Last night's "Game of Thrones" was another seminar in set-up, which is fine, since this book-reader knows what’s in store for these final two episodes (and it’s pure craziness, rest assured). Still, “Storm of Swords,” the book on which this season is based, is dizzyingly epic, and it’s a little disappointing what they’re choosing to save for next season – some of that could easily be applied to episodes like this to speed things along. Alas, we’re left with at least one extremely badass moment (from Sam, of all people!) and a lo of talking heads before that.

Strictly speaking, Tyrion and Sansa’s wedding is a big deal. Sansa is married! That should be reason for all sorts of conversation! But alas, the lack of enthusiasm in the nuptials makes for a pretty boring ceremony. Sure, the two share a nice conversation beforehand, where Tyrion tells his betrothed that this wasn’t his doing and swears never to harm her. Sure, Joffrey walks Sansa down the aisle. (“Your father isn’t here.”) Sure, Cersei and Margaery have a seething-hot bonding (?) session (wherein Cersei threatens to have Margaery strangled to death if she ever calls her “sister” again). But nothing ignites and the whole event plays out like a slog between the snooze button and alarm. When the alarm finally comes – with Tyrion drunkenly telling Sansa they must consumate the marriage – it’s just snoozed again; Sansa undresses and Tyrion realizes no, he can’t bed this 14-year-old child, and he won’t until she wants to do it. “What if I never want to do it?” His face crumples; he’s genuinely hurt by her lack of adoration for him. Not that it’s surprising or even unexpected. It’s just... the sad story of Tyrion.

Actually, I take back some of what I said about the wedding. There is one great moment, when Tyrion explodes at Joffrey, who insists on a bedding ceremony (an old tradition where the men at the party undress the bride and the women undress the groom, then escort them to their bed chambers).  Tywin attempts to smooth things over by reminding everyone that his son is drunk. It works, and the moment fizzles, but it’s always good fun to see a Tyrion/Joffrey smack-down, even without a literal smack.  And it’s always important to be reminded that all it takes to really startle and silence Joffrey is a good old-fashioned jab to his masculinity (Tyrion threatens to slice and dice him “down there”).  

Aside from the wedding, which takes up the bulk of the episode, we also see Arya traveling with the Hound, and find out that he’s taking her to the Twins so that he can hand her over to her mother and brother for a reward. It’s the first real instance of a possible Stark family reunion, so it’s exciting to hear. “Maybe we’ll even get you there in time for your uncle’s wedding,” says the Hound.  

The Stannis-Davos-Melisandre-Gendry thing is getting weirder by the second. We see that Davos is finally Hooked on Phonics. Stannis releases him from his cell if he promises to never threaten to hurt Melisandre again. They wax philosophical for a moment, Stannis on his same old/same old bent about “not asking for this.” A few doors down, Melisandre seduces Gendry (WHICH IS ODD TO SEE, LET ME TELL YOU) and then ties him to the bed and puts leeches all over him. His blood is the king’s blood, remember? When it’s good and procured, Stannis and Davos barge in, and they use the blood for some weird fire ritual. Stannis says the name of the three other would-be kings of the realm: Robb Stark, Balon Greyjoy, Joffrey Baratheon. What does this mean? Well, considering the last time we saw Melisandre use R’hollor magic she birthed a shadow baby that stabbed Renly to death... probably nothing good.

Over in Yunkai, Dany has a new boy toy to deal with. She comes to the city wanting (what else) their people as followers. But first she must deal with the titular Second Sons, a ground of adversaries from the city whose job is to duke it out with her before she can enter. She gives them one day to decide whether or not to join her. Late that night, as Dany bathes, one of the Sons, Daario, barges in. He has the heads of his fellow Sons in a bag – he killed them for Dany, and swears fealty to her. There’s some obvious sexual tension there, which should prove... interesting. Or boring. Probably the latter. At the very least, Jorah’s gonna be pissed.

By far the most exciting moment of the episode is the aforementioned Sam scene. He and Gilly are still trudging through the north with her baby. They find an abandoned little hut and decide to make camp there for the night. As they try to light a fire, they discuss naming Gilly’s baby and the traditional naming conventions of Westeros (Gilly is unfamiliar with the concept of last names). Outside, a flock of crows is gathering and making a big fuss. When Sam goes out to look, he sees the worst thing he could possibly see: a White Walker. Coming right for them. Gilly moans that he’s coming for her baby. But instead of running away, Sam attacks. He has that fancy dagger he found in the snow back in season one. (Remember that old thing?) And as he charges forth, he stabs the White Walker and kills him dead. Then he and Gilly run for it, with the crows in their wake.

It’s a great way to end the episode, even if it feels a little abrupt, but it’s good set-up for some things to come with both Sam and other characters.

The show takes a break next week for Memorial Day, but will be back the following week with what I can only assume will be the most talked about episode of the show maybe ever. Certainly since Ned’s death in season one. Get ready.