This week’s episode being the third to last the season, it’s no surprise that its main purpose is to set up what’s going to happen in the final two episodes of the season.
The episode begins with Arya waking up, still alive and unharmed after being dragged into the woods by the Hound last week. Thinking that he is asleep, she tries to bash his head in with a rock, but he’s already awake. He tells her he’ll give her one free shot, and if he lives, he’ll break her hands. Arya backs down, and they hit the road.
While riding on horse back, we are once again reminded that most of Sandor’s bad reputation stems from the cruel acts of his brother Gregor (including his horrifying scar). He tells Arya that he protected Sansa, and Arya doesn’t really believe him until they come to a river that Arya at first thinks is the Blackwater.
The Hound isn’t taking her to King’s Landing, however, but to the Twins, hoping to gain a reward for returning Arya to her family. This elicits a smile from Arya, and they continue on toward her uncle’s wedding.
Speaking of weddings, King’s Landing is preparing for one of the most awkward weddings of all time, between Tyrion and Sansa Stark. Said wedding composes the majority of the episode, and it gives us several nice exchanges. Among my favorites were Cersei telling Margaery the story of the Reynes of Castamere, a family that tried to usurp the Lannisters as the most powerful family in Westeros. She’s basically telling Margaery that she knows what the Tyrells are up to, and threatens to strangle Margaery in her sleep if she ever calls her sister again.
Another brilliant exchange involved the Lady Olenna outlining the insane family tree that will result from Margaery wedding Joffrey, and her brother Loras wedding Joffrey’s mother, Cersei. Another great little quip comes from Loras trying to make small talk and Cersei basically telling him to get bent. Lena Heady was pretty much on fire this episode.
Meanwhile, Tyrion is getting drunker than he’s ever been on the show before, presumably so he’ll have an excuse not to consummate his marriage with Sansa. Or so that’s what Tywin believes, as confronts Tyrion once again about doing his ’duty’.
My favorite bit, however, had to be Tyrion threatening to castrate Joffrey in front the entire royal court, resulting in an epic stare down between the two that Tywin quickly resolves, or at least dampens for the moment.
Tyrion and Sansa eventually retire for the night, and when the time comes to get their freak on, Tyrion balks and tells her that he’ll never share her bed unless she wants him to. He then passes out on a chair. The next morning, Shae enters the room. When she sees that the bed sheets are clean, she shares a knowing glance with Tyrion and for just a second, things seem a little brighter.
The scenes between Tyrion and Sansa were suitably awkward, the first occurring before the wedding as Tyrion feebly tries to reassure her that he has just as much say in the pairing as she does. The actual wedding gives Joffrey an excuse to display his usual ass-hattery as he first reveals to Sansa that he will be the one giving her away, and then again when he takes away the step-stool Tyrion was meant to use to place a cloak around her Sansa’s shoulders.
In Essos, Yunkai’s ’powerful friends’ arrive. These ’powerful’ friends turn out to be a mercenary group called the second sons. Dany has their commanders brought to her, and she attempts to do what any intelligent person would do, I suppose, when faced with mercenaries…attempt to pay them more. Unfortunately, they have some sort of honor, saying they’ve already made a contract and if they start breaking contracts no one will ever hire them again. Also, one of the captains is the most blatantly sexist character in a show full of them, and spends the entire meeting with Dany being a repugnant swine.
On the other hand, the youngest of the three commanders is a man with a ’do as thou will’ policy on life, and when the others decide to send an assassin to kill Dany in her sleep, Daarios is the one chosen. He kills them instead and brings Dany their heads, then pledges his loyalty to her, saying he chooses to ‘fight for beauty’. I suppose that’s kind of sexist as well, but it’s the kind of sexism Dany can manipulate to her advantage.
Back in Westeros, Melissandre and Gendry arrive at Dragonstone, where she has a creepy exchange with Stannis about slaughtering lambs. We are led to believe that Mel intends to sacrifice Gendry, but Stannis obviously has reservations and seeks counsel with Davos down in the dungeon, who he subconsciously knows will tell him to practice restraint.
Instead of killing Gendry, Mel seduces him and straps him down, then uses three leeches to extract his blood for a ritual. Stannis throws each leech into a brazier, reciting the names of the Usurpers Robb, Joffrey, and Theon. What I liked about this scene, and this plot in general, is that it keeps Gendry from disappearing after parting ways with Arya, and gives fans much more insight into Melissandre and the Red God. Film adaptations are often criticized for stripping this kind of world building out, but this show has consistently added, especially this season.
The episode ends with Samwell finally getting a moment of bravery as he and Gilly are tracked down by the White Walker who has been taking Craster’s sons. It’s an intense scene with some nice effects work as Sam stabs the Walker in the back with the obsidian blade he found last season, and the creature turns to ice and shatters. Other than that the scene was mainly used to show us that Sam and Gilly exist and are still making their way south to the Wall.
What was missing this week: No Jaime and Brienne…BOOOOO! No Jon and Ygritte…BOOOO! No Varys or Littlefinger…not even at the wedding…BOO! No Bran…Eh. No Theon…mixed feelings. He’s kind of in limbo anyway. I’d rather they gave him a break than try to stretch the whole ‘Theon gets Tortured All Season’ story line while waiting for the rest of the plot to get to a point where he can rejoin the fray.