Game of Thrones: Is Daenerys ready to lead?

HBO
HBO

It’s tough being at the top. Queens and Princes alike were faced with difficult decisions on this week’s Game of Thrones and no one struggled more than Daenerys. Poor Dany was given the impossible task of finding a way to appease both the former masters and the former slaves in her bid to end the violence in Meereen. It’s hard to believe early reviewers found the beginning of the season slow-going when we’ve already had multiple executions, a riot and two dragon sightings within the span of two episodes.

After former slave Mossador killed a captured member of the Sons of the Harpy, Dany had no choice but to execute him for his crime, which immediately sparked a riot in the streets of Meereen. Mossador may have been in the wrong, but Dany handled the situation poorly. Was there nearly no option to show mercy? If so, what was the point of holding a public execution? There’s little chance she gained any favour with the masters, so it only served to hurt her image in the eyes of her devoted followers. If anything, it brings into question whether Dany is really the right choice to rule Westeros, as Varys believes she is. What is the allure of her leadership if she can lose followers just as quickly as she earns them?

As if sensing his mother’s distress, Drogon perched himself on top of Dany’s balcony to pay her a visit in a far more tender scene compared to her recent run-in with Rhaegal and Viserion. It’s unreal to think that just a few seasons ago this towering beast was once small enough to perch on her shoulder. Despite the chaos around her, ending the episode on this moment served as a good reminder that there’s still hope for Dany once she regains control of her dragons.

Back in Westeros, Cersei was all-consumed by her need for control of her children. She spoke for the absent King Tommen at the council meeting, where she unofficially assumed the position as Hand of King, assigning members new positions left and right. While Cersei loves power, she’s never more on fire as she is when she has some opposition. This week it was her uncle Kevan who stepped to the plate, demanding that she let Tommen speak for herself. Shouldn’t he know that Lannisters love nothing more than to tell their children what to do? Tywin certainly did.

Meanwhile Jaime opted to ease Cersei’s fears about Myrcella continuing to live in Dorne by volunteering to return their daughter to King’s Landing. In a rare Game of Thrones moment, Cersei’s paranoia is actually justified. In a brief scene in Dorne, the grieving Ellaria Sand requested Prince Doran return Myrcella to the Lannisters in pieces as recompense for the death of Oberyn. Lucky for Myrcella, the Dornish prince, played by the great Alexander Siddig, agreed with his late brother’s sentiment that Dorne is a place that doesn’t hurt little girls.

For all the build-up to Dorne for this season, this scene felt a little lacklustre to me. As always, there’s so much to pack into a single episode, but a small glimpse of the Sand Snakes may have done a little more to get me invested into the world of Dorne. At least with road trip buddies Jaime and Bronn on their way south, things are bound to get more interesting.

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Helen Sloan/HBO

After teasing us with a near encounter between Brienne and Sansa, the two women finally met in this episode, though it didn’t go as Brienne hoped. Sansa quickly rejected her, leading Brienne and Pod to flee before Littlefinger sent his men to kill them both. In an episode full of departures from the source material, this was probably the most surprising change. Other readers may feel differently, but I believe it’s a change for the better–much of Brienne’s story is spent wandering the Riverlands following up on false leads. Now Brienne knows exactly where she’s headed and has a much better idea of the new enemy she’ll have to face.

Up at the Wall, in the ultimate example of “well, that escalated quickly,” Jon went from steward to potential Lord of Winterfell to the 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch in a matter of hours. There’s always so much to include in every episode, but this scene felt surprisingly underplayed to me. While Jon is no longer the boy that nearly deserted Castle Black in order to join Robb and avenge his father’s death, it’s difficult to think he could so easily reject the offer of becoming Lord of Winterfell. He even admitted that he wanted it since he was a boy. Why not give him at least one extra scene to consider it for more than 30 seconds? Instead it immediately followed up with his election as Lord Commander, which may have given viewers a case of whiplash instead of a moment of triumph. Considering his status in the show, Jon’s big moment deserved much better.

Last, but certainly not least, Arya arrived in Braavos only to be rejected at the door of the House of Black and White. While the sights and sounds of Braavos enchanted her upon arrival, soon the city became no different than Flea Bottom, with Arya chasing after pigeons for food (though she has gotten much better at it). In the most unexpected (but welcome) twist of the episode, she was reunited with Faceless Man Jaqen H’ghar, who promised to teach her to become like him–“no one.” Her scenes in this episode felt like more of a tease than a substantial story, but if the show stays on the same trajectory as the books, Arya may end up having the most compelling story arc of the season.

More thoughts from the realm:

  • Littlefinger mentioned that he secured a marriage, but failed to tell us who it was for. Could it be meant for Sansa? If so, with whom?
  • Ser Barristan certainly meant well, but his advice to Dany regarding her father may have hurt more than helped. I have a feeling that, for Dany, much of this season will be advisors throwing contrasting advice at her while she scrambles to make everyone happy.
  • Watching Shireen teach Gilly how to read may have been my favourite scene from this season so far. I’m totally on board for Shireen to become the next Queen of Westeros. Who’s with me?
  • Tyrion and Varys had yet another fascinating conversation, with Tyrion still contemplating the point of living. They may be dissatisfied with staying in the box, but if Game of Thrones has taught us anything it’s that staying in control from the shadows is far safer than living as a figurehead.

Do you think Dany made a big mistake? Give us your opinion in the comments below. You can watch the trailer for next week’s episode, “High Sparrow,” where Arya begins her training and Jon will undoubtedly face some major decisions as the new Lord Commander.

Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO and HBO Canada.

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