As season 5 nears the halfway point, Game of Thrones is starting to look like itself again: an epic yet intimate drama that’s constantly moving forward. That’s when the show works best, when the chess game keeps going despite the odds. Because you can never know who will wind up with the upper hand, and who will be cornered for the kill.
To everyone’s surprise, Jaime and Bronn are headed for Dorne on a mission to rescue his niece/daughter (we’ve known for 5 seasons Jaime just admit it). It’s a brilliant pairing, thus continuing the show’s penchant for memorable duos. Here we find out something particularly telling about Jaime: the weight of his father’s death. Of all people, I thought he’d feel liberated. Instead, he bears the burden himself. It was he who set Tyrion free. Thus, it was he who killed Tywin. “It has to be me,” Jaime says to Bronn. Is he really ready to sacrifice himself? Or is he looking for personal redemption?
On the other side of Dorne, Ellaria is plotting to mutilate Princess Myrcella and ignite a war to avenge Oberyn’s death. Vengeance seems like the only logical step for Ellaria, but unlike Oberyn, her pursuit isn’t quite so thrilling. Oberyn wore his intentions on his sleeves and still had layers to him. The Sand Snakes, however, feel so incredulously one-dimensional, mainly because Myrcella did nothing to warrant such threats, whereas Tywin and the Mountain were equally deserving of Oberyn’s wrath. I don’t know if this is a testament to Pedro Pascal’s performance or if it’s the poor script choice that the Sand Snakes have been dealt, but Dorne was defined much better, and fuller, through one character alone. That’s saying something.
King’s Landing seems to be in order despite a band of religious fanatics doling out their brand of justice. But it appears House Tyrell is beginning to fall. Mace Tyrell is being sent off to Braavos with Ser Meryn Trant, presumably to never return, while Loras is taken into the Faith’s custody for his many perversions (the ironic use of the former-Ser Lancel is not lost on me). This does not sit well with Margaery, who begs her King to do something about it, to no avail. She can’t blame the poor lad. He just wants to have sex again! Cersei seems mighty pleased with herself. She best enjoy it while it lasts.
On the Wall, Jon Snow once again knows nothing, but we are also treated to a lovely moment between Stannis and Shireen (as it turns out, it was a deceiving one). Shireen wants to understand what she is to her father, especially with her being locked up most of the time. In a moment of weakness, and surprising warmth, Stannis opens up to her emotionally, proudly proclaiming, “You are my daughter.” It’s something we’ve never seen from a hard man like Stannis, which can only mean that this is just ominous foreshadowing. Because when people do things out of character, it often leads to something darker.
In the crypts of Winterfell, we find Sansa coincidentally at Lyanna’s gravestone (she also finds a trinket, supposedly left by the late Robert Baratheon). Here, it seems we are practically told about Jon Snow’s true parentage. As Littlefinger explains, Prince Rhaegar Targaryen won the tournament at Harrenhal after unseating Ser Barristan. Afterwards, he rode past his wife, Elia Martell, and laid a crown of winter roses upon Lyanna’s lap – a romantic but defiant gesture that started a war. Is Littlefinger hinting at his own plots? Whatever the reason, this seems so mysteriously unlike Littlefinger. Petyr is never one to share plots, let alone what his next plans are. There really is no telling what he’ll do. He accomplished so much as a scheming brothel-keeper. Now, as Lord of the Vale, gods only know what larger scheme he’s conjured up for Westeros this time around.
Jorah and Tyrion are on the slow voyage to Meereen, and it is there we find Ser Barristan treating Khaleesi to a tale of her brother Rhaegar (I’m noticing a pattern here). He tells her about how Rhaegar would often sing to the people while patrolling the streets of King’s Landing. This seems to erase what we have been led to believe about the cruel Dragon Prince. “Rhaegar never liked killing. He loved singing.” And just like that, we won’t know any more about the man as Ser Barristan is sent on a fateful journey down the streets of Meereen.
During yet another ambush, Grey Worm and his Unsullied are cornered into an alleyway. He is the last one standing until, like a knight in shining armor, Ser Barristan charges in. We’ve always been told about the former-kingsguard’s proficiency in battle. Here, we finally get to see it, though it seems old age has gotten the better of him. So, too, does the skirmish itself. In one of the show’s biggest cliffhangers, both Ser Barristan and Grey Worm fall amongst the bodies of their enemies. Khaleesi, it seems, is losing her circle of friends all too quickly.
Losing Barristan Selmy changes things quite a bit. Not only was he Khaleesi’s most trusted advisor, he was also her moral compass. What is she to do in the wake of his death? Will it serve as a wake-up call to finally journey to Westeros? Or is she beginning to see how futile this all is? Game of Thrones, you better start answering these damn questions.