Comparatively tame after the nipple-slicings and assassination attempts from the first episode of season 3, this second episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ is titled “Dark Wings, Dark Words,” a phrase used around Westeros due to the fact that messenger ravens often carry letters of ominous nature.

King’s Landing

Margaery’s grandmother, Lady Olenna Tyrell, wins the hearts Lady Sansa and audiences across the world as she channels sassy Downtown Abbey dowagers and speaks her mind. In a world where female royalty is taught to be subservient and accommodating, this Tyrell Matriarch mocks the pomp and circumstance, demands cheese before the approved cheese-serving-time, and invites Lady Sansa to divulge to her and Margaery what she really thinks of Joffrey. Blind-sided by the question, Sansa sputters out a response that would make her honest father proud — that Joffrey is a monster. Whether this news shocks either Tyrell, confirms their suspicions, or sets some entrapment scheme into motion is unclear.

Later, in a very tense scene, Joffrey summons Margaery to his chambers, possibly to question her motives for wooing him — a suspicion planted by Cersei and dismissed by a headstrong Joffrey, but ever a curious monster, he wants to find out for himself. Fiddling with his new crossbow before a big hunt, he demands from his bride-to-be how it was that she never bore King Renly any children when they were married. Margaery alludes to the fact that Renly preferred the company of gentlemen over her, without mentioning, of course, that his preferred gentleman was her own brother. This answer appeases him, and he shows Margaery how kings redecorate their chambers: by shooting arrows through animal heads hanging on the walls.

A quick scene with Tyrion and Shae teaches us that even royalty and their prostitutes aren’t above jealous squabbles. Tyrion urges Shae to stay away from his chambers, lest his father make good on his threat to hang the next prostitute Tyrion falls in love with, but Shae gives him a very compelling reason she should stick around for just a bit longer…

North of the Wall

Jon Snow happens upon a wildling at camp who at first glance looks to be dead or undead — with blank-white, dead eyes. Mance, Ygritte, and Tormund Giantsbane tell Jon that the gentleman, named Orell, is a warg — a man who can see through the eyes of animals, sometimes miles away. Orell snaps back into his own head and tells his fellow soldiers that his eyes looked upon the Fist of the First Men and saw hundreds of dead Crows.

The survivors of the attack at the Fist trudge along, although many, like Samwell Tarly, seem to be reaching exhaustion. Feeling sorry for himself, Tarly takes Rast’s suggestion to heart that he simply give up, and he sinks to the ground. His friends, Edd and Grenn, break rank to help him up, but Samwell chastises them for leaving him behind when the White Walkers attacked. Edd admits Sam would have slowed them down, but they’re all alive, and there’s no use giving up now. The Lord Commander stops to see what the commotion is all about, and tells the rude Rast that if Samwell dies by giving in to his mockery, Rast will die, as well.

Places Unknown

Theon Greyjoy is being tortured, and he’s not sure by whom. He deserves it. He answers all their questions and is left squealing on their torture device. After the torturers have left him alone, a boy approaches him and says he was sent by Theon’s sister and he’ll be back later that evening to free him.

North of Winterfell

Bran walks through a forest and happens upon a three-eyed crow. He tries to kill it with his bow and arrow, and sees the images of his two brothers and his father’s whispers urging him on. Suddenly, a boy appears and tells him that Bran can’t kill the crow, because Bran is the crow.

Bran wakes up, still unfortunately crippled, with his simple giant Hodor, escaped wildling-protector Osha, brother Rickon, and the young boys’ direwolves. They are still on the run, even though they’re not sure if they’re being pursued. Osha doesn’t seem to want to hear any more about Bran’s dreams after their ominous fulfillment back at Winterfell.

While Hodor and Rickon are away, Osha and Summer the direwolf hear something in the distance. Osha runs off in search of their attacker. From seemingly out of nowhere, the boy from Bran’s dream appears and reveals him to be Jojen of House Reed, sworn to the Stark house. Osha returns and threatens Jojen from behind with a spear, only to have Jojen’s sister Meera appear behind HER with a knife to her throat. Tension settles as Jojen admits that he’s been looking for Bran for a long time, and that their journey should continue together. He knows of Bran’s dreams, and he admits to not only being a warg as Bran is, but like Bran, also gifted with the “sight” of past, present, and future occurrences. It’s nice that creepy kids can find friends with similar creepy interests in times like these.

Between Harrenhal and Riverrun

Robb Stark gets Dark Words from two ravens informing him that not only has his grandfather just passed — Catelyn’s Father, Lord Tully — but that Winterfell has been torched to the ground by his foster brother Theon’s family. Robb orders his men make a stop at Riverrun for his grandfather’s funeral, which further angers Lord Karstark and Roose Bolton, who think Robb is already much too distracted by his mother.

Off the King’s Road

Freshly freed from Harrenhal by the face-changing Jaqen H’ghar, Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie are working their way north when they’re discovered by the Brotherhood Without Banners — an outlaw group who swear allegiance to no one house.

Rather than robbing or killing them, the Brotherhood take the three to a nearby inn and give them a hot meal, presumably hoping for news of the attack on Harrenhal. Just as the three are about to leave, some of the Brotherhood drag a prisoner into the inn. It’s revealed to be the Hound — having recently deserted the king after the Wildfire attack of Blackwater Bay and brother of the Mountain, who has been raping and pillaging the countryside for months. The Hound immediately recognizes Arya and announces her true heritage to the Brotherhood, perhaps to take some heat off himself. Crap.

Heading South, Brienne is leading a tied-up Jaime Lannister towards King’s Landing in order to exchange him for the two Stark girls Lady Catelyn believes to still be there. They happen upon a farmer, and Jaime tells Brienne they should kill him as he was likely recognized as being a Lannister in Stark territory, but Brienne insists he’s an innocent.

Further down the road on a bridge, Jaime feigns being tired, and when Brienne leans in to jerk him to his feet, he grabs her sword and slices the rope connecting them. With his hands still tied, however, Brienne — who carries a second sword for occasions such as this — makes a formidable opponent to the famed Kingslayer. He mocks her and points out that even if she wins (by killing him), she breaks her promise to Lady Stark. Brienne bests Jaime in combat by knocking him to the ground, just as Roose Bolton’s bannermen approach the bridge with the farmer who sold them out in tow. Quite outnumbered, they have nowhere to run and are presumably taken into custody as the episode fades to black.

Touching upon almost every major storyline except for Daenerys’, this episode was packed with seeds that will flower throughout the rest of the season. Enjoy the relative calm before the storm!

‘Game of Thrones’ airs Sundays on HBO.