Every week, three of Vox's writers will discuss the latest episode of Game of Thrones. Check out the recap for this episode here, and follow the whole discussion here. This week, deputy culture editor Jen Trolio is joined by executive editor Matthew Yglesias and politics writer Andrew Prokop. Come back throughout the week for entries.
Jen Trolio: After "Kill the Boy," we're officially halfway through Game of Thrones season five. And while this episode wasn't particularly heavy on the action, it did, as Christophe Haubursin said in his recap, set some potentially huge plot developments in motion.
Mentions of a certain season's onset are at an all-time high — for some reason, I thought the phrase "winter is coming" would start to fade into the background, but lately it's all anyone can say. And with Jon Snow and Tormund Giantsbane making deals to join forces against the White Walkers, the threat of an undead skeleton army descending on the Wall is starting to feel much more real.
Meanwhile, "Kill the Boy" introduced a whole new group of zombie-esque creatures in the Stone Men, a.k.a. the greyscale-ridden baddies that attacked Jorah the Explorer and Tyrion as the two made their way through the ruins of Valyria. Not quite "back from the dead" but certainly no longer human, the Stone Men are crazy contagious with the disease that left Stannis's daughter Shireen with a face full of scars.
Between Game of Thrones' recent greyscale-focused foreshadowing and the reveal of Jorah's "dude, that is not just eczema" wrist rash in this episode's final scene, I wonder if we're headed for an outbreak. If Jorah pushes on toward Meereen, and greyscale begins to spread there, I suspect it could have an interesting effect on the movement of certain characters around the Seven Kingdoms' chessboard.
I suppose I should mention here that while I'm an avid Game of Thrones viewer, I haven't read George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire novels, so any changes between the show and the books are lost on me; I'm also completely blind with regard to what might lie ahead, and whether it's greyscale-related or not. (If you're eager to learn more about the affliction, Vulture's greyscale primer, as well as the video below, in which Martin explains it a bit, are quite useful.)
What I'm not totally clear on why it appears to be emerging as such a big plot point. On one hand, I'm thinking a Jorah-as-patient-zero outbreak in Meereen could be the catalyst Game of Thrones needs to break Dany's slave-emancipating tunnel vision and push her toward King's Landing. If that happens as the White Walkers are moving in on Stannis, Jon, and thousands of reluctant wildlings, Game of Thrones could effectively compress its overall battlefield while adding multiple layers of supernatural phenomena — a Seven Kingdoms zombie apocalypse, basically — to the mix.
On the other hand, I'm a little worried about the show introducing too many different "creatures" in some misguided attempt to become The Walking Dead. We've already got the White Walkers, and who knows what will become of the Mountain once Qyburn is through with him. Plus dragons. Dare I suggest that if Game of Thrones adds too many monsters, we might lose some of its quieter but equally compelling political scheming?
Regardless, Valyria looked awesome, and the Stone Men scene was excellent, even if it felt a bit tacked on at episode's end, especially with the fake fade to black of Tyrion being pulled underwater. (Anyone else feel a little cheated that we didn't get to see the actual escape? This happened back in season one, too, when Tyrion was knocked out before a massive battle.) At the very least, the greyscale plot has added an intriguing new wrinkle to the proceedings.
Andrew, how does greyscale work in the books? Is this something Martin has done much of anything with? Or is the show grasping at straws?
Read our recap of "Kill the Boy," and come back throughout the week for more thoughts.