“Promise you’ll protect me” – Shireen Baratheon to Davos….my God, please don’t be foreshadowing!
After the rollercoaster ride that was last week’s episode, Kill the Boy, with its ominous title, was a brilliant reminder of how great this show can be sometimes. Apart from the fact that, on the intro map, the Water Gardens is listed as Dorne. I…um…not sure what happened there. Anyway, without any King’s Landing drama, this week’s episode saw us spending a lot of time up North and across the sea. So let’s start at the Wall.
Jon’s always been a fan favourite, but it’s interesting to see him really take a deserved leadership role, whilst encountering hardships. Moreover, it’s great to see that the King of Grammar, Stannis, is becoming more book-inspired; hopefully, fans of the show will now be able to see why he is such a favourite to book readers. It was even more refreshing, like an ice-cool glass of OJ, to hear Stannis’ ulterior motives instead of just “it’s mine by right” – in this episode, he actually mentions saving the realm from the White Walkers. Previously, it’s just been Melisandre banging on about this, with Stannis uttering his aforementioned mantra. Finally, now, we see that the One True King really does care about protecting his people. However, if TV has taught me anything, it’s that when we get an expositional monologue, or develop a sudden fondness to a character, it probably means they are going to die. This is purely speculation, as book Stannis now spends a few hundred pages trekking through snow, but I fear for the Mannis’ life. Fingers crossed. Will the season end with a Bolton/Baratheon brawl? The title of the episode, Kill the Boy, is taken from a rather pithy quote from Maester Aemon: “kill the boy and let the man be born”. He says this, as we know, to Jon. The meaning of this is pretty straight forward: to become a true leader, Jon must overcome any inhibitions he has about himself (think back to an Alliser Thorne quote – “if [a leader] starts second-guessing himself, that’s the end”). He must metaphorically kill this boy, so that the man inside him may flourish like a flower. But more bad-ass. Of course, with all episode titles, this probably refers to something else. But what….
Before we move on, I thought I’d give a bit of information about the Citadel, which Sam mentions. In the southwest of Westeros lies the oldest known city: Oldtown. This beautiful port city houses a population of around 500,000, equal to that of King’s Landing, but lacks to squalor of its somewhat sister city. Oldtown is governed by the Hightowers, who are powerful allies to the Tyrells. Notable Hightowers include Ser Gerold Hightower, who was the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard during Aerys Targaryen’s rein. Oldtown is home to a structure known as the Citadel. Well, multiple structures to be technical. These buildings act as a college of sorts where maesters are trained. I’m sure we are all familiar with maesters now – essentially the doctors, scholars, scientists and academics of Westeros. You may have noticed, through watching characters such as Luwin, Pycelle or Qyburn, that they wear chains. Each link of the chain symbolises an accomplishment, for example, a bronze link represents knowledge of astronomy, where steel is smithing. As you might imagine, the Citadel also houses the largest library in Westeros.
Anyway, Bolton/Baratheon brawl, etc. etc., “kill the boy”…oh yeah. So I thought that this could also tenuously link to Ramsay’s motifs after Roose announces that his wife Walda is preggo. Ramsay is obviously very worried about his position, but through a heart-warming speech about rape and murder, we learn that Roose does actually kind of care for him. It also allows us to see how evil Roose actually is. Cold, calculating; you would be mistaken for thinking he was a lot like Tywin. But Roose doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty – and beyond. In fact, he rather enjoys it. And so Sansa’s torture begins….
Across the sea then, sad to see that Barristan Selmy is indeed dead. Like I said before, this doesn’t happen in the books, so his death was greeted with a mixed response from many. I am pleased, however, that they addressed how awful it was in the episode – Daenerys says something about him being cut down in an alleyway. But at least Grey Worm still lives! Having served the Mad King Aerys, Barristan served as a font of reason for Dany…but with him gone, one wonders what slightly mad decisions Daenerys might make. Like, you know, burning a possibly innocent man alive. Her quote “we’ll let the dragons decide” could well be a throwback to Aerys, who would often ‘let fire decide’ the fate of those who upset him. Nice to see a bit of gore though, wasn’t it? Feels like it’s been a while. By marrying Hizdahr zo Loraq, Daenerys hopes to bring an end to the bloodshed caused by the Sons of the Harpy. But who is/are the Harpy? Will this appease them? Her story currently parallels what is going on in the books: book Hizdahr, in a similar manner to the show, continuously bugs Daenerys about reopening the fighting pits. Eventually, he outright buys them. Daenerys still proposes marriage, though in a more roundabout way, and he seems a little more eager than he does in the show to accept.
The episode concluded with a Tyrion/Jorah scene. If you look at a map of Essos, you’ll notice that between Volantis (where Tyrion was captured) and Meereen (where Dany resides) is Valyria. You probably have an informed knowledge of Valyria, but the gist of it is this: Valyria was a metropolis of advancement. Years ahead of any other city in the world, Valyria was the grandest of its time. Dragons flew about the skies, and it was also the ancestral home of the Targaryens. One day, however, the Doom came. Nobody really knows why, but a chain of volcanos suddenly erupted, destroying the city and desolating the land for miles around. Now, it’s a wasteland, with many people believing it is cursed and haunted. Jorah choses to navigate part of the waters for two reasons: it’s quicker, and there are no pirates. There is, however, a more serious threat: the Stone Men. We have been introduced to the disease of Greyscale through Shireen Baratheon. She, however, was cured…albeit horrifically scarred. Some aren’t so lucky. Many of these are taken to this region of Valyria, known as the Sorrows, and left. These Stone Men eventually succumb to the disease, robbing them of their wits and, eventually, life. The disease is contracted if they touch your flesh. Think a zombie bite. Oh Jorah… We see here that he is taking on the mantle of a book-only character called Jon Connington – whose story has been completely omitted – who contracts the disease whilst travelling with Tyrion before he is kidnapped. Phew. Anyway, next week’s episode is titled Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken, which, as well all know, are House Martell’s words. Fingers crossed we get to see why they are the most awesomest of the Westeros houses!
This article is to be read after the episode has been seen, as and as a result may contain spoilers up to the episode that it’s covering, but no further. So if you haven’t seen the episode yet, go and watch it. Then come back and read this. Then watch the episode again. Then read this again.
Meereen looks a bit like Aku-Aku from Crash Bandicoot in the opening credits.
Let’s kick off with Arya’s story in Braavos. We saw Braavos very briefly in season 4, when Stannis and Davos visit the Iron Bank to ask for money. But now we get to see the city alive. So, Braavos is one of the Nine Free Cities – that is, cities in Essos (the eastern continent) that do not follow a king. Instead, Braavos is ruled by a Sealord. Cast your mind back to season 1, and the wonderful Syrio Forel (“not today”). Syrio was the First Sword to the Sealord of Braavos. Kind of a big deal. Braavos is a bit like Venice with Britain’s weather. It’s built on a load of canals, so boat travel is the most efficient way of getting around. We follow Arya as she finds the House of Black and White, the episode’s namesake. This is home to the Faceless Men: the organisation of assassins that Jaqen H’ghar is part of. OMG book spoiler – the old man in the books is never actually revealed to be Jaqen, though there were theories, so this is an interesting turn of events. Side note: one other thing that I did notice is that Arya’s list has gotten substantially shorter…no more Thoros, Beric or Mel, or Ilyn Payne. Has she forgiven or just forgotten…?
Sticking in Essos (it’s a pretty gosh darn big place), we caught up with Varys and Tyrion on their way to Meereen via Volantis. Volantis is another of the Free Cities, located at the very south of the map (Braavos is pretty north). Notably Volantians include Talisa – Robb Stark’s baby momma. Whilst we wait for Varys and Tyrion to catch up, let’s travel to Meereen ourselves, kids! As you can see, this episode saw Daenerys making a tough ol’ decision. The title House of Black and White may well refer to Dany’s decision of killing Maran…Meren….Maranana…I can’t remember his name. Not important. That guy. Personally, I think she did the right thing, though as we saw, it led to a riot between the old Masters and the freed slaves. Interesting, parallels can be drawn here with both Robb and Joffrey: Robb had to execute Rickard Karstark for killing his prisoners, just like Daenerys. Joffrey had to run from the lynch mob throwing rocks and poo, just like Daenerys (though maybe not the poo). What does this mean? Who knows!
Over to Westeros. Once again, Brienne’s bad track record proceeded her. Though, I can’t help but think that she didn’t try very hard before running off in a huff….though it did prove how bad-ass is she is. Notice as well, Sansa’s bird-like outfits, mirroring Baelish’s mockingbird sigil. Could the title Black and White refer to them too, or is that too tenuous?
In King’s Landing, we see just how highly Kevan Lannister thinks of his niece. Kevan is very much his brother’s brother. He idolised Tywin, so you can imagine that Tywin’s death has affected him pretty badly. But Kevan ain’t no fool. He can see right through Cersei for what she is. Along with complimenting bumbling (but wonderful) Mace Tyrell, Cersei seems to be slowly manipulating what remains of the Small Council. She obviously hates Pycelle (who doesn’t?) and is trying to worm Qyburn in there. I’ve talked about Qyburn before, but we’ll have a quick recap. We first met him in season 3 in Harrenhal, where he came to serve Roose Bolton. After Jaime lost his hand, Qyburn stitched him up and escorted him and Brienne back to King’s Landing. Qyburn is a Maester, like Pycelle, Aemon and Luwin (RIP). However, Qyburn was banished from the Citadel (their HQ) for…unethical experiments. What these were exactly, we don’t know. But we do know that he used his knowledge to potentially save a dying Gregor Clegane (the Mountain) and he had a curious fascination with the dead dwarf’s head…hmmmm.
At the Wall, Stannis finally starts being awesome like his book counterpart, offering Jon Snow the goddamn North. The letter that Stannis received was from Lyanna Mormont, who is niece of Jeor Mormont (the old Night’s Watch Lord Commander) and cousin of Jorah Mormont. The letter is pretty awesome as it declares that, even though Roose Bolton holds the North and Stannis wants to take it, the Northerners bow to one king, and his name is STARK. Frickin’ awesome. One day, I hope that the Seven Kingdoms are ruled by the Starks and Martells. WHICH BRINGS US NICELY ON TO:
Dorne. Hell yeah. Personally, the Martells are my favourite house. About 300 years before the events of Game of Thrones takes place, Aegon Targaryen, known as Aegon the Conqueror, landed in Westeros with his dragons and armies and tried to take over. The whole country bent the knee, apart from Dorne. The Martells words “Unbowed. Unbent. Unbroken.” is a symbol of their resistance. Throughout the ages, the Martells have often been pissed on, but have never faltered and always risen above it. They are a strong house, somewhat isolated (both geographically and politically) from the rest of Westeros. Our first encounter with the Martells was through the fantastic, late Oberyn. We know that he was bent on revenge against those that murdered his sister, Elia, and her children. Elia, if you remember, was married to Rhaegar Targaryen, Dany’s older brother. The Mountain “raped her. Murdered her. Killed her children.” But you know all this. So the Martells are a bit bitter. But do they incite open war? No. Doran Martell – Oberyn’s older brother and head of the family, Lord of Sunspear – is cleverer than that. We briefly meet Doran in this episode. He is pretty much wheelchair bound due to severe gout (caused by the lavish Dornish lifestyle, some say). Doran may seem weak, but he is patient. He will bide his time, like so many Martells have before him. Partially, this is why I am so scared for Jaime and Bronn going to Dorne. I love the Martells, but gosh darn I hope those two are safe (this is a diversion from the books so I have no idea what’s going to happen!). We also briefly saw Myrcella (who has been recast) walking around the Water Gardens with a young man, Trystane Martell. Trystane is Doran’s son. In the books, he has another daughter, Arienne. Unfortunately, she seems to have been omitted from the show, but it appears though Ellaria Sand, Oberyn’s ex-gf, is taking on her character responsibilities. So there’s a little history lesson to wrap up this week’s episode companion. Now, please join me in staring at Daenerys’ ridiculous eyebrows until the sun rises.