It says a lot about the depth of the Game Of Thrones cast that even with such a huge ensemble, the absence of those who aren’t present for an episode is painfully noticeable. This was the case with Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) last week, who was perhaps a surprise omission from last week’s premiere. Thankfully, this week she’s back, having finally reached Braavos. Moreover, it seems she finally has a purpose, having been reunited with Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) – or at least the man posing as him.
Almost the polar opposite of her sister is Sansa (Sophie Turner), who seems willing to place her trust in Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) – despite him having proven himself untrustworthy to near everyone who has crossed his path. Less willing to place her stock in him is Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) – who in a turn up for the books, manages to cross paths with the Stark girl, thanks to an observant Podrick (Daniel Portman). The encounter may not go as well as she (or we) hoped, but at least Brienne and Pod have an aim for the season ahead, something they didn’t appear to have last week when they saw them.
In fact, near enough everyone has an aim and a plan now: Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is off to Dorne with Bronn (Jerome Flynn) in tow to bring back niece/daughter Myrcella – which is just as well, as Ellaria (Indira Varma) wants vengeance after Oberyn’s death. Elsewhere, Cersei (Lena Headey) is determined to keep power by any means necessary, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is determined to drink himself into oblivion, and Stannis (Stephen Dillane) too is doing whatever it takes to regain power – in this case, by making a very interesting proposition to Jon Snow (Kit Harington).
Speaking of Jon, he’s becoming more and more of an interesting case as the show progresses. Previously overshadowed by the rest of his family, he has emerged as one of the few (relatively) unambiguously heroic characters on the show. Considering what happened to his father and brother, you could be forgiven for thinking that this might not bode particularly well for him, but at this point he’s looking pretty safe.
Looking less secure is Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), who is again lucky to escape with her life after ill-advisedly executing a criminal. It’s all unspoken at this point, but it’s clear she’s missing the advice of her former right hand, Jorah. For all her strength, she is ultimately young and inexperienced – although saying that, as the final frame reminds us, she also has dragons, which is more than most players of the game have. Still, having spent the last season revelling in an almost god-like status, it will be interesting to see how she deals with having lost some of that grandeur.
As we mentioned in our review of the Season 5 premiere, one of the best things about Game Of Thrones is watching the various characters’ carefully laid plans go wrong for whatever reason. Daenerys is already seeing it happen to her, all the signs are pointing towards it happening to Cersei at some point in the near future, and you can bet that the rest of the ensemble will be similarly unfortunate sooner or later.
So it’s still solid, if unspectacular by Game Of Thrones standards. It’s an improvement on last week, but there’s been enough build up. We’re not expecting another Red Wedding moment just yet, but something needs to happen that really shocks us. We suspect it’s not too far away.