This review may contain spoilers.
Fleeing north from the smoldering rubble of Winterfell, Osha (Natalia Tena) leads Bran Stark (Bran Isaac Hempstead Wright) and his brother Rickon (Art Parkinson) toward The Wall, hoping to find safety with the Night’s Watch.
Unfortunately, the Starks are plagued by bad luck; the Night’s Watch has its own problems, which are shaping up to be cataclysmic in scope.
But Bran does get one break -– the arrival of Jojen (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Meera (Ellie Kendrick) Reed, whose father is an ally of the Stark family. They seem gifted with premonitions like Bran experiences, and Jojen offers Bran some insights about his link to the direwolves and the mysterious three-eyed raven.
Clues on what Bran is going through are a welcome development, and it’s intriguing to ponder the significance that it will have on the overall story. Like the giant and dragons from the last episode, the fantasy elements of the series are starting to intensify.
Jon Snow (Kit Harington) witnesses this firsthand when he discovers Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds) uses a warg -– someone who can inhabit and control an animal — for scout work. The wildling warg controls a bird to survey enemy positions. This scene nicely reflects Bran’s growing supernatural abilities.
Not far away from Rayder’s position, the Night’s Watch continues its retreat to The Wall. Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) is finding the forced march beyond his conditioning, but his friends and Jeor Mormont (James Cosmo) step in to ensure that he doesn’t give up. Poor Sam. He’s lucky to be alive by this point.
And luck continues to follow Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey), who hope to seek refuge in the Riverlands. Their escape from Harrenhal has went off without a hitch, but they are soon captured by an independent group of bandits called The Brotherhood Without Banners. This group seems a jolly bunch and are ready to release them from captivity until another of their prisoners, Sandor “The Hound” Clegane (Rory McCann), points out Arya’s true identity. There is that true Stark luck again. It’s good to see the Hound again at least.
Meanwhile, at King’s Landing, Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) teams with her cunning grandmother Lady Olenna Redwyne (Diana Rigg) to question Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) about the true character of King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson). Sansa hesitates at first, but Redwyne coaxes the ugly truth from her. Armed with those truths, Margaery now has a critical advantage when dealing with the brat king, and she makes good use of it.
Finally, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) struggles to convince Shae (Sibel Kekilli) to be more careful in a city full of spies, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) is tortured by unknown captors (likely the Boltons) and Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) clash swords before being confronted by soldiers from House Bolton, who are notoriously scary bannermen of the Starks. Yeah, the Boltons -– with their creepy saying, “A flayed man holds no secrets” — like to skin people alive!
POINTS OF INTEREST
1. Shae warns Sansa about the possible intentions of Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen). If Baelish is intending to rescue her, it’s a bold move because his position at King’s Landing seems too good to jeopardize.
2. Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) once again receives the verbal smackdown from Joffery. Her grip on him seems all but over.
Dormer and Rigg steal much of this episode. Redwyne’s sharp quips and thoughtful interrogation of Sansa immediately demonstrates her mastery of the game of thrones. The Lannisters are in trouble. This fact is doubly apparent when Margaery meets with Joffery and navigates his potentially explosive personality with startling precision. Her words are so measured for impact that Joffery can’t help but be pulled along like a marionette. The closing image of the them, holding the crossbow together, is Margaery’s moment of victory. Cue applause!
Brienne and Jamie’s showdown on the bridge was a thrilling moment; although, Jamie, having been weakened by captivity, was at a distinct disadvantage. Regardless, it’s a interesting moment to see them fight. Who would win that battle with both at full strength is a hard call. Personally, I would prefer them just to team up.
Jojen and Meera’s introduction was another highlight. Both characters immediately gave Bran’s arc an interesting angle to explore, and Brodie-Sangster and Kendrick do a captivating job at bringing their mysterious characters to life.
And the concept of a warg is a cool addition to the series. But is Bran something more than a warg? Or is a premonition part of the gift?
Although this episode clearly continues to set up Season 3’s arcs, it’s a testament to how good this series can be even when not in the middle of one of its shocking climaxes.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
Shae’s excursion to Tyrion’s quarters was such a reckless move. She seemed careless to begin with, but this takes it to new heights. This is an example of someone not ready for the game of thrones. Her days are surely numbered now.
GIVING CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
“Game of Thrones” stars Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Emilia Clarke, Michelle Fairley, Maisie Williams, Sophie Turner, Kit Harington, Harry Lloyd. “Dark Wings, Dark Words” was written by Vanessa Taylor, and it was directed by Daniel Minahan.
Season 3 is based on the first half of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novel “A Storm of Swords.”
“Game of Thrones” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.
See our Season 3 episode review of “Vlar Dohaeris.”
See our Season 2 episode reviews of “The North Remembers,” “The Night Lands,” “What Is Dead May Never Die,” “Garden of Bones,” “The Ghost Of Harrenhal,” “The Old Gods and the New,” “Blackwater” and “Valar Morghulis.”
See our Season 1 episode reviews of “Winter is Coming,” “The Kingsroad,” “Lord Snow,” “Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things,” “The Wolf and the Lion,” “A Golden Crown,” “You Win or You Die,” “The Pointy End,” “Baelor” and “Fire and Blood.”