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HBO has been drawing the story out this season as the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros fall deeper and deeper into civil war. Blood is boiling in the veins of the Northerners, the Southerners, the queen living in exile, the Wildings and giants, and the men of the Night’s Watch. Meanwhile, the blood runs cold in the veins of the White Walkers. Stakes are being raised, alliances made, and schemes plotted. The plot has not stuck strictly to the book, but they are adding new dimensions and possibilities in the show that we didn’t get from the massive volumes that compose A Song of Ice and Fire. How did this episode of HBO’s blockbuster series fair? SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT!

As Jamie, having lost his sword hand, is traveling with a band of Northmen he is given the treatment that many of us would say he deserves; being beaten, given horse urine to drink, and what not. The thing is, he lost his hand and is being treated this way for trying to keep Brienne from being raped. Given this fact, we can’t help but feel sorry for the poor guy with his face caked in muck and covered in vomit.

The men of the Night’s Watch (those that managed to survive the White Walkers’ attack) are holed up at Craster’s Keep. Craster is a hot tempered old man that enjoys watching the Crow’s ire as he feeds them scrapes while he feasts. This has not made several members of the Night’s Watch very happy and they have plotted to take what they want. In a brutal fight, Craster is killed and when when the Lord Commander draws steel against the deserters he is killed as well. Poor loveable Sam is left trying to save one of Craster’s wives from the slaughter with her newborn.

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In King’s Landing, Joffery is giving his soon-to-be queen a tour of the septs more gruesome locals. Nothing like some dungeons and tombs to set the mood. Meanwhile, Tyrion is conspiring with Verys to get revenge against his sister for trying to have him killed, his sister is conspiring to get the seat of Casterly Rock from her father, and the Tyrells are conspiring to get little Sansa Stark out of the city.

The other young Stark lady, Arya, is still a captive of The Brotherhood without Banners. And so is The Hound, former bodyguard to Joffery and murderer of her friend. On the Brotherhood’s agenda today is placing The Hound on trial for murder and Arya is more than willing to provide information to prove his guilt. It is decided that The Hound will face trial by combat.

In the forests of the north, Bran Stark is heading toward the wall in hopes of finding his bastard half-brother, Jon Snow. Joining him is a band of companions including one Jojen Reed. This young man is convinced that Bran has the ability to enter his direwolf and even have prophetic dreams. As they are engaged in teaching Bran how to use these gifts, Bran has a vision of his mother whom pushes him from a tree.

And Daenerys, across the Narrow Sea, now has her army of 8,000 Unsullied warriors. The price she pays is great – the largest of her three dragons. She trades the dragon’s tether for the whip that keeps the soldiers in line. The Unsullied, seeing the whip in her hands become her devoted garrison. And what is her first order of business? The Mother of Dragons turns them loose on the slavers and soldiers who have mistreated her and so many others. In the end, we finally get to see Dany take on the role a warrior queen.

This show never fails to impress. However, there are some things left out from the book that we would love to have seen. In the original plot to get Sansa out of King’s Landing, young Lady Stark believed it was a drunkard knight who was helping her escape which included several clandestine meetings in the Gods Wood. Also in the book, Sansa is actually married off before she can make her escape. To whom? Why Tyrion Lannister, the Imp. We can do without the drunkard knight of the story, but we feel the marriage to Tyrion was a vital part of the story. Thus, the episode slips somewhat in our rating. Great acting, as always, and a more than talented cast make this show incredibly watchable still. 

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