This week’s episode could well have been subtitled “A Million Ways to Die in Westeros.” And man, they are all nasty. You could have your throat sliced open by a rampaging Wildling, your skin flayed off by Ramsay Snow (er, Bolton) or your head crushed in by the Mountain. Or if you’re Ser Jorah, you could just have your guts ripped out of your chest by your beloved Khaleesi. Sure, that last one walked away still breathing, but his heart’s every bit as broken as Oberyn Martell’s once-beautiful skull.
Killing was on everyone’s minds. While awaiting his trial by combat, Tyrion asked why: As a kid, he had a screwed-up cousin who liked to crush beetles for fun, a wanton bit of cruelty that still haunts him—even after all the other wanton cruelty he’s seen. “Deciding a man’s guilt or innocence in the eyes of the gods by having two other men hack each other to pieces. Tells you something about the gods,” he remarks. But really, it tells you more about the men who invented such gods.
Locations visited: 7. In Molestown, the Wildlings went a-slaughterin’ on their way to wreak havoc at the Wall; at Castle Black, the gloomy Night’s Watch boys reflected on their imminent doom and Sam fretted over Gilly—not knowing that she’d been spared from slaughter by Jon’s old flame, Ygritte; in Meereen, Missandei and Grey Worm had a moment, and Dany kicked Jorah to the curb after she found out he’d been spying for King Robert back in the day; with Theon/Reek’s help, Ramsay captured northern stronghold Moat Cailin from the Greyjoys; he then shared a Lion King moment with his dear ol’ evil dad before the Boltons rode toward the burned-out husk of Winterfell; at the Eyrie, Sansa saved Littlefinger’s skin by emotionally manipulating of the lords of the Vale, while Arya and the Hound arrived at the gates three days too late to cut a deal with dead ol’ Lysa; and in King’s Landing, Tyrion and Jaime shared a somber dungeon chat, and Oberyn and the Mountain’s epic smackdown ended in so, so much blood.
Deaths: 14, give or take. At least 10 prostitutes, peasants and errant Night’s Watchmen chopped up by Tormund & Co. at Molestown; a Greyjoy garrison commander, with an axe to the head from his second-in-command, and said second-in-command with a full-body flaying from Ramsay; Oberyn Martell, with his head pulverized by Gregor Clegane; and maaaybe Gregor too? We know he’s hard to kill, but we’re pretty sure Oberyn’s spear was tipped with a healthy dose of poison.
Swordfights: 1, and it was the coolest fight Game of Thrones has ever staged. The Mountain and the Viper both lived up to their monikers, the former pure brute force and the latter jabbing and whirling with deadly precision. Oberyn’s David would have taken down Gregor’s Goliath, too, if it weren’t for that pesky revenge streak. We’re gonna miss you, you sexy hunk of vengeful Dornishman.
Boobs: 13—a season record. (Does HBO have a quota to fill or something?) 5 at Molestown, while Doomed Prostitute No. 3 wowed the crowd with her belched rendition of “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”; and 8 in Meereen, as Grey Worm watched Missandei and her ladyfriends bathe in the river.
Moment of badass: It’s a tie! Dany giving her longtime advisor Ser Jorah what for was something to behold, raw heartbreak mingling with queenly rage and deadly calm. But you guys, Sansa: After four seasons of watching the elder Stark sister get shifted around like a helpless pawn, she finally became a player in a big way. And it’s about time. After learning at the feet of the likes of Cersei and then Littlefinger, we expect nothing less than scary awesomeness going forward.
Effed up thing of the week: This show has never pulled punches when it comes to gore, but Gregor popping Oberyn’s head like a balloon, and Ellaria Sand’s horrified reaction, is something we will never be able to unsee. Eesh.
Outfit of the week: Sansa’s dramatic black feather dress, part Disney villain and part Hunger Games Mockingjay, was a total stunner. Our little girl is all grown up.
Euphemism of the week: “The pillar and the stones,” Dany? Really? We’re all adults here.
What we liked: Packed to the gills with beautifully acted one-on-one scenes, breathtaking visuals and one classic shocker, this was the best episode of the season so far. Gilly watching blood seep through the floor after Ygritte’s act of mercy, Roose Bolton and his newly legitimized son surveying the North from a windswept moor, Oberyn whipping himself into a vengeful frenzy…we loved every minute. And Arya’s crazed laugh when she hears the news of her aunt’s death was just about perfect. Is there anything that could surprise this girl anymore?
What we didn’t like: No qualms here. This is Game of Thrones at the top of its…er…game. Of thrones.