[Trigger warning for discussion of scenes of sexual violence.]
At Catelyn’s childhood home, we are introduced to her brother Edmure (not great with a bow and arrow, worse at strategy) and her uncle Blackfish (complete badass with a bow and arrow, patronising as hell). Edmure messed up: he was supposed to draw the Lannister forces under the Mountain west, but he attacked instead, he lost men, and his two Lannister hostages are worth nothing against Sansa (and Arya, they think) in King’s Landing.
You have to feel a bit sorry for Edmure – about his dad’s funeral too. On the plus side, an angry Robb is a sight to behold. In a good way.
We need our men more than Tywin Lannister needs his.
Talisa is bandaging up said hostages elsewhere and enjoying teasing them – why yes, Robb does turn into a wolf at night (wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more madam!), while Cat and her uncle have a heart-to-heart. Cat is grieving and guilty; she believes Bran and Rickon are dead and it’s her fault. The Blackfish counsels her: Robb believes they’re alive, so she must, or pretend to, for him.
North of the Wall
The Wildling army reaches the Fist of the First Men, where the Others have artistically decorated the ground with horses’ heads. All the dead bodies that Orell saw with his eagle are gone; no prizes for guessing what they’ll look like when they show up. It’s like Chekhov’s”¦ Zombie. As disgusted as he is, Mance also sees his advantage: the Night’s Watch’s best fighting men were in that force, and most of them are now dead. It’s time for Tormund to climb the Wall, and Jon’s going with him.
Ygritte looks worried, which is not a good sign.
The remains of the Night’s Watch reach Craster’s Keep – and warmth, food, and safety. They don’t so much ask for hospitality as threaten for it, but Craster is a practical man and he knows when he’s outnumbered. That’s why he gives his sons to the Others, because it’s only those “who are right with the gods – the right gods” that will survive the coming winter. And the Others will get another soon, because Gilly’s newborn baby is a boy, just like she predicted. Ruh-roh.
With the help of Mysterious Sweeper Boy, Theon escapes. But then it’s daylight; he’s lost, and there’s no sign of Yara or her men anywhere. Soon he’s trying to escape the men pursuing him, and he fails. A ball on a chain to the ribs has got to hurt. Their leader is about to rape him when he’s hit with an arrow or five. It’s that guy again! What is his deal? (Book readers: did you snigger at the clue?)
Melisandre is leaving the sinking ship of Stannis’ court. His enemies are laughing at him, like Renly did, and he wants them dead, also like Renly. He wants another “son.” But he is not strong enough to make it the way he did before; only his blood could be used instead. Stannis recoils. Somehow I don’t thinks Melisandre means a drop or two from the fingertip.
Barristan seems to have been wholeheartedly accepted into Dany’s retinue – by Dany, anyway. Barristan wants her to leave Astapor and hire sellswords elsewhere; Jorah thinks she should buy Unsullied, and knowing her well, he knows just which buttons to press:
There’s a beast in every man, and it stirs when you put a sword in his hand… The Unsullied are not men. They don’t rape.
But Dany’s eventual decision horrifies them both: she’ll take every Unsullied in the city, plus all the boys in training – in exchange for one of her dragons.
She also demands Missandei, the slaver’s translator, as a gift, not only for her usefulness, but because she sees potential in her. When Dany tells her they will be going to war, and perhaps death by injury or starvation, Missandei is composed:
Missandei: Valar morghulis.
Dany: All men must die. But we are not men.
(Does anyone else think the harpy looks like a Sheela-na-Gig? Just me?)
Like the scenes in the North, I enjoy the value of a scene which says so much without needing anyone to say a word. At the first new Small Council meeting, Littlefinger, Varys, and Pycelle jockey for chairs close to Tywin. Cersei simply raises an eyebrow and carries her chair to her father’s right-hand side. Tyrion, however, drags his to the other end of the table. He’ll compete in his own way, and he won’t be put aside.
But he’s dismayed to learn that while Littlefinger will be off in the Vale wooing Lysa Arryn, Tyrion will be filling in for him as Master of Coin, and the ledgers are not in good shape:
Bronn: He’s stealing it?
Tyrion: Worse. He’s borrowing it.
And while Tywin Lannister might be willing to let his loans slide, for the moment – being as the crown and the Lannisters are indistinguishable at this point – the Iron Bank of Braavos will not be so sympathetic. If they don’t get their money, they’ll start funding the rebels.
The Lannisters are adept at spending and lending money; not so much the making and saving of it. Are we all looking forward to seeing Lysa and her lovely son again? And will she be receptive to Littlefinger’s suit? They have a shared childhood, but all her family are on Robb’s side. Will she really side with the crown against them?
Incidentally, what did we all think of Pod’s “reward”? It was a funny scene that I enjoyed while it was happening, not to mention the scene afterwards, when Pod returns Tyrion’s money and Tyrion and Bronn demand “details” in a Sex-And-The-City-esque way.
But for a scene that just added some humour, it went onnn. What did it really add to the story, apart from the boob count? Plus, the last time Bronn and Tyrion hired sex workers for a teenage boy, that did not go well.
Arya is feeling increasingly abandoned: even though she’s treated better than the Brotherhood’s other prisoner, the Hound, she’s still a prisoner, but Gendry is helping the Brotherhood with his smithing skills, and Hot Pie has decided to stay at the inn and be a cook. I’ve never really seen the point of Hot Pie in the series, but I have to give him kudos for a direct goodbye:
Don’t get stabbed.
Elsewhere, Jaime and Brienne are also prisoners, and in worse shape than either Arya or the Hound. They bicker over their interrupted fight:
Maybe you were as good as people said… once.
but they both know that Brienne is facing a brutal night. Jaime advises her not to resist: they’ll kill her if she does, as they have no reason to keep her alive. Brienne is scornful; is that what Jaime would do, if he were a woman? Still, when his prediction starts coming true that night, Jaime does his best, and succeeds in stopping the assault by lying about the wealth of Brienne’s family and the kind of ransom they’ll get if she is “alive and unbesmirched.”
But violent men are violent, and Jaime goes too far with his captors:
You think you’re the smartest man there is… You’re nothing without your daddy.
If you hadn’t read the books, did you see that coming? Jaime Lannister, member of the Kingsguard, famous swordsman, has just lost a hand. I think it’s safe to say he would have preferred to lose the eye.
The connection between sexual violence and power is a recurring theme in the series and it’s strong here: Theon was almost raped by his captors, as a punishment for escaping; Brienne, similarly, was sexually assaulted, and when her captors were thwarted in their rape attempts they maimed Jaime instead, as another, brutal, permanent expression of their power.
WARNING: if you want to talk about the books from A Storm of Swords on, please preface your comment with a ***spoiler***. The first two books and first two seasons of the show are not considered spoilers.
Screencaps c/o screencapped.net. All images are the property of HBO.