I’ll start by saying how great it was to see Arya in more than just a single scene. I missed her. She’s got a nice rapport going with Gendry, who already knows about her little secret but is keeping it to himself. His flustered stammering and embarrassment after Arya reveals her noble birth to him made me laugh out loud. Even so, Gendry’s deference doesn’t last for too long, as he’s right back to gently teasing Arya only a few minutes later. It’s fun to watch them get along so well, but the threatening Gold Cloaks that appeared looking for the boy with the bull’s helmet certainly foreshadows that some kind of badness is going to hit Yoren and his gaggle of recruits.
The verbal sparing between Tyrion and Varys was the best part of the episode, I think. Both of these characters have, at their core, a fundamental sense of decency, yet because of their inherent handicaps, and because Kings Landing is such a nest of vipers, they can’t risk letting their guard down fully to trust one another. The scene allowed them both to trade thinly veiled threats so that their positions, and what they will do to retaliate if they are attacked, is made clear. They’re not allies (though it would be really cool if they worked together somehow) but I’d like to think they have some degree of mutual respect for each other.
In other Kings Landing news, I thought it was interesting that Cersei described ruling as, to loosely paraphrase, lying in a bed of grass and trying to pull out weeds by the roots before they strangle you. This paranoid approach to rulership is not going to serve her well in the future. Finally, it was great to see Tyrion outmaneuver and exile Janos Slynt, the captain of the Gold Cloaks and one of Ned’s betrayers. As so many others do, he underestimated Tyrion (something that Varys will not do) and suffered because of it. Now Bronn’s in charge of the city guard, and at least Tyrion knows he can trust him as long as the gold keeps flowing.
This episode jumped around a lot, as it seems like the creators are moving around as quickly as they can early in the season to set up a big climax in some of the later episodes. A few other things I liked:
* Sam’s humanity really shone through in this episode, especially when he said to Jon that they couldn’t “steal” Craster’s daughter/wife Gilly because she was a “person, not a goat.” In Westeros life in general, particularly the lives of women who aren’t noble born, is cheap; simply look at Littlefinger’s menacing speech to Roz about losing his “investments.” So it’s encouraging to see Sam rather courageously assert that Gilly has essential worth as a person, and doesn’t deserve to be used or treated like a thing.
* Only one scene with Dany this week, but it was a good one. I like the way the camera moved slowly and remained unfocused through much of the scene; it really highlighted how parched and exhausted she and her followers were. They’re all in real trouble. Again, the precarious nature of a woman’s position in society is highlighted here. The other Dothraki were so offended by the idea of a woman (Dany) leading a Khalassar that they desecrated the body of her messenger, in effect “destroying his soul.”
* I enjoyed the character of Davos in the books, but I think he’s especially well done here. He’s very pragmatic, but he was also extremely charismatic in the scene where he recruited the pirate and his fleet to Stannis’s cause. This sense of charisma was missing from the books, I think, but it’s present here. You can see why someone like Stannis would want Davos as his right hand man.
* I was never a big fan of the Theon or the Ironborn storylines in the books, so I can’t say I’m any more thrilled about them here. We quickly learn that Theon’s father doesn’t plan on allying himself with the Starks, which puts Theon in a bind. Should he stay loyal to a man who is almost like a brother to him, yet who’s father has held him hostage for years? Or will he side with his real father, who seems to detest him for being soft?