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This is adapted from George RR Martin's A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1) . It is a very successful TV show that is little-seen in the UK because it is on a channel that very few people have access to. TV critics are impressed with it, claiming it has re-defined the Fantasy genre. They are a bit late to catch on - the first book was published fifteen years ago, and Martin's work is pretty mainstream in the modern Fantasy genre now.
North of The Wall, barbarians are being slaughtered by supernatural monsters. This is the main threat of the overall story, but it is relegated to a backstory for the majority of the actual show!
Lord Ned Stark (Sean Bean - Lord of the Rings ) and his castle are visited by the Royal court. The King (Mark Addy - A Knight's Tale ) wants Ned as his henchman in a forthcoming war. But the Court brings its murderous intrigues wherever it goes ...
Lord Ned Stark (Sean Bean - Lord of the Rings ) and his children accompany the Royal Court back to the capital. But the Queen's son, Joffrey, is a vicious fool. Things are bound to get worse before they get better.
Catelyn Stark ( Michelle Fairley ) discovers more evidence of a conspiracy against her family.
Jon (Kit Harington - Seventh Son ) gains the nickname Lord Snow on the wall.
Catelyn Stark ( Michelle Fairley ) arrives in King's Landing, and meets her old friend Littlefinger. He delivers exposition in a brothel full of topless whores, a mild example of what is referred to as Sexposition.
Tyrion the Imp (Peter Dinklage - Threshold ) is going south, and gives his regards to Theon (Alfie Allen - John Wick ) at Winterfell. Meanwhile Catelyn Stark ( Michelle Fairley ) is travelling North. This leads to the event that may start a war ...
The Sexposition is provided by Viserys and the Hollyoaks slave-girl ( Roxanne McKee ). Kal Drogo, despite being credited, is nowhere to be seen.
Catelyn Stark ( Michelle Fairley ) tries to get her hostage to her sister's castle. Tyrion the Imp (Peter Dinklage - Threshold ) is getting friendly with Bronn (Jerome Flynn - ). But that is the least of Cat's worries.
On the Wall, Samwell Tarley arrives.
There are a couple of examples of Sexposition. Theon (Alfie Allen - John Wick ) and Roz lay out the facts of the Greyjoy rebellion, furthering Theon's discussion with the Imp in the previous ep. Since the Greyjoys do not do much until Season Three, one has to admire the amount of foreshadowing that is going on.
Things hot up during the jousting tournament. Prince Renly gets his chest shaved by Sir Loras, Knight of the Flowers. Yes, their relationship is a lot more open.
What is happening on the Wall? Tune in next episode to find out.
King Robert (Mark Addy - A Knight's Tale ) goes hunting with Renley, Barristan and Lancel. In his absence the Hand must take swift action against the Mountain and the Lannisters. But at least he works out the secret that John Arryn discovered.
Bran goes riding on his new saddle. But he runs into Osha ( Natalia Tena ) and the wildlings.
Tyrion the Imp (Peter Dinklage - Threshold ) confesses his crimes, which is hilarious to behold. Then he demands tral by combat, and we get to see Bronn (Jerome Flynn - ) in action.
Viserys demands his due - A Golden Crown. Finally Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa - Stargate: Atlantis ) has something to do. Also, Dany's eyebrows have been muted in colour so they do not clash so badly with the blonde wig.
Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance - Your Highness ) is introduced, expertly gutting and skinning a deer. He sends Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau - Mama ) off on a mission to retrieve Tyrion the Imp (Peter Dinklage - Threshold ).
Littlefinger Baelish delivers vital sexposition while interviewing Roz and another whore. Their lesbian double-act is so controversial that the backlash reduced the future sexposition.
With Roz gone to King's Landing, Theon (Alfie Allen - John Wick ) turns his attentions to Osha ( Natalia Tena ). She gives yet more tales of the White Walkers. Meanwhile, a riderless horse arrives at the Wall ...
King Robert (Mark Addy - A Knight's Tale ) goes out boar-hunting.
The Lannisters mop up after last episode.
Robb Stark gathers his army, including the Greatjon (Clive from Casualty).
Tyrion (Peter Dinklage - Threshold ) meets Shae. There is not much Sexposition - they are fully dressed when they play the drinking game with Bronn (Jerome Flynn - ).
Robb Stark marches his army south. First he has to make a deal with Lord Walder Frey - auspicious to say the least. Then his army must take on the Lannisters. There are TWO major battles, but the TV budget will not allow is to see either of them!
Drogo's wound is infected, despite Miri Mazur's attentions. Will she save him?
Ned Stark (Sean Bean - Lord of the Rings ) has to make a decision - duty or love?
Lord Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance - Your Highness ) orders Tyrion (Peter Dinklage - Threshold ) to go to King's Landing. King Joffrey is a vicious little brat, and Tyrion must keep him under control.
The Imp, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage - Threshold ), arrives in King's landing. The new King has begun a reign of terror.
The Night's Watch arrives at Craster's Keep.
Theon (Alfie Allen - John Wick ) returns home to the Iron Islands.
Arry and Gendry are harrassed by Gold-cloaks.
Stannis' Onion Knight hires a pirate. But a distinction is made between raping and f*cking, so all is well in the world.
Jon (Kit Harington - Seventh Son ) discovers there is something rotten in the Keep of Craster.
Tyrion (Peter Dinklage - Threshold ) stages a bit of house-cleaning. The villains who secretly serve his sister, and thus pose a threat to him, are his target. To keep Shae safe, he makes her Sansa's handmaiden.
Catelyn Stark ( Michelle Fairley ) arrives at Renly's camp in time to see Brienne (pronounced Bri-enne, not Bree-knee) victorious. Renly might be surrounded by women, but his wife is more than happy to share him with her brother. Sharp eyes will spot that the camp is on the same stretch of coastline that poses as the Iron Isles and as Stannis' island.
Arry and the Night's Watch run into trouble in the shape of Lannister bannermen.
Dany ( Emilia Clarke ) and the remains of her Khalsa arrive at the City of Quarth.
Tyrion (Peter Dinklage - Threshold ) has survived the battle of the Blackwater. However, he is now surviving in a low-status bedchamber. His father, Lord Tywin (Charles Dance - Your Highness ), has taken Tyrion's job as the King's Hand and left him with nothing. While one can understand Tywin's refusal to grant Tyrion his wish - to be named as heir to Casterly Rock - the old man must at least realise that Tyrion's mind is a powerful weapon and not something that should be neglected. At the very least they could make him Governor of the City. Instead he cowers in fear and will not leave his room without Bronn (Jerome Flynn - ) to protect him. However, at least Cersei the Queen Mother ( Lena Headey ) is in the same boat, although she has the Kingsguard to protect her.
Shae, Tyrion's whore, has been promoted to Sansa's handmaiden - although she is not very good at it. Roz ( Esme Bianco ) has likewise been promoted to Littlefinger's business manager - although she betrays her employer's trust. The two girls have a chat, invoking the old trope of the Bechdel test. Roz feels that the girls have done well for themselves, especially since they started at the bottom of the feudal system. The truth is that the girls had unfair advantages over their male equals. After all, they literally slept their way to the top (or at least the middle).
Margery Tyrell ( Natalie Dormer ) starts a hearts-and-minds campaign in fleabottom. She acts like a well-intentioned bimbo, although Cersei sees right through her. After all, they are really two of a kind.
Dany the Khalesi ( Emilia Clarke ) realises that her few remaining Dothraki will not be able to cross the salt sea and conquer Westeros. She considers boosting her forces by buying eight thousand slave soldiers. Unfortunately there are assassins after her. Luckily, she has an unexpected ally.
Mance Ryder (Ciaran Hinds - Ghost Rider 2 ) introduces Jon Snow (Kit Harington - Seventh Son ) to Mackenzie Crook ( Pirates of the Caribbean ), a Warg who can telepathically commune with animals. This is useful exposition, because it turns out later that Jon's brother Bran has the same superpower. Bran is being guarded by Osha ( Natalia Tena ), who can make her own spear and knows how to use it.
Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau - Mama ) and Brienne are on the run together. They encounter an old man who is going the opposite way. Jaime wants to kill the old man, to avoid leaving any witnesses to their passing by. Brienne disagrees, and they wonder - did the old man recognise Jaime? That is irrelevant. He addresses Brienne as Milady, so he clearly knows she is the one and only female knight.
Shae asks Tyrion (Peter Dinklage - Threshold ) to help her protect Sansa from Littlefinger. She also deduces that Tyrion has bedded Roz, and even appears to be a bit jealous. However, they had best keep their heated conversations at a low volume because Lord Tywin (Charles Dance - Your Highness ) has promised to hang the next whore he catches his son with.
Arya is on the run with Gendry and Hot-Pie. They run into Thoros of Myrr (Paul Kaye - Zapped ) and the Brotherhood Without Banners.
Jaime gets a duel with Brienne. He is the champion of the Kingsguard, but he is out of shape from his time in chains. Brienne has a longer reach, greater strength and full plate armour.
Rob Stark and his forces are at Riverrun, to attend his maternal grandfather's funeral. It is a Viking style event, and Catelyn's brother (Tobias Menzies - Outlander ) is expected to ignite the funeral boat with a flaming arrow. It is a moving target, and he is obviously a better swordsman than he is an archer. He is also not much of a strategist, since he messed up Rob's plan to ambush the Mountain. Meanwhile, since the Starks are at Riverrun Rob has left his military forces in the south in the hands of Roose Bolton.
Brienne and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau - Mama ) are in the custody of the Boltons. It is only a matter of time before they try to gang-rape her. Jaime's advice is lie back and think of Renly. However, he also tries to talk sense into the Bolton leader, Locke (Noah Taylor - Powers ). But is he as smart and persuasive as his brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage - Threshold )?
Theon (Alfie Allen - John Wick ) is also in the hands of the Boltons. However, a friendly face (Iwan Rheon - Misfits ) decides to help him out. That is the good news. The bad news is ... well, remember how the show's new-found policy of gender equality meant that for every scene of full-frontal female nudity, Theon had to do full-frontal nudity as well? The stakes have gone up, and now Brienne is not the only one targeted by a rape gang!
The Lord Commander (James Cosmo - Braveheart ) and the few surviving Night Watch make it as far south as Craster's Keep.
Cersei decides to sit in on the Small Council's secret meetings. She may be the Queen Mother, but she is only there because she is Tywin's daughter. However, at least Tyrion gets a new job. Since Littlefinger is heading off to marry the mad Arryn woman in the Eyrie, the Kingdom needs a new Master of Coin. The royal ledgers are kept in the office at Littlefinger's whorehouse. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage - Threshold ) takes the opportunity to reward Pod, his squire, for saving the imp's life at the battle of the Blackwater.
Dany the Khalesi ( Emilia Clarke ) decides to buy the Unsullied slave-soldiers. However, her decision-making is in doubt. Earlier she saw a slave who had been crucified, and rather than try to end his pain she chose to give him water, thus prolonging his agony. Jorah Mormont (Iain Glenn - Lara Croft ) and Barristan Selmy (John McIlhinnery - ) have been at each others throats, but finally they agree on something.
Roz ( Esme Bianco ) regards herself as an ex-whore, since she is now manager of Littlefinger's brothel. She also makes money on the side by betraying her boss to the eunuch. Not a good idea, especially when it concerns Littlefinger's prime concern - Sansa!
Theon (Alfie Allen - John Wick ) and the friendly helper (Iwan Rheon - Misfits ) make good progress. The rendezvous is in a castle that Theon does not recognise. However, he is so depressed with guilt over betraying the Starks that he does not think straight.
The Lord Commander (James Cosmo - Braveheart ) and the few surviving Night Watch are stuck in Craster's Keep. They might have been a merry band of brothers when the going was good, but now it is more like every man for himself. After all, they are a band of convicts who chose military servitude over execution. One of them (Burn Gorman - Torchwood ) and some others decide to show Craster their displeasure.
Dany the Khalesi ( Emilia Clarke ) has the slave girl Missandrei as her new handmaiden. Now she also takes possession of her eight thousand slave-soldiers. The slave-trader suggests she raid the nearest town with her army, and even offers to buy whoever she kidnaps.
The Hound faces Berric Dondarion in trial by combat. We get to see what Thoros, priest of the Red God, is capable of.
The Onion Knight is still in Stannis' dungeon, courtesy of the priestess of the Red God. Meanwhile, Stannis himself has to confess his sins to his wife ( Tara Fitzgerald ). Luckily she is even more fanatical about serving the Red God than he is.
Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau - Mama ) and Brienne make it as far as Lord Bolton's camp. Tyburn the ex-Maester attempts to heal Jaime's injury. Later, Brienne reluctantly shares a bath with Jaime - but he gives her his version of events concerning the occasion that he earned the nickname Kingslayer.
Dany the Khalesi ( Emilia Clarke ) takes her army of ex-slaves for a walk. She declares them to be free men, but all she has done is remove their obligation to serve her. Luckily they have a sense of honour, and wish to repay the life-debt they owe her for freeing them.
In King's Landing, the Tyrells plot to marry Sansa off to Loras. Of course, Littlefinger has no wish to see this happen. Instead he helps the Lannisters arrange alternate plans.
At Riverrun, Rob's fortunes take a turn for the worse. This story has many parallels to the Wars of the Roses, and as a result we now get the Princes in the Tower storyline. However, Rob now has to choose between appearing weak or losing the loyalty of an already rebellious clan.
In King's Landing, Lord Tywin (Charles Dance - Your Highness ) meets with the Queen of Thorns ( ) to arrange the marriages of his two available children. Sansa is unhappy about the new plan, but it could be a lot worse for her.
The Red Priestess has left Stannis' castle at Dragonstone. She and her bodyguards wander the woods unmolested, and arrive at the Brotherhood's secret base. We get some exposition about her and Thoros ( ), which was never explicitly stated in the book. However, another new idea is the fact that is willing to buy Gendry like a slave. In all fairness, as far as the Brotherhood are concerned this is only a slight step down from the idea of taking Arya home in exchange for a reward.
The Red Priestess has taken Gendry aboard her ship. Her destination is not the safety of Dragonstone, but right back to where Gendry was fleeing - King's Landing! She also tells Gendry who his father was. This overt revelation was never part of the book's storyline, so the story is now all a bit twisted.
Tyrion (Peter Dinklage - Threshold ) and Cersei finally have something in common - they are about to be trapped in arranged marriages, courtesy of their father Lord Tywin (Charles Dance - Your Highness ). Shae, recently employed as Sansa's handmaiden, is unhappy at being reduced to Tyrion's whore again. The issue is presented as one of a woman's oppression by the Patriarchy, but it is really about social class and about Tywin's agenda.
Catelyn's brother (Tobias Menzies - Outlander ) also has an arranged marriage to look forward to. Walder Frey is unhappy about Rob Stark's breach of the alliance, and the price is that there must be a new wedding.
Dany the Khalesi ( Emilia Clarke ) and her army arrive at the city of Yunkai. She wants to lay siege to it so she can emancipate the slaves. Of course, this is revisionist bunny-hugging, but it is typical of her to delay her march on Westeros in order to free some complete strangers from having to work for a living.
The Red Priestess takes Gendry to Dragonstone. She uses her womanly wiles to put him at his ease, but much like Theon he will not get what he wants. She casts a spell to curse three of the King's enemies - Rob Stark, Balon Greyjoy and Joffrey Lannister. A bit of foreshadowing that they will all be murdered ...
Tyrion (Peter Dinklage - Threshold ) and Sansa get their wedding. The next step will complicate things. Cersei (mother of the King) and Loras (brother of the Queen) must wed too, which means that the Queen's brother will also be her father-in-law. However, Tyrion and his two women are all unhappy about the arrangement.
Dany the Khalesi ( Emilia Clarke ) enters negotiations with the Second Sons, a group of mercenaries hired to defend the city she is besieging. One of them, Dario Naharas (Ed Skrein - Deadpool ), takes a liking to her. But can he be trusted?
Sam Tarley is still stuck in the snowy wilderness north of the wall. He has the inbred baby and its not-too-smart mother with him. The bad news is, the white walkers are after the baby. The good news is, he still has the obsidian dagger he found earlier ...
Rob Stark and his mother visit Walder Frey. The old man promises them a wedding ceremony where the wine will flow red. Roose Bolton is also a guest, although we know he is secretly on speaking terms with the Lannisters. Rob takes his pregnant wife along to the party, which really rubs the old man's nose in it. Noticeably, Greatjon Umber (Clive Mantle) is missing from the wedding guests.
Dario Naharas (Ed Skrein - Deadpool ) makes a proposal to Dany the Khalesi ( Emilia Clarke ). His plan is to take two men - Grey Worm and Jorah Mormont - into the city. If they can get the main gates open, her whole army can march right in.
Arya and the Hound get to the wedding, incognito. Will there be a dramatic reunion?
Samwell and Gillie head south towards the wall. Jon Snow (Kit Harington - Seventh Son ) and Ygritte ( Rose Leslie ) have already gotten far ahead of them. Will Sam, fat and on foot, actually manage to walk to Castle Black faster than Jon can ride there on horseback?
Varys the Eunuch tries to talk Shae the whore into leaving King's landing. Unfortunately the poor woman is obsessed with Tyrion (Peter Dinklage - Threshold ). She has convinced herself that she might have fallen in love with her client. Worse still, it might be mutual. Yes, a real case of Pretty Woman syndrome has broken out.
Dany the Khalesi ( Emilia Clarke ) has conquered the city of Yunkai. Liberated, as Mormont puts it. The actual violence and bloodshed occurred off-screen, so this is really the sanitized version of it. A more realistic, un-glamourized view of the sack of a city is shown in Spartacus: War of the Damned .
Lord Tywin (Charles Dance - Your Highness ) has Stark's sword melted down to make two new ones. He gives one to Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau - Mama ), who has limited use for it. Jaime starts training with it - and Bronn (Jerome Flynn - ) is his sparring partner.
Tyrion (Peter Dinklage - Threshold ) and Bronn are sent to meet the Tyrell delegation at the city gates. Prince Oberon and his woman, Ellaria Sand ( Indira Varma ), have arrived early and are shacked up in Littlefinger's finest brothel.
Dany the Khalesi ( Emilia Clarke ) has taken the workers from the city of Yunkai. Her next stop is at the city of Mereen. Dario Naharas has cut his hair and grown a beard - in fact, he is a completely different actor entirely!
Tyrion (Peter Dinklage - Threshold ) decides to do the smart thing and get rid of Shae. She was great as his whore and okay as his wife's handmaiden, but she is too much of a liability now that Tywin knows about her.
The big event is Joffrey's wedding to Margery Tyrell. He surprises everyone by presenting a theatrical performance of the War of the Five Kings, performed by dwarves - reminiscent of a similar scene in Time Bandits . This is intended to offend almost everyone present. Loras is disgusted at the portrayal of his beloved Renly, while Sansa is put off by the reminder of her brother's fate.
Cersei and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau - Mama ) deal with their grief in different ways. She demands blood vengence on the main suspect, her own brother! Jaime prefers to make love, not war.
Arya and the Hound are still wandering the countryside. They right wrongs, kill villains and help the impoverished. Well, that is Arya's plan but it does not always go as she intends.
Ygritte ( Rose Leslie ) and the Wildlings massacre a village of helpless farmers. They plan to lure the Brotherhood out of Castle Black. However, Jon Snow (Kit Harington - Seventh Son ) has much bigger problems. The idiots in Craster's Keep will soon be captured by Mance, and they will tell him that Jon exaggerated by Brotherhood's strength tenfold.
Dany the Khalesi ( Emilia Clarke ) has taken her army to the city of Mereen. She has a dramatic presentation planned, and intends to cause a slave uprising within the city. To do this, she shouts so loud that everyone on the city walls can hear her perfectly. Also, she has had her carpenters build some siege catapults. What she paid them with is not explained. Luckily, they are ex-slaves so they must be happy to do it for free. After all, that is what they are used to - and they know she will not punish them.
After many years of war, all the powerful characters left are women, bastards and broken things. Dorne and the Iron Islands are represented by women. Winterfell is also ruled by a woman, and the arch-enemy is Queen Cersei.
Theon (Alfie Allen - John Wick ) and Yara Greyjoy are sent off to lead their fleet on a mission, to deliver the Sand Snakes back home. Unfortunately Cersei has a navy of her own. Dany's allies run into uncle Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbeck - Ghost In The Shell (2017) ) and his own fleet. He is being set up as a new major villain, the replacement for Ramsey Bolton (who replaced Joffrey, who replaced Viserys).
This is unlike the other episodes, because instead of splitting the episode across multiple viewpoint characters the vast majority of it centres on one particular storyline. Jon Snow (Kit Harington - Seventh Son ) leads the other main warrior characters on a mission beyond the Wall. A couple of nameless wildlings come along, supposedly as scouts. However they have no lines, so they are just expendable cannon fodder.
The zombies die when the White Walker commanding them dies. This is a bit like the robot army in Star Wars: Phantom Menace . However, it is used like more of a Master Vampire trope - as in, the undead are controlled by magic from the creature that raised them. This may be a major flaw in the Night King's plan, since if he dies (and he oversees his battles personally) all his forces instantly die too.
Strangely the scenes that should be set in Iceland were filmed in Northern Ireland, and the scenes that should be set in Northern Ireland were filmed in Spain. However the geography of Westeros is different from the books, insofar as every distance is half of what it should be. This actually means that the episode is less nonsensical than it should be. The ambush site is running distance from the Great Wall, so it could be covered by a horse in a relatively brief time. The flying distance from the Wall to Dragonstone Keep would also be a couple of hundred miles, so it could be covered by a message-bearing raven (or Danerys and her dragons) in a few hours as opposed to a few days.
Back in Winterfell, Littlefinger knows that Arya is watching him. He seeks to drive the two sisters apart, so that Sansa will be more dependent on him. However, what is Arya really after?
The previous episode features the main fighting characters all in the same place. This time we get the main SPEAKING characters. Dany the Khalesi ( Emilia Clarke ) and Cersei face off in the dragon pit at King's Landing, in the hope of arranging a truce until the Night King is defeated. Bronn (Jerome Flynn - ) heads off for a drink, because he and Cersei cannot be in the same scene together.
This is the kind of family reunion we hoped for. Sandor Clegane taunts his elder brother, Cersei Lannister taunts her younger brother, and Euron Greyjoy taunts his nephew. Jon Snow does not taunt his aunt, but he does not know they are related and in fact has other plans for her.
Back at Winterfell, Littlefinger keeps working on Sansa. He has her summon Arya to a trial for murder and treason. But who is really on trial?