Tales From Westeros – Walk of Punishment
Hello all my little lords and ladies, we’re here to recap the latest episode of Game of Thrones! Unfortunately, we must begin on a sad note, as the very first scene displays Hoster Tully’s lifeless body in a small wooden boat. Hoster is Catelyn Stark’s father, but he’s also the Lord of Riverrun and the Westerosi Riverlands in general. As befits the leaping trout sigil of House Tully, the funereal proceeding seems to be a riverside send off lifted straight from the Viking custom of immolating the dead. That’s what you get for not copyrighting your badass rituals. Edmure Tully (Catelyn’s brother) is in charge of setting the boat on fire, and his general ineptitude is demonstrated right off the bat as he fires off a series of flaming arrows that widely miss the mark. It is straight up embarrassing to watch, but thankfully his uncle Brynden the Blackfish Tully (supreme warrior of the Riverlands) grabs the bow and nails it in one shot. Sidenote: the actor playing Edmure is the second Rome cast member to show up in this season of GoT (Ciaran Hinds, who played Caesar and now portrays wildling king Mance Rayder, is the other). Tobias Menzies played Brutus and screwed up royally then too, so what can we expect from him?
Not much, apparently. Robb, Edmure, and the Blackfish gather in Hoster’s “solar,” which is a fancy word for “sunny room used for pissing contests.” The Young Wolf looks legit PO’d and we soon find out why: Edmure made some dumb mistakes re: battle strategy and royally messed up Robb’s plan. The normally levelheaded Robb loses his shit, Edmure apologizes weakly, and the Blackfish downs a drink because that’s what badasses do. Obviously this is foreshadowing, but we’ll just have to wait and see just how bad Edmure’s decision was.
Meanwhile, back in King’s Landing, the small council meets for the first time since Tywin unseated Tyrion as Hand of the King. It’s like the most awkward dinner party you have ever been to. Littlefinger, Varys, and Maester Pycelle enter and seat themselves normally, but Tyrion comes in and makes a show of dragging his chair slooooowly and loooouuuudly across the floor so he’s sitting directly across from his father. Cersei also makes it known that as Queen Regent, she ain’t gonna be left out either. It’s like they immediately regress to adolescence in the company of the admittedly terrifying Lord Tywin. “What news of Jaime?” is the topic of the day. Tywin wants his golden god-ish son back. The fact that the Young Wolf and his entire host are at Riverrun attending Hoster’s funeral isn’t ignored though—Harrenhal is now abandoned so Tywin is all like, let’s just give it to Littlefinger (in name only, really, as Harrenhall is effing HAUNTED) and send him to the Vale because Lysa Arryn is obsessed with him, sexually. Good plan. Oh yeah, now we need a new “master of coin” (I am going to call every bank teller that from now on) and who has some extra time? TYRION. He’s not pleased. He’s using to spending all the gold of Casterly Rock, not trying to find extra dough.
Suddenly we are back in the woods and are treated to a rousing rendition of the ribald Westerosi classic “The Bear and the Maiden Fair,” which involves a bear eventually copulating with said maiden. Sounds painful. “What news of Jaime?” Well, good sir, he is tied back to back with Brienne of Tarth and they’re on a horse that is probably hating its life. They’re bickering like an old married couple; she makes fun of his weak sword skills because she almost kicked his ass, and in turn he is all like “watch out, they will probably rape you repeatedly.” This just got serious. Jaime, our irreverent kingslayer, is totally trying to warn her though—he wants her to give in to them to save her life. “Close your eyes, pretend they’re Renly,” he says. Let’s be real, Renly would be more likely to dream of Jaime. Could Jaime possibly be using his sarcastic ways to do the right thing?
After all that, we head back to another forest where Arya (now known as Arry), Gendry, and their new road friend/foe Thoros of Myr are hanging out at some inn. We’re still not sure what this band of outsiders is all about. Are they good? Are they bad? I think at this point no one is truly “good” or “bad,” they’re all just looking out for themselves during the brutal years of wartime. Anyway, they have captured the Hound and their portly companion Hot Pie decides to stay on as the inn’s new baker since life on the road is just not for him. In fact, he has the AUDACITY to call Arya’s ancestral home “Winterhell” but makes up for it by handing her an adorable loaf of bread shaped like a wolf on which a delightful sandwich can be made.
We needed that small dose of comedy because the next scene is pretty depressing. Catelyn is talking with the Blackfish and is super sad about her dad dying. If, deep down inside, you are all like “get your ish together Catelyn, there’s a war on!” like some British stoic, just remember that she literally has no idea what’s going on with all of her kids except Robb, and he’s leading an army. She just got the news about Bran and Rickon and Winterfell is in ashes. Poor Catelyn.
Meanwhile, Talisa, Robb’s new wife (played by Oona Chaplin, Charlie’s grandaughter) is messing with a scared kid who turns out to be the Lannister hostage Edmure captured at the cost of a couple hundred Northmen. She simultaneously eggs on and alleviates his fears because, well, he’s just a kid. Even if he is a Lannister. Regardless, the scene seems superfluous so it’s obviously setting is up for something in an upcoming episode.
Now we’re back to the hellhole called Beyond the Wall. Looks awful. What kind of tourism campaign is this? Jon Snow and Mance Rayder are standing in a blinding white pile of snow that is apparently called the Fist of the First Men. Rather suggestive for my taste, but what do you want from a place that is currently featuring a perfect spiral of mangled horse corpses? Gory. As. Hell. But there are no men there—are the rest of the Night’s Watch still alive? Jon is in an awkward spot, as he has to conceal his concern about his brothers and pretend that he’s glad Rayder is about to attack Castle Black. HE SWORE AN OATH, you guys. Mance is about to start the biggest fire the North has ever seen, blah blah yadda blah warmongering.
Wait. What do we have here? Oh the Black Brothers made it through…well, some of them at least, clad in the most literal crow costumes ever conceived. And they’re at the OG Creeper’s house again. Craster’s Keep is where they stayed last season, and to recap: Craster has all these wives, they give birth to daughters, and he takes them to wife, and so on. Gross. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that all the baby boys were being sacrificed to the Old Gods too. Or the White Walkers. Whatever. Coincidentally, there is some loud screaming going on somewhere in the Keep. Caster’s such a nice guy. First he makes fun of Sam for being fat (don’t these guys have any other material?), then he gets mad about Gilly’s audible laboring as she is giving BIRTH. If I had to birth my father’s baby in a rando wildling “keep” with a hundred Crows milling about, I’d be hollering the kind of curses that inspired all those religious horror flicks in 1999. Gilly finally has her baby. It’s a boy.
Back on Stannis-held Dragonstone, the ancient seat of the Targaryen dragon lords, we see that the Red Lady Melisandre is about to go off on some kind of journey. Stannis is not pleased. Is Stannis ever pleased? “Make me another son,” he says. But “I love you,” he says. (In that order.) So romantic. But Melisandre wants something else. She wants royal blood for some kind of vague sacrifice she wants to make. Sounds like something morally reprehensible will be occurring soon.
Ah, here we go: we’re back in Slaver’s Bay. Astapor, to be exact. It’s lovely there—the sun glimmers on the blue water and shines in the hair of the dozens of slaves nailed to wooded structures on the main promenade. Nothing like the smell of rotting slave in the morning. Dany is trying to buy 8,000 of the perfectly trained soldier slaves called the Unsullied, but understandably has some concerns as she is financially aiding and abetting SLAVERY. Her trusted advisors Ser Jorah and Ser Barristan give her conflicting council—Jorah (who incidentally was banned from Westeros for dealing in the slave trade) says buy ‘em Khaleesi, it’s the only way, but Barristan is an old-school knight type who would rather die than be dishonorable. Ser Barristan’s claim to fame is that he battled by the side of Dany’s brother Rhaegar Targaryen, the Last Dragon (not to be confused with the cult classic 1985 martial arts film). We get a nice look at the huge golden Harpy of Astapor, which doubles as a symbol of what the slave trade can buy, before we come face to face yet again with that feminist Unsullied salesman. An infuriating yet kinda sorta hilarious exchange follows, in which Dany negotiates with him through a translator (who, by the way, is 11 in the books and not a cleavage-y hottie like she is here…just sayin). He throws around the kind of words a Smith undergrad would nail you to the cross for, but the gist is that Dany can’t possibly afford so many Unsullied. So she offers something more valuable than gold: a dragon. He accepts.
As Dany walks away with Missandei the translator, also acquired in the trade, she asks her opinion on the matter. Her response is “Valar Morghulis,” a phrase you might remember from last season. Dany responds that yes, all men must die. The Astapori speak Ghiscari, a bastardized version of High Valyrian, which is the ancient language of the dragonlords. Dany just revealed that she understood everything that was being said about her but was too cunning to reveal it until now.As Dany said, Rhaegar is NOT the Last Dragon. Now we’re left to wonder how she’s going to pull this off.
So now that Tyrion is workin’ for the weekend, he decides to visit Littlefinger’s “office” AKA “whorehouse” to retrieve the royal ledgers and endure jokes about his appearance. Here we get a whole episode’s worth of gratuitous boobs and bendy prostitutes, as Tyrion decides to kill two birds with one stone and pays back his squire Pod for saving his life by hiring not one…not two…but THREE ladies of the oldest profession to deflower him. As Pod gets his, we learn that Littlefinger has been borrowing heavily from the Iron Bank of Braavos (another Free City, not in Westeros) to pay for all the opulence of King’s Landing. This is not good, as this bank will probably employ the Braavosi equivalent of mobsters to get the damn money back. Looks like Littlefinger shipped off to the Eyrie just in time.
When Pod returns, he informs Tyrion and Bronn that those nice girls didn’t even want the money! At that, Tyrion simply stares at him, as if the thought that you might not always have to pay for sex is a new one. However, something fishy is definitely going on here. They sit Pod down to get All The Details of his foursome.
The next sequence is the most surprising to date, as it deviates 100% from the novels. Theon the Turncloak, previously sprung by a mysterious stranger from whatever holy hell he was in, is swiftly riding on a white horse. On one hand, Theon is an obvious JERK that deserved being sorta crucified and flayed; on the other, he was only trying to get Daddy’s approval. He is soon attacked by a lone bowman that we soon learn isn’t so alone. A hot chase ensues, with Theon on his white horse pursued by a gaggle of menacing black-clad men on black horses shooting dozens of arrows at him. The scene is one of the greatest of the episode; it’s beautifully shot and really evokes what it must be like trying to avoid imminent death while riding through treacherous woods on horseback. Seriously, I would have just surrendered.
And yet, the pursuers are all felled by a superior bowman: the aforementioned mysterious stranger yet again. WHO IS THIS GUY?!
Finally, we cut back to Jaime and Brienne, who are down and dirty, tied to separate trees. Brienne might not be traditionally attractive but these bros haven’t seen a lady in a loooong time, so I guess she’s rape-able. All kidding aside, this part got really uncomfortable as Brienne is forcibly moved offscreen by dozens of men and all you can hear are her screams of protest. Jaime begins to employ his smooth talking to remedy the situation, and it works. Brienne is returned. Jaime is swiftly becoming more nuanced this season, and we can’t entirely hate him. He might be sarcastic and, well, incestuous, but he’s also pretty misunderstood. (Or pretty, AND misunderstood.) But Jaime’s not done yet; he figures why not try to negotiate his own release, too? Just as we think his charm (AKA money) is working on the leader of this band of outlaws, he is taken to another tree, this one a mere stump. His hand, his SWORD hand, is placed on the stump and as the man wielding a sharp short sword talks and talks, the blade swings down like lightning and cuts off Jaime Lannister’s hand in one fell swoop. Just. Like. That.
And that’s what we’re left to ponder as the Hold Steady blast their rendition of “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” over the closing credits.
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