Previously on Game of Thrones: All of seasons one, two, and three happened, but in a nutshell: Jon Snow went north of the Wall, where he became the inside man in a group of wildlings and went native with Ygritte before heading back to the Night’s Watch, with a few extra holes in him courtesy of his girlfriend’s arrows. Arya was taken hostage by The Hound, but they wound up becoming a pretty great pair. Another great unexpected pair was Jaime and Brienne, who found some common ground while being held hostage (during which Jaime lost his sword hand). Tywin Lannister took up his post of Hand of the King and immediately took control of Joffrey, married Tyrion to Sansa Stark, and betrothed Cersei to Loras, Joffrey’s future brother-in-law. Robb Stark and his mother were ruthlessly murdered at the Red Wedding, ostensibly ending the war, but Dany’s on the march with a massive army of former slaves and three dragons, so I think we can rest assured peace won’t reign in Westros for too long.
In a pre-credits sequence, we see Tywin take a huge sword, admire it for a bit, and hand it over to a smith, who breaks off the handle and melts the sword down. It’s Ned Stark’s former sword, Ice, and once it’s gone, Tywin throws a wolf pelt on the fire, just to extra drive home the point that the Starks are done.
Credits! We’ve got two new locations to keep track of: Dreadfort and Meereen.
Jaime’s getting a new sword now. He admires it and asks his dad where he got Valeryan steel. Tywin tells him they melted down a sword that belonged to someone who didn’t need it anymore. The original was so big he got two swords out of it. Jaime thanks him, and then awkwardly tries to put it in the scabbard. There’s some talk about him training up that left hand, and then Tywin tells him he can’t serve in the Kingsguard with one hand. He wants to send Jaime to Casterley Rock and rule there. Jaime’s not at all excited by this plan, because he’s Kingsguard for life. He refuses to obey his father, and I’m willing to bet he’s one of the few people to actually say ‘no’ to Tywin Lannister.
Tyrion, accompanied by Bronn and his squire, Poldrick, waits on the road just outside the city for a Dornish prince to arrive. Tyrion’s the official welcome party, because he’s fairly expendable to his family and there’s been bad blood between the Lannisters and the Martells of Dornn for years. The party finally shows up, but they don’t have the prince with them. He’s gone on ahead, and he’s not the one they were expecting, either. The eldest was supposed to come, to attend Joffrey’s wedding, but the second born, Oberyn, was sent instead, as a snub. Tyrion tells Bronn and Poldrick they’ll have to find Oberyn before he kills someone. Bronn wonders how they’re going to find one guy in the whole city, but fortunately Oberyn’s a total manwhore, so that narrows the options down considerably.
Indeed, he’s at Littlefinger’s brothel, because this is the only place men looking to get laid on this show ever seem to end up. Oberyn’s checking out three women while his companion, played by Indira Varma from both Rome and World Without End, looks on and offers her opinions of the ladies (beautiful, but pale). She’s Ellaria Sand, Oberyn’s lover. Oberyn asks if she likes one lady, but she thinks she’s too timid, so he moves on to another. She sashays over to Ellaria, who thinks she’ll do just fine. Guess they’re looking for a threesome. Oberyn dismisses the other girls, but tells the procurer to stay. The procurer first says he’s not available, but quickly changes his tune. Before the sexy fun times can start, though, Oberyn hears someone singing the Lannister song and goes to investigate. He finds two Lannister bannermen with women of their own and soon the insults start to fly. Ellaria and the procurer try to calm Oberyn down, but he strolls over to the bannermen and, in the blink of an eye, has driven a knife through the wrist of one of them. He advises the other guy to get his friend some medical help before he bleeds out. And this is the point when Tyrion wanders in. The injured bannerman is bundled out as Ellaria makes out with Oberyn, because nothing turns a girl on like bloodletting. Oberyn invites Tyrion to join him in enjoying the ladies, but Tyrion says he’s married and doesn’t partake. He pulls Oberyn aside for a private word. He welcomes him to King’s Landing but asks why he’s really there. Oberyn says the last time he was in the city was for his sister’s wedding to Rhaegar Targaryan. She loved her husband and had beautiful children, but then Rhaegar left her for another woman (Ned’s sister), and another war broke out and the Lannisters came and butchered the children and their mother. Hence the bad blood between the families. Oberyn tells Tyrion to pass along the word to his father that the Lannisters are the only ones who pay their debts.
Across the sea, Dany’s hanging out with her dragons, one of which has its head in her lap. The other two start tussling over a lamb they’ve grabbed, which gets dropped near Dany. Her dragon lunges for it, and when she tries to calm them down it turns and snarls at her, frightening her. Jorah watches from a distance, then joins her and warns her that dragons can’t really be tamed.
Dany meets her army, which is fully assembled. Missy and Barristan are waiting for her, but Daario and Grey Worm are missing. She asks where they are and is told they’re off gambling.
She marches off to find them. They’re sitting facing each other, both holding their swords out in front of them, seeing who can hold theirs up the longest. Daario’s been recast in the off season, and the new actor seems a lot less Fabio and a lot more badass. Dany punishes them for this idiocy by telling them to ride in the rearguard and protect the livestock. Also, the man who holds his sword up longest gets kicked out of her army. Both swords hit the ground simultaneously. I get why Grey Worm’s so devoted to her, but why is Daario so determined to stick with her? I’m not sure that was every really adequately explained. Because he’s hoping to nail her?
Shae serves Sansa some food, but Sansa’s way too deep in her grief to eat. She won’t even touch the lemon cakes she loves so much. Tyrion joins them and joins the ‘you need to eat’ chorus. He asks for a moment alone with his wife. Shae hesitates, so he gives her a pointed look and she finally goes. He sits with Sansa and takes her hand, which she quickly removes. He asks to help her, but she doesn’t see how he can. She’s too haunted by the awful images of what was done to her family. Tyrion agrees that what happened to them was dreadful. He speaks admiringly of Catelyn and gently tells Sansa her mother would have wanted her to carry on. Sansa rises and asks to visit the Godswood, not to pray, but because it’s the only place where people don’t talk to her. Tyrion seems a bit hurt by that.
He returns to his room, where he’s surprised to find Shae waiting in his bed. That freaks him out, because he knows it’s not safe for her to be there. She doesn’t care and reminds him it’s been a while since they’ve been together. He takes her hands and says things are a little tense just now because of all the family drama, but she ignores him and keeps trying to give him the hard sell, so to speak. Shae gets pissy and asks if he loves Sansa. He says that he barely knows her and she despises him, so I’m guessing it’s not really love, per se. Shae accuses him of having tried to ship her off, paying her off with that purseful of diamonds, but he doesn’t even know what she’s talking about. She asks if he wants her to stay, but he says nothing. She stomps out, watched by a lady-in-waiting.
Jaime gets fitted for a fake gold hand that Cersei apparently had made for him. It’s ridiculously impractical. Once they’re alone, Jaime notes she’s drinking more. She explains that it’s because of all the stress she’s been under. He tries to cozy up to her, but she’s not interested. Seems her ardour for her own twin has cooled considerably. She’s pissed off that he went off and left her alone, like he really had a choice about getting taken prisoner. Their fight’s interrupted by the arrival of that lady-in-waiting, who has some choice gossip to share.
Ygritte’s keeping herself busy making lots and lots of arrows. Tormond watches her for a bit, then asks if she plans to kill all the Crows singlehandedly. She accuses him of just sitting around and he reminds her they’re waiting on Mance’s orders. He also accuses her of pulling her arrow punches, so to speak, when it came to Jon, because if she wanted him dead, he’d be dead. Before the discussion can go further, men with creepy scar-like tattoos on their faces approach. I can’t catch what they’re called, but whatever they are, Tormond hates them. Their leader sizes up him and Ygritte and confirm, when asked, that Mance sent them. He asks if Ygritte belongs to Tormond, and she puts an arrow to his neck and says she doesn’t belong to anyone. He turns away and starts talking about how delicious the well-fed men of the Night’s Watch will be. Apparently he knows firsthand, because his men are now roasting an arm over the fire. Mmm!
Speaking of the Night’s Watch, we head up to Castle Black, where Jon’s getting ready to answer for what he did while he was away. He has a few moments with Sam and talks about Robb and how he used to be jealous of him, because Ned loved him best and he was better than Jon at everything. But for all that, he could never hate him. Sam says he feels kind of the same way about Jon. After their moment, Jon goes to face the music.
A panel of Night’s Watch leaders quiz him about the death of Halfhand. They don’t believe that Jon killed him at his own request, essentially, and Jon probably doesn’t really help his case by giving them a bit of attitude. Seems he’s already given up this case as lost and figures he may as well go out with a bang. He even admits to having slept with Ygritte. One of the men wants to hang him right then and there, but Maester Aemon chuckles that pretty much every man of the Night’s Watch breaks that particular vow. Jon warns them that Mance is marching on the Wall with an immense army, which they don’t believe, because Wildlings are famously bad at getting along. Jon says it’s true, and there’s already a party of Wildlings south of the Wall and they’ll begin their attack with a massive bonfire. Aemon dismisses Jon and tells the others that Jon’s telling the truth. So, I guess he’ll be somewhat valuable.
Back south, Oleanna’s rejecting all the jewelry that’s been sent for Margaery to wear to the wedding. None of it’s good enough, because they need something truly memorable. Margaery ruefully suggests she have Joffrey choose, and have a string of dead sparrow heads around her neck. Honey, you’ll be lucky if it’s just sparrow heads. Oleanna warns her against that kind of talk, even amongst family. They’re joined by Brienne, whose appearance excites Oleanna, who thinks she’s really awesome. Brienne asks to speak with Margaery, and once they’re alone, she tells her all about how Renley died. Brienne promises to avenge their king someday, but Margaery gently tells her that Joffrey is their king now. They’re walking around a fountain that has a really hilarious statue of Joffrey, sword in hand, standing on the head of a wolf in the centre of it.
Speaking of the little turd, he’s being bored by discussions of security for the wedding. He focuses instead on The Book of Brothers, where the great deeds of all the great men in the kingdom are marked down. He looks up Jaime but notes that his entry is quite short indeed. He mocks Jaime, asking how an over-the-hill knight with one hand can protect him. Jaime, affably enough, says he uses the left, which evens the playing field between himself and his opponents a bit.
While on the road, Dany and Missy discuss their destination. Daario comes over to speak with Dany and starts off by offering her flowers. She makes it clear this is not appropriate and he says he’s just trying to teach her about the local flora so she understand the area better and is therefore better able to inspire the local slaves to follow her. She didn’t seem to need to know any of this when she freed all those slaves at the end of last season. Nonetheless, she seems to be taking what he says to heart. And she takes the flowers.
The whole army suddenly stops, and she goes to find out the reason. Barristan and Jorah are standing in front of the body of a young girl, a slave, which has been nailed to a post with one hand pointing down the road like the most horrifying signpost in the world. Jorah tells her that there’s one of these every mile between there and Meereen, which is a good 160 miles away. Fun! Also, how does he know that? He offers to have them cut down so she doesn’t have to see them, but Dany orders him to leave them up so she can look at all of their faces. But then they can be buried.
Sansa’s praying in the Godswood, watched from a distance by Brienne and Jaime. Brienne reminds Jaime that he promised to look out for her and return her to her family,but Jaime reminds her that Sansa doesn’t have any family to be returned to. Brienne doesn’t think she’ll be safe in King’s Landing, and he calls her a bit of a pain in the ass.
Sansa, meanwhile, hears a noise and gets nervous, so she goes to leave, but as she’s walking back to the castle she hears the sounds of someone following her and gets really anxious. She finds herself trapped in a clearing, but it turns out the man following her is the knight she saved from having executed during Joffrey’s birthday celebration back in season two. He thanks her for having rescued him and presents her with a necklace that’s been in his family for a couple of generations. She tries to refuse it, but he begs her to, so his name can have one more moment in the sun before it disappears. She agrees to wear it with pride, for him.
The Hound and Arya ride through the woods somewhere, and she asks when she can have a horse of her own. He tells her horses are rare, and he’s also not willing to put her on her own mount, since she’s his hostage and all. She swears she wouldn’t try to escape, because she has nowhere to go and wouldn’t get far in safety without him.
They arrive at an inn somewhere and note five horses tied up outside. A couple of the men who go with the horses come out, and Arya recognizes one of them as Pulliver (I believe), the man who captured her and her friends and took them to Harranhal. She specifically remembers him because he stole her sword, Needle, and killed one of her buddies with it. He still has the sword, too, though it seems strange that a grown man should keep a sword designed for a child. Arya runs towards the door, intent on getting her sword back, and the Hound follows, trying to restrain her, but then they’re spotted and kind of have to commit to going in. They take a seat at one of the tables as everyone stares at them for a moment, then goes back to drinking and eating and molesting the innkeeper’s daughter. Pulliver recognizes the Hound and comes over and joins them, ordering up some ale. He thinks the Hound’s still on the Lannisters’ side and gossips about some of the goings-on. He also complains about having to keep torturing people night and day, not because his conscience is bothering him, of course, but because it just gets a bit boring after a while. He assumes that Arya’s the Hound’s little sex slave, which just goes to show how unconvincing she is as a boy. Pulliver invites the Hound to join his little band of marauders and head back to King’s Landing, but the Hound has no intention of returning the city and makes it clear that he loathes Joffrey. The mood in the room changes immediately, but the Hound remains calm and orders Pulliver to get him a chicken to eat, and to pay for it, as well. Pulliver offers a chicken in exchange for Arya, and the Hound observes that Pulliver’s a talker, and listening to talkers makes him thirsty. So, he helps himself to Pulliver’s ale. And orders up two chickens. Pulliver asks if the Hound really wants to die over some chickens. ‘Somone is,’ the Hound answers. There’s a long pause, and then the swords come out and start flying. Pulliver’s men swarm, but the Hound’s a badass and gives as good as he gets. Better, actually. One guy gets a sword right to the balls. One man finally gets the Hound down and puts a knife to his throat, but the Hound’s too strong and turns the knife around and puts it through the man’s eye. Repeatedly. Arya finally gets in on the action, grabbing a sword and stabbing one man before getting Pulliver in the back. As he falls, she grabs Needle and starts repeating the last words he said to her friend, in a very cold, creepy voice. Nice job here by Maisie Williams. She sinks the sword into him, then wipes it off as he dies.
And in our final shot, she and the Hound are each riding on their own horses, she smiling, pleased with herself.
Pretty standard start for a Game of Thrones season. The first few episodes are usually just establishing where the pieces are on the chessboard, before things really get going around midseason. We had a bit of action, but mostly we were just getting caught up, and I’m fine with that, because when you have a story this complicated, with this many characters, you really need that.
Until next week!