In this episode, audiences began to grasp that, for most of the characters we either love or hate in the game of thrones, there are varying shades of grey between good and evil–no one occupies either exclusively nor should they claim to. What George R.R. Martin has created with this epic story are characters with so much depth and detail that, even after 4 seasons, shift values and priorities so staggeringly that we cannot expect to know them fully or to even comprehend what they are capable of. Slowly, our heroes reveal dark sides and our villains admit weakness–but does this change what we think of them or merely enhance the reality that sometimes self preservation comes at the cost of one’s own moral ground? Let’s head over to Westeros, shall we?
In King’s Landing, Jamie and Tyrion finally have a conversation about the twisted Lannister clan and Tyrion is understandably bitter. While Tyrion has found acceptance in unlikely places–the brothel and with his sellsword friend, Bron–now that he is desperate for a friend, the little lion cannot seem to find someone to stand as his champion. Unfortunately, no one hates Tyrion more than Cersei and she contracts the largest, most frightening man in all of Westeros to kill Tyrion, “The Mountain”, brother to the Hound. This insane killer will be pit against Tyrion’s champion, which is part of the reason he can’t seem to find a stand in. When Tyrion asks Jamie to be his champion, the younger Lannister brother admits he cannot fight with his left hand and therefore will not stand up to certain death simply to make Tyrion happy and their father upset. Tyrion said last week that his only crime was that of being a dwarf, and his birth seems his most treacherous act. Before being quickly reminded of how few friends he really has by Jamie, Tyrion even dares to mention that his incestious siblings are more acceptable to Tywin Lannister than Tyrion, the dwarf. When Tyrion asks his brother to find Bron, is with the hope that the friendship will overpower Bron’s self-preservation instinct. Predictably, Bron refuses, simply to save his own neck, and audiences are struck with the various shades of grey when it comes to right and wrong in the game of thrones. While we would love for Bron to stand up to the Mountain because he is Tyrion’s friend, it is a death wish and we all know it. Tyrion cannot even be angry at Bron for looking out for himself first because it is one of the reasons Tyrion was attracted to the friendship from the beginning. Cersei has arranged a marriage for him, and so Bron has a chance for a title and a wife–he cannot fight for Tyrion and risk losing it all. The sellsword brings up a good point in his conversation with Tyrion; while they are friends, yes, Tyrion has never risked his life for Bron and so why should Bron go to certain death when he has a chance at respectability? It is a sad revelation of the varying degrees of friendship in the royal court, and when the pair shake hands and part as friends, we know it will probably be for the last time. As the hopelessness of the situation sets in, Tyrion has an unexpected visitor in Prince Oberyn Martell, who shares a common enemy with Tyrion–the Lannisters. He tells Tyrion a story of visiting “the monster” Lannister baby and how cruel Cersei was to Tyrion even then. Oberon promises to be Tyrion’s champion and to kill the Mountain, who killed Oberyn’s sister and family, and it seems our favorite Lannister may have a chance after all.
Arya and the Hound continue their travels to the Eyrie and come upon a mortally wounded man whom with Arya talks about life and death and nothingness. This young woman has grown into a brave, practical, vicious young killer alongside the Hound, and her experiences have led her to understand the varying spheres of morality as well as the finality of mortality.
Nothing isn’t better or worse than anything. Nothing is just nothing.
In Westeros, there is no balance, there is nothing fair about the things that our heroes (and villains) have experienced, and yet they persevere, out of habit, until another takes away the choice. The Hound sticks his blade in the dying man’s heart, the only way to kill a man he tells Arya–but if he means with a knife through the heart or out of mercy, audiences cannot be sure. As the pair is assessing the situation, two men sneak up behind the Hound to capture him for reward. Arya recognizes one as a prisoner on his way to the Wall (from Season 3) whom she was stuck traveling with before the Hound found her. The criminal threatened Arya but she never put him on her list because she didn’t know his name. When the Hound asks the man his name, he does so so that Arya may put him on her list and kill him. She does, by stabbing him in the heart just like the Hound taught her minutes earlier.
Again, I am struck by the strange symbiosis of the relationship between these two. They share a common goal–to get safely to the Eyrie–and the Hound stokes the flame of Arya’s wrath–asking her about her list and encouraging her killing. When the two are alone again, Arya tries to help the Hound by suturing his wound but he is terrified of fire. When the Hound finally breaks down and tells Arya about how his brother burned his face, the story reiterates the fact that even the nastiest of villains has a back story. The Hound was terrorized by his brother and ultimately pushed aside by his father, and with no role models, what can a child do but turn to violence when confused and tormented by life?
On the path of Arya and Sansa are Brienne and Pod, who stop at a local inn and meet one of Arya’s friends, Hot Pie. When Brienne foolishly reveals her purpose, the boy admits he knows the Stark girl and she was last seen with the Hound and dressed as a boy. Pod suggests they go to the Eyrie for Arya, that perhaps Sansa is there and, finally, someone is on the right track!
The North/The Eyrie
Since he returned to the Wall, Jon Snow has been legitimately trying to help the Night’s Watch, but they won’t listen or take the advice of a traitor who marched with the Wildlings. Seems that Jon has few friends in upper management, and so he and Sam are given sentry duty on top of the Wall until the full moon, which means it will be dark and cold and probably pretty scary. For Jon, the frustration of unmitigated hatred from Alliser Thorne, the acting Lord Commander coupled with the fact that no one seems to take his warnings seriously, reveals the ambiguity of his decision to infiltrate the Wildlings and return to the Night’s Watch. Was it the right decision or will he be ostracised by both communities? Acceptance is a difficult thing to come by, and even Jon Snow needs to know that he is valued by the dredges of society that dwell on the Wall.
Up in the sky towers of The Eyrie, Sansa is learning that family doesn’t always mean acceptance. While she tries to find some semblance of her childhood in the snowy courtyard of the High Halls, Sansa is quickly reminded that her life will never be what it once was. When she slaps little cousin Robin Arryn for stomping on her Winterfell castle made of snow, Petyr Baelish soothes the Stark girl with a kiss, one she doesn’t seem to keen on. Of course, crazy Aunt Lysa is watching the entire episode and, when she calls Sansa into the room with the moon door, it is terrifying for viewers and Sansa alike. After being a pawn in the game of thrones for so long, Sansa realizes that her place in the Vale is precarious at best. Petry wants her there as a reminder of the love he once held, and it has officially pushed Lysa past her breaking point. When she threatens Sansa over the moon door, we realize that this woman has already lied, cheated and killed to fuel her obsession with Petyr. Pushing Sansa out the moon door would be only a small act of defiance, compared to the crimes she has already committed. Petyr knows this, too, and so he sweetly asks his “silly wife” to let Sansa go. When she does, he lets her know there has only ever been one woman for him, and that was her sister, Catlyn Stark–then pushes her out her own moon door. It is a vicious act, but necessary to save Sansa from the insanity her aunt would have no doubt put her through. While the act in itself is horrifying, Petyr is determined to “save”–whether for his own nefarious purposes or to atone for his love of Catlyn, we cannot know. Petyr Baelish is well versed in the game of thrones, and looks to be playing each card meticulously and to his advantage.
In and Across the Narrow Sea
In the middle of the Narrow Sea at Dragonstone, Queen Selyse Baratheon and Lady Melisandre have a talk over bath time. While the Queen thinks her daughter is “heretical” and asks Melisadre to tell Stannis the child cannot come on their trip, Melisadre claims the lord of light needs Shireen and the girl must set sail with them. It is an ominous declaration, as we all know that the Red Woman is willing to kill those who disagree with her teachings and who are not swayed by her admitted parlour tricks. For Selyse, Melisadre has been sent by the lord of light and nothing she does is a sin. Will this include killing the child, if it comes to that? If so, how will Stannis and Davos Seaworth deal with that questionable act of religious fervor?
Across the Narrow Sea in Mereen, Daario Naharis visits Daenerys in her private chambers to discuss the 2 things he does best–war and women. The Queen of Dragons orders Daario to get naked and prove his talents. Dany simultaneously acts as a child and a woman, indulging impulsive urges and taking what she can, when she can. After satisfying these urges, Dany decides to send Daario and the Second Sons to go to Yunkai and kill the masters. Jorah reminds Dany that there is good and evil on boths sides of a war and convinces her to send Hizdahr zo Loraq as her ambassador to explain what CAN happen if the masters refuse to vacate the city.
For slaves you’ve freed, brutality is all they’ve ever known. If you want them to know something else, you’ll have to show them.
-Ser Jorah Mormont
While Daenerys is worshipped as Queen by those she has freed, she has yet to learn the varying shades of morality of those playing at the game of thrones. In order to win, she must recognize that things are not always defined as easily as black and white.
xoxo The Collectiva Diva