It’s hard to come into any episode of Game of Thrones cold, but Sunday night’s installment was practically a Community episode in its labyrinthine references and callbacks.
Whether it was another trial by combat or one more exit through the Moon Door, this week’s Game of Thrones was all about recontextualizing classic moments from earlier seasons of the show.
Major spoilers below. Proceed at your own risk!
The backstabby world of King’s Landing gets a little more frontstabby with the arrival of Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, who you may remember from that time he memorably re-enacted his favorite scene from The Godfather in season one. He’s in town to serve as Cersei’s champion in Tyrion’s trial by combat, an event he practices for by impaling several frightened civilians, just to prove his bona fides. The Mountain’s legend is ever larger than his pecs; both Jaime and Bronn shy away from facing him, the latter demurral Tyrion has a hard time not taking as a personal insult.
“You’re my friend,” he pleads. “Aye, I’m your friend,” Bronn replies, “When have you ever risked your life for me?”
The sellsword has a point, but that’s hardly comforting logic when you’re on death row. Still, it’s hard not to tear up as these two say their final farewells: Bronn to continue his murderous journey from traveling swordsman to lord of the manor, Tyrion to hope he can find someone bold and crazy enough to take on Clegane.
Bold and crazy, you say? That’s practically Oberyn Martell’s motto. It’s really deft plotting that gets him to volunteer his services as Tyrion’s champion. We’ve been reminded all season that Oberyn is driven by vengeance; now the opportunity’s fallen into his lap. Will a charming rogue save Tyrion’s skin yet again? Judging from the preview, we’ll find out next week.
Is a callback still a callback if the actor’s been replaced? Remember last season, when Old Daario snuck into Daenerys’s tent, a bold move she answered with the most dignified of flashings? This week, New Daario tried the trick again, climbing into Dany’s room in the middle of the night. After a season of playfully rebuffing his advances, this week she’s finally into it. She commands him to disrobe, and while we don’t get to see Daario put his money where his mouth is (or vice versa), she seems to like what he’s working with.
Especially in Meereen, though, there’s got to be a morning after. Daario gets sent away to re-conquer Yunkaii, with the instruction to kill every slaver there. Jorah pleads for her to be merciful and Dany, perhaps feeling guilty of Jorah witnessing Daario’s walk of shamelessness, lets him have this one.
Our two pairs of mismatched wanderers both meet a blast from the past this week. For Brienne and Podrick, it’s the welcome return of Hot Pie, the rotund baking enthusiast we know through his travels through the wilderness with Arya. He works at an inn now and expounds at length upon the prier way to make kidney pie. More helpfully, he also lets Brienne know that Arya’s alive. Could she be heading towards the Vale? Only one way to find out.
OK, two ways, but Brienne unfortunately doesn’t have an HBO subscription. We catch up with Arya and the Hound to confirm that they are still headed toward’s Lysa’s castle, but they’re interrupted by the rude reappearance of Rorge and Biter, two nasty characters from season two. They dispatch the pair with ease, but Sandor takes a wound his hatred of fire means he won’t let Arya burn it before it gets infected. He repeats the story of how the Mountain burned his face, and the unpleasant memories make him realize he needs all the friends he can get. He lets Arya wash and sew the wound, and just like that, they’re bonding again. And just a few episodes after they looked like they were about to kill each other! Westeros is a weird place.
Speaking of weird places, we’re back at Dragonstone, where Melisandre and Selyse are waiting for Stannis to get back from the bank. We learn that Selyse doesn’t like jokes, Mel isn’t about using trickery to boost the image of the Lord of Light and that Melisandre might want to burn Shireen. This could be a callback to last season’s Gendry plot line, except that Melisandre pretty much always wants to burn things.
Remember season one, when everyone was a jerk to Jon Snow all the time? The commanders of the Night’s Watch do, and they’re going to keep being jerks, even if doesn’t make very much narrative sense. Here he returns to Castle Black after leading a very successful mission, and proceeds to catch a bunch of flak from his bosses for offering a mild bit of tactical advice. Why are they being so dickish about an attack that everyone knows is coming?
The Stark words are “Winter is coming,” and Sansa’s arrival in the Eyrie is greeted by a beautiful fresh snowfall. She builds a miniature Winterfell in the snow, but Robin kicks it down after discovering the real version didn’t have a Moon Door. (The kid freaking loves Moon Doors.) If that wasn’t bad enough, Littlefinger shows up, trying to rebrand his murder of Joffrey as a final act of love for her mother. “In a perfect world,” he tells her, “you might have been my child.” Luckily that’s not true, as that would make what happens next ever creepier: He kisses her, in full view of Lysa.