This episode wasn’t quite so good as last week’s, but really, that was to be expected. Last week was amazing. This week was amazing-lite.
The episode was intense from the get-go, with Sandor Clegane engaging in a trial by combat with Beric Dondarrion to determine his guilt in the matter of Mycah’s death. If Sandor gets killed that means the Lord of Light judged him to be guilty. If he’s able to kill Beric instead, the Lord of Light must not have such a problem with riding down unarmed stable boys.
It’s a pretty awesome battle, though I would say to the Brotherhood Without Banners that having a swordfight in an enclosed space with a bunch of people standing around and tons of wooden things that could easily be lit on fire by Beric’s flaming sword isn’t the smartest, practically speaking. But anyway. Even traumatized by fire Sandor manages to kill Beric, which means the Brotherhood has to set him free. Arya’s not too pleased by this, understandably, and she leaps at the Hound with a knife. Beric doesn’t seem to mind being killed too much, though, as the red priest Thoros of Myr prays to the Lord of Light and brings him back to life. Creepy.
Above the Wall Tormund Giantsbane is grilling Jon about the Night’s Watch’s defenses: How many Brothers are in the patrol groups, how many castles are defended and by how many men, that sort of thing. Jon tells Tormund Castle Black is guarded by a thousand men, which, correct me if I’m wrong, is a crock of direwolf dung. Tormund say to Jon that he likes him, but if he’s lying he’ll pull his guts out. No pressure or anything.
Then Ygritte taunts Jon a bit (her modus operandi) and steals his sword (not a euphemism). He chases her to a cave, she takes her clothes off, and, well, congrats on the sex, Jon Snow. To paraphrase Ygritte, you’re no longer a maid now. Ygritte wasn’t, though—she starts to tell him about all the people she’s gotten down and dirty with, to which he responds: Yeah, I don’t need to know that. Oh, you.
After a few minutes of soft focus bow-chicka-bow-wow it’s back to Sandor, who’s being let go by the Brotherhood. And then we’re on to Harrenhal, where Locke delivers Jaime and Brienne to Roose Bolton, one of Robb’s bannermen. I love Roose in this scene. By which I mean to say I hate him, he’s freaking awful, but I love how the writers established that. At first he seems (relatively) nice and sensible, ordering Locke to cut Brienne free and apologizing for her ill treatment. Then he—there’s no other word for it—trolls Jaime about the Battle of Blackwater. “Oh, you didn’t hear there was this giant battle? Stannis’ forces attacked King’s Landing, it was looking really bad for a while, and your sister is d…[Jaime looks like he's about to pass out]…oing quite well, actually.” Roose Bolton, you sick, sick man.
Speaking of sick, sick men—Jaime’s taken to see Qyburn, an ex-Maester who was expelled from his order for doing unspecified controversial experiments, which isn’t disconcerting at all, nosiree. He does some medieval-style operating on Jaime’s stump, during which Jaime refuses the Westerosi version of anesthesia. *wince*
Meanwhile, back in King’s Landing Cersei and Tyrion both have Very Important Meetings. Cersei’s is with Littlefinger, whom she asks to keep an eye on those tricksy Tyrells. And Tyrion’s is with the very tricksiest of the Tyrells, Olenna, who’s planned a hugely extravagant wedding between Joffrey and Margaery that the crown can’t afford.
This scene was brilliant. Olenna walks all over Tyrion, chiding him for being boring and educating him on how the people need the distraction the royal wedding will provide, but fine, if he’s going to be obnoxious about it they’ll pay for half, even though the Tyrells have already given you guys *rattles off long list of troops and supplies like it ain’t no thing*. By the time Olenna leaves Tyrion looks utterly shellshocked. Can’t blame him.
I want Olenna to swoop around Littlefinger-style, schooling people she technically shouldn’t have any interaction with on how they’re screwing things up. “Robb, you’re being a moron about your bannermen and you’re going to lose this war for yourself. OLENNA OUT.” “Stannis, let Davos out of jail, you big fool. OLENNA OUT.” “Jorah, Dany doesn’t like you like that. Stop making it weird. OLENNA OUT.”
Following that scene of sheer comedic wonderment things get emotional again as Gendry tells Arya he plans to stay with the Brotherhood. He doesn’t want to serve anyone anymore, he explains, not even Robb. He wants to have a family. When Arya responds that she could be his family, Gendry says that no, if he served Robb, “You wouldn’t be my family. You’d be m’lady.” Later on in the episode Thoros tells Arya they’ll take her to Robb in exchange for a “contribution” (ransom, but bah, semantics) and explains that the Lord of Light has brought Beric back from death six times. Arya asks if he might be able to bring her father back, even in his headless state. As it turns out the headless thing is sort of a dealbraker, though I imagine the long-dead and head-covered-in-tar things aren’t helping much.
These Arya scenes, I just… I just have something in my eye. Go on without me, I’ll be fine.
Speaking of Robb, things aren’t going so well for him—Rickard Karstark (the bannerman who was super-upset at Catelyn letting Jaime go, because Jaime killed his sons) takes it upon himself to exact vengeance by killing Robb’s Lannister hostages, both of whom are just young boys. He then proceeds to sass Robb about it, predicting the king will scold him before setting him free, because that’s what he does with traitors. Yeah, Karstark, when he mom was a traitor he did that. I don’t think you’ll get away so easily.
And he doesn’t. Robb disregards the suggestion of his mom, wife, and uncle to keep Karstark captive and beheads him for treason instead, losing himself all of Karstark’s forces as a result. But hey, Karstark committed treason and killed two young boys—it’s the honorable thing to kill him. Because honor worked out so well for your dad, Robb.
Then it’s time for me to cheer to my computer because Stannis is back, yaaaaay! We meet his wife Selyse, who’s super-devoted to the Lord of Light and is a little bit (OK, a lot) creepy about it. Stannis trying to confess his extramarital sexytimes to her only to be met with “I know. Melisandre told me everything. I wept with joy when I heard. Here, let me show you my fetuses in jars! [A/N: OH GOD WHAT]” might be my favorite thing this episode. It’s so awkward. I love it.
Next stop on Stannis’ family reunion tour is his daughter Shireen, who’s upbeat, friendly, and cursed with an unfortunate skin condition known as greyscale. Her mother’s not her biggest fan—she entreats Stannis not to visit her, calling her a “distraction”—but Stannis seems to love her for all that he hasn’t seen her in a long time despite the fact that they live in the same castle. Also, her room appears to be a cell. Not cool, Stannis.
Shireen asks about her BFF Davos (awwwwwww), whom Stannis is forced to admit has been locked up for treason. He suggests she forget him and leaves in a cloud of awkwardness.
This may be my bias toward Stannis talking, but I loved this scene. He wasn’t cold and emotionless—you can tell he loves his daughter, he just doesn’t know how to express it or be a good father. At all. I’m imagining Ned Stark looking down on him from the Old Religion version of heaven and shaking his head in disappointment.
Later Shireen ignores her father’s advice to avoid Davos and visits him in the dungeon, bringing him a book that Davos admits he can’t read. So Shireen says, no problem, I’ll teach you! How Stannis and Selyse managed to have such a nice kid I will never understand.
Then it’s from one of my favorite characters to two others. Brienne is having a bath, and Jaime jumps in the same tub as her despite the fact that there’s another one right beside it and being in close proximity with your naked self is clearly making Brienne uncomfortable, Jaime you ass. Ahem. Jaime then proceeds initiate some banter, but he takes it too far when he implies Brienne’s lackluster guarding skills (excuse you) got Renly killed. She then leaps to her feet, nudeness and all, and stares Jaime down with what I can only assume was a Glare of Death. Attagirl. And it works. He apologizes, asks for a truce between them, and says he trusts her.
And then comes the scene that I shall refer to as the “give Nikolaj Coster-Waldau his Emmy” scene. People always judge him for being a “Kingslayer,” Jaime says, but the king he slew—Aerys Targaryen—was certifiably nuts, paranoid and obsessed with burning people alive. During Robert’s rebellion Tywin Lannister and his army showed up ostensibly to protect Aerys, but Jaime knew full well his father planned to double-cross him. Aerys didn’t listen to his warning, opening the city’s gates to Tywin. Jaime urged Aerys to surrender, but the King instead ordered him to kill his father. After that the plan was to light the whole city on fire. Would you have stood by, Jaime asks Brienne, if Renly had ordered you to kill your own father and stand by to witness the death of thousands? He never told people what really happened because they’d already made up his mind about him being an oathbreaker. After that powerhouse monologue, which Jaime closes by asking Brienne to call him Jaime, not Kingslayer, he
swoons into her arms passes out. Slow clap for Coster-Waldau, everyone.
Meanwhile Jorah and Ser Barristan are having a pissing contest over who Daenerys’ number one supporter is. Jorah’s all “But you’ve only been here a few days, I supported her before she was famous!,” and then Barristan’s like “Your reputation in Westeros is awful, people there won’t want to help her if you’re around, ew.” I wanted Dany to walk up and slap them both upside their heads, but he was off with the Unsullied, talking to their newly elected leader and telling them they can choose their own names now and doing other inspiring, Queenly things. I guess her putting Jorah and Barristan in their place will have to wait. Sigh.
Robb’s in a tight spot now that the Karstark forces abandoned him. His bannermen are fighting each other more than the Lannisters; they need a new common cause. Talisa suggests that Robb go back to the North and wait out the (long) winter, which would basically mean the end of the war for him, as there’s no way he can ask his bannermen to take a break for a few years and then come back. Then, a brainstorm! With Lannister forces concentrated elsewhere, he can attack their home at Casterly Rock. He’ll just need some more soldiers, but he knows exactly where to get them: Walder Frey.
The episode ends with a shake-up for the major players in King’s Landing. The political intrigue goes down thusly: Loras sleeps with a squire, to whom he tells Margaery’s plan to marry him to Sansa. Littlefingr finds out about it, since the squire was on his payroll. He tells Sansa he can take her with him away from King’s Landing, and she has to make a decision: Get out of the city with (an extra-creepy this episode) Littlefinger while she has the chance? Or stay a little longer, betting that Margaery will deliver on the marriage to Loras and subsequent escape to Highgarden? Sansa opts for the latter, telling Littlefinger she doesn’t want to jeopardize both their safety by escaping with him. I like this scene a lot: You can tell that Sansa’s learning from those around her how to play the game. She’s testing the waters of her political acumen, and I love it.
Littlefinger told Cersei about the planned Sansa-Loras marriage, and Cersei tells Tywin, who in turn tells Tyrion he has to marry Sansa. To Tyrion’s credit, he’s horrified not just because he doesn’t want to marry Sansa, but because it’s really a horrible thing for Tywin to do to a girl who’s already been through so much. Deal with it, Tywin says. You’re marrying Sansa. She’s the heir to the North, and the Tyrells can’t have her. Cersei’s mid-gloat when Tywin pulls a but wait, there’s more! on her: To Cersei’s horror, she’ll have to marry Loras Tyrell. Isn’t one arranged marriage to someone she doesn’t love enough for one lifetime?!
- I’m curious about what other book readers thought of the cave scene. I thought it was a little out of place and cheesy romance novel-y compared to the rest of the episode… but then, I always felt that about the scene in the book, too.
- How they’re handling Roose Bolton, making him humorless but also sadistic, fits wonderfully with how he is in the books.
- We saw five different people nude this episode, right? Ygritte, Jon (maybe that should only count as half, because he was mainly covered), Jaime, Brienne, and the Squire? If you disregard instances of prostitues who don’t really have anything to do with the plot being nude, I’m pretty sure that’s a record.