This was probably the best (predominantly) set-up episode the series has had so far. Sure, some things happened, but mostly it was in service of preparing for the final two installments of the season.
Theon’s just digging himself in deeper, further sealing his fate with every transgression against the Starks. It’s weird to think about, but his storyline has been the most straightforward of the season. He’s the easiest character to follow week to week, with the most tangible arc. He just happens to be awful.
Beyond the Wall I like the changes made to Jon’s narrative. Not much really moved forward, but the visual design for the “Lord o’ Bones” (Rattleshirt in the books) was great.
We finally got Lady Telisa’s back story, which put to rest the suspicions I had since she was introduced. Her character really is a completely original invention of the show, whereas up until this point I thought it possible she was another character in disguise. But no, unless there’s some massive deception going on she is who she says, here to give us more to care about as we follow Robb more closely than the books ever did. It’s not the most revolutionary subplot, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with it.
Jaime and Brienne also get started on their little quest sooner than expected, which just further goes to show what the creators have been saying: The goal of the first season was to do a straight adaptation of the first book, but second season onward they’re adapting the saga as a whole, whatever way works best. More power to them.
It’s a bit disappointing that the Tywin/Arya relationship ended so abruptly, but realistically he’s got a war to fight and she’s a prisoner, so I guess a heartfelt parting wasn’t in the cards. And while we’re nearly done with Harrenhal, Jaqen is phenomenal. Much funnier than I expected him to be.
Then we’ve got King’s Landing, which had nothing but spectacular character interactions the whole episode. The Tyrion/Bronn/Varys scene was amazing, and exemplified that if there’s one thing the show does better than the books it’s humor. The little gesture Tyrion made to Bronn after Varys gave the correct pronunciation of that Maester’s name? Brilliant.
This week was about putting everything exactly where it needed to be for the most ambitious single episode yet, which will feature the Battle of the Blackwater in most of its glory. Now all that’s left to be seen is whether they can pull it off. It’s time to win or die.