Warning: Spoilers ahead for episode five of “Game of Thrones”
Murderous dragons, creepy Boltons, and riled up Night’s Watch brothers made Sunday’s “Game of Thrones” one of the most entertaining yet this season. The best was saved for last, when Tyrion and Jorah voyaged into Valyria and scuffled with the Stone Men.
The scene opened with the two men stiffly at odds, which makes sense considering that Tyrion is currently Jorah’s prisoner. Tyrion notices that they’re entering Valyria, the once-great city that is now in ruins and largely avoided.
Jorah has opted for this route to Meeren because there is less risk of pirate attacking, but clearly he wasn’t prepared for other dangers.
As they make their way down a narrow channel, Tyrion and Jorah are astounded at the sight of Drogon flying over them. They probably should have been paying closer attention to the suspiciously humanoid shaped rocks that were on virtually every wall in sight.
But the duo are too distracted by Drogon to notice, and soon they are under attack. Jorah recognises the Stone Men immediately, and warns Tyrion not to touch them. They narrowly escape, but not before teasing viewers with what looked like a doomed Tyrion being dragged underwater by a Stone Man.
Thankfully Jorah intervened in time, and it appears that having your boot grabbed by a Stone Man doesn’t qualify as “touching” — Tyrion is unharmed.
Jorah tells Tyrion that he, too, was untouched by the contagious attackers. But apparently Jorah is precisely the type of person you wouldn’t want infected when the zombie apocalypse happens, because he was actually hiding a deadly secret.
Jorah contracted greyscale.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of this mysterious leprosy-like affliction. Remember, the Stone Men are those who contracted greyscale and have been exiled to Valyria. Stannis mentioned them in episode four while he told his daughter, Shireen, about her miraculous recovery from greyscale.
This bit of exposition could have been placed there to establish a precedent for a cure to greyscale, but it’s unlikely. For one thing, Shireen was very young, and had the resources of a highborn family to bring healers from around the world. Jorah, currently exiled and in a foreign land, probably isn’t scraping together a miracle cure anytime soon.
Also, we’ve had other explanatory scenes this season about greyscale that tell a much more gruesome tale. Gilly, while speaking to Shireen, told a story about her two sisters. They contracted the disease, and were driven mad by it until their father eventually put them out of their misery.
As George R.R. Martin explains in this HBO behind-the-scenes video, greyscale is essentially a slow death sentence. When it affects the brain, slowly turning it to stone, it also brings with it an insanity. This absolutely cannot be good for Jorah, but he seems determined to stay the course and make sure he gets back to Daenerys.
There’s a likely reason why the show writers have decided to focus on greyscale so much this season. In the book series, Jorah kidnaps Tyrion with the same intention of bringing him to Daenerys. But they are both captured by pirates and sold into slavery, and never go near Valyria.
The showrunners seem to have opted out of this plot (and added in a quip from Jorah about pirates being afraid of Valyria as an aside for the book fans who noticed the change).
Instead, Jorah has briefly adopted the narrative of a book-only character named Jon Connington. Connington accompanies Tyrion on an earlier part of his journey through Essos (also cut from the show) and saves Tyrion from the Stone Men in the precise way we saw Jorah do it. There’s a water rescue, and the saviour winds up contracting greyscale.
In the book series, a horrific plague breaks out in Meeren and the surrounding cities, causing a threat to Daenerys’ already fragile queendom. It’s called the Pale Mare, and involves a lot of gruesome bowel movements. Our guess is HBO has wisely chosen to substitute a greyscale outbreak instead of the faeces-focused Pale Mare. That’s just better television. It would explain why there’s been a reference to greyscale in nearly every episode so far this season.
We’ll see how Jorah plays a part in the coming Meeren plot, but it’s bound to be a harrowing journey, no matter the outcome.
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