Another Sunday, another Game of Thrones. This episode takes us all throughout Westeros and beyond, with marriages consummated, marriages to come, religious zealots and oh…this guy right here (to the left) gets just what he ordered. Let’s dive in.
We start off again this week with Arya in the House of Black and White. Finally let in, she seems to spend most of her time sweeping the temple’s floors. While doing so she sees the priest with Jaqen H’ghar’s face offer a man take a sip from a cup to the Many-Faced God. “Valar Morghulis,” he says. She later confronts the priest, pointing out in frustration that she’s been sweeping for days when she wants to start training to be a faceless man. The priest reminds her that all men must serve and to become a faceless man, she must become no one before the Many-Faced God. When she asks which of the statues in the temple is to the Many-Faced God, the priest replies: “There is only One god, and a girl knows his name. And all men know his gift.” Arya looks and catch’s a glimpse of this gift, bestowed upon the man who had just taken a sip from the cup–now lying dead. Shadowy figures emerge to retrieve the body, not answering Arya’s questions as to where it’s being taken.
In King’s Landing a Cersei Lannister travels through the streets borne by her litter. Last week she had been on the way to the funeral of her father. This time it’s to the marriage of her son, though she looks just as somber. At the wedding she watches as her Tommen takes the vows of marriage to Margaery Tyrell–her cunning (and younger) rival. That night Margaery rocks young Tommen’s world (cuz he’s like twelve) and then proceeds into some deft pillow talk, digging out information on Cersei. Like a pro, she charmingly begins laying the grounds of turning the king against his meddlesome mother–painting her as overprotective. A thoughtful Tommen, outmatched by his new wife, ponders these words. Strategery.
We next see the young king walking with his mother, listening as she speaks in biting smiling terms about Margaery. Tommen interrupts to ask if she wouldn’t be happier at Casterly Rock. Taken aback by the question, Cersei quickly realizes that’s some Margaery talking. With two guards as escort she walks up on the new queen who’s entertaining her friends. But this ain’t like before. Tables have turned on who has the upper hand here. Cersei just smiles and tells the young queen that she’s there if she needs anything (like a slow strangling) A smiling and pleasant Margaery accepts graciously, and says something awkward about Tommen’s lovemaking skills–which every mother wants to hear. Then almost like an afterthought asks Cersei how should she address her now? Queen Mother? Dowager Queen? And soon the Queen Mother will be a Queen Grandmother. Oh burn! Hitting where it hurts! Every word is said with cheer, but you can see the invisible knives being drawn. This. Is. War.
The next scene brings us to none other than Theon Greyjoy. Man, it’s been a while. And things haven’t gotten better for poor Reek. He works in the yards of the captured Moat Cailin, watching two executed men being hoisted up–both of them flayed of skin, and genitals. A crows feast on the remains. No doubt a reminder of Theon’s own… loss. He’s next seen serving the psychopath Ramsay Bolton the once bastard, eating with his father, he of the low voice–Roose Bolton. The two are discussing and the means of keeping the North. The best way to do this Roose Bolston asserts is for Ramsay to marry a suitable daughter–someone the North will look to. Uh oh.
And I mean uh oh, because we next see Littlefinger and Sansa Stark. They are approaching a rise where below they can see Moat Cailin. Sansa puts two and two together and realizes Littlefinger is trying to marry her off–to House Bolton. The house of the man who betrayed her family, who killed her brother. She objects–strenuously–but Littlefinger tells her this is how the game is played. Her choice is to keep running or cunningly find a means to avenge them. “There’s no justice in the world,” he says, “not unless we make it.” Sansa makes her choice.
Who’s watching much of this? Would you believe Brienne and Podrick Payne. The two start talking about squire business and Podrick’s background (seems ham stealing is enough for hanging) and there’s a touching moment when Podrick tells Brienne she’s the best fighter he’s ever seen. Brienne finally agrees to accept him as squire, and promises to teach him. Later, Podrick asks Brienne about her sore spot–Renly Baratheon. He asks how she became his kingsguard? Brienne recounts how she was tormented at a dance held in honor, and of how Renly came to her protection. From that day she pledged herself to protect the young Baratheon–which she failed to do when that shadow baby with Stannis Baratheon’s face killed Renly. But, she says, she intends to make up for that. A shadow can’t be killed, but Stannis is a man. And a man can be killed.
At Castle Black, Lord Stannis himself is meeting with a newly minted Lord Commander Jon Snow. The would-be king once more offers taking away Jon’s bastard-ship, but the new Lord Commander declines. Stannis remarks on his honorable stubbornness and reminds him it got his father killed. He says his army is getting ready to march on Winterfell and advises Jon that as Lord Commander, he should get rid of his enemies–like that professional hater Ser Allister Thorne. Jon remarks, “I heard it was best to keep your enemies close.” Stannis replies, “Whoever said that didn’t have many enemies.” The Onion knight Ser Davos Seaworth stays behind after Stannis leaves. He tells Jon that even if the Night’s Watch is neutral, they are sworn to protect any threats to the North. And as long as a Roose Bolton holds the North, the North will suffer.
Back in Braavos, Arya meets a young girl at the House of Black and White who questions why she is there. She asks Arya who she is. When Arya tries to say “no one,” the girl slaps and asks again. When Arya tries to fight back, she takes about two more slaps–hard ones too. She’s about to reach for her blade when the priest with Jaqen enters, telling the other girl Arya isn’t ready for this. Arya protests she is ready, to become a faceless man, to become no one. Then why, the priest asks, is the girl who is no one surrounded by Arya Stark’s things? Why is no one still clinging to her old self? Arya gets it, and we later see her tying together her clothing and other items of her past life, and dropping them into the river outside the temple. All that’s left is her sword. But it’s the blade given to her by Jon, the one she’s gone through so much trouble to retrieve, and she can’t. She instead places the blade into a small rocky crevice and hides it away. Later in the temple, the priest finally permits her to a lower level where she and the other girl are left to wash a dead body–given to the Many-Faced God.
Back at Moat Cailin we are greeted to the arrival of Sansa to the Boltons. It’s as awkward as you’d expect, but everyone is pleasant. The only one who is stone-faced is Ramsay’s lover (remember that other psychopath?) who doesn’t seem too happy. Later as Sansa enters her rooms an old woman sees her and greets “Welcome home Lady Stark.” She adds the words, “The North remembers”–in reference to Roose Bolton’s betrayal. Perhaps Sansa has some allies after all.
Meanwhile back at Castle Black, Lord Commander Jon Snow is doing his Lord Commander thing–doling out titles and responsibilities. It’s a mostly jovial affair, until we get to Ser Allister Thorne and his lackey-pal Ser Janos Slynt. After what seemed like deliberation, Jon honorably awards Ser Allister the title of First Ranger instead of something vengeful. Ser Janos however is assigned elsewhere, to a remote tower, likely as a means to break up the two and stop their conniving and plotting. But unlike the quiet acceptance of Ser Allister, Janos Slynt ain’t having it. He objects. Strenuously. When Jon warns this isn’t a request but a command, Janos goes on, standing and calling Jon a “boy” and saying he won’t have it. Jon then, with that warning edge in his voice, asks if Janos is refusing to obey. The room goes quiet. Climbed out on that limb as he is, and one to show his pride, Janos tells Jon he can “stick his order up his bastard arse.”
Jon ponders this for a moment like huh. Then he orders the men to take Lord Janos outside and has them fetch his. When the men go to apprehend Janos, there’s a moment of tension as Ser Allister blocks their path. Then, he steps aside, leaving his lackey-pal to his fate. Hey, your mouth started this, let it finish it. While Jon coolly takes a final drink, an angry Ser Janos is led outside. And he’s still talking sh*t–the whole time. Even when his neck is stretched out on the chopping block he’s talking sh*t about his powerful friends in King’s Landing, how he won’t be frightened by these tactics, rah rah rah. Then he catches sight of Jon standing over him. Grim faced. Drawing his blade. And Ser Janos realizes–this sh*t is fah real. Fah real, fah real.
When Jon asks him if he has any last words, Ser Janos does a 180. He takes back everything he just said–everything he ever said or did against Jon. He’s so shook, he sounds like he might take back sh*t Jon mighta thought he said. He says he’ll go and obey. But Jon lifts the blade and swings for his neck. Ser Janos squeals out for mercy, bowing his head and closing his eyes. Jon’s blade hovers above his head for a moment. As Ser Janos whimpers and sobs, he admits to Jon and everyone gathered that he’s afraid, that he’s always been afraid.
And then Jon smooth takes off that muthf*cker’s head. Clean. Like his daddy taught him. Cuz Ser Janos’s punk ass asked for it. Nearby Stannis watches, and seems to gain a measure of respect.
In King’s Landing we see the Head Septon doing very un-Septon like things in a brothel–until he’s apprehended by the zealous Sparrows, stripped and whipped naked through the streets. Humiliated, he goes to Cersei, demanding justice. Cersei herself goes to meet with the head of the Sparrows, the mockingly named High Sparrow, who’s doling out food among the impoverished of the city. After listening to him speak of piety, sacrifice and religious devotion, Cersei tells him the Head Septon was corrosive, and is now spending time in the dungeons of the Red Keep. She says the two of them (the Crown and the Sparrows) have to work together to hold up the kingdom. Yeah, warning. Don’t get involved with religious zealots. Especially when you dirty. Doesn’t ends well.
We next see Cersei with the failed maester Qyburn sending a message to Littlefinger. Somewhere on the table behind him as he writes, a giant figure stirs–one of his experiments. The fate of the Mountain, now in the clutches of a mad scientist.
At Moat Cailin, Littlefinger and Ramsay have a pleasant conversation–between a conniver and a psychopath. Below them, Lady Sansa passes by a working Theon Grejoy, and never realizes it. Roose Bolton interrupts Littlefinger’s conversation with his son and two have a talk of their own. Roose is aware of Littlefinger’s communication with the Lannister’s back in King’s Landing. Though he tries to assure the head of House Bolton that their alliance is secure, Roose makes it plain he don’t trust Littlefinger as far as he can throw him.
Somewhere in Essos, Varys and Tyrion have finally arrived at Volantis. Tyrion convinces the Spider that if he doesn’t get out of the wheel carriage they’ve been traveling in he’ll lose his mind. They walk through the slave masses of the city and pass by a woman in a red dress speaking to a gathered throng. She is a servant of the Red God, and she tells the listening slaves that he has sent a “savior” to them–the Dragon Queen. When she turns eyes to fix them on Tyrion, he and Varys hastily find a brothel.
After a bit of banter with a guard, the two enter the brothel where Tyrion tries to enjoy himself. And you won’t believe who else is there–a broken Ser Jorah Mormant. He seems to spend most of his time drinking, watching as men pay for a sex worker dressed in a familiar blue gown and with the long blonde hair of a certain Targaryen. Tyrion doesn’t see him as he busily sweet talks one of the brothel’s workers. But when he finally gets what he wants, he finds that he can’t go through with it. Memories of Shae perhaps? Returning to drinking instead, he makes his way to a secluded spot to relieve himself. Tyrion doesn’t see until too late the figure who bounds, gags and throws him across his shoulder. Ser Jorah Mormant. He tells Tyrion he’s taking him to the queen.
But which one?