We’re men, manly men, we’re men in arranged marriages…
Arya opens this episode with a little attempted murder – the Hound is on her prayer list, after all – but he’s on to her. He offers her a deal: she gets one chance to kill him, but if she fails he’ll break her hands. Arya’s brave, but she’s not stupid; she puts the rock down. The Hound also warns her against escape:
Hound: Someone worse than me would find you.
Arya: There’s no-one worse than you.
Hound: You’ve never met my brother.
The Hound clearly sees himself as the good Clegane. He also gives Arya news of Sansa, unpleasant though it is, but Arya warms to him when he tells her he’s not taking her to King’s Landing. He’s taking her to the Twins, where the Starks will ransom her – was that a hint of a smile on her face as the camera panned away?
Gendry is taken to his new-found uncle Stannis, who assesses him wordlessly and pronounces his verdict:
Half Robert, half lowborn… If it needs to be done, do it, don’t torture the boy.
Good enough for Melisandre, though, who commences her plan of attack with no shame whatsoever, plying Gendry with wine, food, and poor-kids-made-good cameraderie. He takes the bait (and the wine) and ends up tied to a bed with two leeches on his chest and one on his erect penis. Which… any penis-owners want to venture a guess at that sensation?
He thinks Stannis and Davos, bursting through the door, are his salvation, but actually they’re here to watch. Stannis has a conscience after all; his name is Davos, and he wouldn’t let Stannis kill a boy who hadn’t done him any harm:
You came to me now before this boy is put to the knife becuase you knew I’d counsel restraint. You came to hear me say it because you believe it yourself.
Stannis ends with a recitation of his rivals as he throws the blood-filled leeches into the fire, all the other “false kings”: Robb Stark, Balon Greyjoy, and Joffrey Baratheon.
Ruh-roh. Will Davos get the “proof” he needs to believe in the Red God and follow Melisandre? The drawback of all this Theon-time this season is that a lot of viewers have probably forgotten what Balon Greyjoy looks like or why we’re supposed to worry about him.
North of the Wall
Sam and Gilly seem to be feeling a bit more relaxed as they get further south, chatting about baby names and the difference between winking and blinking over a stubborn fire. Gilly is still on her guard a little, while Sam only wants to get her to like him (as long as she doesn’t give her baby his dad’s name). It all becomes a little moot, though, when ravens gather in the heart tree outside and a White Walker comes stalking through the forest. We’ve never seen Sam this physically brave before, but the Walker breaks his steel with one hand and heads straight for the baby – until Sam stabs him with the dragonglass blade and he shatters like Sam’s sword did.
Sam’s found the one thing that’ll kill a White Walker, and he leaves it on the ground behind them. Dammit, Tarly, YOU HAD ONE JOB.
The “powerful friends” the Yunkai’i referred to last week turn out to be the Second Sons, a company of about 2,000 mercenaries camped outside the city walls. Dany decides to win their three leaders over, but they’re not buying it. Their leader, Mero, the Titan’s Bastard, takes great pleasure in talking shit to her and groping Missandei, which doesn’t escape Grey Worm‘s notice either.
As she showed when she decided to meet them (guessing they wouldn’t want to “lose to a girl”), Dany enjoys playing with their expectations of her, offering them wealth in Westeros. When they scoff, she reminds them how far she’s come:
A fortnight ago I had no army. A year ago I had no dragons.
The Second Sons discuss her offer later on, and decide that Daario must sneak into her tent and kill her. He’s game for the first, but the second he finds less purposeful – so instead he kills his fellow leaders, rolls their heads at Dany’s (naked) feet, and promises the Second Sons to her.
Daario is “the simplest man you’ll ever meet”: his greatest pleasures are fucking and killing. But they come with caveats: fucking women who want to fuck him, and killing men trying to kill him. He has standards, does Daario, and he makes his own choices: Dany seems to fit both.
(Apparently Dany’s Dothraki isn’t as good as she thought it was this whole time. Awk-ward. Incidentally, the word that Missandei has her try to pronounce is the same word as Irri tried to teach her in the first season: athjahakar, “pride“).
The episode may be named after Dany’s new allies but it’s in King’s Landing that the juicy stuff happens this week, with Sansa and Tyrion‘s wedding the central focus. As Shae dresses Sansa for the wedding, Tyrion arrives – to apologise? To try to make it less awkward? He doesn’t really succeed, but he does try to reassure Sansa that – as Margaery told her – he will be at least a better husband than Joffrey would have been:
I promise you one thing, my lady, I will never hurt you.
Waiting for the happy couple in the Sept of Baelor, Margaery tries her charm on Cersei, to disastrous effect. Cersei tells her the story behind the song The Rains of Castamere – basically, don’t piss off the Lannisters or you’ll find yourself and your whole family hanging from Casterly Rock for a summer – and ends with something that couldn’t possibly be misinterpreted:
If you ever call me “sister” again, I’ll have you strangled in your sleep.
Deprived of power and status by her father and her son, Cersei is lashing out at anyone else she can – which includes Loras, her husband-to-be. Joffrey, in contrast, is determined to display as much power as he can: giving Sansa away, taking Tyrion’s stool to embarrass him during the wedding, telling Sansa he’ll rape her while the Kingsguard hold her down, and lording it over Tyrion at the wedding feast. We get a bit of light relief with Olenna explaining the complex relationships engendered by the Lannister-Tyrell wedding: when all three weddings are complete, Loras will be Margaery’s father-in-law. I need a diagram.
Tyrion responds to Joffrey’s goading and Tywin’s pressure by opting out through drink,
I am the god of tits and wine!
but finally goaded into response, threatens to cut off Joffrey’s cock. It falls to Tywin to make peace, and Tyrion and Sansa walk to
the gallows the bedroom to consummate their marriage. Sansa takes a swallow of wine, and begins to undress. Tyrion watches her, despite himself, but his better self wins out, and he tells her to stop. He’ll defy his father to keep his promise not to hurt her: he’ll never try to have sex with her unless she wants him to. Somehow, that doesn’t seem likely.
At least the non-consummated marriage gets Tyrion back in Shae’s good books.
With less location- and character-hopping this episode, it allowed time for the writing to shine. An oddly tender episode; calm before the storm. The next episode is on in two weeks’ time. The title? The Rains of Castamere. Hrrrm.
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.