Trigger warning: Please be aware that this post contains a recap of a sexual assault scene that may disturb some readers.
When we last left the show, everything had been turned on its head with the death of Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and that is exactly where we pick up once again, with Cersei (Lena Headey) demanding the arrests of Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Sansa (Sophie Turner). The Imp is captured but his wife is led away by Dontos Hollard (Tony Way). Before anyone starts to think he actually has brains, it turns out Littlefinger’s orchestrated the rescue and Sansa finds herself in the company of a dangerous schemer. Of course, she doesn’t know that; in her eyes, Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) is someone who just saved her, killed her rescuer for her own safety, and warned her that everyone lies. Except for him of course.
From one forlorn woman to another, we join Margaery (Natalie Dormer) as Olenna (Diana Rigg) tries to console her. Marge is worried that, with her track record of marrying kings who promptly bite the dust – before consummating their marriages – she is now damaged goods. Olenna does feel for her, but her pragmatic side points out that Joffrey was a little git and that the Lannisters still need the Tyrells for support. Make no mistake; we are not done with them yet and she reminds us that there is still a “next one” for Marge.
It would seem that this famous “next one” is Joffrey’s brother and the new king, Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman), who is mourning over his brother’s corpse alongside his mother. Grandfather Tywin (Charles Dance) shows up to spoil him as all grandparents are supposed to do. And by spoil, I mean he teaches Tommen the value of wisdom in order to be a good king. It is a powerful scene, with Tywin clearly beginning to shape his younger grandson and steer him clear of the follies of previous kings, each of which he lists. And, no matter how much sympathy you feel for Cersei as a mother, there is a certain sense of satisfaction to see her failed manipulation of Joffrey so visibly put down.
As Tywin guides Tommen away from the Sept – and his mother – Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) enters. For a moment, we witness a tender and conflicted scene between the twins, with Cersei, still mad with grief, demanding he kill Tyrion before he manages to influence the impending trial, while Jaime gently refuses. But just as things are about to get intimate, she pulls away, repulsed both by the location of their tryst and by Jaime’s maimed hand. This is where things go south, however, as he then forces himself on her, a shocking turn of events that proves once again that all characters have their light and dark sides. (For explanations by Coster-Waldau and writer George R. R. Martin, including minor book spoilers, see here.)
Arya (Maisie Williams) and the Hound (Rory McCann) were absent last week, but we catch up with them somewhere in the Riverlands. A farmer comes across the pair, who pretend to be a father and daughter affected by the war, and he offers them shelter and small payment in exchange for work. The Hound initially agrees but then steals his would-be employer’s silver, harshly telling Arya that surviving is more important than honour. I hate to say it, but he has a point.
On the Wall, Sam (John Bradley) is openly mocked by the Night’s Watch members who still do not believe he killed a White Walker. Gilly (Hannah Murray) does, of course, but that is where her sensibility ends as she refuses point blank to realise that a castle full of forcibly-chaste men is not a safe place for her. Thankfully, Samwise-Not-Gamgee is able to take her to nearby Mole’s Town later on and, despite dropping her off in a slightly seedy establishment, is able to ensure that she will not have to give up what little remains of her virtue in order to live.
Over at Dragonstone, Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and Davos (Liam Cunningham) get into an argument with the former lamenting his inability to take advantage of Joffrey’s death. Davos points out that they could easily use sell-swords from across the Narrow Sea to raise an army but, along with it being a blight on his honour, Stannis growls that they have no gold. A solution to this comes in the next scene as Shireen (Kerry Ingram) helps Davos read a book about Braavos, prompting the Onion Knight to contact the Iron Bank regarding the debts that the Lannisters still have to pay. Uh. Oh.
The Hound tells Arya that surviving is more important than honour. I hate to say it, but he has a point.
Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) and Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) are certainly not upset about the wedding, as we see them thoroughly enjoying all the pleasures of the finest brothel of King’s Landing, courtesy of smitten “procurer” Olyvar (Will Tudor). Tywin, naturally, has to interrupt the proceedings and, in another scene proving his savvy politicking skills, he strikes a deal with the Red Viper. In exchange for judging Tyrion’s trial and returning Dorne to the Seven Kingdoms, Oberyn would get a chance at revenge against the killers of his sister. The scene ends just as Tywin extends his hand, so we are not entirely sure Oberyn buys into the whole thing. If he does though, the Lannisters just made a powerful ally.
Podrick (Daniel Portman) smuggles goods into Tyrion’s cell and tries to cheer him up before capitulating and telling him the details of his master’s upcoming trial. When the squire reveals that he openly refused to testify against Tyrion, we are treated to another heart-breaking scene as everyone’s favourite man in Westeros forces himself to say goodbye to everyone’s favourite sidekick for his own safety. It is a brief scene, but it effectively shows how Tyrion is quickly losing all of his allies.
Back North, Ygritte (Rose Leslie) and her Wildling companions brutally raid a village, with only one small child allowed to live so that he can warn and lure out the Night’s Watch. The Brothers in Black do not fall for the ploy but when a few stragglers return from North of the Wall to tell them of the mutinee at Craster’s Keep, Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) realises that they have to be silenced before they give up Castle Black’s now weakened position to the other Wildlings.
Finally, we see Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) at the gates of Meereen. The slavers send forth a champion to silence the Mother of Dragons but he is quickly dispatched by Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman). With yet another epic speech, Dany tells the Meereenese slaves that she is not a conqueror, but a saviour, before hurling barrels full of broken slave collars over the walls to inspire a revolt. Whether it will work or not remains to be seen, but credit to her for theatricality.
Things are certainly picking up. Join us again next week as things inch closer to Tyrion’s trial, the fight for the Wall and the liberation of Meereen.