At the end of this season two episode of Game of Thrones, it seemed like all of Westeros was holding its breath. Events everywhere are poised on a knife’s edge. Stannis and his massive army sail towards King’s Landing, where Tyrion desperately tries to muster some kind of defense plan in between his sister’s scheming. Tywin’s forces are on the march, Robb falls into the arms of a nurse and endangers his alliance with the Frey’s, Jaime Lannister is free but guarded by the imposing Brienne, a captive Jon is being brought before the King Beyond the Wall and Theon cowers in Winterfell, ignoring Yara’s warnings while Bolton’s Bastard and his forces converge on the castle. Even in the far east, Dany prepares to head to the House of the Undying and confront the warlocks who have stolen her dragons.
Almost every scene in this Game of Thrones episode built up a tension within me, as it showed how various characters react under the weight of impending conflict. Tyrion buries himself in work to prepare; Cersei lets her paranoid streak overcome her, turning on her best hope for survival; Catelyn trades away a valuable hostage in the vain hope that it will win her girls back to her; Robb forgets that he’s royalty just long enough to sleep with Talisa; and Theon digs his heels in and sulks like the petulant child that he is. With so many forces converging, so many different plans on the verge of smashing up against each other, almost anything could happen in the next episode. Despite this episode’s slower pace, there was a lot to like in it.
* This Game of Thrones episode covered a lot of viewpoints, but it didn’t feel rushed like some of the other episodes earlier this season did.
* The final scene, with Osha’s face coming into view through the darkness as she lit a candle, and then the view panning over to Bran, the true Prince of Winterfell, while she explained the fate of the farmer’s children to Lewin off-camera was wonderful, and terribly sad.
* I also really enjoyed Arya turning the tables on Jaqen by naming the assassin’s own name. Judging by the look on his face, I don’t think the mysterious man expected that to happen. Instead he was forced to take a bunch more lives in order to secure Arya’s escape from the castle. As pious as Jaqen seemed towards the Red God, his faith obviously didn’t extend far enough for him to be comfortable taking his own life. He’d rather take more lives than the debt that was owed in order to stay alive.
* It’s always a treat seeing Varys and Tyrion, the two smartest men in the King’s Landing (and maybe the kingdom itself) interact with each other, and their scene on the battlements of the castle was no exception.
* Sam and the other rangers find a Night’s Watch cloak buried in the snow; wrapped up within are dozens of dragonglass weapons. Didn’t someone famous once say that you should never show a dragonglass weapon unless someone was thinking about using it? We’ll see those put to use soon enough.
* I can’t help but look forward to the adventures of Jaime and Brienne as they trek across the country. That would make a great spinoff.