In the wake of a bloody purge in the capital, Tyrion chastens Cersei for alienating the king’s subjects. On the road north, Arya shares a secret with Gendry, a Night’s Watch recruit. With supplies dwindling, one of Dany’s scouts returns with news of their position. After nine years as a Stark ward, Theon Greyjoy reunites with his father Balon, who wants to restore the ancient Kingdom of the Iron Islands. Davos enlists Salladhor Saan, a pirate, to join forces with Stannis and Melisandre for a naval invasion of King’s Landing.
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The episode opens with Arya Stark—claiming to be a boy, Arry—away from the others in Yoren’s following. The sound of water makes one think it’s the stream she’s squatting in… but it soon becomes clear she’s urinating, and doing so sneakily, with a watchful eye over her shoulder for fear one of the boys or men will come up and realize she’ a girl. She comes back to the camp to be called to by one of the three prisoners in the cage, a red-haired man with streaks of white in his hair who calls himsel Jaqen H’Ghar, of the Free City of Lorath. He speaks oddly, never using “I”, only “A man”. His companions are Rorge and Biter. Jaqen asks for a drink, that Yoren has left them without anything to drink for more than a day, but Rorge demands beer in belligerent tones. Arya refuses, and starts to swing a stick at their cage until Gendry tells her to stop, reminding her that Yoren told her to stay away from them.
Two men of the City Watch arrive, demanding Yoren speak to them. Arya realizes they’re looking for her, and hides, telling Gendry. Yoren doesn’t like their manner, and likes it less when they claim a royal warrant to arrest one of the boys in the group. Yoren refuses, saying they belong to the Night’s Watch. The lead officer starts to draw his sword, but Yoren puts a knife to the inside of this thigh and threatens to slash the artery there. He takes the man’s sword—the Night’s Watch can always use good steel—and sends them packing, but not before the gold cloak informs everyone that if they turn in Gendry, they’ll earn the king’s reward. He then tells Yoren that he’ll be back with more men, for Yoren’s head and that of the bastard boy.
Tyrion enters his chambers in King’s Landing… to find Varys and Shae ensconsed in conversation. Varys acts unctuously, as if Shae is simply a charming companion, and not a prostitute that Tyrion has brought to King’s Landing in secret against the wishes of his father. Tyrion and Varys speak around the issue, issuing subtle threats… and not so subtle threats, when Tyrion quietly confronts Varys and makes it plain he doesn’t take to threats. He threatens to throw Varys into the sea. When he stars to open the door he blocked to make his threat, Varys stops him, and tells him—the unctuous, simpering facade briefly gone—“You might be disappointed by the result. The storms come and go, the waves crash overhead, the big fish eat the little fish, and I keep on paddling.” They then leave together to the small council, to meet Alton Lannister with the terms that Robb Stark has offered.
Cersei tears up Robb’s offer. Tyrion suggests that at least they could return Eddard Stark’s bones… but Cersei roundly ignores him, and instead tells Alton that they refuse the offer. Before he leaves, she asks if he saw Jaime, and when he sees him again to let him know that they have not forgotten him. Everyone at the small council looks slightly uncomfortable. Tyrion tells Cersei, ironically, that she has a “deft hand” at diplomacy. Grand Maester Pycelle then reveals that Lord Commander Mormont has sent a letter from the Wall, asking for more aid and telling of the wight that tried to attack him. The small council dismisses it, except Tyrion, but Cersei is uninterested as she laughs it off. Tyrion insists that the Night’s Watch is the only thing guarding the realm from what lies beyond the Wall, but his warning falls on deaf ears.
At Craster’s Keep, Dolorous Edd is regaling Grenn and Samwell a story about the indignity of death when Samwell is distracted by all the women Craster has, thinking it greedy. Grenn reveals that he and a milkmaid named Violet grew up together, and at a certain age their play wrestling became something else. Samwell wonders how often Grenn was with her, and then wishes he had grown up on a farm. Edd sends Samwell to collect potatoes and turnips, and because of this he comes across a huge Ghost sniffing after the rabbit in the hands of one of Craster’s wives, Gilly. She screams, and he scolds Ghost and commands him to go away. When Samwell checks to see if she’s all right, she warns him not to touch her—Craster threatened to cut off the hand of any man who touched one of his wives—and then says he’s very brave.
Samwell goes to Jon after having spoken with her, bringing Gilly with him. He takes Gilly to Jon, who’s sharpening Longclaw. He tries to convince Jon that they need to help take her away. Jon refuses, and Samwell pleads that she’s pregnant and that’s why they need to hear her out. Gilly is prepared to run away in the protection of Samwell, because if her child is a boy—but she stops, and won’t explain what she means. Jon puts his foot down, and Gilly runs off nearly in tears. Samwell tells Jon he was cruel, and Jon asks him what he thinks Craster would cut off of him stealing one of his wives. Samwell points out that he can’t steal her—she’s not a goat, she’s a person, and she wants to leave. That gives Jon a moment’s pause, but he then reminds Jon that they’re going north, not south, and that’s even more danger for her. Jon refuses again, in the end, saying that they can’t help her.
In the red wate, Jorah drinks water in the shade of a tent, while Daenerys dozes exhausted near him. The little khalasar is stranded in the waste, waiting for the return of the three bloodriders. Jorah looks into the desert… and sees a horse returning, without a rider. Painted in blood on its bodies are strange markings… and in a sack hanging from its saddle, the head of Rakharo. Daenerys insists on seeing, and learns from Jorah that one of the Dothraki khals—probably men who used to serve Drogo—did this, that a woman leading a khalasar would not be welcome. Daenerys swears she’ll have revenge. Irri comes up and begins to grive loudly, as they butchered Rakharo like an animal and failed to give him a pyre, so that he could not ride in the night lands with his ancestors. Daenerys promises her that he will have his pyre, and he will ride with his ancestors.
At sea near the Iron Islands, Theon looks out from a ship to the tall towers of Pyke on their pinnacles of stone in the sea. He goes into a cabin, where the captain’s daughter is naked in bed, waiting for him. Theon expects that everyone who matters will await the return of Lord Greyjoy’s heir. He strips off his clothing, and beds the girl, something he seems to have been doing regularly during his journey. He’s casually cruel to her, telling her to smile with her lips closed. She begs him to take her a salt wife. He refuses, and when she replies that her father will call her a whore after he leaves, he says that’s not true as he hasn’t paid her.
In Littlefinger’s brothel, the usual going ons are taking place when an angry customer leaves a room where weeping can be heard. He complains that he hardly touched her before she started weeping. With Aremca done with a customer, Littlefinger rather hastily sends her to placate the man, while he goes in. The woman weeping is Ros, due to having witnessed the murder of Mhaegen’s infant daughter, Barra. Littlefinger tells her that those with power sometimes have little grace. Littlefinger then tells Ros that she reminds him of a very expensive Lysene-trained prostitute that he had acquired. She always wept, but would not explain why. Hating bad investments—she was extremely expensive, and bad investments haunt him—he allowed a very wealthy patron to pay for the right to do what he pleased with her, to transform her and use her in indescribable ways. The girl was not happy at the end of it, but Littlefinger’s losses were mitigated. Ros understands his meaning. He gives her the night off to mourn Mhaegen’s child, and after that she’ll be happy. She nods, and he says that makes him happy.
That night, Tyrion dines with Janos Slynt. His new squire, Podrick Payne, spills wine by accident and Tyrion sends him off. Speaking with Slynt, Tyrion begins to ask after the murder of Barra. Slynt says orders are orders, and Tyrion remarks that the queen’s orders are especially to be obeyed. Slynt notes he never mentioned the queen… but Tyrion says that no one but the queen would want Robert’s bastards killed. Slynt says he doesn’t listen to the filth about Cersei’s relationship, and that Joffrey is his king. Questioning Slynt as to the slaughter of Ned Stark’s men, Slynt admits he gave the command and would do it again since Stark had tried to buy his loyalty… to which Tyrion responds that of course, Slynt’s loyalty was already bought. Slynt, enraged, calls him “Imp” and wonders if he’s drunk. Tyrion insists that Janos Slynt’s habit of betrayal worries him, so he’s getting rid of him. When Slynt threatens to talk to his friends at court, Tyrion says he won’t. Bronn and several gold cloaks enter, as Tyrion reveals that he’s sending Slynt to the Wall. Janos attempts to have the gold cloaks arrest Bronn, only to have them ignore him and seize him instead at Bronn’s word, as Tyrion has appointed him the new command of the City Watch. After Slynt is marched away, Tyrion asks Bronn if he would murder an infant girl at his command, without question. Bronn considers a moment and then says no—not without question, he’d want to know how much he’d be paid for it.
At Yoren’s recruit camp, Lommy and Hot Pie talk about battles. Arya punctures Hot Pie’s claims that he’s seen battles, and he insists that if men have armor when they’re fighting, it’s a battle. They ask Gendry, who worked as an armorer, and he says that any idiot can have armor and that it’s not a battle just because two men have armor. Arya follows Gendry and asks him why the gold cloaks were after him. He says he doesn’t know, but she claims he must be lying. He warns her not to ask questions of him, because the last two Hands who came around asking about him died a few weeks after they asked their questions. Arya asks what they were asking about, and he said they asked about his mother—a woman who worked in a tavern and died when he was little. He has no idea who his father is. He then asks her why she though they were after her… and wonders if it’s because she’s a girl. She’s shocked but brazenly denies it, but he sweeps her objections aside. She finally admits it, but begs him not to tell. She reveals that she’s Arya of House Stark, and that Yoren is taking her to Winterfell. He realizes that Eddard was her father. The fact that she’s highborn makes him apologize for some of his crude language… but he turns it into a joke, until she pushes him to the ground and stalks off while he laughs.
At Pyke, Theon finds a lack of welcome. A man at the harbor seems very unimpressed by him, and Theon needs to pay him to find a horse for him to take him on to Pyke. Then a woman arrives, who says she’s going to Pyke and will give him a ride there. Liking the look of her, Theon agrees. Riding on along the shore to the castle, Theon attempts to impress her as he gropes at her and she sends barbs his way. He insists she’ll stay at the castle that night with him, and she’ll be able to tell her children that she bedded a king. But at the castle, Theon find a cold welcome from his father, who mocks his fine clothing and tears away the chain he wears because he paid the gold price rather than the iron price. Balon questions whether his son is truly a Greyjoy anymore, and whether he’s really his heir. Theon insists that his blood is salt and iron, and that he’s convinced Robb to make Balon a king if he allies with him. Theon says Robb looks at him like a brother—but Balon refuses that, saying that Robb is the son of the man who slew his true brothers. Balon reads the letter, proposing that he attack Casterly Rock, and Theon insists he’ll lead the attack himself.
When Balon wonders at that, Theon says that he’s his only son—who else would lead? Then the woman enters… and is greeted by Balon: she’s Theon’s sister, Asha [or Yara, as the show prefers, but we’re never going to warm to that one]. Balon says that she’s commanded a ship from Pyke, that she’s an experienced captain and warrior who knows who she is. Balon says no man will give him a crown—he’ll pay the iron price, because that’s who he is and that is who the ironborn are. Theon says the Greyjoys can’t defeat the Lannisters on their own, to which Balon replies, “Who said anything about the Lannisters?”
Near Dragonstone, Ser Davos Seaworth speaks with Salladhor Saan, a pirate based in Lys. He promises Saan his gold when they take the treasury at King’s Landing. Salladhor says that Stannis has the smallest army, but Davos insists Stannis has twice fought in wars and has greater experience than Renly or Joffrey. Davos insists no man is more honorable than Stannis, to which Salladhor asks what the world is coming to, where smugglers vouch for kings. Matthos Seaworth insists the pirate watch his tongue. Salladhor is not offended by being called a pirate—he is one, an excellent pirate, and that he will not sail from promises. Davos tells him he does, that when he sails he’ll come across someone with gold for him to take—a promise that always comes true, Salladhor responds. In the end, Davos says it’s easy to be a pirate, but what Davos asks is hard and men will sing of Salladhor so long as men have tongues to sing. Salladhor will agree, provided that they will give him Queen Cersei. Matthos objects, saying that they’re not going to attack King’s Landing just so he can rape Cersei, but Saan corrects him to say that he means to bed her, not rape her. The only true god is what’s between a woman’s legs, Salladhor says, and better yet a queen’s legs. Salladhor ultimately agrees to bring his ships to Stannis.
Matthos speaks with his father, and again tells him that he’s blind for not following the Lord of Light. He offers again to teach his father to read, so that he can read the holy books and be persuaded. Davos reveals he doesn’t have a god, that he’s never seen prayers work. Matthos insists his father always returned, and when Davos says he never prayed, Matthos says that he did: he always prayed for his father’s safe return. Davos tells his son that Stannis is his god, that he rose him up from being a smuggler, that he opened up unimagined possibilities for Matthos. Matthos insists that Stannis is only a man.
Speaking with Cersei, Tyrion remonstrates over her slaughter of babies. She says nothing, won’t even deny it… and Tyrion realizes that Joffrey did it, not her, and that he didn’t even tell her before he did it. Cersei insists Joffrey did what needed to be done, and that ruling means ripping out weeds one by one before they strangle you. Tyrion suggests that there’s more to ruling than that, but she insists neither Tyrion or Jaime understand, that it’s all fallen on her. She tells Tyrion that he’s always been funny, but his first joke remains unmatched: their mother’s death while giving him birth, her dying for the sake of him. “There’s no bigger joke than that.” She walks out.
At the chamber of the Painted Table, Davos reveals that Salladhor will bring his thirty ships to join Stannis. Stannis remarks that pirates prefer fighting unarmed men. Davos vouches for Salladhor, an old friend that he’s known for thirty years. He doesn’t trust Salladhor, but he knows once he gets a scent of gold, Salladhor doesn’t quit. Stannis sends Davos and Matthos away, as Melisandre approaches. Before they leave, Melisandre whispers something to Matthos, which leaves him looking strange. When Stannis asks what she told him, she says that she told Davos’s son that death by fire is the purest death. When Stannis asks why, she says it’s because it’s true. Melisandre belittles the value of soldiers, that they’re toys to the Lord of Light. Stannis doubts he can defeat Renly with his 100,000 men, or take King’s Landing, but Melisandre says she’s seen victory in the flames… if he gives himself to the Lord of Light. He insists he’s said the words, that he burned the idols of the Seven. She opens her robe, and naked before him says he must give all of himself.
Stannis tries to refuse, saying he’s wed and took a vow. Melisandre replies that she’s sickly, weak, and that she disgusts him while giving him no sons except stillborn ones. She promises that Melisandre will give him a son. He tears at her clothing and kisses her, and has her on the table as the figures of castles and soldiers fall one by one on the stone floor.
Beyond the Wall, Jon sits outside by a fire when he sees Craster slipping away with an infant in his arms. Jon follows him into the forest, and hears strange sounds as the child cries. He draws his sword and runs towards the sound. What he sees is the infant laid down on a ground… and a strange, tall, pale figure coming up to pick it up and carry it away. Then Craster grabs Jon, and the last thing he sees is his club coming down.