In the Critics this week

South African photography, a history of protest songs, and DH Lawrence on screen.

In the Critics section of this week's New Statesman, Ryan Gilbey reviews Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams, admiring "the plain wonder of the paintings in close-up, with hand-held lights providing shaky illumination", as well as Herzog's "wonderfully chewy voice, which suggests a kind of innocent but authoritative insanity, has mysterious catacombs of its own". Voices aside, the "oppressive choral music" comes in for criticism.

Rachel Cooke harks back to her "blue-stocking phase" and her loathing for DH Lawrence; nevertheless, she finds BBC4's adaptation of Women in Love "as enjoyable as something by Lawrence could be". Happily, "mysticism and navel-gazing are kept to a minimum". David Flusfeder listens to The Reunion, on Radio 4, which catches-up with veterans of the 1981 Brixton riots. "What emerged most clearly was that no two guests, not even supposed colleagues, were ever part of the same community", notes Flusfeder.

Fisun Guner admires French rococo artist Jean-Antoine Watteau, whose work is the subject of two exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts and the Wallace Collection. The former is "a superb chronological survey" which demonstrates that Watteau "can be admired for his drawings alone"; whereas the latter "justly celebrates" his achievements on canvas, too. William Wiles visits the Barbican, where an exhibition of artists who "found inspiration in the decaying Big Apple" of the 1970s is running: "none of the artists attempts to impose order on a city that no longer makes sense; they prefer playing in ruins". This week's Critic at large is NS Culture editor Jonathan Derbyshire, who reports from Johannesburg where photographers "are striving to find new ways of recording the transformation of their country".

In Books, John Gray reviews The New North: the World in 2050, by Laurence C Smith, and finds it a "consistently challenging and mind-opening exercise in futurology" cataloguing "realities of which we are aware, but that we prefer not to think about". Chris Mullin reviews The Prime Ministers Who Never Were: A Collection of Counterfactuals, edited by Francis Beckett, concluding that it's "all very interesting, but...ultimately [is a] book for anoraks"; Ben Rogers writes about Edward L Glaeser's Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier: "It is one thing to defend cities," Rogers writes, "quite another to understand what makes them work". Yo Zushi considers 33 Revolutions a Minute: a History of Protest Songs by Dorian Lynskey, and the history of "dissent through popular music" that it traces. However, "it is too soon to write a eulogy to a mode of songwriting that has clearly not died out", for "to those who are listening, it remains a source of strength". Lastly, Antonia Quirke talks to Peter Bogdanovich about his 1971film, The Last Picture Show, based on the coming-of-age novel of the same name by Larry McMurtry: "film and book are (almost) equally magnificent" Quirke observes.

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How power shifted dramatically in this week’s Game of Thrones

The best-laid plans of Mothers and men often go awry.

Last week’s Game of Thrones was absolutely full of maps. It had more maps than a Paper Towns/Moonrise Kingdom crossover. More maps than an Ordnance Survey walking tour of a cartographer’s convention. More maps than your average week on CityMetric.

So imagine the cheers of delight when this week’s episode, “Stormborn”, opened with – yes, a map! Enter Daenerys, casting her eyes over her carved table map (Ikea’s Västeross range, I believe), deciding whether to take King’s Landing and the iron throne from Cersei or a different path. After some sassy debates with Varys over loyalty, more members of her court enter to point angrily at different grooves in the table as Dany and Tyrion move their minature armies around the board.

In fact, this whole episode had a sense of model parts slotting pleasingly into place. Melisandre finally moved down the board from Winterfell to Dragonstone to initiate the series’ most inevitable meeting, between The King of the North and the Mother of Dragons. Jon is hot on her heels. Arya crossed paths with old friends Hot Pie and Nymeria, and the right word spoken at the right time saw her readjust her course to at last head home to the North. Tyrion seamlessly anticipated a move from Cersei and changed Dany’s tack accordingly. There was less exposition than last week, but the episode was starting to feel like an elegant opening to a long game of chess.

All this made the episode’s action-filled denouement all the more shocking. As Yara, Theon and Ellaria dutifully took their place in Dany’s carefully mapped out plans, they were ambushed by their mad uncle Euron (a character increasingly resembling Blackbeard-as-played-by-Jared-Leto). We should have known: just minutes before, Yara and Ellaria started to get it on, and as TV law dictates, things can never end well for lesbians. As the Sand Snakes were mown down one by one, Euron captured Yara and dared poor Theon to try to save her. As Theon stared at Yara’s desperate face and tried to build up the courage to save her, we saw the old ghost of Reek quiver across his face, and he threw himself overboard. It’s an interesting decision from a show that has recently so enjoyed showing its most abused characters (particularly women) delight in showy, violent acts of revenge. Theon reminds us that the sad reality of trauma is that it can make people behave in ways that are not brave, or redemptive, or even kind.

So Euron’s surprise attack on the rest of the Greyjoy fleet essentially knocked all the pieces off the board, to remind us that the best-laid plans of Mothers and men often go awry. Even when you’ve laid them on a map.

But now for the real question. Who WAS the baddest bitch of this week’s Game of Thrones?

Bad bitch points are awarded as follows:

  • Varys delivering an extremely sassy speech about serving the people. +19.
  • Missandei correcting Dany’s High Valerian was Extremely Bold, and I, for one, applaud her. +7.
  • The prophecy that hinges on a gender-based misinterpretation of the word “man” or “prince” has been old since Macbeth, but we will give Dany, like, two points for her “I am not a prince” chat purely out of feminist obligation. +2.
  • Cersei having to resort to racist rhetoric to try and persuade her own soldiers to fight for her. This is a weak look, Cersei. -13.
  • Samwell just casually chatting back to his Maester on ancient medicine even though he’s been there for like, a week, and has read a total of one (1) book on greyscale. +5. He seems pretty wrong, but we’re giving points for sheer audacity.
  • Cersei thinking she can destroy Dany’s dragon army with one (1) big crossbow. -15. Harold, they’re dragons.
  • “I’ve known a great many clever men. I’ve outlived them all. You know why? I ignored them.” Olenna is the queen of my LIFE. +71 for this one (1) comment.
  • Grey Worm taking a risk and being (literally) naked around someone he loves. +33. He’s cool with rabid dogs, dizzying heights and tumultuous oceans, but clearly this was really scary for him. It’s important and good to be vulnerable!! All the pats on the back for Grey Worm. He really did that.
  • Sam just fully going for it and chopping off all of Jorah’s skin (even though he literally… just read a book that said dragonglass can cure greyscale??). +14. What is this bold motherfucker doing.
  • Jorah letting him. +11.
  • “You’ve been making pies?” “One or two.” Blatant fan service from psycho killer Arya, but I fully loved it. +25.
  • Jon making Sansa temporary Queen in the North. +7.
  • Sansa – queen of my heart and now Queen in the North!!! +17.
  • Jon choking Littlefinger for perving over Sansa. +19. This would just be weird and patriarchal, but Littlefinger is an unholy cunt and Sansa has been horrifically abused by 60 per cent of the men who have ever touched her.
  • Nymeria staring down the woman who once possessed her in a delicious reversal of fortune. +13. Yes, she’s a wolf but she did not consent to being owned by a strangely aggressive child.
  • Euron had a big win. So, regrettably, +10.

​That means this week’s bad bitch is Olenna Tyrell, because who even comes close? This week’s loser is Cersei. But, as always, with the caveat that when Cersei is really losing – she strikes hard. Plus, Qyburn’s comment about the dragon skeletons under King’s Landing, “Curious that King Robert did not have them destroyed”, coupled with his previous penchant for re-animated dead bodies, makes me nervous, and worry that – in light of Cersei’s lack of heir – we’re moving towards a Cersei-Qyburn-White Walkers alliance. So do watch out.

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.