This particular review episode is almost like an extended travelogue of Westeros, as groups of our favorite Game of Thrones characters trek across every end of the kingdom.
Jon, Ygriette, Mance, and hundreds of sometimes-feuding wildings, held together only because of the existential threat of the white walkers, tromp south towards the Wall. Not far ahead of them, most likely, are the ragged remains of the Night’s Watch headed south, despite Sam’s desire to just lay down and die, to warn those who remain at the Wall of the army of dead that lurk in the snow.
Seeing Arya and her ragged group was a welcome sight, as they wander through the woods and stumble upon (or are stumbled on) by the cheerful rogues of The Brotherhood Without Banners. Arya tries to be fierce in the face of the new comers, but she hasn’t the skill or size to back up her threats. Nevertheless, the Brotherhood seems to view her as a diverting, harmless amusement, fully willing to allow her and her friends to leave after sharing a brief meal; that is, at least, until a captive Sandor the Hound (making his Game of Thrones Season 3 debut) arrives and outs her as a nobleborn Stark. With her value increased exponentially, I doubt Thoros and the others in the Brotherhood will let her go anywhere.
Robb and Catelyn get bad and worse news from Lord Bolton; Cat’s father, Lord of Riverrun, is dead and Winterfell has been burned with no sight of Bran or Rickon anywhere. So, the army marches off to Riverrun, so Cat can attend her father’s funeral, and also so that Robb can link up with his Uncle’s army. Along the way, we can see that despite his impressive military record, some of Robb’s generals seem to be losing confidence in him. Meanwhile, in a great scene, Cat confides in Talisa that she believes all the death and destruction that’s befallen her family is because she once jealously prayed for the death of Jon Snow, so that she would no longer have to be reminded of her husband’s infidelity. It was a sad picture of a woman who has next to nothing left.
Father north, Bran, Rickon, Osha, and Hodor come across the eerie brother and sister team of Jojen and Meera Reed. Jojen seems to have some sort of mystical power, as he appears in one of Bran’s dreams, and he claims he’s been sent to help Bran understand who he is and what he’s capable of.
And of course, in this Game of Thrones episode, we have the Odd Couple, Brienne and Jaime. Their banter as they trudge through the forest is amusing, and while Jaime flings some cutting remarks at Brienne, I think he also feels a bit of sympathy for her doomed love for Renly when he declares, “I don’t blame you. We can’t help who we love.” Brienne can hold her own against the Lannister, both verbally and by force of arms, as we learn when Jaime manages to steal one of her swords and turns it on her. You can see the exhilaration in his face at first; that after so long, he has a sword back in his hand, and he’s ready to deploy the only method he’s ever learned to solve a problem; that is, to chop his way through it. After a great swordfight, Brienne gets the better of him, beating him (and likely his ego) down with sword and fist until he is no longer a threat. And once that happens, a new threat immediately appears, in the form of multiple mounted, Dreadfort knights, looking to take them both captive and possibly bring them back to Robb and his forces.
There’s comparatively little physical movement in King’s Landing, but the Tyrell’s are certainly putting their plots into motion. We are introduced to Olenna, Margaery’s imperious grandmother, who rules her family with a velvet gloved iron fist, and who demands to have her cheese served at her pleasure. Despite her overbearing aristocratic sense of privilege, she gently quizzes Sansa about Joffrey’s behavior. “He’s a monster,” poor, terrified Sansa eventually blurts out. “Pity,” replies Olenna, already adjusting her plans appropriately. We don’t know exactly what she has in store, but we can tell from the superbly creepy, disturbing scene between Margaery and Joffrey that the future Queen-to-be, likely acting on her grandmother’s advice, is going to try to pry Joffrey away from Cersei’s influence by appealing to his brutal, sociopathic nature. Whatever it takes, I suppose, to land on the throne.