It would be tempting to call this penultimate episode of Game Of Thrones
series three a game changer if not for the fact that the game had clearly changed quite some time ago. The moment Robb Stark lost Jaime Lannister he exited the game. He lost his leverage. Tywin left the field of battle and was free to play the waiting game secure in the fact that he had more men and more money and one of those two factors would eventually win out. Turns out it was the money. No, the events of The Rains Of Castamere
don't really change the game so much as they put a brutal, bloody exclamation point on to the fact that robbed of the one asset that may have provided sufficient leverage the Stark clan are too minor a power to be in this game at all. But we'll get to Robb et al in a moment ... there's some other Stark-y action to get to first.
There are big happenings afoot with two of Ned's other children in this generally Stark-centric episode with the bastard Jon Snow and the crippled Bran crossing paths and only one being aware of it.
Snow is over the wall with Tormund Giantsbane, who shows a general lack of advance planning and a desire to raise a little hell rather than simply heading for Castle Black to prep things for Mance Rayder's arrival. Which is bad luck for the horse breeder that the band comes across and who Tormund decides to kill rather than simply rob. Also bad luck for Snow, who is ordered to do the deed and whose moment of hesitation confirms to those who don't care for him that his conversion to the Wildling cause isn't to be trusted. Swords are drawn, blood is spilt, Ygritte throws her lot in with her lover rather than her people, and though Snow takes down his warg rival - having his face shredded in the process - his death is imminent and inevitable until he is saved by a pair of direwolves. At which point he runs. And leaves Ygritte behind. Which strikes me as a monumentally bad decision, what with women scorned and all that.
But note there that there's a pair of wolves at hand. And Jon's wolf very definitely did not climb the wall with them. What's with that? Bran's with that, in short, the young boy who increasingly appears to be the only Stark who actually matters in this story sheltering in the tower overlooking the scene of the conflict.
You see, it turns out that Bran is something more than a seer and a warg. With the wildlings gathering outside their hiding spot and a lightning strike sending Hodor into a very loud panic - meaning they're all going to be dead very soon unless someone can calm the half giant fast - Bran reacts by instinct, his eyes clouding as he projects himself into Hodor's mind and putting the giant to sleep. Controlling animals is one thing. But a person? No warg can do that. And if a warg can control multiple animals simultaneously that's news to me as well, and yet there's Bran doing it as he sends the beasts in to protect his half brother.
Question: How long before Bran changes mode of transport and rides a wolf under his own control? If that fails to happen someone needs to give George RR Martin a smack, because it very clearly should.
Anyway ... the end point of all this is that Snow is on the run - presumably to Castle Black to warn of Mance Rayder's plans, Ygritte is pissed off in that special way only a jilted lover can be, and Bran parts ways with the thoroughly useless youngest Stark boy to try and preserve the line rather than walking into danger together.
Meanwhile, across the ocean, Danaerys sends Jorah, Grey Worm and Daario through a minor rear gate of Yunkai where the three men kick a bit of ass and kill of the free guards before enlisting the enslaved soldiers within to turn on their masters and take the city from within. Meaning, yes, three men orchestrate the overthrow of an entire city without taking a single casualty and there's a fighting chance that Danaerys also picks up a whole lot more freed slaves as part of her army. Also, Jorah realizes she likes Daario better than him and he's not ever, ever going to get laid.
Arya's around, too, but meh ... she shows up too late to do much of anything but be sad until the Hound wisely knocks her out and carries her away.
And now back to Robb. I would like to take this opportunity to point out that I said to my wife - who will verify this - that I thoroughly expected Lord Frey to try something underhanded at the wedding of Edmure Tully with his daughter. Specifically, my hunch was that he would try to have Talisa killed to force Robb into the wedding that had originally been promised to him. I was on the right track but didn't go nearly far enough.
Because, you see, I forgot - just as Robb forgot - that Frey was a potential ally only because he was thoroughly amoral and inclined to do things only to his own advantage. I forgot the same thing about Lord Bolton, for that matter, which is a big thing to forget given that it wasn't so long ago at all that Bolton released Jaime Lannister. Granted, Robb didn't know that bit. What Robb also seemed to have a tenuous grasp on is the fact that he's a traitor, he and his entire army committing an ongoing act of treason every day they continue with this war. Which means whoever brings Robb down will be very well rewarded, indeed, which makes amoral people very, very bad allies.
All of this to say that when the doors closed I knew someone was about to die. And when the knives plunged into Talisa's pregnant belly I was appalled but not surprised. But when it continued from there - leaving Robb filled with arrows, his key supporters bleeding out on the floor, and Frey casually accepting the death of his own wife before having Catelyn Stark's throat slit - that was rather farther than I expected things to go. And yet it makes sense. It ends the illusion that the Starks were ever anything much more than an annoyance for the Lannister clan and establishes very clearly that the Starks were never the ice referred to in 'A Song Of Fire And Ice'. No, those are the White Walkers and we've been told from day one - whether we noticed or not - that this is ultimately going to end up as a battle between the Walkers and Danaerys' dragons with the real question being who ends up on which side and who gets crushed along the way.
[Twitch has been tracking Game Of Thrones from Season One, Episode
One from the perspective of someone who has not and will not read the
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current episode and what has come before is welcome and encouraged but
PLEASE avoid spoiling anything that lies ahead in the novels so that
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