I had my issues with last week’s episode of ‘Game of Thrones’, but it ended with one hell of an emotional climax. Unfortunately, this week’s entry doesn’t offer anything so memorable.
Fleeing from the White Walkers, Meera continues to drag the still-unconscious Bran through the woods. He remains warged, and has montage-heavy visions in which he sees basically everything that has occurred on the show to date. (I’m not a fan of using clips from previous episodes for this purpose, no matter how quickly they fly by.) Eventually, Meera tires out and can’t pull the sled any further. Bran wakes up to warn her, “They found us.”
Zombies and skeletons converge on the pair. Just as it seems that all is lost, a mysterious stranger rides in on a horse and fights the undead off with a flaming mace weapon. Doing his best Kyle Reese, he suggests that they should come with him if they want to live. He then has no trouble at all quickly pulling both Meera and the crippled Bran onto the horse with him and riding off.
Once they’ve safely lost the White Walkers and put enough distance from them, they camp for the night. The stranger pulls off the scarf covering his face and reveals himself to be Bran’s uncle Benjen Stark, a former ranger from the Night’s Watch who went missing in Season 1 and was presumed dead. He explains that he was attacked by White Walkers and left for dead, but was saved by the Children of the Forest. Ever since, he has worked for the Three-Eyed Raven. Now that the previous Raven has died, it’s up to Bran to take over that role.
As they ride in a carriage toward his family home, Sam and Gilly must get their stories straight. They’ll claim that the baby is Sam’s son (the kid’s certainly fat enough for that to be plausible) and Gilly should hide the fact that she’s a Wildling. The only thing Sam’s father despises more than him are Wildlings.
They arrive at the huge estate and are greeted by Sam’s mother and sister, who are both very happy to see them. Sam asks about his father and brother, and is told that they’re away on a hunt. They couldn’t be bothered to greet him. That’s probably for the best.
Sam’s sister Talla dresses Gilly up in a fancy gown for dinner. The meal is incredibly awkward. Sam’s father, Lord Randyll Tarly, is a very cruel man who loathes his son. He considers him weak and cowardly, and isn’t at all impressed that Sam plans to train as a maester. Gilly tries to defend Sam but mistakenly reveals that she’s a Wildling. That’s absolutely the last straw, as far as Randyll is concerned. He yells that this is the ultimate disgrace. Because the baby is his grandchild (he believes), which obligates him to care for it, the boy will be raised and educated there. He also agrees through gritted teeth to allow Gilly to stay as a servant. Sam, however, is to leave at daylight and never return. Sam’s mother chastises her husband for his rude behavior and whisks Gilly away to console her.
Later, Sam says a tearful goodbye to Gilly. Shortly afterward, he develops some backbone and comes back for her. He can’t leave the woman he loves or their child with these awful people. He’ll bring them with him and figure out where they can live later. On their way out, Sam steals his father’s Valyrian steel sword called “Heartsbane” from its place mounted above a mantle in the dining hall.
Tommen meets with the High Sparrow again to discuss Margaery’s walk of atonement. He’s concerned that she’ll be as badly abused as his mother was. The Sparrow assures him that the people of the city like Margaery more than they like Cersei and will treat her more kindly. He then brings Tommen to see his wife. She’s well-dressed and groomed, and says that she hasn’t been mistreated (which we know is false). She even acts happy, and claims that it’s a relief to finally let go of all her lies. She sounds brainwashed. This is quite a change from the defiant Margaery we saw just recently. She tells the young king, “The gods have a plan for us all.”
When the day for Margaery’s walk comes, Jaime meets the Tyrell army at the city gates and lets them in. They march to the square in front of the High Temple and interrupt the atonement ceremony before Margaery is disrobed. Jaime demands that she and Loras be released. The High Sparrow tells him that he and all the Sparrows will happily die in the service of their gods. However, there’s no need for that today. There will be no walk, because Margaery has already atoned for her sins by bringing a new member to the faith.
At this, Tommen walks out of the temple and gives a speech announcing a new age of harmony. An alliance between the Crown and the Faith will restore the kingdoms to glory. A very confused Mace Tyrell asks Lady Olenna what’s happening. She grumbles that they’ve just been beaten.
Have they, though? A sly smile from Margaery suggests that this was her plan and she manipulated this alliance herself.
For his disobedience, Tommen is forced to strip Jaime of his command of the Kingsguard. In recognition of his years of loyalty, he will not be imprisoned or executed. Instead, he’s effectively exiled from King’s Landing and ordered to lead an army in the Riverlands to help Walder Frey reclaim Riverrun, which was recently taken by Brynden “The Blackfish” Tully.
Jaime tells Cersei that he has no intention of going to the Riverlands. He’ll find Bronn and as many killers as he can hire and will execute the High Sparrow. Cersei warns him that this is the wrong play. Killing the High Sparrow will just lead to his own death, and she couldn’t bear that. She urges him to play along for now, go to the Riverlands and remind everyone that the Lannisters are still a force to be reckoned with. She tells him not to worry about her upcoming trial, because it will be a trial by combat and she will name The Mountain as her champion.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen the cranky ol’ sonofabitch Walder Frey. He’s just as disagreeable as ever. He’s quite pissed about losing Riverrun to the Tullys and demands that his nincompoop sons take the castle back. When they protest that other houses have risen against them, Frey calls for Edmure Tully, the poor hapless groom from the notorious Red Wedding, to be pulled out of the dungeon. He tells Edmure that he has good news; he can go home soon. Of course, he neglects to clarify whether he’ll be alive or dead at the time.
Arya watches the latest performance of the play starring her intended assassination target, the actress Lady Crane. The chapter we see this time is about Joffrey’s death, and a scene that should be purely comical is given unexpected gravitas by her emotional speech about the pain of losing a child. The audience loves her.
Arya sneaks backstage and drops the poison into the actress’ rum as planned. On her way out, Lady Crane recognizes Arya from the audience and calls her aside. She assumes that the girl wants to join the theater, and tells her about her own childhood sneaking in to see her favorite plays multiple times. Arya can’t help but like the woman. When asked her name, Arya says that it’s “Mercy.” (Ooh, foreshadowing!)
As Lady Crane reaches to drink her rum, Arya knocks the cup out of her hand, warns her that the young actress playing Sansa wants her dead, and runs off. She immediately goes to the harbor and digs up her sword Needle from the spot where she buried it. It seems that she’s not ready to become No One after all.
Back in the House of Black and White, The Waif reports to Jaqen on what has happened. He’s disappointed, and tells The Waif that she knows what to do, but “Don’t let her suffer.”
Across the Narrow Sea
Daenerys leads the Dothraki horde across the desert toward Meereen. When her boyfriend Daario asks how many ships it will take to bring her new army to Westeros, she estimates about a thousand. (Hmm, who do we know that just pledged to build a navy with a thousand ships?)
As they come to a valley that looks like an obvious point for an ambush, Daenerys stops the procession, senses something ahead, and rides off on her own. After a moment, Daario says that he’s going after her. Before he can, a giant dragon flies overhead (I believe it’s Drogon) with Daenerys riding its back. She lands in front of the awe-strucken Dothraki and gives another rallying speech about taking what’s rightfully hers.
This week’s episode feels like a placeholder. Not much of significance happens and the ending is anticlimactic. I enjoyed the character building stuff with Sam and Gilly, but other than Sam obtaining a Valyrian sword (which will surely be important later), this entire chapter in their story could have been skipped if they’d gone straight to Old Town.
Unfortunately, I’m not finding much of Arya’s storyline interesting this season. Everything about the subplot involving the actress feels easily predictable. I hope that Arya taking back Needle is a sign of more exciting things to come.