Two new opening sequence locations for this episode. The first is Harrenhal, where the Gold Cloaks said they were taking the survivors of their raid on the Night’s Watch caravan. The other is Qarth, in the eastern realm called Essos (across the sea from Westeros).
Two knights are discussing who are the best swordsmen in the realm. The Mountain is mentioned as is Jaime Lannister. They also mention Loras Tyrell, who, though prettier than the queen, is better with a sword than either of the other two. Then one knight makes a crude joke, “How good could he been. He’s been stabbing Renly Baratheon for years and Renly ain’t dead.” So gossip knows no boundaries.
The horses start getting spooked and the knights hear something off in the distance and everyone’s getting a bit creeped out. Suddenly, a direwolf comes charging after one of the knights and we see teeth bared and hear screams. We then see Robb Stark and his mean and hear them chant “King of the North!”
The next day we see the aftermath of the battle. Dead bodies strewn around, smoldering flames and the anguished cries of the injured. Roose Bolton is updating Robb on the battle numbers – five Lannisters dead for everyone of theirs. There are too many prisoners. If they are all housed, they will use up all the provisions. But Robb says they will not be executing their prisoners. Bolton hopes some of the officers of the Lannister army may be useful in providing information of Tywin’s strategy, though Robb doubts they’ll have much information. Bolton says he’ll learn soon enough. In his family, they have a saying, “A naked man has few secrets. A flayed man none.” Remind me not to go skinny dipping with the Boltons. Robb reminds Bolton that his father outlawed flaying in the north, to which Bolton replies, “We’re not in the north.” Robb reiterates, we are not torturing anyone and Bolton thinks Robb is naive and not doing what’s best for his cause.
The conversation is brought to a close when Robb hears a soldier crying out in pain and fear. Florence Nightingale appears on the battlefield to tend the wounded and she’s trying to amputate the fellow’s foot, but he’s become awfully fond of it. Robb comes over and helps her control the man while she slowly saws off the foot. Robb has never been more turned on. Her name is Talisa and Robb is immediately smitten. Talisa blames Robb for all the bloodshed. She’s anti-war but rather than writing protest songs, she volunteers to take care of the wounded regardless of which side they are fighting on. She challenges Robb and points out that he hasn’t thought much beyond avenging his father’s death. Then off she goes into after making Robb feel completely terrible about himself. And he already misses her.
Joffrey has his sights set on Sansa, literally. He is aiming a freakin’ crossbow right at her and telling her she’s there to answer for her brother’s latest treason, the raid from last night that killed Stafford Lannister and thousands of Lannister soldiers. “Killing you would send your brother a message, but my mother insists on keeping you alive.” When Cersei is more reasonable that someone, you know that person has a real problem. He puts down the weapon and tells her to stand as he thinks of another way to send a message to Robb.
Joffrey summons Meryn Trant, one of the members of his Kingsguard, and tells him to spare her face, but beat the rest of her up. Who is worse, the one ordering the beating or the one who obeys without question? Discuss. In front of a gallery of onlookers, Joffrey tells Meryn to take off her clothes then tells him to do his worst. No one does anything to stop him. He pulls out his sword and is about to bring it down on her when we hear, “What is the meaning of this?” It is Tyrion.
Tyrion is furious. “What kind of knight beats a helpless girl?” He insults Meryn and tells Bronn to take care of him if he gets out of line. He is appalled at Joffrey treating his future wife like that. He orders someone cover the girl (the Hound drapes a cloak over her) and calls his nephew a halfwit. He reminds Joffrey that the Mad King did as he liked, and look where that got him. When Meryn tells him not to threaten the king, he says he’s not threatening the king but educating his nephew. He helps Sansa off and speaks to her softly, apologizing for Joffrey’s horrible behavior. He asks her if she wants an end to the engagement, but she can’t do anything other than mimic what she’s been told to say. Tyrion is strangely impressed, “Lady Stark, you may survive us yet.”
Bronn thinks Joffrey’s problem is sexual frustration and makes a joke about the king being backed up from balls to brains. Tyrion and Bronn discuss that Joffrey has nothing to do with himself all day besides “pull the wings off of flies” and maybe a sexual release would do him some good.
So Tyrion sends Joffrey a name day present, two of the best whores in King’s Landing (Ros and another girl, the one who had been with Pycelle last episode). The girls are going at it and it all is playful fun, until Joffrey lets his sadistic imagination run wild and we go from fun to slightly uncomfortable to downright horrifying as he orders Ros to beat the other girl. And it’s so slow and tortured as you see the evil wheels turning and know what Joffrey has planned. If this present is from his uncle, the same one who just embarrassed him in front of everyone, then he knows just what to do with this present. And afterwards, Ros is to take the girl to Tyrion’s chambers so he knows exactly what happened.
Littlefinger is at Renly’s encampment and the two former Small Council members could not hate each other more. Littlefinger begins by saying there are many who believe Ned Stark erred by not supporting Renly’s claim to the throne. Renly thinks Littlefinger is there hedging his bets and protecting himself should Renly be successful in attacking King’s Landing. Littlefinger says that Renly could be met by opposition or by open gates when he arrives.
That night he engages the queen in conversation and immediately hones in on the fact that she does not share her husband’s bed. The rumors about Renly are well known so it is obvious that Littlefinger is just toying with her. She is not amused and lets him know that he is not getting the best of this conversation.
We are in the middle of the red waste and we see a lone rider. He’s returning to Dany and what remains of her khalasar. He tells her his new horse was a present from the Thirteen, the elders of Qarth, a city three days ride from here, on the sea. They would be happy to welcome the mother of dragons. Dany asks Jorah what he knows about Qarth. He says that the desert around their city is known as the garden of bones and every time they shut their gate on a traveler, the garden grows. Well, that’s not nearly as nice as silver bells and cockleshells, but it’s the closest piece of civilization, so that’s where they’re going.
Arya, Hot Pie and Gendry find themselves in chains brought with the rest to Harrenhal in the heart of the Riverlands. The stone on the outside of the castle (the largest in all of Westeros) appears melted and they wonder what could melt stone. Arya suggests “dragon fire.” Perhaps this is why it is thought to be cursed. They are kept in chains and hear horror stories about what is going on there, with someone killed every day.
At night, Arya recites the names of the people who she wants vengeance against: Joffrey, Cersei, Ilyn Payne, and The Hound.
Littlefinger comes into Catelyn Stark’s tent and it looks like she could kill him right there. She is so angry with him for betraying Ned. Littlefinger sputters, he never betrayed him, he asked him to serve as protector of the realm, but Ned wouldn’t listen. She says Littlefinger betrayed her and Ned and orders him out, but he won’t go. He’s loved her since he was a boy. “It seems like fate has given us this chance,” he says. She pulls a dagger on him, is he out of his mind? Her husband just died, in large part because of Littlefinger’s actions, and now he wants to pick up where they never left off because, as he forgets, she never was into him!
You got to give it to him, he has balls. Instead of leaving, he asks her if she wants to see her girls again. He lies and tells her that both girls are healthy and safe at King’s Landing. He says she has to trade Jaime for the girls. She says Robb will never agree and Littlefinger says that’s why I brought this deal to you. Robb is not a mother. He also has something for her, a token of Tyrion Lannister’s goodwill – Ned’s remains, for proper burial.
Back at Harrenhal, we realize this is an outpost of the Lannister army (as the soldiers are wearing red) and we see that our old friend The Mountain is the one who picks who will be tortured and killed. Way to fit the man with the job! A torturer nicknamed The Tickler straps the unlucky victim to a chair, questions them about the location of “the brotherhood,” and then when he fails to get a satisfactory answer, he straps a bucket containing a ravenous rat on the man’s chest, heats one end of the bucket and waits for the rat to run away from the heat and burrow itself into the man’s chest. Even Hannibal Lecter, when hearing of this, went, ewww.
Catelyn is accompanying Renly to meet with his brother Stannis in the Riverlands. We have Renly, Ser Loras and Lady Brienne on one side and Stannis, Ser Davos and Melisandre the red priestess on the other. The men compare sigils (Stannis added fire for the Lord of Light) and try and resolve how there can be two men who call themselves king, but only one true king. Catelyn tries to play the mom card and get the two bickering brothers to see eye-to-eye, but that hasn’t worked since before Cain and Abel, so there’s little chance of these two settling their dispute. Renly says no one wants you for their king, Stannis says you have till dawn to accept my right to the throne, and that’s where it’s left.
Dany and her “horde” are met outside the gates of Qarth by the thirteen and some of their guards. Dany was expecting a warm welcome, but that is not what she receives. The thirteen are the protectors of Qarth, “the greatest city that ever was or will be.” They want to see the dragons before they do anything else. But Dany knows that the baby dragons are not an imposing sight, so she demurs. No dragons, no entry. The thirteen turn and head back inside, but Dany yells at them, threatening what she and her dragons will do to them someday. It’s particularly ballsy as she’s already admitted that without their help, she and her people will all die outside the gates.
One of the thirteen, Xaro Xhoan Daxos, is intrigued by Dany. He invokes “soumai” and I know I love the little minced pork dumplings, but I didn’t realize that they’re popular enough in Qarth to override the rules and Dany gets to bring her horde into the city gates. As the gates part, you expect to see the chocolate streams and candy gardens or at least a yellow brick road, but instead its a generic Mid-eastern meets Mediterranean city.
Another day in Harrenhal, another poor guy’s head on a spike. Arya and her friends are waiting for the next victim, and the Mountain selects Gendry! Arya is panicked, but there’s really nothing for her to do. Gendry is strapped in, questioning begins, and we’re just at the hungry rat part when who should show up to save the day but Tywin Lannister. Tywin, on a white horse, stops the ridiculous waste of human life. Let’s put these people to work, not murder them. Tywin asks Gendry if he has a trade and learns that Gendry was a smith. And they were about to kill him, the fools. Not only were they stupid about that, they didn’t even realize that Arya is a girl. But Tywin spotted that right away. He finds her smarter than most of the Lannister army working there, and has them bring her to him as his new cup bearer.
Tyrion opens the door and it’s his cousin Lancel Lannister delivering an order from the queen that Maester Pycelle be freed immediately. Tyrion will do as he’s ordered, but first he’s going to have some fun at his cousin’s expense. He notes how Lancel is with the queen at all hours and how he seems to be wearing her favorite scented oils. He then makes his accusation clear about their special relationship. He asks Lancel how Joffrey would feel knowing that he’s sleeping with his mother. Tyrion will trade his discretion for information. If Lancel reports back to him on what Cersei is up to, he will keep quiet about their dalliance.
Davos comes to talk to Stannis on the docks. Davos wears the knucklebones Stannis hacked off years ago and Stannis asks him about them. He jokes about his good luck since then, “it’s four less fingernails to clean.” “Fewer,” corrects Stannis and for a moment I take his side against Renly. Davos wears the bones to remind himself where he comes from and how far he’s come. It also reminds him of Stannis’ justice. Davos was a hero and a smuggler, and the good did not wash away the bad nor the bad the good. So he paid for his crimes with his finger tips, and was rewarded for the good with his current position. Stannis asks Davos to smuggle Melisandre, though we don’t know where yet. Davos is reluctant, this isn’t clean, but he is loyal and will do what Stannis asks.
Davos brings Melisandre ashore. As they sailed, they had philosophical discussions about good and evil, with Melisandre having no trouble describing herself as good, while Davos more honestly views himself as a mixture of good and bad. When they come ashore, Melisandre talks seductively to the married Davos. She bares her naked body and Stannis is shocked to see that she is pregnant. He delivers her baby and it is shadowy and sinister and not at all what he expected. She carries some major dark magic.
Roose Bolton: The high road’s very pretty, but you’ll have a hard time marching your army down it.
Talisa: You’re fighting to overthrow a king, and yet you have no plan for what comes after?
Robb: First we have to win the war.
Bronn (to Meryn): Careful now, we don’t want to get blood all over your pretty white cloak.
Joffrey: You can’t talk to me like that. The king can do as he likes!
Tyrion: The mad king did as he like. Has your uncle Jaime ever told you what happened to him?
Tyrion: Bronn, the next time Ser Meryn speaks, kill him. (To Meryn) That was a threat. See the difference?
Littlefinger: If war were artithmetic, the mathematicians would rule the world.
Renly Baratheon: Whose banner is that?
Stannis Baratheon: My own.
Renly: I suppose if we use the same one, the battle will be terribly confusing.
Melisandre: You should kneel before your brother. He’s the Lord’s chosen. Born amidst salt and smoke.
Renly: “Born amidst salt and smoke.” Is he a ham?