Editor's note: This episode contains major spoilers (duh).
The title of this episode says it all. "Walk of Punishment" is a fitting name for the pain inflicted upon some characters in this chapter of Season 3. While the first two episodes of the season were focused on helping set the stage for things to come, this episode began to pick up. There was a sense of momentum finally building — the type of momentum that we felt at the end of the last season. This week in Westeros ...
We first see Theon, once again, chained up and with a hood over his head. Given the fact that he sacked Winterfell and is generally just a petullant bully with some serious self-esteem issues, this was a pretty okay position to find him in. Then some guy comes along to ruin the moment by unchaining Theon and pushing the would-be lord of Winterfell onto a horse, telling him that his sister awaits in the east. In typical display of Theon's arrogance, he proclaims, "I'll make you a Lord of the Iron Islands for this!" Theon's savior rolls his eyes (well, probably not, but that's what any sensible person should have done) and sends Theon on his way.
A little while later, Theon is riding through some hills being chased by a bunch of guys with arrows and maces. After a good chase, one loops around and introduces Theon's face to a metal mace. The prince of the Iron Islands slumps to the ground, groaning. These men on horseback then jump off and do what so many of us wish we could — kick and stomp on him. One guy gets a little too excited, though, and gets ready to rape Theon before an arrow flies through his chest and those of everyone else. As Theon is saved again, his new friend warning him: "You're a long way from home, and winter is coming."
Up north of the Wall, winter has already come with deadly force. Jon Snow and the Wildlings have come to the place where most of the Night's Watch was massacred by the White Walkers. They find no bodies there, though; just the heads of dead horses, which have been placed in a particular circular pattern. Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall, begins to formulate a plan. "Mormont took a big gamble going north, and he lost." With the Night's Watch decimated and wandering lost in the northern wild, Mance orders an assault on the wall. He plans to capture Castle Black, promising to "light the biggest fir the north has ever seen." In the chance Jon does not help them take the castle, Mace orders his men to throw Jon off the edge of the wall. Things are not looking good for the ancient order of the Night's Watch.
The Night's Watch:
The torn and tattered remains of these defenders of Westeros have once again arrived at the keep of creepy-guy-who-marries-his-daughters. Creeper initially does not plan to let Mormont and his men in, but soon enough caves and allows them to come sit by his fire. The vile wildling says that the Night's Watch will lose, and he will live, for he pays homage to the "real" gods. As we have seen previously and is hinted at again in this episode, he appeases the "real" gods by sacrificing the sons his daughters give birth to. He sacrifices them to the White Walkers — that group of zombies who are, lest we forget, marching south with winter to destroy Westeros.
In the most delightful scene of this episode, we see Lord Varys (who is finally appearing in the season) and Lord Baelish arrive in some chambers where Tywin Lannister stands at the end of a large table. The old Maester wanders in as well, as does Tyrion. They all look at each other awkwardly, before Varys and Littlefinger both make a dash for the chairs — Littlefinger winning the race to sit closest to Lord Tywin. Queen Cersei then arrives, notices the chairs closest to her father or taken, and picks up a chair to take and set right beside Tywin. After observing all of this, Tyrion loudly drags a chair to the exact opposite side of Tywin, and plops down contently.
At the Small Council meeting, Tywin names Tyrion the Master of Coin — in charge of the king's treasury. The current master, Lord Baelish, is heading to the Vale in order to marry Lady Arryn. This is a stunning development as Lady Arryn is Catelyn Stark's sister (thus Robb Stark's aunt), and previously blamed the Lannisters for murdering her husband, the former Hand of the King. Tyrion seems rather shocked by his new appointment, aptly stating that "a lifetime of unlimited wealth has taught me a lot about spending money but nothing about managing it!"
Upon reviewing the kingdom's books, he realizes that the Seven Kingdoms have been funded based on loans that Lord Baelish had been ordering. While most of the loans are to Tywin Lannister, tens of millions are owed to the Iron Bank of Braavos. If the Crown cannot pay back Braavos, the bankers could turn to funding Joffrey's enemies.
King Robb is at his grandfather's funeral, and pushes a boat carrying the Lord Tully's body into the river. An awkward moment passes when Robb's uncle Edmure (Tobias Menzies from the Starz series Rome, meaning that now both Caesar and Brutus are appearing in Game of Thrones) tries to shooting a flaming arrow at the boat in order to light the fire. After three failed attempts, Catelyn's uncle steps forth and finishes it in one shot.
Robb is upset with his uncle, who apparently got a bit too excited and fought some battles that were not supposed to be fought. "It's not about glory," snaps Robb. Too many men have been lost, and the Lannister teenagers (Tywin's father's brother's great-grandsons) are useless bargaining chips. He says that the northmen need more patience.
"A person could almost be forgiven for forgetting we're at war," says Catelyn as she looks out from a castle window over a beautiful river. She is continuing to beat herself up and fret about her children, wondering how long that Bran and Rickon sat at their own window in Winterfell waiting for her to come back home. She fears them dead. Her uncle, the Blackfish, reminds her that she must remain strong in order to help Robb remain strong. Powerful acting as a Catelyn overcome with grief.
Arya remains a prisoner guest of the Brotherhood Without Banners, which Thoros says is for her protection. "These woods aren't safe for Ned Stark's daughters." The Hound is still a prisoner as well, getting thrown into the back of a wagon as the Brotherhood prepares to move on. Who is not moving on with them? Hot Pie, the plump kid that came with Arya and Gendry from Harrenhal. He is staying at the inn to be a baker, and kindly bakes a pastry in the shape of a wolf for Arya to bid them adieu. He's ended up being the smart one of the lot, getting to stay at an inn baking goodies while the other head north to certain doom. With Hot Pie out of the mix, maybe there's some more time now for Gendry and Arya's relationship-building?
Brienne and Jaime:
Speaking of budding relationships, the one between these two is really growing. They seem to generally respect each other now, and have some bonding time as they remain prisoners of Lord Bolton. Jaime tells Brienne not to fight their captors, reminding her that Bolton's orders are to find him — they could kill her. Bolton's men, led by the unsavory Locke, eventually do come to rape and kill Brienne; she tries to struggle, but they overpower the lady knight. Jaime thinks quickly, telling Locke that Brienne's father is fantastically wealthy and would pay her weight in sapphires if she was returned alive and untouched. Locke acqueisces, telling his men to leave Brienne be.
Thinking he's building a rapport, Jaime then tries to buy Bolton's loyalty with a magnificent bribe. Robb Stark's bannerman first appears to be going for it ... but it was a ploy to raise Jaime's hopes. "You're nothing without your daddy, and our daddy ain't here. Never forget that," he spits. Then, in a shocking turn of events, Jaime is punished for his attempted bribery — Bolton chops off the Kingslayer's right hand. The greatest swordsman in Westeros, Jaime son of Tywin, has lost his hand. Best cut-to-black ever with him screaming.
Across the sea, the Mother of Dragons continues to plot her return to Westeros. She is still having difficulty stomaching the idea of buying a slave army to retake the Iron Throne, and Ser Barristan agrees with her, reminding her that her brother Rhaegar did not use slaves to fight. "Rhaegar fought valiantly, and Rhaegar died," says Ser Jorah in response. He insists that innocents will suffer consequences in war, but they are a necessary sacrifice for victory.
In a show of how badass a character Daenerys is, she sets forth to barter with the slave master for his slaves — all 8,000 of them, plus all still in training. The rude slave driver says she cannot afford it, and Daenerys shockingly tells him that she will give him one of her dragons. Both Jorah and Barristan try to intercede, but quickly back down with a glare from Daenerys. The Targaryen then buys the slave driver's translator as well, and walks and talks with her. Daenerys asks her new servant how she feels about the fact that she may die in the upcoming war. "Valar morghulis," says the translator.
"Yes, all men must die," responds Daenerys. "But we are not men." Dragon-powered girl power!
Things are finally starting to pick up! The Wildling Army is approaching the Wall, Tyrion discovers a Braavosi threat, Robb is itching to regain the upperhand against the Lannisters, and Daenerys has bought her army. The episode was particularly great with its brief instances of small development — in particular, Arya thanking Hot Pie for her gift, Varys smirking at Tyrion during the Small Council meeting, and Tyrion and Bronn pushing Pod for more information on his time at the brothel. It helps make the characters feel even more real. Stay tuned for next week!