What an episode. This one has raised a lot of passionate discussion from fans on the internet. Needless to say: this post is filled with spoilers, so don’t read until you’ve seen the episode!
This week’s episode continued directly from the end of the last episode, The Lion and the Rose; as if we’d forgotten the horrible image of Joffrey’s dead face. It was no less disturbing, but it certainly was a good setup for the episode, and reminded us of the horror of that final scene. It also made me miss Joffrey a little bit. Even when everything in the show was so turbulent, I always knew I could count on my hatred of Joffrey during hard times. Now all bets are off. Farewell, Joffrey.
In the first scene, we find out where Sansa went after all the Joffrey murder business started going down at his wedding party. She’s whisked away by Ser Dontos through the city to a little boat, which then leads to a bigger boat, and into the arms of (surprise!) Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, who left the capital last season. Upon seeing her balk at climbing up a rope ladder to the ship, Ser Dontos tells Sansa that she’s stronger than she knows. Personally, I read that as Dontos telling Sansa that she has developed the qualities of bravery and personal strength during her time in King’s Landing. Unfortunately, Littlefinger kills Dontos as he doesn’t want to risk him telling anyone about Sansa’s escape, and tells Sansa that he arranged for Dontos to comfort her in her time of need and to give her the beautiful necklace. He’s telling Sansa that he is the ultimate social orchestrator and that he’s behind all manner of events that she can’t yet comprehend.
I hope I’m not the only person who was creeped out by Littlefinger’s imposing familiarity and physical closeness to Sansa. Obviously he’s always been a sneaky character, but his on-screen presence during this scene was more sneaky than usual. It was especially interesting of him to remind her that no one is to be trusted, but also to say that she is ‘safe’ with him. Reminds me of an exchange that Littlefinger had with Ned Stark a couple of seasons ago, and we know how that turned out. Littlefinger tells Sansa they’re going “home”. I wonder where they’re sailing off to?
Then, we see morose Margaery and the ever-so-sassy Lady Olenna Tyrell contemplating their newfound roles in the kingdom. Margaery seems more annoyed that she isn’t definitely queen, than sad at the fact that her brand new husband is dead. However, as Olenna assures her, maybe her next husband will turn out better; after all, third time’s the charm. Yet again, Diana Rigg proves exactly why she’s perfect in this role.
During this scene, I was floored by the amazing costume design on both Margaery’s and Olenna’s gowns. Both were dressed in mourning black, but with golden rose accents standing out from the black background that clearly mark them as having total alliegiance to House Tyrell.
Who will be king next? We have our answer in the very next scene, with Tommen, Cersei, Tywin and Jaime surrounding Joffrey’s corpse, which has been prepared for viewing and is laying in state at the Great Sept of Baelor; where he was married only last episode. You might notice that the stones with painted eyes that are laid over his actual eyes are exactly the same as those placed over the deceased Jon Arryn’s eyes in the very first episode of the show. I really like that they’ve ensured a continuity of the death rituals in the show.
Cersei seems to be the only person who is truly sad about Joffrey’s death. Tywin feels the need to move on, as there’s a kingdom to rule and no time to dwell. Tommen, Joffrey’s younger brother who has had a total of three lines in the entire series, is next in line for the throne, and will be the new king. I find myself wishing that we’d seen more development of this character. They’ve replaced his actor and although they he does look similar to the old one, it’s clearly a totally different person, which could be confusing for some viewers. I loved this scene with Tommen and Tywin, and their debate about what makes a good king. Ultimately, what we learn is that Tywin and Cersei hope to give ‘advice’ to Tommen during his early years as king, so that he can develop his ruling abilities into adulthood. Translation: they want to manipulate him into making decisions that will suit the agendas of House Lannister.
This scene was such a good use of exposition to explore what kind of king Tommen will be, for viewers to get to know him properly, and to distinguish him from crazy Joffrey. It is interesting to note that Tommen seems to be a genuinely good person. He’s gone relatively unnoticed by Cersei during the series as she’s focused her efforts on shaping Joffrey, being as he was first in line for the throne. Since Tommen has flown under the radar, he’s had comparatively more time to develop his own beliefs and personality, and his understanding of the qualities that a king should have. In any case, he’s not a psychopath like Joffrey was and he seems to have some good ideas about life beyond parroting what his mother tells him is right. This signifies another instance where Cersei loses a bit of her power: not only is she not queen anymore, nor queen regent, she no longer has total control over the man in the top job.
We then watch as everyone in the Sept leaves and Cersei and Jaime are left to contemplate the loss of their son. They have a discussion about Tyrion – Cersei wants Jaime to kill their brother to avenge their son. She’s firmly set in her beliefs that only Tyrion could be the culprit of such a crime. Cersei and Jaime kiss, but Cersei pulls away in disgust from Jaime’s golden prosthetic hand. Jaime wants to have sex with her. Cersei says no because clearly it would be inappropriate to have sex next to their dead son’s corpse. In this season’s second-most confronting scene so far, Jaime has sex with her anyway, despite her protests. This is pretty clearly a rape scene, and it’s horrible. It also doesn’t happen in the book.
If anyone wants to read how the scene actually went down in the book, you can have a read of it here (watch out for sexual language if you’re not a fan of that). Cersei is clearly consenting in the book. I’m not totally upset that the show writers changed something from the books, because that happens all the time, and if I worried about that too much my brain would explode. I’m slightly annoyed that after all the good character development that’s happened for Jaime – his road trip with Brienne, his emotional outburst and confession in the baths, coming to terms with a disability that totally changes his perception of self – after this character goes through many changes on the way to developing a good moral compass, they go ahead and make him a rapist all of a sudden. For what purpose? Was it not a confronting enough situation that a brother and sister were having sex next to their son’s dead body in what is essentially a giant church? Did they really have to push that envelope a little bit more? Total hyperbole at work in this scene.
It’s also the second time a non-rapist character in the book has been turned into a rapist for dramatic effect on the show – the first being Khal Drogo, who in the books is a very attentive partner to Daenerys, and definitely doesn’t force her to have non-consensual sex. It is clear that the writers have decided to use rape as a plot device, twice now. In Daenerys’ case, it was used as a device to show her development of personal power as she eventually became dominant over Khal Drogo. My guess is that the above scene is an attempt to humanise Cersei through suffering, as most viewers really hate her, and she may or may not get a more prominent role in the story somewhat soon. Which is highly problematic, to say the absolute least. Here‘s George R R Martin’s take on the scene (get back to writing the next book!!).
I suppose we have to remind ourselves that Jaime is still the same person who pushed a child out of a very high window in the first episode of the entire series; despite any progress he’s made, he’s still the same destructive person at his core.
Onwards to the rest of the episode…
We finally get another scene with Davos and Stannis – this time without Melisande and Selyse (Stannis’ crazy wife). Stannis is so sassy. He’s very angry with Davos for releasing Gendry from captivity at Dragonstone, as a sacrifice with Gendry’s blood has led to the murder of King Joffrey (in his opinion). Even though he seems slightly hysterical in this scene, at least we’re reminded that he was the only person actively trying to get rid of Joffrey; even though his physical attack didn’t work at the end of season two, at least the black magic did. Even though Stannis doesn’t enjoy the fact that he has to rely on Melisandre to get things done, we know that he believes that the end justifies the means. For Stannis, who is the rightful heir to the throne (yep, I’m a Stannis fan), he’ll do whatever it takes. Except, apparently, hire an army of foreign sellswords to assist with his cause.
Davos is late for his literacy lesson with Stannis’ daughter Shireen. Davos and Shireen’s relationship is probably the most uplifting thing about this show. At the moment there’s so much darkness that it’s refreshing to see a man and a child interacting in a heartwarming way that doesn’t involve any murder or violence whatsoever. Davos enlists Shireen’s help to write a letter to the Iron Bank of Braavos, and she tells him to write it himself because it’s good for practice. He responds, “It’s too important for me, I need a smart person to do it”, in what’s definitely the cutest line of the episode. Davos may be going against Stannis’ wishes by writing abroad for help, and he may be using Stannis’ name to do so, but ultimately this is an example of Davos’ devotion to Stannis and his cause. He knows that Stannis really does deserve to sit on the Iron Throne, and knowing that he needs soldiers, he’s willing to help Stannis in any way he can.
Meanwhile, resident scene-stealer Tyrion Lannister is locked up in the dungeons of King’s Landing, accused of killing his nephew. His squire, Podrick Payne, visits him to give him some candles, parchment, and quills, not to mention some secret snacks. This scene marks some great character development for Podrick (beyond the comic relief of last season), and his interaction with Tyrion assists the viewers to understand just how much of a mess Tyrion has found himself in. Tyrion has a criminal trial in a fortnight, and denies any involvement in the murder of Joffrey. Podrick informs Tyrion that Sansa has fled the capital, which Tyrion understands makes him look even more guilty than before.
Another interesting point in this scene is where Tyrion lets the audience know what was intimated earlier on in the episode – of course Tommen will be the next king, because, “Sweet Tommen will be so much easier to handle”. If the earlier scene between Tommen and Tywin didn’t reinforce the typical Lannister manipulation at hand, having Tyrion restate that in clear terms makes sure that non-book audiences totally understand what’s going on. Mostly my notes on this scene read like, “I love Tyrion. I love Podrick Payne”. Even though Tyrion is stuck in the dungeons, at least he’s smart enough to know exactly what people plan for him, and how he might get around it. And I really do love Podrick Payne.
Finally, Daenerys and her army are marching toward Meereen, the fabled land of many pyramids and harpy statues. The visuals of the city are so beautiful, and I particularly loved the picturesque view that we see as the army is marching forwards. The costume design of the people of Meereen is also outstanding. I love that the dress of each city is unique. Shows exactly how much dedication is put into setting up each location on the show.
As Daenerys and army approach the city, its gargantuan doors open to release a lone rider: the champion of Meereen. Daenerys must defeat him if she is to go any further. A debate amongst Daenerys’ male companions decides that Daario is the right person to represent the crew, and he goes forward to fight the champion in what is the most effortless fight scene ever. He throws a knife into the champion’s horse’s face, and then as the champion falls, he cuts his throat open with a giant sickle-shaped sword. Easy as. Surely that can’t be the best fighter that Meereen has to offer.
Finding herself the winner in this ridiculously easy contest, Daenerys addresses the people of Meereen, and their slaves. She tells them she’s there to free the slaves, as she did for the people of Astapor and Yunkai. At this point, as she delivers a powerful speech to people in need of help, I was really stunned with how skillfully the show has crafted an entire language so convincingly. Similar to the Dothraki language, this one flows so naturally. To Emilia Clarke’s credit, her pronunciation makes it sound exactly like a real language.
I loved the contrast between Daenerys giving her speech, and shots of all the slaves looking at each other and to their masters, wondering what their fate will be, and whether freedom is even possible. Slave labour has existed forever in these cities, so hearing all this information would be so shocking. The final shot of the episode is a Meereen slave looking at one of Daenerys’ broken collars that she’s just hurled at the city via catapult, and then looking at his master. Seeds of rebellion have already started to grow, and I can’t wait to see how it all plays out on screen.
Some other small thoughts:
- The score during the credits sounded a bit like Hans Zimmer’s score for Inception (2010). Good one Ramin Djawadi.
- I’m admittedly not too interested in Sam and Gilly’s story at the Wall. From what I can remember, it gets more interesting as time goes by, but for now I don’t have time for dawdling romantic tension when there are other dramatic scenes to hook me in.
- In this episode Arya learned not to trust the Hound, on whom she is entirely dependent for survival on their journey to the Eyrie. The two characters continue to have great chemistry. Yet another example of Arya’s survival skills being honed in preparation for future adventures. It’s interesting to compare her situation with Sansa’s; both are dependent on people who they can’t fully trust.
- More ‘sexposition’ during the character development of Prince Oberyn Martell of Dorne. I love seeing him interacting with Tywin, as it really was a clash between two political heavyweights. Oberyn is promised a meeting with the Mountain, who is responsible for killing his sister, if he serves as a judge during Tyrion’s trial. This is more of Tywin hoping to control the situation, but with Oberyn, you never know.
- We witnessed more of the wildlings’ brutality this episode. The Thenns are truly scary. Threatening to cannibalise a young boy’s mother and father is pretty full on.
- I’m also happy to see Jon Snow further asserting his practical experience at the Night’s Watch, and telling them exactly how vulnerable they are. Thank goodness he’s developed a backbone, otherwise the men at the Wall would be totally screwed.
- No Theon/Reek and the Boltons this episode. Probably a good idea as their story is more of the same, for the time being.
- No Bran this episode. Slightly sad about this because he had a very promising scene last episode and I’m looking forward to seeing more of his visions!
When I first finished watching this episode, I thought the ending was sort of weak. After watching it for a second time, I thought the ending was a lot stronger, maybe because I had more time to take it in and reflect on it. Will the unnamed slave rebel? Will Daenerys succeed in conquering yet another slave city? Here‘s the teaser trailer for next episode. Looks like we’re going to see more of Cersei’s machinations, some more Daenerys, Brienne and Bran, plus more. I can’t wait for episode four!
Episode rating: 3.75/5