The episode opens with Bran walking in a forest – the fact that he’s walking, of course, is an indication that he’s dreaming. He spots the three-eyed raven and tries to shoot it down but cannot and a young boy, around Bran’s age, tells Bran that the raven is himself. Osha is less than happy with these dreams that Bran has been having, calling them black magic. She is worried that they will be caught before they reach the wall. At Harrenhal, Robb is under a lot of stress and Talisa tries to cheer him up but two pieces of devastating news come in: Hoster Tully is dead and Winterfell has been retaken but Bran and Rickon cannot be found. Robb breaks this news to his mother, who is still in chains as punishment for her release of Jaime Lannister and it becomes clear why this episode is titled ‘Dark Wings, Dark Words’.
There isn’t much to say about Bran and his vision of the three-eyed raven and the young boy we see (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) is clearly meant to be Jojen Reed and most probably we’ll meet him in this episode itself. It’s good to see that the Reeds haven’t been left out of the show entirely – quite honestly, I had forgotten about them until this episode but still, it’s good to see them included. There was a nice touch of Bran dreaming of Robb and Jon watching over him as he took the shot at the raven and of Ned’s voice echoing after he missed, all non-verbal indications that he does miss his family. Speaking of family, though, the scene in which Catelyn learns that she’s lost more family is painful to watch, in a good way (I guess?). The emotion is raw on Michelle Fairley’s face and you could actually feel Catelyn’s pain through the screen and it was positively heart-breaking the way she tried to hold herself together but couldn’t. Richard Madden does well too – he tries to soften the blow and stay as solid as he can himself, but with all respect to him, that scene (short as it was) was all about Catelyn.
Theon has been captured by Ramsay Snow, though he doesn’t know it yet and is being tortured. Jaime and Brienne continue their journey with Jaime relentlessly mocking her, Renly and her affection for him.
I wonder if we’re going to see Theon being tortured and broken in all its gory, twisted glory. I’m not entirely sure if I want that – I get really squeamish but something tells me that HBO is not going to pass up the opportunity to display as much blood and gore as possible. The scene itself was short, more of a heads-up on what happened to Theon more than anything else though I wonder if the man who skinned his finger (or did they cut it off?) was Ramsay Snow? I guess we’ll find out. Brienne’s seemingly endless journey south is actually pretty amusing – Nikolaj Coster-Waldau seems to have a lot of fun playing the character in his current sassy mood and I’d feel bad for Brienne but she does seem really humourless. The tension between the two is slowly building and I predict that by the middle of the season, it’s going to hit breaking point.
Joffrey is getting new clothes and a small disagreement breaks out between Cersei and Joffrey over their opinions of Margaery – Cersei is suspicious of her motives while Joffrey seems enamoured and won’t listen to Cersei’s warnings.
I left it out of the summary, but Cersei’s little snipes at Margaery and her more revealing style of clothing was pretty amusing. On a more interesting note though, it’s becoming clear that Joffrey is getting out of Cersei’s control. Yet again, Jack Gleeson’s performance as the despicable boy king is an absolute delight to watch and in this scene especially so since it’s Cersei who’s experiencing the brunt of his irritation. Cersei’s dislike of her soon-to-be daughter-in-law is almost absurdly normal but it’s also spot-on. The audience has no real reason to suspect that Margaery isn’t a savvy but good-hearted girl but it’s also very understandable that Cersei is suspicious. It’ll be interesting to see if Margaery can drive the wedge between mother and son further in.
Shae asks Sansa what Littlefinger wanted and tells Sansa to inform her (Shae) if Littlefinger tries anything funny. Just then, Sansa is summoned to meet Olenna Tyrell, nicknamed the Queen of Thorns. She speaks bluntly and candidly about her family, their motives but more than anything, wants to know what Sansa thinks of Joffrey. Sansa tries to back out of it but Olenna pressures her and she tells them that Joffrey is a monster.
I actually like how protective Shae is of Sansa. I don’t know if it’s in the books but it does give Shae’s character a little more depth beyond being a simple whore who ended up caught between Tyrion and Tywin. I’m guessing that after the tail end of the previous season, Sansa has warmed up considerably to Shae and that Shae is now one of the few people that Sansa trusts. It’s going to be a humungous clusterfuck when Tyrion marries Sansa but we’ll get to that when we get to it.
We need to establish just how amazing Dianna Rigg is as the Queen of Thorns. I rarely get to say this but she was somehow just as awesome as I could have ever dared hope but while Rigg really knocks it out of the park, I think it’s interesting to see how Natalie Dormer plays Margaery. She is all smile and politeness but there are several shots in which there is a sharp observant look in her, especially when Sansa isn’t looking. Her reaction to being told that the man that she will be marrying is a monster is one of simple indifference. In the book, she was a much more passive character, one that may or may not have had any grand ambitions or personal motive of her own but she has a great deal more agency in the show so far and I think it’s a great change. It also sets up an interesting contrast between Sansa who’s still very much a girl and Margaery who appears to be a more confident and self-assured woman (admittedly, what Sansa’s been through would shake anyone quite thoroughly).
Robb has begun to lose the faith of his bannermen. Karstark tells him bluntly that his marriage to Talisa was a mistake. Talisa talks with Catelyn, who tells her of a time when she prayed to the gods that Jon die. She reverses her prayers when he actually fell ill, promising to be a mother to him. She says that all the misfortune that the Starks have experienced since then has been her fault.
That Catelyn scene was just amazing – easily one of the few scenes that actually gave me a tingle. Fairley’s acting was almost too real and the way that the story was set-up – are you supposed to hate Catelyn for wishing death on an infant? Or do you sympathize with her for not being able to love the symbol of her husband’s infidelity? The music comes in at just the right time too, the sad, mournful tune that somehow makes you recall all the losses that she’s talking about “all because [she] couldn’t love a motherless child” (I love that line). In the end, I think the only ‘right’ response to her story is pity. It was very human of her to want Jon gone (though I think I’d stop short of saying that it’s understandable for her to want Jon dead) and it was also very realistic that she would feel a strong guilt for wanting the kid dead (she is first and foremost a mother in this story and family means a great deal to her) but in the end, it’s hard to sustain that anger or outrage when you see how crushed she is and how the universe has rewarded her with karmic punishment. The scene was also indicative of the relationship between Talisa and Catelyn. I think on some level both women know that Catelyn is unhappy that Robb married Talisa. Catelyn is too smart to believe that the Freys will just walk away from the marriage contract because Robb found someone else but at the same time, she can’t blame Talisa for it either and so she’s almost forced to express her displeasure through her frost though I think grief would also play a big role. On a more minor note, the disintegration of the Stark kingdom is actually being foreshadowed pretty well. This is the second episode in which Karstark’s unhappiness has been noted and Robb’s situation is already beginning to look quite dire.
The motherless child in question is marching to the Wall where he meets Orell, a warg. Sam and the other survivors of the attack are trudging along. Sam has given up hope until Mormont forbids him from dying. Jojen and Meera Reed find Bran in the woods. Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie meet the Brotherhood Without Banners.
The warging thing isn’t particular interesting at this point in time though I suspect it will become extremely important in the future. I chuckled a little at the line ‘Never seen a warg before, Jon Snow?’ though but apart from that I think the visual of warging is pretty interesting. Not over the top but something noticeable and distinct from the other kinds of ‘magic’ we’ve seen. Likewise, there isn’t much to say about Sam and the Old Bear except that his command forbidding Sam from dying was pretty funny and the same goes for our introduction to the Brotherhood with Banners. What I’ve noticed in this episode is that director Daniel Minahan (who also directed the previous episode) likes to keep plenty of lighter moments sprinkled throughout the episode to sort of separate the heavier sections. The lighter moments are a good way of indicating to the audience that nothing super serious is about to happen – imagine the mood whiplash if Arya went from joking around to seeing Hot Pie dead within the same scene itself?
Shae asks Tyrion about Littlefinger’s motives and is annoyed to learn that Tyrion had had sex with Ros in the past. Tyrion tries to warn Shae to stay away but his heart isn’t really in it. Joffrey asks to see Margaery and confronts her about her marriage to Renly but she is able to smooth-talk her way out of any accusation of treason through flattery with a hint of the truth.
I find myself generally annoyed by these Tyrion/Shae scenes. I quite like Dinklage’s character and his interactions with Shae are quite entertaining even if they only have very limited relevance to the plot but it’s Sibel Kekilli that I just don’t like very much. She has her days but I just don’t think she clicks well with the rest of the cast and despite being on the show for three seasons, she doesn’t show much sign of becoming more natural in front of the camera. Compare her performance with Dormer’s in the very next scene – Dormer is able to show so many different dimensions to the character and still make it look perfectly natural. She can play Margaery’s polite, political correct self but also the more devious and manipulative side as well. That entire scene was great from start to finish – it begins with the audience seeing Jack Gleeson go full Joffrey and for a second it looks like Margaery might be in line for the Sansa treatment but she is able to play her way out of it like a pro. This season already has plenty of ‘show-only’ scenes, so many so that I’ve stopped noticing but by and large, these additions are incredibly positive changes for the most part.
Theon is being tortured and asked for the ‘truth’ on why he took Winterfell. He offers them answers but the torture doesn’t stop. One of the cleaners, sent by his sister, offers to free him. Jojen introduces himself to Bran as they walk – he is the son of Howland Reed, who once saved Ned’s life in the Rebellion though Jojen doesn’t know much about it. Thoros of Myr is about to let Arya and her companions go, until Sandor Clegane is brought in and identifies her as Arya Stark. Jaime is able to steal a sword from Brienne and the two fight. Brienne gets the better of him but they are discovered by Bolton men.
I wonder if poor Alfie Allen is going to be suspending from that cross for the entire season. I’m thinking that the audience really doesn’t need to see the entire extent of Theon’s torture but at the same time, it needs to be made abundantly clear that Theon has been well and truly broken. We’re beginning to get some hints of it here – Theon’s begging when his sister’s spy left him temporarily and the desperation with which he wanted to please his captors. I was impressed with Allen’s performances last season and so far this season seems like more of the same, though of course it’s a bit early to tell. I’m very disappointed that we haven’t seen the bastard of Bolton yet and really, really hope that they don’t write him out of the show though I would actually understand if they did – the character is thoroughly twisted and there isn’t anything about him that less fleshed-out knight couldn’t do, give or take.
There’s nothing much to note in the last Bran scene of the episode except that the show will not be revealing any new information about the Rebellion and the Tower of Joy apparently. To make up for that though, we get more of Rory McCann as he returns as the Hound, fled from King’s Landing and here to ruin Arya’s great escape. Last but not least, we have Jaime Lannister and his inability to properly reason when a good time to throw a tantrum is. I’ve never understood why Jaime wanted to be freed so desperately – Brienne is bringing him to King’s Landing after all, why not just cooperate and get there together? In any case, the fight between the two of them was very underwhelming though probably realistic in terms of how sword fights really take place. I’m guessing that Jaime will be rueing his actions sooner into the season than I first assumed, though probably not as early as the next episode