Well. That was a big one, no? DANERYS TARGARYEN, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. Everything was great, but those last ten minutes wiped the floor with whatever came before, both in the episode and the season (and maybe the series). After an entire second season of middling Dany storylines - an obvious ploy to kick her tertiary book plot up a notch - this felt like sweet, sweet vindication.
But first things first: what in the sweet hell is Varys doing with that dude in a trunk? That was some straight up Harry Potter business, like MadEye Moody in his office chest. After a rousing story about his castration (or eunuch-ifcation, if you will), Varys revealed to Tyrion that he found the sorcerer who spited him long ago and he's keeping him for later. This sheds a lot of light on Varys's distrust of all things magical, and this episode reminds us that Varys always has the upper hand, even though he slinks around King's Landing inconspicuously. His chat with Lady Olenna is further proof; he's willing to rat out compadre Littlefinger if it means maintaining his place in the know.
If Dany is the episode's main player (despite only showing up near the end) and Varys is the MVP, then Sansa is the underdog. At this point in the game, she's the most solitary of the lot. Sure, she's surrounded by a kingdom of people, and sure she has Shae on her side, but that's too little company for a girl whose truest wish is to be popular and adored. Thank goodness for Margaery, who steps it up in the friend department. She takes quickly to Sansa (which seems odd given her nasty glare at her last season - is this all a rouse?), and asks her to be her sister, quite literally - she wants her to marry her brother, Loras. Sansa is giddy at the thought; all she's ever wanted is a handsome husband with a highborn title. This seems too good to be true. Which means it probably is...
Elsewhere in King's Landing, Cersei is going all Tyrion on us, trying to wiggle her way into her father's good graces. The show's come a long way in making the queen regent tolerable, almost sympathetic, but Tywin reminds us why it is we loathed her so in the first place: she gave birth to Joffrey. And raised him to be the horrifying monster that he now is. Not that Tywin is entirely fair about it. He tells Cersei it's not her gender that makes her weak, but her stupidity. Ouch. For a woman who values her cunningness above all, that's got to sting.
We don't get much time with Jaime, which makes sense after last week featured him so prominently. Or the lack of him, I guess. As desolate as the guy is without his sword hand, it feels like character rebirth. Even though he dreams of death in the episode's opening chapters, it's obvious that his missing hand will now be the sigil of a newly selfless man. And that's exciting, from an audience viewpoint.
The episode's weakest plot is Theon, which is a pity since his story seemed so exciting early on. Theon isn't in "Storm of Swords," the book on which this season is based, so his appearance in episode two was tantalizing even for devout book fans. But his arc has slowly turned into a slog. No one ever thought Iwan Rheon's character (who remains unnamed, though book fans can probably wager a guess) was up to anything good, and now it turns out he's been running Theon in circles, perhaps wearing him down even more. It was nice to hear Theon call Ned his father, and to admit what a turd he's been lately, but do we really care at this point? What's done is done, Theon. I'm not exactly heartbroken about his re-capture. I just hope his crazy-eyed captor has some more tantalizing hoodwinks up his sleeve from here on out.
We also said goodbye to a good friend this week: RIP Old Bear Mormont, you chummy old dude, you. I was genuinely devastated that we had to say goodbye so soon, but I never thought you were long for this world. Coming back to Craster's Keep was a necessary decision, but a stupid one all the same, and it was only a matter of time before s*** hit the wall. It was surprising that it was his own sworn men who killed him, though. Fed up with Craster for hoarding his food while they shiver and starve, a band of black brothers decide to retaliate. They kill their host, but kill Mormont in the scuffle. Sam manages to escape, and takes Gilly with him, but Mormont bleeds out and dies. But not before asking Sam to have his son, Jorah, surrender and take the black. Curious final wish, Old Bear.
Too bad, too, because Jorah's busy right now. Busy defending his queen, Khaleesi, Daenerys Stormborn, the new leader of the Unsullied and genuine Badass Extraordinaire. After she shocked us last week by agreeing to sell a dragon for an army, she looked good to her word as she marched her men forward and handed Drogon to the slave owner. He continued to mock her in Valyrian, blaming her for not taming her beast, when Dany unleashed a whopper: she understands everything he's saying, was raised speaking Valyrian, and also, screw you, dude. She commands Drogon (in Valyrian!!!) to basically burn everything to shreds, which he does, starting with the slaver and ending with the pyres around the city. Dany commands the Unsullied to kill every man with a whip, which they do. When all is burned and destroyed, she asks (not commands) the Unsullied to join her as free men. They don't speak, never have, but they respond by stomping their spears on the ground, a battle cry for their new queen. It's pretty fricken epic. Dany looks out at them with a subtle smile. They march forward, together.
(We also get a great scene with Arya, the Hound and Beric Dondarrion, but I'll wait until next week to elaborate on that.)