Don’t they all have lovely bottoms?
Somewhere between Astapor and Yunkai
Those terrible teases showed us Yunkai in the credits but didn’t actually show Dany getting there. Having introduced the Unsullied to leadership by popular acclaim, she meets their new leader, Grey Worm. She finds out that the Unsullied were even deprived of their names during their training, and commands them to choose new ones. But Grey Worm surprises her:
“˜Grey Worm’ gives this one pride. It is a lucky name. The name this one was born with was cursed. That was the name he had when he was taken as a slave. But Grey Worm is the name this one had the day Daenerys Stormborn set him free.
Jorah and Barristan seem to be getting along quite well, reminiscing about being knighted and life back in the good ol’ country (did you notice Jorah fishing to see if Barristan knew that he’d been informing on Dany?). But though Barristan is quick to position himself as the honourable one
A man of honour keeps his vows – even if he’s serving a drunk, or a lunatic.
Jorah is equally quick to remind Barristan of his place in the pecking order:
I was busy defending the Khaleesi from King Robert’s assassins while you were still bowing to the man.
Trouble in the Queensguard.
In the Brotherhood’s hideout, the Hound starts his trial by combat: complicated somewhat by Beric’s flaming sword – the real thing, set alight by his own blood – and the Hound’s pyrophobia. In his fear and with his shield on fire, the Hound slices down through Beric’s shoulder to his chest: an obviously fatal wound. Arya then goes for the Hound with a knife, but is held back by Gendry.
And then, somehow, because Thoros prayed over him, Beric is alive again. Yeahhh, the Lord of Light can really do some crazy shit.
True to their word, the Brotherhood let the Hound go, albeit without his Tourney winnings. It turns out that’s not the first time Beric’s been brought back from the dead: there’s been so many he can’t remember. Could Thoros bring back Ned, Arya wonders? But the answer, she already knows, is no.
Freedom is in sight for her as the Brotherhood plan to take her to Riverrun and ransom her back to Robb, but somehow she’s less hopeful than ever, especially since Gendry won’t be going with her. He’s tired of serving this master or that lord; he wants to be among people who respect each other and their purpose. He wants a community, a family: something he’s never had and that Arya can’t give him, for all that she sees him as another older brother:
Arya: I could be your family.
Gendry: You wouldn’t be my family. You’d be m’lady.
Arya has had to hide who she is for so long that she’s almost forgotten what it means, but Gendry hasn’t. With Arya about to be returned to her real family, he knows he’d never be allowed to forget the differences between them.
With Melisandre gone, Stannis is trying to reconnect with his actual family, and we meet the wife that Stannis briefly mentioned last season before fucking Melisandre. As creepy characters go, Selyse is exponential scales ahead of my previous contender, Lysa Arryn, keeping the bodies of her dead sons in jars and even praising Stannis for cheating on her. Stannis, with his cast-iron attachment to his pride and what the rules give him, can’t respect Selyse, who takes no pride in herself at all:
Stannis: I have sinned, I have wronged you, I have shamed you.
Selyse: You were doing God’s work.
Then, we meet Shireen – someone who may be a surprise to non-book people, as she wasn’t mentioned at all last season. She’s Stannis’s only living child, a little sweetheart with a skin disease who’s kept hidden away by her mother.
Upon finding out that Davos is imprisoned in the dungeons, she goes to visit and brings him a book. A history book! Can we adopt her? It’s no use to Davos, though, because he can’t read. So she starts to teach him, using a book about Aegon the Conqueror and the Targaryen takeover of Westeros. BE STILL MY HEART.
North of the Wall
Orell and Jon face off as Orell implies Jon is a spy. Jon defends himself:
What happens to your eagle after I kill you?
but it’s Tormund and Ygritte who defuse a physical confrontation. Jon is pissed, because being raised in the Super-Patriarchy that is Westeros south of the Wall, it wounds his manly pride to have a woman defend him.
But he is in a precarious position among the Wildlings: something Ygritte is fully aware of. So she grabs his sword, geddit, and then leads him into a secret, warm cave, geddit? The symbolism is… unsubtle. Ygritte dares Jon to have sex with her, to prove he doesn’t belong to the Night’s Watch any more, to prove her speaking up for him is worth it. There is a coercive element here: I don’t think Ygritte would have told everyone if he had refused (I think she would’ve just tried again) but nevertheless it’s clear Jon wouldn’t have initiated this himself.
Yet it does lead to a really lovely, tender scene. Like with Robb and Talisa last season, it gives me warm fuzzies to see a couple having sex because they’re attracted to each other, like each other, and – shock – want each other to enjoy it. (Also, you go Jon Snow, introducing oral sex north of the Wall. You are truly a worthy ambassador, but next time remember that postcoital chat about previous lovers – all your partner’s – is not usually a good idea). Can you blame Ygritte for this?:
Let’s not go back. Let’s stay here a while longer. I don’t ever want to leave this cave, Jon Snow. Not ever.
My main complaint with this scene is that it was far too short.
As lovely as his relationship with Talisa is, Robb has good cause to regret it. Lord Karstark murders the two Lannister boy hostages as revenge for Jaime killing his son to escape, and Robb, despite council from Talisa, Catelyn, Edmure, and the Blackfish to keep him as a hostage in turn, decides Karstark must die for his treason. Karstark is defiant to the end:
Kill me and be cursed. You are no king of mine.
Robb made the just and honourable choice instead of the pragmatic one, and that’s rarely a good idea in this world. Still, he has the beginnings of a plan to reunite his men and retake the momentum in the war: march on Casterley Rock, the Lannister seat. But to do that, he needs to replace the Karstark men who deserted after their lord’s execution, which means he must go to the only lord left with enough soldiers to replace them: Walder Frey. And since Robb broke his engagement to a Frey daughter to marry Talisa… that won’t be an easy negotiation.
Another cause of all this – Jaime Lannister – has been brought to Robb’s ally Lord Bolton at Harrenhal. For all that he’s disgusted by his men’s treatment of Jaime and Brienne, he indulges in his own little bit of sadism in telling Jaime about the Battle of the Blackwater. Knowing Cersei is still alive seems to give Jaime courage, and he fights for the right to save his body from further amputation. Qyburn, the sole survivor of the Mountain’s massacre of Harrenhal, warns him the alternative is risky, and unpleasant.
Qyburn: There will be pain.
Jaime: I’ll scream.
Qyburn: Quite a bit of pain.
Jaime: I’ll scream loudly.
He’s not quite as stoic later when he invades Brienne’s personal space in the bath. She’s embarrassed to see him naked and that he might see her the same way; at first he seems to almost be back to the old, arrogant Jaime, until Brienne has had enough.
He wants a truce, but she doesn’t trust him enough. So he tells her something he’s probably never told anyone before: the truth of why he killed the Mad King, Dany’s father Aerys. Jaime urged him to surrender, but Aerys had caches of wildfire hidden throughout the city, and when Robert’s army approached, he ordered them lit:
“Burn them all,” he said. “Burn them in their homes, burn them in their beds.” Tell me, if your precious Renly commanded you to kill your own father, and to stand aside while thousands of men, women, and children burned alive, would you have done it? Would you have kept your oath then?
Maybe Barristan and even Robb would have chosen honour over innocent lives, but Jaime didn’t, and he’s been disparaged ever after as an oathbreaker. We see sympathy, horror and disbelief in Brienne’s face; she distrusts him still, but when he nearly faints in the bath she catches him and calls for help using his hated nickname. Now that he’s finally told the truth to someone, Jaime wants his own name back:
Jaime. My name’s Jaime.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau did such a sterling job with this scene, give that man some kind of shiny award. Question: if Jaime never told anyone about the wildfire hidden underneath the city, is it still there?
Tyrion wins a fiscal skirmish with Olenna Tyrell about the cost of the royal wedding, but he knows if it comes to a war of words with her, he’d lose.
Cersei is determined to prove the Tyrells are untrustworthy and enlists Littlefinger‘s help, which, given Littlefinger, comes in the form of a sex worker-disguised-as-squire who gets Loras into bed and saying things he shouldn’t mention, like that he’s engaged.
And when Littlefinger arranges a meeting with Sansa to test his suspicions, she plays right into his hands by suddenly becoming lukewarm about the prospect of escape from King’s Landing. Sansa is being such a pawn here: just when you think she’s starting to learn that she’s in a game, let alone how to play it, she messes this up.
So Cersei now knows of Olenna and Varys’s plan to marry Sansa off, something which the Lannisters cannot allow to happen. With Bran and Rickon presumed dead, and Arya still missing, Sansa is Robb’s only heir. Tywin, of course, has an answer: Sansa will marry Tyrion, a plan to which he vociferously objects:
That’s cruel, even for you… She’s a child!
But just as Cersei is enjoying the fruits of victory, her father reveals the other half of the plan: Cersei will marry Loras. She is even more angry than Tyrion, but also more panicked in her refusals:
I am Queen Regent, not some brood mare… Father, don’t make me do it again, please.
Practically, the plan makes sense: as the Tyrells haven’t yet asked for Sansa’s hand, they cannot be offended when she is married to someone else, and they certainly will find it difficult to refuse an offer of the Queen Regent for their son. Tywin, you delicious bastard. It’s not easy to be a highborn child, even when you’re all grown up with children of your own.
I though last week was excellent, and this week was almost better – in a more character-driven, less showy way. There were so many little, beautiful moments that broke my heart (“Is this a rescue?” KILL ME NOW). Between this episode and last, we’ve also gotten a lot more background on the history of Westeros, particularly the Targaryens, and it’s clearer than ever Dany has no idea what she’s getting into by aiming to reconquer Westeros.
How are we halfway through the series already?!?! And how do the cast all have such lovely asses?
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.