In the latest Game of Thrones recap, Arya arrives in Braavos, Daenerys finds out the difference between conquering and ruling and the Lannister children all discover new roles in a Tywin-less world….
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
It’s easy to categorize ‘Game of Thrones’ as a television series, but the better way to look at this show as one constant ongoing epic fantasy adventure. What’s the difference you ask?
Well, in many ways ‘Game of Thrones’ isn’t a series based on one episode being any better or worse than the next although it would be easy to argue some are superior to others. But what ‘Game of Thrones’ does so well is the show’s ability to build one grand story, season after season, in such a way that there are rarely conclusions and instead only setups for what comes next.
Take for instance the latest episode titled ‘The House of Black and White’ where we saw Arya Stark reach the end of one journey only to begin another. We saw Jamie Lannister commit to a new mission that will see ‘Game of Thrones’ go to a land further South than we’ve ever been before. We saw Jon Snow offered the thing he wanted most as a child that would have brought his life as a bastard full circle only to watch him come away victorious with the thing he earned most as a man.
At no point did anything have a feel of finality to it, yet the entire show was packed with juicy innuendo and superb dialogue that only made me want the following six days to pass that much faster so I could get to the next episode in this epic fantasy adventure.
‘Game of Thrones’ will eventually have a conclusion. It’s inevitable. But for now, I love the possibilities. Which ones?
All of them.
With that, let’s recap the latest episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ titled ‘The House of Black and White’
The Faceless Men
Following a long, arduous journey that ultimately led to nowhere — AKA a bunch of dead ends and even deader Starks — Arya finally abandoned her ‘captor’ at the end of last season and decided to cash in a coin gifted to her a few seasons earlier so she could board a ship bound for Braavos where she hoped to be reunited with Jaqen H’ghar, the faceless assassin who helped her escape Harrenhal once upon a time.
When her ship finally arrives at the giant statue known as the Titan of Braavos, Arya knows she’s found a new home. A safe home. The captain of the ship she rode in on even describes how the Titan protects the land of Braavos, and in this moment Arya feels safe maybe for the first time since she saw her ‘dance instructor’ get attacked back in King’s Landing.
Following a rowboat ride across another body of water, Arya finally finds herself planted in front of a door that is attached to a rather square building that is known as The House of Black and White. Her coin got her here, but where is here exactly?
Arya knocks on the door full of joy and fervor for what awaits her inside. Unfortunately, she’s greeted by a man who has never heard of her friend Jaqen H’ghar and there’s no where for her in this building. A day and night of waiting like she was Meatloaf standing on a porch just hoping for acceptance while she quietly repeated her dwindling list of death subjects barely keeps Arya occupied. Finally, she gives up The House of Black and White, chucks the coin into the water and heads off into Braavos to hopefully find some food and maybe a place to sleep.
When she beheads a pigeon for dinner, a group of boys decides that they either want the fowl or her for a snack instead, but the same man who turned her away at The House of Black and White has shown up and the potential attackers flee like they just saw the boogieman.
Arya follows the man back to the House of Black and White where he presents her with the coin she ‘lost’. A swipe of the arm reveals that this was Jaqen H’ghar all along. Well sort of anyways.
When Arya asks what is going on exactly and why he claimed not to be the friend she met back at Harrenhal when she needed to escape the clutches of Tywin Lannister. Who is this man exactly?
“No one and that is who the girl must become.”
~ Jaqen H’ghar
And thus begins Arya’s new journey into The House of Black and White where she will presumably begin her training as one of the Faceless Men of Braavos. Assuming she passes all her courses, those final four names on her list — Cersei, Walder Frey, the Mountain, Meryn Trant — shouldn’t be too tough to cross off, right?
Brienne is pretty downtrodden after Arya ran away rather than accept her help and there’s no sign of Sansa Stark so she’s not exactly in the best of moods while plopping down for a meal at a tavern with her squire Podrick, who still isn’t quite sure what he’s doing there any longer.
Still, Pod’s services pay off in a big way this episode after he spots another couple sitting at a booth just across the restaurant — and it just so happens to be Lord Petyr Baelish and his niece, Sansa Stark. Her hair is dyed darker, but he would know Sansa Stark anywhere. He was squire to her husband after all!
Pod alerts Brienne to her presence while also mentioning the 10 guards lording over them as they enjoy their dinner.
While Pod and Brienne try to come up with a plan to reach Sansa, she’s questioning Baelish about the scroll he received last episode while they were at Royce’s castle to drop off Robin so he could train to become a better Lord of the Vale. Baelish says this scroll was good news although details are sketchy but something tells me there’s a lot more to this story.
“My marriage proposal has been accepted”
~ Petyr Baelish to Sansa Stark
There’s no chance Baelish is remarrying — but the last known living Stark child, who would have a claim to the North? That’s an entirely different story.
Before Baelish can go into too many details, Brienne barges in and declares her absolute fealty to protect and serve Lady Sansa Stark, who also saying her name loud enough to ensure any number of Lannister spies might hear her. Regardless it doesn’t take Baelish long to discount Brienne’s claims of loyalty not to mention the shitty job she’s done protecting her two previous charges (he has a point).
“This woman swore to protect Renly. She failed. She swore to protect your mother. She failed. Why would I want somebody with your history of failure guarding Lady Sansa?”
~ Petyr Baelish
Baelish attempts to covertly capture Brienne, but she escapes while taking out a few of his soldiers along the way and even rescues Pod when he realizes that riding a horse is not his strong suit. Despite Sansa’s protest, Brienne says she will follow her to wherever she goes to provide protection no matter what. One suggestion next time you run into her — mention that you know her sister Arya is alive. Something to think about.
A Father’s Love
One of the most jarring images in the debut episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ was when Bran Stark decided to go climbing and happened upon a room atop one of the castles at Winterfell where he spotted Queen Cersei doing the naughtiest of things with her brother, the Kingslayer Jamie Lannister. Catching them in the act cost Bran his legs.
Jon Arryn and Ned Stark both lost their lives as a result of Cersei and Jamie’s incestuous love affair and I’m pretty sure Tywin Lannister at least lost his lunch when he got confirmation about his kids sharing the same bed and a whole lot more towards the close of last season.
But since that first encounter where Jamie and Cersei were discovered together, the brother and sister love affair has grown distant. Maybe it was Jamie being captured by the Starks for what we can only assume was a matter of months or years before he finally returned home a shell of the man he once was not to mention down a hand.
They tried to recapture a spark of their former romance while having sex next to the dead body of their son last season, but that only seemed to further cement the sick, twisted nature of this union from when it first started years ago.
Despite all the horrendous things that have come as a result of Cersei and Jamie’s love affair, the three children they share are one thing they have in common that will always bring them together in some way until the day they die. Joffrey was an asshole, but he was their first son. Tommon is now king and he is their son. And Myrcella is their only daughter but maybe not for long if the people of Dorne have anything to say about it.
Remember back in season two when Tyrion negotiated to have Myrcella shipped off to some land as the promised wife of another kingdom to gain their loyalty during the War of Five Kings? Well, Dorne was that kingdom and that’s where she’s been ever since.
But following the death of Prince Oberyn Martell by the hands of ‘The Mountain’ Ser Gregor Clegane last year, the people of Dorne are looking for a little bit of justice and the easiest target has pretty blonde hair and is betrothed to marry King Doran Martell’s son, Trystane.
Cersei receives a threat in the form of a snake statue with a Lannister necklace that belongs to Myrcella clutched in its jaws. The snake of course is reference to Oberyn, who was known as ‘The Red Viper’ due to his use of poison laced spears while in battle. Cersie is confident that someone in Dorne means her daughter harm and Jamie gets the brunt of her anger after he become a target because as of yet, he’s done nothing to save her.
Jamie proclaims that he will go to Dorne and rescue Myrcella before anything can happen to her, but he’s not going with an army and he’s not going to knock on King Doran’s front door and ask for a favor. It also doesn’t mean he’s battling the entire kingdom of Dorne by himself either.
“I never said I was going alone.”
~ Jamie Lannister
Jamie calls on the services of the man charged with helping him regain use of his sword skills after losing one of his hands — Ser Bronn of the Blackwater.
Bronn is off in his new ‘kingdom’ about to marry Lollys Stokeworth when the Kingslayer comes by for a visit. It seems there’s a new royal order and he’s no longer marrying Lollys — somebody else is instead. But what Bronn will get if he travels to Dorne with Jamie to help him retrieve Myrcella will be far better than some distant castle in some distant land while married to some second daughter with no claim to the kingdom.
“When we return, I’m going to give you a much better girl and a much better castle.”
~ Jamie Lannister
A Taste for Revenge
For the first time this season (and ever for that matter) we get a look at Dorne in this episode as Ellaria Sand — paramour to fallen warrior Prince Oberyn Martell — comes to pay a visit to her ‘brother-in-law’, Prince Doran Martell of Dorne.
She’s looking for revenge for Oberyn’s death and wondering why his brother hasn’t done something already? He answers that as much as he loved his brother, Oberyn died as a result of a trial by combat, which isn’t actually frowned upon in the Seven Kingdoms.
Ellaria disagrees and tosses a veiled threat at Doran while reminding him that she has The Sand Snakes (Oberyn’s bastard daughters who are beloved in Dorne) on her side. All she wants is to pay back the queen with the one thing they can use against her — Myrcella.
“Let me have her. Let me send her to Cersei — one finger at a time.”
~ Ellaria Sand
Doran declines her request and just like his brother insists that the people of Dorne don’t torture and mutilate little girls as fodder for a war they never asked to be a part of. Myrcella will be safe and sound as long as he’s ruling Dorne.
So Ellaria answers back by suggesting that his rule may not be for much longer.
Living in a Box
On the road to Volantis, Tyrion is still drinking his way to the bottom of every bottle of wine he can consume while Varys watches his friend wallow in a sea of fruit, alcohol and self pity. Tyrion only wants to walk outside right now and feel the sun on his face. Varys reminds him, however, that a brief trot outdoors could ultimately lead to his head landing on Cersei’s table. She has offered a ransom to anyone who returns Tyrion’s head to her as a prize.
Varys: “She’s offered a lordship to the man who brings her your head”
Tyrion: “She ought to offer her cunt. The best part of her for the best part of me.”
Tyrion’s continued badgering about escaping this new indoor prison forces Varys to lay things out on the line to him very clearly. Tyrion still has much to give to a worthy leader like Daenerys Targaryen if he’s willing to put down the bottom and allow his mind to work unfettered again. He also reminds Tyrion that despite his placement as Hand of the King during Joffrey’s reign of terror, he never had any real power. It was only power granted to him by somebody with even more power.
Tyrion isn’t a leader and he’s never going to be again. But he can be a valuable asset to somebody who requires his wisdom and intellect. His cunning and discourse.
Varys: “People follow leaders and they will never follow us. They find us repulsive.”
Tyrion: “I find us repulsive”
Varys: “And we find them repulsive, which is why we surround ourselves with large, comfortable boxes to keep them away and yet no matter what we do, people like you and me are never satisfied inside the box. Not for long.”
Back in King’s Landing, after the latest hunting party returns the severed head of another dwarf (not Tyrion) to Queen Cersei and it’s promptly turned over to Qyburn for his newest experimentation, it’s time for the King’s small council to meet for the first time presumably since Lord Tywin’s death.
Queen Cersei oversees the proceedings while handing down orders from the king about the jobs for each of the men who will occupy seats on the new small council under King Tommen Baratheon.
Mace Tyrell, in addition to being the master of ships, will now also become master of coin. Qyburn, much to Pycelle’s disgust, is now the new master of whisperers, replacing Varys. And the final assignment goes to her uncle Kevan Lannister, who will become the new master of war.
There’s just one problem — Kevan doesn’t accept orders or positions of powers from his niece because she’s not the king. She’s not anything really now that her husband is dead and her son is the person sitting on the Iron Throne.
“I did not return to the capitol to serve as your puppet. To watch you stack the small council with sycophants. I don’t recognize your authority to dictate what is and is not my concern. You are the queen mother. Nothing more. If he wants to send for me, I will be waiting for him at Casterley Rock.”
~ Kevan Lannister
Cersei now knows, maybe she’s always known, that she’s not her father and with Tywin away, the realm is going to play.
For the Watch
Back at the Wall, Jon Snow finds out just what happens when he goes against an order given by King Stannis Baratheon after he killed Mance Rayder instead of allowing him to be burned alive in front of a court consisting of his people. As it turns out, Stannis is still impressed by Jon because he did what he believed in and his leadership is something this army sorely needs.
Stannis reminds Jon that the election for a new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch will be held that night and the winner will almost certainly be Ser Alliser Throne, who is no fan of the bastard of Winterfell and will likely make his life a living hell while serving on The Wall. Stannis also shows Jon a message received from House Mormont on Bear Island, which politely declines his invitation to pledge loyalty to his kingdom because they only serve one king — the King in the North and their last name is Stark.
So to gain favor with the North and to hopefully build on the kingdoms loyal to him, Stannis offers Jon something he’s wanted since the day he was born the son of Ned Stark.
“Kneel before me. Lay your sword at my feet. Pledge me your service and you’ll rise again as Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell.”
As much as Jon wants to accept, he ultimately tells Sam that he’s going to decline. He pledged his loyalty to the Night’s Watch and whether he agrees with the Lord Commander or not, he’s a brother in black from now until the day he dies.
The election starts and of course Janos Slynt speaks up in favor of Ser Alliser before another candidate is nominated as well, but just as the votes are about to be cast, Samwell speaks up in favor of a third person who would make an excellent choice as the 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch while taking a few shots at Alliser’s cheerleader for his role in the battle against the Wildlings.
“A Wildling girl, a baby, and Lord Janos. I found him there after the battle was over in a puddle of his own making. Whilst Lord Janos was hiding with the women and children, Jon Snow was leading. Ser Alliser fought bravely it is true. When he was wounded, it was Jon who saved us. He took charge of the Wall’s defense. He killed the Magnar of the Thenns. He went North to deal with Mance Rayder knowing it almost certainly meant his own death. Before that, he led the mission to avenge Lord Commander Mormont. Mormont himself chose Jon to be his steward. He saw something in Jon and now we’ve all seen it, too. He may be young, but he’s the commander we turned to when the night was darkest.”
As the votes are cast, it’s a tight race and in the end Ser Alliser and Jon Snow are tied in the final tally. The tiebeaker comes down to Maester Aemon, who takes just a moment to make his choice and seconds later a victor is declared — Jon Snow is the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
Everybody celebrates except Alliser and Janos, who both look like somebody just shit in their cereal.
Conquering and Ruling
Back in Meereen, Daario Naharis teaches Grey Worm something about what it takes to find a saboteur who doesn’t want to get caught. The Sons of the Harpy won’t be captured based on The Unsullied stomping through the streets just waiting for something bad to happen. It’s going to take a group like the Second Sons, willing to drink with the people of Meereen, willing to ask the people of Meereen and willing to hurt the people of Meereen to find answers.
Once they arrive at the house where they have been informed a member of the Sons of the Harpy is living, they find nothing but an abandoned house and after all his boasting, Grey Worm can’t help but smirk (slightly) at Daario, who seemingly looks like a failure. Until Daario reminds Grey Worm of something The Unsullied lack besides boy parts.
“You understood fear once long ago. You’ve forgotten what it means. Someone who’s forgotten fear has forgotten how to hide.”
~ Daario Naharis
As Daario stabs through the wall with his dagger, a member of the Sons of the Harpy comes crashing through. He was hiding because he knew the forces of the Queen were going to be kicking in his front door. He was afraid and thus he had to hide.
Back at her own small council, Daenerys hears advice from everyone in attendance as to what course of action she should take with this prisoner. Execution or trial seem to be the prevailing suggestions with Mossador, a former slave arguing that killing the member of the Sons of the Harpy is the only way to send a message to the masters that their rule is at its end while Ser Barristan suggests a trial where this man can stand up for himself and be judged before a sentence is passed.
Daenerys ultimately decides for a trial, but Mossador knows that killing this man is the only way the people of Meereen will respect her. So he takes it upon himself to break into his cell later that night and Mossador kills the Sons of the Harpy member. Once he’s found out, he throws himself on the mercy of Queen Daenerys, saying that he only did this because it’s what had to be done.
Because he disobeyed her, Daenerys has no choice but to sentence Mossador to death and she does so with a very public beheading with Daario Naharis carrying out the decapitation. Poor Mossador dies and immediately the crowds in Meereen turn violent. The former slaves start hissing at their new queen while the former masters nearly cause a riot at the execution. Daenerys is carried out under a wave of protection by the Unsullied as the crowd pelts her with rocks and stones.
Back in her private chambers, Daenerys sends out everybody there to give her comfort before she goes outside to gather her thoughts.
Dany has found out since coming to Slaver’s Bay that she has the mind built to win wars, which might one day might help her capture the Iron Throne but just like Robert Baratheon discovered with disastrous results — conquering is not ruling. Winning is not governing. As difficult as the former may seem, it’s the latter that requires a real king or queen.
Just when things look darkest, Dany looks up above her and sees that Drogon has returned home and he’s perched just above her on the grand pyramid in Meereen. She reaches up to touch him and while he comes close to his mother, ultimately he snarls and flies away into the night. Dany will soon discover that being a parent is very much like being a queen — it’s not easy and making the tough choices, right or wrong, is rarely rewarded.
Make sure to tune into next week’s ‘Game of Thrones’ episode at 9pm ET on HBO when Sansa begins her mission of revenge, Arya starts her training and a new force rises in King’s Landing.