This most recent episode, “Kill the Boy”, featured the goings-on in the North quite a bit, so needless to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. We seem to be moving ever closer towards the confrontation between Stannis and the Boltons. Winter is indeed coming.
We see a lot going on in the North, both in the vicinity of Winterfell and at Castle Black. I loved the scene where Maester Aemon tells Jon Snow to “kill the boy, and let the man be born”. I remembered that from the book when I saw the title of the episode. So now we know, as I discussed earlier, that we will soon be headed to Hardhome to rescue as many wildlings as possible. And like he does in the books, Tormund Giantsbane has become an ally of Jon Snow now. I am guessing that episode 9 may be (as it usually is) a big action sequence, and it may well be fighting at Hardhome. Based on the Season 5 trailers and things I have already seen, that is a high probability.
I was honestly wondering what they were going to do with Brienne of Tarth since the storyline from the books has changed so much. It should be obvious to all that Lady Stoneheart (aka Catelyn Stark 2, Electric Boogaloo) is not going to make an appearance in the show.* But I like what they are doing: essentially making Brienne carry out her promise to Lady Stark. Yes, there are times when it has seemed a bit pointless, but in this episode, when Brienne reveals to a Northern man near Winterfell that she serves Lady Stark still, I was thrilled. It now appears that Brienne will quite possibly take the place of the rescue party that was organized in the books, which is cool because they were of course mostly women (wildlings recruited by Mance). So maybe this will be how they keep the story going in the same general direction. I am hoping that we will see more scenes that show that while the North fears the Boltons, they do not love them, and in fact still love the Starks.
The Boltons.** Oh, how I loathe them. I think perhaps I especially loathe them since they have been historically rivals and enemies of the Starks for thousands of years, and because of their brutal “hobbies”. Only a thousand years ago did the Boltons finally bend the knee and become vassals of the the Starks, and supposedly they gave up their practice of flaying, but of course we all know that is not the case, and certainly Ramsay (and probably Roose) has kept up the practice. And there are still rumors in the books (can’t remember if they were ever mentioned in the show) that the Boltons have a room in the Dreadfort that is full of the skins of their enemies, displayed as trophies. And it looks as if the Boltons have not abandoned their First Night practices either, just as was mentioned in the books. The story of Ramsay’s mother is right out of the books.
I loved the interaction between Sam and Gilly in the library. And I also loved the interaction between Sam and King Stannis in the library. As Cenk Ugyur so observantly points out in his review of this episode over at What the Flick?, Stannis has the sense to come right out and ask Sam how he killed a White Walker. And then he tells Sam to keep reading, because they are going to have to know how to fight the White Walkers when they come. Stuff like that is why I have a lot of respect for Stannis, and why I think he is far too underrated. But the decision to take Queen Selyse, Princess Shireen, and Lady Melisandre with them on their march to Winterfell took me a bit by surprise, because I am pretty darn sure they were all left behind in the books. Still, I liked the interaction with Ser Davos and Shireen. That poor girl needs friends, and she definitely has one in Ser Davos.
Lastly, I do hope that perhaps Sam will become a maester, and be sent to Old Town to learn at the Citadel, as he did in the books. If so, that would likely mean that the relationship between him and Gilly will also continue to develop. I do like the ways they have done that in the show, as their relationship is much more interesting in the show than it has been in the books. So we’ll see.
*Although I have to admit, considering some of the crazy turns the show has taken, I honestly can’t say with 100% certainty, but it sure as hell seems unlikely.
** Roose, Ramsay and… Michael.