Daenerys Targaryen

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys. (HBO)

Let the double-crossing families of Westeros waste their waking hours plotting to kill each other’s wannabe kings. The true heir to the Targaryen Empire is busy building an army.

The episode "Breaker of Chains" reminded us that, despite the compelling stories of Starks and Lannisters, Daenerys Targaryen is the real star of this series. (More so than in the books, Dany’s character stands out on TV – in sunny landscapes as opposed to the dark surroundings of the west.)

Watching Sunday’s episode, I was also struck once again by how much fine, understated, nuanced acting is going on in this show about dragons, zombies and watches -- particularly by Lena Headey (Cersei), Maisie Williams (Arya) and Rory McCann (The Hound).

Essos

The show's closing scene takes place in Meereen, where Dany and her army have marched to the gates of the great city. The Meereenese send out a single rider to throw down a challenge. He shouts insults. He pisses on the ground.

Dany dispatches the new (more classy) Daario to do battle. He winks at her, and then unseats and kills the man in two swift moves.

Dany then addresses not the city’s rulers but their slaves. She tells how she’s freed others in previous cities. Her army then fires barrels from catapults inside Meereen’s walls.

In the barrels? The broken chains of slaves.

(Methinks a rebellion is about to break out. And the Targaryen army is likely to get much, much bigger.)

King’s Landing

Back in the capitol city of Westeros, Cersei is mourning her son’s death by poisoning. Tyrion is arrested and in jail. But Sansa has escaped! (At least one Stark finally caught a bit of luck.)

The drunk fool Ser Dontos is seen rushing her out of the Purple Wedding, onto a small boat, and finally to a ship.

There they meet Littlefinger (the excellent Aidan Gillen) who has masterminded Sansa's escape (and apparently Joffrey’s killing). His men quickly kill Ser Dontos instead of paying him. (Would you expect anything less from Littlefinger?)

"He was a drunk and a fool, and I don’t trust drunk fools," Littlefinger says. They sail for the Vale.

As the Lannisters stand by the deceased Joffrey (I miss hating his character already), Tywin begins teaching Tommen how to be a good ruler. (Hint: Listen to your elders instead of being like, um, your dead brother.)

"Your brother was not a wise king. Your brother was not a good king," Tywin says.

Cersei, who is standing nearby, is apparently the only one who mourns Joffrey. (By the way, Lena Headey is just excellent in this role. She’s passionate and strong and tearful without grossly overacting like some of the Emmy nominees and winners.)

Jaime, who’s Joffrey’s dad, then rapes her by their son’s corpse. (What?! Jaime, we were just starting to like you.)

Meanwhile, the Red Viper is having a bisexual orgy, when Tywin interrupts all the fun. He says he suspects the Dornishman of teaching Tyrion how to poison Joffrey.

Then, in an apparent turn of strategy, Tywin offers Martell a seat on the small council and denies he had anything to do with the murder of the Red Viper’s sister.

Castle Black

Near the wall, wildlings are raping and pillaging. The Thenn are true villains (maybe taking the place of Joffrey?). As they slaughter villagers, their cannibal leader tells a young boy he plans to eat his parents. The Thenn send the boy off to Castle Black to strike fear in the hearts of the Night’s Watch.

There, Jon Snow warns his compatriots that they are vastly outnumbered by the wildling army assembled by Mance Rayder.

"Mance has all he needs to crush us. He just doesn’t know it yet," Jon says.

It was a well-written episode that covered a lot of ground and highlighted the growing differences between Westeros, which is increasingly under attack, and Essos, which is increasingly more free.

Grade: A-

lbroadwater@baltsun.com

Twitter.com/lukebroadwater