Greetings, Gameheads. Thanks for reading my little rant last week about media images of violence. It's just important to talk about, and I think one of the things that "Game of Thrones" does really well is offer up those topics for discussion. I mean, like BODIES, right? They are so weird and gross and awesome and cool, and thank you Throne Games for letting us to reconcile a bit of that corporeal tension that is constantly surrounding us in the zeitgeist. Speaking of serving body, this episode is ass-tastic, so let's get booty rockin' everywhere in the comments (who's got the best butt? Trick question, they all have the best butt, I can't choose).
This episode jumps right into the "trial by combat" to which the Brotherhood Without Banners is subjecting the Hound (Rory McCann) for his war crimes and general assholery. Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye) and his saucy topknot oversee the proceedings, which are taking on a rather mystical bent, with various incantations ('the night is dark and full of terrors') being made to the Lord of Light (wait a minute, is this the same Lord of Light that allows ladies to birth scary murder ghosts?). Then Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer), our one-eyed leader of said Bros, straight up slices his hand open and uses his blood as lighter fluid to his sword on fire. Despite being fully WTF at this development, the Hound fights him handily in a brutal battle. It's actually one of the best duels on this show, filmed cleanly and coherently, with every blow landing heavily. While it seems Dondarrion will take him, the Hound stuns everyone when his sword connects with Dondarrion's left shoulder, slicing him clean down to his torso in a kill shot. While Thoros jumps to repeat his prayer spells over his body, Arya (Maisie Williams) jumps for a dagger and runs to the Hound screaming, "Burn in hell!" She is stunned to hear a "He will" from Dondarrion, completely resurrected. Goddamn if this show doesn’t love some magical shit happening in caves.
Because the Hound essentially won the trial, he is allowed to leave. The gods may have let him get through this one, but the Bros threaten that the Lord of Light isn't done with him yet. Arya discovers that Gendry (Joe Dempsie) is planning to join the Bros as a smith, in an attempt to forge a family for himself. Arya begs him to come with her to join her brother Robb (Richard Madden), but he knows he'll never be her real family. Arya, feeling alone, retreats to her slightly OCD habit of repeating all the names of those who wronged her in a mantra of sorts. Thoros and Beric attempt to console her a bit, promising to bring her to Robb as soon as possible, and answering her questions about Dondarrion's power to return from the dead. Turns out he's been killed six times, each time Thoros repeating the spell to allow the Lord of Light to bring him back. Arya asks if they can bring back a man without a head (her father) and they try to assure her he's in a better place now, though Arya finds that hard to accept.
Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is being grilled by the Warg and Tormund Giantsbane (Kristopher Hivju) about the security situation at the Wall as they plan to attack the Night's Watch there. Ygritte (Rose Leslie) stands up for him against the fiery Gingerbeard, and for doing so, she demands Jon Snow repay his debt. In a cave. Naked. Yup, Ygritte has come to collect on her sex debt from dearest Jon, and she strips naked in the cave and seduces him. Jon Snow proves himself the most unlikely virgin ever, one seemingly skilled in the oral arts. Fully sated, the couple lounge about the cave making pillow talk and splashing about in a pool, wanting to stay there forever.
Brienne (Gwendoline Christy) and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) are dumped unceremoniously at the feet of Lord Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton), who is a great deal more welcoming and merciful than the hand choppers (Noah Taylor, et al). He sets Brienne free and offers rooms for the guests. When Jaime asks about King's Landing, Bolton tells him about the Battle of Blackwater, drawing out the conclusion in order to torture Jaime who worried about the safety of his sisterlove Cersei (Lena Headey). When he hears she is safe, Jaime collapses in the muck. Does everyone know about their special relationship??
Jaime is taken to some kind of quack Maester to tend to his hand stump, the dude having been demoted because of his “experiments." Uh, yeah, he suggests "burning out the corruption with boiling wine," which I guess he does but GROSS there were too many close ups on the stump to watch. After his procedure, Jaime heads to the spa for a dip in the tub, finding Brienne scrubbing all of her skin off. Much to her chagrin, he hops in. Since he has no other friends on his journey, and feeling rather vulnerable, Jaime swears a truce with her and attempts to tell his story and how he got the name Kingslayer. In quite a riveting monologue, Jaime explains the sadism of the Mad King, who was fond of using wildfire to squash his enemies. When the Lannisters sacked the city, Jaime found the King, who asked him to bring him his father’s head or burn everyone in the city. His solution was to kill the bastard, which is how Ned Stark (Sean Bean) found him, and he became the Kingslayer. Exhausted, he collapses in the tub, Brienne catching him, shouting for help for the Kingslayer. "My name is Jaime," he manages to get out before fainting.
Everyone’s concerned with strategic marriages in King's Landing at the moment, attempting to contain Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), who they now see as the key to the North. The Tyrells are using Margaery (Natalie Dormer) to lure in Sansa, and Sansa is all in on the hunk Loras (Finn Jones). Too bad Loras is fucking his sparring partner Oliver, a hot piece who swiftly runs to Lord Baelish (Aiden Gillen) to tell of his plans of engagement (which I don’t even know how he knows because it seemed that Loras didn’t even know he was to be engaged to Sansa…). Baelish passes off this info to Cersei, and the Lannisters quickly formulate a plan to have Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) marry Sansa (!!!!!!!!). Tyrion is astonished, having brought the good news that sassy, scheming grandma Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) has offered to pay for half of the Royal Wedding (she praises the power of the "distraction" the wedding will be for the people). Cersei lords it over her brother until Tywin (Charles Dance) drops the hammer that she herself will be marrying Loras. Cersei is furious that she's being used yet again as a pawn and a breeder for her father's political aims, but Tywin uses his scary dad voice, telling them they are disgraces to the family name and puts them in their place (his fave hobby).
Still at his late grandfather's castle and attempting to put his army back together again, Robb Stark discovers the disturbing news that Lord Karstark (John Stahl) has gone and killed the young hostages Martyn (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Willem Lannister, who Robb's uncle Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies) took in his storming of the mill. Their killing was an act of vengeance against Jaime Lannister, who killed Karstark’s son Torrhen in Season 2. Robb decides, against the advisement of his family, to use the full extent of his punishment for this act, adhering to his strong moral code and refusing to lie about or excuse the deaths of the Lannisters just to keep Karstark’s men. He beheads Lord Karstark, and with this act, all of the Karstark men promptly march home. Robb, desperate, contemplates his next move with wifey Talisa (Oona Chaplin), deciding to attack the Lannister home of Casterly Rock. Of course, he can only do that with more men, and the only one who can supply men happens to be Walder Frey (David Bradley) to whom Robb has promised to marry one of his daughters in a political allegiance. With Talisa around, that's going to be complicated to say the least.
Hey, remember Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane)? With his witchy wife Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) out doing creepy witch things, he's getting all contemplative, and goes to visit his real wife, Selyse (Tara Fitzgerald), who is cooped up in a damp tower praying to the Lord of Light. Stannis wants to confess his sins to her and she's like, NOPE, totes cool dude, anything goes as long as it's in the service of the Lord of Light! She then talks to three male fetuses preserved in jars because EW, crazy people reasons, but mainly she feels incredibly guilty for not providing Stannis with a son and heir. However, it is revealed that she provided him with something else… a daughter. Stannis goes to see her up in the tower, where she's playing and singing, a cute little thing with some kind of horrible scarring or scales on one side of her face. She asks after her buddy Davos Seaworth/The Onion (Liam Cunningham) and Stannis coldly tells her that he is a traitor and locked up in the dungeon, which only inspires her to go and visit him and try and teach him how to read. All together now: AWWWWWW.
Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) is marching with her new Unsullied Army, getting ready to take King's Landing. Her duo of disgraced knights, Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) and Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) are reminiscing about the past and also jockeying for power down the line, each trying to cut down the other’s reputation in order to serve as Khaleesi’s main advisor when she is Queen. Daenerys, on the other hand, is getting to know her Unsullied officers, offering up their freedom to choose their own names and discard their slave names. They choose to keep the slave names because those were the ones they had when she freed them, demonstrating their utter loyalty and devotion to her.
No word from Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and his band of Li'l Rascals making a break for the Wall, which could be problematic if the Wildlings are also headed to the Wall to wreak some mayhem. Hopefully they can use their psychic powers to figure this out! Also, no updates on the starving Crows who descended into a bedlam of cannibalistic anarchy at Craster’s Compound last week. No word on what Varys (Conleth Hill) has done with the castrating sorcerer in a box in his office. And we can only assume poor Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) is still strapped to that torture crucifix having horrible things done to him.
All in all, while relatively low on real action, this is a strong, densely plotted episode with many story elements and twists (the marriage plotting! The fire sword!), reminding us about some of the more magical and supernatural elements of this world, and setting things up for a massive clash of armies in short order. Also, ass everywhere. Let us know what you thought of the ep in the comments below!