Lessons abound in Episode seven, as Tyrion continues to learn who his friends are, Brienne and Podrick discover a new path, Arya and Daeny both learn some anatomy (each of a completely different sort), and an important character receives flying lessons. More after the break.
Our episode opens in jail, as Jaime lectures Tyrion on the idiocy of his actions. Tyrion, his emotions still raw after Shae’s betrayal, lashes out, coming dangerously close to driving away his last ally, but brotherly love wins all. Tyrion discusses Jaime acting as his champion, but the Kingslayer must demur, since he didn’t pick up the ambidexterity feat when rolling up his character, and his inability to fight with his left hand would likely lead to two dead Lannister boys. While the brothers ponder the positives (the look on Tywin’s face as the Lannister name is cut down with one blade stroke), no one wants to see Jaime dead (especially the producers), and they realize Tyrion will have to choose another champion. He sends for Bronn, hoping he’ll catch that proverbial bottled lightening twice.
Alas, just like the stock market, past performance does not guarantee future results, and Bronn too respectfully declines. Well, about as respectfully as Bronn can decline anything, especially in light of the fact that Cersei has arranged a marriage into a noble house and funded Bronn’s pension fund in exchange for retirement from the sellsword business. Bronn does give Tyrion the chance to make a counter-offer, but there is little the Imp can do from a jail cell. The dynamic between these two characters has always been one of the better parts of the show; and the fact that they had struck up a friendship, because of their various moral short-comings has always been extremely entertaining. The two part on relatively amicable terms, though Bronn does leave some thoughts on their friendship when he asks, “you say we’re friends, but what have you ever risked for me?” The words seem to strike Tyrion and it will be interesting to see what effect it may have on Tyrion’s character in the future (assuming he survives, that is!)
And survival could be tough, because Cersei’s champion isn’t just any knight. It’s the brutal, blood-thirsty, 8-foot-tall mound of muscle and mayhem Gregor “Mountain” Clegane. We’re reintroduced to the Mountain as he participates in a ‘training’ session, eviscerating frightened prisoners with his usual gutso..er… gusto. When Cersei approaches to offer her thanks, we’re treated to a great symbolic image of her walking across a field of entrails, literally walking over the dead, in her quest to get what she wants.
Because, Cersei always eventually gets what she wants. Tyrion says this to Oberyn Martell, the Dornish prince whose hatred of most Lannisters is only dwarfed by his hatred of The Mountain. Oberyn visits Tyrion in his cell, shares with him stories of when he first met the youngest Lannister, revealing that Cersei’s hatred of her brother originated on the very day of his birth. It’s an excellent moment as Tyrion’s eyes fill with tears of frustration and anger and sadness as Oberyn quietly describes the horrible stories and expectation surrounding Tyrion’s birth (and his disappointment when all they found was a baby). Oberyn finally reveals the reason for his visit, he wants revenge on those who hurt his sister, starting with The Mountain. He wants to be Tyrion’s champion. And with the pronouncement, we see the first glimmer of hope that the best of the Lannisters may find his way out of this.
Meanwhile, the Mountain’s younger brother, Sandor “The Hound” Clegan is still on the road with Arya, hoping to bring her to crazy Aunt Lysa Arryn for a reward. They happen upon a ransacked homestead and discover the owner dying a slow death. After a short discussion on the merits of a continued life of pain, the Hound brings a merciful end with a blade between the ribs, telling Arya that “this is where the heart is.” Arya shows she’s a quick learner, as the two are suddenly beset upon by the marauders intent on collecting the bounty placed upon The Hound’s head last episode. One lays a Walking Dead worthy bite to Sandor’s neck before the Hound snaps his neck like a dog biscuit. The other reveals himself to be Rorge, Jaqen H’ghar’s filthy-mouthed cellmate from back in season 2. Arya, proving she has a long memory, plunges Needle through the criminal’s heart. I’m a little worried that they’re carrying Arya’s transformation into kick-ass man-killer a little far at this point, but I guess we’ll see how it plays out.
Later, as they progress on the road, we also see how Arya’s and the Hound’s relationship has developed (something I always thought was lacking in the books). Biter’s bite is becoming infected, and the Hound is clumsily trying to stitch it. Arya insists they need to burn the wound, but the Hound’s fear of fire is too strong, and we get another glimpse of the “kinder, gentler” Hound that had been hinted at so many times with his interaction with both Sansa and Arya. He talks about Gregor, about the fear and pain when his older, bigger brother burned his face for playing with his toy, and the disappointment he felt when his father protected the sadistic bastard. It’s another great moment that once again shows how often even the worst of villains have several facets on this show. The scene ends with Arya convincing Sandor to let her clean and stitch the wound while contemplating her future.
Our other road odd-couple, Brienne and Podrick, have stopped at an inn during their quest to find Sansa. They run into Hot Pie, the chubby cooking prodigy last seen back in the Brotherhood without Borders episodes in season 3. Hot Pie, after a long dissertation on how to make a perfect kidney pie finds out that Brienne is searching for the eldest Stark and discovers that awkward moment when you discover hired killers might looking for your best friend. He nervously denies knowledge of the Starks, gives the standard “they were traitors” byline, and steps away. A short time later, deciding that anyone who liked his kidney pie so much can’t be all bad, Hot Pie tells Brienne and Podrick that he had seen Arya, describing their encounter with the Brotherhood. Podrick, using his knowledge of the houses and political situations that Tyrion had insisted he learn, identifies the Aerie as the place most likely to be ransomed, and the pair decide they will head that way in hopes of finding both girls. The turn down a path that looks much less followed on this next stage of their quest.
Across the Narrow Sea, Daeny looks like she’s ready to continue to another stage as she discovers Dhaario Naharis in her private chambers. She lectures him about the inappropriateness of his presence, reminding him of his duty. He counters he’s good for two things, killing dudes and wooing ladies, and he can’t do either. After a little more playful banter, Daeny suddenly remembers she hasn’t gotten any action since Drogo died in season 1, and decides the sellsword would make an excellent boy-toy. This of course, doesn’t sit well with Captain Friendzone, who discovers the departing Dhaario. Jorah urges caution, and redoubles his advice when he discovers Daeny has sent Dhaario and the Second Sons to retake Yunkai and massacre all of the Masters to ensure the city never backslides. Jorah worries that such actions will alienate too many, and reminds her that if Ned Stark had taken the same approach, Jorah wouldn’t be here to advise her. Daeny relents, changes her orders to allow the Masters to repent and surrender, and paying Jorah the honor of letting it known that he is the one who changed her mind. I guess we’ll see if that’s a good thing soon!
Dragonstone and The Wall
In the North, we get a brief look at what Jon is facing upon his return to Castle Black. Despite his successful raid, he holds no more sway with Alliser Thorne and the temporary leadership of the Night’s Watch. Jon wants to fill the tunnel and forgo the ranging of the North to defend the wall against Mance’s forces. Alliser’s influence is too strong, and Jon’s dire warnings are ignored. I just hope Jon lives long enough to get in a nice, solid “I told you so!”
And in Dragonstone, Melissandre is taking a hot bath when Stannis’ wife, Selyse, enters. It’s an interesting dynamic as the queen defers and begs forgiveness of a woman who is pretty much nothing but an advisor. It’s a great way to show Selyse’s single-minded dedication to the faith (and apparently to Melissandre, based upon the longing stares she gives the naked Red Priestess.) We discover that many of the visions others have seen in the fire are the result of potions and nostrums that Melissandre uses to lead others to the light. We also find that our cute little lizard princess, Shereen, may be in great danger, as Melissandre insists that she accompany them north and directs the Cult Queen to look for the answers in the fire. I’m not sure how Stannis would respond to learning they may be considering his daughter as the sacrifice necessary to obtain the throne, but it stands to reason that Davos will have some things to say.
Finally, we end our recap at the home of the only person who can make Selyse Baratheon look sane, Crazy Aunt Lysa Arryn! We find Sansa staring raptly at the snow falling in a courtyard, a sight she has not seen since she left Winterfell. Sophie Turner does a great job of conveying the wonder and homesickness the snowfall evokes. Sansa can be a one-dimensional character at times, but the actress does some great things with her, and it was nice to see a rare moment of happiness. She builds a model of Winterfell out of snow, but her reverie is interrupted by La Leche League ambassador for life Robyn Arryn, the cousin with whom she is betrothed. Robyn explains the wonders of the Moon Door, and how he can’t wait to order people to take that express elevator down to the rocks below. Sansa seems strangely alright with that thought, but draws the line when Robyn first accidentally knocks over one of her snow buildings, then goes full meltdown and destroys the entire fort, earning a slap from the frustrated heir to the north.
The whole thing is witnessed by super-creeper Petyr Baelish, who explains he has done everything, including his murder of Joffrey the Brat King, for his love of her mother, Catelyn Stark. He mentions that in different world Sansa would be his daughter, right before he ups the creep-o-meeter and plants a decidedly un-fatherlike kiss on the unsuspecting Stark. Sansa resists, but this doesn’t seem to matter to the jealous Lysa, who has watched the kiss unfold. She summons Sansa to her chambers and pulls her down to the Moon Door, trying to fling her to her death. Littlefinger intervenes, convinces Lysa through his easy lies that he could send Sansa away, and right when he has Lysa’s utmost trust, he states he has only ever loved one woman, Catelyn Stark. The episode closes with him pushing the shocked Lysa through the moon door to fall to her death.
Things to Think About
Is there anyone Littlefinger won’t kill or betray to get what he wants? Can Oberyn really take on the Mountain? Does Bronn’s assessment of his own chances foreshadow what we’ll see in the contest? What does Daeny’s sudden sexual re-awakening signify, especially since she is much more the initiator? And what’s with Selyse and Mellisandre (and what does it say about me that I was disappointed they didn’t get in that tub together?). And what the Hell, HBO… two weeks until the next episode… sigh… wonder if I can get one of those warp bubbles from Interstellar?