Game of Thrones episode 7, “The Gift,” demonstrates that if winter hasn’t come, it’s well on the way. Watching all the political maneuvering in the Seven Kingdoms, one can’t help but wonder if any of it will matter if the White Walkers get past the Wall. While the White Walkers wait for winter to arrive, the power players in Westeros attempt to use force, authority, influence, and money to achieve their ends. In “The Gift” we see that power is not easily gained or preserved when it comes to the Game of Thrones.
[For the recap, continue reading—but if you want to go straight to the review analysis of this episode, click here.]
Jon Snow is leaving Castle Black to ride to Hardhome with Tormund Giantsbane. His plan to bring the Free Folk back to Castle Black is not popular amongst the men of the Night’s Watch. He leaves his old enemy Alliser Thorne in charge while he is gone. Alliser registers his disagreement, telling Jon that his mission is foolhardy and an insult to the men who have died fighting the wildlings. Tell him how you really feel, Alliser. Jon plays it cool by responding, “As always, thank you for your honesty,” and walks away. Jon is putting everything at risk for this alliance. He really has a “Go big or go home” philosophy.
While playing with Gilly’s baby, little Sam, Maester Aemon remembers his little brother and former King, Aegon Targaryen. We are reminded that Maester Aemon was once in line for the Iron Throne. In a world where so many fight for power, Aemon gave up any claims to the throne to ensure peace in the kingdom. Maester Aemon tells Gilly she must get him South, before it’s too late. We assume he means little Sam, but perhaps he means Samwell Tarly.
Maester Aemon’s watch has ended. It’s very sad to see him go, but at least he went peacefully—a rarity in this world. As they burn Aemon’s body, Samwell Tarly remembers the former Targaryen. At the end of the ceremony, Alliser Thorne menacingly tells Sam, “You’re losing all your friends, Tarly.” With Master Aemon’s death and Jon Snow’s departure, Castle Black has suddenly become a much more dangerous place.
Later, two of the watchmen begin to harass Gilly. Before they can rape her, Sam arrives and bravely tries to stop them. They beat Sam and return to Gilly. Sam manages to get up, and they ask if he believes he can take them. He responds, “I killed a white walker. I killed a Thenn. I’ll take my chances with you.” Ghost appears, growling, and the two men run away at the sight of the Direwolf. Does the Direwolf have free reign of Castle Black, finding his way in and out as he pleases? We hope so, because his appearance was awesome!
Gilly tends to Sam’s injuries. She tells him he should not have taken that risk for her, adding that he needs to take care of Baby Sam if anything happens to her. Gilly kisses him, and despite his injuries, they become intimate. Gilly gives Sam the only gifts she has to offer—her body, and possibly her heart. It’s a nice change of pace to see two people who genuinely care about each other in Game of Thrones.
When Theon brings food to Sansa Stark, she demands his help. Sansa wants Theon to alert her would-be rescuers by putting a lit candle in the broken tower window. He tells her he cannot, adding his name is Reek, not Theon. Sansa responds, “Your name is Theon Greyjoy, last surviving son of Bailon Greyjoy, Lord of the Iron islands. Do you hear me? Theon, promise me.” This seems to affect him and he nods in agreement. It’s not clear if Theon even considered helping Sansa, but he walks directly to Ramsey’s chamber, only glancing at the broken town on his way across the courtyard. Outside of the castle, Brienne continues to watch the tower, waiting.
Ramsey has Sansa brought to the castle ramparts, where the Boltons are preparing for Stannis Baratheon’s attack. Sansa sees a tool of some kind on the wall, and grabs it when Ramsey’s back is turned. During Ramseys’ soliloquy about being Warden of the North, Sansa brings up his stepmother’s pregnancy, but Ramsey pretends to be unconcerned.
Sansa: “But you’re a bastard. A trueborn will always have the stronger claim.”
Ramsey: “I’ve been naturalized by a royal decree—”
Sansa: “By Tommen Baratheon. Another bastard.”
Ramsey: “Bastards can rise high in the world, like your half-brother Jon Snow. Born the bastard of Winterfell, now the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.”
Ramsey brings Sansa to the courtyard to show her that he’s flayed the servant woman who told her she had friends in the North. He tells her to hold onto her candles: “the nights are so long now.”
The Road to Winterfell
In the North, the Stone Crows have abandoned Stannis Baratheon’s army: a substantial loss of 500 men. In other bad news, 40 horses have died in the cold. Davos counsels a return to Castle Black, but Stannis tells him, “Winter is coming. Those aren’t just the Stark words.” Stannis is only going forward because running back to Castle Black could mean being trapped for years. All the snow falling around them seems to verify his concern. After Davos leaves, Stannis questions Melisandre about her prediction he will capture Winterfell. She affirms there will be a great battle in the North and that the Boltons will lower their flags. She suggests he sacrifice her daughter Shireen to the Lord of Light to assure his victory, which, thankfully, he rejects. It becomes clear why Melisandre wanted Shireen to come North.
At a slave auction, Jorah is sold for 20 gold Honors. As Jorah is led away, Tyrion insists they are a team and the buyer must take him as well. When Tyrion proves he is at least funny, if not a fighter, the buyer takes him as well.
Daario Naharis is jealous of Daenerys Targaryen’s upcoming wedding to Hizdahr zo Loraq. She reassures him it’s only political. Daario suggests an alternative would be to marry him instead. Despite being Queen, or because of it, she is not free to marry Daario. Daario tells Daenerys that she is the only person in Meereen who is not free. He offers her some advice:
Daario: “On the day of the Great Games, gather all the great masters and wise masters and worthy masters you can find. And slaughter them all.”
Daenerys: “I am queen, not a butcher.”
Daario: “All rulers are either butchers or meat.”
As part of the ritual leading up to the Great Games, Daenerys has come to see the fighters in a lower pit. As fate would have it, it is the same fighting pit where Jorah and Tyrion are. Jorah sees that is there, but she’s not enjoying watching the men kill each other. Will she stay long enough to see him fight? He doesn’t want to take that chance, and goes out to join the fight. When Jorah defeats the other men and presents himself, Daenerys is not happy to see him. Before they drag him away, Jorah tells her he’s brought her a gift. Then Tyrion walks out and introduces himself. He was probably not the gift Daenerys was expecting.
In Dorne, Princess Myrcella is brought to Jaime Lannister. He tells her she must return to King’s Landing, but she refuses. Myrcella plans to marry Trystane and stay in Dorne. She tells him he doesn’t understand because she doesn’t know her. Jaime must be one sad dad.
In a Dornish jail, Bronn sings from his cell while the Sand snakes in the cell across from him listen. Tyene Sand acts seductive with Bronn, causing the poison in the cut of his arm to enter his bloodstream faster. When he starts to collapse, she tells him that she had poisoned the blade she cut him with. She gives him the antidote only when he tells her she is the most beautiful woman in the world. Despite the eye-rolling of Tyrene’s sisters, there must be something more to her actions. Bronn would make for a better alliance than dalliance.
The Queen of Thorns, Olenna Redwyne, confronts the High Sparrow. She tries to determine his motives, but he insists he serves the Gods. He tells her that her grandchildren “will be punished in the same manner as anyone who breaks the sacred likes.” When Olenna tries to threaten him, he tells her, “You are the few. We are the many. And when the many stop fearing the few …” and he walks away.
Tommen Baratheon is protesting the only way he knows how—refusing to eat and acting sulky with his mother. He claims he will start a war if he has to, telling his mother, “I love her. I love her and I can’t help her.” Cersei tells him she will talk to the High Sparrow on behalf Margaery and Loras. Poor Tommen believes her. Cersei tells Tommen that she would do anything for her children. Apparently she would burn cities to the ground for them, but she won’t let her children be happy if it leads to her feeling slighted.
Petyr Baelish meets with the increasingly desperate and angry Lady Olenna. She threatens to expose that they worked together to kill Joffrey. Littlefinger trades in sex and secrets, and he offers her the gift of information: “The same kind I gave Cersei—a handsome young man.”
Cersei comes to visit Margaery in her cell, bringing her some venison as an excuse to taunt her. She performs the role of concerned mother-in-law, but Margaery is not playing along and yells, “Get out, you hateful bitch.”
Cersei is terribly pleased with herself after seeing Margaery suffering in her cell. She asks the High Sparrow about the trial process. The High Sparrow talks about finding something simple, solid, and true beneath vanity, lies, and ornamentation. He asks Cersei, “What will we find when we strip away your finery?” The High Sparrow tells Cersei of a young man who needed to unburden himself of his sin, pride, and vanity, adding that he had a lot to say about her. Her cousin, former lover, and co-conspirator in Robert Baratheon’s death, Lancel Lannister, appears at the side of the High Sparrow, and Cersei is thrown in a cell.
“The Gift” Review
Things at The Wall are changing fast. It’s not clear how long Jon will be gone and what he will be returning to, if he does return. If Sam learned anything in “The Gift,” and we hope he did, it’s that he can’t keep Gilly and her baby safe at Castle Black. Gilly and Sam were both very brave as they tried to protect themselves and each other from the guardsmen. It was fantastic to see Ghost return, particularly in such a dramatic way. We never get enough of the Direwolves. Allowing Maester Aemon’s death to be natural and peaceful gave his passing much more of an emotional impact. Sam made us proud with his moving speech. If only everyone at the Wall appreciated Sam as much as we do.
At Winterfell, there is still hope for Sansa Stark. She continues to be strong in the face of terrible danger. Her Stark character came through when she reminded Theon who he is. Whereas Theon has lost himself to Ramsey’s torture, Sansa has a resilient spirit that allows her to survive Ramsey’s abuse without losing who she is. When she reminds Ramsey about his stepmother’s pregnancy we can’t help but think she has a plan. Does she hope to get Ramsey to do something rash, turning the Boltons against each other? We’re hoping that Brienne is still watching as there was no sign of her flayed corpse, but it won’t be known until we see her again.
With winter approaching fast, Stannis’s victory seems less than assured, no matter what Melisandre claims to have seen in her vision. This season we have finally come around to like Stannis, making us concerned for his safety. Though now we are even more worried about Shireen.
Tyrion Lannister is quite skilled at escaping death. He survives again and again by virtue of his wit. Jorah acts standoffish, but we believe he’s come to like Tyrion. How will Daenerys receive her gift? Even if she forgives Jorah, will he remain and expose her to his greyscale?
We still have a lot of questions about Dorne. Is Prince Doran holding Jaime Lannister prisoner? Jaime seemed to be in comfortable conditions. Will he free his brother’s daughters, or will they remain imprisoned? It seemed as though the Sand Snakes storyline had come to an end, but Tyrene’s prison alliance-making could indicate otherwise.
When Tommen told his mother that he loved Margaery she had a hard time hiding her displeasure. Cersei’s desperate attempt to retain power in King’s Landing won’t bring her son the happiness he desires. Cersei’s plan to use the Sparrows to her own advantage has backfired. Now that the Faith Militant has been established, it won’t be easy to put the genie back in the bottle. Despite her genuine love for her children, she has inadvertently put Tommen at great risk.
“The Gift” was a good episode in a season of solid episodes. Yet, Season 5 doesn’t have the coherence of the early Game of Thrones seasons. With so much happening in six or seven different locations, Game of Thrones has lacked a dramatic story arc. Despite this, we’ve enjoyed this season and look forward to the last three episodes in Season 5 of Game of Thrones.
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