It could be that GRRM has a thing about hands. Hand of the King, Half-hand, Short-hand, you see where I’m going. And now we have Jaime with his hand strung around his neck, in a revolting parody of his dad’s badge of office. Ruthven’s boys are making dreary sport of him, for all he gives a shit.
If you need a thumbnail sketch of Ruthven’s character, note that he carries around a canteen of horse piss for no other reason than to play practical jokes on captives. This gets a rise out of Jaime, who can barely figure out how to grip a sword with his left hand. Ruthven’s boys are some crappy swordsmen, but a half dozen of them manage to knock Jamie down so Ruthven can kick him.
Really, why does a man carry a canteen of horse piss? How do you fill it?
Back in King’s Landing, Tyrion and Varys have a chat about the nature of power and influence, as Varys uncrates something that requires breathing holes. We learn the macabre nature of V’s castration, and his resulting loathing of the supernatural. We also get a sense of just how long and effectively V holds a grudge, as he and Tyrion do a Tarantino trunk shot with the sorcerer who made V the man he is today. Tyrion keeps his cool, but the look in his eyes says this is the first time he has truly feared Varys.
(My wife informs me that the man in the box is Qyburn, the chap Robbo found alive in the heaps of dead at Harrenhal. I’m taking her word for it.)
Meanwhile at Craster’s Keep, the unhappiest campers are shoveling shit and talking open mutiny. And shoveling more shit. And Sam is sneaking off to make time with Gilly, who has more pressing matters on her mind.
In Bran’s dreams he runs and climbs, and has disturbing interactions with his family. And he relives the moment that took everything from him. And wakes to the wide eyes of Jojen Reed, who must know watching people sleep is creeper classic.
Back again in King’s Landing, the Legend of Podrick Whorepleaser grows and grows. And V underestimates Ros, who has spotted a plot.
And more fun with Joff and Marge, and a set reveal for the upcoming wedding. Joff, I swear, thinks he has game, which shows how hard Marge is working him. And Lady Oleanna is working Cersei, who needs a friend so badly that if she knows, she doesn’t much care.
Sometimes severity is the price we pay for greatness: Joff thinks he’s being flattered, when he’s really being given fair warning. And Marge gets the little swine to do a wave for the crowd.
Our Theon of Sorrows rides ever eastward with Little Bastard, whose name he apparently hasn’t had occasion to ask. I’m going to call him Barry for now, which is another Misfits reference that you’d get if you watched that show. (Hint: You should watch Misfits.)
Barry, by the way, calls T “My Lord”, which Tywin called Arya on last season. And his story is just too good.
T has a lot to get off his chest, though, and in the process of getting down a passageway confesses that his betrayal of the Starks was a mistake, not just tactically. He betrayed his true family, and he has lost everything.
Not everything, says Barry. By which he means, there’s still more that can be taken from you. And oh, Barry’s glowing smirk as he watches T get hung back on the Flaymate cross.
Brienne can’t let go of her responsibility for Jaime, apparently, which role is now more nurse than jailer. And she gets to hand out the line of the night: “One taste of the real world, where people have important things taken from them, and you whine, and cry and quit.” It’s rough talk, but it gets Jaime eating. That done, she has to know why Jaime fast-talked Ruthven into shutting it down the other night. His silence isn’t sullenness. He’s a Lannister, and all of them are baffled when they feel compassion for anyone.
Speaking of which, Tywin is a colossal dick, and letting someone into your office and then continuing with your work like they aren’t there is a classic asshole power move. But Cersei, fresh from her empowering talk with Lady O, is ready to make some demands. Tywin, having had this talk with Tyrion already, gives her some room and then shuts her down hard. We haven’t see Joffrey and Tywin interact much, but I get a sense that’s coming. Can’t. Wait.
Varys is doing a lot of heavy lifting this ep. Now he gets to spar with Lady O, who has just gotten loosened up by belittling her grand-daughters and all of House Tyrell. And we get some lovely banter, in service of two points: (1) plans are being made for Sansa, (2) Varys fears Littlefinger. It’s nice to know someone with a longer attention span than Shae is looking out for Sansa.
On the heels of this, we see Marge reaching out a sisterly hand to Sansa, who is so starved for friendship and hope that she can barely suppress her tears. Throwing in Loras was a masterful touch.
Back north, the unhappiest campers are so hungry that a funeral pyre is whetting appetites. Craster continues handing out the belligerence and boasting, somehow not taking into account that he’s one aging asshole with a few dozen armed, hungry, increasingly desperate guests. Said guests also know about all the degenerate shit he practices up here in Mansonland North, and his status as a friend of the Watch is wearing pretty thin.
So all it takes is a few choice words to start a bloody mutiny, which we see claim the lives of Craster (good riddance) and Lord Commander Mormont (who takes being stabbed in the back personally). In the resulting confusion and fratricidal mayhem, Sam and Gilly and little what-his-name flee into the freezing, zombie-infested woods.
Way the hell down the Kingsroad we find Arya and the rest of the Brotherhood w/o Banners heading back to the Batcave, where the Hound is defiantly mouthing off to his captors. So last-season, Clegane. And we meet Beric Dondarrion, who has found his way to the Red God and is on a righteous crusade. So he needs an actual reason to put a dog down. Said dog lawyers back and forth with his accusers until Arya pipes up with the murder of Mycah the butcher’s boy, which he claimed not to remember last week. But the details come back to him now, and we’re to have a trial by combat. (Remember Tyrion’s trial at the Eyrie? That was fun.)
And by the way, the Hound is afraid of Dondarrion, who’s about half his size. Interesting.
And as if this hasn’t been enough of an ep already, we check in with Dany and her two daddies at the slave market. Kraznys is gassing on as we survey the 8,000 CGI Unsullied she’s here to pick up. Dany makes a show of handing off her dragon as if she’s giving a spoiled kid a balloon, and the deal is sealed. Kraz is so tickled with his new toy that he doesn’t notice Dany ordering around her 8,000 stone killers in Valyrian. Yes, Dany has pulled off a truly magnificent screwjob.
In the smoking aftermath, Dany addresses the seemingly undiminished ranks of her army, declares them free, and asks for their loyalty. And here we see the value of facilitating someone’s revenge on the people who hacked his balls off.
For a closer, we get a pretty sweet CGI reveal of Dany’s (again, seemingly undiminished) forces pouring out of the city, with dragons for air power. It’s a big moment. More like this, please.