Before I jump into it I've just looked at the ratings for this week's episode and I'm so excited to see GOT getting some Nielsen love from the world showing that risks can truly be taken in this business and especially with regards to something so high concept trusting the audience to keep up. This series is looking to be the next True Blood in terms of ratings jumps.
Arya is learning to shoot from Anguy the Archer when a band of Stannis's guard escorting Melisandre arrive at their camp. This was not in the book but it was great to see the contrast of the devout Melisandre and the previously atheistic Thoros who hadn't believed in years until Beric had been resurrected in front of him. That monologue was delivered quite well. Melisandre takes Gendry for two sacks of gold the Brotherhood needs and Arya calls them out for selling out Gendry who wanted to simply be one of them. Thoros and Beric are blunt about it but still thieves and bandits nonetheless. To fellow book readers I guess they're completely writing out Edric Storm as the blood relative Stannis is going to execute and removing the ambiguity of Gendry knowing whether or not he's Robert's son or not which the books never fully elaborated on or not. It was also nice to see two storylines converge and it was actually good that they can still surprise me and cross over the two stories of Dragonstone and the Riverlands, and Melisandre hasn't been seen in a few episodes anyway. I also really liked the added scene of Arya telling Melisandre that she's a witch and Melisandre simply looking into her eyes telling Arya that she will kill but that they will see each other again in the future.
Robb is visited by two Frey envoys and bring word that Walder Frey says that he will forgive Robb's betrayal is Edmure Tully, Catelyn's brother from the season opener, the Lord of Riverrun marries and seals his hand to one of Frey's daughters of Walder's choice and Robb publicly apologizes for his slight of Lord Walder. Edmure is upset at this and Robb plays the card of him having taking the stone mill town that allowed the Mountain to escape as well as capturing the two Lannister boys that were later killed by Karstark and resulted in him losing almost half of his army (although that last bit was Robb's own choice, just saying). Edmure agrees after being chastised by Blackfish, Catelyn, and Robb and the Frey envoys are told that they will oblige but that the wedding must take place in about ten days' time with Walder's health being as bad as it is and the alliance needed to be sealed in ceremony before trusting Robb again obviously.
At Harrenhal Brienne, Lord Bolton, and Jaime dine in Bolton's chambers. Jaime is still upset about the whole hand thing (rightfully so) and Brienne has to cut his food for him. Bolton insists that Jaime will be set free for a price to his father and he will tell Tywin that Bolton himself had nothing to do with the incident. Jaime is right to peg Bolton as a practical man, Bolton however is suspicious (not just the not drinking with Jaime and Brienne, who had to wear a spiffy dress) but because he's already betting against Robb Stark in his planning and he may be up to no good. But the news that Brienne will be kept as a prisoner essentially is worrisome news since she was almost raped without Jaime saying anything last time and while surely she can take care of herself I don't want her left there to be charged with treason for betraying King Robb. Bolton's observation that anyone but Catelyn would've been executed by Robb rings with a whole slew of truth regarding the importance of family even if they betray you in this series.
Rickon finally got a line, woo-hoo! Osha and Meera quibble over who is a better hunter when they both compare their rabbit-skinning skills and almost get into a fight. Jojen has one of his dreams and Meera has to have him bite down on a belt while Bran looks on startled. This was the second most brief scene of the episode and I would surely have liked to see more or the dreams effects on Jojen and how Bran deals with his visions more thoroughly than just a three minutes snippit.
Oh and also Theon was tortured some more, not like I care or feel any need to write about it.
Oleanna Tyrell has an audience with Tywin regarding Loras's betrothal to Cersei instead of Sansa and the issue of Cersei's age and Loras's homosexuality which Oleanna wholly admits too. But when she plays the incest card that Stannis used for claiming of Joffrey's illegitimacy to the throne, Tywin calls it nothing but a profane rumor. Tywin threatens to have Loras brought into the Kingsguard where he will get no inheritance since they can claim no titles nor land if Oleanna doesn't agree to the marriage, and she ultimately succumbs to his insistence.
Sansa and Loras begin to try to get to know each other. Loras's words will soon be very prophetic "this is the worst place in the world" as Sansa learned dearly this week.
Tyrion and Cersei whine about their betrothals to Loras and Sansa and the unfairness of it all. Tyrion takes the opportunity to once again bring up Ser Mandon's failed attempt on his life at the Battle of the Blackwater, but Cersei's reaction makes him suspect Joffrey gave the order not Cersei. Cersei is right in saying that Tywin is who he ought to fear now that he's Hand of the King. Tyrion decides to bite the bullet and tell Sansa the truth and in front of Shae (awkward) tells her the truth that she will marry him, not Loras. Having to tell this to the daughter of the "enemy" whom you pity and the woman that you love must be extremely difficult on his part for that and it was quite profoundly sad seeing Sansa watch Littlefinger's ship departing from the Blackwater Bay while she silently cries for having not gone when she had the chance.
In my favorite part of the episode Varys and Baelish find one another in the Throne Room. Baelish informs Varys that he knows about Varys being informed by Ros and that he did away with her for her treachery, much like he had threatened her back in Season 2's "The Night Lands" when she was sad over Robert's bastard infant son being killed right in front of the whole brothel. The reveal of Joffrey paying to use her as bolt practice for his sadistic purposes was really quite sad seeing as Ros had survived coming to King's Landing since Season 1 and now Sansa is the only person from the North left in King's Landing that is a main character of the Stark name anyway. Littlefinger's speech about chaos being a ladder interspersed with the Wall climb was magically spectacular and juxtaposed in all the right ways with Jon and Ygritte's ending scene, and it also confirms just how deadly and dangerous Baelish really is and Varys is correct in his fears of Baelish's true power despite being without and army of any sort of his own.
Beyond the Wall and At the Wall
Sam tries to start a fire but is told that there is too much wood there by Gilly (tee hee) and she guesses that he's highborn since he'd never started a fire before. Sam sings the young baby lad a song which puts him to sleep but it was really rather sweet since Sam really is a nice guy and it often gets tedious with him being bullied and called "fat" or "Mr. Also good callback to the Dragon Glass/Obsidian from last season's discovery at the Fist of the First Men.
Tormund, Orell, Jon, Ygritte and the rest of the band of Wildlings finally reach the Wall and are about to begin the climb. Tormund just gets cooler with each bit of detail we hear about him, having climbed the Wall over a dozen times. Seeing the Wall ascent was a harrowingly beautiful scene sprinkled throughout this episode in a way this show has never done before in coming back continuously to a yarn like this. I have to say that what pulled this is Jon falling hard for Ygritte who figured out his little double agent thing after meeting Mance Rayder. The tensions between them really gives Jon some very human conflicting emotions and he is surely Ned Stark's son when falling for a woman he isn't supposed to. There were a few close calls here like when Orell almost cut the rope to have Jon and Ygritte fall off the line but Jon held himself and her steady. The highlight of the episode is the kiss at the top of the Wall that sealed before the credits. Ygritte has truly evolved as a character and Jon's tragic romance with her will surely end badly since we know he doesn't want to run away after having killed the Halfhand.