A corker of an episode this week, which ended surprisingly (in sound as well as vision), but having so many characters means I’m feeling a bit shortchanged and less close to those we’re not seeing as much.
Beyond the Wall
Samwell Tarly and his brothers in the Night’s Watch are back with the horrible Craster, who makes fun of Samwell for being fat (had Craster seen himself?) and asks his brothers why they don’t eat him. Samwell skulks off to watch Gilly (remember the daughter-wife Samwell had a crush on?) give birth to a baby boy who is destined to be killed just because of his gender.
That’s not the only death beyond the Wall. Jon Snow, Mance Rayder and their band of not so merry men and women stumble across a group of chopped up horses arranged in an artful swirl on the snow. The sight is a gruesome one – one that Jon is having a hard time comprehending. Mance sends Jon Snow off to Castle Black with a group of soldiers (Ygritte included) to wait for his signal to fight.
I’m not loving the very, very brief visits beyond the Wall. I feel like I don’t know Jon Snow at all this season, since we just pop in, see him introduced to someone or something new, and then we drift away again. Bring me more Jon Snow, please!
While much of this episode of Game of Thrones was deadly serious, there were some moments of comedy gold, and many of those were in King’s Landing.
First, Tywin calls a meeting of the Small Council. Littlefinger, Varys and Pycelle place themselves down the side of the meeting table, with Tywin at the head. Cersei swoops in and drags a chair round to her father’s right hand. Not to be outdone, Tyrion drags his chair to the opposite end of the table to Tywin. This simple and humourous scene contained so much information about the Lannisters. First, Cersei’s penchant for dismissing her brother, overtaking him and positioning herself right by her father – the most powerful Lannister in the land. Then, Tyrion’s refusal to give in and be shamed into a certain position. His choice of sitting at the opposing end of the table to his father showed just how big the divide is between the two.
Tywin, after sending Littlefinger off to Harrenhal to marry Catelyn Stark’s widowed sister Lysa, makes Tyrion Master of the Coin – quite a demotion from Hand of the King. But Tyrion is determined to make the most of it and heads to the brothel (where else?) to collect the books, which upon examination reveal that the royals of King’s Landing are deeply in debt. On his way out of the brothel, Tyrion leaves faithful manservant Pod in the hands of some prostitutes, who divest the boy of his virginity and then refuse to take payment. Cue the second hilarious scene set in King’s Landing, where Tyrion and Bronn demand that Pod tell them about his experience so they can discover why the prostitutes enjoyed him enough to not take his money.
A brief scene between Stannis and Melisandre this week, as Melisandre heads off somewhere on a boat. I think this is the first time we’ve seen Stannis pleading, at least for his own sake. His love for Melisandre didn’t sit comfortably with me, up until now I’ve always seen Stannis as fraternising with Melisandre out a combination of shrewdness and blindness – opposing as they are, they made more sense to me than this weird love-lust Stannis showed.
On the road
Everyone’s moving this week. The Brotherhood without Banners are taking Arya with them wherever they’re going, and she’s not much happy about it. Still, Gendry is looking on the bright side, and Hot Pie decides to stay behind at the inn they’ve been staying at, because the landlady thinks he’s awesome at baking. In a really cute scene, Hot Pie and Arya say goodbye to each other over some freshly baked bread – a scene that really reminded me that Arya is still a child in many ways, despite how tough she is.
Tied to each other, Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth continue their sniping, but Jaime shows a slightly more compassionate side, warning Brienne not to fight against Roose Bolton’s men when they attack her later in the night, as it’ll be worse for her.
Jaime later seemingly shows compassion again when Bolton’s men drag Brienne off to rape her, warning group leader Locke that her father is powerful (I don’t think he actually is). I say seemingly, because actually Jaime is doing it for himself. Thinking he has the ear of Locke Jaime trie to win his freedom (or at least enough of it that he could escape). While Jaime’s words might be honey to some, Locke is just as cunning. He manages to deceive Jaime into thinking he’s won, then shames him by pointing out that Jaime always invokes his father as a defence, and then, while loud rock music plays in the background (I’m not sure I loved this, I thought something had gone wrong with my television), chops off Jaime’s sword hand. Ouch.
The most gruesome scene of the week came in Astopor, as Daenerys walked down the Walk of Punishment with Jorah Mormont and Barriston Selmy. The road is lined with criminals who had been flogged and tied up to die as a warning to others. I’m really liking Daenerys this series, and one of the reasons is the compassion she shows, on display here when she offers one of the criminals a drink of water.
And then there’s her toughness. Daenerys offers the slavemaster one of her dragons in return for 8,000 of the Unsullied. I was a little surprised by her willingness to give up a dragon, but I wonder if there’s something more to be revealed here.
Meanwhile, there’s a power struggle going on between Jorah and Barriston. The latter is determined to share his words of wisdom, particularly regarding the bravery of Daenerys’ brother Rhaegar, but Jorah is quick to point out that “Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly, Rhaegar fought honorably, and Rhaegar died”.
Somewhere dark and dingy
Theon Greyjoy, freed from his dark torture chamber, spends most of the episode fleeing on a white horse. I’m not sure where he’s going, and I don’t know the name of the person chasing him, but since he told Theon that “winter is coming”, I’m guessing it’s a Stark affiliate. That’s not good for Theon.
In a scene that was alternately moving and funny, Lord Hoster Tully’s body was sent out onto the water. The look on Catelyn’s face was pure despair at losing her father, and thinking she’d lost her sons, but the moment was spoiled when her brother Edmure couldn’t fire the arrow correctly into the boat to set it on fire.
That wasn’t the only humiliation for Edmure. In a scene which showed us just how kingly Robb Stark can be, the King in the North confronted Edmure and told him how much damage he’d done by attacking a nearby mill, which Robb had wanted let go for strategic purposes. Two distant Lannister cousins were worth nothing compared to the men the Starks lost during the attack. I thought it was great seeing Robb coming out of his shell – without his mother or Talisa around to stifle him, Robb stepped up to the plate, was decisive and displayed qualities a lot like that of his father.
Meanwhile, Catelyn, despite betraying Robb by setting Jaime free, garnered my sympathies even more when she had a heartbreaking discussion with her uncle about how she used to look out of the window for her father returning from battle, and how Bran must have looked for her and she never came back. Oh Catelyn, you’re making me tear, but have faith, your children are alive!