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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
As always: Discussion contains SPOILERS!
It seems like forever since we’ve last seen Robb Stark and Danaerys Targaryen. Tonight’s episode did a decent job of bringing us up with the latter, but not great at telling us how the former is doing. In Robb’s brief scenes, we see him win another battle with the Lannister’s and form some kind of weird connection with a field nurse after she amputates a soldier’s foot. Robb’s been given the short-shrift this season, probably because the story demands we spend more time with Tyrion, Joffrey, and the other Lannister’s. This makes it a bit hard to get interested in Robb’s part of the story (at least until we see a full-fledged battle scene with him in command). We need to spend more time with him to gauge how he feels the war is going, and to get some idea of what he plans to do if and when he’s successful.
Daenerys’ scenes, however, actually moved the plot along decently well. After skipping out on her last week, we get a lot of exposition and movement as well as some decent set-up for future episodes. When one of her riders returns, a pensive Dany is finally ready to move her people throughout the desert. What’s left of her horde reaches the city of Qarth (pronounced Karth, not Quarth as we’re assured), which seems to be some kind of Ayn Rand-inspired libertarian city of traders ruled by a council of thirteen. After some great negotiating and tense dialogue, Dany and her people are admitted into Qarth. Maybe we’ll get to see those dragons grow up sooner than later. At any rate, I’m glad she’s finally out of the desert. Why this couldn’t have been done in just two episodes instead of four is beyond me.
Meanwhile, Catelyn Stark is still an honored guest of would-be king Renly Baratheon. In Renly’s compound, Catelyn is approached by Petyr, where he offers her a trade of Jamie Lannister (who we haven’t seen in weeks) by her daughers, Arya and the increasingly terrified Sansa. This presents a few problems, chief among which is the fact that the Lannister’s don’t even have Arya. She’s been taken prisoner to Castle Harrenhal, where men are tortured and killed at random. But more on that in a bit. Petyr also offers Catelyn her husband’s remains (so he can rest with his ancestors at Winterfell). It’s clear she weighs the option heavily, but I’m not sure she’ll go through with it. Jamie Lannister is literally worth a king’s ransom. Even though she is a mother in distress, she probably knows better than to play her cards this early.
And now back to Arya. It is finally discovered she’s a girl who has been masquerading as a boy (finally… it was pretty obvious and I was a bit tired of suspending my disbelief on this one). She is “rewarded” after this with a job as Tywin Lannister’s cup-bearer, perhaps sparing her from needless torture and execution. For being a child actor, Maisie Williams (Arya) is fantastic, and plays these scenes exceedingly well. Gendry, the bastard son of the dead king Robert, is nearly tortured to death as well, but is also saved at the last by Tywin. Ironic, given that one saved is a Stark and another is a bastard heir to the throne. I’m guessing, had Tywin known this, he’d have let the situation play out differently.
The episode’s best moments came in the political showdown between Renly and brother Stannis, with Catelyn in attendance. Stannis obviously feels jealous of his younger brother’s popularity (as well as the gigantic force his brother has accumulated to carry his banner). It is obvious why Renly is the more popular of the two. Severe and austere, Stannis buries himself in religion and discipline (and now in the weird witch woman Melisandre, who I still don’t know how to feel about). Renly rules with a kind of bro-ish kindness and understanding. Stannis gives his younger brother the night to think his position through, but it’s pretty clear that Renly is going to fight on his own. When the battle will happen, no one yet knows.
See you next week!