There was plenty of history and blasts from the past in this week’s Game of Thrones, but it’s all heading towards an explosive future.
Beyond the Wall
Jon Snow and his not-so-merry band of brothers are still getting used to each other, as evidenced by the lack of trust shown between Orell and Jon Snow. Orell questions Jon as to how many of the points along the Wall are guarded, and how many men there are. Jon’s answer isn’t pleasing, and Orell tries to pick a fight. Ygritte jumps to Jon’s defence (“He’s no crow”), as does Tormund Giantsbane, although the latter’s defence also comes with a threat.
Then, before we know it, Ygritte and Jon are in a cave, and Ygritte is asking Jon to prove he’s no longer a brother of the Night‘s Watch by sleeping with her, thereby breaking the vow of celibacy he took when he joined the Night’s Watch. And then they have sex, and then they have a post-coital chat.
Look, Ygritte and Jon‘s impending “romance” has been as obvious as the fact that there is something weird beyond the Wall, but the way Game of Thrones got there didn’t really impress me. I don’t often criticise this programme, but I feel like we’ve barely seen Jon and Ygritte develop. When they first met, her mission was to annoy him and bring him into Mance Rayder’s fold. Even in the previous episodes in this season, she’s mostly been making fun of Jon, and Jon‘s been exasperated by her. Yes, it’s played out like a playground crush, but this week’s acknowledgement of their feelings for each other felt rather sudden. It’s a mark of how Jon’s story is being sacrificed this season (in my opinion) because of the wealth of characters in Game of Thrones. I know I can’t have a whole series about Jon, I just would have liked to have seen more subtlety.
Preparations are hotting up for the wedding of Margaery and Joffrey, and the plots are getting even hotter.
In his new roll as Master of the Coin, Tyrion is determined not to pay all the costs of the wedding, and has tea with Lady Olenna to discuss the finances. She briskly reminds him that House Tyrell has provided far beyond its duty for King’s Landing, and then agrees to shoulder half the cost of the wedding, all part of her plan to control the Lannister family.
Cersei, unnerved by Margaery’s manouverings, speaks to her old pal Littlefinger and asks him to dig up some dirt on the Tyrells. Easy. Littlefinger plants a guy close to Ser Loras and gets him to bed the knight. Ser Loras’s tongue gets a little loose, and he confesses he is soon to be married to Sansa Stark. This is information Littlefinger relates back to Cersei (but not before talking to Sansa and planting the seeds of leaving in her mind again).
Thinking she’s all that, Cersei sits by her father as Tywin calls Tyrion in and tells him he is to marry Sansa. Tyrion is outraged, but Tywin demands Tyrion obey – if Sansa and Tyrion marry, the Lannisters will gain control of the north.
Cersei’s very smug, until Tywin drops his next bombshell – Cersei must marry Ser Loras so the Lannisters can have control of their lands too. Cersei‘s woeful scream of “don’t make me do it again” falls on deaf ears, as Tywin gives her a tongue lashing, and reveals he knows the rumours about Cersei and Jaime’s incestuous relationship.
Tyrion and Cersei are left sitting in a room together, stunned, dismayed and horrified looks on both their faces. For once, the siblings are in exactly the same boat.
Stannis Baratheon heads to see his wife, who seems to live in some sort of tower, although it’s hardly a fairytale considering she has the couple’s dead baby boys stored in jars of formaldehyde. Ew.
The couple talk, and Lady Selyse lets him know she has spoken to Melisandre, and knows all about the pair’s relationship. Surprisingly, she is happy, since she hasn’t been able to bear Stannis a son, and Melisandre has (of sorts).
Stannis goes to visit his young daughter, a sweet girl with a scarred face which lights up at seeing her father. Shireen asks after the Onion Knight, but Stannis tells her he is a traitor.
In a twist, Shireen shows some daring and sneaks in to visit Davos Seaworth in jail. She takes him a book and promises to bring more – barely thrown off when he reveals he can’t read. Instead, she says she will teach him, and starts with the book she has brought about the history of the Seven Kingdoms (I think, the name of the subject escapes me).
Lord Karstark and some of his cronies decide to murder the two young Lannisters they hold captive, horrifying Robb, his wife Talisa, and his mother Catelyn Stark.
Robb sentences them all to death, a punishment Catelyn and Talisa think is the wrong one, since the Starks need the Karstarks in order to win against the Lannisters. But Robb goes ahead with the punishment, ordering most of the gang hanged, and, in an echo of his father’s actions in the very first episode of Game of Thrones, slicing off the head of Lord Karstark himself.
While Robb’s actions may not have been strategically sound, I do believe that Ned Stark would probably have acted the same way if he was still alive. Yes, Ned believed in good tactics, but he was also a firm believer in right and wrong, and murdering two young unarmed boys in their beds was most definitely wrong.
Thinking he is almost defeated, Robb comes up with a plan. Instead of targeting the Lannisters at King’s Landing, where they are strong, he will take their ancestral home of Casterly Rock. But to do that he’ll need the one person who has so far not pledged his allegiance to either side – Walder Frey. Yes, the same Walder Frey whose daughter Robb was meant to marry before he bedded and wedded Talisa in the name of true love. I knew that decision would come to no good.
On the road
The episode opens with the Brotherhood without Banners getting ready to watch the Hound fight Beric Dondarrion. The battle is fierce, and it looks like Beric has the upper hand for most of it, but the Hound is just too strong, and manages to slice his sword through Beric’s body.
Arya, angry at the Hound’s success at winning his freedom, tries to have at him with her sword but is held back by Gendry. Still, that doesn’t stun her as much as Beric coming back to life does, and then the revelation later in the episode that this is the sixth time Beric has come back from the dead. Creepy.
Gendry tells Arya he will be staying with the Brotherhood, leaving her angry that he won’t go with her to her family. His point is a good one – he’s been ruled over all his life and doesn’t want to be ruled over by the Starks. Wherever they’re going, once they get there, Arya will become Lady Arya, and he’ll still be Gendry (until someone finds out he’s Robert Baratheon’s son, that is).
Also on the road this week is Daenerys, who is marching her army of Unsullied across the land. She makes them pick their own leaders, and tells them they must choose their own names, and not go by the ones that the slavers picked for them. A cute Unsullied tells her he will keep his name, for it is lucky – it is the name he had when Daenerys set him free.
As well as the Unsullied, Daenerys’ retinue contains Barriston Selmy and Jorah Mormont, who have become frenemies of a sort. The pair spend a lot of time talking about the past, and their roles in the Daenerys‘ army, coming to the conclusion that they both want the same. There’s a power struggle brewing here for sure.
Wherever Roose Bolton lives
Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth are finally delivered to Roose Bolton, who immediately sets Brienne free and then sends Jaime off to get his hand seen to.
The physician recommends that Jaime’s arm should be chopped off, but the Lannister insists that the wound be cauterised. And to show how tough he is, he takes no milk of the poppy.
Later, Jaime joins Brienne in the bath (it’s like a mini swimming pool), and tells what is the most compelling story of the episode – how he gained the name Kingslayer. Jaime reveals that the Mad King had stores of wildfire across King’s Landing (which we know about since Tyrion used them at the Battle of Blackwater).
On learning the Baratheons and Starks were invading, Jamie tells Brienne he went to see the king to ask him to surrender, and did the same thing when the battle was waging. But the king instead ordered Jaime to set the wildfire alight and destroy the whole of King’s Landing and everyone inside it.
Jamie tells Brienne that he chose his land and its people over his king, and killed the Mad King. It was at this point that Ned Stark walked in, and seeing Jaime kill the king assumed he had done it for power and not for honour.
It’s a touching story, and you can‘t help but wonder how life in the Seven Kingdoms would be completely different if only Ned had known the truth and not just assumed something based on what he saw. For one, Ned would still be alive.
Jamie’s pain is easy to feel at this point, and the relationship between him and Brienne of Tarth has moved forward another step. Despite both being naked together, the intimacy in the scene comes from the story Jaime chooses to share.
Somewhere dark and dingy
Nothing from Theon Greyjoy this week. I assume he‘s still getting tortured.