s heir apparent, Ramsay, still struggles to live up to his father’s expectations. With Sansa’s wedding to a second psycho looming, forces start to gather to tear her apart while others emerge to protect her. Meanwhile, Jorah and Tyrion’s voyage reveals Drogon’s mysterious hiding place.
This recap contains an extended analysis of Roose and Ramsay’s scenes, which are fantastic in this episode. To me at least, this is world-class writing and acting. The mellifluous tones of actor Michael McElhatton’s voice perfectly suit Roose’s cool calculating mind, as does McElhatton’s subtle, measured performance.
Iwan Rheon is a truly brilliant actor, but is he too likable to play Ramsay?
The newly written scenes play perfectly off the tension between Iwan Rheon’s likeable persona and Ramay’s sinister nature. Despite his sadism, Ramsay is becoming more sympathetic. This episode’s writer (Bryan Cogman) employs Ramsay’s likability to heighten his menace to brilliant effect in a riveting dinner scene that will make you wonder who is Winterfell’s master of the game.
Ser Barristan Selmy is dead, Grey Worm is in critical condition, and Dany wants blood.
Daario advises her to purge the city. Daenerys opts for one of his earlier suggestions of rounding up the leaders of each house.
Daenerys has come to a dangerous place. She urgently needs good advice. In this respect, Dany is an ironic foil to Cersei. Both blonde women desperately need advisors: one of them recognizes this and the other does not.
After Daenerys’ men collect the noble leaders, she descends into to the dragon dungeon to see them. The dragons immolate one of the leaders, and then as he burns they rip him in half and tuck in.
The surviving noble leaders immediately drop to their knees and beg Dany’s forgiveness — except for Hizdahr zo Loraq. Athough he looks terrified, he defiantly tells Daenerys: “Valar morghulis” (“all men must die”).
Grey Worm awakens to find the lovely Missandei keeping a tearful vigil at his bedside. Not only is Grey Worm upset to learn that Barristan died, he is ashamed.
When Grey Worm thought he was going to die, he felt fear – a taboo emotion for an Unsullied. Hetells Missandei was afraid he would never again see her. <sigh> Finally, these are the words Missandei’s been longing to hear. She climbs into bed with Grey Worm and they kiss.
Later, Daenerys asks for Missandei’s advice. Dany is in a bind. She can’t kill all the noble leaders and keep the peace. Although Missandei doesn’t feel worthy to counsel her queen, she does tell Daenerys that sometimes she sees unique solutions where others do not.
Although this is a very sweet scene, has it really come to this for Dany? All of her good counselors – Jorah, Barristan, the slave she executed, and Grey Worm – are gone or dead. Is a translator/handmaiden really Dany’s best source of advice? Good ideas can come from anywhere, but there is no substitute for her other counselor’s political and military expertise. Sadly, the inexperienced Missandei’s advice is likely miles above that of Daario Noharis.
Dany compromises. She will reopen the fighting pits to freemen only, and to forge a lasting bond with the great Meereenese families, she decides to marry Hizdahr zo Loraq.
Jon has clearly been giving some serious thought to how the Night’s Watch will ward off the incoming threat, the White Walkers — and in this episode, he makes some more hard decisions.
The scenes at the Wall begin in the library where Sam reads news of Daenerys to Maester Aemon. Although Daenerys maintains her grip on Slaver’s Bay, she refuses to leave until the freedom of the former slave cities is secure.
Maester Aemon is pained to hear the troubles of his kindred, who is alone and under siege without family to guide or protect her. He laments that her “last relation is thousands of miles away, useless… dying.”
Jon interrupts the scholars to ask for advice from Measter Aemon. Aemon doesn’t even want to know what Jon’s dilemma is. He tells Jon to do what he wants. Jon must lead.
Aemon provides Jon with counsel that defines the episode and the show even: “You will find little joy in your command, but with luck you will find the strength to do what needs to be done. Kill the boy, Jon Snow. Winter is almost upon us. Kill the boy and let the man be born.”
Later on, Jon asks the captive red-bearded Wildling leader Tormund to lead the Wildlings (or, to use the more politically correct term, “Free Folk”) to safety south of the Wall.
Jon wants Tormund to go north of the Wall, gather the remaining Free Folk, and bring them back to Castle Black. Jon will open the gates to them so they can pass to the lands south of the Wall. He also promises the Wildlings lands from the Gift – abandoned lands that were once given to endow the Night’s Watch.
Jon has thought deeply about this oath. He swore to protect the realms of men, all men — including those born on the wrong side of the Wall. When Tormund balks at a peace pact, Jon warns him that he needs to make peace to save his people. Otherwise, he is “condemning [the women and children and elderly] to worse than death because your too proud to make peace.”
Moving so many Wildlings down to the Wall before the White Walkers strike will be tricky. Jon frees Tormund and says he will talk to Stannis about lending Tormund his fleet to transport the people.
Tormund is no fool, however. Getting all the Wildlings in one place could be an easy way for the Night’s Watch to dispense with their age-old enemy, a one-way ticket to the sea bottom. Tormund demands Jon to accompany him North to speak to the Wildlings, so Tormund’s people know this isn’t a trick.
Jon’s plan to let the Wildlings pass through the gates of the Wall is unpopular with the Night’s Watch. The crows cannot forget their history with the Wildlings and their recent battle. After all, Grenn, Pyp, and fifty of their brother’s ashes have barely cooled.
Giving the Wildlings the abandoned villages in the Gift is a bitter pill. The villages are only abandoned because the Wildlings raided them for years.
Jon explains that their choice is learn to live with the Wildlings or add them to the army of the dead. His logic is right, of course, but nobody can look past their feelings to see it. Perhaps the threat, or their tight situation, doesn’t seem real enough.
Even little Olly is upset with Jon for brokering peace with the Wildlings. They burned his village and butchered his family and everyone he ever knew. When Jon explains his decision to Olly, the boy can’t accept it. An icy formality enters Olly’s voice when he takes his leave of Jon.
Stannis finds Sam in the library, and makes small talk with him in the way many nobles in Westeros seem to do — by recalling his experience in war with the person or their kin. In this case, Stannis praises the military prowess of Sam’s father –Randyll Tarley. The king then coolly observes that Sam doesn’t appear to be carved from the same stone.
But, Stannis isn’t there to make small talk. He wants to learn more about how to fight the White Walkers. Thank goodness somebody is paying attention.
Sam explains that you can kill them with dragonglass – also known as obsidian. Stannis finds this odd. The children of the forest, however, hunted with dragonglass.
Sam also tells Stannis that he has seen the army of the dead.
Stannis takes his leave, but he tells Sam to keep reading.
Stannis’ army, with its great war train, winds its way out of Castle Black. Stannis wants to attack Winterfell before winter comes. Before Stannis leaves, however, Jon gets the ships he needs to transport the Wildlings.
Stannis is bringing the queen and the Princess Shireen. Stannis thinks his wife and daughter are in more danger staying with the Night’s Watch, who include killers and rapists in their ranks.
Considering that Stannis is one of the few who believe that people need to prepare to fight the white walkers, it’s a shame that he then decides to leave to fight the Boltons at Winterfell. After all, didn’t Melisandre once persuade him that the War of Five Kings means nothing?
Brienne and Pod
Brienne and Pod have taken up residence in a peasant’s home near Winterfell. Brienne will not accept that Sansa could be better off with the Boltons. She tells Pod, “Sansa is in danger even if she doesn’t realize it.”
Brienne enlists their peasant host to smuggle a message to Sansa.
Later on, Sansa’s servant visits her and gives her some instructions that may prove crucial. If Sansa is ever in trouble, she should light a candle in the highest window of the broken tower. Given the speed with which the message reaches Sansa, and the number of loyal people’s hand through which it must have passed, clearly the North does remember.
Ramsay’s vicious lover Myranda is sulking because she caught Ramsay staring at Sansa. She is also upset because Ramsay has backed out of his promise to marry her.
He tells Myranda that Ramsay Snow promised to marry her, not Ramsay Bolton. His situation has changed. He is no longer a bastard named Snow who can marry whom he pleases. He is the heir to House Bolton. What he wants is no longer the primary consideration. He is furthering a dynasty.
When Myranda attempts to make Ramsay jealous by saying she might marry too, he scoffs. Medieval realities are harsh. To whom he says? She’s the kennel master’s daughter; who would marry her?
When Miranda asks Ramsay if he thinks Sansa is pretty, he admits he does. (“Of course, I do. I’m not blind.”) With this level of honest communication, they seem like any loving couple.
But, then Ramsay threatens to kill or torture Miranda if she keeps boring him with her jealousy. Her reply? She bites his lip, drawing blood. His eyes light up in lustful delight and the scene ends as they have a little rough sex beside the rough stone wall.
Later on, Myranda finds Sansa staring at the broken tower. Hopefully, this is not a bit of foreshadowing.
What happens next is creepy. Myranda blatantly attempts to ingratiate herself to Sansa. “I like your dress,” she says, as though they are equals. (BTW, in a medieval context, this level of familiarity between a commoner and a noble lady is shocking.) Sansa looks uncomfortable, but it is hard to know whether it is the social issues or simply that Sansa knows the phrase “stranger danger.”
And, Sansa should be wary of Myranda. Last season, Myranda dispensed of a pretty rival (presumably) by persuading Ramsay it would be fun to hunt her.
After exchanging pleasantries about needlepoint and mothers, Myranda gives Sansa a bit of a shock. The kennel master’s daughter tells Sansa there is a surprise for her at the end of the kennels – something else to help her remember her days at Winterfell. In the last kennel, Sansa finds Theon, who warns her that she shouldn’t be there.
Myranda’s motives are unclear. Is this stunt simply to destabilize a rival? Is Myranda allying herself with Sansa in case she proves powerful? Did Ramsay put her up to this? One thing is clear: Myranda goes from empathizing with Sansa over her mother’s death to tricking her into seeing something unpleasant. Myranda will not go down without a nasty fight.
Later, while alone with Ramsay, Theon confesses that Sansa saw him in the kennels. Ramsay knows that Theon is holding back information. But, how does Theon know?
To punish Theon, Ramsay commands Theon to kneel and give him his hand. We cower with Theon, waiting for him to be flayed or lose a digit. Then, like the sun emerging from under a cloud, Ramsay absolves him, laying his hand over Theon’s.
What’s interesting about this scene is how Ramsay knew that Theon was withholding information. Surely, Myranda did not act on her own when she showed Sansa Theon’s cage. Would the kennel master’s daughter dare defy her golden ticket that much? It seems unlikely. Either Myranda persuaded Ramsay that it would be fun to unsettle Sansa a little, or Ramsay’s hand silently guided the whole revelation.
It’s a delightful family dinner at the Boltons. Ramsay is so charming to his stepmother Walda (“mother”) and Sansa that it is hard to believe this is same sadist who dis-membered Theon and flayed the Ironborn. But, then tricky and evil Ramsay emerges, and it is hard to know what triggered it, or if Ramsay planned his antics all along.
Ramsay toasts his family and his wedding.
Sansa, however, does not raise her glass.
Kindly Walda attempts to smooth over any awkwardness by showing compassion for Sansa, “It must be hard to be in a strange place.”
Sansa bluntly replies, “This isn’t a strange place. This is my home. It is the people who are strange.”
Since this little bird has flown from King’s Landing, she has become far more self-possessed and aware of her power. Sansa’s the true heir to Winterfell (or so they all believe). She’s the only shot the Boltons have of winning the hearts of the North and legitimizing their tenure, and she knows it.
Ramsay smiles broadly at her, nods and says, “You’re right. It’s the people who are strange.” Is he masking rage at his new bride’s insolence? The next second he calls for more wine, which prompts Theon to emerge from the shadows, and the dinner theater begins.
Ramsay brings up Theon’s massacre of Sansa’s “brothers” and notes he has made Theon pay.
Sansa isn’t stupid though, and she says to Ramsay, “Why are you doing this?”
Ramsay claims it is so Reek can apologize. Perhaps Ramsay is flexing his muscles, subtly showing Sansa how ruthless he can be. Is Ramsay as impetuous as his father claims? Some of Ramsay’s actions seem quite strategic. To the frigid Roose, however, they may seem as uncontrolled as a wild fire.
Ramsay unleashes his coup de grace. Since Theon is Sansa’s closest living kin, he should walk her down the aisle. Yep, that’s just what Sansa wants: the man whom she believes killed her two younger brothers walking her down the aisle as she marries into the family that killed her mother and elder brother.
Throughout all of this, Roose looks less-than-thrilled. He can’t be enjoying this tactless stunt. It’s not his style, and he has warned Ramsay before to be more discreet. Roose says little – until he makes his counterstrike.
He informs Ramsay that Walda is pregnant – something he knows will make his emotionally scarred, newly legitimated heir loose his mind. Just to twist the knife, Roose tells Ramsay that their maester thinks it will be a boy.
Undoubtedly, Ramsay’s mind is racing. What happens with Ramsay’s position? Will he still be the heir if Walda has a boy?
Roose could have announced this threatening event at any point and in any way. Instead, because of Ramsay’s behavior, Roose decides to publicly announce Ramsay’s potential loss of status over dinner –and make Ramsay swallow his anger and vomit up felicitations instead.
Later on, as Ramsay and Roose study the war map by candlelight, they indirectly argue, each discussing what is really upsetting them. Pater Bolton is the puppet master here, and he knows what strings to pull.
Ramsay questions whether Walda is really pregnant, implying disgust with her obesity. Roose obliquely replies: “You disgraced yourself at dinner, parading that creature before the Stark girl1 .”
Ramsay is upset. “You’ve made your position quite clear,” he complains. “I’m your son, until a better alternative comes along.”
Again Roose’s response is oblique, and it’s an ironic replay of Ramsay’s treatment of the kennel master’s daughter. To send Ramsay on an emotional roller coaster, Roose describes the events surrounding Ramsay’s birth.
Ramsay’s mother was a pretty peasant girl who married the miller without Roose’s consent – which, incidentally, was a big no-no in medieval times and apparently in Westeros as well. Roose hung the miller and then raped Ramsay’s mother underneath the swinging corpse of her dead husband.
She showed up a year later with a “squalling” baby. Roose nearly had her whipped (for her insolence presumably) and her child thrown in the river. Then, just as Ramsay would be at his very lowest, he switches tactics – it is not hard to see how Ramsay learned to manage Theon – and makes Ramsay feel incredibly grateful. “But then I looked at you and I saw then what I see now. You are my son.”
Roose wants Ramsay to pull another bunny out of the hat for him again (like Ramsay did with Moat Cailin). Roose employs the same method to motivate his son: play on what Ramsay fears losing the most (his place in his father’s world). This time it may be a ruse though. Is Walda really pregnant, or is this just a tricky ploy to inspire Ramsay?
Roose predicts Stannis will soon attack them and try to capture Winterfell. He then rallies his son to his side. They are in this together; they are partners. “But the North is ours,” Ramsay says. “It’s yours and mine. You’ll help me defeat him?”
Tyrion and Jorah
Jorah still holds Tyrion captive on the skiff. Tyrion is clearly bored out of his skull and can’t stop talking. Worse, he’s drying out. And, Jorah’s unsympathetic to his attempts to get wine.
Jorah has resolutely decided to sail through Valyria. Valyria is the Targaryens’ now-destroyed ancestral homeland. Earthquakes and volcanoes tore the land apart years ago in an event known as the Doom. People are superstitiously afraid to go to Valyria’s still smoldering lands and claim the Doom still rules Valyria.
When they spot the ruins, Tyrion bemoans the knowledge lost when Valyria fell: “How many centuries until we learn how to build cities like this?”
An astonished Tyrion sees a dragon – Drogon — flying overhead.
Stonemen attack the boat. Valyria now functions as some kind of leper-type colony where people with the greyscale are banished and eventually turn into stonemen. (Greyscale calcifies its victims skin and can even harden their insides.)
Don’t let them touch you, Jorah warns.
Tyrion falls out of the skiff.
A hand grabs his leg and tows him down into the depths. The screen goes black. Is Tyrion doomed?
No, he’s not. Jorah must have pulled Tyrion out from the depths. When we see them next, Tyrion and Jorah are on the beach.
The skiff is gone. They have no transit. Jorah says if they can’t get a boat, they will walk to Meereen. (It is not close.) And, worst of all, Jorah now has greyscale on his wrist.
- 35:59 [↩]