In case it’s not readily apparent, spoilers are ahead.
I’ve always wondered how new White Walkers are born. It seemed out of sorts to think of them as producing in any fashion human. That was a damn good ending and the first time I’ve seen the Land of Always Winter, the frosty home of the White Walkers. Craster’s policy of providing infant boys to the White Walkers served to protect him from the ravages of those unearthly monsters. But it served another more sinister purpose of swelling their ranks. How many infant boys do you think Craster gave them over the years?
This was an episode filled with unexpected twists and some that I’ve been wondering when they were going to put on screen. First of those is the growing separation between Jaime and Cersei. For fans of the book, the scene in the Sept of Baelor marked a turning point for the incestuous couple. It seems that they’re carrying that tone forward in the show, using Jaime’s attack against Cersei to fuel their parting. Lena Headey was magnificently malevolent as Cersei, her drunken rage barely kept beneath a shell of cold dispassion. Jaime for his part was at a loss to deal with his sister, the only woman he’s ever professed to love. It is little wonder two vain bastards like them couldn’t make things work.
This episode showed us the Jaime the audience had come to know last season, the man who’d hardly ever done the right thing his entire life trying to change his ways. It certainly doesn’t excuse his actions from the previous episode but it does serve to remind the audience he’s still capable of doing the right thing. My take on it is that we’re seeing all sides of Jaime and forced to deal with who he is and what he’s capable of. I’m certain there are fans who will forever hate him for forcing himself on Cersei. But then there’s the scene between Bronn and Jaime, where the Kingslayer is put in his place by the common sellsword. Jaime and Tyrion had a short, wonderful scene together. Tyrion was too smart to not realize the true paternity of Joffrey and I think he was deeply offended that Jaime considered Tyrion capable of murdering a member of his own family. Cersei’s assessment that Tyrion would murder them all shows her seeing her own spiteful nature in others where it does not exist.
Most importantly were the unspoken moments between Jaime and Brienne. Of all the pairings I’ve enjoyed in the show, this one I’ve enjoyed the most. Brienne is Jaime’s conscience, his reminder of what duty and honor mean. The fact that they share a deep connection should not be surprising. Whether Jaime feels anything close to romance for her is beside the point. Brienne sees in Jaime his capability for honor, which Jaime surely needs from time to time. It won’t change who he fundamentally is but it will occasionally steer him in the right direction. In Jaime, we see that we are all the sum of our parts, both good and bad.
That sentiment cannot be said for Karl and Rast, the murderous traitors to the Night’s Watch. Watching them rape and pillage Craster’s Keep was enough to make me feel nauseated all over again. These men illustrate the same fact that Jaime illustrates: you may make a man take an oath but that doesn’t mean you change the man. Before coming to the Night’s Watch, they were thieves, murderers, and rapists. Saying the words doesn’t change that. And now with Bran, Jojen, Meera, Hodor, and Summer captured by them, Jon’s plan to capture or kill the traitors becomes that much more complicated. This twist is a deviation from the book but an interesting one. I’d like to see if Jon encounters his half-brother and what their interaction would be like. Too often in the books and the show characters just miss each other (see Arya and the Red Wedding from season 3).
Not all is lost in terms of justice, which seemed to be a major theme of this episode. Dany took Meereen from within, convincing the slaves to turn on their Masters. I thought it was a brilliant strategy, if a bit cold-hearted at its core. Rather than risk her small number of Unsullied in a siege, she risked the countless slaves already in Meereen. The fact that they were successful does not lessen the burden of dead slaves who fought for freedom. I admit it’s a cynical way of looking at the liberation of Meereen. Another way to view is that Dany simply gave the slaves the means to win their own freedom. I particularly enjoyed Dany’s cold resolve to visit upon the Masters the same fate as the crucified slaves she saw on her way to the great city. Rest assured (even though it wasn’t shown on screen) she crucified 163 Wise Masters, one for every slave she came across on her journey. This is not a queen who forgives such horrific actions.
I thought they would play out the mystery of Joffrey’s real assassins a bit longer but I’m glad they wrapped that up quickly. It took another book and a half before readers were able to piece together the mystery from the books. It should be no surprise that Littlefinger was one of the masterminds. If the three previous seasons have shown anything it is that Petyr Baelish is a consummate chess master. It should also come as no surprise that the Queen of Thorns was involved as well. She is a calculating lady, who secretly rules her house with cunning and a flair for secrecy. The idea of her rose Margaery being sullied by a monstrous beast like Joffrey must have been too much for the old biddy to endure. Thankfully, she did her granddaughter and the realm a favor.
I’ll end this recap with a question: I’m not the only one who thought Margaery’s late night visit to Tommen held a smidge too much underlying sexual tension, right?
Not that I would complain if I was in Tommen’s place.