This episode definitely felt like the show was starting to pick up speed, and as a book reader, it was fascinating to where the show is diverging from the source material, with decisions that feel a bit more organic and utilize more of the characters we know and love than the books.
Cersei had arguably the most to do in this episode, which makes sense as I believe she is the character with the most source material left that the show has not touched upon. The episode opens with her being carried in her litter to the Great Sept, where she grimaces as she hears the peasants crying out for Queen Margaery. She arrives at the sept and we are treated to a rare, death-free wedding on ‘Game of Thrones,’ with an excited Tommen marrying Margaery. They consummate that evening, a first for Margaery though she’s been married twice before, though I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks she seems a little too confident for that to truly be her first time. Tommen is stoked to lose his virginity, and it is clear he will very easily be controlled by his new wife, who is already planting ideas in his head, such as a desire for Cersei to leave King’s Landing. The next day while touring the castle walls, Tommen attempts to subtly convince his mother to return to Casterly Rock now that she is no longer needed in the Capital, though she professes that she wants to remain in King’s Landing, as being near Tommen makes her happy. Enraged, and aware where the idea came from, Cersei goes to confront Margaery, and finds the new Queen having lunch with her cohorts, laughing and gossiping about her wedding nuptials. Margaery welcomes Cersei, offering her a drink, though she claims they are not having wine as it’s too early for them (shot #1 at Cersei), and then asking whether Cersei would preferred to be called the Queen Mother or the Dowager Queen. The conservation is all smiles and beautifully passive-aggressive, ending with Cersei telling Margaery that if she needs anything, to let her know. Meanwhile, the High Septon (basically the Pope of Westeros) is busy indulging in his 7 gods fetish at Littlefinger’s brothel, when he is interrupted by a group of ‘Sparrows,’ who feel the Septon is shaming their religion with his sexual depravity. They strip him naked and beat him as they lead him through the streets of King’s Landing. Enraged, the High Septon shows up for a small council meeting and demands that Cersei arrest the Sparrows, including the supposed “High Sparrow” that just arrived at the capital. In the next scene we see Cersei seek out the High Sparrow, finding the man and speaking of the incident with the High Septon, who she states she had arrested for visiting the brothel and tossed in a dungeon. The High Sparrow seems relatively kind, and humble, and pious, and it’s clear Cersei is attempting to get him on her side, but as all the book-readers know, (spoiler alert?) there’s more to the High Sparrow than she thinks.
Littlefinger brings Sansa to Moat Caitlyn, and tells her of his plan to have her marry Ramsey Bolton. Sansa is horrified at the thought, saying she was going to starve herself to prevent the marriage from going forward. Littlefinger claims that Sansa can choose to do what she wishes in the matter (I’m not really buying that), but does counsel her that she has been a victim since Ned Stark’s death, by marrying Ramsey she could take control of her own life. (Subtext, you could get close to the family that killed your mother and brother and get revenge). Sansa reluctantly goes along with the plan, arriving and meeting the Boltons, holding her composure when meeting Roose Bolton, the man who killed Robb. Littlefinger has separate meetings with Roose and Ramsey, admitting that he knows very little about Ramsey (letting us believe that Lord Baelish would never allow Sansa to marry him if he knew what a psychopath he was), and reminding Roose that the last time the Eyrie (which Littlefinger controls) and Winterfell and the North teamed up, they brought down the Targaryen Dynasty, an idea which seems to impress Roose. The group returns to Winterfell, which is being rebuilt, and redecorated with flayed men, with Reek (Theon) helping in the building, shuddering at the flayed men on display as it most likely reminds him of his own torture by the Boltons and the bodies of the two kids he had hung in Winterfell in Season 2.
Brienne and Pod are still following Sansa, and Brienne quickly realizes that they are heading to Winterfell, and we think she has guessed that Littlefinger plans to wed Sansa to Ramsey. In a quiet moment, she and Pod speak about her past, her cruel treatment at home by the boys her age who basically just thought of her as an ogre, and the kindness shown to her by Renly Baratheon, which is why she was so devoted to him (she admits that she knew he liked men, but that didn’t matter to her). She realizes she’s been rude and harsh to Pod since leaving King’s Landing, and decides to make him a proper squire, including twice-daily sword lessons and teaching him how to properly ride a horse. It’s a nice moment, but it does lend credence to the theories that either Brienne or Pod might die this season, as nothing spells a character’s doom more than making them more sympathetic and likable to the audience (especially on this show).
Jon Snow meanwhile turns down Stannis’s offer to de-bastardize him and give him Winterfell, saying he is honor bound to stay in the Night’s Watch. Stannis exits the room and Davros take a moment to counsel Jon, saying that Stannis sees something in him, and that honor sometimes means putting the needs of others head of even one’s oaths. Later, while giving out his first orders as Commander, Jon makes Alister Thorne first ranger (a nice political move showing he appreciates the man’s skills even if they don’t always see eye to eye), and then attempts to order Janos Slynt to take command of the crumbling Greywatch Castle and rebuild it. Slynt refuses the order, and talks back to Jon in front of everyone. When he continues to refuse, Jon is left no choice but to have his men drag Slynt out to the chopping block. Realizing that Jon means business, Slynt cries for mercy, but Jon can’t allow Slynt to disrespect him and refuse his orders without punishment. He chops off Slynt’s head himself, and gets a nod of approval from Stannis, who saw the events unfold. Unlike the execution from last week at Meereen, the men of the Night’s Watch seem to approve of Jon’s decision.
In Braavos, at the House of Black and White (but mainly black due to the serious darkness of the set. Not to go off on a tangent, but on my TV I could BARELY make out what was happening), Arya is sweeping the floors while Jaqen gives water to a visitor to the house, a visitor who soon drops dead and is carried out. Arya complains that she’s been sweeping forever (and in that darkness, who can even tell if that damn floors are dirty), and Jaqen tells her basically that she is still not ready. After a confrontation with another new recruit, Jaqen asks Arya how she can be “no one” when she is still burdened with the possessions of Arya Stark. Heeding his words, Arya dumps all her belongings in the sea, save her sword, Needle, which she hides in the rocks nearby. She returns to the HoBaW and is invited into the next room after another visitor dies, where she and the other new recruit are cleaning the fresh body with sponges. Ever the curious one, Arya asks what’s next, but receives no answer.
Tyrion and Varys make it to Volantis, a town mainly built on a massive bridge, and Tyrion demands a field-trip out of the carriage to stretch his legs, regain his sanity, and “talk to someone with hair.” Varys uncomfortably allows the diversion, following Tyrion to a red-God priestess who speaks of the greatness of the Mother of Dragons and the affliction of ‘Greyscale’ (mentioned twice this season), and then eerily turning as she spots Tyrion. Tyrion and Varys leave the scene and head into a brothel, where they spot a prostitute dressed like Daenerys that all the men seem to want. Tyrion instead heads to another women, charming her as is his way, but finding no desire to actually have sex with her, which surprises him (side-effect of killing his former prostitute lover in his father’s bed perhaps?). We spot Jorah Mormont at the brothel (clearly there for the Daenerys look-a-like), and he sees Tyrion in the crowd. Tyrion heads outside to pee off a balcony (an established pastime of his), and Jorah comes up behind him, binding and gagging the dwarf and sticking him into a sack, claiming he is going to take Tyrion to the Queen. Before we can ask “Which one?” the episode is over, the end credits are rolling.
GAME OF THEORIES:
– Seems pretty clear to me that Jorah would take Tyrion back to Daenerys, as a way to get back in her good graces.
– Could the dead men in the HoBaW be the faces that Jaqen and his ilk can take on?
– Could there have been some Night’s Watch men who felt Slynt should not have been killed? Could this come back to haunt Jon Snow?
– Will Theon remember who he is and try to rescue Sansa, perhaps to atone for everything he did to her family?
Lots of questions this week, and despite the presence of Daenerys (who is presumably still recovering from her disastrous episode 2 outing), this was a solid episode, and really felt like ‘Game of Thrones’ was getting back into it’s groove. Looking forward to next week where we finally meet the Sand Snakes!