Programming Note: These reviews are written from the perspective of someone who has not read books. They contain liberal speculation as to future developments, but these are based only on what has aired on the show so far (not even including the Next Week On trailers), and thus are intended to be safe for the spoiler-averse. That means NO MENTIONS OF THE BOOKS WHATSOEVER IN THE COMMENTS. DOESN’T MATTER IF IT IS THINGS THAT HAVE ALREADY OCCURRED OR CAN NO LONGER OCCUR AT THIS POINT IN THE SHOW, OR PREDICTIONS I MAKE THAT ARE DEMONSTRABLY WRONG. IF YOUR COMMENT INCLUDES THE WORDS “IN THE BOOKS”, DON’T POST IT.
Prior recaps can be found in here.
“We’re often stuck with the names our enemies give us.”
The High Sparrow tells Cersei (sometimes known as “The Mother Of Madness”) this is no big deal, and while folks like The Mountain, the Blackfish, the Red Viper, or Queen Of Thorns might nod along, those like The Imp, The Spider, Reek, or The Kingslayer would disagree. Names are damn near everything in Westeros. Cersei is feeling this pointedly after Margaery humiliates her by musing on which lesser title she should address her mother-in-law by. It took three tries to make it stick, but Marge, as the wife to King Tommen (first of his name), can finally call herself Baratheon. And having finally found a king who is really (really, really) interested in what she’s selling, she wastes no time manipulating her new husband into sending his mother packing. She’s feeling smug for the moment, but something tells me that particular lioness still has claws, and that Marge’s brother will be the next to feel them.
But the suddenness of her son’s turn leaves Cersei seeking allies in unexpected, and unexpectedly religious, corners, since the Lannister name doesn’t mean what it once did. Littlefinger (also not a name he gave himself) spells this out for Roose Bolton, after Bolton tells him that Sansa’s virtue does not interest him, only her name. It’s a name the North remembers, and one that feels strangely ascendant this year, as the Lannister’s wanes without their ever having lost a battle or important family member to outside forces. Bronn may have thought he was blowing smoke last week when he told his fiancée about what goes around always coming around, but he wasn’t entirely wrong. The Lannisters held sway through fear and (the appearance of) riches, which worked great right up until they look momentarily weak, and then people start jumping ship awfully fast.
Whereas the Starks get nearly wiped off the map, and it only seems to have intensified the North’s loyalty to its fallen lords. Or, for a small scale version of the same principle, Stannis’s ruthlessness may have made short work of his brother on the field, but he doesn’t realize that Renly’s small kindnesses left a legacy. And while this is not a show where a character expressing a desire for revenge guarantees they will get their shot at it, Brienne (make that “Brienne The Beauty”) is a formidable, determined legacy.
I can’t believe that Littlefinger really means to allow Sansa to stay with the people that murdered his beloved Catelyn for any length of time, but the Boltons convince themselves to play along because they understand the power in a name. You could ask Theon about that, if he still answered to Theon, and he’d tell you Ramsay can only make a plausible match for a lady because of a royal decree that gave him a higher name than “Snow”. It’s the same offer Jon turns down from Stannis, as we knew he would. But I didn’t expect him to display the level of immediate political acumen he does here, shrewdly determining that while he needs to make a show of respect to Lord Allister, he can afford to make an early example of Lord Janos The Useless. The scene, like those with Robb and Theon before him, calls back to Ned’s execution of the deserter in the pilot, and Jon seems to have taken that particular lesson to heart, even if he didn’t take the name.
Also stepping away from the Stark name is Arya, trying to become “no one”, but she can’t bring herself to throw away Needle. And you know, I get it. Besides the considerable sentimental value, the little blade has gotten her out of plenty of scrapes over the….man, how long has it been since she went on the run? A year? Two? I have completely lost track.
The Arya storyline should be one of the best on paper – one of my favorite characters, with the most to avenge of anyone, getting trained in supernatural violence skills that will enable her to take that vengeance? Why isn’t this more exciting? It all feels a little genericly Karate Kid-ish, where she is required to do menial work and let her expectations go before she can get to the ass-kicking. Jaqen’s a pretty cool Miyagi figure, but we’ve already seen him throw down, so having him play coy isn’t building much mystique or anticipation. It’s strange that 15 minutes of time with a favorite character in a cool new setting does less to excite me than a couple seconds of a sheet flapping in the laboratory of a character I barely know, but them’s the breaks.
But something that is getting my motor running is Jorah butting into the Tyrion/Varys road trip. He’s a fool if he thinks that the Imp (who even in a brothel where he’s supposed to stay incognito, struggles not to fall back on his family name) will buy him back into Dany’s good graces, but just the promise of these characters interacting is tantalizing. And if Varys talking to his former spy gets us some more insight into how exactly his loyalties developed from the beginning of the series, I…
Damn it, is it Sunday yet? Oh come on!