She may not be stuck in time like Bran if he’s not careful, but Daenerys is definitely stuck. She’s escorted to Vaes Dothrak (or Nursing Home for Aging Former Khaleesi and as far northeast as this show has gone) and is stripped of her dress and dragon necklace in short order. As Daenerys puts on the potato sack uniform of the dosh khaleen, she says, “You have made a huge mistake. One you will regret.” Even Dany must know she’s preaching to the choir here. It’s a wonder we didn’t hear the sound of a couple dozen other khaleesi in the room rolling their eyes in unison. They may not have as lengthy a formal title as Daenerys has, but they’ve all lived the dream of being by the side of the khal conquer the world. And they were all wrong.
Daenerys may be on a bit of a bad luck streak, but it’s been a hot second since someone’s doubted her illustriousness. And here is a room full of women (not to mention the thousands of khalasar outside) that view her as only special enough to have once been the wife of a great khal. So not only is Dany not important enough to be spouting vague threats, but she’s also apparently broken khaleesi tradition. To be fair, she seems to be the only one of them that’s come from outside tradition, and to my recollection no one informed her of this post-khal protocol. She was brought to Vaes Dothrak to stay, but is then told that because she left to conquer the world after Drogo died, she may not be staying long.
Back where at least a few people still think Daenerys is special, Varys fans himself and remarks at the impracticality of wearing leather in the balmy Meereenese climate. Soon a familiar face is ushered into the temple: the woman that aided the Sons of the Harpy in killing the Unsullied and Second Sons. We finally get to see the Spider weaving his web! Varys appeals to Vala by complimenting her beauty (“How you climbed all those steps without breaking a sweat!”), admiring her ingenuity (“You sacrificed your body for a cause, which is more than most people do.”), and flat-out saying that he wasn’t going to torture her. That’d be enough to win most people over, particularly since Varys has the most unthreatening speaking voice ever.
But Vala doesn’t trust him or his motives. Part of her is still a rebel, saying the men she killed were in cahoots with Daenerys to destroy their city, and part of her is skeptical once Varys mentions her son. “You’re won’t torture me, you’ll just threaten my son,” she says. “Children are blameless,” Varys replies with total earnestness. Ultimately Vala relents when she’s faced with being executed for conspiring against the queen or being murdered by the Sons of the Harpy for snitching, and is given the third option of leaving for Pentos with her son and a gigantic bag of silver.
Her snitching provided Varys with some sobering information: the Sons of the Harpy were funded by the jilted cities of Astapor and Yunkai, with help from Volantis. Each of these cities thrive on slavery, or the one thing that Daenerys has been campaigning to rid the world of for basically her entire tenure as queen. They don’t have the armies to conquer the cities again, but Missandei is familiar with their ways and says she knows how to “have a conversation” with them. I’m not entirely sure that just means talking to them, but if it is the case, at least someone knows how to have a conversation! Tyrion tries desperately to find common ground with Missandei and Greyworm and the best thing he could come up with is a non-alcoholic version of Never Have I Ever.
Tyrion asks Varys if his little birds can send a message to the three retaliatory cities, to which Varys replies, “Of course. Men can be fickle, but birds I always trust.”