After last week’s WHAM! of an episode, viewers approached with trepidation. However, this episode was mainly wrap-up. Walder Frey gloated, Joffrey gloated, Tyrion and Tywin debated ethics, Tyrion broke the news to Sansa, Arya took a very small revenge.
The released plot summary sounded especially uninspiring:
Joffrey challenges Tywin. Bran tells a ghost story. In Dragonstone, mercy comes from strange quarters. Dany waits to see if she is a conqueror or a liberator.
So…nothing but a lot of talking?
Some of us had hoped for Joffrey’s wedding, for a total of three weddings in three weeks, but clearly that’s something the creators want to stretch out a bit more. Certainly, there’s been an enormous length of buildup and planning for the royal wedding of the century, with seventy-seven courses, to mark the great alliance of Tyrell and Lannister.
The Lannister family squabble was tiring—everyone seemed to echo the same lines they had in previous episodes—Tyrion threatens Joffrey, Joffrey threatens Tyrion, Cersei tries to pacify Joffrey, Tywin makes it clear Joffrey doesn’t matter, but he doesn’t attempt to teach him anything. Tywin issues orders to Tyrion and suggests he loathes him. Cersei tells Tyrion she loves her family (describing baby Joffrey may have made us like her, but we have no more affection for Joffrey himself) and Cersei adds that has a clever plan to avoid her father’s plans. Every line felt repeated—these characters are stuck in their family dynamics. Jaime is unlikely to shake them up, so we must hope the family changes soon.
In the book, Ygritte doesn’t show up for a detailed explanation of Jon’s betrayal. Jon of course doesn’t have one to give. “I had no choice” isn’t actually true, though perhaps it is for the son of Ned Stark. There are two options: forsake honor, duty, and one’s vow to ride around with the spirited and lovely girl doing what he wishes or fulfill his duty. It’s interesting that Robb, offered this exact choice, went the other way. Perhaps Jon will be revealed as the better Robb, the Robb that should have been, in time.
Bran and Sam have their meeting, though I personally really wanted to see the Night Watch’s secret and magical gate in the Wall, built with the magic that created the Wall in the first place.
Varys and Shae have an interesting meeting. It must be asked whether Varys
- Wants Tyrion and Sansa to work things out, have kids and stabilize the North
- Is messing with Shae using reverse psychology and really wants her to stick around and cause Tyrion problems. It’s not that clear.
There was ANOTHER let’s-torture-Theon scene, which all the fans appear sick from and sick of. In the book, Theon vanishes at the end of his attack on Winterfell, and then he appears in book five as the sad, broken, pitiful Reek. I can understand writers’ desire to follow the character, not cut the actor for three-plus years, but one hopes they’ll listen to all the complaints and give the torture scenes a rest.
Theon’s father (who hasn’t been seen in a year, but his daughter Yara appeared in the scenes, offering a bit of helpful context) gets the opportunity to prove he’s as awful a father as Tywin Lannister. Hmm, both lords have the beloved child and the hated child…meanwhile, Yara is the only one who seems to really get family loyalty—you tortured my brother—prepare to die! They’re not friends, but they are siblings.
Of course, Yara is beginning her plot, and viewers will enjoy seeing the pirate queen take to the seas and devastate the North. At the same time, the Greyjoy-Bolton war for the North is a bit uninteresting, as they both feel like usurpers. As such, we don’t care who wins—they’ll both have to leave town when THE STARK returns. The Starks are the rightful rulers and there are still a few around (Rickon seems a likely heir, as Bran, Arya, and Jon all seem to prefer their own missions to becoming THE STARK of Winterfell and Sansa’s nearly a prisoner). Will Rickon disappear for several seasons? It seems likely…they could show his and Osha’s quest through the wilderness, but we’re not terribly invested in Rickon, so that seems like a dull plot to follow. Even Bran and the Reeds’ scenes this season have been on the flat side. Jojen is rather fanatically devoted to his mission and Meera has little personality evident. Hodor can be fun, however.
Davos and Gendry bonding over Fleabottom was nice, but in the book, Davos sends the boy off to the Free Cities on a real trading ship, with sails and a crew. Sending Gendry with insufficient food and water, when he doesn’t know how to row or swim, seems like a waste—this way Gendry will likely die but Stannis won’t be a kinslayer. If we’re supposed to expect him to survive, the scene is quite unrealistic. Princess Shireen showed up but did basically nothing—I had hoped to see her save her friend Davos in this season (which she does a bit by teaching him to read so he finds the crucial letter from the Wall, but still…) Her character doesn’t seem put to good use.
In the books, it felt a bit clearer that Melisandre’s Lord of Light is the sworn enemy of the god of snow and darkness whom she thinks is directing things up north (nothing’s been proven on that score). In this episode, it seemed a bit abrupt when she told Stannis, “Sure, yes, drop this silly campaign to defeat the Seven Kingdoms I’ve been helping you with, and I’m done trying to win Davos’s loyalty—you should suddenly trust him and do everything he says. By the way, I can see all this right now, suddenly, in a vision.” All right then.
Daenerys’s final scene, probably meant to shine a light of hope after the last episode, is problematic. She, the conspicuously white girl, announces all the brown-skinned slaves are free. All right, she tells them it’s their freedom to take, and her army are former slaves, but she’s the one doling out the freedom. As she’s passed around by the terribly trusting and adoring crowd, the race message grows disturbing: Celebrate, brown people! You have your freedom now that I, a foreign white person traveling through the region, has declared it so. Just call me your messiah, and we’re all good!
The former slaves idolize her very quickly and very completely. As commentary on colonialism, slavery, and race it’s terribly problematic—it’s too pat for a season end message of a perfect future. Daenerys isn’t perfect, and she and the slaves are both going to accept this. The scene should be played a bit more like Robb’s season two wedding…it’s a happy moment, but there will be consequences for this act. The untried queen, new to the region and unfamiliar with its customs, will now have to be worthy of all this faith and trust, which may be a problem.
Upcoming plot points left for season four
Jaime Lannister will have to settle in to the Kingsguard with his single hand. He’s returned as a completely different person for everyone’s expert swordsman and pretty boy who was born wealthy, talented, and highborn. Cersei will have to get used to his growing sense of honor as well. He may even join the Lannister family council meetings.
The Lannisters will squabble in circles, fence with the Tyrells and cover the same ground over and over. Negotiations for Cersei’s wedding, Joffrey and Margaery’s grand royal wedding, and (one assumes) a delegation from Dorne to claim their Small Council seat (and join the squabbling—oh dear) are future points to cover.
Bran travels North with the Reeds seeking his destiny that will truly save them all. It’s unclear how many episodes this will take before he gets there.
Stannis and friends will have to go after the wights as Melisandre give cryptic pronouncements and possibly strips to gain more people’s loyalty.
Remember Littlefinger? He sailed off to court Lysa Arryn, Catelyn’s sister with her horrible little breast-feeding son. Eventually we’ll need to pick up that plot.
Of course, Jon has arrived on the Wall minutes before the planned Wildling attack—they’re set to storm the Wall from south and north, just as the White Walkers are massing, and oh yes, all the best fighters and their commander just got killed on their ranging party. The big battle may begin season four.
Arya is still stuck with the Hound, with fewer relatives to pay her ransom.
The Blackfish—Catelyn’s uncle—escaped the Freys’ wedding. Catelyn’s brother Edmure (Lord of the Riverlands) is apparently legally married to Rosalind Frey and sitting in the Freys’ dungeon. Lord Walder Frey called himself the new Lord of the Riverlands, a title the Lannisters probably offered him, but the Riverlands probably won’t declare allegiance to treacherous, guest-right betraying scum. Lord Frey’s grandson when Edmure and Rosalind have one is the clear legal heir however.
There appear to be fewer prostitutes providing “sexposition,” thank goodness. At the same time, HBO may find some new naked women and explicit relationships to carry on this part of the show. Shae and Tyrion may resume (if they ever, in fact, stopped). Cersei and Jaime may also have a reunion on camera. And then there’s Daenerys who felt the need to strip for Daario the sellsword with his alluring Legolas hairdo…
Daenerys has conquered TWO of the three great cities of Slaver’s Bay, making it clear where she’s heading next. Of course, she created a shaky new government for city #1 (in the book at least—in the show we just see her ordering her troops to kill the adults and free the slaves) and she appears to let city #2 live unconquered in return for releasing the slaves. Thus she hasn’t acquired many supplies for her campaign. Instead she has
- Dwindling money and food
- A massive group of untrained liabilities like children expecting supplies and protection
- Too many people to load onto ships and sail for Westeros if that was even her plan
- Dragons that look cool but don’t seem big enough to waste cities.
- A small, utterly tough army
- A three-city area in which she just wrecked the economy of cities one and two—things like food shortages seem likely.
She doesn’t speak all the local languages or understand the culture. (As it turns out, these are the descendants of Old Valyria’s sworn enemies, so they don’t see her and her dragons as the hereditary rulers but the enemy.) Soon the shine will crumble from her campaign, if things are realistic.
War of the Five Kings recap
- Joffrey and the Lannisters
- Balon and Yara Greyjoy
- Mance Rayder, the “King Beyond the Wall”
- Daenerys, though she’s across the world
- The Casterly Rock area and Highgarden have a somewhat-stable alliance.
- The North: The Greyjoys are battling the Boltons (who serve the Lannisters). The Starks have all vanished. It was mentioned in season one that only the Starks can govern the place.
- Dragonstone and the Stormlands: Stannis inherited most of Renly’s army, but he doesn’t have many troops or ships post-Battle of Blackwater.
- The Riverlands—their lord is in the Freys dungeons and their King Robb is out of the picture. They’ve used up many troops already.
- The Eyrie: Littlefinger’s trying to win that for the Lannisters. Allegedly.
- Dorne: Nothing yet, more to come.
- Oh and winter and wights and wildlings are coming.
- In her three leeches scene, Melisandre predicted the deaths of Joffrey, Robb, and Balon Greyjoy, Theon’s nasty father.
- Melisandre says Arya will become a killer. Apparently she just began it all by killing her first. (She called it her first kill. Didn’t she kill a boy escaping the Red Keep in season one on the show? I know she did in the book. Anyway…) She’s also still got the coin of the faceless men and their password (Valar Morgulis—all men must die). She’s been keeping it close for an entire season:
“Show me how – I want to be able to do it too,” she tells Jaqen.
“If you would learn you must come with me…The girl has many names on her lips: Cersei, Joffrey, Tywin Lannister, Ilyn Payne, the Hound. Names to offer the red god. She could offer them all…one by one.
“I want to but I can’t. I need to find my brother and mother…and my sister.”
She did her best to find Robb and her mother. Now will she quest to find Sansa in the terribly dangerous King’ Landing? Or will she simply use the coin and take Jaquen’s offer? To use it, she just has to show the coin and say the password to anyone from the Free City of Braavos.
- Melisandre says Stannis will be the chosen one with the glowing sword Lightbringer and Davos has a part left to play. She also thinks they can win by sacrificing people with the blood of kings. With five kings and their descendants around (most of the seven kingdoms are ruled by kings’ descendants), that’s a lot of potential victims. On the show, she says:
In the ancient books it’s written that a warrior will draw a burning sword from the fire, and that sword shall be Lightbringer. Stannis Baratheon, warrior of light, your sword awaits you. (2.1)
In the books, Melisandre goes into more detail:
There will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world. In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him.
When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone.
Her “smoke and salt” prophecy sounds more like Daenerys (with the comet, smoke, tears, and dragons awoken), but time will tell. The Isle of Dragonstone may hold stone dragons, and there are rumors an ice dragon is buried under the Wall.
- Jojen Reed says Bran is the Chosen One and needs to meet the Three-Eyed Crow up north. He also prophesizes in book three that the Starks will return to the North. After his crippling season one fall, Bran has a prophetic dream in the book:
Finally he looked north. He saw the Wall shining like blue crystal, and his bastard brother Jon sleeping alone in a cold bed, his skin growing pale and hard as the memory of all warmth fled from him.
North and north and north he looked, to the curtain of light at the end of the world, and then beyond that curtain. He looked deep into the heart of winter, and then he cried out, afraid, and the heat of his tears burned his cheeks.
Now you know, the crow whispered as it sat on his shoulder, now you know why you must live.
“Why?” Bran said, not understanding, falling, falling.
Because winter is coming.
He may need to travel to the Heart of Winter to battle for the survival of the world.