Enter: Valyria! Exit, Mormont?

By Darren Franich and Hillary Busis
Updated May 12, 2015 at 12:00 PM EDT
Helen Sloan/courtesy of HBO

Game of Thrones

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Welcome back to the Game of Thrones TV Book Club, a discussion space for Thrones viewers who have also read the five books (so far) of George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. This week, Hillary Busis and Darren Franich talk about “Kill the Boy,” an episode which had a special focus on various not-in-the-book developments in the North—not to mention a very special field trip to a key location that’s only been referenced by Martin. Be sure to check out the recap of the episode by Thronesmeister James Hibberd, and then join us as the venture into the narrative borderlands of A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons, and beyond. (You know there’ll be spoilers for both the books and the show, right?)

HILLARY: I know we say this every week, Frandana, but this time, it really seems like it’d be a lot quicker for us to list similarities between ASOIAF and “Kill the Boy” than it would be to itemize the various differences between the two. Where, then, do we even begin?

How about with the episode’s ending—a showcase scene that takes us into the ruins of Valyria, where no book character has yet ventured? It mimics Tyrion’s encounter with Stone Men in the Rhoyne… only this time, it’s Jorah Mormont who ends up with a case of early-stage Greyscale. Did you see this change coming, given all the Greyscale foreshadowing we’ve gotten so far this season—and are you worried that he, like Barristan, may meet a nasty not-in-the-books fate before the end of the season? Also: HOW COOL IS VALYRIA?!

DARREN: All-time top-five Hall of Fame Cool, Hillzapop. Game of Thrones might be the most expensive TV show in the history of financial investment, but it’s still a TV show—which means that it can’t necessarily indulge in massive sets and ultramassive CGI. Which can be a good thing! (If the choice is between all the helicopter shots in Hobbit 3 and any scene on Thrones where Cersei swills some wine while plotting a Small Council takeover, I’ll take Cersei.) But I loved how the Valyrian scene really tapped into the insane far-flung history of GRRM’s world. It’s a nice reminder that, in a weird way, the world of “Thrones” is post-apocalyptic—or maybe post-post-post-apocalyptic. (I love when Tyrion asks Jorah: “How many centuries before we learn how to build cities like this again?”)

I have to say, I am quite taken with the Jorah-Tyrion pairing. It’s like the Westerosi version of 48 Hours, with Jorah as the frowny-faced Nolte to Tyrion’s imprisoned-hilarious Murphy. Do you think that we’re building to a Jorah death scene, Hillary? Or are we building to actor Iain Glen spending the last few seasons in the makeup trailer getting Greyscale-d?

HILLARY: So here’s my thing about the Stone Men: I’d forgotten that even as written in ASOIAF, they’re basically the Essosi version of Wights, i.e. once-normal people transformed into mindless zombies through science or magic. Greyscale itself is a neat idea, but I’m not thrilled about Jorah’s infection mostly because I think it’s leading to a widespread Greyscale epidemic that hits Meereen thanks to Jorah and Tyrion. Which, granted, would definitely be more cinematic than watching a bunch of extras dying of excessive diarrhea, as they do in the books—but we already have ice zombies, you know? Do we need concrete ones too?

DARREN: Little-known fact: GRRM’s original title for the saga was “A Song of Ice Zombies and Concrete Zombies.” Greyscale is practically this season’s central character. I was a little intrigued to see how the show mixed in the Rhoyne stuff—and also intrigued that TV Tyrion appears to have completely dodged the disease. (In A Dance with Dragons, Book Tyrion straight-up takes a bath in the Greyscale river, although thus far he seems to have eluded infection.)

To be honest, I don’t think enough epidemics can hit Meereen at this point. Last night’s episode spent a lot of time up North, explicitly setting up a showdown that I am EXTREMELY excited for—which makes it harder and harder to get invested in all the antics in Slaver’s Bay. Like, I think I’m currently more invested in Ramsay Bolton than Daenerys Targaryen. Call me crazy?

HILLARY: Not at all! I am 100 percent with you, even if that Ramsay/Myranda sex scene kinda made me want to flay my TV. I love how the show isn’t even bothering to be subtle about the rumblings of mutiny up North; I love the new wrinkle of Walda’s pregnancy, which makes Sansa’s position even more precarious than it already was; I love the whole spectrum of emotions we see from Sansa and Theon when they encounter each other again for the first time, horror and anguish and fury and pity all at once. (It was kind of the “previously on GoT” montage to remind us that as far as Sansa knows, her brothers died at Theon’s hand; I wonder how many Unsullied viewers remembered that detail? Season 2 seems like it aired a century ago.)

Mark this as the episode that really, truly sold me on bringing Sansa to Winterfell. The dramatic possibilities of betrothing an actual Stark to Ramsay are just so much juicier, enough that I daresay while Martin’s plot is more intricate and plausible, the show’s version is more gripping. Gasp… did I just say that out loud?

DARREN: The best argument in favor of the Season of Changes is everything happening in North. Like, here is the five-ring circus that the show has created: A quietly vengeful Stark girl is marrying into the Boltons, who killed half of her family; her only potential ally on the inside is Theon, a psychologically brutalized eunuch who apparently killed the OTHER half of her family; plans for a wedding might have to be put on hold due to the army marching from the wall; that army is being led by Stannis Baratheon—and Sansa’s only potential ally on the outside is Brienne of Tarth, who has sworn to protect Sansa BUT HAS ALSO sworn to kill Stannis. And did I mention the Kennel Master’s Daughter?

I enjoy how disparate the North becomes in the books—Asha Greyjoy!—but you have to admire how the show has managed to link together so many disparate threads, right back at Winterfell, where the show began.


It feels to me like the show is turning the Boltons into a kind of Mini-Boss—like they’re becoming the Big Bads of Season 5, possibly to be dispatched to make way for bigger showdowns to come. It sounds like you’re grooving onto this strategy, Hilltown. What do you think awaits us in the back half of the season? Is it time once again to play “Who’s Gonna Die On The Show Who Doesn’t Die In The Books?”

HILLARY: My hunch (and my number one fear) is that Benioff and Weiss are going to ax sweet little Princess Shireen—season 5’s breakout character, as far as I’m concerned. What was her exchange with Davos before departing the wall (“Is there going to be a battle?” “Yes, and you won’t be anywhere near it”) if not capital-F Foreshadowing? Plus, her death would really light a fire under Stannis’s belly—which the show may need to do if it wants to keep him interesting. Could there be something here, or has Thrones just scarred me enough that I’m looking for kid-icide when there is none?

DARREN: Generally speaking, if you’re anticipating the worst with Thrones, then you’re right.

Counter-argument: Could the show actually be setting Shireen up for a grander destiny? Roll with me on this: If you follow the various confusing lines of royal lineage right now—and if you accept the basic argument that Robert Baratheon was the rightful King, and his throne should fall to his rightful actual blood heirs—then Shireen Baratheon is actually second in line to the throne of Westeros, behind her father.

Now, longtime reader/viewers will recall that the whole “Ice and Fire” saga begins with a beautiful dream: a union between the Starks and the Baratheons. (Specifically between untroubled young Sansa and incipient maniac Joffrey.) I realize this seems like I’m indulging in the craziest, most far-flung version of ‘shipping ever, but: Shireen’s not much older than Rickon—and you know my long-held theory that Rickon is going to ironically wind up being the last Stark standing.

Conversely, the sheer amount of Stannis this season could imply that we’re being set up for HIS exit from the series. (Melisandre already appears to be shifting her allegiances.)

HILLARY: Oh yeah, Melisandre was all aboard the Snow train the minute she showed him her boobs.

DARREN: While you’re pondering that completely insane and probably wrong theory, Hillary, ponder this: Is the show just treading water with the Jon Snow story now? Once again, Thrones is sending Jon on a new-for-television trip into the North. I love Tormund Giantsbane—a.k.a. Force Majeure Guy!—but I feel like there’s not much more to Jon’s story before That Thing That Happens At The End Of DwD, right?

HILLARY: Agreed. This sea voyage carries a whiff of last season’s detour to Craster’s Casa del Rape; if you look back at DwD, there’s not a whole lot of action happening at the Wall after Jon makes his truce with Tormund. (Who, I was amused to re-discover Sunday night, actually has a whole host of epithets beyond Giantsbane: “Thunderfist,” “Horn-Blower,” “Tall-Talker,” “Husband to Bears.” Let me repeat: HUSBAND TO BEARS.)

You can’t begrudge the show its diversion, though; I imagine that it’s all in service of ending Jon’s season 5 storyline in the same way his Book 5 storyline ends, which is one hell of a cliffhanger. Plus, moving beyond the whole “is Jon Snow dead?!” thing would mean wading into major Winds of Winter spoiler territory, which I think would probably be a bridge too far even considering how different the show has become.

Enough about Jon, though. Can we take a moment to talk Samwell Tarly, Nerd-Hero of the Night’s Watch? I thought the show was electing to keep him by Jon’s side for simplicity’s sake, but given his conversation with Stannis in “Kill the Boy,” now I’m thinking that it may simply be delaying his journey to the Citadel until next season—when there’ll be more time to introduce another new location. Which is intriguing as a book reader, since it implies that ASOIAF Sam is going to learn or do something important at the Citadel in Book 6.

DARREN: We might not get Victarion Greyjoy, but by God, we’ll get Pate! (You know, Pate. Like the pig boy.) The whole Citadel portion of A Feast for Crows has to be one of the weirder mysteries in ASOIAF. The implication there has always been that the Faceless Men are involved. Could it be that—following the Busis Doctrine of Televisual Concision—incipient Faceless (wo)Man Arya will be meeting Sam in Oldtown? And instead of their brief book interaction in Braavos, maybe their meeting will be more significant? MAYBE ARYA AND SAM ARE SEASON SEVEN’S VERSION OF ARYA AND THE HOUND???

I’m going crazy here. Serious question, though, Hills: Could you find Oldtown on a map?

HILLARY: Ummm, duh, Darebear—it’s right above Newtown.

Maybe it’s time to start diving into a few comments from last week. Here’s one I found intriguing, about something you touched on earlier in our discussion:

mlebauer: Reading all the comments, why hasn’t anyone mentioned the Brienne and Podrick plotline in GoT? They are perched to follow Littlefinger and Sansa into Winterfell, as Stannis is preparing his siege. Obviously Brienne and Stannis have a liaison in play.

HILLARY: Ahh, further proof of the joys to be found within the Busis Doctrine of Televisual Concision! I can definitely see a Brienne/Stannis showdown interrupting the siege when it happens later this season—one I’d be surprised to see both of them walk away from intact. Which one won’t survive, though? Well, as much as I love Brienne, we know nothing about what the future holds for her in the books, and we also know that Lady Stoneheart is a TV nonentity. All that, plus Gwendoline Christie’s booming extracurricular slate, means she may not be long for this world.

DARREN: My hope for this year’s season finale is that all the dominos fall together at once. Like, blue-sky here: Stannis kills Roose; Theon kills Ramsay; Sansa kills Theon; Brienne kills Stannis; The Kennel Master’s Daughter kills Brienne; Pod kills the Kennel Master’s Daughter; Shireen and Sansa have a nice cup of tea.

HILLARY: And a partridge in a pear tree!

DARREN: And here’s another thought-provoking comment:

RichS: I’m sorry, but I cannot read this articles and just not be constantly distracted by guessing the number of times Darren was throwin into a locker in high school.

DARREN: Pause to imagine a theoretical high school where all the cool jocks love Tyrion and they pick on the weird goth nerds who love Quentyn. Is that what high school is like now? In conclusion, spellcheck.

HILLARY: Yeah—I’m sorry, but I cannot read this “comments” and not be distracted by an urge to grab my red pen. Also: C’mon, RichS! Be nice. We’re all Samwells/Ravenclaws/Miranda Hobbeses/Mallory Pikes here.

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Game of Thrones

HBO's epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series 'A Song of Ice and Fire.'

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