Some memorable moments in the sunnier climates with palpable tension in the capital but traumatic scenes in the north leave a sour taste.
Last week was an embarrassment of riches for our favorite dragons, either ominously flying overhead or ripping somebody in two. This week’s ‘Unbowed, unbent, unbroken’ simmers down to a slow burn as chess pieces are put into place ready to make their play.
We begin at the House of Black and White with Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) continuing to scrub and clean like a medieval Cinderella, only with corpses. In the middle of the night we play another round of the game of faces that sees Arya pushed to the brink of quitting her servitude. Arya is tested by Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) to see whether she’s ready to leave her past behind, “A girl lies, to me, to the many-faced god, to herself.” Jaqen loves his pronouns. Arya demands that they stop playing the game but is met with a hard truth: “We never stop playing.” This idea encapsulates the entire episode in which truth stands for little and only deceit reaps reward. Later Arya offers a dying girl a sweet fable to ease her suffering. After washing the girls corpse Jaqen leads her deeper in the heart of the House of Black and White into a cavernous crypt whose walls and columns are adorned by an endless array of faces. He tells Arya that she isn’t ready to become no one yet. “But she is ready to become someone else.” What does this entail?
Back in the East we catch up with Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) on their bromantic road trip. The usually stoic Mormont opens up about his belief in Daenerys and how it’s difficult to remain cynical after hearing baby dragons sing. A ridiculous sentiment perhaps but Iain Glen’s silky baritone lends everything he says gravitas. The sentiment is cut short by a gang of cutthroats and they’re taken captive but their combined cunning staves off death. Jorah’s prowess in combat promises him to the fighting pits Gladiator style and Tyrion, supposedly in possession of magical genitalia, convinces his captor it would need authentication. The pirate then mutters the immortal words “the dwarf lives until we find a cock merchant.”
Kings Landing is the epicentre of this episodes political strife. Little finger (Aidan Gillen) and Cersei (Lena Headey) face off in a battle of wits with both keeping their cards close to the chest. We catch a glimpse of Baelish’s diablocal ambition that we have been warned about, selling out Sansa in exchange for the north. Later on we have a matriarchal face off between Cersei and Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) and an exchange of tarty barbs. The fanatic sparrows lock away Loras Tyrell after a brief hearing that sees testimony from one his former conquests and of course former employee of Littlefinger or current one perhaps? Margaery (Natalie Dormer) joins her brother under lock and key as a helpless Tommen and smirking Queen mother look on. The anti-gay parade’s attack on the Tyrells, single handedly keeping the kingdom afloat, will certainly have repercussions.
Further south in Dorne Bronn (Jerome Flynn) and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) continue their sensitive diplomatic mission. Whilst trying to spirit away Jaime’s niece/daughter they have a timely convergence with the Sand Snakes and have an underwhelming scrap that’s swiftly ended by Areo Hotah, the new big guy. There wasn’t much in the way of action but Bronn was on his comedy toes with a brilliantly timed “for fucks sake,” we certainly want to see more of Hotah and his mightily impressive spear/sword/axe thing he’s sporting.
Whilst being bathed by one of Ramsay Bolton’s (Iwan Rheon) scorned former lovers Sansa finally shows some agency and brushes aside the veiled threats by claiming her name and home. But this being a wedding this was never going to last. The Weirwood tree from season one’s infamous nude Hodor scene wasn’t enough to ease the sense of peril and uncertainty. Ramsay’s deranged smirk certainly didn’t help. On their wedding night Sansa is berated about her virginity and then brutally raped whilst Reek (Alfie Allen) is forced to watch. The traumatic act is off camera but the noise and Theon’s horrified expression is deeply unsettling. “Reek, I told you to watch. We have known Sansa since she was a girl, now watch her become a woman.” We too have watched her grow and so are left reeling once the credits roll sans music.
The treatment of women on the show is consistently depraved and violent and now Sansa joins the unfortunate ranks of abuse victims. The books use a small throwaway character for Ramsay’s bride: giving the role to the more multi-faceted Sansa on the show could potentially grant event more gravity. Sansa has a story in her own right now and will have one beyond tonight’s episode. However, an excruciating chapter for Sansa seems to be serving a redemptive role for Theon. This episode was fun until we went north! The double acts continue to deliver, Jorah/Tyrion could are endlessly entertaining as are Bronn and Jaime, even if their fighting was a bit lacklustre. The tense face offs in the capital threaten to boil over, trouble is brewing. As per usual.
Game of Thrones airs on Sky Atlantic Mondays at 9pm.