“Disgraced” (Arena Stage)

Introduction

Ayad Akhtar has composed an exacting tale for our turbulent times.  His script demands that I bring forth the lyricism of a clarifying order from the chaos of cultural misunderstanding that is the woven fabric of this remarkable play, while being ever vigilant in spotlighting genuine insight into the complexity of perception in what it is to be Muslim and American.  –Timothy Douglas, director (Arena Stage)

As my regular readers know, I’ve written about this play before; I heard about it nearly 2 yrs ago, then read the play.  I had NEVER read anything like it before!  One of my NYC gal pals went to see it during its Broadway run in 2014 (wow, was I jealous of her then)!  On SUN, May 1st, I went to see the new production at Arena Stage (w/ one of my gal pals).   

Synopsis  

Amir Kapoor, a Pakistani-American, is a successful lawyer living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan w/ his beautiful/blonde artist wife (Emily). With the hope of becoming a partner at the firm around the corner, it seems like nothing can stop him. But when he hosts a dinner party for an African-American co-worker/friend (Jory) and her Jewish husband (Isaac), the conversation quickly turns to everything Amir has spent his  adult life trying to suppress (race, religion, etc.)  All these characters, as well as Abe/Hussein (Amir’s college-going nephew), are confronted with the struggle between culture and identity.  Below is a trailer for the show:

 

Review & Analysis

SPOILERS: Don’t read from this point if you don’t want to know details from Disgraced.

pareja
Portrait of Juan de Pareja (1606-1670) by his master,  Diego Velazquez

After a waiter is incredibly rude to her husband (offstage), Emily (who has been focusing recently on Islamic art) decides to paint a portrait of Amir, inspired by the one of Juan de Pareja. (FYI: He was a Spanish painter of Moorish descent, born into slavery. He was a member of the household of painter Diego Velázquez who freed him in 1650.)  Amir doesn’t understand why she’s making such a big deal, but she comments:”He didn’t SEE you!” That waiter didn’t realize what a success Amir was- he just saw his brown skin.

The couple are interrupted by  the son of Amir’s older sister, Abe Jensen (who has recently changed his name from Hussein Malik); this is a source of humor for Amir.  The young man, who was born in Pakistan, has come to plead w/ his uncle re: representing an imam (“a harmless old man who didn’t do anything wrong.”)  This man is in FBI custody accused to raising funds for Hamas- Amir wants nothing to do w/ it (besides, there are two OTHER lawyers on the case).  When Amir pointedly comments that the imam is “not comfortable w/ Jewish lawyers,” Abe insists that’s not the issue (the imam liked Amir when they met before).  Emily says: “Just TALK to him!”  (She is the one who advocates for Abe, when Amir ignores his phone calls in the story.)  Amir’s  eventual decision to appear in court, beside the other lawyers, will have repercussions on his career. 

Emily excitedly shows her painting (reminiscent of tile work found in Andalucía from the Moorish period) to a curator from The Whitney, Isaac (who is married to Amir’s co-worker, Johri). This painting, white and blue w/ a hint of red, is hung on the mantle of the apartment’s living room (the sole set for this play). 

The crux of the action occurs a few months after during the dinner party.  Amir is already in a terrible mood (Emily doesn’t realize why) and drinking more than usual (Scotch) when the guests arrive earlier than expected.  Emily has made appetizers, fennel salad and pork tenderloin.  She wants to make a good impression b/c she wants to be in a new show which Isaac is putting on at his museum. 

WE are the new Jews!  -Amir explains to Johri

Jory and Amir drink and talk re: work- one of the partners (Mort) has been away for SOME time, traveling, and meditating.  There will soon be a new partner, BUT Amir doubts that it will be he or Jory.  Hey, why don’t they start their OWN firm!?  (We get a little background on how WASP lawyers didn’t want to deal w/ mergers and acquisitions in the past.) 

More drinking, more jokes- this humor here is biting, dark, controversial- perhaps even to the MOST open-minded viewer/reader.  (This was inspired by a dinner party that Akthar had back in 2006.)  Eventually, all hell breaks loose- these civilized folks are ALL revealed to be dysfunctional, duplicitous, and (no shocker) prejudiced!  But Amir is the tragic figure- he loses the MOST in the end. In my opinion, when he strikes Emily, he is NOT only hitting his wife (who is most close to him, yet cheated w/ Isaac), BUT also hitting back at the symbol of white/upper-class patriarchy (though she is female).  There is NO excuse for domestic violence, BUT it does happen (even among very cultured/intelligent couples). 

I was skeptical when I heard Nehal Joshi was going to play the lead. He just did not look old enough, first of all.  Secondly, I’d seen him last year as Sancho in Man of La Mancha (STC); he did a good job w/ the comedy, singing, and dancing. Lastly, the words that I’d read didn’t make much of an impact from ANY of the actors (aside from the actress who played Jory).  One young lady, who had ALSO read the play and attended the same night as I did, tweeted that she “hated it” (but liked the story). I wouldn’t go THAT far- these actors need to get more comfortable w/ the text and project that confidence onstage (in future).   

The audience was (as usual) quite elderly, liberal, and white (esp. in the orchestra section where we were sitting).  I spotted a few desis (South Asians) here and there, along w/ some African-Americans (mainly women).  The Q&A session after the play (w/ a local imam working on his Ph.D.) was fun and informative; he is associated w/ Georgetown University.  He came to the play w/ his four teen kids; they sat very quietly in the same row as me and my friend.  (This material isn’t geared to their age group, but the themes are relevant.)  I think this play is worth reading, BUT I can’t recommend this production.  No fear, there are MANY theaters (around the US) that will be putting on Disgraced this season.   

Related Links

Review: The Not So Unexpected Twist in Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced

Hanging in a Muslim Neighborhood

 

Hostiles (2017) starring Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, & Wes Studi

The quietest moments of his [writer/director Scott Cooper’s] movie are often the best. Wow, Majors, what a find! He had the ability to command the screen w/o showboating. -Grace Randolph (Beyond the Trailer)

It has everything I want in my modern revisionist westerns. It’s slow-paced and quiet, beautifully filmed, uses realistic graphic violence and is extremely sad from the opening scene to the end credits. -Kellen Quigly (YouTube)

This is a movie is about PTSD in the Old West. It’s about the harshness of war. Captain Joe Blocker is introduced as a man who represses any feeling that isn’t hatred, guilt, grief or wrath. War has tortured his soul and landed him in a pit, and for a long time, instead climbing out, he just continued to dig the hole deeper and deeper… -Mark Mirabella (YouTube)

Synopsis: In 1892, after almost 20 yrs of fighting the Cheyenne, Apache, and Comanche natives, US Cavalry Captain, Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale), is ordered by his superior, Col. Biggs (Stephen Lang), to escort an elderly/ailing Cheyenne chief, Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi)- the man he MOST despises- and his family from New Mexico to the chief’s ancestral home in Montana (Valley of the Bears). Joseph’s unwelcome assignment is complicated when a grieving widow, Rosalee Quaid (Rosamund Pike), joins his band of soldiers and travelers. Then, an aggressive pack of Comanches attack and other dangerous events occur. On a path filled w/ hostiles, can this soldier complete his final duty w/ his life (and mind) intact? 

Director Scott Cooper, who was at the helm of 2009’s Crazy Heart starring Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaalseems VERY comfortable w/ the Western genre. This film (which I missed seeing in theaters late last Fall) contains MANY beautiful wide shots of landscapes. Cooper’s characters are much more complicated than what you’d find in a typical (think John Ford/John Wayne) Western. Though it’s well-made, it can seem slow and (according to some critics)- a BIT self-indulgent. I feel that about 10-15 mins could’ve been edited out. The themes here are quite dark, so if you’re looking for an escape, this is NOT the film for you! From the first scene of Hostiles, viewers know that things are going to get real. 

The performances of the ensemble of actors is the main reason to see this film, along w/ its dialogue (some of which is quite deep and unexpected). Rosalee, though she suffered so much and is racked w/ grief, still held to her faith in God (as she explains to Blocker in a quietly effective scene). I thought Pike (as usual) did VERY well w/ her role; Rosalee  grew and changed over the month-long journey. Traveling w/ the Indians, she came to see them as real people, NOT merely savages to be feared. I was pleasantly surprised by how well a bearded Rory Cochrane (Blocker’s oldest friend- Master Sgt. Thomas Mertz) portrayed a depressed soldier. He often drinks heavily, suffers from PTSD (as does Blocker), and feels that life is NOT worth living anymore. A grad from West Point, played by up-and-comer Jesse Plemons (Lt. Rudy Kidder), is articulate, capable, BUT maybe too kind-hearted for his own good. There are a few light moments involving Timothee Chalamet (Philippe DeJardin, a French immigrant turned Army private); his role is VERY minor. The standout soldier (and actor) is newcomer Jonathan Majors (Corp. Henry Woodson- a strong/loyal/religious African-American who has served yrs under Blocker). Majors has that X factor; the viewer’s eye is drawn to him even when he’s NOT saying anything. He gets to have one of the best scenes in the 3rd (final) act opposite Bale.

On this journey, we also meet Ben Foster (disgraced soldier/murderer Philip Wills); he and Blocker served together yrs ago. Wills (wearing chains and stripped of his rank) ran away from his post and brutally killed several innocent people. At a small town, Lt. Col. McCowan (Peter Mullan) asks Blocker to escort Wills to a fort for his punishment (hanging), and Blocker quickly agrees. It’s obvious that Blocker feels contempt for Wills, BUT the prisoner is quick to point out that they’re BOTH killers, and the roles could be easily reversed. Foster (a quite gifted actor) should’ve gotten some more to do. There is a volatility and sense of unease which he creates w/ Wills.

The native actors, incl. Canadian Adam Beach (who has appeared on many films/TV shows) and Q’orianka Kilcher (The New World- also co-starring Bale), don’t have a LOT of dialogue, BUT are portrayed in a realistic/sympathetic manner. Studi (who is a film/TV vet) has a kind of solemnity, strength, and can also be vulnerable. He has come a long way from the villainous/warrior Magua viewers loved to hate (The Last of the Mohicans). This tale is (mainly) about the personal journey of one white man- Blocker- who comes to see the natives as fellow humans.

The film rests on Bale’s (always capable) broad shoulders, and he doesn’t disappoint. He even learned some of the Cheyenne language, which he speaks w/Studi (who I wished had been a BIT more developed). MANY of us have watched Bale grow-up onscreen; he has evolved from a slim/fresh-faced/wide-eyed teen to a muscular/middle-aged/powerhouse actor. For his portrayal of Blocker, Bale has tapped into his dark side; there is anger, resentment, hate, worry, and (in time) empathy and kindness on his face. Rosalee (w/ whom he forms a connection) is a catalyst for change in his life, as is the suicide of Mertz. I thought that Blocker’s change of heart was TOO abrupt, BUT this film is worth a watch. 

Book Review: “American Dervish” by Ayad Akthar

Hayat Shah is a young American in love for the first time. His normal life of school, baseball, and video games had previously been distinguished only by his Pakistani heritage and by the frequent chill between his parents, who fight over things he is too young to understand. Then Mina arrives, and everything changes.

Mina is Hayat’s mother’s oldest friend from Pakistan. She is independent, beautiful and intelligent, and arrives on the Shah’s doorstep when her disastrous marriage in Pakistan disintegrates. Even Hayat’s skeptical father can’t deny the liveliness and happiness that accompanies Mina into their home. Her deep spirituality brings the family’s Muslim faith to life in a way that resonates with Hayat as nothing has before. Studying the Quran by Mina’s side and basking in the glow of her attention, he feels an entirely new purpose mingled with a growing infatuation for his teacher.

When Mina meets and begins dating a man, Hayat is confused by his feelings of betrayal. His growing passions, both spiritual and romantic, force him to question all that he has come to believe is true. Just as Mina finds happiness, Hayat is compelled to act — with devastating consequences for all those he loves most.

-Synopsis of the novel (Amazon)

As some of you know, I’m a V slow reader, BUT I managed to finish 75% of this novel (according to my Kindle)! I’ve been following this author for a few yrs now; in 2017, journo Bill Moyers said of Akthar: “We finally have a voice for our times.” One of my friends read American Dervish a few years ago; she didn’t recall ALL the details, BUT said that she’d never read something like this before. She passed it onto a friend, then that friend gave it to another. A newcomer to the book club said she also liked the book- subject matter and writing style. The moderator who read it 2 yrs ago said that this book goes into the issues faced by ABCDs (American Born Confused Desis), NOT only those particular to Muslims. 

WARNING: This post contains SPOILERS for the novel. 

NOTE: The following topics/questions (which my book club discussed) can be found here: https://www.bookbrowse.com/reading_guides/detail/index.cfm/book_number/2649/american-dervish

Do you think that one has to reject one identity in order to embrace another? What choice does Hayat make? What will the result be?

I think that children and adolescents (such as Hayat Shah, the protagnist/narrator) can often feel this way; my book club agreed w/ this comment. For Hayat, he identified as a Muslim, at least as a preteen boy. His goal was to be a hafiz (someone who knows the Quran by heart), though his father was dead set against this plan. Akthar said in several interviews that he was V interested in Islam as a child; he convinced his (secular) parents to take him to the local mosque and allow him to study the Quran. 

Hayat’s mother and father have a difficult relationship. In fact, all of the relationships between men and women in the book are complex, often troubled. What might the author be saying about such relationships within this culture?

Back in Pakistan, Mina’s first marriage turned sour b/c of her abusive mother-in-law. Her husband didn’t do anything to stop this, so Mina made the drastic decision to go to the US (w/ her son Imran). She couldn’t go back to her parents; they had urged her to stay w/ her husband’s family (she was rejected in her time of need).  

The newcomer to our group said that there were messed up power dynamics between Hayat’s parents; his mother (Muneer) didn’t have a job, so his father (Naveed) has all the money (thus the decision-making power). The ONLY relationship that was positive was between Hayat’s mom’s best friend, Mina, and his father’s friend/colleague, Nathan. They have an old-fashioned courtship, under the watchful eye of Muneer for about a year. This is a kind of fix-up, though based on mutual respect and admiration. Mina and Nathan talk re: books and ideas, share meals, and grow to love each other. When Hayat asks why they can’t be alone, his mother explains that Mina is a Pakistani woman, so “dating” is out of the question.

Hayat’s mother has grown angry and bitter b/c her husband drinks (secretly, he thinks) and cheats on her w/ white women. The women are possibly nurses at the hospital where Dr. Shah conducts research. Hayat’s mother, Muneer, refers to the other women as “mistresses” and “prostitutes.” Her view of white women is thus very negative, though she has a positive view of the Jewish people (incl. Nathan). In one scene, Muneer says that she’s raising Hayat “like a little Jew” (so that he’ll grow up to love and respect women).

Do you think it’s valid and/or authentic for male authors to write about feminist issues? What was your feeling about the portrayal of women in American Dervish?

Yes, someone can be “a male feminist,” my friend said quickly. Akthar said that he was inspired by the women in his life, incl. his own mother (a medical doc), his aunts, and various Pakistani immigrant women from the community of Milwaukee, WI (where he grew up). 

What are the different visions of Islam portrayed in the book?

Naveed (a man of science) has a contempt (perhaps even hatred) of Islam; this is echoed in Disgraced, where Amir even hides his origins. Naveed makes fun of Nathan when the younger man shows an interest in the religion. After Mina and Nathan’s break-up, he declares to his son that he “never wants to see you w/ that book [the Quran] ever again.” On the flip side, Mina wants to know more re: Islam; she studies and also teaches Hayat for a time. She is BOTH religious and spiritual, explaining to Hayat that it’s the “intention” of an action that counts. 

What did you think of the relationship between Islam and Judaism in the novel?

This is a tough one (IMO), b/c in this novel, these religions are put at odds w/ each other. Mina rejects Nathan (a cultural Jew) b/c he doesn’t want to convert to Islam. After all, he had a shocking/scary experience the one time he attended the masjid. Naveed warned him, BUT Nathan’s curiosity and love for Mina compelled him to give this religion a chance. Muneer, who had such high hopes for the pair, is disappointed when they don’t marry. She saw Nathan as a decent man and great choice for Mina, even though he was white and Jewish. I feel that Muneer wanted her friend to have a better life than herself. 

 

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

SPOILERS: Don’t read this review if you haven’t seen or don’t want to know details from the latest episode of Game of Thrones.

Dragonstone

Yay- we get right to see right away Jon, Davos, and a few other Northmen land on the beach at Dragonstone (formerly Stannis’ stronghold)! They are met by Tyrion (who last saw Jon at The Wall in S1), Missandei (wearing a three headed dragon pin), and a group of tall, fearsome-looking Dothraki warriors. After initial greetings, the Northmen are asked to surrender their weapons (makes sense, since they are in Dany’s realm). There is some fun banter between Jon and Tyrion- MANY critics and viewers liked this. There are wide overhead shots as they walk the long/winding path up to the castle.

General rule of thumb: Stark men don’t fare well when they travel South. -Tyrion says

True, but I’m not a Stark. -Jon replies

Tyrion’s above line perhaps remind Jon (and viewers) of the Stark grandfather and uncle (BOTH named Brandon) burned alive by Dany’s father (Aerys), Ned’s beheading, and Robb’s murder. Suddenly, three dragons (WOW, they have grown!) call out and fly above; Jon and Davos hit the ground- stunned and scared. Tyrion comments that you never get quite used to them (LOL)!

From high above, we find Melisandre and Varys looking down at the newcomers. Varys wonders why she stayed away, even after asking Dany to bring The King of the North here. Mel (surprise, surprise!) actually admits that she made “mistakes;” we are reminded of young Shireen’s death. Her character has become less assured and more humbled over the last 2 seasons! I still want Davos to find and kill Mel, BUT she has decided to go to Volantis. Her final words (below) seem to disturb Varys:

I have to die in this strange country, just like you. -Melisandre explains to Varys

Jon and Davos enter the throne room, which was designed to look cold and intimidating. The expression on Jon’s face tells us that he is unsure (maybe even intimidated?) re: this meeting. After Missandei rattles off ALL of Dany’s titles, Davos introduces Jon (LOL):

This is Jon Snow. He’s king in the North. 

Davos explains that Jon is a “king,” NOT merely a “lord,” after Dany calls him “my lord.” Dany is confused, saying that Torran Stark was the last true King of the North; she goes on to tell his backstory. She assumes that Jon has come “to bend the knee,” BUT he (were you surprised?) refuses.

…I ask you not to judge a daughter by the sins of her father. -Dany says to Jon after asking forgiveness for how Aerys treated the Starks

You’re right. You’re not guilty of your father’s crimes. And I’m not beholden to my ancestor’s vows. -Jon replies (after Dany speaks re: how their houses were long-time allies)

Jon goes on to explain that everyone in the Seven Kingdoms is in danger b/c The Army of the Dead are marching southward. Instead of “squabbling” like “children,” they need to band together to defeat this common enemy. BOTH Dany and Tyrion look skeptical; after all, they’ve never been beyond The Wall and seen White Walkers. Then Dany slowly walks down from her throne and approaches Jon, recounting what she has faced in her life and what she has accomplished on her way to reach the Iron Throne.

Do you know what kept me going? Faith, not in any gods or myths or legends, but myself… -Dany explains to Jon

Jon says that Dany will be “ruling over ashes” if The Night King isn’t defeated. Davos steps forward and tells her of Jon’s accomplishments. The Onion Knight almost says that Jon died for his people, BUT Jon cuts him off. (Hmmm… WHY would Jon want to hide the fact that he was brought back from the dead?) Tyrion steps forward and there is more talk of pledging loyalty to Dany, who calls herself “the rightful heir to the Seven Kingdoms.” Varys quickly walks in, whispering in Dany’s ear, and the previous convo is discontinued. Varys’ news is VERY bad- their recent allies are either dead or captured!

Am I your prisoner? -Jon asks (before he and Davos are led out)

Not yet. -Dany answers

At sea

Theon is pulled from the freezing waters by some sailors on a Greyjoy ship. The captain recognizes him and asks re: his sister. Theon says that Euron has captured her, BUT he “tried to save her” (which we know is NOT true). His face has a bluish tinge and his expression is fearful (reminding us of when he was Reek under Ramsay’s power). The captain isn’t buying it; he and his men look down at Theon w/ disdain before walking away.

King’s Landing

This is the life. Look at them, cheering for a Greyjoy. -Euron gloats to Yara

Euron struts onto the streets of the city on his horse; this reminded some viewers of Tywin after he won the Battle of Blackwater. Behind his horse, we find Yara (trying to hold her head high), followed by Ellaria and Tyene, all in chains. The commoners toss flowers at Euron, cheer, clap, and some women even blow kisses (blech)! The prisoners get boos, curses, and rotten food tossed at them; this reminded me of Cersei’s walk of shame. Ellaria spits in the direction of someone, showing us that she is still a proud woman.

There are more cheers as Euron rides into court w/ his captured entourage; some of the “foreign invaders” (as they were called in E2) have been conquered. Did you see the sad/scared look on Ellaria’s face when she spotted Ser Gregor (The Mountain)? After all, it was he who brutally killed her beloved Oberyn in battle (toward the end of S5).

I give you what no other man could give- justice- justice for your murdered daughter. -Euron proclaims after presenting a shackled Ellaria and Tyene to Cersei

You shall have what your heart desires… when the war is won. -Cersei promises Euron

Whoa, did you see how Cersei gave leeway to Euron? He comes almost up to her level, bending very close to the Iron Throne! Well, some of you saw this as TOO much preference. (I was reminded of Catelyn’s advice: “Never trust a Greyjoy.”) The convo between Euron and Jaime is unexpected, yet disturbingly funny. Euron refers to them as “brothers” (ugh) and then asks for “advice” (gross, BUT he knows what’s going on w/ Jaime and Cersei)!

I never got to have a mother, but Myrcella did. She was mine, and you took her from me! Why did you do that? -Cersei asks Ellaria

Like some other viewers, I noticed Cersei’s pink lipstick right away in the dungeon scene. Ellaria and Tyene are both gagged and chained (to opposite walls); they are obviously fearful and in pain. Qyburn (who is Cersei’s Hand) and The Mountain are both nearby; we wonder what role they will play in this revenge plan. When Cersei starts talking re: Tyene’s beauty, Ellaria cries out, struggling to speak. Cersei removes the gag and kisses Tyene on the lips, just as Ellaria did to Myrcella. We ALL know that was poison- it’s over for BOTH these Sand women! The outro music in this scene is SO good- urgent and mournful.

What? What are you doing? No one can see us like this. -Jaime asks Cersei, bemused

I’m the queen of the Seven Kingdoms. I can do as I please. -Cersei replies matter-of-factly

Jaime has taken off his golden hand and is sitting in his chamber. Cersei struts in and kisses him passionately. Notice how he said “no?” (That was a BIT of a surprise!) The next morning, Jaime is looking at Cersei’s sleeping face w/ love (and maybe also worry). Cersei answers the door while Jaime is lying in bed, unmindful of what the servant will think. I think she feels that she is unbeatable at this point in the game!

In your experience, how do bankers fare with revolutionaries? -Cersei asks Tycho Nestoris

The “special visitor from Braavos” is non-drinking, straight-talking Tycho Nestoris (Mark Gatiss, best known for his acting/writing on BBC’s Sherlock); he reps The Iron Bank, as we know from previous seasons. Some observant viewers noted that “the slave trade” is NOT something that the Iron Bank invests in; it is done by others in Braavos. So, was this a mistake? Or did the writers decided to change things up? We learn that the Lannisters owe a huge debt to The Iron Bank, BUT Cersei convinces Tycho that he will have the gold w/in “a fortnight” (two weeks).

Dragonstone

…I trust the eyes of an honest man more that I trust what everybody knows. -Tyrion to Jon re: his rationale for now believing in the White Walkers

More Tyrion and Jon convo- YAY! We see that Tyrion believes Jon, BUT he shouldn’t expect Dany to do that after ONLY one meeting. He also points out what Jon and Dany have in common- they are protectors. Cersei is a destroyer, as we know from the S6 climax (the Sept of Baelor blown up by wildfire).

So do you have anything reasonable to ask? -Tyrion asks (in a guiding way) of Jon before Jon walks away

In the next scene (in the war room), Tyrion explains to Dany re: dragonglass, which Jon wants to mine. With such weapons, the people of Westeros can defeat (or kill?) the White Walkers. (We know that already b/c Sam killed one!) Dany is skeptical, BUT Tyrion points out how it costs her nothing, and helps build a relationship w/ a potential ally. Way to go, Tyrion! I enjoy seeing him in the role of wise counselor much more than that of bitter drunk.

We all enjoy what we’re good at. -Dany comments

I don’t. -Jon replies solemnly

I think that Jon means he doesn’t enjoy fighting/killing. We are now up to the (much-awaited) scene w/ Dany and Jon. They are more cordial w/ each other here. Dany gives her permission to mine the dragonglass; she will even provide the workers and tools. Jon is surprised, but pleased. He asks if she believes him re: The Night King and The Army of the Dead, BUT Dany doesn’t answer. After Jon walks away, Dany takes a moment to look back at Jon.

Winterfell

Sansa, Littlefinger, Lord Royce, and the Maester Wolkan are looking at wagons filled w/ grain being brought into the courtyard. Sansa confirms that there is NOT enough food at Winterfell; armies of the North will need supplies in the near future. Sansa, in the role of manager, decides to impose a grain tax on every keep in the region. As they walk and talk, she notices that the breastplates being molded don’t have leather on top, which would be better for cold weather.

Don’t fight in the North, or the South. Fight every battle, everywhere, always, in your mind. Everyone is your enemy. Everyone is your friend. Every possible series of events is happening, all at once. Live that way, and nothing will surprise you. Everything that happens will be something that you’ve seen before. -Littlefinger gives some advice to Sansa

The next scene- WOW, were you crying, too? Sansa and Bran are finally reunited! She starts crying and gives him a hug, BUT Bran looks stoic. Some viewers wondered- has Bran lost his humanity? He has seen SO much- maybe there is no room for emotion. Bran says that he needs to speak to Jon. Under the large weirwood tree, Sansa tells her little brother that he should be in charge now, as “the last true-born son” of Ned Stark.

I can never be lord of Winterfell. I can never be lord of anything. I’m The Three-Eyed Raven. -Bran explains to Sansa

In an attempt to explain what he exactly is, Bran mentions Sansa’s wedding, when it was snowing and she looked beautiful in her white gown. He feels sorry that it [her rape by Ramsay] had to happen in her own home. Sansa shivers w/ recollection and quickly walks away. Whoa, what a sad and disturbing moment!

The Citadel

It’s a miracle- Jorah is cured of his dragonscale (after just one night)! Or, at least that’s what Jorah wants Archmaester Ebrose to think (LOL). It’s obvious that he’s NOT buying it, so says that he’ll speak to Sam about it later. We knew before that Sam removed the upper layer of the knight’s skin, then applied a solution, according to that book by an earlier maester (who had tried and failed to cure this disease).

I owe my life- to her [Dany] and you. -Jorah says to Sam

Your father saved me more than once. It’s the least I could do. -Sam replies humbly

Dany is the one who ordered Jorah to find a cure; Sam is the one who cured him. The MOST touching moment of this scene is wordless- it’s when Sam offers his hand for Jorah to shake. Jorah is surprised by this move; after all, those w/ dragonscale can’t be touched or touch others. Jorah shook Sam’s hand and smiled.

I read the book and followed the instructions. -Sam explains to Archmaester Ebrose (when he is asked how he cured Jorah’s dragonscale)

That man is alive because of you. You should be proud. -Archmaester Ebrose replies

Hosts of GoT Academy (Gil Kidron and Itamar Harel) wondered if The Citadel just holds knowledge for it own sake; it doesn’t seem to encourage experimentation. (Maybe that’s why Qyburn is a disgraced maester? Look at his creative experiments and inventions- yikes!) But Sam is NOT one to just read something w/o putting it to application or use- he knows what is at stake. It’s great to see Sam succeeding in something- he may turn out to be the biggest hero in this entire story!

Dragonstone

Dany, Tyrion, and Varys are in the war room talking strategy. Dany wants to go after Euron’s fleet w/ her dragons, BUT that’s too risky a plan. The next sequence is quite well-done, esp. Tyrion’s narration. It’s another first for the show- we are presented w/ what turns out to be an alternate scenario, then shown what actually happened (in the battle between Lannister soldiers and the Unsullied at Casterly Rock). Euron’s navy come upon Dany’s ships and start burning them up, much to the dismay of Grey Worm. This is NOT what he expected!

Highgarden

It turns out that defending Tywin’s home was NOT the main focus for Lannister armies- it was Highgarden! Jamie (general of the Lannister army) came up w/ this strategy, outwitting his younger brother (Tyrion). Riding behind Jaime are the Tarlys- Dickon, Randyll, along w/ Bronn (good to see him back). From a high tower, Lady Olenna (Dame Diana Rigg) watches as thousands of enemy soldiers approach. From her face, we can tell that she is resigned to defeat. In the courtyard of the castle, there are dead bodies w/ golden roses on their breastplates. Some Lannister soldiers pile up bodies; other load up chests w/ gold bars.

The camera follows behind Jaime’s back as he purposefully walks through the garden, up stairs, through passageways, until reaching Lady Olenna’s drawing room. He speaks to her, respectfully, and pours two glasses of red wine. He walks over to sit w/ her at a table. Lady Olenna admits that she did “terrible things” over the years to protect House Tyrell, b/c she thought they were “necessary.”

…your sister has done things I was incapable of imagining. That was my prize mistake- a failure of imagination. She’s a monster, you do know that? -Lady Olenna says to Jaime

Lady Olenna can tell that Jaime is deeply in love w/ Cersei; she feels sorry for him, b/c she will ruin his life. It turns out that Jaime convinced Cersei to let Lady Olenna die in a dignified (and painless) manner. He pours a small vial of poison into her wine. Lady Olenna drinks it all quickly, before revealing the part she played in the death of Joffrey. WOW- what a simple, yet fabulous, scene! Jaime’s face shows a myriad of emotions, then he flees the room. Lady Olenna still has her head held high at the end- VERY classy. RIP baddest granny in Westeros.

…not at all what I intended. You see, I’d never seen the poison work before. Tell Cersei- I want her to know it was me. -Lady Olenna’s last words