‘Game of Thrones’ gets a lot darker and a lot nastier in this week’s episode. We get to see some new lands, meet some interesting new people and see more sex than I can actually remember this show having in the past. In other words, it’s just another week in Westeros. Sex, profanity and lots of spoilers below!
Arya Stark sits by the river, wearing crudely assembled clothes, her hair shorn short. She goes and joins the rest of the camp in the woods, and if you can’t remember, Arya is headed to the Wall with new recruits for the Night’s Watch. Near her, three men sit in a cage atop a wagon. One of them calls her. She asks what he wants, and he says he wants water. When she hesitates, another of them threatens her. The first man asks her forgiveness, referring to himself repeatedly in the third person as “man.” He notes that Arya is going by Arry and introduces himself as Jaqen H’Ghar. The other two threaten her again and she beats at the cage with a stick. “Boy has more courage than sense.” Jaqen says quietly. Gendry walks by and reminds her that they were told not to go near them. Two Lannister men from King’s Landing ride up and Arya hides, telling Gendry that they’re looking for her. Joren, the leader of the group quickly declines any of their search warrants, saying that anyone in the camp is property of the Night’s Watch, and, taking it one step further, places his knife in the general area of the soldier’s crotch, threatening to cut some stuff off if they don’t go home and say they didn’t find what they were looking for. But it turns out they’re actually looking for Gendry, who is the last remaining bastard son of Robert Baratheon, the only one left alive at this point. The soldiers leave, but threaten to return.
At King’s Landing, Tyrion enters his chambers to find Varys chatting with Shae about Tyrion’s recent victory against the Starks (during which he was actually unconscious.) Apparently Shae has said she worked in Tywin Lannister’s kitchen, to which Tyrion adds “You should taste her fish pie.” Varys seems to know exactly what’s going on, and says that he’s very good at keeping secrets. Before Varys can leave, Tyrion cuts right to the chase. “I don’t like threats…I’m not Ned Stark, I know the way this game is played.” Varys adds that Ned Stark was a man of honor, to which Tyrion concludes “And I am not. Threaten me again and I’ll have you thrown into the sea.” But Varys remains firm. “The big fish eat the little fish and I keep on paddling.” They exit, for a meeting. At the Small Council, Cersei reads Robb Stark’s peace terms before promptly tearing up the paper as a reply. They send their cousin back, not having budged an inch, although Tyrion wants to at least release Ned Stark’s remains as a gesture of good faith. “If you see my brother…tell him he’s not been forgotten.” Cersei adds, as a final message. Maester Pycelle talks of the trouble with the wildlings up North, who have been following this “king beyond the wall.” Castle Black seeks more men to man the wall, because “the dead” have risen. No one but Tyrion seems to really believe in the report of White Walkers. “The Night Watch is the only thing that separates us from what lies beyond the wall.” Tyrion says as they all leave.
At the camp beyond the Wall, Sam and the others speculate further about Craster’s daughter-wives as normally as one could really discuss such a thing while peeling a massive pile of potatoes. (There’s also talk of having sex with milkmaids, to which Sam wistfully adds “I wish I’d grown up on a farm.”) Sam goes to get a sack of potatoes, only to hear a scream. It belongs to Gilly, one of the daughters, who is backed up against a tree stump, holding a skinned rabbit, which has attracted the attention of Jon’s direwolf Ghost, which has RED EYES and I have never noticed that before but in case you think she’s being a wimp, it’s a white wolf with red eyes and it’s bigger than she is. Sam shoos him away and asks Gilly if she’s okay. “You shouldn’t touch me.” she says quickly. Sam, being the sweet and polite person he is, backs off slightly and says he wanted to make sure she wasn’t hurt. Gilly calls him brave and Sam looks like a deer in headlights. Aw.
Elsewhere, Jon sharpens his sword in a brooding manner and looks up to see Sam and Gilly in front of him. “What are you doing?” he asks more than once. Sam wants to take Gilly with them, because she’s pregnant and they’re “sworn to protect.” Jon immediately starts to claim that the plan is crazy, but Gilly pleads with him, because she’s afraid what will happen if her baby is a boy, but is unable to tell Jon what will happen to it if it is. (One can assume boys are killed or abandoned, but like I said, it’s completely unspoken.) Jon asks her why they should risk their lives for her and she runs away. Sam chides him for being cruel and Jon just thinks he wants to steal her for his own purposes. “I can’t steal her, she’s a person, not a goat.” Sam says, because Sam is wonderful. Jon says that it’s too dangerous and that Mormont wouldn’t allow it, and tells Sam that he’s sorry, but it can’t be done.
In the Red Waste, Daenerys’ people wait to hear from the four riders she sent out. We linger for awhile on Ser Jorah (and on Iain Glen’s wonderful face) before a horse without a rider approaches. A bag dripping with blood is attached to it’s saddle, and it’s pretty clear that someone’s head is in there. The head belongs to Rahkaro, whom Daenerys calls “blood of my blood”, and asks Ser Jorah who was responsible. He says it could have been any of the other Khals in the region, who dislike the idea of a woman running a Khalesar. “They will like it a lot less when I an done with them.” A woman named Irri approaches, who seems to be Rakharo’s girlfriend or wife, but either way, she’s desolate, saying that Rakharo will never be able to join his ancestors in the Night Lands. Daenerys promises vengeance.
On a ship headed towards Pyke, Theon looks up at the castle, which is amazingly constructed on the tall peaks of rocks and connected by drawbridges. Below decks, he gets down to business with a prostitute, which seems to be the only solo scenes Theon ever gets in this show, but we do get of his upbringing as well as some of his moral standards. He says that the wives his people take on the Iron Islands are called ‘salt wives’ and they’re only for breeding.
We cut from one rough sex scene to another, this one between one of Littlefinger’s prostitutes and a “patron” at the state-run brothel (like the state-run liquor store, only…you know.) A man complains that the woman he paid for is crying and Littlefinger quickly grabs another girl, wipes the semen from her lips, and hands her over, ever the businessman. Littlefinger finds Ros crying alone and she says she’s crying for Meagan, the prostitute whose baby was murdered last week. “That was poorly handled. Those who have the most power have the least grace.” Littlefinger starts to tell Ros a story about another girl of his who reminds him of her, and you think it’s going to be a sweet story until he coldly adds “I hate bad investments. They haunt me.” He gives her the night off, and says that if that would make her happy, then he’ll be happy.
Tyrion dines with Janos Slint, and asks him about the aforementioned infanticide at the brothel. Slint says quickly that it had to be done, to which Tyrion adds “I didn’t know what had to be done involved killing babies.” Slint says that he was just following orders, which Tyrion assumes to be Cersei’s, calling her a jealous woman. He asks Slint if he’s heard the rumors about Jaime and Cersei, and Slint calls it “filth” but Tyrion seems to want to get at the heart of how Slint works. He asks if he gave the orders to kill Ned Stark’s men in the throne room, and he says he did and would again, because Ned Stark was a traitor who tried to buy his loyalty. “How was he to know you were already bought?” Tyrion says. “Are you drunk? I will not have my honor questioned by an Imp!” Tyrion just shrugs. “I’m not questioning your honor, Lord Janos, I’m merely denying it’s existence.” Janos says he won’t stand here and take this abuse from a dwarf and Tyrion adds that, yeah, he will, and Bronn stands behind him, sword hand at the ready. “I intend to serve as Hand of the King, and considering you betrayed the last hand of the king, I’d prefer to have you not lllllurking about.” Tyrion calls in his men and tells Slint that he’s bound for a ship heading to the Wall. Tyrion appoints Bronn as new Commander of the City watch. Slint is taken away. Tyrion asks if Bronn would murder an infant without question. “Without question? No. I’d ask how much.”
At the camp, Arya argues with two other boys roughly her age about their experience with battle. One of them, the poor soul, is named Hot Pie, who thinks that two armored men fighting constitutes a battle. They ask Gendry what he thinks and Gendry says that any idiot can buy armor, you don’t have to be a knight or a soldier. (This seems like a vaguely important philosophical point for this show.) Arya asks Gendry why the Lannister men wanted to arrest him and Gendry says he doesn’t know, but after a bit of prodding, says that they want him because someone asked too many questions. When Arya asks who that was, he reveals it was the Hand of the King, aka her father, as well as Jon Arryn, who was also killed for knowing about Gendry’s lineage. “Asking me questions is bad luck.” Gendry says. Gendry asks why Arya thought they were after her. “Did you kill someone or is it just because you’re a girl?” (Both, interestingly enough. Arya did stab another boy to death before escaping King’s Landing.) Gendry seems to have known she was a girl all along, but promises not to tell. Arya finally tells him her real name, and what house she comes from. Gendry realizes she’s a highborn lady and seems adorably embarassed for his earlier behavior around her. “I should be calling you M’lady.” he says, panicked. “Do not call me M’lady!” she says. “As M’lady commands.” he replies and she shoves him. “That was unladylike.” he says with a grin.
At Pyke, Theon arrives to an admittedly rugged reception, which is to say, he doesn’t really get one at all. A fisherman asks what his ship has brought, and he lists off a number of things before adding “the heir to the Iron Islands. The only living son of Balon Greyjoy.” This fisherman couldn’t really care less and Theon has to pay him for transport to Pyke. A blonde woman, dressed in pants, says that she can take Theon with her on her way there. Theon hits on her within seconds and she seems to have some idea of who he is. They ride up the hill and she asks him if he actually knows his way around a ship. “The sea is in my blood.” he says in her ear. “Your blood will be in the sea if I don’t watch where I’m going.” He seduces her further, hands going just about everywhere as they ride towards the castle.
Inside Castle Greyjoy, which has a huge stone squid carved into the mantlepiece (the symbol of the Greyjoy house), Theon addresses his father. “9 years, is it? They took a frightened boy. What have then given back?” Theon says he is a man and his father’s heir. “We’ll see about that. Stark had you longer than I did.” Theon adds that Ned Stark is dead. Balon turns to him and asks “And how do you feel about that?” Balon Greyjoy is a creepy one. He mocks Theon’s clothes and rips off the gold chain that connects his cape. Theon stands there like an ashamed little boy. “Can’t have you dressed as a whore. My fears have come true. The Starks have made you theirs.” Theon tries to tell him about his proposal to Robb, but Balon refuses to ever hear his name, because of what Ned Stark did to his own family. Nevertheless, he takes the proposal from Theon’s hands. The proposal is for Balon to lead his fleet against the Lannisters, which Theon says he will lead himself because he is Balon’s only heir, asking “who else?” At that moment, the blonde woman enters, and when Theon asks how she got past the guards, she says “Anything with a cock is easy to fool.” (I like her.) The woman is Yara Greyjoy, Theon’s sister. He lets that sink in for a moment, before persisting that she can’t lead an attack. Apparently she can, and very well. After their eldest brother was killed, she took control of his fleet and much of her life has been spent at sea, commanding and killing men. Balon burns Robb’s proposal and exits with Yara, entirely unconcerned with the Lannisters. “I pay the iron price. I will take my crown.”
On the beach of Dragonstone, Davos recruits a pirate to Stannis’ cause, going through all the reasons to distrust the Lannisters. “What is the world coming to when smugglers must vouch for the honor of kings?” the pirate asks. Davos tells the pirate, named Sallador Saan, that if the allied with Stannis, he could actually live to see retirement and get the chance to plunder King’s Landing. Saan says that he’ll give Stannis 30 of his ships if he can have Cersei. Davos’ son, who has been following them and watching in a distrustful and kind of creepy fashion, tells Sann that this war isn’t being fought so he can “rape the queen.” “I’m not going to rape her, I’m going to f*ck her.” Sann says. Oh, well that’s sweet of him. Davos’ son insists that Stannis is the true king and the Lord of Light, and Saan, after a really hilarious look, tells him that he’s traveled the world over and heard a lot of things about the million and a half “true gods.” “The only true god is what’s between a woman’s legs.” Saan tells him. We get a little bit of info about Davos’ past, which is that he was a former smuggler and Stannis made him a knight, but not before chopping some of his fingers off, which is funny, considering Davos adamant devotion thus far. Saan agrees to sail with him and called Davos “the most honest smuggler he’s ever met.” Davos’ son, a true believer in Stannis’ new god, wants to teach his father some of the scripture, but Davos doesn’t seem to have any god at all, because he’s seen men pray to every god imaginable to no effect. “But you always came home.” his son insists. “I wasn’t praying.” Davos says. “Well, I was.” Davos says if he’s to have any god at all, it’ll be Stannis, for raising Davos out of a smuggler’s life and giving his son a future. “Stannis is my king, but he’s only a man.” his son says. Davos laughs. “Don’t tell him that.” He rides off down the beach.
At King’s Landing, Cersei shames Tyrion for firing/exiling Janos Slint. Tyrion says he had every right, serving as the Hand of the King. She reminds him that he’s only the acting Hand until their father returns. Tyrion tells her that she’s losing a grip on her people. Cersei says she doesn’t care, but Tyrion says that when winter finally arrives, half of the people will starve and the other half will plot to overthrow her, and that Slint’s murder of Robert’s children has only given them more of a reason. “You’ll find it hard to rule over millions who want you dead.” He accuses her of giving the order and when she doesn’t respond, he realizes that she didn’t. “Joffrey didn’t even tell you, did he?” Cersei says that Joffrey did what was necessary. “You want to rule, this is what ruling is, lying on a bed of weeds, ripping them out one by one until they strangle you in your sleep.” she snarls at him. When he says that there’s probably more to it than that, she snaps back that he’s never taken this seriously, and neither has Jaime. “It’s all fallen on me.” He hesitates before smirking. “As has Jaime, according to Stannis Baratheon.” She looks at him before cracking a broken smile. “You’re funny.” she says in an actually heartbroken tone. “You’ve always been funny but none of them will ever match the first joke, will they? You remember, back when you ripped my mother open on your way out of her and she bled to death.” Tyrion adds “She was my mother, too.” She stares at him. “Now they’re gone, for the sake of you. There’s no bigger joke in the world than that.” She leaves him alone.
At Dragonstone, Stannis and Melisandre meet with Davos and his son over a really elaborate, really cool carved wooden table that details Westeros and is topped by little wooden castles and ships, much like the 3-D map shown in the opening credits. Davos tells Stannis that he’s acquired Saan’s ships, and even if he doesn’t really trust him, the man’s love of gold will drive him and suit Stannis’ needs. Stannis gets a look from Melisandre and he asks Davos to leave them. He does, even though it’s clear he thinks that she’s a shady character. Before they exit, Melisandre stands in front of his son and says “The Lord of Light shines through you, Young Warrior.” before whispering something unintelligible in his ear. This seems to wig Stannis out and he asks her what she said. “Death by fire is the purest death.” she says. She senses Stannis is troubled and he has good reason to be. Renly has thousands of troops that should belong to him. She tells him to have faith, but he doesn’t find much in the fact that he can’t beat Renly’s army. Melisandre says he must give himself over to his new god, and Stannis says that he’s done all the necessary steps but doesn’t seem to really believe like some may think. “You must give all of yourself.” she says, before disrobing. He reminds her that he has a wife, but she reminds him right back that (apparently, we’ve never seen this for ourselves), his wife is sickly and had only given Stannis stillborn children. She says she will give him a son. Stannis can’t really argue with that deal. They proceed to have sex on the table/map of Westeros, pieces falling (symbolically?) to the ground.
It’s nightfall at the camp beyond the Wall, Jon sits by the fire and watches as Craster stumbles through the camp, pausing long enough for us to see that he’s carrying an infant. Jon follows him through the dark, forboding woods, listening to the strange sounds around him when Craster walks back, now without the infant. After a moment, Jon hears the baby screaming and runs towards, it sword drawn. In the darkness, its hard to make out, but something with glowing blue eyes picks up the baby and walks off into the woods, and one can only assume it’s a White Walker. Jon ponders what to do before turning to see Craster, who hits him over the head.
Some might complain about the pace ‘Game of Thrones’ seems to be trudging along with, but you have to admit that the world-building was very good tonight, with the addition of the salty (literally and figuratively) world of Pyke and Team Greyjoy, as well as interesting additions to Team Baratheon. I would definitely love to see more of Westeros’ pirating world, and definitely more of Yara Greyjoy, to see if she’s the fearsome naval commander her father makes her out to be. This was also a decent episode for character, and each subplot gave us at least one good insight into our heroes (or villains. or anti-heroes. I’ve found that allegiance to characters varies from viewer to viewer.): Tyrion, chiefly, got to take care of a lot of business tonight as well as dole out some chief insults. He seems to be taking up the “hero” mantle left empty by Ned Stark, whom, from week to week, is starting to seem like little more than an honorable but dead idiot, but maybe the show is just corrupting my judgement. It’s not hard to do, considering the people we’re supposed to be rooting for.
But still, it’s immensely satisfying to watch him exile Janos Slint off to the Wall for infanticide, as well as his conversation with Varys, where he insists that he’s not an honorable man. I actually believe this to be true, but everyone seems to understand that honor gets you a whole lot of nothing in that town. The final scene between him and Cersei was amazing. Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey know these characters so well. Cersei makes a fine point as well- neither Tyrion or Jaime have ever stepped up to take helm of the throne but they still tear her apart for all of her decisions, as she tries desperately to keep her awful son under control. The show makes it clear, for all the right reasons, that I would never want to be Cersei Lannister. (Let alone a woman in Westeros.) Before you can really accuse her of being ever so mean to ultimate fan-favorite Tyrion in her last moments in that scene, consider what she means. If Cersei’s mother had lived for a few years longer, it might have been able to alter how Lannister men view the women in their lives, because now, the only example they have is to treat them like disposable things. Cersei’s wrath is great, and like the rest of her family, it’s hard to call her a “good” person, but I could definitely see where she was coming from when she blamed Tyrion for her mother’s death and called it a joke.They both suffer, Tyrion from his father’s and the world’s cruelty and Cersei from everyone else who would see her undone, but Tyrion has his humor to battle all of this and Cersei is tied down to a throne slipping out of her hands and a crazy son to deal with. It’s cruel, but family is often, by its nature, cruel.
Team Daenerys doesn’t get much to do this week, other than suffer more setbacks, which is kind of disappointing considering we’re all waiting with baited breath to watch her wreak havoc on Westeros with her dragons. But of course, those dragons are just babies, and hopefully the show plans to build her up over the season, and make her tougher and darker. And Team Night Watch, namely Jon, makes a startling discovery about Craster’s boy children but it looks like he might pay dearly for that secret. (Not with his life, but who knows.) The only new check-in with Team Stark is with Arya, who seems to be getting along okay so far. She seems to think that Yoren will be taking her back to Winterfell but I’m already going to say that this won’t happen. I’ve never read the books, but if I’ve learned one thing from this show, it’s that Starks aren’t allowed to be happy. Ever.
And then there’s the Greyjoys, and what a funny bunch they are. The show has been admittedly murky about how it feels about Theon Greyjoy in general- he seems to be honorable in his devotion to Robb Stark, but otherwise, admittedly, I find him somewhat off-putting, mostly in his treatment of women. Of course, you might say that this is “normal” but you don’t see Robb or Jon behaving this way, and Theon was raised in Ned Stark’s house. But naturally, there’s rampant daddy issues at hand, and Balon Greyjoy is a right creepy bastard who believes in the “iron price” of taking things from people in battle, rather than paying for them with gold. I did like how Theon didn’t seem to be put off by the idea that he felt up his own sister, but more that she’s her father’s preferred child and also apparently way more equipped than him to handle a naval fleet. Interesting gender roles at play here tonight: the men object and bicker when the ladies take the helm, but how much better could they handle these situations? Some even react violently, like whomever cut poor Rakharo’s head off. (Alas, he was pretty and he had a pony tail. Ashes to ashes.)
‘Game of Thrones’ is hard to complain about, and even if it’s moving forward at….a speedy snail’s pace, there’s so much juicy character stuff going on that I find myself distracted, and the task at hand gets lost. The Lannisters have rejected Robb’s peace offering, Stannis has acquired more ships (and pirates!) but still cannot defeat his brother Renly, the threat of White Walkers hangs in the air, and the Dothraki are still wandering around in the desert. And Winter will show up someday, I’m pretty sure.
Miss the season premiere? Catch up with our ‘Game of Thrones: The North Remembers’ recap.