The Sons of Harpy are almost certainly led by whatever was the second most powerful family in Mereen before Dany came along. They didn’t like how Hizdar curried favor with Daenerys, and saw the risk of being marginalized. A risk which was confirmed when they actually got engaged. They have made a decision, and are unlikely to reverse course. Come clean, and hoping for leniency would be extremely dangerous, and even in the best case scenario would see them exiled, or at least severely marginalized. No, if Tyrion wants to crack this nut, he has to either get Hizdar’s clan behind him, or else find the third most important family and help them destroy the second.
Anyway, the Mereen navy went up in smoke. This could actually be a sheep in wolf’s clothing. When Cortez reached the new world, he burnt his ships. As a result his men were very well motivated. There’s been a constant tension between Daenerys using Mereen only as a springboard for getting her and the Second Sons into Westeros, and her actually settling down to rule the place. The two are obviously contradictory. If she stays forever, the local rich guys may at some point decide it’s better to have her as an ally than enemy, and some will take a stake into her power structure, aligning their incentives. But if the expectation is that she will leave in six months anyway, there is no point in anybody putting their bets on her, and resistance will continue. The problem of course is that presumably that fleet wasn’t just there for looks, and the loss can compromise the continued viability of Mereen. Presumably most of the ships burned were warships, since merchant ships spend most of their time at sea, so losing a harbor full of them doesn’t make much of an impression on their absolute numbers. Who were they built to defend against? Will these foes decide to use their newly found control of the seas? I would expect that at a minimum, piracy incidents should become more frequent.
One of the big problems faced by the Targaryen faction is the lack of reproductive feed stock. Sure, Dany can do her bit, but if her children continue to be dragons it won’t make for a very stable court, as years go by. Even if the dragon thing is something she can turn on and off, she can only pick one spouse. She has no other living relatives, and Varys is a eunuch, as are all of her soldiers. That leaves Tyrion and Daario, and while both seem perfectly capable of producing heirs, one woman and two men is not much to start a dynasty with. Presumably some of the former slave girls, particularly the former clerical slaves such as Missandei, could be part of the foundation, but it is unclear weather former slave holders could see themselves as sufficiently invested in the status quo, just because one of their family is married to a former slave – however trusted and well-liked by the queen.
We also learn that the other cities liberated by Dany have gone back to slavery (what happened to the garrisons?), leaving Mereen isolated, and without a fleet. Troubling times. On the plus side, Tyrion seems to be making friends with the dragons. I guess the closest historical paragon would be with be with the domestication of the horse, which must have given an incredibly decisive military advantage to those first cavalry warriors.
Arya in Bravos
Arya looks very plump for a girl that’s been begging for a few months. Perhaps her friends with no face were looking after her. Anyway, she seems to have gotten on the good side of her mentor again.The whole Faceless Men things is clearly taken from the Assassin Sect.
The Boltons have some good news and some bad news. They lost track of Sansa and found the hunters (bad fieldcraft on the part of Team Sansa, they should have hidden the bodies). This makes it very hard for Ramsay to father a son, as “enthusiastic” as he was to do so. Unless of course Sansa is already pregnant of course. On the plus side, Ramsay now has a little baby brother. This is good news for the family, but bad news for him. Oooh surprise, Ramsay just killed his father (I am writing this as I watch). Well that does change things… So Bolton Sr. was retroactively “poisoned by his enemies” as the Maester will confirm (before he gets killed for being an eyewitness). Presumably we’ll get a couple of episodes of Ramsay torturing various people “he suspects of being behind this”. What follows is of course Ramsay being Ramsay. His end will be a very teachable moment.
Theon decided to go home, while the rest continue North. On the minus side, Jon is already dead, but on the plus side the Wildlings must at this point be looking for a leader from south of the wall to ease their transition. Team Sansa is actually not in a horrible place. Right now there’s only Sansa, Brienne, and Pod. Sansa has the birth, Brienne has the brawn, and Pod – well, he’s loyal, and can take care of one or two redshirts.
What they are lacking is brains, unless Sansa starts seeing sense, she gave some indication of this in the Ayre. Brienne is a great – if unlucky – King’s guard, but I don’t see her as a great military strategist. If Bran stops sitting in his cave visioning of yesteryear and decides to join her sister, they could be quite a team. The advantage they would have over the other houses is that they are remarkably free to make their own destiny. The Lannisters are in hock to the Iron Bank, the Tyrells have a high incarceration rate and an uneasy alliance with the Lannisters, Ramsay will eventually find himself buried in a burnt hole he himself dug and set fire to, Dany is going to some Dothraki temple, and her faction is busy playing cops and robbers with the Sons of Harpy. If Bran and Sansa can get together (presumably with the archery girl and Hodor in tow) they would be a pretty good special operations outfit. They could get the North to revolt to the Boltons in a heartbeat. Incidentally, speaking of Theon, what happened to him is not some weird fantasy thing. It’s called learned helplessness, and it was the basic intermediate objective in e.g. the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah (“He capitulated the first time. We chose to expose him over and over until we had a high degree of confidence he wouldn’t hold back”). So not exactly that thing, but that sort of thing actually does happen.
(clearly inspired by the Norsemen) the king and his daughter are discussing the war. They had the great idea of capturing a bunch of towns, but with the war on the mainland over, they have now lost all of their continental garrisons. Even for the Vikings, raiding was always a lot easier than holding ground. It’s true that they conquered a lot of places, but for every success there were dozens of failures we never get to read about. But loosing the garrisons to the last man sounds more like lack of planning, or bad orders. A maritime culture makes war by hit and run. I’m not saying the Ironborn have to be exactly like the Norsemen, but what’s the point of sea supremacy if you’e not going to cut your losses when outnumbered? Conversely, if they are (usually) so strong that they never needed to run, why haven’t they taken over Westeros? If the garrisons were a significant part of the Ironborn military force, why lose them for nothing? Or, if the Ironborn had manpower to spend, why didn’t they reinforce the garrisons?
Now the King’s brother comes back from sailing, raping, and pillaging elsewhere and kills the King. Presumably this is why the other ruling families have King’s guards. And nobody saw him do this, despite the event taking place on some rope bridge which presumably should have somebody standing next to it ready to cut it, for it to be of any use.
They are bringing back Jon from the dead. Historical precedents… well there was that one alleged time… Other than that, I guess the closest parallels are with literature rather than history. The whole scene had more of a Dr Frankenstein feel than anything else, but we’ll see what kind of undead Jon proves to be.