The episode begins with a with a fatal knife plunge as Melisandre’s creepy shadow baby blows through King Renly’s tent and stabs him from behind while Brienne and Catelyn Stark stare in horror. How annoyingly inconvenient for Catelyn, who was on the verge of a peace treaty that would see Baratheon and Stark battling their common enemies together “as they have done many times before.”
But it’s even more unfortunate for poor Brienne who is hunched over Renly’s fallen corpse when the other knights burst into the tent. They holler, “You’ll die for this!” – but they’re the ones who bite the dust when Brienne slices through all three of them in a powerful fit of grief and rage, before collapsing to the ground, wailing. Gwendolyne Christie is mesmerizing and I’m still so impressed with how weird she looks. Her outpouring of emotion was heartbreaking and highly embarrassing at the same time. I’m never sure whether to feel sorry for Brienne or just cringe at her incredible awkwardness. Good Job! Brienne is distraught and stubborn, clinging to Renly’s body, but Catelyn convinces her that they need to run. Brienne can’t very well avenge Renly from beyond the grave. Hey, if a shadow could slay him in the first place … anything is possible!
The Tyrells are also horrified by their King’s murder. Loras gazes down at his fallen lover with genuine grief and pain, filled with burning hatred for Stannis. His sister Margaery observes her dead husband with a cold aloofness … and maybe a touch of annoyance. It was awfully thoughtless of Renly get himself killed and ‘put you out’ like this, Margaery. She paces around the tent tutting about the danger they are in and insists they go home at once. Renly’s captivating charm holds little sway as he grows cold and his bannermen are readying themselves to grovel at Stannis’ feet. But the Tyrells were far too deep in Reny’s pocket (and his pants) to switch alliances now. Even though suspicion has fallen on Brienne, Loras is convinced that somehow, someway Stannis is responsible for Renly’s death and he wants to stay and skewer him. With a little help from Littlefinger, Margaery manages to wrench Loras away from Renly and they make their escape.
Stannis better watch out – Loras the delicate beauty and Brienne the awkward beast are both out for his head!
By the time Stannis arrives, the Tyrells are long gone and the other bannermen have dropped to their knees like cheap hookers. With the numbers finally in his favour, Stannis is plotting to take the Iron Throne; readying his assault by land and sea. But first … Davos would like to discuss the tiny little matter of DEMON BIRTHS! Stannis shuts him down, but agrees to leave Melisandre behind when they set sail for King’s Landing.
Cersei is making plans for the impending siege of King’s Landing, but refuses to share them with Tyrion. She’s still a tad bitter that her deformed brother is wielding power. Luckily for Tyrion he still has his sniveling incestuous cousin under his thumb and Lancel coughs up Cersei’s secrets. The Queen has been meeting with pyromancers and amassing a large supply of wildfire: the ingredients for a flame that can burn through almost any substance.
So … Cersei and Joffrey will be in control of an arsenal of unstoppable fire? Egads! Thank god Tyrion is as unnerved by idea as I am and quickly intervenes. He visits the storage center under the city and informs the pyromancers, “You will no longer be making wildfire for my sister. You’ll be making it for me.” If someone HAS to cause massive destruction it should at least be somebody with a firm grip on reality!
I’m starting to wonder whether Tyrion is becoming TOO smooth? In the books, he wielded his intelligence and quick wit like a weapon but he was still awkward and odd because he was an ‘ugly dwarf’. But in this series, he’s all swagger and confidence – without the undercurrent of self-doubt. Look at the way he was with Lancel, mocking him by pushing him out into the streets and forcing him to tell Bronn, “Please kill me if anything should happen to Lord Tyrion.” Because Sean Bean is no longer headlining the show, Peter Dinklage became big man on campus. And the writers are scripting him in the badass image the media has given him, rather than the more conflicted character he should be. I’m torn because I love to watch him, but I think he needs a little more vulnerability at this point.
In Tyrion’s defense he was perturbed to learn that the city folk were calling him a demon monkey behind his back, but he seemed more offended on principle than actually hurt. It’s a shame that the city can’t see that he’s the best thing for them – he’s really the only non-moron at the helm.
Arya is busy flitting about the castle waiting on Lord Tywin’s every request. The shrewd old man wasted no time sussing out her Northern heritage, but still has no inkling that the missing Stark girl is the child filling his cup.
While on an errand, Arya encounters one of the three criminals whose lives she saved during the fire. ‘This man’ is Jaqen H’ghar and he owes her three deaths in return. The Red God (who Jaqen worships) was cheated and the scales must be balanced. Arya may speak any three names to Jaqen and their deaths will come to pass. She ain’t quite buying it, but Arya chooses ‘The Tickler’ (the primary torturer from the Lannister army who captured them) as her first name. Jaqen is true to his word and the Tickler later crashes down from a balcony in the courtyard; his head completely twisted around.
The Iron Islands
Theon is getting less respect than Rodney Dangerfield but he’s not exactly doing himself any favours. He greets the crew of his one and only ship puffed up as a peacock. But royalty doesn’t demand respect on the Iron Islands – you have to EARN it with victory. His crew mocks and degrades him, barely acknowledging his authority.
And how exactly is a scrawny, over-privileged, North sympathizer going to raise his stature by raiding fishing villages? Well he’s not. But if he were to ignore orders and forge his own path by attacking Torrhen’s Square (a castle in the north) while the Northmen are away South … THAT would be a ballsy move. Ugh, Theon is so wishy-washy he didn’t even think of the plan himself. One of his less hostile crew members whispered it in his ears.
Bran has started to take his role as Lord of Winterfell more seriously; hearing grievances from his bannermen and proving them whatever support he can. I love how every once in a while the writers feel compelled to remind us that Rickon exists. He sits beside Bran noisily breaking rocks in this episode. How about actually giving him a line or two? That might keep him in our minds.
Bran is still having messed up dreams; not only of the three-eyed crow but of the Sea rushing over Winterfell. As he recounts his nightmare to Osha, Sir Roderick runs up to tell him that Torrhen’s Square is under attack!
The Nightswatch is travelling further north. And there’s lots of snow and stuff. So … yeah that’s still happening. I remember reading Jon Snow’s chapters in A Clash of Kings – with visions of his TV hotness dancing in my head – thinking ‘damn he’s fine, but nothing ever happens in these chapters!’ That feeling translated perfectly to the TV screen.
The Nightswatch does reach the remains of an ancient fort, the Fist of the First Men, and meets up with the rugged old Ranger, Qhorin Halfhand. They learn that the wildings, under the guidance of their King (and Nightswatch defector) Mance Rayder have formed a massive army intent on moving South. Jon volunteers to accompany Qhorin on a targeted mission to attack wilding watchposts so Mance won’t receive words of their passage.
As the special guest of Xaro, Dany is being showered with gifts and enjoying the spoils of Qarth-ean wealth. One beautiful gown spurs tension between her two handmaidens who bicker over Dany’s proper role. The Western girl is dying to see her dressed up like a Princess while the Dothraki woman barks that she is not a princess – she is a Khaleesi! I don’t remember any tension of this sort in the book, but I find it interesting. I always wondered how Dany’s original Dothraki followers responded to her more regal Western image as the story progressed. It goes against all their cultures and traditions. I guess after you’ve seen someone hatch dragons you’ll worship them now matter what they’re wearing!
Dany attends a party thrown in her honour where Xaro surprises her by proposing marriage. He doesn’t make her heartbeat quicken but Dany is tempted by his offer of endless resources to take back the crown of Westeros. News travels slowly across the Narrow Sea and Dany learns for the first time that King Robert is dead and the battle to replace him has become a free for all. Ser Jorah pleads with Dany not to accept Xaro’s offer of marriage – to trust that they can wait and rely on many allies within Westeros. Bringing a foreign husband on her journey home would do more harm than good. Um, didn’t she already have a foreign husband she was planning on taking to Westeros – one who wore thick eyeliner, roared in a guttural language and didn’t believe in shirts? Xaro would be far less shocking than Khal Drogo! Although Drogo would probably just slaughter everyone who opposed him and be done with it.
(After Littlefinger calls Margaery as ‘your grace’.)
Margaery: “Calling yourself King doesn’t make you one. And if Renly wasn’t a king then I wasn’t a Queen.”
Littlefinger: “Do you want to be a Queen?”
Margaery: “No I want to be THE Queen.”
- Again, the writers have chosen to be quite blatant and definitive about Margaery’s ambition and true motives. I like where they’re going with it. It will make her character’s future plotlines much juicier.
Cersei: “Aren’t you always so clever with your schemes and your plots.”
Tyrion: “Schemes and plots are the same thing.”
Tyrion: (to Lancel) “Even torturing you is boring…”
Photo Courtesy of HBO