I was really happy to see the title of this week’s show, as it was (and still remains) one of my favourite moments in the whole series. Not to say that last week’s episode doesn’t still frigging smart, but I’m too delightedly confused to dwell on it, because this week the “experts” as The AV Club would have it (i.e. viewers who have also read the books) were thrown out of their complacency by the closing scenes. I was also really impressed by the fact that although there’s not much thrilling onscreen action and derring-do, the story remains compelling and leaves me, like a good ASOIAF chapter, desperate to know more.
This week starts just outside Mereen where Jhiqui is teaching Grey Worm how to speak the Common Tongue. In a heartfelt exchange, they discuss their memories of being captured and taken into slavery. Wow – more exposition without boobs! It’s a great scene that fleshes out their characters and relation to Dany, and puts the scene ahead in firmer context. Grey Worm leads the Unsullied into the city via the sewers where he addresses the slaves as a now free man. He leaves them the gift of inspiration and the promise of a better life in order to inspire them to take up against the masters. More importantly he leaves the gift of the weapons with which to slay them. Dany’s flag is hoisted on Mereen’s highest (slave-constructed) pyramid – the last thing a master sees before the mob descends upon him. We then cut to Dany’s triumphant entrance, walking on discarded slave collars, her new freedman welcoming her with cries of “Mhysa!”
She immediately arranges for the crucifixion of 163 masters – the same number of child slaves displayed on the road to Mereen, ignoring Barristan’s pained suggestion of mercy. At first I thought this was a point she was proving to her subjects, as she insists it is justice for injustice, but it’s more than that, it’s a message to slavers everywhere that the Mother of Dragons is coming for them, and the time for mercy is over.
Jaime takes the opportunity to train his left arm and Bronn takes the opportunity to guilt-trip him into visiting Tyrion. Jaime folds and tries to cheer his baby brother up with fake-cheeriness. It doesn’t work since Tyrion is pretty boned and come to think of it, so is Sansa.
She’s en route to the Eyrie, where Littlefinger will marry her Aunt Lysa. It’s a battle of the righteously pissed and the smugly awful, with smugly awful just about edging over with the implication that he was responsible for Joffrey’s murder. Sophie Turner continues to act her very socks off, her expressions conveying both disgust and resigned hatred, spitting staccato replies. Sansa doesn’t even care who killed Joffrey – she knows it doesn’t really matter since she’s been both saved and framed. “Yay”.
Olenna is grateful to return to Highgarden since she’s fed up with strolling through the Garden of Betrayal. Margaery’s not wholly keen to stay with the lovely Lannister clan, but is assured by Granny’s protective love, and faintly creepy backstory about her escape from marriage to a particularly inbred Targaryen. She advises her how best to well, for want of better word groom Tommen. Marrying a child will be creepy but nowhere near as creepy as being married to Joffrey, which she won’t be thanks to Granny. Cue Margaery’s “all the pennies have dropped” face as she wonders if the Queen of Thornes has said what she think she’s said (she totally has).
Up at the wall, Jon Snow trains the Nightwatch on wilding combat, and last week’s Thenn-orphaned kid hangs around for…reasons? Acting Commander Janos Slynt sidles up to remind Jon that WELL, ACTUALLY, the traitor’s bastard isn’t a ranger, he’s a steward who should be off emptying chamber pots and sulking instead of playing with swords and sulking. Despite his smacked-arse face, Jon Snow has more admirers than Slynt and there’s an election coming up. He makes friends with Locke, a low-born sent to the Wall for poaching. He’s also a Bolton bannerman, and tormenter of Brienne.
Cersei’s in her cups again as Jaime comes to visit. She’s not a broken woman, but she is a grieving mother with one child off in Dorne and one another target for murder. Jaime wasn’t able to save Joffrey and he took TOO LONG to get back dammit. Now the only thing she wants is Sansa’s head which will convince her convince her that Jaime’s still fighting for her. But even that’s not good enough – she wants Tyrion dead too, and in her mind, Jaime continues to betray her by insisting he believes Tyrion is innocent. Whatever love there was between them has died. But at least Cersei’s has red wine, who will never leave her – something she might be able to bond over with Tyrion if she weren’t seven-hells bent on killing him.
Margaery visits Tommen in his bedchamber where the creepy reminders of dead kings past prevent him from sleeping. She happily tells him that they’re probably going to get hitched and oozes her way into friendship. The poor guy. There are Lannisters and there are Lannisters, and Tommen’s a rare good ‘un. I kind of wanted to razor my face off with embarrassment, but at least she only kissed him on the forehead.
Brienne and Jaime read over the Big Book of Kingsguards, specifically Jaime’s rather short entry concluding with mention of Jaime’s hated nickname Kingslayer. Jaime regards his father’s gift sword and re-gifts it (much classier than a label maker), instructing her to use Ned Stark’s sword to defend his children. He can’t fulfil the oath he promised Catelyn by way of Brienne, so now he’s leaving it up to her to save Sansa from his sister, and Arya too, though he doubts she’s still alive. There passes a moment of rare tenderness in a world of death and horror, and then there’s another gift of properly sized armour. It’s polished and pretty and better suited to her than any cloth-of-gold gown could be.
But wait! There’s more! Another gift in the form of “never in the world has there been such a loyal squire as” Podrick Payne. Brienne dons her sword Oathkeeper, which in my head is what she calls Jaime instead of Kingslayer. Also featuring in my headcannon, the spin-off series The Adventures of Ser-I-Mean-M’lday Brienne and Squire Pod would be suggested by Amazon’s “people who bought this stuff also like this other stuff” ad, right under Adventure Time with Arya and The Hound Both The Human. I’m being flippant, but I was genuinely moved by this whole sequence. Jaime is a different man from the one who shoved Bran Stark off a tower. The small nod and even smaller smile after hearing his former blade’s name, punctuated with a simple “Goodbye, Brienne” nearly had me blubbing.
Sam made A Huge Mistake by letting Gilly go, but the main issue is that Bran and the bog-children are somewhere north of the Wall, maybe near Craster’s Keep by now. It’s convenient that they are, so we can segue into Slynt agreeing to Jon marching on the mutineers, but only if he can rustle up a posse of volunteers, which he sneeringly assumes he won’t. Naturally, he does, because all his old chums back him up and eventually enough dudes shuffle up to the challenge.
And then something amazing happened. We’re re-introduced to mutineer Karl Tanner (of the Gin Alley Tanners), drinking grossly and ineffectively from Mormont’s skull and generally doing his best to counter all previous happenstances of anything kind or at the very least, non-horrific that we’ve seen so far. Craster’s poor daughters lived a pretty grim life before but because this is ASOIAF, it’s gone from grim to unbearable, nonstop cruelty under the rogue Nightswatchmen’s rule. I’m sure this is setting us up for a big battle at the Keep and some “payback’s a bitch” moments when these dudes are slaughtered wholesale, possibly. The final Craster boy is turned over to the White Walkers, but not before the daughter-wives manage to creep out the mutineers with some religious chanting.
Bran and the bog-children are skulking around the Keep and this was the moment I thought –hang on – what? At first I guessed it was yet another boring Bran chapter in A Dance With Dragons I’d skim-read because I couldn’t remember them going past Craster’s on their (VERY VERY LONG AND DULL) journey north of the Wall. But this is where I became amazed, and astounded, nearly laughing and clapping my hands like Fry (like Fry! Like Fry!) at his afternoon magician’s appointment. Because zero percent of this happened in the books, and everything is new to me. There is a delight in knowing what is coming up, but not how it will be portrayed, as with Jaime and Brienne but not knowing at all what’s on the cards is something else altogether. I may even start hating Bran a bit less.
They hear the wilding baby’s cries, so Bran wargs his way around the Keep gathering intel until Summer is captured by the mutineers. Some ill-advised spying leads to their capture. Bran spills the beans almost immediately, confessing his identity to protect his friends.
Finally, the first-billed White Walker attends to his baby sacrifice, except instead of a simple devouring or slaughter, the Walker adds to his undead army with a Wee Walker. As the infant’s eye’s crackle into a deep blue something, I nearly shivered. I have NO idea what’s going on and it’s brilliant! More please! 10/10.
Sexy, Important Thoughts:
- I’m giving up the boob: wiener count as of this episode because a) it wasn’t a very funny joke to begin with and b) this week’s boobage belonged to a Craster girl being raped while Tanner orders his men to “fuck ‘em till they’re dead” and no, I’m not letting this go any more than last week’s rape scene because I flinched and winced and felt sick. I must remind myself this is broadcast on HBO.
- “Sansa’s not a killer – not yet, anyway” – don’t jinx it, Tyrion!
- If you’re a fan of Peter Dinklage (which you almost assuredly are), the GoT theme tune and extreme silliness, please do yourself a favour and check this out. Then try to get it out of your head :D
- I did a little eek of happiness when I saw Ser Pounce of House Lannister make an appearance. Lucky kitty is finally free from awful, awful, Joffrey.