Three episodes remain in HBO’s fantasy epic and this is surely the proverbial calm before the Battle-of-Blackwater-Bay storm that’s coming up next week. Things were a little slower paced for sure but don’t worry too much, things were still of the quality you’d expect from this show.
- A theme central to this week’s outing seems to be betrayal, usually from the people you least suspect it – family. Robb’s comes from his own mother, who frees Jaime Lannister in the belief that in doing so, her daughters will be freed and allowed to return home. Now, there have been times when Catelyn has appeared naive, that she’s incredulous to what’s going on around her, but all pale in comparison to this. What’s to stop the Queen from beheading her girls and sending them to Robb as a thank you gift for releasing her brother? Or, just not releasing them at all in order to keep Robb in line? Clearly the matriarch of the Stark family was not born with much in the way of common sense.
- Although it’s easy to see Catelyn’s actions as foolish, she is running out of options after all. She’s remained strong for such a long time, whilst her husband was executed and her children taken prisoner but there is only so long that strength can last before a mother’s instinct takes over. She wants her girls back and she’ll do anything, even cretinous things, to make that happen.
- Jaime’s release at Catelyn’s hand must surely be good news for him but less so for Brienne, who has the task of escorting him all of the way to safety whilst receiving insults and taunts regarding her gender and looks. I have said it before (I think) but Brienne is being played superbly by Gwendoline Christie. The traits the character contains in the book have made the transition to screen extremely well, maybe more so than a lot of the other characters introduced this season and previously.
- Oh dear Robb, what hole are you digging for yourself this time? This week, his flirting with nurse Talisa of Volantis is taken up a notch when they start stripping each others clothes off, unable to resist the temptation for any longer. The problem of course, is Robb’s pledge to marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters, as was made last season when he needed to take his army across the bridge the Frey’s hold control over. Breaking that pledge would be, well, not good. I’ve heard a lot about this storyline and where it heads in the future and none of it sounds like the pair will be laying in a field of roses anytime soon.
- This week, Robb also makes one giant mistake that even he’s unaware of: he says that he is fighting the war for justice. An honorable quest for sure, but it’s been mentioned before that honor is what gets you killed in the Game of Thrones. Ned Stark’s murdered him and now his son’s is surely going to wield that sword once more. We’d all love to see Robb slice off Joffrey’s devilish head but the chances of that are unlikely, unfortunately.
- It’s becoming pretty clear that Roose Bolton, the man seen so frequently in Robb’s tent and whose bastard son is currently heading to Winterfell to clean out Theon’s presence, is not as friendly as the King in the North would believe. Nothing’s been said or done yet but if you’ve missed the sly looks, the clear disliking for some of Robb’s decisions, you haven’t been looking hard enough. Catelyn may have betrayed him from the front but Robb may well receive a knife in the back soon.
- Theon’s sister, Yara, comes to visit the now-overtaken Winterfell but does not bring the five-hundred men requested by her brother. She’s there to bring him home, and although she’s as mocking as usual about it, she does reveal that she still loves her brother. It’s actually quite a sweet moment between them as she’s trying to save Theon from an inevitable death now that the entire North wants his head for supposedly murdering the Stark boys.
- Again, this is the kind of character development that’s so synonymous with this show. To say the relationship between the Greyjoys is deeply flawed would be an understatement but there’s still some semblance of love between them, even if it’s buried very deep within. Yara’s mocked her brother considerably since he first made a reappearance at Pyke but when faced with the prospect of him being killed, those feelings rose from whatever internal crypt they’d been held within.
- As suspected last week, Theon’s murder of the Stark boys was a hoax; the bodies were in fact two orphans taken from the farm they happened across and posed as the Starks in order to make their position stronger. The escaped boys, along with wildling Osha and Hodor are all hiding inside Winterfell itself, correctly assuming that to be the last place Theon would look for them. Luwin and Osha decide not to tell Bran about the orphans being murdered as he’d blame himself, but he overhears and sure enough, tears form in his eyes. Poor Bran, he gets thrown out of a window, crippled, his father gets killed, his brother and mother head off to war, his sisters are being held captive and now his home has been besieged. As for as being unlucky goes, he’s at the top of the list.
- Arya and Tywin’s word-sparring finally comes to an end this week as Tywin heads out of Harrenhal, raising what looks like a glance of disappointment on Arya’s face. But that’s before she wants Jaqen H’Gharr to kill him, of which he cannot do. Instead, she taunts him by giving him his own name as her final chosen victim, before relenting and withdrawing his name if he helps her and her friends to escape Harrenhal.
- This scene between the two highlights one thing: Arya’s descent into having no honor. Her shrug at being told says it all. Whilst other members of the Stark family hold sponge in place of brain cells, Arya seems to have an actual intelligent organ in that head of hers. She doesn’t care who she kills, how or where, she just wants to be free of captivity and she gets that wish as she, Hot Pie and Gendry all leave Harrenhal by the episode’s end.
- If there is any member of the Stark family that’s going to have a longer life-span than the others, little Arya will be that member. Robb and Catelyn are busy making idiotic decisions, having forbidden romances and playing the honorable game that they’re leaving themselves vulnerable in several places. Arya has the name of the game nailed down, fortunately for her.
- Also, if Maisie Williams does not go on to have a brilliant career on television after her stint on Game of Thrones, a great injustice will have occurred in the world. She’s simply magnificent in whatever scene she’s in.
Beyond the Wall
- After many weeks of absence, we finally see Sam (who’s now sporting an unsightly set of yucky teeth) and the rest of the Night’s Watch as they stumble upon a hidden cache of Dragonglass, aka Obsidian, carved out into weapons and hidden by the fist of the first men. There will be some relevance to this in the future, of that I’m certain.
- Last week, Jon was taken prisoner by the wildlings and this week, it’s none other than Ygritte herself who repays the favour Jon did her by saving him from being killed. Qhorin Halfhand, another ranger, has also been taken prisoner and a scheme is concocted between him and Jon, for the former to pretend to break his vows and infiltrate Mance Rayder’s camp.
- The scenes are definitely being set for the next part of Jon Snow’s journey, which I won’t spoil here. It’s doubtful that we’ll see the infamous Mance Rayder in this season but next season is a certainty.
- On a side-note, did anyone else think the Lord of Bones, wearing that silly bone mask, looked like Shao Khan from the Mortal Kombat games?
- It’s an extremely short visit to Qarth this week as Jorah tells Dany that he’s found a ship capable of taking them to Astapor and that they must leave, for a continued presence in Qarth is sure to be fatal for them. She refuses to leave her ‘children’ behind and that she’ll go to the House of the Undying to get them back, which Jorah says he will support her in doing but it’s surely giving Pyat Pree what he wants. There’s a wonderful scene between the two here whereby Jorah says he’ll remember Dany stepping into the burning pyre and emerging scot-free until his dying breath, even after the image of his mother has long since left him. Jorah can be faulted for things he’s done in the past but having no loyalty is definitely not one of them.
- I suspect that we’ll finally see the House of the Undying segment next week and I’m hoping it will be as memorable as it was in the book, although seeing Pyat Pree’s creepiness rocketed up in scale will be truly nightmare-inducing.
- With Stannis’ fleet merely days away, preparation for the battle is in full-swing at King’s Landing. Joffrey wants to be fighting with the troops, which would surely result in his death (please, let him do it) but Cersei will have none of it. Tyrion, on the other hand, thinks it’s a good idea, which furthers Cersei’s belief that her brother wants her children either away from her or dead.
- As well as sparring yet again with her brother, Cersei also reveals that she’s taken possession of Tyrion’s ‘whore’, and that whatever is done to Joffrey will be done to her. She’s dragged in but it’s not Shae that’s been captured, it’s Ros, another prostitute. Showing no visible signs of puzzlement, Tyrion promises her that he’ll get her free before warning Cersei that the day will come when she thinks she’s safe, before the joy will turn to ashes in her mouth and she’ll know the debt is paid.
- Cersei and Tyrion’s continued war takes the entire concept of sibling rivalry to a whole new level but it’s still utterly riveting all the same. Any semblance of familial love between them has all but disintegrated now and they’re both sworn enemies of each other. Cersei’s visible joy at threatening Tyrion’s love takes her from being slightly sympathetic last week to a true evil force this week. She loves no-one but her children and when she thinks that’s being threatened, look at how she reacts. It’s not a pretty sight.
- Elsewhere this week, Tyrion and Varys share another great scene together whereby Varys tells him that he’s heard word from Qarth that Dany is alive and in possession of three dragons. However, Tyrion clearly doesn’t believe him and it’s not hard to see why. However, he also says that he likes being hand of the king and as Varys points out, he likes playing ‘the game’, whilst previous hands clearly didn’t and paid for that dearly. Such a shame then that it’s likely that Tyrion is heading down a steep slope and not one with a pretty sight at the end.
- The foundations have been laid for the next episode, particularly in regards to the Battle of Blackwater – an epic segment that has been a long time coming. I do hope the show gives it the justice it deserves, and not just a few shots of a fleet of ships approaching and not much else.
This week’s visit to Westeros was not as heavily-laden with character exposition and story progression as last week, but it served to move things more in line with the plot of the book. The whole thing did seem like the calm before the storm that will come next week and as such, it played its role well. I still can’t believe that we only have two episodes left, however. How has the time progressed so quickly?!