Let’s do some lists. A list of things I just loved:
The lack of Littlefinger. Every episode without him sucking up all the oxygen and gnawing on the scenery is like Christmas.
Generally feeling like we’re moving from setup to payoff. This season has been slow, and it has been confusing, and it was nice to feel some momentum coming.
The lack of gratuitous sexposition. Titties should serve a purpose when they’re on screen.
All the foreshadowing of the Battle of the Blackwater, which I’ve been dreaming of seeing since I first read about it.
Hearing multiple people describe Joffrey as a shitty little dumbass.
A list of things that will be important later:
Sam finding the dragonglass and knowing what it is, the first sign that all his book!knowledge will pay off in actual terms, as opposed to just being a punchline.
Roose Bolton’s mentions of his Bastard, who is sort of like what the Lannisters have nightmares about. *shudder*
Qhorin Halfhand’s command to Jon to do “what it takes.”
And a list, in no particular order, of things in this episode that made me want to cry:
Big Sister Asha, seeing what’s coming and knowing that she can’t stop it, but wanting to anyway, for the sake of the little brother in her memory, who smiled at her from his cradle. She pushed him to this as much as Balon did, but she couldn’t have imagined he’d fuck it up this badly. How could she, when he couldn’t?
Davos Seaworth, utterly felled by Stannis’s version of events, in which Davos is the hero, the only one who remembered the starving people of Storm’s End, who were holding it because Robert asked them to and if there is one thing you do in Stannis’s army, it is what you are asked. I’ve written before about why I love Stannis, and it’s this: When Robert asked him to hold Storm’s End he held it, and when Robert asked him to give up Storm’s End, he gave it up. A man like that? Weird god or no, I can see why Davos follows him, and why he’s so moved that unsentimental Stannis returns his loyalty in kind.
The look on Arya’s face when she saw all the men hanged because she had Ser Amory Lorch killed. She meant to stop needless deaths, to protect what she had left, and instead it made everything worse. She had the Tickler murdered because he tortured people who knew nothing about the Brotherhood; her actions led to Tywin torturing people who knew nothing about Amory Lorch. When she speaks her third name to Jaqen Hg’har, it isn’t just about escaping from Harrenhal. It’s about taking the circle of cruelty she unwittingly spun around again, and telling everyone involved in it to shove it up their asses.
Tyrion and Shae. I never quite bought it in the books, because Tyrion (despite his status as some kind of fandom woobie/nerdboy stand-in) is just as much a flawed and cynical asshole as any of the other Lannisters, but they’re selling it hard here. And poor Ros, who just wanted to fuck rich guys and thought King’s Landing would be the most expedient way to get that handled. Every time I have a glimmer of sympathy for Cersei there’s something like that to crush it like a bug underfoot.
Talisa and Robb. Book!Robb really is kind of a dipshit, throwing away his promise to the Freys for some chick we hardly even meet. At least the show is giving us an idea of why Robb might do something so epically dumb, making it worth it. Talisa’s story, with its echoes of slavery stories from everywhere, made me want kiss her, so I can’t really blame him for jumping her on the floor of the tent. And I think she reminds him of Arya.
Jorah and Danaerys. I don’t ‘ship them, never have, because I don’t think the series is called Dany Needs a Lad, but how great an actor is Iain Glen? The regret just comes off him like waves, for his betrayal, and for his inability to protect her from what we can all feel coming. His delivery of “until my last breath I will remember. After I have forgotten my mother’s face,” gave me physical chills. That was the critical moment, the second the earth shifted under his feet. She stepped into the fire and when she rose, so did he.
You don’t always have to call it love, what you feel for the person who does that for you, but you rarely call it anything else.