Game of Thrones is back, forged in Valyrian steel, and ready to hack you to pieces.
I’m a big fan of watching the thematic interplay between different storylines, and this episode did not disappoint. The theme that most jumped out at me — and which somewhat ties in with the title of the episode, if you know spoilery things about what happens to the two swords forged from Ned Stark’s Ice — is that of older and younger sons. It’s an idea that’s first brought up by Tyrion Lannister in his conversation with Oberyn Martell, towards the beginning of the episode, when he tries to appeal to Oberyn, the younger brother of the Prince of Dorne, by mentioning that he, too, is a second son.
Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys watches her dragons spar, which is later echoed in the competition between Grey Worm and Daario Naharis.
The fighting dragons are also reminiscent of Tywin’s three children, who fight amongst themselves in several scenes. Jaime and Cersei’s long awaited reunion isn’t quite as steamy as Jaime hoped, while Tyrion muses on the fact that he can’t claim any credit for saving King’s Landing. Meanwhile, his domestic situation is being spied on by Cersei.
In a scene can’t fail to contain unspoken references to her sister Arya, Sansa has the best possible comeback to Tyrion’s attempts to comfort her grief. Leaving him to go to the sept, she says that, while she no longer believes in prayer, the sept is the only place nobody tries to talk to her.
In the North, Ygritte and Tormund Giantsbane are shown up by the bigger and stronger Styr and his band of (fine? young?) cannibals. Tormund accuses Ygritte of letting Jon Snow live. He’s seen her shoot a rabbit between the eyes, so how exactly did Jon Snow manage to get away alive?
On the wall, a limping Jon talks to Sam about Robb, musing that Robb was better than him at everything. Sam in turn notes that he feels the same younger-brother jealousy way about Jon. Fresh from that reminder of Night’s Watch brotherhood, Jon goes before Ser Alliser Thorne, Maester Aemon, and dumbass Janos Slynt and admits everything: he killed Qhorin Halfhand, slept with Ygritte, and, to redeem those broken vows, learned all kinds of useful things about the Wildlings. Thankfully, the Night’s Watch decides not to sentence him to death.
The theme of younger sons is all over Arya’s adventure with the Hound (note that the Mountain is also brought up in this episode), who plans to ransom her to her mother’s sister Lysa. While Sansa isn’t explicitly mentioned, it’s clear that the Hound has her in mind, taunting Arya about asking for a pony like a little princess.
And finally, back in King’s landing, Brienne pins the death of Renly — another second son — on his older brother Stannis, and later reminds Jaime of his duty to return Sansa and Arya to the Starks.
There are only two scenes that don’t fit the theme of siblings eternally locked in conflict: Sansa’s run-in with drunken fool Dontos, and Tywin’s initial scene giving one of the new swords to Jaime. Oh, and also the sex scene/argument between Tyrion and Shae, I suppose, though I tend to feel like the weight of being a second son is constantly bearing down on Tyrion. Also, this is one of the key scenes where Tyrion is spied on by his big sister.
- No Bran and Rickon story this episode, but it’s teased in the Next Time On footage, so I’m guessing we’ll do some Hodor-ing next week?
- Stannis, Melisandre, and the Onion Knight are also conspicuously absent, though the former two are mentioned by Brienne.
- No Theon, either, but then I’m comfortable with that, because I hate Theon and the entire Greyjoy clan. The Iron Islands storyline is treading water (see what I did there?) and we could never go back there as far as I’m concerned.
- Arya finally got Needle back! Poetic justice in an episode that begins with the Stark family sword being melted down by the Lannisters.
- In line with my obsession with theme, I’m wondering about the significance of Ser Dontos giving Sansa a necklace that has been in his family for generations. It seems to parallel Arya’s statement about Needle (“My brother gave it to me!”), as well as the destruction of Ice, AND ties in with Lady Onella’s general fixation on jewelry. Doesn’t she even mention a necklace her husband once gave her?
- Speaking of, Lady Onella throwing that necklace off the balcony was one of the funniest moments of the series so far. Damn, I love that woman.
- Is it wrong that I love the Tyrion/Sansa marriage and hope those two come to love each other? I know GRRM is always plotting new ways to make everyone miserable, but Sansa brings out Tyrion’s best self, and she needs all the family she can get right now. Sorry, Shae.