Renly and Catelyn reach an agreement over the terms of Renly’s alliance with Robb, but Renly is killed moments later by the creature Melisandre birthed the previous episode. Brienne kills the guards who come in to investigate and escapes with Catelyn before they are blamed for the assassination. Loras is distraught but Littlefinger convinces him that the assassination was Stannis’ doing and that he would be better served by returning to Highgarden. Margaery confides in Littlefinger that she wants to be the Queen rather than one of many.
In King’s Landing, Tyrion and Cersei hear of the assassination. Tyrion tries to discuss plans for the city’s defense, but Cersei brushes him off, saying that Joffrey is handling it. Lancel tells Tyrion that her plan involves firing wildfire at the invading navy. Davos tries to explain what he say the previous night to Stannis, but Stannis doesn’t want to hear it. Davos convinces him to leave Melisandre behind when he attacks King’s Landing but Stannis wants Davos to lead the fleet despite his protests.
On the Iron Islands, Theons tries and fails to earn the respect of his men. Tywin holds a war council that Arya overhears as his cupbearer. Arya meets Jaqen H’ghar and he tells her that he will kill three people she names. Her first name is the torturer named Tickler. Tyrion inspects the wildfire stash that Cersei has been making and is impressed by its potential. Dany mingles with the Qartheen nobility and speaks to several of the ruling council. Brienne swears herself to Catelyn Stark. Bran has an ominous dream in which Winterfell is drowned and most of its people killed.
Jon accompanies the Halfhand to take out a group of sentries. Dany is offered enough money to buy an army in exchange for her marrying Xaro Xohan Daxos. Arya finds the Tickler dead.
I’m find the episodes in this season surprisingly slow. It’s not so much that nothing happens in them, but rather that we are moving between plotlines a little too often within a single episode. I do understand why that’s happening but the trouble is that you end up with too little screen time for some stories and too much for others. Take this episode for example – we’ve seen literally every major character in this episode with the exception of Joffrey and Sansa. The end result tends to dilute the overall impact of any one storyline.
Look at the North as an example – literally nothing happened except some minor exposition and some character introductions. It might have been better to devote a larger time segment to actually having the Northern cast actually do something rather than just giving them screen time for the sake of it. It’s the same with Bran – his entire scene exists almost exclusively so that we can learn more about his prophetic dreams, which will become very relevant anytime now. The trouble is, in order to give that little bit of information, valuable screen time has to be set aside to setting the scene up and sort of setting the context for what Bran is up to these days. While that slice-of-life kind of scene has its own merits, it might make more sense to prolong them and add more substance to them. Dany’s scene, most of which I believe are new additions original to the adaptation, on the other hand spent a good deal more time setting the scene and just letting the audience sort of get a sense of what kind of place Dany is in.
I guess at this point it’s almost pointless to talk about changes between the books and the show but there are a few that I find particularly interesting – this whole merging of the Red God with the Many-Faced God sort of puts everything into binary terms for the audience. There’s the Old Gods (Starks), the New Gods (South) and the Red God (foreign). I wouldn’t fault anyone at this point for thinking that the Red God is generally more capable than the rest put together. On the topic of changes though, I think the addition of the interactions between Arya and Tywin are probably the best things that HBO has done for the series. There’s a genuine tension (despite me knowing what happens) of having Arya hidden right under Tywin’s nose. It isn’t even the scene itself so much as it is the chemistry than Charles Dance and Maisie Williams share. Unfortunately, the show giveth and the show taketh away – whatever good they achieved for Arya’s storyline was negated by the harm they continue to do to Stannis’. Dilane’s Stannis is an altogether unlikable piece of work – seemingly wilfully unaware of his moral boundaries and his treatment of Davos in the show comes across as condescending and mean where my original interpretation of it was that it was just his usual gruffness manifesting itself.
Regarding the rest, there’s nothing that I haven’t said before. Gillen’s accents need work and he needs to stop overacting his ‘sneaky’ lines – the audience isnt’ stupid, they know when Littlefinger’s being suspicious without the overt vocal cues to tip them off. Peter Dinklage was barely in this episode but his interactions with Jerome Flynn are always a pleasure to watch, especially when Flynn is in full-snark mode like in the episode. I guess if special mention has to be made at all, I think it might just go to Alfie Allen’s Theon Greyjoy for his ability to convey the pitiable and wholly uneviable position that Theon finds himself in.
All in all, I won’t say that this was an excellent episode but rather that is was functional. The pieces are still being slowly moved into place and it feels like the other storylines are being kept as distractions while the main story in King’s Landing continues. Jon’s story in particular seems utterly remote as does Dany’s though to a lesser extent though I think some might enjoy the broader perspective that this approach offers.