Lions and Direwolves and Dragons, Oh my!
Guys. Guys. Holy shit you guys. What did mine eyes just behold? This week's episode proves that the book deviations have some purpose (which can stress me out exactly as much as GRRM can) and that HBO's ability to hire good actors is what makes this show truly amazing.
We open in Winterfell, with Theon's siege already pretty much wrapped up. He wakes Bran, explaining that he's taken Winterfell and that it would be wisest for Bran to yield, so as to spare his people. Bran dislikes this plan, but there's not a whole lot he can do about it as a cripple. Theon tries to be a smarmy bastard about it, but Bran guilt trips him, and it's pretty funny to watch his face fall. Bran does indeed yield Winterfell to "Prince" Theon. Osha tries to offer her services as a warrior to the Greyjoys, but he waves her off. Luwin tries to reason with him, to no avail. Theon's men bring in Ser Rodrick, who is pretty ticked off about this betrayal. He shouts at Theon some, then spits on him, and Theon is forced to execute him, though he is visibly reluctant to do so. Probably because, as it turns out, he's pretty terrible at beheading people.
North of the wall, Jon is on a walkabout with his Night's Watch brothers. They are discussing the wildings as usual (I guess they have to keep reminding us that stuff is happening in the North) and the brutal ice and snow of the Frostfangs. Qhorin Halfhand tells Jon he will never achieve glory on the wall, though he will die for all of Westeros.
In Harrenhall, Lord Tywin is yelling at one of his men for delivering battle plans to someone on the Stark's team. Arya is cleaning up after the meeting when Tywin gets word that Littlefinger has shown up to see him. In an episode filled with battle and attempted rape and awkward romantic advances (more on all that later), this has to be the most awkward scene. Arya tries to avoid being seen by Petyr Baelish, since he knows who she is. While he tells Tywin about Renly's death, and Catelyn's possible role in it, Arya serves the lords and tries to avoid eye contact. You can tell Littlefinger notices her, though it's unclear whether or not he realises she's Arya Stark. On her way out the door, he tells Tywin that Tyrion has a plan for the Stark girls, but we don't get to hear it.
Back up North, the rangers come across some wildlings. There's a brief kerfuffle, and all the wildings are killed except the one Jon has- a girl, named Ygritte. Qhorin tries to interrogate her, but as expected she says little. The men leave Jon Snow to kill her. (Why did they have to leave him? I guess to give him privacy while he kills his first woman?) He is hesitant, and strikes the rock next to her instead of her head. She takes advantage of this and flees. Jon's a clever one, though, and heads her off, recapturing her.
In King's Landing, the Lannisters and Sansa see off Myrcella, who is being sent to Dorne as part of a marriage pact. Cercei tells Tyrion that she hopes one day he loves someone very much, so that she may take that person away from him. Though Cercei is kind of a bitch, this seems almost justified because she's sad at losing her only daughter. Joffery, as usual, is insufferable. I saw a guy on my train once that looked like him and I kind of felt like punching him just for having a face like Joff's. On the march back to the castle, the crowd incites a riot by throwing dung at Joffery. I don't blame them. In the chaos, a gold cloak is literally dismembered. Furthermore, Sansa Stark is abducted by several of the rioting commoners. Safely in the Red Keep, Tyrion berates Joffery for being an idiot. He gets the old Imp-slap again, and I kick my feet in glee. Tyrion tells someone to get Sansa, but no one listens to him, even though he points out she's the only leverage they have to get Jaime back with. Meanwhile, Sansa is dragged to a stable and pinned down and stripped in a pretty brutal scene. Sandor Clegane comes in, lays waste to all the offenders, and hoists Sansa over his shoulders, depositing her safely with Tyrion. Tyrion thanks him, but he says he didn't do it for him. By the way, this scene was brilliantly shot and executed and yet it still wasn't as nail-bitingly good as Arya trying to avoid Littlefinger.
In Qarth, Danys is asking for boats from more people. There is a lot of useless flattery and she spends a lot of time rolling her eyes. She also argues the difference between "re-taking" her throne (hers by right) vs. "taking" her throne (she never actually sat on it herself.) I think someone who writes for this show is a big grammar nazi.
Back in Harrenhall, Arya is serving Tywin and finds one of his memos on the table. She notices her brother's name on it, but Lord Tywin comes in before she can finish it. He asks her how she learned to read, and she makes up a story about her father being a stonemason who had taught himself. He asks what killed her father and she responds "loyalty." Man, it would've been so good if she said, "a lion," but that would've been too obvious. Tywin tells her he taught Jaime to read. Actually he forced Jaime to learn to read, since Jaime was apparently dyslexic as a boy. I doubt he's reading much in prison now anyway, so whatever. Arya has him reflect on his own father while she steals his memo. We later find her reading it and discover it contains battle plans. She runs out to the armoury- I guess she's going to have Gendry help her send it to Robb- but runs into Amory Lorch. He takes the note from her and she runs, finding Jaquen and telling him to kill Amory ASAP, before he can get to Lord Tywin. Jaquen just rolls his eyes, but when Lorch opens up Tywin's door, he falls down dead with a poison dart in his neck.
In the Riverlands, wherever it is exactly that Robb's forces are amassed, he runs into Lady Talesa (sp?). He flirts with her like a boss. Catelyn returns to camp. After introductions, she sees Robb checking out his new ladyfriend, and gives him the best "knowing look" of all time. Bolton shows up with the unfortunate news about Winterfell.
In the north, Jon ties up Ygritte to make camp for the night. By "camp" I mean, "plopping down on the ice and sleeping." Ygritte points out they will stay warmer if they snuggle (paraphrased.) Jon plays big spoon. She wiggles her butt around to make him feel awkward. She succeeds greatly. Ygritte of the wildlings- boner troll!
Again in the Riverlands, Robb, Catelyn, and Roose discuss what to do about Theon. Robb wants to save his brothers, but Bolton points out that he can't stop giving the Lannisters pursuit or they'll win. He offers to let his son's forces re-take Winterfell while Robb continues to fight in the Riverlands. No one at any point sees fit to question the reasoning of a man with a flayed body as his house sigil.
In Winterfell, Osha again is offering her services to Theon in exchange for freedom. This time she offers sexual services. Theon, being Theon, assumes his raw sexuality as the new prince is what drives her to this, and sends his man out while she performs her duties. We're treated to a solid helping of boobies, which we didn't get last week, gods forbid.
In King's Landing, Shae treats poor Sansa. Sansa feels bad about what happened, and maintains she would've helped the people if she had the power to. Shae tells her to trust no one.
Again in Winterfell, Theon is having a post-coital nap while Osha gets up and sneaks out, killing a guard on the way. She then breaks Hodor, Bran, and Rickon out of Winterfell. Theon is hilariously inept.
Finally, in Qarth, Dany is complaining to Xaro about how no one will give her ships. He points out that most people don't get to the top by walking an honourable path. When they arrive to his house, they find her khalasar slaughtered and her dragons missing. Wait. What?! Meanwhile, a hooded stranger walks away with the dragons in a cage on his back.
So um. I guess Dany is kind of in an interesting predicament. Seriously, nothing like that happened in the book. Did they do this just so those of us who read can't be all smarmy and knowledgeable? Because screw you writers. Also, who is walking off with the dragons? Is it Jorah? He wasn't among the dead in Xaro's house. But. Just. I am so confused.
Anyway, this episode was awesome. There are a lot of subtleties that can't be explained- the acting was spot-on, some of the shots were brilliant, and they've managed to find a way to keep me guessing. Obviously I hope they don't stray too much from the book, but I get the vibe that the writers know what they're doing. None of the scenes between Lord Tywin and Arya happened in the book, but they work so well in the show. Plus, Littlefinger's early departure from King's Landing bugged me at first, but after that scene in today's episode, I've forgiven it. Yet they stayed reasonably true to the riot in King's Landing despite substituting Lolly's rape for the attempted one on Sansa. There are just so many things happening. Next Sunday can't come soon enough.
Written or Contributed by: Dr. Improbable