Four Letter Nerd

Author - Jeff Merrick

Previous Generation of Late Night Hosts Going Out Quietly

I remember coming home after a little league baseball game I played in on a Friday night in May of 1992. After a quick shower, I walked downstairs to have a late night snack and my parents had the TV on Johnny Carson, host of the Tonight Show from 1962 to 1992. It was his well publicized last show as host and around 50 million people tuned in. The prestige of the event was evident even to 11 year old me and the ratings mentioned earlier were further evidence to how much people would miss the former “king of late night.”

David Letterman, whose 32 year career included “Late Night” on NBC and “The Late Show” on CBS, will host his last show on Wednesday. How many of you are reading this for the first time? Though the recognition has picked up somewhat this week,  it is truly amazing how little pub the end of the run of such a significant figure in the history of late night is having. And did anybody reading this watch Jay Leno’s final “Tonight Show?” Though it did have a decent rating, it’s audience was a fourth of the size of Carson’s audience and the buzz for it was next to nothing. So why are the ends of the 30 plus year runs of Leno and Letterman on late night television lacking the fanfare of their predecessor? Here are a couple of speculations on my part as to why the pomp around their exits has been significantly less.

1. The Expansion of the Late Night Universe

When Carson was “king of late night,” no one was really competing with him. Letterman came on the same network following Carson and the other networks answered with their own alternate programming (for example “Nightline” on ABC). Now, three of the four major networks have a late night show (NBC and CBS have two). Plus, there are numerous offerings for the late night audience, whether it be Conan on TBS, the Daily Show on Comedy Central, or creepy adult cartoons on Adult Swim (just to name a few). The saturation of the Late Night market has definitely lessened the buzz of these two departed late night legends.

2. Excitement for Their Replacements

When discussing this article with fellow 4LN writer Cam Clark, his thoughts were “I can’t wait for Stephen Colbert (Letterman’s replacement on the Late Show) to take over.” His comments were an exact quote from me when Leno stepped down, except for replacing Stephen Colbert’s name with Jimmy Fallon’s. When Carson retired, Leno had only been a substitute host on the Tonight Show and Letterman came on after many who watched the Tonight Show went to bed. So when Carson stepped down, there was an air of uncertainty surrounding the new hosts. Thanks to social media, Fallon’s shenanigans on “Late Night” were well known and built up quite the buzz for the eventual taking over of the coveted “Tonight Show” spot.  The same could be said for Jimmy Kimmel, whose own brand on ABC was already making waves in the final years of Leno and Letterman’s shows. And while we can’t say for sure what Stephen Colbert will look like as host of the Late Show, viewers will have a strong familiarity with him from his years hosting “The Colbert Report” in the same time slot. The buzz surrounding the current crop of late night hosts have been so significant that it has greatly overshadowed those who are stepping away.

3. Online Streaming

The emergence of YouTube and internet streaming happened right in the middle of the transition between the old and the new guard of late night. Jimmy Fallon figured this out early, breaking his show down into bits that could be consumed just as easily in 7 minute clips online as they could on the air. Kimmel and Conan do similar bits that can stream to anyone at anytime, not just those who stayed up to watch the first viewing. This change happened while Leno and Letterman were still on the air. And while both men added social media pages and posted some shenanigans online, their brand of humor never adapted the way those whose shows immersed themselves in it from the start. As much as anything, the internet helped build the excitement for the new guard, making us forget about the men who came before.

4. The Frosty Relationship Between Leno and Letterman

The decision to replace Carson with Leno proved to be a permanent point of contention between the two hosts. Letterman believed his work on “Late Night” was enough to qualify him to replace Carson. So when Leno was chosen by the brass at NBC, Letterman took his talents to CBS and a late night ratings war (with words and with viewers) was born. Compare this to the many hosts in the coveted spots today, who while competing with each other, have yet to resort to the verbal sparring Leno and Letterman practiced.

Letterman and Leno before they became competitors.

 

5. The Conan Debacle

Some of you may have been screaming this one from the start of the article. And while I don’t think it’s the only reason for the quiet parting of these two men, I definitely believe it is the primary one.

NBC’s master plan to replace Leno with Conan in the “Tonight Show” spot was a disaster. To keep Conan with the network on “Late Night,” NBC agreed to turn the “Tonight Show” over to Conan in 2009 (the deal was made five years before this date). But when the time came to pass the torch, Leno was unwilling to bow out. Instead of retiring or moving to another network, Leno convinced the brass at NBC to put him into a nightly primetime spot. The disaster of Leno’s new show plus poor ratings for Conan on the Tonight Show created an issue that NBC resolved by putting Leno back on “The Tonight Show” and canning Conan (though Conan actually ended up quitting because of NBC”s proposal to put Leno on for 30 minutes before Conan). Leno made a lot of enemies with this move and, as much as anything, is why Leno bowed out quietly.

But Letterman did himself no favors by jumping into the fray. Maybe it was just too much for Letterman to resist, having his longtime enemy make such a selfish move. The following are Letterman’s comments criticizing Leno for his handling of the situation:

 

You may have noticed this video was titled “Vol. 1.” I found ten volumes of this while looking for this clip online. If Letterman would’ve only spoke up this one time, maybe the effect would have been minimal (this one clip is actually very funny). But the nightly rants really wore on some previous Letterman supporters. In contrast, here are Conan’s closing remarks on his final tonight show:

 

Talk about a different tone. And has it turned out, this may have been the best thing that ever happened to Conan. He turned his misfortune into a successful comedy tour and a new gig on TBS in a slot that is more fitting to O’Brien’s style of humor. But the biggest winner of the entire episode was NBC, the network responsible for the debacle in the first place. They ended up with Jimmy Fallon and his game-changing late night antics for “The Tonight Show.” But there will be plenty of years to praise the new king as well as those who very successfully navigate the waters of late night television today. But I was a regular viewer of Letterman in my teen and college years and while I have not found the man funny in awhile, I still think he deserves some props for the influence he’s had on the generation of hosts with us today. So here’s to the end of David Letterman’s run on late night television, now when does Stephen Colbert start?

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 6 Recap: “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken”

Nightmare of Bookreaders Realized in Final Scene

I never thought the producers would do it. Ramsey raping Sansa just didn’t seem to fit the direction they were taking the character and I assumed something would happen to prevent it. Maybe Brienne or Stannis would arrive and save her right before it happened. Or maybe Myranda, who I am sure by the end of this season will have done enough for Ramsey to be fed up with her, would be placed into the scene instead of Lady Stark. Sansa’s story is one of survival where she keeps finding herself in positions with no power as all her family members die around her only to bite her tongue just long enough and make it out of that situation. How could being raped by the sickest bastard in Westeros further this story?

Bookreaders feared for Sansa the moment she was paired with Ramsey. And not just because he’s a demented freak, but because their is a rape scene from the text involving Ramsey’s arranged bride. That one was a fake Arya who is forced into a threeway situation with Ramsey and Theon/Reek participating. But I never expected Sansa to be the one to replace fake Arya in that scene. And at least if wasn’t a forced three-way (though Reek watching and doing nothing is pretty despicable for his character). Up until that final scene, episode 6 was mostly political rambling in the spirit of “Phantom Menace” with people talking about things that should’ve been developed over the first five episodes instead of one 25 minute word jumble while not acting on any of those things they are talking about (except in Dorne, where we act with little explanation of what the purpose of it all is).  But I could think of none of that when the credits hit and the most tragic deviation from the books so far was completed.

House of Black and White

We return to find Arya doing the same things she was the last time we saw her (which has been awhile), cleaning dead body after dead body. When she tries to find out where the bodies, she is denied by her roommate and a series of “Who are you” questions begin where Arya is slapped each time she answers wrong. Of course, it becomes very hard to tell how Arya is supposed to answer when she gets slapped for saying both “Nobody” and “Arya of House Stark.” I guess Jaqen and company don’t care much for flip-flopping.

Things do take a turn for the better when a father brings his sick daughter into the House. He says she’s been sick for so long and they have no other options. So Arya goes to comfort the girl, encouraging her to drink the Kool-Aid…I mean water from the pool in the house. It turns out that water is some poison that gives the dying a peaceful death as we next see the girl dead on that same table from earlier. But Jaqen opens the door and allows Arya to enter, where she sees thousands of creepy dead faces. This is where all those bodies go!!! We end Arya’s story for the night with a clear direction from Jaqen: Arya is not ready to be “Nobody,” but is ready to be “Somebody.” That clears things up now doesn’t it.

Arya and all those creepy faces.

Near Slaver’s Bay

Nice touch by the show here pointing out a shared circumstance between Jorah and Tyrion as both men have father’s who are now dead. Unfortunately, Jorah is hearing about the death of the Old Bear for the first time. Tyrion speaks very highly of Jorah’s father, recapping his experience at the Wall back in season one. Jorah keeps the nostalgia train has he discusses why he has chosen Daenarys, recalling the end of season one when she stepped out of the fire with her dragons.

Another round of conversation between the men involves the plan for when Daenarys actually (if she actually does) take the throne in Westeros. And there really is no better time to discuss this as it’s pretty important and the two men have nothing but time to talk on this long journey. But the post revolution plan discussion is put on hold when the men run into slavers (and that head slaver is Mr. Eko for all you “Lost” fans out there). Jorah points out that slavery is now illegal in Slaver’s Bay, but the slavers mean to take Jorah with them to Volantis. Being dwarf, however, makes Tyrion is worthless (except for his cock because a dwarf’s cock is lucky), so they mean to kill him. Remember back in Season one when Tyrion seemed to be facing certain death on a weekly basis. Well, just like those situations, Tyrion thinks on his feet and talks his way out of it, convincing the slavers that Jorah would make a great pit fighter in Merreen. So good to see that brilliant dwarf mind at work again as he both avoids certain death and gets the two men pointed towards their intended destination.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Eko, your head slaver.

King’s Landing

Baelish has returned to King’s Landing and his allegiances are as murky as ever. First, he has a confrontation of words with Lancel in the streets. I guess Littlefinger knows he can do little to fight the Faith Militant, but I find it interesting he does little to nothing in response to the closing of his primary source of income in King’s Landing. Littlefinger also meets with Cersei and explains the situation in the Vale and in Winterfell, including the fact that Sansa is there (that secret sure didn’t last very long). Now try to follow the logic here. Littlefinger wants Cersei to doubt the loyalties of the current Warden of the North, Roose Bolton, by making it appear that he is the only one harboring Sansa (and Littlefinger had nothing to do with it, wink wink). Littlefinger wants Cersei to allow Stannis to fight Roose Bolton and then take the men of the Vale to take out the winner, who should be worn out from fighting. When the men of the Vale win, Littlefinger wants to be declared Warden of the North. Cersei will only accept Littlefinger’s claim if he brings her Sansa’s head. That was a lot of political maneuvering in that one five minute conversation. And Littlefinger officially has hand in every cookie jar in Westeros.

One of the better deviations from the book is having the Queen of Thornes return to King’s Landing!!! In the book, it was Margaeary and Loras’s father, Mace (nicknamed Lord Oaf) who took up his daughter’s cause. But Lady Oleanna is a much better choice to defend House Tyrell as she has it out with Cersei over Loras’s capture. Cersei insists it was the Faith Militant who was responsible for the capture of Loras Tyrell, but Oleanna is not buying it. She also questions the logic of Cersei having the heir of house Tyrell, the Lannister’s most powerful ally, thrown in jail (as am I, Lady Oleanna, as am I).

The inquisition of Loras was one of the episode’s better scenes. Note that this is not the trial. The High Sparrow questions Loras and Queen Margaeary about his actions with the purpose here to determine if a trial should take place. Both deny that any “unholy” acts were committed by Loras or that Margaeary had any knowledge of any acts. But a third witness comes in, the man with whom Loras did commit those “unholy” acts with. He claims he did sleep with Loras and that Margaeary walked in and saw what they were doing (referencing back to episode one of the season). He also claims to know of a birthmark on Ser Loras that looks like Dorne (once again, another reference to that first episode, and a brilliant one at that). The High Sparrow determines that there is enough here to have a trial, taking both Loras and Margaery (for lying at the inquisition) into custody.

Queen Margaeary is taken into custody by the Faith Militant as Tommen,the powerless king, looks on.

Dorne

There has been nothing more disappointing this season than Dorne. All the preseason hype, casting additions, released photos, everything pointed to the importance of Dorne. And yet here is Dorne for the third time total this season with once again, just a few minutes spent to develop and uncertain story. Trystane and Myrcella (finally) get speaking parts. They are simply young lovers who know nothing of all the politics around them. Doran Martell appears yet again with only a few minutes of dialogue (the freaking Prince of Dorne and he’s talking for less than five minutes????). I am not going to give the blow by blow of the fight that ensued here because nothing before or during the fight told us anything that was going on or why any of the characters were doing what they were doing. Instead I will present a summary of what each of the involved party’s mission was in the altercation:

Jamie and Bronn- To rescue Myrcella from Dorne. It was a pretty dimwitted plot by the Kingslayer, but at least his purpose was clearly established a few episodes go.

Ellaria and the Sand Snakes- To capture Myrcella. We never actually hear them plot to do this, but Ellaria has mentioned her dislike of Myrcella before and Myrcella clearly didn’t want to go when a vicious Nymeria tries to take her away.

Areo Hotah- His orders were to protect Trystane and Myrcella, so he shows up while the previously mentioned parties are fighting and apprehends them all.

Trystane and Myrcella- Just want to make out

I hope I’ve cleared up any confusion of what everyone was up to in this convergence scene with all the parties in Dorne since so little was done to build up to it.

game-of-thrones-season-5-episode-6-1

Obara looking awesome. Too bad the show seldom ever shows her or her sisters.

Winterfell

Myranda is sent to Sansa’s room to give her bath. As she washes her hair, we see the black coloring fall out of it (which didn’t serve much of a purpose anyway since so little time was spent actually hiding Sansa’s identity). Her intentions have been clear since last week; scare Sansa into abandoning her courtship with Ramsey. She tries to scare Lady Stark with recollections of previous girls Ramsey “bored” of, but Sansa firmly informs her she will not be scared. I really liked seeing the bold Sansa speak up for herself these last two weeks, which makes the last scene of the episode even more heartbreaking.

Reek/Theon shows up to escort Sansa down to the godswood, honoring Northern marital traditions. The two are married in the snow, with Roose Bolton leading the proceedings and Sansa is escorted down to the bedchambers Ramsey has set up for her. Candles are lit everywhere and Ramsey appears to be setting a romantic mood. He speaks gently at first before asking Sansa to take off her clothes. Theon/Reek prepares to leave, but Ramsey wants him to stay and watch. When Sansa pace does meet his expectations, he rips off the back of Sansa’s dress and proceeds to rape her while Theon/Reek looks on crying.

Sansa Ramsay

Ramsey and Sansa on their “wedding night.”

Observations

-Jorah Mormont’s father, Jeor Mormont, was the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch from seasons 1 to 3. He gave Jon Snow his sword and was killed by betrayers of the Night’s Watch at Craster’s Keep. A nice touch in the “previously” segment showing the Old Bear’s interactions with Tyrion from back in the first season.

-If I wasn’t before, I am all aboard with Team Stannis for the North after seeing Littlefinger playing his games in King’s Landing, leaving Sansa at the mercy of Ramsey.

-Tommen appeared tonight at Margeary’s trial, and he was just as useless as ever.

-Reflecting on the final scene again, I do think it is consistent with both character arcs. Ramsey is twisted and evil and Sansa will do whatever she needs to to survive. So when she doesn’t put up a fight on her “wedding night,” it stays consistent with her character for the whole series so far. It doesn’t make the conclusion of the show any less upsetting, but at least thinking of it this way gives hope that her head will not be out of the game because of it.

Questions

-Will Sansa be able to keep her head in the game after tonight’s traumatic events?

-Does Littlefinger still have (if he ever did) her best interests in mind? Or is Sansa truly just a pawn he is using to acquire the North?

-Will Tommen start acting like a king and take back control of his city from the Faith Militant?

-What will being “somebody” look like for Arya?

-Can we please give Dorne proper screen time and actually develop the fight sequences occurring there?

I don’t expect anything as tough to endure next week as this week’s final scene was. But the producers have surprised us before this season, so I won’t hold my breath on it.

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 5: Kill the Boy Recap

Bold decisions by the leaders in Westeros and beyond highlight the halfway point of the season.

                For a show that cuts back and forth at a dizzying pace amongst all the many characters and locations it portrays, “Kill the Boy” did a rare thing for Game of Thrones: elaborate for significant periods of time on each location. Now in order to do that, three locations had to be cut out completely. For the first time since Season 3 (I think), there were no scenes in King’s Landing. Dorne, once again, was not even mentioned. And Arya, while we can assume is probably still sweeping and mopping for her own personal Mr. Miyagi, was absent for the second straight episode (que sad faces from all the readers out there who are missing last year’s journeys with the Hound). But the advantage of leaving these areas out was having the time to really see three characters in strong positions of leadership (Stannis, Jon, and Daenarys), receive time to weigh the consequences each action they could take will have, make that decision, and then live with some of the fallout once that decision is made. Just three locations to recap tonight (well four if you count Old Valayria) plus some significant tidbits about greyscale, Valyria, and another character from the shows history (though more recent history) gets a number of references tonight. We’ll start with the fallout from the death of Dany’s protector, Ser Barristen the Bold.

Grey Worm looking over the dying Barristan Selmy.

 

 

Meereen

Grey Worm is alive!!!! I have to say, the death of Barristen Selmy last week was tough to take. But taking away two of Daenarys significant allies would have just been too much. But some good comes out of Barristen’s death: the return of badass Dany and her fire breathing children!!! She has the nobles of Meereen rounded up (including Hizdahr, the man whose been begging for the reopening of the firepits this season) and brought before her two chained up dragons. One of them is placed before them, fried, and chewed up real nice. Good to see Dany and her dragons working together again. I believe Daenarys means to flush out the man behind the Harpy, assuming it’s one of these men. Later on, while discussing the matter at hand with Missandei, Dany presents her dilemma: the late Ser Barristen wanted her to show mercy while Daario wants her to use military force to bring peace to her city. Missandei tells Daenarys to follow her gut since it seems like that’s the one she’s been ignoring for a while (best advice Dany’s received in a long time!!!). Daenarys goes down to the dungeon where Hizdahr is locked up and he begs her for forgiveness, which she not only grants but informs him that the fighting pits will be reopened and she needs to marry a noble of Meereen to bring peace to the city. Talk about a day taking a complete 180 for Hizdahr. While I loved most of Dany’s work tonight, I am a little disappointed that more has not been done by the show to build up the political marriage of Dany and Hizdahr. Without knowledge of the books, it kind of comes out of nowhere. And what about Daario, her recent lover? And what about taking the throne of Westeros? Won’t this kind of bog Daenarys down in Slaver’s Bay, keeping her from “breaking the wheel?”

Hizdahr zo Loraq, the man Daenarys means to marry.

 

The Wall

I thought tonight’s episode did a nice job of connecting the different locations of the show. The first such example is Sam reading news from Slaver’s Bay about Aemon’s relative, Daenarys. But we don’t dwell on this conversation long as Jon enters the room seeking the Maester’s council. An interesting tactic hear by Aemon, as he doesn’t even ask Jon want he means to do, only telling him to do it. He tells Jon to “Kill the boy, let the man go free,” setting the tone for the rest of the episode for Jon. The uncertainty with which Jon carries himself into that room with Aemon disappears as he goes to speak to Thormund Giantsbane.

He wants Thormund to rally the remaining wildlings who are still North to come south of the wall and take refuge behind the wall. It’s exactly what Mance Rayder wanted. But much like Mance, Thormund doesn’t want to bend the knee to any leader south of the wall. The men agree to go together to Hardhomme, the land where the remaining Wildlings are, as Thormund will not go unless Jon means to go with them.

The reaction of the Night’s Watch is predictable. They’ve spent years fighting these wildlings (including a really significant fight just at the end of last season, you might recall) and do not want trust them. Jon has the trump card for all arguments against opening the gates to their enemies: every one of them that dies beyond the wall is another soldier in the army of the White Walkers (remember them? apparently they’re some big threat, though we seldom see them in action). It still doesn’t appear to convince the men of the Night’s Watch to openly embrace this plan to bring the Wildlings to the other side of the wall. Especially not Olly, who watched wildling invaders kill his entire family and village. After a season of mostly waiting and reminding us of what was coming, I am loving the action at the Wall this season.

Jon Snow and Thormund will be working together to apprehend the remaining Wildlings on Hardhomme.

 

Though the Wall is about to lose one of the best parts of it this season. This season has transformed me from a “Stannis is a bore who would be a disaster as king” into a “Can we get that man on the throne now before winter comes and that zombie army attacks?” Stannis has been awesome all his season, and his solid work continued tonight, encouraging Sam to keep looking for solutions for the impending White Walker threat as well as departing the Wall and beginning his march towards Winterfell, even though he doesn’t have a wilding army yet. Stannis hints that “Winter is Coming” (another thing we’ve been hinting at for five seasons now with no payoff) and he must push his claim for the throne before people forget it. I will miss Stannis and Jon interacting, but I am loving this Stannis who forces the action on his own initiative, not the one who relied heavily on others and sat around waiting, licking his wounds.

Stannis and Davos are on their way to Winterfell.

 

Winterfell

We don’t actually start in Winterfell, but are simply given a reminder that Brienne and Pod are outside the Walls still keeping an eye on Sansa. She wants a worker at the inn her and Pod are staying at to get a message to Sansa.

Back inside the walls of Winterfell, Ramsey and Myranda are naked and bickering. Myranda is not happy about Ramsey’s impending marriage to Sansa. Of course, Ramsey doesn’t mean to stop making crazy twisted love to Myranda. But she doesn’t want to be seen just on the side. Ramsey informs Myranda, “You are mine” before they start some aggressive love making again with Myranda biting Ramsey’s lip, drawing blood, and getting him very excited. Now if that is what it takes for Myranda to keep Ramsey interested, then I don’t imagine this ending well for her.

Myranda does have one more interaction, introducing herself to Sansa as she looks up at the tower Bran was pushed from back in that very first episode. She takes Sansa to a set of cages where all those dogs Ramsey uses to hunt down girls he “grows bored with” are kept and tells her to go to the very end. I was fearful for Sansa and what awaited her in here. But all she sees Theon/Reek sleeping in the very last dog cage. That’s right, Theon/Reek sleeps like a dog.  Theon warns Sansa (and very wisely in my opinion) that she needs to leave this place. But this is not the last time Sansa sees Reek. He is also the servant at a dinner with Roose, his wife Walda, and Ramsey. With all the experience she gained eating meals with Joffrey and Cersei in King’s Landing, Sansa ought to be a pro at this. Ramsey bullies Theon/Reek into apologizing for what he did after invading Winterfell back in Season 2. But Roose does not like an arrogant Ramsey, so he has Walda reveal that she is pregnant and it is likely a boy. In a private meeting between the father and son after dinner, Roose tells the Ramsey the sick story of how he is the result of Stannis raping Ramsey’s mother under the body of her hanging husband (so that is where Ramsey gets all these sick fantasies). This somehow convinces Ramsey that he is loved and his use will be important when Stannis arrives with his army (Anyone out there want to rewatch reruns of Jerry Springer to see if the Bolton men ever made an appearance?).

Sansa and has a magnet drawing her to sick freaks.

 

Old Valyria

When we last left Jorah and Tyrion, they were in a boat. Somehow, everything else in Game of Thrones has advanced at least a couple of days only to find these two still in that same boat. Though it was cool to see, I am not sure why Jorah took Tyrion through Old Valyria (more on this at the bottom). But they seem to have a bonding experience as they discuss the fall of the great civilization the Targaryens share their blood with. Also encouraging was the two men sharing the vision of Drogon flying over them. It’s good to see the show reminding us that he is still out there. But the tender moment is broken up by the appearance of stone men!!! This is what happens to you if greyscale takes full affect and it doesn’t kill you. And the odds are pretty well stacked against the men in the boat considering that one of them is a dwarf who is tied up. Jorah seems to be holding them off, but Tyrion has to fall out of the boat to avoid them where one of them pulls him down into the water. The screen goes black and I expect credits. But instead, we see Tyrion’s eyes open up. He is on shore and alive, Jorah thankful he is ok. But now they must walk to reach Meereen as Jorah can see it across the water. But another thing he sees is a small part of greyscale that has begun growing on Jorah’s arm.

Jorah and Tyrion approach Old Valyria.

 

Of Note

-The Grey Worm/Missandei love story continued with Missandei waiting by his bed and giving him a kiss after he woke up. Though I love their scenes together, I am still not sure what purpose this ill-fated love story (I mean seriously, he missing a little something that’s pretty necessary for that). But at least it hasn’t consumed too much screen time this season.

-I sure hope the Wall keeps its spice with Stannis and all his crew marching off to battle. The interactions between these two factions have been so refreshing with both sides having new faces to interact with.

-I am also interested to see what is in store for the ladies traveling with Stannis. They all stayed at the Wall in the books when Stannis heads to Winterfell, so I am curious to see what purpose they will serve in these new roles.

-For the first time, the show mentioned the Citadel in Oldtown, where Maesters are trained. Sam also mentioned his dream as a boy of becoming a Maester one day to Gilly.

-Valyria was a great empire that conquered much of Essos and had an eye towards Westeros before a volcano burned down the city and all its inhabitants. Jorah and Tyrion sail through the burned wreckage in this episode. The Targaryens are originally from Valyria. They left and set their home on dragonstone before “the doom” came.

-Last week, Stannis mentioned many wanted him to send his daughter to Old Valyria to spend her days as one of those stone men. Jorah seemed to indicate that he knew this, but sailed Tyrion and himself through the burned city anyway? It was also rewarding to see all the dialogue spent the last few weeks on greyscale pay off by providing us with both and understanding of stone men and a reason for that piece of stone developing on Jorah’s skin.

-I also loved the look on Jorah’s face, as it seemed to convey his surprise at how large the dragons have become. Keep in mind, it is unlikely Jorah has seen Drogon in a while so it makes sense that even though, unlike Tyrion, had seen the dragon before, was amazed by its presence.

-I was also very encouraged by Sansa’s confidence at dinner with the Bolton’s. The look she gave Ramsey when it was discovered he was about to have a true legitimate threat to his claim of House Bolton was fantastic. Can you imagine her giving that look to Joffrey back in the day?

-Last week, there were several references to Rhaegar Targaryen, the oldest brother of Daenarys. Another character from the past, Catelyn Stark, was referenced several times (Brienne referring to the vow she made and Myranda and Sansa discussing her). While I believe mentioning Rhaegar will prove to be an important element of the show’s future, not sure if the same will be the case for Lady Catelyn.

Questions

-How will Daenary’s shrinking inner circle (primarily Daario) react to her proposed marriage to Hizdahr?

-Will her focus shift away from Westeros permanently? And if so, what is Varys to do if he loses the primary claim to the throne that he’s pushing?

-How will Jon and Stannis return to action now that they are back with people they’ve spent the entire series with?

-Will the men of the Nights Watch embrace Jon’s plan to allow the wildlings south or will they refuse to follow? For that matter, how will the wildlings respond to this plan?

-Will Brienne get any message to Sansa before any harm can come her way from Ramsey? And will Sansa continue to keep her confidence as she did this week at dinner with the Bolton’s?

-Will we finally get an idea for what everybody’s plans are in Dorne? How will Littlefinger respond to all the violent actions against his brothel? And what cult like fun as Arya been up to while we’ve been away from her for two weeks.

I expect there to be a disturbing scene next week. Several actors hinted it would be coming midseason and the preview for next week seem to indicate its coming. My only questions are who will be involved and what will the long-term impact of the scene be? We will see you next week.

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 4: The Sons of the Harpy Recap

 

Most Significant Deviations From the Book Produce Most Significant Losses

                For book lovers, last night was painful. Changes are something that I’ve come to expect and, for the most part, appreciate when I consider how convoluted the fourth and fifth books with the introduction of dozens of new characters and unending series of twists Martin tries to weave together. But while previous changes may have been unnerving to book readers, the dead bodies of Grey Worm (I think) and Ser Barristen laying in the alley at the end of last night’s episode were heartbreaking. These two are not the first time the show has killed characters before Martin did. But the previous deaths were either inevitable in the text (Jojen Reed is sick and unlikely to be able to leave the cave Bran and crew are in) or happened to characters whose importance in the books had dwindled with the changing narrative (Grenn and Pyp were killed at the Wall battle, but are alive and serving the Watch in the books). But both Grey Worm and Ser Barristen are both popular characters playing extremely important roles in Meereen in Martin’s text. Their deaths are a clear turning point that no one, not even people who Martin has yet to kill off in his books, are safe.

Now, I’m not saying the death of these two is a bad move in the narrative. I will always judge the book and show as separate works. And the loss of these two characters advances the narrative in that the battle between Daenarys and the Sons of the Harpy is now personal. These deaths hit closer to home for the Mother of Dragons than any of the previous havoc the sons have committed and gives them a legitimacy that before they killed her two best fighters, the Sons did not have yet. And the episode was full of some amazing introductions of new characters (Obara Sand with the spear!!!), fantastic character moments, and a reminder of backstory we may have forgotten that (at least I hope) will prove significant in future events this season. So let’s take a look back at “Sons of the Harpy” in remembrance of Grey Worm (once again, I think) and Ser Barristen (the show versions of course).

The Waters off the Coast of Volantis

Tyrion is back!!!! Maybe it’s the sobering up that a gag in one’s mouth produces, but the humor and wit of the Halfman was back in a big way. Ser Jorah steals a boat (now is it stealing if you reimburse the boat captain you rob?) and begins rowing his way to the Queen (well his queen of course, not the queen of Westeros). Tyrion is making random noise over the gag, almost sounding like a song (which had me cracking up!!!) Jorah removed the gag and those observational skills returned very quickly to the Imp. He figures out, first, that it’s Jorah and that Jorah has been removed from the “queen’s” service because he was spying on her. I remember this guy when he was hand back in season 2 outsmarting everyone in King’s Landing. Jorah didn’t appreciate it as much as I did, smacking Tyrion across the face. It is ironic that Tyrion, though he has been kidnapped, is heading to the same place Varys intended for him to go to anyway.

Looking forward to more screen time with these two together.

 

Dorne

Congratulations Dorne on your opening credits debut!!! Nice touch with the snake up the pole there guys. But we don’t actually start in Dorne. Our first scene of Dorne centric characters involves Jamie and Bronn on a boat passing Tarth (I’m sure Jamie thought of Brienne as they sailed by it). Bronn is highly skeptical of Jamie’s plan and I have to say I agree with him. The details we become privy to as the two men speak are that Jamie intends to “rescue” his “niece.” He intends for the two of them (including a man with literally one arm) to do this against all the forces of Dorne (Doran Martell never committed any troops to the War of Five Kings). I’ve got to say that Bronn is right to be skeptical. Much like Tyrion, his inferring skills are very keen, knowing that it was Jamie who freed Tryion and Jamie means to atone for that by saving his daughte…I mean niece.

And for the first time, we get to see Jamie fight with just the one hand. The two men row their way to the shore of a beach. It is there that they are spotted by Dornish soldiers. When it becomes clear the men of Dorne will not let them go on their merry way, Bronn goes into action being the general bad ass he is, taking out several of the soldiers. Jamie is left fighting one soldier and gets to practice those new one arm sword fighting skills he practiced all last season. When Jamie looks defeated, the advantages to having a fake arm become evident as the Kingslayer is able to catch the sword with the fake arm and shove his sword in with the right arm. Bronn and Jamie survived this first confrontation with Dornish troops. But their presence is not a secret to everyone in the desert.

It’s Sand Snake time!!! Obara, Nymeria, and Tyene are the bastard daughters of the late Oberyn Martell. Tyene is the one who greets Ellaria Sand and is the only one who is her daughter. But Obara, the oldest, makes her presence known very quickly. Apparently, the ship captain Jamie thought he paid off to keep quiet showed up on shore and was ready to spill the beans about Jamie’s presence in Dorne. He does, but then gets a spear through the head, placed perfectly by Obara, who makes her desire for war very clear to her father’s paramour. The other two sand snakes are not the militant that Obara is and I look forward to their unique skill sets being introduced in the coming weeks, especially if those introductions are as effective as Obara’s spear throw was.

From left to right: Nymeria, Obara, and Tyene. The Sand Snakes much anticipated debut!!!

 

King’s Landing

Another cool development tonight was the escalation of the faith militant after Cersei agrees to end their disarmament (more on that later). Continuing the theme from last week, Cersei provides this to the High Sparrow in hopes of using him to weaken the Tyrells and Margaery. And the Sparrows don’t disappoint, going through the streets of King’s Landing cutting open barrels of alcohol and shutting down (very violently) Littlefinger’s brothel. But best of all for Cersei’s cause, they arrest Loras Tyrell for homosexuality (love the continuity here with his talk with Margaery in the season premiere). And the new queen’s response to this is to contact her grandmother and try to persuade Tommen to take action. This is a very important moment in King’s Landing for the new king as, up to this point, he’s only had to rule as a puppet serving the will of either his grandfather or mother. I love the look on the young king’s face when Margaery comes in demanding action. Tommen tries to take action after Loras’s arrest for the first time as king and it does not go well, with the faith militant ignoring his request to speak to the High Sparrow. In the background, numerous insults, calling him and abomination can be heard from the people who are living outside the steps dressed like Sparrows. How long can Tommen stay king if, when he takes action, he’s this ineffective.

Tommen schooled on the steps of the Holy Sept.

 

The Wall

The two central themes at the Wall tonight were the relationship between Stannis and his daughter and the continuing temptation of Jon Snow. Previous overtures by Stannis to get Jon to ride South with him were turned down by the new Lord Commander. So Melisandre tries a different tact. She heard through the grapevine that Jon loves redheads and seduces him right there at Jon’s desk, disrobing and sitting on his lap. Jon clearly considers what Melisandre offers him, but ultimately refuses. What’s interesting to me is that Jon’s love for Ygritte seems more of his reason for rejecting Melisandre than those pesky Nights Watch Vows.

One of the best conversations of the night was between Stannis and his daughter, Shireen. Her mom has made very clear her disappointment not only in Shireen’s grayscale, but in the fact that she’s not the male heir Stannis needs. But Stannis shows a much different feeling for his daughter when Shireen confronts him about it. He explains how much he cares for her and all the lengths he went through to cure her of her grayscale when many others wanted her shipped off to another place. Stannis is one character who I am liking more and more with each episode this season, and great character moments like this are the reason.

What is Shireen’s role ultimately going to be in the end game of Season 5?

 

Winterfell

Like much of the storyline in the North this season, there was confusion in my mind about the location of the Boltons, Littlefinger, and Sansa. I thought they were in Moat Cailin, the seat of House Bolton. But considering this week’s only scene in the North took place in the tombs of Winterfell, I guess it was in Winterfell last week (at least I hope so because otherwise, the show skipped a fairly important journey).

Otherwise, the scenes in the North were solid and brought the coherence to the story I felt it has lacked most of the season. Littlefinger’s plans were made very clear as he discussed them with Sansa in front of her Aunt Lyanna’s tomb (more on Lyanna later). Littlefinger believes Stannis Baratheon will come South and defeat the Bolton’s at Winterfell. He will then free Sansa and make her Wardeness of the North. But if he fails, Littlefinger has a backup plan. He believes Sansa can handle Ramsey and bend him to her will if she still must marry him. Of course, Ramsey has not shown himself to be much for bending throughout his time on the show, so I will believe that when I see that. Littlefinger then kisses Sansa (still creepy) and leaves her as he is on his way to Winterfell to answer that summons he received from the queen last week.

Sansa in the tombs underneath Winterfell.

 

Meereen

Several weeks ago, the topic of the reopening of the fighting pits came up for the first time and tonight, Hizdahr zo Loraq is back to discuss them with Dany. While he is speaking, the Sons of the Harpy are on the attack once again, terrorizing people throughout Meereen. The Unsullied get wind of what is happening and confront several of the Sons in an ally. Almost all the Unsullied are killed with the exception of Grey Worm, who fights valiantly while several of the Harpy’s after pulling a knife out of his side. Just before he is about to succumb, Ser Barristen arrives and shows the sword skills that made him head of the King’s Guard back in Westeros. But the two men are greatly outnumbered and take many wounds. Despite killing all the Sons of the Harpy they face, the wounds are too much and both men fall, dying in the alley with the rest of the men who fought there.

Ser Barristen and Grey Worm (I think) lay dead.

 

Observations

-Rhaegar Targaryen, the oldest brother of Daenarys and man who Robert Baratheon killed in order to claim the Iron Throne, was mentioned twice tonight. Once was in Daenarys last conversation with Ser Barristen discussing Rhaegar’s willingness to mingle with the common people. The other was in front of Lyanna’s tomb between Sansa and Littlefinger.

-Another important event discussed from the past was the Tourney at Harrenhall. This event was the first domino that lead to Robert’s Rebellion and the fall of the Targaryen’s when Rhaegar, after winning the tournament, handed a rose to Lyanna Stark (Robert Baratheon’s bethrothed) instead of his wife, Elia Martell (of “You raped her, you murdered her, you killed her children” fame). Sansa also mentions Rhaegar’s “kidnapping” of Lyanna (the next domino that lead to the Rebellion), which led to what I though was a very interesting look from Littlefinger. Maybe I’m reading into this too much, but he sure didn’t look convinced that Rhaegar and Lyanna’s running away was a kidnapping.

Ned Stark’s sister and Sansa’s aunt was brought up again in Episode 4.

 

-Another key event in King’s Landing is Mace Tyrell being sent away with Meryn Trant of the King’s Guard to address the Iron Bank. Tywin mentioned the troubles the crown was having with its debts to the Bank last season. Also interesting that Cersei would send Lord Oath away right as she was having his son arrested by the Faith Militant.

-Speaking of the faith militant, the group existed hundreds of years ago to enforce the laws of the Holy Sept and to protect worshippers on the road who were traveling for religious purposes. They were disbanded about 300 years ago after a series of brutal uprisings 300 years ago in response to cruelty against the religious by King Jaehaerys the Concilator.

-Non sexual events involving Jon at the Wall tonight included the signing of letters requesting men for the Wall from several houses in the North. Though he initially refuses to sign the one being sent to the Bolton’s, Sam convinces him otherwise. The show keeps a foot for Jon Snow in both camps; his heritage in Winterfell and his duties he’s sworn to the Nights Watch.

-I am curious how Shireen’s grayscale will play a part in the rest of the season. They continue to bring it up with each of her interactions. If you missed it from my previous reviews, grayscale is a disease that slowly turns one’s body into stone. While most men die from it, a few children, like Shireen, have seen its progress halted at a young age.

-I love how the show gave us an example of Jamie fighting with only one good hand. In the books (at least to this point) Jamie has yet to fight anyone one handed despite training for the entire fourth book for such an occurrence. His only weapon in books four and five is diplomacy (that would make great television now wouldn’t it).

Jamie fighting with one hand for the first time.

 

Questions

-Can we please get more Tyrion and Jorah scenes next week? I think the potential intellectual and comic gold coming from Tyrion can only increase with screen time.

-How will the other Sand Snakes be used in their intent to start a war with the Lannisters?

-How will Cersei use the Faith Militant next in her war with the Tyrells?

-Can Tommen became an effective king now that conflict has thrust itself upon him?

-Sansa is alone with the Boltons now? Will she be able to keep her head above water with Littlefinger not there to guide her?

-Will Stannis or Jon finally make their play with Thormund Giantsbane to gain the services of the Wildling army to Stannis’s cause?

-How will Dany respond now that two of her most trusted fighters and advisors have passed (once again at least one has passed, we’ll see about the other)?

We hit the halfway point next week folks. See you then.

 

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 3 Review: The High Sparrow

Fourletternerd Recap Writer Totally Drops the Ball

I want to start this review with an apology. In several of the season preview articles I wrote, I presented the “High Sparrow” as the new High Septon. In the books, this is the case with the Sparrow being chosen by the faithful to serve in the post. But as it turns out, the Sparrow and the Septon are two different people as of now. Though the show hinted at it in the first episode with the appearance of a High Septon greeting Cersei as she went to see her father’s body, I completely missed it because I assumed the Sparrow would come and be the new Septon. I apologize for my assumptions and my oversight on this matter.

Now, this doesn’t mean I am upset with this change in direction. I believe the Sparrow storyline is very promising, unlike some deviations from the book that I will discuss in this recap. Some changes are insulting the viewer’s logic, such as the whole “Sansa is pretending not to be Sansa by dying her hair black, but still going by the name of Sansa” plot Baelish has concocted (once again, I will discuss this later). But there is still plenty of great things moving forward, such as a wedding that actually made it to consummation, new Lord Commander Jon Snow taking charge at the Wall, and Jorah and Tyrion on their way to the see Daenarys!!! But let’s start with Arya, and that new cult she’s gotten herself involved with.

Braavos

So I am sure with all the information presented so far, everyone out there understands the entire House of Black and White, Many-Faced God situation Arya’s gotten herself in? What? Nobody? Well, that is by design, because it is one confusing storyline. But things start simple enough tonight with Arya sweeping. Apparently, she’s been doing this for days now and let’s Jaqen know that she really wants to start training. Jaqen does his best Mr. Miyagi, telling Arya she’s not ready (I almost thought he was about to break out and show Arya how all that sweeping is really practicing for a fighting skill, but the line between 80’s family comedy and modern day mature fantasy stopped here).

Later, a girl walks into Arya’s room and asks who she is. Kind of like saying “Jesus” to answer any question in church, Arya knows the correct answer is “nobody.” The girl whips her, apparently not believing the authenticity of Arya’s answer. After a couple of more whips, Jaqen comes in and points out to Arya that if she’s really nobody, then why does she still have Arya Stark’s clothes and sword? In one of the best scenes of the night, we see Arya putting all her clothes and possessions into the sea. But though she thinks about long and hard, she won’t give up Needle, hiding it into the rocks instead. I was very worried that this relic from Arya’s past and her prime protection all these years was about to drift off in the sea, but am so glad it didn’t. By the end of the episode, Arya has been promoted from sweeper to dead body cleaner. You go girl!!!!

Arya considering whether to include Needle amongst the things she gave up.

 

King’s Landing

I am loving the emphasis on Cersei’s point of view for most of the King’s Landing scenes. Looking out of her carriage seeing the people waving at Margaery and saying “Queen” towards her while Cersei looks on. Brilliant!!! And we have a wedding!!! Not only did no one die at this wedding, but Tommen and Margaery made it to consummation (nice work King Tommen!!!) Margaery uses the moments after to plant seeds of doubt about Cersei’s presence at King’s Landing to Tommen. She’s had to wait awhile, but Margaery is now ready to make her move to replace Cersei. It doesn’t take long as Tommen later approaches his mom and ask her to return to Casterly Rock. That is two people within her own family (counting Uncle Kevan last week) who want Cersei to butt out of the affairs of the Iron Throne.

A new queen bee in Westeros?

Another situation Cersei had to deal with involved the High Septon. We see the Septon on his knees participating in some weird religious ceremony in a brothel. But before the festivities can begin, Lancel and his Sparrows break in and apprehend the Septon. What follows is what’s known as a “Walk of Shame.” To atone for his sins, the Septon must walk through the streets naked while being whipped as peasants look on. The Septon demands justice from Cersei and her council. It is here where we first hear about the High Sparrow.

Cersei meets the High Sparrow as he is feeding the poor. This serves as a mere introductory discussion between these two power players, with Cersei informing the High Sparrow that the Septon wants him executed. The Sparrow takes no strong action in response, simply responding with his intentions to serve all those in King’s Landing since those of higher both don’t seem interested in it. Keep an eye on these two throughout the rest of the season.

Cersei and the High Sparrow interacting for the first time.

 

Moat Cailin

Now here is a book deviation that is off to an awful start. The High Sparrow is a slight deviation, but still has plenty of promise to be a great story. But our first Bolton appearance of the season brings with it a collective groan from me. Ramsey has gone through the North flaying men who wouldn’t pay him taxes. Roose points out that the North will not unify behind the Bolton’s through Ramsey’s aggressive tactics. They must do this through marriage and there just happens to be a girl with the right name on her way to Moat Cailin.

Sansa is riding with Littlefinger when he tells her about the arranged marriage he has made for her with Ramsey Bolton. Lady Stark is rightfully horrified by this proposal and seems to regret lying for Baelish last season. But Littlefinger seems to have another plan in mind when he encourages Sansa to seek vengeance for her family.

Though what that plan is, who knows? Later Littlefinger seems to indicate to Roose Bolton that he would like to unite with him and run the Lannisters out of King’s Landing. So which is it Baelish? Are you working with the Bolton’s or seeking vengeance against them? While talking with a skeptical Roose (I don’t think two people in this show ever had more of a reason to be skeptical of each other than these two do), Littlefinger receives a letter from King’s Landing.

Keep in mind, the whole story of Sansa and Baelish is supposed to be a secret. Very few people are supposed to know where they are or that they are even together. So when Cersei sends a letter for him to the Vale, how does it end up at Moat Cailin? How did she know he was at the Vale in the first place? And why did Sansa even bother to dye her hair to hide her identity when she proclaims herself as Sansa in every public place her and Baelish appear in? And how does Cersei not know Sansa and Littlefinger are together with so many people having seen them in the same place? Surely, one person would’ve reported back to King’s Landing with this information.

There was one bright spot to the story line in the North. Brienne and Pod are following Sansa, shadowing her movements as she heads to Moat Cailin. They obviously can’t just walk in there. So they wait outside and share some cool character moments. Pod tells the story of how he became a squire and Brienne shares the story of the dance where Renly saved her from a night of ridicule by dancing with her. She does make two important pledges: to train Pod as a knight and to kill Stannis Baratheon, the man she (rightfully) holds responsible for Renly’s death. Considering that Brienne and Stannis are not in the same vicinity yet, I will jot down the latter promise in the category of foreshadowing for a future season.

Roose, Ramsey, and Walda greet Sansa and Baelish at Moat Cailin.

 

The Wall

Speaking of Stannis, the “rightful king” and the next Lord Commander have their first meeting with Ollie now serving Jon’s steward. Jon gives his official refusal of the offer made last week by Stannis to be made Lord of the North. Though disappointed, Stannis still sees reason to give Jon advice, encouraging him to meet with Thormund Giantsbane to discuss the offer Mance Rayder refused. He also recommends getting rid of Allister Thorne by sending him to another castle. Jon also receives a pep talk from Davos discussing why the Nights Watch, who aren’t supposed to take action in the political battles of Westeros, should take action against the Boltons. Davos even uses the Nights Watch’s own vows when making his point. Note to the producers: there should never be an episode where Davos doesn’t say something cool.

Follow their meeting, Jon takes the time to assign his first tasks as Lord Commander. He gives Allister Throne the assignment of First Ranger. He also sends Janos Slynt to Grey Guard, another castle on the Wall. But Slynt refuses the order, mocking Jon in front of the other men. So Snow takes action, ordering him to be beheaded. Slynt figured he had Thorne’s protection. But when the new First Ranger allows him to be apprehended, Slynt cowers like he did at last season’s Wall battle. He even asks for mercy saying he will follow Jon’s orders, admitting he’s scared. Jon beheads him anyway in a twist I’m not sure was necessary. Slynt needed to be executed to affirm Jon’s new role as Lord Commander and because he defied Jon. But why did the writers have him beg for mercy only to be killed anyway. Was his cowardice even more of a reason to have him executed? The whole cowardice angle for Slynt was an interesting choice considering he was someone bold enough to defy Jon Snow’s command in front of everyone. I guess he was only bold when Ser Allister was providing protection for him.

“Grey Guard? Oh wait, I thought you said something else. I’d love to go to Grey Guard.”

 

Volantis

Our night ends with Tyrion and Varys riding their way through Volantis. Tyrion is going crazy and desperately needs human contact. So despite the risk, Tyrion and Varys head to a brothel. On the way, they hear a red priestess preaching about Daenarys, proclaiming her a savior. A skeptical Tyrion mocks the declaration, but does seem to admire the look of the priestess. Dany’s presence is felt again, this time in the borther, where all the women are dressed like the Mother of Dragons. Tyrion attempts to go with one, but can’t bring himself to do it. So instead, he drinks some more and pees off a window ledge. Unfortunately for Tyrion (but yay for us!!!) an exiled Jorah Mormont sees him and captures him, saying he means to take him to the queen.

Observations

-A minor character from last season, Miranda, reappeared in Moat Cailin briefly. She was Ramsey Bolton’s lover and “hunting partner” last season and she was not happy about the announcement Ramsey’s arranged marriage to Sansa.

-In the books, Ramsey marries a fake Arya Starks. Jeyne Poole, a friend of Sansa’s from her childhood is sent pretending to be Arya by Tywin Lannister to try and rally the North to the Bolton’s side.

-A couple of Theon/Reek sightings tonight. And it did not appear that he has bathed since last season.

-You have to love the transformation of Margaery to full-on queen bee status now after her marriage to Tommen. It’s been Margaery for many seasons now putting on the polite face while Cersei ran things. But tonight, the roles flipped as it was Magaery openly flaunting her new position while talking with Cersei (or should we say Queen Mother), who just had to smile and play polite. Regina George would be proud of these passive aggressive tactics.

-Your weekly Qyburn experiment update: We saw movement on the table tonight under a blanket by something that appears alive. We can assume that is the Mountain, unless some other dead body found its way to crazy Qyburn’s lab.

-Grey Guard, the castle Jon tried to send Janos Slynt to in the show, is one of the 19 castles on the Wall. There are only enough men of the Nights Watch to man three of these castles, leaving the other 16 abandoned, and they’ve been that way for a while. Jon wanted one of the castles to be fixed up to hold all the new inhabitants at the Wall.

-It would appear Maester Aemon is sick, as Jon instructed Sam to care for him.

-I was really happy to see the Lord of Light acknowledged in Volantis. That is where the temple for the Lord of Light is located.

Questions

-How will Cersei respond to all the attacks being waged against her?

-Will being paired with straight man Jorah Mormont bring out the humor in the Halfman?

-What task will Arya graduate to next week?

-What will the opinion of the Nights Watch be to Jon’s execution of Janos Slynt? And will Thormund Giantsband be more receptive to Stannis’s offer than Mance was?

-And can we please get some coherency back in the North?

Next week, we (finally) get to see the Sand Snakes, Jamie and Bronn in Dorne, and the Sons of the Harpy (based on the previews anyway) appear ready to step up their game.

 

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 2 Review: The House of Black and White

New Relationships Proving to be a Strength Early

One of the many new pairings that is working splendidly at the start of this season.

 

One of the things I most looked forward to heading into this season was all the new interactions that would happen between characters. All the plot-altering events that happened during season four caused the arc of characters separated previously by geography or family lines to run into each other head on. And while some interactions, such as Jon and Stannis, were directly from the text, the show has brought other characters into contact with each other (Brienne with Sansa and Littlefinger, Tyrion and Varys, Gilly and Sam with Shireen) that produced just as much as high drama as the expected book pairing of the rightful king and the new lord commander. For the producers to make such effective use of these pairings so early in the season is a great sign considering the most dramatic moments are still to come (and the new pairings of characters are not complete just yet). So let’s start our recap this week with the first appearance of Arya as we finally find where she was heading in that boat.

Braavos

The ship captain from last season drops Arya off in front of a large building with a door, half black and half white. He says it’s called “The House of Black and White” and Arya will find the faceless man she seeks here. Arya is rightfully nervous at this moment, as she was throughout the entire opening of the scene. But she knocks on the door and confidently informs the man who greets her who she is, holding up the coin and saying Valor Morghulis (I mean it got her this far, so why not stick to what’s working). She even drops the name of Jaqen Hghar (remember him from season two, the man that gave her the coin). But the man says he’s never heard of the name and closes the door in her face.

Arya doesn’t give up, sitting outside the door calling the four names still left on her kill list (that’s right, only four people are left on Arya’s kill list). But after sitting through rain and what appears to be multiple days, Arya leaves throwing away the coin she now figures is worthless to her.

One encouraging part here for Arya is she doesn’t seem dismayed by these events. I guess when you’ve seen your father’s head chopped off, served in the prisoner camp of a family enemy, been outside the doors of the room your brother and mother were killed in, and killed numerous men in vengeance for the previous injustices, it gives you a fair amount of resolve. Arya takes her frustrations out on a pigeon she intends to eat. When a couple of punks in the street try and bully her, she wastes no time pulling a sword on them and appears ready to fight. But the same faceless man who greeted her earlier walks out of a restaurant and the boys scatter.

Arya follows the man back to the house, showing that resolve again, and the man reveals himself to be Jaqen Hghar, face changing from a bald black man to the face we remember a couple of season ago (well actually he’s not Jaqen Hghar, he’s really nobody, and Arya needs to be nobody if she wants to be what she really wants to be). This faceless man story line, while really cool, might get confusing if this type of mysterious dialogue continues. Arya ends her part of the episode entering the House of Black and White.

The Eyrie/Riverlands?

I’m not 100 percent certain where Littlefinger, Sansa, Brienne and Pod were all hanging out this week (well not really hanging out together as much as running into each other). They are all leaving the Eyrie and the Riverlands and this looks like the Riverlands, but it really doesn’t matter. Because the most important part of this is Littlefinger, Sansa, Brienne, and Pod are about to run into each other!!! They nearly ran into each other last week. But this week, they all stop at the same inn for lunch and Pod notices Lady Sansa (apparently that dark hair is not doing the job hiding her identity). Brienne presents herself to Sansa, explaining the oath she vowed to Lady Catelyn and offering her life protecting Ms. Stark. Littlefinger immediately (and brilliantly) brings to question the reliability of Lady Brienne.

Pod spotting Sansa at the inn him and Brienne are eating in.

 

Now, we the viewers all know how loyal and honoring of her vows Brienne of Tarth is. No character since Ned Stark (RIP) comes even close. But for those who haven’t witnessed her entire journey (which is every character in the story), it’s pretty hard to believe. You mean you guarded a “king” who was killed by a shadow, then a noblewoman who ended up dead as well, and now your carrying out a journey you’ve been sent on by a swarm enemy of both? And you want me to trust you with protecting my life? Sansa refuses the offer and Littlefinger appears intent of not letting Brienne go. Yeah, that’ll work. Brienne escapes with her and Pod chased from the inn by knights from the Eyrie. The two get separated and Pod shows his complete inability to control a horse in a pressure situation. As the knights are about to kill him, Brienne shows up and kills them. The best part about this interaction is at the end, Brienne’s motivation returns!!! She intends to shadow Baelish and Sansa on their journey (wherever it’s heading). A mopey Brienne would not be much fun at all, but a motivated one is kick ass!!! Speaking of Mopey….

On the Road to Merreen (I mean Volantis)

Tyrion is drinking and moping again. And Varys is giving more of his pep talks, trying to encourage the halfman, telling him how smart he is and how great a hand of the king he was. But Tyrion just isn’t going for any of it, desperately wanting to get out of the carriage him and Varys are riding in and go for a walk. Now I don’t want to let my tone deceive you. I love these two characters together and the conversation is still fantastic. But as I said last week, I really want to see the Tyrion we’ve laughed with from seasons past to return. Now Varys rightfully thinks that walk would be a bad idea because Cersei has put a heavy price on Tyrion’s head. Now men wouldn’t just go around chopping off the heads of dwarves would they?

King’s Landing

Well it turns out they would. Right after Tyrion says that, the scene shifts to that very thing; a dwarf head laid before Cersei. So men are just killing dwarves, chopping off their heads, and hoping they are right? That’s messed up. But Cersei doesn’t seem to have a problem with this at all, and now Qyburn has a dwarf head to help with is experiments (you did not read that wrong, dwarf heads are essential to this man’s research).

What other creepy work is this man doing along with keeping the mountain alive?

 

After the dwarf head debacle, Cersei meets with her new council; Kevan Lannister, Grand Maester Pycelle, Mace Tyrell, and Qyburn. Cersei tries to run the meeting like her father would. She names Tyrell Master of Coin and Master of Ships. Pycelle speaks up, offering his services as hand, but is interrupted by Cersei’s nomination of Qyburn as the new Master of Whisperers. Pycelle rails against this and for once, I can’t say I don’t agree with him after the whole “I need dwarf heads to experiment on” situation from Qyburn earlier. Cersei closes offering her uncle the position of Master of Arms. Uncle Kevan does not take kindly to Cersei making these appointments instead of King Tommen and refuses to accept unless the king wants to talk to him himself. When Tywin was around, Kevan served without raising a single complaint and everyone at that table bended to his will. It does not appear Cersei will be receiving the same respect (at least not yet).

More problems surfaced for the Lannisters earlier when a package arrived from Dorne with a Snake holding a necklace. It appears to be Mrycella Baratheon’s and Cersei considers it a threat. Once again, Jamie tries to be a voice of reason. But Cersei will hear none of it. Jamie does take initiative with the situation, offering to visit Dorne to check on his daughter/niece. To do so, he pays a visit to his sparring partner from last season; Bronn.

Bronn is walking along a waterfront talking to the woman he was promised in marriage last season (Lollys Stokeworth). Bronn tolerated the naïve young girl because of the payoff her wealthy family promises to provide (though Lollys informs him the house he envisions will not be available to them but will instead go to her older sister). Unfortunately for Bronn, Jamie delivers the news that Lollys will now marry someone else. But he has an offer for Bronn that will provide an even greater payoff in the future. Bronn and Jamie are heading to Dorne!!!

Cersei was not pleased with this message from Dorne.

 

Dorne

Our first visit to Dorne and it lasts about as long as it takes me to write this sentence. Ellaria Sand (Oberyn’s paramour from last season) is eyeing Mrycella and Trystanne Martell, who seem to be quite smitten with each other. But she can only take so much as she bursts in where Doran (Oberyn’s brother) sits looking out over the Water Gardens. She wants revenge for Oberyn’s murder, though Doran correctly points out his death was in a trial by battle by his own choosing. Though the scene was not long, it did the job of establishing the dilemma in Dorne; continue to stay loyal to a throne held by a family responsible for the death Doran’s siblings or go to war over those deaths at a toll that could be even worse.

The Wall

Shireen, Gilly, and Sam have a very interesting conversation while Shireen is teaching Gilly to read. I was very impressed with these three together as they discussed Shireen’s grayscale, how she learned to read when she was three, and some of the goings on all the way back to Craster’s Keep (that couldn’t have been fun for Gilly). “Queen” Selyse Baratheon does not approve, however, with her daughter’s interactions with wildlings (another reason to hate that paranoid, crazy woman).

Meanwhile, Jon receives a scolding from Stannis for disrupting his execution. But Stannis doesn’t dwell on this for long because he has another issue; men willing to support his claim to the throne. He’s already received a letter from House Mormont of Bear Island saying they will only support the Starks. And Jon tells Stannis the Wildlings will not support him, only one of their own. So Stannis has an offer to take care of one of these issues; giving Jon Snow the North with the title Jon Stark. And the reasoning presented to Jon is pretty compelling. A new lord commander will be elected that night and Allister Throne, the expected winner, is likely to punish Jon for his interactions with wildlings and showing him up as the hero of last season’s wall battle. Moving onto the election, Jon tells Sam he doesn’t intend to accept Stannis’s offer. But that seems to give Sam an idea.

Apparently, the Night’s Watch uses preschool toys to choose their Lord Commander. Each man will choose that shape that represents the man they want as Lord Commander and those shapes are then slid down a stick. The man with the highest stack wins. Janos Slynt nominates Allister Thorne. Bowen Marsh (I think) nominates Denys Mallister (more on him in the future). But just before the voting is about to begin, Sam nominates Jon (but only after dropping the mic on Janos Slynt for his cowardice during the Wall battle last year #trashtalkingSam) Ser Allister’s attempt to dissuade his brothers using Jon’s previous interactions with Wildlings prove for naught as Maester Aemon drops in the deciding vote, making Jon Snow Lord Commander. We’ve been moving in this direction for a while now with Jon taking many steps toward assuming leadership. But keep in mind, about half the room was not at all elated with Jon’s election as Lord Commander.

Aemon looks on as the votes are counted for new Lord Commander using this device created by Fisher Price.

 

Meerreen

In Merreen, the search for Harpies is on!!! As a reminder from last week, the Sons of the Harpy are going around and killing people loyal to Daenarys. So Dany ordered any them rounded up and captured. As Daario and Grey Worm are discussing their respective methods for finding Harpies, Daario shoves a knife in a wall, revealing a Harpy hiding in there. I’ve got to give Daario props for his performance this season so far after a very dry and boring Season 4.

Daenarys’s council discusses what to do with the prisoner. Barristan Selmy encourages her to put the man on trial, but a former slave, Mossador, wants him killed. Ser Barristan tells Dany the truth about her father and how many people he had executed, hoping she will avoid the same fate. The mother of dragons agrees with Barristan to put the man on trial. But Mossador forces the issue, breaking into the man’s cell and killing him, placing his body with a harpy mask covering his face and a message written above, saying “Kill the Masters.”

This action by Mossador puts Dany in a very difficult place. It was really easy to pass judgement on masters who were using unpaid humans to make money. But she’s never had to give a sentence over the life of one of her former slaves who call her “Mysha.” But Mossador is ordered by Daenarys to be put to death. With the whole city of Merreen looking on, split clearly by former slaves and former masters, Dany orders Daario to chop off Mossador’s head. This incited a riot. Some of it is directed at Daenarys, but most of the frustrations are taken out as former slaves fight former masters.

Daenarys really needed a pick-me-up after her rough experience governing this city she’s conquered. And she received it with the reappearance of Drogon, her escaped dragon. The interaction seems to be genuine and positive between the dragon and it’s “mother.” How could I tell it was positive? Well he didn’t roar and burn her alive, and when one interacts with a dragon, that is the best you can hope for. But after seeing hey, Drogon flies off doing whatever it is dragons do when they are free to fly. That’s two weeks in a row with two very good endings as well as two weeks in a row with dragons in the episode.

The prodigal dragon returns…albeit briefly.

 

Of Note

-Daenarys advisory council consisted of Barristan Selmy, Grey Worm,Daario, Hizdahr zo Loraq, and Mossander (well he was a part of it).

-Shireen’s condition, greyscale, very commonly kills men as it slowly covers their skin and turns them to stone. But it is not uncommon to be born with greyscale and have it stop at a young age, as is the case with Shireen.

-The house Mormont that responded to Stannis’s call for support is the same house Jorah (friendzoned) Mormont as well as Jeor (the Old Bear, lord commander of the Nights Watch before his death in Season 3) Mormont.

-The common greetings we keep hearing from Braavos are “Valar Morghulis” (All Men Must Die) and “Valar Dohaeris” (All Men Must Serve). As I’ve said before, Braavos is a city created by former slaves where slavery is strictly forbidden, which gives credence to the idea of every man playing an equal part in giving service.

-The young lady walking with Bronn (Lollys Stokeworth) has a much different story arc in the books than she does here. In the books, when the riot breaks out after Joffrey demanded blood for when poop was thrown at him, Sansa was able to get away from being raped thanks to the Hound. Lollys was not so lucky. She was raped by somewhere between 50 and 100 men at one time. I am really glad the TV show bypassed this part of the story and just made her very naïve naturally.

-Two shows and still no Sand Snakes? They did get their first mention of the season with Ellaria Sand saying they are ready to go off and fight a war over their father’s death. But let’s hope we finally get to see them next week to add the necessary spice to the Dorne story arc.

-I wondered last season what would happen to Janos Slynt after he cowardly ran away from battle at the wall and hid in a closet with Gilly and her baby. I wondered about this last week and this week confirms that no one else but Sam and Gilly knows or can confirm Slynt’s cowardice, which he firmly denies in the episode.

Questions Moving Forward

-Do we get to find out where Littlefinger and Sansa are going next week, or will Littlefinger just answer our questions with more mysterious puns?

-What reward will Bronn receive for helping Jamie in his quest in Dorne? And did Cersei really end Bronn’s courtship to Lollys? I mean, Lollys doesn’t know much, but you would think someone would’ve made her aware of something like that.

-Will Cersei be able to maintain control of her council?

-How will the relationship with Jon and Stannis change now that Jon is Lord Commander? And if Stannis needs someone to rally the wildlings to his cause, who would this be now that Mance is dead?

-Can we possibly go three for three on the season with dragons next week?

-And what research does one need the head of a dwarf for?

Season 5 is off to an excellent start. Let’s hope next week maintains that momentum

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode One Review: “The Wars to Come”

 

 

Deliberate Pace Sets Stage for Season 5 in Premiere

Game of Thrones Season 5 premiere Sunday night stayed true to form with the previous three season openers, relying on dialogue and character interactions in order to set-up (as opposed to actually moving them towards), the various directions each character will be taking. But when considering how last season ended, with the death of Tywin Lannister, Stannis’s arrival at the Wall, and two of Westeros’s primary characters on boats crossing the Narrow Sea, a reset was necessary before everyone could get back to the business of the Iron Throne. One positive sign from the premiere that I did see was it appears that, unlike last season when several story lines (the Wall, Dany, Stannis and Davos), hit the pause button while waiting on King’s Landing to catch up, everyone will have plenty to keep them busy the entire season. But while much of the premiere could be considered slow, it did start with a first for Got: a flashback!!!

The Past

Though we are not told who she is at first, a young Cersei and a friend are walking towards a hut to receive a prophesy from a woman (in the books she’s named Maggy the Frog. Her name is not mentioned here). Cersei’s friend tries to convince her not to go, but the young version of the future queen is just as stubborn and head strong as the adult version. Nell Williams, the actress playing young Cersei, was fantastic in this scene. I bet many viewers figured out who she was before it was revealed. The prophesy is not kind to young Cersei. She is told she will not marry the prince her father promised her (more on him later), but instead she will marry a king (well that happened). Second, she is told the king and her will not have children, but he will have 20 and she will have 3 (well I’ll be, Maggy is 2 for 2!!!). In the third part of the prophecy, Maggy tells Cersei she will be queen, but will be replaced by one younger and more beautiful (well this hasn’t happened, but Natalie Dormer sure is attractive). So much about Cersei’s animosity towards Margaery can be explained by this scene, the best scene of the episode. In fact, so many of Cersei’s actions can be explained by the one moment about 25 years before. Think about Cersei’s treatment of Sansa. Of course she wanted to subdue Joffrey’s future queen and make her submit to Cersei’s will, trying to keep Lady Stark from fulfilling this prophecy.

King’s Landing

We return to present day, where Cersei is talking over her father’s body with Jamie. What is interesting here is Cersei seems to know it was Jamie who freed Tryion, the man she believes killed her son (wrongly) and her father (rightly). If she knows, why does she not show more anger towards her brother here?

The mourning for Tywin continues with the return of Tywin’s brother, Kevin (I’ve trimmed down and aged a bit since you last saw me) Lannister and Lancel (I got a haircut and wear a sackcloth for clothes) Lannister, Cersei’s cousin. Lancel’s look is strikingly different from the last time we saw him as he was sleeping with Cersei back in Season 2. He has become a sparrow, one who gives up material possessions in the name of the seven. He later apologizes to Cersei for “tempting her” (yeah Lancel, because you were the one doing the tempting in that relationship) and for putting poison in King Robert’s cup when he went out hunting (major reveal right there)!!!!

                                Season 2 Lannister

                                          Season 5 Lancel

 

Loras (who does not seem genuine about it, and Cersei can tell) tries to flatter Cersei with compliments for her late father. But not much longer after that, he is in bed with a new man piece, unconcerned about the arranged marriage pact he has with Cersei. Margaery walks in on Loras and his lover and she is more annoyed than embarrassed by it (of course the next time Margaery looks startled or embarrassed will be the first). She is still playing the game and worried her brother is not going to do his part with marrying Cersei.

Pentos

I really hope at some point this season Tyrion returns to his hilarious Season 2 form. I mean, it makes sense for him to be depressed after having killed his father and former lover and living in a crate on a boat all that time. But you’re a free man Tyrion!!! The Imp spends his scenes drinking while Varys, who made the trip with him, speaks on all our behalves trying to cheer Tryion up. Varys also reveals that he has been working to get a Targaryen back on the throne ever since King Robert rebelled. Varys also means to go see Daenarys and take Tyrion with him. Let’s hope this journey revives the wit and motivation of the Halfman.

This pairing is so promising if Tyrion will get his act together.

Meereen

Speaking of the mother of dragons, some rebels have risen up in her neck of the woods. One of her Unsullied was killed while visiting a brothel (where they sing to men who have no balls) by a man in a golden mask. It is revealed that that man is a part of the Sons of the Harpy, a group that wants to overthrow Dany.

Daenarys does receive better news from a returning Hizdahr zo Loraq and Daario Naharis. Do you remember what these guys were sent to do? Did you remember where they were sent? Did you even know who they were? These two very important characters have been very poorly developed. Their mission was to settle a dispute in one of the cities Daenarys had left. Hizdar presents the terms: they will stop fighting if she will open the fighting pits again (which featured gladiator style death matches). Dany finds these pits appalling, but must take it under consideration.

While in bed with her, Daario believes Dany should reopen the pits and use the weapon of her dragons that were locked away at the end of last season. Considering that one is missing and that the other two roared and shot fire at her when she went to see them, it would seem the mother of dragons is struggling to harness the power of her beasts.

 

The Vale

“It’s Brave Ser Robyn.” And he’s sword fighting and it is not going well. Bronze Yohn Royce promised Sansa and Petyr Baelish that he would turn the young boy into a fighter while the Littlefinger and Lady Stark are gone. But I think we can all agree about having our doubts on that. And where are Baelish and Sansa going? They didn’t exactly clear that up, it’s just not where anybody thinks they are going to be in the Vale. I know I’m as shocked as you are about Baelish keeping secrets.

Also near the Vale, Brienne is as dejected as we have ever seen here. It makes sense when you consider she has now failed her third task in as many tries on the show and does not believe anyone remains who is noble and worthy of service. With no clear direction or task to fight for, it will be very interesting to see where Brienne’s story goes from here.

The Wall

Sam and Gilly are conversing while Jon Snow practices sword fighting with Ollie. The couple’s discussion centers around who will be the next Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. The Watch has not had one since the Old Bear died back in season 3 and they’ve been too preoccupied to elect a new one. Keep a close eye on this storyline as it develops.

The rest of the scenes at the Wall focus on Jon. Firstly, it’s Melisandre and those seductive eyes she loves to shoot and Jon. She takes him to meet Stannis, who wants a Wildling army to help him take Roose Bolton in the North. All they have to do is bend the knee to Stannis and he will accept them south of the Wall. Not sure what the men of the Nights Watch will think of this considering many of them just died to keep that Wildling Army from getting past said Wall.

But Mance Rayder, the king beyond the wall, has no plans to bend the knee. Seeing Jon and Mane talk for the last time is very bittersweet, especially considering how underused Mance was last season (he’s leading an attack with 100,000 on all of Westeros and you show him in one episode???) Despite Jon’s pleadings with him, Rayder refuses to bend the knee. So Mance must burn!!!!! But before the flames reach Mance, Jon fires an arrow at him and kills him before he can be burned alive. I am sure Stannis really appreciates this undermining by Ned Stark’s bastard In front of everyone at the Wall.

Of Note:

-The prince young Cersei was referring to was Rhaegar Targaryen. Her father promised Rhaegar to her, but the Mad King refused the match because he felt the Lannisters were not of a high enough birth. Rhaegar married Elia Martell instead.

-The location for Varys and Tyrion’s conversation was Illyrion Mopatis’ mansion. We met Illyrio in the very first episode as this was the same house where Dany and her brother, Viserys, stayed while in exile. He is also the one who gave Dany her dragon eggs. I am not sure why the producers chose to use his mansion but then not include him in the plot with Varys and Tyrion, especially considering he was one of the central conspirators in Varys’s plans.

Illyrio Mopatis from Season One

-The books describe Maggy the Frog as short, with warts all over her and no teeth. So the decision to not mention the name Maggy the Frog likely comes from the casting decision of a much younger and more attractive actress than the fortune teller in the book.

Maggy the Frog from the Books

 

 

 

 

Maggy the Frog from the TV Show

          

-The giant statue that was pulled down early in the episode was a statue of the Harpy, the old god of the people of Slaver’s Bay.

Questions to Consider

-What will Stannis’s response be to Jon’s arrow?

-Is Margaery the “someone younger” in Cersei’s prophecy or is it someone else?

-Where are Baelish and Sansa going?

Join me again next week to discuss our first visit to Dorne and see what new things Arya will be up to this season.

Game of Thrones Season 5 Primer

Game of Thrones Season 5 Primer

It’s almost here!!! The start of a new season of Game of Thrones is  two days away and I have all the new info you will need to be ready for the premiere on Sunday plus a few special predictions I am making entirely on my own. Let’s start with a description of the new locations we’ll be visiting in Season 5.

  1. New Lands

Dorne The land farthest south in Westeros, Dorne is an entirely different world and culture separated by both its distinct customs and geography from the rest of Westeros. Unlike the rest of Westeros, the Dornish view women and bastards as equal to all others in their culture, allowing them equal rights in inheritance and lines of succession (everywhere else in Westeros skip females in their lines of succession entirely). The Dornish are also very free sexually (see Oberyn from last season and that should be all I need to say about that). Dorne also has the distinction of being the only land that never bent the knee to the Targaryens (hence their words “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken). They only joined the rest of the Kingdom through marriage.

 

Setting for a number of scenes in Dorne

HardhommeOnly mentioned in the books, we will actually see Hardhomme in the show. It is an island north of the Wall where many Wildlings have gone to take refuge from the White Walkers.

 

                                                                         Who is rowing to Hardhomme?

BraavosThough we’ve visited Braavos before (Stannis and Davos went there last season to borrow money), the free city will be more significant this year. The city is recognizable by the giant statue (the Titan of Braavos) that greets new arrivals to the city. As a city created by escaped slaves, slavery is banned in Braavos. It is also one of the wealthiest cities in the GoT Universe. The Iron Bank of Braavos (which has loaned money to the crown of Westeros many times) will continue to grow in significance as the war debt in Westeros comes due. Arya’s sword teacher, Syrio Forel, was from Braavos.

The Titan of Braavos from last season

 

Volantis– The oldest of the free cities, Volantis is very close to Slaver’s Bay and is believed to have more slaves than free men. Two of the more well-known landmarks of Volantis are the Long Bridge and the Temple of the Lord of Light.

 

                                The Long Bridge of Volantis, filmed using this bridge in Cordoba, Spain

 

2. New Characters

Doran Martell– The brother of the late Oberyn, Doran is the prince of Dorne (leader of Dorne), who is nothing like the fiery Red Viper. Where Oberyn sought bloody revenge, Doran seeks more pragmatic, diplomatic solutions. This will be a major point of contention between Doran and Oberyn’s offspring.

The Sand Snakes– The nickname given to Oberyn’s eight bastard daughters, the show will feature the three oldest, Obara, Nymeria, and Tyene. And while each one possesses a unique skillset (Obara is a fighter, Nymeria is very elegant in speech, Tyene is an expert in herbs and poisons) all three are considered equally dangerous and deadly.

Areo Hotah– The captain of Doran’s guards, Areo is quiet and reserved, but loyal to a fault The prince relies heavily on Hotah’s loyalty since Doran’s gout makes it impossible for him to fight his own physical battles.

 

Hotah with the late Oberyn’s paramour, Ellaria Sand

Trystane Martell– Rounding out the Dorne crew is Doran’s son, Trystane. Back in season two, Tyrion arranged a marriage between Cersei’s daughter, Myrcella, and Tyrstane. Now, Trystane is a teenager whose continuing courtship figures to be a significant piece for both sides’ use in the battle brewing between House Lannister and House Martell.

The High Sparrow– Senseless war has been waged all across Westeros throughout the last three seasons with rape, pillaging, and murder a common occurrence for the peasants caught in the middle of all the fighting amongst noble houses. Within this context, a new high septon (who calls himself the High Sparrow and leads the worship of the Seven) appears this season in no mood to rub shoulders with any of the houses responsible for the carnage.

Yezzan– A slave trader from Yunkai, Yezzan is wealthy, powerful, and one of the more respectful traders in regards to how he treats his slaves. Of course, Dany didn’t seem very discerning of one’s treatment of their slaves when she hanged all those slave traders last season.

  1. Returning Characters

(Rumored) The Other Lannisters– Kevan Lannister has returned!!! What? You’re not excited about that? You may not even remember Tywin’s brother and his scrawny son (the wimpy guy Cersei slept with, Robert toyed with, and Tyrion used to inform on his sister) from back in Season 2. But Tywin’s death is expected to bring these characters back (it is rumored, not confirmed) and I expect them to be significantly changed from when we last saw them.

Did you forget about me?

Lancel Lannister

The Lord of Bones– We last saw this distrustful wildling wearing a mask in Season 3, when Jon Snow first saw the wildling camp. Based on the previews, it would appear Rattleshirt (his other name) did not concede with the rest of the Wildlings and is still at large.

Myrcella Baratheon– Another character we last saw in Season 2, she was last seen crying in a boat as she was shipped off to Dorne to be married to Trystane Martell. A new actress will play the teen version of Myrcella as she has grown up and will have more significance this season with Trystane and Myrcella’s courtship.

Jaqen H’ghar– If I were a character, I think I would try and get out of the action after Season 2 only to return for this season like so many have. They sure did avoid a lot of carnage. You might remember this guy killing three men at Arya’s request (well actually two since the third death was traded for Ayra and her friend’s escape). Unlike the other returning characters, I don’t expect this faceless man’s demeanor to be much different from what it was previously.

  1. Bold Predictions

New Character Interactions– With all the reshuffling that happened at the close of Season 4, several characters are now in position to meet people they have yet to interact with before. You already know about Team Wall (Jon, Sam, Stannis, Davos, Melisandre, Mance, Thormund!!!), but they won’t be the only ones who will have to deal with new acquaintances this season.

The show will produce better drama that Martin’s books did– Many book readers complain when the producers take a different direction than Martin’s novels do. And this season figures to offer more of that than any other season previously. But if previous seasons are an indication, I expect the non-book material to be fantastic. Much of Arya’s journey with the Hound (including the fight with Brienne) did not strictly adhere to the book. But I think the best part of Season 4 was their storyline. Much of last year’s Wall battle veered from the source material, but it was one of the best episodes the show has produced. And Theon’s storyline from arrogant douche to Ramsey’s frail bitch (which the book was silent about until we see the end result), did an excellent job of filling in that silence. I expect no less when this season makes changes from Martin’s books and I look forward to arguing with book readers about how much better it is.

Major Twists are coming– I am calling for two major, jaw-dropping twists at the end of this season. It hasn’t been confirmed that these are coming, but I firmly believe the direction of Season 5 sets itself up perfectly for these twists, one of which the producers chose not to use at the end of Season 4.

 

I will have a review of the first episode up early next week. See you then.