The pace is still quite slow this week, with all the players again being set up for this season’s game. Hopefully the action will begin to start in earnest soon, or this season will be following the example of A Feast For Crows after all - long and meandering. There are occasional highlights of course, from Jon’s harsh decision to Tyrion’s kidnapping, but overall this is yet another gentle episode, setting up what’s to come. For now, while the excitement of Game Of Thrones being back on the air feels fresh, the pace can be forgiven, but if this turns into a season of set up with no payoff then expect some very disappointed (and some unsurprised) fans.
The episode opens with Arya in the House Of Black And White, a storyline that, while not the most action-packed, still holds interest. The mystery is still there, and who wouldn’t want to watch Arya in training with an elite group of assassins? Sure she’s only sweeping the floors, but she’s a go getter, they’ll have her slitting throats in no time. Of course it helps that Maisie Williams is fantastic, and the enigmatic Jaqen is (somewhat) back. The transformation from Arya Stark to No One is quite emotional to watch, but we’re happy Arya gets a new costume this season - she’s been in those brown rags far too long, while almost everyone else gets to enjoy the finest clothes the costume department have to offer.
Jon Snow is also missing out when it comes to the costume department - he’s keeping his blacks which means the same costume as the last four seasons for The Lord Commander. His new position as decision maker for the The Night’s Watch is already causing him to butt heads with some of the rowdier brothers. Janos Slynt, troublemaker and coward that he is, is eager to tell Jon to shove his orders up “up his bastard arse” which obviously no one wants to hear. Jon needs to assert his dominance, or he’ll lose control over his men. This means following his Stark roots and chopping off Janos’s head.
Slynt is slimey up to the end, crowing about how they can’t do this, he’s an important guy etc and then breaking down and begging for forgiveness. Dominic Carter plays Slynt so perfectly that you’d be forgiven for your loud cheering when Longclaw meets his neck. He’s such a love-to-hate character and for that he will be missed. The decision to go all Ilyn Payne on Ser Janos will have huge repercussions for Jon - will this earn him the respect of his men? Or has he just pissed a lot of people off?
Volantis might be a new location but it’s not important enough to warrant its own credit appearance. Shame, we wanted to see a clockwork Long Bridge.
Talking of pissing people off, Margaery is playing a delicate game with Cersei. How far can she push the Queen Mum before Cersei throttles her? Not too far we expect - Cersei might not be as young, but she’s wise to these games and we wouldn’t want to go toe-to-toe with her when it comes to the game of thrones. The fantastically bitchy brunch scene between Margaery and Cersei is a lot of fun to watch and you almost, almost, want to cheer on Cersei - Queen Margaery really needs to be taken down a peg.
Margaery and Tommen’s scenes are excellent, and Tommen is certainly in the running for sweetest kid in Westeros (though he faces fierce competition from the always lovable Pod). Aging up Tommen from the little kid he is in the books to the wide-eyed teenager he is here works perfectly. Yes we’re not seeing much of Ser Pounce, but watching him discover the joys of sex was downright hilarious.
Sansa is busy being married off again, and, poor girl, it only gets worse. She’s being sold off to Ramsay Snow, the nastiest psychopath in all the land, maybe even worse than Joffers was. (We refuse to accept his legitimacy. The North remembers and so does GamesRadar!) Littlefinger obviously has a plan for retaking Winterfell with Sansa as Warden Of The North, and we can only assume with him as her husband. Such. A. Creep. But it’s a dangerous game to play - Ramsay isn’t just some northern lad whose family killed her brother. He’s a deranged lunatic who flays people alive. It’s comforting to know that Brienne is following at a safe distance, and we’re glad the servants are clearly up for a rebellion, but bad things are going to happen if Ramsay is left alone in private with Sansa.
Brienne and Pod’s “rescue mission” is taking the long way round instead of going through Moat Cailin, which means more time traipsing around the wilderness with the comedy duo. Brienne opens up a bit to Pod, and Pod well, he just continues to be perfect. No he can’t ride or fight and he’s only just learned how to start a fire but he is a total sweetie and he’s really motivated. Plus remember that time he went to the brothel? This is Westeros’s best bachelor right here. Line up ladies, for the only available nice guy in the whole Seven Kingdoms.
The closing shots of the episode feature Tyrion being kidnapped by a very unhappy looking Jorah Mormont, obviously to use as leverage to get back into Daenerys’s good graces. Or to cash in on the price on Tyrion’s head with Cersei. Either way Tyrion’s going to be very unhappy, and Varys is going to be very upset.
Who's That Girl?
Recognise this red priestess? Fans of CW’s Arrow should, she’s played by Rila Fukushima also known as Tatsu Yamashiro, the sword wielding badass from Oliver Queen’s past. Fukushima also appeared in The Wolverine. Is this just a passing cameo or is there more to come from Fukushima’s character?
They Said The Thing!
"High Sparrow" gets said a lot this episode, it being the first time we meet meet him.
Backstage With Brienne
Remember last episode when Sansa refused Brienne’s help? Gwendoline Christie has shed some light on this turn of events - in an interview with Entertainment Weekly she says “Sansa says, ‘No.’ But in the script, it says there’s the tiniest look in Sansa’s eyes. The script says the look is telling Brienne: ‘Get the f–k out of Dodge.’” So maybe Sansa isn’t the clueless airhead she used to be.