It was an episode of unions and potentially unpleasant alliances last night. One wedding completed (and thankfully lacking any pigment-related modifiers) and another one planned, a possible detente at the Wall, and a dwarf kidnapping; beat *that*, Good Wife.
We still have our outliers: Arya is hellbent on becoming a Faceless Man, and Jon Snow is (for now) eschewing any alliance with Stannis Baratheon, but events are unfolding that will likely see a certain Lannister in front of a certain Queen by season's end, and they're setting up some kind of weird Brienne/Stannis/Bolton hoedown as well. I boldly predict more violence. And possibly boobs.
Locations (* = new): King's Landing, Moat Cailin, Winterfell, The Wall, Braavos, Meereen
Sers Not Appearing In This Episode: Jaime Lannister, Bronn of the Blackwater, Daenerys Targaryen, Doran Martell, Ellaria Sand
We start off in Braavos, where Arya (Maisie Williams) is learning the life of a Faceless Man is pretty unglamorous. Lots of "Valar morghulis/valar dohaeris," sweeping floors, and Jaqen H'ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) telling her, "There is only one god. A girl knows his name, a girl knows his gift." At first glance, the House of Black and White looks like a medieval Kevorkian center, and Arya seems strangely unprepared for what goes on in a temple devoted to assassins.
But in order to begin her training, Arya must become "no one." Jaqen: "A man wonders how 'no one' came to be surrounded by Arya Stark's things." Becoming a Faceless Man means divesting oneself of all your stuff (though apparently not Needle, which she buries in a wall). Her reward for ditching her worldly possessions? Corpse preparation. Woo ... hoo?
In King's Landing, a new king means a new wedding. On this go around, it's Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Margaery (Natalie Dormer) tying the knot, much to Cersei's (Lena Headey) consternation. Anyway, Margaery's days of "always a bridesmaid" are over, and she makes up for it with a gusto I'm sure Tommen appreciates. Of course, the post-coital glow has barely dimmed when the new Queen starts angling to get Cersei out of town.
And thus the stage is set for a truly monumental cat fight. Tommen gently suggests to Cersei that she return to Casterly Rock "for her own happiness." Cersei angrily seeks out her new daughter-in-law, who barely gets past the perfunctory hug before starting in with the zingers: "I wish we had some wine for you. It's a bit early in the day for us;" "Queen Mother or Dowager Queen?" Don't use all your best material up at once, Mar-Jerry Seinfeld.
In Winterfell, Theon/Reek (Alfie Allen) realizes the Boltons don't have the Flayed Man as their banner for nothing. Doesn't Ramsay realize he'll never get an HGTV series hanging skinless corpses everywhere (SyFy, on the other hand)? Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) isn't happy with Ramsay's (Iwan Rheon) ... administrative techniques, but knows that Tywin's death means they're on their own, and he has a plan to solidify their hold on the North.
Specifically, another wedding, this time it's Ramsay and Sansa (Sophie Turner) who'll be enjoying wedded something-approximating-bliss. It's a delicate strategy for Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen): accept the alliance for the time being and figure out a good time to kill Bolton, all while keeping Cersei at bay. Selling Sansa on the idea is a little tougher, but telling her this is the best way to avenge her family appears to work. For now. Ramsay even acts the gentlemen, but who are those perturbed young women looking on? Are they actually *angry* that Ser Castrator is off the market?
Pod (Daniel Portman) and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) share a moment in their burgeoning relationship. Brienne agrees to teach the former squire to fight, and then relates the unhappy story about how she came to be in Renly's service. She hasn't forgotten who killed her former BFF, so watch out Stannis.
Speaking of, new Lord Commander Jon Snow (Kit Harington) rejects Stannis' (Stephen Dillane's) generous offer, and learns the King means to march on Winterfell in short order, he also offers some friendly advice (in an episode of great exchanges, the following -- "I heard it was best to keep your enemies close." "Whoever said that didn't have many enemies" -- is gold). Davos (Liam Cunningham) stays behind to offer his two cents. Specifically, "As long as the Boltons rule the North, the North will suffer." Could Jon team up with Stannis?
And it's time to bid adieu to Janos Slynt (Dominic Carter), who learns a quick lesson about following the orders of the Lord Commander. Stannis and Ser Alliser (Owen Teale) appear to gain some (more) respect for "Lord Snow" as well (Alliser being named First Ranger probably didn't hurt, and Jon knows it).
Oh, and since we haven't gotten our requisite boob action this episode, lets have the High Septon (Paul Bentley) getting ready to "minister" to some hookers dressed up like the Seven. That is, until Lancel (Eugene Simon) and the Sparrows show up. He pleads with the Small Council to intervene (can I just say how hilarious Lord Martell's obliviousness is?), and Cersei sees another opportunity.
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Namely, she seeks out the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce), who appears to be a reasonable man. Cersei promises to do "everything necessary" to maintain the faith, because that never backfires. She then gives Not Maester Qyburn (Anton Lesser) an urgent message for Littlefinger. What could it be? More importantly, was that ZOMBIE MOUNTAIN in Qyburn's lab?
For a guy who used to be Hand of the King, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is kind of an idiot, and just can't avoid taking a walk on the streets of Volantis. They come upon a Red Priestess talking up the Dragon Queen, but no time or that; there's a brothel! And performance anxiety. Buck up little camper, it happens to everybody (uh, so I hear). As luck would have it, good old Jorah (Iain Glen) is hanging out in the same whorehouse, and he seems to think delivering Tyrion to Daenerys will return him to the queen's good graces. And with that, it appears our Tyrion/Varys road show is over.
Stuff That Will Piss Off Book Purists: One more time: Jaqen H'ghar? Also, it was never publicly acknowledged, by Brienne or anyone, that Renly liked to, uh, putt from the rough; it took a LOT longer for Arya to get into the House of B&W; Littlefinger never did this dance with the Boltons, or even met them that I recall; Sansa was never betrothed to Ramsay Snow (that honor went to Jeyne Poole disguised as "Arya"); Tyrion spent most of book four and five trying to reach Daenerys, looks like that'll happen before episode 6 of this season.
Next Week: Sons of the Harpy! Sand Snakes! Religious intrigue!