Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and Margaery (Natalie Dormer) greet a crowd.

Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and Margaery (Natalie Dormer) greet a crowd.


Now this is quintessential Thrones: it’s thrilling, it’s exciting and it manages to surprise even an avid lover of the source material such as myself.

This is by and large the best episode thus far of season three by a monumental landslide. There was no Robb, no Jon but it’s hardly noticeable due to the wonderful storylines and performances that we were delivered. It was an episode of changes. Brienne and Jaime, who up to this episode have been used as comic relief, were used as part of the heart of the episode, Varys who is usually a character lurking in the background was brought to the forefront with gusto, Theon who has been a character many people roll their eyes at his foolishness was heartbreaking and Dany who was given the shaft has returned to the Queen-like status she promised she could be at the end of season one.

There are four portions of this episode that truly exemplifies what Thrones can accomplish and they’re spellbinding

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Their excellent adventure has come to a standstill and the real world is leaving their mark. Still with House Bolton, Jaime’s hand now hangs from his neck as a token, as Jaime lies precariously close to vulnerability for this first time in his life. When caged in Robb’s camp he wasn’t frightened, nor did he waver under the man with the upper hand, instead he was a caged lion, ready and willing to strike when the opportunity arose, never failing to goad and antagonize anyone who dared step into his periphery. Now he’s an animal broken, wanting only to be left to starve and die and lick his wounds.

He begins to slip from his horse due to exhaustion and Brienne hollers for them to help him, worry that’s touching considering the duo’s history. Instead the leader of House Bolton plays with his prey, kicking him when he’s already down and rolling in the mud. Jaime makes an attempt to fight back but is pushed back down easily even as Brienne tries to come to his aid.

It’s a scene that shows just how far anyone in this world can fall.

Later that night as they’ve made camp, Brienne orders him to eat but he refuses much to her frustration. Why, she wants to know,won’t he help himself? Because he’s dying he informs her. He is not, she says. He must live to grow stronger and then inflict revenge upon the man who wounded him. But Jaime doesn’t care about revenge, he cares that what made him the man he is, is gone. He was known, feared and renowned for being a fierce swordsman, that was his legacy and now his prized possession has been taken from him.

Welcome to the real world, Brienne tells him. The real world is where things you love are needlessly taken away, for no rhyme nor reason, and where real people have to suffer their losses, clean up the messes left behind and struggle on for another day. So suck it up, because they’ve got a long road ahead of them.

So Jaime takes a bite of food and Brienne asks him one last thing. Why did he help her? Because the sapphires of Tarth refer to the color of the sea, not actual jewels. Jaime, however, doesn’t have an answer for her and they sit on in silence.

This may be the best Nicolaj Coster-Waldau and Gwendoline Christie have ever been.

We know that Waldau is good with the quick wit and effortless charm, we know that Christie is a ferocious actress who demands attention, but this week their characters are stripped down and watching the duo together playing out the vulnerabilities of each character as they have no one to rely on and confide in but each other is wonderful and an example of just how talented most of this cast is. Their storyline might be the one I look forward to the most each week.


Oh man, remember when Theon was that character we all kind of just rolled our eyes at? When he was the one just constantly whining about EVERYTHING, (like a younger Stannis) and was the character we would most likely enjoy fast forwarding through.

How the tides have changed.

I’ll put it bluntly; Theon broke my heart this week. Iwan Rheon was back as the mysterious character who is seemingly saving Theon to bring him back to his sister. However, something much more sinister is hidden behind Rheon’s placating words of reassurance which makes Theon’s scene all the more saddening. Theon is still holding on the bitterness that his father’s icy exterior distilled in him. He’s angry that he’s failed him, that he doesn’t hold his respect and it turns out he’s really talking about Ned. “I lost my father in King’s Landing,” and jeez isn’t that just a punch to the gut. He talks about murdering the two orphan boys to disguise them as Rickon and Bran just to hold Winterfell.

This is the epitome of a tragic character. A tragic character doesn’t have to be one whose always been kind and good and then has the tables turned on them—has their world crash and burn around them. Theon is a tragedy played out especially when Rheon’s character pulls one more rug out from under him and Theon realizes him that he’s been led back into his cell, as Rheon’s character grins madly at him, enjoying his sick little game. (For those of whom who never watched Misfits, know now that Iwan Rheon is perfect at playing crazy and disturbed.)

Many, myself included, believed that Alfie Allen deserved some award recognition in season two for his turn as Theon. I can’t picture another actor playing this complex character better. Theon is infuriating, he’s heartbreaking, and he’s so insanely interesting now.

Margaery, Varys and the Tyrells

It’s all about the letters for Varys, not the coin held, that establishes power in the world they live in. He tells Tyrion the story of how he was cut, how he became a eunuch, and how this lead him to the life he lives now, his need to above all else survive.

It has all led up to him trapping the sorcerer who removed his bits trapped in a box.

Varys meets with Olenna, the Queen of Thorns to speak of whispers and trade secrets that will equally benefit each party.

Watching these two masters of words deliberate about what to do with poor Sansa is a great showcase of an intelligent script. Varys tells Olenna that Littlefinger plans to bring Sansa with him to the Eyrie and that could be dangerous because despite Varys enjoying the man, as he puts it “Littlefinger would see the world burn just to be King of the ashes.” So, the two devise a plan.

Margaery has also settled herself nicely into the Queenly position much to my own delight. Natalie Dormer has been the best change this season, bringing a fresh energy to every scene she’s in, whomever her counterpart is. She shows her manipulation of Joffrey when the two of them go to wave to a crowd of admirers, but it’s her scene with Sansa and the rapport that Dormer and Sophie Turner share that really hits the sweet spot.

Margaery is telling Sansa that she wishes for the two to be great friends and maybe the two can go back to Highgarden together. Sansa tells her that the Queen would never allow it, but, as Margaery says, Cersei is the Queen Reagent, and Margaery will soon be the true Queen, and maybe Sansa could marry Loras and then the two will be like sisters and how happy would that make Sansa? Well, judging by the heart-shattering, watery smile on Turner’s face—probably the happiest she has looked in a very long while— she’s happier than she ever expected to be again.


So I really haven’t been a Dany fan for over an entire season. She got wicked tiring super-fast in season two with the whole “mother of dragons” screeching business, and her plot moved at a glacial pace. However, this is a Dany I could get behind and essentially did this week. While there was a hint dropped last week that she did in fact understand what the slave owner was saying, her cool response of “Valyrian is my mother tongue” was so perfectly timed and acted that it elevated the next scene when you realize the full extent of her power.

And Emilia Clarke just nails the scene. She’s exuding some spark she has lacked for far too long, and as she turns the Unsullied against their previous owners and has her dragon light the slavemaster ablaze it’s easy to believe that this is a ruler standing before us on our screens.

And what happens next is why Thrones is as addicting and why it’s one of a kind.

When she frees the Unsullied and asks them to fight for her as free men and we get the beautiful overhead shot of the thousands of soldiers marching across the wide expanse of land, there is a cinematic quality, a cinematic epic that encompasses so much of a world.  It’s a grand shot and it gives you chills and makes you feel like you’re on an adventure and when Game of Thrones accomplishes that feeling, makes me go wide eyed at the end of  an episode in pure fan giddiness, they’ve accomplished their job. We’re supposed to feel like we’re simultaneously watching something political and grounded and then out of nowhere, feel as if we’ve also stepped into a movie.

There’s a lot of other stuff that went on in this episode, most notably the mutiny in the Night’s Watch that found Craster and Jeor Mormont both killed by the episode’s end. And while the tension was wonderful, the scene was well shot and Mormont is a grade A badass, it’s not enough. There needed to be more build-up, there needed to be more consequence, and there needed to be more closure with Mormont considering the role he has played in some of our characters’ lives in the last couple of seasons.

Cersei has scenes with Tywin that show her insecurities about her place in her father’s eyes and he tells her that he can’t trust her because she’s not as smart as she thinks she is and she’s let Joffery run afoul for too long.

Arya and Gendry are hooded and brought to a secret spot to watch the Hound duel for his life and while it’s a nice little scene, I’m assuming the climactic moment will be in next week’s episode.

Overall, what a great episode to be a fan. Action packed, filled with dialogue that moved the story further along rather than simply stalling the narrative, and character moments that were so human that it was easy to forget that this is show that lives in a fantasy world.

But I might start gushing, so it’s time to end it now.

So, the question is, can Benioff and Weiss continue this impressive momentum throughout the entirety of the season? I sure hope so.

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