Game Of Thrones cuts back on the globe-trotting for a simpler, stronger episode that teases big changes afoot.
Let’s bitch it out…
This week on Game Of Thrones: negotiation tactics! Everyone is currying for favour and position, so it makes sense that many of the characters in Westeros (plus a few across the narrow sea) are trying to barter their way to success.
1) Baelish (Aidan Gillen) makes a bold tactical move
Back in the premiere, I wondered if Baelish was in over his head. The answer now appears to be both yes and no. He’s definitely making some bold, ambitious moves by manipulating Sansa (Sophie Turner) into moving forward with an arranged marriage to Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) in order to solidify the power base in the North. As we’ve seen over the last few years, however, the Boltons aren’t exactly the most trustworthy of allies, especially Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton). There’s an unhealthy amount of mistrust between Baelish and Roose, as evidenced by the fact that the latter is opening the former’s mail and demanding updates about what the former is telling Cersei (Lena Headey). Still, even if this falls apart, it can’t be argued that Baelish isn’t trying his damnedest to make a power play with this latest move.
2) Cersei makes nice with religion
I love the bitch feud that continues to brew/escalate between Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) and Cersei. After a quickie wedding that holds none of the pomp and circumstance of the last Royal wedding, Margaery goes to work wrapping Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) around her finger (or something cruder if you believe her claims during the girls lunch when she discusses Tommen’s…er…enthusiasm in the bedchambers). We’ve long known that Cersei doesn’t react well when threatened, so it is to her credit that she keeps her fangs sheathed when she confronts the new Queen.
The political conciliation continues when the Sparrows, the wacky new religious order that’s taking King’s Landing by storm, accosts the High Septon in Littlefinger’s brothel. His complaint to the Small Council falls on bemused ears, but his demands for retaliation are enough to prompt Cersei to seek out the leader of the sect. As played by none other than Jonathan Pryce, the High Sparrow is a clever, intelligent man with a firm set of convictions. In their first meeting Cersei manages to surprise him by revealing she’s imprisoned the High Septon for the damage he’s done to undermine the public faith, which should keep Cersei on the High Sparrow’s good side for now. The way that the Sparrows unabashedly marched the High Septon naked through the streets without fear of punishment, however, makes me wonder what the group will do next.
3) Arya (Maisie Williams) tries to become no one
After what amounted to a tease at the House of Black and White last episode, this week we get a proper glimpse of the world of Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) and the nameless. I can honestly say that this is not what I expected: a cavernous world of shadows endowed with statues of the gods and a regular procession of people voluntarily dropping dead. Arya, too, doesn’t seem to know what to make of it and despite her vocal confirmation that she wants to learn, she’s not exactly blending in, particularly with the other tempermental young girl.
When confronted by Jaqen, Arya is told that she’s still holding on to her former self. In order to move forward she has to let go, which physically translates into the disposal of all of her earthly possessions. I will freely admit that I nearly cried when I thought she was going to throw Needle into the river, so although I think stashing the beloved gift from Jon (Kit Harington) in a rock outcrop will come back to bite her in the ass, I’m so glad she kept it. As it stands she’s now moved from the first level – sweeping – to the second level – cleaning bodies, so I guess she’s making progress? I still have no idea where this is going, but it’s the most intriguing of Game Of Thrones’ many story lines.
4) Jon asserts his authority
Meanwhile, at The Wall, Jon politely refuses Stannis’ (Stephen Dillane) offer to cast off his bastard name. The decision doesn’t sit lightly with the sole remaining Baratheon, but as Daavos (Liam Cunningham) tells the young Commander in confidence afterwards, you can tell that Stannis respects him.
That’s more than Jon can say for all of his men. As a first order of business, Jon assigns a few tasks, electing to follow his own advice and keep his enemy, Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale), close. Turns out Thorne isn’t the problem, Janos Slynt (Dominic Carter) is; he tries to challenge Jon. In the most cheerworthy scene of the night, Jon offers Janos a few opportunities to fall in line, but after he repeatedly refuses, Jon rightfully has him marched outside and chops off his head. It’s a great scene, but more importantly, it’s necessary for Jon to assert his command and ensure the men of the wall take him seriously. It doesn’t hurt that Stannis happens to be on hand to witness the spectacle. Hopefully now everyone will take the young leader a little more seriously.
- Hot on Sansa and Baelish’s heels, Podrick (Daniel Portman) and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) exchange backstories. It’s a nice scene that gives both actors some nice material to play with, but it feels a little extraneous. I’m glad it’s there, but it probably doesn’t need to be.
- Theon (Alfie Allen) is still waiting on Ramsay, so he’s able to observe Sansa’s entrance. For now, however, he hasn’t revealed himself. I wonder what her reaction to him will be when they finally meet?
- The bit with Qyburn (Anton Lesser) and the body under the sheet is a little too Frankenstein for my tastes.
- Finally, in their only scene of the evening Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) begs Varys (Conleth Hill) to let him stretch his legs. Naturally Tyrion heads straight for a brothel, where we see Daeny lookalike whores (hilarious) and learn that Tyrion is having performance issues in the wake of killing Shae. Of course none of that matters when he’s abducted by a blast from the past: Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) who will bring Tyrion to “the Queen”. We’re obviously meant to question which one, but it seems clear that Mormont is talking about Daeny and not Cersei.
- Margaery (to Cersei when she crashes the girls’ lunch): “I wish we had some wine for you. It’s a bit early in the day for us.” Snap!
- Jon (when Stannis recommends shipping off Aleister): “I heard it was best to keep your enemies close.” Stannis: “Whoever said that didn’t have many enemies.”
Varys (after tyrion insists on seeing someone else’s face): “It’s a perfectly good face.”
- Tyrion (abandoning Varys at the brothel): “I need to speak to someone with hair.”
Your turn: whose negotiation tactics did you admire the most? Is Sansa a fool for falling for Baelish’s argument? Will Ramsay kill her if they marry? Are you glad Jon killed Janos Slynt? What is going on in the House of Black and White? Happy Needle is safe? And should Cersei be concerned about the Sparrows’ influence in King’s Landing? Sound off below, but please refrain from posting spoilers from the final leaked episode or the books.
Game Of Thrones airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO