Episode Title: "A Man Without Honor"
Writers: David Benioff & D. B. Weiss
Director: David Nutter
Previously on "Game of Thrones":
At Winterfell, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) awakens alone in his bed and vaguely surprised that Osha (Natalia Tena) is not with him. Soon enough, Theon learns that Osha murdered one his men and escaped with Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) and Rickon Stark (Art Parkinson) as well as Hodor (Kristian Nairn). As Theon berates his men for letting them get away, Black Lorren (Forbes KB) mocks Theon by noting that he let Osha slip out of his bed undetected. Enraged, Theon brutally beats Lorren and forms a hunting party to bring back the Stark children, with Maester Luwin (Donald Sumpter) unwillingly by his side.
Somewhere beyond the wall, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) awakens besides Ygritte (Rose Leslie), who realizes why her attempt to seduce him failed: Jon is a virgin and sworn to celibacy. At Harrenhal, several men are hanged in response to the death of Ser Amory Lorch (Fintan McKeown); which Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) mistakenly believes was an assassination attempt against his own life. Unexpectedly, Tywin invites his cup bearer, Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) to eat before sending her away. As they discuss the history of Harrenhal, Arya's knowledge and formal speaking allow Tywin to deduce that she is of noble birth. But Tywin allows Arya's deception to continue even after warning her about being too defiant towards him.
In King's Landing, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) finds Sandor "The Hound" Clegane (Rory McCann) and thanks him for saving her life. However, the Hound states that he only did it because he enjoys killing; which horrifies Sansa, In Qarth, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is despondent over the death of her followers and the theft of her dragons. Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anozie) promises to help her reclaim her dragons, but Daenerys no longer trusts him. In the Westerlands, Alton Lannister (Karl Davies) is visibly afraid as he tells the King in the North, Robb Stark (Richard Madden) that his peace demands were rejected by the Queen Regent, Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey).
Instead of harming Alton, Robb orders him to be fed and temporarily placed with the King Slayer, Ser Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) until a suitable area for Alton is ready. In the meantime, Talisa (Oona Chaplin) approaches Robb to ask for more medical supplies and he invites her to accompany him as he negotiates the surrender of the Crag. A short distance from Winterfell, Theon's hunting party come across a farm that the Stark brothers and their protectors may have passed through. As Theon has Maester Luwin escorted back to Winterfell, Dagmer "Cleftjaw" (Ralph Ineson) comes across signs that Bran and Rickon are still there.
Back in Qarth, Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) returns to Daenerys' side and apologizes for being away while he was attempting to procure her a ship. Daenerys is noticeably distant towards Jorah as she tells him to find her dragons. Beyond the wall, Ygritte continues to mercilessly taunt Jon and attempt to seduce him before making a break for it. And just when Jon thinks that he's lost sight of her, Ygritte reveals that she's led him into a wilding trap. In King's Landing, Sansa has a vivid nightmare about her attempted gang rape that ends with her murder. When she awakens, Sansa is horrified to see that she has had her first period… and that she will now be expected to give King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) children.
Shae (Sibel Kekilli) finds Sansa trying to hide the evidence, but they are seen by another hand maiden who rushes to tell the Queen. Shae threatens the girl's life if she reveals what she's seen, but when Shae returns to Sansa's room, the Hound has already seen the bloodied sheets. Sometime later, Cersei speaks privately to Sansa about what comes next and she warns the young girl to love only her children, while acknowledging that Joffrey may be impossible to love. At Robb's encampment, Alton bonds with Jamie and reminds his cousin that he once squired for him in a tournament. Upon hearing Jamie voice his desire to escape, Alton offers to help him.
However, Jamie simply murders Alton to draw in the guard, whom he also murders before making his escape. In Qarth, Jorah finds the masked woman, Quaithe (Laura Pradelska); who seems to know far too much about Jorah's previous actions and his feelings for Daenerys. After eliciting a promise from Jorah that he will never betray Daenerys again, Quaithe tells him that Daeny is with the thief at that moment. At Xaro's home, the rest of the 13 who rule Qarth have gathered as Daenerys pleads for the return of her dragons. Pyat Pree (Ian Hanmore) from the House of the Undying speaks up in favor of Daenerys before revealing that he stole the dragons with permission from the King of Qarth.
To the surprise of everyone, Xaro steps forward and reveals himself to be "the King" before Pyat assassinates the other members of the 13. Daenerys and her lone bodyguard, Kovarro (Steven Cole) attempt to flee before Pyat appears in front of them. But Jorah arrives in time to dispel the projection and allow all three of them to escape. Back at Robb's camp, Jamie is quickly recaptured and nearly executed by Lord Rickard Karstark (John Stahl), the father of the guard that Jamie killed during his escape attempt. Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) and her protector, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) narrowly prevent Jamie's death until Robb's return. But after a verbal confrontation with Jamie, Catelyn seems willing to kill him herself.
Back at King's Landing, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) tells his sister, the Queen that forces of Stannis Baratheon are only days away. Unexpectedly, Cersei opens up to Tyrion and she despairs over the insanity and cruelty of her son, Joffrey. Tyrion is moved enough to offer Cersei words of comfort, but neither of them are able to complete a conciliatory gesture towards each other. Back in Winterfell, Theon has his men gather a crowd and a chained Maester Luwin as he reminds them what he promised to do if they defied him. To Luwin's horror, Tyrion shows the crowd the heavily burned bodies of two small children.
Quick question: does anyone really think that those two bodies belonged to Bran and Rickon? Nice try, "Game of Thrones," but it would have taken at least a Hodor sized body to make that deception work. I think I know who Theon's victims were, but I'll share that theory at the end in case it's a spoiler.
If "A Man Without Honor" has an overarching theme it is the emotional distance and the barriers that the characters have between them. This is most elegantly shown in the scene between Cersei and Tyrion; which may actually be the first time we've seen them display any kind of empathy or warmth towards each other. Regardless of what has gone between them before, they are still bound together as a family. And yet neither of them seems willing or able to embrace the chance for a reconciliation between them. So a moment of common ground gives way to awkwardness. It must run in the family as Jamie executes his relatively honorable cousin, Alton just for the chance to escape. Of course, this was after Alton went on at length about how much he admired Jamie and his side of the Lannister family.
Even the Hound uses his reputation and harsh words to keep Sansa from feeling any emotional attachment towards him. There's a disconnect between the Hound's assertion that he loves killing people and the way he conducted himself when he saved Sansa in the previous episode. There was no joy on the Hound's face as he gutted Sansa's would-be rapists and a man who enjoys dealing death wouldn't have leapt to the defense of Ser Loras last season when everyone else stood idly by. It seems that no one loves or cares for the Hound and he'd like to keep it that way. But the Hound has previously displayed some affection towards Sansa when he covered for her attempt to knock Joffrey off of the castle in the first season finale. And yet it was the Hound who gave up Sansa's secret to Cersei.
This may have been Lena Headey's best performance to date, as Cersei had standout scenes with both Sansa and Tyrion. Both conversations were illuminating about Cersei's state of mind and her level of denial. Cersei knows full well that her son, Joffrey is a monster and she is also aware that she can't simply blame that on the late King Robert. Whatever his faults, Robert wasn't crazy or vicious. It's amazing that Cersei let her guard down in front of both Sansa and Tyrion even though she probably considers them both to be enemies or potential threats to her son's rule. But then again, Cersei may simply have no one else with whom she can be honest that would even begin to understand what she has gone through.
The relationship between Sansa and Shae has also taken some interesting turns, as Shae showed a willingness to threaten and potentially kill the girl who wanted to rat Sansa out to the Queen. But that level of devotion to Sansa might put Shae on the Queen's radar long before the truth about her relationship with Tyron comes out. That's a problem that Arya has with Tywin Lannister. Tywin admittedly enjoys Arya's company and her intelligence, but every time that she shows off her knowledge it makes her cover story and fake identity crumble in the presence of Tywin's mind. A few episodes ago, I noted that Arya was smart enough not to mouth off to Tywin. I think we can safely say that's no longer the case.
We've never actually seen Tywin get angry at Arya, but her words finally prompted a warning in this episode. Tywin may not even care who Arya really is, but if he ever felt truly insulted by her than it probably wouldn't be pretty. Tywin's far from the monster that his grandchild is, but he's clearly capable of great brutality as well. Tywin's greatest failing is his arrogance. He assumes that Amory's death had to have been meant for him because he's the head of House Lannister. But Amory's death wasn't directly about Tywin at all. And Arya has one more death request from Jaqen. But will she use that last wish on Tywin? Or has Arya softened on Tywin now that he's shown her more of his kinder qualities?
Keeping with the emotional distance theme, it was really hilarious to see Ygritte constantly trying wear down Jon's resistance towards her, especially as she listed the people and animals that she assumed the Knight's Watch used instead of actual celibacy. It was less fun to see Daenerys pulling away from Jorah. I think I enjoyed that relationship more when Jorah's feelings towards Daenerys weren't as overt as they are now. However, the coup in Qarth is diverting and Pyat Pree's ability to make duplicates of himself does explain the slaughter of Daenerys' people in the last episode. It still isn't clear how many of Daenerys' followers are still alive, but it's pretty far from an army and she'll need some kind of edge to reclaim her dragons.
Getting back to my earlier theory about the two bodies unveiled by Theon, consider this a SPOILER WARNING if it turns out to be true.
If this bit is from the novels, then I'm sure that readers of "A Clash of Kings" already know this, but the two victims are Jack and Billy, the two orphan boys whom Bran sent to live with a farmer two episodes ago. Even though we never saw either of the two boys onscreen, Rickon called them by name early in this episode and the farmer whom Theon later interrogated was definitely the same man that took them in.
If Bran and Rickon had been killed, it would have been depicted onscreen, so that kind of seals it for the two orphan boys. Theon must have had killed and mutilated them so he wouldn't have to go back to Winterfell empty-handed. And now that he's graduated to killing children, Theon deserves death more than ever. At least by Robb's side, Theon still had a measure of respect. Alongside his own countrymen, Theon is still obviously considered to be a joke and nothing can change that short of a miracle.
END OF POTENTIAL SPOILER WARNING!
The biggest upside of the relatively short seasons for "Game of Thrones" is that each episode has been exceptionally good. And with only three episodes left this year, it's hard to imagine the show suffering a major creative misstep any time soon.