In the Game of Game of Thrones, there are generally two strategies when it comes to assembling your team. You can pick proven MVPs, those who have already enjoyed some of the greatest victories and moments of the entire show, or you can invest in promising underdogs still waiting for their season to shine. But in the heat of draft day, it feels pretty damn good to stack your lineup with 100 percent winners, with the Yunkai-torching, slave-freeing mother of dragons at the top of your list. She gives that badass speech about breaking the wheel in the trailer, after all. She must just kill everyone this season. Fast forward two weeks, and your girl's getting hissed at like a common veterinarian.
+1 for pigeon murder
But we're getting ahead of ourselves, so let's double back and start with Thrones' longest-running underdog. As much as Arya Stark has been a fan favorite since day one, her appeal has been largely in her potential and not in tangible on-screen action. That's a lot of what is so likable — she's not a world-weary cynic like so many of our other favorite drunks and killers, though she has the hit list of one. Remember that scene in season one when the late Ned Stark is watching her practice her swordplay, and suddenly the sounds of battle fill the room, and an ominous look crosses his face? We've been waiting for that battle for four years now. Crossing the narrow sea (+40) is a promising development, as is finally meeting up with Jaqen H'ghar and the Faceless Men, but it's been a long time since Needle's drawn blood from anything bigger than a pigeon (+1), and we're ready to move on from the setup of the "Arya becomes a deadly assassin" arc.
From there we move on to the road to ... wherever it is Sansa Stark and Littlefinger are headed. We get a little more of their Cruel Intentions-y banter, and Sansa gets ale-tipsy (she's not impressed) and runs into Brienne of Tarth (also not impressed). Brienne can't help but look like a big ol' square next to these two blasé schemers, and is on the receiving end of a sick Littlefinger burn ("Why would I want someone with your history of failure protecting the lady?" +10). But it's Brienne who comes out with more points this round, responding to said burn by going on a bit of a rampage (three redshirt kills, +30, one redshirt K.O., +5). After the last couple weeks, she certainly had some steam to let off, and the fact that she can occasionally go off-script is reassuring, evidence that she's not just a doomed, virtuous Stark type. Also, Podrick stole some horses (+5) and then lost them. These guys are a train wreck, but at least they're a train wreck with a body count.
Cersei Lannister's still in a general life crisis, which is good news for those who have her in play — more lashing out at her brother-lover Jaime means more points for you ("You've never been a father to them before," "You've never made anything better," +10). But panicked Cersei is never top-of-her-game Cersei, no matter how many dwarves she has killed (+10). When she receives a threatening delivery from Dorne (+5 for Doran Martell), her first line is that old go-to, "I'll burn their cities to the ground." Cersei's better than that; I expect more creativity from the acting Hand of the King (+20 for a not-quite promotion). She's also very lucky we're not counting sick burns as negative points against the burnt party, because her Uncle Kevan had the most brutal line of the night at the small council. ("I do not recognize your authority to dictate what is and is not your concern. You are the queen mother, nothing more." YO QYBURN, GONNA NEED SOME GRAFTS FOR THAT THIRD-DEGREE FLESH MELTING.) I hate to see free-flying sass go unclaimed, but it seems Kevan's headed back to Casterly Rock, so he's probably not worth drafting at this point. Also, his name is pretty much "Kevin."
YO QYBURN, GONNA NEED SOME GRAFTS FOR THAT THIRD-DEGREE BURN
We need to talk about Doran, who made his debut this week, and is played by Deep Space Nine forevercrush Dr. Julian Bashir aka Alexander Siddig. I wish there could be points for casting, but if there is one thing the Game of Game of Thrones isn't, it's meta. Doran doesn't do much else this week besides get the Lannisters all in a tizzy over an express-mailed locket, which is a feat in and of itself. He mostly just listens to the rantings of Ellaria Sand, Oberyn Martell's bereaved boo, who was looking absolutely stunning this week (+15) in a long black, pointed-shoulder cape and some kind of serpent bracelet-chain-thing. Most of her venom never rose above angry exposition, except that part where she questioned the longevity of Doran's rule ("And how long will that be?" +10). So far, this season's bad attitudes have been great for fashion, and vice versa.
We caught up with Bronn this week, up in Stokesworth with a shiny new look (+10) and a new Cersei-brokered engagement with the lovely Lollys Stokeworth. He soon sets off for Dorne with Jaime to rescue both of their dwindling relevance on this television show. Elsewhere in the Male Witticisms Department, we have Tyrion and Varys, repeating their travel plans for us in case we had forgotten since last week. Tyrion made a crack about his sister's anatomy that felt kind of recycled, but I'll still throw points at it because otherwise there was no reason for that scene to exist (+5). I have to be brutally honest: these dual male road trips are the most at risk for falling into the dreaded Boring Subplot territory, which is crazy, because those are four of the best talkers on Game of Thrones.
Both Stannis and Brienne have absolutely no people skills whatsoever
Speaking of good talkin', how about Samwell Tarly with that barn burner of a campaign speech for his buddy Jon Snow? (+15 for line of the night, +5 for the bonus Janos Slynt roasting.) Jon's election as Lord Commander of the Night's Watch (+25) seemed almost anticlimactic by comparison. Elsewhere around The Wall, Stannis was just kind of skulking about uselessly, getting shut down by both Jon and the good people of Bear Island (-5). Stannis is kind of like the shadier version of Brienne — both are these kind of obstinate lawful-good types who have absolutely no people skills whatsoever. Shireen Baratheon is teaching Gilly to read (+5) as is her wont, and Gilly gets a pretty wicked speech about the horrors of Greyscale (+5).
Which brings me to a new point value I'd like to make official: +5 for making a speech about a particularly violent episode in the past, a great battle, or, say, the horrors of winter, which is coming. I felt this alteration was only fair, just because it's one of the signature elements of a Game of Thrones episode, and we want to reward characters who keep that heritage alive. So yes, +5 to you, Barristan Selmy, for that cautionary tale about the Mad King you delivered to his own daughter as a means of diplomatic advice.
It unfortunately backfired, and ended up resulting in one of the worst non-incest-related PR nightmares any character on Game of Thrones has suffered through. And here's where that MVP vs. promising rookie thing comes into play: Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons was way overdue for a garbage season, and it just might be upon us now. There were hints last season, as her residency in Meereen steadily became nothing but a well-appointed complaint desk. But the whole mess with the executed Harpy-slayer (who was that guy again, and how exactly did he wind up on her small council?) went beyond the logistical troubles of conquering a civilization. It was the first time we got the real sense that her political skills might not be up to the standards Meereen requires, much less Westeros. Which makes sense: she won fans by freeing slaves and having her dragons torch stuff — inspirational pyrotechnics that have nothing to do with the actual business of ruling. Just saying, Beyoncé probably doesn't do her own taxes.
Daenerys was way overdue for a garbage season
So yes, for scoring purposes: Daario Naharis stabbed and arrested the Son of the Harpy (+5), Daenerys took Selmy's advice and decided to give him a free trial, Mossador pre-empted that by Jack Rubying the Son, Daenerys punished him by public execution (+10 each for her and Daario, the latter of whom swung the scimitar). Why a trial for our sweet vigilante was not a possibility, and why the execution needed to to be public, I don't know, but the whole thing was, understandably, not very well received. Daenerys had to be escorted back inside her pyramid in the same manner Joffrey had been whenever he took a break from crossbowing prostitutes to go outside. The former slaves, whose freedom she granted, are now throwing rocks at her, which is a low so brutal that it gets its own negative point value (-30). Hey, at least there were dragons!
Dude, Dany. Next time, listen to your friend Hizdahr zo Loraq. No seriously, listen to him: his voice is like warm milk and he has no problem reminding you that he comes from a very noble family, if at any point his consistently bangin' fashion sense should leave you in any doubt. Why didn't anyone draft Hizdahr zo Loraq? Is this draft completely useless without the inclusion of Hizdahr zo Loraq? Fuck it, I'm drafting Hizdahr zo Loraq.
This week's top scoring characters (calculated from this total b.s. points guide)
- Arya Stark (42)
- Cersei Lannister (41)
- Brienne of Tarth (36)
- Jon Snow (26)
- Ellaria Sand (26)
- Samwell Tarly (21)
- The Faceless Men (16)
- Daario Naharis (16)
- Sansa Stark, Petyr Baelish, Jaime Lannister, Bronn (11 each)
This week's league rankings
- Casey Newton: 85 points (114 total)
- Chris Plante: 39 points (96 total)
- Kwame Opam: 60 points (94 total)
- Adi Robertson: 59 points (82 total)
- Liz Lopatto: 42 points (70 total)
- Dieter Bohn: 13 points (64 total)
- Bryan Bishop: 13 points (52 total)
- Arielle Duhaime-Ross: 23 points (36 total)
- Ross Miller: 13 points (16 total)