This week's episode closed the second act and prepared us for the third, and in doing so made some fairly significant departures from the book. First, the stuff that stayed largely consistent with the books:
*SamwellTarly and Gilly continued their run back to the Wall after the implosion of the Night's Watch at Craster's Keep. This scene existed for only one reason, to remind us that Sam found dragon glass (or obsidian; can't remember if the show has explained that) in that hole at the Fist of the First Men. That is the figurative gun in the first arc that will go off in the third. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Wall, Jon Snow, Ygritte, and a pack of Wildlings scaled the massive ice structure and ultimately made it to the top, but not before losing a good chunk of men to a harrowing ice break. The effects in that section were again surprisingly strong for a TV show.
*In Riverrun, the waning King Robb met with two emissaries from Lord Frey, the man whose bridge he needs to attack Casterly Rock - and the man Robb seriously pissed off by jilting his daughter. The two Frey messengers said that their alliance can be preserved on two conditions: that after the fighting is finished Lord Frey gets Harrenhal, the village bicycle of Westerosi castles, and that Robb's uncle Edmure must marry a daughter of Frey's choosing. Edmure continued to be a whiny ass.
*Speaking of Harrenhal, Lord Bolton found Brienne a dilapidated Mrs. Peacock-esque gown and had a lovely dinner with the Beauty and Jaime Lannister. There Bolton informed Jamie that, despite Bolton being one of Robb's bannermen, he was sending Jaime along to King's Landing because it's the smart political (and financial) move. But not Brienne - she'll be staying there and tried for treason. But can she keep the fur-trimmed gown?!
*In King's Landing, the marital chess game going on between the Tyrells and the Lannisters heated up, and most of the scenes regarding it were exclusive to the show - they never happened in the books. First, the Queen of Thorns and Tywin shared a searing scene in which each one used the indiscretions of the other's children as leverage for their goals, with Tywin seeming to come out on top. Second, Sansa and Loras had a poolside chat that featured countless gay-stereotype jokes that would have been offensive if they hadn't been so funny (although Olenna's "a sword swallower through and through" takes the cake). Third, Cersei and Tyrion had a great scene in which Tyrion discovered that it wasn't his sister who tried to have him killed on the Blackwater, it was Joffrey. And fourth, Tyrion delivered the news of their betrothal to Sansa with Shae in the room. We didn't get to actually see the discussion, just the aftermath. Two things bothered me about that brief scene at the end: Shae didn't seem to particularly care about the fact that her man was marrying the woman she serves (I was thinking jealousy would be the motivating factor for actions Shae is supposed to take later on), and I was unclear whether Sansa was watching Littlefinger's boat sail away to the Vale, or if she was looking at it as her last chance of escaping King's Landing. It looked like it was leaving to me, and that makes absolutely no sense.
Just about every other plot line featured last night featured some fairly major departures from the source material. Let's break them down:
*Bran, Hodor, Osha, Rickon, and Meera and Jojen Reed continue to journey toward the Wall so that Bran can meet the Three-Eyed Crow. The brief scene primarily served to remind viewers that the plotline still exists, and also to better establish Jojen's seizure-inducing "green visions" (he sees Jon Snow on the wrong side of the Wall). The serious change in this story arc is that Osha and Rickon are still there. At the end of Book 2 the two of them split off and head to a deserted island so that Rickon can be kept safe. I'm honestly not sure why they're keeping them all together here. It doesn't make any sense for Osha's character to head back toward the Wall, when her entire reason for entering the story was to flee the White Walkers. And taking a 3-year-old on an extremely dangerous trip like this can't be anyone's concept of a good idea. I'm wondering if she'll bail at the end of the season, because right now my gut tells me the show is simply fulfilling the contract of a somewhat prominent actor (Natalia Tena was Tonks in the "Harry Potter" flicks).
*The TheonGreyjoy Torture Hour continued, with Theon's one-time liberator, now full-time tormentor, revealing his true psychotic colors. What alarmed me about this scene - aside from the fairly graphic finger skinning - was that the show seemed to be suggesting that this character is a Karstark, and that he is torturing Theon for what he did to Winterfell. I will be so disappointed if that's the case. But I really don't think it is - the torturer ended the scene by informing Theon that he is, first and foremost, a liar. And then he cut off Theon's finger after Theon begged him to, due to the pain from the flaying. He's got to be the Bastard of Bolton, and the show is mind fucking us just as he is mind fucking Theon. And I love it. A warning to those who found that scene uncomfortable: if this follows the books, the finger will be the least of Theon's worries. So you might want to use those scenes as sanity-preserving potty breaks.
*But the plotline that totally blew my mind last night was the Arya/Brotherhood/Melisandre segment. Literally nothing that happened in those scenes EVER happens in the book. Melisandre never comes to the River Lands. Melisandre never meets with Thoros. Melisandre never interacts with Arya. And Melisandre certainly doesn't take Gendry -- he is left with the Brotherhood and eventually pops up smithing and taking care of a group of orphan kids.
So why this fairly major change?Looks like they're combining Gendry and Edric Storm into one character.Edric is another of Robert Baratheon's bastards, one that was originally in the care of Renly. Stannis sent Edric off to Dragonstone after his demon-smoke-baby snuffed out Renly, and there Melisandre begged Stannis to let her sacrifice Edric to the Lord of Light (read: she wanted to burn the kid alive). Melisandre believes the prophecy that king's blood will wake dragons from their stone. This is a defining, terrifying element of Melisandre, and multiple times throughout he books she keeps trying to burn people she believes to have "king's blood" in them in order to produce dragons. (Of course, we have already seen dragons hatch from stone, spurred by the blood of a king -- the fact that Melisandre's prophecies are 100 percent right but she has the totally wrong person is one of the books' greatest ironies.) The Edric storyline eventually involves Stannis, Mel, Davos, and Shireen. I wonder how far they'll take this with Gendry.
The other interesting developments from those scenes were that Thoros confessed that he was essentially a non-believing charlatan until he miraculously brought Beric back from his first death. Melisandre is legitimately shocked that Thoros had that kind of power, and again it all connects to Dany and the dragons hatching bringing magic back to the world (at least, heat/light magic). And the exchange between Melisandre and Arya provided some interesting foreshadowing to Arya's upcoming adventures, with the mention of different-colored eyes and "darkness within." She also said that that the two of them would meet again. Arya's plot line has stagnated in the books, off on its own with very little connection to the larger story arcs. I feel like in that moment the show was tipping readers off to some things that have yet to be published, which I don't think we've ever seen it do before.
*Finally, a sad farewell to beloved whore Roz, who was brutally killed offscreen by Joffrey and his crossbow. This surprised me, because the show really seemed to be building Roz into a nuanced character with links to a variety of players -- Littlefinger obviously, but also Varys, Shae, and even a bit of Sansa. Her murder helped to remind us that Joffrey really is a sick son of a bitch, and also demonstrated that Littlefinger is not playing. I think that was ultimately important, because although he's always been a schemer on the show, we haven't gotten that many scenes that show the cold-blooded nature that defines Petyr in the books. I think he is in many ways the most vicious human character in the series. By dispatching Roz and then bragging about it to Varys he also made it very clear to the Spider that it is dangerous to get in Littlefinger's way.