TV

Recap: Planning, Scheming And Warging On Game of Thrones

Let's all takes a step back from the action, to make room for a bit of blue-sky thinking.

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This is a recap of the most recent episode of Game of Thrones. Spoiler alert.

We’ve seen plenty of shocking action in Game of Thrones. But this week’s episode is more about thinking; it’s about plans laid, fulfilled and revised. Characters ponder what new things might be possible, and make decisions that go against what’s in their hearts.

All her life, Daenerys Targaryen’s raison d’être has been winning back the Iron Throne for her family. But now, learning the disastrous aftermath of her Slaver’s Bay emancipation campaign, Dany has to make a major priority shift. She might have ships and troops, but she doesn’t have lasting authority. So she must hone her skills as a ruler right here, in Meereen.

She is the Dany queen, in Meereen, only seventeen...

She is the Dany queen, in Meereen, only seventeen…

Meanwhile, the equally inexperienced King Tommen is being crowned in King’s Landing, “the first of his name” and with equally fresh hopes for future peace in Westeros. Young, good-looking, genuinely decent, into cats: Tommen is fine putty to be moulded.

But by whom? Certainly not Mace Tyrell – the prickly scheming of the rose house seems to have skipped its buffoonish patriarch, going straight from his mother to his daughter.

Repartee, Mace-style: “And the extraordinary thing is, it went, ‘Boomp!’”

Repartee, Mace-style: “And the extraordinary thing is, it went, ‘Boomp!’”

But when you’re used to dealing with oafs who clap you on the back, the Tyrells are fine allies indeed. So says Tywin Lannister… but his back is against the wall now that the legendary Lannister goldmines have dried up and the crown is in hock for “a tremendous amount” to the Iron Bank of Braavos. The Tyrells’ wealth, however, comes from renewable resources: farmland. Having disinherited his younger son and driven his elder one away, Tywin’s plans for dynastic domination now depend on the Tyrell marriages forged by his daughter and her progeny. And Cersei knows it.

Their father-and-daughter boozing scene was eye-opening in its frankness – it’s possibly the first time Tywin and Cersei have ever related as equals. Although Cersei later takes Prince Oberyn strolling in the garden of betrayal and tells him how powerless she feels, that’s another power play. She knows Oberyn is a judge in Tyrion’s upcoming trial for Joffrey’s murder, so she’s leaning on his fatherly affections to guarantee a verdict in advance.

And she’s scheming even further into the future. That golden ship being sent to Myrcella in Dorne is insurance: if anything should happen to Tommen, Myrcella is the last Lannister heir to the Iron Throne.

Putting on their game faces for “an alarming number of weddings”.

Putting on their game faces for “an alarming number of weddings”.

I had to laugh when Cersei straight-out asked Margaery if she still wants to be queen. Does a bear lick the honey from the hair of a maiden fair? But Margaery makes a good fist of pretending she hasn’t “given any thought to what comes next”.

What “shocked” Cersei about Joffrey wasn’t really his capacity for cruelty, but her own inability to control him. Now, with the malleable Tommen crowned, she’s in a good enough mood to let Margaery’s “sister” crack go, despite her previous warning to have Margaery strangled in her sleep. That option’s still on the table, though, if Margaery’s goo-goo eyes and midnight bedchamber convos with the king keep happening…

Meanwhile at the Eyrie, Robin ‘GoT Milk?’ Arryn may be older, but is certainly no smarter. The only kind of blue-sky thinking he’s into involves piffing people and objects through the Moon Door. Will Petyr Baelish himself meet the same fate as the lovely glass House Baelish mockingbird that Robin was given not a minute earlier?

Oooh, thanks Uncle Petyr! Into the bin!

Oooh, thanks Uncle Petyr! Into the bin!

This episode’s big reveal is that Lord Baelish has engineered almost all the key political events ever seen on Game of Thrones: Jon Arryn’s murder and Ned Stark’s ill-fated installation as Hand of the King, plus the Lannister/Stark feud. All this because he has deranged, lovelorn Lysa Arryn wrapped around his… well, poor Sansa has to listen to it all night.

Later, Lysa subjects Sansa – Alayne, to anyone else who asks – to the Westerosi equivalent of Scientology auditing.

“What have you let Petyr do with your body? Your young, pretty body?”

“What have you let Petyr do with your body? Your young, pretty body?”

A thousand erotic fanfic stories bloom as Sansa squeaks, “I’m a virgin!” There’s something decidedly kinky about the goings-on at the Eyrie. I feel truly terrible confessing this, but in a bit of blue-sky thinking of my own, I am prepared to consider Littlefinger hot now.

The countryside, however, seems to be where all screwball banter happens. Brienne and Podrick are fast becoming a comedy double-act to rival Arya and the Hound. Brienne claims she’s never needed a squire – but Pod’s insistence that all knights should have one is a massive conceptual shift for Brienne, who’s been told all her life that she’ll never be a ‘proper’ knight.

The disgust with which she drops her bundle of sticks on seeing Pod’s rabbit-roasting prowess – I am a terrible cook and even I know you have to take the skin off first – gives way to a new respect when she realises, as Tyrion did, that this goofy kid actually comes in handy in a fight.

Fighting is also on Arya Stark’s mind as she recites her nightly murder wishlist. The Hound’s irritation soon becomes unease as he realises he’s on it. But when he catches Arya practising the elegant swordsmanship she learned from Syrio Forel, in creeps his characteristic cynical contempt.

Waterdancing is basically the Braavosi answer to kendo.

Waterdancing is basically the Braavosi answer to kendo.

Realising that her pretty Needle and fencing moves are no match for armour and a broadsword is a major setback for Arya’s revenge plans. But it’s a lesson she needed to learn — and now she can think up something new.

North of the Wall, Arya’s brother Bran languishes in captivity at Craster’s Keep with the Reeds, while her other brother, Jon Snow, leads a Night’s Watch party there to crush the mutiny. Acting as advance scout is the treacherous Locke, who seeks Bran for the Boltons.

I loved that we finally saw how the world looks to Jojen Reed. Bran has experienced precognitive sight in dream-states, and Melisandre claims it by staring into the flames, but the show has never before actually depicted the way Jojen’s visions blend seamlessly with his reality.

And it’s Jojen’s lateral thinking that inspires Bran for the second time to warg into Hodor. I felt a stab of glee at the awesome Hodor Unchained moment when Bran mercilessly uses the half-giant’s strength to snap Locke’s neck. It freaks out the Night’s Watch when they find Locke’s corpse.

Speaking of stabs of glee, I also loved Karl’s gruesome dispatch by Craster’s lead wife, finished by Jon through the damn mouth! Out in the forest, Ghost exacts a parallel revenge on the fleeing Rast.

Reunited, and it feels so good!

Reunited, and it feels so good!

Although Bran yearns for his own reunion with Jon, Jojen reminds him to think beyond this immediate desire to their quest for the three-eyed raven. Regretfully, Bran agrees.

The lost babes of last episode have got their agency back… through the power of the mind.

Game of Thrones airs on Showcase at 3.30pm on Mondays, fast-tracked from the US.

Mel Campbell is a freelance journalist and cultural critic, and author of the book Out of Shape: Debunking Myths about Fashion and Fit. She blogs on style, history and culture at Footpath Zeitgeist and tweets at @incrediblemelk.

Follow her Game of Thrones recaps here.