We open on Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) creeping through the forest, stalking a raven with his bow and arrow. We know it’s a dream because he’s walking, and oh yeah, that raven has three eyes. Ol’ Three-Eyed Dream Raven is back. Also, his big bros Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) and Robb Stark (Richard Madden) show up to rib him, as well as his father’s disembodied voice, and a young mysterious man greets him in the forest (Thomas Brodie-Sangster, yup, the kid from “Love, Actually”). Bran awakes in his camp with baby bro Rickon (Art Parkinson; does Rickon ever get to do anything? Has anyone seen him up close?) and his caregivers Hodor (“Hodor!”) and Osha (Natalia Tena) to whom he describes his dream. She’s anxious to get on the road and away from the imminent danger she senses. They are headed to the Wall in search of Jon Snow, who is now fully ensconced with Mance Rayder (Ciaran Hinds) and the Wildlings.
The kid from Bran’s dream later reveals himself in the forest, along with his fierce sister and protector Meera (Ellie Kendrick). His name is Jojen Reed and they have been looking for him, and now they have a long way to go. The group sets off together, and Jojen tells Bran a bit more about his psychic dreams. The raven “brings the sight” of the future, the past, or lands far away. Their fathers were war buddies during the rebellion and knowing that Jojen shares his powers, Bran begins to trust him. Jojen says that Bran is “the only thing that matters.”
Robb Stark gets a one-two punch of bad news: his grandpa died and his former BFF, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), burned his house down. Worst. Day. Ever. Actually, in the grand scheme of Robb’s bad days, this is like a 4 on a scale of 1 to 10. He relays the news about her father’s death and the destruction Theon and the Iron Islanders left at Winterfell to his mother Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley), and also that Bran and Rickon are nowhere to be found. They set off for Riverrun, ostensibly to go to the funeral, but Robb is hoping to link up with his uncle’s army.
On the road, Catelyn is creating a dreamcatcher type thing to protect her children. When Robb’s hot nurse secret wife Talisa (Oona Chaplin) asks to help her, she explains it only works if a mother makes one for her child, which she has done twice before, once for Bran’s fall, and once for one of her boys when he had the pox. She gives a moving monologue about staying up through the night praying he would get well, and reveals that the child was... Jon Snow. She believes it was her own jealousy of his mother that brought the pox on him, and she promised the Gods she would love him like a son if he was saved. She now believes that because she didn’t keep her promise to love him, the Gods have brought this terrible misfortune upon her family.
Back in King’s Landing, Queen-to-be Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) invites Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) to meet her grandmother Olenna (Diana Rigg), who is serving straight Dowager Countess realness what with her extravagant head garb and brutally blunt one-liners. They press Sansa for details on King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and get her to admit that he is a “monster,” and instantly, we know that’s going to come back to haunt her eventually. Sansa knows it too. Oh, you Starks with your damn honesty and feelings! The information serves Margaery well, though, as she appeals to Joffrey’s dark and violent side by getting all sexual with a crossbow and hot and bothered about “killing something.” Joffrey, predictably, loves it.
Elsewhere in sexual-political manipulations, Shae (Sibel Kekilli) sneaks into her lover Tyrion Lannister’s (Peter Dinklage) quarters at risk of his father Tywin’s (Charles Dance) threats of hanging to implore Tyrion to protect Sansa from Lord Baelish/Littlefinger/Mayor Carcetti (Aidan Gillen), as she’s been warned about his intentions from his red-haired prostitute/business manager Ros (Esme Bianco). Tyrion, distracted by the danger Shae is in, mentions Sansa is beautiful enough to marry off, which makes Shae jealous, and naturally, horny.
Finally, we get to catch up with favorite moppet Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) who is tromping around the forest with her fat friend Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey) and Robert Baratheon’s bastard, Gendry (Joe Dempsie) after escaping the horrors of Harrenhall. They are deciding to head to Riverrun for shelter with gramps, when they cross paths with some Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye) of the Brotherhood Without Banners. The Bros take them to the local tavern and decide the tweens are basically harmless and to let them go, despite Arya’s propensity to try and swordfight everyone she sees. They are just heading out until, oh dip, who is this hooded motherfucker? Deserter/former King Joffrey guardsman Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) aka The Hound. And he calls out Arya for being a Stark? DAMMIT HOUND! Where has Hound, who deserted his post at the end of Season 2, been? What is he doing?
Meanwhile, in a field somewhere, Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) Catelyn Stark’s female knight, is leading Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) on a leash, in hopes of of trading the valuable kingslayer for Arya and Sansa Stark. Jaime’s trying to get inside her head and manipulate her, at which he is moderately successful (the best line, about Renly: “it's a shame the throne isn't made out of cocks, they'd have never got him off it.” ZING!). He does manage to disarm her of one of her swords and they have a pretty great duel on top of a bridge. Brienne overpowers him until, oops, a farmer they passed earlier brings some bounty hunting bad guy knights from House Bolton who want to collect the head of the Kingslayer. Ruh roh!
Also, much to probably everyone’s delight, the traitorous Theon Greyjoy is being tortured in a dungeon somewhere in
The Iron Islands Winterfell an undisclosed location. Yippee, more of this please.
Heard But Not Seen:
All in all, it’s a strong episode that sets up the context for rest of our characters who didn’t appear in Season Two, while also introducing new characters who will prove to be important in the story (the Reed siblings, Olenna Tyrell, Thoros of Myr). It also feels as though the plot engines are now firing on all cylinders and after setting up all the pieces, the main storylines will be taking off soon enough. Unfortunately, there’s absolutely no Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and dragons, which is never a good thing, but we suppose that if our Khaleesi is still contemplating buying a bunch of nipple-less castrati Unsullied soldiers, we don’t mind skipping that and waiting for the cool stuff to happen.