Original Air Date: April 7, 2013.
Directed by: Daniel Minahan.
Written by: Vanessa Taylor.
Tonight's episode was full of dark forebodings and even darker intrigues, hence the title. And as we all know by now ... the Night is Dark and Full of Terror, too. Quite a few new faces were introduced as well, which I'm sure just made the heads of non-book readers spin mercilessly. Have heart, it will all start to make sense in the coming weeks. But for this week we got our hands on a particularly meaty feast of gritty fantasy goodness. Shall we dig in?
Brandon Stark has one of those freaky three-eyed raven dreams again while escaping north through the countryside with Osha, Hodor, Rickon and their direwolves, Summer and Shaggydog. Now what is that squawking bird trying to tell him? Along the way they meet brother and sister duo, Meera and Jojen Reed; the children of one of Ned Stark's closest friends and loyal bannerman, Howland Reed. Jojen claims he's possessed of the "greensight" and knows how to aid Bran in making sense of his own abilities, which apparently is why their father sent them to aid the Stark boys in their escape.
Over in Harrenhal where the King in the North has made his headquarters for now, Robb Stark receives word that his maternal grandfather, Lord Hoster Tully of the Riverlands, has passed away after a long illness. When his mother Lady Catelyn hears the terrible news, her grief is only magnified by the next bit of news: a raven's message from Winterfell, telling of that great keep's destruction and the missing whereabouts of her two youngest boys. The King later gets an earful from a mouthy Lord Karstark for taking some of his forces to Riverrun in order to attend his grandpappy's funeral, with the old man also expressing misgivings over the young wolf marrying Lady Talisa of Volantis. Perhaps he is referring to that pesky little promise Robb made to Lord Walder Frey back in Season One to marry one of his daughters in exchange for the Frey's help? Yeah, that. Could this fateful decision come back to bite the young, scruffy King in his you-know-what?
Much further south, we finally discover what's been going on with our merry travelers, Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth. As Brienne continues to lead her prisoner through every backwater road in the Seven Kingdoms, the Kingslayer naturally fills in the time with constant chatter in an effort to throw the hulking lady knight off her guard. When he finally succeeds, the two engage in an epic battle of steel, with Brienne eventually overcoming her foe due to his great fatigue and shackled form. But alas, the fracas has attracted the wrong attention. They are beset upon by men carrying the flag of the Dreadfort--Lord Roose Bolton's sigil. Looks like Catelyn Stark's gamble failed to pay dividends. Poor Sansa!
And speaking of the eldest Stark daughter holed up in King's Landing ... Sansa meets with Margaery and Loras Tyrell's grandmother, Lady Olenna Redwyne--a.k.a., the "Queen of Thorns." Matriarch and force to be reckoned with inside House Tyrell, Lady Olenna's reputation precedes her as a rather cunning master of politics. It seems the shrewd old dame has accompanied her grandchildren to court to, among other things, ensure that the wedding match agreed upon between Margaery and Joffrey is in the up and up. To that end, the Queen of Thorns questions Sansa as to Joffrey's suitability, but not before buttering up the young lass with compliments and, of course--lemon cakes! Alas, poor Sansa has been too long without caring companionship, and perhaps misses her mother terribly. So much so that she reveals a little too much of just what a spoiled tyrant King Joffrey really is. This news doesn't seem to surprise Lady Olenna, who probably already suspected as much but only wanted to discern Sansa's character for herself. Whatever the case, something tells me Sansa opened her mouth a little too wide for the promise of a single lemon cake!
Armed with this knowledge, Margaery Tyrell arrives at Joffrey's chambers ready to secure her place by the King's side, for better of for worse. She flatters him on his prowess with mechanical stringed weaponry, and plays up to his sadistic side by hinting that she herself would enjoy hunting something and watching it die. The gleam in Joffrey's eyes is that of a deranged lunatic meeting his soulmate; while the smile on Margaery's face is that of a cat who just swallowed the proverbial canary. These two may just be a match made in heaven.
I'm impressed. This episode was better written than even the last. And that's saying a lot. Kudos to scribe Vanessa Taylor for pulling some very important and tough scenes, as I was not sure how some of these finer points were going to come across. My absolute favorite scene this go 'round was the one between Catelyn Stark and her son's new bride, Talisa. What could have turned out to be a very cliched and ridiculous scene between two strong-willed women ended up being one of the most poignant looks into a mother's love and a woman's pride I've ever witnessed on television. Wow! Another very powerful scene was the meeting between Sansa and the Queen of Thorns. Superbly done, superbly acted, and so many different layers of intrigue, subterfuge, and plotting interwoven into what, at first blush, appears to be nothing more than a friendly chat between a grandmotherly type and a young lady still fresh to the world. But rest assured, much more is going on beneath the surface. This is the type of drama we expect from Game and Thrones and HBO. My applause to all involved.
Lots and lots of creepy foreshadowing going on here. Ooooh! I really, really dig this. Bran's dreams and Osha's spooked nature over same; Catelyn's guilt that her treatment of Jon Snow--her husband's illegitimate love child--all these years may be the reason why her actual children are suffering lately; some of Robb's men beginning to question his decisions; the Queen of Thorns taking perhaps an unhealthy interest in Sansa; Margaery revealing just how good she truly is at courtly intrigue; and let us not forget, of course, the spookiest of them all--Sandor Clegane having the "good fortune" to run into Arya, of all people. Some of you may be wondering what he's doing so far North. If you recall, after dissing Joffrey to his face last season, The Hound had to beat a rather hasty departure from the capital if he wanted to keep his head on his shoulders for a little while longer. These loaded scenes are what I live for on this show!
I'm actually glad we didn't have any Stannis or Daenerys scenes this week. Those are probably the two plot lines I'm least invested in at this moment. Perhaps this shall change the further into the season we go. I still like them, don't get me wrong. But all my faves were represented this episode, and that makes me a happy reviewer.
As I pointed out last week, it seems The Powers That Be are making a conscious effort to answer the critics complaints and make scenes longer and more focused, rather than eclectic and spread about all over the place. Or, as frequenter commenter to this blog, Rodney, pointed out last week: perhaps the writers are just getting that more confident in their understanding of the material? Perhaps. Either way, these scenes really pack a lasting punch!
I'm a little unsure why they chose to leave Theon's jailer anonymous at this point. It's pretty obvious who's the only person that would have him right now. The matter was discussed openly last season, after all. In several episodes. Nonetheless, I chose to play along and not name any names until I see where this is going. Or until HBO reveals it themselves. Not such a big secret, tho.
This episode is showing hints of the production moving further and further away from the books. We knew it had to happen, and for the large part I'm okay with this. If I want to read the books, I'll read the books. I'm only placing this bit under my "Bad" list because it makes me a little worried that the writers might back themselves into a corner regarding certain plot lines that continue even to this day in the books. I wish I could say more, but these reviews are meant to be spoiler free for those who have not read the novels.
Those lemon cakes made me seriously hungry! Where do I find lemon cakes? Mean HBO, mean! For not offering them at your store!
Rast picking on poor, hopeless Sam. I hope that condemned rapist turd gets what's coming to him soon, if you get my point ...
A very, very fine episode again. Lots of talking, yes, but also a bit more action. That furious duel between Brienne and Jaime paid for the price of admission alone. But boy did it leave me feeling sore afterward. And, d'oh! What are those men who came upon them on horseback up to? They're supposed to be allied with the North, but something doesn't feel right with that lot ...
Favorite line: "I don't know, your grace. Do you think I could?"
Season 3 reviews:
Episode 21: "Valar Dohaeris"
Episode 22: "Dark Wings, Dark Words"
Season 2 recaps (Episodes 11 through 20).
Season 1 recaps (Episodes 1 through 10).