We open directly after the end of last week’s cliffhanger. Craster throws a bloodied-up Jon on the floor and orders the Night’s Watch to leave his home immediately. Lord Mormont sends Jon outside to wait for him. Bloody-faced Jon tries to tell Mormont about what Craster was doing with his baby. It turns out that the Night’s Watch has known all along about the bargain Craster made with “crueler gods” but has ignored the man’s evildoing for the sake of expediency: Craster’s Keep and its warmth and food have saved many Rangers’ lives. Jon’s attempt to interrupt Mormont’s lesson in Realpolitik to tell him about the White Walker is also unsuccessful.
Apparently the Night’s Watch has more important stuff to do than chase after creepy blue-eyed ice-people. Excuse me, but isn’t that kind of their job? And didn’t a creepy blue-eyed zombie try to kill Lord Mormont not very long ago? I think he should pay more attention to Jon, especially because Jon looks extra-good with that blood on his face.
The next morning, Sam proves he is the cutest, sweetest Night’s Watchman ever by giving Gilly his mother’s ivory thimble for safekeeping, promising to pick it up on his way back. Maybe Gilly can knit him a hat while he’s gone!
At Winterfell, DirewolfCam scares serving maids and follows Hodor up to Bran’s room, where Bran tells Maester Luwin that he keeps dreaming that he’s in the body of a wolf. He reminds Luwin that he dreamt of his father’s death, and Maester Luwin, in the kindest possible way, dismisses what Bran is saying, telling him that dragons, and giants, and people seeing through wolves’ eyes are all old wives’ tales.
Bran’s mother Catelyn arrives at Renly Baratheon’s camp where Renly is holding a tournament. Renly looks on as a very tall knight in a blue surcoat and armor made out of copper administers a beatdown of Loras Tyrell, to the chagrin of Renly’s Queen, Loras’s sister Margaery. Margaery is, I’m reliably informed, the hottest woman in Westeros. This may explain why she isn’t freezing in her gown, which is open to the waist while everyone else is all bundled up in warm cloaks. Perhaps in a budget-saving move, Natalie Dormer brought her wardrobe over from The Tudors.
Loras finally yields to the tall knight, who turns out to be a woman. In fact, she is Brienne of Tarth, otherwise known as my favorite female character in the entire series. (Her awesomeness is kind of a slow burn phenomenon, though, so right now it’s enough to know that she is capable of beating famous knights like Loras Tyrell in combat.)
Renly congratulates Brienne on her victory and tells her that she can have anything she wants that’s in his power to give her; she asks for a place on his Kingsguard, which is totally unprecedented, given all the gasping and dirty looks from Loras and Margaery Tyrell that follow Brienne’s request. Renly grants Brienne’s wish without hesitation. I love Renly! Apparently being King agrees with him because he is a lot handsomer than he was last season.
In a sort of Renly Effect, Catelyn Stark, who’s always been good-looking, looks extra beautiful in this scene too. Although she’s here on a diplomatic mission to make common cause with Renly, she’s not particularly diplomatic, insisting on Robb’s title as King in the North. When Renly promises her Joffrey’s head, though, Catelyn simply says that she’ll be content if justice is done. (Besides severed heads only really go with a Craster’s Keep sort of decor anyway.)
Loras, whose hair has also strayed into the Renly Force-Field of Awesomeness, tells Catelyn that Robb should have come himself to negotiate with Renly instead of hiding behind his mother’s skirts. Catelyn tells Loras that her son is “fighting a war, not playing at one.”
Luckily for Loras, who is about to be defeated by a woman for the second time today, Renly is remarkably diplomatic and soothes everyone’s ruffled feathers. Then he takes Catelyn for a walk to show off his enormous army and his mad people skills (he asks a groom about his injured foot). Catelyn refuses to be impressed, warning Renly that winter is coming and playtime is over.
At this point, Renly’s had enough, and asks Brienne to escort Catelyn to her tent while he goes to pray. Catelyn compliments Brienne on her fighting skills and calls her “my lady,” Brienne tells her that “if it please you, Brienne’s enough. I’m no lady.” We see a dawning look of comprehension on Catelyn’s face; Brienne is one version of Arya’s future. Catelyn’s daughter also claimed that she would never be the great lady whose life Ned sketched out for her.
And with that, we move to another warrior woman, Yara Greyjoy. Theon argues with her about her deception of him when he arrived in Pyke, and she tells him that she wanted to see what kind of a man he was. We will find out in this episode. Balon Greyjoy, who has never forgiven the Starks for defeating his bid for independence and killing his older sons, shares his plans to attack the North, now that Robb is off fighting in the south. Yara will get thirty ships to attack a castle, while Theon will get one (the Sea-Bitch—heh!) to attack some fishermen.
Theon, insulted by his father’s low regard for him and horrified at the impending betrayal of his friend Robb, tries to make one last plea for the Greyjoys to align with House Stark. He says that Robb will give them Casterly Rock, the seat of the Lannisters. Theon, have you learned nothing about the iron price? Balon reminds Theon of the words of the Grejoys: “We do not sow.” (Or possibly “We do not sew” because their clothes are very plain indeed!)
Theon makes the mistake of sassing his father, reminding him that he did bow to King Robert. Unlike Tywin Lannister, Balon doesn’t use words to put his son in his place; he just backhands Theon, sending him flying across the room.
As much as I’ve wanted to smack Theon myself on occasion, the next piece of dialogue just breaks my heart. Theon points out that he never asked to be sent to the Starks, that Balon let him go. “You gave me away, your boy, your last boy. You gave me away like I was some dog you didn’t want any more and now you curse me because I’ve come home.” There’s so much pain in Theon’s voice and Balon’s face and somehow the show has performed the miracle of making me feel sorry for Theon Greyjoy.
Yara doesn’t share my feelings, however. She tells Theon that he needs to choose between the Starks and the Greyjoys and do it quickly. Balon will invade the North no matter what; Theon can come along or not, as he chooses.
After meeting or renewing our acquaintance with several awesome ladies, we return to King’s Landing where Shae is annoyed at having to stay inside Tyrion’s chambers, and he tells her that “we’ve come to a dangerous place.” (Uh oh, that’s exactly what Ned told Arya about King’s Landing.) Shae harangues Tyrion about his plans to have her pretend to be a kitchen maid and about the fact that he thinks she’s a weakness of his that Cersei could exploit. I’m sorry, Shae’s very pretty but she is kind of a pain in the ass and I haven’t figured out why exactly Tyrion is so enamored of her (other than the fact that being with her is defying his father.)
Another prisoner in King’s Landing, Sansa Stark, is having a family dinner with Cersei and her two younger children, Myrcella and Tommen. Sansa looks completely miserable, poor girl, especially when Myrcella asks when Sansa and Joffrey will be married. If that weren’t hard enough to hear, Tommen asks whether Joffrey will kill Robb. “Would you like that?” Cersei asks Tommen. Bless the sweet boy, he says “No, I don’t think so.” Cersei says that even if Joffrey does kill Robb, Sansa will have to do her duty.
Cersei is fascinating here with Sansa, because on the one hand, she’s seems almost to be enjoying the psychological torture but on the other hand, she seems disappointed that Sansa is so broken.
Poor Sansa looks at herself in a cloudy mirror, an obvious but effective metaphor for how she’s losing her sense of self in this luxurious prison. Her metaphor is interrupted by Shae, who presents herself as Sansa’s new handmaiden. She has clearly never been a handmaiden in her life (well, not in that way at any rate!) The first thing I’d do if I were Sansa is make Shae take off those annoying jangly bracelets, but Sansa just gets snippy about explaining Shae’s job to her. When Shae asks if Sansa wants her to leave, however, Sansa asks her to brush her hair. I guess for Sansa, even company she didn’t request is better than being alone with her thoughts.
Meanwhile, Tyrion proves himself a master at the Game of Thrones, as he hatches a plan to learn which member of the Small Council is on Team Cersei instead of Team Tyrion. He plans a marriage for his niece Myrcella, but the identity of the bridegroom depends on who’s being told: Pycelle believes Myrcella will go to Dorne to marry their heir; Varys believes Myrcella will marry Theon Greyjoy, while Tyrion asks Littlefinger to intervene with Lysa Arryn to arrange a marriage with her son Robin. The only constant is that “the Queen mustn’t know!”
In Renly’s camp, Loras and Renly are “praying” together. Loras gets huffy about Brienne’s promotion to the Kingsguard, claiming that it makes him look doubly ridiculous after she beat him in combat. Well, yes, but cheer up, Loras, your hair is gorgeous! Loras slips out of Renly’s arms, saying that there’s a different Tyrell who needs to get in bed with Renly tonight: his sister Margaery. Even though she and Renly have been married for a couple of weeks, apparently she’s still a virgin. Oops!
Margaery comes in and slips out of her clothes, but Renly just can’t lay back and think of Westeros, despite all of Margaery’s attempts to seduce him. Poor Renly! Margaery asks him whether he’d be happier if Loras “started him off” or if he could maybe pretend that she’s Loras, and Renly is totally startled that she knows about his sexual orientation.
Margaery tells Renly that he doesn’t need to lie to her. She wants the rumors about Renly which detract from his cause of being King to stop, and the only way they’ll stop is if he makes her pregnant. She’s willing to work with him on this, proposing a threesome with her brother or whatever else Renly thinks might help. (I wonder what would have happened if Cersei had proposed a threesome with her brother to Renly’s brother Robert.)
Speaking of Cersei, she confronts Tyrion about his plans to send Myrcella away to Dorne. Tyrion realizes that Maester Pycelle is Cersei’s mole, but Cersei’s grief and rage on behalf of her daughter are completely genuine. She says she won’t let Tyrion ship Myrcella off as she was shipped off to marry Robert. She knows what a loveless marriage of convenience far from home is like (and Myrcella doesn’t even have a twin brother on the Kingsguard to help out with the homesickness!)
Tyrion, who likes his niece, points out that Dorne is the safest place for Myrcella; if Kings Landing is conquered during the war, Myrcella will be raped and murdered. Although Cersei reacts with anger, pushing Tyrion over, she knows he’s right. Amazingly, I feel quite sorry for Cersei in all of this. It was nice to see that she cares deeply about her other children too, not just Joffrey.
In Pyke, Theon Greyjoy burns a letter he was writing to Robb, warning him of his father’s plans. “Am I not your brother, now and always?” Theon asked Robb last season, but the tragedy is that Theon doesn’t want a brother, he wants a father. And the only way regain his father is to be reborn, in salt and stone and steel, with no room for softness or compromise. “What is dead may never die,” Theon intones in an amazing ceremony on the shores of Pyke, glancing over at Balon. (I don’t particularly like the Greyjoys, but they do have a certain dour magnificence. Maybe it’s the landscape they inhabit.)
In King’s Landing, Littlefinger berates Tyrion for making a fool of him with his plan to suss out Cersei’s spy. “Leave me out of your next deception,” he says, but Tyrion needs Littlefinger to help rescue Jaime. Tyrion sends Littlefinger to Renly’s camp to see if Catelyn will be more amenable to the idea of releasing the Kingslayer than Robb is. This is the Littlefinger I like to see; more interaction with clothed people and less soul-searching with the naked ladies in his employ.
Bronn interrupts to say that they’ve found Pycelle; Tyrion and Bronn, accompanied by Shagga, burst in on “the filthy old stoat” and a naked girl in bed. Shagga is excited to feed Pycelle’s manhood to the goats, but an absence of farm animals in Pycelle’s chamber results in Pycelle’s merely losing his wispy beard instead. Pycelle pleads that he’s always served the Lannisters, especially Lord Tywin, ever since the time of the Mad King.
We also learn that although Pycelle didn’t poison Jon Arryn, he did let him die, rather than save him and have him reveal Cersei’s affair with Jaime to King Robert. Tyrion orders Pycelle to be taken to the dungeons and then gives Pycelle’s lady friend a gold coin to compensate for the pain and suffering she’s just endured. Then he gives her a second gold coin to compensate for having to bed Pycelle.
Varys and Tyrion have a nice drink together; Varys congratulates Tyrion on getting rid of Pycelle and then proceeds to tell him a riddle about power. He tells Tyrion that “power resides where men believe it resides.”
Sometimes power resides with the men with swords as we learn in the final scenes of the episode. Arya can’t sleep, so Yoren tells her a charming little bedtime story about how his brother was murdered in front of him, and how the thought of his revenge helped with the insomnia. Just then, Lannister men, led by Ser Amory Lorch, arrive in the company of the Gold Cloaks who were looking for Gendry in the last episode. Everyone runs out of the building where they’re sleeping, including Gendry, who forgets his bulls-head helmet in the confusion. A blond boy picks it up instead.
A mini-battle ensues, in which Yoren proves that he’s not only a witty man and a great hair-stylist, he’s also a total badass. Unfortunately, as with Syrio Forel, Arya’s other badass protector, one man doesn’t really matter against a large group of soldiers and Yoren is eventually killed.
A fire starts near the cage containing Jaquen H’ghar and Westeros’s Most Wanted. Jaquen begs Arya to save him and she tosses him an axe so the men can free themselves. There’s a lot of running around and confusion and eventually Arya is knocked down by one of the Lannister men, who takes Needle away from her.
As the Lannister men round up the survivors to bring them to Harrenhal, Lommy, who’s had an arrow in the leg, starts moaning. When the Lannister henchman asks whether he can walk, Lommy says no, that he must be carried. Instead, the henchman sticks Needle through Lommy’s throat. Poor Lommy! But his sacrifice is not in vain.
Ser Amory Lorch mentions that they are still looking for Gendry, and suggests that either he will get Gendry or people will start losing their eyeballs. It’s looking very much like that moment in “Spartacus” where everyone claims to be Spartacus, except the opposite in that someone is about to sell Gendry out. Never fear, it’s just another opportunity for Arya to prove how awesome she is. She tells the Lannister men that the boy they just killed was Gendry, and points out the bull’s head helmet that Lommy stole as proof. Phew!
Meanwhile, I can’t believe this episode is already over! I’m not sure I can wait seven more days for another one.
Varys the Spider: “Power resides where men believe it resides.”
Tyrion Lannister: “The Queen mustn’t know.”
Shagga to Tyrion: “There are no goats here, Half-Man!”
Tyrion to Shagga: “Well, make do ...”
Brienne of Tarth: “I ask the honor of a place in your Kingsguard. I would be one of your Seven, pledge my life to yours, and keep you safe from all harm.”
Catelyn Stark: “It’s a game to you, isn’t it? I pity them. They are the knights of summer and winter is coming.”
Death count: Yoren, Lommy, assorted new Night’s Watch Recruits and Lannister soldiers (how do the Lannisters have so much power when their men all die like fruit-flies? Is it just demographics?), Theon Greyjoy’s friendship with Robb Stark.
Favorite new character: Loras’s hair; Brienne of Tarth
Number of people claiming to be King: Four
Best costume: Brienne’s armor. Although it must take a ton of copper polish to keep it shiny like that, it will add a sense of warmth and coziness to any hall in which its displayed.
Regina Thorne is an avid reader of just about everything, an aspiring writer, a lover of old movies and current tv shows, and a hopeless romantic.