SPOILER ALERT: If you have not yet seen Season 3, Episode 8 of HBO's hit series Game of Thrones, titled "Second Sons," do not read on.
At times it seems that Game of Thrones feels close to losing focus. With so many storylines and characters being crammed into 10 hour-long episodes every season, it is a bit easy to feel all over the map. Episode 3.8, though, felt like it was more focused than any episode since "Blackwater" in Season Two. While completely lacking action, the episode had its share of awkward situations, family strife, uncomfortable torture, and great acting from Peter Dinklage.
This week in Westeros...
As you remember from last week, Arya was trying to escape from the Brotherhood Without Banners when she ended up getting grabbed by Ser Sandor Clegane, the Hound. Now his prisoner, she attempts to pound his face in with a rock while he sleeps, but after he wakes up and dares her to kill him tonight, she gets cold feet and stops. The Hound attempts to explain to Arya that he is not such a bad guy, having once saved her sister from a mob of murderous rapists. Clegane informs Arya that he is taking her to the Twins, and hopes to get there in time for her unlce Edmur Tully's wedding to one of Walder Frey's daughters. As it is sure to be a wedding to die for, he naturally does not want to be late and asks Arya to stop trying to kill him.
A few episodes back, King Stannis Baratheon's daughter began teaching Ser Davos how to read. In this episode, the Onion Knight can be seen working his way through a history of the Seven Kingdoms. It's a touching scene. Stannis arrives to free the Ser Davos, unable to keep his old friend and confidante in the dungeons any longer. Davos attempts to talk Stannis out of killing Gendry, who is of the same blood of Stannis. He then goes on to claim that the gods are just tales parents create to help their children sleep at night. Stannis points out that he saw a vision in the flames, and the Davos himself saw Melisandre give birth to that crazy-ass smoke monster that stabbed Renly. "How can you deny her god is real?"
Having only recently discovering that he is the bastard of former King Robert Baratheon, Gendry now finds himself whisked away to Dragonstone, the keep of his uncle Stannis Baratheon. Melisandre has plans to sacrifice the royal bastard to her Lord of Light, claiming that there is power in royal blood. After stripping naked and pushing him onto the bed for some foreplay, Melisandre ends up tying his hands and feet to the bed. She then places leeches around his body, since apparently Ser Davos successfully persuaded Stannis not to have Gendry killed ... yet.
Alas, because Game of Thrones seems to have it out for men's genitalia, Melisandre places a leech down poor Gendry's trousers as well, and he likely begins to wish he was being sacrificed. Stannis and Davos walk in as Melisandre removes the blood-sucking beasts from the bastard's body. One by one, Stannis throws a leech into the fire, saying a name for each. "The usurper Robb Stark. The usurper Baelon Greyjoy. The usurper Joffrey Baratheon." Apparently his god is now going to perform some more crazy magic and cause the deaths of his rivals for the Iron Throne. As much as I do not like these religious zealots, anything that brings harm to Joffrey is welcome.
The resident badass mother of dragons and breaker of chains has learned that the slave city she hopes to conquer, Yunkai, is protected by an army of 2,000 sellswords called the Second Sons. Daenerys summons their three captains to her camp. The leader, Mero, is a vulgar brute who makes lewd comments to Daenerys and grabs at her assistant, Missandei. Through it all, Daenerys keeps a friendly smile. As soon as the Second Sons leave, though, she orders Ser Barristan to make sure that Mero is the first of their number to die if it comes to battle.
The Second Sons meet and decide that they will need to assassinate Daenerys in order to save Yunkai. Daario Naharis, one of the captains, is chosen to kill her. Instead of doing that, though, he arrives in Daenerys' tent while she is bathing and gives her the heads of his two fellow captains, pledging the Second Sons to her service. Dany is obviously attracted to him, and he is openly attracted to her, and yet she stands before him unashamed in her nudity. It is a really powerful scene for the khaleesi. Anyways, she accepts his loyalty, and Daario will join her army. I have a feeling that Ser Jorah isn't going to like him.
While arriving at Tyrion and Sansa's wedding, Lady Margaery Tyrell comes up to Queen Cersei Lannister and takes her arm, happily saying that they are to be sisters soon. Just to make sure that everyone realizes that she hates them, Cersei asks Margaery if she's familiar with the "Rains of Castamere." Even though Margaery says yes, Cersei explains the song anyways. House Reyne had risen to become the second-richest in the kingdom, much like House Tyrell is now. Wanting to soar to the top, they rebelled against the Lannisters. Cersei's father, Tywin, marched on Lord Reyne's great castle, Castamere, and killed every man, woman, and child. Cersei sneers at Margaery. "And now the rains weep o'er his hall without a soul to hear. If you ever call me sister again, I'll have you strangled in your sleep."
As the Queen marches off, it looks like the usually-upbeat Margaery has been punched in the gut. More on "The Rains of Castamere" in next week's article.
Forced by Lord Twin to marry Ned Stark's daughter, Tyrion is in an unpleasant position, especially since his prostitute-turned-lover is Sansa's handmaiden. And yet, touchingly, Tyrion comes up to Sansa before the wedding and apologizes for the situation while vowing to never hurt her.
The wedding itself is a complete study in why Joffrey Baratheon is a little twerp that needs to die the most painful death imaginable. First, he greets Sansa in the Sept of Baelor and says he'll walk with her since her father is dead. Reminder: the brat is the one who ordered Ned Stark to lose his head. Then, he grabbed Tyrion's stool and dragged it away from the altar, forcing the dwarf to embarrassingly ask Sansa to kneel for part of the ceremony. After the awkward wedding, Tyrion is openly drunk ... enough to spill wine on himself. Tywin angrily marches over, reminding Tyrion that he has one duty: impregnate Sansa Stark as soon as possible. Tyrion's awesome response: "I am the god of tits and wine. I shall build a shrine to myself at the next brothel I visit." Someone please hand Peter Dinklage another Emmy.
Just because he hasn't already pissed us off enough in this episode, Joffrey grabs Sansa and threatens to rape her. He then demands a bedding ceremony — a public stripping of the bride and groom followed by a consummation of the marriage. Tyrion will have none of it, but Joffrey insists, causing Tyrion to slam a knife into the table. He says that there will be no bedding ceremony, or else Joffrey will "be fucking your own bride with a wooden cock." That shut the room up. Tywin steps in and calms things down so Tyrion can drunkenkly take his bride-to-be to the room. While there, he decides not to sleep with her, much to Shae's delight. A gentleman through-and-through, and seriously good acting from Dinklage. The fact that he can capture Tyrion's utter despair and sadness in the episode and his drunken debauchery is masterful.
While out on a mission with the Night's Watch in a previous episode, Sam came across some dragonglass — a sort of obsidian spear head. He is now walking through the north with his girlfriend, Gilly, and her baby boy. While camping out, ravens begin to cause a huge stir. Sam goes out to investigate, and comes face-to-face with a white walker. It has come to take Gilly's baby. After the white walker freezes and breaks Sam's sword, he stabs it in the back with the dragonstone. It falls, screams, and dies, its frozen remains scattering into the wind. So, there you have it: bumbling, cowardly Samwell Tarly is the first one to kill a white walker and now knows their weakness, meaning if it makes it back to the Wall, he'll have useful information to save all of Westeros with. Who saw that coming?
— Lady Olenna Tyrell, the Queen of Thorns, continues to be awesome. Her bit during the wedding feast on how absolutely mixed up and confusing the family/wedding situation is was fantastic. Please, more and more and more of her!
— Speaking of the Tyrells, it is nice that they have sort of adopted Sansa and stood on her side opposite the Lannisters during the wedding.
— The short scene between Cersei and Ser Loras was interesting. "Nobody cares what your father once told you," spits the woman whose entire life is run by her father.
— The chemistry between Sansa and Tyrion is great. Again, mad props to Peter Dinklage and Sophie Turner.
There is no episode next week! However, tune in back here for a recap of the season to-date and a set-up for Episode 309, The Rains of Castamere. It is certainly going to ne an episode not to miss.
For more musings on George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones, follow @RobinsonOB on Twitter.