A contrite Cersei? A doubtful Dany? Broke Lannisters and neck-snapping Hodors? It was like Opposite Day in Westeros this week on “Game of Thrones.” More after the break!
Our story opens with another coronation. Long live King Tommen (not likely), first of his name. A couple real interesting points in this scene, starting with the crown’s decision to only include House Baratheon as Tommen’s namesake (Joffrey always had both Baratheon and Lannister listed). I’m not sure if this portends something, but thought it stood out. Later, as King Tommen started some of the more tiresome duties of the kingship (receiving visitors), we find Margaery standing on a balcony, guiding the boy king wit subtle smiles. This does not go unnoticed by Cersei, who marches up to confront her daughter-in-law, and prompts a hair-pulling, cheek-gouging cat fight for the ages.
Wait, that didn’t happen…
Instead, a quiet, almost chastened Cersei spoke quietly to her young rival, acknowledging that Joffrey was a monster and that Tommen would make an excellent king. I had thought she was merely trying to play Margaery, perhaps getting her to confess some complicity in the Brat King’s death, but Cersei continues, bearing her soul, and stating that Tommen will need Margaery by his side. She ends the encounter by offering to speak to Tywin to make sure the Tyrell-Lannister alliance continues with Margaery’s marriage to Tommen.
Later, Cersei meets with her father to arrange both Tommen’s marriage, and her own to Loras, explaining she knows it’s for the good of the family. Tywin, for his part, makes a startling confession – the kingdom is broke, the gold mines produced no gold, and the crown (and by extension, the Lannisters) owe millions to the Iron Bank. And we finally find something that frightens the cold-hearted Lannister whose icy eyes could stare down a White Walker: debt collectors. It’s an odd, almost humanizing moment from the elder Lannister. Some of Cersei’s long game reveals itself when she asks about Tyrion’s upcoming trial, something Tywin refuses to speak of, since it could prejudice his actions as a judge.
Later still, Cersei visits with Oberyn Martell of Dorne. They talk family and children and she equates the loss of his sister Elia (murdered by The Mountain) to her loss of Joffrey, hoping to plant the seeds towards Tyrion’s ultimate conviction. As they wander the gardens, the conversation turns to Myrcella. She asks Oberyn to bring her a name day gift (a sailboat) and a message (her mother misses her). Oberyn assures Myrcella’s safety and happiness and reminds her that in Dorne, they don’t hurt little girls. Cersei contradicts him, remarking that the world hurts little girls everywhere. It’s scenes like these that make Game of Thrones great. Sure, Cersei is a conniving, murderous, incestuous bitch who has as much blood on her hands as anyone in Kings Landing, but she’s also a mother, grieving for her children. In another universe, she could be a feminist icon, showing us all the unfairness of a world where women are nothing more than commodities.
And speaking of commodities, creepy Petyr Baelish has a hot one in his hands: The lovely Sansa Stark, potential heir to all the North. He and Sansa have made it to the Aerie (last seen at Tywin’s last trial way back in season 1). The are greeted by Sansa’s crazy Aunt Lysa Tully and socially awkward, long term breast-feeder Cousin Robin. Auntie assures Sansa’s safety and secrecy, and urges Littlefinger to complete their wedding ceremony. We learn a few things about Loopy Lysa in the scene…She has a serious jones for Littlefinger bones, she’s a screamer in the sack, and… oh yeah, SHE killed her husband, Jon Arryn, NOT the Lannisters (in case you’ve forgotten, it was the death of Jon Arryn that sent Ned to Kings Landing and started this whole mess in the first place). It turns out that Baelish had his sticky little… uh Littlefingers in that pie as well, even having Lysa send the note to Catelyn Stark that accused the Lannisters. It may be fair to assume Lord Baelish is somehow involved in every plot in Westeros at this moment.
We get some quick views of our two remaining sets of road warriors. The Hound and Ayra continue to head towards the Vale, and continue to spar, both verbally as well as physically. We learn that Arya still hasn’t forgiven The Hound for his murderous ways and, unsurprisingly, has the balls to admit it. And Brienne and Podrick head north, towards the wall, hoping to find Sansa. We find that Podrick may be the worst squire in the world, but also that his loyalty and selflessness are unparalleled, qualities that ultimately cause Brienne to relent. This storyline has some potential and I can’t help but wonder if it will follow the same weird path as A Feast for Crows. I sure hope not.
We also get a brief look across the Narrow Sea, where Dany has found life as a conquerer is much easier than being a ruler. She now holds Mereenese navy (thanks to some unauthorized actions by the boring version of Dhaario Naharis.
Her two main counselors recommend opposite actions, with the older Barristan Selmy urging her to launch her attach on Westeros now, and Captain Friendzone, Jorah Mormont, telling her to wait until she has a bigger army. Jorah seals the deal by bringing news that her earlier conquests have already fallen, with the Masters in Yunkai winning back that city and Astapor being claimed by a warlord. Dany worries, wondering how she could possibly take Westeros if she can’t simply hold three cities in Slavers’ Bay. As usual, she steels her spine and declares she won’t go for Westeros until her task is complete and the Slave Cities remain free, stating simply that she will do what queens do… she “will rule!”
The real action for the episode lies in the North, where the new plot line of the Bran Gang’s capture by the renegade rangers plays out. Locke, still in undercover mode, scopes out Craster’s Keep and discovers Bran tied up with the others inside a stable. He reports back numbers to Jon and the others, conveniently forgetting to mention the kids tied up in the stable, and urging the good rangers to avoid the building altogether. Looks like my hopes of Locke switching sides and starting the “Ice Locked” spinoff with Jon Snow have been dashed.
The good rangers attack, interrupting Karl’s impending rape of Meera (though not before Jojen basically tells King’s Landing’s deadliest cut-purse he’s going to die). A lopsided battle ensues and Locke sneaks off to deal with Bran. As he carries the crippled boy to his certain death, Bran possesses Hodor, making the gentle giant break his chains and snap Locke’s neck. It’s a bit of a shocking scene that shows that Bran to can be ruthless when needed, though Hodor’s confused look as he peers at his bloodied hands is heart-breaking. He knows somehow his innocence is lost. Bran makes the very hard decision to continue their journey without letting Jon he was there.
Jon for his part is pretty much wading through drunken, rage rangers like a sickle through wheat, until he meets Karl in the recently vacated stable. There Karl shows he wasn’t all talk when he bragged about his sword work, with only a well placed assist by one of Craster’s widows keeping Jon from being fricasseed. Jon recovers quickly enough to turn Karl into a skull kabob. The episode ends with Craster’s daughter-widows burning the keep, ready to move on with the harsh world and the upcoming winter. Our closing shot is of Ghost, first taking out the irascible Rast before reuniting with Jon.
All in all, not the best episode of the season. Don’t get me wrong, it is “Game of Thrones,” so every second is awesome, but there were a few clunky moments (for example, why didn’t Locke just kill Bran where he was in the stable, what was the purpose of dragging him away to kill him? ) There was a definite ‘Middle Episode’ feel of putting the plotlines in place for the next bits of mid-blowing revelations. I really can’t wait until next week to find out what they are!