Ok. Obviously we left off last week and everyone wants to know what exactly Melisandre birthed. Well it doesn't take long to find out. In the opening scene Catelyn Stark and Renly Barratheon are closing a deal. Renly and Robb Stark will team up to fight the Lannisters. Robb will still get to call himself King in the North and Renly will look the other way provided Robb will swear fealty. Catelyn thinks she can sell that to her son but still wants Renly to negotiate with rather than fight Stannis. Kinslaying is considered a horrible crime. Renly scoffs at that idea and is characteristically primping when the shadow we saw last week appears behind Renly and stabs him through the heart. It seems to have a resemblance to Stannis. Renly dies and the shadow disappears. Renly's other guards appear and immediately blame Brienne. In a quite effective scene Brienne shows she is NOT the woman to be messed with and quickly sends her former comrades on a trip to the afterlife. I am impressed with the actress. Brienne is broken by Renly's death and wants to stay but the practical Catelyn points out that they need to leave like yesterday. And by the way that looked like the Bayeux Tapestry behind Renly. Maybe it wasn't but it looked like it. Nice touch. Littlefinger and Margarey urge Loras to scram as it appears that the majority of the army intends to switch to Stannis. Loras, like Brienne, would rather stay and fight but is convinced otherwise. Margarey reveals to Littlefinger her ambition is to be the queen.
In King's Landing Tyrion and big sis Cersei share a rare moment of familial happiness as they drink to Renly's death. But that doesn't last long as Cersei is still po'd at lil bro for making a betrothal for her daughter Myrcella. As a result she doesn't tell Tyrion what the plans are for the defense of King's Landing. Tyrion isn't convinced that either Joffrey or Cersei know what they're doing so he browbeats Lancel to find out that Cersei's plans include wildfire (a napalm equivalent -similar to Greek fire in our world.)
As Stannis and Davos walk through camp ordering their forces Davos finds that the strangely serene Stannis is not interested in talking about his brother's death or what Davos saw that night with Melisandre. However like the late lamented Ned Stark, Davos is concerned with means not just ends. Unable to convince Stannis to fight using "clean" methods he appeals to Stannis' prickly pride by suggesting that if Melisandre is allowed to join the coming battle the victory will be hers not Stannis'. This appears to get through but in another example of you should have kept your big mouth shut, Stannis puts Davos in charge of leading the initial naval assault. Davos gives Stannis good reasons as to why he's not the best man for the job but Stannis is unmoved. Davos is in charge and that's that.
Tyrion and Bronn find that rumors of the royal incest are well known enough to be laughed at in the streets of the capital. Tyrion also learns that he's getting a lot of the blame for Lannister cruelties. Tyrion goes to see the pyromancer Wisdom Hallyne (played by Roy Dotrice-this is special because not only is Roy Dotrice a friend of George R.R. Martin's, he is also the narrator for most of the audiobooks in the series). The pyromancers were favored under the Targaryens but for the past few years have been ignored. Bronn is skeptical of the military value of wildfire because it can be just as dangerous to the user as to the target and requires massive training to use correctly. But Tyrion is impressed with what the pyromancers have done so far under Cersei's command and orders them to continue to work under his direction.
Theon is armored up and ready to take command of his ship but finds that his men do not respect him or the mission. They make that as clear as they can as soon as they see him. His sister stops by to make fun of him as well before they sail to attack the North. To further twist the knife she mentions that she has 30 ships and her men obey orders. Theon gets an idea.
Arya Stark listens to Tywin Lannister and his council discuss the war's progress. Tywin admits to greatly underestimating Robb Stark. Robb is kicking butt and taking names despite being outnumbered and up against more experienced generals. Tywin sends a cousin home for what he sees as defeatist talk. Tywin says that if it weren't for their blood relationship he would have taken his cousin's head. Despite his greater rationality compared to his daughter or grandson, Tywin is not a nice man. Seeing through Arya's southern girl disguise Tywin forces her to admit she's a northerner and asks if she thinks Robb, who has gained supernatural prowess in the eyes of some Lannister troops, is unkillable. Arya replies "Anyone can be killed" but the subtext and the way she's looking at Tywin let you know who she's really talking about. And Tywin just might have known as well. I love Charles Dance in this role. Sent to fetch water , Arya runs across one of the men she helped escape from the cage, Jaqen H'ghar. He says she stole three lives from the Red God so she must pick three people to die in return. He has a very formal way of speaking and talks of himself in the third person. Arya chooses the man who tortured her friends, The Tickler.
Beyond the Wall , Qhorin Halfhand, a real bada$ Night's Watch ranger who once survived winter on his own, has discovered that the King Beyond the Wall , Mance Rayder, has gathered up all the wildlings and is heading south. The wildlings are more organized than before. Rayder is a former Night's Watch man and knows their tactics. Halfhand intends to kill Rayder's lookouts and then get close enough to kill Rayder himself, which will hopefully end the wildling threat. Jon Snow volunteers for the mission.
Qarth is a more diverse and peaceful place than Westeros. Daenerys is feeding her dragons and teaching them to spit fire on command. At a party Daenerys is shown a gem that causes or appears to allow a man to be in two places at once. The warlock who gave it to her invites her to the House of the Undying. Xaro is unimpressed by this and takes Daenerys somewhere private to talk. Jorah Mormont who by this time is pretty painfully and obviously stuck in Daenerys' friends zone is approached by a mysterious woman in a red mask who warns him to continue to look out for Daenerys.
Catelyn and Brienne are on the run. Catelyn wants to share the latest info with Robb and then head home. Brienne doesn't really have any place to go. It's in the subtext here but Renly was pretty much the only lord who honestly accepted Brienne as she was. And now he's gone. Brienne intends to kill Stannis, who she knows is behind the murder as the shadow looked like Stannis. Brienne swears fealty to Catelyn. Again it's subtext but this is pretty revolutionary stuff for Westeros, a woman taking fealty from another woman. This is a very strong scene and very well done.
At Winterfell Maester Luwin is overseeing Bran and Rickon holding court. Well Bran is anyway. Rickon is busy eating nuts. News comes that Torrhen's Square is under attack. Winterfell is short of muscle having sent most of the men south with Robb but Bran instinctively understands that a Lord must protect his people. Again, Ned Stark's decency and rectitude shines in his children. It makes a nice contrast to Joffrey's antics. Bran sends Rodrick Cassell with 200 men to protect Torrhen's Square. Bran shares his dreams with Osha that the sea came to Winterfell.Xaro, having figured out that Daenerys and Jorah are not an item, offers marriage and alliance. He wouldn't mind being a king in Westeros. He is ambitious. When told of the offer Jorah opposes it (obviously he doesn't tell Daenerys the real reason-that he wants her) but points out that she will not win in Westeros with only a foreign army. He claims that he will find her a ship. Jorah doesn't think that rich men get or stay rich by just giving things away to people.
Arya is giving Gendry fighting advice. It's ironic that Ned's daughter and Robert's son have taken a liking to each other although this is certainly not what either father would have intended. There's a scream and a thud. Everyone runs to the courtyard to see what happened. The Tickler has evidently fallen to his death. Arya looks up and there is Jaqen H'ghar, nonchalantly eating an apple just like The Tickler used to do. He holds up one finger. We see the briefest of smiles flitter across Arya's face.
*This post is written for discussion of this episode and previous episodes. If you have book based knowledge of future events please be kind enough not to discuss that here. Most of my blog partners have not read the books and would take spoilers most unkindly. Heads, spikes, well you get the idea....