So we start off at Castle Black, where Jon Snow is making good on his rather unpopular decision to lead a smarmy, unshackled Tormund Giantsbane in a quest to convince the Free Folk to live South of the Wall–because “Winter is Coming.” Professional hater Ser Allister Thorne, now First Ranger, warns this is a bad idea. But, not wanting to see his head lopped off like his former lackey-pal Ser Janos Slynt “the mouthy,” he doesn’t press things. Besides, there are more than a few people glad to see the Lord Commander take off. Samwell Tarly however isn’t one of them, and gives Jon a bag of dragon glass on his trip–just in case he runs into any White Walkers. Yeah, remember them?
In the middle of all this, we see Gilly and Samwell Tarly at the bedside of an ailing Maester Aemon. The “last” Targaryen this side of the Narrow Sea is dying. He smiles and plays adoringly with Gilly’s baby, recounting his own childhood and his younger brother–Aegon “Egg” Targaryen, who would be king. Then in very serious tones, he tells her to get out of here–to take that child South, before it’s too late.
Samwell is especially taking his hard, as the Maester was both his mentor and one of the few who treated him well at Castle Black. We see the last Targaryen wake up suddenly startled from sleep. The last words he utters are, “I dreamed I was old.” And then he dies. Samwell himself says the last rites, giving his true name as a Targaryen and lighting the funeral pyre. As he burns, Ser Allister Thorne leans in to whisper, “You’re losing all your friends Tarley.” Haters don’t even wait for the flames to go out.
Confirmation of that comes quick, when Gilly finds herself harassed by two Night’s Watchmen. The two bar her way and threaten to do worse–until Samwell shows up. He tells them to let her go and leave her alone. But they laugh. Without Jon, it seems everybody’s kind of losing their way and reverting to form. The two mock the stories of Samwell killing a White Walker and don’t seem too afraid when he draws his sword.
And it appears they don’t have to be. Alas, Samwell is not a fighter. And he gets his ass beat. Like badly. Like damn. Like you can barely stand to watch. Honestly, Gilly puts up a better fight. They leave him a bloodied ruin on the floor and go back to their molesting. But Samwell is persistent. He manages to get to his feet, and he gives them the same warning. He tells them he’s killed a White Walker and a Fenn. And he’ll take his chances with them. The two look ready to beat him again–until several tons of furry, snarling, dire wolf comes trotting out. Jon may have taken off, but looks like he left Ghost around to handle things. The two bullies, and would-be rapists, make off quick.
After that, an injured Samwell is tended by Gilly. Then (finally) there’s Samwell-Gilly sex. But that’s not really worth discussing.
At Winterfell, Sansa Stark isn’t doing so well since we last left her. It seems the psychopath Ramsay Bolton has taken to simply locking her in her room during the day, only to arrive at night to…well…commit marital acts of sexual violence. A desperate Sansa is awakened by someone in her room, who turns out to be none other than Theon. She immediately seeks his aid, but he’s frightened, and won’t even answer to his name–insisting he’s now Reek. She tells him however that she still has friends, and as that old lady told her upon arrival, all she has to do is light a candle in a tower window and help will arrive. That help of course is Brienne, sitting somewhere outside–and we get a glimpse of her at her vigil. Sansa tries to break through Ramsay’s hold on Theon, reminding him of his name and his title. When he leaves her room, we see him trudging through the snow, and up a castle tower. And we’re thinking—he just might light it. Then a door opens and there’s Ramsay, waiting.
The next time we see this sordid trio, Ramsay has invited Sansa out of her rooms. He makes real nice and she follows him along the ramparts of the castle. At one point she grabs an item left lying in the snow, though we’re uncertain what it is. As they walk, he talks about his pleasure of having her as his wife, with that ever-present brutal smile. He also mentions Lord Stannis‘s approaching army, which has been bogged down he says by snow–where it’ll likely remain. So no rescue there. He reminds her as well that soon enough he’ll be made Warden of the North. In a bit of well-delivered vengeance (you take it where you can get it) Sansa points out that all of that is precarious, since he’s a bastard–only made less so on a shaky decree by another bastard. Ouch.
Ramsay however, is better at all this at she is. He points out that some bastards rise high in the world, and tells her of Jon’s rise to Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch–something she didn’t know. And he gets the last laugh when he shows her what he brought her out to see. It’s the old woman, the one who Sansa was depending on for assistance. She’s been nailed to the Bolton cross and her skin has been flayed from her body. Ramsay comments with regret that she died before he even got to start on her face. He tells her that Reek (Theon is gone) betrayed her and that no help is coming at all. He then has his men escort a thoroughly broken and fearful Sansa back to her daily prison–telling her the nights soon will be very long.
Bleak days, and nights, at Winterfell.
Oh, and Stannis Baratheon’s army? Yeah, it’s exactly where Ramsay said–bogged down in the snow. The men are starving, coughing and running out of supplies. What’s more, some, like the mercenary companies, are deserting. It’s turning into a fiasco. The Onion knight Ser Davos Seaworth delivers much of this bad news and urges Stannis to cut his losses and winter back at Castle Black. But stubborn Stannis refuses. He says if he retreats again he’ll be branded “the king who ran.” Besides, this isn’t just winter he says–it’s Winter. As in “Winter is Coming.” This winter could last not just a season, but years. They have to go forward he says, whether to victory or defeat.
When alone however, Stannis shows doubt behind his resolve. With Melisandre in the room, he openly questions her prophecy. Being the fanatic she is however, the Red Lady assures him the prophecy of his conquest will come true. To assure it, she says, he can sacrifice some royal blood as he’s done before. And she has someone in mind–Stannis’s daughter Shireen. Stannis basically tells her to get the hell on with that bullsh*t. So his daughter seems safe…for now.
In Dorne, Jaime has a meeting with his “niece” Myrcella. He tells her she’s not safe in Dorne, that her mother worries about her, and that he’s here to take her back. But Myrcella doesn’t want to go anywhere. She’s in love with a Dornish prince and intends to marry him. When Jaime says he doesn’t understand, she shoots back that of course he doesn’t–because he doesn’t know her…his, umm, “niece.”
In the dungeons of Dorne, our favorite sellsword Bronn sits in a cell across from three Sand Snakes. There he sings some rouge’s song, much to their annoyance. When one of the Sand Snakes, Tyene Sand, does some flirting he flirts back–but declares he’s seen prettier women than her. We get a bit of sexposition as the flirting turns…heavy. But the joke’s on Bronn, and it’s a deadly one. She was the Sand Snake he sparred with, and her blade cut him. It was laced with a poison that is slowly killing him. Turns out, she has the only antidote. She gives it to him, but only after forcing him to say through near-death-breaths that she is the prettiest. I suppose that whole scene was to play up the Sand Snakes as beautiful but deadly…but, seemed just a bit overdone. Less is more fellas.
At King’s Landing, punk ass King Tommen is angry. His wife, Margaery Tyrell, the Queen, is being held by the High Sparrow and there’s nothing he can do about it. He’s not the only one. The Queen of Thorns pays a visit to the High Sparrow and tries to use her wit against him. But he’s witty as well. He pulls a mix of religious, fanatical, populist rhetoric, insisting as always that the gods are no respecters of rank.
A frustrated Queen of Thorns leaves, only to find a message awaiting her–from none other than Littlefinger. She meets with him in one of his brothels, destroyed by the Sparrows. It’s a tense meeting, as she asks if he’s behind all this. He says no, only in that he provided information that Cersei wanted. She reminds him that they are bound in the mutual conspiracy that killed The Monster. If anything should happen to her, she warns he won’t be far to follow. But Littlefinger says instead that they actually have a mutual interest. And he’s willing to give her some information (a gift) she will find useful, just as he had for Cersei. This involves a certain young man…
Meanwhile, a gloating Cersei has gone to see Margaery in her dank, cold, cell–bringing with her some venison soup. It’s all part of what she “claims” is an attempt to help her distraught son, who’s at his wits end. Margaery however sees through the ruse, calls her out and throws her soup back at her. I think the exact words were “Get out you hateful b*tch.” All of this is of course delightful to Cersei, who revels in seeing her younger rival broken–just like she’d planned. Now Tommen is all hers. Most-over-bearing-mommy-ever.
She meets with the High Sparrow as she promised her son. But it’s not to talk about the release of Margaery or her brother, Ser Loras Tyrell. Instead it’s to find out with delicious glee just how bad things are going to get for them. The High Sparrow tells her indeed, when it’s all done, they’ll strip away the finery of House Tyrell and see what lies beneath when their hearts are laid bare.
Cersei is beside herself eating it all up, until the High Sparrow starts down a long road about the old Sept once being a simple place before this larger construction. She listens, though seems bored with it all, kind of wondering where he’s going. Then after talking about stripping away the fanciness of the new Sept to find its core, he turns to her and wonders what they would find when they strip away her coverings?
Cersei gives him this, “come again?” type look. Then the High Sparrow says that a young man came to them, full of sin, weighed down by guilt. But this young man has recently unburdened himself, revealing his many sins and wrongs. And what’s more, he’s been singing like a f__king canary. About her. Then the young man shows up (making that Littlefinger connection?) and it’s Lancel. Cousin Lancel. Cousin Lancel she was sleeping with. Cousin Lancel who helped her plot the death of her former husband King Robert Baratheon. Oh! My! Damn!
Cersei tries to make it to the door, but there are some heavy-bodied Sept nuns waiting. They grab her roughly and despite all her cries and protests about being the Queen–haul her and throw her into a dark cell. She glares at them, telling them hers will be the last face they see before they die. But they’re all like, “whatevs” and lock her away for her sins.
Let this be a lesson to you ladies and lords. Don’t stir up fanatics. It doesn’t end well.
But as fans, we do enjoy the Schadenfreude!
Meanwhile, somewhere across the sea, Daenerys is taking pillow talk advice from new face Daario–who she still sleeps with though she’s about to marry the Ghiscari noble Hizdahr zo Loraq, her way of ending the Sons of the Harpy rebellion. Daario admits to some jealously and asks why can’t she marry him instead? She tries to laugh it off, saying that’s not possible–and he tells her she’s less free than he is. He then offers her some more advice. He says on the day of the upcoming great games in the fighting pits, she should round up every noble master and have them killed. When Dany remarks she’s not a butcher, he says we are all either butchers–or meat. Deep Daario.
Somewhere else in Essos, Tyrion and his one-time-captor Ser Jorah Mormant now move along a slave coffle. They’re put to market by the local slavers, who (following Tyrion’s advice) hype up Ser Jorah as a great warrior for Mereen’s recently re-opened fighting pits. It works, and a noble buys him up. Tyrion, realizing he might be left behind, insists he be bought as well–that he and Jorah are a fighting pair. This causes laughter–until Tyrion turns against one of his beaters, beating him in turn with his chain. It’s humorous enough to make Jorah’s new master toss in a few coins for him–and the two are taken.
The two end up not in Mereen, but at one of the lower fighting pits before the opening of the games. Unknown to any of them however, the Khaleesi is here with her betrothed to witness the fighting–as is ritual. Several fighters are chosen, but none of them are Jorah. When they begin fighting to the death, Dany finds she can’t watch the bloody gladitorial spectacle.
But by now Jorah’s gotten wind that the Khaleesi, the queen he’s been banished from, the woman he’s in love with, is there! He grabs up a helmet and makes his way out to the fighting pit, knocking down his master in the process. He manages to defeat and subdue all the men (those left alive) in the pit. But doesn’t kill any of them. Dany watches, impressed by his skill and the fact that he isn’t a butcher. When he’s done, she is set to congratulate him–until he takes off his helmet.
At sight of Jorah, her old bear, Dany’s face falls. This ain’t who she wanted to see.
“Get him out of my sight,” she says in a whisper. Man, that’s cold.
But Jorah pleads that he’s brought her a gift. The gift itself comes walking out into the pit, having managed to free himself. Tyrion strides right up to the puzzled Khaleesi and tells her exactly who he is. And that leaves the Mother of Dragons speechless.
So that’s about it–which is actually quite a bit. The writers at HBO seem to be racing somewhere, fast. Guess we’ll see. Till next week, where Cersei enjoys her time in a cell. You know you wanna smile.