We're no longer beyond the wall now, as Jon Snow and Mance Rayder's men make their way to Castle Black.
You might have thought last week was the tough bit, with the seemingly neverending climb up the sheet of ice that is the Wall, but now that the gang are on the other side, it seems things are only getting more difficult.
Back in his own territory, Jon is finding himself even more conflicted about his relationship with Mance Rayder's men and his loyalty to his family, Winterfell and the world he grew up in.
Added to that, Orell draws clear battle lines with Jon, predictably over Ygritte. It seems the warg has a thing for Ygritte, and he's not too happy about the relationship she's formed with Jon. Jon gives as good as he gets though, warning Orell off. One of this pair is clearly going to suffer at the hands of the other.
Meanwhile, Ygritte is charmed by the world this side of the Wall. Coming upon a windmill, she thinks it's a castle, and her sighting leads to a really charming scene between her and Jon, which is also full of both their personalities. Jon teases Ygritte about swooning and silk dresses, but it's Ygritte who gets the upper hand, telling Jon she'll give him a black eye if he tears her silk dress off her. I like that Ygritte is a pretty independent woman, and it appears that Jon does too.
Still, within moments Jon and Ygritte are at odds, as Jon reveals that Mance Rayder's army will never win against the people of the Seven Kingdoms - history has decreed it so. He makes a mistake by saying telling Ygritte that all of her people will be defeated - and she points out that Jon is included in that.
Ygritte reiterates her words of the last episode, that Ygritte and Jon belong to each other and must be loyal to each other. Their relationship has turned serious very, very fast, but it's also realistic - the pressured situation they are in allows deep bonds to be formed quickly. The only trouble is, deep bonds formed so quickly also result in the largest amount of damage when they break.
Oh, you thought crying Sansa was a thing of the past? No such luck. Having found out last episode that she is to marry Tyrion, Sansa this week weeps to Margaery, who tries to reassure her. The pair's conversation throws a light on just how different the two women are - Margaery is world wise while Sansa, despite all she's been through, is still a naive little girl.
Game of Thrones has no shortage of strong female characters, and this week's episode showcased them even more than usual. It all starts with Margaery's discussion of women and sex, and the inequalities around men and women when it comes to sexual relations - usually to the detriment of the woman.
Not so in the case of Shae and Tyrion, where Shae holds all the power. After a discussion with Bron, Tyrion attempts to placate Shae with a gift, and then persuade her to be his mistress once he is married to Sansa. Shae is not to be bought though, despite calling herself a whore. She knows her position in Tyrion's life, and refuses to be relegated.
Shae's love for Tyrion, his love for her, and the power she wields over him by using sex are not the only things that show us Shae is one up on Tyrion - her words also cause damage. While Tyrion tries to explain his upcoming marriage to Sansa as one of duty, Shae is quick to put the boot in and ask why Tyrion won't stand up to his father Tywin. Good question, Shae.
Still, it seems Tywin isn't having the best of times either at the moment. Summoned by Joffrey to the throne room, Tywin is then told off for moving meetings of the Small Council to the chambers of the Hand. Watching Joffrey try to act the king is amusing, especially considering his fear of the dragons Daenerys is rumoured to have (well founded for one), and although Tywin does manage to subtly tell him off, I just wander why Tywin can't smack Joffrey silly, a bit like Tyrion did in season one. Remember that moment? Here's a reminder.
No Stannis this week, although Melisandre and Gendry get within sight of the ancestral home of the Baratheons, and Melisandre drops the bombshell that Gendry is the son of Robert Baratheon. Dun, dun, dun... Dramatic as it was, it was far from the most dramatic moment of the episode.
On the road
Arya is still upset that the Brotherhood without Banners let Gendry go with Melisandre, and gets even more angry when the group decide to detour and fight some Lannister men. So what does Arya do? She runs away. It would all be okay, if only she hadn't run straight into the arms of the Hound, who's obviously been stalking through the forest since the Brotherhood freed him.
Further north Bran and Jojen are talking when Osha get (more) ticked off (than she usually is). At first it might seem like Osha is just being her usual obstructive self, desperate for Bran to only confide in her, but the story she tells shows us so much about her character.
Osha reveals that when she lived beyond the Wall she was in love. One day, her lover disappeared, but he came back. Unfortunately, he came back as a White Walker, and Osha was forced to stab him in the heart and kill him. Up to now, Osha's always been a stubborn, cold character, but as she tells this story the heartbreak is clear to read on her face. It's no wonder she wants to protect Bran and refuses to take him beyond the Wall.
Meanwhile, in a tent somewhere, the King in the North Robb Stark is having a discussion with his mother, uncle and grand-uncle (is that the right term?) about the Freys and the deal that has been made with them. Edmure's still not happy at having to marry one of Walder Frey's daughters, and no one's really convinced about Walder's intentions, but needs must.
The mood in the tent changes once everyone leaves Robb and Talisa alone, and in the candlelight Talisa reveals that she's pregnant. I don't know about you, but I saw this coming a mile off. While Robb and Talisa are ecstatic, I'm a little more cautious. Pregnancies don't exactly tend to end well in the Seven Kingdoms. Let's recap:
- Danaerys lost her baby.
- Melisandre gave birth to a weird smoke baby.
- Stannis Baratheon's wife keeps giving birth to stillborn babies.
- Craster has all his male children killed right after they're born.
- And Gilly is wandering around a freezing forest somewhere with her newborn baby and Samwell Tarly.
The aforementioned Daenerys is on the move again this week, heading to the town of Yunkai. There, she meets with a slavemaster and tries to persuade him to free all his slaves. He's not so cooperative, and Daenerys lets him go, with the message that he and his town will be destroyed.
The imagery here is really powerful - Daenerys, sitting on a what could basically be a throne, surrounded by her dragons. She holds herself tall, her words are clear, her actions betray no fear. And she's on a mission to free slaves across the land, slaves who will then come and fight for her if they wish, which they will. There is no denying how queenly Daenerys has become. In fact, I'd go further, she's far stronger than all of the kings and would be kings we've currently got in the Seven Kingdoms - Stannis, Joffrey and even Robb. Daenerys tops the list of strong women in Game of Thrones.
Well, she's tied first, in my opinion, with Brienne, who I have grown to really love as a character over this season.
Jaime is dispatched to King's Landing by Roose Bolton, but not before he says an emotional goodbye to Brienne. Well, as emotional as you can get when neither Brienne nor Jaime touch each other, when they're standing 10ft apart and when there's no sign of tears, or declarations of love or friendship. Still, you can see that the bond these two share is now deep.
So deep that Jaime decides to go back for Brienne after realising that Locke will punish her. And no, Brienne isn't being raped when Jaime gets back, she's being made to fight a bear with only a wooden sword in her hand. And she's doing that while wearing a dress. A dress.
The old, cocky season one and two Jaime would never have come back for Brienne, let alone jumped into the bear pit with her, which is exactly what he does. Together, they manage to escape, and Jaime lets Locke know that Brienne will be going with him to King's Landing.
It'll be interesting to see what happens when Jaime gets back to his family. He's no longer the Jaime they knew - I don't think this is a Jaime that Cersei, or Tywin, will be happy with. Jaime is now compassionate, and feels guilt and loyalty to someone who doesn't have the surname Lannister. This Jaime is altogether more grown up, and it's unlikely that he'll be able to slot into the roles that Tywin and Cersei are no doubt holding vacant for him in King's Landing.
Somewhere dark and dingy
Oh, Theon Greyjoy, what a mess you've got yourself in.
Freed by two women, Theon continues to show fear, convinced that they have been sent by his torturer to goad him further. Soon though, his body takes over and he finds himself caught up as the two whores strip off (women in power again).
Alas, he should have stuck with his first instinct, because Ramsay Snow heads back into the torture chamber blowing his horn (haha, the imagery really works here), and then proceeds to tell Theon he's going to cut his privates off. The fear comes off Theon in waves, so much so that I felt it through a television screen.