Varys openly admits that he's been working for the restoration of the Targaryens because Robert Baratheon was a crappy king. He thinks that Tyrion could help with that goal. Varys, like Littlefinger, is a remarkably pragmatic individual, though he seems to lack Littlefinger's deliberate cruelty. Or does he? I mean who could have predicted that a released Tyrion would confront and kill Tywin? In Meereen, an Unsullied soldier goes to a brothel. He just wants some snuggling but once he relaxes he's murdered by a pro-slavery reactionary. These people are known as the Sons of the Harpy. Missandei queries Grey Worm as to why an Unsullied would go to a brothel. This is her way of asking Grey Worm if he just lost his berries or did he lose root and stem. Grey Worm declines to answer THAT question. Daenerys continues to learn that leadership doesn't just mean that everyone does what you say. Hizdahr zo Loraq has returned from Yunkai and pronounced the diplomacy a success. He and the leaders of Yunkai do have one request though. They want to reopen the fighting pits, this time with free men, instead of slaves, though in truth almost of the fighters will be former slaves. Finding the idea abhorrent Daenerys peremptorily refuses.
However later after her special "adult time" with Daario, she learns from Daario that the fighting pits are part of the culture. Daario's a veteran of the pits. He thinks the pits were a good thing. Daario suggests that Daenerys show her strength not by keeping the fighting pits closed but rather by openly displaying the dragons again. Daenerys visits the cave where she chained two of her dragons. They're larger than before and don't exactly appear happy to see their "mother". If you think unruly mastiffs are an issue try having untrained dragons. You are probably aware that people give each other a look when they want to do the do. Melisandre, appearing like she stepped out of an erectile dysfunction commercial, gives that look to Jon Snow when she summons him from training to meet Stannis. She even inquires if he is a virgin, and is pleased to learn that he isn't. Mercifully Stannis isn't interested in Jon's sex life but rather his political value. Stannis reminds Jon that Jon is the illegitimate son of Ned Stark. The traitor Roose Bolton, who murdered Jon's brother Robb Stark, now holds Winterfell. As everyone who saw Roose murder Robb is either dead or allied with the cautious Roose, one wonders exactly how Stannis would know these precise details. Did the normally circumspect Roose send out messages boasting that he stabbed Robb through the heart? Anyway Jon isn't having it, reminding Stannis, Davos and Melisandre that he is a member of the Night's Watch and thus beyond revenge or inheritances.
Davos points out that Jon is not necessarily a well liked member of the Night's Watch, particularly by such men as Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt. As Jon won't be tempted by Winterfell, Stannis appeals to his sense of compassion for the wildlings. Stannis intends to dispose of Roose Bolton but needs additional men to do that. He wants to add the wildings to his army. In return he will allow them to settle south of the Wall and become citizens. It's a good deal. But Stannis being Stannis he insists that the wildling leader Mance bend the knee. Convinced that the wellbeing of the wildings is more important than any principle, Jon tries to persuade Mance Rayder to kneel to Stannis and to authorize the wildings to fight for Stannis. In the episode's most powerful and moving scene Mance bluntly refuses. Jon accuses him of putting his pride above everything else. Mance rejects that frame. It's not about his personal pride. To bend the knee to a king would be to betray the whole Free Folk ethos. Mance would lose his people's respect and involve them in someone else's war. Why should they bleed for other people? Mance embodies the New Hampshire state motto. Stannis respects this but still orders Melisandre, arrayed in her typical cleavage bearing gown, to burn Mance alive. Disgusted, Jon puts Mance out of his misery before the flames can finish doing their work.
What I liked
- As Jaime pointed out, Tywin can't inspire fear from beyond the grave. Without the dominant personality of Tywin to compel obedience, many people will feel entitled to push back against the dwindling(?) Lannister power.
- It's one thing to die in battle. You may never see the sword or spear with your name on it. But to be imprisoned and have time to consider your own death is another thing entirely. Mance is scared because being burned alive is a horrible fate. But like any martyr he holds true to his beliefs even at the cost of his own life. How many people would do such a thing?
- Varys being atypically confident and direct with Tyrion. No simpering. Straight honest talk.
- Daenerys initially claiming that as she wasn't a politician she did not need to worry about pleasing people or making alliances. After all she won. Well like every other executive, elected or not, she will see that it's always easier when people buy into your program.
- The calmness of the fanatic/true believer as exemplified by Melisandre and Lancel is disturbing. They simply aren't able to be reasoned with or influenced by material considerations. You are either with them or against them. Period.
- I wonder if the producers were sensitive to charges of too much female nudity. Anyhow this episode had more male butt than a toilet seat in a Turkish bathhouse. Not really my thing but if you like seeing this, this was an episode you didn't want to miss.
- Varys was too chatty with Tyrion . It seemed a bit too much out of character. It felt like an unnecessary information dump.
- Tyrion's self-pity party.