This week’s Throne Games, “The House of Black and White,” directed by Michael Slovis, continues the path of moving the pieces where they need to go in order to lay the groundwork for the action. You know you’re inured to “Game of Thrones” when an episode with a beheading, a dragon, a magical shape-shifter, and a tavern throwdown can be described as one of the more chill episodes, though there was at least one legitimately genuine surprise. The characters are slowly beginning to take their places for the season, and we’re continuing to see developments, particularly in the new generation of leaders (especially Jon Snow and Daenerys) who are stepping up to the plate, ready or not.
Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is dealing with the fallout from the Mance Raydar bonfire, and his decision to mercy kill the Wildling king. But those Baratheons are getting rather comfy at Castle Black, and looking to make friends (and allies). Little Princess Shireen (Kerry Ingram) is teaching Gilly (Hannah Murphy) to read, even though her grumpy mom wants to shoo her away from Wildlings. Gilly knows a bit about Shireen’s Greyscale, her own sisters having been afflicted with it, transformed, abandoned, and presumed dead. This definitely sounds like something that’s going to come back in a horrific way.
Stannis (Stephen Dillane) is also feeling friendly, cozying up to Jon because he knows has very little sway in the North, and a good Stark name would certainly grease the wheels. Why, he can just make Jon a Stark with the flick of a pen with Jon’s promise to serve him, of course. Jon, naturally, won’t do it, even though he’s always wanted it, because he’s made a vow, and Jon Snow takes vows the MOST seriously!
The Night’s Watch holds an election for their new Lord Commander, with all the pomp and circumstance of a middle school student council president election. There are some speeches given in the cafeteria and everyone votes with differently shaped coins. Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) squeaks in right at the end and nominates Jon, eloquently arguing that, “he may be young, but he’s the commander we turned to when the night was darkest.” And even though Jon still carries the stigma of being a Wildling lover, they all cast their votes and he is elected! Yay! More recess for all!
On The Road From The Vale
Meanwhile, on the Worst Camping Trip Ever, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and Podrick (Daniel Porter) finally pull into a tavern and off the road. “Must be good food if it’s crowded,” chirps our little Yelper, Pod. These two catch a serious break when Pod spots Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) at a nearby table, proving his worth. Brienne, the subtlest of knights, marches right up and gives Sansa a speech about her oath to her mother, blah, blah, blah, you must come with me, even though I am dirty and battered and you have no idea who I am. Littlefinger deftly and swiftly undermines her with talk of her failure to save Renly Baratheon, but Sansa’s already made up her mind. Why’s she gonna go with this cuckoo lady babbling about Stannis murder shadows? Better the devil you know (which could be the entire theme of this show).
Brienne huffs off, elbowing dudes in the face and broadswording hitching posts in half. She and Pod steal a horse and ride off, with Littlefinger security in hot pursuit. Pod can’t ride worth a lick and she has to double back to get and then save him, bloodily dispatching two would be assailants. She’s seen the direction Sansa’s headed, but Pod brings up the very good point that MAYBE, just maybe, it’s time to give up this vow if she’s been rebuffed by Stark girls twice.
The Road to Volantis
Also on a road trip from hell? Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hill), who are bumping along in a plush carriage on the way to Meereen via Volantis. Tyrion is dying to get outside of the box, but Varys fears the bounty hunters who seek the purse Cersei’s put on her brother’s head (and he should — they are enthusiastic). In talking about their quest to find a ruler, Varys and Tyrion realize how similar they are: both power hungry but unsuitable to rule, due to their various, um, shortcomings. Tyrion finally admits that he did enjoy the power, that he could have left, walked away from it all, but didn’t want to.
In King’s Landing, Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) open a message from Dorne: a viper’s head with Myrcella’s necklace in its fangs. A little DRAMATIC, don’t you think, Dorne? Cersei goes absolutely ballistic about Jaime not protecting their kids, even though his style of protecting them has been to pretend that he is NOT the father (cue Maury dance). Cersei lays down the law, explaining how Jaime’s approach has resulted in one dead kid, one kidnapped kid, and one kid pushed onto the Iron Throne and about to marry someone twice his age. Jaime announces he’s going to sneak into the Water Gardens at Dorne and bring back his girl. Of course, he won’t be going alone.
Because he’s going to have Bronn (Jerome Flynn)!!! Best road dog in the game (quick poll: who would you choose to be your road dog? Bronn, Pod or Varys? All good choices). Bronn is now engaged to Lollys Stokeworth (Elizabeth Cadwallader), a lovely but simple-minded girl. He seems satisfied enough, but then Jaime shows up, tells him he’s going to be his road dog to Dorne and gives him the message that Lollys is going to be married to someone else. Time to put those dreams of the easy street lord’s life on the back burner, Bronn.
While Jaime and Bronn head out for parts South, Cersei is happily ensconcing herself at the Small Council, shifting positions around to her benefit — Lord Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) and his fab mustache are now Master of Coin, and quack doctor Maester Qyburn (Anton Lesser) is now Master of Whisperers. She tries to make uncle Kevan Lannister (Ian Gelder) Master of War but he’s furious that she’s making power grabs, and refuses to be her puppet. He storms off for Casterly Rock. Of course Cersei denies she’s trying to be the Hand of the King, but she’s also basically being the Hand of the King.
Over in Dorne (Hello, Dorne! You’re so nice and sunny), Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) is on the warpath after Oberyn’s unfortunate head squishing at the hands of The Mountain. She confronts Oberyn’s wheelchair-bound brother, Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig), the prince of Dorne. She wants him to avenge Oberyn’s death, but he is reluctant to start a war over what was essentially a legal murder — Oberyn died in a trial by combat. Ellaria is furious, she claims the Dornish people are with her, as well as the Sand snakes, Oberyn’s daughters, who want to avenge their father (SAND SNAKES! I CAN’T WAIT FOR THE SAND SNAKES). She also wants to send Myrcella back to Cersei “one finger at a time.” So basically, she’s the Cersei of Dorne and Myrcella is her Margaery. Doran shuts this down, though, saying, “we do not mutilate little girls for vengeance, as long as I rule.” Of course Ellaria questions just how long that might be.
We finally get some Arya (Maisie Williams) time. She’s en route to Braavos with Captain Poor Man’s Bob Hoskins. They sail into Braavos underneath its bizarre warrior upskirt entrance. He drops her off where that coin is supposed to take her, The House of Black and White. When she knocks, an older black man answers the door, but turns up his nose at her coin and the name drop of Jaqen H’gar, telling her she has “everywhere else to go,” before slamming the door in her face. Arya spends a few days chanting “Cersei, Walder Frey, The Mountain, Meryn Trant,” rocking back and forth in the sun, rain and wind, and finally she gets up, tosses the coin in the canal and peaces out.
She’s fending for herself in Braavos, but when some young men try to take her sword, they quickly scurry at the glimpse of the man from the House of Black and White. Arya is back on her mission. She follows him and demands to know who he is. He returns her coin and then whips off his face to reveal the face of Cool Girl’s Murder Friend, Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) himself!!! He tells her she has to become “no one,” and lets her in the door. Arya’s journey to becoming a faceless assassin has just begun.
Over in Meereen, what a mess. Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) is showing Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) how to hunt the Sons of the Harpy, whom Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) has charged them with flushing out. They get one, but no one can decide what to do with him, arguing over a fair trial, public execution, displays of power, etc. Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) pulls Khaleesi aside to remind her that her dad, the Mad King, got a little too power and violence hungry and that was ultimately his downfall, spurring the rebellion. She promises a fair trial for the Harpy.
But then former slave and current advisor of sorts, Mossador (Reece Noi) ends up killing the Harpy for her and mucks up the whole plan. Daenerys ends up having to punish him, and so now, instead of a public execution of those who rise against her, it’s a public execution of those she is trying to save. Politics be complicated, yo. She wants to do the right thing, be the law, but it’s just total chaos. At the execution, she gives a speech about justice and freedom, but the former slaves are calling out “mother” to her and “brother” to Mossador, and when Daario lops off his head, all hell breaks loose, with rocks and fists flying. Dany has to be hustled out of there by the Unsullied. Things are not going so great!
She spends the night alone in the pyramid and stepping out for air, finds her biggest dragon baby, Drogon, perched atop. She reaches out for him and he goes to nuzzle her before he flies off into the sky, which is really, quite the metaphor for her violent takeover and disruption of Meereen. What has she unleashed, indeed.
It was good to see Arya’s journey progressing, as well as something good happen to Jon Snow for once in his life. What proposal was Littlefinger talking about in the tavern? And when will Brienne give up the ghost of her damned oath to Catelyn? Danaerys is starting to look more and more unqualified for the job Varys and Tyrion want her for (if they ever get there), and Cersei is finally tasting some of the power she has craved for so long. That could be a very, very dangerous thing.
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