Yara arrives at Winterfell with far fewer than 500 men. Theon is adamant about staying in Winterfell despite Yara’s insistence that his situation is precarious. Ygritte presents Jon to the Lord of Bones, who wants to gut him but Ygritte saves Jon by revealing his relation to Ned Stark and tells Jon that they are now even. The Halfhand is also captured and tells Jon to make amends for his earlier cowardice. Talisa asks Robb about his impending marriage to the Frey. Robb learns of his mother’s betrayal in freeing Jaime. Rickard Karstark is especially angry to learn of the Kingslayer’s escape. Brienne has escaped with Jaime but the two do not get along.
Meanwhile, Tywin is advised to tell Cersei and the royal court to flee and escape the certain execution they face if Stannis wins. Tywin decides to march for King’s Landing in the night and leaves Gregor behind in Harrenhal. Arya hears this and looks for Jaqen, presumably to kill Tywin. The Halfhand pretends to turn on Jon, in the hopes that he will be spared. Tyrion, Varys and Bronn discuss the defence of King’s Landing. Sam finds a cache of obsidian in the North. Arya names Jaqen himself as the last name. She enlists his help in escaping the castle in return for un-naming him. Cersei is unhappy that Tyrion is sending Joffrey to the front lines and tensions between them escalate when Cersei reveals she has kidnapped Shae though Cersei has captured the wrong woman.
In Robb’s camp, Robb gives the order for Ramsay Snow to storm Winterfell. Robb and Talisa talk and end up sleeping together. In Harrenhal, Arya escapes with Jaqen’s help. Davos leads the fleet to King’s Landing and Stannis tells him of the siege of Storm’s End and how Davos will be Hand if Stannis gets the crown. In Winterfell, Luwin overhears a conversation and suspects that Bran and Rickon are still alive. Osha confirms this in the crypts where Bran and Rickon are resting.
This episode is basically the setup for the big battle of Blackwater Bay. It’s odd that for such a long episode, very little happens but despite that, the episode is filled with some great character-driven scenes. We’ll take a look at each of them in turn.
The Ironborn in Winterfell get one when Yara (Asha) turns up a small group of soldiers and tells Theon to go back to Pyke. It was a surprisingly tender scene and the writers fleshed it out further by giving Yara a few brief moments of vulnerability when she asked Theon openly to remember his roots and his purpose. It was a great scene for both Gemma Whelan and Alfie Allen but more so for the former simply because while so far in the season she’s been great at delivering the snarky, cynical humour this was one of the very rare moments when we see the character drop her guard and open up and Whelan showed herself up to the task.
We also begin the abusive misadventures of Brienne and Jaime and I have to say that the episode does an unfortunately good job of establishing just how rocky their relationship is. Their story is far from its climax and I don’t suspect we’ll see much happen for a good long while. I’ve always liked the juxtaposition of the two characters – Brienne who values honour above all and Jaime who is renowned for having shit for honour. This is somewhat more true in the show universe than it is in the books – the death of Alton Lannister is still relatively fresh and it just serves to make Catelyn’s decision to release him all the more questionable, despite her explanation of it.
Tyrion and the King’s Landing crew got some major screen time this episode and while they are basically just waiting around for Stannis to turn up, the stakes, for Tyrion in particular keep getting higher and higher. Cersei is determined to exact revenge on him and he will receive very little help from anyone – Bronn is useless, Joffrey and Cersei are actively antagonistic and Varys is seemingly willingly withholding information. Still, the episode does do a good job of highlight just how much Tyrion is in his element – Varys points out exactly what it is that separates Tyrion from his predecessors. The question now though, is whether he can escape their fate.
The big scene for this week though was Robb’s abandonment of his honour for the sake of love. It was foreshadowed a little in the beginning of the episode when he mentioned that he didn’t know what his wife would look like and it was all for bridge but I feel that the book handled this event a little better. Robb losing his judgement to grief after his brothers are killed made for a more compelling case in his favour as opposed to…whatever his reason was here. Stress? In any case, Oona Chaplin’s Talisa Maegyr is a likeable enough character though it feels a little forced at this point. So, basically, she’s a pro-democratic, snarky, fiercely independent woman who hates slavery and the established rule of the world? So, what you’re saying is that she doesn’t really have much in the way of a flaw?
On a more minor note, I thought the scene in which Stannis promises Davos the position of Hand if the siege ends well was quite touching. Here’s hoping that this is the beginning of them getting Stannis’ character back on track.