Last night's episode was named "Oathkeeper," because GoT show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are all about subtlety. Discussions ranged from Jaime and Brienne's respective oaths to the late Catelyn Stark (#1 was Jaime's returning Catelyn's daughters to her, #2 was Brienne returning Jaime to Kings Landing so he could complete #1). The men of the Night's Watch make an extended appearance, and the subject of their own vows comes up as they decide what to do about the traitors at Craster's Keep.
More on that later, because yeesh.
This was also the episode where we realized Benioff and Weiss aren't just abbreviating certain storylines, but look to be excising large expository (which is a nice was of saying "boring") sections in order to impel the narrative. The question is, can they avoid repulsing viewers long enough to see it through?
Locations (* = new): Kings Landing, Dragonstone, The Dreadfort, Winterfell, The Wall, Meereen - and so it's been for the entire season. Look for the Vale to make an appearance starting next week.
Ser(s) Not Appearing In This Episode: Stannis Baratheon, Melisandre, Davos Seaworth, Arya, The Hound, Tywin Lannister, Roose Bolton, Ramsay Snow, Reek
In Essos, Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) takes some reading lessons from Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) before the two share pre-slave memories. Well, Missandei does. Grey Worm seems content to "kill the masters." By which he means *all* them mafuckas. School's out early, however, as he and a squad of (presumably) olfactory challenged Unsullied sneak into Meereen through the sewers to lead a slave revolt. That's one way to avoid a siege.
And an easy one, as it turns out. Against Barristan's (Ian McElhinney) advice, Danaerys (Emilia Clarke) answers Meereen's child crucifying in kind: 163 masters on the cross, one for every kid they passed. Justice? Who cares. The slavers are essentially GoT's Nazis: nobody's going to create an outrage Tumblr for *them*.
Back in Kings Landing, Jaime's (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) left-handed fighting lessons with Bronn (Jerome Flynn) are going well. So well, in fact, that the Kingslayer even asks Bronn his opinion of Tyrion's guilt, a question the sellsword throws back rather elegantly. And so, Jaime [finally] pays his incarcerated bro a visit. They discuss many things; the comedic prospect of the "Kingslayer Brothers," Tyrion's (Peter Dinklage) innocence, and the culpability of Sansa Stark, who Cersei is -- shall we say -- keen on tracking down.
Speaking of: Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) tells Sansa (Sophie Turner) they're going to the Vale, where he's to wed Lysa Arryn. He also admits Tyrion is innocent, and confirms what screencapping enthusiasts have suspected for weeks: Sansa's necklace was the source of the poison that killed Joffrey, and also that he's a man of rare ambition ("What do you want?" "Everything.").
Littlefinger's remarks about his "new friends" lead us to Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) and Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). With Joffrey gone, Margaery is likely getting engaged to his younger brother Tommen. The Queen of Thorns also conveniently confesses her involvement in the murder, thus eliminating any ambiguity that might have plagued viewers for, like, a whole month.
Olenna remarks she'll be returning to Highgarden soon, and that is a real shame. The beefing up of Rigg's presence has been one book diversion that's really worked. I hope we get at least a few more verbal duels between her and Tywin before all is said and done.
At Castle Black, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is doing his best to train the remaining Rangers present to prepare for the Wildlings, that is until acting Lord Commander Thorne (Owen Teale) sends him on his stewardly way. Janos Slynt (Dominic Carter) reminds Thorn of the "acting" part of his title, and recommends he send Jon to Craster's and let the mutineers take care of him before they hold a "Choosing" and Jon wins. And look, it's Locke (Noah Taylor), selling a sob story about why he's there. Of course, he's *really* there to a) find and kill Bran and Rickon, and b) kill Jon Snow.
There's a nice "Oh captain, my captain" moment when Jon asks for volunteers to attack Craster's. Grenn, Edd, and -- of course -- Locke oblige.
Speaking of Craster's, Karl (Burn Gorman) is certainly having a good time. And in case you were unsure what Bad People these were, Karl drinks wine from Mormont's skull while the rest of his men offhandedly rape Craster's wives in the fore *and* background. We get it: they're evil (what I wouldn't give for Arya and the Hound to show and kill everyone). Alas, it's left to Rast (Luke Barnes) to leave Craster's last son for the White Walkers. And also to feed Jon's direwolf Ghost, because not only are Karl and company pure evil, they're also hilariously stupid.
Team Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) is nearby, however, and he wargs into Summer to go check out the crying baby. But Summer gets trapped, and before you can say "Hodor" the entire group is captured by Karl's men.
In a decidedly non-awkward post-Sept sex scene, Cersei (Lena Headey) accuses Jaime of taking Tyrion's side, and threatens to send him hunting for Sansa. She also badgers him about the number of Kingsguard posted outside Tommen's chambers. With good reason, as it turns out, for they do a poor job keeping out Margaery, who's taking Olenna's advice about getting acquainted with the new king before Mommy can intervene. Things stay chaste, for a change, though hopefully Tommen can sleep through that new funny feeling.
Jaime, in spite of his smarm, does appear to want to do the right thing, and gives Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) his Valyrian steel sword (which she christens "Oathkeeper"), a suit of armor, and the probably in mortal danger Podrick (Daniel Portman) and tells her to go find Sansa.
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Finally, we get to see what happens to those babies, sort of. Looks like the White Walkers have an arctic Stonehenge where they're making more creepy undead Aryans. Okay.
While setting the table for a number of interesting (and potentially violent scenarios) -- Sansa to the Vale, the Rangers vs. Karl, Brienne and Pod on the road -- we'd barely washed the taste of last week's unpleasantness out of our mouths before confronted with the wholly unnecessary brutality of Craster's. The fact they were treasonous, back-stabbing murderers wasn't enough (and if we still weren't clear, there's the whole drinking from a skull thing), but we had to use multiple rapes as set decoration? I'm not a squeamish person by any means, and Game of Thrones trades plenty on shock and eww, but if Benioff and Weiss don't start dialing back the rapidly escalating atrocity levels, they risk losing the goodwill three seasons of mostly taut action and storytelling have earned them.
Stuff That Will Piss Off Book Purists: Jesus, where to begin? The seige of Meereen took a bit longer; Jaime and Bronn were never buddies and to my knowledge never spoke; likewise, Jaime shows a lot more affection to Brienne in the show; the idea Jon Snow would become Lord Commander wasn't presented this far in advance; Ghost was ranging far afield most of Book Three; Bran et al. never ran afoul of the mutineers, never ended up at Craster's, and certainly never told anybody who he was; and what was that White Walker birthing ground shit?