It is Hoster Tully’s funeral but Edmure Tully cannot complete the traditional funeral ritual and the Blackfish has to step in to do it for him. The visual of the funeral is actually fairly well done and there is this odd sense of unity in the shot composition during the scene where we see the family together, united in their grief. There is tension there too though, beneath the surface – Edmure’s repeated missed shots are supposed to tell his that he is inadequate in some way while the Blackfish’s ridiculously confident archery tells us that he is a man to be taken seriously. We learn that the war is not going well – Robb’s plan to surround and kill Gregor Clegane was ruined by Edmure’s…let’s say, initiative though really, it’s his impatience that ruins it. They have lost men and while the Lannisters have lost more, it’s a pyrrhic victory for the Starks and Robb is showing severe signs of strain. Richard Madden is able to display the frustration and sheer strain very well and even in the early part of the scene it was clear that he was trying his hardest to leash his anger.
Meanwhile, Tywin Lannister assembles his council – Varys, Littlefinger, Pycelle, Cersei and Tyrion. The first three seem very much intimidated by Tywin and Littlefinger, notably, proceeds to slither his way into the seat right next to Tywin’s. Cersei pulls her to Tywin’s right while Tyrion makes a pointed show of dragging his chair to the opposite side of the table. The tension within the Lannister family is palpable and you can be sure that Varys and Littlefinger, especially, have noted it. Tywin is unhappy that there is no news of Jaime and Varys that the chance to take shots at Littlefinger’s castle (Harrenhal) being occupied by Roose Bolton. Littlefinger is to leave soon to court Lysa Arryn and become Lord of the Vale. Tyrion is appointed Master of Coin. The show seems to building the animosity between Littlefinger and Varys quite seriously. There have been hints of it in previous seasons but it seems that the two are quite content to snip at each other without really drawing blood. Beyond that, Littlefinger’s move to become the Lord of the Vale is openly known by the court in this scene but I think I preferred it when it was his own resourcefulness that gave him the idea of using his (rather useless) title as Lord of Harrenhal to marry Lysa. Aidan Gillen’s accent when he voices Littlefinger is absolutely atrocious, by the way. Even his tone suggests that he is altogether too pleased with himself, all the time. I had once hoped that Gillen would improve because I really do like Littlefinger, but I’m just not seeing it.
Jaime and Brienne are still going at it during their captivity. I haven’t always been convinced by the chemistry that Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Gwendoline Christie share but I think as they spend more and more time on screen I’m either beginning to get used to it or they are actually getting on the same wavelength. Either way, it’s good fun to see her take the piss out of the great Jaime Lannister for a change. The conversation turns dark though when he mentions that their captors will rape her come nightfall. The intensely unlikeable part of the character emerges when he tells her not to resist and seems to take some kind of snide pleasure in the fact that he is the prisoner of value, not her. It’s an ironic sentiment of course, but none of them know it yet. I wonder if this episode involves some maiming?
Arya is annoyed that Gendry is being friendly with Thoros and the Brotherhood Without Banners. She is their ‘guest’ but isn’t allowed to leave. She tries to confront Sandor Clegane but he basically ignores her. Hot Pie is staying but gives her a parting gift (see above) of baked bread. That’s supposed to be a wolf apparently, but oh well, it’s the thought that counts I guess. There’s some general humour in this scene and for once, Arya’s life isn’t a total clusterfuck, though of course, that won’t last. Catelyn and the Blackfish catch up, talking about Hoster Tully’s last days. It’s a nice bit of history for anyone who hasn’t read the books and builds Catelyn’s character a little further by letting us see just why family is so very important to her. Talisa is treating the injuries of the two new Lannister prisoners and they make small talk. The two kids are actually pretty adorable but there is no way that the rest of the camp is going to take well to their Queen treating their prisoners so well.
Mance and the Wildlings find the remains of the Night’s Watch expedition that Jon set out with, the bodies and remains carefully arraigned (above). I can’t remember if that’s how it was in the books, but I wonder what it means that the Others are arranging the corpses so carefully. I mean, I guess it can imply that they have some culture of their own or that there’s some ritual involved in the whole process but beyond that it’s a bit of a mystery. Jon notes that there are no men – so the men were probably resurrected though I know for a fact that animals can be resurrected as wights too so why make the zombie soldiers walk? Mance gives the orders to climb the Wall with about twenty or so, including Jon. Mance gives Tormund the command and tells him they’ll meeting when he (Mance) lights “the biggest fire that the North has ever seen”. I’m really liking Ciaran Hinds’ performance as Mance. He’s not as charismatic as I imagined but somehow or the other, he fits in the whole lot pretty well. The survivors of the White Walker attack arrive at Craster’s where the old bastard offers them shelter, grudgingly. Craster doesn’t give them much food and there’s some bad feeling among the men at the hut. Sam, frightened of Craster, wanders around and finds Gilly giving birth to a son. Robert Pugh, who plays Craster, is quite thoroughly despicable though a couple of the rat-faced Night’s Watch men in his house could give him a run for his money.
Theon is freed from captivity by Asha’s…er…Yara’s spy. I don’t really know how to feel about Theon’s escape. I mean, we still haven’t seen the Bastard of Bolton and I really, really hope they don’t cut him just because once Joffrey dies, the audience won’t have another person that’s as hateable. Anyway, Theon is grateful and rides away from the Dreadfort. Melisandre is leaving Stannis for a while but Stannis is being extremely clingy, accusing her of abandoning him. He reiterates his desire to see Joffrey and Robb dead and asks her to make him another ‘son’ but she refuses. She is seeking King’s Blood since Stannis’ “fires are burning low”. I can’t stress enough just how much I despise this version of Stannis. The clinginess, the insecurity that his ‘enemies are laughing’ at him, the bloodlust in seeing the other kings dead all feel so very wrong to me, it’s like I’m seeing a totally different character. It’s not even Stephen Dilane’s fault – the lines are wrong and even though his delivery of those lines fit them, it just feels inherently irreconcilable to me. The weird thing is that Melisandre, of all people, seems like she is being set up to be the good person here, while Stannis is being portrayed in a negative light. It’s enough to make you want to tear your hair out. I assume that since Edric Storm doesn’t exist in the show’s universe, Melisandre is going after Gendry.
In Astapor, Dany is wondering what to do. She needs soldiers but she hates slavery. Barristan asks her to leave but Jorah tells her to acquire the Unsullied. Dany decides to buy all the slaves but the Masters are dismissive – they don’t think she can pay for that many. She offers the Masters a dragon and buys Missandei as well. Jorah and Barristan both consider this extremely questionable behaviour though she brusquely tells them off for questioning her in other front of strangers. “Valar Morghulis”, Missandei says when Dany tells her of the dangers they face. “Yes, but we are not men”, Dany replies. Well, that’s all well and good and honestly, I’m quite liking this part of the Astapor arc. The Astaporians are quite clearly ‘evil’ and they feel almost like fodder that Dany can use to grow. I was not at all a fan of Clarke’s performance in the tail end of last season but she seems better in this episode. Dany’s arc so far, in fact, seems fairly well done right from the visuals of Astapor to the humour from the mismatched translations. I wonder if it’ll take all the way to the end of the season for the climax though.
Tyrion takes over the finances from Littlefinger. Tyrion repays Pod for saving his life by buying the services of two hookers in what has to be the most contrived way of getting some T&A onscreen. It seems that Pod, played by Daniel Portman, should have had a fairly enjoyable time during the filming process. Tyrion is doing markedly less fun stuff – he is looking over Littlefinger’s ledgers and can’t figure out where the money is coming from. He’s borrowing but against what? Bronn is quite confused by the concept but just then Pod returns – apparently he’s quite gifted so he wasn’t charged for services rendered. Bronn and Tyrion pour him some wine and ask him for ‘copious’ details. The whole thing is actually quite funny given how absolutely confused Portman looks throughout. It’s the ‘doesn’t this always happen?’ look that you see on people who strike the lottery with their first ticket and can’t figure out what the big deal is.
Theon is escaping but the escape isn’t going according to plan – he seems quite lost and soon after, he realizes he’s being hunted. They finally take him down and are going to rape him, because they Bolton men and that’s clearly a part of the job description but three arrows come out of nowhere and kill them. Yara’s spy comes to his rescue saying he is a long way from home and “Winter is coming”. Wait, what? So he’s a northern guy helping Theon? Why would an iron islander say that line though. In any case, the whole action sequence was pretty well done and the scenery seemed gorgeous. Theon’s close-rape-shave felt like it came out of left-field though. I’m not saying it isn’t realistic but I guess I just wasn’t expecting it. Honestly, it also felt a little forced, like it was shoehorned in just for the shock value or something.
Brienne doesn’t follow Jaime’s ‘advice’ and fights her assaulters tooth and nail though they pull no punches of their own in trying to subdue her. Jaime watches silently but then speaks up informing the captain of the gang that she is from the Sapphire Island. It works and Brienne isn’t hurt any further. Jaime, thinking that he has this guy’s ear, goes on talking and is even unchained. Of course, his smooth talk is a little too smooth – no one like’s the rich guy’s son throwing his weight around. This captain fellow, I still don’t know his name, certainly doesn’t and it looks like we’re in for some maiming. Coster-Waldau doesn’t seem to act like it’s actually going to happen till it does happen and that’s actually perfectly in keeping with Jaime’s character. The entire scene was actually morbidly fascinating and made up for some of the slower, more meandering scenes from earlier in the episode.
Some final post-episode thoughts as usual then:
I’m liking the pacing for Jaime’s arc so far – they’ve skipped all the potentially useless stuff and cut straight to the chase. In my mind, Jaime’s arc doesn’t really get going until his hand comes off anyway but more than that, I’m quite happy with the way that they are highlighting the differences between Jaime and Brienne yet showing that Brienne is totally naïve and narrow-mined but neither is Jaime as ruthless pragmatic as he appears.
There were some small, fillerish scenes, like the Pod sex fantasy stuff which was just kind of weird. I mean, it was funny but it also just felt really random and unnecessary. Then again, HBO is always looking for ways to get as much ass on screen as possible so I can’t say I’m surprised. I said this last season as well and I think it bears repeating – it feels like we only get glimpses of characters just to ‘update’ us on their progress and remind us where they are and what they’re up to. I don’t think it’s a terrible decision either because with a story of this scale without reminders the audience will get lost.
The more I think about it though, the more I realize that there are a whole bunch of unpleasant events in this season that I have to look forward to including two disastrous weddings, a castration, torture and who knows what else. Hopefully I’ll be spared another Pod sex scene.