“Weddings have become more perilous than battles, it would seem.” — Stannis Baratheon, “A Storm of Swords”
From King’s Landing to the Wall, there is nary a happy moment in Westeros this week on “Game of Thrones.”
In the wake of the Purple Wedding — GOT’s other famous matrimonial ceremony where death turns up unannounced — things are ostensibly better for a few people, but still rotten for most. Margaery no longer has to marry the brutish King Joffrey. Sansa has finally escaped the clutches of her enemies. And Tywin, though nominally upset about his grandson’s poisoning, seems relieved that a more reasonable, malleable king will be taking the throne. (RELATED: ‘Game of Thrones’ review: What was that?)
Tywin’s speech to young Tommen demonstrates the former’s considerable skill at manipulation. A lesson about what makes a good king quickly morphs into a subtle warning about the need to obey advisers. Heed my council or die like your brother, is the implication. Tommen seems agreeable enough, and even joins his grandfather for a stroll to discuss the finer points of sealing alliances between great houses. This necessitates having “the talk.”
Through it all, Cersei lurks at the margins. She has lost her daughter to Dorne, her eldest son to death, and now her second son to her father’s machinations. Tywin is clearly not about to let her ruin Tommen the way she ruined Joffrey, but Cersei can hardly see it that way. Her expression says it all: I am alone, and losing power.
If she needed any reminder of this, Jaime soon provides one by raping her alongside Joffrey’s fresh corpse. GOT has never strayed from showing the destruction the unconscionable Lannister affair has wrought — from Bran’s maiming to Joffrey’s reign — but at least in the past, it appeared to spring from an unhealthy but seemingly genuine love. There is little love between the two as Jaime shows his vicious side once again and rapes his sister even further into desperation and submission. (RELATED: Prof’s love for ‘Game of Thrones,’ earns suspension from idiotic admin)
Somewhere at sea, Sansa is finally free of her tormenters. Littlefinger has promised to protect her, but he made similar promises to her parents — and presumably, Ser Dontos — and they died just the same. Littlefinger’s sudden reappearance suggests that he was involved in Joffrey’s murder, though he must have had accomplices apart from Dontos. Sansa, however, is apparently innocent, though not entirely blameless. The necklace she wore to the wedding is of cheaper design than she was led to believe, and a stone was missing from it. Who might have taken it, and why? The answer, already clear to book-readers and those who watched the previous episode carefully, will be revealed in time.
In King’s Landing, the powerful prey on the slightly-less-powerful. But elsewhere, the powerful prey on the weak. As Tywin says, a good king must be wise, rather than strong. But on the wild roads of Westeros, strength counts for quite a lot. The Hound has ample reserves of wisdom and strength, and he uses them to steal from a poor farm who possesses neither. He reminds Arya that nothing matters. Winter is coming, and only the very fit will survive.
At least the Hound doesn’t eat his victims. Far to the north, the very wild wildlings are sacking and pillaging and eating humans. Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch can scarcely protect themselves, let alone defend humanity from the existential threat posed by thousands of savages and untold numbers of undead walkers. Jon advises his brothers to attack Craster’s Keep and slay the defectors before they have a chance to tell Mance Rayder about the weakened state of the Wall.
Something else to cause Jon grief: Those slain north of the wall don’t stay dead for long.
Sam, one of the most consistently moral and trustworthy characters left, must make the same choice that Tyrion made last week: send away his beloved. Like Tyrion and Shae, Gilly and Sam cannot be together, however much they might wish for it. The harshness of the world stands in the way.
Daenerys continues to be the only protagonist whose plans tend not to go horribly awry. Her chosen champion dispenses one enemy easily enough, and the throngs of slavers in the great city of Mereen are quickly made to fear the name Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons and Breaker of Chains. She underscores her point by hurtling chests of broken chain links into the city. Conquest comes easily to her, but will ruling be the same?
Things are also looking a little brighter on the island of Dragonstone, and it’s not just because of the constant bonfires where heretics are cleansed of their sins. Melisandre’s prophecies are coming true, and Stannis’s enemies are dying one after another. This has made him impatient with the skeptical Ser Davos–and his wife’s cooking–but with the backing of the seemingly all-powerful Lord of Light, how could he lose?
Stannis has another advantage: He doesn’t like weddings. (Recall that Ser Davos declined a wedding invitation on Stannis’s behalf in the season three finale.) There are many ways to die in Westeros, but weddings seem to be the surest bet.