If any of you Game of Thrones fans out there are like my friend Eric -- who thought that last week's episode was a slow, draggy setup installment -- then tonight's threesome and massacre fest should have satisfied your needs for Westerosi plot advancement. Not only did we meet Renly's new Queen, Margaery Tyrell, and the unfortunate Brienne of Tarth -- we got to see some token Tyrion manipulation and a truly haunting massacre.
So, remember last week when forgotten-male-child-enthusiast Jon Snow got bonked on the head by Game of Thrones' number one incest fan (Tough competition!), Craster? Well, great news: He didn't die. But there was also some very bad news for the rangers, as Craster immediately kicked them out of Chez Incest, severing their formerly mutually beneficial relationship. But the worst damage was done to Jon's face, which was slightly less pretty than it normal is.
When an angry Mormont confronted Jon about his actions, Jon stood up for himself by listing Craster's heinous crimes. Unfortunately for Jon's sense of Stark brand honor, Mormont already knew about them. "Wildlings serve crueler Gods than you or I," he said. "Those boys are his offerings." So, there you have it -- religious differences. Some people pray to trees, others leave baby boys in the snow to be devoured by zombie icicle monsters. Mormont left Jon with the following positive statement regarding the White Walker: "I dare say you'll see it again."
So, off they went. That adorable Gilly was visibly upset that the boys wouldn't be taking her with them. There were many looks of longing, followed by heartbreaking sighs of defeat. Sam, who had probably never received attention from a woman in his life, gifted Gilly the last object of affection that his mother gave him before his trip to the Wall. Let's hope she puts it to good use.
Uh-oh, fans of excitement -- here comes Bran! Back in Winterfell, everyone's favorite dream-haver awoke from a VERY active dream to the face of his dire-wolf, Summer. Maybe this was supposed to be startling, but my cat does this to me every morning, so. A visibly troubled Bran shared his visions with Maester Luwin (Aside: Maesters are an order of healers, scholars, and scientists. They act as servants to Westeros, and are assigned to various castles after their training at the Citadel. They also wear chains. End of Aside) "Every night it's the same," Bran told Luwin. "I'm walking. I'm running. But I'm not me. I'm running through the Godswood, sniffing the dirt, tasting blood in my mouth when I've made a fresh kill. Howling."
Instead of telling Bran to rent the dream-walking movie Insidious, Luwin insisted that Bran's dreams were just that: Dreams. Luwin claimed to be more qualified in supernatural things than your average Maester, because he double majored in "The Higher Mysteries" at the Citadel. So Lewin could say with confidence that magic no longer existed -- "The dragons are gone" (Nope) "The giants are dead" (Doubtful) "And the Children of the Forest are forgotten." (No spoilers) Fun pep talk!
Over at Renly Baratheon's camp, Catelyn (and the audience) met two very important Ice and Fire characters: Margaery, and Brienne. Margaery is a cunning beauty with a fondness for cleavage-baring outfits, from the House Tyrell: A wealthy family from the south that dwells in a pretty house called Highgarden. Their house sigil is a rose, and they're really huge on family bonds. Like, if each family on Thrones could be compared to a Real Housewives franchise, the Tyrells would be New Jersey. (Let's round out this metaphor: The Lannisters are Beverly Hills because they have the most money, the Starks are New York because they're classy and cold, the Targaryens are Orange County because they're all blonde, and the Baratheons are Atlanta because they fight the most.)
Margaery is married to King #3, Renly, even though she's well aware of the fact that he prefers the company of her brother, Loras. And as Catelyn approached, that same Ser Loras was sparring with a beast of a knight amidst a ridiculous amount of pomp and circumstance, being that they're supposed to be at war. To Margaery's dismay, the typically perfect Loras took a fall -- to a knight who was revealed to be, of all things, a woman.
This woman -- Brienne of Tarth -- is approximately 8'7, with a square jaw and unfortunate features that have rendered her unable to hit up the local Tarth dating scene. Despite the fact that she comes from a noble house, her greatest wish is to serve in Renly's Kingsguard; a wish he grants once she beats the crap out of Loras. Loras was humiliated, but Renly seemed giddy at the thought of being the forward-thinking gay king with a giant woman in his Kingsguard. So, it was settled.
Things that were not settled: A deal with Robb Stark. Renly would be more than happy to bring Joffrey's head to Robb's camp (Do it! Do it!), but he was less inclined to join forces with the King in the North. Loras asked if Robb had marched against Lord Tywin Lannister's camp, but no one else seemed to take the threat of Robb too seriously: They were having too much fun with all the jousting and the parties and the fancy tents. "My son is fighting a war," Catelyn said cooly, surveying the scene. "Not playing at one." Then she mentioned that "winter is coming" and Renly would be a "king of summer," and he sort of rolled his eyes and sent her to her tent because, like the rest of us, he's sick of the Starks and their obsession with the seasons.
That night, Loras ruined their bedroom fun when he reminded Renly that people were starting to suspect that he had not yet taken Margaery's virginity. Instead of giving Renly a night of passion, he offered up his sister (gross) as a substitute. Interestingly, Loras commented that Margaery was only "officially" a virgin, and she entered Renly's room in full sexpot attire for their first time together. So, basically, this ain't her first rodeo. She bared her breasts and did her best to get things going down there, but it was all for naught. "Do you want my brother to come in and help?" she asked. "Or I can turn over and you can pretend I'm him?" She agreed to try again later, but insisted that it was necessary for her to become pregnant.
This is a huge departure from the Margaery we see (or don't see) in the books: She has never been a POV character, so all that we've heard about her has been in the minds of others. There is much speculation about her virginity, but nothing is ever proven. And she certainly doesn't offer up threesomes with her brother. The show is choosing to make Margaery a sexy, scheming semi-villain with a probable vast array of sexual experiences, so there's a very good chance that I'll like this version even better. Plus, she's played by Natalie Dormer, who essentially did the same thing very well as Anne Boleyn in The Tudors. Once her head got chopped off, I stopped watching. She was the best part of the show.
At Pyke, Theon was still pouting because his mean old sister pranked him into feeling her up. "The last time I saw you you looked like a fat little boy!" he whined. But Yara only did so to size him up -- and mission accomplished. She, like everyone else but Robb, realized that Theon is ridiculous. He wouldn't fit in in a family as merciless as the Greyjoys -- Indeed, Balon was already planning a Yara-led attack on the north, to slay the Starks and whoever else might be hanging around. Yara would get 30 longships to lead the attack, and Theon would get a skipper ("The Sea Bitch") to raid the fishing villages.
To his credit, Theon actually had a pretty good suggestion: Join forces with the formidable Starks, and eventually seize ownership of Casterly Rock, home of the Lannisters. From what I hear, it's a pretty nice place. But Balon, of course, would not yield. The Iron born don't do that. Instead, he and Yara attacked Theon for being a major p**** who was too attached to his adopted family. "Make your choice, Theon," Yara said. "And do it quickly."
Theon did make his decision rather quickly, but not without hesitation: He wrote a warning letter to Robb, then burned it as a sign of allegiance to his awful family. He pledged his faith to their "Drowned God," and Theon was a proper Greyjoy again. Yaaaaaay.
Down in King's Landing, Tyrion had a few important tasks at hand. First he had to deal with the impossible Shae, who wanted to be a lady at court and refused to be a kitchen wench. (For the record, I never found Shae to be this annoying in the books.)
Next, he had to figure out which important players were on his side. To do this, he cunningly told three different snitches -- Grand Maester Pycelle, Varys, and Littlefinger -- that Myrcella was to be secretly sent off to three different families, for diplomatic purposes. Pycelle was told that Myrcella would go to the Martells in Dorne (We have not met them yet), Varys heard Theon Greyjoy, and Littlefinger thought that Myrcella would be sent to marry Robin "Breastfed" Arryn. He was offered castle Harrenhal, and rule of the Riverlands, to broker the deal. All three were given the same warning: "The Queen mustn't know."
His traitor was given away when an enraged Cersei confronted Tyrion about Myrcella being shipped off -- to Dorne. So, Pycelle it was! Cersei is TV's wackiest tiger mom, so she turned to threats to make Tyrion change his mind. "You think the piece of paper father gave you keeps you safe," she said. "Ned Stark had a piece of paper, too." Tyrion said that the deal was already done, and that the public's hatred of the Lannister family put Myrcella in danger of a fate similar to that of the butchered Targaryen children. Cersei then started breaking things. She really loves her kids.
Littlefinger was similarly enraged when he learned of Tyrion's deception, but his ears perked up when Tyrion made a second offer: He could see his beloved Catelyn if he rode to Robb's camp to trade Sansa for Jaime. Details of this transaction would have to be forthcoming, because Bronn showed up with news: He had caught Pycelle with one of his beloved whores. (This is a no-no for those who wear the chain) Tyrion threatened to cut off Pycelle's manhood, but settled for his prized beard after learning that Pycelle had let Jon Arryn die after finding out the big Lannister incest secret. Tyrion doesn't like people who betray hands of the King. He sent Pycelle to the black cells, which would certainly further piss off Cersei.
But despite her current circumstances, Cersei was able to have a little fun: She continued to torture Sansa, this time over a dinner with Prince Tommen and Princess Myrcella. Myrcella happily chattered about the pretty dress she would wear to Sansa and Joffrey's wedding, while Sansa looked about as happy as Eeyore. Cersei basically forced her to feign excitement, then asked Tommen if Joffrey killing Robb would please him. To his credit, he said no.
This put Sansa in a terrible mood, which she then unleashed on Shae -- her new handmaiden. So Tyrion found her a halfway decent gig, after all. But to be fair to Sansa, Shae was very under qualified for the job. "I shouldn't have to tell you to do things, you should just do them," Sansa said, when Shae just stood there like an idiot. This peasant-meets-lady relationship is not going to end up like the sisterly one on Two Broke Girls.
Tyrion and Varys discussed the Sansa/Shae relationship over some wine, where Varys offered up one of his token riddles: "Three great men sit in a room -- A king, a priest, and a rich man," he said. "Between them stands a common sellsword. Each great man bids the sellsword kill the other two. Who lives, who dies?" Tyrion's answer came quickly: The sellsword, because he had a sword. "But if its swordsmen who rule," Varys replied. "Why do we pretend kings hold all the power? Power resides where men believe it resides. A very small man can cast a very large shadow." So, basically, Varys thinks that Tyrion can exert his influence at King's Landing. The little birds probably told him.
And now to the crazy part: The rest of the episode belonged to Arya and her gang of misfits on their dangerous quest to the Wall. If you remember, last week Joffrey's men came asking to see Baratheon's bastard Gendry -- and Yoren violently sent them away. Well, this week, after a great sequence where the emotionally wounded insomniac Arya asked Yoren how he could sleep with horrible images of violence in his head (as she was still haunted by images of those who killed her father), the men came back for revenge. But first, Yoren was able to tell Arya how he got through his own brother's death: He whispered the name of his killer several times before he went to bed, as a prayer for revenge. He eventually killed the man, and has been wearing the black ever since. Arya looked inspired.
Now on to the vicious attack -- Joffrey's riders shocked the camp of children in the middle of the night, and Yoren instantly told the only valuable ones -- Arya and Gendry -- to stay out of sight. "If things go wrong, you run," he said. Of course, Yoren and the Sandlot gang were no match for Joffrey's morally deficient knights. Yoren was able to kill a few of them before taking a sword straight through the skull. Arya began to run away, as Gendry took up the fight. Last week, Arya earned the criminal Jaqen H'Ghar's respect when she refused to take his co-prisoners' insults, and this week she earned his gratitude when she saved the three caged men from the fire started by the knights.
Eventually, Arya and the rest of the surviving children were rounded up to be taken to Harrenhal. Unfortunately for little Lommy Greenhands, having a leg injury does not entitle you to a free ride. Instead, it entitles you to a spear through the throat, and a miserable death by choking on your own blood. (Let's keep track of how many children we see slaughtered this season, shall we?) But his death wasn't all in vain: When the knights again asked for Gendry, Arya saw that Lommy had died right next to Gendry's famous helmet -- convincing them that Gendry was the one with the spear through his throat.
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