With last week’s episode ending with our least-favorite Astaporian slaver being “kissed by fire” from Daenerys’ dragon, this Sunday’s episode continued fire week in due course.

“Kissed By Fire” marks the halfway point of the third season, but one can still take solace knowing how much ground could still be covered when thinking back on how much has happened since the wrapping up of the Battle of Blackwater Bay near the end of last season.

This week’s episode opens…

In the Brotherhood Without Banners’ Hideout

With only one charge of murder from Arya, the Hound finds himself in the more preferable position of Trial by Combat against Beric Dondarrion, the leader of the Brotherhood. That is, until he watches his opponent set his sword aflame — which is a sight to behold, even if you’re not terrified of fire. We remember that the Hound’s jerk brother, the Mountain, scarred him as a young boy by holding his face in a fire pit and how the Wildfire display drove him from Joffrey’s side in terror, but the Hound puts up a pretty good fight.

Watchers dive out of the way in the cramped space and the Hound defends himself with a wooden shield, which soon catches on fire. Frantic to beat his opponent before once again succumbing to the flames, the enormous Hound brings down a blow strong enough to break Beric’s sword in half, slicing a fatal chunk in a weak spot on the shoulder of his armor. Beric falls to the ground and Thoros of Myr rushes to his side, reciting what appears to be his last rites.

In the commotion, Arya sees her chance to finish what the so-called “The Lightning Lord” could not, and she rushes in to finish the exhausted Hound with a dagger, but Gendry thankfully holds her back. Just as she utters her final wish that he “burn in hell,” Beric rises to his knees. “Don’t worry. He will.”

Audiences’ minds are blown.

Later, Arya finds Gendry mending Beric’s armor and angrily inquires why. All her companions are abandoning her and it seems Gendry’s no exception. He’s tired of working for people who don’t care about him and he actually likes what the Brotherhood have got going on. They truly seem like brothers, unlike the Night’s Watch, whom we’ve just been reminded could turn on each other at any moment.

Arya points out that Lannisters would kill Gendry, even as a smith (and not a warrior), if the Brotherhood’s hideout should be compromised. He reminds her Lannister soldiers have been after him from the get-go, and Baratheon soldiers, too, for that matter, even though Westeros would be so lucky for an heir to the throne like Gendry.

Arya tearfully tells him that while he may not have any family, she could be his family. He gently replies that she would never be family to him, “only m’lady.”

Later that night, by a fire, Arya recites her prayer made up of the names of people who have wronged her and who she promises to see dead. The prayer ends angrily on the Hound, who she hoped would have been struck from the list tonight. Thoros keeps her company and informs her they’ll leave at first light and head to Riverrun, where her uncle is sure to aid in her return to Winterfell. Little does she know her mom and brother are at Riverrun as they speak!

North of the Wall

Sometimes it’s not easy to tell if Orell the warg is actively sneering or just has a weird face, but during his questioning of Jon Snow, it’s clear that…well, both. While questioning him on the Night’s Watch existence in possibly abandoned, possibly fortified castles along the wall, Jon Snow hesitates, which makes Orell distrust him even more. When he asks about their numbers at their home base, Castle Black, and Jon Snow answers “a thousand,” Orell takes it as such a ridiculous lie, he seems ready to pull a sword on him. Tormund Giantsbane stops the fight before it starts, saying that he likes Jon, but he’ll kill him if he turns out to be a spy.

As they walk away, using one of the oldest tricks in the sexy book, Ygritte snatches Jon Snow’s sword from him and says he owes her for vouching for him to Mance Rayder. She says he can only get the sword back if he takes it from her, and she scampers away to a nearby cave.

Possibly a more enjoyable way of rooting out a Night’s Watch spy, possibly just raging hormones, Ygritte gives Jon the ultimate test for this man of honor. In the cave is a hot spring, and she strips her winter clothes off and dares him to join her in sins of the flesh. Night’s Watchmen are sworn to take no lovers, and Jon Snow hesitates again, but he’s just a man, guys. Wildling redheads are considered lucky and are called “kissed by fire.” It seems Jon Snow’s about to get very lucky.

After their lovemaking, they take a dip in the hot spring, and Ygritte tells him she wishes they could stay here forever. It’s a very nice sentiment, even when you remember that their alternative is the freezing-cold wasteland.

At Harrenhal

All cozy in Littlefinger’s empty-promised haunted castle, Roose Bolton and his men accept Jaime and Brienne as prisoners. Bolton has been searching for them ever since Catelyn set them off on their treasonous (to her son) journey to King’s Landing in exchange for her daughters, but a war is a war, and the Kingslayer is much more valuable a captive than the Stark girls.

At first, it appears that Roose is as sadistic as those who serve him, selectively phrasing to Jaime the misfortunes that have befallen his family at King’s Landing in the past months, but he ultimately tells him the truth — that his sister (lover!) is still alive and well, and Jaime almost faints with relief. Or, you know, blood loss, gangrene, any number of diseases that befall a muddy open wound. Roose grants them better quarters than a dungeon and orders Brienne to be untied.

Jaime is brought to ex-maester Qyburn to heal his wounds, and People Who Have Crazy Recognition Skills will remember Qyburn as the sole survivor of the attack on Harrenhal, who Robb and Talisa found alive in the rubble of bodies. He was stripped of his maester’s chain for “bold” experiments on patients, which is enough to make Jaime pass on the mind-fuzzing Milk of the Poppy. Although it would dull his pain — and there’s about to be an extraordinary amount of pain — it’s not likely he trusts this creepy gentleman with his health, at least while unconscious.

Now healed but still disgustingly dirty, Jaime heads for the second hot tub of the episode — one which a shy Brienne is currently occupying. She scamper-swims to the farthest corner and continues referring to him as she always has — as the Kingslayer. Driven to exhaustion by one misfortune after another, Jaime decides to divulge a story he’s been keeping to himself for years.

Now, everyone knows that Aerys Targaryen was insane, probably due in no small part to the Targaryen penchant for inbreeding. We also know from an aside in an earlier season that he just loved setting people on fire, but it was still unbecoming of a member of the kingsguard, as Jaime was, to kill the person he was sworn among all others to protect.

The part of the story we didn’t know until now was that when Robert Baratheon was winning the Battle of the Trident — the last major battle in Robert’s Rebellion against the mad king — Lord Tywin Lannister had yet to choose a side to fight on: Robert’s or Aerys’. Jaime had been in the kingsguard for years, but hours before Robert would fall on King’s Landing, Tywin, with an army behind him, showed up and begged for entry, swearing allegiance to King Aerys. Varys wisely counseled the king to mistrust their pleas, but Grand Maester Pycelle urged the king that it would be a wise move to let in this army that could help defend against Robert’s very quickly oncoming Rebellion.

Tywin is no dummy, however, and doesn’t join losing sides, so once he was allowed in castle walls, he began ransacking the city. King Aerys summoned Jaime and his Pyromancer, instructing the latter to set off all the hidden caches of Wildfire, killing everyone in the town and tasking the former with bringing the king his own father’s head. Considering his options, Jaime slayed the pyromancer, and as Aerys turned to run, Jaime stabbed his ruler in the back. And slit his throat for good measure. Once Eddard Stark came on the scene, he proclaimed the throne for Robert and Jaime knew he couldn’t explain why he had done what he’d done. The honorable Ned Stark would never have seen it as a necessary killing, so Jaime lived with the stigma of having done what was right ever since then.

Brienne’s jaw drops almost drops into the hot tub at hearing the news, and Jaime begins ranting about his decisions, working himself into a tizzy, nearly drowning himself. Brienne races to his side and cradles him in her arms, shouting for guards, “The kingslayer!”

“Jaime. My name is Jaime.”

In Riverrun

Willem and Martyn Lannister are in jail, taken prisoner after Edmure’s barely successful battle at a nearby mill, and although it’s clear that they won’t make great hostages, possibly to be used for the return of Catelyn’s children, they are just young boys — only involved in the war at all as measly squires. Which makes it all the more insulting and horrendous when Rickard Karstark storms in and kills them both.

When Robb finds out, he is none too pleased and orders that Karstark be imprisoned and the men who helped hatch his plan hanged. When the accused are out of the room, Catelyn pleads with her son for mercy — and Edmure and Talisa agree — as a harsh punishment for Karstark would mean the loss of all his men, which make up a significant portion of the northmen fighting Robb’s battles. Holding him as prisoner for his crimes would be an excellent collateral for ensuring his men continue to fight for him, in exchange for no harm befalling their lord.

Perhaps seeing too much of his (assumed) slain younger brothers in the young boys’ dead faces, however, Robb isn’t inclined for mercy. The next day, he brings his closest bannermen out to a courtyard at Riverrun and bends Karstark over a stone — an eerie mirror to one of the first scenes in the series, where Eddard delivers swift but necessary justice on a criminal by beheading.

Asked to utter his final words, Karstark simply curses his name before Robb lops his head off for his crimes.

Sure enough, the Karstark men leave Robb’s ranks, leaving him ill prepared for the battles ahead. When Talisa comes to comfort him over his war map, she self-consciously jokes that she knows little of politics, and doesn’t even know where Winterfell is on the map. Pointing it out to his wife, with all the pangs of sadness his former home brings to him, Robb gets an idea about where to strike the Lannisters where it would hurt the most. A sack on Casterly Rock, their home.

And to do that, all he needs is the support of a family who has already supported him once in this war — the Freys, who hold the Twins, a strategically located crossing of the great River Trident, and house family of the girl to whom Robb was formerly engaged to be married.

Outside Astapor

Daenerys’ Unsullied are happily tromping across the lands, presumably looking for a nearby town to sack that has enough food to keep all 8,000 of them alive.

Ser Jorah and Ser Selmy converse about who believes in her more and who should rule at her side once she assumes her rightful place on the Iron Throne.

Meanwhile, Dany has instructed her Unsullied to form ranks and take up leadership positions — using free thought which was formerly unheard-of amongst the slaves. They agreed upon a leader named Grey Worm, so-named because each Unsullied was given the name of vermin by their slavers to keep them in their place. Daenerys urges them to choose new names becoming of their freedom, but ol’ Grey Worm tells her he likes his name just fine, for that was the name he had the day Daenerys Stormborn made him a free man.

At Dragonstone

With Melisandre having sailed away to places unknown, Stannis is starting to feel a bit bad for all the adultery that he’s been up to, so he pays his wife a visit. He starts to apologise for his indiscretions, but it seems his wife is just as much under Melisandre’s spell — and her enigmatic God’s spell — as her husband is. She tells him that nothing done in the name of the Lord of Light could be a sin, so their adultery is just fine. Okaaaay.

Stannis’ wife then laments her inability to grant him a son, as all queens aspire to provide their kings, and she steps back to reveal three stillborn sons kept in liquid-filled containers. Somewhere, the Governor from ‘The Walking Dead’ fully supports this super-creepy choice, but agrees with audiences that she might just be reaching the top of the crazy meter.

Stannis then turns to visit his daughter, Shireen, and it seems like it’s been a while. Her face is disfigured by a disease called Greyscale, but she seems content to sing in her room and play with a treasured toy she has hidden away — a gift from Ser Davos. She asks her dad how his old friend is, and he informs her that the Onion Knight is a traitor and is locked in the dungeon.

Hardly believing the news, Shireen sneaks down to the dungeons to see for herself. Davos sadly admits that he is a traitor and urges her to get back to her room. Shireen brandishes a book to keep him entertained, and when Davos begrudgingly takes it, she promises to bring more. Legitimately concerned for her safety now, Davos informs her that it would be a waste of her time to bring him more books because he can’t read. She offers to teach him, saying it’s really easy, and begins teaching him with the book she brought, and you just want to give this sweet little girl a hug.

In King’s Landing

Tyrion takes an afternoon meeting with Lady Olenna to discuss wedding costs. Lady Olenna, who doesn’t care how good someone is in the sack orders Podrick to bring her some figs to help with her regularity. Oh, old people! As a master of coin, Tyrion is quickly realizing how very expensive everything is and urges Lady Olenna, one of the main wedding planners, to reel in her extravagance while the realm is engaged in a war, if at all possible.

Lady Olenna points out that people need the distraction of an extravagant wedding, and it’s a much better idea than keeping them in poverty, where they’re much more likely to revolt and attack the royalty, as they’ve done before the Tyrells showed up.

Right as her figs arrive, Olenna concedes to paying or half of the wedding, which Tyrion graciously accepts.

In the courtyard, Sansa watches her husband-to-be practice fencing, with attentive castle squires by his side. One of the attentive castle squires turns out to be full-service, and ends up rolling in the hay with Ser Loras, who confides in his new lover that his wife-to-be doesn’t even yet know they’re to be engaged. (Or, you know, that her fiancé is gay.)

The squire immediately reports to Littlefinger that Loras is secretly engaged to Sansa Stark, reminding everyone to be careful who you spill your secrets to. Littlefinger descends upon Sansa with the reminder that he’ll be leaving King’s Landing soon enough, and he still intends to take her. She now points out that it might actually be a bad idea — convenient now that she might marry her childhood crush, a fact she keeps from Petyr — but she actually has a point that her absence couldn’t make the Lannisters terribly happy.

Meanwhile, Tyrion joins his father at a private meeting and is surprised to find Cersei in attendance, smirking at him in a very off-putting manner. Tywin has summoned him here to cash in on the request Tyrion made earlier about making the family proud and being given his due as a Lannister. Cersei has learned of the Tyrells’ plot to wed Sansa to Loras, so Tywin intends to cut them off at the pass — by wedding Sansa to Tyrion, post haste.

Tyrion is offended and considers Sansa a child, but Cersei insists she’s woman enough, and as soon as they’re married, he should give her a child. Everyone in the audience agrees with Tyrion and feels kind of uncomfortable with the situation.

To wipe the smirk off Cersei’s face, Tywin informs Cersei that the second part of his plan is to wed her to Loras, thereby solidifying both the key to the north and the partnership with the Tyrell family. She’s shocked at the suggestion, but Tywin puts them both in their place, satisfied that his children are finally going to be of use to him.

This season of ‘Game of Thrones’ has been packed with intriguing plot after intriguing plot. Will they be able to keep up the momentum throughout the last half of the season? There should be little doubt.

‘Game of Thrones’ airs on HBO every Sunday.