Jamie Harsip Staff Writer
Last night’s Game of Thrones episode more than made up for last week’s snoozefest, I’m telling you! We’ve got new characters being introduced, we’ve got people dying, we’ve got plot twists, and we’ve got dragons! Seriously, it was an epic episode.
It starts out where we left off – with Jaime, Brienne, and company. This is a new Jaime Lannister, though. No longer do we have the haughty and self-centered Lannister lion that we’ve grown used to. In his place is a weary, broken, lifeless man. He falls off his horse, face-first in a massive puddle of mud - much to the amusement of his captors. Jaime attempts to fight his way free, commandeering a sword, but it’s no use. His right hand was his sword hand, and he doesn’t have the strength.
Now we have Tyrion visiting Varys to speak about the, ahem, events at Blackwater (you know, the time his sister may or may not have tried to have him killed). When Tyrion enters, Varys is busy fiddling with what appears to be a very large chest. Varys quickly turns the subject to the story of his “cutting”. Although he doesn’t seem to care, Tyrion goes along with it and listens to all the gory details: Varys was purchased by a sorcerer who drugged him and cut off his “parts” in order to burn them in some kind of ritual. The sorcerer then left him out on the steps to die. This, he says, is why he loathes magic and all who practice it. This is why he was eager to help Tyrion in the battle against Stannis and his red priestess – to get some kind of indirect revenge. Tyrion has had enough by this point, saying that he wants actual revenge on his sister. Varys goes on to explain that, while it takes a lot of patience, revenge will happen for those who want it and are willing to wait for it. As it turns out, Varys was able to track down the very sorcerer who mutilated him…and now has him kept inside the chest he was fiddling with earlier, which is actually more of a cage. And with that, we’ve come to understand The Spider a little bit better.
Back in Craster’s camp, the men of the Night’s Watch are beginning to show signs of malcontent (who would have expected that?). They are sure that, should the White Walkers come, Craster will give them up as a nice snack. While the others are complaining, Sam goes to see Gilly and her new baby. Sam is lovably stupid, as per usual, asking Gilly if she’d named her son. No, she says, and really, she does kind of have bigger things to deal with regarding her son, who could be snatched from her bosom at any minute to be sacrificed. Sorry, Sam, but Gilly actually doesn’t have time for you.
Bran has another dream. Again he dreams that he can walk, that he’s no longer crippled. He’s chasing the three-eyed crow through a forest and it lands on the branch of a tall tree. Jojen Reed appears, telling Bran he knows what he must do. Bran climbs up the tree as gracefully as we saw him climb in the first season. Then, his mother comes out of nowhere. She yells at him, making Bran promise not to climb ever again. Bran awakens in a cold sweat, with Jojen watching him as the others sleep.
Varys and Ros are talking in this scene. It appears that, as well-connected as Littlefinger likes to assume he is, some of his spies do still have other people to report to. This time, the news concerns Sansa Stark. Ros has the list of things Littlefinger will be requiring for his ship to the Eyrie, and listed are not one but two feather beds. Who could the second one be for? While Littlefinger and Sansa haven’t met since that last time they spoke, Varys and Ros agree that in all likelihood Littlefinger is planning on taking Sansa with him when he leaves King’s Landing.
Joffrey and Margaery are walking around the hall in which they are to be wed. Joffrey is telling his betrothed all of the gruesome stories surrounding the deaths of those interred in the crypt, beginning with a Targaryen whose brother let his dragon eat her (in front of her son, no less). This story is accompanied by an unduly gleeful giggle from Joffrey that sends chills down audiences’ spines. Margaery is sweet and feigning interest in Joffrey’s tales as usual. Meanwhile Cersei is showing Olenna Tyrell, Margaery’s grandmother, around the crypt as well. Their conversation turns to the men in power and their follies. Olenna expresses her opinion that it’s utterly nonsensical that men rule the world instead of women, and Cersei seems to freeze over. Were she a normal non-paranoid person Cersei would probably have agreed and reveled in the thought of a woman ruling Westeros. She is, after all, more than a little bit ambitious herself. Instead, she grows increasingly wary. Rather than seeing a kindred spirit in Olenna, she sees yet another threat to Joffrey. Cersei already loathes Margaery for her influence over Joffrey, but now it seems her ire is directed at the Tyrell family as a whole. On the other side of the hall, Joffrey and Margaery hear yelling outside, the yelling of what sounds like a mass of people. Margaery convinces Joffrey to have the hall’s doors open so the pair might greet their subjects. Joffrey agrees, ignoring his mother’s panicked attempts to get his attention. As the doors open Margaery shoots a furtive glance back at Cersei. She knows what she’s doing, earning favor and influence from everyone around her with her sweetness, and she knows that Cersei hates it. But she doesn’t care. As Margaery said last season, she doesn’t want to be a queen – she wants to be the queen. And she’s making it happen, with smiles and compliments and genuine kindness.
In the meantime, Theon is riding through the forest with his savior. The latter still hasn’t revealed his name. Suspicious? During their travel up through the bottom of a castle, Theon discusses his life’s errors with the stranger. He regrets hurting the Stark family, he considers Ned to be his real father, and he feels that he ruined everything. Finally, we see some humanity from the Grayjoy prince. He has real regret about what he did, and we do feel a bit bad for him. It’s too bad that his companion double crossed him and led him right back to the dungeon where he had been tortured. The stranger says that Theon killed those men who came after him, a blatant lie. And we get a shot of his face when he tells the men to put Theon “back where he belongs”. The guy is crazy with crazy eyes. There’s no remorse, no emotion whatsoever, except maybe a hint of satisfaction. It’s clear that the whole roundabout trip was a plan from the beginning.
Now we’re back with Jaime and Brienne, this time camped around a fire for the night. Jaime is feeling sorry for himself, and when Brienne asks what he’s doing, he says he’s dying. She’s not having it, though. She tells him he finally got a taste of the real world, where important things are taken from people every day. It’s pathetic that he decides to give up after one misfortune. Brienne tries to talk some sense into him, riling him up by telling him he’s acting like a woman (totally not in-character for Brienne, but we’ll ignore that). When Brienne asks why Jaime lied to save her, there is no answer given. Why, indeed?
Now Cersei is sitting across from her father while he writes letters, in the same spot he was when Tyrion came to speak with him earlier this season. She asks her father what he’s doing to get Jaime back, and Tywin gives her a predictably condescending response. Afterwards, though, Cersei doesn’t leave. She asks something that seems to have been eating away at her for a long time – years, probably. Has he ever considered the fact that maybe she should be the one in his confidence, working to expand his legacy? He asks her to say what she wants to say, and, predictably, it’s a complaint about the Tyrells. When Tywin bats away her concerns, citing all the help that family had given Cersei over the past year, she gets to the heart of the issue: Margaery. Or, more specifically, Margaery’s influence over Joffrey. Tywin expresses a wish that she, Cersei, could have that kind of influence over the king. He tells Cersei he doesn’t distrust he because she’s a woman, he distrusts her because she isn’t quite as smart as she thinks she is. When she suggests that Tywin try to stop Joffrey from doing whatever he wants, his reply is a deeply ominous “I will.”
Next is another brilliant scene with Lady Olenna, this time alongside Varys, of all people. The topic of their discussion? Sansa Stark. Varys relays what he’s heard from Ros, that Littlefinger plans on taking Sansa with him when he sails to the Eyrie. The whole exchange is rather fascinating. This is another pairing that doesn’t really interact in the books but happens to make a great pairing on TV (the first being Arya and Tywin last seaon). They hatch a plan together, but what is it?
Well, if the next scene is any indication, it’s to betroth Sansa to a Tyrell! Sansa is praying outdoors (at what appears to be the stump of a Weirwood) when Margaery comes upon her to talk. Margaery expresses a desire for them to be best friends, and for Sansa to visit Highgarden. Sansa exhibits pure joy at this proposition. Clearly Cersei would never let that happen, but what if Sansa married…Loras? Then her place would be at Highgarden. I know what you’re thinking – Loras can’t marry! He’s in the kingsguard! Well, we’ll have to see what happens, won’t we?
Back at Craster’s keep, temperatures seem to reach a boiling point amongst the men of the Night’s Watch. Soon enough, things snap. One of the men incites Craster into attacking him – and then he kills Craster! This causes a massive riot, obviously, in which the leader of the night’s watch, Jeor Mormont, is killed as well. Sam takes this opportunity to make a run for it with Gilly and her son in hopes that they can try to get to safety.
Arya, Gendry, and the Brotherhood Without Banners come to a stop on their lengthy ride. Thoros has Arya and Gendry in black hoods, so they can’t see where they’re going. They end up in the depths of a cave, lit by flame. The Hound is backtalking everyone, when suddenly a voice comes from behind him. It’s the one and only Beric Dondarrion! This warrior, the leader of the Brotherhood, has been reborn by the grace of R’hllor, the lord of light. When the brothers condemn The Hound, Arya chimes in with the story of how he killed Mycah – the butcher’s boy who took the fall for Arya’s attack on Joffrey. Dondarrion decides that, as no man present can prove either innocence or guilt on the matter, the Hound would be subjected to trial by combat. Now, Clegane does not seem worried…until Dondarrion says that he, himself, will be the opposing combatant. That created fear in the Hound’s half-burned face.
And finally, the ending scene of this episode is without doubt my personal favorite scene of the entire series. Dany has brought Drogon, her largest and strongest dragon, to exchange for the eight thousand Unsullied in Astapor. As soon as the exchange is made - the whip to the Unsullied is in Dany’s hand and Drogon’s “leash” is in the slave master’s hand - Dany walks away from the slaver to give them her first instructions. True to the slaver’s words, they are perfect warriors. Then the slaver says to Missandei, the slave girl who had been translating between Daenerys and himself, to “tell the “bitch” that the dragon is poorly trained”. Big mistake. Dany turns around and, in her mother tongue of High Valyrian, says “A dragon is not a slave.” The meaning of her words is this: her dragons have never been hers. She does not own them, like slaves, but protects them like a mother. She never had the ability to give them away to begin with – the slaver just happened to be fool enough to assume that she did. Once she sets him straight, Daenerys turns back to her Unsullied and gives them an order: “slay the masters, slay the soldiers, slay every man who holds a whip, but harm no child. Strike the chains off every slave you see!” And…they do. All but the slaver himself, for whom Daenerys has special plans. She turns to him and says “Dracarys.” Immediately Drogon turns on his handler and in a split second, the slaver has gone up in flames. Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, the Unburnt, the Mother of Dragons, has taken what is hers, with blood and with fire. Amidst the ruins of Astapor, Dany frees every last one of her Unsullied, but asks that they join her and fight for her of their own free will. And they do. Over the course of one day Dany goes from being without an army, forced to buy slaves, to the head of an eight thousand manned army of free men. It is amazing, unexpected, and simply breath taking.
Tune in next Sunday at 9pm/EST for Game of Thrones, only on HBO.