Well, you know she's going to die in the books anyway, so things have just been hastened along. At least they didn't have her mutilated as George did. Couldn't possibly have them doing something cheap and nasty just because it was in the books you know! Obviously she was going to die at some stage on the way home: the only questions in my mind was when and how.
Several episodes ago, in that Stannis/Shireen scene where she rushes across to him and hugs him, Stannis takes a very, VERY long time to hug her back. I think I counted some 4-5 seconds, which is an etermity on the screen. He just stands there stiffly, and finally puts his arms around her very carefully, but there is no really genuine emotion as he does so. Alarm bells went off inside me then, because I wondered just how much he really did love his daughter - and whether he would end up sacrificing her because of what Mel wanted.
Gwendoline Christie simply does not reveal key plot points like this. Sorry, but if you look at all her pre-season interviews, she never gives away anything of substance, or makes detailed comments about things even if they have been shown in trailers. She will often jokingly ask the interviewers what they think should happen or what they would like to see happen, but that is it. This report sounds to me more like a reporter's extremely 'creative' interpretation of something that Gwendoline would have laughed off as an "I'm not going to tell you anything about Season 5 " reply. Something along these lines:-
Reporter: That Season 4 fight with the Hound was great. Does Brienne fight anyone else in Season 5?
Gwen: You'll have to wait and see! (Smiles wickedly) Who do you think she could fight next?
Reporter: Oh - what about that man who killed Oberyn? The Mountain.
Gwen: (Roars with laughter) Oh, now THAT would be a good one. Yes, that would be a great fight - I'd love to do that. But of course I can't say anything. You'll just have to watch the show.
So reporter rushes away excitedly to file this 'big revelation' story. Because you just know that when Gwen said that she'd really love to fight The Mountain and it would be an epic fight, but she can't say anything about Season 5, it REALLY means that yes, she IS DEFINTELY going to fight the Mountain in S5!
I think the showrunners are extremely wise to set a limit on things, and determine that they are working to an ending in 7 seasons, or perhaps 8 at worst, regardless of where GRRM is with his publication progress. No matter how wonderful the book series may be eventually, it IS possible to outstay your welcome as a TV show. Indeed, even if all the books had been published at the time D&D started, I'd suggest they probably would not have wanted to go past 8 seasons at most. Writers, producers and actors all get mentally (and physically) tired: they want to move on to other things, and not be tied down to a never-ending show.
Yes, a lot will be trimmed, condensed or omitted, but that is the detail that can best be explored and lingered over in the books, if and when we get them. I think it is time to move on from all the rather boring show vs books debate, and accept that George will write the remaining books at his own pace and make whatever plot/character twists he likes. I am happy with that, and I don't see any necessity for George to be hassled by fans. At the same time, I don't think he should seem petulant, or indicate that he's unhappy that the show is now outpacing him. It's like a parent obejcting to the fact that his child has grown up and is now able to leave home and stand on its own feet, regardless of what Papa George may want or perhaps think is 'right'.
Papa George will continue to write and we all hope he will finish the books eventually. But the show is now its own entity within George's world, following his broad plotlines and character arcs and coming to an ending at a time that works for the show. We need to appreciate the qualities of both of them.
I really like the way the showrunners have now decided to cut to the chase. Meereenese Knot? Clearly, D&D have taken their cue from what happened to the Gordian Knot of mythology, and have decided to grab a sword and slash their way through a lot of the convoluted slow moving mess in AFFC/ADWD. Yes, those books have a lot of fascinating detail and intricate plotlines which (some!) readers can appreciate and linger over, but they don't translate easily or well to the screen. Radical surgery was called for, and I think the show has been given a new lease of life. I am looking forward to the rest of the season.
Gave it a 9, and that was mainly because I didn't think we needed the Loras / Olyvar scene. By all means have a scene with Loras and Margaery briefly discussing changes in their situation after Tywin's death, but we didn't need Olyvar's 'involvement'.
Loved the final scenes at the Wall, and especially appreciated all the little shots of the various characters as Mance was set to burn. The cold self-righteousness of Mel as she set the pyre allight, the almost fanatical look of glee on Selyse's face, with poor little Shireen next to her closing her eyes in horror, the way Gilly turned away to Sam, the suppressed anger of Tormund and the wildlings, the stoicism/muted horror of the NW. And then of course, Mance's growing agony and fear as he burned, and the way Jon finally broke and put him out of his agony. Beautifully done.
I was definitely expecting a slightly angrier exchange, given that the rift is so important, but having watched the scene several times, I think the quieter approach is actually very clever and there is considerable subtlety in NCW's acting. Sometimes things that are quietly spoken can be just as powerful. Jaime started off just as he did in the book: of course he could fight with his left hand! And the old arrogance - he doesn't have to be up to his previous standard, just better than everyone else. And then Tywin's attempt to bully him into leaving the KG and taking over at Casterly Rock. Tywin has always seen Jaime as his real heir, has always wanted to get him out of the KG, and the last thing he obviously expected was Jaime's very quiet No, repeated the same way. Tywin is just not used to people saying No to him, especially not his children.
Which made me remember the (invented) Season 3 scenes where Tywin bullied Cersei and Tyrion and both of them reacted angrily and bitterly, and in Cersei's case, loudly. Neither of them was able to say No to Daddy. You expected Tyrion to try to stand up to Tywin, and also expected him to fail, but I don't think show-only viewers saw this coming with Jaime, so I thought that both the tone of the scene and the fact that Jaime does say No, were a great contrast. Back in Season 1 Jaime was pretty cowed by Tywin in that (again invented) deer-gutting scene, yet now he has found the strength to stand up to his father. Yes, he wants to stay in KL and be with Cersei, but you also wonder about Brienne's influence on his newfound sense of honour. And an interesting ending: the air of casual bravado as he says that Tywin will obviously want the sword back, Tywin's very cutting remark as he disowns Jaime, and the way Jaime just takes the sword and marches out with a 'couldn't care less' air. Which you know is going to be hiding tremendous hurt.
Good solid opening episode for the season, gave it an 8 but I'd have liked to give it an 8.5. It moved far better than I thought it would, and it was interesting to see how they gave viewers some key bits of background or reminded them of others. I know some readers have been upset at the lack of mention about Rhaegar and Ellaria before now, but really, it made much more sense in the context of a TV show to wait for S4 and bring them up when Oberyn is in KL to avenge his sister. For Unsullied viewers, I suspect those details would have been missed completely if they'd been mentioned in earlier seasons. Also interesting to get mention of Ser Arthur Dayne and Duncan the Tall, plus a reminder about Brienne's oath to avenge Renly.
Things that were a bit 'meh'- Tyrion and Shae, and also Yet Another Dany march to Yet Another City. Dany is not my favourite character, but it all looked so very deja vu, just with children instead of adult slaves. She needs to get some training advice for those dragons - where's Cesar Millan when you really need him?!
The only thing that I thought really let the episode down and should have been better staged was where Tyrion waited for the Dornish. Tyrion was supposed to be representing King Joffrey and meeting a Prince from Dorne! So why were he, Bronn and Pod just hanging about under some tree looking like a group of vagrants? I half expected to see a litter of wine flagons around them. If Peter Dinklage doesn't like riding horses, then they should at least have set up some sort of formal welcome pavillion where the KL contingent could wait in appropriate formal state. I am sure they would have had a spare little awning or something that could double up from the wedding!