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There’s a lot of talk about the need for protection in this episode, mostly from men who are sure they know what’s best for the women in their lives. Yet, rarely does the end result leave the female characters in a better place than they were before.
It begins with Sansa Stark running away from Kings Landing with Dontos, boarding a ship waiting just for her. Who was behind her rescue? None other than Lord Baelish, who hints that he may have done a little more than just provide her with an exit. It’s hardly a rescue to feel optimistic about as his promise that she is now safe is laced with innuendo. When you remember his long standing crush on Sansa’s mother, one could guess her latest journey will end up just as traumatizing as her stint at Kings Landing.
Harboring creepy feelings for a teenage girl isn’t Baelish's only offense; he also shoots Dontos in cold blood after he delivers Sansa. Still, it seems Joffrey’s murder goes far beyond just him. Tyrion while locked and chained in a cell, notes that just about everyone at the wedding had reason for wanting him dead. One person who definitely isn’t missing Joffrey is Olenna Tyrell. She matter of factly comforts Margery, assuring her that the king’s death was for the best. Whether she too played a role in the murder plot remains to be seen.
Tywin, knowing how important it is to protect his legacy, interrupts an orgy to recruit Prince Oberyn as a judge at Tyrion’s upcoming trial. Oberyn resists making a deal with his enemy at first, but when promised vengeance for his sister's murder, he concedes.
As for Cersei, she’s out for blood. Certain that Tyrion was behind Joffrey's murder, Cersei insists that Jaime kill Tyrion. She even reminds Jaime of a long-ago threat her younger brother made to her as evidence. The two stand over the body of Joffrey, alone in the crypt and begin to kiss. Their relationship is far from rekindled, though and after a moment she pushes him away. Jaime, who has lost another king under his watch and is now faced with Cersei, reaches a breaking point. In one of the show's most disturbing scenes ever, Jaime forces himself on his sister, right next to the body of their dead son.
News of the dead king travels to Stannis Baratheon, who’s lacking an army after his defeat at the battle of Blackwater. Perhaps even more damning than being without men to fight for him are Stannis' dire financial straits. Ser Davvos has an idea by episode's end that might solve their problems.
In another case of a man believing he knows what's best for a woman, Sam sends Gilly away from Castle Black. Her new home looks even more dire than the last one, but this move may have come at the right time. The Wildings are pillaging nearby villages, murdering and then eating their inhabitants. The Night’s Watch debate bringing the fight to them when Jon Snow confesses he may have fibbed a bit about just how big an army they have. Knowing the mutineers beyond the wall are aware of just how small they are in number, Jon advises they take them out before the Wildings can be made aware of Castle Black’s vulnerability.
Any signs of congeniality between The Hound and Arya dissipate quickly this week. They stumble upon a man and his young daughter who offers to pay The Hound for some work on his farm after Arya wisely concocts an elaborate backstory for the duo. The next morning Arya is furious to discover The Hound has robbed the family and plans on taking off. He insists the man was weak and unable to protect himself and that there was no way he and his daughter would survive winter. He argues, its not really stealing if its from a dead man. Arya is disgusted, but having no other choice, follows him after they leave.
One woman who doesn’t have a man forcing her to do something “for her own good”? Daenerys Stormborn. She arrives at the slave city of Meereen with her army and is met with Meereen’s strongest fighter, who insists on challenging her best man. She sends Daario to fight for her, who stabs a horse in the eye and slays the champion while barely breaking a sweat. Dany delivers a moving speech to the slaves beyond the city gates, offering them a freedom they can hardly comprehend. The city seems shaken by her obvious power and they haven’t even seen her dragons!
After an episode full of women trapped by circumstances beyond their control, Dany’s promise of freedom is a refreshing change of pace.