Theon looks grimly over a pile of messenger ravens in Winterfell, killed by his men to keep the North incommunicado, but is pleased when his sister Yara arrives from Deepwood Motte with reinforcements... or so he thinks. It's actually just her escort, and she's taking them all when she leaves again. Yara begs him to return to the Iron Islands as well: Winterfell is hundreds of miles inland, making it an impractical conquest for a seagoing people, and Theon killed any hope of holding the North peacefully along with Bran and Rickon. But Theon, the Prince of Winterfell, isn't giving up his conquest without a fight, and Yara sadly leaves him to it.
Way, way beyond the Wall, Jon is brought by Ygritte's small band to a larger raiding party, captained by the Lord of Bones, called "Rattleshirt" for his armor. Ygritte has to stick her neck out to keep Rattleshirt from executing him out of hand. Jon, for his part, is dismayed to find that Qhorin Halfhand has also been captured, and the other three slain. "They died because of me," he realizes. "See that it wasn't for nothing," the Halfhand tells him.
Robb is strolling around some forest, presumably outside the Crag and on his way back to camp. Talisa is with him, and the two of them are flirting it up a bit, though that whole "Arranged Marriage to Lady [Whoever] Frey" thing is putting a damper on things. An even bigger damper is when a rider trots up and informs him of the Kingslayer's escape. That's weird: last we saw him, he was in a cage and Catelyn Stark had Brienne's sword pointed at his face. What the heck just happened?
Well, as it happens, Catelyn released him. "For the girls. [...] Killing Jaime Lannister would not buy life for [Eddard and Torrhen Karstark]. But returning him to King's Landing may buy life for mine." Lord Rickard, of course, is covetous of his vengeance, and Robb has to agree that it was a treasonous act. He stalks out, ordering guards put on his mother day and night.
Jaime is being hauled off a horse elsewhere in the Riverlands, hooded and tied up. "You're much uglier in daylight," he exclaims, once he gets a good look at his gaoler: Brienne. She's a head taller than him, but that doesn't stop him from baiting her. We'll skip over their banter and suffice to say that she gets him into a boat and sets off for King's Landing.
It might not be a very good destination, though: the first thing we hear from Ser Kevan Lannister is that King's Landing will fall to Stannis practically on the spot. Lord Tywin has evidently been shaken from his Harrenhal-induced lethargy: he gives the command to ride out immediately, leaving Clegane to garrison the castle and root out the Brotherhood. He also leaves his cupbearer behind, and even deputizes her with an aside: "See that [Clegane] doesn't get drunk in the evenings. He's poor company when he's sober, but he's better at his work."
So Arya runs downstairs and tries to find Jaqen H'ghar. Rorge and Biter don't know where he is, nor does Gendry. According to Hot Pie, he's out on patrol. Arya is powerless to do anything as Lord Tywin Lannister, leading general of the Lannister armies and Hand of the King, rides out the gates of Harrenhall.
As the wildlings march Jon Snow and Qhorin Halfhand up into the Frostfangs, the older ranger gives Jon some orders: stick with the wildlings, ride with them, turn his cloak and become a Double Agent to help Mormont defend the Wall. To aid in this, he starts yelling at Jon for being a traitor, and knocks him down an embankment. The others, particularly Ygritte, look on with some sympathy.
Tyrion and Bronn are trying to find a way to defend King's Landing. Tyrion pores over some huge Doorstopper while Bronn cleans his nails with a compass. Bronn is dismissive of books in general, but Tyrion defends his choice of book—"An History of the Great Sieges of Westeros, by Archmaester..." How would you pronounce "Ch'vyalthan?" "Shevlathen," Tyrion tries, "Shevelatesh." Bronn goes with "Sh'val-teesh." Varys, happening in, congratulates the gold cloaks for orchestrating a drop in thievery, which Bronn accomplished by rounding up all the known thieves. "It's just the unknown thieves we have to worry about now." This will keep the peace, Bronn explains, since food is worth more than gold during a siege, and thieves are the last people you want in charge of your economy. Full of Hidden Depths, this man. ("Ahhh, The Great Sieges of Westeros," Varys exclaims. "Thrilling subject. Shame Archmaester Sh'viathan wasn't a better writer.") Finally they get down to business, and Tyrion pinpoints the Mud Gate as the key point of contention in the coming battle: it's structurally weak and only fifty yards from the riverbank. Bronn suggests the defenders throw down books; Varys protests that they don't have enough books, and Bronn returns that they don't have enough men either. "What do we have?" Varys asks. And Tyrion replies, "...Pigshit."
Up at the Fist of the First Men, Grenn, Sam and Dolorous Edd are digging latrine ditches. Grenn comes across a stone marked with the insignia of the First Men, and upends it to find a black cloak of the Night's Watch wrapped around a cache of spearheads and arrowheads made of dragonglass, or what the maesters call "obsidian." Dolorous Edd concludes that somebody—presumably a crow—wanted this cache to be found, but nobody is able to figure out why.
Back in Harrenhal Arya is happened upon by Jaqen H'ghar, who has been out on patrol. He declares he cannot help her kill Tywin any longer, and further denies that he offered her help, "only death." So Arya says her third name: "Jaqen H'ghar." She stands firm, refusing to un-name him... unless he helps them escape, which of course will require more than just one death. ("A girl lacks honor," Jaqen observes, to which Arya just shrugs.) Jaqen, relenting, tells her to bring her friends and walk through the gates at midnight, and stalks off to save their lives.
Cersei has invited Tyrion over for dinner again in the Red Keep, where they discuss the oncoming battle. Joffrey has decided to make an appearance, which will be good for morale but which awakens all of Cersei's Mama Bear instincts. Soon enough, though, she turns the conversation to its real topic: cocks. Varys, she claims, is dangerous precisely because he doesn't have one—as is Cersei. "You, on the other hand, are as big a fool as every other man. That little worm between your legs does half your thinking." ("It's not that little," Tyrion replies.) Finally she drops her bombshell: "I have your little whore." This is her revenge, evidently, for Tyrion sending her daughter away. She'll be treated well, she promises... "Unless Joffrey is hurt, and then every wound he suffers she'll suffer too." Tyrion, who has somehow managed to keep his poker face on through all of this, demands proof that she's alive, and Cersei orders Ser Mandon Moore to bring in the whore.
And here we get real proof of Cersei's utter incompetence, because it's not Shae. In the books, it's Alayaya, a whore Tyrion pretended to visit as a cover story, just in case something like this should happen, but she isn't present here on TV, so it's obviously not her either. It's Ros, whom Cersei seized on the grounds of a trinket Tyrion gave to her in the first episode of the series, and who hasn't seen him (nor he seen her) ever since. The only way Cersei could have gotten it more wrong would be for her to trot out Hermione Granger.
Tyrion shows his true mettle, keeping his poker face on and playing it out as though Cersei had the right person (though there's obviously a bit of Reality Subtext behind his apology and her request to make darned sure nothing happens to her). After that he turns to Cersei, who can barely contain her glee, and puts out a calm, utterly ominous Badass Boast:
The smile completely wiped off her face, Cersei furiously orders Tyrion out. He runs back to his own chambers and buries himself in Shae's arms. He begs her to never leave him, and she promises him: "I'm yours, and you are mine." And that's enough for Tyrion—the next time we see her, she actually still has her clothes on. Now that's love.
Robb Stark and Roose Bolton try to strategize what to do about Winterfell, what little they can do when giving orders by proxy to Ramsay Snow. But, as usual, whenever Bolton tries to talk to Robb, Lady Talisa glides in. (Seriously, it's like she just waits.) With her, Robb has a chance to unburden himself and be Robb the boy, not Lord Stark the King, and Talisa gives some more of her Dark and Troubled Past: she was once a Proper Lady in Volantis, but one day swimming with her friends and family, her younger brother drowned. A slave charged in to give CPR, even though touching a Volantene noble is grounds for death, and on that day her Freudian Excuse was sealed: she decided to become a Combat Medic, and to never live in a slave city again. This leads to an Anguished Declaration of Love, and despite her reminders that he needs that bridge, they giggle and do it on the floor.
Arya, Hot Pie and Gendry are surveilling the gate at Harrenhal, which looks pretty well-guarded. Jaqen implied he was going to do something about them, but they're still there... or so it appears, until Arya screws up her courage and goes, and discovers that they're all dead and propped up against casual onlookers. Unchallenged, the three head out into the riverlands.
Deep in the night, King Stannis and Ser Davos stand on the deck of a ship, sailing on King's Landing. They take the opportunity to Info Dump about how Ser Davos came to be in his station: during Robert's Rebellion, Stannis was charged with holding Storm's End, ancestral seat of House Baratheon and capitol of the stormlands, against Targaryen loyalists.note Like most castle attacks, Storming the Castle failed and the business devolved into a long siege, and the Baratheons inside the castle were down to boot leather and cats when a smuggling ship with black sails came in with a load of onions. Stannis punished that smuggler—Davos, a commoner from Flea Bottom, the slums of King's Landing—by chopping off the ends of his fingers, but knighted him for his service. Stannis values Davos's Undying Loyalty and makes it clear that he would be just fine with a hundred commoners from Flea Bottom, since at least he can count on them—and stuns Davos by vowing that once he's on the Iron Throne, Davos will be the first crabber's son to be named Hand of the King.
The next morning, Joffrey walks the walls of King's Landing, inspecting the defenses, though like his mother, Joffrey's smug overconfidence doesn't impress Tyrion and Varys, who have to point out to Joffrey, busy contemplating a strike against the Starks while they're distracted by the loss of Winterfell, that Stannis's forces are almost upon them. After he has left, Tyrion and Varys have a surprisingly heart-felt conversation about Tyrion's ambitions and desires, but the key element is an update from the far east: for the first time, someone in King's Landing learns about Daenerys Targaryen's dragons. Tyrion dismisses her as a problem that can be worried about later, since her dragons are years short of full growth, whereas Stannis is coming for their heads before dawn.
Speaking of Daenerys, she is still trying to find her dragons in Qarth. Jorah is encouraging her to abandon them, which shows how much he knows. However, he's not sanguine on Dany entering the House of the Undying, since that's exactly what Pyat Pree wants. Dany, knowing she has no choice, decides to go, insisting that as the Mother of Dragons, she cannot abandon the only children she will ever have.
At Winterfell, Theon announces that they should take down the bodies of the boys and bury them. He also gives Dagmer a purse of gold coin to give to the farmer, "For his trouble." Maester Luwin, overhearing this and seeing Osha steal into the crypts of Winterfell with a loaf of bread under her arm, puts two and two together. Osha confirms that they doubled back at the farm, using the nearby stream to wash away the scent. The corpses are actually those of the orphan boys. Bran and Rickon, believed dead by everyone except Osha, Maester Luwin, Theon and Dagmer (and Hodor, for what that's worth), sleep safe and sound in the crypts at Winterfell, their wolves at their sides.
Tropes in this episode include:
- Adaptation Distillation: a fair bit is cut from Theon's subplot, particularly a character named "Reek" who was in the dungeons at Winterfell. For the show, his role has been divided up between Dagmar and, uh, someone else who we'll find out a lot more about next season. To learn about the original, see our A Clash of Kings Recap.
- A Father to His Men: Ned Stark told Robb that a lord should regard his smallfolk as his children, and worry about them accordingly.
- As You Know: Stannis and Davos discuss more of their backstory while sailing to King's Landing.
- Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Yara gives a humiliating "The Reason You Suck" Speech to her little brother, but ends up quietly imploring him to come home with her. "Don't die so far from the sea."
- Badass Boast: Jaime says there's only three men in the kingdom who might be able take him. Brienne replies with her own Badass Boast.Brienne: All my life men like you have sneered at me, and all my life I've been knocking men like you into the dust.
- Chekhov's Gun: That lion pendant Tyrion gave Ros last season comes back to haunt her, when Cersei takes it for a sign that she's Tyrion's new sweetheart.
- A Child Shall Lead Them: It's mentioned by Stannis and Davos that Robert had bestowed Storm's End to Renly when he was only a boy.
- The Chains of Commanding: Right after discussing the trope, Robb Stark has to put his own mother in irons for treason.
- Country Matters: This episode is remarkable for the most uses of the word in a single episode thus far in the show. Surely the best use of the word is from Yara, who asks Theon, "Are you the dumbest cunt alive?" Mainly because the entire audience shouted "YES!!" at the telly.
- Eureka Moment: From Tyrion, trying to figure out how to defend Mud Gate from Stannis's forces.
- Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Despite their constant arguing, Yara still seems to care about Theon, and begs him to return home with her before his occupation of Winterfell gets him killed.
- Even Evil Has Standards: The jury's out on how evil Yara actually is but, Ironborn though she may be, she's disgusted by Theon's (supposed) murder of a six-year-old and a cripple, to say nothing of his stupidity in killing the Stark heirs.
- Exact Words: This comes back to bite Jaqen.
- False ReassuranceTyrion: I wish we could converse as two honest, intelligent men.Vary: I wish we could too.
- Friendly Enemy: Tyrion and Varys seem to have moved beyond mere Worthy Opponent level and into this trope.
- Get Out!: Yara shows her control over the unruly Ironborn when she dismisses her men with a quiet, "Leave us."
- Guile Heroine: Arya 'names' Jaqen, then only agrees to take back the name if he helps them escape Harrenhall.
- I Owe You My Life: In a manner of speaking. Lady Talisa watched as a fishing boat slave saved her brother's life with some CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable (shoving her out of the way to do it, which could have cost his life). She decided to learn healing arts, which is why she's a Combat Medic, and never to live in a slave city again, which is why she's in Westeros.
- Mistaken Identity: Cersei decides to go after Tyrion's whore in order to punish him for sending off Myrcella. (Un)fortunately, the woman Cersei has captured and beaten is not Shae, but Ros.
- The Mole: Qhorin starts setting Jon up to become one, berating him for his stupidity getting men killed so the Wildings might buy that he wants to defect.
- Nay-Theist: Tyrion is of the opinion that most of the gods he's heard about are "vicious cunts," but likes the sound of the Summer Islanders' sixteen-breasted fertility goddess.
- Never Trust a Trailer: The preview had Ygritte telling Rattleshirt that Jon is Ned's son, followed by Rattleshirt ordering his death. In fact, the latter happens first, and then Ygritte reveals that he's Ned's son, to convince Rattleshirt that he'll be a valuable hostage.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: The other Night Watch rangers got killed because Jon couldn't bring himself to execute Ygritte.
- No Pronunciation Guide: How do you pronounce "Ch'vyalthan"? See Running Gag.
- Also doubles as a Mythology Gag: GRRM employs the "No Pronunciation Guide" trope on purpose, believing that readers should be allowed to interpret the names any way they please. This is part of why the entire readership was waiting with bated breath to hear just how "Xaro Xhoan Daxos" is supposed to be pronounced.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Jaqen killing the guards so that Arya, Hot Pie and Gendry can escape from Harrenhal.
- Oh, Crap!:
- Jaqen is caught quite off guard when Arya orders him to kill himself, and is soon begging her to take it back.
- Tyrion gives a tired version, upon hearing about Daenerys' dragons.From the books...
- Inverted when Cersei tells Tyrion that she's got Shae. Tyrion manages to keep a straight face when he thinks she's in danger, and manages to fake a restrained version of this reaction when he finds out that Cersei actually has the wrong woman.
- Passive Aggressive Combat: Yara effortlessly upstages the so-called 'Prince of Winterfell' from the moment of her arrival.
- Pet the Dog:
- Tywin leaving Arya in Harrenhal rather than bringing her into the war theater where she'd be at a higher risk for death/injury. Somewhat subverted, perhaps, since he's leaving her with Gregor Clegane and people like Rorge and Biter.
- The Greyjoys have thus far been portrayed as ruthless bastards, but Yara gains sympathy through her praise for the Stark boys' bravery, her revulsion at Theon's deeds, and the dutiful family love she nonetheless attempts to extend to her brother.
- The Promise: Of the unfriendly variety.Tyrion: I will hurt you for this. A day will come when you think yourself safe and happy, and suddenly your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth, and you will know the debt is paid.
- Revenge by Proxy: Cersei promises to do this to the woman she thinks is Tyrion's lover if Joffrey is hurt in the battle.
- Right Under Their Noses: Bran, Rickon, Osha and Hodor doubled back after the farm and are hiding in the crypts of Winterfell.
- Running Gag: A short one involving how to pronounce the name of Archmaester Ch'vyalthan between Tyrion and Bronn. Varys finally settles it.
- "Shut Up" Kiss: Talisa, the last thing Robb cares about right now is that bridge.
- Spoiler Opening: Isaac Hempstead-Wright, who plays Bran, is still in the opening credits, which gives away that Bran's still alive. Then again, Sean Bean was still in the opening credits for the final episode of season 1, and it did not help poor Ned one bit.
- Stealth Insult:
- When Cersei asks, "Do you think I'm an idiot?", Tyrion replies, "No, I'd say you possess above-average intelligence," as in, she's above average, but still a long way beneath Tyrion.
- Unfortunately Tyrion misses Shae's expression when he insists, "Tell me you're mine." As he pointed out to Cersei, you only rent a whore's affection, you don't own it.
- The Strategist: Tyrion and Bronn both show their skill at this, though everything Tyrion knows about it comes from books, while Bronn actually has personal experience of being under siege.
- They Do: Robb and Lady Talisa.
- Tranquil Fury: Tyrion is quite chilling when he threatens Cersei, to the point that her Smug Smiler composure noticeably cracks.
- Trauma Conga Line: Poor, poor Ros. First, she saw her friend's baby murdered in front of her. Then, when she had the gall to be upset about it, Littlefinger threatened to sell her into some unmentionably terrible fate. Then Joffrey forced her at crossbow-point to brutalize another of her friends. And now Cersei has her arrested, beaten, and threatened with torture if Tyrion angers her. She really should have stayed up north.
- The Triple: Jaime to Brienne.Jaime: Have you known many men? Women? Horses?
- Uriah Gambit: Cersei accuses Tyrion of this being his motive behind letting Joffrey fight in the upcoming battle. Tyrion doesn't actually deny it, and it's pretty clear from past episodes that he would not be the slightest bit upset if Joffrey did get himself killed, but it's debatable whether he's actually planning this.
- We ARE Struggling Together: Tyrion tries to get Cersei to understand that with Stannis bearing down on them, this is not the time to be fighting each other. She laughs at him, apparently still unable to understand that Tyrion's role as The Strategist compensates for his lack of personal skill in battle.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Catelyn gets this from everyone for releasing Jaime, and Robb orders her to be arrested.
- Your Cheating Heart: Robb and Lady Talisa finally resolve their Unresolved Sexual Tension, at the expense of Robb's Arranged Marriage to an unseen and implied-to-be-hideous Frey daughter.