Monday 24 October 2016

No happy endings in bonkers but brilliant 'Game of Thrones'

Published 26/04/2016 | 02:30

Carice van Houten as the evil but undeniably alluring Melisandre
Carice van Houten as the evil but undeniably alluring Melisandre

Is he dead yet? Is he dead yet? For a show that was initially dismissed as the latest wave of swords'n'sandals epics, 'Game Of Thrones' has become perhaps the most furiously discussed show of its generation.

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There have been great moments in the past, of course. From Ned Stark suffering a premature decapitation to the infamous Red Wedding, Throners are used to being left with a gob-smacking cliffhanger, and season five finished with the conscience of the show, Jon Snow, being repeatedly stabbed by his former lieutenants.

Was he alive or dead?

Well, we still don't know, for sure. The last season finished with his blood slowly congealing on the icy ground. The new season started in a flurry of catch-ups as things became very strange, very quickly. For fans of the biggest cliffhanger since who shot JR in 'Dallas', there was to be no resolution.

But for many of us who have looked on witch, the 'Red Woman', Melisandre, as the most interesting, compelling, sexually interesting and - yes - repulsive character in the entire canon of George RR Martin's astonishing body of work, this episode was a deliciously troubling glimpse into the best figure in the show. From being a duplicitous and delightfully evil (and did I mention sexy?) presence, who could persuade someone to sacrifice their own daughter, she left the last season looking weaker and greeted this season looking older. Has the magic, quite literally, gone?

The great trick of 'Game Of Thrones' is that a show as absurd as this is can also manage to tug at the heart-strings with a rictus grip.

Last season, for instance, saw Cersei, that vigorously, enthusiastically incestuous sadist, having to perform a literal walk of shame as The High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce) organised a public shaming.

Cersei left last season in a fug of despair and humiliation as she was forced to walk naked past a motley crew of cowards who hurled insults and rotten fruit at the despised queen. It was an act of proletarian bravery which could surely never be allowed to go without vengeance.

Let's put it this way: when a shaken Cersei is finally given the chance to pick her options for pay-back, she replies with cold fury: "I choose violence."

Perhaps the greatest joy of 'Game Of Thrones' is that there are no happy endings - there is no room for social justice in a world where demented royal bastards (literally and metaphorically), such as Ramsay Bolton, can merrily spend their day slowly skinning people alive.

Bolton is a pure joy to watch. Played by Welsh actor, Iwan Rheon, Ramsay is a dastardly combination of Liam Gallagher and Danny Dyer. In fact, perhaps the most emotionally touching moment of last night's episode was the sight of a distraught Ramsay, hunkered over the coffin of the only girl who was as casually evil as he was and nearly weeping because his first crush wouldn't be around to see the tortures he planned to inflict on his enemies.

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As he said "Your pain will be paid a thousand times over" - a moment of rare emotion from a world-class psychopath - he then reminded us of the true nature of his character when he told his flunkies to feed her body to his dogs because she was still "good meat".

But the memory that lasts is the final reveal of Melisandre's true form - a case of be careful what you wish for, if ever there was one.

Irish Independent

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