While it opened and closed with two standalone scenes, this week's episode focused primarily on Daenerys, Stannis/Davos and Tyrion/Sansa. This format has been somewhat hit or miss for the show, but it definitely works this week and this was the best episode since "Kissed by Fire". The omission of Jon was unfortunate but necessary as the three main stories needed room to fully flesh out their details.
We opened with Arya and the Hound in the Riverlands. Arya see's what she thinks is an opportunity to kill her captor and escape. Clegane is aware of Arya, not threatened and he lets her know as much. Knowing she is not strong enough to hurt the big man Arya relents and they continue on their way. Surprisingly Clegane is taking Arya to the Twins for her uncle's wedding, exactly where she wants to go, he also tells her of how he saved Sansa from the Mob last season. These two revelations are very confusing to Arya, who has always despised the Hound, but now has reasons to believe he isn't all bad. It would have been nice to have Clegane talk about all the weddings going on just as a brief reminder to the audience of the significance of all thats happening, but I guess we'll assume he hasn't received news from the capital.
In King's Landing Cersei is in full bitch-mode. She is miserable at losing nearly all her power and influence and also at being forced to marry (again) for her family. Margaery Tyrell meets her in the Sept and the two engage in a politically correct cat-fight as Margaery is becoming more and more comfortable mocking the queen regent and Cersei reminds Margaery of what has happened to other competing families by telling her the story of house Reyne of Castamere. The conversation ends as Cersei drops all pretense and threatens to have Margaery strangled in her sleep. These conversations, full of dual meanings and veiled threats, have been a big part of the series, especially in King's Landing, but obviously Cersei is sick of having to play nice and is just lashing out at everyone (including her future husband).
Tyrion tries to console his bride before the wedding, promising that he will never hurt her but knowing that she will never love him. At the wedding Joffrey does whatever he can to torment the couple, deciding that he will give Sansa away as her father is gone and then removing Tyrion's stool. I will say that the music is always great in the show but i noticed more this episode. Specifically the heroic music played when the Hound reveals his plans for Arya, and as Sansa walks up the aisle, on what should be the happiest day of her life, to a slow melancholy tune which perfectly captured her emotional state. After the wedding Tyrion proceeds to take his own advice and get properly hammered at his wedding. This angers Tywin who reminds Tyrion to do his duty, i.e. impregnate a 14 year old depressed girl... Joffrey, having also enjoyed a few beverages, first threatens to rape Sansa, then tries to start the bedding ceremony. Tyrion lets his drunken anger get the bast of him and growls back at the young lion, causing an end to the celebrations and a very tense few moments before Tywin, with Tyrion playing the part, is able to convince the King of his uncles inebriation. Things have always been tense between Tyrion and his nephew, as he remarks that "I'm the only one who's told him what he truly is", and i doubt this is a slight that Joffrey will forget quickly.
Across Blackwater Bay Gendry arrives at Dragonstone, where he is promptly confirmed by Stannis to be Robert's bastard and then sent to a luxury suite to await Melisandre. Stannis is noticeably uncomfortable with her plan to sacrifice Gendry to further his cause but can't really talk to the red woman. He visits Ser Davos in the dungeon because regardless of everything that's happened he knows he can trust Davos to be honest and blunt in his counsel. Davos reminds his king that he is not the type of man to sacrifice an innocent for his own gains and Stannis frees the Onion knight. However, to prove to both of these men (again) what her god is capable of, she seduces Gendry, ties him up and leeches him... on his dick... i guess she got a lot of blood flowing down there... Stannis then comes in and names the three remaining usurpers to his throne as he burns the leeches filled with Gendry's blood. One for Balon Greyjoy, one for Robb Stark and one for Joffrey Baratheon, its unclear at this point exactly what this means but there is no way its good news for any of them. I think that maybe a couple scenes with Balon or Yara earlier in the episode or season would've helped remind people that they're still in the north and in open rebellion. Hopefully not too many viewers forgot about the Ironborn..
Speaking of easily forgettable characters, Sam finally gets a decent scene. He and Gilly take refuge in an abandoned hut. An unkindness of ravens arrives and makes a lot of noise on a Weirwood tree, this brings Sam outside and before he can figure out the reason for their screams they fall silent as a White Walker appears. Sam at least draws his sword this time but the walker destroys it with some sort of crazy ice power. We dont know exactly why the walkers need to steal baby boys but this one is after Gilly's, and without his sword Sam finds and uses the only weapon remaining to him: the obsidian dagger. Turns out whoever hid the bag of dragonglass at the Fist of the First Men had discovered its effect on the walkers and we now know they have a weakness as Sam stabs the walker and it combusts on the spot. AND HE DOESN'T PICK UP THE DAGGER!
Overall a refreshingly satisfying episode which got a lot done for Daenerys and Tyrion. We all know episode 9 is traditionally huge but I think this episode led up to it in a great way. The music is as always phenomenal. There were a few missed opportunities but they were so minuscule that they didn't take away from the show at all. Daenerys continues to kick ass in the east, and Melisandre's scenes contain more questions than answers but are still compelling to watch. We got one wedding out of the way this episode and know we have a couple more coming up. Only two episodes left and we have to wait an extra week for the next one, hopefully it will be worth the wait.