“We don’t hurt little girls in Dorne.”
“Everywhere in the world, they hurt little girls.”
For all this episode opens with Tommen, it’s really all about what’s happening with the little girls of Westeros — grown up or not.
Finally — or oddly quickly? — news of Joffrey’s death reaches Dany‘s court, now ensconced in the pyramid at Meereen. With its navy at her disposal thanks to Daario “I heard you liked ships” Noharis, as well as the Unsullied, the Second Sons, and other sellsword companies, Dany toys with the idea of sailing straight to Westeros to take advantage of the presumed power vacuum. But Barristan‘s optimism is tempered by Jorah‘s pragmatism: even if her current forces were enough to take King’s Landing, they’re not enough to take the kingdom. For that, she’ll need to get the ruling families on her side. And how can she do that, when the cities she “liberated” have ended up right back in the hands of slavers and despots? For all she’s done and all she’s been through, she’s not a queen yet.
How can I rule seven kingdoms if I can’t control Slaver’s Bay?… I will do what queens do. I will rule.
Tommen is crowned, and his mother moves immediately to consolidate his allies (and hers). We think Cersei will give Margaery an earful for daring to smile at Tommen, but she confounds everyone’s expections (Margaery’s, Tywin’s, and ours) by pushing for Tommen’s quick marriage to Margaery — and her own to Loras — to cement the Tyrell alliance.
This pleases Tywin immensely, because they’re broke. No, really. The famous Lannister gold mines stopped producing years ago, and Tywin’s been running the kingdom on borrowed money from the Iron Bank of Braavos (the same bank that Davos wrote to recently). The Lannisters need the Tyrells’ money; they also need them on their side:
You don’t need to make formal alliances with people you trust… the Tyrells are our only rivals.
Cersei has positioned herself as Tywin’s truest heir — the only one who cares about, and has actually contributed to, the Lannister legacy, and it seems to be paying off so far…
Having secured Margaery and Tywin, Cersei moves next to Oberyn, the third of the judges at Tyrion’s upcoming trial. For him, Cersei again shows her maternal side, asking after Oberyn’s own daughters (eight of them, apparently — which seems to indicate a change of parentage for an upcoming character) and talking wistfully about Myrcella. She asks Oberyn to send her daughter a name-day present: a ship with striped gold sails. What could be the message here, we wonder? Is Oberyn taken in?
Little-girl-no-longer Sansa finally arrives to a place of safety at her aunt Lysa‘s and for… oh, maybe five minutes, it seems like she will be genuinely welcomed. But Lysa’s priorities are her son Robin and her new husband Littlefinger, and Sansa (AKA Alayne) is a rival for at least one of those affections. Lysa lures her in with intimacies about Sansa’s dead mother Catelyn, only for things to turn ugly over lemoncakes:
Petyr brought them for you… Why does he feel responsible for you? Petyr is risking his life to save you, the daughter of a woman who never loved him. What have you let Petyr do with your body? Your young, pretty body?
Sansa’s denials have enough of truth about them for Lysa to be placated — and to console Sansa with the prospect of imminent widowhood and re-marriage to her cousin Robin.
There’s a nice bit of backstory here that hasn’t been mentioned in a while, neatly paralleling Margaery/Joffrey/Tommen: Catelyn was originally betrothed to Brandon Stark, who after fighting a duel with Littlefinger, was later killed along with his father Rickard Stark by Mad King Aerys (Dany’s father, eventually killed by Jaime). And Sansa’s current troubles can all be traced back to Littlefinger, by way of Lysa: it was Lysa who poisoned her own husband, Jon Arryn, the Hand of the King before Ned. It was his body that we first saw Cersei and Jaime together beside; his death that Ned was investigating in King’s Landing, which convinced Cersei to have Robert killed sooner rather than later, which led to — well, all the storylines.
Never. Underestimate. Littlefinger.
Arya and the Hound are still on their not-merry way towards the Eyrie. The Hound seems unperturbed by the fact that he and his brother the Mountain are both on Arya’s “prayer list,” but he’s certainly freaked out when he wakes up and thinks she’s gone. She’s not, of course — now that she has Needle back, she’s practising “water dancing. The Hound isn’t impressed with Braavosi swordsmanship, and gives her a lesson of his own:
Any boy whore with a sword could beat Merryn Trant… your friend’s dead because Merryn Trant had armour and a big fucking sword.
This isn’t the first or last noble-v-not swordfighting we’ve seen (in this episode, even!): we get the message, showmakers. In Westeros, don’t fight pretty: fight to win.
I’m going to bring Brienne and Pod in here too because they’ve left King’s Landing going north — to the Wall. Brienne’s assumption that this is where Sansa would go is a good one, in its way: it’s where Arya was originally headed and Bran, too, is very tempted by the safety of his older brother’s protection. But Brienne’s mistake is in thinking that Sansa herself was in charge of her escape and her destination. Think bigger, Brienne! Think Littlefinger! I do like that Brienne eventually sees Pod’s true value — his loyalty. Here’s hoping he learns to cook rabbits properly, though.
Despite only having arrived at Castle Black five minutes ago, Locke is apparently trusted to scout out Craster’s Keep on Jon’s behalf — something he’s only too happy to do, as it gives him the opportunity to scope out the hostages and warn the Night’s Watch away from their hut.
There, Jojen has another vision — the same weirwood tree that Bran saw, and also, for some reason, his own hand on fire. All this talk of Bran’s destiny and the Reeds’ role in it is interrupted by Karl coming in to continue his habit of raping any female within spitting distance. Meera struggles, and though it’s clear that Karl isn’t to be swayed by fancy talk of visions, Jojen has seen something else:
Karl: Have you seen what I’m going to do to your sister?
Jojen: I saw you die tonight. I saw your body burn.
The Night’s Watch attack comes in the nick of time, leaving our intrepid adolescent threesome free to be “rescued” by Locke: Bran shouts for Jon, but is quickly silenced, until he repeats his trick from his last close encounter with Jon. He wargs into Hodor’s body, kills Locke, and gets Hodor to release the Reeds. He’s still shouting vainly for Jon when Jojen finds him and persuades him that his brother’s protection is not what they need: they need the Three-Eyed Raven and that lovely shining weirwood tree. But why?
As much as we would love to see even two of the remaining Starks reunite, it’s probably a good thing that Jon never heard Bran. He had enough to do fighting Karl — and in the end it’s one of Craster’s wives who lands the decisive blow. It was cheering, in a way, that the wives decide they’ve had enough of men of all kinds and want to “find our own way.”
So, with that plot divergence neatly tied up in one episode, what’s up next? We haven’t seen Stannis or the Boltons for a while now, and also conspicuous by their absence are the last rebel kingdom’s rulers — the Greyjoys. Is Yara just sitting on her arse somewhere around Moat Cailin? If not, do you think we might get to see what she’s up to now that we’re halfway through the frickin’ series? (Hold me!)
SPOILER WARNING: if you want to talk about the books from these events in A Storm of Swords on, please be nice and use rot13.com to encypher your comment (go to that site, write your comment, click, then copy and paste the new text back here). Events from the books that have already been depicted in the first three seasons of the show are not considered spoilers.
All images are the property of HBO and their respective sources.