I try to give people a full day to watch the episode before posting, and I minimize spoilers as much as I can, but I feel like it should be said, just in case: IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED THE SECOND EPISODE OF SEASON FIVE OF GAME OF THRONES, DO NOT CONTINUE READING.
Okay, now that I've said that, on to the show. I really loved this episode. One, it featured my favorite characters and gave us a lot of development for each of them, and two, it showed us some real emotional struggle for many of them.
I know everyone loves Tyrion, and I do as well, but I think that we are getting a chance to see in this season that he's kind of a mess. He's not really doing anything, and some of it is his own despair. What I love about Game of Thrones and what makes it so unique of a show is that the characters are real people. They are in fantasy settings and dealing with issues like monarchies and blood feuds, but they're also like the people we know. We see real humanity in George R.R. Martin's characters and that's what makes this series so fantastic. I think Tyrion has been regaled a bit much as some kind of hero, but he's not - at least not in the traditional way. When faced with adversity, he doesn't respond well, as seems to be common among the Lannisters, and that's why they're my favorite family. They're the most like people now. Classic heroes would be fighting back, would be energized to save the realm, but Tyrion is just moping.
Then you have Sansa, who is growing cold and bitter. Sansa and Cersei are so similar and I think that's a really interesting look at the sociology of Westeros. Every action she has taken makes sense, although people hate her for them. However, both Sansa and Cersei respond in ways that normal people would. Normal people are not readers. I don't mean that they don't read, but I mean that normal people don't get to have all the facts, just as the characters in A Song of Ice and Fire don't know everything we know. It's easy to shame a character or feel angry for their actions, but they're really all like Jon Snow - they know nothing. We can be mad at Sansa for choosing Littlefinger over Brienne, but what would anyone else do? As he pointed out, Brienne's track record is questionable and Sansa doesn't know how corrupt and manipulative Baelish is.
We say Cersei is evil for hating Tyrion, but what does she have to go on? She lost her mother as a child, as she gave birth to Tyrion. Tywin, Cersei's only living parent, raised her to hate him as well. Then there's the prophecy, but again, I'm trying to stay spoiler-free. When it comes to Joffrey's death, Cersei truly believes Tyrion killed him - and then Tyrion DOES kill their father. Her anger, for her, is not evil, but real. Most people in her situation would be angry.
Speaking of Cersei, the scene with Jaime nearly made me cry. They're both so broken for things that aren't their fault. Everyone hates the Lannisters, but really it's just because they're easy to hate. It's far easier to hate and blame those in power than to face the real hard truths (as Jon and Tyrion discuss in the books). If Cersei is a villain at all, it's only because now she's losing control. I can't help but empathize with her, because there is nothing more frustrating than knowing you are capable of something and never having the opportunity to do it. She's the smartest of the Lannister children and would have been fully capable of ruling, but she's been thwarted endlessly and used by everyone. Now she's desperate and is starting to act out of fear and not wisdom. Her fear of losing everyone she loves and her fear for Tommen and Myrcella, as well as her fear of the prophecy (which is clearly becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy), is making her rash and careless. When people say Cersei is evil, I get mad because she's clearly not. I see her not as Darth Vader as a villain, but as Anakin (and yes, there is definitely a difference). She is losing herself to fear and as we know fear leads to anger leads to hate leads to suffering. (Oh, and I was so mad at Kevan, but I think that's a little more to do with the way the actor played it than the actual character's intentions.)
Anyway, that storyline is clearly a variation from the novels, with Jaime headed to Dorne. And speaking of Dorne, I'm not liking the Martells so far. If the Lannisters are evil, how are the Martells not? They're willing to mutilate a little girl to make a point? Why? Because a grown man CHOSE to fight as champion and got killed? Not okay.
Back to Brienne and Pod, he's ridiculously adorable and inept, but Brienne is a badass. They aren't doing much with them yet, but I'm glad we get to see her doing her thing, which is apparently killing a bunch of people.
One of my other favorite characters is Sam. I love Sam so much it's ridiculous and this episode was awesome for him. Both the scene with the Lord Commander post nominations and the scene with Gilly were amazing. "I know S." :)
Now, on the other side of the world, Arya has her awesome moment and I'm really excited to see her transformation. They haven't given us much of her yet, but that will be an incredible storyline.
And lastly, Daenerys. Oh, the poor Mother of Dragons. She can't win. I love that, though, because I love that it's not easy. Why would it be? Being a ruler shouldn't be easy and it's not what she thought it would be. Nobility is all a matter of perspective. There was nothing she could have done in the episode differently. She made the choice that she needed to make in both situations, but of course, the consequences will be dire regardless. My biggest concern is that she trusted Daario. That guy needs to be kept as far away from her as possible. Clearly, one of the predominant themes of Game of Thrones is that people can't make wise decisions when their emotions are tangled up in the mess. But I did enjoy seeing Drogon. I wish she'd let the other two out, too.
Several people were saying this episode was boring, which is absurd. It wasn't boring at all. There was action, but it was certainly more character-driven than full of action. However, that's what Game of Thrones IS. It's what makes it good and what makes it different from just another fantasy trope-ridden show and series.