Previously on Game of Thrones: Dany went on a city conquering, freedom-spreading binge, finally winding up in Meereen, where her dragons proceeded to start eating the local children. She locked two of them up, but the third is still in the wind. Joffrey finally got what’s been coming to him for years now, and the murder was immediately pinned on Tyrion, who demanded a trial by combat and got to watch as his champion’s head got smashed like a grape. Fortunately, Jaime took pity on his brother and freed him. Unfortunately, Tyrion spent some time wandering about the castle afterwards and came upon Shae (who had already inexplicably turned against him at his trial) tucked up in his father’s bed, and his father tucked up in the bog. He dispatched both before climbing into a crate and letting Varys smuggle him out of the country. Sansa, too, escaped, reaching the Eyrie with the help of Petyr. Lysa was as crazy as ever—crazier, even, after she married Petyr, who eventually just threw her out of the moon door. The wildlings attacked Castle Black, which was saved by the timely intervention of Stannis. Ygritte was amongst the casualties, and Mance was captured.
Yay, no new locations in the credits! Winterfell’s no longer a smoking ruin, which is nice to see, though it’s less nice to see the sigil of House Bolton on it now.
We begin, unusually, with a flashback to a young Cersei going to see a local witch. The friend/handmaiden she has with her is nervous about this, worried that Tywin will be angry, but Cersei tells her she doesn’t have to be afraid of him. I kept waiting for her to say ‘you have to be afraid of me,’ but she doesn’t.
At the witch’s hut, Cersei demands to have her future told, on pain of having the woman’s eyes gouged out. The witch smirks and decides to throw the kid a bone. She hands her a knife and tells Cersei she needs a taste of her blood. Cersei pricks her finger and the woman sucks the blood, then gives her three questions. Cersei says she’s engaged to the prince and wants to know when they’ll be married. The woman replies that she won’t marry the prince, she’ll marry the king, and while he’ll have 20 children, she’ll have three. She’ll be queen for a while, but then a younger and more beautiful woman will come along and displace her. She tells Cersei that her children will have golden crowns and shrouds.
In the present, Cersei arrives at the sept for her father’s funeral. The mourners are all gathered outside, waiting, and she tells them they’ll have to wait a bit longer, because she wants some time alone with him.
Inside, she joins Jaime at her father’s side. Here’s hoping he doesn’t rape her again. She comments that Tywin never wanted his son to be a kingsguard, and yet, here he is. Jaime says that what Tywin built he built for them, and now everyone will be ready to tear them apart. Cersei says that the man who killed their father tore them apart already. She knows Tyrion was behind it and asks if Jaime set him free. His silence is his answer. She accuses Jaime of being an idiot for setting this in motion and urges him to look at their father, the consequences of his actions. She kisses Tywin on the forehead and leaves Jaime with him.
Tyrion finally arrives at his destination and is released from his crate, which apparently he’s been in long enough to grow an impressive beard. How much time has passed? I assumed not long, since Tywin’s only being buried now. Unless they’ve developed some ancient Egyptian-style embalming methods, they’d have to get him in the ground fairly quickly, no?
Anyway, Tyrion manages, with some difficulty, to get to his feet. Varys stands by, watching, and apologises for the inelegant equipage. They have a brief pissing contest over who had the worst trip over, and then Tyrion realizes they’re in Pentos. Varys explains that they’re staying with his friend, Illyrio (same guy Dany and her brother were staying with before her marriage to Drogo, right?) Varys says he and Illyrio have been supporting a Targaryan restoration for a long time, but it’s not really working out so well. Tyrion couldn’t possibly care less, he just wants to drink. Varys tries to distract him with talk about the future of their country, but Tyrion wont have it. The future is too bleak for him to want to think about it. Part of me wonders what Varys’s plan for Tyrion was, because it seemed like his decision to come along with the crate was an impulsive one. But maybe I just misread that.
The harpy statue that stands over Meereen is pulled down by some CGI men and allowed to fall really dangerously right into the streets of the city below. One of the Unsullied watches it fall, and then takes a trip to a local brothel where he just wants to cuddle one of the women. She strokes his head and hums, and once he’s good and relaxed, someone wearing a gold mask comes in and slits his throat. He and the prostitute stand and watch as the man bleeds out.
The mask, which was left on the body, is taken to Dany. This is the local resistance, the Sons of the Harpy, and apparently they’re ramping up to actual murder now. Dany’s good and mad and calls for a public funeral for the man. She’s warned that this’ll make the Sons angry, and she points out that angry snakes lash out, and it makes it easier to cut their heads off. Sure, unless they manage to bite you first. She tells her men to find whoever did this and bring them to her.
Missy goes to have a word with Grey Worm and asks him why the dead man was in a brothel. Not much an Unsullied could do there, right? He claims not to know.
Up at Castle Black, Jon’s teaching that boy who took refuge there last season some swordplay. He coaches him to keep his shield up, no matter how heavy it is. He’s a good teacher, Jon. Ghillie, sitting by with some work, asks Sam why he’s not training. He claims he doesn’t need to, having killed a White Walker all by himself and all. Sam, that was total dumb luck and you know it. Ser Alliser limps by, slagging everyone nearby off as drunkards and thieves. Sam frets that if Alliser is made commander of the Night’s Watch, it might not be good for Ghillie, since he hates all Wildlings. But he’s hopeful that his opponent will win. And if not, he’ll go wherever Ghillie goes. She reminds him that, if he leaves, he’ll be executed.
Melisandre materializes and tells Jon that ‘the king’ wants a word. They take the lift up to the top of the Wall and he asks if she ever gets cold. She says no, because the Lord’s fire lives within her. She asks him if he’s a virgin, and after a long pause he admits he’s not. ‘Good,’ she replies.
Jon is presented to Stannis and Davos and he takes a knee to Stannis. Stannis reminds him that Roose Bolton rules at Winterfell, the very man who killed Robb. He asks if Jon wants revenge and Jon says he wants lots of things, but his first loyalty is now to the Night’s Watch. Stannis notes that many of the men love Jon, but many others do not on account of his affection for the Wildlings. Jon simply says that having been born on the wrong side of the Wall doesn’t make them evil. Stannis tells Jon he plans to retake the north, and he wants the wildlings to help him do it, in exchange for pardons and land and citizenship. Mance will have to kneel before Stannis and swear loyalty. He puts the task of convincing Mance in Jon’s hands.
Robyn Arryn, too, is getting a swordfighting lesson, and he really and truly sucks at it. His host looks on, along with Petyr and Sansa, and comments that the kid’s hopeless. To be fair, with his mother dead he’s probably rather malnourished. Petyr receives a message, reads it, and shrugs that Robyn has a great name, and sometimes that’s all one needs. He and Sansa prepare to set off, thanking their host, Lord Royce, for helping them out and agreeing to take Robyn off their hands.
Brienne and Podrick have settled down beside a stream, so she can polish her sword and be all emo for a bit. Pod, of course, remains perky and suggests they try heading to Castle Black next on their search for Sansa. She snaps at him to leave off and tells him to just leave, take off. He wonders where he’d go and she claims not to care. He reminds her that she swore to find the Stark girls, and sure, Arya turned her away, but there’s still one girl left who can be found, right? She informs him she’s not interested in having anyone follow her around, because she’s not a leader, she always just wanted to find someone she could follow. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out. A carriage and some mounted knights pass by on the nearby road…
…and inside the carriage is Sansa, with Petyr. She asks him why he told Royce they were heading to the Fingers, when they’re going in a totally different direction. Sansa, have you learned nothing? Petyr reminds her that there are people everywhere who wish them ill. She asks why he trusts their knights and drivers and he says they’re very well paid. She asks where they’re going and he tells her they’re heading to a place so far away, even Cersei can’t get her hands on her.
At the funeral after-party, Loras blathers on to Cersei about how sorry she is, while she eyes Margaery, who’s having a word with the young king. Cersei peels off and walks through the crowd, unexpectedly coming upon young Lancel Lannister, who’s apparently become some sort of monk or something. His father appears and apologises for his son, who’s joined an order known as the Sparrows. Cersei’s sure that Lancel will grow out of this. Yes, religious zealotry is one of those phases you have to outgrow, like picking your nose or reading Ayn Rand.
She heads to a nearby hallway to get some privacy, and Lancel follows her there to apologise for leading her into sin. I’d actually completely forgotten that these two ever slept together. He also references Robert’s fatal boar hunt, at which Lancel served him wine that may or may not have been poisoned or doped. He tells Cersei he’s found peace and he’ll pray for her father’s soul. She laughs and tells him her father’s soul needs no help from Lancel.
Later, Loras is in bed with a young lover. They get ready for round two and in comes Margaery to tell her brother that they’re late for dinner. Oliver, the lover, is sent away for the time being (Margaery totally checks out his ass as he goes) and Margaery suggests her brother try to be at least a tiny bit discreet. She reminds him that he’s also keeping his intended, Cersei, waiting, and Loras laughs that he’ll never have to marry Cersei now her father’s dead. Which sucks for Margaery, because now Cersei will be sticking around King’s Landing and getting under her skin. Margaery doesn’t seem too disturbed by that, and honestly, I think she’s more than matched to Cersei.
Tyrion’s gotten cleaned up but is still drinking heavily. Varys joins him and tells him there are faster ways to commit suicide. Tyrion asks why Varys risked everything to free him and Varys says he did it for the sake of the Seven Kingdoms, because he believes men of talent have a part to play in all this. Tyrion tells him to find someone else, because he’s done with Westros. He tells Tyrion he has his father’s political instincts, mellowed with compassion. He wants Tyrion to help him bring Dany, someone stronger than Tommen but gentler than Stannis who also commands respect and loyalty, to the throne. He proposes yet another road trip, this one sans crate, to Meereen.
Unsullied patrol the streets of Meereen. Daario returns and he and Hizdahr report to Dany that their mission to Yunkai was a success. They’ve only asked for a couple of concessions, such as the reopening of the fighting pits, where slaves once fought each other. Even the former fighters want them reopened, but Dany refuses. Hizdahr tries to convince her that reopening them would show the people of Meereen and Yunkai that she understands and respects their traditions, but Dany doesn’t give a shit about their traditions.
Later, after sex with Daario, she continues to complain about this idea. He tells her she should reopen the pits. He once fought in them, and that’s where he learned everything he knows and ended up here. So, the pits really worked out for him. He tells her that everyone but him is too afraid to speak the truth to her, but she’s made lots of enemies and they’re all looking for a weakness. She needs to show her strength now. He seems to be suggesting she bring the dragons back out, but she admits she can’t control them anymore.
Just to check, she heads into the dungeons to visit the two that remain with her, but they’re seriously pissed off at being chained up in the dark by their mummy, so the visit doesn’t go well and she retreats.
Jon goes to see Mance to try and convince him to bend a knee to Stannis. It goes marginally better than Dany’s visit to the dragons, but just marginally. Mance refuses to kneel down, even though he doesn’t really fancy being burned to death. Jon makes a good case, but it’s no good. Before he goes, he tells Mance he’s making a terrible mistake. Mance tells him that the freedom to make his own mistakes was all he ever wanted.
Later, Mance is brought out to the castle courtyard, where everything’s ready for him to be burned. Stannis asks him to bend a knee, but of course Mance doesn’t, though he does wish Stannis good fortune in the wars to come, which is awfully nice of him. Stannis acknowledges that with a smile, and then Mance is tied up to the stake and Melisandre takes centre stage to tell everyone it’s time for them to choose the true god or the false. She tells the free folk there is only one king, and this is the fate of those who choose the darkness. She lights the pyre and Mance begins to jerk in pain as the flames grow beneath his feet. Jon can’t stand to watch and goes to fetch a bow, which he uses to mercy kill Mance, but not before we get to see Selyse watch the show with a really creepy smile on her face.
Not a bad beginning: pretty much what I’ve come to expect from an early GoT episode. We’re just reacquainting ourselves with the characters and where they currently are, moving a couple of pieces around the board a bit, but not delving into the action just yet. But we all know it’ll come soon enough.