"Game of Thrones" has never been shy in depicting how sex is used as a commodity in Westeros. Sunday's episode showed how that commodity and its related consequences (love, marriage) are like any other weapon: a tool used to deceive, dominate adversaries and defeat all enemies in the quest for the Iron Throne.
Our first foray into love comes as the wildlings are perfecting their plan to invade the Night's Watch's homebase. Ygritte has to separate Jon Snow from two wildling warriors, who don't trust the information Snow has on the Watch's locations along The Wall.
She proceeds to pull Snow away, luring him into a grotto, where the two succumb to the sexual tension that has been raging between them since they first met. Afterward, Ygritte confesses to Snow that she would rather lay in a cave by Snow's side than wield a sword at The Wall.
In a cave where the setting is much warmer, the Brotherhood Without Banners conducts its "trial by combat." Preying on Sandor Clegane's aversion to fire, Baric Dondarrion fights The Hound with a sword lit like a torch, hoping the "Lord of Light" will help him strike Clegane down.
But the Brotherhood's deity has other plans, and Clegane hacks Dondarrion's torso in two, clearing The Hound in the eyes of the "one true god" of his alleged crimes. While Donadarrion's apparent death sends Arya Stark into a fit of rage, the Brotherhood reveals its ability to harness their god's strength, resurrecting Donadarrion from his mortal wound.
It turns out the Lord of Light has been busy listening to its followers' prayers. Stannis Baratheon returns to his wife, Selyse Florent, openly confessing that he hasn't been faithful during their time apart. Selyse is not only aware of Stannis's transgressions, she was informed by Melisandre and doesn't consider the affair to be all that sinful.
For all the guilt Stannis is feeling, Selyse condemns herself for not being able to give Stannis a son. However, we soon learn that Stannis is not childless, as he visits his daughter, Shireen, who is seemingly more excited to learn the whereabouts of Davos Seaworth than reunite with her father.
From one fractured marriage to the dismantling of another, Cersei Lannister is hell-bent on stopping the union between her son, Joffrey, and Margaery Tyrell. Revived after being rebuffed by her father, Cersei enlists the help of Lord Peter Baelish in unearthing the true Tyrell motive. Cersei metaphorically holds Baelish's feet to the fire over this wish, calling in chits after Baelish failed to find her brother, Jaime Lannister.
We find Lannister holed up in Harrenhal, turned over by the Brave Companions to House Bolton. After having his limb patched up, he reveals to Brienne his "Kingslayer" reputation is rooted in myth - the only reason he ever killed Aerys Targaryen was due to the Mad King's wishes that he murder his father (who was a key figure in leading the overthrow of Targaryen) and burn King's Landing to the ground.
When Brienne presses on why he kept this chain of events to himself, Jaime reveals that in the throes of war, even the best men (such as Ned Stark) are capable of bad judgment.
There is bad judgment aplenty in Riverrun, as a close ally of Robb Stark, Lord Rickard Karstark, takes matters into his own hands. Still seething after Jaime Lannister killed his two sons, Karstark leads a crew of men into the young Lannisters' cell, where the men proceed to kill both boys.
Robb Stark, furious at Karstark's own manner of revenge, sentences the men to death, beheading Karstark for his defiance. This leads to a dissent within the Stark ranks, with House Karstark abandoning Robb, taking half of his forces with them. Stark, forced with a depleted army, looks to curry favor with old allies before forcing the Lannister to fight in their own backyard.
In the meantime, Peter Baelish has dispatched his sex spies, who pluck intelligence from pillow talk, informing Baelish of the plan to wed Sansa Stark to Loras Tyrell. When Baelish later approaches Sansa about his own plan to escape King's Landing, she unwittingly fails to pick up on Baelish's hinted knowledge, rebuffing a lifeline. It would prove to be extremely unwise in a matter of minutes.
At a meeting where Tyrion Lannister is ready to gloat about saving the realm gobs of money by bankrolling the royal wedding, Tywin and Cersei blindside Tyrion with their knowledge of Sansa Stark's plans to join House Tyrell. Tywin, also knowing that Robb Stark's forces are weakening by the day, understands that is it matter of time before Sansa becomes the heir to northern section of Westeros.
For a man whose legend in rooted in gaining power through physical force, Twyin Lannister makes a startling power play without lifting a finger. In order to keep the Starks' assets in play, Twyin orders Tyrion to wed Sansa and produce a child shortly thereafter. Cersei, who revels in this announcement, is shortly smacked upside the head with a second decree: she is to marry Loras Tyrell in order to keep the Lannister reach sprawled out across the kingdoms and quell the "disgusting rumors" that plague the family name.
Even in Westeros, the old cliche about love and war rings true.
- Grossest moment: Jaime's decrepit limb, stillborn souvenirs or Lady Olenna's IBS?
- We were introduced to a new land in the opening credits: Yunkai. This is the city Khaleesi & Co. are headed toward in this episode.
- The song Stannis Baratheon's daughter is singing at the end is a conglomerate of rhymes from a character named Patchface, who is particularly close to Shireen in the books. It would be worth your while to listen what she is singing, and keep it in the back of your mind moving forward.