Headstrong Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) receives a chilly reception when she sails across the Narrow Sea to Braavos in “The House of Black and White,” Episode 42 of HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”
Arya seeks her friend, assassin Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), at an eerie “house.” It’s actually a windowless temple honoring the God of Death.
Hoping to gain admission by flashing a special coin, Arya is turned away by a mysterious man (Cedric Henderson) who says Jaqen doesn’t live there.
That same fellow scares off street thugs intent on stealing Needle, Arya’s small sword. Then he shapeshifts into the man Arya is searching for, even though he claims not to be Jaqen.
“Well, who are you then?” Arya asks impatiently.
“No one,” he replies, before allowing Arya to enter the lair of the assassins’ guild known as the Faceless Men.
As for Arya’s elder sibling Sansa (Sophie Turner), she’s on the run after being falsely accused of poisoning King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson). Determined to guard Sansa are Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and her companion Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman).
“I gave my word I would find you and protect you,” Brienne says to Sansa when they meet by happenstance at an alehouse.
Sansa’s new uncle, Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen), regards Brienne as a threat to his devious plans and orders his men to seize her. Unfortunately for the knights, expert swordswoman Brienne slaughters several of them before opting to tail Sansa from a discreet distance.
At King’s Landing, Queen Regent Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) fears for the safety of her daughter Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) in the southern city of Dorne. This blond teenager is betrothed to Trystane (Toby Sebastian), the youngest son of Prince Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig).
The threat comes from Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), who blames House Lannister for the slaying of her paramour, Doran’s brother Prince Oberyn (Pedro Pascal). Now Ellaria wants to send Myrcella back to Cersei “one finger at a time.”
“We do not mutilate little girls for vengeance,” Doran insists. “Not here. Not while I rule!”
Setting off to rescue Myrcella is her father, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), accompanied only by Ser Bronn (Jerome Flynn). Jaime hides his relationship with Myrcella, understandably, because she’s the product of incest.
At Castle Black, king wannabe Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) needs the help of wilding warriors to conquer the northern lands. But that’s problematic, in that Stannis just executed wilding leader Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds).
“The Free Folk will never follow you, no matter what you do,” predicts Night’s Watch steward Jon Snow (Kit Harington). “You’re the man who burned their king alive.”
Stannis shifts gears by attempting to win over Jon because of his ties to the north. Jon has no property rights, however, since he’s a bastard son.
“Pledge me your service and you’ll rise again as Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell,” Stannis promises.
But Jon declines the tempting offer because he swore allegiance to the Night’s Watch. This loyalty is soon rewarded when his comrades narrowly elect him as their Lord Commander.
Finally, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is targeted by shadowy insurgents known as the Sons of the Harpy. While one of these rebels awaits trial, he’s murdered by Mossador (Reece Noi). Now Dany must decide if this former slave lives or dies.
Ignoring pleas of “mercy, mercy” from the populace, Dany reluctantly orders Mossador’s beheading. Then she runs for cover as the crowd turns ugly.
Dany’s spirits are lifted when Drogon, her missing dragon, returns. But it’s just a fleeting visit as he flies away, leaving Dany alone and vulnerable.