What happened to Jon Snow? Did one of the ‘White Walkers’ come and take Craster’s child? The last episode ended on a cliffhanger and we can only hope that is resolved as soon as possible. Frankly, some of the best stuff in the show happens at the Wall and beyond, so the more the better. What kind of agreement has the Night’s Watch made with Craster for their shelter? As ever, King’s Landing is a quagmire of internecine warfare between the Lannisters and other would be claimants to the Iron Throne. Meanwhile, Robb continues his campaign for northern independence while Bran has wolf dreams back at Winterfell.
Please note: Spoilers ahead.
The episode begins with Craster kicking out the Night’s Watch from his homestead beyond the Wall. Commander Mormont explains to Jon why the Night’s Watch has to make a devil’s pact with men like Craster in order to survive their journeys beyond the Wall but things are still vague. The creatures that took the baby boy are still unidentified but they could be White Walkers or something else, but everything hints at them being the former.
Sam is still in Gilly’s thrall even though this kind of socializing is a death sentence for both he and Gilly given Craster’s penchant for violence and his protective nature over his inbred harem.
At Winterfell, we see the world through the wolf’s perspective, then switching rapidly to Bran’s perspective, likely intimating some kind of alignment with his wolf or maybe even animals in general. In his discussion with the Maester of Winterfell about his dreams, Bran cites that he even foretold his father’s execution in a dream – what could this mean?
Perhaps he has the power of foresight? Even his Maester tells him that he once wished he too had special powers. Yet, Bran’s experiences hint at something larger than the delusional fantasies of a recently crippled young boy.
Would-be King Renly is holding some sort of martial tournament on a beach cliff overlooking the ocean – an interesting diversion given that he is both a traitor and in competition against his very brother Stannis for the throne representing House Baratheon. The champion of the games is none other than Brienne of Tarth, the female knight so famous in the book series A Song of Ice and Fire. Not only is Brienne a pivotal character, but she is different from most of the other female characters, excepting Arya, in that she melds the masculine into the feminine, providing a different perspective in a series in which females are too often depicted as vehicles for the expression of male lust and dominance or sometimes both.
Brienne asks to be in Renly’s King’s Guard and he assents. Catelyn Stark meets with King Renly as her son Robb’s envoy.
‘Because they are the knights of summer, and winter is coming.’
The Greyjoys are plotting an invasion and they put Theon in charge of a ship called the ‘Sea Bitch.’ He is to raid fishing villages while his sister commands a fleet of thirty to invade Deepwood Motte. Again, Theon will be denied his place in the sun. Perhaps Theon is always destined to play second man, even if that is to his sister. It is likely this rankles him beyond compare because the Theon introduced to us thus far has been one both prideful and arrogant, far too much so to take a slight sitting down.
Sadly, he’s also been revealed to be impulsive and not too intelligent in terms of strategy.
‘We do not sow.’
The main source of conflict between Theon and his family is his time spent at Winterfell as the Starks’ hostage because of Theon’s father’s failed rebellion against now-deceased King Robert long ago. They question his loyalties as well as his cultural values. Would he have his father bend knee to his ‘other’ family, the Starks?
Undoubtedly the tension this is building in Theon will result in foolhardy actions on his part to impress his father and win his love. Or maybe it could manifest itself in a bastardly rejection of his house and alignment with his adoptive house, the Starks, although his treatment there as a second class citizen likely precludes this from happening.
Sansa continues to labor under the tyranny of the Lannisters in her captivity at King’s Landing. Cersei is not completely devoid of awareness of the impact all of this is having on Sansa psychologically but she still persists in her torture of the girl. Tyrion lends his girl, Shay, to become Sansa’s handmaiden since Shay had expressed displeasure at being a scullery maid.
In collusion with Maester Pycelle, Tyrion decides to begin plotting alliances unbeknownst to Cersei. Princess Myrcella is to be wed to House Martell of Dorne. In the meantime she is to be sent to Dorne as well. Tyrion also plots to wed a girl to Lady Lysa Arryn’s son.
In all, Tyrion enlists Petyr, Varys, and the Maester in his schemes to scatter Cersei’s children to the veritable wind while also making alliances to secure Jauffrey’s throne. Tyrion as a Machiavellian adds another dimension to his evolving and complex character. Also, most people appreciate anything to undermine Cersei who governs emotionally but also ineptly.
So Renly and Loras are getting their business on and everything is going smoothly for Renly until Loras brings up how ashamed he is that Renly made Brienne a member of his King’s Guard after she defeated Loras earlier. Renly accuses Loras of being jealous then is reminded by Loras that he has to go sleep with Margaery in order to maintain the Tyrell’s loyalty and appearances that they are not sleeping together, though it is hinted that this is common knowledge around camp. Even Loras says so himself.
I can’t help but associate Natalie Dormer with the Showtime series The Tudors but nonetheless she is now Margaery Tyrell, Loras’ sister and Renly’s betrothed. At least she puts forth an effort to seduce Renly, likely aware as everyone else is of his actual preferences. Things are ratcheted up a notch in awkwardness when Margaery acknowledges this vary fact and offers to get her brother involved in order to get Renly ready for that night’s love making so she can get pregnant with a son.
‘There’s no need for us to play games. Save your lies for court, you’re going to need a lot of them.’
Ever the graceful queen, Cersei pitches a fit at Tyrion for plotting to send Myrcella off to Dorne while Tyrion claims it is for her own safety.
Theon’s ceremony on the beach in which he becomes one with his iron-born heritage is strikingly different from the same ceremony as depicted in the books. In the books, the ceremony is a baptism by drowning but in this HBO depiction it is nothing but a sprinkling of water.
The Maester’s betrayal of Tyrion results in the revelation of Pycelle’s betrayal of multiple Hands of the King. Tyrion locks the elderly maester away and walks away knowing who speaks to his sister and who does not.
‘Power is a curious thing my lord. Are you fond of riddles? Three great men sit in a room. A king, a priest, and a rich man. Between them all is a sell sword. Each great man bids the sell sword to kill the other two. Who lives, who dies? … Power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick, a shadow on the wall. And a very small man can cast a very large shadow.’
Arya and her protector share stories of heart wrenching sadness over a fire while the group of Night’s Watch recruits camps for the night. A horn breaks the night’s silence outside. The party is looking for Arya and Gendry. The ensuing scene is one of carnage as the recruits flee from the Lannister henchmen. Arya frees the captive men who were too dangerous to march freely alongside the other recruits, likely out of a sense of humanity as they were going to be burned alive in the cage. Maybe she does this in hopes of enlisting them to help in the fight but ultimately the whole thing is futile. In a bit of quick thinking, Arya fools the Goldcloak captain looking for Gendry into believing that the blond boy he mercilessly slaughtered was his quarry, the bastard offspring of Robert Baratheon that had fashioned the metal bull’s helm which marked him.