After last week's feminine bent to Game of Thrones, there could be no doubt this week was all about the boys. Testosterone, power, control, positioning, domination, impotence, pleasure, cowardice, bravery, cunning and a BIG HAND for the unfortunate Jaime Lannister.
Did anyone else lose it at that finale, or was that just me? You'd think I'd remember that nothing is safe in Game of Thrones, but frankly... oh, wait SPOILERS.
I want to make a brief mention about how fabulous all of the comments on last week's recaps were. I read them while on holiday in Beijing and nearly spluttered up a lung. That could've been the pollution, but I credit your witty bon mots. Game of Thrones fans (Throners?) are my kind of people - urbane, sophisticated conversationalists with a deep love of a nude shot. Please keep the comments coming after this edition of Raven On.
Reminder: spoilers will be included below. Only read on if you've seen the episode. We're discovering the storyline through the TV series (reading the books after each has finished), so no dropping important future plot points in the comments, or we'll bake you like a Hot Pie special.
If anyone still thinks women get a worse time than men in Westeros, this episode should give them cause for a rethink.
That is not saying women don't get a fricking kicking. Look at Brienne and the godsawful torture she was subjected to by the Bloody Mummers (thank you to the commenters for clearing up their identity!). But then look at Theon Greyjoy. Sure, the guy's a tosser of the highest order, but being run down and savagely threatened was no picnic for him either.
And it seems I was wrong about his sister commanding his torture. That ragged band seem entirely different to the salted Iron Islanders (you could tell from their non-barnacled outfits). Who were they? And who was the guy who saved Theon? And what's with all the rugged archers this season? (Not that I mind, I've had a bit of a Robin Hood thing since Prince of Thieves).
It was devilishly delightful to see the Small Council back in action in their new chambers, and wasn't that the best game of musical chairs ever? Cersei made her position clear; she sees herself as her father's right-hand, superior yet subserviant.
Tyrion of course can't carry such big heavy chairs, but boy can he make a point. Seating himself in direct opposition to Tywin forced the unsaid question - how long can one clever Lannister remain at the head of the table while the other is at the foot?
Baelish has to go off a-courting Lysa Arryn (ooh, can't wait for that special brand of cray-cray to rear its head again), so Tywin names Tyrion the new Master of Coin. It's just the kind of punishing reward/rewarding punishment that a Dad would hand out - like being given a new bike at Christmas, but one that comes in pieces and you have to put it together before you can ride it (or was that just my Dad?). Tyrion has to dig up Baelish's whorehouse floorboards to get his hands on the figures, but there's an upside for faithful retainer Pod, who's rewarded for recent good service, with ... well, good service.
Money is a powerful aphrodisiac, and Tyrion's discovery of just how badly the kingdom is in debt is enough to deflate any man. Luckily, his spirits are perked up by the discovery that Pod seems to be some sort of sexual savant, able to make even a contortionist's head spin.
Stannis, meanwhile, can't seem to hold his sword aloft, if you get my drift. He wants Melisandre/Kate Bush to make him another shadow assassin demon spawn to kill off Joffrey, but she claims his "fires are too low". They probably don't have a nasal spray for that sort of thing in Westeros, so it's a sting to the ego. Kate Bush suggests Stannis will have to sacrifice another family member to get the spark back - his daughter Shireen appears in this season at some point, so I guess the last remaining Baratheon will move from fratricide to child murder just so he can prove himself. But what price an-increasingly-powerless-and-all-in-all-slightly-pointless crown, eh?
Jon Snow's brotherhood ties are about to be tested - Mance is sending Giantsbane and a team of raider wildlings "over the wall". Now, far be it for me question the series, but The Wall seems to leak faster than the Small Council these days. Still, Mance does appear to be on the way to becoming Jon's latest father figure role model after Ned Stark (RIP), Benjen Stark (MIA), Commander Mormont (who gave Jon a sword) and Quorin Halfhand (whom he killed with it).
"Valar Morgulis." "Ah yes. All men must die. But we are not men."
Oh, what a blissful line Daenerys delivers to her new helpmeet Missandei, who I get the feeling I'm really going to like. Daenerys shows just what strength is when she lays down the law to both Jorah and Barristan, who object to her trading one of her dragons for an army of Unsullied eunuch soldiers.
I don't know why they're worried - she's the Mother of Godsdamn Dragons, guys. She'll give a little whistle and the beast will come flying back to her side faster than Kraznys can call her a slut. Which, as we know, is fast. I'd say Kraznys was a douchebag but his schoolboy insults have just become comical. Slut this, whore that - whatever, dude. Enjoy your dragon for those few minutes before he flames your face off.
However, Jorah and Barristan's arguments for and against the Unsullied did provoke thought about what kind of an army you would prefer to have in a battle - men of spirit who fight for a cause, or hired unbollocked robo-soldiers who at least won't rape everyone.
Which brings us in a roundabout way to the startling cliffhanger. In the end, what made Jaime Lannister's sudden separation from his hand more shocking was that it came after he showed some genuine benevolence and selflessness towards Brienne, by convincing the Flayed Men not to besmirch her honour. Could the famously self-involved Kingslayer have achieved some humility, a feeling almost of brotherly affection towards his one-time captor? (Not the kind he shows Cersei, obviously). Perhaps, but the old self-seeking habits soon rose to the surface. It's fair enough that he try to barter, but, as Noah Taylor points out - "You're nothing without Daddy".
Men. You can be all right when you're not thinking about what it means to have those things between your legs and getting all sorts of weird ideas. Or am I being overly simplistic? Feel free to tell me off in the comments. But don't be a Kraznys about it.
Tyrion and Bronn demanding "details" about how sweet, unassuming Pod turned out to be a Casanova in the sack. How lovely were the girls in that brothel scene as well? (Sound the BOOBS alarm). They had really curvy natural figures - well, particularly that contortionist.
Aww, Hot Pie made Arya bread shaped like a wolf as a goodbye present. Hot Pie had one of the most telling truth bombs this episode, saying compared to Arya and Gendry with their noble lineage, he wasn't important. Here, Hot Pie represents the casualties of war and destiny, the innocents, the masses, who starve and die on the whims and wishes of their so-called "betters". Maybe Hot Pie could one day lead a revolution? Turn Westeros into a republic, with really good bakeries?
The Tyrion and Bronn banter remains utterly gorgeous.
"What's the problem with borrowing money?"
"We can't pay it back."
"What's the problem with that?"
"This is why I don't lend you money."
Can somebody please do something about Craster? Feed him to his own pigs, or offer him up to the White Walkers? Everytime I see him I want to scratch his eyes out with a blunt razor, and yes, I know that's the point, but please, somebody end him now. Both aspects of his Keep set-up are equally despicable - raping his daughters to produce offspring; and murdering said offspring if they happen to be male. Into this very black-and-white world returns Sam Tarly, who I imagine is about to rescue Gilly's newborn with hilarious (actually terrible) results.
Edmure Tully appears in Book 2, and while I don't think he's ever made out to be particularly clever or talented in battle, he does appear to have been dealt a harsh blow as a TV character - failing to have his flaming arrow hit its mark, and messing up Robb's war plans. It feeds into the overall tone of feeding a masculine ego versus being strategic, particularly when compared to his practical and honourable uncle, the Blackfish (hooray!), but still, did Edmure have to be that incompetent?
And I'm not just saying that because the actor playing him, Tobias Menzies, is a friend of a friend of mine and I met him once. I wouldn't name drop like that at all. Or point out that he was in Casino Royale, and Rome, and is kind of a big deal, and we totally chatted for about 10 minutes. I just wouldn't say that sort of thing.