Why is this episode, “The Prince of Winterfell,” different from all other Game of Thrones episodes? It’s because there was a lot of talkie-talkie and no slicey-dicey. The few corpses we saw came pre-stabbed. We did have one sex scene that was remarkable for one specific reason: it was the first time we’ve seen a romantic coupling. The thirteen-year-old boy who does the script rewrites must have been busy at his middle-school prom.
So what happened in the most dialog-heavy episode to date?
It starts with Theon Greyjoy standing with a pile of ravens at his feet. As ravens are the only means to communicate with the outside world, we know immediately that Theon has clamped down on news of Bran and Rickon’s deaths, to stave off, for as long as possible, the murder-machine known as Robb’s Justifiable Outrage. Theon’s sister Yara arrives and looks down her nose at his accomplishments–taking the castle with only twenty men (so far from the sea) and killing the boys (a.k.a. valuable hostages). She orders him to the Iron Islands, where their loving father wants to sing his praises. Just kidding. The hateful Balon probably thinks that Yara—who called Theon “the dumbest c-nt alive,” “weak,” and “stupid”—would be too soft on him.
At the end of the scene, though, Yara turns strangely tender and tells him, “Don’t die so far from the sea.”
In the North, Jon Snow, the “crow,” (as the wildlings call the Rangers who wear black cloaks) is about to become food for the crows by the hand of the wildling chief, the Lord of Bones (you’ll have to see his outfit to understand why the name works). Ygritte intervenes and tells Boney that their King, Mance Rayder, would want Jon alive. The Lord of Bones has also captured a more senior Ranger, Quorin Halfhand. Quorin tells Jon to “do what needs to be done,” then picks a fight with Jon. It looks as if Quorin is setting Jon up. But for what?
Sam and his fellow Rangers, who are busy at the glamorous task of digging latrines, come across long-buried treasure: weapons made of “dragonglass,” or obsidian. Note: This will become important later.
King of the North, Robb Stark, spends a quiet moment telling Talaesa, the pretty healer from Volantis, about the fiancé he’s never met. But soon they’re interrupted by news that Jaime Lannister has escaped again…freed by his own mother, Catelyn Stark, who sent him south to King’s Landing with Brienne, to exchange him for Sansa and Arya. I can picture Robb’s real thoughts: “Mommmmm! I can’t believe you totally committed treason against me!”
Robb puts Cat under lock and key, then confesses his fears and doubts to Talaesa. In turn, she shares a bit of her past with him. Fiancé? Who care about a fiancé when there’s sex to be had. And have it they have.
Jaime doesn’t have much of a chance to relish his freedom, not with the humorless Brienne watching over him, but he does relish making several digs at the masculine woman’s expense. Brienne, I’m warning you now, calling you, “A man, pardon, a woman of honor,” isn’t the last, or even the funniest, of his insults.
Stannis has one scene, and it’s one that makes me almost like him (but not quite). In it, we learn why Stannis values loyalty, honor, and duty more than love and kindness: He and his men almost starved during a siege at Storm’s End before the loyal Davos saved them with a boatful of onions. For his pains, King Robert snubbed Stannis completely by giving their youngest brother, Renly, the castle. Ever loyal, Stannis names Ser Davos, the Onion Knight, Hand of the King when he pulls the Iron Throne out from under Joffrey’s bottom.
Speaking of Joffrey, the King shows up briefly to sneer, cackle, and flounce away. A born leader, him.