Well, so, there were no dragons in this episode. I can, therefore, understand if you turned off Game of Thrones in protest last night, and are only hate-reading this recap in the hopes that it will be a 10,000-word think piece on why there should be dragons in every episode—if not every scene—because dragons are the best. Unfortunately, that is not what you're about to read. Because as much as I love dragons (which, so, SO much) I also appreciate the juggling act that the writers of Game of Thrones are doing right now. Not only are they trying to incorporate the story lines of the approximately two dozen Westerosi that we were already familiar with, but they're introducing new and essential characters in a pretty seamless and not totally overwhelming way. And they're doing a good job of it! "It" being the screenwriting equivalent of juggling flaming swords and crossbows and battle-axes and dragon teeth and other dangerous and exciting things. So, I guess I can forgive the lack of dragons this time. Because, after all, we did get to meet Lady Olenna Tyrell—Queen of the Thorns—and she's as fiery as any of Daenerys's children and much, much funnier.
Post-credits we see Bran. That is Bran, right? He has grown maybe half a foot and is walking through a forest with a bow and arrow, so is it really Bran? Yes. It is. He's dreaming. He's dreaming about the three-eyed raven and he wants to shoot it. Suddenly, Robb and Jon are there with him, advising him on the shot, "Don't think too much, Bran." But it's too late. Bran shoots and misses and his father's voice echoes through the woods, "And which one of you were a marksmen at 10?" This is a line Ned Stark said in the premiere episode and, ahhhh, don't we all miss Ned Stark? Yes. We do.
Bran is not alone in his dream though. The little boy from "Love Actually" who is now all grown up is there to tell Bran, "You can't kill it you know."
Bran asks, sensibly, "Why not?"
"Because the raven is you."
Thanks for that, little boy from "Love Actually" who's now all grown up.
Bran wakes up. We also see his brother, Rickon. Who? Yeah, exactly. Don't worry about him, though. No one else does. Also, HODOR! And Osha! They are making their way toward the Wall, where Jon Snow and, presumably, safety lie. We shall see.
Checking in on some other Starks, we see Robb being all serious in front of a fire at Harrenhal, and his wife, Talisa, being all flirty. Her flirting doesn't go too far, because in walks Roose Bolton with word from Riverrun, which is Catelyn Stark's family home, and Winterfell. The news? Is not good. In fact, it falls on Robb to tell his mother not only that her father has died, but also that Winterfell is in ruins and that Bran and Rickon are missing.
Catelyn asks, "Have you heard anything from Theon at all?" And just like magic...
We see Theon! Well, it probably doesn't feel like magic to Theon, because he is getting punished. Pretty fucking harshly. "Punished" is probably the wrong word really, "tortured" is probably better because Theon is on a rack and is screaming and has the skin off his pinky finger removed. This might be a good time to point out that the Bolton sigil is that of a flayed man. And since Roose Bolton's bastard son is the one that got to Winterfell after the Ironborn left, you can deduce that even a bastard like Ramsey Snow takes the house sigils very seriously. As one should. Later, Theon gets questioned about why he came to Winterfell, which, isn't the most interesting question really. It doesn't even seem like the torturers care about that question because no matter what Theon says, they keep hurting him. He pleads with them that he'll tell them anything they want to hear, which, this is exactly why torture is ineffective, but that's not the point right now. The point is, Theon's captors are clearly sadists and Theon is clearly finding out just what Justin Timberlake meant when he sang about karma in his classic song "What Goes Around...Comes Around." Once Theon is left alone with his pain, though, a guy comes up to him and says that Theon's sister, Yara, sent him to rescue Theon, so maybe Theon's future is looking brighter? We'll see!
And now we're on to Brienne and Jaime, who continue their trek across the countryside, bantering and bickering and getting to, um, really know each other. Jaime is prodding Brienne about her love for Renly, who Jaime suspects wasn't ever going to be interested in Brienne and wasn't even really interested in the Iron Throne. Jaime thinks Renly wasn't suited to be king and Brienne gets increasingly angry, which Jaime loves, so he provokes her more.
He says to her, "It's a shame the throne wasn't made out of cocks, they'd have never got him off it."
And while we all think about that image for a second, Brienne just freaks out and puts her sword to Jaime's neck. She growls, "Shut your mouth."
Jaime speaks quietly and with no small amount of empathy when he tells her, "I don't blame him and I don't blame you either. We don't get to choose who we love." Ah, yes. Preach, Jaime. I mean, it's a shame that who you love is your sociopathic, in-over-her-head sister, but it happens.
The moment is ruined however by an old man walking down the road, hauling a wagon. He pauses to chat with them and as he leaves, Jaime warns Brienne that the old man recognized him. Brienne refuses to kill an innocent though, so they continue on their way, and I'm so sure that decision won't come back to bite them in the ass at all.
Speaking of asses and things that come out of them, here are the most unhealthy mother-son duo since Norman Bates and his mother. It's Cersei and that piece of shit Joffrey and Cersei is trying to warn Joffrey of the dangers of Margaery Tyrell, calling her a whore and reminding Joffrey that Margaery bedded that traitor, Renly. Joffrey flips out on his mother and says that Margaery only married Renly because she was told to and, "that's what intelligent women do, what they're told." As terrible as Cersei is, watching her get put in her place by that piece of shit Joffrey is really uncomfortable. But I'll get over it. Because they kind of deserve each other.
And now we meet one of the best characters ever: Lady Olenna Tyrell. Ser Loras arrives at Sansa's chamber to escort her to lunch with Lady Margaery and their grandmother, the Lady Olenna, also known as the Queen of Thorns, also known as a total badass. Now, why exactly was Sansa summoned? To be interrogated of course. The Tyrells are no fools. This is becoming crystal clear. Well, or at least, the Tyrell women are no fools. The men don't seem that impressive.
Anyway, Lady Olenna is rightfully concerned about her granddaughter marrying Joffrey, so she wants Sansa to spill the dirt. She inquires, "Tell me the truth about this royal boy, this Joffrey. Has this boy mistreated you?"
When poor Sansa can barely speak, because she is so terrified, Lady Olenna asks, "Has he ripped out your tongue?"
"Tell the truth," says the Queen of Thorns, "no harm will come to you."
This triggers something deep in Sansa and she blurts out, "My father always told the truth." Ah. Poor thing.
"Yes," says Olenna, "he had that reputation and they named him traitor and took his head."
Sansa vehemently spits out "Joffrey. Joffrey did that. He's a monster."
Margaery and her grandmother exchange a look. "Ah. That's a pity."
Although Olenna tells Sansa that Margaery will still marry Joffrey, I am not so worried about Margaery's ability to deflect whatever the Lannisters throw at her. Later, when she is alone with Joffrey in his chamber, Margaery handles the accusations of her crossbow-weilding, piece of shit betrothed without a problem. She gives Joffrey what he wants, which is gossip, by telling him that she never slept with Renly because he was gay. And she reassures Joffrey that, in her mind, " You must do whatever you want to do. You are the king." She also hints at a real appetite for blood, so basically she has convinced Joffrey that she's his perfect woman. Smart girl.
Checking in with Robb again and we see that he's having loyalty problems in his ranks, with Lord Karstark still fuming that he hasn't yet been able to get revenge on the Kingslayer. Talisa meanwhile attempts to bond with Catelyn, who is weaving a charm for the protection of Bran and Rickon. Catelyn tells Talisa that she feels that all the bad things that have befallen House Stark are all because of her hatred for Jon Snow. "It's all because I couldn't love a motherless child," she says. And, you know, maybe she's right. Mothers can make or break you. So can fathers, of course. This whole show with all of its lip service to family and honor and duty is all really one big Freudian nightmare. But so yes, mothering a baby who had never done anything wrong in the world might not have been the worst thing to do. Too late now though! How'd that little bastard end up anyway?
There he is! It's Jon Snow and Mance and all the wildlings taking a walk. Nothing really interesting happened north of the Wall this episode, except that Jon met the wildlings very own warg (someone who can enter the mind of animals) and realized that his brother Bran was just like that.
Speaking of Bran, the boy from "Love Actually" has tracked him down in real life, not just in a dream. This boy is named Jojen Reed and he travels with his sister, Meera, who is good with a knife and it's pretty clear that they're awesome. Jojen and Meera are the children of Howland Reed who fought with Ned Stark during the Rebellion that unseated the Targaryen dynasty. Jojen is also able to speak to animals, including Bran's direwolf, and has what he calls "the sight." Jojen can see the future, the past, and what's going on in other places, and he knows that Bran has this power too, even if it's not fully developed. It seems these two have a lot to talk about. Meanwhile, Rickon goes running off into the woods at one point and Bran is straight up like, "Don't worry, who cares." And we all agree at home because has Rickon even said one word this whole series? I didn't think so.
And now for one of our favorite Starks! Arya! And she's with Gendry! And Hot Pie! And it doesn't look like they've had a hard time finding food since they left Harrenhal, at least, it doesn't if you look at Hot Pie. Gendry says out loud what many people thought last season, which is, "I'm just trying to figure this out. Jaqen Hagar offered you three kills. Anyone. You could have picked King Joffrey. You could have picked Tywin Lannister. You could have ended the war." Which, this is actually interesting to listen to, because you immediately realize the futiltiy of it. Even if Arya had chosen Joffrey, and Tywin, and Cersei, then what? Who would be king? Stannis? Robb? There are no easy answers. Especially in Game of Thrones, because just when you think you have some things figured out, eighty-five new characters get introduced and make everything completely unmanageable again.
Case in point, we hear singing. And not just any song, it's "The Rains of Castamere," which is the best song, and maybe the only song, in the Seven Kingdoms. And while it is not Matt Berninger singing this version, it's still fucking haunting and beautiful. So who is singing? Why, it's Thoros of Myr, a key member of The Brotherhood Without Banners! You might remember this organization as being the one that led the Mountain to interrogate prisoners at Harrenhal by tying a bucket of rats to their stomachs and letting the rats eat their way out. Good times! Thoros and the rest of the Brotherhood (including a truly talented archer) convince Arya, Gendry, and Hot Pie to come with them to a nearby tavern. Well, "convince" is the wrong word, because the kids become the Brotherhood's captives, but Thoros promises to set them free. Unfortunately, once Arya is about to walk free, some members of the Brotherhood bring in their latest hostage. And who should it be but the Hound? Aryaa tries to sneak out but the Hound immediately sees her and shouts out, "What in seven hells are you doing with the Stark bitch?" And just like that, Arya is a prisoner again.
We end with Jaime and Brienne, who have reached that crossroads so common to all those who embark on long and arduous road trips. Basically, they want to kill each other, but can't. So they duel. On a bridge. Jaime is manacled and has been a prisoner for some time so it's pretty impressive that he can pretty much hold his own. Although, winning for Brienne is rather complicated, because, as Jaime points out to her, "If you kill me, you fail Lady Stark.... If you don't kill me, I'm going to kill you." That's some Catch-22. Anyway, Brienne is saved from having to make that decision because a pack of Bolton's men descend upon them and declare that Brienne and Jaime are now prisoners. How did Bolton's men know that Jaime was near? Oh, look! It's that "innocent" man who Brienne let travel on his merry way. Surprise!
House Tyrell: This one is easy. How is any family not a winner when the matriarch is the Queen of the Thorns? But it's not just on the strength of Lady Olenna that House Tyrell comes out on top. Lady Margaery is also showing true cunning and an ability to navigate the most treacherous of situations. At this point, they're playing the fame better than any one else.
House Reed and Bran: I mean, they can talk to animals. And see the future and the past and all sorts of things. Plus, this little group seems to be traveling in relative safety and they have dire wolves! Sure, they're dragging around that dead weight, Rickon the mute, but they also have Hodor. Hodor!
House Lannister: Tyrion got very little to do this episode, other than talk to Shae, which is boring because Shae is boring. And that piece of shit Joffrey is getting played by Margaery Tyrell, and Cersei is being sidelined by her piece of shit son and Jaime—wonderful Jaime—is now captive of House Bolton, whose sigil, let me remind you, is that of a flayed man. Things aren't going so well.
House Us, the Viewers: There were no dragons. So we at home watching are the real losers. Sigh.
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