Okay, so we’re more or less caught up with everyone now that Bran’s crew, Arya’s gang, and Theon are all accounted for. But this being Game of Thrones, we’ve also been loaded with a ton of new information to process and a bunch of people to care about/sort-of-recognize next time they appear.
We open on Bran, no less pretty than last season, but looking somewhat less like Emily Mortimer now that he’s a teenager. (Fun fact I just learned from Wikipedia: Tomorrow is actor Isaac Hempstead-Wright’s birthday.) Bran, Bobby Draper Rickon, Hodor, and Osha are still on the move to the Wall, following the mutiny against Theon in Winterfell. In the opener, Bran is having another vision-dream: He’s running through a green wood — echoing Sam’s galumphing through the snow in episode one — and comes across the screeching three-eyed raven. He draws his bow and suddenly Robb and Jon are behind him, telling him to relax and not overthink the shot. He misses, the older boys laugh, and then we hear the disembodied, Mufasa-like voice of Ned Stark (Ned!) chiding them. Then another young, equally pretty boy appears, and as the camera pans out slowly, he tells Bran that he can’t kill the bird, “Because the raven is you.”
The new boy (yes, the kid from Love Actually) is Jojen Reed, and, like Bran, he has dreams that are more than dreams. Like Theon, he has a fierce, martial sister. He’s kind of Yoda-like. Direwolves are, like, yeah, you’re cool. Jojen, son of one of Ned’s allies, tells Bran that he is a warg: Like the long-faced wilding Orell, whom Jon Snow meets with Mance, Bran can enter the minds of animals and see with their eyes. Jojen promises that Bran will be able to do it at will, too, once he learns to control his power. Both boys also have the Sight, Jojen explains, which allows them to see the past, the future, and across great distances. Jojen saw Bran and came to find him. If you believe that the Sight is real — and the show suggests that it is, going back all the way to Bran and Rickon dreaming of their father on the night of his execution — then Bran is some sort of destined … something. Jojen doesn’t say, because that’s not how Yoda rolls.
Prophecies in Game of Thrones aren’t always clear, and they don’t always turn out as expected — Daenerys’s son was supposed to be the Stallion Who Mounts the World, but died when his father did; Melisandre may proclaim Stannis the Prince that was Promised, but I think we’re all pretty skeptical about that at this point. The path to victory that Melisandre sees in the flames might be a true vision, or it might be a bunch of hooha; she clearly knows how to enhance her real powers with a lot of smoke and mirrors and husky vocals. So the extent to which destiny, as a hidden force that can shape the future, operates in this world remains an open question. Where do Bran, and Jojen’s visions of him, fit into this?
And what about prayer? Or karma?
Talisa finds her mother-in-law constructing a prayer wheel after they learn that Winterfell has burned and Bran and Rickon have gone missing. “Have you made them before? Does it work?” Talisa asks. “After a fashion,” Catelyn replies. We saw Catelyn make such a wheel in season one, after Bran was pushed from the window. And we learn that she made another one years ago, when a young Jon Snow was dying of the pox — an outcome she herself had prayed for, because she was jealous of his (unnamed) mother. Catelyn prayed that, if the baby pulled through, she would love him as a mother and make Ned give him “a true name” and “make him one of us.” But “I couldn’t keep my promise,” she says. That’s probably the highest sin for a Stark, worse even than “failing to love a motherless child.”
Did Catelyn’s prayer make Jon sick? Is it really possible that “all this horror” that’s come to the Stark family is a direct result of her refusal to separate Ned’s betrayal from the son it produced? Her unwillingness to accept a threatening invader into her family? Her flouting of the gods’ gift? As my GoT viewing partner pointed out, Catelyn has sped along her family’s misfortunes in much more concrete ways: capturing Tyrion, for one, or releasing Jamie without Robb’s permission. Both of those, I guess, can be rationally justified. Her denial of Jon Snow is harder to excuse, and therefore might weigh more heavily on her. But I think the idea that Catelyn has actually called a curse upon her family, Greek-tragedy-style, by failing to be a pious, proper mother is a possibility the show asks us to seriously consider. Remember that this is a world where one woman can give birth to a lethal smoke monster and another can spend the night on a funeral pyre and not only emerge unburned but suckling dragons that hatched out of fossils. Motherhood is a powerful force, both psychologically and literally.
Margaery does a bit of mothering (ick) in her scene with Joffrey. As she coyly, expertly, turns the accusatory conversation about Renly to her advantage, she sits down on the bench next to Joffrey and haltingly explains that she tried to do her wifely duty (i.e., give him babies), but Renly … well, let’s just say Renly once wanted to engage in an act that sounded painful and unlikely to produce children. Joffrey, slightly abashed at the turn the conversation has taken, turns back to his crossbow and mumbles that Renly was a “known degenerate.” (A phrase his dear mom used earlier.) The way Margaery leans in at that moment — her head cocked in a kindergarten-teacher manner that says, look at me listening to you very intently — echoes her body language in last week’s episode, in the orphanage.
Their conversation about Joffrey’s new weapon is equal parts adult indulging a child with a shiny new toy and, um, a woman fondling a dude’s crossbow shaft. (Recall that this is not the first time Joffrey has wielded a weapon in a sexually charged scene with a woman: Last season, he pointed a crossbow at Sansa and ordered her stripped and beaten for her brother’s crimes, and then there was the awful scene with Ros and the other prostitute.) Probably not a coincidence that the only other time we saw Joffrey last night was in a tense scene with Cersei, who alienates her son by suggesting that his new fiancée might be “dressing like a harlot” and befriending the great unwashed for a reason.
Oh, and that stuffed boar Joffrey shoots with that fondled crossbow? According to the online special features, it’s the same one that killed his (supposed) dad, Robert Baratheon. A little Freudian Easter egg, just in case the scene wasn’t squicking you out enough already.
Margaery had some warning, though, because Sansa told her and her grandmother, the Lady Olenna, a.k.a. the Queen of Thorns, a.k.a. the Dowager Countess of Westeros, that Joffrey is a monster. Meals at King’s Landing are always so fraught with danger, and Margaery is such a good actress, I’m scared to think about what kind of risk Sansa took by speaking so freely to the Tyrells — particularly when it seems they were just trying to get her to go on the record with that assessment. (The Tyrells’ reaction to Sansa’s big declaration was one of the few times I’ve genuinely laughed at Game of Thrones.) “We’re only women here” should be no comfort to a girl who’s spent so much time at Cersei’s dinner parties.
Diana Rigg is a goddamn delight, as you knew she would be.
At least Sansa still has Shae on her side — so much so that Shae risks going to see Tyrion to make sure he helps protect her. Though the poor guy’s barely agreed to do so before Shae jumps down his throat for being a pervert who wants to sleep with Sansa, just as she assumes is true of Littlefinger.
In other parts of the kingdom, Jamie and Arya pull out their swords and are rebuffed. Jamie and Brienne have been bickering (with a little pause for Jamie to tell Brienne that we can’t choose who we love — who knew he was such a sap?), but at one point he grabs hold of her extra sword and they duel. He’s doing well for himself, but then Brienne punches him in the face. (It was the second time I laughed.) Before he has time to mope, though, Robb’s Bolton's riders pounce on them. The farmer Brienne refused to kill earlier in the episode has ratted them out.
Arya, Hot Pie, and Gendry are discovered by the Brotherhood Without Banners, the outlaws Tywin complained about last season, and whose collaborators the Tickler was trying to smoke out at Harrenhal. Arya’s swordplay doesn’t impress Thoros of Myr — but when the Hound appears and reveals that she’s a Stark … well, he might be more impressed now.
Oh, here comes my cheese. More next week, then.
Some stray thoughts:
- “Give it to Margaery for her wedding gown. Should be more than enough fabric.” OOH, GOOD BURN.
- This show has an abundance of martial women: Osha, Brienne, Yara, Ygritte, now Meera. No thoughts now other than noticing that that’s a bunch of them.
- Who’s torturing Theon? Last we saw him, he’d been conked on the head by his own men. I sort of think it’s some kind of crazy mind game Balon Greyjoy is playing on him. Yara is coming to save him. What’s that Osha said, about a boy who needs his sister to protect him?
- When are they going to let Tyrion be fun again?