Robb’s army attacks a Lannister camp, routing them. As he surveys the carnage later, he meets Talisa, a healer, and they discuss the hardships of war and Robb’s plans for the future. Joffrey is furious when he hears of another Lannister defeat and demands answers from Sansa. He orders her beaten and stripped until Tyrion puts an end to it. Bronn suggests that Joffrey’s cruelty is born of sexual frustration and Tyrion leaves two whores for him in his chambers. Joffrey has them abuse each other as a message for Tyrion. Littlefinger comes to Renly to discuss the possibility of buying Littlefinger’s loyalty in exchange for letting him live once Renly takes the city. Littlefinger also talks to Margaery Tyrell about her marriage and insinuates heavily that he knows about Renly’s homosexuality but Margaery is unfazed.
Dany receives news that there is food and water a few days away and begins to make her way there knowing that if she cannot get access into the city, she and her party will die outside it. Arya is at Harrenhal and watches other prisoners tortured for information. Littlefinger meets Catelyn at Renly’s camp though she refuses to speak with him. He tells her that the Lannisters will swap Jaime Lannister for Sansa and Arya. Renly meets with Stannis the next day to see if they can avoid bloodshed but neither will back down. Stannis leaves the meeting warning Renly to surrender or face death.
Dany is able to gain access to Qarth once some of the ruling council vouch for her integrity though they seem more interested in the dragons than her. Back in Westeros, Gendry is picked next for interrogation but is spared when Tywin rides into the castle. Tywin realizes that Arya is a girl right away and orders her as his cupbearer. Lancel visits Tyrion and brings orders from Cersei for him to release Pycelle. Tyrion accuses Lancel of sleeping with Cersei and Lancel confesses.
Davos escorts Melisandre under the castle of Storm’s End where she gives ‘birth’ to a strange shadow-like creature.
The trouble with knowing the plot beforehand is that episodes like these become increasingly difficult to watch. A part of me is pretty happy at getting to see a live-action version of my favourite fantasy series but by that same token watching Robb blunder through his rule is all the more painful because he seems like a real person to me now, as opposed to the more abstract, side character he is in the books. I guess part of it also comes down to how he has more screen time on the show than in the books and we see his perspective a little more as a result. Either way, I don’t think he’s a bad ruler by any means, but he is far from perfect. The scene early in the episode highlights this pretty well. I’ve forgotten the specifics of the scene from the books, if it exists at all, but I must say the show is so far handling the nuance of Robb’s position very well. By that I mean that Robb, on one hand, is a fairly good-natured young man and will not (and some might argue, should not) give in to Roose’s ‘clearly-evil’ (again debatable, despite its source) suggestions of mass execution and torture. I feel safe in saying that the show is doing a good job of handling the two sides because there is an argument to be made for killing off the excess baggage – it’s not a particularly ethically sound argument, true, but it exists. Perhaps, it could be a little better fleshed out, but I think it stands well enough on its own. The show is also doing a good job of highlighting the small little mistakes in Robb’s rule right from the get go – his seemingly ‘soft-side’ of tending to enemy soldiers, not torturing them and not killing them. While it draws the audience further into the Stark camp, I can’t quite shake the feeling that the rest of the Stark bannermen aren’t quite as pleased.
The introduction of Jeyne Westerling, er, Talisa of Volantis, bothers me too. The name change is one thing, though as puzzling as the Asha to Yara change but the bigger problem here is that it suddenly changes a lot down the line. Perhaps, it also simplifies some things too, but I’m not convinced. We shall have to wait and see. I don’t know if my initial reaction to this character is overwhelming my response to her, but I don’t like the way she tends to offer moral simplifications though I think it’s a good touch to show her being able to slip under Robb’s defences. Also, Robb not having a plan for after he takes the throne is interesting though I’m not sure if that’s true for the books too.
In other news, Joffrey continues being a cunt and it’s almost disconcerting how well Jack Gleeson plays him. He’s just so easy to hate. The whole prostitute debacle was more than a little horrifying to watch but as much as I love Bronn, it was a terrible idea to begin with. If someone shows such inclinations towards sociopathic behaviour, the solution isn’t to supply him with more victims. There’s probably also a comment to be made here about the over-sexualization of the series and it’s beginning to become more and more apparent that the sex and nudity is being used a little too gratuitously.
I thought both Littlefinger scenes were great except that Aidan Gillen is a really confusing actor to watch. When he’s being mocking and doing his ‘I’m-being-sneaky-right-now’ voice (like during his conversation with Margaery) it’s a little over the top and a bit overacted. However, when he was speaking to Catelyn, the sincerity felt strangely real, almost as though the character himself had forgotten how he betrayed Ned. Both scenes are new show additions and I think effective ones – Catelyn’s reaction to the betrayal feels very real as does Littlefinger’s heartache here. If I had to pick the out the biggest flaw in Gillen’s portrayal of Littlefinger, it would be the accent – he varies from pirate to Irish to something in between a little too often.
I also find myself oddly disengaged from Dany’s story. While yes, she’s in danger and all, it just seems so irrelevant to the events of the ‘real’ story in King’s Landing that I find myself hoping that the scenes speed by. It probably doesn’t help that Emilia Clarke doesn’t have the strongest screen presence and her immediate cast isn’t too engaging either. Also, apparently the Qartheen are British which has to be the strangest accent choice for an apparently far-flung exotic kingdom. In contrast, I’m finding Arya’s storyline riveting though in no small part due to seeing the horrors of the Mountain brought to life. Maise Williams does an amazing job as Arya finding the right balance more often than not between Arya’s youth and lingering innocence and the fast approaching apathy that will eventually engulf her character. Compared to Dany’s story, which in some ways is equally grim, Arya’s story benefits both in terms of immediate relevance to the war and great supporting characters like Hot Pie and Gendry. Tywin’s arrival also serves to tie the different stories together a lot better.
The Stannis and Renly confrontation was well done as well, though they cut some classic Stannis zingers. Unfortunately, Stephen Dilane continues to be very hit-or-miss in his interpretation of Stannis and honestly, his version of Stannis does seem more villainous than in the books. Between him and his close association with Melisandre, it seems almost inevitable that there’s an ominous vibe around him but given that the show runners know more about the story’s ending than we do, I wonder if they’re purposely setting Stannis up as a villain or putting him in a position for a redemption arc. It can go either way, honestly. Dinklage continues to rock the Tyrion role and his two big scenes – interrupting Joffrey and putting Lancel in his place will be more than enough to cement his place as an audience favourite but apart from that there isn’t too much more to comment given that it’s more of the same high quality acting we’ve seen from him in the past.