It was a week of disruption on Game of Thrones. All the things we got used to seem to be suddenly and dramatically shifting, which only makes things more interesting. The same brutality that made the show notorious last season (and popped up again last week) is rearing its ugly but captivating head again, and characters are being forced to make daring new choices and face hard new truths. Like “The Ghost of Harrenhal” last week, “The Old Gods and the New” is a plot-heavy whirlwind of an episode with plenty of juicy details to talk about, and plenty of blood to soak your brain in.
WARNING: As always, SPOILERS AHEAD!
In the North, Theon (Alfie Allen) plots a daring strike against the Starks that will leave Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) reeling. In King’s Landing, Cersei (Lena Headey) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) do battle over the pending marriage of Princess Myrcella (Aimee Richardson), and Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) find new dangers in the streets of the capital. In the Stark Camp, Robb (Richard Madden) must deal with new threats to his battle plans even as he pursues a new flame. In Harrenhal, Arya (Maisie Williams) works to use her closeness to Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) to help her family. Beyond the Wall, Jon (Kit Harington) gets more than he bargained for in a Wildling encounter. And in Qarth, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) bargains for ships to cross the Narrow Sea, and finds she has more enemies in this city than she expected.
Each of these characters is dealing with some new disruption in their lives that could mark a profound change. Even if their status quo was a terrible one, each of the people inhabiting this episode was at least in some way getting used to something. As viewers, we were too, but within the first 10 minutes of the episode, with a few swings of a sword, we’re told that we can forget it. This show is not about to let us get comfortable. By the end of this episode a seemingly steadfast castle changes hands, the family in the ivoryest of ivory towers is shaken to their core, a boy who was just learning how to lead is reduced to absolute sorrow and a girl who just got back on her feet is stripped of her steady ground again. It’s brilliant and often breathtaking how fast this show can turn on its axis.
For me, the most interesting thing on screen is still, far and away, the conversations that take place in that small room between Arya and Tywin. They are dialogues of astounding subtlety between one of the most powerful characters in the series right now and one of the least, and in a way they encapsulate all the themes of power that this season has really been about so far. Elsewhere on the acting front, Dinklage doesn’t get much screen time this week, but as always he makes it count.
Like most of Game of Thrones, “The Old Gods and the New” is not an episode that leaves you feeling rosy, but it is an episode that very much leaves you aching for the next hour of the series. David Benioff, D. B. Weiss and company continue to pack this series with compelling moments that exist outside of George R. R. Martin’s novels, but it still feels very much like the Westeros I first fell in love with. Next Sunday cannot get here fast enough.
NEXT WEEK: Episode 7, “A Man Without Honor”