New Relationships Proving to be a Strength Early
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.
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.
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.
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?
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).
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!!!
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.
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.
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.
-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