After a two week absence, Arya is finally back! And she’s just as frustrated as I am about how slowly things are moving.
For weeks now, she’s been washing the bodies of dead people, with no understanding as to why or what happens to the bodies when they are taken out the back door. Not one for patience in the first place, Arya gets confrontational every time someone tells her she isn’t ready yet. Not ready to know where the bodies go, not ready to become faceless, not ready to do anything except menial labor. Fortunately, this episode did provide us with some clues into what goes on in this really dimly lit building.
What is the game of faces? I have a feeling it has something to do with the disingenuousness of Arya’s fellow young lady (who, thanks to the internet, I now know is called The Waif.) She told a story about how she got to the House of Black and White. She was basically a cross between Arya and Cinderella back in Westeros, the victim of a stepmother who was jealous of her status. With the help of the Faceless Men, the evil stepmother was, ahem, no longer an issue. Then, The Waif asked Arya if she believes her story. Arya doesn’t have an answer, but now she’s super confused, and responds with a befuddled, “What?”
Later in the episode, Arya is scrubbing the floors and comes upon a man bringing his sickly daughter in for help. Having run out of options in saving his daughter, he concedes that the best thing for her is whatever happens in this building. No one else is around, so Arya takes it upon herself to tell the girl a lovely story: how she was just like the girl, and her father cared about her enough to take her here, and when she drank from the well she was healed. Of course, we know that’s not true. And we also know that when one drinks from the well, one dies.
So, is this the game of faces? Lying? But lying for what purpose? The Waif’s story is like Arya’s, and Arya’s story at the well was like the dying girl’s story. Let’s assume they’re both lying and the purpose of the stories were to express solidarity; that relaying a shared experience evokes a level of trust in the other person. That is, trust in a lie.
And lying is important to the Faceless Men. Rather, not lying, because they know when you are. Jaqen wakes Arya up and asks her who she is. Instead of doing what she’s been doing and telling him what she thinks she’s supposed to say (“No One”), she says her name. He doesn’t hit her. He asks her about her life. She says her father died in combat. He calls her out on her lie and hits her with a stick. He hits her even for minor things. But the most telling, and almost sweet, moment of this scene is when she says she hated the Hound. Hit. Hate. Hit. Hate. Hit. (Kind of adorable, right?) He then says, “Does she truly want to be no one?” To which she responds with a “yes,” and gets a swift stick to the face.
Jaqen must have at least a little faith in Arya, because after he sees her show mercy to the little dying girl, he concedes and shows her where those dead bodies go when they’re all clean: a vast catacomb with towering pillars, full of dead faces. Jaqen knows in her heart Arya is not ready to become No One, but he acknowledges, “She is ready to become someone else.” She says nothing, enthralled by the unmoving, yet not really dead faces in the walls. What I would’ve said to that is, “Where do you put the rest of the bodies?”
I still don’t know how exactly this place works, but I have to assume Arya is going to gain the ability to shape shift, like Jaqen has done. But for what purpose? If the Faceless Men had a role in getting rid of the Waif’s stepmother, are they just really crafty hit men? If Arya (or whoever she’ll become) has a part in this, it may be good for her. She certainly has a lot of pent-up anger that needs releasing.
Though, a lot of people on this show are suffering from the inability to vent their frustrations. What Cersei really needs is a therapist. Instead, she unleashes her vitriol against the world on everyone around her, and most recently on Margaery and her family. Loras now has to stand trial for his “fornication, buggery and blasphemy,” even though Grandma Tyrell travelled all the way from High Garden to talk Cersei out of it. Of course, Famous Tart Queen Cersei is sitting pretty, still looking completely blameless. Olenna is practical, like Tywin. She admits to Cersei that even while she didn’t like her father, she admits she respected Tywin, because he understood that “sometimes we must work with our rivals rather than destroy them.” To which Cersei replies: “House Lannister has no rival.”
Cersei’s hubris has officially gotten the better of her. Even if Cersei had no part in Loras’ arrest, she most certainly had influence in Margaery testifying at the hearing, as evidence by the side glance the High Sparrow threw at Cersei after he called the queen to the stand. Cersei even tried to sound pragmatic when, during Olyvar’s testimony, she proclaims, “This testimony is an insult to a great house!” Please. Olenna can see through shade like that with her eyes closed. Ultimately, both Tyrell siblings were arrested for lying under oath, and all due to a Dornish-shaped birthmark, as attested to by the squire-turned-brothel-manager.
Cunning runs in the Tyrell family line (though apparently skips a generation. See: Mace.), and Olenna has had a lot of time to hone her skills. Cersei’s part in the arrests of Loras and Margaery will not go unaccounted for. I think Cersei’s comeuppance, as I referenced in an earlier recap, will happen soon, and most definitely at the hands of Olenna.
(Quickly: What. Is. Littlefinger. Doing. Meeting with Cersei? Saying he knows that Sansa is in Winterfell? “I live to serve.”?! Is all this just to become Warden of the North? It makes sense, for a guy with no armies to pit three kingdoms’ armies against each other so they’ll destroy each other. He’s up to something, as usual, but for the life of me I cannot figure it out.)
Unfortunate Tyrion is no stranger to a change in circumstance; the poor guy gets hit with something new episode he’s in this season. Two episodes ago it was being kidnapped by Jorah, last episode was the attack of the Stone Men. This week, Jorah and Tyrion were ambushed by men from a slave ship headed to Volantis, and were very nearly killed if not for Tyion’s quick logic. Apparently a dwarf dong has magical powers, but what use is the dwarf dong if not for the dwarf attached? “Because it’ll be dwarf-sized,” says one of his new captors, which was met with a resounding: “Guess again.” So, Tyrion will remain alive until they find a dong merchant (hilarious.) and Jorah will stay alive until he can prove his worth on the battlefield.
And now they’re headed back to Volantis, except now they’re both captives. This was a very roundabout plot, wasn’t it? Do we think Varys is still in Volantis, searching every whore house to find Tyrion? Whatever happens in the next four episodes, I hope Tyrion becomes of more use than being someone’s prisoner.
Over in Dorne, there are two new prisoners to add to their roster: Jaime and Bronn, who finally attempted, unsuccessfully, to snatch Myrcella from her pretty Dornish prince. Even still, they managed to not be killed at the hands of the vengeful Sand Snakes and their fancy water dancing. The last several episodes built this up to be a “war,” at least in the eyes of Ellaria, but all it wound up being was a minor skirmish that ended pretty abruptly. So much for that plot line.
Myrcella should be grateful she hasn’t gotten married to Trystane yet. Westeros can’t have a wedding without something terrible happening. The union between Sansa and Ramsay is finally here, but not before Myranda regales Sansa with her fond tales of Ramsay’s brutality. Ramsay and Dandy from American Horror Story: Freak Show have a remarkable amount in common: they’re really pretty, they’re really twisted, and they both act out when they’re bored.
Myranda’s scare tactics did little to even warn Sansa of what Ramsay is capable of. No longer do Sansa’s delicate features reflect the person on the inside. In what is likely her strongest moment on the show, Sansa calls Myranda out on her ploy and declares, “I am Sansa Stark of Winterfell. This is my home and you can’t frighten me.” Right on, girlfriend.
The brief rousing moment was not enough to carry Sansa through to her wedding night. Though her second time at the alter, surely being escorted by Reek as Theon was enough to make her skin crawl, let alone kissing Ramsay. And then, there’s what happened in the bedroom.
Reek’s reaction to being made to watch the girl he knew become a woman (yikes) was too strong for me to believe Theon isn’t in there anymore. As for Sansa, she knows she needs to play a game to survive. A part of me really wanted her to flip an internal switch and turn into Ramsay’s version of a dream girl, somewhere between Myranda and Melissandre (hey, bitch ain’t boring.) Nothing like the full-on Stockholm Syndrome of Daenerys’ relationship with Drogo (even though it did evolve into a very respectful, sweet relationship), but something that resembles that for the sake of her survival. Let’s hope Stannis gets to Winterfell before Ramsay unleashes any further torture on Sansa.
In regards to my feelings on the backlash that occurred after this episode aired, I will refer you to a spot-on piece by Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post, “this scene felt of a piece with the way I’ve always understood “Game of Thrones” and George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire”: as a story about the consequences of rape and denial of sexual autonomy.” And the following quote, which I think is as universal a statement on art of all kinds as anyone can make:
“I think it’s important to preserve the distinction between saying that something simply isn’t for me and drawing a more definitive conclusion that something is a poor artistic choice. You can assert the former, but you have to argue the latter, using the text and the language of the artistic form at hand.”