Game of Thrones gets crazy this week, as Dany takes a new city, the Tyrells make their move, Brienne sets out on a new adventure with an unexpected partner, and Jon Snow’s story continues to make some interesting deviations from the source material.
We begin where last week left off, at Mereen, picking up with a tender scene between the eunuch warrior Grey Worm and Dany’s adviser Missandei. They discuss their pasts, and how they became slaves as Missandei teaches Grey Worm to speak the ‘Common Tongue’. It’s a nice bit of character development for both of them, and points out that, even though Grey Worm is a eunuch, he still has ‘the heart of a man’, and he and Missandei share something deeper than a physical bond.
Dany disrupts the moment, telling Grey Worm that ‘it’s time’. She sends him and several other Unsullied into the city through the sewers with bundles of weapons, where they comes across a groups of slaves debating revolt. The Unsullied and the weapons they bring are the necessary push they need, and we are shown a glimpse of one of the Masters as a crowd of slaves corner and kill him.
That’s the extent of Dany’s takeover, as far as its depicted on the show, before we see the aftermath. It’s short, and brutal, and those expecting a full scale fight might have been disappointed. I personally found the small, claustrophobic and street level nature suitable, as the rest of the episode portrayed characters engaging in various acts of subterfuge.
Speaking of the aftermath, Dany flies her Targaryen colors (literally, as well as metaphorically), when she orders 163 of the surviving Masters to be crucified on posts as a warning, and as ‘justice’ for the 163 children the Masters did the same thing to on the road to Mereen. Baristan Selmy is unsettled by this, probably because it reminds him of King Aerys, and he fears that Dany’s ‘coin’ has might have landed on the insanity side.
The rest of the episode concerns itself with Westeros, with the goings on in and around King’s Landing and ending with the Night’s Watch on the Wall.
We catch up with Sansa and Littlefinger on the way to the Vale. Littlefinger pretty much spells out the circumstances surrounding Joffrey’s death, and confesses that he had a hand in it, perhaps even set the whole thing into motion. When Sansa asks what he wants, he says, ‘Everything.’
This scene is notable because it allows Sansa to figure out a few things for herself concerning the nature of politics and death in Westeros. In the scene before it, between Jaime and Tyrion, Tyrion says, somewhat ominously (and I’m paraphrasing, as usual), that ‘Sansa is not a killer. At least, not yet.’ There was also a heavy feeling of unease, as Littlefinger is creeping pretty heavily on Sansa, who likely reminds him of Catelyn, and is also the key to Winterfell. He’s already Lord of Harrenhal and pretty much Lord of the Vale through his marriage to Lyssa. Considering all this, ‘everything’ seems disturbingly close to his grasp.
Speaking of creeping on children for political gains, Littlefinger’s exchange ends with him mentioning ‘new friends’ and leads directly into a scene between Lady Olenna and Margaery, where Lady Olenna pretty much confesses that she played a part in Joffrey’s death as well. She also tells her granddaughter that the plan now is to wed Margaery to Prince Tommen. Cersei, however, is a problem, and Olenna insists that Margaery begin to sway Tommen against her. Margaery visits Tommen in the night. The entire visit is meant to plant the idea of secrets between them, ensuring young Tommen’s loyalty to his future bride. In some ways, this scene is creepier than the one between Littlefinger and Sansa, because it’s a bit more overt and the manipulation is more apparent. Also because the audience is likely not to read it as creepy, because it’s an older woman and a boy, and the boy is obviously smitten with her (still not okay). As a footnote, I like that the show is still finding ways to show us how horrible Joff was when Tommen tells Margaery that his brother used to threaten to kill Tommen’s cat and feed it to him without his knowledge. Also, Ser Pounce!
A large swath of the episode also deals with Jaime, and certain obligations he has. First, Bronn confronts him about visiting Tyrion, which he does, and we are treated to the rare scene between the two. Tyrion speaks bluntly to his brother, wasting no breath on tact and addressing Joffrey directly as Jaime’s son. Jaime believes Tyrion did not kill Joffrey, an idea Cersei refuses to entertain. When Jaime visits her later (and I guess the writers are treating last week’s encounter in the sept as consensual) she confronts him with the promise he made to the Starks, to take Catelyn’s daughters back to Winterfell. Cersei bids him to ride out, find Sansa, and bring back her head. Instead, Jaime goes to Brienne, gives her a new badass suit of armor and his Valyrian steel sword. He bids Brienne find Sansa, and Arya if possible, and protect them. He also gives her a new squire, Podrick Payne. The show has a knack for interesting pairings, and I’m looking forward to the Adventures of Lady Brienne and Pod, the Most Loyal Squire that Ever Was.
Finally, the events at the wall. I was a little apprehensive about the added plot to deal with the mutineers, but after this week’s episode and the places they took it, I’m actually excited to see where it goes. In Karl, the lead mutineer, the writers have given us a short term villain to root against. And in Locke (the man Roose Bolton sent to find Bran and Rickon) we have a simmering time bomb of a situation, especially considering how quickly he ingratiated himself to Jon, first by joining him in a laugh at Alliser Thorne’s expense, and then by volunteering to go with him to Craster’s Keep.
The mission to Craster’s Keep itself is a bit of a conspiracy against Jon, on Thorne’s part. He and Janos Slynt recognize that Jon’s popularity amongst the Brothers is a threat to Thorne’s command. He agrees to the mission on the keep in the hopes that it will result in Jon’s death, a plan that backfires somewhat when so many volunteer.
As for Craster’s Keep itself, the situation is about as ugly as it gets, and that’s saying a lot for this show. Karl sits upon Craster’s seat, drinking wine from the skull of Lord Commander Mormont and engaging in unnecessary monologue while the other mutineers have their way with Craster’s daughters. It teeters on verge of becoming completely over the top, perhaps even tips in that direction for a moment, but I feel it did its job in giving us a villain to hate and deal with quickly (I hope).
While Karl is giving his little speech, one of Craster’s wives comes in with a baby boy. This baby leads to the episode’s two biggest curve balls. Rast takes the baby out to the woods to be picked up by the White Walkers. Apparently, Bran, Jojen, Hodor and Meera are close enough to hear the baby crying. Bran wargs into his Direwolf and finds Ghost locked in a cage. The next morning they find the Keep, and are captured by Karl and the mutineers. With Jon on his way, the promise of a Stark reunion seems inescapable, and welcome. This is completely new territory, even for readers of the novels, and I for one can’t wait to see how it plays out.
Speaking of new territory, the episode ends with another curveball, as we finally find out what the Whitewalkers are doing with the babies. We also get a glimpse of a Whitewalker who is decidedly different than the others, an obviously a leader of some kind. This scene is also where the majority of the episode’s effects budget went, as we are given a zombie horse, a White Walker ice castle, and a baby who gets Walker-fied as his skin pales and his eyes turn completely blue.
I’m excited about next week, to see where all of this goes.