Another Sunday another Game of Thrones. Turns out Jon Snow knows something. Great place for a smarmy George Takei, “Oh My!”
This episode starts off deep in the cave homes of the anarchic Brotherhood Without Banners, where Sandor “The Hound” Clegane is battling for his life against Beric Dondarrion. It’s actually a damn good fight, with Dondarrion doing his flaming sword bit and our favorite giant pyrophobe hacking and slashing at his worst fears. In the end, The Hound prevails and buries his sword in Dondarrion. Arya, not having any of it, pulls a knife and tries to finish off The Hound herself–but is stopped. Meanwhile Thoros of Myr whispers some Lord of Light mumbo jumbo over Dondarrion and uh oh, guess who comes back from the dead? We later learn this isn’t Dondarrion’s first time playing the risen savior–and that Thoros has returned him from the dead at least six times. None of this makes Arya happy, who feels cheated out of Sandor Clegane’s death. She asks if Thoros can do that trick for someone without a head–an allusion to the late Ned Stark–to which the Red Priest says no.
Meanwhile, somewhere past The Wall, Jon Snow is doing his Donnie Brasco bit with the
Wildlings Freefolk, helping them plan an invasion of Westeros. He almost gets into it with the “warg” Orell but ends the day breaking his celibacy oaths in a very convenient cave (complete with a hot spring even) with frienemy Yrgitte. Turns out Jon Snow might be a virgin, but he’s a heck of an…ummm….orator.
In King’s Landing, there’s schemes a plenty. Cersei, jealous of Margaery Tyrell, has Littlefinger spying on the Tyrells–claiming she doesn’t trust their motives. House Tyrell is indeed secretly trying to get Sansa Stark married to Loras Tyrell, to thus get their hands on Winterfell. Loras meanwhile is getting it on with a squire with seemingly excellent medieval gaydar, treating us to some steamy man-love sexposition. Turns out gay squire guy is actually working for Littlefinger, who through pillowtalk learns Loras is to be married to Sansa. Littlefinger, who has his own creepy-older-guy plans for Sansa, goes to her and gives his profound friendship–never revealing he knows what’s up. He does however seem to relay the info to Cersei, who of course tells it to daddy. By the time Tyrion shows up to a meeting with He-Who-Shits-Gold, after spending his day counting coins and getting a browbeating from the always curt Lady Olenna Tyrell, things are already set in motion. To thwart the Tyrell-Stark union, the elder Lannister has decided on a brilliant solution–marry Sansa off to Tyrion. A grinning Cersei watches her brother squirm, unable to get out of the marriage–that is, until daddy informs her that she is to marry Loras “I only like kissing boys” Tyrell. As both children protest, there’s allusions to Tyrion’s first marriage (a sex worker), which Tywin put an end to, and Cersei’s incestous relationship–of which daddy also seems to be aware.
Elsewhere, the King of the North has to deal with a rampaging Rickard Karstark, who, still seething over the death of his sons, takes out murderous vengeance on two captured Lannister children. War is hell. Robb is left with mutiny in his ranks, and an unrepentant Rickard Karstark who acidly questions his resolve as a leader. Everyone begs him to show mercy, and spare the rueful lord–lest the Karstarks withdraw their forces. Robb, feeling his rule questioned, decides to take the old man’s head with his own sword–another allusion to Ned Stark, both his death and resolve in doling out justice. As predicted however, the Karstarks walk, and Robb is left with a diminished and demoralized army. Frustrated, he comes up with a plan of pure genius! He will take Casterly Rock, the Lannister stronghold–just as Winterfell was taken. It will be a shocking blow to the Lannisters. The one man who can provide him with the forces he needs to carry out this audacious plan is Lord Walder Frey of House Frey–who he broke his word to by not marrying his daughter. Wow! What a fantastic idea! What an awesome fantastic idea! What a stupendously awesome fantastic idea! Can’t wait….
At dreary Dragonstone the ever dreary Stannis Baratheon meets with his wife, the Lady Selyse, to confess his carnal sins with Melissandre. Turns out his wife knows everything, and is supportive, as long as it pleases the Lord of Light. Yes, she’s a fanatic. Yes, she also keeps the fetuses of her stillborn children preserved and pickled in jars. Yes, this place is a freakshop. We do get to see Stannis’s daughter, Shireen–who remains locked away in a tower with her mother, because half her face is scarred by greyscale. When she asks about the whereabouts of the “Onion Knight,” Davos Seaworth, Stannis informs her he is locked in the dungeons. Against his wishes, she makes her way there and brings Seaworth several readings on the old dragon kings. When she finds out he can’t read, she begins to teach him. We are treated to a certain song of fishes beneath the sea…though, sadly, no Patchface.
This creates a perfect segue into the line of the dragons, where we see Dany’s newly gained army marching across Essos. Much of this is taken up with a friendly but testy exchange between Jorah Mormont and Barristan Selmy on their allegiances to Dany and their convoluted pasts–one the follower of a mad king, the other a disgraced slave trader. Takeaway–they don’t like each other much. Dany the Abolitionist meanwhile plays her best Malcolm X and tells the Unsullied they should choose a leader, discard their “slave names” and take new ones. One of them steps up, a baby-faced eunuch soldier named Grey Worm. He tells Dany he will keep his name, for though it was given to him upon his castration to remind him he was nothing, it was also the name he had when Dany freed him. DANY UNCHAINED!
The highlight of the episode is likely the fate and back story of the disgraced and maimed Jaime Lannister. Returned a broken man to imprisonment by Roose Bolton, he is informed of the happenings in King’s Landing–namely the failed siege of Stannis Baratheon. He is then bandaged, fed and taken to a bath. Much to Brienne’s annoyance, he decides to slip into the same pool she’s taken. For the first time, seemingly to anyone, he reveals what happened that fateful day to earn him the nickname “King Slayer”–when he broke his oath as a royal guard, and slew the “Mad King” Aerys Targaryen. Turns out Aerys had planned to burn all of King’s Landing with dragonfire in his final days–a pyre of mass destruction from which he expected to be reborn as a dragon. Jaime’s seeming act of betrayal was done to save the kingdom, to save thousands. When asked by a rapt Brienne why he never told anyone this, Jaime says it was the “honorable” Ned Stark (his third mention this episode) who found him after the deed, and judged him without wanting to hear his side of the story. “By what right does the wolf judge the lion?” he demands angrily, before collapsing into Brienne’s arms. When she shouts for aid for the “King Slayer,” he replies wearily, “Jaime. My name is Jaime.”
Redemption for a Lannister.