The Night’s Watch takes stock; Varys meets his better; Arya is taken to the commander of the Brotherhood; Daenerys makes an exchange.
The episode opens with the image of Jaime’s hand hanging from a cord around his neck. Jaime is despondent as Locke and his men insult him. He falls from the back of his horse, even as Brienne is ignored as she calls for someone to help him. Jaime falls in the mud and asks for water. One of Locke’s men comes up with a waterskin… and empties it on his head.
Jaime says that they’ll all be killed if he dies. Locke tells him enough, and gives him a cask which Jaime drains… only to vomit it up when he’s told it’s horse’s urine. Jaime manages to snatch a sword from one of the men and uses it in his left hand, but it’s clear he’s not capable of fighting them all, nor does he have even a small part of his old skill. The men toy with him as Brienne tries to intervene. Finally Jaime is knocked down, and Locke beats him. Jaime, lying in the mud, is informed that if he tries it again, Locke will take his other hand.
In King’s Landing, Tyrion comes to speak with Varys about the events of the Blackwater. Varys is busy opening a large crate, with holes in its side. Tyrion reveals he did not inherit Littlefinger’s spies with his office, and hopes Varys’s little birds have information about Cersei’s plan to kill him during the battle. Varys says he has no proof, only whispers, to that effect. Then he moves to the subject of how he himself became a eunuch. He informs Tyrion that he had traveled with a troop of actors as a boy, until his master sold him to a man in Myr. The man did not want to use him as some men use small boys—he gave him a potion that made him unable to move or speak, castrated him as he chanted, and the flames he threw his parts into turned blue and a voice called.
Varys reveals he still dreams of that night, of the voice from the flames. He does not know whether it was a god, demon, or a conjurer’s trick. Ever since that day, he says he’s hated magic and that is why he is glad to help against Stannis and his red priestess, as a kind of revenge. Tyrion says he wants actual revenge, but he does not have the influence he needs. Varys says that he finds influence can be a matter of patience. He himself was thrown from the sorcerer’s house to die, but he resolved to live, and did all he could to survive. He became a thief and slowly made his way from Myr’s slums to the small council chamber. And with his growing influence, he was able to get something very special. He opens the box, and Tyrion looks inside.
Within it is an old, gagged man, whom Tyrion realizes is the sorcerer. It’s plain Varys means to take a long, slow revenge on him, as he shuts the box again.
Beyond the Wall, Grenn and Dolorous Edd are shoveling manure from the pig sty at Craster’s Keep, and complaining about the task and their lot in life as men of the Watch. Rast is with them, complaining about their being at Craster’s, and how Mormont has failed them as a leader. Rast is sure Craster will serve them up to the White Walkers, and that they’ll have to look to themselves if they want to live.
In the keep, Gilly is rocking her infant son. Samwell enters and starts to say the child is beautiful, but Gilly shushes him because the boy is crying. Samwell asks if the boy has a name, but Gilly doesn’t see the point. She gives him back the thimble he gave her, she wants her baby’s life to be saved, because she has no time for anyone else but him and he does not have much time. The child begins to cry again as Samwell leaves.
Bran dreams of himself running through a forest, a raven cawing above him. He finds it high in a tree. Jojen appears next to Bran, telling him to go after him. Bran isn’t sure how to at first, but then begins to climb. He’s within reach of the raven when suddenly his mother Catelyn appears, telling him she told him not to climb. She grabs him, shaking and shouting that he must promise… and Bran falls. He wakes suddenly, a campfire illuminating him and Jojen, who is sitting up. They say nothing.
In King’s Landing, Varys and Ros discuss the prodigy that is Ros. She informs him, to his amazement, that while not notably more equipped than other men, he was simply more amazing than any other men that the three prostitutes had been with (we’re told they had been with many men). Varys marvels. Then the topic turns to Littlefinger preparing to depart for the Eyrie, and that Ros has been helping him do so. Varys wonders if she’s lost interest in Sansa, but Ros doubts it. She turns over a scroll that she has read (Varys is surprised she can read), and reveals it to be a manifest for Littlefinger’s ship. It will include two feather beds. Varys wonders if it might be for one of the prostitutes, but Ros reveals he has no interest in the women who work in his brothel.
The scene turns to Great Baelor’s Sept, where Joffrey is showing Margaery the crypts of the Targaryens and regaling her with stories of gruesome deaths, such as those of Rhaenyra (fed to a dragon by her own brother) and Aerion Brightflame (drank wildfire). Elsewhere, Cersei and Lady Olenna discuss the arrangements for the royal wedding of Joffrey and Cersei. Joffrey notes the crypt of the Mad King, killed by Jaime, and then Joffrey suggests showing her the tomb of the last Targaryens. As they depart, Cersei and Olenna continue to speak. Cersei reveals that Robert’s remains were sent to Storm’s End. Cersei remarks that drinking and hunting do not mix. Olenna notes that her son is a hunter too, which helps him forget he’s never been near a real battle. Cersei says that Lord Mace led the siege of Storm’s End during the rebellion… but Olenna dismisses it, saying all he did was eat at banquets.
Olenna argued against her son fighting in the rebellion, and says that mothers try to keep their sons from the grave. The sons seem to yearn for it, however, and they ignore the good sense that their mothers give them. Cersei points out that the world belongs to them, and Olenna considers that a ridiculous arrangement. After a pause, Cersei says that the gods have made it so.
Joffrey continues to speak with Margaery and tells her that Robert had wanted to burn the bodies and throw them into the Blackwater rather than entomb them honorably, but the High Septon convinced them otherwise. Margaery say she’s glad that he did. Whatever they did, they built the Great Sept. Sometimes, she says, “severity is the price we pay for greatness.” Joffrey says he couldn’t agree more.
In the background, they hear shouts of the smallfolk calling for the king. Joffrey is nervous, but Margaery suggests they show themselves to them, that the people truly adore him because he saved the city. Joffrey steels himself and has the doors opened. Margaery glances back as Cersei shows her concern, then takes Joffrey’s arm and leads him out while Cersei tries to protest. Many of the voices call for Lady Margaery, but a few begin to hail Joffrey. Margaery and Joffrey both wave, smiling, while Cersei looks suspicious.
In the north, Theon rides alongside the boy, who tells him they are not far from Deepwood Motte. Theon wonders why the boy risked his life for him, and he tells him that he grew up on Saltcliffe and he recalls his father’s words when Theon was sent away to the North after the failure of Balon’s rebellion: “That’s Balon Greyjoy’s last living son.” The boy says he’s never forgotten those words. Theon then asks if it’s true that Balon knew what was being done to him, as his torturers claimed. The boy pleads ignorance.
Later they jump down from a wall and enter a gate. The boy asks Theon to keep quiet, and Theon doesn’t understand why as Yara’s men will do as she says. The boy says not all of her men are loyal to her; some are loyal to Balon. As they enter a dark passage, Theon remarks on how jealous he had been when Yara was commanded to take this place, but he realizes he shouldn’t have been given how damp and unpleasant it is. Instead, he complains that his father did not trust him, and considered him a Stark. Theon is angry as he says he could never be a Stark, saying Robb always reminded him of that. He didn’t have to tell him that, of course—Robb’s existence alone did it.
Theon complains about how his father gave him a choice. He could never be a Stark, but he could be ironborn. He sounds as if he’s trying to convince himself, while the boy works to open a chained gate. Theon says he paid the iron price for Winterfell, and that he murdered the boys. The boy turns to him and asks if he means the Stark boys, and Theon admits he and Dagmer killed the farmer’s two boys to make everyone believe he killed them, and to make his father proud. The boy suggests it may not be too late… but Theon says it is. He wipes a tear from his eyes, as he says his real father lost his head in King’s Landing. He made a choice, he says, and he chose wrong.
The boy finally gets the gate open and leads him into the chamber, saying his sister is there. He lights a torch… and Theon sees the room is the torture chamber where he was held before. The boy addresses men behind him, saying that he brought Theon back, and that Theon killed the others. The men beat him and chain him to the cross again as Theon screams.
In the riverlands, Jaime and Brienne ride on. Jaime remains despondent and silent. That night, as they sit tied on the ground, Brienne tells him to eat—Jaime has been refusing to do so, and wishes to die. Brienne calls him a coward because he’s giving up because of misfortune. Jaime says that he was his sword hand, and without it he has nothing. Brienne responds angrily that he’s had a taste of the real world, where people have things taken from them and must go on. He whines, he says, and so he sounds “like a bloody woman.” Jaime considers that, and begins to eat.
As he does so, Brienne reveals she knows that he lied about the Sapphire Isle for her—it’s called that for the blue of its waters, not for any sapphires. She wonders why he helped her, and Jaime has no response.
In King’s Landing, Cersei waits impatiently as her father writes a document. He finally asks what she wants to talk about, and she says that she wants to know about Jaime and that they’re doing everything they can for him. Tywin counters that he started a war for Tyrion, that “lecherous little stump”, so she should know he’s doing whatever he can for his eldest son and heir. She doesn’t leave, however, wanting to speak more with him. She then asks if he’s ever realized he should trust her more than he does Jaime or Tyrion, that she may be the only one who attended to his lessons about family and legacy. Tywin says little enough, other than inviting her to contribute.
Cersei turns to the topic of the Tyrells, saying they’re dangerous. Tywin responds that they helped them win at the Blackwater and saved the life of Cersei and her children. Cersei says that Margaery has learned to manipulate Joffrey.. and Tywin says good, wishing that Cersei had the same ability. He then reveals he doesn’t trust her not because she’s a woman, but because she’s not as smart as she thinks she is. She’s allowed Joffrey run roughshod over her and everyone else in King’s Landing. She suggests, coolly, that he should try to stop Joffrey from doing what he wants. Tywin says he will.
Outside the castle, in the gardens, Olenna is asked by one of her young women if she likes her embroidered golden roses. Olenna goes on to complain about the Tyrell arms, and the Tyrell words, comparing it unfavorably to the wolves and lions, “Winter is Coming” and “We Do Not Sow”. She then dismisses the young women as Varys arrives. Varys offers courtesies, which Olenna has little time for. “What happens when the non-existent bumps against the decrepit?” she asks, leading a surprised Varys to glance down at himself. Pleasantries concluded, Varys brings the matter to Olenna’s interest in Sansa. Olenna says Sansa is not particularly interesting in herself, but she’s had an interesting childhood. Varys agrees, sadly. Then he starts to leave, saying that he thought they had shared hopes for Sansa’s wellbeing. Olenna stops him, and insists on walking with him, as she realizes that the shrubbery has ears as well.
As they walk, Varys reveals he admired Ned Stark. Olenna says he had many admirers, but none stepped forward to help him when the executioner came. Varys replies he could not help him, but he might be able to help his daughter. He says the Tyrells are not the only ones who’ve taken an interest in her, and Olenna is not surprised: “she’s a beautiful girl with a famous name.” He suggests Sansa may be a good match for a wellborn suitor. He then reveals that Littlefinger means to take Sansa with him. Olenna wonders why she’s come to her about this, and Varys replies that Littlefinger is one of the most dangerous men in Westeros—he’s acquired lands and wealth, and needs only armies… which he might get with Sansa as his bride.
In the end, Varys says that if Robb Stark falls, Sansa is the key to the North. Olenna suggests Varys must despise Lord Baelish. He says that on the contrary he rather enjoys him… but Littlefinger would see the realm burn if he could be king of the ashes. He suggests he has a clever solution to the problem, and Olenna takes his arm and says it’s rather obvious what that solution is.
Near the sea, Sansa is praying at an old, pale tree stump. Margaery convinces her Lannister guards to step away and give them privacy by saying that she’ll tell Joffrey they did not indulge her. Then Margaery asks Sansa what she prayed for, and Sansa refuses at first. Margaery offers up what she prayed for as well, but Sansa still refuses to divulge her prayers. Margaery then launches into the tale of a beautiful cousin her tormented her when she was 12, and how Margaery prayed she’d get a horrible skin disease. She insists that a week later, Alanna came down with “porridge plague”, a horrible and deadly disease. Sansa says that’s awful… but Margaery then laughs, revealing it was all a jest. Margaery admits that her cousin in fact married a handsome lord and has children in a castle by the sea. Sansa tells her that Margaery will outdo her, and the cousin will be jealous.
Margaery and Sansa agree to be friends, and Margaery says Sansa must see Highgarden. She talks of a great masquerade on the night of the harvest moon. Sansa says the queen won’t let her leave King’s Landing. Margaery corrects her, saying that Cersei is queen regent… but that she’ll be queen once she’s wed to Joffrey. And if Sansa were wed to Loras… Sansa is overwhelmed with joy and longing at the thought, and can only smile and nod when Margaery asks if she’d like that.
Far in the north, beyond the Wall, the Watch is burning the body of Bannen, a brother of the Watch who died. Grenn remarks afterward that he didn’t think a broken foot could kill a man, but Rast insists he died because Craster let him starve. He complains bitterly and thinks they should take what they want. All Dolorous Edd can say is that he never thought Bannen could smell so good.
Inside Craster’s keep, Craster asks Mormont about his one son, and then reveals he’s just had his 99th son, and more daughters than he can count. Craster says he’ll be glad to see the Watch gone. Mormont protests that they’ll leave when the wounded are strong enough, but Craster says they won’t get any stronger. They should cut their throats, he suggests, or if they haven’t the stomach, leave them behind and he’ll take care of it himself. Then a brother of the Watch speaks up, asking whose throat Craster means to cut. Mormont tells the man to wait outside… but he refuses, saying it’s cold, and ignoring further orders. A confrontation follows, as Rast says that Craster has been keeping food from them. Rast calls Rast a stingy bastard, and at that Craster takes up an ax and threatens them, saying he’ll chop the hands off the next man who calls him a bastard.
And then, as Mormotn is dragging Rast away outside… the man who spoke earlier calls Craster a bastard. Craster charges at him, and the brother of the Watch shovesh is dagger into his neck. Craster falls dead, and the man grabs a screaming woman, telling her to tell them where the food is or she’ll get the same. Mormont tries to intervene, and the man holds his knife to the woman’s neck and refuses to accept his orders. Mormont takes out his sword and tells him to unhand her, that he’ll have his head—
—and Rast stabs him in the back. The sword falls from nerveless fingers, and Grenn launches himself at the first man while Mormont tries to strangle Rast. Battle breaks out between mutinous brothers of the Watch and those still loyal. Mormont suddenly coughs up blood and collapses, while Rast yet lives. Samwell flees into the night with Gilly, as Rast stabs Mormont to death. Rast then shouts after Samwell, telling him to keep running and to run fast because he’ll cut his throat one of these nights.
In the riverlands, a hooded Arya sits behind Thoros. She asks if she can take the hood off, but he says it’s safer for them if they don’t know where they are. Thoros gives her some rum, and then Gendry, before they enter a dark cavern where other men are gathered. It’s a place safe of “lions or wolves”. Sandor looks around and says they look like swineherds. Anguy replies some were, and others were tanners and stone masons. Sandor insists they still are, that carrying a crooked spear doesn’t make them a soldier. A man replies, “No. Fighting in a war makes you a soldier.” He walks forward.
“Beric Dondarrion. You’ve seen better days,” Sandor says, sounding surprised. Dondarrion has lost an eye, and his clothing is worn and ragged. Dondarrion replies he won’t see better days again. Sandor realizes many of these are Stark and Baratheon deserters, from the royal force Eddard Stark sent after the Mountain that Dondarrion led. Sandor wonders what Beric is doing leading peasants. Dondarrion replies that Eddard Stark sent them to bring Gregor Clegane to justice, in Robert’s name. Ned Stark and King Robert are dead, Sandor replies, while the Mountain still lives. Sandor spits, and tells Beric that he’s fighting for ghosts.
Dondarrion replies that that’s what they are: ghosts, waiting in the dark, seeing those who do not see them, hunting down those who prey on the weak. Beric says he’s found god, reborn in the light of the “one true god.” Sandor says if they mean to murder them, to get on with it. Thoros tells him he will die, but it’ll be justice. Anguy then lists the atrocities that the Lannister forces committed at the Mummer’s Ford, where girls no older than 7 were raped and babies were cut in two. Sandor says he wasn’t at the Mummer’s Ford and to dump dead children at someone else’s door. Thoros replies that House Clegane was built on dead children; he reveals he was at King’s Landing when Prince Aegon and Princess Rhaenys’s bodies were laid before the Iron Throne. Sandor says that was his brother’s doing, that he had never even seen the children in his life.
He insists he’s not to be called a murderer, when they pretend they aren’t. Then Mycah speaks up: he murdered Mycah. Sandor admits it, but says the boy had attacked the prince. Arya says it was a lie… but Sandor says it wasn’t his place to question princes, he did just as he was told. In the end, Beric says that only the Lord of Light can judge him and decide his innocence or guilt. Dondarrion sentences him to trial by combat. He wonders if it’ll be Thoros, or Anguy, or if Arya is the bravest there. Dondarrion looks at her and admits she may be… but it’s him that the Hound will fight.
And then in Meereen, Daenerys enters the square where Kraznys and others of the masters await her. The Unsullied wait in their thousands, while servants carry the cage of Daenerys’s largest dragon, Drogon. Kraznys suggests that the unblooded Unsullied should be tested by sacking some of the small cities between Slaver’s Bay and the Free Cities, and that any slaves she takes could be sold to Astapor. In ten years, Missandei translates, some of the boys she sends to them may become Unsullied in turn and all shall prosper.
Daenerys says nothing, and turns away to take out the dragon. She hands the chain that leashes it to Kraznys as the dragon hovers above them. Krazyns giver her the scourge that symbolized her control of the Unsullied. Daenerys asks if that means they are now hers. Kraznys says yes, now that she holds the whip. Daenerys then turns, and shouts simply Valyrian commands: march forward, stop. Missandei is surprised, while Kraznys struggles with a screaming Drogon that won’t come away from where it hovers. The Unsullied do as she commands. Then Kraznys tells Missandei that the beast won’t come, and to tell Daenerys this.
“A dragon is not a slave,” Daenerys responds, in High Valyrian. Kraznys is shocked that she understood Valyrian all along. She says she is Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, with the blood of old Valyria in her veins, and Valyrian is her mother tongue. And then she turns to the Unsullied, and commands them to slay the soldiers and the slavers, to harm no children, and to free all those who are chained. The Unsullied do as she command, as Kraznys screams that he is still their master. Daenerys turns back… and says, “Dracarys”. Drogon’s flames envelop Kraznys, as pandemonium breaks out as the Unsullied kill all before them as commanded. Drogon, freed, flies across the walls breathing more fire. Flames and screams fill the area.
Later, amidst smoke and dust, Jorah walks past the burned body of a man (possibly Kraznys) and comes up to Daenerys, who looks over what she’s commanded. Barristan watches silently in the background. Daenerys goes forward and mounts a horse, as the Unsullied are once more in their ranks, awaiting her next command. Daenerys informs them that they are now free men, and may do what they please—they may leave her army and no harm will come to them. She gives them her word. Then she asks if any will fight for her, as free men. There is a long silence… and then one of the Unsullied, and then more, and then all of them stamp their spears up and down on the ground, showing their willingness to follow her.
Daenerys and her companions ride from the city, the Unsullied marching behind. Above the smoking city, the three dragons stretch their wings and fly, screaming their cries.