Skin Changers, Dire Wolves and White Walkers. Oh my. (Bad joke. Sorry.)
After weeks of political machinations in southern Westeros, we finally got to see some much-welcome action North of the Wall in Sunday's "Oathkeeper."
As a reader of the books, I've always wondered what The Others (called White Walkers on the show) did with the male babies they took from Craster's Keep, that wilding outpost near The Wall. I always assumed they killed them or ate them. It turns out they've been using them to build a frozen zombie army! Weird.
Anyway, a lot happened this episode even though it was rather light on "Thrones" signatures: Sex and violence. Several of the major plot developments took place North of The Wall.
At Castle Black, Alliser Thorne authorizes Jon Snow and men he recruits to head to Craster's Keep to kill the backstabbers who murdered Lord Commander Mormont. He takes a group of men, including a plant from Roose Bolton who's just joined The Night's Watch.
Meanwhile, Jon's little crippled brother Bran Stark and his crew get kidnapped by the lovely gentlemen who murdered Mormont and are now drinking wine out of his dead skull. (That can't be sanitary.)
These former Night's Watch members are keeping up Craster's tradition of sacrificing his sons to the White Walkers, and they give up a newborn baby to the cold-hearted zombie lords. (By the way, wasn't that the youngest baby you've ever seen acting on television? Had to be less than three months old. Hope HBO made a nice donation to his college fund.)
The White Walker touches the child and turns it into one of them. Creepy.
Meanwhile, dire wolves Ghost and Summer are also captive at Craster's Keep, and Jon and crew are on the march. There's a showdown looming.
The episode opened in Essos with Daenerys and Grey Worm convincing the slaves of Meereen to overthrow their masters, helpfully writing in English on their walls "Kill the Masters."
When Dany is advised to show mercy to the masters – who, mind you, killed 163 slaves to scare Dany off – she brushes this aside.
"I will answer injustice with justice," she says, ordering the city's masters nailed to crosses.
It was all very Roman, but it showed Daenerys growth into a no-nonsense, tough ruler.
Jaime pays a visit to Tyrion, who is in captivity for a crime he didn't commit – the killing of his nephew, Joffrey, the former king.
He denies involvement and Jaime believes him.
Jaime goes to Cersei, his twin sister whom he raped last week on the show but never did in the books. If viewers are still angry about this change in the plot, Cersei isn't. She's still in charge and orders Jaime around.
Jaime tries to tell her that Tyrion is innocent, but she isn't having any of that.
He gives his sword, now named "Oathkeeper," to Brienne and tells her to go find Sansa.
Meanwhile, Margaery is plotting to marry Tommen, in light of Joffrey's death. There are shades of Catherine of Aragon here in the War of the Roses, the historical war that George R.R. Martin has based some of this fantasy story on.
Margaery pays a late-night visit to the boy, who I think by now is about 9 or 10 years old. She makes him promise to keep this visit "our little secret."
Meanwhile, both Littlefinger and Margaery's grandmother reveal in separate conversations that they are ones who plotted Joffrey's death, poisoning him with a necklace around Sansa Stark's neck at the Purple Wedding
"A man with no motive is a man no one suspects," Littlefinger tells Sansa as they sail to the Vale of Arryn.
It was a solid episode that advanced several important plotlines and reminded us that even the coldest, bleakest parts of Westeros can run hot with drama. Its musical score also was particularly strong this week, melding perfectly with the screenplay scene by scene.
Episode grade: B+