Tales From Westeros – The First of His Name
Aaaand another king sits the Iron Throne. Tommen’s coronation is underway, and his nervous posture and expression is endearing when contrasted against Joffrey’s usual sprawled-leg entitlement. He looks to Margaery, in plain sight across the room, for comfort and she offers it in the form of a sisterly (with promise) knowing smile. Of course, Cersei notices this exchange and begins her inevitable interception. Normally, when Cersei makes a move in someone’s direction, it’s either to deliver a thinly veiled threat or dress them down entirely, so I was intrigued to see that she spoke plainly and (sort of) kindly. Cersei admits that Joffrey was a monster, but she loved her oldest son anyway—Tommen is a good boy, and has the potential to be the only worthy king to sit the Iron Throne in fifty years. But Tommen “will need help.” With this confessional spirit, she slickly insinuates that she’s willing to pass the Queenly baton to Margaery. This is a battle of wiles, and Cersei is either changing her tactics or softening in her grief. Margaery on the other hand, is quickly learning epic levels of connivance judging by that burn she closed out the convo with…
Cersei’s new tone is a common theme throughout the episode. Later, she sits with her father to cold-bloodedly discuss the upcoming marriages—Tommen to Margaery, and Cersei herself to Margaery’s brother Loras. The contrast is heavy. Marriage is something that is usually planned with a certain amount of cheer and celebration, and here they are speaking of it as coldly and clinically as a visit to the doctor. (Cersei’s ever-present cup of wine is the only sign of celebration here…) Of course, these are tactical marriages, and as it turns out they are more advantageous than we may have previously thought. Tywin reveals that the Lannister gold is totally dunzo, and they need to form this financial alliance, as it is their best hope at bailing out the crown’s debts to the ominous Iron Bank of Braavos. You get the idea that Tywin isn’t one to overexaggerate, so when he says the Lannisters are broke, the Lannisters are BROKE.
Watching Dany finally learn all the Westerosi gossip all the way in Meereen makes me really appreciate the Internet. This happened seasons ago! #WarOfTheFiveKings would’ve been trending on Twitter immediately. Anyway, Dany and her advisors ponder the news—Ser Barristan thinks the old Houses will be loyal since she’s a Targaryen and all, but Ser Jorah is probably right when he jadedly says that everyone just wants to side with whoever will win. Dany has done the morally courageous thing and freed the slaves of Yunkai and Astapor, but the news from those cities is grim. They have been reliant on a slave-based system for so long that without it, chaos reigns…and “liberation isn’t going quite as planned.” It’s a conflict Dany didn’t prepare for, and it weighs on her mind as she debates her invasion of Westeros. She’s now in possession of the Meereenese navy and its ships; a fine asset when you’re trying to conquer a place. It seems like the time is ripe to finally go for it, but Dany is thrown by the Slaver’s Bay sitch and says, “How can I win the Seven Kingdoms if I cannot rule Slaver’s Bay?” So she decides to do just that. Again, it’s a fairly honorable decision in line with her near-evangelical desire to be everyone’s Mother, but she might need to start prioritizing.
Meanwhile, Sansa and Littlefinger have finally made it to the Vale and her aunt Lysa’s castle the Eyrie. We get a little Vale history lesson as well as some insanely gorgeous scenery, but then a bomb drops: Sansa is introduced as someone named Alayne. This is a really, really enlightening story arc—not only do a lot of things happen to advance the plot, but also we learn a LOT along the way. Lysa and Lord Baelish are going to get married. (She’s seriously hot for it and pressures him to tie the knot immediately.) This means Littlefinger is now Lord of the Vale, supplanting the great House Arryn to hold one of the most powerful titles in Westeros. (No small feat.) Sansa meets her aunt for the first time, and it’s a warm greeting even though they have to keep her true identity as a Stark a secret for safety’s sake. When Lysa asks Littlefinger why he was gone for so long, he delivers the driest description of his doings you could imagine. “Oh you know, plotting Joffrey’s murder, setting up the next king on the Iron Throne, getting Sansa out of King’s Landing…the usual.” It’s delivered with the tiniest hint of a smirk and pride, and it makes you think: HUH. He really did just do all that shit, and I can barely make it to brunch on Sunday morning. The kicker is: not only was he orchestrating recent events, but Lysa reveals he was also the brains behind the letter she sent Catelyn back in season one, calling her husband Jon Arryn’s death a murder. If you don’t remember, that letter was the catalyst that brought Ned Stark to King’s Landing and got him killed, and arguably started the whole chain of messed up events. Lord Baelish is playing a long game, and we still don’t know what he wants. At this point it might be safe to say he wants…everything.
Later in the episode, Lysa sweetly plies Sansa with her favorite treat, lemon cakes. It’s nice to see Sansa’s appetite return with a vengeance, as it’s obviously a stand-in for her mental health. Their nice little candlelit talk begins innocently enough; Lysa envelops her niece in warmth and kind words, but the mood soon turns, how shall I put it…CRAY. The undeniably unhinged Lysa Arryn unleashes her seething insecurity on Sansa, forcefully accusing her of sleeping with Littlefinger. Lysa has been in love with him since girlhood, yet he has always been deeply devoted to Catelyn—and here sits Sansa, a lovely young girl with her mother’s auburn hair, basically Catelyn’s stand-in. It would benaïve to think that Littlefinger’s motives don’t include projecting his unrequited feelings onto Sansa, and Lysa knows this. It was interesting to see Sophie Turner display Sansa’s emotional landscape from security to disbelief to fear; I thought her acting in the first couple of seasons was slightly wooden, but she’s been killing her new material.
Speaking of killing, one of my favorite things about Arya Stark is her bedtime prayer. The scenes with Arya and the Hound don’t really seem to be making much progress in terms of plot, but it’s fun to see their interactions. (Like adding the Hound to her kill list, and his troubled/indignant expression when he hears it.) Like, how dare this CHILD think she can kill me? But realizing it’s totally possible. Yet he still tries to help her, in his own way. Catching her practicing swordplay in the manner Syrio Forel taught her, he makes a good point that it helps to have “armor and a big fucking sword.”
Oh, and it seems like everyone is on their way to the Eyrie, am I right?
Except for these guys: in Quest Land, where Brienne of Tarth seems to enjoy living, her new squire Podrick is irritating the shit out of her. He can’t ride, he can’t cook a rabbit (he tried—with the SKIN ON), and he’s really inept at all that other questing stuff. They’re on their way to Castle Black, and judging from what we know is happening out there, Pod might want to brush up. She relents though, and shows begrudging respect when he tells her he killed a Kingsguard. And allows him to help. Awww.
Did you know Oberyn Martell writes poetry in his free time? Me neither, and I love it. Cersei approaches him, and like before when she approached Margaery, tones down the bitchiness and appeals to common emotional ground. Oberyn is still consumed with the need to avenge his sister’s death, and Cersei exploits this need as they walk through the lovely gardens, saying “What good is power if you cannot protect the ones you love?” As per usual with these two, there is negotiation veiled as conversation, though it’s more out in the open this time. Her daughter Myrcella is in Dorne, and while Oberyn assures her that they don’t hurt little girls in Dorne, Cersei counters with the only truth she knows: “Everywhere in the world they hurt little girls.”
The past few episodes have been heavy on the plot development and light on action, but we know something is about to happen as Jon prepares to attack the mutineers at Craster’s Keep. Bolton’s man Locke scopes out the scene, ostensibly to help out the Night’s Watch. We know his true motives though, and he finds Bran and the rest of the captives quickly, turning back to purposely divert the Crows from that area. Jojen Reed (who never gets enough screen time, give me more visions and weirwoods and prophecies!) does this thing where his hand is on fire but no one notices. His sister Meera is strung up like cattle, the threat of brutal rape imminent, as per usual at Craster’s. During this commotion, her friends obviously panic but it’s her brother Jojen that delivers the winning line to Karl: “I saw you die tonight.” Jojen has the Sight, and his visions are the future—the Night’s Watch storms the Keep and immediately there’s a full-on battle to occupy Karl’s attention.
As the fighting rages, Locke takes the opportunity to attempt his Little Lord of Winterfell kidnapping scheme. It’s going swimmingly for a bit, until Bran takes note of Jojen’s meaningful expression and wargs into Hodor, using his enormous strength to snap Locke’s neck. It was brutal. And awesome. Using good-natured Hodor to commit murder did leave a bad taste in my mouth, but I think the circumstances justified the trespass. The most heartbreaking thing in this episode has to be Bran having Jon in plain sight and choosing, for the greater good, to stay hidden. After everything everyone’s been through, a little family time would have done immeasurable good, but Jojen—he of the Sight— is right in claiming Jon will just stop Bran from moving further North and finding that elusive Three Eyed Raven. Besides, Jon doesn’t need any distractions. He’s battling pretty hard, Karl is a good fighter after all—he has Jon in his clutches for a hot minute when one of the abused Craster daughter-wives knocks him over the head so Jon can get in a good “sword to the other side of the throat” move. Official worst way to die.
In the end, Jojen’s prophecy for Karl came true. He’s dead, and burning—with the rest of dead and the whole of Craster’s cursed Keep. Last but definitely not least: Jon is reunited with Ghost!! I guess if he can’t see his brother, his direwolf will do.
What did you think of the episode? Are you glad there was finally some action? What do you think Littlefinger is up to?
-Izzy Vassilakis Eden
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