When we last left Westeros, Tyrion had just successfully humiliated the entire royal court and finished off his dramatic outburst with a demand for trial by combat. The opening scene of this episode picks up moments from that game changer, with Jaime talking to his brother in his cell. The older Lannister is not pleased with the way things went but Tyrion is having none of it, calling out the “golden son” for his ability to get away with anything, including fornicating with his sister.
This clearly touches a nerve but it is still with a heavy heart that Jaime confesses his inability to act as his brother’s champion because of his currently pitiful sword-fighting skills. Cersei has no such problems with her champion. We are given a thoroughly gruesome reintroduction to Gregor “the Mountain” Clegane (Hafthor Julius Bjornsson) as he gleefully chops villagers in half. The Queen Regent is definitely pleased; not many people would survive against this monster.
From one Clegane to another, we meet up with the Hound and Arya, both absent in the previous episode, as they come across a village that has recently been pillaged. They encounter one survivor who admits to being wary of death because of its inherent nothingness. Arya points out that nothing is “nothing” and therefore cannot be feared, before the Hound carries out a mercy stabbing through the heart.
The two are immediately attacked by a pair of mercenaries out to get the ransom on Sandor Clegane’s head. The first, after biting his target on the neck, is dispatched with a swiftly broken neck. The second man reveals the pair to have been the two prisoners who were captured with Jaqen H’ghar back in Season 2. He was one of her tormentors, but she doesn’t know his name so he is not on her prayer-slash-kill-list. When the Hound asks for it, he obliviously reveals it to be Rorge (Andy Beckwith) and Arya, thanking him politely, stabs him. Right through the heart, just as the Hound had done moments ago. She definitely picks things up quickly.
Up at the Wall, Jon returns from his mission and, after a testy exchange with Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) and Janos Slynt (Dominic Carter), is unable to convince the Night’s Watch to permanently seal the Wall against the impending Wildling invasion. This will definitely not end well. Back in King’s Landing, Bronn finally responds to Tyrion’s summons and it is evident from his expensive clothing that something is up. Sure enough, he confesses to having been bought out by Cersei, with a high-born marriage and the promise of a potential castle to his name. He does regret being unable to help the Imp and you get the feeling he is being genuine. Their final goodbye is short but full of emotion, and it is with a sinking heart that Tyrion realises his options have just run out.
Elswehere, Daario surprises Daenerys in her chambers, which is received less warmly than he would have wanted. The mercenary is antsy to either maraud or get busy, so Dany slyly tells him to strip and he complies. Being Queen of Meereen certainly has its benefits.
From one act of gratuitous nudity to another, we cut to Dragonstone and see Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) taking a bath. It is a bit unnerving to see the Red Woman take part in such a normal activity – Selyse (Tara Fitzgerald) is definitely shocked when she walks in. In yet another example of how bonkers the Baratheon Queen is, she thanks the priestess for fornicating with her husband because nothing done in the service of the Lord of Light can be a “sin”.
Melisandre shatters her religious veneer a bit by pointing out that she does use illusions and trickery to cajole people on to the right path, but her intentions are clear. After much hemming and hawing, Selyse finally gets to the point and asks her idol to prevent Princess Shireen from accompanying on an upcoming journey (destination hidden for the moment). She is stunned to hear that her deformed daughter will be needed. What with Melisandre’s penchant for leeching or killing those with royal blood, this is definitely not a good sign.
Back in Meereen, Daario bumps into a disapproving Jorah as the latter goes for his morning meeting with his beloved Khaleesi. The knight urges Dany not to trust Daario so quickly and she responds by saying she is sending the entire mercenary company to retake Yunkai. Jorah, though pleased with her thinking, does caution her against using brutal force again. She agrees and tells him to send Hizdahr zo Loraq – the guy who petitioned in her a while back – as an emissary along with Daario’s forces. She also tells him to take credit for changing her mind. Methinks the lady knows how to play the game.
Arya is unsuccessful in her cajoling, failing to get the Hound to cauterise his neck wound before trying to stitch it up. He admits his fear of fire stems from a time when his brother intentionally burned him as a child, a crime his father tried to cover up. You might feel sorry for him as he says that, unlike Arya, who is alone now, he never had anyone to begin with. She definitely does and offers to help him with his stitches.
“The worst thing was that it was my brother who did it,” says the Hound, “And my father who protected him.”
Brienne and Podrick dine at an inn where they serendipitously bump into Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey)! Making Pod look like a smooth operator, Hot Pie gleefully bumbles through a conversation before Brienne tells him they are looking for the Stark girls in honour of the vow she made to their mother. Outside the inn, her squire cautions her against telling everyone what they are doing, but, this time, they are in luck.
Hot Pie tells them about Arya’s survival – something they had been unsure of – and even gives them a direwolf biscuit to pass on to her. It’s much nicer than the one he made in Season 3, which is a nice nod to show how he, at least, seems to be making the most out of life. Once they are back on the road, Pod proves his usefulness again by revealing his knowledge of the Houses, indicating that Arya and Sansa are likely to shelter with their aunt Lysa. Unsurprisingly, that is where they decide to head next.
Renewed hope for one character segues cruelly into hopelessness for another, as Tyrion sits moping in his cell. He is given a surprise visit by Oberyn, who reveals that he had met the Imp once before this visit to Kings Landing. The Martells had visited Casterly Rock just after Tyrion’s birth and the Viper recollects how Cersei had tormented her infant brother even then. She claimed it was justice for him killing their mother in childbirth.
Oberyn, it seems, values justice more than anything else and offers to be Tyrion’s champion so that he may fight and kill the Mountain, who had murdered his sister Elia and her children. If his fighting skills are anything like his flirting skills, Clegane should be pretty scared.
Over at the Eyrie, Sansa experiences her first snowfall since leaving Winterfell. It might be an omen of dark times ahead because of the White Walkers, but for the moment, she is content and so are we. She builds a stunning snow model of her home and is joined by Robin (Lilo Facioli). When the spoilt Lord of the Vale stomps all over her hard work because he wanted a Moon Door added to it, Sansa slaps him. Getting reprimanded for anything is clearly a foreign concept for the boy and he runs off crying.
Littlefinger walks in to comfort a now-scared Sansa. She asks him point blank why he offed Joff and he says it was in retaliation for her mother’s murder and, in yet another COMPLETELY INAPPROPRIATE scene, he kisses her. Unfortunately, jealous auntie Lysa (Kate Dickie) saw the smooch and summons her niece to the throne room. After a brief moment of calm, she grabs Sansa and tries to push her out the Moon Door.
Littlefinger interjects just in time and tells her to stop. When she starts wailing at his infidelity – not completely unwarranted this time – he promises to send Sansa away forever. He then embraces his wife and tells her that there is only one woman he has ever loved. Her sister. Dun dun dun! A horrified Lysa is then casually pushed out of the window. And with another death, the episode draws to a close.
Next week will probably be another King’s Landing-heavy episode, with the focus on the fight between the Viper and the Mountain. The trailer did show Ramsay and Theon approaching Moat Cailin as well as Sansa confronting Littlefinger in public, but the focus should be on what the producers are billing the most “epic fight scene” of the show.