The House Of Black and White: This episode of Game Of Thrones gets off to a beautiful start when we get to see the interior of The House Of Black And White. While Benioff and Weiss have almost completely altered the books plot line this season, it appears they paid immaculate attention to the chapters describing the look of Arya’s new home. The set design is outstanding, with vivid imagery from every major religion we have seen in the Game Of Throne universe. Here, we learn from Jaqen H’ghar that the god worshipped at the House Of Black and White is a singular entity, or The Many-Faced God. Meaning all other Gods in the Game Of Throne’s universe are in their belief one being. This episode really showcases the entire process of the temple, although there are some doors we have yet to see beyond.
We also get a glimpse of Arya’s restlessness. Clearly she did not anticipate that her dreams of becoming an assassin and taking revenge would involve sweeping the floors. The face-less men almost seem like they received their training tactics right out of The Karate Kid, by making their disciples do all of the menial labour in order to train them for the bigger tasks. The biggest sacrifice we see for Arya this episode is the removal of her past. She has to make a decision whether or not she truly belongs in this religion and if she wants this to be her life. Her choice is made when we see her willingly part with Needle, her beloved sword, and most prized possession.
Arya Stark is no more, and in her place is “no-one”.
Kings Landing Tommen and Margaery finally get married, and wasting no time they quickly consummate the marriage to ensure the new Highgarden, Baratheon power house isn’t interrupted by any pesky wine poisoning this time. Here we see Margaery finally dig her claws into King Tommen. She is using her new position as romantic paramour in order to manipulate Lannister’s last true power, Cersei, out of King’s Landing. This is what Margaery Tyrell has wanted for so long, and she clearly hesitates when Tommen asks her if their marriage feels “odd” to her.
Tommen then attempts to convince Cersei to leave King’s Landing, and return to the Lannister city of Casterly Rock. Cersei is not having none of that, and instantly heads to confront Margaery Tyrell. She does it as only Cersei Lannister can, with an offer of friendship and support. However Cersei is shaken in this confrontation, you can see the fear in her face as Margaery Tyrell rips her apart with a smile and a quip. Things Margaery wouldn’t have dared declare before her marriage, and yet now that she is married she doesn’t attempt to shy away from telling Cersei exactly who is boss. It appears Cersei is defeated, however not all is as it seems.
Once The High Septon is ripped from a brothel by the Sparrows a new religious movement in Westeros (Lancel is seen as one in the pilot episode), Cersei decides to remove the High Septon from power, and replace him with the head of the Sparrows. Portrayed excellently by Jonathan Pryce, the High Sparrow may be a pivotal role in whatever Cersei’s plans may be. In prior seasons we rarely see Cersei getting her hands dirty, she uses envoys like Littlefinger and Varys to get her deeds done. Now that she is dropping down to their level a true sign of desperation.
We also witness Qyburns monstrous experiments, one of which is showing signs of life. It appears to be the remains of the Mountain, being revived by some concoction of science, Qyburn is becoming a natural Dr. Frankenstein. Game Of Thrones has its first mad scientist, and the universe is better for it.
Winterfell This is where the bulk of the surprises come from this episode. Seen briefly in the opening intro with the Bolton’s flayed man, Winterfell is in the midst of being repaired after being taken by The Iron Born during the War Of The Five Kings. During last season we witness Theon (now going by Reek) assist the Boltons in capturing the essential Castle.
This season is appears Ramsay is taking it as his new base of operations. In order to maintain their hold on the North, the Bolton’s need to use a marriage to prove to the rest of the Northern houses they still hold by their traditions. But who? What house has always held the North? The Starks. Roose Bolton and Petyr Belish have made a marriage pact in order to wed Sansa Stark and Ramsay Bolton. Along with this, the Eyriewill now officially enter the war on the side of the Boltons.
This is an extremely risky move by both Littlefinger, and the Boltons. It’s a giant middle finger to Casterly Rock, and an outward defiance of Cersei Lannister. I feel like this marriage pact will significantly alter the outcome of the Stannis vs. Roose war that is no doubt on the horizon. However things may not always be as they seem. Petyr Belish loved Catelyn Stark, she was his greatest love. The only reason Petyr has done so much for Sansa is because she has grown to resemble her mother. Why is this important? Because the Red Wedding happened, and if you believe the North remembers, you best believe Littlefinger does to. The Bolton’s played an enormous part in the Red Wedding, and Littlefinger is not the type of man to forgive past sins. While this may be very bad news for Sansa, as we all now the savagery of Ramsay, it may well be exactly with Littlefinger wants to be: standing side by side with his enemy with the sole intend of destroying him. This does however raise the question, what happened to the fake Arya we saw last season? Did she die on her way to the North, or will she still have a part to play? It seems odd in the show continuity to have her introduced, and never brought up again.
Hot on Littlefinger, and Sansa’s tail are Brienne and Pod. They have gone to great lengths to hunt down Petyr, but now that they have arrived what can they hope to achieve? This seems like the biggest of death missions for the two characters. They have to somehow break into Moat Cailin and rescue Sansa Stark, who made it quite clear she had no interest in being rescued. While they brood, and ponder what they will do, we receive an alternate story of how Podrick Payne came to be in Tryion’s service. This story seems to directly contradict what we saw happen in season 2. Podrick saves Tryion from being killed on the Blackwater and is made a Knight for it. The show is either attempting to rewrite it’s own story, or Podrick is blatantly lying to Brienne which there doesn’t seem to be any point in doing so. If this is an oversight from the writer’s its a pretty big one.
Stannis quickly announces to Jon that he is leaving the Wall in order to attempt to retake Winterfell. This is a pretty quick march, and seems very sudden. Where does Stannis hope to get the men to make his grand war? He seems to have bought plenty of sell swords last season with support from the Iron Bank of Bravos but it is unclear how effective these men will be once they go up against the brutal temperatures of the North. Likewise it seems to leave the Wildlings with Jon rather quickly, with no fight at all. It shows that Stannis has a trust in Jon that runs family deep. Eddard is referenced by Stannis early in their conversation, and it goes to show while Stannis says he died unnecessarily due to honor it is clear Stannis (who himself is a made hard set by his own moral code) respects Jon for the similarities with his father. Davos confirms this by letting Jon know that Stannis really does see something in him.
An interesting heart to heart happens between Jon and Davos, but Jon seems to show some pretty hostile contempt for the onion knight. Will the words of Davos shape Jon decision to help Stannis win the war? Only time will tell. We also see the end of one of Westero’s slimiest denizens with Janos Slynt rejecting the command of Lord Commander Jon Snow. The contempt, and ignorance Slynt shows towards Jon leaves him with no choice. He must show the men his true valor, and cause them to fear him. Slynt leaves the Wall as he came to it, begging for mercy.
Tryion finally convinces Varys to let him out of his box this episode. We really get to see some beautiful shots of this foreign land. Volantis has not really been touched on at all by the show, and the short ten minutes we see manages to flesh out the entire area drastically. We get to see how Daenerys‘ capture of Meeren has affected the entire continent. There are splatters of Red Priests, and prostitutes shaping themselves in her image. It seems all of Volantis is in love with The Dragon Queen.
The episode ends with a surprised Tryion being captured by Jorah Mormont, who no doubt intends to trade Tryion to Daenerys in order to get back into her favor. A shocking final image, that leaves the audience wondering what will happen next.
Overall this was a very interesting episode, that could have some big oversights if certain plot elements are not touched upon later this season. In terms of set design, cinematography, and performances it was splendid. The writing is where some of the issues lie. It is very hard to judge an episode before seeing how the entire season plays out, but this seems to be the biggest turning point from the Books to the show. A big gamble that hopefully plays out spectacularly.
Check out the preview for next weeks episode below and click here for to read last weeks review of Episode 2!