Episode two! What an episode. As always, watch out for spoilers below.
Again with the Bolton sigil over Winterfell in the opening credits. It’s still heartbreaking. I’m not sure I’ll get over it.
The episode opens with not only the heartbreaking sight of the Bolton sigil on Winterfell, but also Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) finally arriving at her mysterious destination that she set off for at the end of last season – the famed city of Braavos. Arya arrives in the city and is rowed through the canals to the House of Black and White. Arya is told that this is where she’ll find “the man you seek” – this is where her coin from Jaqen H’ghar has led her all along. Arya knocks a couple of times however is not allowed inside. Arya waits outside throughout the rain and the night and recites her names of people to die as she waits. The following morning, exasperated, Arya chucks her coin into the canal.
This scene begins my favourite part of book five of this silly series – Arya’s storyline is freaking awesome and I’m so excited to see where they take it in the show. I think Maisie Williams’ acting has improved a lot so I feel confident that she’ll be fierce this season.
Then, back on mainland Westeros, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman) are having a meal and some ale at an inn. Pod spots Sansa (Sophie Turner) sitting with Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) at the in and alerts Brienne. Brienne goes up to introduce herself to Sansa, and introduces herself as her mother, the now deceased Catelyn Stark’s sworn sword, and then offers her services to protect Sansa. However Littlefinger delivers a sick burn and insinuates that Brienne is not to be trusted. Having learned to trust Littlefinger’s judgement, Sansa rejects Brienne and will not speak with her alone. Littlefinger’s men round upon Brienne and Pod and Brienne becomes a killing machine, unlike in the books where she only kills people if she has a really good reason to. Brienne gets rid of Littlefinger’s men in the forst, and she and Pod follow Sansa and Littlefinger as they ride away. Brienne informs Pod, and the audience, that she has sworn to keep both Sansa and Arya safe, even if they reject her.
In King’s Landing, Cersei (Lena Headey) has received a mysterious gift of a snake’s head with a necklace dangling from it. The necklace is her daughter Myrcella’s, and Myrcella is stuck in Dorne with people who blame the Lannisters for the death of Oberyn Martell last season, their former prince. Cersei is afraid that Myrcella is in danger in the company of the Martells in Dorne and that this ‘gift’ is a threat. Cersei communicates her worry and anxiety to Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), who promises that he will go to Dorne to rescue Myrcella, who he describes as “our daughter” – and he won’t go alone.
Cersei also described Margaery as a “smirking whore” in this scene which I thought was pretty funny because everyone on the internet always talks about Natalie Dormer’s smirk, it’s legendary. So maybe the screenwriter for this episode found some inspiration from the internet for this scene.
Also, Jaime literally doesn’t go to Dorne in the books. This is a big change and I’m not so sure how I feel about it, but I’m excited to see what happens. From the teasers it did seem as if there was some really nice architecture that Jaime gets to be around so I suppose there’s that.
Then it’s Bronn (Jerome Flynn) and his betrothed Lollys Stokeworth (Elizabeth Cadwallader), wandering along the beach as couples do. They appear to be planning their wedding, and Lollys has a lot of preferences for the big day. Bronn says that he is excited to live in castle Stokeworth, and is told that since Lollys is not first in line, they probably won’t get to live there. Bronn essentially insinuates that he’ll ‘get rid of’ Lollys’ mean older sister so that he can live in the fabulous castle. But Lollys is too dim-witted to fully understand. I like the actress for Lollys and I thought she was funny in this scene.
Jaime has tracked down Bronn in his new humble abode. He then recruits Bronn to go to Dorne with him to rescue Myrcella. Bronn is reluctant to leave his new betrothed however Jaime promises Bronn “a better girl and a better castle”, and Bronn is convinced.
Next – we’re in Dorne, the first time we’ve visited this strange place. We see Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) who is still completely angry and vengeful that her lover Oberyn Martell was slain by the Mountain last season. She watches Myrcella stroll the water gardens below. She goes to speak with Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig), who is the current ruler in Dorne, and the brother of Oberyn. Ellaria tells Doran that she wants vengeane and she’s going to get it. Doran disapproves as technically Oberyn was slain during a trial by combat, so it’s not legally murder and they have no grounds for retaliation. However Ellaria is certain that she’ll get revenge and informs Doran that she and the Sand Snakes will avenge Oberyn whilst Doran “does nothing”. Ellaria wants to send Myrcella to her mother “one finger at a time”. But Doran is a bit more level-headed than that and Ellaria storms off. I’m interested to see where this goes as the Sand Snakes are interesting characters.
Meanwhile, in Meereen, Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) have set out to find the Sons of the Harpy who are terrorising the streets and trying to bring down Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) rule. Daario makes a good point and says that the Unsullied warriors are too conspicuous, and that his team of Second Sons are able to find out more information by blending in. He also makes the good point that “someone who has forgotten fear has forgotten how to hide”. He finds one of the Sons of the Harpy hiding inside a wall inside of a barren room, and Grey Worm finds a golden mask within the hiding place, implicating the found man.
Queen Daenerys then consults her council regarding the man that they have found. Should she have a fair trial or just execute him? She is leaning towards execution since Daario already questioned him and he had no interesting information about the Sons of the Harpy. The council discusses what to do and they all seem to have different opinions.
Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) then discusses with Daenerys her father’s rule; the rule of the Mad King Aerys Targaryen the second. Barristan tells Daenerys that her father was legitimately crazy and that the people who disagreed with him weren’t liars – he killed people all over the place, set his enemies on fire and laughed whilst they burned. Barristan says quite rightly that his efforts to stamp out dissent amongst his people started a rebellion that “killed all Targaryens except two” – referring to Daenerys and her long deceased brother Viserys (miss him, seriously). Barristan is telling Daenerys the truth and some well-deserved context for her decisions and how they might be perceived by a people who are already slightly annoyed by her. Daenerys decides that she will not execute the Son of the Harpy without a fair trial.
It was around this time in the books that I found Daenerys so completely annoying. They seem to be cutting out a bunch of her petulance for the show, which is refreshing because I’m not able to watch episode after episode of book-Daenerys being annoying.
Varys (Conleth Hill) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) are off on the road to Volantis, to get to the road to Meereen. Tyrion is still drinking himself silly. Varys tells Tyrion that he hopes to find a ruler in Meereen and reflects that Tyrion was a good Hand of the King whilst he served in that role, and that he showed promise as a ruler. Tyrion admits that he enjoyed being in power. Tyrion wants to go for a walk also but Varys says a big fat no, and that even this far away from King’s Landing there may be a price on his head.
And it turns out Varys is right, as Cersei has called for Tyrion’s head and people are delivering the heads of random dwarves to her in hopes that they find Tyrion. Unfortunately the head that has arrived on Qyburn’s (Anton Lesser) table today is not Tyrion, and he asks to keep it for his experiments (creepy).
Then, Cersei sits at the head of the Small Council table in the seat normally reserved for the Hand of the King. Cersei appoints roles to the men of the Small Council. Mace Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) is to become not only for Master of Ships, but also Master of Coin, and he seems pretty chuffed. Cersei also names Qyburn as the Master of Whisperers, and Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover) is completely annoyed and named Qyburn an embarrassment for his creepy experiments. However Cersei says that Qyburn is more loyal than Varys which qualifies him for the role. Cersei then names her uncle Kevan Lannister (Ian Gelder) as Master of War, however Kevan is totally not impressed and states that he wants to hear this news from King Tommen. Cersei claims Tommen is busy and not able to attend. Kevan isn’t having it and lays the smackdown on Cersei, claiming she is manipulating the Small Council and filling it with “sycophants”. Kevan says he does not recognise her authority and that he’s going back to Casterly Rock. To top it off, he tells her, “You are the Queen Mother, nothing more”. Cersei’s face says it all – she knows she has the stones to be in power and that she is able to rule with an iron fist. But she’s not taken seriously due to her gender and this drives her crazy.
I love Cersei this season. It was during book five that we finally got to see inside her skull, as some chapters were from her point of view, and I found it so refreshing. To see her situation from her own perspective made her character so much more interesting as opposed to villainous in a one dimensional manner. Cersei is a truly complex female character and I’m looking forward to more of her this season.
Back at the Wall, Shireen Baratheon (Kerry Ingram) is teaching Gilly (Hannah Murray) and is doing a good job of it. Sam (John Bradley) and Gilly have a couple’s tiff. Gilly discusses her sisters dying of greyscale, which Shireen has on her face. Gilly states that her sisters were left to suffer with the disease and essentially taken out into the snow to die, and Gilly is visibly disturbed. I love Kerry Ingram as Shireen, she’s perfect for this role. Then, Selyse Baratheon (Tara Fitzgerald) enters and tells Shireen that she should stay away from Gilly as Gilly is a wildling and may attack Shireen to get back at her father’s execution of Mance Rayder.
Then we see the one and only Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane… swoon) discussing Mance’s execution with Jon Snow (Kit Harington). Stannis states that Jon showed Mance mercy, and reminds Jon that he prefers justice. Stannis tells Jon that if he shows too much kindness, no one will follow him and people will perceive him as weak. Jon counters that by telling Stannis that the wildlings will only follow one of their own, not Stannis.
Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) reminds Jon that a new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch is to be elected given that Lord Commander Mormont died a season or so ago. Stannis says that Jon’s life at the Wall will be hell if Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) is elected Lord Commander and Jon agrees. Stannis then tells Jon that Jon can give him what he wants – the North. Stannis tells Jon that he could easily legitimise him if he pledges fealty to Stannis. Stannis offers to make Jon a Stark, not a Snow, and offers him the chance to become Lord of Winterfell, not the Bastard of Winterfell.
At the election for the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, Jon tells Sam that being a Stark is the first thing he ever remembers wanting. However he says that he will refuse – he’s sworn a vow to the Night’s Watch and to disobey that vow is wrong. He also said that if he goes against that vow, he wouldn’t be a good Lord of Winterfell at all.
Maester Aemon calls for candidates for the 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Janos Slynt nominates Alliser Thorne as a candidate. Some random person nominates another random person as a candidate. The voting system is discussed – tokens on sticks, why not? Sam then stands up and nominates Jon as a candidate. He says that Jon is brave and a good leader and then Alliser Thorne burns him in front of everyone, such poor form. Then, in an unsurprising turn of events, Jon is elected Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
This scene in the book was so much cooler and more surreal. It involved a crow flying around and calling out “SNOW! SNOW!”, which may have appeared totally cheesy on screen. But this scene is a huge turning point in Jon’s story, and this scene felt either rushed or inconsequential, which is a bit of a shame given its significance.
Back in Braavos, Arya is hunting pigeons and catches a nice-looking one, presumably to eat. She is then threatened by a street gang who are scared off by the sight of a man who greeted Arya in front of the House of Black and White earlier. Arya follows this mysterious man to the House of Black and White and he changes his face to appear as that of Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha). Arya is surprised, and Jaqen says he’s not Jaqen – he is no one, “and that is who a girl must become”. Arya enters the building. I can’t wait for next episode to see what’s inside the House of Black and White! Arya’s story is seriously one of my favourites.
Finally, we arrive at our final destination – Meereen. One of Daenerys’ council members, Mossador (Reece Noi), has slipped down to the dungeons to see the Son of the Harpy. The Son of the Harpy tells Mossador that Daenerys does not belong and will never be the mother that the former slaves of Meereen seek. Mossador seems pretty annoyed. Then, we see the Son of the Harpy has been killed and nailed to a wall, with “Kill the masters” painted beside him.
Daenerys brings Mossador to her throne room. Mossador confesses that he killed the Son of the Harpy to set her free from her difficult decision regarding executing him. Daenerys states that he has done wrong and that the law is the law – he had no right to take the law into his own hands and therefore must be punished.
Daenerys brings Mossador before the people of Meereen and addresses them directly. She states that people who disobey the law must be punished, whether they are rich or poor. She hears the former slaves call out for mercy of a man who represented them on her Small Council. Daenerys allows Daario to execute Mossador, and the former slaves turn against her, hissing to show their disagreement and dissent. The former slaves throw rocks and a fight erupts, an uprising with the poor fighting the rich. Daenerys is escorted by her guards away to safety.
Finally, Daenerys is atop her pyramid, safe from the conflict below. Her council states that they will guard her through the night. Alone, Daenerys hears a noise outside. She goes out to investigate and sees her largest dragon, Drogon, atop the pyramid. He comes down to greet her and she reaches towards him, a mother greeting her child. But Drogon flies away over Meereen and into the distance. Just as Daenerys has lost control of Viserion and Rhaegal, and then the people of Meereen, she has now lost Drogon. The end!
I really enjoyed this episode. It appeared to be another slow burner but with some bits and pieces peppered throughout to keep us interested. Judging by the trailer for next episode, it looks like we’ll be seeing more Littlefinger and Sansa shenanigans, the House of Black and White with Arya, some Cersei scheming, Jon and the Wall drama, the Boltons and finally some Theon, Tyrion looking as if he’s hiding from someone or a series of someones, and Jaqen H’ghar delivering some more wisdom. Really looking forward!