And so we begin the second part of the weekly followup for non-readers. Part 1, featuring the North, King’s Landing and Vaes Dothrak, can be found here.

Braavos

I feel the winds of winter as they lick across the land“Cersei Lannister”, with a playful jab to the book readers

After yet another training montage, Arya’s adventure finally takes a new turn with an assignment that makes both spring into action and reflect on her own past. Based partially on the sample chapter “Mercy” from the upcoming sixth book The Winds of Winter, this particular story closes the last written pieces of Arya’s journey.

The story of origins of the Faceless Men, brought up here by Jaqen, is crucial to understanding who they are and what their true agenda is. Started reportedly among the slaves of Valyrian Freehold, Faceless Men were a proper secret society, an assassin’s guild as we know it. At that time, Valyria has reigned over the entire southern shore of Essos, from Pentos to the west to Astapor in the Slaver’s Bay to the east. Faceless Men have fled Valyria and founded Braavos far away from the Freehold’s domain. The city’s origin – a safe haven for ex-slaves – makes it the only Free City to condemn slavery, which is brought up when a pirate ship carrying captured wildlings from Hardhome gets intercepted by the Sealord of Braavos.

What’s the true purpose of the organization, then? Well, it is yet to be revealed, and all we can do is guess. Faceless Men are referenced back in season one as ludicrously expensive to hire, and yet they seem to be already working behind the scenes of the political intrigue. There is a man matching the description of the man Arya saw Jaquen H’gar turn into after they departed from Harrenhal. We see him in the prologue of A Feast for Crows, hinting towards something suspicious going on in one of the subplots. That arc might get discarded altogether, but there is still a possibility of it being used in the future, so I’ll leave it there.

All points towards the show scrapping the involvement of Faceless Men in other matters, though. One of the events they’ve directly caused in the books was Balon Greyjoy’s death – there are visions and other evidence pointing towards that answer. Of course it worked out quite nicely anyway, with Euron being introduced right as he did the deed himself instead of hiring somebody else to do it. However, if we are about to continue this way, the sole purpose of Facelss Men will be Arya’s growth and nothing more.

As for the stage play, it’s both a loose adaptation of the Mercy chapter and an ingenious meta-commentary to the show itself. One scene we see a sudden cleavage exposure, perhaps the most overdrawn and superfluous nudity the show has ever provided, only to be greeted the very next scene with a full glory of a flaccid member, proudly held by its owner.

The Iron Islands

I will build the largest fleet the world has ever seenYara Greyjoy, vowing to make Iron Islands great again

Speaking of male genitalia related issues, the Iron Islands plot makes a good few dick jokes, with Euron joyfully pointing out his advantage in that field over the Greyjoy siblings.

Question raises: Are the people of the Iron Islands stupid? Why are they following Euron? How are they gonna build all these ships? And what would they do if Euron didn’t cough up all that seawater?

Short answer, yes, they are quite stupid. Long answer, they are reavers who have never developed a stable economy or agriculture, and the art of diplomacy is to them as foreign as the moral wrongness of incest is to some great houses of Westeros. Yara Greyjoy (Asha in the books) gains a sizeable support during the Kingsmoot by offering to take a new approach – she wants to make peace with the North at the price of gaining a few harbor towns for good, turning the pillaging viking-esque custom into actual, long-lasting conquest. Who she runs against is not Euron, initially, but her other uncle Victarion, written out from the show. She is even willing to give up her claim if he makes her his Hand of the King – but the Ironborn have never known such position, and Victarion declines.

The drowning ritual is what the Ironborn conduct in place of baptism, and it involves the drowned priest performing a CPR on the drowned individual, which makes the whole proccess a little less insane. Even so, some noble houses in the Iron Islands are said to “cheat” the ritual, not drowning their newborns as throughly as they should. Some men are drowned more than once, as evident with Euron here, for whom this is at least the second instance. His other brother, Aeron Greyjoy, not named explicitly in the show but credited as the priest performing the ritual, drowned a good few times – not necessarily out of his own volition, as the Greyjoy Rebellion had him cast ashore and captured by the Lannisters.

Fact remains: The Iron Fleet is a key piece on the chessboard that is Game of Thrones. The royal fleet and most Baratheon ships have burnt on the Blackwater Rush, and there was never a competent Master of Ships to replace Stannis in King’s Landing. The books even have Cersei appoint a bastard called Aurane Waters to the position – only to have him disappear with the fleet, allegedly to take up piracy as his new sport.

Book Euron is a little bit more selfish and doesn’t want to make any pact with Daenerys. Instead, he claims to possess a magical horn that can bend the dragons to his will. He shows off a dragon horn with Valyrian runes on it, but it is not known if the artifact truly possesses such powers. All in all, Yara takes on Victarion’s plotline from now on, sailing straight towards Meereen.

Meereen

Knowledge has made you powerful. But there’s still so much you don’t knowKinvara, rubbing it in the book readers’ faces

Meereen is a mess. Both in the show and in the books. The infamous writer’s block George R. R. Martin had with this place has postponed the release of A Dance with Dragons for about four years, due to the piling conflicts with narration, also known as “Meereenee knot”. What had to be solved with a patchwork of new POV characters has now been rewritten into a TV original plot that, while well more entertaining to follow, still retains the crux of the issue.

Danaerys has no stable long term plan. She wants to make the world a better place, but the slave liberation plan will take years at best, generations at worst. Tyrion, the pragmatic in the room, realizes this and offers peace to the masters of Astapor and Yunkai, cities formerly liberated by Dany, but quickly going back to the old ways. Dany’s “I’ll take what is mine” policy might be completely unfit for Essos… which honestly makes the whole audience ever so hopeful for closing that plot altogether.

Kinvara, despite wearing a glamour just like Melisandre, which makes her true age an enigma, seems to be new to the job. Unless the show has retconned that fact, Melisandre and Thoros of Myr have been taking orders from the High Priest, not High Priestess, as evident in their dialogue in season 3. Even though all Red Priests met so far showcase supernatural powers (or strongly hint at it, as it is with Kinvara), they’re not the only sorcerers in the world, and it’s not all certain who or what “R’hllor” is. It’s a question we might never see answered, given, GRRM’s personal approach to the matter of religion, but if we ever get the answer, it will most certainly be a human being – someone like the Three-Eyed Raven, working from the opposite side or quite like him.

Now, a word on Melisandre and her seemingly bogus campaign to fins and guide the “prince who was promised”. Melisandre, as evident in both the show and the books, offers advice that isn’t necessarily all that good – but if you put the pieces of the puzzle together, her vision are always on point, she just cannot interpret them correctly.

First goes the issue of Renly. Melisandre warns Stannis of a vision in which Renly leads his army to crush Stannis. She thinks they’ve avoided that fate by killing Renly with the shadow – but what happens is Stannis loses at Blackwater all the same. Some troops belonging to Stannis’s army are actually scared away by the “ghost of Renly”, who is in fact Loras’s brother Garlan Tyrell, wearing Renly’s armor. In the end, Melisandre saw what was about to happen – she just never managed to prevent it from happening. That’s pretty sad for her, as she never really had any selfish intentions beyond saving the mankind from the White Walkers, but I don’t think we’ll revisit that theme or build upon Melisandre in the show in any way – there is simply no time to do that and the showrunners seem to have a personal grudge against Stannis and Melisandre for killing Renly, so I expect Mel to die within the next few episodes.

Same goes for the “great battle in the snow” and Jon “fighting at Winterfell”. What Melisandre saw was most likely the truth, she just stopped believing in this. It’s a common theme in A Song of Ice and Fire that all visions of past and future are what happens without a change. Speaking of which…

The Land of Always Winter

Hold the door!Meera Reed, closing the circle

If you’ve thought that we’re going to watch Bran look into all the key events of the past over the course of this season, well, you were wrong. In the classic example of the “apprentice tries the power on his own and oversteps his bounds” cliche, Bran has accelerated the fate of Westeros and begun to realize what the big picture is.

Children of the Forest are pretty much the elves in this story, or hobbits – just completely extinct, with no magic land to flee to… other that the magical icy Really Far North, which hosted a tiny handful of them until now. What’s been a huge shock to both readers and non-readers alike is the origin of the White Walkers – instead of having some more ancient and profound place in the global conflict, they’re just a weapon created by the Children to fend off the human invasion. Which makes sense, but strips the last remaining layers of mystery that used to shroud our dear ice zombies.

One may ask, how is this related to the main story at all? Why would we even care about the Iron Throne in the face of imminent doom of frost coming to everyone? How are these characters supposed to react in that situation? Is it the typical “join forces against common enemy” type of deal, or is there more to it?

There are no clear answers for now, but it should all come together in time. Dragons, the Others, the Wall – all these elements and more are pretty likely to clash in the grandiose titular Song of Ice and Fire. But there’s three dragons to ride, and only one dragon queen… so far.

And then there’s the birth and death of Hodor. Straight from the director of LOST’s best episodes, “The Constant” and “Through the Looking Glass”, comes a tragic tale of a boy whose life was taken away from him by fate. As evident in this example, Bran cannot change the past – but he can interact with it and end up becoming the cause of the events that have already occurred. The time loop reminds me of yet another LOST episode, “The Variable”, in which my favorite character believes to discover a way to break the time loop – only to come to realization he just closed his own.


Footnotes

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re having less and less source material to cover. With Iron Islands and King’s Landing, there’s bits and pieces to put together – but other than that, we’re full steam ahead into uncharted waters. Unless George R. R. Martin manages to publish The Winds of Winter before Season 7, we might be really losing purpose of this series. Which wouldn’t be all that bad considering it takes me a good few hours to write a single post.

That being said, see you guys next week!

  • Linus

    I justed wanted to say that I REALLY love this series and your posts. It is beyond me how someone can be that deep into the books and knowing all the (very hidden) connections without rereading the books after each episode. Really great work! To me these articles provide a lot of additional and background information and a-ha moments (even though I read the books), while being extremely funny at the same time.
    Thanks! 😉

  • KK

    My friend and I always look forward to your posts after each episode. Even if it’s not entirely about comparing the books and the show, we find you analysis and background information very valuable, and makes our viewing experience much more enjoyable. Please keep it up!

  • Pete

    I’d be happy to read your thoughts on new episodes irrespective, frankly.

  • rkcerman

    “Which wouldn’t be all that bad considering it takes me a good few hours to write a single post.”

    Please don’t say this! :O I feel like I need to be another guy to tell you: please keep up writing these. As the others have said, just reading your thoughts on the episodes is really interesting, whether or not there is a source material to cover it.