We open in the aftermath of Jon’s late night snooping. Craster did not kill him, but he is furious at having one of the Night’s Watch being where they weren’t supposed to be and seeing what is none of their business. Jon tells Jeor Mormont what he saw – Craster abandoned his newborn son and let some creature take it. But Jon is about to learn something even more shocking than that – Mormont knew about the “offerings” and did nothing. Craster’s Keep is the last thing standing between them (the realm) and the dangers beyond the Wall. “We need men like Craster.” So they look the other way. As for the strange creature that Jon saw, Mormont ominously tells him that’s likely not the last time he sees such a thing.
Outside, the brothers are readying to leave when Sam spots Gilly. Before they leave, he wants to give her something. It’s his mother’s thimble, the only thing he has from her. It reminds him of how he used to read to her while she sewed, at least until his beast of a father put a stop to that. But it’s not a gift, it’s for Gilly to keep until he sees her again. Awwww.
It’s the first Hodor of the day! We are walking through Winterfell looking through someone’s eyes, and as that someone is low to the ground and panting we can assume its Bran’s direwolf Summer (if you thought I was going to say Tyrion in a brothel, you are so Season 1). Summer accompanies Maester Luwin to wake Bran who is dreaming he is Summer accompanying Maester Luwin to wake himself and it all gets confusing as Bran looks at himself sleeping then wakes up.
Bran tells Luwin his dreams. Every night the same thing. He’s running through the godswood; it feels so real. He remembers the stories Old Nan used to tell him about magical people who could live inside of certain creatures like stags, birds, even wolves. But Luwin dismisses those as just silly fairy tales. Maybe there were people like that once, a long time ago, but they are gone now, like the dragons (um, Luwin, psst, about those dragons…). They’re just dreams, he assures Bran. But Bran says his dreams are different, his come true. Luwin shows Bran a special chain he has from his past studies. It’s made of Valyrian Steel and it represents that he has studied magic (I’ll just bet he was a Hufflepuff). He said that all the magic things, if they existed, no longer do. Dragons, giants, the children of the forest – all long gone.
We’re in a new location, Renly’s encampment. “King” Renly (get in line there, fella) is enjoying an afternoon of combat, the lovely Margaery Tyrell at his side. She is cheering on her brother, Lord of Flowers, Loras Tyrell, but he is forced to yield in this combat. And who defeated Ser Loras? A girl! Gasp! Well, actually a rather imposing wall of a woman named Brienne of Tarth. She asks for the honor of serving the king as one of his kingsguard and she looks pretty formidable so Renly says sure, just don’t hurt me.
Catelyn Stark comes before Renly on behalf of her son, Lord of Winterfell and King of the North (just so we have that straight, those titles are nonnegotiable). He introduces her to his wife, of the house Tyrell, and Margaery is gracious, sending condolences for Catelyn’s loss. So all the pleasantries are done with. Renly promises to avenge Ned’s death when he takes King’s Landing and chops off King Joffrey’s head. Catelyn gets some attitude from newly hired Brienne the enforcer (call him My Grace and kneel before him, Brienne tells her) and newly defeated Loras (why is Robb hiding behind his mom’s skirt, he sneers) and Renly nicely diffuses the situation by taking Catelyn for a walk.
We see what a popular king Renly is as he confirms he can amass 100,000 followers, but Catelyn is not convinced. She derides him and his men for playing at war while her eldest is risking his life in real battle. Renly is already used to only being told what he wants to hear, so he suggests Brienne take Catelyn back to her tent. He says, he’s going to pray for a bit.
Along the way to Catelyn’s tent, the ladies chat and we learn of Brienne’s devotion to her king and her humility (I’m no Capital “L” Lady).
On Pyke, Theon is questioning Yara why she didn’t tell him earlier that she was his sister and she said she wanted to see what kind of a man he was. Well, some questions are better left unanswered. Their father comes in to discuss their plans for war. With Robb fighting in the south, the north is unprotected. The Greyjoy fleet can pillage up and down the northern coast of Westeros. They will spread out across the green lands, securing the Neck and taking everything above it. Winterfell may fight them for some time, but the rest should be easy pickings. He instructs Yara to take 30 longships to take Deepwood Motte. Meanwhile Theon gets a single ship to raid fishing villages on the stoney shore. As kids know, this means Balon loves Yara at least 30 times more than he loves Theon.
Theon tries to reason with his father. If he would just pledge fealty to Robb Stark he would be given Casterly Rock. That is not the way things are done on the Iron Islands, his father growls. We don’t ask for things we take them. What are our words? “We do not sow.” Remember that. We take what is ours. Balon again tells Theon what a disappointment he is – how Stark-ified he has become these past nine years. This really strikes a nerve with Theon. His father gave him to the Starks after bending his knee to Robert Baratheon when the Greyjoy Rebellion was put down. Why is Theon being blamed for living with the Starks all these years and adapting to his life there? His sister tells him he better choose fast which family he is part of.
Tyrion tries to convince Shae to take a job in the kitchen so she’ll blend in better and no one (and by no one he means his father) will know who she really is. But Shae doesn’t care about Tyrion’s concerns, she’s not scrubbing pots. Hey, I’m all for any scene involving Tyrion but I can’t pretend much happened in this one.
And you thought meals with your future in laws were awkward? Sansa is having dinner with Cersei, Myrcella and Tommen and her future sister-in-law asks her about marrying Joffrey and at first Sansa doesn’t respond because she’s too busy trying to go to her happy place (season one, episode one). Cersei snaps at her to respond when spoken to, and Sansa does a masterful job parroting a perfect response. Tommen asks if Joffrey is going to kill Sansa’s brother and Cersei says it might happen. Is that what you want, she asks (expecting a gleeful yes, probably), but Tommen sweetly says, No. So as awful as things are for Sansa, at least she’s not completely surrounded by sadistic monsters who want to see her suffer more.
Sansa is back in her room when she hears a knock on the door. She’s probably dreading what more could happen when instead it’s a foreigner announcing she’s her new handmaiden. So Shae won the fight with Tyrion, she doesn’t have to work in the kitchen (though I don’t see how emptying chamber pots is an improvement). Shae is the world’s worst handmaiden. She just stands there, borderline belligerently, and does not at all hide that she hates this job and has no clue how to serve. Exasperated that she can’t even have a handmaiden who just wants to make her life more comfortable, Sansa finally comes up with something she can do. Just brush my hair.
Next is a truly delicious trifecta of scenes that demonstrate the cunning of Tyrion and how this Hand of the King is better able to play the game than his predecessors. Tyrion meets in private with each of the three members of the Small Council whose intentions and loyalty are an open question – Pycelle, Varys and Littlefinger. He tells them the same story – in the interest of forging stronger bonds with their allies, he has arranged for his niece Myrcella to be married off to a prominent house.
Pycelle is told that the plan is to send her to Dorne to marry into the House Martell. Pycelle is explicitly told NOT to tell the queen of this plan. He swears himself to secrecy.
Next, Tyrion tells Varys the plan is to marry Myrcella off to Theon Greyjoy. Balon Greyjoy hates the Starks and can destroy their northern army from within. Varys is dubious at best about the plan but he also swears not to tell the queen about it.
Finally, it’s Littlefinger’s turn. The tale Tyrion spins for him is as preposterous as it is intriguing. Myrcella is to be wed to Lord Robin Arryn of the Vale (assuming he’s willing to take another nipple besides his mummy’s). Despite the fact that Lysa tried to kill Tyrion, in the interest of peace he’ll let bygones by bygones. And Littlefinger of course thinks his role in this diplomacy is significant. Tyrion goes along, yes I need you to broker the deal. Littlefinger is so unctuous and calculating, what’s in it for me, he purrs. Tyrion quickly comes up with something Littlefinger covets – a noble house. He can have Harrenhall. Littlefinger demurs at first. Harrenhall is cursed. But the thought of having any storied piece of property that oozes nobility is catnip to the self made man. He’s onboard and of course will not tell the queen. Now all Tyrion has to do is sit back and see which of the three breaks their vow of silence.
When Renly left Catelyn he said he was off to pray. He really has quite the religious fervor. He and his brother-in-law Loras Tyrell are having a great time making out until Loras brings up how Renly hurt his feelings by promoting Brienne to the kingsguard after defeating him in their battle. Renly tries to apologize and salvage the evening, but Loras is not in the mood. People are starting to talk and his father did not approve the marriage of Renly to his daughter for her to still be a virgin this long into their marriage. Renly needs to do his duty, as yucky as it may be.
Margaery comes in and she tries her best to seduce her husband, but he is not into it. Showing remarkable practicality, she suggests either bringing her brother in or turning around so Renly can pretend she’s him. Renly pretends he doesn’t know what she means but she says, save it. She didn’t marry him for love any more than he married her for sex. He needs to put a baby in her belly to solidify his position and silence his critics and whatever he needs to accomplish that, she’ll make sure he has. He is king after all. And as we learned, the king gets what he wants – unless it’s to live openly gay, unfortunately.
It didn’t take long to find out who in the small council is a rat as Cersei storms into Tyrion’s room with smoke coming out her ears. She is furious that he would suggest marrying her daughter off to … drumroll please … The Martels! Okay, so it was Pycelle who broke his vow. Hmm, I think we all expected it would have been Littlefinger. Tyrion has to take this piece of info and tuck it away for later use. Now he still has to deal with the Mama Bear firestorm. He tries to convince Cersei that this is for the best, she wants her daughter safe, etc. But she is inconsolable at the thought of losing her daughter and pushes him over before storming off.
No matter what you might think of Theon, it’s hard not to feel sorry for him in this scene. He feels allegiance to the Starks, who treated him like part of the family. Yet he also wants his father’s love and respect and to live up to his father’s expectations. He knows that the best plan would be to ally with Robb, yet that is not the Greyjoy way and will not be acceptable to his father. What to do? He writes out a letter to Robb to tell him everything, and weighs what to do. Ultimately, he sets the letter aflame, his decision and allegiance chosen.
Having chosen to fight for the Greyjoys, Theon is reborn figuratively and literally in the water of the Iron Islands. The “Drowned Priest” conducts the ceremony to baptize Theon in the Drowned God, the god of the Iron Islands. The title of this episode comes from part of the words that are spoken at the religious rite. Followers of the Drowned God believe he brought flame from the sea and that it is their duty to kill their enemy and take what they can pillage and plunder. They believe in paying the “iron price” (taking things by force) rather than the “gold price” (buying it or being given it).
Word quickly spread about Myrcella being sent off to Dorne and Littlefinger charges into Tyrion’s office, not at all happy about being part of Tyrion’s “little deception.” Littlefinger tells him to leave him out of the next one, but Tyrion quickly comes up with an offer Petyr Baelish can’t refuse. Go to Catelyn Stark and negotiate to get Jaime returned.
Bronn interrupts their discussion with news he’s found the old stoat and he has company. They all burst in on Pycelle as he is
entertaining being entertained by a young lady. Tyrion tells him he knows he’s a rat and wants to know just how long he’s been snooping for his sister. Pycelle starts blathering about how everything he does he does for the Lannisters but Tyrion is not buying what he’s selling. He has Bronn there for muscle and wants to make some statement.
Tryion suggests cutting off his manhood and feeding to the goats but there are no goats. So Tyrion says he doesn’t like Pycelle’s beard. Off it goes. Pycelle is carted away to the black cell and will not get the chance to aid and abet anything befalling the current Hand. Tyrion pays the young girl, handsomely, for her trouble.
Varys and Tyrion have an interesting conversation. There may be a slight thawing in their chilly relationship. Varys passed the first test and Tyrion has proved himself a worthy opponent. He is not another Ned Stark.
The next scene is a really beautifully shot scene, just Arya and Yoren among a sea of sleeping future recruits. Arya’s sleep is troubled and she asks Yoren how he sleeps, having seen what’s he’s seen. He tells her he made sure she didn’t see what happened to her father, but she said she saw enough and can’t get any of it out of her mind. Yoren knows how she feels. He tells her how when he was a little older than she, he witnessed his brother die. He never could get the man who killed him out of his head. He became so obsessed he would say the man’s name every night, like a prayer. Willem, Willem. Then one day, Willem rolls into town. “I buried an ax so deep into his skull, they had to bury him with it.”
Suddenly they hear a disturbance from outside. The Gold Cloaks are back! Yoren tells Arya and Gendry to stay out of trouble and if things go bad, head north. In the commotion, Lommy picks up Gendry’s bull’s head helm.
Yoren meets the leader of the City Watch guards and refuses to drop his sword. So one of the men hits him with a crossbow. Yoren pulls out the arrow and fights valiantly, but in the end there are just too many Gold Cloaks and he is killed. All hell breaks loose and the campsite is on fire and people are running in every direction. Arya hears the man with the foreign accent call to her. Jaqen H’ghar is trapped with his fellow convicts in a cage that’s about to be incinerated. She comes over and helps free them. The guards round up the recruits and the plan is to take them all to Harrenhal.
Lommy is wounded, he has an arrow in his leg. He makes the mistake of mouthing off to one of the Gold Cloaks who kills him rather than listening to him any more. But Lonny’s death gives Gendry cover. They were there to get the boy who owned the bull’s head helm, say the guards. Looking at the helm which Lommy took from Gendry, Arya cleverly says, you’ve got your man!
Loras Tyrell: Has your son marched against Tywin Lannister yet?
Catelyn Stark: I do not sit on my son’s war councils, and if I did, I would not share his strategies with you.
Loras: If Robb Stark wants a pact with us, he should come himself, not hide behind his mother’s skirts!
Catelyn: My son is fighting a war, not playing at one!
Drowned Priest: Let Theon your servant be born again from the sea, as you were. Bless him with salt, bless him with stone, bless him with steel.
Theon Greyjoy: What is dead may never die.
Drowned Priest: What is dead may never die, but rises again, harder and stronger.
Varys: Power resides where men believe it resides. It’s a trick, a shadow on the wall, and a very small man can cast a very large shadow.