I've talked about the issues involved in bringing a 1000+ page manuscript to the small screen. Character arcs have to be shortened (or ignored entirely), while plotlines are merged to make sure things fit into a ten hour framework.
What this also means is what may have been implicit in the books has become explicit (and how!) in the HBO series. Stannis going for the proverbial "R'hollor in the hay" with Melisandre was only hinted at in print, likewise the manscaping that dare not speak its name between Renly and Loras Tyrell (the Knight of Flowers, unseen since midway through season 1), and also Jon's witnessing of what Craster does with his male offspring.
Forget "It's not TV, it's HBO." The premium network may have more leeway than others in bringing the goodies, but it's still TV. Subtlety must occasionally be sacrificed to keep the pace lively. I'll probably do a follow-up to last season's "TV show vs. book" write-up in the next few weeks, but suffice to say things on GoT are getting very lively indeed.
This week's title is also the mantra of House Greyjoy (not to be confused with that very similar Lovecraft verse Iron Maiden has been known to use), and on the Iron Islands, Theon and Yara learn daddy's plans: to reave and pillage like in days of yore and take the North from King Robb, who has ranged too far south against the Lannisters to defend his lands. Theon tries to reason with Balon, who reminds him of family motto: "We do not sow." Son and father have words (Theon's still a bit vexed that "daddy gave him away" to the Starks after his failed rebellion - at least that they didn't play that shitty Everclear song).
Theon considers warning Robb of daddy's plans, but whether wishing to prove his own mettle or win Balon's favor, he ends up burning the letter and swearing his oath to the Drowned God of his people. Maybe plundering some fishing villages will finally make daddy love him. Still, Yara has been given 30 ships to Theon's one. What possible damage could Theon do?
Beyond the Wall, and to Jon's dismay, the Lord Commander seems to be well aware of their host's sacrificial proclivities. His position WRT Craster is more that of the United States dealing with El Salvador in the 80s: so what if they rape a few nuns/sacrifice a few babies? At least they're keeping the Commies/White Walkers at bay. Nevertheless, the Watch has to bug out. But before they do, Sam gives Gilly a thimble(?) that belonged to his mother. He's pretty sweet for a coward.
Bran's worried about his dreams, in which he's running through the woods, like (as?) his wolf Summer. Luwin tells him they're just stories, but Bran's not convinced. Luwin talks about trying the "higher mysteries" during his training, but asserts that magic has gone from the world. Just like giants and...dragons.
Normally that would be a cue to check out what Daenerys and company are up to. However, the khalessi and company are absent this week.
Catelyn has arrived in the Stormlands to find Renly's troops having a tournament. Ser Loras, the Knight of Flowers (Finn Jones), is bested by one Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), a woman sarcastically referred to as "the Beauty." Catelyn is welcomed, if not warmly, and reminds Renly "My son is fighting a war, not playing at one." We also get our first look at Renly's new queen, Margaery Tyrell (The Tudors' Natalie Dormer), who happens to be Ser Loras' sister.
Back at King's Landing, Shae is pissed off that Tyrion won't let her leave, and even more so when he talks of sneaking her in to the castle as a kitchen wench. Cersei has dinner with Sansa and the other kids, Myrcella (Aimee Richardson) and Tommen (Callum Wharry), who worries that Joffrey might kill Robb (I'm sure we'd all like to see that match-up). Cersei assures everyone Sansa will "do her duty." Sansa, the lone Stark remaining in King's Landing, returns to her chambers to find she's been assigned a new handmaiden, and it's none other than Shae. It seems Tyrion now owes Varys, and you know what they say about Lannisters and debts.
Tired of Cersei learning his plans, Tyrion baits a trap: first, he tells Grand Maester Pycelle he's brokering an alliance with the Martells of Dorne by sending Myrcella there for marriage, then he tells Varys he's marrying Myrcella off to Theon, while Littlefinger is informed that he's marrying her to Robin Arryn of the Vale. He suggests Littlefinger might broker the deal, and sweetens the pot by offering him the castle of Harrenhal.
Did I complain too much about T&A last week? Well, we look to get more A this time, courtesy of Renly and Loras, who's petulant about his beau putting Brienne in his Kingsguard (her reward for winning the tourney). He also lets him know the men are starting to make snide comments about his...inability to consummate his marriage with Margaery. Maybe he's also pissed that Renly's allowed his chest hair to grow back.
But I spoke too soon, as Margaery soon shows up and shows off the goods. She's no fool, and even offers to bring Loras in to help get his motor running (I'm paraphrasing, obviously there are no internal combustion engines in Westeros) or turn over so he can "pretend she's him." She's thinking of the Big Picture, and a King needs an heir. I think she'd be a better match for Tyrion, frankly.
Speaking of the Imp, his snitch-catching plot bears fruit, as Cersei's anger at his planning to send Myrcella to Dorne reveals Pycelle as the informant. And Tyrion (with an assist from Shagga and Bronn) is only too happy to thrown him in one of the Black Cells for his trouble. Littlefinger doesn't like getting played, until Tyrion dangles a chance to see Catelyn again in front of him.
Varys tells Tyrion the riddle of the sellsword (didn't we do this last season?): a king, a priest and a rich man walk into bar...wait, that's not it. It doesn't matter, the point Varys wants to make is that "Power resides where men believe it resides." Telling Tyrion a very small man can cast a very large shadow. The two seem to have overcome last week's tensions.
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Yoren and Arya share a moment as Yoren tells of his trip to the Wall, specifically how got vengeance on his brother's murderer. Arya is obviously seeking a way to come to grips with the horrors she's seen (dad's beheading) and committed (filleting the stable boy), but Yoren knows as well as anyone that you either come to terms with your demons or let them destroy you. And it's still too early to know which way Arya's going to turn.
They're interrupted by the arrival of Amory Lorch (Fintan McKeown), one of Lord Tywin's more brutal bannerman who's been sent to seize Gendry. Yoren fights like a motherfucker, but dies all the same. Arya, Gendry and the rest are seized (but not before Arya frees Jaqen and his two unpleasant pals from their cage). Lorch's men also take Needle, but she makes them believe Lommy, killed in cold blood by the same dude who took Needle (I'm going to draw on my fancy book knowledge and say this is either Polliver or Raff the Sweetling), is actually Gendry.
Mercifully little "sexposition" this time around, but also no Dany, Robb, Stannis or Jaime (to be fair, watching a guy in a cage isn't very interesting). Still three for three on seeing the direwolves, which is cool. Things are uncertain for Arya, now in the hands of the Lannisters (though they don't know her true identity), as well as Tyrion, who has to be concerned about Renly's forces massing to his south.
Next week: Davos and Melisandre are up to no good, and Robb is still winning the war. But for how long?