Things got off to a characteristically grim and shocking start on this week’s episode of Game of Thrones.
After the opening scene, we were treated to an episode heavy on characters. It was a welcome relief after the torture and gratuitousness of last week. Why, this might’ve been the first episode of Game of Thrones without a single bared breast. (Except for that shirtless fat guy begging in King’s Landing.) But just because this episode didn’t earn a hard R doesn’t mean it was without some exciting developments.
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.
Three minutes into the episode and Renly’s dead. It happened so fast even I was shocked — and I knew it was coming. I kind of wish Stannis’ shadow could stick around a bit longer, cause a little more chaos. It was a cool effect. Much better than those green ghosts in Return of the King.
Anyway. Now the clash for the Iron Throne is down a king and Cat and Brienne can run off on a Westerosi buddy adventure. You have to feel for Brienne, losing Renly like that when she loves him as more than a king. I may have chuckled a bit when I saw that last night’s big plot point on HBO’s Girls—don’t judge; I was too lazy to change the channel—was a character’s relationship with an ex who turned out to be gay. It’s an issue women have faced since probably the dawn of time.
Renly’s widow Margaery didn’t seem too broken up about his death. She’s a crafty one and though it will most likely be a while before we see her again, I’m already looking forward to it. Her hunger for power doesn’t rub me the wrong way, like Theon’s does, for example. It’s all in the attitude. (Who else could rock a high fashion dress that looks like an embroidered burrito?) Or maybe, because I’m female, I recognize and root for Margaery to get her throne because it’s so rare for women to have any agency in Westeros. She’s making the best of what they’ve given to her. One could say the same for Cersei, but she’s got that hubris. Margaery hasn’t done anything vile. Yet. So for now, I like her.
Inside the city of Qarth, Dany finally took a bath and has a sweet little set-up thanks to the rich merchant Xaro. The costume and set designers must have a blast working with Dany. There’s such a different, vibrant color palatte in the East. We got to learn how Dany trains her dragons. I loved those parts of the book. Like Margaery, a smart marriage seems to be the easiest way for Dany to secure a good future. To his credit, Xaro isn’t a starry-eyed suitor. He’s a practical man, crafty in his own way. I like him, too, but I kind of hope those Dothraki swipe some of his best silverware because really? Xaro may throw a great garden party, but what person could even consider proposing to such a new widow.
Fire is power in Qarth and in King’s Landing. I love when Tyrion’s got a plan.
Over in Harrenhal, the dreariest castle in Westeros, Arya just learned what agency feels like, thanks to her new friend Jaqen. Arya’s got some set on her, to stare down Tywin Lannister like that. The look that passed between them when she said “Anyone can be killed,” was chilling. When she immediately met Jaqen and he offered to knock three names off of her prayer list, I thought for sure the show was going to go in a completely different direction from the books. She still might. Who knows? She’s still got two wishes.
I wish Arya would just randomly name Theon. Sea Bitch is an appropriate name for his ship. Or maybe it’s just prophetic. I wonder if George wasn’t making a little joke because Theon is a bitch, for what he’s got planned to get in his father’s good graces. As good as the little lord of Winterfell is, I don’t think Bran’s prepared for what’s coming.
Beyond the Wall, the Night’s Watch has reached the Fist of the First Men and Jon gets his chance to be a ranger.
And there you have it. An episode of Game of Thrones without boobs. We’re now halfway through the season. Things are only going to get more exciting from here as Dany vies for position in Qarth and Jon goes after Mance Rayder, the King-Beyond-the-Wall.
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