It's a Knockaert

The ramblings of a football obsessive and Game of Thrones nerd.


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European Team of the Season

All of Europe’s major leagues have drawn to a close, and it is that time when we look back and reflect on the star performers over the last 9 months. There have been many players bursting onto the scene this season, many upcoming young players enhancing their reputations, and many established stars continuing to do what they do best. Here are my picks for the best players across the five major leagues.

GK: Thibaut Courtois, Atletico Madrid

The Belgian keeper, still only 22 years old, has progressed more than anyone could have imagined in his three years on loan in Madrid from Chelsea. This season has been simply incredible for Madrid’s second club, as they won their first La Liga title since 1996, and were within  a few minutes of winning a first ever Champions League. Diego Costa grabbed the headlines for them, but equally as important was their outstanding defence and goalkeeper. As Courtois won’t be able to return to Atletico next season due to the rule forbidding players from spending more than three years on loan at the same club during one contract, he is at something of a crossroads in his career. He has stated that he has no emotional attachment to parent club Chelsea, and as one of the world’s best keepers he would not be prepared to be the understudy to Petr Cech. He had been linked with Barcelona, but their capture of fellow young keeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen seems to have scuppered any chance of him moving there. There is always the chance Atletico could sign him permanently, but would Chelsea be prepared to let him leave? The most likely outcome is that he will return to Chelsea and become their number one, and Petr Cech will move on.

RB: Serge Aurier, Toulouse

He might not be the most famous name, but the versatile Ivorian Aurier has had as good a season as anyone. The attacking right back has contributed 6 goals and 6 assists in the league for Toulouse, which is a record any full back would be proud of. He has also played at centre back and right midfield. Aurier is only 21 still, and is set to play at the World Cup for the Ivory Coast, which will see his stock rise even more if he puts in a good showing. Toulouse only finished 9th in Ligue 1, so it is unlikely they will be able to hold on to him over the summer. He has been strongly linked with Arsenal as a replacement for the departing Bacary Sagna, and if they were to be able to sign him, it would be a very smart piece of business.

CB: Diego Godin, Atletico Madrid

Another crucial member of Atletico Madrid’s squad is the Uruguayan defender Diego Godin, who has been described as their John Terry due to his willingness to throw himself in front of anything. He has a perfect partnership with Miranda, and there is very little between the two of them. The team conceded only 26 goals in their 38 league games thanks mainly to this pair and the keeper behind them. They put in the defensive performance of their lives in the Champions League final, keeping Real at bay for 92 minutes, and it was so close to being enough to win them the trophy.

CB: Mehdi Benatia, Roma

In the first 10 rounds of Serie A, Roma won every single game, and somehow conceded just a single goal in those 10 games. A big reason for that is Moroccan defender Benatia, a summer arrival from Udinese for around £10million. He is arguably now worth around three times that. Last season Roma were excellent going forward but hopeless at the back, and after bringing in Benatia to solve that problem, they were able to return to the Champions League, and for much of the season, they were pushing Juventus all the way for the title. Sadly for Roma, Benatia seems set on a move away to Barcelona. If he were to make that move, it would be exactly the signing Barcelona need to make to return to challenging for the Champions League.

LB: Ricardo Rodriguez, Wolfsburg

Wolfsburg had their best season in a long time, and a big part of that was the 21-year old full back Rodriguez. Rodriguez has excellent stats for a full back, scoring 5 goals and making 9 assists in the Bundesliga, and he is considered one of the best crossers of a ball in the game. Next season, with Wolfsburg in the Europa League, he will get to show what he can do on the European stage, and more people will stand up and take notice of him.

DM: Philipp Lahm, Bayern Munich

The captain of last season’s treble winners has always been one of the most consistent players in the world. That was no different this season, and he took to playing in a new position as if he was born to it. Traditionally a full back, he played mainly as a defensive midfielder this season, and did it so well he kept Javi Martinez, one of the world’s best defensive midfielders, out of the team. Pep Guardiola has called him the most intelligent player he has ever coached – high praise from a man who has coached geniuses such as Xavi, Iniesta and Messi. Sergio Busquets was credited as one of the most important players for Barcelona under Guardiola, and Lahm has all the attributes to play the same role for him at Bayern.

CM: Yaya Toure, Manchester City

In 2010, Manchester City spent £28million on a defensive midfielder called Yaya Toure. This year, that same Yaya Toure finished as the top scorer in a squad containing Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo. He has been transformed from a decent defensive midfielder into a colossal attacking powerhouse. The goal he scored in the penultimate game of City’s title-winning season, summed up his season, when he picked the ball up deep in his own half, and just run all the way down the pitch, shrugging off challenge after challenge, and expertly finishing it off. He has also become something of a free kick specialist this season, and to have finished with 20 goals in the league is simply remarkable for a midfielder. The best business City could do this summer is convince him to stay, because he is simply irreplaceable.

CM: Angel Di Maria, Real Madrid

The arrival of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid seemed to signal the end of Di Maria’s time at the club. 9 months on, Di Maria arguably outshined the Welshman, playing in a different position and still managing to contribute 17 assists in La Liga. He was named man of the match in the Champions League final against Atletico, a game when Bale and Ronaldo were virtually anonymous. After being seemingly discarded by Real, he emerged as one of their most important players.

RW: Alexis Sanchez, Barcelona

Alexis has constantly been outshone at Barcelona by his more glamorous team mates, and with the arrival of Neymar this summer, many didn’t think he would get a look in any more. Despite an excellent season when he scored 19 goals and made 10 assists in the league, he continues to be unappreciated by Barcelona, with them reportedly offering him to other clubs to make room for new signings. Whoever signs him will be getting a brilliant player at probably a bargain price.

LW: Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid

After being continually outshone by Lionel Messi ever since he moved to Spain, this was the season when Ronaldo finally stepped out from behind Messi’s shadow. With the little Argentine sidelined by injury for several months, Ronaldo took the opportunity to fire Real Madrid to the Champion’s League title, scoring a record 17 goals in the competition. and a total of 51 goals in 47 games. His statistics since joining Real Madrid continue to defy logic, and now the argument for who the best player in the world is is more difficult than ever before.

ST: Luis Suarez, Liverpool

Love him or loathe him – and most people do the latter – Luis Suarez was easily the best player in the Premier League this season, and almost single-handedly dragged Liverpool to what would have been an unbelievable title win. His 31 goals and 12 assists in the league are even more remarkable considering he missed the first 6 games of the season, and they were enough to win him the Player of the Year award. And yet he came so close to leaving Liverpool before the season started – some Liverpool fans were even hoping he would leave after bringing so much controversy to the club. Those people have almost certainly changed their minds about him now, even if does still infuriate many with his diving antics.

Substitutes

GK: Keylor Navas, Levante

It was a big surprise when the Costa Rican Navas was named in La Liga’s team of the season over Courtois, but it was totally deserved. In his first season as a first choice keeper in La Liga, he kept 15 clean sheets for mid-table Levante.

CB: Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid

It was his last-gasp goal in the Champions League final that allowed Real to go on and win in extra time, and that was the pinnacle of a season when many believe he proved himself as the best defender in the world.

RB: Seamus Coleman, Everton

Coleman, and Leighton Baines on the opposite flank, were a major reason for Everton’s excellent season, and at £60k he is one of the best bargains in football.

CM: Arturo Vidal, Juventus

While Juventus continue to dominate in Italy, they flopped in European competition this season, despite Vidal’s heroics. He is a very well-rounded footballer, scoring 11 league goals and also defending very well.

LW: Antoine Griezmann, Real Sociedad

The Frenchman who has spent his whole career so far in Spain had his best season yet, scoring 16 league goals. and scored an incredible overhead kick to take Sociedad into the Champions League group stage. At only 23, he will only get better.

RW: Eden Hazard, Chelsea

Hazard improved on his first season at Chelsea, scoring 14 goals and assisting 7. He was also crucial in their run to the Champions League semi finals.

ST: Lionel Messi, Barcelona

He may have had a ‘below-par’ season in the minds of some, but Messi was still the second-highest scoring player in Europe behind Ronaldo, with 36 goals in 38 games. He now heads to a World Cup many are tipping Argentina to win, and if he were to help them do so, he would surely go down as the best player of all time.

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Game of Thrones Review: S4E7 “Mockingbird”

The season is really hotting up now, with shocking events coming in every episode, and this one was no different. Spoilers to come.

After Tyrion’s epic speech at the end of episode 6, everyone wanted to know who he would name as his champion for his trial by combat. Jaime however was not impressed by his outburst, having negotiated with their father to get Tyrion away with his life. Jaime tells Tyrion he can’t be his champion – he is simply no good with his left hand. Tyrion sends Jaime to find Bronn, and asks who Cersei will be naming as her champion. The answer probably didn’t make him very happy – she has named the Mountain, Gregor Clegane, the gigantic, psychopathic knight who we now see for the first time since season 2. If you didn’t recognise him, it’s probably because this is the 3rd actor to play him. We see him slaughtering some random peasants (because he’s crazy?) and Cersei looks pretty impressed. 

We then found ourselves with his little(but still pretty big) brother the Hound and Arya. After a conversation with a farmer that dragged on a bit too long, they gave him the gift of mercy, and then Sandor was attacked by Biter, and received a nasty neck wound. Rorge was also there, and Arya stabbed him through the heart, although it was a bit daft that he didn’t even try to defend himself. Later on, the Hound’s wound isn’t doing well, and he refuses to let Arya burn out the corruption because of his terrible fear of fire. He says he wishes he’d never taken her captive.

Jon then returned to the Wall after his excursion to Craster’s. He failed to convince Alliser Thorne to seal the tunnel, insisting that it would be impossible to defend the tunnel from the giants in Mance Rayder’s army. The battle at the wall is set to take up the entirety of of episode 9, as the battle at the Blackwater did in season 2, and it should be a pretty spectacular affair. 

We then returned to Tyrion’s chamber as Bronn arrived sporting some fancy new clothes. Cersei has got to him before Tyrion could, and sorted him out a marriage to a woman far above his station. Despite Tyrion’s pleas, Bronn bluntly explains that it isn’t worth the risk of fighting the Mountain. Bronn is an opportunist – he fought for Tyrion at the Eyrie because he thought he could win, and he had nothing to lose at the time, but this fight simply isn’t worth the risk. They said an emotional goodbye, and one of the best partnerships in the show came to an end. On the bright side, it has been leaked that Bronn’s new wife, Lollys Stokeworth, is being cast for season five, which means Bronn should be coming back next season.

Across the world to Meereen, and Daario’s attempts to woo Daenerys are finally paying off. Dany’s storyline has been a weak point all season, and sadly that will probably continue into next season if there aren’t big changes from the books. Jorah expresses his distrust of Daario, and why Dany’s plan to execute all of the slave masters in Yunkai is a bad idea. She agrees with him, and Daario is sent off to retake the slave city. 

If you were disappointed that Dany’s sex scene with Daario was left to the imagination, never fear because Melisandre is taking a bath. Her scene with Selyse seemed like it was just there to get some nudity into the episode, not that I’m complaining. Brienne and Podrick met up with a familiar face from season 3, Hot Pie. Their scenes haven’t really been thrilling thus far, but that will hopefully change soon. 

Time for one last visitor to Tyrion’s chamber – Oberyn Martell. He tells the story of when they first met, while Tyrion was still a baby, and Cersei blamed him for their mother’s death. Oberyn then makes the offer to be Tyrion’s champion. It was a really emotional and well acted scene, and increased the love for Oberyn even more. 

To cap off the episode, we visited the Eyrie. Sansa built her snow version of Winterfell, before Robin came and stomped on it. Sansa slapping him was rather out of character, but most show viewers probably didn’t mind. Then it was time for what 3 seasons of Littlefinger’s creepiness had led up to – his kiss with Sansa, with his new wife Lysa looking on from above. Lysa then summoned Sansa to the Moon Door – and almost threw her out of it. Littlefinger talks her out of it, and explains that he doesn’t love Sansa, he’s only ever loved one woman – only Cat. He then shoved Lysa out of the Moon Door. Why exactly the line ‘Only Cat’, one of the most iconic lines of the series, was changed is a mystery – but it was still a shocking moment, and further demonstrated the lengths Littlefinger will go to to get what he wants. 

9/10


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What can West Ham expect from Mauro Zárate?

Mauro Zarate

West Ham have completed the signing of 27 year old Argentine striker Mauro Zarate from Velez Sarsfield. Having been one of Europe’s biggest young talents several years ago, Zarate fell off the radar somewhat recently, but he is still an excellent player, and should he play to his best, he will be an amazing signing for West Ham. He is also one of my favourite players, so I really hope he is a success in the Premier League.

Club History

Mauro began his career at Velez Sarsfield in Argentina. At 17, he was promoted from the youth team into the first team. His breakout season was in 2006/07, when he scored 19 goals, and was promptly signed for around £15m by Qatari side Al-Sadd. After only six months in Qatar, he joined Birmingham City on loan for six months of the 2007/08 season. He scored 4 goals in 14 appearances for Birmingham, not enough to keep them from relegation, but although he was only there for a brief period, he scored some memorable goals and Blues fans have fond memories of him. The following season, he joined Serie A side Lazio on loan, and that was the season he really burst onto the scene of European football. He scored 13 goals in Serie A, and also helping them to win the Coppa Italia with a goal in the semi-final and final. His performances for Lazio convinced the normally stingy president Claudio Lotito to splash out £20m for his permanent signing. However, his next season would be something of a let down, as he only scored 3 league goals, and only 8 in total. The next season was a little better, with 9 goals, but the manager Edy Reja was critical of his use of the ball, saying he is “too in love with the ball” and should pass more. In 2011/12, he went on loan to Inter Milan, scoring just twice in 22 league appearances, although he was used mainly as a substitute. When Inter decided against making his signing permanent, he returned to Lazio, and with Reja gone, he got his head down and prepared for the new season at Lazio. However, despite playing regularly in the Europe League, manager Petkovic couldn’t find room for him in the team for league games. This led to a falling out with the management, and he was ostracised from the team. He ended the season with only league appearance, and just one goal in the Europa League. His Lazio contract was terminated at the end of the season, and he returned to his first club Velez. This move seems to have revitalised him – he finished the top scorer in Argentina last season, with a tally of 20 goals in 35 games in all competitions. This has persuaded Sam Allardyce to bring him to West Ham.

Style of Play

Zarate is most comfortable playing up front, but he has also played on the left wing, allowing him to cut inside onto his stronger right foot. He is a very pacy and skillful dribbler, but has often been accused of being too greedy. He has scored several free kicks and spectacular long range strikes in his time, and he certainly has an eye for the spectacular. The best way for West Ham to utilise him would probably be in a front two with Andy Carroll, allowing him to benefit from Carroll’s flick-ons.

After showing so much early promise, Zarate clearly became unhappy in Italy and failed to play like he could. However, his brilliant form in Argentina shows that he is still an excellent player, and if Big Sam can find a way to get him playing to his best, there is no reason why he can’t be a brilliant addition to the Premier League. As a big fan of him myself, I wish him all the best.


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Game of Thrones Review: S4E6 “The Laws of Gods and Men”

Somehow, we’re already half way through season four already. But this isn’t just a bad thing, because this is the time when things really start going crazy. So much is going to happen in the remainder of the season, and it’s going to amazing. Spoilers to come. 

After two episodes without them, Stannis and Davos returned, and they arrived at one of the most interesting places in the world of ASOIAF – Braavos, with the Titan guarding the entrance to the bay. They were going to the Iron Bank to appeal for some of their gold. After declining the offer at first, an impassioned and well-argued speech from Davos managed to sway the bankers. If Stannis had all the awesome lines in the book’s version of this storyline, Davos is getting them in the show. Salladhor Saan also made his first appearance since season three, and he is always entertaining. 

Another returning face was Asha (or if you prefer, Yara) Greyjoy. Her mission to rescue Theon from Ramsay Snow was a big change from the book and spawned many theories about how it would tie in to the Ironborn storyline, but in the end it fell a bit flat. After fighting their way through the Dreadfort, the islanders beat a hasty retreat when Ramsay released his dogs. Really, the world’s bravest and best warriors frightened by a dog, and a lunatic with his shirt off? On a better note, Asha stating that Theon was ‘dead’ means the Ironborn storyline is on track to follow the books exactly next season. Theon and Ramsay then had another disturbing scene together, with Ramsay asking ‘Reek’ to pretend to be someone he isn’t – Theon Greyjoy. Alfie Allen is still doing an amazing job at showing Reek’s physical and pyschological torment. 

It was then time for some long-overdue proper dragon action. Drogon roasted some goats, and the farmer laid them at the feet of Daenerys in her throne room. Some fans were surprised that the farmer wasn’t bringing something else, but there is still time for that to come – it’s too important a detail to be left out. Then we were introduced to Hizdahr, one of many Meereneese nobles in Dany’s storyline. It was far easier to empathise with him than it was in the books, and his exchange with Dany was very emotive. 

Then it was time for a meeting of the new-look Small Council, with new members Oberyn and Mace. They did a good job at showing Mace Tyrell to be the spineless suck-up he is, and Oberyn was once again the star of the show. The Red Viper – can they just call him that once on the show, please? – then had a conversation with Varys, that gave some interesting insight into the eunuch’s apparent asexuality. 

Finally, it was time for a long-awaited scene that took up most of this episode – Tyrion’s trial. Witness after witness came up to give ludicrous testimonies against him. Jaime rightly points out the farcical nature of what is going on to Tywin. He then offers to give up his white cloak if Tywin will spare Tyrion. It is debatable whether he would do that – he would hate to be an oathbreaker again, but he does love his little brother. After Jaime tells Tyrion what he must do, the next witness steps up…

… and it’s Shae, Tyrion’s former whore-turned-girlfriend that he sent away in episode two. After telling a totally made up story that seems to put it in no doubt that Tyrion killed Joffrey, Tyrion stops her – and gives in my opinion the best speech this show has seen so far. Absolutely amazing acting from Peter Dinklage, with some brilliant writing too, and it was undoubtedly the best moment so far this season. That by itself makes this the best episode of the season so far. 

9/10


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Game of Thrones Review: S4E5 “First of his Name”

After the surprising changes made in episode 4, we were all excited and a little nervous to see what direction the show was taking, and it’s fair to say it didn’t disappoint, as episode five was the best so far this season. Spoilers to follow. 

The episode began with the crowning of the new king, Tommen Baratheon. As different to Joffrey as it is possible to be, it may put some of the Lannister haters in something of a dilemma, as he’s just so difficult to dislike. Cersei did well to veil her contempt for Margaery, because she needed to butter up her father, Mace Tyrell, and one of the judges for Tyrion’s trial. She would also have scenes with the other judges, Tywin and Oberyn, as she tries to get them on her side and secure Tyrion’s execution. During her scene with Tywin, we discover that the Lannister’s gold mines have run dry – an interesting development, as they are the source of all their wealth and power. 

Over to the now conquered Meereen, and Daenerys has finally changed out of that blue dress. She was informed of Joffrey’s death, and makes the big decision not to sail for Westeros until she has learnt to rule, and defeated Yunkai and Astapor once again. Emilia Clarke’s acting continues to frustrate many, but I personally think her writing has been pretty sub-par this season. 

Then we were back in the Vale for the first time since season one, and re-introduced the the crazy Lysa Arryn and her bratty son Robert. We had the big reveal that Littlefinger was behind the death of Jon Arryn, and that it was Lysa who actually poisoned him – this is a big reveal and it was a surprise that it was revealed so early. Thankfully we were spared seeing Petyr and Lysa’s wedding night in person, but Sansa suffered an uncomfortable night’s sleep. 

Over to Arya and the Hound, and Arya’s death prayer has had a few different names added to it – Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr were quite surprising, but given the change to the plot that involved them selling Gendry to Melisandre, it makes sense. The Hound then gave her a reality check about her ‘water-dancing’ – ‘Syrio’s dead, and Meryn Trant’s not, because Meryn had armour, and a big fucking sword.’ Her sister Sansa was having much fun either – Lysa went full insane mode and asked her if Littlefinger had got her pregnant, but she persuaded her he hadn’t. 

We had our first introduction to the great double act that is Brienne and Podrick. Podrick’s utter cluelessness is great entertainment, although Brienne’s disdain for him is somewhat out of character. Podrick is becoming more and more likeable every week – kudos to Daniel Portman for his great portrayal of him. 

Then we were back to Craster’s Keep, where everyone was keen to say what would happen with Bran and company. Locke scouted the keep, and reported back to Jon, but he lied about the hut that Bran was in, so that he could sneak Bran away while the other’s were distracted. Karl almost raped Meera, but was distracted by the attack by the Night’s Watch rangers. The rangers made light work of the mutineers, but Jon was pushed all the way by Karl, and only saved by one of Craster’s wives intervening. Meanwhile, Locke attempted to kidnap Bran, who warged into Hodor and broke Locke’s neck using the giant’s body. Hodor’s confused and scared expression when he realised what ‘he’ had done was really good – Bran’s use of Hodor like this is taboo, and you had to feel sorry for the big guy. Bran called out for Jon to help him, but Jojen convinced him otherwise – he correcly pointed out that Jon would never let him go north. A huge sigh of relief was released as we realised there would not be a Stark reunion – as nice as it would be, it’s horrible cliche and too big a deviation from the book’s plot. Finally, Jon was reunited with Ghost, and Craster’s Keep was burnt to the ground. 

9/10


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Game of Thrones Review: S4E4 “Oathkeeper”

For some time now, fans have been concerned that Game of Thrones will overtake the books in the storyline, owing to how slow a writer George RR Martin is. However, no one expected it to happen this soon. Not only that, but this episode also saw perhaps the biggest deviation from the books, and it lead to quite a lot of confusion and outrage immediately after the episode aired. Spoilers to come.

The episode kicked off with Daenery’s conquest of Meereen. Grey Worm entered the sewers and gave weapons to the slaves, allowing them to kill the masters from within. We then saw the first signs of Dany’s more sadistic side, as she crucified 163 of the masters, one for each of the slave girls they had executed. Barristan tried to counsel her to be merciful – is it possible he was having flashbacks to the Mad King, and trying to steer her away from going down the same path?

Then we had another scene with my new favourite bromance, Bronn and Jaime. After Bronn knocked Jaime to the dirt with his own golden hand, he told him how Tyrion had asked for Jaime to champion him at his trial by combat in the Eyrie – this realisation of how much his little brother valued him finally convinced Jaime to go and visit Tyrion in his cell. Tyrion asked, somewhat ridiculously, that Jaime free him, which he obviously refused to do. Then we were back on Littlefinger’s ship with Sansa, and Littlefinger admitted to killing Joffrey. He then failed entirely at subtley saying who his accomplices were, and we cut straight to them – the Tyrells. Olenna told Margaery that she was involved in Joffrey’s murder. I don’t really like how Margaery seems to have been dumbed down somewhat on the show – in the books she was every bit as good a schemer as her grandmother. However, we started to see how she is learning from her, as she follows her advice on how to get Tommen away from his mother’s clutches and into hers. She entered the boy king’s chambers late at night – fulfilling every teenage boy’s dreams, although it was rather creepy watching a 30 year old woman seducing a young teenager. 

After the confusion over last weeks apparent rape scene, many were anticipating how Cersei and Jaime would act towards each other, and it didn’t exactly do any favours to those who claimed it wasn’t rape. Cersei was completely cold and distant towards Jaime, not even calling him by name. Jaime then gave Brienne his sword, and sent her out to find Sansa. She named the sword Oathkeeper, although it was Jaime who gave it the name in the book, and he sent Podrick along to squire for her. Jaime and Brienne’s parting was suitable emotional, and the great roadtrip of Brienne and Podrick was under way. 

The rest of the episode was spent either at Castle Black or north of the Wall. Roose Bolton’s accomplice Locke showed up at Castle Black training and struck up a friendship with Jon – it will be interesting to see where this goes. Jon gave an impassioned speech to his brothers asking them to come to Craster’s with him and kill the mutineers. It was a great show of camaraderie between him and his friends, including Grenn and Dolorous Edd. 

After that, was where the big changes began to happen. We went to Craster’s Keep and saw Karl, who seems to have taken the place of Chett in the books, drinking wine from the skull of Lord Commander Mormont, which was incredible macabre. He sent Rast out to dispose of one of Craster’s sons, and to feed Ghost on the way (apparently it’s easy to imprison a direwolf in a flimsy wooden cage.) Bran and company heard the baby crying, and Bran sent Summer out to investigate, only for him to be captured as well. After going themselves to find out what was going on, they were taken prisoner by the mutineers. This is a pretty massive change to Bran’s storyline –  and given the other big change, that Sam actually told Jon about Bran going north of the wall, it has lead to speculation that the brothers might be reunited, something that seems far too fantasy cliche for this series. 

The episode ended in an unfamiliar location, possible the Lands of Always Winter, at the northernmost point of the known world. Here, a group of white walkers seemed to transform Craster’s son into one of them – a pretty big insight into how the white walkers work, and one we didn’t yet know about from the books. There was one white walker that looked different to the others, and although he wasn’t referred to by name in the episode, an episode summary on HBO’s website outed him as the Night’s King, a legendary figure in the history of the Night’s Watch. He was the thirteenth Lord Commander, and he fell in love with a white walker and took her to the Nightfort, one of the Night’s Watch’s other castles, and declared himself their king. He sacrificed his sons to the walkers, in a similar way to Craster, and many other atrocities were commited during his thirteen year reign until he was defeated. The fact he is still around, if it is indeed him, is potentially a huge spoiler from the future books – or it could just be something HBO have invented for the show. Either way, this is the first sign of some book readers worst fears becoming reality. 

7/10