Jaime Lannister and his trusty sellsword sidekick Bronn are hitching a ride on a merchant ship, and there’s some tension between this odd couple. Below decks, they discuss Dorne, where they’re heading with the intention of rescuing Jaime’s “niece,’’ Myrcella. Bronn questions Jaime’s use of the word “niece,’’ since most of Westeros seems to know she’s actually his daughter—but he doesn’t want to talk about it.
Jaime doesn’t want to start a war with the Dornish, either. That’s why the rescue party consists solely of the two of them—but what Bronn can’t puzzle out is why Jaime felt the need to make the trip himself.
“You set your brother free, didn’t you? I bet your sister didn’t like that,’’ he says, hitting the nail right on the head.
Jaime clarifies the situation, saying it was Varys who set Tyrion free, but it’s still clear that this secret “diplomatic mission’’ is an attempt to get back in his sister/lover Cersei’s good graces. Bronn, fond of Tyrion, tells Jaime to send him his regards if he ever sees him again. But the love between the two Lannister brothers is lost, because of Tywin’s murder.
“He murdered my father,’’ says Jaime. “If I ever see him, I’ll split him in two, and then I’ll give him your regards.’’
Jorah Mormont is also trying to get back on the good side of the woman he loves—Daenerys Targaryen—half a world away in Essos. He’s stolen a boat from a fisherman in order to get his new captive Tyrion Lannister to his queen in Meereen (don’t worry, he left the fisherman a few coins for his trouble).
Based on the sigils Jorah wears, Tyrion has figured out exactly who he is. He first thinks Jorah’s bringing him to Cersei, but Jorah tells him they’re going to see Dany—cracking Tyrion up.
“What a waste of a good kidnapping,’’ he says. “It so happens I was heading there myself.’’
Tyrion figured out Jorah’s plan pretty easily. He remembers Small Council meetings where they discussed Jorah spying on Dany for the crown. He figures out that she heard about his spying and banished him.
“Now you hope to win back her favor with a gift,’’ Tyrion says. “Risky scheme. Might even say desperate. You think Queen Daenerys will execute me, and pardon you? The reverse is just as likely.’’
Jorah knocks him out for that, making him 2-0 in knocking people out this episode.
In King’s Landing, Cersei is scheming to remove any opposition to her rule. She does so diplomatically with Mace Tyrell, Margaery’s father and the new Master of Coin, by sending him to Braavos to deal with the crown’s debt to the Iron Bank. He offered to pay the debt himself—“and the crown would pay us back in time, or else I’d have words with my daughter!’’ he quips—but nobody appreciates his dad jokes, so he’s getting sent across the Narrow Sea.
But Cersei has other, rougher methods of dealing with the Lannisters’ rival family, too. She’s going to use her new alliance with the High Sparrow to get rid of the Tyrells’ influence on her son and the Seven Kingdoms.
“The king himself cannot always punish those who deserve it most,’’ she tells the religious leader. “What if I told you of a great sinner in our midst, shielded by gold and privilege?’’
“May the Father judge him justly,’’ He answers.
Cousin Lancel, who sports a new seven-pointed star tattoo carved into his forehead as a sign of his devotion to the Seven, leads a group of sparrows in arresting Loras Tyrell, Margaery’s brother.
But the Sparrows don’t stop there. Cersei has reinstated an order called the Faith Militant, giving the High Sparrow an army that will, presumably, fight in the name of the Gods. Cersei may be thinking of ways they can fight for her, but for now, they’ve got their own agenda—beating “sinners’’ in the streets, smashing ale barrels, and destroying Littlefinger’s brothel.
Margaery is predictably furious, and wants Tommen to release Loras immediately. Of course, Tommen is totally clueless about both the arrest and the fact that his wife and mother aren’t getting along so nicely. When Tommen goes to Cersei, she tells him there’s nothing she can do—it was the High Sparrow’s call. But the religious head won’t see Tommen, and he’s left on the stairs of the sept with an increasingly aggressive crowd that curses him as a “bastard’’ and “abomination.’’
Having seen that her new husband can’t help her, Margaery says she’s calling her grandmother in. That’s sure to make things interesting—Lady Oleanna Tyrell, aside from her hilarious role as the Lucile Bluth of Westeros, is perhaps the only person on this show who can manipulate and maneuver on Cersei’s level.
At the Wall, Stannis, Selyse, and Melisandre are watching Jon Snow train in the courtyard of Castle Black. Selyse, noting the fact that Stannis looks on Jon as a son, remarks that she wishes she could have given him one—rather than “weakness and deformity,’’ referring to Shireen. That’s when Mel pipes up, reminding her that Shireen’s fathers blood flows in her veins, and her father is the chosen king.
Later, when a bored, despondent Shireen visits her father and asks if he’s ashamed of her, Stannis reassures her he is not. He tells the story of how he called in every healer in the Seven Kingdoms to save her life when she was afflicted with Greyscale, the disease that left her face scarred. They told him to send her to the ruins of Valyria in Essos, where other Greyscale victims, known as “stone men,’’ go to live out the rest of their lives.
“You do not belong across the world with the bloody stone men,’’ he tells her. “You’re the Princess Shireen of House Baratheon, and you are my daughter.’’
It’s a sweet moment, one of very few we get from stubborn, teeth-gritting Stannis. They even have an awkward hug.
Jon is dealing with the fact that the Night’s Watch is low on men. He’s signing letters that Sam wrote to the Northern lords, asking them to send anyone they can. He stops when he gets to the one addressed to Roose Bolton. Sam reminds him that their vows tell them to keep out of the Seven Kingdoms’ drama, and that even though Roose killed Jon’s brother, they “can’t defend the Wall with 50 men!’’ Sam leaves, and Melisandre enters. She tries to convince Jon to ride with Stannis in his attack on Winterfell.
When Jon refuses, she starts to get creepy, taking off her robes and coming on to the new Lord Commander. He pushes her away, saying he still loves the dead Ygritte. Annoyed, Melisandre leaves—but not before making another creepy Mel move in repeating the exact phrase Ygritte loved to say to Jon: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.’’
In the crypts under Winterfell, Sansa Stark is lighting a candle for her long-dead aunt Lyanna Stark when Littlefinger finds her. We don’t know much about Lyanna, except that something happened between her and Daenerys’ older brother Rhaegar Targaryen that led to Robert’s Rebellion. Littlefinger tells a story that sheds a bit of light on those events.
At a tourney before Robert’s war, he recounts watching Rhaegar defeat Barristan Selmy, and remembers how the crowd loved him—and how they were shocked when he chose to honor Lyanna, rather than his own wife, Elia Martell, after winning. Remember, Elia is the woman who was later murdered by the Lannisters, leading to her brother Oberyn seeking revenge last season.
“How many tens of thousands had to die because Rhaegar chose your aunt?’’ Littlefinger wonders aloud.
“Yes, he chose her,’’ Sansa adds, “and then he kidnapped and raped her.’’
But across the Narrow Sea, the very man Rhaegar defeated in that tournament is telling Daenerys a rather different story about Rhaegar, about how he loved to walk amongst the smallfolk in King’s Landing, even sing to them.
“Rhaegar never liked killing,’’ Selmy tells her, showing that the picture Dany’s brother Viserys painted of their eldest brother as a great warrior wasn’t entirely accurate. “He loved singing.’’
So what was Rhaegar really like? Sansa’s claim that Rhaegar took Lyanna against her will echoes King Robert’s telling of events—he raised his banners and went to war to get her back, taking the crown and pushing the remaining Targaryens into exile. But the peaceful singer that Barristan Selmy speaks of doesn’t sound like the kind to rape and kidnap.
The more important question about Rhaegar, though, might be, “why are we hearing about him now?’’ Characters on opposite sides of the world are discussing him for the first time since the show’s pilot episode four years ago, so the past must come into play again soon. Now that the producers are ok with flashbacks, maybe the truth about the events leading up to Robert’s Rebellion are due to come out.
Jaime and Bronn make it to shore in Dorne. After just one night, Bronn’s already proving his worth—he saves Jaime from getting bitten by a viper in his sleep.
“That would have been a shit way to die,’’ Bronn says.
But so would dying thousands of miles away from your home on a sneaky mission to rescue a princess, and they’re reminded that that’s a possibility, too. The pair are approached by four Dornish soldiers on horseback, and a fight ensues. Bronn dispatches three of the riders easily, and leaves the slowest one for Jaime—Bronn helped him sharpen his one-handed swordfighting skills last season, but he still needs a little work. Luckily, he finds a new use for his metal hand.
They win, but Bronn’s still worried—what’s to stop that ship’s captain from telling the locals that there’s a Lannister sneaking about their turf?
“I’m not sure you understand how much people hate your family in this part of the world,’’ Bronn says—though we’re about to find out.
Elsewhere in Dorne, Ellaria Sand, the lover of Oberyn Martell, is convening with Oberyn’s bastard daughters. Collectively known as the Sand Snakes, Nym, Obara, and Tyene want to avenge their father’s death at the hands of The Mountain. Of course, that would be hard to do without the support of Prince Doran, who told Ellaria two episodes ago that war was out of the question.
“We don’t need an army to start a war,’’ Ellaria tells the Sand Snakes. “Queen Cersei loves her children, and we have one of them.’’
But they’ll have to move quickly. They’ve captured the ship captain who brought Jaime and Bronn to Dorne, and now they know the Lannisters are on their turf. The captain is buried up to his neck in the sand, while they debate what to do about Jaime.
Ellaria knows Jaime has come for Myrcella, and that their plan is shot if they don’t get to her first.
“You must choose,’’ she tells the Sand Snakes. “Doran’s way and peace, or my way and war.’’
“I made my choice long ago,’’ Obara says, throwing a spear through the captain’s head.
The Sand Snakes and Jaime are both rushing to Myrcella. If the Sand Snakes get there first, they’ll kill her to start a war of revenge. Maybe Bronn’s right when he says the Dornish are crazy.
Back in Meereen, Hizdahr zo Loraq is trying again to get Dany to open the fighting pits. It’s the traditional start of pit fighting season, and Hizdahr tells her that bringing the violent blood sport will pacify the city.
“Traditions are the only thing that will hold this city, your city, together,’’ he argues.
Out in the city’s streets, though, the city is coming apart. Grey Worm and a group of Unsullied soldiers are ambushed by the Sons of the Harpy. Soon it’s just Grey Worm left, fighting for his life against the masked terrorists.
Barristan, fresh from his jovial talk with Dany about the good old days with Rhaegar, comes to Grey Worm’s rescue—but they’re both injured. Just as the last Harpy is about to cut Barristan’s throat, Grey Worm kills him. The episode ends with the pair, two of Dany’s best fighters and advisors, bleeding out.
—Are Grey Worm and Barristan dead? Without them, could Dany still hold Meereen? And, to be honest, why is she still there? Staying in order to learn to rule is one thing, but it seems like a losing game. You have to wonder if she’ll ever get to Westeros at this rate.
—Poor Bronn has to do all the dirty work on his Dornish vacation with Jaime. From rowing to battle to burying bodies, he’s got to pull a lot of weight for the one-handed Kingslayer.
When he tells Jaime he wants “a boring death,’’ I really hope it isn’t foreshadowing. If Bronn does get killed off of the show, and I have a bad feeling he will, I hope his exit is as badass as his entry.
—Mace Tyrell is going to Braavos with his own Kingsguard knight for protection. That Kingsguard member is Meryn Trant. There’s a certain Stark currently training to be an assassin in Braavos, and, if you recall from episode 2, Trant is one of the people on her kill list. This could get interesting.
—When Grand Maester Pycelle remarks that the Small Council is getting smaller after Mace is sent away, Cersei responds “not small enough.’’ What will she do to get rid of Pycelle?
—The talk between Stannis, Selyse, and Melisandre about Shireen’s royal blood makes me nervous. Back in season 3, Melisandre wanted to sacrifice Gendry to the Red God, claiming that his king’s blood would further Stannis’s cause—luckily, Davos rescued him. Stannis had a touching moment in this episode with his daughter, but if things ever turned south for him … well, nobody’s ever safe on this show, and he has been willing to use Melisandre’s blood magic in the past. Even if you think Stannis wouldn’t go there himself, his wife definitely has no love for their daughter, and she sure likes burning people.
—There’s a bit more light shed on Littlefinger’s plans: he’s betting on Stannis beating the Boltons, then naming Sansa as his Warden of the North. If Stannis loses, though, he advises her to make Ramsay her puppet, and use her wits to out-maneuver his dangerous dad. But he thinks Sansa is the only living Stark. It’s not true, but Bran and Arya are far away, and nobody knows where Rickon is.
—Littlefinger is headed back to the capitol, after being recalled by Cersei. What does she want with him? And how will he react to his brothel being trashed, once he finds out?