BEYOND THE WALL
Jon has got both himself and the Watch kicked out of Craster’s Keep for spying on Craster. I love Jon’s fiery naïvité: it’s so urgent to him to tell Mormont what he saw, because Mormont will fix it! But he hasn’t thought it through at all — what did he expect the commander to do, execute Craster? Mormont is pragmatic to a fault: the Watch needs Craster as both a source of information and a shelter, therefore he will do nothing about the sacrifice (?) of the baby boys.
Sam endears himself to every viewer ever — a wave of AWWWs spread across the world — by giving Gilly the only thing he has of his mother’s — a bone thimble (at least I think that’s what it is). She refuses to take it, twice; first because it would get her into trouble if found, and secondly because of how much it means to him, but he insists:
“I’m not giving it away — I’m giving it to you.”
Gods, Sam, stop killing me with your sweetness already.
Jon’s little bro Bran is also having a bad day; Maester Luwin refuses to believe that his dreams about being his direwolf — and his and Invisible Rickon’s premonitions of Ned’s death — are different to your basic, average, everyday, ordinary, run-of-the-mill, ho-hum dreams.
“Maybe magic once was a mighty force in the world, but no more.”
Tread softly, Luwin, because you tread on… oh, never mind. I’m not sure I like how they film the wolf’s POV — it always takes me a long time to realise that’s what it is. It just feels like a trick and takes me out of the story into wondering how it was filmed — anyone else?
THE IRON ISLANDS
Theon and Yara’s relationship feels like the worst of teenage siblings who don’t get on, with added knives. And Yara is always one step ahead of him, in command of 30 ships to Theon’s one. But Theon has a point when he yells at Balon:
“You gave me away like some dog you didn’t want anymore, and now you curse me, because I’ve come home.”
For all we know, Theon has had no contact at all with his family since he was taken to Winterfell as a hostage, yet he comes home, and they hate him. I have to give props to the director on this for focusing on Balon’s reaction during that line. We got to see grief, regret, hurt, love, and resolve pass across his face, all in silence, but Theon didn’t.
Yara lays it on the line: Balon will not ally with Robb, and means to take Winterfell and the North for himself. Theon cannot have both his old family and his new one, like he wanted: he must choose. We see him try to defy that ultimatum with his letter to Robb. His plan seemed to have been to betray his father’s plan to Robb while going along with it, but in what will be a pivotal moment for him, he burns the letter, unsent. He has chosen his old family over his foster-family, and given the war, that choice will have consequences far beyond just the Greyjoys or the Starks. I love this scene, too: I felt like I was watching it on a stage from the front row, and even though I knew what Theon would do, I was willing him to seal and send the letter right up until the moment the flames caught. He is then baptised into the faith of the Iron Islands (another religion! We’re up to *counts on fingers* five now), blessed with stone, salt, and steel, and the words:
“What is dead may never die, but rises again harder and stronger.”
Yara doesn’t exactly look pleased that Theon made the choice to stay, but really, she would have despised him either way. As much as Theon is a tool, he’s in a no-win situation.
THE KING IN HIGHGARDEN, NOT IN HIGHGARDEN
Renly and Margaery are playing at being King and Queen, watching her brother and his lover Loras get pwned by… a woman.
I’ve been dying to see Brienne, and so far, she’s awesome. Strong, yet awkward; seeing her walk beside Catelyn really hammers home how much she is transgressing the gender roles of the time. Renly and Margeary appear magnanimous but also patronising, though Catelyn holds her own against them and a peevish Loras (bad loser. Remind me not to play Monopoly with him):
“My son is fighting a war, not playing at one.”
Loras’s peevishness continues into the night, when he won’t have sex with Renly. Renly, accurately, guesses he is jealous that Brienne beat him and is now part of his Kingsguard, but it’s pretty clear that Loras is also pressing his sister’s agenda here:
“Not tonight, another Tyrell requires your attention.”
Though we never see them together here, this pair of scenes, Renly & Loras, then Renly & Margaery, tells us a lot about the Tyrell siblings. They trust each other deeply, to the exclusion of others. Loras knows Margaery isn’t a virgin, and keeps her secret; Margaery knows about her brother and her husband, something Loras clearly never told Renly. They seem to have a plan for Renly that is totally new to him: Margaery’s casual acceptance of Renly’s sexuality and welcoming attitude towards Loras in their bed is something Renly never even considered and he has no idea what to do.
He’s nervous (the wine!), reserved, and seems uninterested, but then also, how to say, not totally repulsed by a handjob from a lady? Margaery is the one in control here, and she spells it out for him: the path to legitimate power is through pregnancy, and however he wants to go about it,
“With me, with me and Loras, however else you like. Whatever you need to do. You are a king.”
he has to get her pregnant. As a nobleman and a would-be king, strategic marriage is part of the deal: this sexual relationship is something he chose when he married her. But already, Renly is on the defensive and he hasn’t even fought a battle yet. What did you think of this introduction to Margaery, and the whole sex thing? Are we going to see some kind of incesty ménage-a-trois next week? Confession time: I do not like Natalie Dormer as Margaery. At all. I just don’t think she’s subtle enough at all (and I’m not even referring to the cleavage).
Tyrion is the one pushing things along down in the capital, but first he has to deal with a very bored Shae, who wholeheartedly rejects his proposed career for her of kitchen wench:
“Every man who has tasted my cooking tells me what a fabulous whore I am.”
and Varys comes to the rescue by assigning her as handmaid to Sansa, who has just had to endure a dreadful dinner with Cersei, Myrcella, and Tommen. I’m so glad Cersei concentrated her limitless venom:
“Sansa will do her duty — won’t you, little dove?”
in her oldest son, as the other children seem quite sweet, if even more clueless than Sansa was a few short months ago.
We see a flash of the old, spoiled Sansa when she berates Shae and orders her about, but she’s also clearly just about holding it together. Theon might disagree now, but he probably had it a lot better in Winterfell.
Tyrion sets up the three other members of the Small Council by telling each of them three secret different marriages he has (supposedly) arranged for Myrcella: to Theon (that poor girl); to Robin Arryn (no, ok, he’d be worse than Theon); and to a Dornish prince (no information available). When Cersei rages at Tyrion for planning to send Myrcella away to Dorne “sold like a common whore” (whore/guest/hostage, what’s the difference…), Tyrion has his traitor: Pycelle, who is found with a woman (Ros has moved up in the hierarchy, clearly). Tyrion has his beard cut off and him thrown in the dungeon. And from his confrontation with Cersei, he is happy to go ahead with the plan — Myrcella is to be sent to Dorne. As we’ve previously seen, Tyrion is fond of both Myrcella and Tommen, and I believed him when he tells Cersei that sending Myrcella away is for her own good in case King’s Landing falls to their enemies. Did you? But more importantly, did Cersei?
Littlefinger, meanwhile, is not happy to have been played. He let Tyrion see that he wanted to be Lord of the Riverlands, and Littlefinger hates being in debt (did you notice he sounds more Irish the angrier he gets?). But Tyrion still has a plan for him that would give him Harrenhal and let him see Catelyn again, and the Lannisters would get Jaime back.
Varys, in contrast, is not offended, merely admiring of Tyrion’s savvy, but I wouldn’t trust a man who speaks in riddles:
“Power resides where men believe it resides… A very small man can cast a very large shadow”
ON THE KINGSROAD
And now on to some action: a welcome relief from awkward sex scenes and political plotting. Arya can’t sleep, and Yoren tries to soothe her with his own story, about how he couldn’t sleep after his brother’s murder, and how he eventually remedied his obsession with the murderer:
“I buried an axe so deep in his head they had to bury him with it.”
But this lovely (!) moment is interrupted by Lannister soldiers, who attack the men with crossbows and flaming arrows. Yoren is a serious BAMF, telling Arya and Gendry to hide, rallying the rest to fight, and snarking even as he’s shot in the chest:
“I’ve always hated crossbows — take too long to load.”
but dies just the same, in a manner seriously reminiscent of Boromir: Seán Bean would be proud.
Arya and Gendry run, but Arya stops to give the men in the caged cart an axe to free themselves, Gendry fights, and they are captured. The soldiers want Gendry, but clearly haven’t been given a description of him, and Arya takes advantage. The split-second look on Gendry’s face when he thinks Arya might betray him was priceless — eeep! — but she has seen Gendry’s helmet lying near, and transforms the murdered Lommy (“Carry him, he says!”) into Gendry. So they are alive, but captured by the Lannisters, with no weapons, and on the way to Harrenhal with a commander who (at risk of terrible understatement) doesn’t seem to like children: it doesn’t take a genius to imagine things may get even worse for them now.
Spoilers note: as before, anything from the first book or TV series is not a spoiler. Please spoilerise anything else using the [*spoiler*] and [/*spoiler*] tags. (Remove the asterisks to make the tags.)
Screencaps courtesy of homeofthenutty.com.