At the Red Keep, Tyrion plots three alliances through the promise of marriage. Catelyn arrives in the Stormlands to forge an alliance of her own. But King Renly, his new wife Margaery and her brother Loras Tyrell have other plans. At Winterfell, Luwin tries to decipher Bran’s dreams.
To discuss this episode in detail, visit the A Song of Ice and Fire forum!
The episode opens directly after last episode’s cliffhanger, as Craster throws a bleeding Jon Snow in through the door of his hall, holding Longclaw in his hand. He demands that Mormont and the Watch depart in the morning. Jon tries to speak up, but the Old Bear tells Jon to be quiet and orders him out of the hall. Afterward, Samwell is tending to a still-dazed Jon when Mormont comes out looking for him and begins to yell at him over what he’s done. Jon starts to explain that he saw Craster sneaking out with an infant and followed him into the woods, but Mormont asks what business is that of his? Jon claims he doesn’t understand, that he’s killing all his baby boys in that wood…. and then the look on Mormont’s face makes him realize that Mormont knew all along. Jeor tells Snow that the wildlings serve crueller gods than either of them do, and though Craster may be a monster, that monster has been the difference between life and death for many rangers over many years, including Benjen Stark. Jon takes that in, and then says he saw “it”—whatever it was that took the child. Mormont tells him that he expects he’ll be seeing such creatures again, as they range deeper into the lands beyond the Wall. He returns Longclaw to Jon, telling him not to lose it again.
The next morning, Samwell is piling raven cages on the sledge as the Watch prepares to leave. Seeing Gilly leave the hall, Samwell goes to her to speak with her. She realizes that the Watch is leaving, but he insists that he wants to give her something: an ivory or bone thimble, the only thing he brought with him that comes from his mother. He tells Gilly that he used to sit with her as she sewed, reading to her, until his father put an end to that when he found out about it. Gilly tells him that he shouldn’t give things away, but Samwell says he isn’t—he’s giving it to her. She accepts it, hesitantly, and the two part.
At Winterfell, Summer prowls through the castle, passing servants and being greeted by Hodor as Maester Luwin tells the giant stableboy to go wake Bran up. Summer follows behind Hodor, and we see that his presence is still uncomfortable for some: a serving woman, seeing him, hastily steps wide around him. Hodor opens the door and lets the direwolf into Bran’s chamber, where he hops up into the bed… and suddenly Bran is awake, seeing Summer with his own eyes, as the direwolf stands over him. Shortly after, Bran is telling Maester Luwin that each night he dreams of himself as a wolf, as Summer, prowling the godswood, eating kills, howling at the moon, and walking and running. Maester Luwin insists these are dreams, and when Bran says that Old Nan used to tell stories (she died between the first and second season, it seem) of magical people who could live inside stags, birds, and wolves, Luwin responds that that’s just what they are: stories. He isn’t saying that she lied, that perhaps once men could do such things, but no longer and that Bran is just dreaming. Bran insists that his dreams are different, that they come true. When Luwin wonders about all the dreams that did not come true, Bran has no answer. He pulls forward a chain in his link, one of Valyrian steel, which signifies that he studied the higher mysteries. All those who studied the higher mysteries will try their hand at spells, him included, but nothing came of it. Only one in a hundred maesters have the link. Luwin finishes by saying that once magic might have ruled the world, but the dragons are gone, the giants are dead, and the children of the forest are forgotten.
Far in the south, King Renly is encamped near Storm’s End and two knights—one of them Ser Loras Tyrell, the Knight of Flowers—are fighting a single combat before a cheering crowd as King Renly and his new bride, Margaery Tyrell, look on. Lady Catelyn is escorted by two Baratheon men, and watches the end of the contest as Ser Loras gets the better of the tall knight he’s fighting, disarming him and knocking away his shield. Before he can finish the fight, however, the knight tackles him, using his greater size and strength to his advantage. Before Loras can react, the knight flips up his visor and draws a knife. “I yield!” Loras shouts, as the crowd shows its disappointment at the favorite son of Highgarden losing the contest. The knight comes before King Renly and kneels. When Renly tells him to rise and remove his helm, the knight does so… and reveals that it’s no knight: it’s a woman. Renly tells her that she’s all her father promised, that he’s seen Loras defeated once or twice, but never in that fashion. Margaery corrects him and notes that Loras fought valiantly. Renly agrees, but declares that Brienne of Tarth is the champion, and may ask anything that she desires that is within his power to grant. She asks for the honor of a place in his Kingsguard, to be one of the seven, to pledge her life to his, and to keep him safe from harm. Renly agrees, but the desultory applause from the crowd suggests that the decision of having a woman warrior—an unnatural person, from their perspective—in the Kingsgaurd is not a popular one.
Lady Catelyn is introduced as the mother of the Lord of Winterfell, and Catelyn explands on that saying he is Lord of Winterfell and King in the North. Renly says he’s pleased to see her, and introduces his wife, who welcomes Catelyn and shares her sorrow for her loss. Renly swears that the Lannisters will answer for Ned’s murder; when he takes King’s Landing, he says he’ll bring her Joffrey’s head, which brings a roar of approval from the crowd. When Catelyn responds that it’s enough to know that justice will be done, “my lord”, Brienne corrects her, saying she could refer to him as “Your Grace” and she should kneel when she presents herself, but Renly tells her that Catelyn is an honored guest. Ser Loras starts to ask if Robb has attacked the Lannisters. Catelyn notes she’s not on her son’s war councils, and even if she were, she’d not share his strategies. Loras’s response is that he thinks Robb should have come to Renly himself rather than hiding behind his mother’s skirts. Catelyn notes that Robb is fighting a war, not playing at one, which raises protest from some in the crowd.
Renly leads Catelyn away through his camp, and pauses to speak with a common man, addressing by name and asking after his injured foot. Renly reveals he has 100,000 men revealing him, but Catelyn says she pities them—it’s a game to them all; they are the knights of summer, and winter is coming. At that, he asks Brienne to escort Catelyn to her tent. When Brienne asks to return after, he says he’ll pray awhile alone instead. Catelyn compliments “Lady Brienne” for fighting bravely on the field. Brienne says that she’ll soon fight for him on the battlefield, and die for him if she must, but that if it pleases Catelyn, simply call her Brienne—“I’m no lady.”
Entering the great hall at Pyke, Theon is surprised by Asha. He calls her a lying bitch, angered by her not revealing herself. She says she wanted to learn who he was first, and she did. Balon enters and begins to plan his attack on the North. While Robb’s army is in the south, the ironborn will attack the northern coast, reaving and spreading over every thing north of the Neck. He expects Winterfell may resist for a year, but they’ll hold everything else. He sends Asha with thirty ships to take Deepwood Motte… and gives Theon only one ship, to raid fishing villages on the Stony Shore. Asha reveals the ship is named the “Sea Bitch”. Theon insists that the northmen won’t be defeated so readily, and Asha tries to argue that they won’t know before they’re too late. Theon tells her to shut up, that he’s a proven warrior, only to have Balon say that his brothers were warriors and both of them killed by the Starks that Theon is trying to protect. Theon argues that he’s not protecting them, that they should become allies with the North and if they pledge fealty to them, they’ll be given Casterly Rock and all of its wealth. Balon reminds him of the Greyjoy words: “We do not sow.” They are not slaves, they do not toil in the fields or the mines, they take what they want. He finishes by telling his son that his time with the wolves has made him weak.
Theon replies that Balon gave him away when he was crushed by Robert Baratheon. “Did he take what was yours then?” he says, and Balon slaps him down before storming off. He stops as Theon shouts at him that he gave him away like a dog he didn’t want anymore, and now he’s cursing him because he’s come home. After Balon leaves, Asha tells Theon that he can’t expect to have Balon bow down to his “other family”. Theon responds that he has no other family. “Don’t you?” she asks, and then tells him to make a choice, and quickly.
At King’s Landing, Shae mopes about Tyrion’s chamber, complaining that he won’t let her leave the room. He tells her to be quiet as he’s reading a document… and she merely raises her voice even louder. Tyrion says that he doesn’t mean her to stay there, that he might be able to bring her into the castle kitchen. Indicating her cooking is terrible, he clarifies that she’d be a scullion—a kitchen wench, he explains when she doesn’t know the word. She doesn’t care for that, but Tyrion insists that he wants to keep her safe and that Cersei will use any weakness she can find, including Shae. He says it’s a compliment… but she wonders how a weakness can be a compliment. She repeats that she’s not a kitchen wench.
Later that evening, Sansa dine with the queen, Tommen, and Myrcella. Myrcella asks about Joffrey’s wedding to Sansa, which Cersei says will be soon. Myrcella says she’s been promised a new gown for the wedding, and another for a feast… but Sansa will have the ivory gown, since she’s the bride. Sansa has nothing to say to that, until Cersei insists that she has to speak to the princess. Sansa does so, and claims she’s counting the days to the fighting being done so she can marry the king. Cersei watches as she mouths the words, and knows that Sansa is just saying what she’s expected to say. Tommen asks Cersei if Joffrey will king Sansa’s brother. Cersei says he might, only for Tommen to say he doesn’t think he would like that. Cersei tries to “reassure” him that even if Joffrey does, Sansa will do her duty. “Won’t you, little dove?” Sansa later goes to her chamber and stares in a brazen mirror… until there’s a knock at a door, and Shae enters, introducing herself as her new hand maiden. Sansa says she doesn’t need one, and recognies that Shae is foreign. It’s clear Shae has no idea what her tasks are, even when she claims she was a handmaiden for a “Lady Zureth”. Sansa says there’s no Lady Zureth in King’s Landing, but Shae says that she’s not from King’s Landing. Frustrated to the point of tears, Sansa tells her she hasn’t time to answer all of her questions and tell her how to do her job. In the end, she asks Shae to brush her hair.
Tyrion meets with Pycelle the next day, and recieves a potion—a laxative—because he claims a need for it. Tyrion and Pycelle sit together and he asks if he can trust the Grand Maester. Pycelle says of course, and Tyrion says he has a plan that he’s sharing with the small council… but he can’t share it with the queen, because she’ll object. Promising to be “silent as the grave”. Tyrion reveals to him that he’s brokering an alliance with the Dornish, sending Myrcella to wed the youngest Martell son to ensure their loyalty and their army. He repeats that the queen must not know as he pours a glass of wine—and we see now he’s saying it to Varys, who replies that he loves it when a conversation begins with those words. Tyrion reveals that he plans to marry Myrcella to Theon Greyjoy.
Varys stops, and sets aside his wine, and seriously asks how he imagines that will work, given that he’s been raised by the Starks and he fights for the Starks. Tyrion insists that Balon Greyjoy hates the Starks and will convince Theon to help destroy the Stark army from within. Again Tyrion moves and repeats the queen must not know… and now he’s saying it to Littlefinger. He reveals to him that he means to send Myrcella to marry Robin Arryn. Littlefinger seems dubious—after all, Lysa imprisoned and tried to execute Tyrion—but Tyrion argues that the promise of a royal princess may change her mind. Littlefinger wonders what’s in it for him. Tyrion suggests the gratitude of the people for a swift end to the war, the gratitude of the king… and Harrenhal. Littlefinger responds it’s cursed, but Tyrion replies that as the Lord of the Riverlands—the title he means to give him—he’d be able to afford to tear it down and build a new castle in its place. Littlefinger’s greed gets the better of him. He protests briefly that Janos Slynt had also helped in the matter of the succession, and Harrenhal was taken away from him and he was sent to the Wall… but Tyrion replies that he doesn’t need Slynt, while he does need Littlefinger. That decides him, and Littlefinger agrees to go, and not to tell the queen.
In Renly’s camp, Renly and Loras are in bed together, kissing. Loras’s chest is bruised from his fighting with Brienne…. and then Loras stops Renly, and asks what possessed him to name Brienne to the Kingsguard, adding to his humiliation of losing to her. Renly replies she’s a capable warrior, and devoted to him, and suggests Loras is jealous. “Jealous? Of Brienne the Beauty?” Renly tries to “make it up” to him… and Loras stops him, saying that another Tyrell needs his attention since his father’s army doesn’t come on the basis of Renly’s charm alone. Renly persists, but Loras stops him and says that the vassals are starting to laugh behind his back since brides are not usually virgins two weeks after their wedding. Renly questions whether she’s a virgin… and Loras replies, “Officially.” He leaves, and later Renly is pouring himself wine when she enters. He compliments her gown, only for her to remove the bodice, leaving herself half-naked.
She moves up to kiss him, and it’s clear he’s uncomfortable as she silences him and kisses him more. She finds he’s not exactly aroused. He blames the wine, but it isn’t working as she continues. She then asks if he wants Loras to come in and help, or perhaps she could help him pretend that she is Loras. Renly refuses to admit understanding of what she’s saying, and she speaks frankly to him: he does not need to play games with her, that he should save his lies for court, where he’ll need many of them. She tries to urge him to remember that he best way to stop their enemies are to get her pregnant, and that he can do it however he pleases: with her, with her and Loras, however he likes. “Whatever you need to do, you are a king.”
In King’s Landing, Tyrion enters a chamber only to have Cersei waiting there in a rage: “You monster!” she says, attacking his plans to sell Myrcella like a common whore or send Myrcella to Dorne. She tells him that the Martells loathe them, and Tyrion replies that they need to seduce them. “She’ll be a hostage”, she says, and he replies she’ll be a guest. She warns him that the piece of paper from Lord Tywin won’t keep Tyrion safe. Tyrion insists it’s done and that she can’t stop it, and she screams “No!” as she sweeps glasses from his table. He tells her that if the enemy wins, Myrcella will be raped and her head placed next to Cersei’s. She sends Tyrion out as she collapses in grief.
At Pyke, Theon sits alone, the sound of the sea his only company. He stares at a letter to Robb, warning him of his father’s plans. A long moment… and he burns it, putting it to the candle at his table. The room is illuminated only by that light. The next day Theon is at the shore, his father and sister and their guards looking on as he stands before a priest of the Drowned God and reconsecrates himself in the faith with seawater poured on him as the blessings are intoned. “What is dead may never die,” Theon says, words that the priests repeats. He looks to his family, water dripping from his face.
In King’s Landing, Tyrion lounges in thought with a book in hand when Littlefinger enters to complain about his having been used by Tyrion, and the fact that Harrenhal is off the table as well. Tyrion then reveals he does have a plan for Littlefinger: he can use him to get Jaime released, by sending Littlefinger to meet with his “beloved” Catelyn. The idea stops Littlefinger in his protests… but Bronn arrives to inform Tyrion that he’s found someone, and that he’s a “randy old stoat” because he has a girl with him. Tyrion leaves with Bronn… and then we see them pushing open the door to Grand Maester Pycelle’s room, where he’s in bed with Daisy, a prostitute from Littlefinger’s brothel. As she cowers and hides, Tyrion reveals to Pycelle that he knows that Pycelle informed the queen of his plans. Pycelle’s protests are batted away, as Tyrion threatens to let Timmett son of Timmett cut off his manhood and feed it to the goats. Pycelle explains that he’s always been loyal to Tywin, since the time of the Mad King, and all he did was for Lannister. Tyrion has Bronn cut off most of Pycelle’s beard, and then questions him on how many Hands he betrayed. When Pycelle reveals that Jon Arryn was going to reveal the truth of Queen Cersei’s relationship with Jaime—he stumbles to a halt before being clear about it—Tyrion accuses him of poisoning Arryn himself, which Pycelle denies. Tyrion has Pycelle dragged to the black cells, and pains Daisy with a pair of coins for her trouble.
Tyrion later speaks with Varys about placing Shae with Sansa and what’s happened to Pycelle. Varys then poses a riddle to Tyrion, a riddle about where power truly lies. Tyrion ultimately says he doesn’t like riddles, and Varys answers it: power resides where men believe it resides, that it’s a trick and an illusion, a shadow on a wall… and that a very small man can cast a very large shadow.
At the empty holdfast where the Night’s Watch recruits are sleeping, Yoren enters and finds Arya still awake. They talk about how you can sleep when you’ve seen horrible things, because Arya has found it hard to sleep ever since the death of her father. He tells her she didn’t see it—he made sure—but she says that when she closes her eyes, she sees them all standing there: Joffrey, the queen, and Sansa as well. Yoren tells her of how he came to the Watch, telling the story of a brother of his being murdered by another young man, Willem, who ran off. Yoren kept thinking about Willem, until it filled his thoughts, so much so that he’d say his name before going to bed, repeating it like a prayer. Then one day Willem rode back into town, and Yoren he buried an ax in Willem’s head. He took Willem’s horse and made for the Wall. Then a horn sounds outside, and they hear men. Yoren shouts and tells everyone to get up and arm themselves, that there’s danger. He tells Gendry and Arya to keep out of sight, and if things go wrong they need to run north without looking back.
Exiting the holdfast with the others, including Hot Pie and Lommy who picks up Gendry’s abandoned helmet. Yoren is confronted by Lannister men led by Ser Amory Lorch. Lorch informs them that they’ve met the two gold cloaks on the road and they asked for assistance in apprehending Gendry. Yoren refuses. One of the crossbowmen shoots Yoren, and Yoren gets up with the bolt in his shoulder. He draws his sword and attacks, killing the bowmen and another two soldiers, but is eventually overwhelmed and speared by several men. Amory Lorch rides forward and casually drives his sword through his body. Yoren dies, but collapses and folds down so that his body remains kneeling. Gendry, Arya, and others rush out to fight, while Hot Pie stays behind out of fear. Earlier, one of the others tripped and fell, setting fire to a pile of hay which slowly spread to the wagon with the three prisoners. When Jaqen H’ghar sees Arya running by, he calls for her, begging for help. She hesitates and then gets an ax and takes it to Jaqen. Rorge grabs hold of it and begins to hack at the bars, while Arya runs.
Gendry is over-powered, and as Arya runs, a soldier named Polliver beats her down and then takes Needle from the “boy”. Others are captured and brought forward, including Hot Pie. Lorch announces that the survivors will be taken to Harrenhal. Lommy, injured and lying on the ground, calls for help. Polliver comes over and asks him if he can walk. Lommy insists that he’ll have to carry him. Polliver agrees, offers a hand… and as Lommy starts to rise up, he thrusts Needle into his throat. He jokes about it to the other soldiers. When Lorch calls for Gendry, and threatens to blind them one by one until they talk, Arya quickly comes to a decision: she claims they’ve already killed him, and as proof she says he loved that bull’s head helmet, the very helmet Lommy took and which lies beside him.