Subtitle: a tale of two queens
Welcome to mid-season set up! This episode moves pieces around the board, but no traps are sprung, no battles fought, no plots revealed.
In Mereen Daenerys reacts to the death of Ser Barristan — royal advisor, Queensguard extraordinaire, and the only remaining link to her destiny in Westeros — with fire and blood. She rounds up the heads of all the noble (wealthy) families in Mereen and marches them down to meet her dragons. She falls back on speechifying in Old Valyrian and lets her babies eat one unlucky fellow but it doesn’t make her feel any better.
With Barristan dead, Jorah banished, Grey Worm wounded, Hizdahr imprisoned and Daario too Daario to take seriously —
Dany turns to Missandei for advice and bless her, she tells her Queen to stop swinging back and forth trying to please everyone else and just do what she thinks is best. Good advice generally, the problem is Dany defaults to Bad Decisions. Such as: pardoning Hizdahr, opening the fighting pits he’s been rallying for since the beginning of the season, and telling him they’re getting married.
Up at Castle Black Maester Aemon gives Jon the same advice and Jon’s power move — allying with the Wildlings, which is what Stannis has been rallying since the beginning of the season — is equally idealistic and equally likely to get him killed. Jon’s enemies and friends are united in hating this idea, and even Olly the Boy Wonder gives him the cold shoulder. Jon’s main support, King Stannis and Melisandre, move out with their army to take back the North.
In Winterfell Ramsay plays naked games with Myranda and mind games with Sansa. At a painfully awkward dinner attended by:
- Roose Bolton, the man who arranged the betrayal and murder of Sansa’s brother, sister-in-law, nephew, and mother (plus the majority of their army and Robb’s wolf, RIP) in exchange for the hand of
- Walda Frey, the daughter of the other man who arranged the betrayal and murder of Sansa’s brother etc., and
- Ramsay Bolton, the son of the man who etc., also the reason the North is now House Bolton’s to rule/ruin, also her betrothed and
- Sansa Stark, engaged to a monster yet again, forced to have dinner with monsters yet again.
As if that wasn’t disturbing enough Ramsay trots out his favorite plaything, Reek, formerly Theon Greyjoy, the man who betrayed and murdered the rest of Sansa’s family, or so the story goes. The audience knows that Theon did not kill Bran and Rickon, and so do the Boltons. Ramsey is drunk with power, and probably doesn’t have an uncruel bone in his body, but Roose would prefer to talk about babies. Walda’s going to have one, and a boy could displace bastard-born Ramsey as his heir.
Ramsay has what amounts to a tantrum and Roose responds with a bedtime story detailing that time he raped Ramsay’s mother and planned to kill the baby — that’s you, son! — but when infant Ramsay’s sadistic smile tugged at the black space where Roose’s heart should be he decided to keep him around.
Meanwhile, Brienne is watching over them from above like the Avenging Angel Knight she is. Pod tries again to tell her to let it go but Brienne understands that the Boltons are actually evil so no, she will not be making like Elsa, thanks.
Lastly Tyrion and Jorah are still on their boat, sailing through Old Valyria, reciting poetry together. Seriously, that happens. Drogon flies by, distracting them both from a Stone Men Sneak Attack that results in Tyrion being pulled underwater. Luckily for Tyrion, Jorah pulls him to safety. Unluckily for Jorah, he’s infected by Greyscale in the process. And he keeps it to himself because he thinks it’s noble and/or he deserves the punishment when really it just means he is selfish. And that, everyone, sums up Ser Jorah.
Without Scarsei and Dorne in the mix the parallels being drawn between what’s going on around Sansa and what’s going on around Daenerys became very clear. Both Sansa and Dany are young women with ancestral claims:
Recently lost advisors:
And questionable allies on their way:
Next week: Arya’s graduation
Winning: Grey Worm. He’s both alive and in love.
Dead: that former slaver/nobleman who totally got burnt, ripped in two, and devoured by hangry dragons