Clive Russell portrays Brynden "The Blackfish" Tully in HBO's… (Damien Elliott )
“Walk of Punishment,” the title of the latest episode of HBO's “Game of Thrones,” refers to a horrific site in Astapor where slaves are hung on crosses for sometimes trivial offenses.
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) is in this evil city-state to acquire an army of eunuchs from Kraznys mo Nakloz (Dan Hildebrand). The wealthy slave trader initially scoffs at her ability to buy 8,000 seasoned soldiers plus boys in training. Then Daenerys mentions what she’ll offer in exchange: a dragon -- her biggest one!
Don’t do it, plead shocked military advisors Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) and Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney)! Never trade away a priceless dragon, even for an army of “unsullied” soldiers who’d fall on their swords if so commanded.
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But Daenerys, resolute as ever, strikes a deal, picking up slave/translator Missandei (Nathalie Emannuel) as a bonus.
Elsewhere in Westeros, Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) is in her family home of Riverrun for the Viking-style funeral of her father. Accompanying the grieving matriarch are her son, King of the North Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and his bride Talisa (Oona Chaplin).
Catelyn confesses her sorrows to her uncle Brynden “The Blackfish” Tully (Clive Russell), who insists she “must remain strong” for Robb in his struggle to topple King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) from the Iron Throne. Although Robb has yet to lose a battle, his inept uncle recently squandered an opportunity to lure Tywin Lannister’s troops into a deadly trap.
Tywin, ensconced at King’s Landing, names deformed son Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) as Master of Coin. He takes over as royal bookkeeper from oily Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen), who stashes the ledgers in his brothel. Alas, Littlefinger has cooked the books, borrowing millions that cannot be repaid. If anyone can remedy this fiasco, it’s the brilliant yet under-appreciated Tyrion.
On the island of Dragonstone, Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) -- defeated by Tyrion in the fiery Battle of Blackwater Bay -- continues his dark brooding. The would-be king experiences separation anxiety when mistress Melisandre (Carice van Houten) departs in search of a blood relative of Stannis. The priestess intends to spill that blood in a black magic ritual so Stannis can ascend to the throne.
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In the frozen wasteland beyond The Wall, Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds) and their wildling troops discover some gruesome handiwork. The lethal White Walkers have chopped up horses and artistically arranged their bloody bits in the shape of a spiral galaxy. And where are the horse riders? Missing and presumed dead -- or worse!
Also beyond The Wall, the ill-fated Night’s Watch patrol takes shelter in the home of Craster (Robert Pugh), a perverted wildling who feeds his baby boys to White Walkers. A self-proclaimed “godly man” (in what universe would that be?), Craster laughingly recommends the Rangers cannibalize chubby Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) on their trek home. Sam doesn’t appreciate being called “a walking feast.”
Episode 23’s most dramatic sequence occurs as prisoners Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) are being returned to the King in the North. As the captors are about to have their brutal way with Brienne, Sir Jaime claims her father would pay a fortune in sapphires for returning his daughter “unbesmirched.” The ruse works.
But Jaime is far less fortunate. Believing he can bribe his way to freedom with Lannister riches, he’s in for a terrible shock. His right hand -- his faithful sword hand -- is cruelly whacked off.
“You’re nothing without your daddy,” a screaming Jaime is reminded. “And your daddy ain’t here!”
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