That was definitely my favorite episode of Game of Thrones this season. It was gut-wrenching, nail-biting, downright disturbing, and it had some moments to cheer for (though they were few and far between.)
I found the episode title misleading, as so much of this week’s show was about Winterfell, Robb Stark, and Jon Snow encountering a troublesome wildling. The Old Gods were well represented. I can’t say the same about the new, as we didn’t check in with Melisandre this time. Which maybe contributed to me liking this hour that much more.
But really it was about Joffrey getting slapped again.
Warning: Episode reviews contain episode and book spoilers. If you want to remain spoiler-free, follow Leigh Butler’s read of ASOIaF. Tor.com is not liable for your further enjoyment of the series if later books get spoiled in the comments.
“The Old Gods and the New” hit the ground running with Maester Luwin desperately trying to send a raven to alert Robb to Theon’s betrayal and the seige of Winterfell. Though we’ve spent less screentime at Winterfell than we did in the books, it’s possibly even more distressing to see the Stark home under attack. It’s more than a castle, it’s a heart, it’s a dream that all of the scattered Starks wish to return to. It’s Tara, Manderley, the Shire.
Theon is such a dick. Is there really more to express along those lines? Any ounce of sympathy I did feel for him as he struggled with his Greyjoy heritage is gone. One line that did strike me was Bran asking the new prince “Did you hate us the whole time?” Did anyone ever ask Theon that?
The faithful servants of Ned Stark are uniformly bold. Let’s have a moment for Ser Roderick and his bitchin’ muttonchop braids. He’s punching direwolves in heaven with Jory and Yoren now. His execution was harrowing. Hearing Bran and the smallfolk of Winterfell begging Theon for mercy made it worse. Alfie Allen, like Jack Gleeson (Joffrey), is such a natural at playing the bad guy. That wild look in his eyes as he kicked Roderick’s head was superb.
The tension didn’t let up when we stopped in on Arya at Harrenhal. I love the scenes she’s been sharing with Tywin. Lord Tywin seems to know his men are half-wits and sycophants. When Littlefinger entered the room, I think I might have frozen as much as Arya did. That was nicely edited, like a dance.
Charles Dance imbues Tywin with real life. He’s a frighteningly powerful man, and so smart, but when he talks to his little cupbearer there’s a vulnerability in his voice, showing through rare little chinks in his red and gold armor. But it’s ultimately nothing Arya can exploit. Yet it makes the old lion one of the more interesting men with an army.
In Robb’s camp, the young wolf flirts with Lady Not-Jayne-Westerling (or is it?) until his mother comes along and kills the mood, as moms are wont to do when they see their betrothed son flirting with some nameless hussy. If you’ve read the books, you know that Robb should really, really listen to his mother here.
One of the biggest events of the night was the riot in King’s Landing. Chaotic camerawork left me on the edge of my seat. King Joffrey, such a stupid little shit. What will it take for anyone besides Tyrion to reign the “vicious idiot” teen tyrant in? Tyrion, the Kingslapper. I have no problem with this occurring at least once each season. I can’t help but notice that Tyrion is the only person concerned for Sansa. It’s like he’s the only person who realizes her worth to the Lannister cause, but he sees her as more than a bargaining chip, too. He seems to have some bit of admiration for her.
In an episode of beheadings and a man getting torn apart like he was on The Walking Dead, the near gang rape of Sansa was the hardest part to stomach. Too bad no Hound was there to save the other women from a similar fate. Again with the repugnant treatment towards women in Westeros. I loved finally seeing a bit of interaction between Sandor Clegane and Sansa. While he may not look the part, he is quite the knight in shining armor.
Beyond the Wall, Jon Snow gets some good ranging advice from Qhorin Halfhand. Qhorin seemed really smart until he left Jon alone to kill a feisty redheaded wildling, even though it was so obvious that these two were destined to meet cute. And how cute was it when Ygritte made Jon squirm by squirming herself? Oh, enjoy the fun while it lasts, you two.
The episode ends with Osha helping to spirit away Bran, Rickon, Hodor (Hodor!) and the direwolves. But the real cliffhanger is the dragon-napping. What will Dany do to get her children back? Looks like somebody woke the dragon. Where was Jorah in all of this? How long can Theon hold Winterfell against Roose Bolton’s bastard — one of the few men more heinous than even Joffrey and Theon?
Next week can’t come soon enough, don’t you agree?
Game of Thrones airs 9PM E/PT on HBO.
Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com. She covers True Blood, Game of Thrones, and is also an avid gamer. She has also covered tech and TV for Geektress.com and Action Flick Chick. Follower her on Twitter @tdelucci