The credits identify a new location for this episode, Pyke. Pyke is the home of the Greyjoys, so can Theon’s teary reunion with his family be far away?
We open on Arya relieving herself in private so as not to let her fellow travelers know that she lacks even a little finger. As she heads back to work at camp, she passes by a cart carrying three criminals for delivery to the Night’s Watch. One of them speaks to her and calls her “lovely boy” which means either he’s a recruiter for Penn State or he’s on to her cross-dressing ruse. The man speaks of himself in the third person (though he does share his name – Jaqen H’ghar), is polite, attractive and has an interesting accent, but none of those things gets him any water as his fellow prisoners just get Arya’s blood boiling.
Gendry tries to counsel Arya on how to avoid trouble when some members of the City Guard come into camp. They are far from their normal jurisdiction of King’s Landing. Arya is convinced they are looking for her (which they would be if anyone had thought Arya would be there undercover as a Night’s Watch recruit). But instead they’re there to kill off another of late King Robert’s bastards. Yoren comes up to deal with the Gold Cloaks, and makes sure they know that he is not trembling before them. The City Watch can’t just grab one of his recruits, these boys and men don’t belong to the realm any more. The lead guard goes for his sword but in the time it takes him to unsheathe it, Yoren has his dagger strategically placed to guarantee attention and obedience.
It works for the most part. The guard makes sure everyone knows that they were there to find a young boy named Gendry – and in case they don’t know their fellow recruits by name, he makes sure to add that Gendry is the fellow with the bull’s head helm. That should narrow it down. The king will pay dearly for anyone to turn him over. They promise to return, make Yoren pay for his dagger trick, and find their man.
Birds are singing, the new Hand of the King is whistling, it’s another beautiful day in the Capital. Until Tyrion walks into his chambers and finds Shae in the spider’s web. What was the one thing Tyrion asked – that no one find out he brought his girlfriend with him to King’s Landing. And who now knows? Oh, just the Master of freakin’ Whisperers.
They parry and thrust and each scores a minor victory in the verbal duel. But there is no question that Tyrion is worried about Varys knowing the truth. We’re not sure whether his concern is well placed. Varys makes it clear that Tyrion has power and influence and if he (Varys) can count on his (Tyrion’s) “friendship” there is no reason for Varys to let the secret slip. Tyrion does not like being played and he tells Varys not to threaten him. He’s no Ned Stark and he understands the way the game is played. Varys responds with the truth – power comes and goes, as do those who think they’re powerful, and yet Varys stays and stays. It’s mostly a draw, slight advantage to the eunuch.
The small council is meeting to listen to and then laugh at Robb Stark’s peace demands, delivered not by raven but by Alton Lannister, one of many cousins of the de facto ruling family. Cersei does to the letter what she did to the letter written on Robert’s deathbed. Dwight Shrute would shudder at the wanton disregard for paper this woman displays.
Cersei plans to send her cousin Alton back with their response. Basically, Robb can go pound sand. Tyrion suggests that they could at least return Ned Stark’s bones for proper burial, but Cersei will not agree to any concession. Before cousin leaves, however, we have an incredibly awkward moment where sisterly love tries to mask lover-ly love for her missing twin. When he sees Jaime again, “Tell him he’s not been forgotten.”
Maester Pycelle presents a letter from Castle Black and Tyrion intercepts it so it can be read before Cersei gets her paper-shredding hands on it. There are troubles with the wildlings as well as a growing threat from a King north of the Wall. Cersei is unconvincing in her attempt to pretend all these pretenders to her son’s crown don’t worry her. She’s much more convincing as someone who will not for a moment entertain the thought that there is anything spooky going on North of the Wall. She completely disregards the warnings in the letter of the dead rising – though in fairness they should have included at least some fuzzy video of a white walker if they wanted her to believe. Tyrion tries to tell the council about Commander Mormont’s close encounter of the wight kind, but Cersei can’t be bothered. She ridicules her brother giving any credence to the report saying, one trip to the wall and now you believe in grumpkins and snarks. Tyrion is angry and frustrated and gives the council fair warning – the Wall and the men who defend it are all that separates us from what lies beyond the Wall. But they all walk out on him, following the queen, leaving Mormont’s request unanswered.
Back at Craster’s Keep, Grenn and another brother nicknamed Dolorous Edd are having a very serious discussion of death and flatulence when Sam comes up to join them. He can’t get over the abundance of unavailable (for many reasons) women there. Grenn talks about his previous experience with the ladies and Sam is full-on envious.
Jon’s direwolf Ghost is proving himself an able wingman for Sam, looking menacingly at one of Craster’s girls so that Sam can swoop in all heroic and save the damsel. Sam tells Ghost to skedaddle and the sweet young girl looks at him earnestly and says “you’re so heroic” and I thought he was going to swell up like Violet Beauregard. He brings his new friend over to Jon, who’s already been warned by Commander Mormont not to get into any mischief. Jon takes one look at the girl and knows he wants no part of whatever Sam is selling. But Sam can’t help himself, he knows her name and her condition (with child) and wants Jon to help him help her.
Help her what, Jon asks. Leave. Escape. Blow this pop stand. Make like a too-tight pair of pants and split. Sam is like a little kid coming upon an abandoned puppy. She’s cute, can we keep her? Jon states the obvious, if touching one of Craster’s girls costs you a hand, what do you lose for taking one? No, Sam, just no. We’re heading into wildling territory, who could deliver her baby (Sam offers he’s read about it), how can we travel with her? No, is Jon’s final answer. I don’t know who looks sadder – Sam hearing it or Jon saying it.
The camera is out of focus as we come upon the hungry, weary and parched remaining members of Dany’s khalasar as they wait for their riders to return. Jorah notices a horse coming back and alerts Dany, but there is trouble. The horse has no rider. Jorah approaches the fly-swarmed saddlebag and somewhere Brad Pitt is crying “what’s in the box?” Jorah channels his inter Morgan Freeman and checks it out, finding one of the rider’s heads in the bag and his cut off braid. It is a message from some rival Khal that they do not accept a woman leader.
The dead rider was Rakharo, Dany’s most trusted and reliable man, and his girl Irri is devastated. She cries that he was not given a proper burial. Dany promises to see to that (a fire) and to avenge his death.
Theon Greyjoy is sailing back to Pyke for the first time since he was taken ward by the Starks following his father’s failed rebellion. He’s expecting a hero’s welcome befitting the last male Greyjoy’s triumphant return home. He’s cocky and dismissive of the girl on the boat who tries to show interest in him and treats her horribly. At least a whore would be paid for having to put up with this.
Speaking of whores, HBO decides to remind us this show is on a premium channel by going from one sex scene to another. We’re at Littlefinger’s brothel and while he’s busy surreptitiously watching the customers get serviced (in case we were unclear if he was depraved or not), we hear an unhappy customer. Seems one of the girls just wouldn’t stop crying. He quickly cleans up another of the girls, sends her off to make sure the customer always gets what they want, then goes to find out what the problem is.
In a very slow, very drawn out scene we learn it was Ros who was crying because she was still upset over the baby butchery she witnessed. We expect kindness or understanding, but what we hear is chilling to the bone. Lord Baelish makes sure she understands that this one time he’ll make an exception but should she ever let her personal feelings get in the way of business he will find a way to make his money off of her, even if it involves letting some rich man use her as his very own sadism-soaked plaything. Capice?
Tyrion summoned Commander Slynt to come for some wine, food and conversation and a major ass whooping. After dinner, he questions the commander about his role in the surprise capture of Ned Stark. And Tyrion lets it be known that he is not at all amused that innocent children and babies were murdered while he’s Hand of the King. He tells Slynt that given that he betrayed the last hand of the King, it would not make a lot of sense to keep him on the payroll. He’ll be taking the black and living the rest of his days on the Wall. And before he leaves, he should pass his key card over to his replacement, Bronn. The City Watch has a new commander.
Bronn and Tyrion celebrate the changing of the guard and then Tyrion has a moment of reflection. He asks Bronn if he would kill an infant child if ordered to do so, without question. No, Bronn replies, not without question. “I’d ask how much.” Tyrion looks crestfallen; perhaps he just now realized that the last “good” man in the Capital was the late Lord Stark.
Back on the kingsroad with Arya and the rest of Yoren’s recruits, two of the boys (Lommy and Hot Pie) are arguing about their relative toughness. Gendry is the cool voice of reason and the one they all look to. When she has him alone, Arya starts asking questions about why the Gold Cloaks would be looking for him. He tells her how the last two Hands of the King had each paid him a visit and now each of them is dead. She presses him for details and he said they asked him questions about his mother. But far as he knows, there’s nothing special about her. He doesn’t know who is father is.
Next it’s Gendry turn to ask questions. Why did “Arry” think the gold cloaks were there for “him?” Was it because you killed someone or because you’re a girl? I’m not a girl, Arya squeaks like a girl. Gendry did not just fall off the turnip truck. She can fool some people with a bad DIY haircut and unisex outfit, but not him. She asks him not to tell Lommy or Hot Pie and he agrees. She tells him the whole truth and he’s taken aback. She’s a highborn Lady not some guttersnipe. He starts sputtering “my lady’s” and apologizes for suggesting she whip out her dick to prove she was a dude and he gets rather funny and playful for someone who is on the City Watch’a Most Wanted list.
Hail the triumphant return of Lord Greyjoy, heir to the Iron Islands, the long-lost but never forgotten…what? Where’s the band, the parade, the mayor with a key to the city? Theon is brought ashore to be greeted by … no one. He’s lucky to find a surly, tough-talking woman who offers to take him to Pyke where he’s sure the surprise welcome home party is all set up. He immediately starts putting the moves on the girl in what he must think passes for sexy banter but which comes across as creepy lecher talk.
As they ride on tandem horseback he’s whispering in her ear and feeling her up while boasting about his prowess and great future and he makes some indecent proposals to her. She is equal to the task of dealing with him, though we do wonder why she’s bothering and doesn’t just push him off the horse.
Theon enters the room to greet his father after nine long years apart and we quickly discover that creepiness is hereditary. The man shows no love for his son, no joy at his return. He couldn’t even spring for one helium “Welcome Home” balloon. Instead, he mocks the boy for adapting to the life he was forced into. He ridicules his clothes, his manner, even his right of inheritance. This is not going at all the way Theon envisioned.
Theon shares with his father a letter from Robb Stark asking for Balon’s ships to join the army fighting the Lannisters, but Balon mocks his son as a hired raven doing Robb’s bidding. When Theon explains that he will lead the Greyjoy fleet and fight to help his father reclaim the title King of the Iron Islands, Balon thinks him preposterous. He’s no warrior, he’s not leading anyone or anything. Theon wants what is his as Balon’s heir, but Balon does not think of Theon as a Greyjoy anymore. And he has an heir, thank you very much. Theon, I think you may have already met…your sister. Yes, the lady he groped and talked dirty to was none other than his big sister all grown up. Everyone outside of the Lannister twins just got a case of the heebie jeebies.
Theon looks like he’s about to vomit and his sister, Yara, looks like she’s greatly enjoying tormenting him. She and her father let Theon know that they’re pretty enlightened on the Iron Islands and a woman can lead an army as well as (if not better than) a man, especially one in a skirt (guess they haven’t seen Braveheart). Yara will be leading any attack, not this soft, spoiled boy that has been raised in the cushy Winterfell castle. Balon sets fire to the note from Robb Stark. When Balon tells Theon that he won’t deal with Robb, instead he’ll take what’s his by force, Theon warns him about going up against the Lannisters. To which Balon replies, who said anything about the Lannisters. Scratch diplomacy and deal making off of Theon’s list of future occupations.
Davos (joined by his son Matthos) is meeting with a sellsail (pirate) from Lys named Salladhor Saan about backing Stannis in his quest for the
Holy Grail Iron Throne. Salladhor, an old friend of Davos, is a smart business man and likes what he hears from Davos about why he should back Stannis over his brother or Joffrey, each of whom have larger armies. Davos says Stannis is the most honorable and loyal and, oddly, those traits seem to matter to the pirate. So Salladhor will sail with his 30 ships to plunder King’s Landing along with Stannis, if he gets the queen as part of the spoils of victory. Davos is as honorable as he says Stannis is and refuses to promise more than he can deliver.
Davos and his son Matthos have an interesting conversation about religion. Davos sees things differently than his father. He is a true believer in the one true god that Melisandre was praying to, the Lord of Light. While Davos believes in his friend Stannis and his claim to the throne, he does not share the belief that his god is the true one. Matthos thinks that if his father would let him teach him to read, the holy books could persuade Davos better than he can. Davos is a nonbeliever and in one of the most touching exchanges ever he tells his son that in his experience prayer isn’t the answer. People all the time pray for this and that and for what? Those prayers are never answered. He said he never once prayed to come home, all those years he was away from home. “But I did,” replies Matthos.
Time for some sibling-on-sibling verbal attacks brought to us courtesy of the bickering Lannisters. Cersei is angry with Tyrion for firing Janos Slynt and Tyrion is angry with Cersei for adding baby killer to her list of sins. Only…looks like even the ice queen isn’t that cold – it was Joffrey who ordered the slaughter. They go back and forth. She says Tyrion doesn’t know what it means to rule. He says Cersei has done about as poor a job of it as could be done. He then jabs her with an inappropriate comment about her dalliances with their brother and Cersei goes for the jugular. Her favorite discussion stopper – how Tyrion’s birth cost her mother her life. Really no comeback for that one so she storms off but not really victorious.
War planning with Stannis and his advisors – trusty sidekick Davos, loyal true believer Matthos and spiritual guru Melisandre. When the two Seaworths are asked to leave, Melisandre stops Matthos to tell him that the god of light shines through him and that fire is the purest form of death. Some people just say “see you later.” Stannis is concerned. Without the 100,000 men Renly has assembled, he’s not sure he’ll prevail. Melisandre says she knows the path to victory and it comes through giving himself over to The Lord of Light. But, she adds, more is needed than just reciting the words of a prayer or burning some statues. If you get her drift. And if you don’t, Melisandre drops her dress, comes to Stannis and lets him mount her like the stallion he is. She promises him what his loony wife has failed to deliver – a son, an heir. I hope they clean up that table before the next meeting.
North of the Wall, Jon has found a new way to get himself in trouble. He followed as Craster takes a baby out into the wilderness and lays it down. Something human-like but not quite comes and takes the baby away, answering the not rhetorical “what happens to the male babies” question. Jon is not quiet and discreet like a direwolf in the night so Craster finds him and knocks him out and we all fade to black.
Varys: Ned was a man of honor
Tyrion: And I am not.
Tyrion: You’ve perfected the art of tearing up papers.
Varys: Trouble with the wildlings?
Littlefinger: That’s why they’re called wildlings.
Varys: How do you kill a dead man?
Tyrion: Apparently you burn him.
Sam: I wish I grew up on a farm.
Tyrion: I’m not questioning your honor, Lord Janos. I’m denying its existence.
Gendry: You shouldn’t insult anyone bigger than you.
Arya: Then I’d never get to insult anyone.
Balon Greyjoy: No man gives me a crown. I pay the iron price.
Salladhor Saan: The one true god is between a woman’s legs.
Cersei: You want to be Hand of the King? You want to rule? This is what ruling is; lying on a bed of weeds, ripping them out by the root, one by one, before they strangle you in your sleep!
Tyrion: I’m no king, but I think there’s more to ruling than that.
Cersei: I don’t care what you think! You’ve never taken it seriously; you haven’t, Jaime hasn’t! It’s all fallen on me.
Tyrion: As has Jaime repeatedly, according to Stannis Baratheon.
Cersei: You’re funny. You’ve always been funny, but none of your jokes will ever match the first one, will they? Do you remember, back when you ripped my mother open on your way out of her and she bled to death?
Tyrion: She was my mother too.
Cersei: Mother gone, for the sake of you. There’s no bigger joke in the world than that.