This week’s episode began to put the spotlight onto various characters who will likely be taking on more prominent roles, and also served as a reminder as to where the biggest threats lie. There has been a lot of talk about how dangerous Littlefinger is, but up until now there has been very little proof regarding the truth of such statements. After the final scenes, people will be far more wary of him and his intentions.
But that comes later. First of all, the episode picks up on several storylines that were absent last week. Sam and Gilly are making their way to The Wall from beyond, whilst Bran and his group of followers are bound for the same destination, except from the other side. Sam tells Gilly about some of the men serving at Castle Black, and mentions of Hobb the cook, and Dareon’s singing voice should please those who have read the books (although people who haven’t may be confused, as I don’t think either of those characters have actually appeared). Sam also proves to be as clumsily likeable as ever, not the most effective guardian that Gilly could hope for, but significantly preferable to her previous arrangement with Craster!
Meanwhile there are tensions in Bran’s encampment, as Osha and Meera bicker over who is better at skinning rabbits. This pointless argument is interrupted by Jojen suffering from a seizure of sorts, during one of his visions. When he comes to, he reveals that he has seen Jon Snow, but he is beyond The Wall and surrounded by enemies. This could potentially affect their plans as they were hoping to meet with Jon at The Wall.
Speaking of Jon, this episode gave him several scenes, which continued to strengthen his relationship with Ygritte. She tells him that they are not important from the perspectives of their commanders, but they are the only thing that matter to each other. The development of the bond between these two characters was particularly helpful with making Ygritte more likable. She has always been very smug and all-knowing, but her scenes in this episode were very strong, and helped the viewer in caring more about her.
Such redemptive moments are usually a sign that something bad is about to happen to whichever character is concerned, and this was teased during the Wall climbing sequence. It appeared as though Ygritte was about to suffer a very nasty fall, when a large chunk of ice broke away, taking out all of the expendable characters in a single move. With only named characters left climbing The Wall the stakes were raised, and Orell chose to cut Jon and Ygritte loose, since they were essentially dead weight. Fortunately Jon Snow makes the save, because he has had far too much character development to perish the same fate as a bunch of extras. This eventually leads to the final image of the episode where Jon and Ygritte share a passionate kiss at the top of The Wall, while the panoramic view of the realm and what lies beyond can be seen. It’s quite an image!
There was a significant deviation from the books, as Melisandre arrived at the encampment of the Brotherhood. An interesting notion is presented when she tells Thoros that he was originally supposed to convert Robert Baratheon to their religion. If this had happened the entire story could have been different. She also revealed that Beric’s resurrections should not be possible, appearing genuinely shocked, which is surprising since she has done impossible things in the name of her God. Thoros gets some exposition, in which he explains that he had lost faith in the Gods, and was a very sinful man. But now he believes in R’Hollor: The Lord of Light, as his power has been proved. Beric Dondarrion clearly has a greater purpose; otherwise his resurrections would not have occurred.
Arya learns how to shoot arrows whilst reciting a part of her ‘prayer’ and would apparently shoot Joffrey in the face, Cersei in the “tits” and Ilyn Payne (The King’s Justice, who beheaded Ned in case you’re wondering) in the balls. Arya is certainly developing as a fighter, having learned swordplay from Syrio, and now being taught archery by Anguy. Both of them provided her with cryptic advice about using one’s eyes. Melisandre then looked into Arya’s eyes and saw darkness and death in her future. Gendry was then taken away by Melisandre and her (Stannis’) men, because he has royal blood. He is after all, Robert Baratheon’s bastard son.
My gripes about last week’s episode were acknowledged, as Lord Frey’s envoys stated that he would continue to support Robb’s cause he met their terms. The phrasing last week suggested that Walder Frey had remained neutral, but that was clarified here. Since Robb broke his previous oath, he has to formally apologise for this, and Edmure must marry one of Lord Frey’s daughters within a fortnight. I felt sorry for Edmure, being chastised because of one of Robb’s errors. Yet, he consented to do the honourable thing for the good of Robb’s war effort, despite not being happy about it.
There was a very enjoyable scene between Tywin and Lady Olenna, which was a particular highlight. So far the Queen of Thorns has managed to get the better of everyone through her wit, but she couldn’t get the better of Tywin. That’s not to say this was a one sided verbal joust, as both characters held their own against the allegations thrown at their houses. The line “we don’t tie ourselves in knots over a discreet bit of buggery” is perhaps my favourite Olenna line so far. Eventually though, Tywin’s manoeuvring is enough to settle an agreement between the two, and Olenna remarks that “a man who lives up to his reputation” is a rare thing indeed.
Theon undergoes more torture as he attempts to decipher who his assailant is. Iwan Rheon has done an excellent job of playing his – still unnamed – torturer, at times playful, and at other times deadly serious, but always getting some sadistic joy out of seeing Theon in pain. He’s almost like the Game of Thrones equivalent to The Joker! I knew that flaying was involved in Theon’s torture, and so at times I had to look away for fear of how much would be shown.
Finally the episode reaches its climax during another one of Varys and Littlefinger’s throne room confrontations. I always enjoyed these scenes in the first series, but back then much less was known about these two (those scenes are worth re-watching now). The difference between then and now though is that the dialogue is less cryptic, and more direct. Littlefinger tells Varys that he knows about his agreement with Ros, and had her dealt with. Just in case people had forgotten how much of a sadistic little shit Joffrey is, the visual image of Ros’ corpse struck through with crossbow bolts should serve as a reminder.
Elsewhere Jaime managed to revert back to his arrogant drawl, although this was juxtaposed by his feeble efforts to cut meat with one hand. It seems that the Jaime/Brienne partnership is going to be split up. Also Cersei and Tyrion shared a rare moment of unity, both resentful of their father’s decision to have them married off. Sansa also appeared to regret not taking Littlefinger up on his offer, as she watched his ship sail away.
The final minutes of this episode are a major talking point, with images that should linger in the collective consciousnesses of viewers until next week’s show.