After five seasons, Tyrion and Daenerys are now in the same show! Game of Thrones had major tectonic plate shift by putting together two of its biggest and most charismatic characters (who have not yet met in George R.R. Martin’s books). The Thrones showrunners titled this episode “The Gift” and that seems appropriate—this is a gift for fans. Usually such bold departures from the show’s source material are the subject of some controversy, but putting Dany and Tyrion together seems to be enjoying rare unanimous support (judging by early reaction online). And that’s not all that happened this week:
Castle Black: Maester Aemon has the show’s most shocking death yet: He dies of old age. No gushing blood or swords or eye gouging. Just a peaceful release from natural causes. He calls out to his brother Aegon. His final words to his long-departed brother are beautiful and gave me chills: “I dreamed I was old.”
After he passed, I half expected the next scene to be Jon Snow walking into the room and go, “Hey Aemon, I wanted to ask you who my real mom is—” But no. Jon had more pressing business, riding to Hardhome with Tormund, who keeps glaring down at Jon like he’s about to beat him up with his beard. Every time I see Tormund I think he looks like somebody who pours drinks at a hipster whiskey bar. Sam gives Jon some White Walker-killing dragonglass as a going-away present.
Next we shift our focus to Gilly. A couple Night’s Watch thugs are tired of Gilly having the audacity to be female and not having sex with them. Who does she think she is? They come at her, clearly intending rape. Heads start shaking in living rooms around the world: Game of Thrones … you wouldn’t DARE! Not two weeks in a row! The Sansa Justice Warriors start to compose angry tweets.
But Sam comes to her rescue—or tries to anyway. He tells the men to get their damn hands off her. He can’t even properly hold his sword, but he’s doing his best to protect the woman he loves. The thugs severely beat him. Then comes Jon’s direwolf Ghost, who merely needs to growl to scare them away. Does Ghost ever actually travel with Jon? He always seems to do his own thing.
Gilly is safe. Sam is hurt. Gilly is grateful. She climbs on top of him. It’s very sweet. “Am I hurting you?” she asks, in a reversal of what Tommen said to Margaery a few weeks back. Our heads are spinning. First Sansa thought she was going to lose her virginity to her new husband, then got brutally raped. Now Gily thought she was going to get raped, yet helps Sam lose his virginity instead. Gilly makes Sam promise to “take care of little Sam” and it takes me a moment to remember that’s the name of her eternally infant child.
As things get going, Sam says “oh my!” and sounds creepily like Ameon dying. As much as we appreciate this nice consensual sex scene, I bet most of you were fine to let them have their privacy for the rest of it.
So now we’ve seen a sweet innocent death and sweet innocent sex. What show are we watching again? Ah yes, it’s the one that’s determined to surprise us. Sometimes, the most shocking thing is to not do the awful thing (particularly when we’re still reeling from a really awful thing last week).