Not that this wasn't a great episode, with some amazing moments, because it was. But it didn't make me want to give all the writers blowjobs like the last one did. (I'm joking. Maybe.)
THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW FOR ALL FIVE BOOKS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
Yunkai is in the opening credits! The Harpy statue is even there! So awesome.
A CAVE IN THE RIVERLANDS:
I was glad that we opened with this scene, getting right down to business with some action and revenge-type shit. This scene was just another example of the writers and the set designers all absolutely nailing exactly how everything looked in my head.
I do have to admit something that I think is an unpopular opinion. Rory McCann, the actor that plays Sandor Clegane, is not my favorite. I just don't like or buy his acting, almost ever. He tries too hard to sneer and growl and doesn't have that careless sort of threatening demeanor I imagine of someone who's such a renowned swordsman (and also someone as massive as him). I guess I just feel like he's overacting, and that became a little too apparent to me when he was faced by fire. His reactions were too exaggerated. But hey, that's just my opinion.
Other than that gripe in particular, I thought this was beautifully done. I like that they had everyone who was on the sidelines of the fight scrambling to get out of the way, something that's frequently overlooked in these kinds of fights (which GRRM deals with brutally in the scene with the Viper and the Mountain).
When the Hound delivers the fatal blow to Beric, I love that everyone who had been chanting "Guilty!" suddenly just shuts the fuck up; the fact that they were chanting it in the first place just shows how much everyone hates Clegane, whether he deserves it or not. A trial by combat was probably the best justice he could have hoped for.
Then Arya freaks the fuck out and grabs a dagger and lunges for him. Her acting is great in this scene, manic and desperate and intense, and I totally believed that she would have stabbed a million holes in him if given the chance.
They pull her back as she screams, "Burn in hell!" and then we hear Beric say, "He will. But not today."
BEYOND THE WALL:
Jon is being quizzed by Tormund and Orell (whom I kept calling Varamyr in previous reviews, and whom I keep calling Varamyr in my head) about which castles on the Wall are still manned, and how many men are at each. Jon plainly lies through his teeth when he tells them "A thousand," and while Orell seems to know that Jon is lying, he's got enough doubt to be worried. I did love the line, "Just because you want him inside you doesn't make him one of us." Teehehehe.
Ygritte then decides to swipe Jon's sword to get him to follow her into some sweet caves with hot springs in them, and it suddenly occurs to me how odd it is that nobody else was interested in using these awesome hot springs, even in the books. Are we supposed to assume that there are so many of the hot springs that everyone gets their own? Or that only Ygritte and a few other select people know about them?
In any case, Ygritte gets nekkid real quick, and my first thoughts were, "Wow, she's so scrawny," and then, "Wow, she's so filthy." Then, when she goes straight up to Jon and kisses him and he drops to his knees, all I could think was "Ew ew ew ew ew, let her wash off in the hot spring first at least, Chrissakes! I mean really, it's right there!"
But it's kind of cute a second later when they're laying together and Jon actually seems relaxed and happy for the first time in...a while. I liked how he tells Ygritte that she's his first, and she proceeds to tell him about the other dudes she's been with, prompting him to basically ask her to STFU. Aw, Jon's jealous. So sweet.
THEN they jump in the hot spring, which makes no sense, and Ygritte tells Jon she never wants to leave the cave. I'm sure that they could get away with hiding there, since it seems like nobody else knows where these hot springs are.
Brienne is kneeling and looking very pissed off, and we hear Vargo/Locke say, "The Kingslayer!" and shoves Jaime to his knees. Jaime keeps falling forward until he's face-down a gross puddle, and Roose looks none too pleased with Locke. There's a cold moment where he tells Locke to GTFO with that gross hand, and to cut Brienne free. He's obviously not approving of what has happened, but Locke doesn't really seem to give a fuck.
He apologizes to Brienne for their treatment of her, and is about to walk away when Jaime asks him if there has been news from King's Landing. Roose seems to have the same penchant for psychological torture that his bastard son has, because he lets Jaime squirm and panic for what seems like an eternity before telling him that Tywin won and Cersei is fine. Roose, you son of a bitch.
Jaime falls and Roose tells them to take him to Qyburn. I enjoyed Jaime basically telling Qyburn "No way are you knocking me out with drugs, dude, I don't know you. NO WAY." And Qyburn's face as he starts to cut into Jaime's arm is so perfect. He's way too eager and excited about this. RED FLAG.
MOAR QUEEN OF THORNS!
Lady Olenna is having a meeting with mister Tyrion Lannister concerning the costs of the royal wedding. I love this scene so much. First, I love her snapping at Pod when he goes to refill her cup, and then saying she takes figs mid-afternoon because "they move the bowels". Lovely. Thanks, lady.
Tyrion goes into his discussion of the expenses almost as if she's dim; when she asks what the problem could be with an extravagant wedding, he says, "We are at war," as if she isn't quite grasping it.
But then she crushes him with the very insightful explanation of why they need this royal wedding, how important it is, and what it could mean for all of them if the people aren't properly distracted. Tyrion sits back and looks at the table after she's finished with that, already cowed, but she ain't done. She then describes how many foot soldiers, mounted cavalry, archers, sheep, pigs, and every other commodity that is literally keeping King's Landing afloat the Tyrells have provided. Basically she's telling him to quit bitching about paying for the royal wedding, when Highgarden is already feeding and defending half the realm.
Tyrion seems like he has given up, and then comes her final surprise. She briskly stands up and announces that Highgarden will cover half the expenses, which she had obviously planned on doing all along anyways...she just wanted a chance to debate with Tyrion and put him and his family in their place a little.
Tyrion is taken aback, but grateful, until she comments on how disappointed she is to find, not the paragon of vice she had been hoping for, but instead a brow-beaten bookkeeper. Tyrion doesn't even seem to want to argue that point. It appears he knows all too well that she's right.
I love this whole scene. I love the Queen of Thorns too much. Bless.
I'm not sure exactly when this scene happens, but there's a moment when Cersei tracks down Petyr Baelish and tells him to find out if the Tyrells are up to something. "My father is almost as generous to those who help us as he is unpleasant to those who don't." Oh Cersei, you really think that you're clever and subtle, don't you. But hey, I shouldn't laugh at her, since it turns out that she was totally right.
Ugh, I forgot about this whole thing in the books. I liked how absolutely no background was given before this; the scene just opens in the cell with the children, and the Karstarks break in and murder them without the poor things knowing why, any more than we do as viewers.
When the boys are on the floor in front of Robb, the rage in his face is evident. I really wish that Robb had been harsher with Catelyn, but that's a story for another day. Here, Karstark is brought before Robb and says something like, "He's just going to scold me before he lets me go." DUDE. SHUT UP. I don't necessarily think that Robb wouldn't have hung everyone and executed him if he hadn't been poking at Robb's pride like that, but I'm sure it didn't fucking help.
Catelyn and Talisa both tell Robb that if he executes Karstark, he will lose all his men and ultimately lose the war. I dont think that Robb even disagrees with them, but his pride has been wounded and his mettle as a leader has been questioned. What the fuck is he supposed to do?
The scene where he executes Karstark is very effective. Karstark curses him, and Robb's sword-stroke seems full of fury; when he walks away in the rain, his hand twitching, it feels like he is trying to wrap his head around what he's just done. I just really like how quickly they moved into the execution, it makes it feel a lot more impulsive and borne of anger.
When Robb meets with Talisa and is looking at the map, all I could think was "Ugh, Talisa, go away." I don't know, there's just something about her that I don't care for, and having all of his plans and tactical maneuvers be told to her doesn't carry the same excitement to me that it would if he were talking to someone like the Blackfish. Also, he is planning on taking Casterly Rock?! Was that in the books? However, I was really glad that they mentioned the Freys at the end, so all of us book readers know where this is headed.
I have mixed feelings about all of this. I'm sure that later on they will hammer home how Robb's marriage to Talisa was really his undoing, but I think the choice Robb has to make on whether to execute Karstark was given too much weight here. They make it seem like this choice is the make-or-break moment.
It could be that I just don't like the way the show handled Catelyn releasing Jaime, though; it still doesn't make a lot of sense to me that she didn't even know that Bran and Rickon were "dead" yet (and don't even get me started that their bodies weren't found so both she and Robb don't even "know" the boys are dead. I hate it.) I think if you haven't read the books, this works perfectly fine, but I dunno...it just seems to make a little less sense. I mean, we didn't even get to see the Freys get offended and leave when the news of his marriage came out, so I'm not sure the viewers even realize how much of an effect that had. Hmmm.
CAVE IN THE RIVERLANDS:
I felt bad for Arya here. She feels like she's being abandoned at every turn, and while I get Hot Pie and Gendry's reasons and don't fault them, it does suck. She really is alone, and no matter how much she tries to create a kind of family for herself, it's unlikely that will ever happen.
I have read some speculation that when she says "I can be your family," and Gendry says, "No, you would be milady," that there is some sort of romantic insinuation there. I couldn't disagree more. It's obvious that he's saying he's too lowborn to be on even footing with her as family, especially once she's returned to her family at Riverrun. I get why people would want to believe that they're somehow going to end up together, but judging from their age difference in the show and the utter lack of that kind of implication up until now, they're not planning on pursuing anything between the two of them. At least, not for a while.
When Arya goes and sits with Thoros and Beric, the show that Beric makes of opening his shirt and pulling up his eye patch to display all his scars is kind of fun. I liked them describing all of the different ways he's died, especially the "Second time I've been killed by a Clegane". Teehee.
I also loved Arya confronting them about using her as a hostage; the back and forth between the two of them when he's trying to say "It is and it isn't like that", and she replies, "More 'is' than 'isn't'", made me smile to myself. Oh, Arya, you ain't no fool.
Okay, I'm going to come right out and say it. Stannis' storyline on this show bores me, and I really don't know where they're going with things. I just find the scenes on Dragonstone to be a slog, and even finally getting to see Selyse and Shireen didn't do much to keep me interested.
I could have sworn that in an earlier episode, possibly from Season 2 when Melisandre is seducing Stannis, she describes his wife as being "locked up in a tower". I couldn't really understand that, and I still don't, really. Why is she isolating herself? And why doesn't she want Stannis to see Shireen? Is she afraid he will contract greyscale, or is it that she's ashamed of her only child being a daughter instead of a son?
Also... what is with the fetuses?! That wasn't in the book, right? That is creepy as fuck, and I can't decide is it's the little ones or that big one that makes me the most queasy. Urrrghh. Why.
So Selyse isn't stupid; she not only knows that Stannis has been sleeping with Melisandre, but has actually discussed it with Melisandre and was happy about it because he did it in service to the Lord of Light. Alright, lady. Whatevs.
Stannis sees Shireen (who by the way is singing one of Patchface's creepy songs and it's awesome) and he's kind of a dick, telling her that her buddy Davos is "a traitor and rotting in the dungeons". Seriously, Stannis? C'mon, man, don't be a cunt.
JAIME'S BUTT! Damn, he's a blessed man.
I love love love this scene. Nikolaj is just a fucking gifted actor. First he makes that crack about "No wonder Renly died with you guarding him", at which moment Brienne stands up and we get some more butt (Brienne the BOOTY, amirite???). Jaime looks so sincerely ashamed of himself that I actually buy it. I just wish he would get a bowl or a bucket and pour some water over his head, because damn he looks grimy.
When he begins to tell Brienne the truth about Aerys and the wildfire, the detached, dreamy way he tells it is so fucking perfect. He comes back into the moment here and there, when he demands to know if Brienne would have kept her vow. But for the most part his voice is faint and almost sarcastic, like he's trying not to feel it, especially when he says "I don't think he expected to die, he expected to be reborn as a dragon." He sees the absurdity of it, but it still cuts him, and he's haunted.
UGH, JAIME, YOU'RE BREAKING MY FUCKING HEART.
Then he gets distraught, muttering, "By what right does the wolf judge the lion?!" and collapses. Brienne calls out for help with the Kingslayer, and he whispers, "Jaime...my name is Jaime." Heart = broken.
I swear, the two of them are so good together. I love all their scenes. I want to watch the Brienne and Jaime show.
Maybe we aren't quite at Yunkai yet, but close enough.
Here's another place where I'm not totally sure how they're going to handle the changes they've made. Barristan and Jorah are talking about when Jorah was knighted, cracking jokes and remembering home, when Barristan brings up the fact that Jorah has a controversial past. Okay, sure, that's true, but what about the part where Jorah betrayed Daenerys by spying for King Robert? I find it pretty hard to believe that Barristan wouldn't at least suspect that Jorah was behind all of the intel they were receiving, but instead he's really focusing on Jorah's involvement causing people to not be on Dany's side.
I find this odd, because Daenerys' plan is to wait till her dragons are grown and then swoop into Westeros and conquer it with "Fire and Blood", so wtf difference does it make whether Jorah is by her side? It doesn't seem like the people are going to have much of a say over it in the end anyway. I dunno, Barristan, you seem like you just kind of wanted to be a dick here, and even though I know Jorah is also full of shit, I was kinda glad he told you to shove it up your ass and rode away.
Meeting Grey Worm was a little disappointing. I did't care for the dude's acting (he honestly seemed like he was trying not to laugh) and he just doesn't look strong or impressive enough in any way to make me believe that he would have been selected as a captain. Eh, whatever, doesn't matter right now, we shall see how he does when there's a battle or something.
Sansa is watching Loras fighting, and turns to Margaery and asks if she has any idea when they will...get married? Bone down? I suppose it's all one in the same. She's so blissfully unaware, it's really kind of heart breaking.
Meanwhile, Loras is getting his armor removed by some hottie with a smile full of promises, and the next thing we see is the two of them in bed together. Loras is all surprised that this guy knew he was gay (not as big a secret as you think, Loras) and then totally spills the beans that he's secretly engaged to Sansa. Turns out the hottie is a plant of Littlefinger's, and Littlefinger immediately meets with Sansa to see whether she will confirm the story. And she sort of does, saying that she doesn't want to risk putting Petyr in danger by sneaking away after all, blah blah blah. All it boils down to is not wanting to leave King's Landing. Petyr plays dumb, lying right back to her that he's touched about her concern for his welfare, but he's obviously furious, and evidently runs right to Cersei with the news.
So now we get to one of my favorite scenes in the episode. Tywin and Cersei are waiting for Tyrion, and when Tyrion tries to brag that he's "gotten the Tyrells to agree" to paying for half the wedding, I giggled a little. It's all about the spin, baby.
Tyrion is rightly very uncomfortable with how happy Cersei seems, and a moment later we find out why. Tywin intends to thwart the Tyrell plot to marry Sansa to Loras by marrying her to Tyrion instead. (Notably, when Tywin says that she's the "key to the North" and Tyrion mentions Robb, Tywin replies dismissively that "his days are numbered".)
Tyrion is disgusted by the proposal, more out of compassion for Sansa and what it will be like for the poor girl. Cersei, meanwhile, seems elated by the news, which is actually a little odd because I would have thought she'd begrudge Tyrion actually getting to have a pretty wife. It seems, however, that she knows Tyrion pretty well, and knew how much he would hate this whole idea.
But Tywin ain't done.
Cersei should have known that she wouldn't come away from this whole thing unscathed, but she's blindsided by the proposed match between her and Ser Loras. Once again, I must have missed something somewhere, because I really thought that Loras had been put on the Kingsguard last season, but he's not wearing the uniform so I must have imagined it. Hmmm.
Cersei is horrified, and when Tywin says she must "marry and breed" she snaps, but not loudly enough to drown him out. He shouts that she is his daughter, and maybe this marriage will put an end to the disgusting rumors about her, so we finally know that Tywin is aware of the possibility of incest. He doesn't say Jaime's name, though, which is interesting. It's like he doesn't want to admit it to himself that his golden-boy could have done something so "disgusting".
The one moment when I actually felt for Cersei was when she practically whimpered, "Please, Father, don't make me do it again." She just sounds so sad and pathetic and beaten. However, I don't feel that she tried to make the best of her situation with Robert; she was so attached to Jaime already and she was determined to let Robert know how much she despised him. I have very mixed feelings on Cersei.
So the show ends with Tywin storming out and leaving Cersei and Tyrion sitting and contemplating their fate, and then we hear Shireen singing the songs from Patchface's Classic Collection of Sinister Songs. They really are unsettling, aren't they?
This episode was miles ahead of most of Season 2, but so far this season I found it to be the least gripping. What did you think?
By the way, I'm considering turning the last 5 episode reviews into their own podcasts, what do you think? Go over to our Facebook page to vote and let me know!