Game of Thrones features personal and political intrigue from across an expansive world. It’s a comprehensive narrative in which we see how events in one location can impact other faraway lands. In “Kill the Boy,” Tyrion Lannister’s travels continue, while Stannis Baratheon and Jon Snow begin new journeys. Sansa Stark and Daenerys Targaryen continue to explore the landscape around them, searching for a path to regain control.
[For the recap, continue reading—but if you want to go straight to the review analysis of this episode, click here.]
Samwell Tarly shares a message that Daenerys Targaryen is staying in Meereen to ensure the safety of the former slaves she freed. Maester Aamon bemoans the Targaryen queen being alone and under siege in Essos, reminding Sam that he himself was a Targaryen before joining the Night’s Watch. Jon arrives, seeking advice from Maester Aamon, who tells him, “Kill the boy, Jon Snow. Winter is almost upon us. Kill the boy and let the man be born.”
Jon meets with Tormund Giantsbane, asking him if he will gather the rest of the Free Folk beyond the wall and bring them to safety. Jon points out, “Your people need a leader and they need to get south of the wall before it’s too late.” When Tormund refuses, Jon suggests that Tormund should make peace not to save himself, but to save his people. Tormund begrudgingly agrees, but tells Jon he must join the trip to Hardhome, otherwise the Free Folk will think it’s a trick and won’t come South.
The men of the Night’s Watch aren’t on board with Jon’s plan, including his own steward, Olly, and friend Dolorous Edd. Jon tells the men, “We can learn to live with the wildlings or we can add them to the army of the dead.” After thousands of years of war between the Free Folk and Men of the Night’s Watch, forging a peace won’t be easy.
Sam talks to Gilly about the great library of the Citadel, telling her that once he wanted to go to the Citadel to train as a Maester. Stannis Baratheon arrives and recognizes Sam both as the son of Randyll Tarly and as the Night’s Watchman who killed a White Walker. Sam tells Stannis that dragonglass (obsidian) kills White Walkers. Stannis is familiar with dragonglass because it can be found on the island of Dragonstone, the ancestral home of the Targaryens and Stannis Baratheon’s current stronghold.
Stannis: “Why would obsidian kill a Walker?”
Sam: “I don’t know. I’ve been going through all the old manuscripts hoping to find something, and all I’ve learned is that the children of the forest used to hunt with dragonglass.”
Stannis: “Lady Melisandre told me that death marches on the Wall.”
Sam: “I’ve seen it, your Grace.”
Stannis: “Seen what?”
Sam: “The army of the dead. When they come—”
Stannis: “We have to know how to fight them. Keep reading Samwell Tarly.”
Looks like Sam’s got some street cred with Stannis.
Stannis tells Davos Seaworth it’s time to March on Winterfell. He wants to bring his wife and daughter, but Davos is nervous about their safety. Stannis rightly points out that half the watchmen are killers and rapists. Sounds like it will be dangerous for the Baratheon family either way. Outside, Davos helps Shireen Baratheon get on her horse as the army prepares to leave Castle Black. Shireen is excited, rather than scared about the journey, hoping to see the crypts of Winterfell where all the great kings of the North are buried. When Shireen looks towards her new friends Gilly and Sam to say goodbye, her mother’s icy glare stops her cold. Stannis, his family, Davos, Melisandre, and Stannis’ army leave Castle Black to march on Winterfell.
Brienne of Tarth and Podrick Payne have arrived outside of Winterfell. Foolishly, Podrick suggests being home in Winterfell might be best for Sansa. Brienne points out that amongst the Boltons, Sansa will never be safe, “Sansa’s in danger, even is she doesn’t realize it.” Brienne talks to a villager about getting a message to Sansa, telling him that she made an oath to Catelyn Stark to protect Sansa. Whenever Brienne shares the tale of her valorous promise to serve the Starks, we expect music to well up in the background, like a scene from The Holy Grail.
Ramsey Bolton’s girlfriend Miranda is not excited about his engagement to Sansa. He tells her he will have plenty of time for her and to stop being jealous, because he finds it tiresome. Miranda knows what happens to people who bore him (being hunted, flayed and all kinds of other horrible things). His threats appear to get Miranda back in line, at least for the moment.
Elsewhere in Winterfell, the serving woman who told Sansa “The North remembers” in “High Sparrow” comes to Sansa’s room. She tells Sansa, “You still have friends in the North. If you’re ever in trouble, light a candle in the highest window in the broken tower.”
Sansa goes outside and gazes up at the window in the broken tower. Miranda arrives and begins to make smalltalk about Sansa’s dress. Is Miranda trying to befriend Sansa? Seems unlikely, leading us to believe she must be up to something. The kennel master’s daughter sends Sansa to find a surprise in one of the kennels. We had ridiculous hope that it would be a living dire wolf, or at least a family pet, but instead Sansa finds Theon Greyjoy, aka Reek. Later, as Reek is helping Ramsey get ready for dinner, he tells his master that Sansa had come into the kennel and knows he’s still at Winterfell. This can’t be good news for anyone.
Sansa joins the Boltons for a family dinner, during which Reek makes an appearance. Ramsey makes Reek say he’s sorry for murdering Sansa’s two brothers, making everyone who is not a sociopath very uncomfortable as Reek stammers out an apology. He then insists that Reek will give Sansa away at the wedding, being the closest thing she has to family. Already this is the most awkward family dinner ever. Unless Stannis wins Winterfell, Sansa’s looking at a bleak future where awkward family dinners will be the least of her problems.
Roose Bolton, not to be overshadowed by his son’s antics, announces his wife Walda is pregnant and it’s probably a boy. Sansa allows herself a small smirk, seeing Ramsey’s discomfort at the news. Later, Ramsey needs some assurances from his father about his position, which Roose provides through a disturbing tale about Ramsey’s mother. The sociopathic genes don’t fall very far from the twisted tree. Roose is aware that Stannis Baratheon intends to take the North and asks Ramsey to help him defeat Stannis.
Grey Worm lives, but Ser Barristan Selmy did not survive the attack by the Sons of the Harpy. Daenerys Targaryen is not happy. She commands that the leaders of all the great families in Meereen be brought to her, including her council member Hizdahr zo Loraq.
The heads of the great houses of Meereen are gathered at her dragon hold. She tells them that though many have suggested she part with her dragons, a good mother does not give up on her children, though she may have to discipline them at times. Thanks for the nice Mother’s Day message, Game of Thrones. Her intended lesson is not lost on these former masters when one of the men is pushed forward for her dragons to kill and feast upon.
Grey Worm awakens to find Missandei watching over him. He admits he’s ashamed because when he was close to death he felt fear. When Grey Worm thought he might die, he was fearful that he would never see Missandei again. She kisses him. Finally.
Daenerys asks Missandei for advice, but unlike all the men who are so eager to suggest a course of action, Missandei is reluctant to provide counsel. Missandei points out that Daenerys does well when she finds her own course of action, one that sometimes only she could see, rather than relying on choices provided by others.
Daenerys comes to see Hizdahr zo Loraq in his cell. He tells her that he does not want to die. “I was wrong and you were right. About tradition. About bringing the people of this city together. I will reopen the fighting pits to free men only. Slavery will never return to Meereen, not as long as I live.” To forge a bond with the Meereenese people Daenerys will marry the head of an ancient Meereen family, which turns out to be Hizdahr zo Loraq. He seems more terrified than relieved at his pardon.
Ser Jorah Mormont continues to silently sail to Meereen, which seems to make Tyrion Lannister only more talkative. They sail on through the Smoking Sea into Valyria, the Targaryen’s ancestral homeland. Valyria was the dominant power in Essos for thousands of years, until the cataclysmic event known only as “The Doom” destroyed the city and the surrounding area. Jorah is not afraid of The Doom and the supposed demons of Valyria, believing that traveling through Valyria will help them evade the pirates that do fear it.
Surprisingly, Jorah joins in on Tyrion’s recitation of a poem about Valyria. As they arrive at the destroyed city, the dragon Drogon flies overhead. It’s a majestic and awe-inspiring sight. Just then a creature jumps off the bridge into the water. It’s a Stone Man—people afflicted with Greyscale who have been exiled to Valyria, as had previously been described by Stannis in “Sons of the Harpy.” Several Stone Men attack Jorah and Tyrion. Tyrion jumps into the water, hands tied, to escape the touch of an infected Stone Man. Somehow Jorah manages to save Tyrion and they find themselves on a beach. Jorah asks Tyrion if he was touched by one of the Stone Men, but they only got Tyrion’s pant leg. Tyrion asks Jorah about his own condition, and he says he’s unaffected.
Tyrion: “I’ve seen Greyscale before. Nothing like that.”
Jorah: “S`pose that’s why they send them there.”
Tyrion: “It’d be kinder to put daggers in their hearts and be done with it.”
Jorah says he will look for firewood and tells Tyrion to rest. As he walks away, Jorah looks down at his wrist and finds he’s been infected by Greyscale. Jorah can’t catch a break.
“Kill the Boy” Review
Though it’s a relief to know that Stannis is riding to Winterfell, his departure leaves Castle Black, and Jon Snow, vulnerable. It’s doesn’t seem smart to bring his wife and daughter to a battle with a house that is known to flay its enemies. It’s unlikely the Boltons will act in a civilized manner if Stannis is defeated. It’s also possible that Shireen is more at risk from Melisandre and her desire for spell-generating royal blood, than she would be from the watchmen. Of course, with the changes Jon Snow is making as the new Lord Commander, Castle Black could become increasingly unsafe. Stannis’ likability factor has been on the rise since his arrival at the Wall. He has advised Jon in political matters, shown his love for his daughter, and rallied Sam in finding a way to defeat the White Walkers. These are all things that help us to forget that Stannis let Melisandre create a shadow baby in order to kill his brother Renly.
Even if Jon is Lord Commander it seems unlikely that he can just travel with Tormund to Hardhome and bring the Free Folk back without causing a revolt of some kind. As we saw in Craster’s Keep, the watchmen are not above a mutiny. Perhaps Jon can do more to convince the men why it’s necessary to join forces with the wildlings against a greater enemy. Yet old grudges don’t fade easily, and this feels like a Herculean feat that perhaps even Jon Snow cannot accomplish.
We learned more than we ever wanted to know about Bolton family dynamics in “Kill the Boy.” We knew that Ramsey was disturbed and that Roose was deceitful, but it appears that Ramsey is certainly a creation of his father. Roose is indeed much more dangerous than Ramsey, as pronounced by Littlefinger. As much as Ramsey has created a dog out of Theon, Ramsey is Roose’s dog – eager to please and full of fear.
Perhaps Ramsey’s dinner show will help Sansa to see just what a precarious situation she is in. Luckily, she has Brienne nearby; ready to come to the rescue, though we are not convinced Brienne can actually save Sansa. Sansa is at risk not only from the Boltons, but also from the scheming Miranda. It would seem that exposing Theon to Sansa was Miranda’s attempt to cause chaos, but we wouldn’t put it past Ramsey to have planned it as a test for Theon and lesson for Sansa.
The storyline in Meereen feels like a rerun, with Daenerys still trying to find her way. Though we aren’t fans of the violence in Game of Thrones, the dragon’s barbeque was a pretty fun scene to watch. The dragons are just cool to see. Reopening the fighting pits feel like a defeat, but Daenerys has never had simple choices to make. Daenerys Targaryen also makes a personal sacrifice to secure peace by marrying. Hizdahr zo Loraq is definitely not ready for marriage to Daenerys.
We haven’t found Tyrion’s storyline in Season 5 of Game of Thrones particularly compelling, despite the excellent acting and great comic timing of Peter Dinklage. That all changed in “Kill the Boy” with the appearance of Drogon and the Stone Men of Valyria. We didn’t know what to expect with the Stone Men, but certainly not that they would be so Creatures of the Black Lagoon. Their inhuman appearance is what made the scene so jarring and exciting to watch. Game of Thrones has convinced us – Greyscale is a terrifying disease.
We doubt the Tyrion and Jorah narrative will continue to be so gripping, but that’s why we’re looking forward to the return to Bronn and Jaime Lannister in Dorne. Now, that’s a road trip we can get into.
In “Kill the Boy,” Game of Thrones focused a lot on the North, where much seems to be in flux. With Stannis’ army leaving Castle Black to travel to Winterfell and Jon contemplating a trip to Hardhome, this is truer than ever. The first half of this season has not been about conquering and acquisition, but about maintaining and keeping what you have from falling into chaos. The second half of the Season 5 of Game of Thrones will show us how these efforts have succeeded or failed.
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