Disclaimer: This post contains spoilers, speculation and pseudo-statistical theory.
If a data distribution is normal, then about 68 percent of the data values are within one standard deviation of the mean (mathematically, μ ± σ, where μ is the arithmetic mean), about 95 percent are within two standard deviations (μ ± 2σ), and about 99.7 percent lie within three standard deviations (μ ± 3σ).
I wouldn’t wager my life on this, but it’s a safe bet that IMDb user ratings for TV episodes follow a normal distribution. Let’s assume the average rating is 6.5, with a standard deviation of 1. Thus:
- 68% of all episodes will have a rating between 5.5 and 7.5
- 95% of all episodes will have a rating between 4.5 and 8.5
- 99.7% of all episodes will have a rating between 3.5 and 9.5
From the third bullet, we can infer that only 0.3% of all episodes will have a rating below 3.5 or higher than 9.5. If we assume a uniform distribution of these outlier ratings, we can expect that about o.01% of episodes will be rated 10.0 In other words, for every 10,000 episodes that are created across all television series all over the world, there is one 10/10 jewel of perfection.
1 in 10,000. IMDb is hardly the ultimate barometer of quality, but it would have to be a miracle of an episode that attains that hallowed mark. The odds of an any individual show actually achieving this feat are negligible. It is inconceivable that a single show could achieve it twice. As for the odds of one show getting a 10/10 two weeks in a row?
What’s impossibler than inconceivable?
Fire and Blood
It may be the Targaryen family motto, but it’s Cersei Lannister who exemplifies the phrase this week. Most people had expected wildfire to figure into Cersei’s trial, but in a desperate “You’re going down with me” suicide bombing swansong. But in a stunning twist, Cersei decimates all her known enemies in one fell swoop. Her modus operandi is ingeniously simple: skip the trial, and detonate the venue. The High Sparrow, the entire Faith Militant, uncle Kevan Lannister, Mace Tyrell, Loras Tyrell and Highgarden’s sweetest, loveliest and most fragrant rose – all gone in fiction’s most horrible flash of green since Snape and Dumbledore met on the Astronomy Tower. Elsewhere, Lancel Lannister is stabbed as he discovers the underground wildfire cache. Grand Maester Pycelle is hacked to death by a gang of ‘little birds’ as, with immense poetry, a ghostly children’s choir plays in the background. Scored to one of the most brilliant soundtracks I can ever remember hearing, this entire sequence is a pure storytelling masterclass. It has been earning comparisons with the famous Michael Corleone montage from The Godfather. I think people are going a tad overboard here – Godfather wasn’t this good, was it?
But it isn’t just Cersei’s enemies that perish – as foretold, Lady Lannister has to gaze upon yet another golden shroud. Her baby boy, King Tommen, has jumped to his death in horror at her actions. (As far as deaths of useless millenials on the show go, Tommen’s high jump definitely trumped Rickon’s 200-meter dash). Cersei’s reaction here is a disturbing contrast to her anguish when Joffrey and Myrcella fell. It’s a mark of how far gone Cersei is that she doesn’t shed tears at the death of her last child. Something inside her has broken. Her enemies, as far she knows, are gone, and so is her family. She has neither love or hate left to give now, so what does she have instead? Power, and possibly, madness. The last shot, of Queen Cersei being anointed the ruler of Westeros is incredibly foreboding. There is an inscrutable expression on Cersei’s face, and fear in the eyes of the commonfolk as they robotically mumble “Long may she reign”. From a distance, valonqar Jaime watches with dismay from the gallery. Will he have to save the city from another mad ruler, and become a Queenslayer in the bargain?
This episode may not have had the incredible battle sequences of last week, but coming from the same director, it was no less glorious cinematically. The King’s Landing section in particular was exquisitely directed. The suspense created by the ebbs and swells of the music was almost unbearable, and there were some wonderful visual touches. Consider how shots of red wine and dripping blood foreshadowed the devastation that was to come, as did Cersei’s armour-like garb. Observe the simple brilliance in the way Tommen’s suicide scene is filmed- the way the camera stays with terrible tension on an empty window as the King walks out of the frame to lay down his crown. It’s time to pledge our banners to House Sapochnik.
“Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.” – Joss Whedon
Game of Thrones has been very good this season at inserting humour into the darkest of episodes, and that was the primary function of our little trip to Oldtown this week. Sam’s encounter with the stonefaced Oldtown bureaucrat was hilarious. I don’t know where they found the guy, but he has a face that will launch a thousand GIFs.
Also, Gilly is a lovely girl, but I am confident that nothing she says or does can turn Sam on as much as the words “You are now permitted to use the library”.
Snakes, Krakens and Dragons
So Varys did go to Dorne, and now whatever is left of the Martells and Tyrells is backing Dany too. My word. She now has the Dothraki, the Unsullied, Yara and Theon’s fleet, a bunch of sellswords, the Martells, the Tyrells, the counsel of Tyrion and Varys and THREE DRAGONS. She could stroll into King’s Landing with half that strength and win comfortably. It can’t possibly be that easy, so what is the twist? Will Dany run into Euron’s fleet on her way westward? Will she take the throne easily, but then face an invasion from Beyond the Wall? Does Cersei have some other insane trick up her sleeve? What is the marriage Dany is hinting at making in Westeros? Will she discover America and think its Westeros? All questions for Season 7, but I can’t contain my relief and excitement that the Bae of Dragons has FINALLY left the Bay of Dragons. That took a while, didn’t it?
Why, there they are both, baked in that pie;
Whereof their mother daintily hath fed,
Eating the flesh that she herself hath bred.
‘Tis true, ’tis true; witness my knife’s sharp point
–Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus
I will die filled with regret if we never get to see the Braavos Theater Group’s take on what happened at the Twins this week. Can you imagine?
Lord Frey was asked to watch his diet; he scoffed and asked for bread
The cook was out of dough, so he ate his sons instead.
The Freys were dismembered
Because the North remembered
Black Walder tasted good, but Lothar tasted best
Who said cannibalism is difficult to digest
What an incredibly satisfying moment. I know people are complaining that Arya had a mask despite leaving the House of Black and White, but don’t tell me you’ve never taken company data on your pen drive after resigning.
The Arya segment also had some subtle references to past episodes. Arya’s inspiration for the kill seems to come from a ghost story Bran once told about the Rat Cook. I’m too lazy to elaborate, but it involves sons being baked into pies and an abuse of guest right. Also, the way Walder peeled back the slice of that crust recalled Catelyn sliding back Roose Bolton’s sleeve at the Red Wedding. And in another bit of inspired poetry, the three main architects of the Red Wedding have now died in very similar ways to the three main victims of the Red Wedding: Tywin got shot like Robb, Roose got stabbed in the stomach like Talisa and now Walder had his throat cut like Catelyn. Brilliant stuff.
A Stark is Born
In the latest news from up yonder, everybody is really excited about the King in the North, because after all, that ended really well the last time. Jon’s legitimization as the current head Stark in Winterfell was another epic moment in an episode overflowing with them, but I was equally interested in Sansa during this scene, especially that glance she exchanges with Littlefinger. What does it mean? When you consider that he just told her he wants to be on the Iron Throne with her by his side, I don’t think he’ll be too pleased with this King in the North business. He may try to poison Sansa’s ear against her, ahem, brother, but I’m willing to lay down a small wager that Baelish’s shenanigans are going to catch up to him next season.
Another loose end was tied up at Winterfell as Davos finally had his long overdue meltdown against Melisandre. Good acting can compensate for inadequate writing, and Liam Cunningham’s magnificent performance here made up for the fact that this plot point should have been addressed ten episodes ago. Anyway, the upshot is that Melisandre is now banished from our screens, as if Margery’s departure wasn’t bad enough. If this is the will of the Lord of the Light, he clearly isn’t heterosexual. I’m still holding on to the hope that the Red Woman shows up next season, maybe to help Jorah Mormont cure greyscale. She has experience with that, right?
Note 1: Lyanna Mormont wins life, the universe and everything. HBO should get ahead of the game and start filming a Lyanna spinoff in parallel, before the terrific Bella Ramsey grows up.
Note 2: Winter is here! The white raven told us that, although I don’t understand why people in Westeros are bothering to use ravens anymore since they now clearly have the ability to teleport.
The Equation is Balanced
All the way back in Season 1, before he leaves for the Wall, Jon Snow asks Ned Stark about his mom. Ned replies, “The next time we see each other, we’ll talk about your mother, I promise.” You can always trust good old Ned to keep his word, because the next time Ned saw Jon on Game of Thrones, he did tell us about his mother.
E = mc 2 is yesterday’s news. The most famous equation in the world is now R + L = J. A fan theory that is literally almost two decades old is finally confirmed, and the implications are game-changing for Westeros. Lords and ladies, Jon Snow is not the bastard son of Ned Stark. Our new King in the North is the product of a secret consummation between Rhaegar Targaryen and Ned’s sister, Lyanna Stark. Honourable Ned pretended Jon was his son because there’s no telling what Robert Baratheon, who was engaged to Lyanna, would have done if he had found out the truth. Given that Rhaegar was Dany’s older brother, this potentially makes Jon’s claim to the Iron Throne even stronger than Dany’s. I found out about this theory a couple of years ago, but my mind still reels anew each time I think about the God-level plotting that has gone into this series. It just reeled again as I wrote that. Phew.
Now for god’s sake Bran, run as fast as you can to Winterfell, and tell Jon as soon as you can. As a Tweet I read said, he’s happy about being promoted to run an Apple Store, and he has no idea his dad is Steve Jobs.
Well, that is it for now then. The curtain has closed on what I consider the best-ever Game of Thrones season, and many will argue the season closed with the best-ever episode. Given the somewhat shaky start, the show roared back with an unbelievable series of episodes. The sheer pace at which the series is progressing now is blistering. I’m as sad as anyone else that this show will be over in two years, but I’d rather have another ten or fifteen episodes of this eardrum-pounding quality than have the series dilute its storyline by adding a few more seasons.
As for the Winds of Winter, for all its thumping plot moments, this was also an episode of deep thematic grandeur. You could celebrate the fact that the women are almost entirely driving the narrative now. You could point to the repetition of the “King in the North” phrase as the show’s way of telling us that the wheel keeps turning – nothing is ever new, and the great game will play itself out again and again over hundreds of years. You could look at how Cersei was the “Fire and Blood” this week, and maybe conclude that rulers aren’t all that different from each other. But for me, this episode was about one thing above all: music.
Ramin Djawadi’s Light of the Seven score that formed the background of the first half hour was the heart and soul of this episode. Thanks to that mesmerizing composition, the events in King’s Landing played out like an epic poem or ballad – almost as if the sequence was meant to simulate a song that a minstrel was singing centuries after the events took place. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that winter finally arrived this week, and that the dragons finally headed west this week. It’s not a coincidence that this was the week that a new Queen was born in a blaze, and a new King proclaimed in snow. It’s not a coincidence that this was the week we learned what was born of the union between a fiery Targaryen and an icy Stark many moons ago. It’s not a coincidence, because we are meant to remember this most musical of weeks as the one when the Song of Ice and Fire truly began.
Overall Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
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