|Sibel Kekilli as Shea takes her place as a handmaid|
Another bloody good episode of Game of Thrones began where it left off last week ... with a really ticked-off Craster (Robert Pugh).
We discover that Jon Snow (Kit Harington) survived his blow last week when he discovered Craster’s secret but now the enraged Craster wants his guests to leave the respite of his camp. In an exchange about what Craster does with his male children, Lord Commander Mormont (Rene Aigner) reveals to the privileged Snow the harsh reality of life north of the Wall and that “wildings serve crueler gods than you or I.” The next morning, Sam (John Bradley-West) is packing up to leave camp when he spies Gilly (Hannah Murray) and selflessly gives her a gift (a thimble) that was his mother’s. Even wildlings are entitled to some romance.
In a brief scene in Winterfell, Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) is being awoken for his lessons with Maester Luwin (Donald Sumpter). Bran tells him that his dreams are omens but the maester brushes them off as old stories that he absorbed and that “these are dreams, Bran, nothing more" and that “maybe magic once was a mighty force in the world, but not anymore.” Perhaps this is an omen of more magic to come? Hope so!
In his first real scene of this season, Renly (Gethin Anthony)and new wife Margaery of Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) are choosing knights for the King’s Guard. In an episode ripe with girl power, he chooses Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) as one of his guards. She immediately starts her job by following her king as he discusses with Lady Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) his grand plans for taking King’s Landing and Joffrey’s head. She accuses Renly that it’s a game for him and that his “are the knights of summer, and winter is coming.” She’s rightly worried about the fate of not only her children, but also the kingdom. Later, in the obligatory sex scene, Renly realizes that his new bride knows of his secret love affair with her brother, Loras (Finn Jones). But no worries, she's pretty laid back and will help him in any way put a baby in her belly. Sibling three-way anyone? She believes that this is the only way to stop their enemies who want to tear them apart. Now that is a cool wife!
Meanwhile, back in the Lovecraftian nightmare of Pyke, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) verbally smacks his sister for not orginally informing him of her identity. Sneaky girl wanted to learn who the real Theon was. Daddy Balon (Patrick Malahide) was right about her being the smart one. Balon then reveals his takeover strategy which involves no mercy for the Starks and giving his daughter 30 long ships to attack - and giving Theon just one to attack fishing villages. Poor Theon is insulted and in an attempt to prove himself to his father, gets a whoopin’ and told that “your time with the wolves has made you weak.” We almost feel sorry for Theon for a moment there ... almost. Sis tells him he needs to choose where his loyalty is and he does. Theon burns a warning letter he wrote to Robb Stark and becomes Baptized, proving loyalty to the Greyjoy family, by accepting the Drowned God. Motto: “What is dead may never die but rises again harder and stronger.” Theon has made his choice and we’re back to hating him.
Tyrion time! Aren’t we glad the writers are giving our favorite imp ample screen time this season? Well, he finally finds a place for his gal-pal hooker Shae (Sibel Kekill) as Sansa’s (Sophie Turner) handmaiden. But later we see Tyrion’s (Peter Dinklage) cunning and his paranoia when he gives a loyalty test to three of his men: Old man Pycelle (Julian Glover), Varys the eunuch (Conleth Hill), and Littlefinger the pimp (Aidan Gillen). He tells each of them who he feels would be the best marriage match for Cersei’s (Lena Headey) daughter, Myrcella (Aimee Richardson); each person is told a different candidate from a different family. Oh, and do not tell Cersei! Well, Cersei gets all mama bear when Pycelle clearly snitched Tyrion’s arrangement and she pleads with Tyrion to not send her daughter off to be married like she had been. We briefly see Cersei’s tender and vulnerable side but that will be short-lived. Oh, Pycelle is being punished by being sent to a dark dungeon. Poor old man even got his whore-time interrupted. That’ll teach him and anyone else to mess with the half-man. In an exchange with Varys, Tyrion is reminded the “power is a curious thing my lord” and that “power resides where men believe it can reside.” Even though Tyrion is a “half-man,” he is reminded that he is able to cast a large and powerful shadow.
The final scene on the king’s road was brutal yet touching at the same time. That is what makes this show so damn amazing. Arya (Maisie Williams) can’t sleep and asks her current father-figure and protector, Yoren (Francis Magee), how he is able to sleep after seeing so many horrible things. She reveals that she can’t shakes the images surrounding her father’s death. Yoren tells her of the day he witnessed his brother’s murder and how he eventually murdered the killer and kept his horse (and got sent to the Wall for it). This “tender” moment was then interrupted by goldcloaks sent back at Joffrey’s command to recover bastard Gendry (Joseph Dempsie). They promised to be back and came back with even more of a vengeance. Poor Yoren fought a good fight but was murdered in front of Arya who has now lost another "father." She then went on to save the pleading caged prisoners, including the kind Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), from a firey death. The survivors were rounded up to be taken to Harrenhal but one poor boy had an arrow in his leg and begged to be carried. That didn’t work - killing him was less strenuous. The goldcloaks then demanded Gendry to be handed over or their eyeballs would be the price. Quick-thinking Arya fibbed by telling them that the freshly killed boy, was Gendry. Problem solved...for now.
This was an episode filled with new characters, brutal loss, and strong women, that did not disappoint. But who do you want to see more of?
Next week’s episode has the eerie title "Garden of Bones." Watch it on HBO, next Sunday, April 22 at 9pm ET/PT.