This episode was penned by George R.R. Martin himself. For those who care about such things it had significant differences from the books. If you don't like that I suppose you could take it up with GRRM. =) Of course I would prefer you didn't as time spent responding to your outraged missives is time that GRRM's not writing the next book. Anyway we open up on the Wall. The Wildling party has made it to the other side. Jon confronts Orell about the little issue of cutting the rope and dooming Jon and Ygritte but Orell says that's business. I liked this if nothing else because we get to briefly see a less emo and more forceful Jon Snow. Ygritte asks questions about the North's battle tactics and makes fun of what she sees as excessive regimented styles but it's apparent that she's somewhat nervous. Later Orell makes a play for Ygritte's wildling love (or at least Ygritte's wild thing) but she shoots him down by confirming that she loves Jon Snow. Embittered on a personal level as well as still not trusting Jon, Orell warns Ygritte away from Jon. Ygritte mistakes a windmill for a castle and has no cultural frame for understanding Jon Snow's more traditional expectations for women. She mocks them. Jon gives an impassioned speech about the futility of the Wildlings attempting to invade and defeat the North. From the way Ygritte looks at him you get the feeling that she might even believe this herself but can't stand to hear Jon say it. It's well acted, I thought. Ygritte reminds Jon that come what may they belong to each other.
The Stark-Tully army is delayed by rain in marching to the Twins for the Tully-Frey wedding. Catelyn is not happy about this. After Robb and Talisa have played hide the sword in the scabbard and find my wedding ring , Robb is temporarily not blinded by Talisa's beauty. Robb notices that Talisa is writing a letter to her mother. Talisa lets Robb know that's she's pregnant, something that makes Robb even happier than he already was.
Sansa finally realizes that maybe she's not the brightest crayon in the Stark family box. Sansa doesn't want to marry Tyrion. But Margaery (cleavage alert!!) suggests that Sansa make the best of her opportunities, pointing out that Tyrion is known to be experienced with women, has been as kind to Sansa as someone in his position could be and is good looking, even if he is a dwarf. Margaery is rambling on about the various different kinds of love, sex and men in the world when Sansa openly wonders how the supposedly virginal Margaery knows such things. In a perfectly played scene where the viewer can virtually see Margaery thinking "THIS GIRL IS REALLY REALLY DUMB!", Margaery tells Sansa that she heard of these things from her mother.
Tyrion is also complaining to Bronn about the marriage but Bronn thinks it's just Tyrion not wanting to admit that he really does want Sansa. Tyrion gives Shae some gifts and again emphasizes that the marriage is not his idea but Shae wants him to run away with her. When Tyrion declines Shae says she's just a whore and leaves.
Tywin said before that he would take a hand in Joffrey's "education" and we saw a hint of that in this episode. Joffrey summons Tywin to report on the council meetings. Direct and polite but certainly not submissive or fawning, Tywin tells Joffrey to attend the meetings if he wants information. When Joffrey displays petulance the previously semi-amused Tywin becomes subtly intimidating, stepping on the throne dais to emphasize the point that he is not frightened by his grandson nor does he intend to report to him. This was my favorite scene. Tywin is no one to mess with. I couldn't help but think of Dick Cheney here. Tywin does what he thinks is best for his family and the realm, but don't ask him questions. You'll know what he wants you to know. Period.
Melisandre informs Gendry that he's Robert's son. It appears they're headed to King's Landing. Daenerys goes to Yunkai, which is another, albeit more powerful slave city. Jorah thinks this is a waste of time and resources but Daenerys, now with more powerful dragons and an army, is starting to get the hang of this power thing. Daenerys is a do-gooder with power. She extorts gold from the slavers who attempt to buy her off and insists that the slaves be freed. Arya is very angry with the Brotherhood without Banners and is made even more so when they postpone taking her to Riverrun in order to attack a Lannister raiding party. She runs off but is captured by The Hound.
Theon is released from the rack by young women who claim to be interested in finding out if he's packing as much as other women claim he is. Theon can't run anywhere because he's got holes in his feet. Despite his feeble protestations, the women get him hot and bothered and ready to rumble, that is as much as any tortured man could be. Just when it looks like Theon might find a brief bit of happiness (didn't we see this before?) the Unknown Young Man enters. He blows a trumpet and beats Theon with it. He says that he's also heard of the size of Theon's package but that Theon needs to learn that women didn't really like him. To that purpose he, with the help of goons, castrates Theon. Osha is angered about Jojen's growing closeness to Bran and refuses to go back beyond the Wall, telling of her companion's death and return as a wight. She says she swore an oath to take the Stark boys to Castle Black.
At Harrenhall Jaime prepares to leave. Brienne is stoic about her fate but reminds Jaime of their oaths. Jaime swears to return the Stark girls to their mother. Bolton is also leaving for the Frey-Tully wedding and tells Jaime again to inform Tywin that Jaime's mutilation wasn't his doing. Jaime agrees and sarcastically tells Bolton to pass along his regards to Robb Stark. Later, while listening to Qyburn justify his unethical experiments on living men, Jaime is troubled by Brienne's situation. Qyburn is nonchalant, saying that Brienne may be raped and survive the night but after that who knows. Appealing not only to his escort's lust for gold but also to his fear of Bolton's and Twyin's anger, Jaime convinces everyone to head back to Harrenhall where he finds that Brienne has been placed in a bear pit, armed only with a wooden sword. Locke refuses to release her, believing that Selwyn Tarth, Brienne's father did not offer enough in ransom. Just as Brienne is being mauled and about to be killed, Jaime jumps in the pit to distract the bear. He protects Brienne and helps her to get out. He's greatly assisted in this by the fact that his escorts wound the bear with crossbow bolts. Once everyone is out Locke rages but again, the fear of Bolton's wrath is what animates everyone's actions. There's a threat of civil war in the ranks before Locke backs down. Jaime leaves but in a nod to his old snark can't resist taunting Locke about the supposed wealth he's losing.
I liked the Tywin Lannister scene, the bear pit, and Daenerys' growth into a ruler who is comfortable wielding power. I didn't like the depiction of Yunkai. I think our own American history and sociology influenced that somewhat. The bear pit scene is important because even as Locke's men are mocking Brienne's refusal to hew to traditional gender roles, she faces the bear head on and without fear, just like a "true" (male) knight should. In this she is more knight than any of the men watching her degradation. Jaime's "rescue" of her both upends and confirms gender stereotypes, depending on how you view it. The Jon Snow-Ygritte relationship continues to be one of the show's few healthy dyads. Rose Leslie really shines as Ygritte.
I need more Arya time. I didn't like the reduction of Bran and Catelyn Stark to virtual afterthoughts but there's so much going on that something had to give. And unfortunately that something was Theon's manhood. I could have done without that. Not just for the obvious reasons (yikes!!) but because I think it's already been confirmed again and again and again what sort of psychotic twisted SOB the UYM is. The show does set up a situation in which your possible initial feelings about Jaime and Theon may be, if not reversed, then made more complicated. There are three episodes remaining. I am looking forward to seeing how they wrap up these storylines.
*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. NO SPOILERS. NO BOOK DERIVED HINTS ABOUT FUTURE EVENTS. Most of my blog partners have not read the books and would take spoilers most unkindly. Heads, spikes, well you get the idea....