Game of Thrones & The Women of Westeros 5/2

“The House of Black and White” takes us to Dorne and Braavos. Both are awesome.


Previously…

I covered last week’s premiere here. I was talking to a relative about how it was solid, but nothing earth-shattering happened. She wondered if I truly needed more than three naked men, one gory death, and one man burnt alive. Touche. I suppose I was waiting for a cliffhanger or anything that would make people film their friends’ reactions. Maybe this show has spoiled me to the point where events that would be shocking in any other show are just kind of humdrum here. In fact, it definitely has.

In a nutshell…

The credits take us to the usual places, except they trade out Pentos for Braavos, which is my favorite animation! Disappointingly, Meereen’s animation is unchanged. I thought they’d have the harpy topple off after last week, darn it.

We see Arya (!!!) sailing under the giant Titan of Braavos (I’m just so jazzed we’re in Braavos again!) with Captain Curly Beard, who claims the statue comes alive when Braavos is in danger. Arya doesn’t buy it, but she does start a little when the horn announces their arrival. She says she isn’t afraid, probably mostly to herself. Later, the captain rows her through the canals full of noisy traders and to a giant building on its own in the water, loosely connected to the city by a narrow bridge. It’s the House of Black and White!

They give each other the Valar Morghulis/Valar Dohearis shtick and say goodbye. Arya tries to give an old man at the door that shtick along with her coin, but he claims he doesn’t know what that means and shuts her out. Arya sits on the steps through the night and then the rain, chanting her death list and turning the coin over and over until morning, when she gives up, tossing the coin into the canal and heading into town.

We find Brienne and Pod dining at an inn. Brienne’s still miserable, but Pod’s checking out waitresses until he lands on Sansa, dining with Littlefinger and heavily guarded. He points her out to Brienne. Meanwhile, Sansa’s asking Littlefinger about the scroll she’d been eyeballing last time. He says it was word that his “marriage proposal has been accepted.” We don’t get much more than that when Brienne approaches them and is stopped by the guards. She greets them and Littlefinger makes note of her fancy armor before allowing her forward.

She kneels before Sansa and recites her promise to Catelyn and how she was her sworn sword. Littlefinger points out Renly’s suspicious death by shadow and how Brienne also failed to protect Catelyn. Brienne wonders why he has any say in who protects Sansa and Littlefinger cites his marriage to her aunt. Brienne wants to talk to Sansa alone, but Sansa refuses her help and tells her to leave and Littlefinger sicks his guards on her and Pod.

Brienne breaks off and frees their horses, stealing one for Pod. There’s a chase through the woods, but Pod is still a terrible rider and his horse separates them before throwing him off in a stream. One of the guards nearly gets poor Pod, but Brienne shows mows him down, then one of his buddies. She even breaks his sword. Valerian steel! What can’t it do? Pod thinks they should give up now that both Stark girls have refused her protection. “Do you think she’s safe with Littlefinger?”

Back in King’s Landing, Cersei has recieved a gift. A viper with Myrcella’s necklace in its mouth. She thinks it’s a threat from Dorne. She argues with Jaime over it and whether he’s acted like a father to their children. “If I was a father to any of my children, they’d be stoned in the streets,” he rightly points out. She still thinks he should be protecting them harder with Joffrey dead, Myrcella sent away, and Tommen marrying “that smirking whore from Highgarden.” Heh!

Jaime feels guilty enough to promise to sneak into Dorne and steal Myrcella back. He seeks out Bronn, who’s chatting with his sweet and dim fiancee, Lolys. She’s complaining about how mean her sister (who’s set to inherit their castle) is. Bronn promises that people like that get what’s coming to them, one way or another. Oh, Bronn. You have a strange kind of charm, even when you’re plotting to kill the in-laws. Jaime takes Bronn aside and gives him a decree saying Lolys will be marrying someone else. He can promise Bronn a better bride and a bigger castle if he comes with him to Dorne.

Then we see Dorne, which I note was NOT in the credits. Boo! I want to see an animated viper! At least we see Ellaria and meet Doran Martell and his guard, Areo Hotah. She’s berating him for doing nothing about his brother’s murder. He says Oberyn died in trial by combat, which isn’t murder legally. He doesn’t want to start a war over it. Ellaria says the sandsnakes (I can’t wait to meet them!) agree with her and asks if she can at least cut off pieces of Myrcella, who’s frolicking with the prince (and looking like an entirely different person. Let’s see what the original actress has to say about that), and send them to Cersei. He says he loved his brother and is grateful Ellaria made him happy, but “we do not mutilate little girls for vengeance. Not as long as I rule.” Ellaria’s not happy, all “How long will that be?”

In Meereen, Daario is taking Greyworm and the boys through the town, talking about how his drinking, whoring Second Sons blend in better and get more intelligence than the more rigid Unsullied. He leads them to one of the Sons of the Harpy in hiding. They arrest him and we cut to a small council meeting with Daenarys. Mossador councils Daenerys to kill him, but Ser Barristan thinks there should be a trial to show the people she’s a fair ruler. Mossador says the people will only understand a killing. Dany dismisses them to think it over. Barristan stays after to tell her about her father Aerys (aka The Mad King) and his hobbies: sadistic executions, burning men alive, destroying homes and all the while laughing. Using cruelty to stamp out dissent, he sparked the revolt that dethroned him and killed the Targaryans except her. “I’m not my father,” Dany says and agrees to give the man a fair trial.

Then we finally join Tyrion and Varys, bickering while stuck in a large traveling box. Tyrion’s drunk, of course, and wants to go outside for some air, but Varys reminds him Cersei put a price on his head.

Tyrion: What do you hope to find at the end of the road to Meereen?
Varys: I told you. A ruler.
Tyrion: You’ve already got a ruler. Everywhere has already got a ruler. Every pile of shit on the side of every road has someone’s banner hanging from it.

Varys reiterates that he thinks Tyrion showed leadership talent as Hand of the King. Tyrion is still feeling too guilty over killing Shae to hear it (Yeah. I’m still a little mad at how that went down, too.), wishing he’d left with Shae before all the shit hit the fan, but he’d been too addicted to the power, even if he was more a servant than a leader. “People follow leaders. They will never follow us. They find us repulsive,” Varys says. “And we find them repulsive, which is why we surround ourselves with large, comfortable boxes to keep them away and yet, no matter what we do, people like you and me are never satisfied inside the box.” Tyrion doesn’t want to have a philosophical talk. He wants to take a walk, but Varys says no. Tyrion says there are plenty of dwarfs in the world. “Is Cersei going to kill them all?”

Maybe. At least inadvertently. Two men have brought her a dwarf head, but it’s not Tyrion’s. Meryn Trant wants to jail the men for deceiving the queen (and not for killing a perfectly innocent Dwarf, I guess), but Cersei figures mistakes will be made and she doesn’t want to “dissuade the hunters.” What a peach! The head is given to Maester Qyburn for his creepy Frankenstein work before they go to meet with the small council.

Cersei takes the Hand’s chair, saying it’s just till her son comes of age. Her Uncle Kevan seems to object. Tyrell offers his services as Hand, but he’s already Master of Ships and now also Master of Coin (also sharp as a pillow). Grand Maester Pycelle starts to bluster about taking the Hand spot, but Cersei distracts him by naming Qyburn for Master of Whisperers, Varys’s old job. He mumbles and dodders himself into a state of shock. She offers Uncle Kevan Master of War, but he’s too upset she’s inserting her breasted self into politics. He refuses to “serve as your puppet…watch you stack the Small Council with sycophants.” Boo sexism! Wait, he’s got a point. Boo Cersei! Man, it’s a tough call, picking who to “boo” in this council room. I pick everyone.

Then we go to The Wall, where Shireen is teaching Gilly to read and Sam is quoting fun facts from all the dusty books. Cute little nerd club they got there. We learn Shireen’s a little smarty pants who started reading at three and that her greyscale stopped progressing when she was too young to remember how, yet two of Gilly’s sister-mother-aunts degenerated and were taken to the woods by Craster where he… we don’t find out. We don’t find out as Selyse comes in to sneerily dismiss Sam and Gilly, then treat her daughter even worse than usual for consorting with a Wildling.

Meanwhile, Stannis is chewing Jon out for mercy-killing Mance, making an example of Davos’s mangled hand. He wanted to instill fear in the Wildlings. Jon argues fear won’t help as they only follow one of their own. When Stannis shows him the above letter from 10-year-old Lyanna Mormont (I love how precocious the kids in this world are!), Jon says Northerners are a little like the Wildlings, too. Davos and Stannis tell him his life at The Wall will be unpleasant once Ser Alliser Thorne gets elected Lord Commander. Stannis offers Jon legitimization as a Stark and lordship of Winterfell to help get the northerners on his team.

Jon wants it and always has. He talks it over with Sam, but plans to refuse it and keep his vow to The Night’s Watch. Then it’s election time. Thorne is nominated by Janos Slint for his bravery and Ser Mallister by whoever-that-guy-is for his loyalty. The voting is about to commence when Sam stands up. Slint makes fun of him for having a Wildling “lady love,” but Sam makes sure everyone knows Slint was found hiding with Gilly and the baby and pissing himself to the delight of the crowd. He nominates Jon, citing all he’s done in his short time: him taking over command of the battle, the mission with Mormont, the subterfuge with the Wildlings. Thorne grumbles about Jon’s dealings with Ygritte and Mance. The votes are tied between Jon and Thorne until Maester Aemon (I love him so much!) puts his in and everyone’s chanting “Snow! Snow! Snow!” I think this might be the only joyful moment we’ve had at The Wall.

We go back to Arya in Braavos where she uses Needle to kill herself a pigeon for dinner. A couple hooligans eye her pigeon, then Needle, saying it must be worth a lot. She tells them to turn around and go twice. “Nothing’s worth anything to dead men,” she says without a lick of fear, totally ready to skewer them. She could, too, but that old hooded man from The House of Black and White shows up and they cower off. She follows him back to the building, demanding answers. He just gives her back her coin and pulls off his face to reveal the face of Jaqen H’ghar (!!!), but says “a man is not Jaqen H’ghar… [he is] no one and that is who a girl must become.” She follows him in.

In Meereen, Mossador kills the Son they have taken prisoner. He argues to Dany that it was for her, that she wanted him dead, but her hands were tied. She promised a trial and that word is law to her. She has him taken out to where the crowds have gathered, calling her Mhysa and vying for her attention. She speaks to the crowd, telling them freedom cannot exist without justice. She announces that Mossador killed a man slated for trial and the punishment is death. The former masters don’t seem to have a word to say, but Mossador and the huge contingent of former slaves beg for forgiveness. She stares away as Daario cuts off his head. The former slaves turn on her, the masters begin fighting with the slaves, and rocks are thrown at Dany as she’s escorted back in with her guards shielding her.

That night, she paces out to her balcony and finds Drogon perched there. He approaches her and she reaches for him, overjoyed, but he straightens and spreads his giant wings before she can touch his snout. He flies off into the distance. It’s gorgeous.

Passing The Bechdel Test…

It’s a pass between Sansa and Brienne’s tense exchange, Shireen teaching Gilly to read, and Selyse coming at Shireen with all her Wildling racism.

The Women of Westeros…

I get that Dany punishing Mossador was supposed to be a show of leadership and commitment to the law so the masters might maybe possibly stop having the Sons of the Harpy slaughter her men. I do. But why wasn’t there a council meeting for this? Why doesn’t Mossador get a trial? Wouldn’t that be firm but fair and mollify the former slave population? Hell, why doesn’t she jail and trial the masters who are in suspicion of paying the Sons? There were many other options more politically sound than a public beheading. Either way, Dany’s Meereen arc continues to be fraught with annoying damned-if-you-do/don’t decisions. I miss the days when Dany did things besides sit in chambers and talk politics.

Arya’s death list is now just Cersei, Walder Frey, The Mountain, Meryn Trant. I notice The Hound’s missing. I wonder if that’s because Arya, having left him to die slowly, figures he’s dead or because she no longer wishes death on him. There’s this part of me that wants the latter. They were so adorable together, killing and cussing and bickering. Anyway, Arya’s definitely grown into a veritable badass. Even when she tosses her coin and gives up on the House, it doesn’t feel like she’s admitting defeat. It’s more like “Well, screw you guys, then!”

It’s interesting that Brienne responded with determination to reject Sansa’s rejection, yet didn’t chase after Arya. Either she’s just over her mopes by then or she truly believes Sansa was more likely to be in danger than Arya was. Either way, damn Brienne can fight. I wish Sansa had seen some of that action before making her decision.

Sansa continues to be quite the snarky little madam, drinking ale, mocking Baelish, telling off Brienne. I don’t agree with that last one, but she’s definitely coming into herself. At this point, she’s reached the end of Book Sansa’s journey and beyond, so it’s all surprises for me.

While I don’t much like the sexism in her small council scene, I do agree with Uncle Kevan that Cersei is a terrible interim ruler and she has stacked her council very badly. She’s got a mad scientist, a doddering creep, and a complete dope so far. Say what you will about Robert’s council, Pycelle aside, he knew enough to have men who were smarter than he was (which wasn’t difficult as he was a drunken dumbass). But Cersei is petty and cruel and her approval rating could rival Joffrey’s among the people if she sits in much longer. I know the dwarf population won’t be fans, since she doesn’t seem to care if they’re mistakenly killed for Tyrion.

Shireen continues to be adorable. Considering the way her mother locks her up at home, it’s nice to see her having some freedom to roam at Castle Black and a huge library at her disposal. I love the way she defends Gilly to Selyse, who continues to be a terrible, terrible person.

Gilly’s also cute, jabbing at Sam for not being as patient a teacher as Shireen. Hannah Murray really does a lot with this character. She comes off sweet, silly, deeply damaged by her past, determined to survive in spite of it, and still not a bitter bone in her body. This show has a tendency to make you hate the characters you loved sometimes and vice versa. It’s nice to have characters like her, like Shireen or Sam, just out and out good people without gray areas.

Show Ellaria is definitely more bloodthirsty than Book Ellaria (who wanted an end to the vicious cycle of death-avenging). I wonder if they’re cutting a certain other female POV character and giving her lines to Ellaria. The show has done it before with mashing up Gendry Waters with Edric Storm. Either way, it was good to see her, even if I really disagree with her wanting to chop off poor Myrcella’s fingers. Poor Tommen and Myrcella. It’s not their fault Joffrey and Cersei are such dillholes! Anyway, it’s pretty clear she sent the necklace to Cersei… or is Doran’s wish for peace just an act?

Myrcella is only seen briefly and not heard at all. From what we see, she and Prince Trystane seem to be getting along in the desert paradise that is Dorne. Melisandre doesn’t show, either. Missandei is almost an extra in this episode. Margaery is only brought up in spirit. “That smirking whore from Highgarden!” I love it. I’m glad they are pointing out Natalie Dormer’s fine work mastering the art of smirking on this show.

Other Notes…

What did happen to Craster’s greyscaled daughterwives out in the woods? Were they killed or were they left for the white walkers to make use of? The attention given to greyscale here intrigues me. There’s something to it that we book people aren’t privy to and I want to know what!

I don’t think “No One,” back at the House, is supposed to truly be the same Jaqen H’ghar Arya dealt with in Harrenhall. I have a theory this is just one of many faces this group has on hand and was only used to bring Arya back in.

So Jaime is going to Dorne and so is Bronn, I guess, who didn’t see much action by now in the books. I guess that makes it official. His plot is not taking him to the Riverlands, so No Lady Stoneheart. I guess I already knew after reading it several places after last season, but it still bums me out to know they aren’t changing their minds. Ah, well. Bronn and Jaime are teaming up. Maybe it’ll be awesome. I’m open to the possibilities.

Fangasms…

As for things that are definitely awesome, I am still loving the Varys/Tyrion road trip. Every line is quotable!

I am also adoring the new locations and more ambitious set design. Dorne and Braavos looked absolutely amazing.

And now for some gifs I didn’t have room for above…

Now my favorite meme from Tumblr…

Next up: “The High Sparrow”

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All images from Game of Thrones are property of HBO, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff and used here for criticism and analysis only. All gifs are thanks to the tireless efforts of the anonymous gif-makers all over the internet.

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