The Only Game of Thrones Episode Reviews from a Business Perspective.
The Hound Negotiates with the Brotherhood Without Banners
Looks like Cleganebowl is canceled, but more on that later. The Hound got to unleash some holy hell upon renegade members of the Brotherhood Without Banners who had murdered the Septon Ray and his defenseless flock last week. But when he finds the ringleaders, we see him reined in by the Brotherhood, led by the one-eyed Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr (the red priest who keeps reviving him from the dead). He wants to dish out his personal brand of cruel and unusual punishment. While the Brotherhood condones capital punishment, they draw the line at torture and insist on a more ‘civilized’ hanging. His outrage borders on the comical (he complains about not getting to hack off a hand first) but he goes along, satisfying himself with pilfering the boots of Lem Lemoncloak, one of the damned men. Which is, somehow, oddly satisfying to watch. He also has the best line in the episode: “Half the horrible shit in this world gets done for something larger than ourselves.”
We learned: If you’re thinking long-term, you always negotiate and compromise – even if you have the upper hand. The Brotherhood, out of ‘respect’ for the Hound’s loss, offers him the right to execute one and then two of the three condemned men. However, they don’t have to sacrifice their principles in the process; they only allow the Hound to, literally, ‘kick the bucket’ for them. Their gesture allows them the chance to try to recruit him to their cause later.
Arya vs Waif
So our predictions last week panned out – both with Arya’s actress friend coming to the rescue and the Waif getting her just desserts – via some face-slicing in the dark. Until then we were entertained by some Terminator-style chasing by the Waif (specifically, like Robert Patrick as the T-1000 in Terminator 2), in single-minded demonic pursuit through the cobblestoned markets and alleys of Braavos.
We learned: When chased by a gleeful assassin, run. In all other cases, when faced with adversity try to shift the battle to where the advantage may be yours. In Arya’s case, that is in darkness. Yours may be a setting where you may be more familiar or where you have more friends. Pick your battles, delay confrontations – until your odds improve.
Jaime vs Brienne
Ahh, the non-incestuous romance of the tallest Lannister sibling with the tallest lady in Westeros. We’ve all been looking forward to a Jaime-Brienne reunion. Outside the Lannister tent Bronn was rooting for consummation of said romance, and having some fun with Podrick. Inside, amidst the political banter, Brienne’s face brimmed with emotion, and Jamie was not unaffected. You could see he wanted to be on a first-name basis with Brienne, but she stayed formal. He insisted she keep his gift of the Oathkeeper sword. Later, as she escaped with Podrick, they improbably recognized and waved at each other from a distance through the very low-light of dawn.
We learned: Office romances will mess you up. Handle with care. And consanguinity (‘blood relation’) romances is something we’ll let others handle..
In Riverrun, the Blackfish unceremoniously dies off-screen after Brienne’s attempt at diplomacy fails. Edmure Tully takes his uncle’s power away, the way the Blackfish took Edmure’s dignity in Season 3 after he failed to hit a funeral boat with three flaming arrows. While many may feel that Jaime is doubling down on his love for Cersei in his conversation with Edmure, and that his journey of redemption is going nowhere – look at the actual results: (1) Riverrun is taken without bloodshed (2) Jaime doesn’t have to fight Brienne, and (3) while he doesn’t say it explicitly in the series, in the books he says “I swore an oath to Lady Stark, never again to take up arms against the Starks or Tullys.” Something he doesn’t end up violating. For someone pilloried as the Kingslayer, acting honorably towards the house that had freed him can be expected. But in order to convince Edmure to act as a Trojan Horse (which the Blackfish was astute enough to predict), he needed to be convincing that he would kill everyone, including threatening to catapult Edmure’s child over the ramparts just to “get back to” Cersei. So it is more likely that he was bluffing convincingly (to avoid bloodshed, fighting against Catelyn’s kinsmen and most importantly, fighting Brienne), than to believe that he’s become the unlikable person he used to be (and has shown no sign of being for a while).
We learned: When you adopt a strategy or a negotiating position, you need to sell it. Success often depends on others believing that you mean what you say, irrespective of your real position.
“I Choose Violence”
But his sister isn’t one for restraint. We finally saw Cersei’s line from the season promos in action, as she sics the FrankenMountain on the Faith Militant, resulting in a cutlery-free decapitation. Just like hand-torn basil. While Qyburn and Cersei look pleased as punch with their 800-pound gorilla, the short-term reprieve does not last. The High Sparrow, getting wind of the Mountain’s prowess, promptly gets Tommen to ban ‘trial by combat’ (which is never about the merits of a case, so hard to argue against), obliterating Cersei’s greatest advantage in a trial. This pretty much cancels ‘Cleganebowl,’ a popular fan theory that the feuding Clegane brothers – the zombie Mountain (Gregor) and the Hound (Sandor) would fight each other in a trial by combat. But Qyburn hints that they may have a trick up their sleeve. More on that in the “Two Mysteries” below.
We learned: Don’t show your hand like Cersei did if you don’t have to. Margaery’s strategy of playing along might be smarter – but we can’t quite picture Cersei faking humility with her enemies.
Mereen is Bored
Getting Missandei and Grey Worm to loosen up and share jokes was a challenge even for the ever-resourceful Tyrion. Not much going on in Mereen, so it was a welcome change to start getting firebombed by slave masters’ ships so that Danaerys could have Drogon drop her off. Her dragon unhelpfully flies off when it could have fought fire with fire. Unless Drogon went to get his (her?) siblings.
We learned: Humor rarely translates well across cultures. Cultural, religious and political sensitivities vary, so in international business dealings, exercise caution because jokes can fall flat – in addition to verbal nuances and puns being missed.
Qyburn’s hints that his ‘little birds’, pilfered from Varys, have revealed that the old rumor Cersei had heard, was “much more” than a rumor. This has to be something that could neutralize their getting checkmated at a trial. It could be the stocks of wildfire under Kings Landing. Or something else. Also, Varys sets off on a secret expedition to Westeros, while walking in broad daylight with Tyrion. This puts the bromance of our favorite strategists on pause. Varys wants ships for the Mother of Dragons. So which Greyjoy will he run into – Yara and Theon, or Euron?
We learned: Don’t assume the rules will always stay the same, especially when others make the rules. Always have a backup plan. Or wildfire. Either will do.
No One No More
Arya meets with Jaqen in the House of Black and White before she leaves Braavos. Jaqen curiously declares that she has finally reached the status of “No One,” as if her killing of the over-eager Waif was part of his plan (A or B) all along. While the Waif may have been unfit (she did not seem to emulate the dispassionate assassin’s creed well), Arya clearly did not obey an order of the Faceless Men, and the Many-Faced God does not brook independent thinking. Jaqen probably felt Arya could defeat the Waif, has always rooted for her, and has been ambivalent about her suitability. He shows a flash of paternal pride in her figuring out who she wants to be, as he nods to her declaration that she is not no one, but “Arya Stark of Winterfell, and I’m going home.” It’s probably a good idea for her to get his consent and settle her affairs so that the way-too-dimly-lit house doesn’t send other faceless assassins to haunt her.
We learned: Get some closure and leave your current employer on good terms. Preferably without the pointy end of a sword digging into their chest – until the severance checks have been cashed. Then again, you may need their help one day. Faceless Men are very useful.
With two episodes left (the season finale will be super-sized), get ready for some non-stop action – and subscribe to our newsletter’s entertainment articles to not miss a review!
Bonus feature: The trailer to next week’s episode, aka Bastardbowl! Ramsay Bolton vs Jon Snow…