We pick up where the last episode left off, with the Night's Watch recruits on their way to the Wall. 'Arry' is encountering the problem every Sweet Polly Oliver comes across sooner or later—how to keep up the disguise when nature calls. Having come back from taking care of business in secret, she has a slight run in with the inhabitants of the cage accompanying their party, including a certain man who speaks of everyone in the third person, especially himself, and another man who threatens to rape her bloody with a stick. Lovely. Then the excitement really kicks in, as some Gold Cloaks intercept the caravan. Arya naturally assumes they're looking for her, but it's revealed that it's Gendry they want. Not that Yoren is going to give up either of them, as proved by his threat to place his sharp-enough-to-shave-a-spider's-ass knife at a very tender portion of the lead guard's anatomy—his femoral artery. Why, what where you thinking of? The Gold Cloaks back down for now, but it's clear they're not going back to King's Landing without Gendry, dead or alive.
In King's Landing, Tyrion walks in on a nasty surprise—Varys, happily chatting with Shae. Ominous. Tyrion is much quicker off the mark than Ned ever was, and says as such, outright telling Varys that if he tries to backstab him, he'll end up going for a terminal swim—perhaps keeping the theme of fish pie running? Varys seems almost amused by his threat—one gets the feeling he's been threatened by far worse in his time.
Small council time: Cersei listens calmly to Robb's demands, then proceeds to rip up the terms. Tyrion is temporarily possessed by the snark of the viewers: "You've perfected the art of tearing up papers." She does reluctantly concede to sending Ned's bones back up North, along with a not so subtle coded message for Jaime, but dismisses the request of the Night's Watch for more men, and laughes off their claims the dead are rising from their graves. Tyrion isn't laughing—he's been there, done that, pissed off the Wall, and some of what Mormont and Maester Aemon said has actually sunk in.
Way up north where men are men and marry their daughters (eeeeeesh), Sam has to rescue one of Craster's 'wives' from Ghost, and promptly all but adopts her. He brings the girl, Gilly, to Jon, where she pleads her case, saying she's pregnant and wants to protect her baby from Craster, since if it's a boy—and ominously cuts off. Jon's response is, "What am I supposed to do about it?," showing that he's learned his lesson from last week—besides which, Gilly expects them to help her without continuing to explain herself beyond the ominous cut off.
Precisely what Daenerys and her khalasar are getting up to in the Red Waste this time around is a short scene but contains a lot of incident. Rakharo's horse comes back with a rather snazzy paint job but, not so snazzily, without Rakharo—save for a nasty surprise in the saddle bag. Jorah says that the sender of this grisly little gift was probably one of the many, many khals who don't appreciate the idea of a woman ruler. Poor Irri is distraught, since not only did Rakharo lose his head, he also lost his braid—a sign of defeat—and, since who knows what's happened to his body, he won't be able to get to the Dothraki afterlife. And on top of all that, she secretly loved him! Dany promises her handmaiden that they will build a pyre for Rakharo—though, considering there isn't that much wood about, it's probably just as well it'll be a very small pyre.
In his brothel, in the midst of making certain all the customers are satisfied, Littlefinger runs across a problem—Ros is, understandably, more than a little shaken from seeing her best friend's baby killed in front of her yesterday. Littlefinger, charitably, suggests she take the day off and turn up tomorrow bright and cheerful—because, he tells Ros, he ended up selling the last whore who cried and moped all the time to a man who wanted to 'transform' her. (And not in a Henry Higgins way.) Ros gets the message very quickly, and we are reminded once again that Littlefinger is not a nice man. At all.
In The Red Keep, Tyrion entertains Janos Slynt to dinner. The interview goes about as well as you might expect for Janos, who ends up stripped of his post and exiled to the Wall. Tyrion drinks a toast with the new captain of the City Watch—then proceeds to ask him, out of what can only be morbid curiosity, if he could do what his predecessor did: kill a baby without question. "Without question? No. I'd ask how much." That's our Bronn. Tyrion seems sickened, but not surprised. Like we said, morbid curiosity.
When the Night's Watch recruits stop for a break, Lommy Greenhands muses about giving up Gendry, since he's the one the Gold Cloaks want. After an enlightening discussion about what makes both a battle and a knight, Arya goes after Gendry, curious as to why he seems to be hotter property than her. He's no more clue than she has, but he does know one thing—turns out the Sweet Polly Oliver act hasn't fooled at least one person. For lack of anyone else, Arya entrusts him with her secret.
Theon just can't catch a break. He expects a grand greeting to welcome him home to Pyke as the long returning last Greyjoy son—he gets one fisherman who is singularly unimpressed. Things are looking up when he hitches a ride with a feisty young woman up to the castle, with whom he gets rather friendly—turns out he's been sticking his hands inside his sister Yara's trousers. Who, incidentally, finds the whole thing hilarious, and has spent the last nine years being a much better Greyjoy son than he has. So much so, in fact, that daddy Balon regards her as his heir, and not the son who came home wearing jewellery he hasn't paid the 'iron price' for and bleating the praises of the Starks. Balon believes this moment of strife is the perfect time to stage another uprising. Against the Lannisters? Who, pray tell, said anything about the Lannisters? It's Theon's new family that are going to catch it hard.
On Dragonstone, Davos is sorting out a deal with Sallador Saan, an old friend in the pirate business; Stannis's knight had an interesting career before he came to serve him. Negotiations include Sallador claiming Cersei and part of his fee for helping to take King's Landing; after all, "The only god is between a woman's legs." Davos's son thinks that the only god is Melisandre's R'hllor, having been fully converted, while to Davos the only god is Stannis.
Meanwhile in King's Landing, Cersei is pissed that Tyrion exiled Slynt without her say so; she's the Queen Regent! Tyrion implies she's been throwing that title around so much she's forgetting the consequences; a lot of people in King's Landing are very angry with the baby-slaughtering queen, even if it was Joffrey who gave the order and let his mother take the fall. Charming lad. Cersei still believes her son was in the right and that Tyrion isn't taking this seriously—he never has, nor has Jaime. "It's always fallen on me!" Tyrion is rather taken aback by this show of emotion and strain on his sister's part, and tries to lighten the mood—in the worst way possible. "So has Jaime, according to Stannis." Smooth, Tyrion. Real smooth. Cersei soon wipes the smile off his face by saying that the biggest joke has always been that the stunted Tyrion is alive at the cost of their mother's life. Tyrion was asking for something like that, but still. Ouch.
Back to Dragonstone, as Davos tells Stannis that Sallador and his thirty ships are arrayed with them against Renly, but this news doesn't exactly cheer Stannis up—Renly still vastly outnumbers him. Melisandre tells him that if only he opens himself fully to the Lord of Light (as she opens her robe, revealing that was all she chose to wear tonight) he can be given all that he ever desired—such as a son, which is what really captures his interest, rather than what's under the robe. She and Stannis proceed to pray the Summer Islands way—right on top of the Painted Table, while pieces are scattered in the process. That can't be comfortable.
Then to Craster's Keep. Despite Jon's refusal of Gilly due to the ominous cutoff, he's suspicious enough of Craster to follow him into the woods. The question of what Craster does with his sons is answered, as the wildling abandons a crying baby to the tender mercy of... whatever's out there. This is too much for Jon, who attempts to save the child—only to see something pick it up and retreat into the woods. And, before Jon can proceed further, Craster fells him with the flat of his axe. Cut to black.
Tropes featured in this episode include:
- Adaptation Distillation: By promoting Bronn to Lord Commander of the City Watch, the show manages to avoid an entire character—Ser Jacelyn Bywater, called "Ironhand" for his prosthetic, who takes on the role in the book. (He gets killed off by the end of the season anyway.)
- Age Lift: Sort of, and unintentional. At the end of season one, Lommy and Hot Pie both sounded and looked like prepubesent boys. Fast forward to what's the start of season two, and it's clear that they've both had a growth spurt, and their voices have deepened, the traits of pubescent adolescents. This was unavoidable, due to the actors for both having been cast around the age right before puberty starts. An argument can be made that some time has passed, but that sort of puberty change takes at least half a year to a year. In-universe, it can't have been more than a month since they left King's Landing, if that.
- An Offer You Can't Refuse: Littlefinger tells Ros to stop sobbing or very bad things will happen if she continues to be a bad investment.
- Badass Boast: From Varys, of all people. "The storms come and go, the big fish eat the little fish, and I keep on paddling."
- Bait-and-Switch CommentTyrion: I hope you enjoy the Wall. I found it surprisingly beautiful...in a brutal, horribly uncomfortable sort of way.
- Bi the Way: SalladorMatthos: We're not attacking King's Landing so you can rape the queen!
Saan: I'm not going to rape her! I'm going to fuck her!
Matthos: As if she would just let you?
Saan: You don't know how persuasive I am — I've never tried to fuck you.
- Black Speech: The first thing that alerts Jon to the fact something's wrong (though he doesn't realise it at the time) is hearing the whispering voices of White Walkers nearby.
- BrotherSister Incest: Yara pretends to be interested in Theon to see if her brother's a threat to her. He gets in quite a bit of groping before discovering he's actually groping his own sister. Yara thinks it's all hilarious.
- Call-Back: The way Arya is first seen (she's looking around while the camera rotates around her) is shot the same way as in the pilot.
- Death by Adaptation: Rakharo.
- Decapitation Presentation: The Dothraki cut off Rakharo's head and send it back to Danys in the saddlebag of his horse.
- Double Entendre: While Varys and Tyrion discuss Shae's cover story, that she is Tyrion's personal cook.Tyrion: You should taste her fish pie.
- Dramatic Necklace Removal: Theon's father rips off the chain holding up his cloak, since he paid for it with gold instead of taking it by force (the "iron price").Balon: I won't have my son dressed as a whore.
- Due to the Dead: Rakharo's body is dismembered and sent back to Daenerys' khalasar on his horse. Irri is distraught that he wasn't given a proper Dothraki funeral, claiming his spirit will be denied entry to the Night Lands as a result. Daenerys consoles her by promising to build him a proper pyre.
- Exact Words:
- Melisandre tells Stannis, "I will give you a son, my king." His "son" is an animated shadow assassin.
- The dialogue in the scene is deliberately vague about whether Stannis and his wife have any daughters, as the producers still hadn't decided if Shireen would be Adapted Out (she eventually wasn't).
- Foreshadowing: Melisandre whispers to Matthos. "Death by fire is the purest death."
- Fluffy Tamer: Sam can command Ghost to back off... and he does.
- Freudian Excuse: Cersei apparently hates Tyrion because their mother died giving birth to him.
- Funny Background Event: The Gold Cloak thats not being threatened by Yoren is making duck lips.
- Homoerotic SubtextSaan: You Westerosi are funny people; man chops off your fingers and you fall in love with him!
- Humiliation Conga: Theon's welcome is not what he expected.
- Incest Subtext: Yara is willing to let her brother grope her breasts and finger what's inside her breeches, and from the expression on her face while he does this, she's clearly getting off on it.
- Instant Turn-Off: Theon Greyjoy catches a ride to Pyke from a rather attractive blonde woman. While riding second seat on her horse, he starts feeling her up. He learns shortly after arriving that she's his older sister Yara, and is extremely squicked out, both at the fact he felt up his sister, and that she didn't stop him.
- Ironic Echo: The last time we heard someone mockingly say the term "grumpkins and snarks", it was Tyrion chiding Jon Snow. This time its Cersei talking to him and Tyrion believing the tales (having spoken with and gotten the measure of the men telling them).
- Kick the Dog: Enforced with Littlefinger and Ros. The producers pointed out that for all his gentility and charm, he's a pimp (in addition to being, you know, the man who betrayed Ned Stark to his death last season). The women in his employ are just meat to him. He gives Ros the night off but gives some not-so-veiled threats that if she can't work tomorrow, it won't go well for her.
- Not So Different: Bronn and Janos Slynt. Janos murdered Robert Baratheon's bastard children, adults and infants alike, under orders from King Joffrey without a second thought. When Bronn is asked by Tyrion if he'd do the same without question, he responds:Bronn: Without question? No. [beat] I'd ask, "How much?"
- Oh, Crap!: Gendry may have figured out the truth about Arya's Sweet Polly Oliver routine, but he had no idea about her high status. He's mortified to realise he just told a lady of a great house to "pull [her] cock out." Luckily, Arya makes it very clear that she doesn't care about being shown deference.
- Paper Destruction of Anger:
- Cersei reads aloud Robb Stark's terms and then she tears the document up. Her brother Tyrion, acting Hand of the King, sarcastically compliments her that she perfected the art of tearing up papers.
- Balon Greyjoy coldly throws a letter from Robb Stark, delivered by his son Theon, into the fire. Balon has no desire to be Robb Stark's ally against the Lannisters. Instead, he means to raid the coast of the North controlled by the Starks.
- Pet the Dog: Subverted. Littlefinger looks at first as if he might be trying to genuinely comfort Ros when he finds her crying, but it quickly becomes apparent that he's really not.
- Reassigned to Antarctica: With Tyrion as acting Hand, Janos Slynt is stripped of command of the City Watch and exiled to the Wall.
- Replacement Goldfish: Yara has taken over Theon's position as Balon's war chief and heir, due to Theon's absence and suspected loyalties to the Starks.
- Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Janos Slynt, although he is exiled rather than simply killed.
- Right Through His Pants: Stannis is now the new master of this trope in Game of Thrones, as he has his way with Melisandre without even opening his breeches.
- Surprise Incest: Although he tries to keep his cool, it is quite clear that Theon is both shocked and disgusted to find out that the woman he had been fondling and groping not half an hour ago is his sister.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Arya and Gendry's conversations are full of snark ("How can someone so small be such a huge pain in my ass?" "You're stupider") but rather surprisingly for their situation, they genuinely trust and protect each other with Arya's concern about why the soldiers wanted Gendry and Gendry keeping her true identity a secret.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to Alliser Thorne? In season one, he's dispatched to King's Landing to ask for aid for the Night's Watch, but in season two, he's nowhere to be found, and the scene from the books in which he arrives and asks for help is replaced by one in which a raven arrives from Castle Black instead.