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Recap / Game of Thrones S4E3: "Breaker of Chains"

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Episode Three starts up where Episode Two left off: at King's Landing, with a still-warm but decidedly lifeless Joffrey lying in Cersei's arms. Tyrion has been arrested while Dontos and Sansa have vanished in the confusion. Tywin's order to seal the city comes too late. Dontos spirits Sansa down streets, through alleyways, and finally to a rocky beach where a rowboat waits. It's well after dark when they get to where they're going: a fog shrouded boat. Sansa nervously climbs the ladder to suddenly be pulled up by... Littlefinger, who tells her she can rest easy. Dontos interrupts their little moment, as he needs to get back, and wants his money. He gets a crossbow bolt instead. Covering Sansa's mouth to stop her shriek, Littlefinger explains this had to be. Everyone is looking for her now. The King was poisoned and she had a motive and fled the scene. Dontos was a drunk and a fool and he doesn't trust drunken fools; he was only in it for the money. Sansa keeps defending Dontos until Petyr plays his trump card, the necklace. The last heirloom of House Hollard. Petyr crushes the glass imitation, revealing that he ordered it weeks ago. Dontos was a liar, simply telling her what he had been told to relay by Baelish.

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Margaery and Olenna discuss the wedding soon after. The latter figures that Margaery is more queen than when she was with Renly, but less queen than she would have been had Joffrey bedded her. For her part, Margaery shows quite a bit of empathy for the little monster as she recalls how terrified he looked. Olenna points out that watching him die was better than being his wife, and that she still has prospects. The Tyrells are still very important allies for the Lannisters.

Meanwhile, Tywin, Tommen, and Cersei stand near Joffrey's corpse in the Great Sept. Tywin broaches the subject of Tommen's impending kingship by asking him what kind of king he means to be. "A good king?" replies Tommen. Tywin admits that Tommen has a good temperament for it, but asks what the most important quality is for a king. Cersei protests somewhat half-heartedly that this isn't the time or the place for that conversation. But intrigued by the question, Tommen completely ignores his mother's objection, and answers with Holiness; Tywin replies that Baelor The Blessed was very devout, but he made bad decisions and fasted himself to an early grave. Tommen tries again, coming up with Justice. Tywin tells him of another king: Orys I. Orys I was just; Orys I was kind; Orys I was beloved by the nobility and the smallfolk alike; Orys I was dead within the first year of his reign, murdered in his sleep by his brother. Tywin asks him, was it an act of kindness to leave his subjects to be ruled by a tyrant? Tommen's third guess is Strength. Tywin responds with the case of Robert Baratheon. Strong Robert was a mighty warrior and an inspiring commander, traits that helped him in leading his rebellion to victory. But in the following seventeen years of peacetime, he only went to three Small Council meetings. Yearning for his glory years as a warrior and bored by his kingly duties, he instead chose to indulge in hedonism until it killed him. He then asks Tommen what quality it was that these three men lacked. Tommen gets it right this time, answering Wisdom. Yes! growls Tywin, but what is wisdom? How can Tommen be wise with so few years? How can he make decisions that touch upon finance and admiralty and agriculture when he can't possibly have expertise in all these different fields?

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A Good King, Tywin summarizes, is one who listens to his counselors. With a nod towards Joffrey's body, Tywin doesn't even bother trying to hide his contempt, as he tells Tommen that his late brother was neither a wise nor a good king, and that was what lead to his death. Tywin continues his lecture to Tommen as they walk out of the room, even beginning to touch on the birds and the bees. During this whole scene, Cersei remains silent.

Jaime passes Tywin as he enters the Sept - dismissing the holy men and the silent sisters. As soon as they're alone, she accuses Tyrion. He did it, he said he'd do it. She doesn't want a trial, she wants him dead, and starts crying into Jaime's shoulder as she begs him to do it. The physical proximity is a bit too much for them and they start to kiss passionately. She pulls away. "You're hateful.", says Jaime, "Why have the Gods made me love a hateful woman?" and takes her aggressively. Whilst having a conversation consisting of the phrases "this isn't right" and "I don't care", he forces himself on her, right next to the body of their murdered child, which shows how much of an Asshole Victim Joffrey really is.

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Next, we go to The Riverlands, where Arya and Sandor discuss the future. His plans boil down to "return child, get gold" with the later possibility of "cross sea, become sellsword." A passing peasant and his daughter are curious as to what these two are doing on their land. Sandor is defiant, but Arya is able to pass "her father" off as a Shell-Shocked Veteran. She even gets them a meal and a place to sleep when she claims he fought for House Tully.

Sandor Clegane is not a good guest. He interrupts as his host says grace, acts contemptuously, and exhibits less-than-stellar table manners. The peasant, however, is clearly a decent fellow, equal parts pious and naïve. He has some silver hidden away and offers Sandor honest pay for honest work as a fieldhand/guard. Arya awakens the next day to find Sandor walking off, having simply robbed his benefactor. Angrier at him than she's ever been, she demands to know why, to which he says that they're nice and make good soup, but they're weak and doomed once winter comes; they don't need silver. Arya calls him the worst shit to ever walk in Westeros, but he retorts that there are worse and crueler people than him out there, and he is just doing what he does to ensure his own survival.

At The Wall, Samwell finds Gilly helping to prepare dinner. He's worried for her. Gilly is the only woman in a fort of a hundred men, many of them rapists. He doubts his ability to protect her, and suggests that she move to Mole's Town. She is oddly unconcerned with the gender ratio. Her main concern is that Samwell is bored of her.

It's pouring it down at Dragonstone, which reflects Stannis' mood as Davos arrives. The second leech has come true, Joffrey Baratheon is dead, and Gendry's blood is unavailable thanks to a certain someone. It doesn't help Davos that the most support he can muster for Stannis is three or four minor houses, amounting to "not enough men to raid a pantry." Davos suggests the Golden Company; Stannis is very much prejudiced against sellswords, but Davos makes his case until it's pointed out that there's no gold to pay them with.

Shireen accidentally leads Davos to the solution when he stops by for a reading lesson. Braavos comes up as they discuss the book du jour, causing him to comment on the Iron Bank's endless wealth. The light bulb practically appears over his head a second later.

Meanwhile, Samwell and Gilly arrive in Mole's Town, which has a certain Wretched Hive quality to it. He arranges for her to work for room and board, and without prostitution. No, he doesn't want a cut of the gold, No. Prostitution. Gilly's obvious irritation with her situation lends a certain lack of amiability to their parting, no matter how much he assures her that this is for the best.

We go to King's Landing where, on a brighter note, it looks like Oberyn was finally able to get that orgy going. He also explains his philosophy to Olyvar. He fights for Dorne, says Oberyn, but doesn't play sides in bed. No one will want you when you're old, so fuck your fill when you're young.

House Lannister once again intrudes on Oberyn's sex life, in the form of Tywin entering the room with guards. He asks for, and gets, a private word. The conversation starts on Joffrey's murder; Oberyn is a citadel-trained expert in poisons and Tywin wants to know what Tyrion talked to him about, before shifting to Elia's murder twenty years ago. Tywin categorically denies any involvement, saying that soldiers often commit war crimes of their own volition. Tywin and Mace Tyrell will both sit in judgment at Tyrion's trial, and Tywin wants Oberyn as the third judge and also offers him a place on the Small Council. Why? Because Westeros is faced with threats from Pyke and the Ironborn, from Mance Rayder's wildling army beyond the Wall, and from Essos, from where the Targaryen girl and her dragons will soon cometh. Dorne is an indispensably valuable ally. To sweeten the deal, Tywin offers Oberyn a "meeting" with Gregor Clegane. Justice for justice. We do not see if the Red Viper takes Tywin's hand to seal the pact...

Elsewhere, Podrick enters Tyrion's cell with (smuggled) food and news. He tells Tyrion who the judges will be, and that Tyrion will have the right to call witnesses. Pod also informs him that Sansa is still missing, making him look even more guilty. Varys will be testifying against him. Bronn, currently under investigation, has been barred access to him. Tyrion tells Pod to ask Jaime to visit. As Pod leaves, he mentions one other thing. He has been offered a knighthood to perjure himself against Tyrion. Once he learns that Pod refused, Tyrion realizes that "they" are likely to kill him, and so gives him his last order: after you talk to Jaime, flee King's Landing. Podrick, although very reluctant to abandon his lord, turns to go, when Tyrion calls out to him, and offers him some encouraging words; telling him that there has never lived a more loyal squire.

Somewhere In The North, a father is talking with his son, Olly, before being sniped by Ygritte. She, Tormund, and a bunch of wildlings rush out of the woods and massacre the village's populace. The son is yanked out of his hiding place under a hay cart by one of the recently introduced Cannibal Clan. He isn't killed, however. Instead, the brute brings the lad to Styr, the Magnar of Thenn. He forces Olly to look at his dead parents and says that he's about to eat them, then sends the boy off to Castle Black to tell the tale.

Once the story hits Castle Black, the place is in an uproar. Allister and Aemon, sensing a trap, try to calm the more enthusiastic rangers down and keep everyone within. When Pyp asks if anything can be done to protect the hamlets out in the Gift, Jon comments that if Mance Ryder breaks through the wall, they'll be able to lay waste to a thousand miles of land before they run into an established army. Any siege preparations are cut short, however, when Edd and Grenn return with news of the mutineers of Craster's Keep; who they escaped sometime last season. They've apparently taken the place over, and are running it even worse than the wrinkled old daughter-fucker ever did.

Jon does a sudden 180 and tells everyone that they have to go to Craster's Keep. Not to avenge Mormont, but because Karl, Rast and the others also know how weak Castle Black is. The only thing keeping Mance out is his not knowing how easily he can take it! How long will that illusion of strength last if the clans get to them first?

We end our episode at the gates of Meereen, where Daenerys' army has amassed. The great doors of the city open, and out rides a single fighter to champion the city. One would think that the man given the great honour of representing an entire civilization would comport himself in a dignified manner. One would also be wrong. The champion pisses on the ground before Dany's host and launches into a tirade of flowery insults. As he rants on in the background, Grey Worm volunteers to be Dany's champion, followed by Barristan and Jorah. Daenerys considers them all non-expendable and far too valuable to risk. Daario then asks for the privilege, pointing out that he's a nobody. He gets it. Daenerys is somewhat apprehensive, however, when he refuses a jousting lance or a horse to match his opponent's. He gets around this little inconvenience by throwing his lucky dagger into the mount's face, bringing the supposed champ down in a rolling heap at his feet; losing both his helm and primary weapon. One arakh swing to the exposed neck of the boisterous sot puts paid to that nuisance. And just to punctuate his triumph, Daario answers the deceased champion's insulting gesture by pissing on the ground before Meereen.

Daenerys decides to address the people whose blood built this city, not the good masters. Her High-Valyrian speech goes to the effect that she has freed the slaves of Astapor and Yunkai, and now intends to free them as well. Noting that the enemies they face are not outside their walls but are already inside with them, those that have kidnapped and killed their children. Those who keep them in suffering and bondage. She has her men fire their catapults, flinging barrels over the curtain walls and into the city. They shatter once inside, scattering broken open slave collars and sundered chains everywhere. One of the slaves examines a broken collar and gives first it, then one of the slave owners, stares of some significance...


Tropes:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Sam and Gilly. To have such sweet moments amongst everything else happening in this Crapsack World is heartening.
  • Actually Pretty Funny
    • Dany has a smirk on her face by end of the Meereenese champion's string of insults, as if she's thinking, "Okay, that one was pretty good."
    • Pod can't help smiling at Tyrion's quip that he would have planned a better assassination if he was guilty.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: Davos gives Shireen a forehead kiss in thanks for giving him his Eureka Moment.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Not that Joffrey was ever a villain to her, but Margaery had no illusions about the kind of person he was, yet still regards the circumstances of his death, choking in his mother's arms, as deeply sad and pitiable. The fact she says this to Olenna privately with her guard down shows that she's being sincere.
  • Abnormal Ammo: The catapults launch barrels full of broken slave collars. The barrels don't do any structural damage, but the psychological effect on the slaves produces the episode's cliffhanger ending.
  • Adaptation Expansion: This portion of Sam and Gilly's plotline was not in the books, since in the books they don't reach the wall until quite a bit later and by the time they do the situation has changed substantially.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Ser Dontos's motives are the same as in the book, but he certainly seems much more sympathetic, especially as portrayed by the actor. He did seem genuinely interested in Sansa's welfare.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the book, the incest was consensual, here it is at best grudging, at worst forced.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: No-one's foolish enough to admit it openly of course, but only Cersei seems broken up about Joffrey's death. Even whilst standing over his corpse, Tywin dismisses him as a foolish and awful King who brought his death on himself and seems relieved to have the chance to mold Tommen into The Good King.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Gilly all but says out loud that she prefers to stay with Samwell for other reasons than safety.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Tywin doesn't even pretend to feel sorry for Joffrey's passing. Tyrion, accused of his murder, states that he didn't kill Joffrey but the world is better off without him anyway. Olenna Tyrell reminds Margaery, who feels bad about the way Joffrey died, that she would feel far worse had he had lived and they remained married.
    • Littlefinger tries to paint Ser Dontos as this to Sansa and the audience. He does not completely succeed.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: For the first time since she was introduced, Lady Olenna reminisces about her late husband with some degree of affection.
  • Axe-Crazy: The Thenns. Poor lad.
  • Badass Boast:
    • Daenerys manages to achieve both the verbal and non-verbal kind by following up her speech with the launching of hundreds of broken slave collars over the walls of Meereen.
    • Stannis says "I will not be a page in someone else's history book", though is currently in no position to back it up.
    • Ser Barristan to Daenerys: "Your Grace, I've won more single-combats than any man alive."
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: For once not played for humor or fanservice when Jaime forces himself on his sister right after telling her how hateful she is.
  • Big Eater: Sandor perks up when rabbit stew is mentioned. He and Arya cast hungry looks at the stew throughout the farmer's pre-dinner prayer.
  • Bi the Way: Prince Oberyn. Just in case anyone doubted this fact, he clears up said doubts by outright stating this. He then begins to demonstrate before Tywin shows up.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Overlaps with Shout-Out, as the phrases the Meereen champion shouts at Dany are actually translated versions of the famous taunts from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
  • Birds of a Feather: Played for Laughs with Arya and Sandor's bad table manners, only to be averted the next day with the Hound's Kick the Dog.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: The Nights Watch recruits: "Raper, raper, thief, thief and raper..."
  • The Bus Came Back:
    • Littlefinger reappears on board his galley.
    • Grenn and Edd also return, after having been held captive in Craster's Keep since the first half of season three.
  • Call-Back: This episode seems to specialise in callbacks to season two.
    • Cersei recites Tyrion's "Your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth" speech.
    • Littlefinger reminds Sansa of his "we are all liars" speech.
    • Tommen innocently telling Tywin that he'll be "The Good King" is reminiscent of Robb's spontaneous answer to Talisa, who asked the same question.
    • A callback to season 1 has Oberyn reference Old Nan's story about the sky being blue because the world is inside the eye of a blue-eyed giant.
    • A visual callback: the two stones on Joffrey's face with painted eyes match the glimpse of former Hand of the King Jon Arryn lying in state all the way back in "Winter is Coming".
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Sam, either because of his oath or simply being uncomfortable with romance, is unwilling to admit to any romantic feeling for Gilly, despite her dropping unsubtle hints that his affections would be welcome.
  • Cartwright Curse: Margaery laments how two of her husbands or husbands-to-be died gruesomely. Though it's clear she didn't love either of them, she still seems perturbed how she seems to be cursed.
  • Coitus Interruptus: Oberyn seems destined to never finish that damn orgy. He's interrupted by Lord Tywin this time.
  • Cold Sniper: It looks like Jon Snow completely broke Ygritte.
  • Combat by Champion: This is Meereen's way of treating with their enemies as well as entertaining its inhabitants, it seems.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Daario comes pretty damn close to replicating the famous scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, in his duel with the champion of Meereen. Specifically, he throws his dagger, but he makes sure to hit the horse first to throw the rider to the ground. Likewise Danys opens her siege with psychological warfare tactics — the rapid takedown of Mereen's champion is followed by a speech from Dany directed not at the Masters who rule the city, but at their slaves. Even if the slaves never rebel, that's got to be Paranoia Fuel.
  • Comic-Book Time: The first indication that this is, in fact, averted in the show, as Littlefinger mentions to Sansa that Joffrey had been torturing her for years, suggesting that the events of the show have been taking approximately as long as the show itself.
  • Completely Missing the Point:
    Jon: And even if every single one of us manages to kill one hundred Wildlings, there's still not a thing we can do to stop them.
    Pyp: I don't think I can kill one hundred Wildings...
  • Composite Character:
    • The "Orys I" which Tywin describes must be a composite of various historical Targaryen kings from the books or else wholly original, as he bears no resemblance to the Orys I from the books' backstory, who was the founder of house Baratheon and never king.
    • Daario Naharis takes the role of the Adapted Out character Strong Belwas when he fights the Mereenese champion.
  • Continuity Nod: Shireen crossly reminding Davos that he thinks "knight" is pronounced k-nigget after he is late for his reading lesson, which Davos claims "only happened once".
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: Ygritte shoots a man just as he's charging up to cut Tormund.
  • Creepy Uncle: Once again, Littlefinger gets inappropriately close to Sansa while talking to her.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Daario Naharis effortlessly defeats Meereen's champion.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Stannis is not thrilled by the lesser houses recruited by Davos to the cause.
    Stannis: They don't have enough men between them to raid a pantry.
  • The Dog Bites Back: As it turns out, Sansa is suspected even more of Joffrey's murder than Tyrion because of this trope as her motive.
  • Do Wrong, Right: Tyrion takes some intellectual offense at being accused of so half-assed an assassination that he's made himself the primary suspect.
    Tyrion: I would like to think if I were arranging a royal assassination, I'd plan it in such a way that I wouldn't be standing there gawking like a fool when the king died.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Hizdahr zo Loraq appears among the Great Masters gathered at Meereen's wall, although a viewer would have to recognize Joel Fry in the scene or his name in the ending credits to notice.
  • Empathic Environment: It's pouring rain on Dragonstone where things aren't going well (water douses fire, so Rule of Symbolism there too).
  • Eureka Moment: A conversation with Shireen reminds Davos of the Iron Bank of Braavos, and how they could fund Stannis. The audience (having seen that Tywin is seriously concerned about how heavily the Iron Throne is in debt to the Bank), knows that this is a particularly good idea since the Iron Bank often funds its debtors' enemies to get their gold back.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Joffrey is mourned, by his mother at least.
    Tyrion: Say what you will of Cersei, she loves her children. She is the only one I'm certain had nothing to do with this murder, which makes it unique as King's Landing murders go.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Littlefinger is openly evil this time and excited about it. This is reflected in his speech pattern, specially unsettling and creepy by his already weird standards.
  • Excrement Statement: The Meereenese champion pisses on the ground Daenerys' army stands on to imply that they can't. Daario answers with one of his own.
  • Eye Scream: Daario throws a knife into the Meereenese champion's horse's eye.
  • Fan Disservice: The sex scene between Jaime and Cersei. They are played by attractive people but their characters are twins, they stand next to the body of their dead son and the consent is... questionable, to say the least. Cersei says no, but whether or not that is due to the location or the fact of sex is unclear.
  • First-Name Basis: Littlefinger keeps asking Sansa to call him Petyr to encourage some intimacy between them.
  • A Friend in Need: Podrick is the only one who cares for Tyrion and provides things to make Tyrion's prison stay less horrible. He even refuses to testify against him in exchange for a knighthood (and under the implied threat of murder if he doesn't).
  • From Bad to Worse:
    • The fate of Craster's daughters/wives after the Night's Watch mutineers took over his keep. Lampshaded by one survivor.
      "Never thought they'd miss their daddy."
    • This also applies to the Night's Watch. At the start of the show they were badly undermanned but still had enough rangers for a large-sized fighting force. Now they barely number one hundred, including those unable to fight.
  • Generation Xerox. Shireen. As Ser Davos says:
    "You are your father's daughter: bloody relentless."
  • Gilligan Cut: After Olenna tells Margaery, "You did wonderful work on Joffrey. The next one should be easier," the very next scene features Tommen in the foreground.
  • Hand Gagging: Sansa's instinctive response to Dontos' murder is to scream — as sound carries over the water at night, Littlefinger quickly silences her.
  • He Knows Too Much:
    • Jon Snow points out they should kill the mutineers, because Mance will easily learn about the weakness of the Night's Watch from them.
    • The reason Ser Dontos was killed.
    • Why Tyrion tells Pod to flee; even if he can't identify the man trying to frame Tyrion, he can testify that there's a conspiracy to do so.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: We already knew the Thenns were this, but Styr apparently feels the need to inform a terrified child that he's going to do this to the boy's parents.
  • Hypocrite: Back in Season 1 Tywin told Tyrion that when soldiers lack discipline the fault lies with their commanders. Now Tywin is telling Oberyn that soldiers commit crimes in war without their superiors knowledge. He is saying that it's not his fault the Mountain is a murdering rapist.
  • Ignore The Fanservice: Tywin approaches Oberyn in a whorehouse to talk. There are several naked whores on the bed, and they walk past Tywin. In the entire scene, Tywin never oggles any of them, remaining with his undisturbed icy glare at face-level.
  • Implied Death Threat: A very annoyed (and hungry) Sandor interupts and finishes the peasant's very long winded saying of grace to the Seven Gods by praying to the seventh God, The Stranger, and asking Him not murder them in their beds. The double-meaning is clear.
  • Info Dump: The conversation between Arya, the Hound, the Farmer and his daughter provides an update on the fallout of the Red Wedding (referred to in-universe for the first time). The Riverlands has become a Crapsack World under the Freys with the countryside crawling with thieves and brigands.
  • Insistent Terminology:
    • Davos was never a "pirate"—he was a "smuggler".
    • The Hound is not a thief. He's okay with robbery, though.
  • Invulnerable Horses: Averted, Daario takes down the Mereen champion by first killing his horse, then hacking his head off.
  • I Shall Taunt You: The Meereen champion does this with traditional verbal taunting and urinating in front of Danerys' host.
  • In the Hood: Sansa fleeing King's Landing.
  • It's All About Me: It doesn't occur to Cersei for a second that Tyrion may have had independent reasons for killing Joffrey. From her twisted perspective, her brother is getting back at her and Joffrey happens to be collateral damage.
  • Jabba Table Manners: Arya and Sandor don't look like a lady and a Kingsguard indeed!
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Even while he's being called out by Arya for robbing the kindly farmer, Sandor points out (quite rightfully) that things don't go well for nice people in Westeros, and the fact that he robbed them so easily supports his point that they are weak and won't survive. Come Season 7 it turns out his prediction was right. Winter is here and the farmer and his daughter are both dead. Though he didn't make it better by stealing their silver.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: The Hound. He's offered food, shelter, and honest work, and what does he do? Rob the people who made him that offer, for no reason other than to scavenge a pitifully small amount of silver and make a Social Darwinist statement to Arya, who now justifiably thinks he's a tremendous asshole, after several episodes of bonding with him.
  • Kangaroo Court: What the upcoming trial of Tyrion is shaping up to be. Tyrion notes that Mace Tyrell, who's one of the three judges (along with Oberyn) asked to preside over him will follow whatever his father decides. Tyrion's closest associate Bronn is under investigation, while Varys is already asked to testify against him. Podrick reveals that he was outright bribed with a knighthood in exchange for giving false testimony.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • The Hound throws away all the little goodwill he had won with Arya by beating and robbing a kindly farmer and his daughter despite their exceptional kindness and generosity.
    • Baelish tries to point out it's just business as usual, but he goes out of his way by having Dontos killed in front of Sansa, right after telling he's paying Dontos the reward, and then gloating about it with a smug rationalization.
    • Styr deliberately terrorizing the child with how he's going to eat his parents.
    • Ygritte shooting the father of the above mentioned child in the throat with an arrow.
    • Jaime forces himself on his sister. Next to the body of their child, albeit a body that started a war for no reason and was a complete dick in most cases.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch:
    • Tywin zigzags this trope with Pet the Dog. He starts spouting grandfatherly wisdom to young Tommen right beside Joffrey's corpse with Cersei standing beside him. Tywin is gentle, patient and attentive to young Tommen, like a Cool Teacher, but he's totally insensitive to his daughter mourning his grandson, mocking his reign and stupidity while Cersei is crying. He doesn't spare a thought of consideration for a mother losing her child and promptly walks away discussing "The Talk" showing he doesn't care one bit about Cersei. It's not as if Cersei and Joffrey are the two morally worst people in that room.
  • Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand: Lord Tywin puts himself alone in a room with Prince Oberyn, with his bodyguards outside the door. As the prince points out though, if he cut Tywin's throat now he'd be drawn-and-quartered tomorrow.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Olyvar.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Cersei and Jaime. In the Grand Sept of Baelor. While their son is lying in state.
  • Male Gaze: The episode starts where we left off; a nice overhead shot of Cersei's cleavage.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The rulers of Meereen, first when Daario effortlessly defeats their champion and then when Daenerys starts speaking. Goes Up to Eleven when she flings the chains of freed slaves at them and their servants.
  • Mentor's New Hope: Tywin is clearly hoping to shape Tommen into something more than a Puppet King, imparting to him genuine advice and values. That said, he clearly intends for him to be Puppet King for as long as Tywin himself remains alive, considering his advice basically shapes up to "do what I tell you." Though the overall theme seems to be learn to take wise council and when he comes of age continue doing so, even after Tywin is dead and gone. Though it's self-serving in ensuring Tywin's continued power, imploring Tommen to listen to his advisors is still good advice.
  • Might Makes Right: The Hound proclaims the farmer and his daughter weak, not to mention as good as dead come winter. "Dead people" don't need silver, so why shouldn't they take it while they can? All with the cold rationalization that if they were stronger, they wouldn't have ended up being robbed.
  • Moral Dissonance: Davos calls Stannis out on being willing to use black magic and kinslaying to try to win a war yet unwilling to consider hiring sellswords to try to win a war.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Cersei is fully convinced that Tyrion is responsible for killing her son, and wants Jaime to kill his own brother because she believes Tyrion will escape justice due to his cunning.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished:
    • Sam just wanted Gilly and her son to be safer in Mole's Town; she ends up resenting him for sending her away.
    • Podrick is told by Tyrion that he has to flee King's Landing since the very act of refusing to denounce his lord puts him in danger.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Littlefinger gets creepier than usual when he reunites with Sansa, getting inches within her face as he whispers his new plan "to take her home."
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Littlefinger has fully dropped his RP accent in favour of Aidan Gillen's native Irish one. Considering how he didn't bother with the accent last season either, it might be safe to say that Baelish was using a telephone accent in season one.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Sansa's disappearance after Joffrey's death casts suspicion on both her and Tyrion.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Grenn and Edd's escape must have been quite a tale in its own right, with them somehow slipping their chains and then going through all the same dangers Sam and Gilly faced while in a weakened condition from their imprisonment.
  • Off with His Head!: Daario slices the Meereenese Champion's noggin clean off with cocky disdain. You can see the separated head and helmet in a later shot.
  • Only in It for the Money: Littlefinger claims this about Dontos, though the more sympathetic treatment he gets in this adaption makes this ambiguous.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: In the books the Iron Bank sends a representative to Stannis rather than vice versa - and rather later on in the timeline - while here, presumably in order to give the Dragonstone crew something to do this season, Davos gets in contact with them first.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Tywin seems to put aside his "all enemies of the Lannisters need to learn their lesson" attitude aside when he legitimately needs someone's help, as is the case with Dorne (or so he tells Oberyn). Alternatively, since the point at issue was the Mountain's actions which he here disavows, he may simply consider the Mountain more expendable than Dornish goodwill.
  • Precision F-Strike: Arya towards Sandor.
    Arya: You are the worst shit in the Seven Kingdoms!
  • Questionable Consent: Word of God (depending on which "god" you ask) is that it's supposed to be at least partially consensual, but to many viewers it comes off as Jaime flat-out raping Cersei.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: The Wildling are raiding villages to try to draw the Night's Watch out.
  • Reality Ensues: Despite receiving the letter from the Night's Watch imploring him for assistance in the last season finale, Stannis does not immediately leave for the Wall. Due to the severe losses in the battle of the Blackwater and the lack of support from the other lords to his cause, his current host is small and thus he remains in Dragonstone for the time being.
  • Realpolitik:
    • Tywin's discussion with Oberyn revolves entirely around this. Despite being an enemy of his family, with a justified bitter grudge, Tywin knows that Oberyn is smart enough to look at the bigger picture and enter into a tentative alliance. He offers generous high-level positions and offers to give Oberyn a "personal meeting" with Gregor Clegane, citing bigger enemies like the Greyjoys, Stannis and Daenerys Targaryen and her three dragons, who Dorne have a history of resisting successfully.
    • Olenna Tyrell assures Margaery that despite her worries about being "cursed" by being widowed twice, the Tyrells are in a plum position and are too valuable for the Lannisters to refuse entirely and vice versa.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Against all expectation, Alliser Thorne shows signs of this.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: For the benefit of Tommen, Lord Tywin calmly summarizes why some historical kings were bad rulers, including King Robert and King Joffrey, Tommen's "father" and elder brother respectively.
  • Right Through His Pants: Jaime keeps up his stellar record in this department when he forces himself on his sister. Despite taking part in an orgy, Oberyn also has his pants on when he gets out of bed after Tywin's Moment Killer.
  • Rogue Agent / Plausible Deniability: Tywin firmly denies ordering the Mountain to kill Princess Ellia, pointing out that soldiers often commit atrocities in war without their commander's knowledge. Note that Tywin said the exact opposite when criticizing Tyrion back in the Season 1 episode "Baelor".
    Tywin: When soldiers lack discipline the fault lies with their Commander!
  • Rule of Symbolism: Invoked. Daenerys catapults barrels full of broken slave collars into Meereen, the meaning being fairly obvious.
  • Sacred Hospitality: The peasant offers it to Arya and the Hound. Later, at dinner, he also heavily criticizes the Freys for their sacrilege (breaking sacred hospitality at the Red Wedding is a big no-no in-universe)... and the Hound breaks it by robbing the farmer. This cannot end well...
  • Scenery Porn: The view we get of Meereen as Dany's army approaches it is beautiful, despite what we know is inside.
  • Seamless Spontaneous Lie: Arya is able to make up a convincing cover-story for herself and the Hound on the spot.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Arya tries to excuse Sandor's Jerkassery by saying that the war did this to him (which isn't that far from the truth, actually).
  • Shirtless Scene: Oberyn.
  • Shoo the Dog: Tyrion tells Pod to turn away from him and never look back since even refusing a bribe is enough to get him screwed over by the conspirators. He clearly doesn't want the boy to stay on the sinking ship even though he'd be willing to stay until the end.
  • Shout-Out: Davos pronouncing "knight" as "k-nigget" while he was first learning to read may be one to Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
  • The Siege: Daenerys' army is deployed outside Meereen ready to begin one. She starts it in a very unconventional way, with catapults launching into the city barrels that contain broken open slave collars.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: The Hound's cold justification for stealing money from the farmer:
    "I just understand the way things are ... how many Starks do they got to behead before you figure it out?"
  • Similar Squad: Arya and the Hound in their mock father-child act meet an actually father and girl-child who treats these strangers on their land with kindness. Chillingly, Sandor robs them on the grounds that they'll die anyway, implying that the two of them must throw away such moral constraints if they're going to survive.
  • Single-Stroke Battle: After throwing his knife to unhorse the Meereenese champion, Daario finishes him with a single blow before he can recover.
  • Speak Ill of the Dead:
    • Tywin Lannister is positively relieved to discuss Joffrey in the past tense to young Tommen, rubbing his failures in Cersei's face as she cries over his body.
    • Played with when Olenna recalls the death of her late husband to make a point. She doesn't speak highly of him and remarks that she suffered him, but her voice and body language indicate some sorrow over his passing.
    • The Hound also does this, to an extent. When reproached by Arya for his betrayal of the farmer (after the latter had taken them in for the night), the Hound essentially calls her out on being too much like her (now dead) relatives, whose idealism was out of place in a territory where ruthless pragmatism is the standard.
  • Undying Loyalty: Podrick, something that Tyrion compliments him on.
    "Never has there lived a more loyal squire."
  • The Unfavorite: Daario himself makes the case that he's the least important and most expendable of Dany's men, so that he'll be allowed to fight the Mereenese champion. Played with, in that everyone was competing for that honor, and it's implied that Dany chooses him, at least partially, as a gesture of trust.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Daario shows complete confidence in being able to hit the Champion's horse several meters away with a single throw. Of course he hits. That said, if the pommel had hit the horse's face, it would have likely still spooked it enough to throw the rider.
  • Villainous Rescue: Littlefinger is ultimately behind Sansa's evacuation of the capital following the events of the royal wedding. Given his creepiness towards her, in some ways it's presented like if she's out of the frying pan and into the fire.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Arya is not pleased with the Hound robbing the family that gave the two of them food and shelter over night.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness:
    • Ser Dontos is killed by Littlefinger's men.
      Baelish: Money buys a man's silence for a time. A bolt in the heart buys it forever.
    • Now that a stable alliance with Dorne becomes more urgent and the Martells really want their vengeance, Lord Tywin seems perfectly alright with giving up the Mountain. At least that's what he's telling Oberyn.
    • At one point, Tyrion wonders if his father didn't have Joffrey killed because he was too much trouble.
  • Weather of War: Littlefinger's ship is hidden by a convenient fog.

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