The last ten minutes of last night’s Game of Thrones episode proved that one show’s fourth episode is another show’s season finale. It was one fiery hell of a capper to an hour largely about secret dealings, betrayals, and some big slices of humble pie served to Lannisters.
Show spoilers after the cut, book spoilers likely in the comments. Proceed with caution.
“A dragon is not a slave.”
Goddamn, that was definitely one of the best endings this show has ever had. Definitely the best high point in Dany’s story since she came through her husband’s funeral pyre with three baby dragons.
You just knew Dany, Mother of Dragons and Queen of the Pokerface, knew every vile, disgusting, sexist thing Kraznys was uttering in their negotiations. And you just knew Dany would not leave her favorite dragon in the hands of a slaver bastard, in a city full of slaves. But it was still supremely gratifying to watch her burn the whole fucking city down with her babies and her army anyway.
Well, okay, while her Big Reveal speech and her orders to the Unsullied were gratifying—the “battle” suffered from Rome-syndrome, i.e. show the first few hits in a battle, then cut to a smoking, deserted battlefield. But, whatever. Like Robb’s first battle against Tywin in the first season, the war scenes are unimportant. The getting there, the end results, are the key.
So, Dany’s got her dragons, her army of eight thousand free Unsullied, her rag-tag khalasar and her soul. Robb, Stannis, Renly… they can all call themselves kings, but when Daenerys got on her silver horse after the burning of Astapor, she proved herself the only person in Westeros who’s actually worthy of the ideals of the Iron Throne.
Instead, the smallfolk have King Joffrey, barely concealing a boner as he gives Margaery a tour of famous Red Keep Sept murder sites. Seven Hells.
“Influence is a matter of patience,” Varys tells Tyrion. The golden roses of House Tyrell may not sound intimidating, but they are certainly plying golden words to gain power in the capital. Cersei is certainly threatened by it, but it comes more from a reflection of her failures as a mother.
Varys, playing possibly the second longest game of all behind the scenes, recognizes the Tyrell’s growing influence as something that can possibly be directed against his nemesis Littlefinger, who really is the most dangerous man in Westeros. Watching the Spider match wits with the Queen of Thorns was possibly even better than watching the eunuch trade jabs with Tyrion. Pretty much every line was worthy of a “Quote of the Week” award, but Olenna’s “What happens when the nonexistent bumps up against the decrepit?” might be the winner.
My heart genuinely broke for Sansa, her eyes welling with tears of relief, after Margaery told her that she would marry Sansa to Loras once she was queen. More than a possibility of escape, Margaery telling Sansa “I want us to be sisters” showed her the first true kindness the lone wolf cub has known while living amongst hungry lions. Sansa wants so badly to believe someone will be her friend and rescue her. Granted, she doesn’t know a marriage to Loras would probably be really… unsatisfying… for her. But nevermind that. Lest we think that the Tyrell’s offer is strictly altruistic, remember that if Robb falls, Sansa’s last name is the key to controlling the unruly North.
In the North, Jaime is being taught further lessons in humility. It was so easy to hate Jaime in the beginning of the series, but to watch him brought so low brings me no enjoyment. Like Theon, Jaime is misunderstood and has done terrible things. But while the young Greyjoy’s betrayal of Robb comes from a more sympathetic misplacement of loyalty and approval-seeking (“My real father lost his head at King’s Landing and I made the wrong choice. And now I’ve burned everything down.”) nothing Jaime’s done has been sympathetic until he saved Brienne from getting raped and killed last week.
I loved Brienne goading Jaime into living to fight another day by calling him a woman.
While Theon’s “savior’s” betrayal was a nice twist, the biggest crushing blow came from the mutinous men of the Night’s Watch at Craster’s Keep. That really, really sucked. I won’t mourn the passing of Craster, but the Old Bear? This is what happens when Westeros sends a large population of criminals to the Wall. The Night’s Watch used to be an honorable fate for a man. There was no honor in what Rast and company did. I don’t care how hungry they were.
IS DOLOROUS EDD DEAD?! Nooooooooo. It looked like he got stabbed in the heart. If anyone can link to a .gif proving otherwise, I’d be grateful.
At least Sam found the courage to save Gilly and her boy, but they’ve got a long, dangerous road back south.
Other points of interest:
- Awesome reintroduction to Beric Dondarrian. What a speech. And awesome callback to Micah, the murdered butcher’s boy from season one. Okay, the Brotherhood Without Banners is getting Clegane on a technicality, which isn’t really cool because it isn’t Sandor’s place to question a prince. But he is a murderer. (Still, I’m kind of rooting for the Hound.)
- Ros is working for Varys and Littlefinger. And maybe Podrick is a stud. I still think Tyrion paid the whores in advance to give the boy a confidence boost.
- Bran had a nightmare of the three-eyed crow and a cameo from a very, very frightening Cat. Jojen stared portentously. I yawned.
- And what would Tyrion do to Cersei if he had proof she tried to have him killed at Blackwater anyway? It doesn’t seem like Tywin would care much. He should heed Varys and be patient; Cersei and a harsh patriarchal society are doing a great job of making her obsolete as it is.
- Tywin kind of owns.
- “He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes.” – Varys on Littlefinger. Chilling sentiment. Definitely true.
Next week: The Hound faces his trial by combat against the Lightning Lord, reborn in the light of the one true Red God. Jon Snow stands with his mouth agape or something.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9P.M. E/PT on HBO.
Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com, covering True Blood, Game of Thrones, and gaming news. Follow her on Twitter @tdelucci