The Goldcloaks come searching for Gendry, though Arya believes it’s her they are searching for. Yoren intimidates them away. In King’s Landing, Tyrion returns to his chambers to find that Varys has discovered Shae. Varys reveals that he knows that Tywin does not approve of Shae’s presence in the capital and Tyrion sees the veiled threat straight away. They go to a small council meeting where Cersei reads Robb’s terms and rejects them. She sends Cleos Frey back to Robb with her own terms. Varys brings up Mormont’s appeal for more men for the Watch but Cersei dismisses their need and the letter.
In the North, on Craster’s farm, Gilly is frightened by Ghost until Sam shoos the direwolf away. Sam and Gilly talk for a while and Sam learns Gilly is pregnant and asks Jon for help to bring her back to Castle Black but Jon is aghast and adamantly refuses. Across the Narrow Sea, Dany and Jorah await news from the riders she sent, but the first horse comes back riderless and Dany swears vengeance against their enemies. Theon is returning home to the Iron Islands and is disappointed to learn that there is no reception for him there. Littlefinger is in one of his brothels and has to deal with an unhappy customer. One of his prostitutes is still dealing from the shock of the Goldcloaks killing the child in the brothel but Littlefinger threatens to sell her as a sex slave if she does not pull herself together.
Tyrion is having dinner with Janos Slynt and they discuss the murder of the children. Tyrion confronts him regarding his betrayal of Ned and his loyalty to Cersei. Tyrion dismisses Slynt and ships him off to the wall. Arya asks Gendry why the Goldcloaks want him and Gendry tells her Ned asked about him before his death, claiming that talking to him is bad luck. Gendry knows that Arya is a girl and promises to keep her secret and she tells him her real identity. On Pyke, Theon is escorted to his father who is not thrilled to see him. Theon brings Robb’s plan to Balon but Balon is not interested in Robb’s plans. He intends to give command of the navy to Yara, Theon’s sister. Theon tries to convince him, but Balon intends to aim for the North rather than the Lannisters in the South.
Davos tries his hardest to convince Salladhor Saan to fight for convince. Davos’ son tries to convince Davos to take faith in the Lord of Light but Davos says that he will trust in Stannis instead. Cersei is upset over Tyrion’s dismissal of Slynt but Tyrion reminds her that she’s losing the people with such cruelty and realizes that Joffrey ordered the execution and that Cersei has begun losing control over Joffrey as well. Mel seduces Stannis with promises of victory over Renly’s forces and Stannis caves somewhat reluctantly.
Beyond the Wall, Jon sees a White Walker take one of Craster’s abandoned boys. He tries to follow but is hit over the head by Craster and slips into unconsciousness.
This was an oddly idyllic episode. We are introduced to new characters in old contexts and old characters in new contexts and new characters in new contexts and this episode spends most of its time just walking us through the main players in the various different storylines of the season. This felt almost like a ‘slice of life’ kind of chapter where we see the characters go about their daily duties. This is true for the vast majority of the mini-storylines for the episode anyway – Arya and Gendry continue their travels which are uneventful except for the Goldcloak incident, Tyrion seems to be flourishing in the capital now that he has some actual power and Davos and Stannis continue doing Davos and Stannis things. Even Jon who is quite literally on the frontier of civilization does not seem to be doing anything exciting beyond talking common sense into Sam, not that the latter will listen. The only one doing something different this week is Dany and I’m quite sure she would much rather belong to the former group.
This was also a surprisingly light hearted episode – Tyrion’s scene with Slynt, the Jon-Sam scene, the Arya-Hot Pie-Gendry scene and the Davos and Salla scene are all such fun to watch. There were also a couple of more serious scenes interspersed between those too – Cersei’s cruel joke speech to Tyrion and Mel’s ‘seduction’ of Stannis. I guess this is as good a time as any to talk about Stannis and his introduction. I will say this now, clearly, so that anyone who’s interested knows my stance on the issue – I hate what the show did to Stannis. I was never a huge Stannis fan, but the Stannis I read in the books was not so easily swayed. I have no doubt that in the books Stannis slept with Melisandre – that much is all but explicitly stated – but for some reason I don’t imagine him bending over to her as easily as he did here. I don’t know, something about their dynamic in these last two episodes seems really off too me. I’ve always imagined their relationship being more equal than what’s been shown and to some extent I’ve even thought that Stannis, being the king and all, was the one with the slight upper hand. However, in the little that we’ve seen, I don’t think that’s the case in the show at all. I know that I’m supposed to the treat the show and the books as separate cannon but I can’t say I’m a fan of this new Stannis. However, Liam Cunningham plays an excellent Davos – down to earth, funny and earnest. I don’t think Stephen Dilane is doing a bad job as Stannis per se, but I guess I’m just not feeling this particular interpretation of the character. It’s a shame, but hopefully things will improve further into the season.
Meanwhile, Dinklage continues to absolutely kill it as Tyrion. I think he’s doing a much better this season than compared to last and given that he did a great job last season, I think that’s worth noting. I mentioned a few times in the last season that I felt that Dinklage’s take of Tyrion felt a little off at several points in the season, but I think so far this season he’s really got the character’s voice down perfect and it certainly helps that he has really strong chemistry with the main members of his supporting cast – Dinklage and Flynn is always great to watch and I’m beginning to grow fond of the back-and-forth between Headey and Dinklage as well. There was a good deal of exposition this chapter which meant we saw a little more of Alfie Allen than anyone really wanted to but I didn’t find his little side story all that interesting. I wasn’t a big fan of it in the books either since I felt the impact of what is to come would have been higher had we not got into his head till after everything happened. Still, it did expand the show’s version of Westeros a little and though I thought the Iron Islands are rather bland I doubt everyone agrees.
If I had to point out some worrying points in this episode, I would say that it feels like the showrunners don’t know what to do with Aidan Gillen and Littlefinger. They need to keep him on the payroll and so they keep adding these small, silly little Littlefinger scenes – last week we had him embarrassed by Cersei and this week he plays the moustache-twirling villain again as he threatens a traumatized woman with further trauma. I like the character and I like the actor but I don’t know about the actor playing the character. There were times in the previous season that I was sure that Gillen was the perfect Littlefinger and times I was not so sure. Right now, I’m leaning towards the latter but I don’t want to pass judgement too early, especially since Gillen himself hasn’t exactly got great material to work with. It’s always been my belief that Littlefinger was best served in small doses – the character becomes much less impressive/likeable (though I think I’m in the definite minority in attributing either adjective to him) when we get to peek into his head too often. Apart from that, why is Theon’s sister’s name Yara, HBO?