This episode knocked spots off the season opener, mostly because there was just so darn much happening in it.
We see Arya (Maisie Williams) for the first time since she bowed out to Braavos at the end of season four. She’s made it to the titular House of Black and White, where (after a short period chanting her newly edited death list on the doorstep, and slicing up a delicious plump-breasted pigeon or two) she is welcomed inside by Jaqen ‘I’m not Jaqen H’ghar’ H’ghar, where she will presumably begin learning the skills that will make her the Inigo Montoya of Westeros. This is all well and good, and there’s a brilliant scene where she almost goes medieval on a bunch of dude-bros in the street, but I can’t help hankering for a bit more action on her part. I’ll be honest: I want to see her rip some sucker to shreds and mail ’em to momma.
We also get another brief, but very interesting look at Sansa’s (Sophie Turner) situation. Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) actually manages to track her down, and gives her the whole ‘I swore to your mother that I would protect you, and by the way I’m definitely trustworthy and totally didn’t murder Renly, it was a ghost what dunnit’ spiel. Unsurprisingly Sansa is unmoved, and elects to stick it out with Uncle Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen). Didn’t your whole being just shudder when he called himself her uncle? I mean, technically he actually is her uncle, but eeeewww.
One reunion I really hope we get to see in future storylines is that of Arya and Sansa. Both of them have changed so much through their respective experiences, and both have become stronger, but in entirely different ways; they are very different sisters, after all. One wonders what they will make of each other if they ever actually get to meet again (speaking of which, couldn’t Brienne have spared a few seconds to tell Sansa that Arya is alive? Seems like kind of an importa- ah, screw it).
And then there’s Dorne. Before now we’d only heard Dorne mentioned as ‘that place where they make the really good wine’, but finally, just over four seasons in, we actually get to go there (albeit very briefly). We meet the grumpy-looking older brother of Oberyn and Elia, Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig) – well, he’s a got a hell of a lot to be grumpy about, what with the huge swathe of his family the Lannisters have cut down like corn over the years.
We’re treated to a glimpse of Trystane and Myrcella, who seem to be getting along like a house on fire. As far as we can tell, anyway, because we only get to see them from afar, while the scene is dominated by the bloodthirsty Ellaria (Indira Varma) entreating Doran to go to war over Oberyn’s death. It’s a little surprising that the showrunners haven’t reintroduced us to Myrcella yet, particularly if they’re planning to kill her soon – they need to give us time to start liking her before they knock her block off, after all. Then again, perhaps the slow burn on the part of her character suggests that she’ll be alive and kicking for a good while yet; if she was going to be sliced and diced any time soon, it’d probably have happened by now.
Surprise of surprises, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is doing something! He’s actually doing something! He and Bronn (Jerome Flynn) are off on a secret mission to Dorne to retrieve Myrcella, before her head ends up in a box on the table of the Small Council. It’s good to finally see him doing something that doesn’t involve wandering King’s Landing all one-handed, occasionally voicing a token objection to Cersei’s (Lena Headey) shenanigans. The last time Jaime actually did something was when he jumped into that bear pit to save Brienne in season 3, which was a pretty momentous occasion because it was what made us all really start to like him (no mean feat for the man who shoved Bran out of a window – oh that’s right. Jaime shoved Bran out of the window, didn’t he? Huh).
Perhaps even more surprising is that something is actually stirring over in Meereen, where Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) has been holed up for weeks on end doing very little. This week she digs her own grave a little bit deeper when she orders an unpopular execution, causing her usually supportive ex-slave citizens to hisssssssss at her (which begs the question; why did the ‘boo’ become more popular than the hiss? The hiss is so much more disquieting). Dany knows she’s screwing it up, and screwing it up bad, even with the sound advice from Ser Barristan (Ian McElhinney). Still, perhaps the reappearance of Drogon, whom she discovers perching on the roof (it’s always the last place you look) will swing things in her favour again next week.
Like it almost always is, the most intriguing action is taking place at the Wall. In quite a tensely watchable scene we saw Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) coming into his own and talking the Night’s Watch into voting Jon Snow (Kit Harington) as their next Lord Commander, which caused an actual smile to chisel its way through my resting bitch face (stick that in your pipe, Alliser Thorne). We also saw Stannis (Stephen Dillane) offering to make Jon go full Stark, if only he’ll swear himself to Stannis first (Jon, of course, elects to remain faithful to his Black Brothers).
On paper, things are coming up roses for Jon Snow, but judging by the frantic ‘don’t you dare’ eye-balling he subjected Sam to when he started talking him up, he’s more than a little reluctant to take on a leadership role. And no wonder; he’s well aware of what eventually happens to those who lead in Westeros.
It’s got to be Brienne’s slaughter of the Guards of the Vale (mess with the best, die like the rest)
Best Scene: The tense build up to the election of the new Lord Commander
Best Line: “Nothing’s worth anything to dead men” – Arya Stark