TIME Television

Sarah Paulson Will Check Into American Horror Story: Hotel

Co-creator Ryan Murphy announced Paulson’s casting on Twitter

That cheering you hear is the throngs of American Horror Story viewers learning that fan favorite Sarah Paulson, who has appeared in every season of AHS, will be returning for season 5’s Hotel. Co-creator Ryan Murphy announced Paulson’s casting on Twitter today.

The actress, who has been nominated for two Emmys for her turns on AHS, will join previously announced Lady Gaga, Matt Bomer, Kathy Bates, Chloe Sevigny, Wes Bentley, and Cheyenne Jackson on Hotel. Paulson will also appear in Murphy’s other anthology series, American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson, as Marcia Clark.

American Horror Story: Hotel will shoot this summer in L.A. and premiere this fall on FX.

This article originally appeared on EW.com.

Read next: Jessica Lange Bids Farewell to American Horror Story

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TIME food and drink

Watch This Breakfast Master Make Game of Thrones Pancakes

Open up and eat your Westeros

Your love of Game of Thrones no longer needs to end on Sunday night when the episode is over. Now with a little pancake mix and a lot of skill, you can extend it to the breakfast table.

Using off-the-shelf baking mix, water and a nonstick pan, YouTube pancake-making sensation Nathan Shields whipped up a delicious-looking ode to the seven kingdoms of Westeros. Shields put his incredible pancake skills to work to create edible versions of the sigils that mark the fictional noble houses in Game of Thrones. There’s the wolves of Winterfell, a Lannister lion, the bird and moon that mark House Arryn’s stronghold The Eyrie, all recreated in batter just yearning for butter and syrup the way Arya Stark thirsts for vengeance.

Remember, if you do try to recreate these pancakes at home, don’t invite Jon Snow for breakfast.

TIME Television

How I Met My Mother: Don Draper’s Oedipal Farewell Tour

Jon Hamm as Don Draper - Mad Men _ Season 7B, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Justina Mintz/AMC
Justina Mintz/AMC

With Mad Men's mysterious Diana, Don seems to be going back to the beginning. The very beginning.

Spoilers for Mad Men, “New Business,” below:

“You think you’re going to begin your life over and get it right. But what if you never get past the beginning?”

Is Diana the waitress real?

Yes. Maybe! Probably. OK, yes–in the literal terms of how she’s presented on Mad Men, Diana appears to be an actual, in-the-flesh person, not a ghost, hallucination or Greek hunter-goddess. When we and Don first meet her, it’s in the company of other people, including Roger Sterling, who tips her the $100 she mistakes as an advance payment for sex. (As one does.) And in “New Business”–largely dedicated to the old business of Don’s love life–when Sylvia awkwardly encounters Don in his building’s elevator, she acknowledges his date.

But Diana is just barely real, in a way that seems too blatant to be accidental. While I don’t think Matthew Weiner is planning some kind of Sixth Sense shocker twist here, there is something Sideways Universe about her entire relationship with Don. For the most part, her scenes with him are written and staged precisely as you would if she were going to be revealed as a phantasm or a dream.

They’re generally alone, or in the presence of other people (restaurant workers, strangers) who take no note of them. They immediately fall into deep, revealing conversations about death, loss and the slipperiness of reality. (Think carefully about when you had that dream–when people die, everything gets mixed up.) She seems archetypal, more symbol than person, and she’s rootless, with no other connections–not even a telephone–or people around her. He meets her waitressing at one restaurant, then finds her–with the odd visual logic of a dream–waitressing in another restaurant, as if she is all waitresses, the Ur-Waitress.

It all fits into a real-world story, of course. (Diana has moved to New York after her daughter’s death precisely to be where she knows no one and has no connections, for instance.) But it plays out more or less the same as it would if she existed only in Don Draper’s head.

Which she does, even if she’s as real as you and I. Remember why Don goes back to her: he feels like he knows her from somewhere, she reminds him from someone, in a way that unsettles him. Elizabeth Reaser’s casting is perfect here, because she has the same effect on a Mad Men audience: she’s a familiar face, but just somewhat, and looks a little like so many of Don’s Dusky Sad Women past, from Midge to Rachel to Suzanne Farrell to Sylvia.

Oh, and one more: Don’s mother, Evangeline (make of that name what you will), the prostitute who died when he was born. A person Don can never have seen, except that he has, in the season 3 premiere “Out of Town.” Don is warming up milk for his expectant wife Betty, and while that big bubbling pot of symbolism froths on the stovetop, Don imagines the primal scene between his mother and Archie Whitman, his own birth, and the ironic naming of Dick Whitman. (“You get me in trouble, I’m gonna cut your dick off and boil it in hog fat.”) As Evangeline shivers near death, she’s asked if she wants to hold her baby. At least in Don’s vision, she never does.

You don’t have to be Dr. Freud, or Dr. Faye Miller, to see that Don in some way has all his life been trying to get into her arms, to get back to his own phantasmal, real-but-not-real mother. At the outset of season 4, after his divorce from Betty, we find him in bed with a prostitute, paying her to slap him. (That encounter is further complicated in season 6, when we learn that Dick Whitman lost his virginity as a boy to a prostitute who molested him.) Not coincidence, I’m guessing, that Don becomes fixated on Diana after she has sex with him for money (even if he wasn’t aware of it at the time).

Mad Men is about nothing if not pattern-following, and this echoes plenty of patterns in Don’s past relationships: women who often echo Evangeline’s appearance, women in whom he sees something maternal. (When Don chooses Megan over Faye, for instance, one thing that appears to seal the deal is how quickly she bonds with his kids, mopping up spilled milkshakes and making everything right again.)

And it’s starting to look as if the final stretch of Mad Men may be taking stock of Don’s life by taking a farewell tour of each of Don’s relationships: we saw Rachel in “Severance,” Megan, Sylvia and Betty this week. The final episodes are driving forward to the future and the end; Don is trying to turn a corner with Megan, cutting her a check for a million dollars. But as Pete says to Don, there’s no guarantee you can ever make it past your beginning.

Don may see his mother in Diana, and shades of each woman he’s known since. But there’s one more nagging familiarity: he sees himself. She fled from the Midwest–Racine, Wisconsin–to New York. (Don was raised in Pennsylvania but was born in Illinois.) She left behind blood and kin after a trauma, and lives with the guilt of it, while escaping into alcohol and hookups. At one point, she even overtly echoes Don’s famous Carousel pitch from “The Wheel,” saying that she feels “a twinge in my chest.” (“In Greek,” as Don put it, “‘nostalgia’ literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.”)

But there’s a big difference between Diana and Don. Where he left his old life and diligently built a new one–name, home, career–she repudiates that idea as an evasion, a betrayal. She’s come to New York specifically to have nothing and no one, to have no identity at all, to live with her pain and dedicate herself to it. To Don, they each offer the other the chance at healing. To Diana, that’s exactly the danger–he makes her forget, and she never wants to. The last thing she wants is to Don Draper her own existence.

I’m still debating whether Diana really works as a character rather than as a thematic device; she’s still too ethereal and thin to seem more than an externalization of Don’s issues, a dream girl, a Renaissance painting, a Madonna with Coffee Carafe. And maybe things will end the way they have for so many of Don’s women, with him turning the relationship into what he needs it to be. Maybe that pattern will repeat too. (In general, though, judging a Mad Men season two episodes in is tempting fate.)

But one thing at least is different here. Even as Don again finds his mother in a woman, this time he’s also found an alternative, alliterative version of himself. (“Diana”–goddess of childbirth as well as hunting, if you’re keeping score–is practically “Donna,” which would have been a little on the nose.) But this version of himself argues that his whole ambition of remaking himself and starting again is a delusion.

Diana may be Don’s last relationship on Mad Men. She may turn out to be his best or his worst or neither. But with her parallels to both Dick Whitman and his mother, she’s at least a fitting return to the very beginning. However real Diana ultimately is, she’s a fitting last partner to Don/Dick, a man for whom nostalgia is the pain from an old womb.

(More: Read Nolan Feeney’s full Mad Men recap.)

TIME Television

Mad Men Recap: ‘New Business’

Kiernan Shipka as Sally Draper, January Jones as Betty Francis, Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as Don Draper - Mad Men _ Season 7B, Gallery _ Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Frank Ockenfels 3—AMC From Left: Kiernan Shipka as Sally Draper, January Jones as Betty Francis, Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as Don Draper in Mad Men season 7B.

Don and Megan settle things once and for all

If last week’s ghostly glimpse of Rachel Menken wasn’t enough of a blast from the past, Sunday’s episode of Mad Men turned out to be quite the parade of exes. As “New Business” delved deeper into the mystery of Diana the enigmatic diner waitress, it also marked the half-season return of Megan Draper, Betty Francis (who — cue your raised eyebrow — is getting a master’s in psychology because she says people love to talk to her) and even Don’s ex-mistress Sylvia.

When we last saw Megan, she and Don appeared to have ended their marriage amicably. But money has put them at loggerheads in the months since, and Megan’s so dependent on Don’s allowances that she’s ready to back down from the fight and agree to whatever Don’s lawyer is asking for. She returns to New York in this episode to collect what’s hers and move on with her life — which includes getting her stagnant acting career back on track with Harry Crane’s help — but finding closure is easier said than done when your mother and sister are constantly harping about what an embarrassment your divorce is. Marie, Megan’s mother, is in town to help Megan pack up her possessions from Don’s apartment, but she spews so much hatred about how Don ruined Megan’s life that even Megan is thrilled to escape for lunch.

There’s no good news at lunch, where Harry Crane reveals himself to be a giant sleazebag. After opening with some helpful advice about how to find the right agent, Harry derails the meeting by badmouthing Don and inviting Megan upstairs to the hotel room he creepily booked ahead of time. When she politely turns him down, Harry has the nerve to suggest she’s having such bad career luck precisely because she won’t consider the casting couch, prompting Megan to storm off — only to find even more bad news at home.

You see, while she was busy fending off Harry’s advances, a vindictive Marie was packing up much more than what Megan was planning to take — try all of Don’s furniture. But when the movers accordingly demanded more money and she had no cash, Marie had to call in a reluctant favor to her ex-flame Roger, whom she practically pounced on as soon as he settled the bill. (Gee, it’s almost like she was looking for an excuse to call him.) Megan is furious when she returns from her disastrous lunch to find her mother and Roger just barely dressed — you’d be too if your mom spent all morning lecturing you about your failed marriage only to be caught cheating herself and then insist that you can’t judge her.

Meanwhile at the office, Peggy finds out exactly what kind of career woman she wants to be when she books an edgy, buzzed-about photographer named Pima Ryan to shoot a vermouth commercial. Stan isn’t thrilled to be working with a woman he implies is a diversity hire, but the very things that make her a threat to Stan also make her appealing to Peggy: Pima is ambitious, outspoken and unconcerned with what the men in her life think of her (something Peggy gives a lot of thought to). But the two reverse course once Pima tries to seduce them both, with mixed results. The tactic works on Stan, who we learn is envious of Pima’s work and who jumps at the opportunity to be critiqued by her. (Pima, in turns, jumps at the opportunity to jump him in the dark room). But the seduction backfires on Peggy — who not too long ago may have fallen for such a play on her insecurities — after she realizes what’s happening. “She tried the same thing with me and didn’t get as far,” Peggy tells Stan. “And that’s why I’m not going to give her another job.”

While Peggy is once again the only person doing any real work around here, Don has been hunting down Diana. He tracks her down at her new restaurant and asks her out, even after she says his persistence is making her uncomfortable. (That’s probably just what Don considers flirting.) Diana does call him, however, and the two catch up — Don says he had trouble finding her, she says she had to go back to Wisconsin to wrap up a divorce — before she comes over for an extended sleepover. Through the course of that sleepover, we learn Diana has a few issues she’s still working out, namely that she had a daughter who died of the flu two years ago. Instead of being turned off by the thought of being with someone even more messed-up than he is, Don offers to play hooky with her, which is how they happen to run into Sylvia (Linda Cardellini, now on Netflix’s Bloodline if you miss her) in the elevator of his apartment. Sylvia is polite but distant, and while it’s not terribly awkward, there’s enough tension for Diana to pick up on. “How many girls have you had in this elevator?” she asks playfully. “That’s not who that was,” Don answers in an awfully Clintonian defense of his romantic history.

Don pauses the date to go to his divorce meeting with Megan, who’s so furious she can barely speak to him. “I wasn’t going to give you the satisfaction of knowing you ruined my life,” she says coldly. In response, Don whips out his checkbook, promises to give her the life she deserved and promptly hands her a $1 million check, which she takes and runs (but not before giving back her ring). Megan is so liberated from her grudge against Don that she’s unfazed to learn Marie is leaving Megan’s father for Roger. “She’s been unhappy for a very long time,” Megan tells her inconsolable sister, who broke the news, as she walks away. So this is how we leave Megan: jaded about love and marriage, her happiness (or least peace of mind) totally bought.

Happiness continues to elude Diana, however, who tells Don to give up on account of her emotional baggage when they resume their extended date at her place. She reveals she had two children, one who did die, and one who she abandoned back in Wisconsin with the girl’s father. “When I was with you, I forgot about her,” Diana says, “I don’t ever want to do that.” Diana assumes that Don doesn’t understand trauma or loss or disappointment when she pushes him away, but his willingness to pursue a relationship in spite of her revelations — there’s been other women since Megan, he explains, but he’s serious this time — doesn’t come from his privilege or a lack of life experience. It’s Don trying to carry on in the face of it.

This wise, compassionate and magnanimous side of Don is one we’re seeing more and more of as the series winds down, but he was especially present in “New Business”: Don ignored Roger’s rant about not backing down from a divorce fight; he gave Pete some practical advice about rebuilding your life after a marriage ends (seriously though, can Mad Men not afford better green-screen technology than whatever was happening during that car scene?); and then he fulfills his promise to always take care of Megan, not because he’s weary of divorce drama, but because he genuinely believes that’s the right thing to do. When Don Draper starts looking like the most well-adjusted person in the series, you know Mad Men has come a long way.

Read next: Mad Men’s Meredith Explains Why She’s Don Draper’s Best Secretary Ever

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TIME Television

Game of Thrones Actor Explains His Horrifying Death Scene

Helen Sloan—HBO Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister.

Spoilers ahead

[Spoilers from the Game of Thrones season 5 premiere]: Another king has fallen: Wildling leader Mance Raydar, a.k.a. The King Beyond the Wall, volunteered for a horrifying death at the climax of the Game of Thrones season 5 premiere, being burned alive at the stake rather than bend the knee to self-proclaimed king of Westeros Stannis Baratheon—a fate cut short by a merciful arrow from Jon Snow. Below we talk to actor Ciaran Hinds about Mance’s gruesome fate, including how his storyline will differ from George R.R. Martin’s novels. (And for those wondering, no, Hinds wasn’t actually near the flames during that final scene—it’s the magic of Hollywood, er, Northern Ireland).

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you find out about Mance’s fate?
CIARAN HINDS: I had an idea when Stannis and Davos turned up [last season], that it meant something serious for me and my future. I got a very lovely email from [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss]. They said basically, “Hi, you know about this show, you know All Men Must Die, and now you’re going to be on your way”—not quite like that, but it was very lovely. They said we’ll see you in August for a good ‘ol barbecue, basically. It’s very kind that they let you know rather than just send you the script. It can be so much harder than in many series, because they feel such a genuine commitment to each loss, but they have to fulfill their commitment to the series.

That scene with Jon Snow in your cell was arguably your finest in the series, how did you feel about it?
Well, it’s pretty high stakes, I guess, there’s never going to be much higher words. I was never sure, they have so many characters to deal with, how far they were going to take Mance. They decided to start the [season] with a big move and I was the guy to be toasted. I haven’t seen it yet, so I don’t know how it’s turned out.

Read the full interview at EW.com

Read next: These Are the 25 Most-Highlighted Game of Thrones Quotes

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TIME Television

Four Facts About John Dickerson, The Next Host of Face the Nation

This 2012 photo provided by CBS News shows CBS News political director John Dickerson, in Washington. Dickerson will replace the retiring Bob Schieffer as moderator of "Face the Nation," Schieffer announced Sunday, April 12, 2015
Chris Usher—AP This 2012 photo provided by CBS News shows CBS News political director John Dickerson, in Washington. Dickerson will replace the retiring Bob Schieffer as moderator of "Face the Nation," Schieffer announced Sunday, April 12, 2015

His mother was an associate producer on the very first broadcast of the show

CBS announced Sunday that chief political director John Dickerson will replace the retiring Bob Schieffer this summer as host of the political roundtable Face the Nation. Here are four facts to play catch-up on the veteran journalist’s career.

1. Dickerson spent 12 years covering politics for TIME.

Dickerson worked for TIME from 1993-2005, spending the final four years as the White House correspondent during the George W. Bush administration.

In 2003, Dickerson co-authored an article for TIME titled, “A War on Wilson,” which in 2007 resulted in his being named by White House spokesman Ari Fleischer as one of two reporters to whom he leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame. Dickerson has refuted the claim and offered his own account of events.

2. He is a podcast maven

On Slate’s popular Political Gabfest podcast, the three-person team of Dickerson, Atlas Obscura CEO David Plotz and New York Times Magazine reporter Emily Bazelon discuss the week’s current events. Dickerson is also the one-man host of Whistle Stop, a U.S. political campaign history podcast.

Fans will be happy to hear Dickerson will continue podcasting.

3. His mother was a pioneering journalist

In 1960, when journalism was almost completely male-dominated, Nancy Dickerson became CBS News’ the first female correspondent. She was also an associate producer on Face the Nation — including the very first broadcast of the show in 1954.

In 2006, John Dickerson wrote about his pioneering mother in the biography, On Her Trail, in which he retraces her life and explores their relationship, after her death in 1997. In a 2006 interview with TIME, he said, “I owe her more gratitude than I ever expressed and more sympathy than I ever demonstrated.”

4. The man loves his history

When Dickerson dives into William Henry Harrison’s first ever presidential campaign or the curious quirks of President Harding it is obvious that much of his success in journalism is because of his passion for history.

However, as CBS News president David Rhodes puts it, “John is first and foremost a reporter — and that’s what he’ll be as anchor of Face the Nation.”

TIME Television

Watch John Oliver Get Michael Bolton to Sing an Ode to the IRS

Spare the IRS your ire

Tax day is nigh and John Oliver used his Last Week Tonight platform to urge taxpayers not to blame the IRS for their tax day woes — and instead save that ire for Congress.

“The fact is, blaming the IRS because you hate paying your taxes is like slapping the checkout clerk because the price of eggs has gone up,” said Oliver. He noted that if people are angry about the amount of tax they pay, they should blame Congress, who are also responsible for setting the tax rate and for making frequent, confusing changes in the tax code.

Oliver believes that the IRS is unfairly vilified by taxpayers, and their status as the universal scapegoat, gives Congress leeway to cut the agency’s budget, which results in fewer services and longer lines. To encourage people to spare the IRS, Oliver conscripted Michael Bolton to sing a stirring ode to the most maligned agency in the U.S. government.

Read next: Here’s What to Do If You Can’t Finish Your Taxes On Time

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TIME Television

Watch the First Trailer for the TV Adaptation of the Scream Gore Movies

"Everyone is fair game"

The first trailer for the Scream TV series made its debut during Sunday night’s MTV Movie Awards.

And just like the classic ’90s horror franchise, MTV’s television adaptation looks to be just as creepy and gore-filled.

When a cyber-bullying incident results in murder, the brutality stirs up memories of the town’s violent past, especially for a group of teens who find themselves the target of a suspected copycat killer.

Actress Bella Thorne introduces the trailer in a scene that’s a nod to the opening sequence of the original Scream movie.

Jason Wiles (Third Watch) will replace Joel Gretsch (The 4400) as Sheriff Clark Hudson, a role made famous in the films by David Arquette, writes the Hollywood Reporter.

Also starring are Bex Taylor-Klaus, Willa Fitzgerald, Carlson Young, John Karna, Connor Weil and Amadeus Serafini.

Jamie Travis (Faking It) directed the pilot for the series, which will premiere June 30.


TIME Television

Amy Schumer’s Craziest Jokes From the 2015 MTV Movie Awards

Host Amy Schumer opens the show at the 2015 MTV Movie Awards in Los Angeles on Apr. 12, 2015.
Mario Anzuoni—Reuters Host Amy Schumer opens the show at the 2015 MTV Movie Awards in Los Angeles on Apr. 12, 2015.

She brought her signature Inside Amy Schumer sense of humor

Amy Schumer was a bold choice to host the 2015 MTV Movie Awards, and she didn’t disappoint: the Inside Amy Schumer comedian filled the night with edgy jokes and sketches that pushed the boundaries on female sexuality, racism, cancer and more.

In a sketch where Schumer pretended to audition for Selma, she confused Selma, Ala. with Salma Hayek and did an impression of the Latina actress. The script was touchy—“You think that I can’t play a strong ‘Latinra’ just because I’m a beautiful whitekin-la,” she says in a put-on accent—but she did warn viewers before the show saying: “I know people are going to be mad.”

Another sketch about Fifty Shades of Grey pushed boundaries with not-so-subtle sexual innuendos showing women leaving the theater with baseball bats.

Here are some of her most outrageous jokes of the night:

After a gag that left Jimmy Kimmel pierced by an arrow: “I do want to apologize to Jimmy Kimmel, my lower back tattoo is usually the target.”

“Half of you don’t know who I am, and half of you think I’m Meghan Trainor.”

On The Fault in Our Stars: “That was such a great movie, but I think they should have gone with the original title, “Cancer Schmancer.”

On Furious 7: “[That’s] what they’re calling the people who saw Jupiter Ascending.”

“Hillary Clinton finally announced she’s taking Zayn’s spot in One Direction.”

“If you feel like you’re hot wherever you live, stay there, okay? Don’t move [to LA].”

“I have two superpowers: one, I have no gag reflex, and two, I can fly.”

Here’s hoping in a few years’ time, Schumer will be polished and mainstream enough to get an even bigger hosting gig.

Read next: See All the Winners From the 2015 MTV Movie Awards

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TIME Television

Game of Thrones Watch: Dead Lords and Monsters

Helen Sloan—HBO Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen.

Tywin Lannister's death has left a power vacuum in Westeros, but few seem ready—or qualified—to fill the void

Spoilers for last night’s Game of Thrones follow:

“The good lords are dead, and the rest are monsters.”

If the opening episode of the fifth season of Game of Thrones is any indication, we’re likely to spend the next nine weeks finding out whether Brienne of Tarth is right. It’s certainly not difficult to appreciate her point of view. She’s seen Renly Baratheon killed by a rather literal demon spawn right in front of her eyes and heard tell of the atrocities visited upon her next liege, Catelyn Stark, and Catelyn’s son Robb at the Red Wedding. Brienne is also no doubt aware of the execution of the honorable Ned Stark, and may have even received word that the righteous Oberyn Martell had his head crushed, Gallagher-style, by Gregor Clegane. So yeah, you could probably forgive her if her opinion of the world is as bleak as the new True Detective teaser at the moment.

Unfortunately, the outlook elsewhere throughout Westeros and across the Narrow Sea isn’t much sunnier. Only a few days have passed since the conclusion of Season 4, but anyone expecting Tywin Lannister’s demise to bring newfound hope and optimism to the Game of Thrones universe will be as disappointed as those forced to watch Robin Arryn engage in swordplay.

Cersei is still in King’s Landing, having added a dead father to her ever-growing tally of deceased family members, which already included a son she loved and a husband she loathed. Though now freed (presumably) from her obligation to mary Loras Tyrell, Cersei remains committed to coping with her father’s death in the only way she knows how: trying to drink her way through the capital’s plentiful stock of Dornish wine, berating her brother Jaime and doing her level best to ignore everyone else while keeping a disapproving eye on the budding romance between her last remaining son, King Tommen, and unlucky-in-love Margaery Tyrell. Even the return of a chiseled and short-haired Lancel Lannister, who rededicated his life to a religious fundamentalist order known as the “Sparrows” in the wake of the Battle of Blackwater, does little to sway Cersei from her path toward total and utter spite-filled misery.

It’s a path that her younger brother and avowed arch-enemy Tyrion knows all too well. Whereas the journey of Arya Stark (absent from the premiere) to Essos at the end of Season 4 appeared to suggest a new beginning, Tyrion seems determined to make his own crossing the start of a bitter, wine-drenched end. (His is another bleak outlook difficult to find fault with, given that he traveled days in a tiny crate, pushing his own feces through the crate’s little holes after killing his father and the woman he loved in cold blood.) “The future is shit,” Tyrion declares, “just like the past.”

Tyrion’s travel companion, Varys, isn’t particularly inclined to agree with that assessment. In fact, if anyone (other than Littlefinger—currently in transit with Sansa Stark to somewhere that certainly isn’t The Fingers) has reason to celebrate the way things have turned out since the death of John Arryn, it’s the Master of Whispers. It’s possible to forget this far down the road, but Varys was more or less serving as a spy in Robert Baratheon’s small council, feeding information back to supporters of House Targaryen. Since then, much of the potpourri of power-players throughout Westeros have met their demise: Robert, Ned Stark, Robb Stark, Renly Baratheon, King Joffrey, Tywin Lannister—all dead. Stannis Baratheon is still trying to consolidate the power in the North and Tommen isn’t nearly the force he would have been with Tywin pulling his strings. Varys may have once decried chaos as a pit, but pits can be rather welcome when it’s your enemies who are falling into them.

Varys has never made any secret of his affection for Tyrion, but his decision to smuggle Tyrion away from King’s Landing was as much strategic as altruistic. During his brief reign as the King’s Hand, Tyrion proved himself a far more skilled political operator than his predecessor or his siblings. And, of course, it wouldn’t hurt Daenerys’ chances of claiming the Iron Throne if she had the support of a Lannister upon her return to Westeros.

At the moment, however, that doomed throne is the least of Daenerys’ concerns. There was something odd about watching a member of the Unsullied wind his way through the alleys of a brothel, seemingly enchanted by the women offering their services. Up to this point, we’ve seen Grey Worm’s troops care about nothing other than serving and killing, not necessarily in that order. And even though it turned out there was nothing particularly untoward about White Rat’s intentions—refusing the unrealistic offer of sex in favor of a comforting song—Game of Thrones followed its usual pattern of quickly replacing fulfillment with death, and White Rat got his throat slit all the same.

That it is far easier to conquer than rule is a lesson Daenyerys has been forced to learn since last season, and the murder of an Unsullied only reinforces it. Daeny’s words still sound good (“Angry snakes lash out. Makes chopping off their heads that much easier”), but her ability to back them up appears severely diminished. The power granted by her army of Unsullied is tossed off with the explanation that anyone with gold can buy them (though I was under the impression that Dany had basically cleaned out Astapor when she swept through the town back in Season 3). As Daario Naharis says in a moment of post-coital frankness, the Dragon Queen cannot be Queen without dragons. Rhetorical redundancy aside, Daario has a point: an inexperienced ruler in a foreign land—no matter how gifted—ain’t as intimidating without dragons at her side. Daenerys knows that, which is why she enters the dungeon where she had Rhaegal and Viserion chained up, but her excursion seemed as short-sighted as her refusal to even consider acquiescing to Yunkai’s sole request that it be allowed to keep its Fighting Pits. The dragons breathe their fire and Daeny scurries out of the cavernous room, looking much more like fearful girl of the show’s first season rather than the confident woman of its later years.

If you believe in the totally made-up law of conservation of confidence, you’ll find pretty much all of it concentrated at Castle Black. Stannis has renewed purpose after his relatively bloodless defeat of the Wildlings north of The Wall, Melisandre is showing off her impressive ability to maintain homeostasis in Boston-like conditions and Jon Snow is doing what he does best: parrying with inferior competition and delivering impassioned speeches to important people who have absolutely no interest in what he has to say. In this particular instance, the important person on the receiving end of Snow’s impassioned pleas is Mance Rayder. Rayder, captured by Stannis at the conclusion of Season 4, is being asked to bend the knee to the Baratheon would-be-king and to help Stannis lead the Wildlings into battle at Winterfell. The King Beyond the Wall doesn’t have to bend the knee, but the alternative is being burned alive, so Snow is predictably keen to convince Mance to throw his support behind Stannis rather than meet a crispy demise.

Their exchange is one of the episode’s best, with Snow proving him every bit Mance’s equal—something that was certainly not the case during their first meeting in Season 3. The respect Snow has for Mance is mutual, and the crow’s argument in favor of Mance joining forces with Stannis is sound (not dying, getting further away from the Whitewalkers, saving countless innocent women and children, maintaining the tenuous alliance between Wildling tribes). It doesn’t matter. Mance says it’s not pride that drives him, but it’s a difficult claim to fully believe. Perhaps Snow’s assessment that Mance is “afraid to be afraid” is more accurate, but the end result remains the same: Mance would rather die than take any action that could be seen as a betrayal of his Wildling brethren.

And so, for the first time since the first episode of Season 2, we watch Melisandre set a man ablaze while Stannis looks on approvingly. Jon Snow, having seen and heard quite enough by the time the flames reach Mance’s boots, ducks out of the crowd and fires an arrow into Mance’s heart, sparing him a slow and excruciating death. It’s a small triumph, but it does little change the reality of what Stannis has effected: another good lord killed by a monster. Brienne may have been right after all.

And now for the hail of arrows:

  • As mentioned above, no Arya in this episode, but it’s a safe bet that she’ll surface before long. Ditto Theon and the murderous father-son duo of Roose Bolton and Ramsey.
  • We’d been told there would be flashbacks in this season for the first time, but you’d be forgiven if you didn’t know that’s what you were seeing in the episode’s opening scene (even though the girl’s tone, sense of entitlement and threats of violence were pure Cersei).
  • Tough run of luck for Jaime Lannister, huh? He loses a hand, his sister breaks up with him when he finally makes it home, he’s compelled to send his best friend on a Quixotic journey to ensure the safety of the daughters of his dead rival, and he frees his brother from prison, only to see him turn around and murder his father.
  • No word yet on the Clegane clan. Last we saw them, the Mountain was in better shape than his little brother, if only slightly.

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