Game of Thrones Recap: Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Yes, yes, Game of Thrones is all about climbing to power and ruling the land. You play or you die. Power resides only where men believe it resides. Yadda yadda.

But here’s a salient question: After watching what happens to khaleesi/mhysa/queen Daenerys in this week’s episode, for the love of the old gods and the new, who would want such an insane responsibility?

We’ve seen corrupt leaders during our time in the seven kingdoms. Their blatant grabs at power, coupled with their indefensible deeds, have meant that we haven’t felt that bad when they’ve been served their just desserts. (Joffrey’s offing we downright cheered.)

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But the struggle Daenerys goes through this week’s episode, the wanting to do good, be just, accrue power and keep the peace while being tempted by the glory of it all? It’s enough to make you want to box yourself up in a crate and set sail for somewhere far, far away.

In other winter-is-coming news, Arya makes her Season 5 debut, and Jon Snow comes into a leadership quandary of his own. Let’s take a look at what happens in “The House of Black and White.” (But not, y’know, what actually happens inside The House of Black and White, because that place is in serious lockdown, no?)

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HOUSE TARGARYEN | After Daario and Grey Worm track down the Sons of the Harpy member who killed the Unsullied in the brothel (the Slightly Sullied?) last episode, Daenerys must figure out what to do with him. She gathers her counselors, who include a former Meereenese slave, a former master, Daario and Barristan Selmy.

The slave wants the prisoner to die a painful death, but — staying true to what he said when they first took the city — Selmy advises that Dany hold a trial instead of just offing the man. He goes as far as to pull her aside to relate how her father’s attempts to stamp out dissent put terrible things in motion. “The Mad King gave his enemies the justice he thought they deserved,” he says gently, not needing to point out that she’s about to do the same. Looking chagrined, Daenerys agrees to a trial.

But that all becomes inconsequential when the slave slips down to where the Sons of the Harpy member is being held and kills him, then leaves his body in a public place as a warning to others. Now, Daenerys must figure out how to handle this public-relations nightmare, when you know she’d just rather pin up those braids and slip into the nearest bathtub while Daario soaps her back.

But the Mother of Dragons pulls it together, gathers the people of Meereen and announces that the punishment for the former slave’s actions is death. The people cry for mercy, and Daenerys clearly is conflicted over her decision, but she doesn’t change her mind. So Daario draws his curved blade and lobs off the former slave’s head.

That sets off a revolt that begins with everyone hissing at her (it sounds like Parseltongue day at Slytherin) and quickly escalates to them throwing rocks at their formerly beloved mhysa. The Unsullied protect her with their bodies and shields she’s hustled away from the crowd and, if you’re trying to draw a parallel to Joffrey & Co.’s unfortunate day out and about in King’s Landing, Game of Thrones, you succeeded.

Game of Thrones Jon Snow Elected Commander Season 5 RecapLater that night, a bereft Daenerys dismisses her attendants and stands out on her terrace, probably wishing she’d choked to death on that heart Khal Drogo made her eat way back in the desert. But then she hears a sound behind her, turns and sees… Drogon on the roof! And he doesn’t try to eat her before he flies away! Day saved!

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HOUSE STARK | Arya sails into Braavos and makes it to The House of Black and White — “that is where you’ll find the man you seek,” a helpful guide informs her — but is denied entrance by an unsmiling man who answers the door. She pulls out her coin and drops the name of Jaqen H’ghar, the Faceless Man who gave it to her in Season 2. Still, no dice. “I have nowhere else to go,” she protests. “You have everywhere else to go,” he answers, shutting the door.

Arya sticks around for a while, repeating her kill list (which no longer includes The Hound, you’ll note), then hucks her coin into the bay and explores the city, hunting pigeons to survive. When some young men give her trouble, the Black and White doorman appears — and the hooligans can’t run away fast enough. She follows him back to the house, where he returns the coin she tossed, then reveals himself as the man she knew as Jaqen H’ghar — but he maintains that “a man is not Jaqen H’ghar.” Who is he?, she demands, awed. “No one,” he says, gesturing her inside. “And that is who a girl must become.”

In an inn very far away, Pod perks up a dejected Brienne by pointing out that Sansa and Littlefinger are sitting mere tables away… flanked by a lot of knights. But when Brienne makes a very dramatic recitation of her oath to protect Catelyn’s daughters, Sansa is spooked and refuses her help. Then Lord Baelish has his men try to detain Brienne (as if!), and the whole thing ends with a horseback chase in which Brienne kills a knight gunning for Pod. With her mission revived, the rejuvenated knight sets out to rescue Sansa from her cunning keeper. Atta girl!

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HOUSE LANNISTER | Gods, being Cersei Lannister must be exhausting. In between all of the wine-drinking and brother-loving, she’s got to surreptitiously rule the realm until Tommen is fit for more than drinking juice boxes and engaging in naptime. First, she summons Jaime to witness the very upsetting package she’s just received from Dorne: It’s a snake (sculpture? taxidermied? What’s your take?) with Myrcella’s necklace hanging from its fangs — a clear threat to the Lannisters, whom the Dornish ruling family blame for Oberyn’s recent death and Elia’s long-ago one. (A brief scene in Dorne, though, shows us that while Ellaria is gunning for the nuclear option re: the Lannisters, Oberyn’s brother Doran — the Dornish leader too frail to make the trip for Joffrey’s wedding, you’ll recall — has a far less hawkish take on the matter.)

Jaime quietly shuts down his sister’s hysterics by stating he’ll go to Dorne to get their daughter back. She’s skeptical of the prospects of a one-handed man, flying solo. Jaime shoots back that he won’t be alone. Cut to a dandied-up Bronn walking with his betrothed near her family’s castle… and Jamie sitting on a rock nearby. (Side note: That leather jacket tho. If I were Bronn, I’d gladly go anywhere Jaime bid me.) After sending the lady away, Bronn maintains that he made a deal with Cersei. “I would have advised against that,” Jaime deadpans, announcing that Bronn’s fiancée is now someone else’s bride-to-be and that if the sellsword does as he’s asked, he’ll get a better girl and a bigger castle as a reward.

Far away, on the road to Volantis (and onward to Meereen), Tyrion drinks, kvetches and gets maudlin when he thinks about the time Shae asked him to leave King’s Landing with her. He didn’t, he recalls, “’cause I liked it, power, even as a servant.” (And in case you like to torture yourself, I’ll just leave this here.)

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THE MEN (AND FRIENDS) OF THE WALL | Stannis summons Jon Snow and they neatly outline the political situation at The Wall: The free folk/wildlings won’t ever follow anyone but one of their own, the northern part of Westeros is loyal to the Starks, and Alister Thorne is likely to be elected the next Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Stannis knows he needs a Stark (or the next best thing) on his team, so he proffers a deal: If Jon bends the knee to him, “you’ll rise as Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell.” (Oh, Kit Harington’s face at that moment is perfection.)

Legitimization is “the first thing I ever remember wanting,” Jon confesses to Sam in a rare unguarded moment later. Still, he plans to refuse the offer, citing his lifelong vows to the Night’s Watch. I guess when it’s not a comely redhead goading you to break that oath, temptation is a lot easier to resist, eh Snow? (Too soon?)

At the elections that evening, brothers make cases for Thorne and Denys Mallister — but Sam (!) shuts them both down by running through a highlight reel of Jon’s awesomeness. Killed a giant. BOOM. Saved The Wall. BOOM. Led the mission to avenge Lord Commander Mormont’s death. BOOM. (It should be noted that speechifying is Sam’s strength: He comes across as sassy, strong and able to sway the crowd.)

Jon “may be young, but he’s the commander we turned to when the night was darkest,” Sam says, prompting a lot of applause from the assembled brothers. That’s why it’s no real surprise when the votes are counted and there’s a tie between Snow and Thorne. But wait! Maester Aemon casts the final ballot, and he throws his support behind Ned Stark’s bastard! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Lord Commander Jon Snow.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Before you get killed by rabid commenters, I will kindly point out that there’s a name typo in the paragraph that starts with “In an inn very far away…” You mean a dejected Brienne, not Cersei. Great recap; I need to read these so I can remember all the side characters’ names.

  2. Joey says:

    Well, Podrick did have plenty of experience pouring wine for Tyrion…

    • Joey says:

      Kim, now that you took out that first comment that the above was responding to, my comment here looks completely pointless. :P

  3. Joey says:

    I was hoping when Daenerys was alone in the Pyramid, that it would be the moment of her vision, but I think its meant for later on in the plot. If they include it in the show, I’ll be surprised, since they’ve cut characters referred to in it.

    • AnnieM says:

      I continue to be bummed that Strong Belwas has seemingly been cut. Well, it’s only 2 EPs in; I hope they do eventually bring him in, he’s such a great character.

      • Joey says:

        If they were going to include Strong Belwas, he would’ve been introduced when Barristan Selmy joined up with Daenerys.

  4. Ron says:

    I haven’t read the books, just an avid fan of the TV series. I know the creators said this season is diverging from the books. Since I haven’t read the books, I don’t know how important Cersei is later on, but for whatever reason I’m getting a feeling that Cersei may be a casualty come the end of the season. I thought that during the first episode of the season, and after the second I still think that. I hope not, though. Because as much as her character is vile, I love her.

    • CK says:

      I really don’t see any outcome where Cersei doesn’t die in the books or in an epilogue to the books. I don’t think they will kill her this season, (I think that Myrcella will be offed) but, I don’t see any political resolution at the end of series/books that doesn’t end with Cersei dead, or destitute.

    • Myle says:

      No book knowledge here either, but to me Cersei has always seemed destined to be in most of the show, then die near to/in the very last episode.

      Just calling it now, but Arya will be the one to do it! :)

    • Xena says:

      I have very little knowledge of things from the books, but…



      Cersei does die, eventually, and it’s apparently extremely satisfying. That’s all I know. I have no clue when, or how, or by whom. However, they could change things in the show so who knows.

    • LAwoman says:

      I’m glad you said that. She is absolutely vile, but I love her too. I also haven’t read the books so I have no idea what happens to her and I don’t want to know.

  5. Wee says:

    That voice in the promo for next week sounded a lot like Danaerys speaking to Arya

  6. AddieM says:

    Great episode all in all, cannot wait to see the Sand snakes..Jon Snow is Lord commander, Arya reunited with Jaqen and best all all Drogon is back…

  7. Mr. Tran K says:


  8. ninergrl6 says:

    The Jon Snow scenes were the highlights of tonight’s episode for me. I literally gasped & got chills when Stannis said, “Jon Stark.” You’re so right about Kit Harrington’s reaction – priceless & perfect. Sam’s pre-election speech was awesome too. I always love when he stands up for Jon.

    No mention of the scene in the library between Gilly & Stannis’ daughter (don’t remember her name). That’s gotta be significant later, right? I haven’t read the books, just love the show.

  9. L says:

    Brienne’s storyline is better on the show than what they have her doing in the books at this point, I also like that they are keeping Bronn around as he just vanishes in the books… In general I’m glad that they are diverging from Martin’s plotting at this point.

  10. Lara says:

    I love this recap! I’m so glad someone else noticed Jaime’s jacket…it was one of his rare moments on the show of acting the gorgeous dream boat.

  11. PFitzDC says:

    I think you might have misread the end note with Dany and Drogon. Yes, he came back….and yes, he didn’t breathe fire on her. And he offered his submission to her–until he sniffed her hand that she was about to pet him with…and then he flew away. And she looks distraught. I think there’s something to that….. He senses something off about her (blood on her hands? his captive brothers? ??) and she has another blow that she cannot control her dragons or her kingdom.

    • tara says:

      i think he smelled fear and uncertainty, which is what is making her an ineffective leader…or maybe it was chaining up the other dragons which has to stop