This is one of those episodes of Game of Thrones where, to be honest, it’s hard to identify a main plot. Is it the crowning of the new King, considering it’s in the title? Or Sansa’s arrival at the Eyrie, which probably gets the most scenes? Or the most eventful sequence, where the Night’s Watch take out the mutineers at Craster’s Keep?
Or one of the others? Hard to guess, really, and that’s when you know you’re in the deep midseason of Thrones. Lots of stories, no hard beginnings or endings. Spoilers to follow.
If incest doesn’t feature any Lannisters, is it still incest?
I’m going for the Eyrie, since it gives us the most substantial developments. Sansa has a new identity, a new locale, but she’s still trapped in the jaws of other people’s plans, not to mention yet another marriage, this time to her own cousin. Lovely. Some might say she hasn’t come far at all.
Sansa’s role as miserable stooge translates to some fun straight-woman parts though, gazing around at the lunacy around her, listening to her aunt’s sex noises in confused horror. Poor kid. Lysa Arryn’s terrifying mood swings are also pleasingly unsettling – for what’s the point in Sansa suffering if we don’t feel it too?
Seeing the Eyrie again also provides a sense of plots drawing together, as well as a jarring sense of season one. To add to that looming closure, we discover Littlefinger persuaded Lysa Arryn to kill her own husband. Of course, Jon Arryn’s death, thought to be at the hands of the Lannisters, was the reason Ned Stark left his home back in season one – so, again, for those who were paying enough attention, there’s a satisfying sense of closure here. A feeling that things are, albeit painfully slowly, drawing together.
The Lonely People of Road-Slogging Corner
Meanwhile, there is a new King, perhaps not as big a scumbag as his brother. However, they might share a woman: Margaery Tyrell, who extracts a tacit blessing from Cersei after some sharp dialogue. Is the Queen really up for this, or just keeping her father sweet so he’ll endorse her anti-Tyrion crusade?
Speaking of Queens, Daenerys decides to do a proper job of ruling the slave cities before setting out for Westeros, no doubt drawing groans of disappointment from viewers who hoped she might finally join the rest of the cast. Hopefully this direction will at least get some energy into her corner of the world.
Out in road-slogging corner: Arya and the Hound still aren’t best friends yet, but at least their dialogue is funny. Similar news from the Brienne/Podrick division.
So near, yet so Stark…
Lastly, for the second week running: up in the North, it’s the battle of Craster’s Keep, causing extreme controversy by not being in the books. There’s a sigh of sad inevitability when you realise this is going to be yet another case of two Stark siblings almost-but-not-quite crossing paths.
However, there are decent moments woven in, especially Bran’s quest getting some direction and his driving Hodor to commit murder. The look on the poor big guy’s face when he comes back to himself really is heartbreaking. I still feel like we haven’t been given as much reason to care about the Reed siblings as the show seems to want, but nonetheless, this bit mostly worked for me.
Also good to see a proper brutal duel between Jon Snow and the lead mutineer. Even if the episode as a whole was a tad meandering, ending with a heavy battle gives it a strong full stop.
In short, yes, another mid-season Game of Thrones effort nudging everyone gently onwards, but it does so with a little more purpose and excitement than last week, thanks to a decent action sequence and some revelations about previous events. Hoorah. Now, onwards into the second half of season four.