This Sunday’s episode begins where we left off, with a humiliated Jaime sloped over on a horse, with his severed hand mockingly tied to a string around his neck. Brienne seems to sense his anguish and warns that he’s going to fall off his mount–which he does, right into the mud. It’s pretty much downhill from there as Locke, the “hand-slayer,” makes him drink horse piss and kicks him around in the muck. Jaime does manage to get a hold of a sword, but he’s no southpaw. And the most skilled swordsman in the realm fumbles about in impotence, nothing more than a joke to his captors who merely toy with him. In one wincing scene, he tries to reach for his sword with his right hand–now only a severed stump. Later, Brienne tries some tough love on the spirit-wounded Lannister, thanking him for saving her from Locke’s band-o-rapists, but telling him to buck up and not lose hope.
Back in King’s Landing, Tyrion has a meeting with Varys the Spider. The half-man wants to know if there’s evidence about who tried to have him killed during the Battle of the Blackwater–his sister Cersei is the prime suspect. Varys, all the while attempting to pry open a crate, tells Tyrion he has no actual evidence–only rumors. He then launches into his back story, including the horrid story of being castrated as a youth by a sorcerer, who served up his boy-bits to some malevolent being of the flames. Varys goes on to recount how he survived that ordeal, working his way from street urchin to master power-player in the realm. As Tyrion wonders at the point of this macabre tale to his own situation, Varys opens the crate–to reveal the very sorcerer who de-sexed him as a boy, at last in the clutches of his victim. The intended moral story for the half-man? Patience is a virtue. And revenge is a dish best served cold.
It’s not the last time we see Varys. He appears again, questioning the local sex workers about Littlefinger’s plans. Through this, he learns of his rival’s intent to make use of Sansa Stark. To thwart this, The Spider has a meeting with the Queen of Thorns–a match made in someone’s afterlife when it comes to sheer wit. Shortly thereafter, the crafty Margaery Tyrell, after wrapping The Monster Joffrey around her finger by putting up with his sadistic hobbies, makes nice with Sansa and hints of a possible marriage between the Stark girl and her brother Loras–who is gay, so, well…okay. Elsewhere in King’s Landing, Cersei, seeing her diminishing status alongside the rise of her son’s betrothed, has a talk with daddy (he-who-shits-gold) about Margaery’s control of Joffrey. The elder Lannister only replies the Tyrell girl is doing what Cersei should have been able–but could not–manage to do. Father of the year, this guy.
Out in the countryside, Bran is still having dreams about three-eyed crows with Jojen Reed. So nothing new on that front. Arya is still the not-prisoner of the anarchic Brotherhood Without Banners, as is The Hound. They’re taken before none other than Beric Dondarrion, one of those sent out by Ned Stark to kill or arrest The Hound’s brother, Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane for crimes against humanity. The group accuses The Hound of rapine and wanton murder of the smallfolk–all of which he ruefully denies, accusing them in turn of trying him for the crimes of his brother. Arya however shouts out that he did indeed ride down Mycah, (the hapless butcher’s boy back in Season 1) and kill him. The Hound retorts he was only following the orders of The Monster. But Beric orders he’ll stand trial by combat–against himself. Minor spoiler alert–there’s a fiery sword in this pyrophobiac’s future.
Further out in the countryside, poor Theon and his “savior” are wandering to some castle keep where he expects to be reunited with his sister. As they arrive outside the gates, the Iron born prince finally shows remorse for his actions–admitting that Ned Stark was the only true father he’d ever known, that he’d murdered two innocent children (thus revealing Bran and Rickon are still alive) and chosen the wrong side in this war. When the gate is finally opened and he enters the keep, calling for his sister, Theon gets the shock of his life–he’s back at the torture chamber. His alleged savior has led him in circles, right back to where he was being held. Screaming in terror, he’s tied once more to the torture post while his savior-turned-captor (a certain very dangerous, wicked, skin-flaying bastard!) smiles deviously. Reek, Reek, it rhymes with meek.
Beyond the Wall, there’s a bunch of restless crows over at Craster-the-molester’s house. Things are simmering up to the surface as a scene shows a fiery funeral for one member of the watch who died in part from his wounds suffered in the fight/flight from the White Walkers, and from lack of food at Caster’s Keep. There’s continual grumblings among the men, both at the Lord Commander Jeor Mormont for leading them into this mess, and at Craster who they believe is hoarding food. Things come to a head and boil over when Craster pulls an axe, and one of the watch bury a blade in his face. Before Jeor can end it, another shanks him from behind. It’s full on mutiny now, with only Dolorous Edd and Grenn seeming to remain loyal. Samwell realizes it’s all gone to hell, and runs off to rescue Gilly and her infant. The three flee into the snowy forest, leaving the mayhem behind them. And the title of the episode is given meaning.
And finally, across the sea, Daeneyrs walks through Astapor with both Jorah Mormont and Ser Barristan Selmy, before an army of gathered Unsullied. Awaiting them is the rather nasty-tongued slave trader Kraznys mo Nakloz. When Dany arrives before him, she moves to a cloth covered crate and opens it–revealing one of her prized dragons, Drogon. She offers him to Kraznys as agreed, tethered to a chain rope. The slave trader in turn hands over the harpy whip, symbol of control of the Unsullied she has just purchased. Testing out her new power, Dany gives them orders–march and stop. They do it as one.
Meanwhile, Kraznys is having a heck of a time controlling his newly bought dragon–so much so, he has failed to notice Dany is speaking Valyrian, the very tongue he’s been insulting her with all this time. When he tells her to control her beast, she replies in full Valyrian, “A dragon is not a slave.” A wonderful double entendre. At this moment, Kraznys realizes she can speak the old tongue of doomed Valyria, and Dany gives him a minor history lesson on the lineage of the Targaryens. She then orders the Unsullied to kill all the “Good Masters” and break the chains of every slave–which they promptly set about doing. Before Kraznys can stop her, she utters the Valyrian word Dracarys meaning “dragonfire,” and Drogon turns him into a screaming pyre. Couldn’t have happened to a better guy.
When the smoke settles, Astapor is in Dany’s hands. She tells the Unsullied they are now free, and can follow her as free men. As one they agree with a pounding of spears and Daeneyrs Targaryen rides–finally–at the head of a massive army, marching out of the city to kick ass and take names later.
Whew! I mean damn!
Yes, I wanted to see Kraznys’s face melt off like in the book. And yeah, the whole white woman savior and slavery thing (Daeneyrs Unchained) is as troublesome as the very “Eastern-ish” slave trader trope. As the entire scene was shot in Morocco, the Unsullied are a very swarthy lot which only reinforces the whole Orientalist narrative which drips from George RR Martin’s writings of Essos. But can’t front, it was one heck of a read in the book and a well-executed scene in the screen adaptation.
On to Mereen!