Game of Thrones' penultimate episode delivers gut-wrenching choices and entertaining combat, whilst setting the place for an emotional season finale.
Game of Thrones has always been a series where fans should, by now, expect the worst possible scenario to unfold. As Ramsay Snow once put it, if you're expecting a happy ending, you haven't been paying attention. That's why the tidings of hope and forward momentum brought out at certain points in the fifth episode of Game of Thrones, A Nest Of Vipers, are so suspicious.
More so than any other episode this season, the penultimate episode of the first season will take fans on an emotional rollercoaster as they witness the results of their earlier choices, whilst being forced to make tough new ones as they lead House Forrester into their final, no-holds-barred struggle for survival against House Whitehill.
If the ninth episode of the HBO show usually offers the season's big-budget battle, TellTale Games' fifth episode equivalent is spreading the combat out, and giving gamers a gut-wrenching choice. Even so, the sixth and final episode of the season will have to prove that the aforementioned choice will deliver gamers to truly different outcomes, rather than different paths to the same place. But for now A Nest Of Vipers does a great job in pushing forward all the plotlines to where they should be for the season finale, and it consistently entertains across all chapters.
Asher Forrester once again provided the best of the action this episode, though that isn't to say he was the only character who provided all the action. His plotline has come to a 'make it or break it' point in Essos, and gamers will find his story being pushed forward at a breakneck pace. His dialogue features some rare humorous moments in the episode, and it's a welcome change of pace from the no-nonsense dialogue that the rest of the characters present. His actions in this episode appear to heavily impact the upcoming season finale, and gamers should be on their toes to make sure he isn't making promises he'll regret later.
Far Northwest of Essos, Gared Tuttle's journey is finally approaching a climax after what seemed like plenty of awkward transitional episodes to get his character from The Red Wedding to somewhere near The North Grove. His part in the episode not only has plenty of interesting discussion, but also features entertaining quicktime sequences, more real-time archery, and a climactic closing that will leave fans eager to see what befalls Podrick Payne in the season finale.
Back in the Iranwrath, Lord Rodrik Forrester was left in a precarious position by the end of the fourth episode, and although he will see plenty of important decisions in episode five, it was disappointing to see that most of the bargaining and tough choices he made in his last appearance was all for naught, thanks to the actions of the mysterious traitor. Still, his chapters will yield several unexpected results, and have been the most interesting of all the Ironwrath sequences, and delve nicely from the typical 'survive being toyed with' sequences that Ramsay starts out with.
Mira Forrester plays a smaller role in A Nest Of Vipers, ultimately existing to slip between members of the HBO cast. Her character seems outplayed by those HBO characters, perhaps due to their infallibility in terms of HBO canon. Players will also once again have to give in to a Sansa-like struggle to stay above all the lies and deceit that make King's Landing what it is, as an implausible amount of the the territory's elite find themselves increasingly involved with House Forrester.
The performances from all the HBO cast members continues to impress, with Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke, Lena Headey and Iwan Rheon all lending their likeness and acting chops to the episode. Their respective characters all dictate and control their scenes from start to finish, and have been a welcome addition to a series that h/"as done fairly well in voicing all the newly-canonical characters provided for the game adaptation.
The title of the episode still seems an odd choice, as its Dornish implications were nowhere to be seen in the episode. The achievements of the game are also based on the house mottoes for seemingly random Houses, although they have essentially nothing to do with the chapters that just occurred. It seems unfitting to see the words 'Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken' when describing the events of House Forrester, a house which has been arguably the opposite of all three of those things.
The final scene of the fifth episode will present gamers with undoubtedly the biggest decision they've faced in the game so far, and everyone will likely find themselves struggling to choose between two options that are heavily laden with pros, cons, and terrifying uncertainty. It is arguably the biggest choice seen within a TellTale title, and according to the current in-game statistics, there's a near 50/50 split between the two options, so it'll be interesting to see how each choice impacts the season finale. The changes between the two outcomes are sure to be drastic, and whether TellTale Games can please both crowds with the each choice's consequences has the potential to make or break what has been an outstanding first season so far.
Though it's not without some minor visual hiccups, this is the best episode of Game of Thrones yet, and as a result it deserves higher marks. A Nest Of Vipers delivers an emotional rollercoaster of action, consequence, and a distinctly true Game of Thrones feel that George R.R. Martin himself would approve of.
Game of Thrones Episode 5: A Nest Of Vipers is available now on PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4 and PS3. It arrives on iOS and Android platforms July 23rd.