Game of Speculation: Wheeling and Dealing in the Far South

Winter brings us news of (mumble mumble actors) showing up at the Alcazaba of Almeria.

(no, seriously, this warrants a cut)

Diana Rigg and Conleth Hill have shown up at the Alcazaba! Lady Olenna and Varys are going to appear in…where exactly will this stuff happen?

Yes my friends, that picture, courtesy La Voz de Almeria, is in fact the most esteemed Dame Diana Rigg (Lady Olenna). And with her? None other than Conleth Hill (Varys).

La Voz also reports that Alexander Siddig (Doran Martell), Indira Varma (Ellaria Arena), and DeObia Oparei (Areo Hotah) are all in the area, which is more evidence that the Alcazaba will indeed stand in for Dorne. The Queen of Thorns in Dorne? This *is* a surprise. I have so, so, SO MANY questions here, starting and ending with “What sort of Great Game is Grandmother Lady Olenna playing now?”

Yeah, so far, looks like the Alcazaba is where they’re doing Sunspear scenes. So, does this mean Lady Olenna and Varys will turn up in Dorne? Maybe.

Ani Bundel speculates:

Why Dorne? Well, we know that by the time Margaery is released, Jaime is back. That means Myrcella’s body is back. If Myrcella is dead (which I believe she is), Cersei would be pushing for war with Dorne, and Kevan would probably be fighting tooth and nail not to start yet another one, with winter at their doorstep and Winter just over the Wall. If Olenna has lost Margaery due to Cersei’s blundering with the High Sparrow, which side would she join in this coming war? If Olenna is working as Margaery’s agent, which side would she pick in a coming war that will take down the Lannisters? Either way, Dorne is the answer. Yes, the Tyrells have an alliance with the Lannisters, but when the current Lannister-in-charge is doing everything she can to tear your family apart, eventually you look elsewhere.

I was mostly with Ani up to the “current Lannister-in-charge” bit. Here’s the thing: Cersei is no longer the Lannister-in-charge. Cersei has been stripped of power, and Uncle Kevan is calling the shots. Cersei can still fucks things up from behind the scenes, but she does not occupy the position she once did.

As for Conleth Hill, I think we might have just discovered where Varys was heading off to in that first scene shot in Peñíscola (Meereen), the one where he left the city. I still think that those scenes weren’t filmed in order, and that the Red Priestess who comes to spread the word of Daenerys arrives somewhere in the middle of the season, and drives Varys to leave Tyrion and go elsewhere. Where would Tyrion send him? Some speculated that Varys would return to his original book plotline, which would involve him [REDACTED FOR SPOILERS HOLY FUCK YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE THE SPOILERS]

No, seriously, for the benefit of my Unsullied readers, I won’t dislose in as many words what Varys does last thing in ADwD, but it’s quite a memorable scene.

The rest of this post will probably come across as gibberish for the Unsullied.

What else might be happening?

Either that, or the Alcazaba is standing in for both Dorne and somewhere else, like King’s Landing or Highgarden, or this involves the photoshoot that took place yesterday, and the actors being there at the same time is a coincidence. The other explanation is way more exciting, though.

First off: I looked around at some photos of the Alcazaba today, and I’m pretty sure it’s not Highgarden. I guessed (correctly) that Castell de Santa Florentina was the Horn Hill partly because that lush, green, leafy climate looks like a good setting for the Reach. Horn Hill is close to Highgarden, and the Alcazaba does not have that lush, leafy climate. It’s dusty, dry and arid compared to Canet de Mar. If we’re going to see Highgarden this season (and I have no reason to suspect so), Almeria is a poor fit.

I don’t think we’re getting any King’s Landing scenes there, either. We’ve already had outdoor KL scenes filmed in Girona AND Dubrovnik. That doesn’t even count the indoor stuff filmed in Belfast. Do we need any more locations for outdoor KL?

However: I can see the Alcazaba as Pentos. I just rewatched the Tyrion/Varys scenes in S5:E1, at Illyrio Mopatis’s home, and it looks very close to some of the photos I browsed of the Alcazaba today. And I can think of some reasons why Varys would want to visit Pentos.

So, a big question mark for this news is whether Conleth Hill and Diana Rigg are appearing in scenes together, or they just happen to be shooting their scenes close to each other at around the same time (sort of like how Sophie is filming in Corbet-Banbridge at the same time as Nik and Gwen, but not at Riverrun). Either way, I think the best candidate for Olenna’s scenes at this setting is Sunspear, in Dorne, and I can think of a very straightforward reason for her to go there.

She’s there to meet with the Martells, and she isn’t there as Margaery’s agent. Uncle Kevan sends her to Sunspear to treat with Prince Doran. One very striking development that was apparent from that scene outside the Sept of Baelor (filmed in Girona) was that the Lannisters-except-Cersei are working with the Tyrells. Jaime’s there, Tommen’s there, Mace Tyrell’s there, backed up by a whole bunch of Tyrell soldiers. They’re able to do that because Cersei is no longer in charge. Uncle Kevan wants to avoid a war, Prince Doran wants to avoid a war, and Lady Olenna is also uninterested in another war, but she knows as well as Uncle Kevan that something needs to be done in response to Myrcella dying of poison on the way back from Dorne. So, in keeping with Uncle Kevan being totally happy to collaborate and cooperate with the Tyrells, he sends Lady Olenna to treat with Prince Doran and figure out what to do about the Ellaria situation without piling up thousands more innocent bodies.

It’s not the only scenario for Olenna being in Dorne, but I think it adds up well enough.

Varys is a lot squishier. If he has a scene in Pentos, he’s probably meeting with Illyrio to discuss the Dany situation as it relates to Westeros. His shpiel in S5:E1 is kind of creepy. “Westeros needs to be saved from itself,” he says. That’s the language of a guy who’s willing to pull some really ugly shit to get the result he wants. Ends justify the means, and all that.