The Gift was a surprisingly solid episode that acted as an effective pivot towards Season 5’s endgame. It made it clear that as Winter approaches, Westeros is changing and those who don’t keep up are going to be left behind.
A slightly longer runtime meant each scene in The Gift had room to breathe- and it was all the better for it. The episode was quite effective in building off the fresh new ideas that uplifted Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken – throwing in plenty of rich themes and fun scenes for book-readers and nonreaders alike.
Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 7, ‘The Gift’ Review
Warning – Spoilers Ahead
I’ve never really identified with the vocal portion of Game of Thrones-watchers who frequently complain about Jon Snow’s plotline being dull – it’s hard to argue that his departure here didn’t make room for much stronger scenes at Castle Black this week. With the Lord Commander away, Sam took centre stage and both of his scenes handling the death of Maester Aemon and protecting Gilly were especially effective in conveying how far his character has come.
This emphasis on character growth was really compelling to watch and it bled into other aspects of the episode. Jaime’s reunion with Myrcella was all about the visible changes that they’ve undergone since they last saw one another and Stannis’ rejection of Melisandre’s proposal to sacrifice Shireen hit a similar mark.
After being taken by surprise by the High Sparrow last week, Olenna tried unsuccessfully to recoup her position by turning him against Cersei. Her inability to wrap her mind around the High Sparrow here struck right to the core of what makes him a compelling addition to the cast. A sharp contrast to everyone else Olenna has ever had to overcome , The High Sparrow is someone whose actions are driven not by alliances and agendas but simply by his religious convictions – and there is nothing so terrifying as being on the wrong side of a someone who sees the world in black and white.
The other big thematic concern of the episode centered around the importance of survival. While Stannis’ army struggled against the harsh conditions of the north, Sansa faced her own challenges surviving her marriage to Ramsay. In the wake of last week’s backlash, it was great to see Sansa quickly return to form, actively fighting back against Ramsay with both her words and her plots. Poking at Ramsay’s insecurities, stealing a weapon and trying to turn Theon against his captor are bold moves that a Sansa Stark of previous seasons wouldnt dare attempt and while none of these moves have an immediate pay-off, they encourage and convey the possibility that Sansa won’t be trapped for long.
Across the Narrow Sea. Jorah and Tyrion fought tooth and nail to survive their own enslavement. Jorah’s fight scenes have been a delight throughout the series and this week’s brawl in the fighting pit was superb. In a stunning break from Thrones tradition, the episode actually closed out with Tyrion and Dany meeting. It’s the first real major turning point for Dany’s plotline since she gave birth to her dragons and one that’s sure to give this season a hell of a climax.
In the simplest terms, The Gift was an episode that worked because it reminded us that the gaps between the the big battles and betrayals of Game of Thrones don’t have to be boring.
Next stop: Hardhome.