Arya wakes up on the ground, near a smoldering fire and her dance training comes into play as she immediately is aware of her situation and formulates a plan. She grabs a large rock and walks over to where the Hound sleeps, and lifts it over her head. But the Hound is awake and tells her she has one shot – she kills him, she’s free. But if she fails, he’ll break both her hands. Calculating the density of the rock vis-a-vis the thickness of the Hound’s head, she decides it’s not worth the risk.
As they are riding, the Hound tells Arya she’s lucky to be traveling with him. A girl out there on the road alone would be in danger from men a lot worse than him – but Arya says there’s no one worse that him. The Hound says she never met his brother. “He once killed a man for snoring.” The Hound could have added he also burned off his brother’s face for playing with a toy he didn’t even want, but he kept that to himself. So, yeah, there are a lot of worse people out there than the Hound. He mentions that he saved Sansa from some of those worse types, those who would try and rape a young girl. Arya doesn’t believe him, but he says, ask her yourself next time you see her. She could just read this recap.
Arya asks if the body of water they are passing is the Blackwater and the Hound asks her where does she think he’s taking her. Arya thought they were returning to Joffrey at King’s Landing, but the Hound has two things to say about that: “F*ck Joffrey. F*ck King’s Landing.” He tells her that what she’s looking at is the Red Fork. They’re heading towards the Twins, where he plans to hand her over to her mother and brother and collect his reward. She has no idea why her family would be at the Twins, and the Hound finds it interesting that the Brotherhood kept that little piece of information from her – that her uncle is marrying one of the Frey girls. If she stops trying to kill him, maybe he can get her there in time for the wedding.
Jorah got the intel on the “powerful friends” the Yunkai have. They are called the Second Sons, they are a mercenary army hired to protect the city. Their leader is a Braavosi named Mero, nicknamed “the Titan’s Bastard.” Jorah warns Dany that this is a dangerous group. They have just 2,000 men, but they are well armored and mounted and will be quite a challenge for her Unsullied. Dany is unconcerned. As sellswords, they have no loyalty except to whoever pays them the most. And there is no money is losing. She tells her men to arrange a meeting between her and the leader of the Second Sons. She is sure they will not say no, because someone who fights for gold cannot afford to lose to a girl.
The captains of the Second Sons are brought before Dany. There is Mero of Braavos, Prendahl na Ghezn, and Daario Naharis, who very well may be prettier than Khaleesi. Mero does not have a deft hand at diplomacy and manages to insult Dany about three seconds into his speech. Jorah tells him to “mind his tongue,” Mero uses that as a way to insult her further with some gross tongue action. He is the cockiest jerk she’s had to deal with since her brother Viserys, and one wonders how nice he’d look in a golden crown. But Dany never gets ruffled. She tells him that she has 10,000 men to his 2,000 and, if her math is correct, that gives her the edge. Daario says she only has 8,000 men, he counted each one as he walked up, but Dany still likes her odds.
Dany tells them, come fight with me. Mero scoffs. They’ve taken the slaver’s gold, they’re not going to break their agreement. He may be a misogynistic asshat, but he’s not going back on his promise. But Dany assures them all that if they join her, they will have more money than they will ever need when she takes back the seven kingdoms. Daario is dubious, she has no ships or siege weapons or cavalry. Dany responds that two weeks ago, she had no army and a year ago, she had no dragons. Daario seems impressed, but his compatriots need time to think over her offer. Mero makes some more crude comments on his way out. Dany says to Barristan, “If it comes to battle, kill that one first.” Jorah whines, why do you never ask me to kill anyone for you, I was here first. Or maybe I imagined that last part.
Melisandre and Gendry arrive at Dragonstone and Stannis greets his nephew with open arms. Well, actually, he grabs the boy by the face to inspect him like a horse for sale and declares him, “Half Robert, half lowborn.” Melisandre has the boy sent away to be washed up and fed and, like the proverbial lamb, he is to be well tended to before the slaughter so no fear will ruin the mea- this metaphor is making me uneasy.
In the dungeon, Davos is practicing his reading. Maybe Valyrian or Dothraki would have been easier, none of these crazy “common tongue” words with silent letters. Why does “enough” have a g in it for crying out loud? It can be frustrating, but he’s doing a bang up job and is pretty proud of himself. Stannis comes to visit him. He asks if Davos is getting enough to eat and tells him he doesn’t deserve to be in a place like this. He also tells Davos that he’s sorry about losing his son at Blackwater, that he was a good lad, a loyal lad. Davos learns that Melisandre had left Blackstone and returned with the late King Robert’s bastard son, because “there is power in a king’s blood.” Davos can’t believe his friend will let this woman kill his nephew and Stannis explains that in war, “sacrifices” have to be made. Davos says this is different than when he killed Renly; he had wronged Stannis. But this boy is innocent. Stannis uses the greater good argument, what is one boy’s life to save the seven kingdoms, it’s my destiny, and other convenient ways to deny the truth. He’s lucky to have Davos there as the only one who won’t lie and flatter him.
Stannis says he has come not just to talk but to release Davos, if he swears not to raise his hand against Melisandre again, which he does. But Davos cannot swear not to speak against her. Davos knows Stannis too well. Why did he chose today to release him from the dungeon? Maybe there is part of Stannis who trusts Davos and believes he knows what is right, he wants Davos there to help him make these decisions. He knew Davos would object to killing the boy and he wants that voice heard. Davos is Jiminy Cricket to Stannis’ Pinnochio. Stannis tells Davos of the vision he saw in the flames, of a great battle in the snow. And Davos saw that shadow demon she gave birth to. They can’t ignore their own eyes.
The three captains (techincally two and a lieutenant) are discussing what to do about Dany. Daario says we can’t beat her Unsullied on the battlefield, Mero suggests they can dispose of her without doing battle with her army. She is not that well protected. Someone can slip into her camp and kill her. They haven’t heard of rock paper scissors, so they use three different coins, one from each of their homelands. Whoever picks the Braavosi coin has to do the deed. Daario gets the special coin and he says, Valar Morghulis (all men must die).
Sansa is getting ready for her upcoming nuptials and it is not at all awkward that her intended’s girlfriend is helping her nor that she has to let the groom, her lover, come in to see his future bride. Tyrion greets Sansa and she tells him he looks very handsome but he deflects the compliment, “Oh yes, the husband of your dreams.” But he is quick to tell her that she looks glorious. If looks could kill Tyrion would be a dead man from all the daggers that Shae is sending his way. Wisely, he asks Podrick to escort Shae out so he can have some alone time with his betrothed.
Tyrion wants to comfort Sansa, to let her know that she’s not his prisoner and that he is sorry about everything. He struggles with how to say what he wants to say, finally settling on “I know how you feel.” Sansa responds that she doubts that very much. But it’s a sign of trust that she is willing to speak so openly to him and not just mimic platitudes as she does around Cersei and Joffrey. He takes her hand and promises that he will never hurt her and she seems to sense his sincerity. Then he jokes about today being a good day for her to drink wine and she actually smiles sweetly at him.
It’s time for the wedding. Margaery is getting to know her future mother in law better. She compliments Cersei on looking radiant and Cersei bristles at her choice of word. Margaery is holding on to her like sorority sisters at their first initiation and Cersei looks like her touch is burning her flesh. Cersei mentions to Margaery the song “The Rains of Castamere” that lovely little ditty about what happened when one family – House Reyne, then the second wealthiest in Westeros – had the temerity to go up against the Lannisters. It did not end well for that family. And now the Tyrells are the second wealthiest family in Westeros. I wonder what point Cersei is making here, she’s so subtle. After telling Margaery the story of the slaughter of the upstart House Reyne she finishes this lovely exchange with this: “If you ever call me sister again, I’ll have you strangled in your sleep.’
The wedding begins. We see Sansa at the top of the stairs looking beautiful, and we see Tyrion up at the altar looking handsome. What could possibly mar this forced arranged marriage that neither of them wants? How about Joffrey, as “father of the realm,” giving away the bride since her father is “unavailable.” Sansa just has to remind herself it could be worse, she could be marrying him. She walks down the aisle, Bronn and Margaery about the only friendly faces she passes. Joffrey places her next to Tyrion, but before he leaves, he grabs the stepstool that Tyrion was going to use for the cloaking ritual, and takes it away.
The High Septon begins the ceremony and instructs the groom to cloak the bride “and bring her under your protection.” What follows in an excruciatingly uncomfortable thirty seconds for the groom. Sansa turns and Tyrion stands holding the cloak, unable to figure out how to possibly get it up around her shoulders. The guests starts to titter, tittering turns to laughter, and Tywin shoots them all a death stare that gets them to stop but does not relieve the discomfort of the situation. Finally, Tyrion asks Sansa if she would perhaps bend a tad and she lowers herself so he can wrap the cloak around her. That painfully awkward moment having passed, the ceremony continues with both parties looking particularly drained.
Speaking of drained, Melisandre has plans for Gendry that involve some loss of blood. But first she gains his trust. They share stories of their humble pasts and Melisandre offers Gendry some wine, but he remains suspicious of her. And for good reason. She starts disrobing him and telling him that she is going to take the power that is inside him which she intends to draw out. She takes her own clothes off and is seducing him and wary or not, he’s not objecting. She ties his hands up over his head and that gets his attention. Then she ties his legs. Now he’s concerned. She places a leech on him, then another and another, at various locations on his body. And this is how she will take what is inside of him. Frankly, could be worse.
Melisandre tells Gendry he’s doing this because Davos did not believe in the power of king’s blood, so she’s doing a demonstration. Davos and Stannis come in, she removes the leeches, and Stannis grabs the leeches one by one and tosses them into a fire. With each one, he says a name. First, Robb Stark, the Balon Greyjoy, then Joffrey Baratheon, calling each a usurper to the throne he believes is rightly his.
It’s time for the wedding feast. Tyrion is getting hammered and is a sloppy drunk. Tywin takes notice of this and is even more unhappy with Tyrion than he normally is. Lady Olenna gives us all a headache trying to figure out the familial relationships between the Tyrells and the Lannisters after the next two weddings. Sansa excuses herself from the table and Joffrey, seeing that she’s alone, goes after her undoubtedly to make her wedding day even worse. Meanwhile, Tywin comes over to Tyrion and reminds him that his one job now is to put a baby in Sansa’s belly as soon as possible and getting sloshed will not accomplish that feat.
Loras finds his future wife Cersei looking out over the moonlit bay and starts a discussion, but she cuts him off rudely and walks away. He should count himself lucky, at least she didn’t tell him the Rains of Castamere story. Joffrey finally locates Sansa and offers his congratulations on her wedding and her big accomplishment, marrying a Lannister and, sometime soon, having her very own Lannister baby. What a great day for her. How can Joffrey possibly make it even better? He proposes slipping into her room after Tyrion passes out and filling her with his Lannister seed. And if she’s not thrilled with the idea, his knights will help hold her down so she’ll have no choice. With that, Joffrey announces it’s time for the bedding ceremony.
Tyrion makes is abundantly clear there will be no bedding ceremony. But Joffrey is king and his mommy once told him the king gets whatever he wants, so if he wants to humiliate his uncle and his new wife, he’s damn well going to do it. Tyrion says no, but this time he adds something to make his point even more clear. He grabs a knife and plunges into the table and tells Joffrey if he doesn’t stop, then he’ll be “f*cking his own bride with a wooden c*ck.” So, yeah, that happened. Tyrion threatened the king with bodily harm in front of witnesses. Joffrey is enraged, shaking, ready to call for Tyrion’s head. But, thankfully, Tywin takes control of the situation.
Tywin says they can dispense with the bedding ceremony for tonight. Certainly Tyrion didn’t mean to threaten the king. Tyrion goes along and pretends it was all just a bad joke gone wrong. And since he’d been seen drinking nonstop, it’s an easy and believable excuse. Tyrion continues the ruse, talking about his envy of his nephew’s manhood and his own inadequacies and Tywin puts the matter to rest accepting Tyrion’s explanation that it was just the wine talking. It’s a tragic scene, as Tyrion must debase himself further, make himself a laughingstock, to spare his own life and keep Sansa from any of Joffrey’s plans.
Tyrion escorts Sansa to their bed chamber, making a show of how he and his new bride will be having their own bedding ceremony. But once inside, he pours himself another drink. He mentions how his lord father has ordered that they consummate the marriage; Sansa pours herself a drink. She walks over to their bed and starts removing her gown. No one says anything, Tyrion is watching her as she starts to take off her slip then says, “Stop,” and shakes his head. “I can’t.” Then he adds (lest she confuse chivalry for erectile dysfunction) that he could, but he won’t. She’s confused, didn’t his father order it? “If my father wants someone to get f*cked, I know where he can start.” He tells her he will not force her to have sex with him. He will wait until she wants to. She asks, what if she never wants to. He raises his cup and says, with a sad smile, “And so my watch begins.” Then he passes out on a chair.
It is nighttime in Yunkai and Daario is disguised as an Unsullied, to sneak into Dany’s camp and kill her. Missandei is helping Dany with her bath. They talk about how Missandei speaks 19 different languages which is quite a feat, and Missandei tries to compliment Dany by saying how she learned Dothraki reasonably well in just a year and Dany says Drogo told her she spoke like a native, which just goes to show that love is deaf as well as blind. Just then, Daario sneaks into the room and puts a knife to Missandei’s throat.
He takes off the helm and Dany recognizes him from earlier in the day. She asks what he wants and he says that he wants her. He tells her he was chosen to kill her, but he doesn’t want to. So what do his compatriots think about that? Well they’ve sort of lost their heads about the whole thing. He says he wants to fight for her because of her beauty (and possibly because “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” is always a good plan) and she asks him to swear his loyalty (wonder if he swore that to the two guys’ whose heads he cut off?) and he does. He swears his life, his sword and his heart. Jorah is not going to like this!
It’s the morning after the wedding and Shae the pissed-off handmaiden comes in to change the sheets after her lady’s deflowering last night. She’s in a snit about the whole situation. But wait, the sheets are pristine. And Tyrion is a rumpled mess over on the chair, far away from where Sansa slept. Shae looks at the sheets, smiles, then looks back at Tyrion. Someone has been a very good boy.
Sam and Gilly are continuing their trek back to Castle Black when they come upon an abandoned hut. This is like a scene out of every horror movie. The scary tree with the face carved in it, the squawking crows gathering on the branches, the wind howling, nighttime setting in. Sam tries in vain to build a fire, but Gilly shows him how it’s done. Sam suggests that they come up with a name for the baby and he throws out a bunch of suggestions and explains to her the difference between a last and a first name. He mentions that his father’s name was Randyll and when she says she likes that one, he quickly asks her not to name the baby that. He goes on to tell her how cruel his father was (like hers, yet different). Meanwhile, outside, the crows caw louder and louder.
Remember when Sam was a coward? Well, now that he has someone to protect, he’s very brave. He goes out to see what all the squawking is about. There are hundreds of crows out there, it’s snowing and loud and pretty frightening. Gilly comes out and Sam tells her to go back inside. They hear someone approach and Gilly says it’s come for the baby. Sam drops the torch he’d been holding and pulls out his sword. The white walker comes closer. Sam yells at him to stay away, but he keeps coming. Sam has the sword in front of him and the white walker grabs the sword and it turns into ice and shatters. He knocks Sam down and heads towards Gilly and the baby. Sam grabs the dragonglass he had found earlier and charges at the white walker, plunging it in his back. The creature screams and then, like the sword, he turns to ice then shatters into pieces. Sam grabs Gilly and the baby and they run for it.
Stannis may be rigid and boring, but he’s an interesting character nonetheless. He believes in the red priestess, and has seen the future in her fire, but he also respects and trusts Davos the non-believer. He needs Davos by his side, to keep him on the right path. To be the one person who won’t lie to him or try to manipulate him, but will always tell him the truth. How long can Davos stay a non-believer after seeing the shadow demon that killed Renly and whatever Melisandre shows them in the fire?
Tyrion must be adopted. He is too kind to be blood of Tywin or Cersei Lannister. Although, he does remind one of the new improved Jaime. His gentle treatment and protection of Sansa, his ability to go back and forth between debauched and noble, his honor towards his family without sacrificing others, reinforces how he is one of the most compelling characters on TV.
Speaking of richly layered characters, what about the Hound? Cold-blooded killer? Check. A rogue who answers to no one? Check. Yet, he’s shown compassion, in his own rough way. He is not the monster he is made out to be. His brother is pure evil, but it’s not as easy to peg the Hound.
On a side note, how much longer will everyone put up with Joffrey? There is plenty of precedent for killing kings in Westeros.
Dany: A man who fights for gold can’t afford to lose to a girl.
Mero: The Second Sons have faced worse odds and won.
Jorah: The Second Sons have faced worse odds and run.
Davos: I think mothers and fathers made up the gods because they wanted their children to sleep through the night.
Davos (to Stannis): Forgive me your grace, I’m not a lettered man, but is there a difference between kill and sacrifice?
Tyrion (to Sansa): You won’t be a prisoner after today, you’ll be my wife. I suppose that’s a different kind of prison.
Cersei (to Margaery): If you ever call me sister again, I’ll have you strangled in your sleep.
Tyrion: What did you once call me? A drunken little lust-filled beast.
Tywin: More than once.
Tyrion: There you have it. Nothing to worry about. Drinking and lust. No man can match me in these things. I am the god of tits and wine. I shall build a shrine to myself at the next brothel I visit.
Loras: Father once told me–
Cersei: Nobody cares what your father once told you.
Tyrion: I won’t share your bed. Not until you want me to.
Sansa: What if I never want you to?
Tyrion: And so my watch begins.
Sam: I suppose there’s rather a philosophical difference between a wink and a blink.