Another 50 minutes, another 15 scene changes. The diverging plot lines and scattering characters of Game of Thrones continue to make the feel of this season more than a little frantic.
We start off with Jaime, or more accurately, with Jaime's severed hand. In any case, both hand and man are much the worse for their night among Roose Bolton's men. Weakened, and dispirited, the Kingslayer's only defender is his erstwhile captor, Brienne. Just a couple of days ago, these two were literally at eat other's throats, now they find themselves awkwardly bonding.
Down the road in King's Landing we catch up with the always interesting twosome of Tyrion and Varys. Tyrion is still more than a little fretful about his nose-chopping experience on the battlefield in which one if his supposed allies took a swing at his head, almost certainly on the orders of darling sister Cersei. He's looking for some evidence that will let him act. To Tyrion's surprise, rather than directly answering his questions, Varys tells the story of his castration. To everyone's surprise (including readers of the books) Varys even produces the man who handled the knife. Varys reassures Tyrion that vengeance will come in time, which may comfort Tyrion, but honestly this scene made me think less of The Spider. It's just far too direct and unsubtle for the Varys we know, love, and don't trust as far as we could throw him.
And then we have to go inside to talk over the rest.
Long dogleg north to the tattered remnants of the Night's Watch expedition still hanging out at Craster's filthy encampment. Sam lovingly watches as Gilly delivers her baby—a boy child who definitely does not have a bright future.
Quick as whiplash, we're off to see Brandon dreaming of the tree-eyed crow, and then ...
Back to Varys. This time the master of whisperers is chatting with prostitute turned Littlefinger's right hand girl, Ros. After spending even more time extending the joke about squire Poderick Payne's bedroom prowess (note: this kind of thing really doesn't work in this choppy format) Ros gets around to warning Varys that Littlefinger is a threat to Sansa.
And now, golden King Joffrey being his charming self as he laughs over all the scenes of death, torture, and general misery that have played out in the High Sept. It raises the revolt-o-meter to 11, but Margaery once again continues to show that she knows exactly where every lever in Joffery's little mind is located. The Queen of Thornes and Queen regent Cersei trail behind, ostensively planning the upcoming wedding, but Cersei is mostly sweating bullets over Margaery's performance. Joffery has increasing treated mom like dirt, Margaery has the boy king eating out of her decolletage, and has Cersei noticed just how young, beautiful, and beloved of the people Margaery is? You betcha.
Way up north, north to Theon and his rescuer. The mysterious benefactor claims to be of the Iron Islands, and tells a touching tale of watching Theon's departure as a child. He draws Theon out as he supposedly brings the would-be Price of Winterfell closer to safety. Theon confesses that the bodies hanging from the walls of Winterfell were not those of the Starks, but two handy orphans. Thank you Theon and ... here's your reward, back to the rack for more torture. Have fun.
A quick visit to the Jaime pity party (okay, he has reasons) where it falls to Brienne to go beyond protecting Jaime and push him to live with his loss.
Back to King's Landing where it's Cersei's turn to go running to papa for some fatherly reassurance. Gee, how did that turn out for Tyrion? It doesn't go much better for Cersei. Complaining about everything from Margaery's control of Joffery to her second place role in a man's world, the nicest thing Tywin says in reply is that Cersei is not as smart as she thinks she is.
Now it's time for a visit between Varys and the Queen of Thrones in this very Varys heavy episode. Not that I'm complaining. The dialog between these two master manipulators is by far the best of the night, maybe of the season. Dame Diana Rigg has the role of acid-tongue queen absolutely nailed, and if anyone gives her a hard time, I expect she could still deliver a quick karate chop.
Margaery and Sansa. Sansa and Margaery. The contrast between the former queen to be and Joffery's new match could not be greater. Sansa is ... poor Sansa. Margery is so smart, so damn good, that its impossible not to like her even as you know she's manipulating people. In this case, she's offering to wed Sansa to her brother Loras. It's an idea sure to thrill Sansa. Poor Sansa.
From the two lovely ladies next to warm water, we zip back to snow and darkness as the Night's Watch conducts a grim funeral. Suspicions of Craster are growing among the men, and why not? Craster really is a daughter raping bastard. Mormont losses control of his starving, frightened men, but the bloodletting doesn't end with Craster. When the Lord Commander tries to take the situation in hand, he gets a knife in the back. The situation boils into crow-on-crow chaos while Sam escapes with Gilly and the baby. It's shocking, sure, but lacks a lot of the punch it had in the book. One, the men of the Night's Watch in this group have no impact as characters outside of Sam and Mormont, they're all just scruffy guys in dark clothing, and deprived of actually seeing the battle against the wights, we don't have all the sympathy we should have when these guys start to panic.
Anyway, it's time for Arya. A little Arya can make any week better. Unfortunately, a little Arya is all we get. The brotherhood leads Arya to their cavern headquarters, where we finally meet Beric Dondarion, the lightning lord. Arya levels murder charges against the Hound, setting up a fight for next week.
And finally we're off to Astapor, where Dani prepares to deliver a dragon in exchange for her slave army. She first surprises the traders by speaking old Valyrian (how much time has Emilia Clarke had to devote to speaking in tongues?). Perhaps the slave dealers realize that all those insults they tried to slip past Dani were not so funny after all. If so, they don't get to think about it long before they are both parboiled by dragonfire and speared by their own former slaves.
Seriously, who thought handing over every trained mercenary in town was a good idea?