The opening shot is of Jaime Lannister’s right hand, the one that once made him famous and feared as one of the great swordsmen of the realm. But now it hangs on a rope around his neck, a reminder that his family’s name and fortune couldn’t save him from this fate. Jaime is a defeated man. The swagger, the cockiness, the joie de vivre, all gone. Locke rides alongside him, getting pleasure out of torturing him. He’s had no water and he’s weak from blood loss. He falls off his horse and into the mud and it’s as far down as Jaime can possibly go.
But Locke isn’t done with him. When Jaime begs for water, one of Locke’s men pours a canteen over Jaime’s head instead. Then Locke hands him something to drink, only to tell him it was horse piss after he desperately guzzled most of it. They’re all laughing at him, when Jaime rises up and grabs one of their swords. He stands and hoists the sword and tries to fight the men, but it is too heavy and too awkward in his left hand. Brienne has seen enough. She jumps off her horse, her hands still bound, and fights the men to try and help. They surround her with swords, she can’t help Jaime. He is brought to the ground and kicked repeatedly, Locke telling him if he tries that again, he’ll lose his other hand.
Tyrion goes to Varys’ chambers for a visit. Varys is busy opening a rather large crate. Tyrion asks Varys what he knows about the attempt on his life during the Battle of Blackwater. Varys has heard whispers that it was Cersei’s doing, but he has no proof. He asks if Tyrion would like to hear the story of how Varys was “cut.” Tyrion doesn’t look all that eager, but Varys begins the tale. When he was younger, he traveled with a group of actors through the Free Cities. One day in Myr, a man made an offer to his master. He wanted to use young Varys, but this man had a particular need. He gave Varys a potion that made Varys powerless to move or speak, but did not affect his other senses. Then the man took a curved blade and cut Varys “root and stem” while chanting. He burned Varys’ privates, the flames turned blue, and Varys heard a voice from the flames answering the man’s chants. He still dreams about the voice in the flames. Since that day, Varys has hated magic and all who practice it, which explains why Varys was so keen on helping defeat Stannis and his red priestess Melisandre.
This is all well and good, but Tyrion still has to deal with the fact that very recently someone tried to kill him and may again. And as of now Tyrion lacks the influence necessary to get answers or do anything about it. Varys tells him, it takes time. After the scorcerer used him, he cast Varys out to die. But Varys resolved to live, to spite him. He became a thief, then soon learned that information was more valuable than money. Over time, he brought himself from the slums of Myr to the small council chamber.
Influence grows like a weed. I tended mine patiently, Varys tells him. It took many, many years, but his influenced reached far and wide. And this influenced ensnared what Varys wanted after many, many years. With that he opens the crate and Tyrion peers inside and sees the sorcerer. Varys greets the old man with a bone chilling “hello, my old friend.” He then assures Tyrion that the revenge he wants will be his in due time, if he has the stomach for it.
Back at Craster’s Keep, Edd and Grenn are lamenting that their job mostly consists of shoveling instead of the defending and protecting they thought it would be. The men want to leave, but it’s up to Mormont when they go. Rast comes over and complains that Mormont doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing. He told them to go to the Fist of the First Men and look what happened. Now he’s making them stay at Craster’s. Rast is not a happy camper.
Gilly is holding her newborn
son child, who she hopes Craster won’t realize is a boy anytime soon (Craster doesn’t seem like the type to help with diaper changes, so she should be fine, right?). Sam doesn’t seem to get why having a boy baby is a bad thing and he comes in to visit her and he is beaming about how beautiful he is and asks Gilly what his name is, which she thinks is a ridiculous question. Gilly returns the thimble Sam gave her and tells him she doesn’t want the stupid thimble, she wants to save her baby’s life. Can he give her that?
Bran is running through a forest and we hear a raven cawing. As he looks up at the three-eyed raven, suddenly Jojen is standing next to him. The boy tells Bran he has to go after the bird. Bran asks how, and Jojen says he knows how. So Bran starts climbing the tree the bird is perched on. He hears his mother’s voice and he’s happy to see her (on the tree), but she is mad at him for climbing. She grabs him and starts shaking him and repeatedly saying, promise me you won’t climb, promise me, promise me. And then she pushes/he falls off the tree. Bran wakes with a start and finds Jojen staring at him.
Varys is talking with Ros and the conversation is all about the great Podrick. What is it that made the girls so impressed? It wasn’t his size, it was what he did that made him “the most extraordinary man they ever had.” I’d get that put on a business card if I were Pod. There are no details, the girls as say what he did was hard to describe. Varys wonders what Littlefinger thought of losing the income, but Littlefinger is too absorbed in his own plans to worry about money right now. He’s off to the Eyrie to marry and gain what he’s always wanted…a title. Varys is surprised Littlefinger has given up his interest in Sansa, but Ros thinks he hasn’t. She shows Varys the inventory for the ship which she has acquired and points out to him that Littlefinger booked two feather beds for the trip to the Eyrie.
Joffrey is giving Margaery a tour of the Great Sept of the Baelor. It’s like one of those ghoul tours they have in London, where you can see famous murder sites. Here’s where Rhaenyra Targaryen was murdered by her brother, he tells her gleefully, or rather his dragon. It ate her while her son watched. How funny is that? And Margaery smiles, giving Joffrey what he wants. A receptive and appreciative audience. Cersei is showing the hall to Lady Olenna as they discuss the wedding that will take place there. Joffrey continues his macabre tour and Cersei suggests that maybe Margaery isn’t interested, but oh she is! Cersei is losing this battle and quickly to the new upstart.
The mothers continue their discussion and it turns to the men in their lives. Cersei thinks Robert was foolish to combine drinking and hunting, which led to his death. Olenna says her son likes hunting, too, which helps him forget that he’s never fought a real battle. Cersei says that she heard that Olenna’s son laid siege to Storm’s End for a year, but Olenna dismisses that as untrue. Olenna retorts, all he laid siege to was the banquet table at the command tent. He told her not to fight Robert’s Rebellion but he wouldn’t listen, men seldom do. And yet the world belongs to them, Cersei notes. A ridiculous arrangement, says Olenna. Elsewhere, Margaery is playing Joffrey like a fiddle, saying all the right things. When she says, “sometimes severity is the price we pay for greatness,” you think Joffrey is going to wet himself. He has found his soulmate!
Outside they hear the people shouting and Joffrey is concerned, but Margaery wants to go see them. If he gives them his love, they will return it a thousandfold, she tells him. She slathers in on – they already love him for his valiant defense during the Battle of Blackwater. Joffrey orders the doors open, and he and his future queen go to greet their adoring subjects.
Theon and the boy are riding on horseback towards Deepwood Motte (the castle that Yara had seized when Theon took Winterfell), where Theon’s sister is waiting. The boy says that Yara sent him to save Theon. The boy says he worked for the men who were torturing him and did what they said and waited for the right moment to help him escape. Theon asks the boy why he would risk his life for him. The boy says he grew up on the salt cliffs and had watched as the boat took Theon away from the Iron Islands to become a ward of the Starks. He said his father said, that’s Balon Greyjoy’s last living son. He thought about that as he watched Theon be tortured. Theon says the men who tortured him claimed his father knew about it, but the boy claims he doesn’t know anything about that.
They dismount their horses and continue walking around the castle. They don’t go through the front door as the boy says not all the guards are loyal to Yara. As they get closer, Theon laments how his father didn’t appreciate him, told him he was a Stark. Yet the Starks never accepted him as one of them, especially Robb. The boy asks if Robb lorded it over Theon, but he says no, he didn’t have to. “All he had to do was be.” Yeah, that was mean of him. While the boy struggles with the key to unlock the gate to the castle, Theon has a moment of clarity. He admits to everything. He murdered those innocent boys. He betrayed the Starks. Ned Stark was his real father. Balon Greyjoy gave him a choice and he made it. And he chose wrong. He burned everything. But the boy tells him, not everything. He opens the gate.
They walk into the room, Theon calls out for Yara, but the boy tells him to shush. He lights a torch and Theon sees that he’s back in the torture chamber. The torturers are there and the boy tells them that he brought Theon back and he had killed the guards. Then the boy tells them tie him back up where he belongs. And we realize that he’s the one in charge.
The Bolton men have been traveling with Jaime and Brienne all day and they’ve set up camp for the night. Jaime is propped up across from Brienne and she’s trying to get him to eat, but he’s not interested. He just wants to die. She tells him he can’t die, he needs to take his revenge, but he’s not interested in revenge either. She calls him a coward and says a little misfortune and he’s giving up. Jaime has a hard time seeing the loss of his sword hand as a little misfortune. He says “I was that hand.” But Brienne correctly points out that the first time the privileged, golden child has a taste of the real world, he’s just giving up. Then she really insults him, saying he sounds like a woman. That worked, Jaime reached for something to eat.
Brienne knows how Jaime saved her. She heard how he told Locke that her father would pay handsomely for her return because Tarth was rich with sapphires, while the truth – that Jaime knew – is that it’s name comes from the blue ocean not from a riches of gemstones. She wonders why Jaime helped her. But he doesn’t answer.
It’s a familiar situation. One of Tywin’s children is waiting for him as he takes his time writing letters. Cersei exhales loudly enough times to finally get Tywin to speak to her. And that is how you win the waiting game. He says he understands she wants to speak to him and she says it’s about Jaime. She wants to make sure they’re doing everything they can to get him back and Tywin replies that if he was willing to go to war to get his unloved child back (Tyrion), doesn’t she imagine he’d do everything in his power to get his favorite child back?
And though he’s answered her question, Cersei still lingers. What else does she want to talk about. Was she born after Jaime, because Cersei seems to have a bad case of middle child syndrome. No, she just doesn’t like living in a time when women have to look pretty and enter happily into arranged marriages but cannot inherit any land or rule. Why does Tywin give everything to his sons and nothing to her? All his talk about family and legacy, why is she not the heir? Why isn’t she asked to contribute? Okay, stop whining, what do you have to offer? She’s worried about the Tyrells.
Tywin doesn’t want to hear any of this. The Tyrells helped them defeat Stannis, saving her life and her children’s lives. Cersei tells Tywin that she’s concerned that Margaery “has her claws” in Joffrey and knows how to manipulate him, but can’t be happy with her father’s response, “Good. I wish you knew how to manipulate him.” He tells her that she not as smart as she thinks she is and has allowed her son to run roughshod over everyone in the city. Cersei doesn’t think it’s that easy and tells her father, perhaps you should try and stop him, but Tywin looks at her with his serious dad expression and says, “I will,” and you believe him.
The female version on Tywin, Lady Olenna, is bringing some maiden to tears for the crime of embroidering her something with a rose on it. With the rose being on the Tyrell sigil, Olenna is up to her eyeballs in roses and doesn’t want to see another one. She goes on to diss her family’s motto and compare it unfavorably to some of the other house’s cooler ones. She looks past the girl and sees Varys approach. Look, “a spider in the garden.”
Varys enters with pleasantries and Olenna immediately puts him off-kilter. His reputation precedes him, no need for pretense. She asks him why he’s here. He’s come to talk to her about Sansa. He tells Olenna that he admired Sansa’s father. She wonders with so many admirers how did Ned Stark’s head end up on a spike. Varys says that he couldn’t help Ned, but he can help his daughter. He has noticed that Littlefinger has shown an interest in her. He is a dangerous man who, despite having come from nothing, now has a title and land. How much longer before he has an army. Marrying the key to the North may get him that. So, they need to come up with a solution to keep Lord Petyr Baelish from getting his Littlefinger on Sansa.
Sansa was praying when Margaery comes over to talk. Margaery asks what Sansa was praying for, but she won’t say. Margaery says when she prayed earlier in the day, it was for all the usual boring things, family, peace. But once, she prayed for a beautiful cousin of hers to get a horrible disease and her prayer came true. Sansa was shocked, till Margaery starts laughing and we have the first example of Punk’d. Now Margaery knows how gullible and -um – not too bright Sansa is. But, Sansa seems to enjoy having a girl her age to talk to and it’s a nice exchange. Margaery says she wants to be friends and says Sansa should come to her family home of Highgarden some time. Sansa says the queen probably wouldn’t let her leave, but Margaery corrects her.
“The Queen Regent” she means. Once Margaery marries Joffrey, she’ll be queen, so step aside Cersei. But the news gets even better for Sansa. If she were to marry Loras Tyrell, they’d be sisters! Poor sweetSansa, she looks ready to cry!
A fire is burning. It’s to bury a dead ranger named Bannen. With the dead coming back to life, it’s important to burn the bodies now. Commander Mormont gives a eulogy to the ranger, finishing with the words said at all Night’s Watch funerals, “and now his watch has ended.” Rast claims Bannen died from starvation and that it was all Craster’s fault. Sam tries to deflect the attack, saying Craster has to feed his wives and it’s not right for them to come and take all his food. But Rast will not be quieted, he is mad and thinks Craster is nothing but a wildling who will feast after they leave to starve in the snow.
Back at the Keep, Craster and Mormont are talking. Craster knows that Mormont has a son, Craster says he just had his 99th. Ninety-nine sons and more daughters than he can count. He’s been drinking and says he’ll be happy when the lot of them have left his home. Mormont says they’ll leave when he men are healed and strong enough, but Craster says just slit their throats now or leave them for me to take care of and go. One of the Night’s Watch, Karl, asks Craster whose neck he’s going to cut. When Mormont tells Karl to wait outside, he refuses. He demands the food that Craster is hiding. Rast supports him, Craster is stuffing his face and giving us nothing. Rast calls him a bastard, Craster picks up an axe and threatens the men, telling them all to get out and go freeze in the snow. And the next man who calls him a bastard, gets their hand chopped off.
Mormont grabs Rast to take him outside, but Karl takes a deep, resigned breath and says “You are a bastard. A daughter-f*cking, wildling bastard.” Craster charges at him drunkenly, but Karl deflects the attack and plunges a dagger in the dfwb’s throat. Mormont tries to get control – the gods will punish them for this, he has broken the law – but Karl says there’s no law beyond the Wall. He grabs one of Craster’s daughters and demands to know where the secret stash of food is, Mormont grabs his sword and orders Karl to let her go…and Rast stabs Mormont in the back. Everything goes crazy and people are running, fighting, screaming. Mormont still has enough strength to grab Rast, push him up against a pillar and try to choke the life out of him. But he coughs, blood spurts out of his mouth, and he drops to the ground. As he lay dying, Rast comes over to him and stabs him repeatedly.
While chaos is reigning inside, Sam has slipped out and is looking for Gilly. He finds her and tells her she has to come with him, NOW. She grabs the baby and shows Sam a way out. He runs past Rast, who throws out one more threat, this time on Sam, just for good measure.
Arya is on the back of the horse Thoros is riding and he has a hood over her head, so she doesn’t see which way they’re going. They arrive at a cave which is the home of the Brotherhood (or as Thoros refers to it, someplace where neither wolves nor lions go prowling). They bring their captive The Hound inside and he mocks the men as just playing at being soldiers. The leader of the group, Ser Beric Dondarrion comes over and says they are in a war. Their group is made up of Stark deserters and Baratheon deserters according to The Hound. But, says Beric, isn’t The Hound a deserter too? Beric had been instructed by Ned Stark to execute The Hound’s brother in King Robert’s name, but The Hound notes that both of them are dead, but his brother still lives.
Beric is unconcerned, because they don’t fight for any banner any more. They fight for the weak. And whoever preys on the weak is their enemy, regardless of whose banner they fight under. Because Beric has been reborn in the light of the one true god. The Hound is tired of getting blamed for everything his brother did or the Cleganes, he never killed any Targaryen children, he didn’t kill the children at Mummer’s Ford, what is Beric’s beef with him? He tells them, don’t call him a murderer and pretend they’re any different. But Arya takes exception, and she reminds The Hound how he killed the innocent, unarmed butcher’s boy. The Hound uses the “I was just following orders” defense – he did what the prince told him to do. Since there is no clear answer, Beric says punishment will be left up to the Lord of Light to decide. He is sentenced to trial by combat. And it is Beric – who fights with a blazing sword – who he will battle.
Dany comes, with her dragon, to buy the Unsullied from Krazny. She frees him from his cage and he flies over head. Everyone is shocked and amazed by seeing a living dragon, especially Krazny. She hands him the chain holding the dragon and he exchanges it for the whip that signifies the holder as ruler of the Unsullied. The deal is done. Krazny struggles mightily against the force of the dragon, while saying, in Valyrian, “the bitch has her army.”
Dany walks out to address her army and, whoa, guess who speaks Valyrian? Dany speaks to them in their tongue and Missandei is surprised, but not as much as Krazny. But there are more surprises, Krazny! She tells the Unsullied to kill every master, every man who holds a cat-o-nine-tails (but harm no child) and cut the chains off of every slave. And as for Krazny? She tells her dragon, Dracarys, and he breathes fire engulfing Krazny in flames. The dragon then flies along the walls of the square and burns all the slave masters assembled there, while the Unsullied sack the city, killing all the slavers and freeing the slaves.
When all the masters have been killed, the Unsullied stand in formation in the square. Dany tells them that they are all free now and anyone who wishes to leave may and they will not be punished. But those who remain, she asks if they will fight for her as free men. No one leaves; instead they start beating their swords into the ground in support. Dany has her army. As they march out of Astapor, Dany discards the cat-o-nine-tails, she doesn’t need that to have the men follow her.
Theon: My real father lost his head at King’s Landing.
Tywin: When Catelyn Stark took Tyrion prisoner, what did I do in response?
Cersei: You started a war.
Tywin: And if I would start a war for that lecherous little stump, what do you think I’m doing for my oldest son and heir?
Tywin (to Cersei): I don’t distrust you because you’re a woman. I distrust you because you’re not as smart as you think you are.
Olenna (to Varys): what happens when the nonexistent bumps against the decrepit?
Varys (about Littlefinger): He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes.
Sandor (the Hound): You want to cut my throat, get on with it. But don’t call me murderer and pretend you’re not.