One of the best scenes this week has to be one of the most gentle we’ve ever seen on Game Of Thrones. Stannis’s heart to heart with Shireen was touching and beautiful, showing a softer side to the stern would be-King. Kerry Ingram who plays Shireen is just adorable, a perfect mix of vulnerability and strength. Shireen’s had it rough, but she is brave in the face of her mother’s scorn and her disfigurement, and Ingram plays it perfectly.
Bronn and Jaime’s epic adventure to Dorne is turning out to be just as exciting and amusing as expected. Yes we’re Off Book here, but let’s think about what would be happening if it wasn’t Jaime and Bronn. We’d need a whole host of new characters (such as Aerys Oakheart) who we’d have to get attached to before we felt invested in the storyline. This way, while different, is better. Bronn and Jaime are perfect together, like so many Game Of Thrones pairings and we care about both of them. No this isn’t book Jaime, his heart still belongs to Cersei, but there’s still time for him to redeem himself in the eyes of the viewer, and that might just happen on his travels through Dorne.
That longing look when their ship passes Tarth hints at the cracks forming in his affection for Cersei and perhaps provides hope for the reborn Jaime we know and love in the books. One thing we don’t understand though - how is he only just realising that a metal hand is actually useful in a fight? Use it to hit people Jaime! Use it as a shield! Stick a knife on it like Merle from The Walking Dead! There are so many uses for a missing hand - why hasn’t he figured this out yet?
Down in Dorne we’re finally introduced to the Sand Snakes. The shot of Ellaria Sand, swathed in black riding her Dornish stallion through the surf is breathtaking and her rebellious accomplices are as deadly and intriguing as we hoped they would be. There are changes here - third oldest Tyene Sand is now Ellaria’s daughter, not the child of a septa. But she retains the (false) innocence of the book character, and minor tweaks are to be expected. Obara is possibly the most exciting new character here, her deadly precision with the spear proves she is Oberyn’s offspring and we can’t wait to see her in action. Nym is lethal too and the trouble these three will cause is going to amp up the excitement in the second half of the season. We absolutely cannot wait.
Dorne has been added to the growing list of named areas in the title sequence. It’s interesting to note that the naming convention is a little different here, as unlike everywhere else Dorne isn’t the name of a city/castle, but a whole region like The North or Slaver’s Bay.
Sansa and Littlefinger continue to travel further and further Off Book. By now Sansa should be disguised as Alayne Stone, Littlefinger’s fake bastard daughter, with arrangements to marry Harrold Hardyng (aka Harry The Heir) and become ruler of The Vale. This new plan to wed Sansa off to Ramsay, have her saved by Stannis and installed as Wardeness Of The North (couldn’t she just be Warden? Did they need to clarify she’s a woman?) is similar in spirit - either way Littlefinger is obviously going to try to marry her and gain her titles. The stakes are slightly raised here in comparison to the books however - everyone in Winterfell knows Sansa is alive now, as opposed to her identity being a secret, and Ramsay is a whole barrel of crazy that Sansa would be safe from in the Eyrie. Hopefully this change will save us from some of the meandering boredom that is so prevalent in both A Feast For Crows and A Dance With Dragons.
There are lovely parallels to season one during Sansa’s visit to the crypts. Her finding the feather Robert Baratheon placed on his beloved Lyanna’s grave is a clever touch and could symbolically show how far Sansa has come - from the helpless girl whose marriage was arranged in that very crypt, to the capable woman Littlefinger believes her to be now. Whether she is capable remains to be seen, we’re not sure even Dark Sansa can handle the horror that is Ramsay Snow.
While we’re in the crypts of Winterfell we’re also treated to a lovely bit of Thrones backstory, with Littlefinger telling us about the infamous Tourney at Harrenhal. We don’t often get to experience Westerosi history (except in those dodgy sexposition scenes) and it’s nice to see that the showrunners are bringing that history to the fore this season, first with Cersei’s flashback, and now with this conversation.
We’re also treated to another tale of Rhaegar Targaryen’s past by Barristan Selmy, who regales Dany with a story about her chivalrous brother. Barristan held Rhaegar in the highest regard, and his story of busking in the streets of King’s Landing with the Prince shows a different side to the loyal knight - it adds a touch of character to Selmy and provides something for Dany to aspire to, although we think it will be hard for her to gain such admiration from the divided peoples of Slaver’s Bay.
The closing fight scenes between The Sons Of The Harpy, Grey Worm and The Unsullied were both exciting and really quite disappointing. Lore-wise you’d think The Unsullied could fend off The Sons with ease, but apparently Grey Worm was the only capable fighter on duty that day. Barristan’s entrance at the last minute is utterly triumphant, and it’s amazing to see the legendary swordsman go toe-to-toe with The Sons. We can only hope that this isn’t the last time we see him fight, although it looks like we might be in for some serious heartbreak in episode five.
The Sand Snakes
This season’s most exciting newcomers are the bastard daughters of fan favourite Oberyn Martell. Sexual liberal Oberyn has many daughters, all of them beloved by the people of Dorne. The eldest is Obara, a hot tempered and fierce warrior. Next is Nymeria, daughter of a noble woman in Volantis and the Red Viper and just as lethal as her older sister. Third in line is Tyene, who appears to be sweet and innocent but like her sisters is deadly. There are five more Sand Snakes (Oberyn is really good at making kids, unsurprisingly): Sarella, Elia, Obella, Dorea and Loreza.
They Said The Thing!
This week’s episode title isn’t said in English, instead we hear it in Low Valyrian, the language commonly used in Slaver’s Bay. We’d try to write it out but we’d only get the spelling wrong.
The Tourney At Harrenhal
It’s not often that Thrones references the reason for Robert’s Rebellion and the downfall of the Targaryen dynasty, so it’s great to hear about the pebble that set off the landslide from Littlefinger. Lord Whent’s tourney at Harrenhal was ostensibly held to celebrate his daughter and to flash some cash, but Varys believed that it was a set up by Prince Rhaegar so that he could meet with the high lords there to discuss removing The Mad King from power.
The Faith Militant
The newly reinstated Faith Militant were previously outlawed by Maegor the First, after rising in rebellion against the Targaryen reign. Maegor, also known as The Cruel, earned this name by offering a gold dragon or a silver stag for the heads of those in the Faith Militant. After the death of Maegor, King Jaehaerys offered amnesty to those still fighting as part of the Faith Militant in return for their disbandment. The religious fanatics had been disbanded for centuries by the time of their reinstatement.
Greyscale is a disease that leaves the skin looking like stone, with it slowly spreading across the body until it kills the afflicted. Shireen Baratheon may be cured, but in most places Greyscale is fatal. The Stone Men are sufferers of greyscale in the last stages of the disease, where the sufferer becomes deranged and dangerous. Contact with the infected carries a high risk of infection and so The Stone Men are isolated in The Sorrows in Essos, with occasional provisions being shipped to them by Triarchs of Volantis.