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Game of Thrones Recap Season 7, Episode 5, “Eastwatch”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 5, “Eastwatch”

Helen Sloan/HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 5, “Eastwatch”

“Eastwatch” picks up exactly where the last episode of Game of Thrones left off, with Bronn (Jerome Flynn) fishing Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) out of a river, and marks a turning point for the series, as it finally fully embraces its fantasy. To this point, Game of Thrones has carefully rooted itself in medieval lore and tactics (dragons-as-nuclear-bombs notwithstanding), but “Eastwatch” feels more like a heist movie than what's come before. To some extent, this is a result of the ever-accelerated pacing: The journey is no longer shown, only the destinations, and character re-introductions are distilled into essential quips and action. But more importantly, it's an episode that dials back from the epic confrontations that have filled out the majority of this season, choosing instead to focus on eight brave individuals and their almost certainly hopeless quest.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 7, Episode 4, “The Spoils of War”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 4, “The Spoils of War”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 4, “The Spoils of War”

As epic and satisfying as it is to finally see dragons and Dothraki face off against the Lannisters outside of King’s Landing, the more important battle of “The Spoils of War” is between Game of Thrones’s two types of storytelling. The first, which plagues the episode’s first 20 minutes, is the stuff of pure exposition: tactical discussions, cryptic premonitions, and theory. At best, the language occasionally crackles in the right hands, as with the way in which Mark Gatiss cloyingly portrays the Iron Bank’s representative, Tycho Nestoris. “Arithmetic, not sentiment” makes for the sort of too-calculated approach that can swamp an episode before it even begins. It’s not much better when Jon Snow (Kit Harington) invites Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) to view the obsidian tunnels beneath Dragonstone. Sure, there are cave drawings that show the Children and the First Men fighting together against the wights, but that convenient bit of ancient history simply isn’t compelling.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 7, Episode 3, “The Queen’s Justice”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 3, “The Queen’s Justice”

Helen Sloan/HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 7, Episode 3, “The Queen’s Justice”

There are currently two queens vying for control of Westeros, and the latest episode of Game of Thrones centers around the ways in which they rule. “The Queen’s Justice” is an effective summary of the various futures and beliefs for which the protagonists are all fighting for, but much of the episode feels as if it’s going through familiar motions. First there’s Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), stuck repeating the lessons of her father, Tywin. Her sense of justice is nothing more than revenge, and we already saw that play out in the far more masterful “The Winds of Winter.” And then there’s Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), who stands in direct contrast to Cersei by distancing herself from her own father, apologizing to Jon Snow (Kit Harington) for Mad King Aerys’s evil, but then again, that’s also nothing new for her.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 6, Episode 8, "No One"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 8, “No One”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 8, “No One”

Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) isn’t a good person, but neither is he the villain that his prisoner, Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies), thinks he is. When Edmure asks how Jaime can sleep at night, his answer is simple: He loves his sister, Cersei, and he would do anything to be with her. Though there’s clearly at least one other soft spot in his heart, as he allows Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) to escape from his siege of Riverrun, he claims nothing else matters to him, which means that all of his violence is justified. His terms to Edmure are just as straightforward: If he wants to stop Jaime from taking his infant son and launching him into Riverrun via catapult, he will seize control of the castle as its rightful lord, and force his uncle, Brynden “Blackfish” Tully (Clive Russell), and his men to surrender. With such a personal threat, there’s no hesitation from Edmure, though he knows he condemns at least his uncle to death, and this gives truth to Jaime’s worldview: Nobody is evil, they’re just differently intentioned.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 6, Episode 5, "The Door"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 5, “The Door”

HBO

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 5, “The Door”

There’s been much talk of prophecy on Game of Thrones, but it’s usually in an abstract sense. After all, those who follow the Lord of Light, like Melisandre (Carice van Houten), have been wrong before, and the newest Red Priestess, Kinvara (Ania Bukstein), might be wrong about Daenerys being the chosen one. But she’s right when she tells a skeptical Varys (Conleth Hill) that God is never wrong, only sometimes misinterpreted by his messengers. Even more accurate is her observation that “Terrible things happen for a reason.”

Game of Thrones Recap Season 6, Episode 3, "Oathbreaker"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 3, “Oathbreaker”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 3, “Oathbreaker”

The first thing Vala (Meena Rayann) does upon being brought to Varys (Conleth Hill) for interrogation in tonight’s Game of Thrones, “Oathbreaker,” is to explain that she won’t betray the Harpies, and that he might as well begin torturing her. This, however, isn’t Varys’s way; he insists that he much prefers to make her happy, which is to say, he wants to find an amicable way to console her perspective of reality—that she’s helping her people fight off those who would destroy her city and its history—with his own somewhat rosier view of the Unsullied. That his threats against her son are more implied than spoken doesn’t make them any less real, and this is the way the world works: such that fundamental rules—of leadership, of power—are the fiction of mass consensus rather than any sort of god-given fact.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 6, Episode 2, "Home"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 2, “Home”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 6, Episode 2, “Home”

Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) is dreaming of better days, specifically his long-lost Winterfell, where he watches as his father, Ned, and uncle, Benjen, learn to spar. He even happens upon a slow stable boy, Willis, and realizes that this is an even more innocent version of the man who’s been protecting him in the present, Hodor (Kristian Nairn). This, of course, is an illusion, and the mysterious vision-sharing man known only as the Three-Eyed Raven (Max von Sydow) soon pulls Bran back to his crippled reality. “You finally show me something I care about, and then you drag me away,” shouts Bran, and it’s hard not to hear echoes of the most ardent yet frustrated Game of Thrones fans, because the show’s sprawling narrative has room for no more than 10 minutes an episode for each character. That makes it increasingly hard to becoming truly invested in any of them, especially with a new subplot on the Iron Islands, where the possibly insane Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk), claiming to be the Drowned God, deposes his brother, Balon (Patrick Malahide), by flinging him over a rickety bridge in the middle of a storm.

Game of Thrones Recap Season 5, Episode 10, "Mother’s Mercy"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 10, “Mother’s Mercy”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 10, “Mother’s Mercy”

It’s long been a given on Game of Thrones that “All men must die.” The question, then, is less a matter of whether they will, but how they will. Those who accept death, like those in the service of the Many-Faced God, are ironically those who manage to find agency in the time they have left. On the other hand, those who break the rules and customs of the land are those most likely to suffer most before their last breath.

To begin with, there’s the fall of Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane). As foreshadowed a few episodes back in the advice given by Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) to Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), those who kill the people most devoted to them rarely inspire future devotion. Stannis has broken several natural laws in his determined, mindless quest to recapture the Iron Throne, most recently when he commanded his beloved daughter be set ablaze as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light. Though his actions may have broken the bitter winter that threatened to destroy his army before he could even besiege Winterfell, they’ve also divided his army, with half of his forces committing mutiny and running off in the night. (His wife also chooses to flee, albeit at the end of a noose.) But it’s not Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) who gets him in the end. Instead, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) tracks him and lands the killing blow—not because he dared to challenge the Boltons, but because he murdered his own brother, Renly, with blood magic. Perhaps realizing the depths of his own horrible actions, Stannis confesses, accepting the consequences of his actions: “Go on and do your duty.”

Game of Thrones Recap Season 5, Episode 1, "The Wars to Come"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 1, “The Wars to Come”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 5, Episode 1, “The Wars to Come”

The fifth season of Game of Thrones begins like a fairy tale: Once upon a time, two girls walk through a forest, muddying up their fancy clothes in search of a fortune-telling witch. One of the two is terrified, and halting, but the other is confident and brave, leading her friend by the hand, and facing down the hag. However, the interesting thing about fairy tales, like history, is that so much weight hangs on the perspective of those hearing the tale, and so as we realize that this bold little girl will one day grow up to be Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), we notice that she didn’t lead her friend through the woods so much as pull and coerce her. She’s not Snow White in this story, but rather the Wicked Witch, the one who’s told “You’ll be queen, for a time. Then comes another. Younger, more beautiful.”

Game of Thrones Recap Season 2, Episode 3, "What Is Dead May Never Die"

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 2, Episode 3, “What Is Dead May Never Die”

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 2, Episode 3, “What Is Dead May Never Die”

With tonight’s episode, the writers of Game of Thrones continue the trend of organizing each episode of season two around a different theme. Every episode seems to revolve around a Lebowski rug quote (i.e., one that holds an entire episode together like the Dude’s rug held his room together). Last week, Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen) delivered such a line about midway through “The Night Lands” when he declared that “sometimes those with the most power have the least grace.” In “What Is Dead May Never Die,” a title that paraphrases a famous incantatory line from the seminal H.P. Lovecraft short story The Call of Cthulhu, Varys (Conleth Hill) authoritatively suggests that “power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick, a shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very long shadow” after Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) puts on a great display of power by ferreting out one of Queen Cersei Lannister’s (Lena Headey) spies.