* Arya and Sansa Stark are learning, more than Rob and Papa Stark ever did. Arya – thanks largely to Dog, although she’s had other tutoring along the way – is figuring out just the sort of mentality it takes to be a warrior and leader and survive in Westeros. She seems comfortable keeping her own company, observing and learning from the mistakes of others. She’s smart enough to avoid conflict, and savvy enough to understand when blood needs to be spilled. Sansa has had a different path, but has grown wiser just the same. Sansa, who has been pretty much everyone’s pawn at some point during Game of Thrones, finally understands her own power: Her rank, her name and her beauty. She probably should have trusted Tyrion more, something that could have saved them both significant time and trouble. That said, joining forces with Lord Baelish shows some smarts on her part. I think Sansa also understands the spell being the daughter of Catelyn casts over Baelish, as well as Baelish’s abilities as a diplomat and sneak. It was savvy political alignment on her part, some character development that really, finally makes her interesting, not just important.
* I love the idea of an alliance of Tyrion, Lord Varys and Daenerys Targaryen. Tyrion is a bit indulgent and self-destructive, but he understands strategy, the short and long games. He also knows how to exploit weakness. The throne wouldn’t suit him, but being the power behind the throne very well could, even if he doesn’t want to follow in daddy’s footsteps. Lord Varys is the master of collecting information and has eyes and ears all over that world. Daenerys has military power and advisors and is loved by her people, but – particularly as the final episodes of Season 4 and first episode of Season 5 show – she lacks the skills of day-to-day governance that someone in her position needs. With Tyrion as the hand of the queen and Varys lurking in the shadows, this could end up making Daenerys the power to deal with, dragons or no.
* John Snow just gets more and more interesting. In the first season, even into the second, he’s a bit of an afterthought. But now, John’s a key player. He’s one of the few on the south side of the wall who may be able to get through to the Wildings, and his ties to the Starks, ability as a fighter and general mental sharpness make him important to Stannis. The question is what is Snow’s ceiling? How high can he rise before someone resents Ned Stark’s bastard and tries to take him down a notch or two?
* I love the Missandei-Grey Worm storyline. I don’t know that it will mean much to the series, but it really humanizes the Unsullied and is the one relationship in Game of Thrones where power or potential for power is not in play. Two star-crossed lovers who likely won’t find a way to make it work.
* Every time I see Lena Heady in anything, I like her more. Heady is simply fierce. It’s the eyes. And it doesn’t matter the project – Game of Thrones, 300, The Purge, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, The Broken, etc. – Heady brings intensity to her role. Sometimes its more over-the-top – such as Dredd – while other times it’s controlled and internalized, such has her turn as John Conner’s mom. I look forward to what she does beyond GoT down the road.