“You want to lead one day? Then learn how to follow – Jeor Mormont, Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch tells Jon Snow.
Jon Snow takes this advice to heart from that moment on until his rise through Westeros. Snow is our underdog. It doesn’t hurt that the actor who plays him, Kit Harington, is handsome in a pretty way so we, the audience, enjoy seeing him on the screen. His journey this season is overshadowed by the largest story, The War of the Five Kings because there are shots of him in Iceland being chained and held prisoner by the wildlings. While his through line was a slog and all I wanted was to get back to my favorite characters, this interaction with the wildlings has an enormous effect in future seasons when the time comes to fight Westeros’ biggest foe: The Night King. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The War of the Five Kings is the central plot this season, with at least three kings in play for a place on the Iron Throne. Stannis Baratheon, the second in line to the throne after Robert Baratheon’s demise in season one, has his own army with a high priestess at her side and Davos Seaworth as the Hand of the King. Renly Baratheon is also making a play for the throne, even though he is younger than Stannis. Lastly, Robb Stark, proclaimed as the King in the North, is simply trying to get back his sisters, Sansa and Arya since they are still in Kings Landing.
Arya Stark, my favorite Stark, begins her transformation into the badass Stark we encounter in season eight. Having fled Kings Landing after the death of her father, we learn about her “hit list” – those she wants dead – that she recites to herself every night before going to sleep. Arya’s tenacity and Maisie Williams’ performance makes her the character to follow from now until the end.
Sansa Stark, stuck in Kings Landing, and still dethroned to King Joffrey is hard to watch. Joffrey, played spectacularly by Jack Gleason, is evil from torturing Sansa and whores because he’s sadistic. There’s a scene in which literal feces is thrown at him in town, and he orders his men to obliterate the culprit. He is not well-liked and lucky for us; he gets his “just desserts” in the next season.
Daenerys Targaryen, the Dragon Queen, is trying to recruit allies to take back the Iron Throne. Last season we saw her walk through a burning pyre with three dragon eggs and walk out unscathed with three baby dragons on her shoulders. Her dragons are growing, and with each place she arrives, she keeps having to prove her worth. Any woman can relate to Dany’s plight on this show. She has the power, but she keeps having someone else vouch for her and never taking her at her word. Seeing her continue to keep her cool while having to deal with all the misogyny makes us all want to be Dany in our way.
There are tertiary characters like Littlefinger, who has always been in everyone’s business, along with Varys, who are the most enjoyable to watch, go at each other because they are two sides of the same coin. The only difference is, Littlefinger, aka Petyr Baelish, wants the throne but Varys does not. When these two actors go toe to toe on the screen, it made me squeal in delight. Fantastic antagonists.
I want to mention Robb Stark here but honestly; he’s just trying to get his sisters back and not offend his mother, Catelyn. They are in a battle for most of this season.
The season culminates, which becomes a theme, with a battle on the ninth episode. The title of season nine is nicely titled, “Blackwater.” Tyrion Lannister receives his first and only battle scar this season. His squire, Podrick, who we do end up falling in love with even though he has not a ton of screen time, saves Tyrion from his death. This battle is a failure for Stannis Baratheon because his ships are submerged by wildfire, but he continues for a season or more for his rightful seat on the throne.
One last note, before I sign off for this season, Jaimie Lannister is whistling the tune, The Rains of Castamere this season, which plays a huge role in season three. We learn the origin of this song, and it’s genuinely haunting.
How a show of this capacity is still able to keep its viewers on edge (other than cliffhangers for every episode which lulls towards the later seasons) is fascinating. The banter, the dialogue, the acting, and the beautiful landscapes are only a few reasons to jump into this show. Yes, the nudity (for me) was annoying, and at times, the show was quite gruesome.
Ultimately, I’m pulled to watch this show for its cinematic experience on the small screen and the fantastic performances everyone brought during the production of this season and the following seasons. I’m having a great time watching this show. The jury is still out whether I’ll read the books or not.