The hunt is on for the Stark boys after Theon awakes to find them absconded with the Wilding Osha and Hodor. He finds it very difficult to believe that the guards he had posted let them escape – a cripple, a halfwit and a girl. Frustration and a growing sense disrepect from his own ranks causes him to beat one of his men senseless before rounding up the dogs to hunt the escapees down. They cant have got far he reasons, but he promises Maester Luwin that he will not kill the boys when he finds them. We don’t get to see much of Bran and Rickon this episode, but their escape route takes them to a farm where they think they can seek shelter and food. They have been walking since sunrise surviving on Hodor’s walnuts. If they do take shelter in the farm we do not see it, but their trail leads Theon straight there. The farmer does his best not to give the boys up, but Dagmer Cleftjaw finds walnut shells on the floor, enough evidence to tell him and Theon that the boys are there. Theon has had enough of being given the runaround and orders Maester Luwin to be taken back to Winterfell – what he must do next he doesn’t the old man to see…
Jon Snow meanwhile is dealing with a runaround of his own. Still separated from the other members of the Nights watch and, with his smart mouthed prisoner, Ygritte. They roam the snowy wasteland looking for Qhorin Halfhand and the others. Ygritte does her best to try to use her feminine charms to seduce him. She’s not exactly wearing sexy lingerie, wrapped up as she is in layers of wolfskin, but she realises that Jon is a virgin and taunts him with the fact. We also get to find out a little bit of background about the Wildlings, or Freefolk as they like to call themselves. Descended from the the first men, the Freefolk serve no-one and view the Nights Watch as the people south of the wall as the enemy come to steal their lands. They have elected to be lead by Mance Rayder so they can take back what is there’s by rights. After much discussion like this Ygritte manages to escape from the ropes that bind her and suddenly the tables are turned. As Jon is about to give chase, he realises he is surrounded – Ygritte has lead him into a trap.
The gothic grandness of Harrenhal is revealed through Lord Tywin’s window; vast towers of stone and rock melted by dragon fire centuries earlier. Tywin is seeking the man who killed Armory Lorch, mistakenly thinking that Tywin himself had been the intended target of the poisoned dart which killed Lorch in the last episode. He seems quite taken with Arya who, if you recall, is his cupbearer. He starts to tell her the story of Harrenhal. An impregnable fortress, able to withstand the most prolonged attack by land, but which was beaten by the Targaryen’s and their dragons from the air. Arya talks too much for her own good, revealing that she knows much more about the Targaryens and the Dragons than Lord Tywin himself does. He is intrigued that she could have learned so much from a lowly stonemason father. When Arya refers to him as “My Lord” instead of “M’lord” he picks her up on it telling that is she is to continue to pose as a lowborn girl then she needs to pay attention to the detail. So he knows Arya is not who she says she is, yet he is still comfortable in her presense and does not press her to reveal her true identity.
Talking of Targaryens; Danaerys is looking for her dragons after they were stolen from under her nose while staying at the residence of Xaro Xhoan Daxos. Ser Jorah returns to her side, rueing the day he left her alone with these people of Qarth. Dani is feeling sorry for herself, wondering who she can trust and snapping spitefully at Ser Jorah who is only trying to help. There is only one thing he can help her – find her dragons.
Xaro Xhoan Daxos reveals his hand in a meeting with the thirteen. Believing that this council will ultimately lose Qarth the status of the Greatest City That Ever Was he teams up with the wizard from the House of the Undying and proclaims himself King and the future of Qarth. In a swift and bloody coup the thirteen a slain by men loyal to Xaro and the wizard reveals that he has stolen the Dragons, but will happily return them to the Mother of Dragons so long as she remains in Qarth and allows the Dragons to thrive by her side.
Jaime Lannister makes he first real contribution to this series. He’s been Robb Starks prisoner for so far and as such he hasn’t really had much to do. Torrhen Karstark (son of lord Rickard Karstark) is charged with guarding him in his pen. When Robb throws Jaime’s cousin in with him the pair reminisce about the old days for a while, with Jaime seeming to form a genuine bond with his cousin. This doesn’t last though – Jaimie is merely using the younger man to action his plan for escape. Which involves killing him. He beats the young Lannister to death and the Gaoler comes in to see what is happening, allowing Jaimie to strangle him to death with his chains and make good his escape. He is not free for very long however and has only succeeded in angering the men who hold him prisoner – especially Lord Karstark who now wants Jaimie dead for the murder of his son. The only thing stopping him is Catelyn Stark, who knows that if Lannister dies, so too do her daughters, Arya and Sansa. He doesn’t repay Catelyn kindly though, seeing her compassion as a weakness – when Catelyn comes to talk to him she taunts her with her dead husbands infidelity.
Sansa meanwhile has problems of her own. She wakes from a nightmare to find she has finally become a woman. The blood on her bedsheets is testament to that fact. She tries in vain to hide it, because she knows that is Cersei was to find out then she would make her have sex with Joffrey – which is the last thing she wants. Unfortunatley she can’t hide the blood from the hound, who has a nose for such things. Cersei isn’t as keen to push Sansa into her sons bed as Sansa thinks however. Instead she has an almost touching chat with Sansa about what it means to be a mother and reveals the underlying sentiment that drives her. The more people you love the weaker you are.
Back in Winterfell and Theon has found the boys, Bran and Rickon. Holed up on the farm. Knowing that it is better to be feared than to be loved and under the council of Dagmer Cleftjaw, he has killed them. Their burned bodies are being strung up and displayed on the city walls. Theon presents them as a warning to others, but as he watches their burned bodies swinging in the wind he there is a haunted look in his eyes – wondering what he has done.