When considering this episode of Game of Thrones, I think I’ll start at the end. As I said in my preview to this season, I was very excited about the possibility of the writers adding in some more complicated non-book material, and… wow, we sure got some changes in this episode.
Bran and his little party have been kidnapped by the fallen Night’s Watch brothers brutally occupying Craster’s keep, while at the same time Jon Snow leads a party north to eliminate the traitors before Mance Rayder’s army catches them. None of this happened in the books, and it seems likely Jon (and the under-cover Locke, hunting down Starks on behalf of the Boltons) will encounter his brother at some point, which is something I’ve hoped for in the books but have yet to see. A brief reunion between brothers would bring some light to what has been a very dark show, so I hope to see it.
Either way, this new material is exciting, and I can’t wait to see more. We also got to see another new thing: the fate of Craster’s sons, all of whom were apparently carried off to some snowy Stonehenge and converted into monsters. It was a horrific scene, something very difficult for me, as a relatively new father, to watch. But it was really interesting because we get a bit of lore that hasn’t been revealed in the books. I’m fairly certain I’ve said it before, but I’m not bothered by the changes. I welcome them, in fact. Novels and television are two different mediums. Stuff that works on the page doesn’t work on the screen. As long as the show sticks to the general structure and theme of the books, I say bring on more changes, more new stuff.
As for the rest of the episode, there was a good bit of tablesetting. Things are still very cold between Cersei and Jaime, even though what happened in the sept last week isn’t explicitly mentioned, but it seems clear that their relationship is probably over. Later, in an almost touching scene, Jaime gifts his new sword to Brienne, charging her with finding and protecting Sansa from Cersei. I was very pleased to see Pod, the greatest squire ever, tagging along; he looked quite pleased to be of use again. I see a knighthood in that boy’s future.
The episode actually began far to the East, when Dany sends Grey Worm and some of his soldiers, laden with weapons, into Meereen where they convince the oppressed slaves of that city to rise up and rebel against their masters. The plan works, the slaves open the gates, and Dany marches her army in, adding a third city to her list of conquests. Ser Barristan councils mercy, but Dany demands justice by crucifying one slave master for every dead child she found on her march to the city. She watches from atop the tallest pyramid in the city, a huge black and red Targaryen banner flapping in the breeze behind her.
It’s a bit of a chilling scene, even for Game of Thrones; we’re supposed to be pleased with her freeing slaves, but to me, her brand of justice seemed pretty harsh, and potentially foreshadowing of how bad things could get if she keeps demanding an eye for an eye. Sure, the slave masters were awful people, but as we’ve learned from experience a cycle of constant violence can quickly spin out of control.