Game of Thrones- The House of Black & White Recap

21 Apr

As we enter week two of Game of Thrones’ fifth season, events start to ramp up despite a noticeably slower pace. The pacing here feels deliberate, and with some exceptions, each storyline is moving forward inch by inch. This is the nature of the show at this point, so I’m not so much criticizing as observing. Time still flies when you’re watching GoT; there is no show on TV more entertaining or engaging.

“The House of Black and White” also saw the show begin to veer even further away from the books, with mixed results. Before I jump into my location-by-location notes, I wanted to point out that in rare fashion, this episode had no boobs in it, not even a single one. I wonder if now that the story has grown so complex we’ll see fewer tits-for-tits-sake on the show, though last week certainly gave us a huge helping of man ass.

Also of note: no new location added to the world map despite a scene that took place in Dorne. My guess is that since said scene occurred at the Water Gardens and not Sunspear, the Dornish capital, that they are holding off on adding anything to the map for the time being.

NON-SPOILERS

In Braavos

Game of Thrones may not always look like the big budget movie blockbusters it emulates, but it has a certain sense of style even when the chroma-keying is a little wonky. The design aesthetic always makes up for any iffy CG for me, and I think your eye is trained to be more forgiving to TV and its lower budgets. I really liked the opening shot of Braavos here and thought it both looked better and was more effective than a similar shot from last season, when Stannis and Davos traveled across the Narrow Sea to treat with the Iron Bank.

The music does match the big screen competition and Ramin Djawadi continues to prove his prowess as television’s preeminent composer. Here we hear a new rendition of the theme that ended last year’s season finale, “The Children,” a combination of the Arya/Jaquen theme from Season 2 and the main theme.

Braavos look awesome. The Venetian influence is obvious, but not so much that it pulls you out of the world. This is still very much a fantasy setting, but like the books, the cultures are more directly correlated with the real world civilizations they are based on. The Duomo-esque church in the background of the canal shot was particularly Venetian. The House of Black and White also has a cool, very striking design, which I liked, though it did remind me of the Holland Tunnel vent in NYC.

Pictured here: the vent for the chunnel that leads from Braavos to Saltpans. The salt trade has markedly improved since the chunnel’s construction.

I really like the guy playing Ternesio Terys, the captain who takes Arya to the House of Black and White. He is vamping Syrio Forel without it being too obvious, and his line delivery is great. Probably won’t ever see him again, but I liked him while he was around. Jaquen’s other face (which was basically the show version of A Feast For Crows’ Kindly Man) was also only around for a moment, but it was a very striking face, very memorable. Good casting on that guy.

I noticed that Arya’s death list is considerably shorter than it was last season. Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr and the Red Woman have been dropped, though they are all presumably still alive (Melisandre is at least). I think this was done simply to avoid confusion, and to hammer home that these are the top four assholes on Arya’s shit list.

That pigeon beheading shot was SICK. I like the visual similarity to the shot from “Baelor,” where Arya catches a pigeon and breaks its neck while hiding in Flea Bottom. We also got an introduction to Bravos, Braavosi sellswords who like to start fights and be all tough and macho. Even they cower in fear at the House of Black and White, it seems.

EAT IT, PIGEON!!!!

The Jaquen reveal was not surprising, at least not to me, but I keep up with spy reports and am constantly theorizing. Thrones has always been about condensing, folding, and removing characters to avoid confusion, so it seemed natural to cut the Kindly Man and replace him with Jaquen. Jaquen is a fan favorite of both book readers and show watchers and I think show people probably lit up when they saw him. He’s a memorable face, even three years after his last appearance. Tom Wlaschiha and Maisie Williams have great chemistry, so I’m excited to see Arya’s book four plot play out with Jaquen in the picture.

Also, fun detail: if you looked closely, you’d notice Jaquen literally pulls his other face off in the reveal. The House of Black and White uses skin and magic for their disguises, a technique I’m sure the show will go into in greater detail.

In the Vale

And here’s where the show starts to go off the rails in relation to the books, though I preferred the Vale stuff to the Jaime stuff in terms of show creations. First off—Pod is a ladies man and they can sense he’s packing just by being near him. I want a show where Pod just goes around seducing serving wenches.

Show Brienne is the biggest improvement on a book character so I do enjoy watching her be a badass. Her book four plot is slow and plodding and annoying for its first half, so I don’t really mind them speeding it up. But here’s the thing: George R.R. Martin is a more talented storyteller than David Benioff & Dan Weiss. I’m not saying they’re bad, just that George is better, and even though he was a TV writer, I doubt George would be as good at adapting his own work for the screen. An adaptation needs a loose hand, and the Ds are good at compressing, simplifying and speeding the plot along… most of the time.

But every time they make a change, plot holes begin to emerge where in the books, there are none. Littlefinger killing Lysa is a good example. In the books, a singer named Marillion (featured in season 1, where he had his tongue cut out by Joffrey) is present and Littlefinger frames him for the murder. But on the show, Marillion isn’t there, so Baelish’s whole scheme basically hinges on Sansa covering for him, which considering her past history of spilling the beans to enemies, wasn’t exactly a surety.

The same goes for everyone knowing Sansa is Sansa. In the books not even Bronze Yohn Royce or the Knights of the Vale know who she is; the secret is hers and Baelish’s alone. But now all the Vale lords know, as does Brienne and anyone within earshot inside that friggin’ tavern. It’s hard for me to buy that at this point Sansa’s identity would still be safe after so many reveals. When Brienne of fucking Tarth kneels before a lady that she loudly declares as Sansa Stark in a crowded tavern, you know word is going to reach Cersei. If word reaches Cersei that the girl she’s hunting for is palling around with Baelish, well then his jig is up—at this point the Lannisters still think he’s on their side.

“HEY EVERYONE, LISTEN UP. I AM TALKING TO SANSA STARK. SANSA OF HOUSE STARK. SANSA OF WINTERFELL. DAUGHTER OF NED STARK AND CATELYN TULLY. EVERYONE GET A GOOD LOOK. THIS IS SANSA STARK. JUST THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW.”

That being said, the action scene was awesome and I love how badass Show Brienne is. Her chopping her enemies’ reins and scaring their horses was a brilliant move that Book Brienne would probably have been too dense to make. Also, with all the changes being made from the books, readers like me are on the edge of our seats. Anyone could die, including characters like Brienne and Pod, who are currently still alive in the books.

I think it’s pretty safe to say Littlefinger is marrying Sansa to Ramsay Bolton, though it still isn’t clear why. The preview for next week’s episode shed a little more light on the subject but since some people avoid those previews, I’ll relegate my theories on that to the spoiler section.

I am still really digging Sansa as Alayne. She is so cool and calculating now; she’s finally learned how to play the Game. I liked that both she and Arya refused Brienne’s service because of course they would. Littlefinger makes a great point: Brienne sucks at protecting people, but there’s more to it than that. By the time Arya and Brienne crossed paths, Arya was no longer the Hound’s hostage—they were companions. Arya chose the Hound because she saw him as her greatest chance at survival. Same goes for Sansa. She isn’t so naïve as to think Littlefinger has her best interests at heart, but she knows that with his influence and his many knights, she is safe with him and that unlike Brienne, he is susceptible to her feminine wiles. Both Stark girls have been carted around and used by others for their own purposes and Brienne is basically saying “come with me and I’ll tell you what to do.” They don’t want to be told what to do anymore. They want to play the Game, and they know how to play it a hell of a lot better than Brienne does.

In King’s Landing

While my favorite scene of the ep went down in the capital, a lot the rest was a bit iffy, mainly anything involving Jaime. The taxadermied viper bit was cool, and I imagine a large part of the Dorne plot will be- who sent that threat? Was it Ellaria? She’s the chief suspect, as she tells Doran she wants to chop Myrcella into little pieces which like… chill, Ellaria, Jesus fucking Christ. Was it Doran? Probably not, as he wants to avoid a war. Who could it be? I’m pretty sure I know, so check out the spoiler section if you want to find out.

I know there are show people who still like Jaime but he is hands down my least favorite main character on the show right now. He is a completely different person from the one he is in the books, and not in a good way like with Brienne. At this point in the books, Jaime has already given up on Cersei and is well on his way down a path of redemption. Last season was the only hint of said arc we ever saw, when Jaime looks at his page in the book of Lord Commanders and it was short and shitty because his most memorable moment was killing his own king. In the books, this motivates Jaime to shape up his act and become an honorable knight and a true Lord Commander of the Kingsguard.

But not on the show. On the show Jaime is still Cersei’s obedient little lapdog, doing whatever she wants even though she’s clearly unraveling and making stupid decisions. Book Jaime would never have gone along with this ridiculous plan of hers, but on the show he accepts it without a second thought. I liked that Cersei called him out for being a shitty dad—Alison and I had just noted that recently—but he’s never shown care for his kids before, and in the books at least, he expresses outright disinterest in them. When Joffrey dies he tells Cersei they “can make another son.” But now he’s all, “durr, gotta potentially spark a war to save my bastard of incest.”

I wholly buy Cersei’s reaction to the threat because that’s how that character would react. But in the past, even in the last episode, Jaime has always expressed restraint and prudence, which he lacked in his scene with Cersei. It’s completely out of character, at least for his book version, and if this is what colors his show version, well, that version just isn’t that interesting to me.

Everything else that went down in King’s Landing was true to the books and awesome. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that was one of the dwarfs from the Purple Wedding whose head got presented to Cersei. That was a very memorable (and despicable) moment from the books I was hoping (and expecting) them to put in the show. Really hammers home how awful and callous Cersei is, how little regard she has for anyone outside her own family.

I love the slow development of Qyburn, a character that has become more and more memorable since his introduction in season 3. He is perfectly cast; the actor hits that combination of fatherly wisdom and creepy pervert beautifully. I like how nonchalantly he asks to keep the head for his experiments and how Cersei just shrugs and is like, “sure, whatever, I don’t care.” YOU SHOULD CARE, CERSEI. YOU JUST MADE AN EVIL DR. FRANKENSTEIN THE MASTER OF WHISPERS SIMPLY BECAUSE HE AGREES WITH YOU, YOU DUMB IDIOT. LISTEN TO YOUR UNCLE KEVAN.

“You’re an even bigger disappointment than Lancel.”

Kevan is great and I’m glad he’s back and getting developed more. He’s like a nicer, less intimidating version of Tywin, and like Tywin he isn’t about to put up with Cersei’s bullshit. Making Mace Tyrell the Master of Coin and Ships was a good way to keep him placated, but will likely have bad repercussions. That’s what informs Cersei’s character: she makes rash decisions. At the time they seem like good moves, but in the long run they always bring her more grief. Think of how much bloodshed could have been avoided if she had just waited for Robert to get drunkenly killed by a boar on his own rather than making sure it happened when she wanted it to? Cersei never thinks ahead, and it’s what makes her a simultaneously gripping and frustrating character.

Overall, Cersei’s council meeting was my favorite scene of the hour.

At Castle Stokeworth

As dubious as I am of this Jaime Dorne mission plotline (which I have been dreading since the spy reports), I loved the scene between Bronn and his new bride. Lollys is great and I like that she’s dumb and pleasant but not as sad and pathetic as she in the books (where she is a victim of the season 2 smallfolk riot, is gang-raped and subsequently impregnated). Her lines about the line of succession for House Stokeworth and how nasty her sister is are likely the only hints we’ll ever get of Bronn’s plot from A Feast For Crows, which I love. It doesn’t really have much to do with anything, but said subplot is Bronn at his most badass. But now he has to go on a secret agent mission with Jaime, so I don’t think it’ll happen. More on that in the spoiler section.

Did we really need another “bad people get what’s coming to them” line though? How many times has someone said that on GoT? After Bran’s post-Red Wedding retelling of the Rat King story, I figured we’d never need to be reminded of this reality ever again, but here we are. Minor criticism, though, and made up for with Jerome Flynn’s delivery of “Jaime FUCKING Lannister.”

Love Jaime’s red jacket. So stylish. Also a nice detail and probably the only hint we’ll ever get of his redemption arc, but he’s been cutting his hair like Barristan ever since he came back to King’s Landing (which is ironic, considering how much he’s shitting on Barristan’s legacy still). It’s hard to tell because Barristan has been balding since season 1, but if you look at old photos you’ll notice Jaime has the same Caesar cut now.

Once again, the Ds change GRRM’s airtight plot and holes begin to form. Marriage pacts don’t just get changed like that, as we’ve already seen with the Red Wedding. I guess the Lannisters exerted influence—which makes some degree of sense as the Stokeworths are Lannister sycophants and the Brackens are River Lords that support them—but how did they get this done so quickly? DO PEOPLE IN WESTEROS HAVE CELL PHONES? Within the span of hours Jaime has undone Bronn’s marriage pact. Couldn’t they have thought of a better way to get Jaime to convince Bronn to come with him? I like the idea of a Jaime/Bronn team up, but the writing in this scene is so sloppy. Bronn should be way more pissed off! This is his meal ticket, this is everything he’s been building towards since he joined Tyrion and now it’s all being pissed away and for what? Promises of a better castle and wife? Book Bronn would have punched Jaime with his own hand again.

During his reign, King Joffrey was known to Facetime his council meetings.

And the more I think about this whole Mission to Dorne story, the less and less it makes sense and the more and more frustrating it is. What do they plan to accomplish with this plan? Rescue Myrcella? From what? It’s a vague threat, and not a “we’re gonna kill your daughter” ultimatum, just a “don’t fuck with us” warning. Remember: the Lannisters and the Martells are ALLIES. If Jaime kidnaps Myrcella from her fosterers then the alliance is officially OFF and the Dornish will have no reason not to go to war. If Jaime and Bronn are caught in the act, all bets are off and war is a certainty. Again, I understand Cersei being a crazy idiot and wanting to rescue her precious daughter, but Jaime is smart enough that he should see this as a fool’s errand.

At the Water Gardens

First off- Ellaria Sand is smokin’, but why did she cut her hair? Whatever, I’m lovin’ it.

This is our first introduction to Dorne, which is basically medieval Spain, hence why its scenes were shot in Seville. In the Middle Ages Southern Spain was invaded by the Moors, so while it was a European kingdom like France or England, it had a certain Middle-Eastern influence. Dorne is the same. The Water Gardens looked great and you did feel like you were in a different part of the world (though the lighting is similar to that of King’s Landing, shot in Croatia).

We got a brief glimpse of Prince Doran’s son Trystane flirting with Myrcella before Ellaria took the role of Arianne Martell and yelled at Doran a bunch for not immediately going to war over Oberyn. Arianne is Doran’s daughter in the books and is the main Martell character but has been cut for simplicity, with her role folded into Ellaria and (presumably) Trystane. To be honest, I thought her reaction was a bit extreme. Cut Myrcella into tiny pieces? Jesus, Ellaria, fucking chill, dude. Didn’t you hear Doran? It was Trial by Combat, not murder, Christ, what is it with everyone and murdering children?

She may want to murder and dismember children, but at least she’s really good-looking.

So, Doran. I’m mixed so far. The actor’s got a good look and knows how to act (he’s a fan favorite from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), but he doesn’t act the way Doran’s supposed to act. He seemed on edge, brooding, gripping the sides of his wheelchair. Doran is supposed to be cool and collected, quiet and always calculating. I guess he’s grieving, but Show Doran seemed a little too intense if you ask me.

Overall, this scene was okay. It was kinda random to just show Dorne for a hot minute and then never cut back to it. But Dorne seems chill as fuck, and if I were Doran I would also want to just hang in the Water Gardens brooding all day. The coolest thing in this scene was probably Areo Hotah, Doran’s bodyguard, who looked straight badass.

Also, is it Dore-AN or Dor-UN? They all pronounce it differently.

En Route to Volantis

Another quick, fun, but ultimately inconsequential scene, basically just to check in with Tyrion and Varys to remind the audience they’re still around until they get to Volantis (which FYI, is where Talisa was from). I like drunk, cynical Tyrion, but in the books it goes on for a long time and gets a bit dry, so I like having Varys there to throw Tyrion’s nonsense right back at him.

I guess the scene showed he’s mourning for Shae, which fine. I still wish Tysha was part of the show’s plot but I get why she’s not, and Peter Dinklage is such a fantastic actor I always buy his performance even if Show Tyrion’s motivation is lacking a bit.

Also, candidate for best line of the ep: “Every pile of shit on the side of every road has someone’s banner hanging from it.”

At Castle Black

It’s become clear to me that the strongest stories this season will be Jon’s, Daenerys’ and Cersei’s. When I mentioned this to my wife she said, “you know why? Because those are all straight from the books.” It’s true. Those three plots, while they have been changed, feel truest to the source material, as opposed to the wacky Jaime shenanigans.

Scenes where Shireen teaches people to read are the best and I hope they never stop. Another laugh out loud moment was Sam excitedly turning to Gilly and Shireen to ask, “Did you know the youngest Lord Commander in history, Osric Stark was elected at the age of ten?!” followed by their nonplussed, uninterested reactions and Gilly’s response of “I know ‘S.’” Hannah Murray is great and Gilly has quickly become one of my favorites on the show.

It’s looking like her and Sam’s Feast For Crows subplot has been cut which is okay. It’s one of the weirder subplots in the books and all that really matters is that the connection between the two characters develops, which can still happen while they’re at Castle Black.

We got some creepy exposition concerning Shireen’s disease, Greyscale, with a monologue reminiscent of Old Nan’s White Walker story from season one. Even if you haven’t read the books this is clearly set-up—to see what for, check the spoiler section.

Selyse is still the worst. That’s all I have to say on that subject. Worst mom in Westeros.

I didn’t really dig Stannis’ line about getting people to follow him through fear—maybe that’s in the books, it’s been a while since I read A Dance With Dragons and it’s the one I have the fuzziest memory of, but Stannis is all about following the law, that that’s how he gets people’s respect. Ruling out of fear is Tywin’s thing, not Stannis’, but I guess they’ve been messing Stannis up since the start so this is nothing new. Stephen Dillane continues to kill it, though. Great actor.

“Did you know Ser Cortnay Penrose was once castellan of Storm’s End? It’s true!”

I’m pretty confident Jon will petition Tormund as the Wildlings’ new leader, who will initially protest but will be convinced after many dialogue scenes. Meanwhile, the best moment in the entire episode occurred when Stannis shared a letter he received from Lyanna Mormont, 10 year-old Lady of Bear Island, after asking her to pledge her house to his cause: “Bear Island knows no king but the King in the North whose name is STARK.” I thought this was a great moment the Ds had made up but I looked it up and this actually is in in the books. Best moment of the ep. I laughed super hard.

I know not all show people are into Jon. He can be dopey and morose but so can I, so I relate, and he’s always been one of my favorite characters, both in the books and on the show. I think everyone will start to appreciate him more now that he’s finally coming into his own and becoming a real leader. He’s an honorable man who is devoted to his vows but isn’t so naïve that he doesn’t know how to play the Game. His internal development is illustrated by refusing Stannis’ offer of legitimization, the one thing he always dreamed of.

YOU GOT SERVED, SLYNT.

Thus, his election as Lord Commander was a triumphant moment and was well earned—Sam even cites all his acts of valor in his VOTE FOR JON speech. He also dealt some SICK burns to Janos Slynt. It’s a nice touch that there are so many named Night’s Watch characters on the show even though most don’t have lines. Did you know Bowen Marsh and Othell Yarwyck have been on the show since season 1? Neither did I till I looked at the wiki and IMDB.

The election is a bit more intricate in the books—Sam has to orchestrate a scheme to get Jon to win—but complicated logistics don’t make for great television, great monologues do, and John Bradley delivered a fantastic one.

In Meereen

Originally, A Song of Ice and Fire was a trilogy but the bigger the story became, the more and more volumes were published. The first three books—A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords essentially encompass what Martin originally envisioned for the first book. A Feast For Crows, A Dance With Dragons and the two climactic battles that were moved to The Winds of Winter due to page limit restrictions, encompass the second “book.” It’s for this reason many fans think Martin will ultimately have to write eight volumes, with the seventh and eight considered the “third” in the original trilogy.

Feast and Dance were written concurrently and then split and reedited. The publisher literally couldn’t print a book so large, forcing Martin to split his characters across the two books by location. Therein lies the fourth and fifth’s problem, though I consider both to be entertaining reads. Some fans like to read the two together as intended, switching between each chronologically. They say that when read this way, the themes of the story become more apparent.

One of the benefits of television is that the storylines of Feast and Dance can be combined, making those themes all the more evident. This chapter in the ASOIAF saga is all about formerly weak characters coming into immense power and how they deal with that responsibility. Dany is a conqueror, but can she be a queen? It’s one of the most interesting questions in the story, as up until this point we’ve been rooting for her quite implicitly, but now one wonders if she really would be a good ruler. Cersei has finally gotten the power she always desired but her mind is slowly unraveling, making her decisions rash and unpredictable. Jon is a born leader but a reluctant hero, and is in a dangerous position as a man of the Night’s Watch and liaison to the Wildlings.

Though I’m not 100% positive, I’m pretty sure nothing that went down with Daenerys this episode occurred in the books, but it felt true to the books because it was dealing with the same theme: how does one use power?

Last week I sarcastically posted a picture of the Harpy being torn down alongside a photo of Saddam Hussein’s statue being demolished following his defeat at the outset of the Iraq War. I’m not sure if Martin ever said it in interviews, but on both show and in books, the influence of America’s wars in the Middle East is obvious. Dany is basically an Anglo-Saxon invader liberating the oppressed brown people but with no conception of the culture she has thrust herself into. She can free people but she can’t usher them into a new world because the workings of the Meereenese are beyond her understanding. Her goals may be noble, but the longer she’s entrenched in Slaver’s Bay, the less noble they start to seem. The scene that really struck me as Iraq War-inspired was Daario and Grey Worm breaking into the home of a Son of the Harpy to arrest him, much in the same way the US military conducts night raids to rip suspected terrorists from their beds. Dany is the occupying army and the Sons of the Harpy are the Iraqi insurgency.

“SERIOUSLY, SOMEONE AROUND HERE SHOULD LISTEN TO ME FOR ONCE.”

One of the best moments in her scenes was when Barristan finally told her the truth about her father, the Mad King Aerys. In both book and show, Barristan has been reluctant to tell her the harsh truth of the monster her father became, but in “The House of Black and White” he told her that if she starts executing people willy-nilly, the power will go to her head and soon she’ll be consumed by it. Barristan is another one of those characters who got the shaft on the show, so I was really pleased that he got such a powerful moment. He’s one of my favorite characters in the books, the one honorable knight in all of Westeros, and the greatest living swordsman in the world (he still hasn’t gotten to fight on the show). I often think Barristan should be king—he is true and just but not stupid, and has learned valuable lessons in regency after serving multiple kings. He has an awesome arc in A Dance With Dragons that I doubt they’ll do, but hope they go through with.

Dany does make some progress in terms of her personal philosophy when she tells Mossador “the law is the law.” She can’t make exceptions based on her personal feelings, which is the right move for a queen. Fun fact: Mossador is Missandei’s brother in the books. Speaking of Missandei, there was barely any Missandei/Grey Worm in this ep, which was welcome.

I guess this guy was a character maybe?

Dany should have heeded Hizdhar’s advice however, and executed the traitorous ex-slave in private, not in public in front of all the people who worship her like a god. That scene was excellently edited and very tense. It kept you guessing—for a moment I thought she wasn’t going to go through with the execution and when Daario’s sword fell my wife actually yelped and jumped in surprise. The ensuing hiss from the slaves was genuinely unnerving and the resulting chaos shows how fragile Dany’s hold on Meereen is.

Was it a bit on the nose to have even Drogon shun her as well? Maybe, but man, what a cool freaking shot. The improved budget is really showing this year and while he’s no Smaug, Drogon looked awesome. He’s so big! That scene was also accentuated by Djawadi’s score, a reprise of the “sad Dany” theme, which is the main theme combined with the Meereen theme. In the books Drogon doesn’t make an appearance for a much longer time and when he does it’s quite grand—I am positive they are doing that scene, so it might have been more epic for him to show up then, but you gotta give the people what they want and what they want is dragons.

On a sidenote, glad to see they remembered the Dothraki still exist!

*****************

Overall, this episode was a mixed affair and not as good as “The Wars to Come.” No episode of Thrones is ever wholly “bad” in my opinion, but this would fall under the category of weaker installments. They can’t all be winners, and there were still a lot of great moments. I don’t mind changes from the books, but a lot of these changes are less interesting than the books and definitely make way less sense. We’ll see how they play out in future weeks, but sometimes I think it would benefit the Ds to just stick with the source material.

SPOILER SECTION

  • I wonder if Arya’s list has been streamlined because these are the four that Arya will actually kill. Spy reports have shown a scene involving Arya, Tycho Nestoris and Meryn Trant, one of the four, a scene reminiscent of a Winds of Winter chapter Martin released prior to season 4. At the time I figured he released the chapter because the dialogue was being used for the scene in which Arya kills Polliver. In the book chapter, Arya instead kills Raff the Sweetling, now a Gold Cloak and Westerosi escort to Braavos, but with the same dialogue from the show scene. That chapter also seems similar to this upcoming show scene, meaning Meryn Trant will almost certainly take the place of Raff and die. Does this mean Walder Frey, Cersei and the Mountain are close behind? My wife and I have been reading up on Valonqar theories. Though the Valonqar has yet to be mentioned on the show, there is a contingent of book fans who believe Arya is the Valonqar and will kill Cersei disguised as either Tommen or Myrcella (though most think the Valonqar is Jaime).
  • Removing Lady Stoneheart from the equation changes everything for Brienne and Jaime as we are now seeing. I don’t really approve of removing Lady Stoneheart; there might be behind-the-scenes reasons, or it might just be that like with Mance, they didn’t want the impact of the Red Wedding to be lessened by bringing Catelyn back to life. But it’s way cooler than Brienne chasing Sansa to Winterfell or Jaime going on a James Bond mission to Dorne. But it’s clear Stoneheart has been cut, meaning a lot has to change in response. I think what they’re doing with Brienne is leading her to the North so that she can cross paths with Stannis, who she swore to kill as revenge for Renly in season 2. This is an exciting but also worrisome prospect. If that is the direction they’re going, then one of those two characters will have to die, and I don’t want that. The show is so different now that nothing from the books can be considered sacred, but I always had a vision for how Stannis’ arc would end. I assumed that Melisandre’s visions were half-truths: Stannis will lead armies against the Others in the Long Night, but he is not Azhor Ahai reborn. I figured Stannis would lead the North in the first wave of defense against the White Walker invasion and die heroically in the process. But if Brienne kills him, that ain’t happening.
  • The preview for next week gave hints at the greater motivation behind Littlefinger’s marriage plot. It seems like he plans to marry Sansa as Alayne to Ramsay so he can take down the Boltons from within. I’m not sure how that will go down exactly but I think it’s all part of his plan to amass power while the Lannisters are falling apart. He already has the Vale, if he kills the Boltons and reinstates a Stark as the head of Winterfell, he’ll have the Northmen on his side as well. I still think one day Sansa will find out he betrayed her father though, and that she will kill him when the Iron Throne is just within his reach, a fitting end for Westeros’ greatest schemer.
  • I’m pretty sure Trystane is the one who sent the viper threat to Cersei, I’m just not sure why. I think it will be part of his plot to marry Myrcella and make her Queen and him King of the Seven Kingdoms, I just don’t know how yet. But I think they’re doing a classic red herring technique, where you think it’s Ellaria or a Sand Snake, but it’s actually nice little Trystane.
  • Qyburn asking to keep the dwarf’s head is likely a nod to fan theories that Robert Strong, Cersei’s champion, is the Mountain with someone else’s head. Now that that’s confirmed we can continue to debate whose head it is. Probably not that dwarf’s, though. That would be weird.
  • Bronn is another character improved upon on the show, in no small part thanks to Jerome Flynn’s performance. I would like Bronn to survive every other character and be a fun badass forever, but I think it’s safe to say he will die this season. Jaime is too “important” to kill off this far off from the endgame, but Areo Hotah’s gotta behead someone. Someone has to take the place of Arys Oakheart and that person is Bronn. I think he will heroically try to save Myrcella or something, only to be cut down by Hotah. Preemptive R.I.P. Bronn.
  • I think Daario is going to be the one who captures Hizdhar and kills his bodyguard. In the books it’s Barristan and it is his most badass moment but the show has been bizarrely reluctant to let him do what he does best: fight. Since the war with the Yunkish clearly isn’t happening, there is no need for Daario to be used as a hostage, so he should be present when Hizdhar makes his move. The line that tipped me off was during the Mossador execution. Hizdhar says “she should have just taken the traitor’s head in the Great Pyramid and be done with it” to which Daario replies, “funny, I’ve been telling her the same about you.” That felt like set-up for later, but who knows? Maybe Barristan will finally get his moment. He has been more prominent this season now that Jorah is gone.

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