Tonight was another methodical season-setting episode spent largely moving the characters along the chess board that is Westeros. A new leader was crowned and another starts to find the crown a far heavier burden than imaginable.
Leadership was the underlined theme as Daenerys, Jon Snow and Cersei each dealt with varying aspects of being the head cheese.
Ellaria Sand wants Dorne to go to war with the Lannisters for her beloved Oberyn’s death. First by subtlety sending Cersei her daughter Myrcella’s necklace in the mouth of a snake and then straight up asking Oberyn’s brother Doran (Alexander Siddig). Cersei reluctantly agreed to send Myrcella to Dorne to marry the young prince. Ellaria says the Sand Snakes are ready to avenger their father and to set it off, she’s perfectly content sending Myrcella back home one finger at a time. Doran isn’t on board with this plan saying that’s not how this will be done in Dorne under his rule. Anyone smelling a coup d’état?
Jaime agrees with Cersei’s assessment that this is a threat against Myrcella and promises to bring her back home without inciting a war. Cersei channels her inner Stephanie McMahon in emasculating him as usual questioning how a one-handed man can rescue her. While not as scheming as his siblings, Jaime is no dummy and recruits the best sell-sword in the land — Bronn – to accompany him. Bronn is finding the regal life a bit disappointing as his bethrothed won’t inherit the big castle he admires and she’s a bit of a talker. Jaime comes bearing an agreement for a higher position i.e. a ‘much better girl and much better castle.’ It’s not Tyrion & Bronn, but his pairing has potential.
Cersei is taking the ‘bring me their heads’ bit too literal as mercenaries keep returning to King’s Landing with dwarf heads, which unfortunately for her, are not her brother’s. No time for that though as it’s time for Cersei to serve as the
Hand of the King King’s adviser for a small council meeting. While the usual puppets — Maester Pycelle and Lord Tyrell — are content with their promotions, Uncle Kevan has no interest in carrying out Cersei’s orders as the minister of war and says he’ll listen to the king when he visits him at Casterly Rock.
Cersei’s targets are on the move getting as far away from her as possible. Tyrion and Varys are taking the scenic route to meet Dany in a scene that would have largely been forgettable were it not involving two of the show’s best performers. Sansa is dining with Littlefinger at a tavern when their meal gets interrupted by Brienne, who was also dining at the tavern, and vows to honor the promise she made to Catelyn Stark to keep her girls safe. Despite her loyalty, Brienne’s recent resume is ridiculously spotty as her last two charges — Renely and Catelyn — died on her watch. Sansa recalls Brienne kneeling at Joffrey’s wedding and wants nothing to do with her. Recognizing Littlefinger’s guards want to capture her, Brienne fights them and runs off with Pod. After rescuing Pod from some of Littlefinger’s men, Brienne says she spotted the direction Littlefinger and Pod speaks for the audience in wondering why Brienne just won’t take no for an answer after both Stark girls wanted nothing to do with her.
At The Wall, Jon Snow is getting a calmer than usual riot act from Stannis Baretheon. He wanted Mance to burn at the stake and Jon showed mercy by killing him with an arrow. No matter though, Stannis is in a forgiving mood and wants Jon to join him in exchange for renaming him Jon Stark and making him the steward of Winterfell. After all, Alliser Thorne is going to be named the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch and he’s not going to make life great for Jon, who was the hero of the Wildlings battle.
Jon shares this news with Sam, but says he won’t take it since no one in Winterfell would honor a steward who went back on his word as a member of the Night’s Watch. Sam decides to take matters in his own hand and nominates Jon for commander since ‘he was the one we turned to when the night was darkest.’ It’s a great speech made all the better as Sam calls out the cowardly Lord Janos for hiding during the battle. To his credit, Alistair doesn’t discredit Jon’s heroics, but questions if he wants to lead The Night’s Watch of the Wildlings. He makes a convincing argument as the vote is tied until Maester Aemon casts the deciding vote for Jon Snow, the 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Two episodes down and Jon Snow’s exploits are becoming the highlight of the season. Could we have said that about any other one at all?
Out in Meerene, Grey Worm and his unsullied are searching for Sons of the Harpy. Daario finds one hiding behind a wall leading to Dany and her council to discuss his fate. Mossador, a former slave says killing him would send a powerful message, but Ser Barristan convinces Dany to conduct a trial after recalling the justice her father handed out en route to becoming The Mad King. Mossador can’t be bothered waiting on a trial and kills the prisoner forcing Dany to uphold her own standards of justice and publicly executing Mossador. His beheading starts a riot among the former slaves and the former ruling class, making Dany question her decision, but she doesn’t get to wallow in her pity party long as her runaway dragon swoops by for a quick visit possibly as a sign that she’s doing the right thing. Yea for dragons and all, but booo for boring Dany political drama.
Far more interesting is the season 5 return of Arya Stark. She’s traveled to Braavos, a brilliantly realized realm filled with character and color, in search of her ally Jaqen H’ghar. Her journey leads her to The House of Black and White where she’s greeted by a man who claims he doesn’t know Jaqen and slams the door on her. Arya being Arya persistently sits outside the House doors for days rattling off her increasingly shorter list of vengeance before tossing Jaqen’s coin in the ocean and killing pigeons for food. The doorman finds her in an alley and leads her back to the House where he shows Arya’s coin and unmasks to reveal the man Arya knew as Jaqen. He tells Arya that man is no one exactly what is to become as they enter the gates.
Some very intriguing storylines are developing with Jaime & Bronn, Jon’s ascension in the Night’s Watch, Tyrion & Varys and the next step in Arya’s training. Littlefinger is always fascinating but so far his storyline with Sansa hasn’t amounted to much and Dany remains the uninspired choice to actually claim the Iron Throne.