Two words: Sword Swallower.
Best. Thematically. Appropriate. Euphemism. Ever.
We'll get to that brilliant Tywin/Olenna (Tywenna? Olenwin?) scene later, but for now, let's plot our way through another Raven On Game of Thrones recap.
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 slice off your little finger. Not that Littlefinger. God, I wish.
With episode five containing a number of climaxes (yeah it did), episode six shifted down a gear, and became a solid hour of discussions, plans, negotiations, settlements, set-ups and the odd spot of horrific, horrific torture.
It made me think about what a licensed Game of Thrones chess set would actually look like. It is not, you might say, black and white. Plus you'd have to change the playing rules to allow your pieces to be taken out from behind by your other pieces.
Some internet genius get working on that and get back to me.
Anyway, let's start north of the Wall, where Sam Tarly is learning how to get a fire going, while his internal heat rages on for new mother Gilly. Turns out he's quite the lullaby singer for her still unnamed baby.
Speaking of clever tongues, Jon Snow is engaging in some post-post-coital banter with Ygritte, who's stolen him some nice crampons for their shimmy up the wall. Ygritte has pinged Jon for exactly what he is, an undercover Crow. But here's the rub – she may be a follower of Mance Raydar, but she's still a wildling, free to make her own decisions. And she's decided she's Jon Snow's woman, so he'd better not cross her, or she'll procure herself an interesting new necklace. Jon fulfils that contract when, cut loose by Orell the Warg during a wallslide, he gets them both back onto solid ground. Well, solid-er.
Osha and Meera are fighting like rabbits over hunting and cooking practices, forcing Bran to play peacemaker. But it's Jojen who has the real struggle; seems those visions manifest in fits that sap him of energy. Bran's right: they can't fight each other if they want to survive.
Arya is still in the forest near Riverrun, practising her bow work with the Merry Men, sorry, the Brotherhood. She's good, Anguy tells her, but could be better. This tutorial is interrupted by the arrival of a touring Kate Bush, aka Stannis' right-hand demon spawner Melisandre.
But the Red Witch doesn't get around to belting out Wuthering Heights, rather, she's here to interrogate Thoros of Myr about his failure to convert Sir Robert Baratheon (Remember him? Fat guy? Liked a drink? Lost a fight with a wild boar?) to the Lord of Light. Thoros confesses to being a dodgy priest right up until the moment he prayed over the dead body of Beric Dondarrion and became Dr Frankenstein or a vampire or John the Baptist or something.
For me, Beric and Thoros are the Blues Brothers of Westeros, one a charismatic drunk, the other a stoic warrior. But Thoros' declaration of belief makes it clear that their mission from God is a lot more serious than uniting musicians: R'hllor means business, and all men must serve. The widening conversion conspiracy is intriguing – why are R'hllor and his minions still keen on the Baratheons, as opposed to the now-in-charge Lannisters? Stannis is underpowered and Gendry is a bastard (admittedly a freaking top-shelf one), but there must be something they see in them.
Poor Gendry is thrust into Kate Bush's clutches for a few sacks of gold, annoying Arya no end. In a slightly naff scene, the red woman gazes into her eyes, seeing both something dark as well as different-coloured eyes that Arya will “close forever”. I half expected Kate Bush to demand Arya cross her palm with silver, but still, it sets up the Stark as an avenging angel even more than the archery lesson did.
Theon Greyjoy is being horribly tortured by a bonafide psychopath and I have no idea what's going on with all of that.
Sucks to be Edmure Tully, forced to marry a Frey to save his nephew Robb's campaign. Although his protestations were fairly weak – those Starks and Tullys are all a bit soft when it comes to political marriages. Or maybe those Frey girls really are that much of a hot mess. Without the hot.
Jaime and Brienne are enjoying a hot dinner courtesy of the machiavellian Roose Bolton. Jaime tries to bargain while trying to cut his meat (love that fork Brienne sticks in there to help), but it's no good, Bolton doesn't want Lannister gold, just to avoid Lannister rage. He'll send Jaime back to the Red Keep, in exchange for amnesty for Lock's mistake of cutting off the Kingslayer's hand. Jaime's affection for Brienne is confirmed: he insists she accompany him, and even stops her when she makes to filch a steak knife from the table. But alas, it seems Bolton has it in for Brienne – she's a traitor and must die. I sense a Jaime-led rescue and daring escape to come. Hurrah!
Twincester No. 2 is accepting her fate as Tywin's brood mare, bound to marry Slow Loras and pump out more yellow-haired Lannisters to stack the Seven Kingdoms. Tyrion is still more interested in pressing Cersei to admit she ordered the assassination attempt on him during the Battle of Blackwater Bay, but ruh roh, turns out it was Joffrey all along. I probably should've picked that earlier – it was a stupidly obvious plan and Joffrey is not the sharpest sword in the Iron Throne.
Sansa gets a sweet scene with Slow Lorus where she “brooches” the subject of their marriage, and is impressed by the Knight of Flowers' knowledge of bridal fashion. But it is not to last, for it falls to Tyrion to brief his lover and his intended about the change of plan. Awkward, indeed.
We end back at the wall, with Ygritte and Jon hauling themselves onto the top, exhausted but safe. Who knows what they'll find when they descend into Castle Black; but they have a very metaphorical moment of looking back at the northern wilds, then forward to the greener pastures of the south. Then they have a longer-than-necessary pash in front of the green screen. Obviously the climb didn't give them frostbitten lips. Ahem.
So the chess pieces have all shifted again. But who is the king and the queen? Who are the knights and castles? And how many of them are simply... wait for it... pawns?
THAT WHOLE TYWIN/OLENNA SCENE OMG. Every episode I think “Olenna can't get any better”, but then she does, and oh boy oh boy was that a scene. Two titans of British acting chewing their way through a great script, wheeling and dealing, throwing out insults and getting incredibly personal. The Queen of Thorns has no problem with Slow Lorus' sexuality (once again, “Sword Swallower”), and even presses Tywin to admit to boyhood indiscretions of his own. Of course, Tywin is so fundamentally puritanical he probably doesn't even have genitals, and fathered his children the old Zeus way by having them burst out of his forehead.
Clunky metaphor aside, Lady Olenna is even fearless enough to bring up the twincest rumours, and gee, Tywin pretty much admitted that it was true. But Tywin's moral code puts his warped sense of honour and family duty ahead of the grim reality, and so he threatens Slow Lorus with the Kingsguard unless Olenna agrees to his match with Cersei (even though evidently she's about to hit menopause). Such scheming, but wasn't Olenna's delight in having been outplayed perfect?
Blackfish Tully's motivational speech to his nephew Edmure about marriage:
“The laws of gods and men are very clear: no man can compel another man to marry.”
“The laws of my fist are about to compel your teeth.”
Roose Bolton's warning to the maimed Jaime:
“I would've hoped you'd learnt your lesson about overplaying your ... position.”
Littlefinger, AGAIN. Blimey, I'm getting sick of him staring creepily at things/people before launching into creepy, self-indulgent monologues and lectures to Varys about power. What was it this week? Chaos and Ladders? Maybe that could be a better option than the Game of Thrones chess set.
I can't even invent comedy evil descriptions for Joffrey now, I'm so enraged. Sure, we got to see what use he turned that crossbow to, but why kill Ros? WHY?!?! I know she was a character created for the show that was expanded far beyond original plans, but did she have to die? Why couldn't you just murder some nameless random? Why do you make me care, Game of Thrones, then take it all away? You're a heartless beast of a quality TV drama. I hate you, I hate you, I hate you (I don't hate you).