Many topics for discussion in last night’s episode, so let’s break it down this way. First of all, there’s Daenerys’s justice. Then, there’s Jamie heading off to Dorne, and Dorne itself. Sansa and Littlefinger continue to leave the novels behind. Finally, there’s the titular plot line of Arya in Braavos. One thing they all have in common, however, is that the novels are clearly just source material now and not a guide for the plot. The results of these shifts are, generally, still effective, but there are some places where the original is still vastly superior.
I keep waiting for Daenerys’s suitors, but I don’t think we’re actually going to see them. It seems odd that a young, attractive queen in a new land would receive no offers of political marriage. It strains credulity, to be honest. And it’s something I think the novels get right. She wants the people of Mereen to accept her, why wouldn’t a powerful Mereenese lord offer himself as her consort to solidify her political power? Instead, she continues to flap in the breeze. And now the poor have turned on her? My geeky sense of ownership wants the story to remain exactly as Martin wrote it. However, I must admit, the way the show is presenting her story raises different but equally interesting questions. Instead of balancing political pressures in a strange land, she’s now trying to balance opposing mobs within her people. I’m eager to see how she makes her way out of this. I’m equally interested to see how the show brings Tyrion into her presence, especially since Varys is with him. Let’s not forget, Varys sent one of his little birds to poison her in season 1. She doesn’t seem like the type to just let that go.
Speaking of letting nothing go: Dorne. How much revenge is owed where a man offers himself as a champion in a trial by combat? Here, I want to meet the sand snakes. The Prince is nowhere near old and infirm enough for my liking, which makes his future plays of strength less shocking (assuming the show lets him gain any control over Oberyn’s daughters). But why the hell are Jamie and Bronn headed there? Jaime can barely fight, Bronn never should have been teaching him in the first place (Ser Ilyn Payne makes way more sense, since no one can keep a secret like an illiterate man with no tongue), and two famous warriors from the pale north will be quite conspicuous among the olive-skinned, dark-haired Dornish. How, exactly will a famous warrior with a golden hand sneak into Dorne? It seems like the producers of the television show are willing to give us blood, but they don’t trust that we can deal with more new characters so they keep collapsing story lines in increasingly frustrating ways.
Sansa’s story line has leaped past book five already. Perhaps not surprisingly, the story line that has most departed from the novels’ time line is the one that caused the least problems. I vastly – vastly – prefer Sansa in the series to Sansa in the books. She actually seems like a capable individual who is growing into adulthood. But let’s not forget that Littlefinger is an enormous dick. He strung along Catlyn’s sister, got her to kill her husband, married her, then killed her, since he has eyes for his “true love’s” daughter. He created chaos on the off chance he could bend that chaos to his will. He’s basically the Joker of Westeros – “Some men just want to see the world burn.” I’m hopeful that, in the series, Sansa will be slightly less screwed.
Finally, Arya. Finally! I’m very excited for the House of Black and White. Arya is looking for improved ability to kill, but really, she’s looking to process all of the death that she’s witnessed and find some meaning in the absence of any remaining support structure. Death is her only god, so the House of Black and White is the correct place for her. I was thrown off by Jaqen H’ghar. Why was he there? Why is that his actual appearance? That seems unlikely. Arya met him while he was disguised on a mission. He is not the high priest (at least, not in the books), and there’s nothing to suggest he would be back in the temple on the exact day she shows up.
The most likely reason for his being there is…he’s really cool. People like him. And no one knows the nameless priest who should be there. So, they pander to the audience and simplify the story, reducing the number of distinct characters. But, man, do they do it well.