Despite so much going on in the series and the furore over last week’s episode, Game of Thrones is refusing to change tack or pick up the pace.
In what is actually a fairly uninspiring and tepid episode Thrones continues to stumble towards its season finale.
Stannis is literally marching towards Winterfell, Cersei is bumbling into trouble and Daenerys is sleepwalking into madness.
The writers add in yet another (attempted) rape that does not feature in the books provoking ire yet again from legions of fans.
Jumping back and forth across the Narrow Sea in an effort to catch up with everyone’s whereabouts you’d be forgive for feeling a little travelsick.
This season is really the first to have really struggled to keep up with everyone’s whereabouts, as a result the action has been few and far between and the characters movements and motivations can get lost in translation.
Episode seven: The Gift tries to deal with too much and fails to give any of it enough weight leading to a surprisingly bland episode that glosses over the momentous moments.
The Gift starts at The Wall showing Jon departing to save the Free Folk with hopefully their new leader and Maester Aemon meeting his maker.
They leave Samwell, and unfortunately Gilly, at the mercy of the increasingly disgruntled Nights Watch.
This week Benioff and Weiss absolutely prove they learnt nothing from Season Four’s unnecessary rape scene adding in the attempted rape of Gilly from which the focus quickly shifts to the beating Sam receives when attempting to rescue her.
The writers really seem to have difficulty focusing on the pain of women.
She is really rescued by Ghost who shows up out of nowhere having not been seen for weeks.
Gilly then goes on to ‘reward’ Sam for his ‘help’ by taking his virginity.
It is also interesting to note that she manages to shave her legs in the frigid wastes of the North.
Slightly south of The Wall, Sansa is held captive and abused in her own home.
A lazy repetition of the treatment she received at the hands of Joffrey in the previous seasons.
She tries to rouse the old Theon from the shell that is Reek to get a message to her babysitter Brienne but there isn’t enough of Theon left.
Somewhere between The Wall and Winterfell, the region partly known as ‘The Gift’, Stannis is running from Winter to Winterfell.
While Melisandre is promiscuously dancing around Stannis suggesting he kill someone with ‘king’s blood’.
The better scenes of the episode happen with Olenna Tyrell in Kings Landing and with Jorah and Tyrion on the way to Meereen.
Olenna spars with the High Sparrow in the Sept and loses. Her tough no nonsense approach falls short when she realises that ultimately she cannot buy this man.
Her meeting later with Petyr Baelish is much more satisfying. The two resume their uneasy alliance and Petyr does what he does best and deals her some interesting information.
Rapidly nearing the Great Pyramid of Meereen Jorah and Tyrion are sold as pit fighters.
For Jorah it is the bittersweet taste of his own medicine, bringing him one step closer to his beloved Khaleesi.
The two finally come face to face as Jorah delivers her from witnessing any more pointless deaths in the fighting pit.
Sad to say her reaction is not what he hoped and only Tyrion’s appearance as a ‘gift’ sways her wrath.
The Lion and the Dragon have finally met, will one pay his debts or will their be fire and blood?
The final and crucial scene in this episode is the timely and appropriate incarceration of Cersei.
Her time as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms looks to have come to an abrupt end as the High Sparrow wonders what she will look like stripped of her gold and finery.
With Tommen left alone in the Red Keep, the power vacuum the death of his grandfather and brother left behind is more obvious than ever.
The question is who will be the first to grab power in King’s Landing? Will The Faith come out on top? Will Baelish and the Tyrells’ triumph behind a weak King?
The sad fact is there has never been a better time for Stannis to attack King’s Landing but he’s 600 leagues away as the dragon flies.
This episode includes several important points in Westeros and Meereen but it is poorly executed and the influx of storylines in disruptive and difficult to watch.
The smattering of sexual violence across the last two episodes has taken away vastly from the series, angering watchers and adding nothing to either of the plots.
The Gift lacks the wit and writing skill that made Thrones episodes of previous seasons so great and the piecemeal episodes are more frustrating and leaden than ever.
Image courtesy of HBO via YouTube, with thanks.