Let’s all hold hands and cry together. Please watch this week’s episode before reading this recap/review/reflection. I can’t emphasise enough how much of a heartbreaker this one was. Onwards!
The Wall & Surrounds
We begin at Molestown, the place where Gilly is living. Lots of prostitutes and three Nights Watchmen are having fun at an inn, burping songs and hanging around with their boobs out. One of them threatens Gilly because her baby was crying and woke her up in the morning. She makes a vague threat against him if he does it again, calling her a wildling bitch. Gilly hears a strange sound outside, and knows it can’t be just an owl. Surprise! It’s the wildling crew from beyond the wall; Ygritte, Tormund, and the Thenns, killing everyone in their path. Ygritte continues to be a badass as they slaughter everybody. There’s too much shaky cam here and it’s difficult to see what happens. It’s like a scene out of Cloverfield (2008). Ygritte discovers Gilly and her baby after hearing his cries, but spares them, telling Gilly to keep quiet.
There’s an amazing shot here of blood dripping through the ceiling as people are being slaughtered in the rooms above. Kind of reminds me of a moment in Thomas Hardy’s masterpiece of English literature, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, one of my favourite books of all time. That’s a fun reference for everybody to enjoy.
Back at Castle Black, Jon Snow and friends discuss all this murdering. Sam is distraught and worried that Gilly and her baby are dead, but the boys reassure him otherwise. Jon knows they can’t go after the wildlings as that’s what they want – for the Night’s Watch to disperse and become more vulnerable. However, he also knows that Castle Black is next stop on the wildling train and the fact that they only have 102 men versus Mance Rayder’s army of 100,000 is freaking him out. Ruh roh.
Missandei and Grey Worm
In a beautiful river, the Unsullied are bathing and splashing about. Grey Worm catches sight of Missandei’s naked body as she washes clothes in the river, also naked. She catches his eye and stands up, revealing herself to him, and then suddenly covers her body. Back in the pyramid, she tells Daenerys that she doesn’t think Grey Worm was spying on her. Daenerys engages her in an awkward conversation about sex, nudity, and castration. Missandei believes that Grey Worm is interested in her but it’s a bit awkward due to the castration issue.
Further on, Grey Worm approaches Missandei in the throne room to apologise for frightening her, but she says she wasn’t frightened. Grey Worm says that he has been totes loving the language lessons she’s been giving him and she questions his personal history; his first name, and his castration. She apologises for his experience, but he says that he doesn’t mind being castrated because then he wouldn’t be Unsullied, wouldn’t have fought for Daenerys, and would never have met her. They express their affection for one another in a roundabout way. A really sweet moment. I like the actor for Missandei a lot.
Barristan and Jorah
As the corpses of the masters of Meereen are being taken down from their crosses, a young boy runs up to Barristan Selmy, giving him a scroll with a strange wax seal. Barristan reads the scroll and looks disturbed. He approaches Jorah, who is looking at some beautiful maps which show the proximity between Meereen and King’s Landing. The scroll is a pardon from the late King Robert Baratheon – but why would Jorah ever need a pardon from him? Busted. Jorah’s been caught red handed and is being handed down a consequence that has been looming over him since the first season of the show. Barristan knows Jorah has spied on Daenerys and is in protective mode. He hasn’t told Daenerys yet, and wanted to tell him first, man to man. Jorah wants to talk to Daenerys about it but Barristan isn’t having it. He says he will never be alone with her again. Cue ominous music.
Daenerys and Jorah
Jorah goes to Daenerys’ throne room, where she sits with the rest of her council. Her face is like ice and she obviously knows about the scroll. She asks him to explain why the Usurper Robert Baratheon would pardon him. Jorah claims that Tywin sent the scroll to divide them, essentially that it was forged, but Daenerys knows better than that. Jorah then admits that it wasn’t forged, and that he sent information to Varys in King’s Landing regarding Daenerys’s whereabouts, her marriage, her brother’s death, and her pregnancy. She joins the dots, saying that it is therefore Jorah’s fault that the wine merchant in season one tried to poison her; Jorah has betrayed her from the very beginning. He begs for forgiveness, but she can’t even look at him, the man who sold her information to the person who killed her father and stole the throne to which she is the rightful heir.
In a moment of desperation, Jorah tells Daenerys that he loves her. But she is disgusted by him and doesn’t want him in Meereen, telling him to leave. He attempts to reach out to her, to save himself, but she orders him to leave or else she will throw his head into Slaver’s Bay. He has taught her the restraint that she uses here, and it’s a miracle that she doesn’t have him killed on the spot, given her cold rage. He’s heartbroken, and leaves on his horse, to goodness knows where. Now he’ll have to settle for being Lord Commander Friendzone forever.
I was happy with Emilia Clarke in this scene. Throughout this season I haven’t been that pleased with her portrayal of this period in Daenerys’ story, as I’ve been getting really sick of the moralistic ‘benevolent leader’ persona that she’s been developing. But here she was finally able to show some ferocity, and it was actually kind of scary. Reminds me of Daenerys’ tagline from the first season posters: “I do not have a gentle heart”. Even though earlier in this season she described Jorah as a trusted friend, his actions have been unforgivable.
Our resident ratbag Ramsay Snow gets his pet Reek to pretend that he’s Theon Greyjoy (even though he really is Theon Greyjoy, how confusing), in order to steal Moat Cailin for him. He reinforces that Theon will be Reek forever, and he’s only being Theon for as long as Ramsay allows. Reek is shaking and afraid. I repeat myself here, but Alfie Allen is killing it this season. A man calls to him from the top of the castle – “Who are you?” and Reek has no answer. He enters to see all the Ironborn dead, or sick and dying, flies buzzing everywhere. He goes to negotiate with the commander of the Ironborn garrison. He appears confident and secure, speaking clearly and with purpose. But the commander isn’t having it, and will not surrender to the Boltons, even if they’re offered safe passage back to the Stony Shore. He spits blood in Theon’s face, and Theon crumbles back into his Reek persona, mumbling to himself. Suddenly, the commander is killed by one of his own who just wants to live and go home.
Then we cut to a dead body, as Ratbag Ramsay has flayed and killed the man who killed the commander, sparing none of the Ironborn. No surprises there as he has little to no honour. Ramsay says to Reek that now that they’ve captured Moat Cailin, they’ll go to their new home. I WONDER WHERE THAT WILL BE?
After Roose Bolton arrives, Ramsay presents him with the Ironborn banner, symbolising their defeat. Ramsay asks him to walk and talk with him, and there’s some beautiful scenery here. Roose asks if there’s been any news from Locke (the creepy Nights Watch pretender who attempted to steal Bran from Craster’s Keep back in the day, AKA a couple of episodes ago). Ramsay says no, but Roose says it’s unimportant. That’s that storyline over and done with. Roose is happy enough with Ramsay’s actions here, saying that now the Ironborn will probably flee the North in defeat.
Roose advises Ramsay to look around him, at the North which they have captured; the largest kingdom in Westeros. Now Roose is the Warden of the North, and it all belongs to him (reminds me of the “Look at everything the light touches” moment from The Lion King). He’s so proud that he even decides to legitimise Ramsay – now he’s not a Snow, he’s Ramsay Bolton, son of Roose Bolton, Warden of the North. Ramsay drops to his knees and swears to uphold the Bolton name and traditions, promising to be worthy. The Bolton forces march onwards.
What are they marching towards? WINTERFELL. What’s that noise? It’s just the beautiful Winterfell theme, and also my heart shattering into a thousand pieces.
Littlefinger is in a meeting with the noble families of the Vale, and they clearly don’t like him, nor do they like his previous employment history. Littlefinger is alleging that Lysa committed suicide. One of the noble ladies describes her as an “odd fish” (LOL), but disputes the idea that she would commit suicide as she would never abandon her beloved son. How interesting that as soon as Littlefinger arrived, Lady Lysa jumped to her death. The nobles mention Littlefinger’s “niece”, “Alayne”, wanting to bring her before them to give testimony. Sansa arrives, looking shaken and nervous. She tells Littlefinger she must speak the truth, and he looks like he’s freaking out internally. She then tells the nobles everything – she is Sansa Stark, and that Littlefinger has lied, but has done so in order to protect her. She explains that Littlefinger was her only friend in King’s Landing, as he saved her from the Lannisters and brought her to stay with her own blood in the Eyrie, and protected her identity when she got there.
Sansa plays these nobles like a drum. She tells half-truths that are more persuasive than the cold hard facts, telling them that after Lysa and Littlefinger married, Lysa became jealous and paranoid that Littlefinger would leave her for a younger woman. She says that Lysa saw Littlefinger kiss her on the cheek (lies – that image from the last episode will never not be gross) and became crazy, turning on her, and threatening to throw her through the Moon Door (truth). She says that after Littlefinger tried to reason with Lysa, Lysa threw herself through the Moon Door as she couldn’t cope with her jealousy anymore (lies). Sansa plays on her sweet and innocent image to manipulate these nobles, and she succeeds. As a noblewoman hugs her, she locks eyes with Littlefinger. She knows her audience, and has learned to lie to the right people just like Littlefinger does. Sophie Turner was a much better actor here. Really impressed with her efforts this episode.
The nobles and Littlefinger walk through the Eyrie throne room (still beautiful), and Littlefinger asks what side they were on during the big civil war. Much like the Iron Bank of Braavos, they seemed content to sit back and observe the big houses fighting each other rather than definitively pledging allegiance to any of them. Now that the Starks are pretty much annihilated, they’re at a loss as to who to support. Littlefinger sets up young Robin Arryn as the correct person to follow from now on; convenient, since he’s now in charge of him and can manipulate him when necessary. There’s potential for a good ruler in the young Motherboy apparently, and as Littlefinger says, “Time for Robin to leave the nest.”
Later, Littlefinger visits Sansa in her room, asking why she helped him. Sansa is smart, and she knows that if she hadn’t protected him, that her current safety would be compromised. She protects herself by protecting Littlefinger; and as he says, “Better to gamble on the man you know than the strangers you don’t”. But he says she doesn’t know him, and she replies that at least she knows what he wants. They share a look and I feel awkward because I can’t help but interpret this in the worst way possible (#leavesansaalone). Littlefinger knows that Sansa’s lying and political abilities have grown over time, and that she handled herself well in front of the nobles. She’s proven herself to be a worthy partner in his games.
Then young Robin Arryn and Littlefinger are having a discussion as they wander through the throne room of the Eyrie. Robin doesn’t want to leave this safe space; in fact, he’s never left before because his mother told him that it was too dangerous to go outside. Littlefinger reassures him that people die everywhere and in a myriad of ways, not just for leaving their safe place, and that death is an inevitable fact of life for literally every human being. He says it’s time for Robin to worry about life instead of death, and to take charge of his life as Lord of the Vale.
Footsteps – Sansa enters the room. But she looks different. More adult, somehow. Her beautiful red hair is now a dark colour, and she’s wearing an amazing gown with raven feathers sticking out at the shoulders. I need lots and lots of images and gifs of this to look at every detail. Can’t wait to see more of this new Sansa.
On the road
Our two favourite BFFs, Arya and the Hound, are walking towards the Eyrie, discussing exactly how much Arya loves killing people and wishes that she killed Joffrey. They’re discussing the manner in which Joffrey died, and the Hound wonders if he would ever have been able to protect him, and whether he even would have wanted to. Arya says she would have liked to kill Joffrey in a more brutal method than poisoning, and everyone watching the show agrees with her. She mentions the Hound’s health and that his wound has been troubling him lately. Foreshadowing?
The Hound and Arya arrive at the gates and announce themselves, seeking a meeting with Arya’s aunt, Lady Lysa Arryn. The man at the gates informs them that unfortunately Lady Arryn died three days ago. Arya’s response? Hysterical laughter. For the rest of the scene, echoing over the Vale. This is the second time that she’s finally gotten to somewhere where her family have been located, and they’ve died just before she got there. Sometimes the only response one can muster in a situation like that is just to laugh, and laugh, and laugh. So what’s going on for Arya now? Do they just turn around and leave, or what?
Tyrion is still in the dungeon and is having a nice discussion with Jaime about murder and other nice things, such as the fact that he will be beheaded if he is found guilty at the trial by combat. They also discuss their ‘simple’ cousin Orson who loved smashing beetles to death all day every day. They make fun of their predicament, and their cousin Orson. Tyrion describes loving having a laugh at his misery, even though people laughed at him all the time for his own shortcomings (good pun). Dinklage gets a wonderful monologue about Orson’s cognitive delay – why was he crushing the beetles, why should he care when all manner people are getting killed every day? This scene really just served to highlight Dinklage’s talents and didn’t really further the story. Its purpose was for Tyrion to get one last vaguely humorous, cynical, and Tyrion-esque scene before the big trial by combat, and I think it succeeded. Tyrion never gets an answer as to why his cousin loved smashing beetles, and now there’s only seven minutes until the episode ends.
Tyrion arrives at the trial and notes that Oberyn is not wearing any armour, nor is he wearing a helmet, and he’s drinking wine. Not a good combination, one might think. The Mountain arrives, and Oberyn’s paramour is stunned at his size – “You’re going to fight that?!”, which was a nice inclusion from the books. Maester Pycelle enters and says some religious stuff before Tywin waves his hand to hurry the trial along. Oberyn and Ellaria share a passionate kiss and Oberyn reassures her that he would never leave her.
The trial by combat begins, and Oberyn initially shows off, twirling and spinning with his spear whilst the Mountain just stands there. He’s talking to the Mountain, telling him why he’s the one chosen to represent Tyrion. Why is he here in King’s Landing? For the Mountain – to hear him confess. He wants to hear it out of the Mountain’s mouth that he was the one to rape his sister Elia, to murder her, and to kill her children. He repeats this over and over as he fights – “You raped her, you murdered her, you killed her children.”
Through a stressful fight scene, Oberyn eventually gets the advantage and stabs the Mountain several times. All the Lannisters look stressed, but Jaime can’t hide his smile. Even though Oberyn has the Mountain incapacitated, he won’t kill him before he hears a confession. He delays the killing blow to wait for the Mountain to say her name and confess his crimes. He wants to know who gave the order for her death.
Ellaria smiles at Oberyn, but as he’s distracted the Mountain knocks him down. He smashes Oberyn’s face, knocking his teeth out. He puts his thumbs into Oberyn’s eyes as he confesses his crimes. He did rape Elia, and murder her, and kill her children, and then he smashes Oberyn’s head open with his bare hands just as he smashed Elia’s. Ellaria screams and clutches at her face, and the Mountain falls down beside Oberyn’s body and ruined face.
Since Oberyn died before the Mountain, Tyrion is found to be guilty. Tywin wastes no time in announcing this fact. Tyrion looks shocked, Jaime looks heartbroken and Cersei has the most satisfied smile I think we’ve ever seen. Tyrion is sentenced to death, and the episode cuts to black after focusing on his stunned face as he looks at Oberyn’s smashed head.
I mean, wow. What. Even as a book-reader I was floored by the graphic nature of Oberyn’s death. It was disgusting and like something straight out of a nightmare. There have been a number of deaths this season that have been beyond grotesque. Some might ask, why would the show bring an awesome character to our attention, spend some time building him up and making him into someone we want to see more of, and then kill him off in one of the worst and most graphically gross ways ever? Because this is George R. R. Martin’s world and we’re just visitors. Plus he is one sick bastard, if you didn’t already know. No one is safe!
This episode was amazing. The only stuff I can fault was Maisie Williams’ so-so acting again and the bad shaky cam in the first scene with the wildlings. Loved everything else. I can’t even begin to think about the next episode because this episode was just too much for me to handle. But judging from the trailer, we’re going to see lots and lots of Wall stuff, and this time I’m not dreading it. I don’t know if it’s just this trailer that’s totally Wall-centric, but the undeniable fact is that many interesting things are awaiting us in the final two episodes.
Episode rating: 4.5/5