This looks like it's going to be the season of the Tyrells.
Natalie Dormer's performance of Margaery Tyrell is everything I never hoped it could be, since my impression of the character in the books was fairly indifferent. Yet this Margaery is ambitious but kind, clearly sweet and generous, but also a master at working people's emotions in her favor. Graceful, elegant, and aware of how powerful every word can be. She's an expert at the game that Sansa has only just begun, and it is stunning to see her.
And of course, Cersei's reaction to Margaery is already fascinating. They're both women who can play with elegance and words, but while Cersei rules through spite and fear, rejecting anything feminine that she cannot use to manipulate others, Margaery uses love and kindness to gain power and influence, and is an ambitious yet feminine woman at heart.
Meanwhile, we got to see more of Sansa's relationship with Shae, which is, in my opinion, one of the best things that the show has done with the series. Shae is the jaded, practical foil to Sansa's hope and naivety, seeing only what is, while Sansa still wants to imagine that there might be something better. It's very different from the superficial Shae we see in the books, but then again, Sansa is also different, learning to lie, to choose her words carefully, as shown in her conversation with Littlefinger. She wants the chance to leave, and she still wants to dream that it's possible, but she's not going to show her feelings or toss everything away on wild hopes again. Dreams are for harmless games as she watches ships sail away, not for matters that affect her life and her safety.
I think Margaery is going to have a lot to teach her.
This episode also saw the introduction of Missandei, the young scribe girl from Slaver's Bay. She's another character who I didn't pay much attention to in the books, but the show has already begun to show me the error of my ways. She's intelligent, talented and diplomatic, and although she is the man's slave, her language skills mean that she has a lot of influence in the situation, influence that it seems she'll be willing to use.
Apart from that unnecessary Bronn-in-a-brothel scene, it was altogether an excellent episode, full of great character moments. A little slow, and lacking in some of my faves, but it set an excellent foundation for the season. Can't wait for the next one!