I quite liked "Dark Wings, Dark Words." The title refers to the saying about ravens bringing messages from kingdom-to-kingdom. The phrase is foreboding and dreadful (i.e. that it is full of dread, not that it is bad). Cat and Robb receive the darkest words of the episode when ravens bring word of Winterfell's fall, as well as the death of Cat's father in Riverrun. Later, Cat has a dark moment in which she confesses to Talia her feelings of being punished by the gods for breaking her promise. The scene stands out because of its length and its content. No other scene penetrates like Cat's confessional to Talisa. It feels foreboding; it adds to Robb's exchange earlier when Lord Karstark tells Robb that the war seems lost ever since he wedded Talisa. Cat tells Talisa about the time she prayed for Jon Snow's death and then for his life, promising the gods she'd make him a Stark should he live; however, she broke her promise and darkness and death has followed her. Cat's story follows the idea established in season one about the past following you and what-not.
Cat's despair is warranted, of course. She believes her sons dead. Bran and Rickon are not dead, though. They're well north of Winterfell. Bran's having dreams in which another boy named Jojen appears to tell him he is the three-eyed raven he sees in his dreams. Jojen later comes to Bran, along with his sister, Meera, to tell him he needs to go much deeper to understand his dreams. Simply, though, Bran and he share the dreams in common (and he tells him they are both wargs; more on that in a bit). The important bit of Jojen's exposition with Bran is that, as a warg, he can see what's to come and what's happened. Both boys saw Ned's death before it happened, which is important, because what's happened in the past, way before his father died, is really important. I think.
The episode catches up with some other characters, so it's not all foreboding doom-and-gloom. Of course, one should expect something horrible to happen in every scene of the series. Arya, Hot Pie and Gendry meet the Brotherhood Without Banners. Thoros of Myr and Anguy the Archer take the trio to a local tavern to shoot the breeze. The Hound shows up as a prisoner just as Arya's about to leave and outs her as a Stark. Meanwhile, Jaime and Brienne are on the road to King's Landing for the exchange. Jaime wants Brienne to kill a passerby, thinking the passerby will lead folk on horses to them. Indeed, the passerby leads folk on horses to them, after Jaime fails to escape because Brienne's a total badass. The Flayed Man of House Bolton is the man on the horse who wants to bring Jaime back north.
Jaime's and Brienne's scenes together are terrific. Right now, they're the odd couple. Brienne's the stoic knight, full of honor, committed to honoring Cat's orders, while Jaime's a smart-ass who loves to get under a person's skin. He goes on and on insulting Renly, poking fun at Brienne for having a crush on her, and then takes one of her swords. I think Jaime wasn't trying to escape, but, rather, testing her honor, seeing what's she made of in the moment. Brienne couldn't kill the passerby. Would she kill Jaime? She doesn't need to since she destroys him in their fight. Jaime immediately turns around and 'swords up' with Brienne when folk on horses arrive.
Arya's scenes with the Brotherhood Without Banners are good but not as rich as Jaime's scenes with Brienne. The first scene is about Arya feeling out Thoros and Anguy and their friends. The second scene continues the trend of stopping Arya from leaving to get somewhere just when you really, really, really want her to go and find someone who can bring her home. The Hound's arrival complicates Arya's situation. Alas, her story in "Dark Wings, Dark Words" is a place-setter.
The sense of unease in "Dark Wings, Dark Words," which is present from the opening scene with Bran's dream, continues in Sansa's meeting with the Queen of Thorns, the lady Olenna Tyrell of Highgarden. Olenna and Margaery dine with Sansa to learn more about Joffrey. Olenna's introduction is outstanding. She's out-spoken, direct, and honest--a complete breath of fresh air in a world dominated by characters who don't mean what they say. Olenna isn't surprised by Sansa's truths about Joffrey. Sansa's scared out of her mind that she'll be hurt for speaking badly about the king. The Tyrells are smart. Olenna and Margaery need to work with what they know. Margaery's next scene with Joffrey plays on his monstrousness. It is the strangest romancing scene I've ever seen, but it's perfect for Joffrey. Joffrey's pissed that she wedded the traitrous Renly. Margaery calms him by telling him Renly went the other way. Margaery uses Joffrey's masochism to bond with him. Joffrey wants to see her kill for him. Margaery transforms whatever uneasiness there might've been to placate the easily angered Joffrey. She is good.
The pervading sense of unease will continue to deepen, too. It's not like things will look up for all next week. The Hound won't say, "No, my mistake. That's Jeyne Pool" or anything like that. Tyrion's given one scene to talk about Shae's feelings of unease about Littlefinger's closeness to Sansa, which leads to Shae getting jealous because Tyrions finds Sansa attractive. Tyrion's also worried Tywin will find out a whore's been in his bed. Theon, of course, is locked in a dungeon being tortured, though a man with no name promises to free him.
Of course, in the north, Beyond The Wall, everyone's not at ease. The land itself is foreboding with its endless white and grey colors. Jon Snow meets a warg named Howell, who sees dead crows at the Fist of the First Men. Mance gives Jon a lesson about people management. Different clans hate one another. Mance keeps them together by telling them they will die should they separate. Meanwhile, Sam struggles keeping up with the Night's Watch journey to The Wall. If he doesn't continue going, he dies. I feel like that's the takeaway from the episode. Stop and you die.
-I love the Reed siblings. I mean, they're basically my favorite characters in the books. They came and totally changed Bran's story for the better. Just wait 'til you see what's to come. You may like it, you may not. I don't care. I love it.
-I'm hesitant to meaningfully write about several things in the episode such as Theon's torture and the Flayed Man. I watched the episode with two friends. I couldn't answer anything about Theon's scenes. I can't even explain why in this post.
-Book-readers: I know. The Cat monologue about Jon Snow. I watched the scene unfold with my eyes wide open and jaw on the floor. It's not the worse. Aspects of the story in the books will change. This, too, has purpose.
-I hope what I'm about to write becomes moot as the season progresses: this series needs to utilize Arya, and Maisie Williams of course, more. She's the best character in the entire series. The absolute best character in the series. The viewers at home are being robbed. Two scenes in this season? Really?
-Vanessa Taylor wrote the episode. Daniel Minahan directed it.
THE YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK