The One Where: The Lannisters catch up with Arya and Gendry, Theon chooses his side and Tyrion plays politics.
Verdict: Things are heating up in all sorts of interesting ways this week in Westeros in an episode that neatly captures everything we’ve grown to love about this wicked and warped fantasy world.
First, we catch up with Jon and the Night’s Watch beyond the wall, as Craster erupts in the wake of Jon’s midnight stroll. It’s an effective opener that serves a vital purpose: there’s magic and strange things out there, things that haven’t been entirely forgotten and that are coming back into the realm of men, whether they like it or not. The White Walkers, like Bran’s wolf dreams and Dany’s dragons, are peripheral elements that feel poised to take centre stage later on, and it’s good to see that the show runners aren’t shying away from the fantasy elements of the story as well as all the bloodletting and bonking.
Arya’s trip north becomes the stuff of nightmares as the gold cloaks finally catch up with Yoren and his band of recruits for the Watch. Yoren gets dispatched with a cold-blooded efficiency by Amory Lorch, but not before he’s had a fantastic scene with Arya. It seems a shame to kill off the black-clad Brother just as we find out how he ended up at the Wall, but he served his purpose, giving Arya the strength to dream of revenge on Joffrey and all the rest of those damn dirty Lannisters. While Yoren’s death was a kicker, the merciless stabbing through of Lommy is perhaps the more affecting. Nothing more than an innocent boy in the wrong place at the wrong time, his death is almost for sport, making it all the more sickening.
After catching up with Stannis and his crazy fire-lovin’ priestess last time, this week we’re off to see Renly, and Gethin Anthony is superb as the complicated Baratheon pretender. Personable and politically astute, you can almost see his confidence melt away when he’s faced with the tricky proposition of bedding his new wife. It’s a fascinating dynamic to see at play, and Renly’s sexuality may yet be his undoing.
Saying that, having 100,000 swords at his back might make Renly’s downfall a remote possibility, especially if even a few of them are as tough as Brienne Of Tarth, played with an iron-cored toughness by Gwendoline Christie. Giving Loras Tyrell a battering at Renly’s tournament, Brienne is immediately interesting, a towering woman in a world of men. Here’s hoping we get to see a lot more of her.
On the Iron Islands, Theon makes his choice and confirms his faith to the Drowned God, the complexity of Westerosi religion front and centre as he attempts to reclaim his birthright. You can taste the salt in the air and feel the spray of the waves as Theon kneels in the surf, a fantastically evocative piece of television. Alfie Allen has been doing a fantastic job as Theon, a man-child desperate for his father’s approval no matter what, and the look on his face when he finds out he’s being sent to raid fishing villages is priceless. The Greyjoys are rapidly becoming one of the biggest threats to stability in the Seven Kingdoms, and Robb Stark is going to need his head on a swivel to deal with them.
Meanwhile, Tyrion’s King’s Landing politicking is a stroke of genius, briskly dealt with and featuring a satisfying pay-off as the Imp discovers which of the small council he can trust. Sansa’s reaction to the frankly useless Shae turning up as her new handmaid is wonderful writing, the young Stark making the most of the only thing she can control in her life – her servant.
Exploring sexuality, death, honour and power, bursting with fantastic performances and sprinkled with action and intrigue, this is what makes Game Of Thrones such compulsive viewing, and with a third season confirmed, we’re in for plenty more. Magnificent.
The Fight Stuff: Yoren kicks several shades of ass before being overrun by gold cloaks – it’s a real shame to see the fantastic Francis Magee go, but at least he went in style.
Best line: Yoren: “There’s men out there want to f**k your corpses – outside, now!”