Editor's note: this review contains spoilers (uh... duh?).
OK, let's face it: last week's episode was the current high-water mark for this season. While the fifth episode, Kissed by Fire, lacked the action and excitement of last's week show, it certainly gained hugely in character development. Discussions focused on honor, oaths, and family, with gritty politics playing a role. This week in Westeros ...
Ned Stark's bastard is still frolicking around the great frozen beyond with the Wildlings. They are currently en route to the Wall, with the intention of removing the large obstacles from Mance Rayder's way so that the Wildlings can move south. Jon's new companions do not seem to entirely trust him ("If you lie to me I'll pull your guts out through your throat!") but he's got his lovely lady Ygritte by his side to defend him. They sneak off to a cave where, just to make sure Jon has turned in back on the celibate Night's Watch, she strips naked and they have a go at it. The sexcapade is followed by some pillow rock talk where Jon explains how he had been a virgin, and then they take a bath. Personally, I think they should have gotten a bit cleaned up before sexy time, but, hey. They're Wildlings after all.
While her brother gets it on in a frozen cave, Arya sits in one with a bunch of pyromaniacs. The Brotherhood Without Banners has sworn fealty to the Lord of Light, and are placing the Hound on trial by combat against their fearless leader, Beric Dondarrion. Beric fights the Hound with a sword. Normal, right? It would be if that sword was not ON FIRE and the Hound was absolutely terrified by it. However, nothing keeps the dog down and he eventually slices Dondarrion down, killing him. Well, again, if this were normal, stabbing Dondarrion would have killed him. However, Beric is a servant of the one true god, and is promptly resurrected.
To Arya's dismay, the Brotherhood frees the Hound: he survived his trial. She is given further heartache when she learns that Gendry, her traveling companion, has decided to join the Brotherhood. "I've never had a family," he says when explaining why. Arya sadly responds: "I can be your family." Sad stuff. She's had such a crappy life and Arya's part in this episode was nothing but reminding us about that.
Things are not going well for Robb. Then again, except for briefly last season, things rarely go well for the King in the North. Lord Karstark broken into the dungeon where Tywin Lannister's nephews, just children, were being kept prisoner and murdered them. In retaliation, and against the advice of his mother and wife, Robb chops off Lord Karstark's head, thereby losing his family's support (IE: roughly half of his army). So, naturally, Robb thinks it is the perfect time to march on Casterly Rock, the home of the Lannisters. Before he does that, though, he realizes he must go talk to Lord Walter Frey, whom he previously broke an oath to (he was betrothed to marry Frey's daughter when he instead married the beautiful Talisa). What could possibly go wrong with this place?
When we last saw the Khaleesi, she was being a total badass and has just acquired control of a huge slave army. Upon freeing them, they fell in love with her (as do we all). She meets with her army's officers, and they have chosen a leader: Grey Worm. Imagine the fear in Westeros when the great General Grey Worm comes marching! Daenerys' trusty lieutenants, Ser Jorah and Ser Barristan, spend most of this episode in a pissing contest.
Jaime Lannister and Brienne:
Jaime and Brienne have at long last been delivered to Lord Bolton. He frees Brienne and orders that Jaime's hand stump be tended to. Jaime joins Brienne in a bath later (alas, not as steamy as Jon and Ygritte's) and they start to banter. As he often does, Jaime gets a rise out of Brienne, and she glares at him. "You all despise me. Kingslayer. Oath-breaker. Man without honor," he says. The speech he then gives is one of the most powerful and sincere delivered in the series. Mad props to actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau for making us pity and respect Jaime Lannister (remember: we sort of hate him for throwing Bran Stark out of a window and impregnating his sister with Joffrey). Jaime explains why he killed the Mad King, even though he was sworn to protect him. He had begged the Targaryen to surrender, but the king only wanted to burn the whole city. Jaime had no choice.
Brienne asks why Jaime had never told anyone the story of the Mad King's death, and why he did not tell Lord Stark about the circumstances when Ned arrived at the scene. "You think the honorable Ned Stark wanted to hear my side? He judged me guilty the moment he sets eyes on me. By what right does the Wolf judge the Lion? By what right!?" Talk about bad blood. Wow. Angry, Jaime gets up and promptly slumps back down, a visibly moved Brienne saving him and calling for help for the Kingslayer. "My name is Jaime," he whimpers. If you do not feel some pity for Jaime Lannister after this, then you're just like Stannis. And no one wants to be a party pooper like Stannis.
If you thought you've met crazy in Westeros before, you haven't met King Stannis Baratheon's wife. She's really chugged the Lord of Light kool-aid and is so wrapped up in that mumbo jumbo that she is totally cool with Stannis banging the Red Woman and producing baby shadow assassins with her. She also keeps the remains of her stillborn children on display in jars. Yuck. Apparently, he has a daughter too. She's upset that her friend, the Onion Knight, has been locked up for treason. Stone-cold Stannis doesn't care, and this episode helps secure him the next-to-last place in the "Which King Do You Want on the Iron Throne" contest.
Cersei and Tyrion:
Cersei remains intent on removing House Tyrell from the picture in King's Landing, as she does not like Lady Maegery's control over Joffrey. She hires Littlefinger to spy on the Tyrells and to find a weak spot. He sends off a young man to go sleep with Ser Loras, Maegery's brother, who then discovers that the Tyrells plan to marry Loras to Sansa Stark. When word reaches Lord Tywin, he summons Cersei and Tyrion to his presence. Tywin is pissed off. Like the rest of the world, he thinks Robb Stark is doomed and the other Stark boys were killed by Theon Greyjoy, leaving Sansa as heir to Winterfell, and he's not about to give the North to the rosy Tyrells. He decides to preempt them by marrying Sansa to Tyrion instead. He is understandably unhappy with this arrangement.
Cersei smirks at her brother's plight until the Hand of the King turns his gaze on his daughter. To make up for shorting the Tyrells like that, he orders Cersei to marry Ser Loras instead. After she protests, Lord Tywin lays down the law and orders it be done, calling both of his children disgraces before storming off. WORST FAMILY EVER.
- The Queen of Thorns meeting with Tyrion to discuss wedding finances was fun, as is any scene with Diana Rigg. Her character is an amazing source of wisdom. Political tips? "The people are hungry for more than just food. They crave distractions, and if we don't provide them, they'll create their own." Health tips? "I always take figs mid-afternoon: they help move the bowels." Please, just give us more of Lady Olenna and we'll all be wiser and happier.
- Sansa seems to be the only person in King's Landing who does not know that Ser Loras is gay. Come on, girl. Wake up.
This was a dramatic episode. Jaime's revelation to Brienne, Robb's execution of Lord Karstark, Jon breaking his oath, the strife within the Lannister family — seriously a lot of drama. All-in-all, great episode. Next week, it looks like the Wildlings reach the Wall and we get some more Theon torture. Be sure to tune in and check back here for the review!
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