Episode Title: "The Old Gods and the New"
Writer: Vanessa Taylor
Director: David Nutter
Previously on "Game of Thrones":
At Winterfell, Maester Luwin (Donald Sumpter) hastily barricades himself within a building and he sends out a frantic message via raven before the door is broken down. Shortly thereafter, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) is awakened by "Prince" Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen), who explains that he has taken King's Landing for his family and he demands that Bran publicly surrender to protect his subjects. Bran reluctantly complies, but the captured Ser Rodrik Cassel (Ron Donachie) screams at Theon for his betrayal and he spits in his face. Theon initially orders Rodrik to be locked away, but Theon's first mate, Dagmer "Cleftjaw" (Ralph Ineson) tells him that his men will never respect him while Rodrik lives.
Thus, over the objects of Maester Luwin and Bran, Theon personally executes Ser Rodrik with several chops to his head. Beyond the Wall, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is surprised when his direwolf, Ghost wanders off and ignores his commands, but Qhorin Halfhand (Simon Armstrong) insists that wild things like direwolves follow their own rules for their own reasons. At Harrenhal, Lord Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) verbally berates Ser Amory Lorch (Fintan McKeown) for inadvertently sending their troop movements to a house loyal to the Starks. As Tywin makes his point, he notes that his cup-bearer, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) can read better than Amory.
Arya smiles to herself about the discord, but the arrival of Lord Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish.(Adian Gillen) causes Arya to fear that her identity will be uncovered. Arya strives to stay out of Littlefinger's gaze as he proposes that the Lannisters join forces with House Tyrell, with a possible marriage alliance through Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) before Arya is dismissed. Beyond the Wall, Halfhand leads the Night's Watch against a small group of Wildings. Jon captures one of their number, who turns out to be a beautiful girl named Ygritte (Rose Leslie). After getting some information from Ygritte, Jon volunteers to execute her as his comrades move on.
But Jon hesitates and he can't bring himself to kill her in cold blood. Ygritte takes the opportunity to run off, but Jon manages to catch up and recapture her. Unfortunately, he ends up lost and cut off from his own men in the process. At King's Landing, the young Princess Myrcella Baratheon (Aimee Richardson) is sent away to Dorne for an arranged marriage in an elaborate ceremony. Seething with anger, Queen Regent Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) voices her hope that her brother, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) will someday know love so that she can rip it away from him. On the way back to the palace, King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) is jeered by the unruly crowd.
Noticing the rising anger, Tyrion orders Joffrey's younger brother to be quickly sent to safety. Someone throws manure at Joffrey's face and he orders the crowd to be killed. This sparks a deadly riot, as the crowd attacks the nobles and literally rips off the arm of the Royal Speton. Once safely inside the palace, Tyrion berates Joffrey for being a vicious idiot king and he even strikes his nephew for his stupidity. But when Tyrion notices that Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) is apparently trapped outside, Joffrey refuses to order his personal guards to retrieve her. As Sansa is attacked and nearly raped, she finds an unlikely savior in the form of Sandor "The Hound" Clegane (Rory McCann); who viciously kills the would-be rapists and retrieves Sansa.
Upon the Hound's return, Tyrion compliments him and he even calls him by his given name. But the Hound gruffly states that he didn't do it for Tyrion. In Qarth, Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anozie) accompanies Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) as she attempts to get the Spice King (Nicholas Blane) to support her bid for the Iron Throne by lending her a ship. However, the arrogant man points out that she has nothing of value to trade, no armies or even allies in Westros before refusing. At Harrenhal, Arya eyes the document with the Lannister troop movements when Tywin returns and asks her about her father and how she learned to read.
Arya puts together a story on the spot about her father, calling him a stone mason who was killed by "loyalty." To distract Tywin, she asks him about his father as she grabs the document. After Tywin sends her off for more wood, Arya examines the plans and runs straight into Amory Lorch. Arya isn't able to lie her way past Armory and he confiscates the plans from her. But Amory is unable to chase down Arya, who frantically locates Jaqen H'ghar (Tom Wlaschiha). Much to Jaqen's annoyance, he obeys Arya's pleas to kill Amory immediately. Amory gets as far as Lord Tywin's chamber before he falls over dead from a poison dart to the neck. Alarmed, Tywin calls for his guards.
Elsewhere in Westros, Robb Stark (Richard Madden) is greeted warmly by his bannermen before he spots Talisa (Oona Chaplin) and he calls her out on her noble birth. As Robb awkwardly hits on her, Robb's mother Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) arrives along with her new protector, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie). After Talisa excuses herself, Catelyn chides Robb for his obvious affections towards Talisa because he is promised to one of the Lord Frey's daughters. Lord Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) then intrudes with news from Winterfell. Beyond the Wall, Jon and his captive, Ygritte are unable to find his men as night comes to the land.
Jon binds Ygritte more securely and lays her down for the night. She convinces him to huddle next to her for warmth, but Jon is only frustrated by Ygritte's apparent attempt to seduce him. Back at Robb's camp, the King in the North is furious about Theon's betrayal. Robb plans to march back his army and retake Winterfell, but Lord Bolton convinces Robb to stay and allow Bolton's bastard son to retake Winterfell for him. Robb agrees as long as his brothers are kept safe and Theon is brought to him alive so Robb can question and execute him himself. At Winterfell, Osha (Natalia Tena) successfully seduces Theon to gain her freedom.
Back in King's Landing, Sansa is comforted by Shae (Sibel Kekilli). But when Sansa says that she hates King Joffrey, Shae urges Sansa not to repeat that or to trust anyone. At Winterfell, Osha slips away while Theon sleeps and she seduces one his guards before slitting his throat. She then whistles for Bran, Rickon (Art Parkinson), Hodor (Kristian Nairn) and the two direwolves to come out of hiding and follow her into the wilderness. In Qarth, Daenerys is frustrated by her inability to secure a ship when she and Xaro discover that his home has been attacked and many of her followers and his guards are dead.
Daenerys races upstairs and finds the body of her hand maiden, Irri (Amrita Acharia) as well as her empty dragon cages. As Daenerys screams for her lost dragons, a hooded figure carries them to a large tower within the city.
"Game of Thrones" has so many rich and interesting characters that it's hard to pick favorites. However, the Harrenhal subplot with Arya and Tywin has been unusually compelling even as it is surrounded by other well crafted storylines. It helps that Charles Dance is fantastic as Tywin, but he also seems far more humane and respectable than most of his children (Tyrion excluded). "The Old Gods and the New" fleshed out Tywin's relationship with his son, Jamie and it even gave us hints about Tywin's father while he spoke with Arya. Tywin even seems to have some affection towards Arya, but only in the way that an owner admires his favorite pet's intelligence or personality. I'm still not sure if Tywin has even bothered to ask Arya what her name is.
The sequence in which Littlefinger visited Harrenhal had some great tension as Arya tried to protect her identity. That was also a very clever way to convey the exposition from last week's episode and lay out a potential new alliance for the Lannisters. It's somewhat ambiguous if Littlefinger recognized Arya, but that only added to the scene. Lord Amory's death at the hands of Jaqen may have been the most hilarious moment of the season. But Tywin isn't a fool and he has to be aware now that at least one of his enemies is within his camp. Luckily, he doesn't seem to recognize Arya for the threat that she may prove to be.
On the other hand, Ser Rodrik's death was horrifying and messy, serving as further proof of Theon's fall from grace. Rodrik insisted that this meant that Theon was truly lost, but the reality is that Theon was lost long ago. From Bran's reaction to the invasion, it seems clear that the Stark brothers saw Theon as one of their own while he came to see himself as nothing but their hostage. I believe that Theon's brotherly relationship with Robb was real, but Theon's last chance for redemption was when he burned that letter to Robb. Now with the Stark children safely out of Winterfell, Theon doesn't even have the leverage he needs when Robb's bannermen attempt to retake Winterfell. There's no way that this is going to end well for Theon.
Osha's turn in this episode was also quite revealing. I never thought that she had any love for the Starks, but she must have some loyalty to Bran or else she wouldn't have gone through so much trouble to save him and his brother.
The highlight of the episode was the riot at King's Landing and the unexpected heroism of the Hound. Given the level of disrespect he gets from the Lannisters (and even from Tyrion), it's amazing that Sandor Clegane has an almost chivalrous sense of honor and a willingness to protect Sansa from the deadly crowd. Note that the Hound didn't stop Joffrey from having Sansa stripped in court a few episodes back, but he was the first to offer her a cloak. And given what a little s*** Joffrey is, I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Hound eventually goes "Kingslayer" on him.
I think that Tyrion's latest Joffrey slap is destined to become another ten minute looped video on Youtube set to heavy metal. It's always fun to see Joffrey get his comeuppance, but at some point he'll definitely be looking for payback. For a second, I thought that Tyrion's words finally made Joffrey realize that Jamie is his father, but then I remembered that Joffrey is an idiot. Joffrey thinks that he can kill and maim or let the people starve at his whim. But no king rules forever and even Joffrey will eventually have to answer for what he has done to his kingdom and subjects.
For Daenerys' storyline, the theft of her dragons is an interesting way to go and it's something that I half expected back when she was still in the Red Waste. It also looks like Daenerys lost a majority of her followers to the attack, but her only thoughts were about her missing dragons. Somehow that made Daenerys a lot less sympathetic than usual. I was also puzzled by Ser Jorah's absence and I initially thought that Daenerys had been betrayed by Xaro. This plot has potential, but I'm hoping that it won't drag on too long. I don't know when Daenerys made it to Westros in the novels (or if that has even happened yet), but hopefully the show will get her there by the end of the season or so.
Overall, "The Old Gods and the New" was my favorite episode of the season to date. "Game of Thrones" is on an amazing run with just four episodes left this season. And there is no better drama on TV.