HBO's hit series Game of Thrones has only two episodes remaining in Season 3, which is based on the first half of the third book of George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" saga. There was no episode this week due to the Memorial Day holiday on May 26th.
Last season, HBO saw a dip in TV ratings for Episode 209 (Blackwater) shown on Memorial Day weekend, so they decided to skip the weekend and instead premiere Behind the Candelabra starring Michael Douglas as Liberace. Game of Thrones will return on June 2nd with its climactic episode for the season, The Rains of Castamere.
Here is a recap of the season to-date to prepare for the next episode.
1. House Baratheon
Still reeling from his defeat at the Battle of Blackwater Bay, Stannis Baratheon has dispatched the fire priestess Melisandre on a mission to help him gain control of the Iron Throne. As the eldest brother of former King Robert Baratheon, Stannis has the most legitimate claim to the throne. However, he is a cold and hard man whom nobody likes or wants to rule the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. His great friend and confidant, Ser Davos Seaworth the Onion Knight, was imprisoned by Stannis for trying to kill Melisandre, whom many see as having corrupted the king's mind. Unable to keep his friend imprisoned any longer, Stannis has recently released Ser Davos.
Meanwhile, Melisandre has tracked down one of Robert's bastards – Gendry – and bought him from the Brotherhood Without Banners. She has taken Gendry back to Dragonstone, where she hopes to use the power of his royal blood. After placing leeches on the poor bastard, Melisandre gives them to King Stannis – whom casts each into the fire, forebodingly asking the Lord of Light to destroy his enemies: Joffrey Baratheon, Robb Stark, and Balon Greyjoy.
2. House Greyjoy
There has not been much of House Grejoy in this season. Balon Greyjoy, King of the Iron Islands, has been raiding and pillaging the north. His son, Theon Greyjoy, has been held prisoner in the hands of a tortuous loon throughout the entire season. We do not feel bad about Theon's torture since he torched Winterfell and killed two innocent orphan boys, passing them off as Bran and Rickon Stark's corpses. His sadistic captor did cross the point of no return when he castrated the oft-aroused Theon in the most recent episode. Ouch.
3. House Targaryen
Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons. I dare you to try find a more intimidating ruler. This season, Daenerys has proven herself to be the most capable claimant to the Iron Throne of Westeros. From the destruction of the slave city of Astapor to the acquiring of the Second Sons, the Khaleesi has shown herself to be a formidable opponent. She now turns her sights on Yunkai, an ancient city with a few hundred thousand slaves under its boot. The city had offered to give her ships and gold to invade Westeros with, but she has decided to attack them anyways in order to free her slaves. On the one hand, it would be pretty badass if Daenerys returned to Westeros as a radical abolitionist with DRAGONS leading her army of ex-slaves. On the other, perhaps it is not the wisest thing to spend all of her resources on liberating slaves that might not help out her war effort much. Time will tell, but there is one thing that is certain: if Daenerys Stormborn lands in Westeros with her dragons and the Unsullied, the other kings are going to be in trouble.
4. Beyond the Wall
Tattered and torn by being trapped so far beyond the Wall, the Night's Watch finally turned on itself back in Episode 304, with Lord Commander Mormont getting killed by one of his own men. As part of a sting operation, Ned Stark's bastard Jon Snow has joined the Wildlings and signed up with Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall. He has fallen in love with the fire-headed Ygritte and broken his Night's Watchmen vows to sleep with her. Jon has guided a Wildling raiding party across the Wall and is now taking them to Castle Black with the intention of allowing Mance's army of Wildlings to cross and invade Westeros. His loyalty will soon be tested.
Meanwhile, Samwell Tarly rescued one of Craster's daughters from the keep and took off with her and her newborn son, desperately trying to make his way to the Wall. Along the way, cowardly Sam encountered a White Walker and managed to kill it with a dragonglass dagger. This is huge news – there may be a way to kill the White Walkers. As Commander Mormont told Sam in the season premiere, "We have to warn then, or before winter is done, everyone you have ever known will be dead." Hopefully Sam can make it.
5. House Tyrell
While this house does not currently have a claimant to the Iron Throne, it has skillfully positioned itself to grasp power. Under the leadership of the awesome Lady Olenna Tyrell, the Queen of Thorns, the second-richest house in Westeros swiftly switched allegiance of King Renly Baratheon to King Joffrey Baratheon, assisting Lord Tywin in securing the capital during the Battle of Blackwater. Maergery Tyrell, a shrewd court politician, has successfully managed to manipulate her groom-to-be, Joffrey, while maintaining a kindness to the people of King's Landing and Sansa Stark. Although Tywin managed to outmaneuver Olenna on claiming the north by marrying Sansa, the Tyrells still get a consolation prize: Ser Loras is to marry Cersei, the queen, thereby bedding the Tyrells to the Lannisters and permanently securing them a position of power in Westeros.
6. House Stark
Sansa Stark remains captive in King's Landing, a pawn being tossed about as people try to use her to gain access to the north. The poor girl has just been married to a sympathetic Tyrion Lannister, and will no doubt find herself in an interesting plot. Her sister, Arya Stark, has spent most of this season as a prisoner of the Brotherhood Without Banners. Arya has recently been kidnapped by Ser Sandor Glegane, the Hound, who is taking her family at the Twins for a ransom reward.
Meanwhile, Bran and Rickon Stark have escaped Winterfell and are heading north with Osha and Hodor. With the assistance of Jojen Reed, Bran has discovered that he is a warg - someone with the power to control animals. Jojen helps him hone this skill as they approach the wall, hoping to meet with their brother, Jon Snow.
Robb Stark, King in the North, has suffered some startling setbacks this season. After his powerful bannerman Lord Rickard Karstark murdered two Lannister teenagers that Robb was holding ransom, the honorable, noble heir to Eddard Stark removed Lord Rickard's head. This caused the Karstarks to abandon his war effort, drastically depleting his forces. Now, King Robb turns to Lord Walder Frey for help.
In order to secure crossing through the Twins, Robb had vowed to marry one of Lord Frey's daughters. Instead, Robb married the beautiful Talisa on the battlefield, breaking his vows to the Freys. In an attempt to make up for it, Robb has promised to marry his uncle, Edmure Tully, to one of Frey's daughters. The Stark camp is on its way to the Twins for this epic wedding. Along the way, Robb has discovered that his wife is pregnant, and they reveal themselves to be one of the few truly loving couples in Westeros. Robb fights for honor and true love in a land without either. What could go wrong?
7. House Lannister
And who are you, the proud lord said,
That I must bow so low?
Only a cat of a different coat,
That's all the truth I know.
In a coat of gold or a coat of red,
A lion still has claws,
And mine are long and sharp, my lord,
As long and sharp as yours.
And so he spoke, and so he spoke,
That Lord of Castamere,
But now the rains weep o'er his hall,
With no one there to hear.
Yes now the rains weep o'er his hall,
And not a soul to hear.
The lyrics of the Rains of Castamere, the Lannister theme song, are important and foreboding. House Lannister is the most powerful house in Westeros right now, with control of the Iron Throne, key alliances, and wealth beyond compare. The Rains of Castamere tells the tale of a house that once rose up against House Lannister. According to Queen Cersei, her father, Lord Tywin, completely annihilated this upstart house and killed every man, woman, and child associated with it, removing House Reyne from existence. With Cersei concerned about the Tyrells, Joffrey concerned about the Targaryens, and enemies made of both the Baratheons and the Starks, there are many houses rising against the Lannisters right now. One of them will pay a debt in Episode 309.
The Rains of Castamere has been a tremendous leitmotif in this series. We first heard it as Tyrion entered a Small Council meeting in season two, whistling the tune. Bronn and his troops sang the song during Blackwater, and it also played during the credits of that episode. Throughout Season 3, the song has played whenever a member of the Lannister family emerges victorious in some way - most noticeably when Jaime Lannister rescues Brienne from Locke's bear.
This season, House Lannister has solidified its power under Lord Tywin, Hand of the King. The Tyrell alliance, with the planned wedding of Joffrey with Margaery and with Cersei and Loras, has brought them supplies and soldiers. By marrying Sansa to Lord Tyrion (much to Shae's dismay), the Lannisters have potentially secured a claim to the north. By dispatching Littlefinger to the Eyrie, the Lannisters may bring House Arryn into the fold. Jaime, though losing his hand, has rediscovered his nobility and regained control of his situation, heading off to King's Landing with Lady Brienne. If they don't end up killing each other, this dysfunctional family could set things up to reign supreme over the Seven Kingdoms.
Tune in next weekend to see the penultimate episode of Season 3. This episode will be the climax of the season. Daenerys, advised by Daario and Jorah, will plan to seize Yunkai. Bran will learn more about his power. Jon Snow will face is toughest choice yet. Robb Snow will present himself to Walder Frey, and Edmure Tully will marry one of Frey's daughters. This wedding will not be one to forget. Check back here next week for a review of the wedding of the century!