Before diving in, let’s start with the fancy updated intro. Winterfell is no longer on fire and we have a new addition, Pentos! We later find out this is where Tyrion has landed.
The first Daenerys Stormborn moment of the season opens with the golden statue that sat atop the slave city of Meereen toppling down over the city. Is this a symbol for the season to come? Is Dany’s army beginning to fall?
This episode certainly doesn’t help my theory. After the statue is successfully down, an Unsullied heads into town to visit a brothel. Strange, I thought. Why would he go there? Apparently, he had visited this brothel before and has a regular request of the women there. He lays down topless while a topless woman lays behind him and rubs his head. He seemed so relaxed and innocent until…his throat is suddenly slit. The women and the killer, a man in a golden V for Vendetta mask, stand above the body and watch as he bleeds out.
The mask is left on the body of the Unsullied for Dany to discover and it apparently represents the Sons of the Harpys, a group that is bad news bears for #TeamDany. It turns out that Dany is not being heralded in the slave cities as a liberator but as a conqueror and citizens are rebelling against her and her Unsullied. Dany tells Barristan Selmy and the rest of her Jorah-free Queen’s Guard to hold the burial of the murdered Unsullied, White Rat, in a temple – an action meant to anger those who are rebelling.
After this is decided, Missandei and Grey Worm chat in private per Missandei’s request. She asks why White Rat and many other Unsullied are being spotted visiting brothels considering all Unsullied are also eunuchs. Grey Worm does not know and leaves without providing any more insight.
Dany continues to deal with the politics associated with liberating the free cities. Her ambassador from Yunkai returns with Daario Naharis and says the deal to establish a council of elders was agreed upon. However, the former masters have a request – they want to reopen the fighting pits. Rather than slaves fighting to the death, they suggest that free men be allowed to fight free men. He argues that Dany making this decision would send the message that she respects their pre-established culture and traditions but Dany refuses.
Later, in the boudoir, Daario Naharis attempts to convince Dany that she should indeed reopen the pits. Daario explains how he rose through the pits as a champion, which gave him resources to help his mother and lead him to become the man he is today. He tells Dany he isn’t afraid to speak the truth to her and warns her that a sign of weakness will give her enemies the chance they need, therefore it’s imperative for her to show her strength now. Dany points out that the Unsullied are patrolling the streets but she misinterpreted Daario. “You’re not the mother of Unsullied. You’re the Mother of Dragons. A Dragon Queen with no dragons? That’s not a Queen.” You go, Daario.
Finally, Dany braves the underground cage she created and enters the dragon lair. At first, the room is silent and Dany cautiously calls out the dragons’ names. Suddenly, fire erupts and the dragons are enraged, thrashing and spewing fire at their mother. They don’t seem to recognize her but if they do, they definitely don’t care. Dany runs out of the lair, visibly shaken and frightened of her full grown children.
We have our very first Game of Thrones flashback, LOST style in our season-opening scene. Meet young Cersei Lannister – a rebellious blonde teenager who is still arrogant, bossy, and a little too confident. Young Cersei guides her friend into a creepy house in woods near Casterly Rock. The two girls enter per Cersei’s insistence and find a witch? a creepy woman? a sage? I’m not 100% sure. But Cersei uses her Lannister name to force the woman into telling her future. The woman licks a drop of Cersei’s blood then gives Cersei three questions. Cersei asks when she will be married but the witch tells Cersei won’t marry a prince, she will marry a King and become Queen. However, she won’t be Queen for long. “You’ll be Queen for a time. Then comes another, younger, more beautiful, to cast you down and take all you hold dear.” She also tells Cersei that the king will have 20 children but Cersei will only have three children and she will see them all die. “Gold their crowns, gold their shrouds.” Eeeeeerily accurate, if you ask me.
We cut to Cersei in the present day preparing to attend the funeral of the late Tywin Lannister. She is wearing black to mourn her father as she marches through the streets of King’s Landing to the sound of the bells accompanied by a King’s Guard. Cersei makes the funeral attendees wait so she can have a moment alone with her father. Turns out Jaime Lannister is also with Tywin and the two share a not-so-tender moment. They discuss their fears – Jaime’s fear that the lords and ladies of Westeros will try and steal everything Tywin has created for him and Cersei’s fear of where and what Tyrion is doing. Cersei is completely focused on “the little monster” who killed their father. She asks Jaime if he set Tyrion free. When Jaime doesn’t respond, she tells him that at least Tyrion killed their father by choice. Jaime helped in that killing by refusing to ever acknowledge that Tyrion was a problem. It’s not surprising to me that Tywin, the man who stood between Jaime and Cersei for their entire lives, is continuing to drive them apart in his absence. But it is surprising for me to see Jaime’s concern for the inheritance he cannot have and so boldly refused while Cersei is dismissing the inheritance we thought she’d go after. Maybe Cersei really was the Lannister who contributed most to Tywin’s legacy. With a farewell kiss from Cersei, we see the last of Tywin Lannister. I cannot say I’m upset.
We immediately find ourselves in a box, peering through a wall of peepholes, moving awkwardly through a city. Tyrion Lannister has finally arrived in Pentos, safe and sound though covered in poop, courtesy of Lord Varys. Tyrion looks like shit as he struggles to stand after crossing the Narrow Sea in such dismal conditions. Varys apologizes for the situation but reminds Tyrion the crate was necessary since Varys broke many laws by breaking him out of King’s Landing making them both wanted men. Varys tells Tyrion he is at the home of a friend, Illyrio Mopatis (Reminder: this is the same man who housed Dany and her horrid brother, Viserys, before Dany was wed to Khal Drogo). Varys goes on to explain that Varys, Illyrio, and a group of others were working in secret to support a Targaryen restoration of the throne by overthrowing King Robert, setting forth a chain of events that contributed to where they have ended up today. Tyrion starts…continues…drinking and it’s visible that he’s being haunted by the murders of Shae and Lord Tywin. He must come to terms with what he has done before he can begin to plan the next step for himself and for the Realm.
Later, Tyrion and Varys discuss how Tyrion ended up in a box crossing the Narrow Sea. Varys sticks with the story that Lord Jaime asked him to save Tyrion’s life. But then he adds more. Varys saved Tyrion for the Seven Kingdoms. Varys believes “men of talent have a part to play in the war to come.” Tyrion is doubtful but Varys reminds him that Tyrion has instincts for politics coupled with compassion. “What is it you want exactly?” asks Tyrion. Varys wants peace and a ruler in place who will not spread misery throughout the lands. They both agree that Tyrion himself could never sit on the Iron Throne. “But you could help another climb those steps and take that seat.” Varys goes on to explain the ideal Westerosi monarch – a strong ruler with a gentle heart; both intimidating and inspiring. Leading to my favorite exchange of the episode:
Varys: “A ruler loved by millions with a powerful army and the right family name.”
Tyrion: “Good luck finding him.”
Varys: “Who said anything about him?”
Then, Varys asks Tyrion if he will ride with him to Meereen to meet Daenerys and find out if the world is worth fighting for. Cue my insides freaking out on this possible character interaction.
Back at the funeral, Ser Loras Tyrell goads Cersei by pretending to fake deep remorse for her father. Cersei pretends to listen while really focusing on Margaery Tyrell and her young, beautiful hands carefully grazing King Tommen. As Cersei dismisses herself, she is stopped by a strangely familiar face. Lancel Lannister returns but is almost unrecognizable, barefoot with a Marine-worthy buzz cut wearing nothing but a plain robe. Cersei says as much before Lancel’s father walks over and breaks up the conversation. Lancel’s father apologizes for his sons appearance and tells her that Lancel is now a part of a religious group that refer to themselves as the Sparrows. Cersei excuses herself, grabs some wine, and seeks alone time. But Lancel finds her again and, in a new deep voice, tells Cersei that he can be forgiven now. He talks about how he tempted her into the darkness of their incestual bed and then brings up King Robert and the boar hunt. Cersei feigns ignorance but Lancel insists that he is finally at peace for what they’ve done and Cersei can find peace in the Light of the Seven, too. This conversation is strange but we gain a very useful tidbit of information. Lancel blames himself and the Queen Regent for the death of King Robert. Maybe the theory of Lancel pouring alcohol down Robert’s throat on purpose has some merit.
Queen Margaery interrupts Ser Loras’ sex-scapades/Martell history lesson (love what you did there, GOT) with a call for dinner. Margaery has no shame and plops right down on the bed. After Loras’ handsome lover leaves, she questions Loras. Shouldn’t he be more discreet since he is set to marry Cersei? Loras feels otherwise. Now that Tywin Lannister is dead, he doesn’t think there is anyone living that can force Cersei into marrying him. Unfortunately, for Margaery that means her mother-in-law will be stuck living in King’s Landing. “Perhaps,” Margaery says coolly. “Perhaps.”
House Stark and House Baratheon
We catch up with the Stark family first with Jon Snow. He’s training Olly to be a Man of the Night’s Watch. It feels a lot like Arya’s training in season one. Samwell Tarly and Gilly watch, “shouldn’t you be training too?” He replies, “How many men can say they’ve killed a White Walker and a Thenn.” Oh Sam, let’s not get too over-confident now. Ser Allister grimaces as he passes Gilly. We learn that a Lord Commander has not been chosen yet but Ser Allister is in the running. Gilly is worried that if he’s chosen she will be packing her bags. Sam replies, “Wherever you go, I go too.” Say it with me now, awwwwww.
Out of nowhere, Melisandre shows up. Jon Snow sees what we all see; she’s creepy as hell. He’s being summoned. On the way to see Stannis, Melisandre stares at him with her best bedroom eyes. “You’re not cold milady,” he asks. “Never, the Lord’s fire lives within me Jon Snow,” she says as she takes his hand and places it on her cheek. She the asks, “Are you a virgin?” “No.” “Good.” Now I’m the one grimacing.
Jon Snow and Stannis discuss Roose Bolton’s rule of Winterfell. Stannis asks if Jon Snow wants revenge for Robb’s death. “I want many a thing but I’m a sworn man of the Night’s Watch.” Changing the topic, Stannis and Davos ask about Ygritte. Why was Jon Snow seen taking her body north of the Wall? “It was where she belonged.” Davos brings up that some of the Night’s Watch think that Jon Snow has too much affection for the Wildlings. Stannis reveals that he wants to mount Roose Bolton’s head on a stake. Now that Tywin is dead there is nothing stopping him from taking over the North. He wants Jon Snow to help him wrangle the Wildlings to serve as his army. The best way to do that is to get Mance Raydar to swear his allegiance to Stannis. It’s up to Jon Snow to convince Mance or he will burn.
Later, Jon Snow visits Mance Raydar. They reflect on the irony of the situation. Jon Snow was once his prisoner, insert hearty laugh here. Mance already knows what Stannis is after, “I’ll give him this much, he’s bold.” Mance has no intention of even kneeling and he doesn’t want his people bleeding for Stannis Baratheon’s war. Jon Snow encourages him to reconsider by reminding him of how strong of a leader he is; after all he united ninety clans for one cause and he did it to save them. Isn’t their survival more important than his pride? Short answer, no. Mance Raydar believes that the Wildlings followed him because they respected him. The moment he kneels, that respect is gone.
It’s then that Jon Snow tells him that they plan to burn him alive. Mance Raydar doesn’t want to be remembered yelling from a stake but he’d rather burn then kneel. He will never enlist his people in a foreigner’s war. When Jon Snow says he’s making a mistake, he replies “freedom to make my own mistakes was all I ever wanted”
That night, he is marched from his cell. Stannis gives him the opportunity to kneel. He replies, “This was my home for many years. I wish you good fortune in the wars to come.” With a nod from Stannis, Mance Raydar is to be burned. As everyone watches Melisandre steps forward, “We all must choose. Man or woman, young or old, lord or peasant, our choices are the same. We choose light or we choose darkness, we choose good or we choose evil. We choose the true god or the false. Free folk, there is only one true king and his name is Stannis. Here stands your king of lies. Behold the fate of those who chose the darkness.” She lights him up. It definitely seemed like Mance is having second thoughts about his defiance. Jon Snow looks disgusted. Yep, Mance is definitely having second thoughts. I start yelling at my television, CUT HIM DOWN! Jon Snow storms off. Mance starts crying. Gilly hides her face. Stannis’s wife is really into it. Tormund Giantsbane is getting angry. All of a sudden, an arrow! Jon Snow shoots Mance with an arrow to put him out of his misery. Thank god.
With that, the show ends. I think it’s safe to say that yes, Jon Snow does have too much affection for the Wildlings.
We briefly catch up with Sansa. She’s with Littlefinger. They are dropping Robin off with Lord Royce for safekeeping. While they watch a pitiful Robin try to sword fight (a big contrast from Olly and Arya, he is actually whimpering) Littlefinger gets a secret note. With that, it’s time to go.
Brienne and Podrick are licking their wounds and planning their next steps. Podrick mentions going to Castle Black but Brienne is not having it. She’s feeling a bit discouraged and doesn’t know what she’s fighting for anymore. She’d like to dump Podrick right about now. Since she’s not a proper knight, she shouldn’t have a squire. Podrick reminds her of her promise; she has to find the Stark girls. Arya might not have been interested but there’s always Sansa. She replies, “I don’t want anyone following me, I’m not a leader. All I ever wanted was to fight for a lord I believed in. The good lords are dead and the rest are monsters.” Is this more foreshadowing for #TeamDany?
Well, lo and behold, there’s Sansa. Riding right by Brienne. Oh, Game of Thrones you can be so frustrating. In the carriage, Littlefinger and Sansa discuss whom they can and can’t trust. Dark Sansa is learning from the master. We learn that Littlefinger is taking her somewhere that Cersei will never find her.
Looks like next week we will get to visit Arya at the House of Black and White.
No mention of House Martell yet but it looks like we will get to meet the new family next week. There was a quick mention of Dorne, in comparison to Loras Tyrell’s birthmark. What we know of its geography, there’s a Sunspear bit, mountains, and a place called Sandstone.
Rock Paper Watch’s Top Quote of 5×1:
Jenn’s Pick – “Can I drink myself to death on the road to Meereen?” – Tyrion Lannister in response to meeting Dany.
Elizabeth’s Pick – “They were born on the wrong side of the wall. It doesn’t make them monsters.” – Jon Snow about the Wildlings