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If you’re looking for justice, don’t come to King’s Landing. All men must die. These are two lessons we’ve learned throughout the four seasons of Game of Thrones, but especially so in this season, which has seen a lot of reinforcing of those words. Tonight’s episode shows that once again, King’s Landing is an unjust city and all men must eventually die. Petyr Baelish tells young Robin Arryn that he must leave the Eyrie, and that a man must think of his life before thinking of his death. In Game of Thrones, characters often don’t have enough time to celebrate their miserable lives before the inevitability of death encroaches. This was a great and affecting episode, perhaps as great as last seasons infamous Red Wedding. Though it takes a while to get there, the shock ending is worth the horrifying ride.
At Castle Black the Night’s Watch, who now number only 102 members, lament the local raids that have seen countless slaughtered. Mole’s Town, where Sam left Gilly and her infant son, is the most recent town to be raided, and Sam is horrified to learn that Gilly and her child may have been slaughtered by the Wildlings. Gilly is spared, however, when Ygritte sees her with the infant. Jon Snow knows the men cannot meet the Wildlings in open combat, because that is exactly what they want – to draw more soldiers away from Castle Black. The Night’s Watch continue to prepare for the inevitable assault by Mance Rayder and his horde, but with so few soldiers left to fight, their spirits are certainly low.
Across the Narrow Sea in Meereen, Grey Worm, the castrated leader of the Unsullied Army, pines for Missandei, Daenerys’ translator and handmaiden in what has now become the show’s most boring subplot. Ser Barristan intercepts a message meant for Joran Mormont – a pardon signed personally by Robert Barratheon. This message, clearly sent by Tywin Lannister to drum up dissent among Daenerys’ ranks, is authentic. We saw Jorah decline the pardon seasons ago at this point. Nevertheless, he is unable to really defend his past actions, and Daenerys’ banishes Jorah from Meereen. Hopefully whatever happens to him next is more dynamic and interesting than what has been going on in Meereen so far this season. Daenerys has proven herself to be surprisingly childish and impulsive, and I can’t imagine Jorah will be out of it for long.
In the Vale, Petyr Baelish is tasked with explaining the mysterious death of Lysa Arryn. Baelish claims she committed suicide by jumping through the moon door. We know, of course, that Baelish murdered her. When a small council of noble families questions his actions, Sansa Stark reveals her true identity and surprisingly comes to his aid. Perhaps she realizes that Baelish is the only one who has any clue what is really going on in the world. Perhaps she understands that Baelish is her best chance to have anything resembling a normal life. Petyr thanks her for her treachery, and as noted earlier, he gathers his resolve and makes plans for Robin Arryn, Lysa’s son and next in line to inherit the Vale, to visit the Eyrie and learn how to become a proper nobleman (probably with the intent to kill him off at some point). Meanwhile, Arya Stark and the Hound arrive at the Vale, but they learn of Lysa Arryn’s death and are discouraged. Arya just narrowly misses the opportunity to reunite with her sister.
The most interesting and also the most horrifying events take place at King’s Landing, of course. Sentenced to Trial by Combat, Tyrion Lannister awaits what may be the last significant moment of his life before a possible execution. Jaime stands by him in his cell, sharing wine and talking about a simple Lannister cousin, dropped on his head at birth, who spent his days smashing bugs in the gardens. The story, of course, is symbolic of Gregor Clegane, also known as the Mountain, who has spent his days smashing men to death. When the trial finally begins, Oberyn Martell, Tyrion’s champion, moves swiftly and deftly and helmetless against the Mountain, whose slow and heavy nature seem to make him a more even match for the agility and gracefulness displayed by Martell. But King’s Landing is no place for justice, and Martell, through his pride and ego, loses his guard for a moment and the Mountain, though weak and dying of his wounds, slaughters him like a squashed bug on a rock. All men must die.