How are there only three episodes left? How? There is so much happening.
[Trigger warning for single mention of attempted rape]
Cersei is uncharacteristically confessional this week – first with Sansa, and then Tyrion. I loved seeing both Tyrion and Cersei tacitly admit that Joffrey is an absolute disaster as king and a human being. And though it’s been implied since the beginning of the series, it’s worth taking a moment to note how totally unsurprised Tyrion is by Cersei’s relationship with Jaime. He’s known for a long time: in fact the only surprise for him is that Cersei is talking to him so much, and he doesn’t quite know what to do about that. Also, you have to love Cersei’s way of welcoming Sansa to womanhood: if you think that’s bad, just wait til childbirth! By the way, the birth of your future husband was dreadful, just like his personality. Don’t bother trying to love him. Comforting.
I could watch Lena Headey for hours (coming soon: Cersei Lately: the one-woman show that always pays its debts!) but based on previous experience Cersei sharing her feelings honestly with a character does not usually result in Good Things for that character. See also: King Robert, Ned Stark. I doubt Sansa and Tyrion could watch their backs more than they’re already doing without literally installing eyes in the back of their heads, but still…
I also don’t quite buy Sansa and Shae’s suddenly close relationship: when they first met, Sansa was overbearing and Shae was both defiant and clueless. The next time we see them, Sansa is trying to process her attempt gang rape and murder by talking to Shae; and then in this episode Shae is risking her position to keep Sansa’s secret, by threatening another handmaid with a knife. Does this ring true for anyone else? Is Shae spying for Tyrion, or does she just feel for Sansa, or perhaps both? And will her attempt to keep Sansa’s secret come back to bite her?
THE NORTHERN ARMY
Minor Lannister Cousin has returned from King’s Landing with the Lannister reaction to Robb’s peace terms – basically a faux-medieval version of LOLNO (Cersei hates pieces of paper, remember?). This gives Robb the problem of where to keep him: he’s still a prisoner, but he’s high-born and honourable, so he shouldn’t be put in with the rabble. Instead he gets to spend the night with his cousin Jaime – lucky him. Or not. Because while Random Lannister is simply awed to be in his godly cousin’s presence, reminisce about battles past and how elegant a fighter Barristan Selmy was – Jaime has a different use for the cousin. He strangles him, beats his face in, and when his guard come to check, kills the guard too.
That cold-blooded kin-murder is all for nothing as he is recaptured pretty quickly, and it’s only with great difficulty that Catelyn prevents the guard’s father – Robb’s bannerman Lord Karstark – from executing Jaime on the spot. She and Brienne can’t, however, stop the whole Northern army from beating him to death, and when she pays a visit to where he’s chained up, he teases her about Ned’s infidelity, and honour:
What if your father despises the king? What if the king massacres the innocent? It’s too much. No matter what you do you’re forsaking one vow or another.
until Catelyn orders Brienne to draw her sword… Jaime really does have a death wish, doesn’t he?
During all this, Robb is away with Talisa (the lovely foreign doctor-lady)
on a dirty weekend to accept the allegiance of a minor house and pick up some medical supplies from its maester. That is all going to end really well.
Or rather, not Winterfell, as the youngest Starks are on the run. They pass a farm – the same one that Bran sent two orphans to work in a few episodes back – and debate over whether to go in for food. Rickon (unsurprisingly) comes down on the side of food, whereas Bran doesn’t want any risk to his subjects by their presence. But when Theon tracks them to the farm, and then returns to Winterfell with two burnt child’s bodies, you have to think that Bran definitely did better at this whole “ruling” business than Theon is doing, Theon’s superior ability to kick the shit out of his underlings notwithstanding.
Theon is confident that his and Yara’s forces can hold Winterfell against any force of Robb’s: and indeed such a force – commanded by Bolton’s bastard son – is already on its way to Winterfell. But when Robb hears that Theon has murdered his brothers, will he really be content with that?
BEYOND THE WALL
While one of his half-brothers is away with his lady-friend, Jon Snow is having a much less fun time with his
ladyfriend captive, Ygritte, who, despite his sword and sulks, has the upper hand on him. She knows the land, whereas he doesn’t have a clue where they are or where the rest of Qhorin’s party is, and she definitely knows how to get under his skin.
Ygritte: Are there no girl Crows?
Jon: There are no women of the Night’s Watch, no.
Ygritte: So the lads just do it with each other.
Jon: Never. We swore an oath.
Ygritte: Do you have sheep at the Wall?
Jon: . . .
Ygritte: With your hands, then! No wonder you’re all so miserable.
But it’s not just Jon’s vow of celibacy that’s coming under pressure: it’s also his iron-hard (cough) certainty about the moral rightness of the Night’s Watch’s mission. Ygritte describes a way of life – fishing, hunting, and fucking at will – that must have serious attractions for a man who has been excluded, thanks to his illegitimate birth, from the rigid hierarchies of the Westerosi society he’s supposedly proud to defend. Come to think of it, Jaime would probably fit in very well in among the Wildlings, but it’s Jon that will have a chance to find out, as Ygritte distracted him with sex talk – and it’s him who’s her captive now.
Thanks to Jaqen, Arya survived her attempt to spy for Robb, but numerous soldiers and villagers, who are being tortured to find out who killed Amory Lorch, haven’t. Pity, that. Arya also considers killing Tywin, but, like when she considered taking Needle back from the Lannister guard, either loses her nerve or thinks better of it.
I can’t say I blame her, much: for mortal enemies, she and Tywin get on very well, though I do wonder at her ability to keep a straight face when Tywin compares her to Cersei as a child. But while Arya thinks she’s getting away with her disguise, she’s giving away too much: Tywin already figured out that she’s Northern, now he also knows she’s of noble birth, because of her speech and her eagerness to correct him about Westerosi history. How long will it be before he joins the dots?
With all his pontificating about posterity and family one also wonders what Tywin will think of Jaime’s actions this week, whenever he finds out.
Attempting to track down the dragons, Jorah visits Mysterious Masked Lady who reads his mind (Betrayal! Unrequited love for a woman half his age!) and gives him some unhelpful advice, all while painting a naked man.
Dany, it seems, is back to square one in Qarth: no army, no khalasar, no powerful husband, no money, and now, no dragons, and she takes it out on Jorah a little. The lack of a megalomaniacal brother is something of a blessing, at least, but her benevolent host Xoro Xhoan Daxos turns out to be more machiavellian than he seems, as he and Pyat Pree stage a coup and kill the rest of the Thirteen, using Dany as bait. Pyat Pree has the dragons, it turns out, in the House of the Undying.
As for me, I’m wondering why no-one wondered where Doreah is. She looked after the dragons, she knows their special flame-y codeword, and Dany told her to fraternise (sororitise?) with the Qartheen – maybe she found a master among them more to her liking than Dany.
One big theme that keeps coming through throughout this series is reputation management: you are what other people say you are, something that Theon feels very keenly (choosing to be known for cruelty rather than weakness), as does Tywin, who has his eye on his legacy. And overall, I think this was one of my favourite episodes so far: such a lot of tension and excellent writing, and Ygritte is way up there on the list of fictional characters I need to go on a night out with. I also love the producers forever for having the ovaries to actually film in Iceland. That scenery bowls me over every time. What did you think? What have I missed? And what on earth is going to happen in the last three episodes?
(apologies for the lateness – scheduling snafus and general life slowed us down this week! And also thanks to MJ and Caitlin for taking the reins while I was away.)
Spoilers note: anything from the first book or first TV series is fair game. Mention of future plot points and/or characters from the rest of the ASoIaF series is a spoiler: please use these tags, with the *s removed, to talk about them: [*spoiler*] <blah blah> [*/spoiler*].