Is it possible to ever completely know someone – to truly understand what drives them, inspires them, and makes them do what they do? According to Game of Thrones, every man, woman or child is capable of surprising even those closest to them, and that moment – where the unexpected reveals itself – can often times be that which defines a person forever. Sometimes, the reveal is gradual, something which slowly exposes itself over time; while in others it is far more explosive, and completely undermines long held beliefs and alliances.
So, when ‘The Old Gods and the New’ opens with Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) having successfully taken Winterfell, the betrayal itself is as confounding as the fact that he actually seems to have pulled it off. Given Theon’s history with the Starks, this sudden turnabout is so shocking that Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) responds almost as though Theon is playing some sort of practical joke on him. Once it’s established that Theon is serious, however, their relationship works to prevent largescale bloodshed, as Theon gently suggests what a good lord would do – yield.
Even when Bran announces the siege to be true, Theon still has trouble convincing those in Winterfell that his threat is more than the idle musings of some petulant young man. Unfortunately for Ser Rodrik Cassel (Ron Donachie), an ill-advised loogie into the face of his captor results in Theon making an example to the people of Winterfell and his own men, by amateurishly executing Ser Rodrik. Perhaps Theon could benefit from the tutelage of Manu Bennett’s Crixus in the ways of cleaving a man’s head off in a single blow.
When word of Theon’s betrayal eventually reaches Robb (Richard Madden), his march back to Winterfell is halted only by the knowledge that all advances made against the Lannisters will be lost in his absence. Reluctantly, Robb agrees to delegate the recapture of his castle to Lord Roose Bolton, with the caveat that he bring Theon back alive. Given that Osha (Natalie Tena) successfully played Theon and secured an escape for herself, Bran, Hodor (Kristian Naim) and Rickon (Art Parkinson), whoever arrives in aid may find Winterfell devoid of Starks.
Conversely, the events in King’s Landing work to be a kind of twist on Theon’s taking of Winterfell. Whereas in the North, someone thought to be a trusted ally reveals himself to be just the opposite, Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) learns that the esteem he grants himself and his position is certainly not shared by those he rules. Apparently, the length of a king’s reign can sometimes be directly related to how well guarded he is while in the company of his own people.
After seeing his sister Myrcella (Aimee Richardson) sent off to the Martells of Dorne, Joffrey’s party is beset by an increasingly agitated mob that begins by pelting him with insults concerning his birth, and gradually move to tossing excrement in his face. After Joffrey demands the people be killed, a full-on riot breaks out and the citizens of King’s Landing transform into a murderous horde, taken to literally tearing those traveling with Joffrey limb from limb. The ensuing chaos sees Sansa (Sophie Turner) briefly lost in the mob and nearly raped and murdered, until Sandor “The Hound” (Rory McCann) steps in and deals with the unruly lot. Still, as satisfying as it is to see people of that ilk meet a violent end, it pales in comparison to Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) laying a smack across Joffrey’s face, illustrating just how poorly a title – even one as powerful as king – can shield a person from those determined to do him harm.
As far as people determined to do harm, it’s hard to tell which is which in the North. Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) learns from Qhorin Halfhand (Simon Armstrong) that when it comes to the Wildlings, it’s either kill or be killed. So after coming upon a small group of them, Halfhand and the other Rangers do away with all but one woman named Ygritte (Rose Leslie). After finding himself unable to execute her, Snow loses track of his group chasing after the escaped Wildling girl. Though he catches her, Snow finds himself facing a long night without shelter in the company of a young woman who would rather see him dead.
Somehow, Jon’s predicament still seems favorable to the situation of Arya (Maisie Williams) or even that of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke). After doing well for herself and impressing Twyin Lannister (Charles Dance) with her intelligence and wit, Arya nearly has her cover blown by the arrival of Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen), who either doesn’t recognize her or keeps the knowledge to himself to leverage something in the future. Still, Arya’s smarts get her into trouble with a semi-illiterate Lannister bannerman, and she has to use her second kill-wish with Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), in order to maintain her cover at Harrenhal.
Meanwhile, frustration abounds as Daenerys fails to find anyone amongst the traders in Qarth willing to support her quest to claim (not reclaim) the iron throne. All the while Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anonzie) constantly reminds her that she would already be sailing the Narrow Sea had she merely accepted his marriage proposal. As irritating as that must be, things prove to be far worse for the Mother of Dragons. Upon returning to her temporary abode, Daenerys finds most of her Dothraki to have been killed and her dragons snatched by persons unknown.
Game of Thrones continues next Sunday with ‘A Man Without Honor’ @9pm on HBO. Take a look at the preview for next week’s episode below: