If the Game of Thrones season 5 premiere was all about resolving the many cliffhangers from season 4, this week’s episode puts several characters on new paths. Arya Stark gets a new home, Jon Snow gets a new job, Jaime Lannister has a new mission and Daenerys Targaryen makes a decision that could undo everything she’s accomplished.
Arya’s New Home
Arya finally arrives in Braavos, a Venice-like city filled with canals. The captain takes her to the House of Black and White where she can find who she’s looking for, Jaqen H’ghar. But when she knocks on the black and white doors, a mysterious man answers and says there’s no one named Jaqen living there. The door is slammed in Arya’s face and she sits on the steps all night, in the pouring rain, repeating the names of the people she wants to kill: Cersei, Walder Frey, the Mountain, Meryn Trant. That’s a much shorter list than usual. I guess she’s given up hating Ilyn Payne and the Brotherhood Without Banners, and maybe she somehow heard about Tywin’s death.
The next morning she gives up, throws the coin into the river and walks away. Maisie Williams is fantastic as usual in these scenes. Her facial expressions are absolutely hilarious and bode well for a future in comedy if she wants one.
Arya decides to walk the streets of Braavos, slicing a pigeon’s head off for her supper. She gets harassed by some hoodlums but pulls out Needle to threaten them. Damn, she is such a total bad-ass. But what really scares the guys off is the arrival of the mysterious man from the House of Black and White who shows up to take Arya back.
At the House of the Black and White, the man gives Arya back the coin she threw in the river before changing his face to reveal that he’s actually Jaqen H’ghar! And he’s using the original face we last saw way back at the end of season 2. He explains that he isn’t named Jaqen, he is No One, and that is who Arya must become. She’s confused, but agrees to go inside anyway.
Brienne Finds Sansa
Of all the taverns in all the Seven Kingdoms, Brienne and Podrick happen to walk into the one where Sansa and Littlefinger are eating. Littlefinger reveals to Sansa that the message he got last week was the acceptance of a marriage proposal.
Brienne comes over to talk to them, announcing that she swore an oath to Catelyn Stark to protect her daughters. Littlefinger points out that Renly and Catelyn both died under Brienne’s watch, making her a pretty terrible bodyguard. Sansa agrees and, just like Arya, she turns down Brienne’s offer.
Littlefinger’s guards attack her, but Brienne escapes and a horse chase ensues, one that ends with Podrick losing his horse and almost getting killed until Brienne returns to save him. She slices and dices the men (and their horses and swords) with her Valyrian steel Oathkeeper. Brienne refuses to take “No” for an answer, deciding to follow Sansa anyway because she doesn’t trust Littlefinger.
A New Threat in Dorne
Cersei receives her daughter Myrcella’s necklace, which she perceives as a threat from Dorne, home of the late Oberyn Martell. Jaime vows to secretly go to Dorne and bring their daughter back home, safe and sound. Since it must be a covert mission, Jaime enlists Bronn for back-up by undoing Bronn’s betrothal to the dim-witted Lollys Stokeworth.
The Lannisters have good reason to be worried because Oberyn’s lover Ellaria Sand is back in Dorne and she’s out for blood. She wants to send Cersei pieces of Myrcella, one by one, as retribution. But Oberyn’s brother, Prince Doran, refuses, preferring to let it go and not make a fuss. Ellaria doesn’t back down, saying the Sand Snakes (aka Oberyn’s bastard daughters) support her. Between seasons 4 and 5, Ellaria Sand went from being a gentle lover into a bad-ass bitch and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Back in King’s Landing, Cersei takes control of the Small Council, making Margaery Tyrell’s father the new master of coin and Qyburn the master of whispers, replacing Varys. Qyburn is that creepy maester who loves collecting decapitated heads for his experiments. She wants Tywin’s brother Kevan to be master of war, but he refuses to be her puppet and instead goes back home to Casterly Rock.
Jon Stark of Winterfell?
Stannis is disappointed that Jon Snow showed mercy by shooting Mance Rayder instead of letting him burn alive. But the issue quickly turns to the fact that the wildlings will never follow Stannis, and neither will the northern houses which are still loyal to the Starks.
So Stannis makes an interesting proposition. He offers to officially turn Jon Snow into Jon Stark, making him the rightful heir to Winterfell and ensuring that all of the northern houses will support Jon and, in turn, Stannis.
Kit Harington proves that he’s more than just a hunk in these scenes, beautifully capturing the complicated sadness and joy of a man being offered the only thing he’s ever wanted, but it being in direct conflict with the vows he made as a brother of the Night’s Watch. Should Jon abandon his vows to become a Stark?
Despite Samwell thinking this is a fantastic deal, Jon refuses. If he breaks his oath as a brother of the Night’s Watch, he wouldn’t feel like he deserved to be Lord of Winterfell. That is one honorable man.
The Lord Commander Election
At the election for the 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, the two candidates have their proxies speak on their behalves. Sam isn’t impressed with either choice, so right before the voting begins he speaks up and gives an impassioned speech for Jon Snow to be the new Lord Commander. He mocks Alliser’s proxy, Janos Slynt, before talking about how Jon Snow was a true leader during the battle.
The vote is a tie between Jon and Alliser, but then Maester Aemon pulls out the final vote…for Jon Snow! Jon Snow is the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch! Now that’s change we can believe in.
Also at Castle Black, Stannis Baratheon’s grayscale-deformed daughter Shireen teaches Gilly to read, bringing together two of the sweetest, most innocent and endearing characters on the show. There’s a tender scene of Gilly talking about how two of her sisters died from greyscale, but it’s broken up by Shireen’s mom who doesn’t want her talking to wildlings.
Dany Makes a Deadly Decision
Daario helps the Unsullied track down a member of the Sons of the Harpy. Dany meets with her Small Council (Barristan Selmy, Daario Naharis, Mossador representing the former slaves and Hizdahr zo Loraq representing the former masters) to decide what to do with the prisoner. Mossador wants to execute him, but everyone else urges Dany’s to give the man a fair trial.
Dany agrees to a trial after Barristan tells her about how her father earned the title of the Mad King by ruthlessly murdering his enemies, encouraging her to take a different path.
Unfortunately, Mossador goes rogue and kills the prisoner anyway, nailing him to his door with a message in blood saying “Kill the Masters.” He did it for Dany, hoping she’d be happy with him. She isn’t.
She brings him out in public, in front of the former masters on one side and the former slaves chanting “Mhysa” on the other. She tells them what happened and that Mossador betrayed her by killing the prisoner without a trial. She says the punishment is death, but the former slaves love Mossador and cry out for mercy. She listens to their pleas, but then she gives Daario a nod and he beheads Mossador.
The crowd falls silent. And then they begin to hiss and throw rocks at Dany and the masters. The Unsullied rush her to safety, but a full-scale riot is breaking out and the Mother of Dragons may have just lost the love of the people with one brutal decision.
At night she feels all alone and walks out onto her balcony. That’s when she sees her one free dragon, Drogon, perched atop her temple. She’s happy to see him, reaches out to touch him, but then Drogon flies away once again. Dany is now mother to no one.
Next week on Game of Thrones: Margaery gets married for the third time and Cersei meets the High Sparrow.
(Image courtesy of HBO)