I both envy and pity people watching Game of Thrones who haven't read the books. Envy, because so much of what's to come will be a surprise: some infuriating, some awesome. You're coming into each week with fresh eyes and no knowledge of how lousy your predictive powers are.
But at the same time, I pity you, because -- as those uninitiated into A Song of Ice and Fire -- you're only now becoming aware of George R.R. Martin's tendency to constantly introduce new characters. Seriously, the latest book had, like, 20 new people in it. This is somewhat understandable, considering how kill-happy Martin is, but you're maybe three episodes away from wishing you had those House appendices at the end of each book.
But enough of that, Westeros-ward ho!
Locations Highlighted in the Opening Titles (* = new): King's Landing, Dragonstone, Harrenhal, Winterfell, The Wall, Astapor -- Same as last week, in other words.
Ser(s) Not Appearing in This Episode: Danaerys, Ser Jorah, Stannis, Melisandre, Davos
In the North, Bran's (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) having one of his cruel three-eyed raven dreams again. Cruel, because he's able to walk. The kid from Love, Actually tells him, "The raven is you." Hodor (Kristian Nairn) and Osha (Natalia Tena) seem concerned, even though they still have Summer and Shaggydog with them. The dream kid's name is Jojen Reed (Thomas Sangster), and he soon shows up in real time with his sister Meera (Ellie Kendrick). After sweet-talking Summer, he tells Bran he's "come a long way to find" him. He also tells him he has "The Sight," which I believe is like "The Shining." Jojen's the son of Howland Reed, who Bran says saved Ned's life during Robert's Rebellion.
"King" Robb (Richard Madden) and "Queen" Talisa (Oona Chaplin) are interrupted by perpetually creepy Roose Bolton with word of Catelyn's father's death and the aftermath of the sack of Winterfell. Bolton's son reports the Ironborn left the castle and killed everyone and that neither Bran nor Rickon could be found. Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) wonders if Theon is dead (he isn't, but probably wishes he was; more later).
The Northmen divert to Riverrun to pay respects to Catelyn's father, a Stark bannerman, which Lord Karstark has a few thoughts about. Catelyn shares some maternal wisdom with Talisa, including regrets about her rejection of Jon Snow that seem out of place given her chilly dismissal of him back when Bran was still comatose in Season 1.
Theon (Alfie Allen) is being tortured by persons unknown, and not very good at it. Salvation possibly comes in the form of a visit from someone describing himself as a friend of his sister's. Sounds fishy to me, but it's easy to trust someone when they're loosening those foot screws.
Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) continue their road show. He figures out what needles her in short order (Renly), and after some verbal sparring, we finally get to the real fight. Jaime's good, but he's weak, and his hands are bound. They're interrupted by a squad of Bolton's men, who found them courtesy of a traveler Brienne spared against Jaime's advice (that'll teach you not to kill everyone you meet). They tell Jaime they're returning him to King Robb's justice, which I'm sure will include counsel and a jury of his peers.
In King's Landing, Cersei (Lena Headey) cats away to Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) about soon-to-be Queen Margaery and her lack of shame/practicality/fashion sense. He's having none of it, insisting she only did what she had to do when marrying Renly and cheekily implying she should have done the same. Kids these days. Meanwhile, Shae (Sibel Kekilli) attempts to talk some sense into Sansa (Sophie Turner) about Littlefinger's charitable offer of escape. It falls on deaf ears, possibly because she towers over her handmaiden. Jesus, but that kid is tall.
Sansa meets with Margaery (Natalie Dormer) and her grandmother, Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg), who wants the skinny on Joffrey, and after some hesitation, she allows that he's "a monster." The key takeaway from this is that Rigg is fantastic, and I hope they expand her role beyond the books.
I mean, in for a copper, in for a dragon. Benioff and Weiss are already ranging far afield from the series as it is.
Anyway, Joffrey "coaxes" Margaery to hint at Renly's quote-unquote proclivities, which she gleefully confirms (and bringing us to three scenes in which the former aspirant to the Iron Throne has been brought up). Thus convinced of his betrothed's fidelity, the two bond over the joys of killing things in a n exchange that probably didn't seem as clumsily predictive on paper.
Shae makes an ill-advised trip to visit Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) to ask advice about Sansa and Littlefinger. It's a disappointingly brief scene, made worse by the unconvincing dialogue. Then, the oral sex (relax, it's just Monty Python).
Beyond the Wall, Jon (Kit Harington) meets Orell, a "warg" who "inhabits the minds of animals" and uses a hawk for reconnaissance. He tells them he's seen the massacre at the Fist of the First Men, which brings us to: the remaining Brothers marching south. Sam (John Bradley) wants to give up, but Grenn and Dolorous Edd come back, though not apologizing for abandoning him when the White Walkers came. Everybody seems to have the same pattern of blood spatter on their scalps. Must have been a lot of head butting going on.
Arya (Maisie Williams), Gendry, and Hot Pie make their first appearance of the new season, meeting Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye) and others of the "Brotherhood Without Banners," who claim to be fighting for the people. They enjoy the Brotherhood's hospitality until who should come in, in chains, but the Hound (Rory McCann). Arya and company try to beat feet until the Hound finks her out. What will the Brotherhood do?
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Now that everyone's been introduced this season, I hope we get back to things actually happening next week. We spent a lot of time reaffirming Joffrey's creepiness (as if that was needed) and not nearly enough with Brienne/Jaime or Tyrion.
Shots of Hodor's Junk: 0
Stuff That Will Piss Off Book Purists: Didn't Mance have a kid? Lord Karstark -- for all his opining -- never held forth on Robb's marriage; Catelyn didn't carry any lingering guilt for how she treated Jon Snow, and she did get to see her father (Lord Hoster Tully) before he died; Arya didn't tell anyone about Jaqen H'ghar; Orell and Jon already have "a history;" Joffrey never took a position one way or the other on gay rights.
Next Week: Stannis has shadow daddy issues, they're closing in on Arya, and Theon might be free. Free!