For the sake of organization, I'll address last night's episode of "Game of Thrones" in a captioned-by-character format. Westeros is a big place, and though the show juggles its various inhabitants with subtle ease, it's a nightmare keeping all of these names and points of interest concise and understandable. Let's see if this helps.
Arya: Last week's most noticeably absent main player was Arya, who was last seen busting out of Harenhaal with Gendry and Hot Pie. Her arc picks up pretty much exactly where it left off - in the woods, with the boys, bickering. They're interrupted by a troupe of bandit ex-soldiers called the Brotherhood Without Banners, led by a man called Thoros of Myr and his jaunty ponytail. Thoros is mighty interested in these three young strangers, so he takes them to a pub with his men so he can hear about how they escaped Harrenhaal and where they're headed.
Arya isn't one to be intimidated by someone like Thoros, so she plays along, even pulls her sword on him at the pub to prove her might. Lucky for Arya and friends, the Brotherhood isn't as vile or violent as the other men of Westeros, who brandish their steel with intent to kill. The Brotherhood is comprised of exiled and willingly departed knights, and they're a rowdy bunch of rule-less beer guzzlers who aren't privy to the ways of this new world. Arya seems to fit right in, but before things can get too cozy, the Brotherhood brings a captive into the pub, one it seems they've been looking for: the Hound. Arya tries to sneak past him, but the Hound spots her and outs her as a Stark. Uh, crap?
Bran: The other notable Stark of this episode is Bran, who's been having some trippier than usual dreams lately. In the one that opens this episode, he's re-living that scene from the pilot when Jon and Robb helped him with archery. Only this time they're in an abandoned wood, and Ned Stark's words ("And which one of you was a marksman at ten?") echo from nowhere. Bran shoots and misses the three-eyed crow, and from the depths of the misty wood steps a boy - a boy we've never seen before, but who knows Bran.
It's not real, of course. In reality, Bran is still scoping hills in a Hodor-pushed wagon, while Osha tends to Rickon. But it's no surprise when the boy from Bran's dream eventually shows up. His name is Jojen Reed, and he's joined by his sister, Meera, who protects him. Jojen also has dreams that tell the future, and he's seen Bran in them, which is why he came looking. He tells Bran that he's a warg - that's why he can see through his direwolf's eyes and dwell in his skin. Jojen and Meera join Bran's crew on their trek, to no doubt hash out the specifics of warging and why it's important to who Bran is.
Catelyn: Much like her literary counterpart, Catelyn Stark is a devoted mother, sometimes to a fault. Even though all signs point to Bran and Rickon being dead, she's still holding out. She follows Robb's commands because she's bound to them by familial duty. She makes rash decisions - like setting Jaime Lannister free - if it means reuniting her family.
But poor Catelyn can't catch a break. She gets the news early in this episode that her father, Lord Tully, died at Riverrun. Robb instructs his men to head for the castle so they can attend his grandfather's funeral. On the way, his wife, Talisa, confronts Cat, who's still a prisoner in her son's camp. Cat's decidedly cold to Talisa, but shares with her a story about one of her sons when he was much younger. He was sick and she feared for his life. When Talisa asks which son, Catelyn answers, "Jon Snow."
Unlike her literary counterpart, Show Catelyn regrets how cold she was to her husband's bastard son, and blames much of her current turmoil on that hostility. It's a touching admission, but a jarring scene, one that feels a little tagged on for the sake of needless sentimentality and to remove some of Cat's high-born edge. What makes Cat an intriguing character is her staunch sense of family honor, and her disdain for Jon was always a key part of her make up. The scene works because Michelle Fairley sells it well, but it's a little worrisome to see just drastic motivation departures.
Jaime and Brienne: Easily the highlight of this episode was Jaime and Brienne's odd couple journey towards King's Landing. Their banter is so refreshing in such a glum show that it almost excuses how rushed parts of it feel. Jaime's tattered exterior is a good counterpoint to Brienne's shiny armor, and when they finally have a moment of swordplay, it's a delight to see how imposing she is to this shell of a once fearsome and mighty knight. Of course, they're captured immediately after said brawl, by a group of men who seem significantly less jolly than the Brotherhood Without Banners. They know who Jaime is and they know he's valuable, and now they've got him and his captor in a corner. I can't wait to see the further exploits of Jaime and Brienne, especially now that they're on the same team (sort of). If it gives us more lines like Jaime's surprisingly touching, "We don't get to choose who we love," then it's roses from here on out.
Margaery: The queen-to-be once again proves her cunning wit, this time adapting to Joffrey's brutal ways in an effort to cozy up to him and keep herself (and her family) firmly in place. This means enduring a crossbow aiming lesson from her betrothed, who seems a little too eager to show his lady how it works.
More fascinating yet is Margaery's grandmother, Lady Olenna, Kings Landing's resident Maggie Smith stock character. She's a blunt-talking grandma type who cuts straight to the chase during tea time with Sansa and her granddaughter - she wants to know what's up with Joffrey. How vile is he? Is Margaery safe? What should they expect? Sansa is reticent to admit anything at first, but she gives in eventually. He's everything you expect and worse, is how she basically explains it. Buckle up, Tyrells. It's gonna be a bumpy ride.
Theon: One person in an even worse pickle than Sansa Stark is Theon Greyjoy. He doesn't get much screentime this episode, but what we see of him is puzzling as hell. He's strapped to a big contraption and getting tortured by a group of real slimy looking dudes. When they shuffle off for the night, Theon's left alone with some moppy-haired guy sweeping the floors. He comes up to Theon and tells him that he's incognito - he's actually one of Theon's sister Yara's men, and he's come to set Theon free… in good time. It all feels rather off, in a damp, foreboding way. Who are these people and where have they taken him? Is this double agent sevent to be trusted? (Doubtful.) How does this fit into the rest of the season? It's a big departure from the book, chronology-wise at least, so it could really be going anywhere.
Everyone Else: Sam doesn't want to keep walking because he's too damn cold, Jon loses his warg virginity, Tyrion tries and fails to refuse sexual favors from Shae, Robb and his wife make out by a fire.