– Spoiler Review –
“Sons of Winter” delivers some great moments worthy of the Game of Thrones name and is easily the best episode of Telltale’s series yet, but it doesn’t always feel like your choices have true weight, at least as far as the plot is concerned.
This being a middle episode, so to speak, it was a little too obvious how your choices, while important, didn’t alter much of the plot unfolding. Did you choose to stay hidden and give Cutter a chance to talk to his wildling kin? Didn’t matter, as the wildlings (i.e. the game) force you to reveal yourself anyways. Worried you weren’t going to get to the signal with Asher and Beskha? They were always going to stop it from lighting; you just got to choose how they went about it. It didn’t necessarily take away from the tension in the scenes or the episode overall, but in the end it was pretty obvious they were going to unfold the way the game wanted them to. In the next two episodes, that should hopefully change, giving your choices more weight and importance for driving the plot. If not, well, I’m sure it’ll still be an entertaining story either way.
That all being said, “Sons of Winter” was my favorite episode so far, as it gave a TV show character more than just a cameo and gave every character a chance to start changing their station in life. This is especially true for Mira and Rodrik, the two characters most consistently being beaten down or outmaneuvered at every turn throughout the series so far. In Rodrik’s case, the Whitehill’s continuous habit of taking over Ironrath, threatening war, and not doing much else other than being total jerks to the Forresters comes to a satisfying halt here. Though I was unable to attain Elaena’s bethrothal, she comes through in near deus ex machina style with her brother’s merry band of men trained in the ways of arrows and swords. Using them to put Gryff in his place felt good, but I made Rodrik show restraint in the end. This new found lease on Forrester life has Rodrik and family off to the Whitehill’s stronghold to surprise them about Gryff’s capture and negotiate for Ryon’s release. If I didn’t need to keep my hands on the controller I would’ve been biting my nails during the tense scene that follows, but after calling Papa Whitehill’s bluff, everyone lives to appear for at least another episode.
That is until returning to Ironrath shows it completely deserted besides Ramsay (not a good sign at all…) and Talia chilling in the great hall. This brings us to the still unanswered question on who the traitor in the Forresters’ inner circle is: I took Duncan (my sentinel) to the Whitehill’s and left Royland with the Glenmore warriors at Ironrath…and yet I still believe it’s actually the Maester who is the traitor. Yes, he was being tortured in the beginning, but it felt more like him being punished for being a terrible spy than anything else. It’s hard to imagine Royland would be the traitor, and while taking Duncan with Rodrik doesn’t automatically exclude him, it does raise the question about how he got the message out because they “killed” all the ravens (though they did receive a new letter, via raven, so technically there was one left to be possibly used. Hmm). Either way, mark my words: Maester is your traitor.
Mira has likewise been knocked around by forces greater than her in King’s Landing, but she finally gets to show some mettle and ruffle some feathers. Sneaking into Tommen’s coronation party, Mira plays detective by snooping in on other people’s conversations and using the knowledge gained to manipulate a hapless and very-distant Lannister cousin into undermining one of Papa Whitehill’s minions helping to screw over the Forrester family. There was also a small opportunity to betray fellow Margaery handmaiden Sera, but revealing her secret of being a bastard to a potential suitor seemed like a choice only given as an option because some people are/like to play as diabolical jerks. Keeping Mira’s lone friend’s secret is a no-brainer, but hey, if you went down that road, best of luck!
Gared finds himself in jail due to the battle with his family’s killer, but is quickly sprung by Wildling-in-Crow’s-clothing Cutter. Finn petitions to join the group and I made the choice to have Gared allow him, considering who know what is all out their past the Wall and they could always use more fighters (but I guess it’s possible some players won’t even have the choice to let him join). Anyways, they go off in search of the mystical North Grove and instead find more Wildlings. The fight scene with Gared and Finn vs the Wildlings was entertaining, quick, and brutal. I hope my choice to spare the final Wildling proves fruitful in the future. But their adventure comes to a quick end at a little camp where Cutter’s younger sister Sylvi is hiding out, who knows the location of the North Grove and doesn’t think it’ll be all Gared’s hoping it’ll be. My favorite bit from Gared’s part was when he stops to contemplate his betrayal of his vows at the weirwood tree because when the game had players press X for each line in the vows of the Night’s Watch, it was a way to make players relate to their importance and it was nice to see the pay off for that moment here. In fact, I had Gared tell the weirwood he’d return to the Watch once he found the North Grove and I’m not sure if that was just me trying to make Gared a good guy or because I was unconsciously taking the vows with him by pressing X in the previous episode.
Asher negotiates with Daenerys to take a detour, as I predicted in my last review, by helping her take Meereen in exchange for a small band of fighters to take back to Ironrath. Beskha reveals her reservations for going into Meereen after many drinks, thanks to my choice to have Asher throw her under the rug at Daenerys’ feet about her knowledge of Meereen: she was once a slave who managed to escape, but not before she spent many years killing other young slaves in the fighting pits. Of course Beskha still commits to helping them sack Meereen, but not before taking a detour that risks everything by attacking her owner. It wasn’t easy to make the choice to have Asher stop Beskha from killing the man, but she seemed focused on the mission afterwards anyways. Perhaps the fallout will be saved for the next episode, as it looks like Asher and co. won’t be going back to Ironrath anytime soon.
Here are a few other things:
- The strangest glitch I had was some character’s heads suddenly moving in unnatural ways and it seemed to be connected to the game telling the characters which dialogue response to give to my choice, as if it was loading their responses on the fly.
- Daenerys’ scenes made her feel important to the story, instead of just a cameo for cameo’s sake, much like Jon Snow and Cersei have felt like so far. Otherwise Margeary and Tyrion have mostly felt important to events unfolding, but neither have been as formidable a barrier as Daenerys.
An empty Ironrath and the presence of wild-card Ramsay begs a lot of questions and it’s obvious the traitor’s identity can’t stay a secret any longer. Thankfully “Sons of Winter” sets into motion that reveal and much more, focusing on your playable character’s relationships to those around them by making your choices more about them than the plot. However, too much of that and suddenly it feels like you’re just along for the ride so here’s hoping Telltale finds a better balance in the final two episodes.
+ Mira and Rodrik changing their stations in life
+ Deanerys doesn’t feel like a cameo for cameo’s sake
+ Where’s everyone?!?! ending
– Choices felt they lacked impact on plot