There’s a meme going around the Internet that compares “Game of Thrones” with “The Walking Dead.”
The zombie show, the meme says, makes you hate its characters before killing them. “Thrones,” however, makes you like them.
And that is, I think, objectively true. Even this show’s vilest characters (the Lannisters, for instance) all have redeeming qualities. After spending enough time with them, you being to surprise yourself by gravitating toward characters you once reviled.
“Dark Wings, Dark Words” keeps this trend going. The episode’s climax is a swordfight between Jaime Lannister (yes, the same Jaime Lannister who pushed Bran Stark from a window, paralyzing him) and Brienne of Tarth, who is escorting him to King’s Landing.
Jaime, it's widely known, is one of the best swordsmen in Westeros, and, even in chains, he puts up a valiant fight against perhaps the best female fighter on the continent. Brienne ultimately subdues him, but after doing so, they’re captured by House Bolden (who are pledged to Robb Stark, the King in the North).
This is all somewhat complex, but what’s important is this: The audience is beginning to like Jaime. As he traverses the countryside with Brienne, his back-and-forth joking makes him come across as funny, irreverent and without airs.
Speaking of Renly Baratheon, Jaime quips: “He wasn’t fit to rule over anything more than a 12 course meal.”
The road from Harrenhal
Meanwhile, Ayra Stark is back!
Last week’s season opener went off, sadly, without Arya, but she returned for the second episode. (This week, sadly, had no Dany Targaryen, however.)
Fresh off their escape from Harrenhal, Arya, Gendry and Co. encounter Thoros of Myr and the Brotherhood without Banners. (They're the outlaws roaming the countryside to bring The Mountain to justice.)
The three kids are taken to the outlaws' hideout, where they’re fed, questioned and about to be sent on their way. But then the Brotherhood brings in a prize captive: The Hound.
Sandor Clegan immediately recognizes Arya, which means (the audience is left to assume) the three youngsters won’t be leaving so quickly.
“What in seven hells are you doing with a Stark bitch?” the Hound snarls.
Let’s just put it out there. Tyrion should be much uglier than he appears on the show. In the books, his friggin’ nose is cut off. But I digress.
At King’s Landing, we get to meet The Queen of Thorns (!) for the first time. (She's one of my favorite characters from the books.)
Olenna Tyrell and Margaery Tyrell dine with Sansa Stark and pump her for information about Joffrey. After playing coy at first, Sansa finally tells the women some of the terrible things the boy-king did to her, including forcing her to view her father’s severed head.
“He’s a monster,” Sansa confesses.
Meanwhile, the boy-king Joffrey is growing ever-more openly rude and condescending to his mother, Cersei. (She used to control him, but no longer.)
As the queen tries to question him about Margaery Tyrell, his wife-to-be, Joffrey says: “This becoming one of the most boring conversations I’ve ever heard. “
Later, when discussing Margaery’s previous marriage to Renly Baratheon, Joffrey underscores his misogynist streak: “That’s what intelligent women do: What they’re told.”
OK, I take back what I said earlier about starting to like the Lannisters.
The road from Winterfell
Also, let’s just put this out there: Bran looks much older than the 9-year-old he’s supposed to be in the books.
The episode opens with Bran Stark deep in a dream, in which he once again sees the Three-Eye-Raven.
In the dream, he also sees the mysterious Jojen Reed, who we will meet later in the episode. Once they meet – after a thorough sniffing from Summer -- Jojen, who can see the future, tells Bran: “The raven is you.”
I think we all have a feeing Bran will play some major role in how this series ends.
Robb Stark’s battle camp
Word comes in that Catelyn Stark’s father has died, which means the armies of The North will march off to the funeral.
Speaking with Lady Talisa (whom I still protest in favor of Jeyne Westerling), Catelyn Stark reveals a surprisingly tender side for Jon Snow.
She tells a story of how she prayed for the boy to die, but felt terrible once he fell ill. She prayed for him to get better and promised to love him if he did. But she couldn’t bring herself to feel any love for him after he recovered.
Catelyn said she blames all her family’s woes on her inability to love Jon.
“I couldn’t keep my promise,” she said. “It’s all because I couldn’t love a motherless child.”
North of the Wall
Jon, meanwhile, is falling in with some interesting folks in his undercover mission north of the wall.
He meets Orell, a warg like Bran, who puts his mind inside an eagle’s head and controls him. Pretty freaky.
Mance Rayder, the king north of the wall, tells Jon how he was able to build his army of giants and myriad tribes.
"I told them we were all going to die if we don’t get south," he says.
And, Samwell is having trouble keeping up with the men of the Night’s Watch in their never-ending march through snow, ice and miserableness.
Oh, and one other important thing happened.
Theon, who I hate, got tortured off and on throughout the episode on some medieval device. They even pulled out his fingernails. That’ll teach him for sacking Winterfell and for generally being a worthless human.
Now, if we could only get Joffrey to join him.