Game of Thrones "S5E5 Kill the Boy" - Review: Boy meets Westeros

Game of Thrones "S5E5 Kill the Boy" - Review: Boy meets Westeros
8 out of 10

Kill the Boy – Jon Snow makes the bold but unpopular decision to ally the Night’s Watch with The Wildlings and get them fighting for Stannis. While Stannis himself can no longer wait to ride for Winterfell and battle against the Boltons for rule of the North. In Slaver's Bay, Dany disciplines her subjects following the uprising but may have a more traditional solution to her problems.

At first, this episode’s title feels like a subtext to most of the show’s history, (Bran, Rikkon, Goffrey, Gendry, Mikka.... when isn’t a boy on the kill list?) but instead it turns into an elegant metaphor for coming of age courtesy of Maester Aemon, “Kill the boy and let the man be born”. That to be a man or woman, to take that next step, is less in your actions and more in your acceptance of permanent and often unpleasant change. Childhood dreams and desires are replaced with adult obligations. In their own way, many of the “young adult” characters experience this in some way this week. Staying with the new Lord Commander for starters; although his leap is actually the smallest, his scenes are among the most rewarding. Previous episodes have already addressed him embracing his leadership well. This just sees him get the final nudge towards making a big decision. His brave exchange with Tormund is good as he wins over the big man (even Tormund gets to grow up at the prospect of leadership and greater responsibility) but the following Night’s Watch council session is far more rewarding as so many refuse to bury their grudges against their Wildling foes. The point is reinforced well as even the ever-faithful likes of Tollett and little Ollie speak out against Jon’s wishes, but with understandable reference to the events of last season like the battle of Castle Black. Even for the reasonable men among them, those scars are still too fresh. This really enhances the character realism. Game of Thrones works so well by making even the most extraordinary characters feel ordinary and human with their reactions to events; it should take time and effort to reach any middle ground following 8,000 years of conflict and so it does.

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Finally at the Wall, the surprising encounter between Stannis and Sam is an unexpected highlight of the episode. The most lovable thing about Stannis is the way he only gives his respect to those who deserve it rather than those who demand or desire it of him. This has never been shown better than as he assesses Sam, the most unlikely of cases who’s spent most of his life being called every kind of useless, but Stannis sees the value in him and his actions. His words about Sam’s father and family are a nice touch too, and his departing blessing of “keep reading Samwell Tarley” carries all the subtext of an embracing hug and a thank you. Arguably, Sam’s had plenty of “becoming a man” moments already but this finally sees to boy being discarded as his purpose and value is acknowledged.

Further south in Winterfell, Ramsay Bolton nearly makes his own more blunt interpretation of “Kill the Boy” when his father delivers some good family news. Sansa’s smile at Ramsay’s shock is a delightful picture, having just been on the receiving end of our sense of humour (just when she thought Joffrey was the worst person to give her away!). Ramsey’s coming of age centres around his dutiful marriage to Sansa rather than his past and present sexual playmate, Myranda. What looked like a straight forward jealousy plotline becomes much more interesting as we learn Myranda’s side of the story:" How that even in marriage, Ramsay will not give her up as a play thing at the clear threat of his most violent and cruel tendencies (“Jealousy bores me, you remember what happens to people who bore me”). Suddenly this forms an outstanding comparison to Sansa’s time in King's Landing. In his own way, Ramsay treats and objectifies Miranda just as Joffrey did to Sansa. They were set to marry, before diplomatic circumstances changed, but he still abuses her however it pleases him even with his bed made elsewhere. Even if Myranda wishes Sansa will, we can’t hate her, which makes Ramsay appear as the focal villain. The same of his continued Theon/Reek emotional torturing; even his treacherous father seems honourable by comparison, pointing all negativity towards his big grinning face that all of a sudden feels like death is hanging over it. The question just becomes who will get the honours? Hopefully it will be Theon/Reek as a point of character redemption? Perhaps it’ll be Sansa or Myranda in vengeance and defiance of him? Or even Brienne should her nearly established Bat Signal be lit? The one very big problem with the Winterfell scenes is Fat Walda/Lady Bolton. We know Roose didn’t marry her for her personality but if we have to keep seeing her every week, it would be nice if she had one.

In Meeren, the story efficiently deals with last week’s cliff hanger with Barristan and Grey Worm on the edge of death. The result may cause book fans uproar but what doesn’t these days? Of all the growing up themes, Dany’s takes the longest to complete. There are some great notions elsewhere to her being lost and alone as her available council (and more importantly good council) grows ever smaller. Her immediate actions link in well to the previous allusions of her becoming more like her father than she’d like. Indeed, her fire induced punishments could almost label her as “The Mad Queen” but the positioning of Hizdar just keeps her from tipping over the edge. He himself must be viewed ever more suspiciously as whatever ill happens, he seems to profit from it eventually, with this week being no exception.  Visually the dragon cave set piece is stunning with the typical high effects standards we’ve come to expect from the show. As for Tyrion and Jorah’s buddy sailing adventure, there’s a lot to enjoy from their scenes. Book fans will rejoice as they incorporate at least part of the much omitted Young Griff storyline. For the 3rd time this season, we get to see an exciting new location; in this case, the much talked about doomed old Valyria. The ruins literally the river banks provide some great scenery and the whole area feels reflective of Gareth Edwards' 2010 film Monsters, with its modern ruin-laden river journey in the Infected Zone. Finally, their stone-faced ambushers provide the episode’s only real action but it more than satisfies. Even with two main characters, director Jeremy Podeswa gives the feel of panic and peril as camera moves uneasily with the boat.

Kill the Boy is a more unusual episode that really serves to highlight how well the cast and producers deliver it. Save the end, few minutes it’s absent of dramatic plot twists and by its own standards ,contains merely the bare essentials in bloody violence and “bare essentials” moments. By all expectations it shouldn’t be anywhere near as entertaining as it actually is but nearly every scene enthrals purely by showing a great handling of its characters. The halfway point typically concludes the season’s setup before the big events roll in through the business end. If a quieter episode is this good, then Game of Thrones certainly has more up its sleeves than Jorah this season.

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