Spoilers are coming.
There’s a certain tranquility in King’s Landing in the new Game of Thrones 4×05: The First of His Name. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the Vale. Sansa Stark might have her hands full with someone even more dangerous than Cersei Lannister.
It’s Tommen Baratheon’s coronation and the young lad can’t help but answer the playful eyes of Margaery Tyrell with his own. Eventually, Cersei notices Tommen’s look and goes to meet Margaery. The conversation between the two powerful women is delicate. We are almost expecting Cersei to turn on Margaery at any moment, but she doesn’t. She’s almost open to the young possible future Queen. Margaery is, however, no fool and is the model of diplomacy and decor even when the former Queen Regent admits that she was often shocked by Joffrey’s actions. It’s Cersei at its best in this episode, making sure all remaining alliances remain strong.
Tywin and Cersei also seems like a bit of a reconciliatory conversation. Tywin reveals the huge debt that the Kingdom has with the Iron Bank of Braavos, and the fact that the Lannisters are close to bankruptcy. This is also another reason to keep the alliance with the Tyrells. Cersei hints – without malice – about the trial but Tywin strongly denies to share any details with her. Although I applaud Tywin’s moral code here, I’m sure he’s playing his cards close to the vest.
Cersei and Oberyn Martell’s scene is a surprisingly tender one. It’s still a play from Cersei to make sure she’s got everyone on her side, but it’s also revealing. Cersei has a gift she wants to send to her daughter Myrcella Baratheon, ward of Dorne, who we have not seen since she left for Sunspear. Oberyn states that back in Dorne they don’t hurt little girls. Cersei’s reply comes directly from the books: “Everywhere in the world they hurt little girls.”
We’ve seen Cersei lost control, and this is the character gaining it back. To be convincing against sharp minds such as Oberyn, Tywin and Margaery, the Lady Lannister has had to sacrifice a little of herself by telling a few truths. No well crafted lie is complete without them. In this episode, Cersei firmly re-establishes her position at the top of the food chain in King’s Landing.
Daenerys and Jorah Mormont share a moment in Meereen as they reminisce about the past. Meanwhile, the liberated slave population of both Astapor and Yunkai are in peril as new masters arise. To all that, the Mother of Dragons concludes she must rule as Queen, a vague answer and an uncertain future. I am glad she didn’t try taking an army across the Narrow Sea to Westeros and leave the city of Slaver’s Bay in complete disarray, but that’s something I already knew. Hard times may be ahead for her and her followers.
Sansa and Petyr Baelish have arrived at the Vale, the seat of House Arryn. It’s an isolated and impregnable location that will keep them safe, but also will prevent them to leave easily. We are reacquainted with Lysa Arryn and Robin, both of them quite a bit insane. As much as a master manipulator Littlefinger can be, he’s still very much at the mercy of Lady Arryn who reminds him that it was his convincing that drove her to poison her own husband, Jon Arryn (Robert Baratheon’s original Hand), and send false clues to her sister, Catelyn Stark. It finally clears up the mystery that Ned Stark was trying to solve.
While Littlefinger learns that Lysa has just been waiting for him to say the word to bring a septon through the door, Sansa also has a hard lesson to learn. Lysa is well aware of Lord Baelish infatuation with her sister Catelyn, and wants to make sure Sansa is not the secret object of Littlefinger’s affections. Sansa quickly improvises and acts the fool, learning that Lysa plans to marry her off to her son Robin.
We get a little fresh air as we move on to the Riverlands with Arya Stark and Sandor Clegane. Arya’s nightly prayer-curse in which she names all the people she will one day kill includes the Hound at the very end. In the morning, Arya is practicing her sword dancing with Needle when the Hound challenges her to try that with him. The result is she gets pushed down as Needle fails to pierce the Hound’s armor. Sandor is quick to let her know that she should learn to fight from people who are still alive, like the ones she has on her list. It should be obvious that was an invitation from him to train Arya. She should really take the Hound up on that offer, it won’t be there for long.
Brienne and Podrick are another odd couple. Podrick seems to suck at riding a horse, cooking dinner and everything else that is related to the job of a squire except pouring wine and clearing a table. There’s a light of hope and Pod reveals he did once kill a member of the Kingsguard in defense of Tyrion Lannister. There’s a small victory for him as Brienne agrees to help him get her out of the armor. It’s a hilarious dynamic, but things are bound to get serious for them soon. Brienne is headed towards the Wall, thinking Sansa might have gone there looking for Jon Snow.
And speaking of the wall, there’s trouble brewing at Craster’s Keep. In case you completely forgot from last week, Karl and the mutineers are really wicked people. Cue another scene in which poor Meera is threatened with rape. Again. Was it really necessary to repeat the same threat again? It’s overkill, really. Jojen intervenes, letting Karl know that he sees him dead and in flames on the very same night. Karl is ready to silence him forever when he gets word that
the cavalry the Night’s Watch is bearing down on them.
Yes, it is Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch to take down the mutineers. But among them is Locke, who has already scouted the area and guessed where Bran is held captive. He’s sure to tell Jon and the rest an excuse to keep them away from the cabin. As the charge takes the mutineers by surprise, Locke steals away to the cabin and attempts to take Bran. Cue Bran getting approval from Jojen as they both know what’s about to happen. Bran worgs again and takes the body of Hodor, breaking his chains.
Locke is unaware of what’s going on as he carries Bran out into the snow. Hodor catches up to them and snaps Locke’s neck. Bran then releases his hold on Hodor and awakes back in his own body. Poor Hodor looks at the blood of his hands, scared of what has happened. He finally obeys Bran, cuts him loose and goes to free the others. Bran calls out to Jon, who he can see fighting in the distance. When Jojen reaches him, he convinces him Jon will not let him go searching for the Three-Eyed Crow. Bran agrees they should depart without being seen, and reminding them they need to get Summer. Although we don’t see the scene, I believe this is when Ghost is also freed.
Inside Craster’s Keep we finally get the battle between Karl Tanner and Jon Snow. Karl is a master of knives but Jon seems to be able to hold his own until he gets spit upon. I’m reminded of Bronn asking Jaime if he wants to fight pretty or he wants to win. Dirty trickery seems about to win the day, but Karl gets stabbed in the back by one of Craster’s daughter-wives. As he’s about to kill her, Jon Snow drives Longclaw through the back of his head. Apparently Jon has learned to fight dirty as well.
The episode ends with Craster’s Keep ablaze as the women decide to rescind Jon’s offer to go with them to Castle Black but also choose to abandon the place. We also get the reunion of Jon with his albino direwolf, Ghost. Don’t worry about feeding him, Jon. He just ate. The last of the mutineers that is missing from the count of bodies that the Night’s Watch does after the battle meets his untimely end at the direwolf’s fangs. Jon Snow has his wolf once more.
Highs: Cersei’s dialogs with Margaery, Tywin and Oberyn. She’s made a comeback from a vengeful and irate loose cannon to a more careful and calculated tactician. Brienne trying to get rid of Podrick while he’s trying to gain her respect. Petyr getting cornered by Lysa as the doors opened and a septon walks in to marry them. Bran taking over Hodor to kill Locke. Jon Snow killing Karl. Jon reuniting with his direwolf, Ghost. Craster’s Keep burning to the ground.
Lows: Poor Meera getting threatened again by Karl. I really want to believe Craster’s Keep being burnt down means the end of those scenes, but I’m not holding my breath. If we could have spared that scene, I could’ve had a low-free episode. Daenerys and Jorah’s scene was also kind of weak but I’m sure we’ll get to find more about the past catching up to them next week.