To survive in Westeros, sometimes you have to make an unsavory alliance. This week though, everybody finds themselves dubiously partnered with someone they wouldn’t trust not to put a dagger through their heart.
Which is exactly what the Hound teaches Arya to do when they come across a man who’d been half-heartedly disemboweled by vandals, his hut burnt, sitting where he’d fallen. He’s obviously been suffering for a while, so why not end it, they ask him? Living is a hard habit to break, he tells them, and damn if that’s not an accurate summary of the Seven Kingdoms' sorry state.
Amid the chaos of kings constantly dying of one beheading or another poisoning, the land left barren by war and the ever-approaching winter, too many good men dead to military service or bandits, it’s a fair question to wonder what the purpose of it all is. The dying man laments that there’s “no balance anymore” - he thinks the Hound ransoming Arya to her aunt is a fair trade, that’s how far south for the winter the continent’s morals have migrated - and the Hound puts him out of his misery. “That’s where the heart is,” he explains to Arya, because some part of him has been thinking of her as his sidekick since they killed the five rogue Kingsguard in the tavern.
Unfortunately, it’s because of said incident that the Hound suddenly finds a chunk of his neck missing before dispatching his attacker. Two men laid an ambush in hopes of collecting the handsome (I assume) bounty of 100 silver stags on his head, set by the Lannisters. Arya recognizes the second man, and adds his name to her list - just before she demonstrates her new knowledge of anatomy. “You’re learning,” the Hound grunts at her, practically a fawning compliment in the sellsword world. They bond further - the Hound has a lot of abandonment issues for a man who makes a living of killing people - while she cleans his wound. It's something like charming.
Back in the dungeons of King’s Landing, Jaime Lannister is angry: “I made a deal for you, to keep your ungrateful head on your ungrateful neck a little while longer.” Fair, but Tyrion points out that if he’d agreed to the deal Tywin would’ve gotten everything: Tyrion out of sight, Jaime carrying on the family name. But where Tyrion’s usually keen insight into people fails is not realizing that Shae loved him just as much as he loved her - people don’t usually do something so hateful to someone they don’t care about. But as much as they both hate Tywin, turns out it’s Cersei they need to watch for — she’s named the Mountain as her champion.
Tyrion’s next visit doesn’t go much better. Bronn’s been found - and he’s set to marry up, right into a castle once he dispatches of his simple wife’s older sister: “Ladies fall from their horses and snap their pretty necks all the time.” Human life, once again worthless when it stands in the way of what you want. But Bronn values his own life enough, and Tyrion can’t reasonably fault him for not wanting to fight the Mountain. They shake on Tyrion’s certain death, with Bronn promising to toast the songs that would be written about the combat. Thanks?
In more proof that good help is hard to find, Daario Naharis sneaks into Daenerys’ bed chamber trying to tempt her with wildflowers first, then begging to be let loose to kill her enemies. “I only have two talents in this world: war and women. … Here in Meereen, I cannot pursue my talents.” Daenerys reasonably points out that he’s got his orders as a guard and thousands of women in the city to pursue. But he wants to be sent away to do real battle. She considers this. “Very well. Do what you do best,” Daenerys says, all casual with her wine-pouring and not looking at him until... “Take off your clothes.” Emilia Clarke famously insisted she was done with nudity, but thankfully Michiel Huisman has no such qualms.
But because nature demands balance, the shot following Daario’s bare butt is Lady Melisandre’s breasts afloat in a bath. Stannis’ wife Selyse Florent approves. Melisandre explains that many of her potions are merely trickery, though Selyse is resentful that she didn’t have to use any of it to seduce Stannis. “It’s only flesh; it needs what it needs,” Melisandre says, not nearly as reassuring as it may have sounded in her head.
Daario’s walk of shame is interrupted by Ser Jorah, who jealously stomps off to find Daenerys in the war room and insist she can’t possibly trust a sellsword. After elegantly pointing out that Jorah himself had been a mercenary when he came into her brother’s service, she smooths his feathers by saying Daario’s been sent away - to slaughter all of Yunkai’s masters. Jorah sets aside his unrequited love to plead with Daenerys, who is indeed in the “good mood” as Daario had alluded, and she agrees to send the man who pleaded to bury his crucified father last week as her ambassador to tell the slavers what fate awaits them if they don’t respect their former charges.
Brienne and Podrick are enjoying a rare quiet night, until a conversation about steak and kidney pie with their waiter turns into a new lead on Arya. Hot Pie’s cooking has improved, and he tells them his friend is with the Hound, headed to Riverrun. But given the Red Wedding, Podrick says they’re more likely to be in the Vale of Arryn, where Arya’s moneyed aunt lives - Tyrion saw to his education in the marriage and money affairs of Westeros.
This week’s stirring speech goes to Oberyn Martell, who visits Tyrion and recounts the heartbreaking story of meeting him as a newborn. All anyone on the road from Dorne to Casterly Rock could talk about was the “monster that had been born to Tywin Lannister” with a big red eye, a tail, a claw - every cruel deformity a young child could think up. But when Oberyn was finally allowed to see Tyrion in his crib, all he could say to Cersei was, “That’s not a monster. That’s just a baby.” By this point, Tyrion and everyone else are all crying, but Oberyn wasn’t done. He came to King’s Landing for justice, and so far there’s been precious little. So he will stand as Tyrion’s champion, with every intention of killing the Mountain in retribution for his slain sister and her children.
Right, now that everyone’s had a chance to grab some tissues, let’s change the mood entirely. At the Vale, Sansa makes a snowcastle of Winterfell, all the while struggling to remember what it looks like, in the Eyrie’s courtyard until Robin declares it useless because it doesn’t have a Moon Door and stomps it out. Petyr Baelish slinks in to comfort her with, “If you want to build a better home, you must demolish the old one.” Sansa thinks he’s talking about killing Joffrey, but that death only seems significant if you don’t know the very long game Littlefinger has played to get to this point - poisoning Lord Arryn, then Hand of King Robert Baratheon, is what led Ned Stark to King’s Landing. Ned Stark, who had married the love of Petyr’s life.
“In a better world, one where love could overcome strength and duty, you might have been my child,” he tells Sansa. “But we don’t live in that world,” and that seems like a perfectly legitimate reason to kiss her like he’s getting a second chance at Catelyn. Lysa Arryn, recently wed to Baelish, knows the whole story and tells it to Sansa - though she may not have been listening all that well, as she was half out the Moon Door at the time. Baelish makes her release Sansa, then finishes his business at the Vale by pushing Lysa to her death.
There was a meme shared around Tumblr all week about Petyr Baelish’s relative position in one’s circle of trust. After this episode, he may have to be relocated outside of the known universe of trust.
Episode grade: A+
I laughed, I cried, I cringed, I cheered. And absolutely everyone got a killer (heh) one-liner.
Brienne’s assessment of Podrick: “You’re not interesting enough to be offensive.” And here we thought they were getting to be on friendly terms.
There was some standard manhood-waving between Jon Snow and Alliser Thorne, who doesn’t like Jon’s direwolf or his strategy for defending Castle Black, despite him being the only one of the Night’s Watch who’s not only fought a wildling and lived to tell but fought with them, too. There won’t be an Night’s Watch to lord command over once Mance Rayder breaches the battlements, Thorne!
Bronn gets line of the episode, with his retort to Tyrion’s doubt that simple Lollys Stokeworth is not his sort of woman: ‘If I wanted wits, I’d marry you.”