It’s difficult to find fault with what is arguably the best show on television, but come on, HBO — even TV fans who haven’t read the books can see a spoiler right in the title! I mean, it’s one of maybe 4 people anyone cares about, but way to get fans depressed going into it.
The fourth episode of the third season came off a cliffhanger from episode three that left fans’ jaws on the floor, and the action didn’t show signs of slowing throughout the whole episode. (Okay, maybe in the Bran scene…)
On the Kingsroad
Still a captive of Roose Bolton’s men, Jaime Lannister’s not doing too well, due to the loss of his sword hand, but also because, as Brienne later points out, this is one of the first true hardships he’s had to taste that money will definitely never solve. Delirious from pain and pity, he falls from his horse into the mud, and the more OCD members of the audience wince with worry of potential infection.
Jaime begs for water, and after being mocked by his captors, Locke hands him a canteen which Jaime gulps down. As he does, Locke tells him it’s horse urine, and Jaime half-spits, half-vomits anything he could have gotten down. With a sudden gust of energy, Jaime steals a blade from one of his nearby captors and attempts so half-heartedly to fight them off, that one wonders if he was just hoping they’d finish the job and kill him already. Locke bests him but doesn’t do him the favor of killing him and says if he tries anything like that again, he’ll lose his other hand.
Later, by the fire, upon noticing Jaime’s not touching his meager ration, Brienne scolds him for giving up on life after his very first hardship. He barely counters her. Taking pity on him, she asks why he lied for her by insinuating to her would-be rapists that they would be well-paid by her family in the Sapphire Isle, when it’s not named for its precious gems but the color of the water. Jaime doesn’t answer. Do we feel bad for the guy who pushed a little kid out a window and crippled him? Maybe we can just save all that hate for Cersei?
North on the Kingsroad, Bran runs through the woods, which, by now, is the very-obvious signal that he’s dreaming. Again. About crows. Jojen intercepts him in the dream and tells him to kill the crow. Bran climbs a tree to try and reach it, but his mother appears and scolds him for climbing, shaking him so hard that he falls from the tree. Catelyn – messing up her sons’ plans even in their dreams.
Tyrion comes calling to Varys, hoping to get some insight into Cersei’s attempted murder of Tyrion at the Battle of Blackwater. Varys interrupts, and, crowbar in hand, works a crate open as he tells Tyrion the story of the sorcerer who castrated him as a young boy, threw his manhood into a fire, chanted something into the flames, and heard a voice from the flames whisper something back. Varys claims that it’s for this reason the Battle of Blackwater was a symbolic victory for him, as it was a chance to defeat the evil sorceress, the Red Woman Melissandre, who fights for Stannis.
Tyrion snarkily replies that he would like an actual victory over those who conspired against him, but Varys says his story isn’t done. Sometimes you have to be patient when waiting for your comeuppance. He wrenches the final torque on the crate, and the audience screams Brad Pitt’s line at the end of ‘Se7en,’ “What’s in the box?!”
A man bound and gagged — well, his mouth is sewn shut — looks pitifully up at them, and Tyrion whispers, “The sorcerer,” and makes a mental note to not cross Varys, who appears able to hold a grudge.
Later, Varys questions Ros for information she might have on Littlefinger, after a quick bit of business about the sexual exploits of Tyrion’s squire, Podrick Payne, or “Bigfinger” as some may be calling him… Or Tri-Podrick. Really, the jokes write themselves.
Varys expresses (fake) sorrow that Littlefinger seems to be forgetting about Sansa, since he’s scurrying off to the Eyrie, but Ros informs the Spider that his inventory is quite suspicious indeed — two feather beds. It’s almost as if he plans to travel with someone.
More King’s Landing
In a twisted Westerosi version of a TLC wedding show, Joffrey leads Margaery around the Sept of Baelor, where they’re to be married, and he morbidly squeaks with delight at pointing out all the historical places previous kings have died and are buried. Cersei and Lady Olenna converse with all the warmth of a White Walker’s nipple, and suddenly the audience becomes aware of shouting beyond the church’s doors. Is it a riot? Margaery urges Joffrey to walk out with her, but he seems hesitant since his last walk amongst the people devolved into an attack on the royal family. She plays to his ego telling him they must love him and do since he led the attack against Stannis and won.
After a bit of convincing, they head toward the doors and Cersei urges him not to go out there. They step into the light and the shouting is actually chanting. The people are cheering Margaery’s name and, seeing her warmth towards Joffrey, a few even shout his name, too.
Remember how awkward the hug between Lord Voldemort and Draco Malfoy was in the last ‘Harry Potter’ movie? That was about how Joffrey looked when he realized that this whole smiling and moving a raised arm side-to-side seemed to resonate with the people.
Theon has been saved from captivity by an unknown boy who is leading him back to his sister. Theon knows he’s in trouble with the Greyjoys, and as they move through an elaborate sewer, he reflects on his recent and past failures. He’d overheard some of the men who were torturing him say his father knew of his whereabouts and presumably didn’t care or supported his torture. His sister, while power-hungry herself, could be the only one left who cares about him.
While at his rock bottom of feeling sorry for himself, Theon shares that he paid the Iron Price for Winterfell — stealing it from its owners and killing all who opposed. But he didn’t actually do that. The two Stark boys are on the loose, and he had to kill some poor orphans who happened to be in one of the places he was looking. He also laments that his real father died in King’s Landing.
The boy finds this very interesting and leads him through the final door in the sewer… right back to the very room he just helped Theon escape from days earlier! The boy shouts to the new guards searching the room that he’s finally found Theon, and that Theon had killed the previous guards upon his escape. Screaming, Theon is again strapped to the giant X.
The true identity of this boy remains a mystery, but if you’re playing at home, think about the last words of the guard who was shot by the boy with an arrow to the head. (It’s not a spoiler if it was already in the show!)
Still More King’s Landing
Cersei finally has a chance to mirror a scene from an earlier episode where Tyrion waits impatiently for Tywin to finish writing his letters. (Doesn’t he have underlings to do this for him? Another Stark child perhaps?) Cersei tries to inform Tywin that the Tyrells are not to be trusted, and he boredly waves this off with the fact that they’ve been immensely helpful in recent times.
Seeing that he’s still paying more attention to his precious letters, Cersei demands she be taken seriously even though she’s a girl, and Tywin calmly informs her that the reason he doesn’t take her seriously isn’t because she’s a girl; it’s because she’s not half as smart as she thinks she is and that her son has been walking all over her and the people of the realm, making a mockery of their family. She pouts that it’s not as easy as it looks to reign the little brat in, and Tywin almost cracks an ominous smile when he informs her that he soon intends to try.
Over in the rose garden, Varys tries again to get some information on Lady Sansa’s next moves, but Lady Olenna is too smart, and the two have a sass off. Even more surprising than the number of secrets the Spider is privy to, is how much and to whom he’s willing to divulge. It seems, though, that Lady Olenna may be helpful in his higher goal of bringing peace to the Seven Kingdoms. He informs his companion that he suspects Littlefinger will soon be off to the Eyrie along with young Sansa, for the sole purpose of having her in his back pocket if Robb Stark should lose the war, since she would be the next in the Stark line. The two trail off to conspire against that happening.
As planned by the two sneaks, Margaery takes Sansa aside, and they walk to the beach together as Margaery tells stories of her self-consciousness as a youth. Margaery tells Sansa that she should visit Highgarden, and Sansa reminds her that the queen would never let her go because she’s too valuable. Margaery reminds her that she herself will soon be queen and if Sansa were to, say, marry her brother Loras, then she’d have a pretty good reason to leave King’s Landing and live there. Sansa’s lip quivers at the prospect of her every dream coming true — except, of course, the dream of a husband who fancies women. Sorry to burst what was a very sweet scene’s bubble.
At Craster’s Keep
The wounded men of the Night’s Watch are forced to shovel manure from the pig enclosure and eat scraps. The man who almost taunted Samwell into giving up on the hike there, Rast, airs his grievances to the others about his distrust of Craster, who makes deals with White Walkers and who’s starving them, when he must have a store of food somewhere to make it through the winter. I, for one, try to make a point of not agreeing with rapists, but he’s got a point there.
The Night’s Watch holds a funeral service for one of their own, wounded from the battle, but having died of starvation. Commander Mormont leads the service, and ends the eulogy as all Night’s Watch Eulogies end, “And now his watch is ended.”
Hunger can make a man do crazy things, and one of them is calling your host a bastard, even if he is one. At a meager “meal,” where Craster informs them they should just kill their wounded and leave his home, Rast calls him the name and Craster jumps up and swears that he’ll kill the next person who calls him a bastard. While Commander Mormont escorts Rast outside, another man from the Watch slowly walks forward and informs him that he is, indeed, a bastard, and sprinkles some other not-very-nice words about the not-very-nice things Craster does to his daughter-wives. Craster attacks this man with an axe, but the wine he’s been drinking slows him. The man, ready for the attack, drives a dagger into his host’s neck.
Besides being super bad manners, it might be prudent to note that in the Seven Kingdoms, it is considered the highest sin against God and man to kill your host. To be fair, it’s an equal sin to invite a guest into the safety of your home and then kill him. Let’s just say hosts and guests should both avoid killing each other if at all possible.
Madness ensues with brother turning upon brother, and Rast, seeing the opportunity to revolt against his leaders and be the evil douche he is, stabs Commander Mormont in the back. The Old Bear tries to strangle Rast but soon succumbs to his wounds and that turncoat rapist goes back to stab the Commander several more times.
Samwell runs to Gilly’s hut and tells her they need to escape with her baby and she takes them through a shortcut she knows in the woods.
Cave of the Brotherhood Without Banners
The Brotherhood have arrived, and Arya, Gendry, and the prisoner the Hound are hooded to protect its location. Beric Dondarrion emerges from the shadows and informs the Hound that he was sent to kill the Cleganes by Lord Stark on behalf of King Robert. The Hound asks why they don’t just kill him and get on with it, since the Brotherhood seems to be fighting for people long dead. Furthermore, he insists he’s never actually killed or raped any of the people he’s being accused of. As Oscar Bluth was fond of informing people in ‘Arrested Development,’ they had the wrong brother. The Mountain was the Clegane who raped and pillaged, and is it really a crime just to be a Clegane?
Arya steps forward and reminds him that he killed Mycah, the butcher boy, and he informs her that he was just acting on the king’s orders after Mycah attacked Joffrey. Arya yells that it was she who attacked Joffrey, so he should have killed her, and the Hound makes the point that he’s not in the habit of questioning princes.
Beric informs him that since he can’t really be accused of any specific crime except the one Arya’s brought up, he’s to have a trial by combat against Beric himself, who is led by the creepy Lord of Light we keep hearing about from Stannis’ camp.
Daenerys marches into the square where her 8,000 Unsullied wait for her, and the slaver Kraznys mutters a few bits of advice, via the translator Missandei, on how to continue the slaves’ training and to send her vanquished enemies to him to be trained as future Unsullied. Her strongest and largest dragon, the black-winged Drogon, is brought in and handed to Kraznys with a chain leash. In exchange, he hands her the whip, the symbol of her ownership over the slaves. “Is it done then?” she asks. Kraznys tells his translator in High Valyrian, “Yes, the bitch has her army.”
Daenerys strolls up to the Unsullied, and barks orders at them IN HIGH VALYRIAN, which she’s known all this time. The audience’s heads explode. Unfortunately for him, Kraznys is barely paying attention, since Drogon is whipping about on its chain, possibly frightening him with its strength. Dany scolds in his own tongue that dragons are not slaves, and orders her Unsullied to ransack the city, sparing any child they see but cutting every slave free and killing every master with a whip in his hand.
A battle unquestioningly breaks out, and just as realization begins to sink in to Kraznys’ face, she barks her dragon children’s favorite command, “dracarys,” the order to flame-broil their nearest enemy.
With the city in ashes, Daenerys stands among them and gives the slaves a choice. They may go free, without any repercussions from her, or they can fight alongside her, as free soldiers. Autonomous for the first time in their lives, having lived without decision-making capabilities since their birth, the Unsullied clap their spears on the ground, in a supportive wooden chant. Daenerys has her army, and they seem willing to follow her anywhere.
Look out, Westeros!