Our new episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones begins on a very tense note, with Dany in a frosty mood, looking down from on high at two stinking pit slaves. Once she shuts Jorah down, it’s time for Tyrion to roll out the silver tongue and turn this into a job interview. Dany is intrigued, and introduces a bit of role play. It’s a good way to see how the applicant thinks under pressure, and what their values are.
Tyrion defends Jorah, talks him up, qualifies his praise subtly (“any sane man” is a choice phrase), and then distances himself. Even if Jorah could speak, he can’t defend himself, only show his remorse. He accepts his second banishment with tearful silence.
Beneath the Great Sept, they are trying to break Cersei by means of solitary confinement, low-levels of abuse, and withholding water. The Faith Militant have some advisors from the School of the Americas.
Back at Project Mayhem, Arya is improving at the game. Also, them eyebrows on fleek.
Arya’s rocking a Molly Malone cart through Braavos’ fair city, in service of the many-faced god. The Faceless Men apparently see fit to take out crooked insurance men, which is understandable. Arya looks troubled by her assignment, which does not go unnoticed by her ginger antagonist. Capt. Jaquen plays it blithe.
(Tom Wlaschiha, who so charmingly portrays Capt. Jaquen, is German. I see a playful gleam in his eye when he refers to the bottle of poison as a “gift”, but perhaps I am too amused at having spotted this bit of wordplay.)
It’s a hard day in the life when anyone is genuinely happy to see Qyburn. Especially when he is bringing so much bad news that even he can’t be smug about it. This is as plain-spoken and human as we’ve ever seen Qyburn, which should scare Cersei, but somehow does not. He doesn’t turn back into his scary self again until his coded crack at the end about whatever the fuck he is doing with The Mountain.
Another door, another jailer, another captive woman: This time it’s Sansa, who still has enough spirit left to be ripshit mad at Theon for selling her out, and for all the other shit he pulled. All that Theon has left of himself is his shame over his part in destroying the Starks, and that shame is too strong to be hidden from Sansa. It’s a hard fucking day in the life when it counts as good news that two of your brothers aren’t dead, just MIA.
Brutalizing Sansa apparently gives Barry the Bastard some great ideas, and he’s decided he can take on Stannis with 20 men. Lord Flaymate can’t lose here, of course. If Barry’s plan works, it works. If it fails, he doesn’t have to worry about Barry as a usurper or PR nightmare in future.
Back in Dany’s penthouse, Tyrion is getting his drank on and crushing his second interview. He also smooths the way for when Varys finally shows up. And there is frank talk and excellent banter. Nice to see Tyrion matched with someone who doesn’t crack him upside the head or threaten him with cock merchants.
We don’t get to see Tyrion’s reaction when Dany proclaims that she’s going to destroy the entire power structure of Westeros, but I picture his arm twitching as he suppresses the urge to grab his wine cup.
Back at the fighting pits, Ser Jorah has clearly decided that getting hacked to death in front of the woman he worships beats dying of greyscale. It is a hard day in the life.
Bets on whether Cersei takes a plea and confesses her sins to the shoeless commoner that she empowered to raise an army of fanatics? Before you scoff, let’s take a look at her sucking up a puddle of water off a dungeon floor.
Sam’s face is looking a bit chewed up, but all his teeth look to be in place, and none of his facial bones look broken. So he’s learned to take a hit, and none of his internal injuries have bled out. Good signs. And if Gilly has been gang-raped in the last few days, she’s keeping it to herself.
Olly has no one to steward for these days, so he’s keeping busy by bringing Sam chow and questions. Sam is smart but reads people badly when he’s not on his guard. Olly is a kid, but he’s a combat veteran and has taken lives. He’s not asking any of these questions out of idle curiosity or for the sake of debate. He wants to know if he’s being betrayed.
Lord Commander Snow, for his part, wants to know if he’s rowing into the most obvious trap imaginable. It can’t help that his approach to the docks at Hardhome resembles nothing so much as Capt. Willard and company entering Kurtz’s outpost in Apocalypse Now. Instead of Lance the Surfer, he has Dolorous Edd. Instead of Dennis Hopper, he gets Rattleshirt, the dick in the skull hoodie. Would have been a different movie if Tormund Giantbeard was there to beat Dennis to death with his own camera.
This is the halfway point of the episode, and the last half deserves a recap all its own. Which you aren’t getting tonight, sorry.
Abbreviated version: Snow and Giantbeard make a decent double act, and once the diplomacy gets going, they sway all but the Thenns, who no one wants around eating people anyway. Before everyone can pour drinks and sing songs, the dogs get barking and the snows start sliding off the cliffs. And it turns out the Thenns recognize an enemy greater than the Crows.
And we go from Apocalypse Now to a reverse version of the opening of Saving Private Ryan, with thousands trying to get off the fucking beach.
What do we learn? The White Walkers have a chain of command. Giants are fucking badass. Valyrian steel counters the magic ice weapons of the commanders, and kills the fuckers as well as dragonglass. White walker kids are beyond creepy. Walkers can’t swim.
And whoever the dour chap with the ice crown is, he has some serious mojo and knows how to send a message. Lord Commander Snow has another enemy on his list.