Previously on Game of Thrones: Walder Frey put a pretty good dent in the remaining Stark family. Theon also got kidnapped and tortured a lot, and Bran and friends decided to go north of the Wall.
Late at night, Roose Bolton looks down from a parapet and watches the Stark bannermen get slaughtered mercilessly. The Hound and Arya are trying to flee, but they’re briefly distracted by the sight of Robb’s body being paraded around with his direwolf’s head where Robb’s should be. Arya, wrecked, can barely even react to that, and even Clegane looks disgusted. It’s not bad enough you go and kill guests in your house, you have to desecrate the bodies as well?
Meanwhile, in a more genteel area, Sansa and Tyrion are taking a pleasant stroll in the gardens. Two men walk by and cackle at the sight of the mismatched pair, and Tyrion quietly notes their names for future tortures. Sansa advises him to ignore them, reminding him he’s a Lannister, whereas she’s the disgraced daughter of a traitor. But then, in a rather playful manner, she asks what they should do to make the men squirm. She proposes stuffing their beds with sheep dung, which amuses Tyrion. And because they actually seem rather happy for a few moments here, it’s time to ruin it, right? Poldrick comes running over and tells Tyrion there’s a small council meeting being held.
Tyrion arrives and finds Joffrey practically bursting with excitement, so he’s already, wisely, apprehensive. No good news ever makes Joffrey happy. Pycelle hands over a scroll bearing the news of the Frey wedding which is, apparently code for ‘Robb and Catelyn Stark are dead’. Joffrey immediately and happily orders someone to send for Robb’s head so he can serve it to Sansa at his wedding. Man, why does he love to torture this poor girl so much? Varys reminds Joffrey that Sansa’s his aunt by marriage, which is code for, ‘reign it in, you little sociopath!’ Cersei tries to say that Joffrey was just joking, but he totally wasn’t. Tyrion firmly tells his nephew that’s not going to happen, and he’d better tread carefully. Joffrey gets ready to throw one of his wobblers, so Tywin steps in and smartly puts Joffrey in his place, but Joffrey’s starting to get the bit in his teeth and shouts right back at his grandfather. Tywin waits a beat, then tells Joffrey to go to bed, asking Pycelle to give him a sleeping potion. Cersei, reverting to a more motherly role than we’ve ever seen from her, bundles him off, clearly scared out of her wits of both her father and her out-of-control son, leaving only Tywin and Tyrion. Talk turns to power and who really wields it—they agree that it’s generally the person who has the biggest army. Tyrion realizes that Tywin was behind Frey’s murderous rampage and makes it clear that this was not an above-board attack. Tywin doesn’t care, because war’s war and this could help end theirs more quickly. Plus, it helps preserve his family’s honour and position. Tyrion warns him that the northernors will never forget this, but Tywin rather hopes not, because he wants this message to be heard loud and clear. And now, he’s satisfied that the Stark men are dead and Bolton will now be Warden of the North until Tyrion and Sansa have a son who comes of age. He tells Tyrion to get to work on that, but Tyrion tells him it’s going to be a hard sell getting Sansa to sleep with him after he delivers this unhappy news. Tywin basically tells him to rape her, which Tyrion isn’t willing to do. Tywin informs Tyrion that a good man puts the needs of his family above his own selfish desires. Tyrion reminds him that he’s never done anything for the good of the family, he’s always done what he wanted, but Tywin has a story to counter that: the day Tyrion was born, he was all for drowning him, but he didn’t. Yay? Imagine what a mess the Lannisters would be in if he had killed Tyrion, though. Who’d have defended the city at the Battle of Blackwater? Joffrey? They’d all be dead, so Tywin should really be grateful he made the right choice.
Tyrion goes to break the news to Sansa, but one look at her tearstained face makes it clear it’s already reached her. Poor girl.
The somewhat diminished Bran Band comes upon what looks like a castle, but it’s empty. They find a place to sleep that has a deep well Hodor likes shouting his name down, to hear the echo. Bran seems nervous and tells the others he’s heard awful stories about this area. In one, a cook killed the king’s son during a visit, cooked him into a pie, and served the pie to a king. The gods then turned the cook into a giant white rat that could only eat its own young. And this punishment wasn’t for murder, as you would think, but for killing a guest beneath his own roof, which is a terrible sacrilege in this world.
Speaking of the future cursed, we cut right to Walder Frey, chowing down on some lunch (though not a pie, because while we’re not bothering with subtlety, we haven’t gone that far over quite yet). Servants are scrubbing blood off the floor while Frey crows over his triumph over the Tulleys. Bolton rains on his parade by reminding him that Blackfish escaped. Frey dismisses him as an old man on the run, and then turns back to being bitter about the Starks and everyone else looking down on him all the time. He raises a glass to Bolton as the Warden of the North and says it must have been torture following Robb all over the place. Bolton airily says Robb ignored his advice at every turn. So, clearly, he had to die. These people aren’t petty at all! Frey asks if he plans to move to Winterfell now the war’s over. Bolton reminds him it’s in ruins and Frey asks for the real story of what happened up there, after Theon took it over. Bolton helpfully tells Frey (and us) that he sent his bastard, Ramsay, to collect Theon, so at least we know who Theon’s psycho torturer is now. Not that I particularly care at this point.
Ramsay is enjoying a nice lunch of sausage (so, forget what I said earlier about not getting too literal through food) while Theon remains tied to his cross in the background. Theon clearly thinks Ramsay’s making an actual lunch of his good bits, but he’s not. Ramsay chatters about phantom limbs and wonders if eunuchs have something similar. Theon weakly weeps and begs Ramsay to kill him. Ramsay says he’s no good to them dead. I don’t think he’s going to be too much good to you alive either, the state he’s in. Ramsay observes that he doesn’t look like Theon Greyjoy anymore. Greyjoy was a lord, but Theon’s just stinking meat, so he renames him Reek. No humiliation is too petty for this guy. Let’s hope to God he never meets Joffrey.
A strange sound wakes Bran, who wakes Hodor and the others. Bran’s wolf is getting anxious, baring its teeth. Whatever is making the noise seems to be getting closer, and finally emerges in the room they’re in, a hulking mound covered in a fur. Meera lunges with her knife and finds…Sam. And Gillie, close behind. At last, characters’ paths are starting to cross! Sam recognizes the direwolf and immediately realizes who Bran is, thanks to the stories Jon’s told. He even knows who Hodor is, and Hodor’s adorably pleased to be recognised. Sam offers to do whatever he can to help them, and Bran happily asks him to take them north of the Wall. Sam’s face falls and he instead urges them to come with him to Castle Black, because what’s coming is really, really bad. Jojen correctly guesses he saw the White Walkers and tells Sam that the armies can’t stop them. Sam figures they’re going to stop them, somehow.
Balon Greyjoy receives a message ordering him to remove all the Ironborn from the north, and needless to say, the message is not couched in the most diplomatic terms. While he reads it, Yara opens an accompanying box and finds her brother’s nether bits. Balon’s reaction is basically to write his son off entirely, particularly now he’s unable to continue the family line. Yara reminds him that he’s Balon’s son and her brother, but he doesn’t care. She informs him that she’ll be taking the fastest ship and the best killers to go rescue her brother. And because she’s pretty badass, she gets ready to see this through.
Sam hands over some of the dragonglass spears he found and tells the Bran Band that they kill White Walkers. Meera’s amazed because nobody’s killed a WW in a thousand years. Must be a first time for everything, right? Sam warns them that there are many, many more out there and says he wishes they could come with him and Gillie. Bran says he wishes the same, but he’s got a quest now, so off he goes.
Davos pays Gendry a visit in the dungeon where he’s being kept. He asks how Gendry’s doing, but Gendry’s switched to bitter mode and isn’t really in the mood to chat. Davos establishes some common ground by telling him he came from Flea Bottom as well, just like Gendry. Davos asks why he was so quick to trust Melisandre, and Gendry tells him that when a hot woman comes at you with no clothes on, it’s pretty distracting. He asks how Davos became a lord and Davos explains that he once helped Stannis out of a difficult situation and got a lordship and lost a finger. Talk about give and take. He didn’t want to be a lord, he just took it for the sake of his son, who then, of course, ended up dying anyway.
Varys is paying a visit as well—to Shae. He tells her she’s been a good influence on Tyrion, but she doesn’t really care, especially now she’s his wife’s maid. Varys gently tells her that Sansa’s a sweet girl and none of this is her fault. Shae knows. She fiercely says she loves Sansa and would kill for her, but that doesn’t make this situation any easier. Like Davos, Varys tries to connect with her by reminding her they share mutual lowly outsider status. He hands her a bag of diamonds and urges her to jump on one of the ships in the harbor and start a new life far away. She asks why he wants her to leave and he basically tells her she’s too much of a complication for Tyrion and her presence endangers him. Take it, Shae! But, of course, she doesn’t. She tosses the diamonds back and tells him that, if Tyrion wants her to leave, he can tell her himself.
Tyrion’s drinking with Poldrick, apparently trying to train the kid in the ways of drunkenness. Cersei shows up and dismisses the page, pours herself some wine, and asks how he’s enjoying married life. He asks her how she’s looking forward to marrying Loras, but she says she’s going to do no such thing. She urges Tyrion to give Sansa a child, so she can have some actual happiness in her life. He asks how happy Cersei is and she admits she’s not, really, but if not for her kids she’d have tupped herself long ago. He asks if she even loves Joffrey and she says she does, remembering how she used to spend hours looking at him when he was a baby. She recalls that he was a really jolly, happy infant, and nobody can take that happiness away, not even present-day Joffrey. Tyrion listens quietly, and then asks how long all this is going to go on. ‘Until we’ve dealt with all our enemies,’ she responds. He says that every time they deal with one enemy, they wind up with two more. A little tiredly, she says it seems they’ll be dealing with this for quite a long time.
On the road, Arya and the Hound come across a crew of Frey bannermen laughing about the killings and the desecration of Robb’s body. Just in case there was any stray sympathy for any of these people. While they’re chatting, Arya hops down and approaches, asking, innocently, if she can warm herself by their fire. She offers up Jaqen’s Braavosi coin, telling them it’s worth a lot, and when one of them reaches for it, she grabs him and stabs him repeatedly in the back. Wow. I’m not really one for indiscriminate killing, but GO ARYA! Clegane makes pretty short work of the other three. Arya looks down at her first victim, who’s bleeding out, and when Clegane asks, admits it’s the first man she’s ever killed. He tells her to give him a head’s up next time she wants to do something like this. Really, Arya, it’s only polite. She retrieves her coin and whispers ‘Valar morghulis.’
Jon’s making a pit stop by a small pond so he can wash his wounds and get ambushed by his girlfriend. He turns to find Ygritte standing behind him, bow and arrow at the ready. He tells her she must have known who he really was all the time and says he needs to go home now. He adds that he knows she won’t hurt him. Clearly hurt, she goes back to her ‘you know nothing, Jon Snow,’ which actually elicits a bit of an ‘awwww’ from me. He says he loves her and knows she loves him, but he has to go home now. She’s struggling not to cry, but as he turns, she looses an arrow into his back. He gets onto his horse and she shoots him in the leg. He gallops away and gets a third arrow somewhere thankfully non-lethal, because for heaven’s sake, we need at least one pretty Stark boy on this show, right? She cries as he rides away.
Sam and Gillie have finally arrived at Castle Black, where the elderly Maester’s now in charge of things until a new commander can be appointed. He welcomes Gillie and asks what the baby’s name is. It’s Sam, which is news to Sam Sr. and gets the second ‘awww’ of the night. Maester asks if he’s been breaking his vows and Sam Sr. swears he hasn’t, but he couldn’t very well leave this girl to fend for herself in the hellish areas north of the Wall. Maester tells Gillie she and her baby can stay and Gillie’s gushingly grateful, offering to cook and clean or whatever they need. Maester cuts her off and tells Sam to start getting the word out about what’s north of the Wall.
One of those messages goes to Stannis and is received by Davos, who’s reading all the mail in the company of Stannis’s cute little girl. He gets through the message and looks rather grave, just as the bells start ringing frantically.
He goes to Stannis’s throne room, where Melisandre is burning something and Stannis is fingering a scroll bearing news of Robb’s death. Stannis is putting this down to that leech Melisandre burned but Davos thinks uniting the Seven Kingdoms through blood magic is evil. Stannis says it’s his enemies who made the kingdom bleed, and he won’t forgive that. Davos begs him not to kill Gendry, but Melisandre insists that a great gift requires a great sacrifice. Stannis seems conflicted, so Davos plays on his sympathies by telling him Gendry’s name and reminding him that this boy is his nephew. Stannis, however, decides the boy must die. So, Davos goes and pulls Gendry out of his prison and sends him off in a rowboat with bread and water and basic directions. Gendry asks why he’s doing this and Davos says it’s right, and he’s a slow learner.
Jon finally makes it to Castle Black, collapsing off his horse right at the gates. He’s dragged inside and is immediately greeted by Sam and one of the other guys (Pip?).
Also arriving home is Jaime, who comes in through the city gates with Bree and is mistaken for a poor farmer, what with his ratty clothes and all. The old Jaime probably would have taken deadly offense at that, but New Jaime just kind of shrugs.
Up to the palace he goes, and how he got past those guards is going to be a mystery for the ages, I guess. He immediately goes to Cersei’s rooms and she blinks at him in a mixture of shock, bewilderment, and pain upon seeing his missing hand.
Davos has been called before Stannis and readily admits he let Gendry go. Melisandre tells him he saved one innocent but may have doomed tens of thousands of others. Davos says there must be another way, but Stannis has no idea what that other way is and sentences Davos to death. Davos advises against that, because Stannis is going to need him for the coming dangers. He shows Davos the scroll that came from Maester Aemon, which reports on the horrific sights Sam saw north of the Wall. Stannis reads it, and then hands it over to Melisandre, who burns it and stares intently into the flames. She reports that the war of five kings means nothing, the true war is North, and it’s up to Stannis to stop it. Davos tells him he’ll need someone to help rebuild his army, and Melisandre backs him up, so it looks like he gets a reprieve.
Yunkai. Dany stares intently at the city gates and worries that the slaves inside won’t be happy at being freed. The gates open right about then and outcome said slaves, pouring through by the thousands. They gather around her and Missy tells them all who Dany is, adding that they owe her their freedom, Dany corrects her and says she can’t give them their freedom, because that freedom belongs to them alone, and they must take it for themselves. The slaves begin shouting something that sounds like ‘Meesa’ but is, apparently, Mhysa, which means mother in their language. Dany gets down from the rock she’s standing on, pets her favourite dragon, tells all three to fly, and after they obediently take off, she steps from behind the ring of Unsullied protecting her and goes into the crowd. The former slaves reach out to touch her, like she’s their new Christ figure, and then raise her up high above, so everyone can see her. She looks delighted, and Jorah continues to look amazed at the adulation she can command.
That’s it for season three. An ok one, in my opinion. The story covers the first half of one of the books, Storm of Swords, and to me it really felt like the first half of a book, which is typically the part that lacks a climax and is all rising action. That’s what the season felt like: rising action, which rose to…not a whole lot, really. It felt a bit filler-y. Yes, of course there was the Red Wedding, and other things happened too, but most of the season felt like people just wandering around the map (the amount of time we spent with characters walking or riding along roads probably made up nearly 50% of the screentime alone, if not more). Pieces were put into place, but didn’t really add up to much. Yet. I’m sure this’ll all pay off next season, but coming to this as someone who hasn’t read the books, it felt a bit dull. The nonsense with Theon went on far too long and distracted from everything else. Dany continues to be essentially divorced from the main action. Even Tyrion was less fun and interesting this season (and no, that’s no reflection on Peter Dinklage at all. It’s just that the character spent so much time spinning his wheels and got no chance to shine). It was nice to see Tywin really assert himself, I guess, but otherwise, I come away with this with a definite feeling of ‘meh.’ Season one had so much going on in every episode. Season two really moved things forward with everyone mobilizing for the war and Tyrion taking the Hand’s bit in his teeth and just running with it. This season? Well, like I said, I don’t feel like a whole lot happened that I can point to and say—yeah, that was a really big deal. I’m sure these bits and pieces will eventually add up to a big deal, but they haven’t so far, leaving me with a very flat feeling.
But that’s just my opinion. How did you feel? Share your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll be back again this time next year!