As expected, ‘Game of Thrones’ catches up this week with some characters who didn’t make the cut for the season premiere. Throughout most of its storylines, the dominant themes in this episode are failure and rejection. In that respect, it’s kind of a bummer, albeit still an engrossing one.
Much like Tyrion Lannister, Arya Stark has spent the months between seasons of the show on a boat. She, at least, didn’t have to hide in a box the whole time. In ‘The House of Black and White’, the ship arrives in Braavos. The captain helpfully explains what that giant “Titan” statue that towers over the port is all about. He then drops her off at the title location, a huge fortress-like temple with doors of each color.
Arya knocks on the doors and is received by a crabby old man. She recites the phrase “Valar morghulis” and shows him the coin that Jaqen H’gar gave her, expecting to be greeted warmly and invited right in. However, the old man is unimpressed and turns her away. Arya begs that she has nowhere else to go, but he responds, “You have everywhere else to go” and shuts the door in her face.
Arya spends the better part of a day waiting outside on the steps. Even as rain pours down on her, she recites the remaining names on her Death List over and over again. Eventually, she gives up, chucks Jaqen’s coin into the water, and wanders into town.
Penniless and hungry, Arya kills a pigeon for lunch, only to be accosted by a gang of street urchins. She warns them off and pulls her sword “Needle.” I fully believe she could take them all out, but she never gets the chance. The old man from the temple shows up and scares the boys off. Arya follows him back to the temple. The old man shows her the coin she discarded, then morphs his face into Jaqen’s. She asks if he is Jaqen. He says that he’s no one, and that’s who she must become as well, then he invites her into the temple.
The Road Between Kingdoms
Still depressed at having no cause left to fight for, Brienne stops at an inn for lunch when her squire Podrick spots Baelish and Sansa at a booth in the corner. Brienne immediately perks up. Podrick warns her that she’s woefully outnumbered by Baelish’s guards, but Brienne orders him to ready the horses. When he reminds her that they have only the one horse, she tells him to find more.
Brienne walks to the booth and introduces herself. Baelish remembers her from the scene of Renly Baratheon’s death. Brienne tells Sansa about her pledge to Catelyn and swears her protection. Baelish ridicules her as being a most ineffectual protector who couldn’t save either Renly or Catelyn. Sansa, having no idea who this strange oafish woman is, spurns her services.
When Baelish next says something threatening, Brienne fights her way out through his guards, hops on her horse and cuts loose a bunch of the other horses outside. She and Podrick race away, but are followed by several guards. As they flee, she and Podrick get separated. Podrick falls off his horse and is almost killed by one of Baelish’s men, but fortunately Brienne doubles back around to find and save him just in time.
Although thankful, Podrick asks if perhaps Brienne should take the hint that the Stark girls don’t want her help. Brienne won’t hear it. She’s now more determined than ever to save Sansa.
Cersei receives a package with a scary snake statue holding a locket that belonged to her daughter Myrcella. With no note of explanation attached, she reads this as a threat. Jaime pledges to go to Dorne, “As far south as south goes,” and retrieve their daughter. To help in this mission, he finds and recruits Bronn.
Cersei next sits at the head of the Small Council to dish out orders and promotions in the wake of Tywin’s death. She claims that, as Regent, she speaks on behalf of her son the king. Some members of the Council, including her own uncle, refuse to recognize her authority.
Ellaria, the concubine and (essentially) widow of Oberyn Martell, demands justice for his murder. He tells Oberyn’s brother, Prince Doran, that she wants to chop Myrcella Baratheon into little pieces and send them back to Cersei. I think it’s safe to assume that she’s responsible for the locket.
Doran reminds Ellaria that Oberyn died during a lawful trial by combat. Although he will mourn his brother, he won’t start a war over it. Nor will he allow Ellaria to harm an innocent girl. Something tells me that she’s not a good listener.
Stannis’ daughter Shireen teaches Gilly how to read. Gilly asks about the “Greyscale” on her face and how she was cured to stop its spread. Gilly had two sisters who were overtaken by the disease, and her father left them in the woods to die. Shireen was too young at the time to remember how she was cured. The girl’s mother (Stannis’ crazy wife) Selyse storms in and orders Samwell and Gilly away. She tells her daughter that she doesn’t want her consorting with the dirty Wildling anymore.
Stannis isn’t too happy about Jon Snow showing mercy and putting Mance Rayder out of his misery before he could burn to death. Jon is unrepentant. Regardless, Stannis feels that he needs Snow if he’s to secure the northern kingdoms, which have resisted his claims to the throne. He offers Snow a deal. If Jon will pledge himself to the new king, Stannis will legitimize him as “Jon Stark,” the rightful heir to Winterfell. In return, he expects Jon to rally the other northern kingdoms behind Stannis’ rule. Jon tells him that he’ll think about it, but plans to refuse. He has sworn himself to the Night’s Watch, for better or worse.
The members of the Night’s Watch hold an election to select a new Lord Commander. The main contenders are Ser Alliser Thorne, who hates Jon Snow, and Ser Denys Mallister, who has commanded a distant castle and hasn’t been much involved at Castle Black. Jon Snow sits despondently and listens as other brothers of the Watch give speeches in support of these candidates. Before the vote is cast, however, Samwell stands and speaks up for Jon Snow. As Stannis had pointed out, about half the men love Snow and the other half hate him. Some ridicule him as a “Wildling lover.”
The vote is counted and results in a tie between Thorne and Snow, with Mallister a distant third. Blind Maester Aemon casts the final chip to break the tie. Jon Snow is declared new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
Daario and Grey Worm search for and capture the man who murdered the other Unsullied warrior last episode. The killer belongs to a cultish resistance faction called the Sons of the Harpy. With the man in custody, both Daario and a former slave named Mossador urge Daenerys to immediately put him to death.
Ser Barristan, however, advises her to show mercy and provide the man a fair trial first. He reminds her of what happened when her father Aerys tried to rule by fear and intimidation. Dany, apparently, never believed that the Mad King was actually mad. She believed her brother Viserys that those were just stories told by his enemies. Barristan sets her straight and confirms that everything said about Aerys was quite true. Shaken that she was ever so naïve, Dany agrees to heed Barristan’s counsel, and orders the Harpy put on trial.
Before that can happen, Mossador murders the Harpy. He tells Daenerys that he acted and took care of the situation for her because she couldn’t. He assumes that she’ll thank him for this, but it actually puts Dany in a very bad spot. Although the Harpy’s death will please the lower classes in the city, it will anger the remaining upper classes, who still hold power and who she must continue to work with.
In order to prove that she believes in the true principle of justice at all costs, Daenerys must punish Mossador for his crime. She orders a public execution. The former slaves of the city turn up and shout pleas of mercy. They assume, as Mossador does, that this is all a show, and that she’ll pardon him at the last minute to demonstrate what a loving queen she is. Unfortunately, she can’t do that. She orders him beheaded. As the blade falls, the former slaves are horrified and immediately revolt. Dany is rushed to safety by her Unsullied as a riot erupts around her. Daario admonishes that she should have listened to him.
That night, after things have quieted a bit, Dany walks out onto a balcony to overlook her city. She hears a sound above her and turns to find Drogon, her biggest dragon who’d gone missing for months, perched atop the pyramid. Relieved that he has returned, Dany reaches out to pat his nose. The dragon hesitates, gives her a sniff, and flies off. Does no one love Daenerys anymore?
As much as I feel that Daenerys’ storylines have fallen into a rut of repeatedly beating in the same theme of how much it sucks to be queen, I expect that to change a bit when Varys and Tyrion join up with her this season. I hope that happens sooner rather than later.
Otherwise, this is another strong episode. I want to say that the season is off to a pretty good start, but then I remember how short this show’s seasons are and that this one is already a fifth of the way done.