Game of Thrones Memory Lane 206: The Old Gods and the New

Theon

Our watch continues and it will not end until our death… or season 6 premieres, whichever comes first. Today we look back at the sixth episode of season 2, “The Old Gods and the New.” This episode was written by Vanessa Taylor and directed by David Nutter. This was Nutter’s first turn behind the camera for Game of Thrones. He would go on to direct some pivotal episodes including “The Rains of Castamere.”

This episode, despite not having something quite as significant as the Red Wedding, still contains some big scenes and memorable moments. The first of these starts right as the episode opens, with Theon and his small band of Ironborn seizing Winterfell. Right away, we can see Theon is desperate for respect and admiration from his crew and the people of Winterfell. This desperation culminates in his botched execution of Ser Rodrik Cassel. It is a hard scene to watch, but Alfie Allen really takes his acting to the next level as the look on his face after finally dispatching his former Master-at-Arms says so much about Theon’s inner turmoil.

Meanwhile, beyond the Wall, Jon Snow has a failed execution of his own. Qhorin and company come upon a small camp of wildlings and kill them all save for one, a young woman named Ygritte. Jon wants to take her captive. But Qhorin will have none of it and orders Jon to kill her. Jon puts Longclaw to her neck but in the end he can’t bring himself to do the deed.

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Ygritte takes the opportunity to attempt an escape. Jon chases her down, but now they are separated from Qhorin and the others and must spend the night together. We can begin to see some chemistry developing between the two however, as Ygritte teases Jon by grinding against him as they huddle together to stay warm. It’s clear that Jon doesn’t know what to make of this wildling girl with the flaming red hair.

At Harrenhal, Littlefinger arrives which leaves Arya in the troublesome position of having to serve both him and Tywin without Baelish recognizing her. Despite some inquisitive looks from Littlefinger, Arya manages to remain incognito. Before she leaves Tywin’s chamber, however, she swipes a letter about her brother Robb. She is caught with it by Ser Amory Lorch, who marches off to tell Lord Tywin. Arya runs to find Jaqen H’ghar and gives him Amory Lorch as her second name. Lorch drops dead of a dart to the neck in the doorway of Tywin’s chamber, seconds before he can rat out Arya. Phew.

Elsewhere in the Riverlands, Robb Stark has received word of Winterfell’s capture at the hands of his friend Theon Greyjoy. “I told you, never trust a Greyjoy!”, Catelyn admonishes. Robb wants to return to Winterfell with his host and take back the castle. But Roose Bolton convinces him otherwise. He will send word to his bastard, ordering him to retake the castle. Noooooooo!

In King’s Landing, the Royal Court sees Myrcella off to Dorne. On their way back to the Red Keep, someone throws cow manure at King Joffrey. In a rage, he orders his Kingsguard to kill everyone. That doesn’t go over well. Pretty soon a full scale riot has broken out. Joffrey, Tyrion and the Kingsguard manage to make it out alive. The High Septon isn’t so lucky as he gets torn apart by the angry mob. Once in the safety of the Red Keep, Tyrion lets Joffrey have it.

Watching Joffrey get slapped never gets old. Sansa is in danger though and Tyrion seems to be the only one who cares. But suddenly, Sandor. He descends upon her attempted rapists, killing the lot of them. “You’re alright now, little bird. You’re alright.” And the hearts of SanSan shippers everywhere go aflutter.

Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys is finding Qarth less than hospitable. Not only will no one give her any ships, but now someone has snuck into her bedroom, killed Irri and made off with her dragons.

Where Are My Dragons?!?!

And with that, “The Old Gods and the New” comes to a close. A really good episode, it featured some important introductions, some pivotal scenes and some memorable moments. And it was all expertly directed by David Nutter. It’s no wonder they wanted to bring him back for the important Red Wedding episode later. It also featured some fantastic performances, top of the list being Alfie Allen as Theon. Honorable mention goes to Rose Leslie, who at times feels like Ygritte stepped out of the pages of A Clash of Kings. All in all, it was one of the best episodes of season two.

Introductions: the wildling woman Ygritte; Winterfell kennelmaster Farlen and his daughter Palla; the High Septon of the Faith of the Seven.

Deaths: The High Septon; Winterfell’s Master-at-Arms, Ser Rodrik Cassel; Lannister bannerman Ser Amory Lorch; Daenerys’ handmaiden Irri.

Notable Quotes:

“Hush now, child. I’m off to see your father.” – Ser Rodrik Cassel to Bran Stark just before he is executed.

“Gods help you, Theon Greyjoy… now you are truly lost.” – Ser Rodrik Cassel‘s last words.

“We’ve had vicious kings, and we’ve had idiot kings…but I don’t know if we’ve ever been cursed with a vicious idiot for a king!” – Tyrion Lannister to King Joffrey after the riot.

“Where are my dragons?!” – Daenerys Targaryen to no one in particular.

Creative Fandom:

Beautiful Death 206

“A Man Needs a Name” by Robert Ball from his Beautiful Death collection

 

Digital art of Ygritte by Deviant Art user dalisacg

Digital art of Ygritte by Deviant Art user dalisacg

 

Dany’s “Where are my dragons?!” phrase soon became something of a meme.

Call Jorah

 

Tomorrow: Our trip down memory lane continues with the seventh episode of the second season, “A Man Without Honor.”

71 responses

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    1. The taking of Winterfell, culminating in Ser Rodrik’s execution, is really excellent stuff. The later sequence with Osha, conversely, is mainly constructed to get her naked — which also leads to the obvious question of why Osha doesn’t kill Theon then and there, when she easily could have.

      The physical comedy bit around the death of Lorch is one of the few times the show has actually made me laugh (I’m not generally a person who laughs out loud).

      Also in the realm of comedy, we have the Jon/Ygritte interactions this episode (and the new few). One of the weirdest aspects of the Season 2 Jon plot is how these scenes, which viewed in their wider context are actually a big part of the problem with this season, are, on an individual level, the single-most entertaining aspect of it. The changes to how Ygritte gets away, and the change of having Jon get lost with her, are really horrible for Jon’s character in a bunch of ways: he comes across like an utter incompetent, it ends with him legitimately getting his entire team captured and killed, and it separates him from Qhorin at the point where the book character is supposed to be learning from him.

      And yet, these scenes are funny. Harington and Rose Leslie have great chemistry (onscreen and off, the latter in a very on-and-off manner, to all appearances), and the back-and-forth between the characters is engaging. The scenes here and in episode 7 are really the only parts of Jon’s Season 2 that I ever feel much interest in rewatching. I’ll also say, I understand the thought-process behind this departure. Jon’s relationship with Ygritte is the single-most important part of his time beyond the Wall, so I can see why the writers may have wanted to have them interact more. But Jon/Ygritte ultimately come almost to exclusion of everything else about Jon’s time beyond the Wall. I think this could have been solved by giving Jon’s Season 3 plot more time, and still keeping more of his interaction with Qhorin here.

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    2. Ajorah Ahai!

      Ser Rodrik’s execution scene breaks my heart. It’s sad, yet superbly acted by everyone. This is one of the saddest scenes from the show for me (together with the aftermath of the burning of Winterfell). I wonder if Littlefinger was able to figure out that Arya was there. Or was he too obsessed with ‘grooming’ Sansa to care about the other sister? So many questions about Littlefinger and how his mind works….

      I’ve always found Ygritte to be annoying, but I get the purpose of her character and Rose and Kit have great chemistry together. I like the juxtaposition of the two execution scenes in the same episode. Theon’s obviously failed and he did not get the respect he wanted, while in Jon’s case you can make arguments for why sparing Ygritte was a good or a bad idea. However, I think if he had killed her, Jon’s scouting party would have still been captured by Wildlings and Ygritte wouldn’t have been there to speak for him. Good for Jon and the plot, bad for the NW/Halfhand. Still, we should have had more Halfhand.

      The “where are my dragons” line is so unintentionally hilarious and bad. I completely forgot it happened this early (I don’t know why I thought it had taken place in episode 8). They really dragged that portion of Dany’s storyline in the second half of the season, which is a shame because they could have used this time to do more exposition on the dragons (and why one of them was named after Viserys of all people lol), the Targaryen dynasty (especially the rebellion, Rhaegar and The Mad King), or use Quaithe. I’ve always been annoyed with how little Dany wants to know about Westeros….Viserys isn’t exactly a reliable narrator. Plus, it would have served to connect her storyline to some of the others in a way.

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    3. (Osha’s) Tits and (Where are my) dragons, both in this episode!

      I have a somewhat related Natalia Tena story, too. My daughter, cosplaying Daenerys in the House of the Undying episode outfit and carrying three dragons she painted in the appropriate colors, met Ms. Tena at a comic-con just before season three. Ms. Tena said she had read all the books, then added “Your dragons are adorable, but (pointing to
      Drogon) that one’s kind of an a–hole!”

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    4. I don’t think there is a solid answer to whether or not Baylish recognized Arya. I think they played it right down the line so that you could never be sure and you can’t use the books for help, because it is a construction of the show.

      Littlefinger does immediately go to Cat and tells her Arya IS alive. Maybe there is a clue in that? However, he is an accomplished liar.

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    5. Dany’s “where are my dragons” line is one of my favorites. The emotion and despair she conveys is magnificent.

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    6. Sean C.:

      But Jon/Ygritte ultimately come almost to exclusion of everything else about Jon’s time beyond the Wall.I think this could have been solved by giving Jon’s Season 3 plot more time, and still keeping more of his interaction with Qhorin here.

      I agree with you here. Jon in Season 2 is something of a missed opportunity, and while his Season 3 arc is significantly more engaging, I think his interactions with Ygritte — and the wider Wildling culture — could have been more fully explored in that season. Maybe even push the scaling of the Wall to the end of the season as that would in turn improve certain aspects of the Wall/Stannis storyline in Season 4.

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    7. Fancy word for a sellsword:
      I don’t think there is a solid answer to whether or not Baylish recognized Arya. I think they played it right down the line so that you could never be sure and you can’t use the books for help, because it is a construction of the show.

      Littlefinger does immediately go to Cat and tells her Arya IS alive. Maybe there is a clue in that? However, he is an accomplished liar.

      Nope, Littlefinger meets Cat *before* coming to Harrenhal. The guy’s simply a lying scumbag.

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    8. Sean C.,

      I agree. They dropped the ball with Jon and the Wildling storylines here. He could have met Mance in late season 2 for example, giving us enough time to learn more about the Wildlings, their motivation, and their history.

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    9. Mr Fixit,

      In terms of pacing, I think Jon Season 3 ended about where it should have. Season 3 is the one year where the writer, in my opinion, made a noticeable misallocation of time. Namely, way too much King’s Landing (and, to a much lesser extent, too much Theon and Bran) in a season where the key story threads are set elsewhere (Jon and the Wildlings and the downfall of the Stark army, especially, should have had more time; Arya, Jaime and Dany had about what they needed).

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    10. I think I’m one of the few who liked Jon’s story in S2. I loved that they focused on his relationship with Ygritte rather then with some random NW guys and Qhorin. But I still liked his final scene with Qhorin, hell I liked it more then in the books.

      A big part why I liked these is because of Kit and Laslie who are great togheter.

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    11. Theon’s execution of Ser Rodrik is such a heartbreaking scene. The writers obviously appreciate the incredible significance of the moment, and they build up to it masterfully. Ultimately, the first ten minutes of the episode are spent in Winterfell (an unusually long scene for GOT at this stage in its life). Meanwhile, Alfie Allen’s immense talent is on full display. This is one of his very best episodes, and he’s had no shortage of great showcases over the show’s five seasons to date.

      The direction, cinematography, and sound design of the sequence are all gorgeous. Together, they create a beautiful image as rain pours down, Bran and Rickon scream their pleas for mercy, and Rodrik simultaneously projects angry defiance towards his captors and calm reassurance to the boys he has watched over for their entire lives. Ron Donachie gives an excellent capper to an underrated performance here. “Hush now, lad. I’m off to see your father” just slays me every time.

      As Theon draws closer and closer to the point of no return, the Ironborn theme rises and rises to the point it becomes almost deafening. Perhaps the resounding success of this scene is what lead to the Ironborn theme becoming the show’s unofficial beheading music. It also underscores Robb’s execution of Rickard Karstark in Season 3 and Jon’s execution of Janos Slynt in Season 5.

      Unlike Theon, however, both Robb and Jon (and Ned!) manage to take the condemned party’s head off with a single swing. True Starks are able to pass the sentence and swing the sword cleanly, but Theon can’t? There’s a hidden meaning buried deep in there somewhere, I’m sure. 😉

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    12. Speaking of Jon and executions, however, there’s another storyline in this episode that is less successful. As anyone who has been reading my ramblings knows, I love Game of Thrones to death. I will defend it against all comers, especially book readers who sink too far into the weeds and lose sight of what “adaptation” means. But that doesn’t mean that I think the show is perfect, or that I’m totally immune to falling into that trap myself on rare occasions.

      As it happens, one of my few disappointments with the show at the time (and still today, to a lesser extent) is the way that Qhorin Halfhand was handled. He was one of my favorite minor characters in ACOK, and his mentoring relationship with Jon was a highlight from the second half of that book.

      It’s not the fault of the actor. Simon Armstrong doesn’t break any new ground with the role, but he’s fine. It’s the relationship with Jon Snow that bothers me, and this scene is one of the key examples. Qhorin is ostensibly mentoring Jon here, disabusing him of whatever romantic notions he might have about serving in the Night’s Watch so that he can do his job more effectively. Yet it annoys me how he repeatedly calls Jon dumb, and his mentoring comes across as deliberately setting Jon up in order to knock him down. It could be argued as tough love, of course, but there’s no real affection there.

      To be fair, Jon does make a very dumb mistake in this episode, one that ultimately leads to the entire Night’s Watch raiding party getting killed. But honestly, I lay that mistake at Qhorin’s feet (and the writers as well). Leaving Jon alone to kill Ygritte is just a bad decision, and one of the very few times that I can see the plot wheels grinding noisily over a character’s good sense (this is not an invitation to start quoting a litany of examples at me that I can almost guarantee you I won’t agree with, but do so if you must).

      Ultimately, however, I don’t mind it too much. The show only has so much time to work with, and there was a very clear reason that Jon and the Halfhand’s relationship was cut short. It’s obvious that the writers wanted to spend more time building up Jon’s relationship with Ygritte – a relationship which, in the long run, will be prove to be far more important to Jon and far more consequential for his growth as a character.

      In that respect, the decision is a resounding success. Not to be hyperbolic, but I like Ygritte faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar more on the show than I ever did in the books. Part of that, of course, is the triumph of casting Rose Leslie. If I were to make a list of actors who elevated their roles and imprinted themselves onto my brain as the definitive version of the character (it would be a long list, as it happens), then Rose Leslie’s Ygritte would easily be in the top five. She is absolute dynamite. Her Ygritte is warm, funny, energetic, and I love her dearly. Kissed by fire, indeed. 🙂

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    13. Sean C.:

      In terms of pacing, I think Jon Season 3 ended about where it should have.Season 3 is the one year where the writer, in my opinion, made a noticeable misallocation of time.Namely, way too much King’s Landing (and, to a much lesser extent, too much Theon and Bran) in a season where the key story threads are set elsewhere (Jon and the Wildlings and the downfall of the Stark army, especially, should have had more time; Arya, Jaime and Dany had about what they needed).

      The reasoning behind my idea about Jon crossing the Wall as the endpoint of his Season 3 arc is twofold: (1) it lets him have more time with the Wildlings (think Dany among Dothraki); (2) his “betrayal” of Tormund and Ygritte is brought over to the season where it narratively belongs and his return to Castle Black sets up the Battle of the Wall quite nicely. Then bring the battle forward to, say, Ep. 7 and we’re good to go. It would also help the pacing of Stannis’ plot in Season 4, but that’s a story for a future Memory Lane.

      On the allocation of time. While it can be argued that the show spent more time at KL than strictly necessary, it’s easy to see why they did it. Most of the cast is located there and they need to be “serviced” appropriately. Also, I can hardly complain since I consider the vast majority of those scenes excellent. As for Bran, I just watched Season 3 and believe me, he’s barely in it. Bran appears in multiple scenes in 3×02, his and the Reed’s introduction, then he has a brief scene in 3×04 (dreams of his mother scream at him for climbing), then a single scene in 3×06 (Jojen’s seizure and rabbit chick fight), and once more a single scene in 3×07 (Osha’s story about Bruni). In 3×09 his and Jon’s story interesect at Queenscrown and he’s through the Wall in the finale. All in all, he’s got maybe 7 scenes the whole season not counting the Queenscrown incident.

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    14. This episode was also one of Emilia Clarke’s worse ones, acting wise. I’m a book Dany fan, but Clarke’s only positive trait is that she looks like the character’s described. Her acting was atrocious throughout season two.

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    15. Other odds and ends. I remember the King’s Landing riot scene was thrilling the first time I watched it, and it’s still a great sequence. However, I do notice the obvious budget constraints more after watching Seasons 3, 4, and 5. Once again, the show’s incredible production values have spoiled me. 😉

      Tyrion slapping Joffrey and calling him a vicious idiot, however? That holds up to this very day.

      Robb and Talisa have great chemistry in their scene together. Their flirtatious exchange about the idea that Talisa might be a Lannister spy demonstrates that the writers knew that fans would be kicking around that possibility. With the benefit of hindsight, this is clearly their attempt to gently disabuse us of that notion, but at the time, the Lannister Honeypot theory was alive and well (shout out to Bex). I also love the knowing look that Catelyn gives her son as he watches Talisa walk away. Nothing gets by her.

      I actually like the concept of Dany’s dragons being stolen. Living dragons are repeatedly established as the most valuable thing in the entire world – their price is literally beyond measure! It makes total sense that someone would try to steal them, and Qarth needed some spicing up (especially since the highlight of Dany’s book-arc in Qarth – the House of the Undying sequence – was impractical/impossible for the show to depict and needed to be pared down).

      I’m a die-hard fan of Emilia Clarke, so it pains me to say that I think that the arc is controversial largely because of her performance (the dialogue isn’t her friend, but she’s not blameless). I must admit that I cringe when I watch the scene where she’s petitioning the Spice King for ships – though in that case, I’m supposed to (the express purpose of that scene is to show us that Dany is desperate and naïve). I don’t mind the “WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS” line, but I completely understand why it became a meme. This is the Internet, after all.

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    16. Jared:

      Tyrion slapping Joffrey and calling him a vicious idiot, however? That holds up to this very day.

      We’ve had vicious kings, and we’ve had idiot kings…but I don’t know if we’ve ever been cursed with a vicious idiot for a king.

      And a bit later:

      If she [Sansa] dies you’ll never get your uncle Jaime back! You owe him quite a bit, you know!

      Hehe, Tyrion, you sly dog…

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    17. Mr Fixit:
      All in all, he’s got maybe 7 scenes the whole season not counting the Queenscrown incident.

      And two of them (the dream and the rabbit-skinning scene) could be omitted pretty easily. Unfortunately, Bran’s story material is dwindling so rapidly at this point in the books that the writers are scrambling to give him anything to do. Notably in the following season they stopped trying to fit him into six episodes (same with Theon, who went from six to three), and then dropped him entirely from Season 5.

      Bran’s obviously not anything close to the main screentime hog at that point, and I get why the writers are trying to keep him in the narrative as much as possible. But all the same, there’s some pretty obvious padding in there, and not especially interesting padding at that.

      The KL padding in Season 3 is a lot more entertaining, even if I think it has negative repercussions on the plot in addition to taking screentime that Jon really needed at that point.

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    18. Sean C.:
      Fancy word for a sellsword,

      As I recall, Cogman was asked about this and he said the writers hadn’t any firm notion as to whether Littlefinger had recognized her or not.Which I think effectively means that he didn’t.

      I’m not so sure… I reckon he did? Just after Arya spilt the wine over Littlefinger, he gave her a sideways glance and then changed the conversion mentioning he’d spoken to Cat and a proposal regarding her daughters. See:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9jac7Qg9w4

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    19. I never muc caref for Qhorin or the cheesy self sacrifice angle, so I feel focussing on Ygritte was the right move. Though I do agree with Fixit about Jon’s Season 3 arc needing more time with the Wildlings.

      As for the King’s Landing stuff being padding, I don’t agree. Majority of those scenes are vital in establishing the Tyrell-Lannister relationship that is still important, or showing us Tywin at his most powerful and the aftermath of Blackwater. Pod the Rod and other such stuff is pretty negligible in terms of screentime.

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    20. Black Raven: I’m not so sure… I reckon he did? Just after Arya spilt the wine over Littlefinger, he gave her a sideways glance and then changed the conversion mentioning he’d spoken to Cat and a proposal regarding her daughters.See:

      Well, Cogman said (and, as I recall) that they hadn’t spoken to Gillen about it either, so maybe Gillen played the scene as if he did. But in terms of how the show was written going forward, it seems like it would make a lot more sense if he didn’t recognize her.

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    21. Sean C.: Well, Cogman said (and, as I recall) that they hadn’t spoken to Gillen about it either, so maybe Gillen played the scene as if he did.But in terms of how the show was written going forward, it seems like it would make a lot more sense if he didn’t recognize her.

      I see your line of reasoning. If Littlefinger had suddenly recognized who she was and told Tywin that his cupbearer was Arya Stark, that would have thrown Arya’s arc (in the show) in a totally different direction! Quite literally, ‘Shit would have hit the fan’ 😀

      The way Gillen acted that scene was clever and I wonder if he said those lines as sign to Arya that he had been in contact with her mother… We’ll never know.

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    22. Jared,

      Theon’s execution of Rodrik is an amazing scene and I think it’s important to remind ourselves that it was completely invented by the show-runners; I don’t think they always get enough credit for the content they create as well as adapt.

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    23. Ross,

      I totally agree! There are many show-only scenes that are among my favorite scenes in the entire series, and I try to point out how much love those ‘new’ scenes whenever possible. Even in the cases where the show-only scenes are controversial, I almost always feel that I have a clear understanding of why the showrunners made the decision that they did. Benioff and Weiss have a ridiculously hard job, and they don’t bat 1.000 with every change, but I do think they bat a higher percentage than some people give them credit for. And with a scene like this one, some people seem to forget that it wasn’t in the book first. It feels fully of a piece with everything else.

      It’s worth noting that Theon does execute someone in ACOK (Farlen the kennelmaster, who has a cameo here). Rodrik dies later, when Ramsay attacks Winterfell with his army. Theon killing Rodrik in place of Farlen is an extension of the decision that was made to hold Ramsay’s introduction back until Season 3 (with Dagmer taking Ramsay’s place as the devil on Theon’s shoulder).

      For the purposes of Theon’s Season 2 arc, I think it was a smart decision to strip away all of the noise about the Hornwoods and Ramsay-in-disguise-as-Reek in order to focus on the siren call of Theon’s Ironborn roots clashing with his Stark upbringing. It was also a good idea to have him kill Rodrik, someone who the audience has gotten to know and like over the past two seasons, rather than a nobody who was introduced solely for that purpose.

      There is a case to be made that holding Ramsay back may have led to problems in other ways (as evidenced by the polarizing response to Theon’s arc in Season 3). But in the balance, I think it works very well. Ramsay does get his first indirect mention in this episode when Roose suggests to Robb that his bastard son can lead the mission to retake Winterfell.

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    24. Ok, so you know those “50 things you never knew about Game of Thrones” articles and you always know all of them? I was actually shocked by one I read the other day. I had no idea that the actor who played Rodrick Cassel, Ron Donachie, is Daniel Portman’s (Podrick Payne) father IRL. That blew my mind.

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    25. Jared:

      I totally agree! There are many show-only scenes that are among my favorite scenes in the entire series, and I try to point out how much love those ‘new’ scenes whenever possible. Even in the cases where the show-only scenes are controversial, I almost always feel that I have a clear understanding of why the showrunners made the decision that they did. Benioff and Weiss have a ridiculously hard job, and they don’t bat 1.000 with every change, but I do think they bat a higher percentage than some people give them credit for. And with a scene like this one, some people seem to forget that it wasn’t in the book first. It feels fully of a piece with everything else.

      All too true. Some people are very quick to lambaste every change they feel is not up to par, yet wordlessly skip over great show-only stuff. (Or worse. Though today Arya-Tywin scenes are almost universally thought of as a wonderful adaptation choice, I remember 2012 very well. In certain, quite widespread, circles and forums, those scenes were decried as total filler that turned Tywin into a kindly grandfather and robbed Arya of character growth. Really gives you a window into the minds of certain “fans”.)

      There is a case to be made that holding Ramsay back may have led to problems in other ways (as evidenced by the polarizing response to Theon’s arc in Season 3). But in the balance, I think it works very well. Ramsay does get his first indirect mention in this episode when Roose suggests to Robb that he can lead the mission to retake Winterfell.

      The problems with Theon’s arc in Season 3 I feel aren’t due to the delayed introduction of Ramsay, but due to GoT adapting ASoS over 2 seasons. That decision, while definitely positive overall — as there was no way in hell to stuff that enormous book into 10 episodes — did result in certain pacing problems.

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    26. The only way Quorin’s admonition to Jon to essentially “Take your time to bring the sword down on her neck and catch up with us in this enemy wasteland,” makes sense is to disassociate his character completely from his book counterpart. I assumed the show Quorin was supposed to be suggesting Jon could have his way with Ygritte before killing her.

      I agree that Rose Leslie saves that storyline just by the fun she has with her line deliveries, and her skill at teasing Harrington. The dropping of the Halfhand stuff, as with the dropping of Qarth mysticism for dragonnapping, was disappointing.

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    27. Fancy word for a sellsword:
      I don’t think there is a solid answer to whether or not Baylish recognized Arya. I think they played it right down the line so that you could never be sure and you can’t use the books for help, because it is a construction of the show.

      Littlefinger does immediately go to Cat and tells her Arya IS alive. Maybe there is a clue in that? However, he is an accomplished liar.

      He also tells Sansa she is alive too. I forget the exact episode, but it is the scene where she is on the docks with Shea looking at ships. I always thought this would be followed up on somehow when they were in the Eyre, why else add it to their conversation, but it is never mentioned between them again…

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    28. viki,

      In that scene he’s baiting Sansa to come with him, so I don’t think that you can infer he recognized Arya from that. He’s say that whether he had seen her or not.

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    29. Mihnea:
      I think I’m one of the few who liked Jon’s story in S2. I loved that they focused on his relationship with Ygritte rather then with some random NW guys and Qhorin. But I still liked his final scene with Qhorin, hell I liked it more then in the books.

      A big part why I liked these is because of Kit and Laslie who are great togheter.

      I agree 100%. Was surprised when I learned that those Ygritte and John scenes weren’t in the book.

      -David Nutter does such a great job with the mob scene, he’s such a master at directing action. You never lose perspective of what’s going on in the scene. I think he and Alex Graves are my two favorite GoT directors. Hopefully Alex returns and there is no bad blood.

      -More shout outs to the secondary cast, particularly the spice king, and the two Greyjoy lieutenants (Dagmir and the fat guy).

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    30. Jared:

      Unlike Theon, however, both Robb and Jon (and Ned!) manage to take the condemned party’s head off with a single swing. True Starks are able to pass the sentence and swing the sword cleanly, but Theon can’t? There’s a hidden meaning buried deep in there somewhere, I’m sure.

      It might, but it could also point to state of mind. Ned, Robb and Jon were all focused on the swing and believed they were doing what was necessary and right or at least justified. Theon was scrambling, he thought his actions would gain him honor and respect, but got nothing but insults from both his men and his ‘enemies’ – he wasn’t thinking I’m doing what is right and just, he wanted to show is power, authority and determination – but he really didn’t have either.

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    31. Sean C.,

      He did recognise her. In the season 3 premiere, he spoke to Sansa on the docks watching the ships and he mentions having seen Arya alive and well.

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    32. Dutch Maester:

      He did recognise her. In the season 3 premiere, he spoke to Sansa on the docks watching the ships and he mentions having seen Arya alive and well.

      He was lying to Sansa as well.

      C’mon people! Had LF recognized Arya, you can bet your asses he’d have taken steps to “acquire” her by any means necessary in order to use her as leverage in whatever plans roiled in his head at the time. He most certainly wouldn’t have just turned around and done nothing.

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    33. Sean C.:
      viki,

      In that scene he’s baiting Sansa to come with him, so I don’t think that you can infer he recognized Arya from that.He’s say that whether he had seen her or not.

      I’m not saying such, just that he has said it before on the show. Why does he even remember to bring Arya up? It’s not like Sansa ever worries or even mentions Arya. (not a slam on Sansa, it is they way it is written in the show) and does she needed more reason? and if so why does she never follow up on it once they are clear of King’s Landing… if it were me I would have like to know a few more details… he could lie and say she is safe with friends, but at least it would be something.

      They did the same with Brienne, she meets Arya and then days later meets Sansa and says nothing – I’ve seen your sister – might have gotten her at the very least a seat at the table…

      If Sansa and Brienne meet in S6, which is highly likely, I hope this isn’t ignored yet again. The pieces have been set, I want some follow thru!

      My S6 wish: I want Sansa to send search parties for Arya, Bran and Rickon, I want her to want to find and bring her family back together. She is the only one in any position to do so.

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    34. LatrineDiggerBrian: David Nutter does such a great job with the mob scene, he’s such a master at directing action. You never lose perspective of what’s going on in the scene. I think he and Alex Graves are my two favorite GoT directors. Hopefully Alex returns and there is no bad blood.

      Alex Graves took a lot of flak and verbal abuse over some inelegantly worded comments and one controversial scene. But he’s a great director, no doubt about it.

      My TOP5 GoT directors probably are (in no particular order): Alan Taylor, Alik Sakharov, David Nutter, Alex Graves, and Neil Marshall. Special mention goes to Benioff and Weiss who proved to be exceptionally gifted in this area as well. Just look at the chicken scene in the Season 4 premiere or the “musical chairs” from 3×03.

      ETA: Damn, I just remembered Miguel Sapochnik who came out of nowhere and blew us all away with Hardhome!

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    35. viki,

      True. I was more talking about the thematic meaning, which was in the province of the writers and the message they wanted to send. As far as in-universe explanations go, your explanation definitely makes sense.

      Along those lines, it’s also fair to mention that both Ned and Jon had Valryian steel swords, which would theoretically make chopping off someone’s head with a single swing much easier. Robb didn’t have such a sword, but he’s an experienced warrior who’s probably better with a sword than Theon is (Theon favors the bow in Season 1). He also appears to be stronger than Theon, just based on the eyeball test. Finally, Robb taking Karstark’s head in a single swing is admittedly a change for the show. I believe that in ASOS, it takes the much-younger Robb several swings as well. He also uses an axe, IIRC.

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    36. Ser Rodrik Cassel. His death chokes me up every time. The shows adaptation of the taking of winterfell left much to be desired, for me. This portrayal of his death though, was heart wrenching.

      Am I the only one that doesn’t want to see Theon go full redemption arc?

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    37. Mr Fixit,

      Good point. As you say, splitting ASOS over two seasons was obviously the correct decision overall, but did lead to pacing problems for some of the characters with thinner storylines (Theon, Bran, and Davos/Stannis among them). Furthermore, one of the more common complaints about Theon’s Season 3 arc was that it was shown at all. Some people just didn’t want to watch six episodes of graphic torture (understandable) and thought that Theon’s transformation into Reek should have either been limited to fewer episodes or kept offscreen entirely.

      If Ramsay had been in Season 2 so we could establish the depth of his psychopathy, it might have been possible to keep Theon mostly or entirely offscreen for a year and bring him back for Season 4 in full Reek mode. But introducing Ramsay would have complicated Theon’s excellent Season 2 arc for the reasons we discussed above. Also, not using Alfie Allen in Season 3 might have caused the show to run the risk of losing him, which would have been unconscionable.

      Personally, I think that Theon’s breaking needed to be shown, but I won’t pretend that I have a better idea about how I would have handled it. See, adaptation is hard! This is why I respect the hell out of the work that Benioff and Weiss have done and continue to do every year.

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    38. Ah yes, the second imp slap 🙂

      And Tywin’s cutting “My cupbearer can read better than you.”

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    39. Jared,

      Personally, I think the Theon storyline would have been better if they’d cut the torture scenes in episode 6 and 7. His first few episodes in Season 3 make a solid short arc. It introduces Ramsay as devious and competent, and Theon confesses. If they’d kept him out of the show until the finale then, it would have been perfect. Maybe with a quick montage of horror in that same episode to emphasize his further degradation, if necessary.

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    40. Sean C.,

      I think he recognizes Arya. In the season 2 final episode, he says to Sansa that he has recently seen her sister. Of course he could be lying, but it makes sense.

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    41. Black Raven:

      The way Gillen acted that scene was clever and I wonder if he said those lines as sign to Arya that he had been in contact with her mother… We’ll never know.

      Maybe it was a test for Arya. Maybe he wasn’t sure it was her, and threw that out there to provoke a reaction. Probably decided it wasn’t her and didn’t pursue it further.

      The most awful thing about Theon’s execution of Cassel wasn’t visual; it was how it sounded. Just hearing Theon hacking away incompetently without seeing the results was actually worse than seeing the execution. The whole sequence was really well done and acted. Theon couldn’t go back after that decision.

      And that KL riot. Yikes. (shudder)

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    42. lordbyron,

      It makes more sense if he was just lying to Sansa. If he recognized Arya, why would he not do anything with that information? He would either have told Tywin and gotten the credit for recapturing her or, more likely, tried to grab her for himself somehow.

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    43. Sean C.,

      Maybe, that’s the point: Littlefinger wanted to grab Arya for himself, but he could not find the way how to do it without raising Tywin’s suspisions and then she just vanished from Harenhall.

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    44. Mr Fixit: Latrine

      I hope Alex Graves comes back, he is really a spectacular talent, and is responsible for a lot of the biggest moments on the show.

      It’s hard to go wrong when picking a top 5 GoT directors. I would put Alan Taylor in mine as well. Tim Van Patten, for some reason, gets absolutely no love after doing the brilliant pilot and second episode. I’d put him in mine. And Daniel Minehan is another underrated guy, did a A Golden Crown, The Pointy End, and You Win or Die in season 1, and also two great episodes in season 3 (Dark Wings Dark Words and the season premiere Valor Doharies).

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    45. Jared, you make some great points.

      I was pretty vocal about my disappointment with Jon’s season 2 storyline and rewatching this episode just resurfaced all those feelings of disappointment.

      I think Armstrong can be held partly accountable. As you say, his Qhorin seems to be less the tough but fair mentor of the books and more just a gruff asshole. This sort of stuff is not always spelled out in the scripts and so it is up to the actor and director to interpret it through the performance on screen. I think they failed to do that here.

      That being said, it is clear that the writers were not that interested in the relationship between Jon and Qhorin. They wanted to develop the relationship between Jon and Ygritte instead. I think this was a mistake. There is plenty of time in S3 to develop their chemistry. I think just giving a hint of it in this episode and then again when the wildlings catch up to Jon and Qhorin would have been perfect. We ended up missing out on not only an important relationship for Jon and his character development, but also some exciting and tense scenes including an epic final fight. The fight between Jon and Qhorin in the book was one of my favorite moments in the whole series. Qhorin’s sacrifice is so poignant. What we got on screen did not nearly do it justice.

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    46. Theon executing Rodrik Cassel is definitely one of the most emotionally wrenching scenes the show has ever accomplished. Alongside the horror of Theon committing one of the worst things he ever does, I also felt such deep sadness for him and the events in his life that have ended up with him at this point. Bran and Rickon’s reactions are devastating, and Maester Luwin first trying to save Rodrik and then to comfort the boys during the execution is also very poignant. Great work from all the actors involved.

      Also, the choice of Rodrik as the person Theon executes instead of the book character of Benfred is one of the times when condensing the book material, and substituting some character’s roles in events for others, has worked really well. Rodrik has been a part of Winterfell’s world since the pilot and we have seen him work alongside Theon there, which also enhances how much the world around the Starks is continuing to fall apart, as Bran and Rickon have another caring figure in their lives torn away from them, and Rodrik’s death at Theon’s hands is also ironic, as being Winterfell’s Master-at-Arms, he is the one who would have taught Theon how to use a sword in the first place, but never would have anticipated back then that he would eventually use it on him.

      Ygritte’s first appearance reminds me that her time on the show both begins and ends with a moment between her and Jon in which one of them is poised to kill the other, but cannot bring themself to deliver the fatal blow. Jon’s hesitation here enables Ygritte to live, while her hesitation towards him in 409 leads to her own death as her pause lasts long enough for Olly to take the moment to shoot her down.

      The title referring to the vow “I swear it by the old gods and the new” is also a good choice in an episode frequently featuring promises and how they are kept or broken. The breaking of both Theon’s promise not to kill anyone if Winterfell was yielded, and Jon’s promise to kill Ygritte, mirror each other. There is also the complications that promises can cause when circumstances change, as seen in the fact that Luwin is sworn to serve the Lord of Winterfell, and is obliged to go on doing so even when that position is unfairly taken by someone else. Vows are such an important part of both the books and the show, and this episode is a good showcase for exploring some of the consequences of both the taking and breaking of certain vows in this world.

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    47. Jared: As it happens, one of my few disappointments with the show at the time (and still today, to a lesser extent) is the way that Qhorin Halfhand was handled. He was one of my favorite minor characters in ACOK, and his mentoring relationship with Jon was a highlight from the second half of that book.

      It’s not the fault of the actor. Simon Armstrong doesn’t break any new ground with the role, but he’s fine. It’s the relationship with Jon Snow that bothers me, and this scene is one of the key examples.

      FROM WINTERPHIL:
      I think Armstrong can be held partly accountable. As you say, his Qhorin seems to be less the tough but fair mentor of the books and more just a gruff asshole. This sort of stuff is not always spelled out in the scripts and so it is up to the actor and director to interpret it through the performance on screen. I think they failed to do that here.

      This is well stated. Qhorin Halfhand starts out interesting, and then he kind of disappears to the point where his importance isn’t really clear. The show has had a few of these, “tweeners” who probably could get more time, but their importance to the show isn’t quite enough that they end up sacrificing it to others (Loras is another, for many reasons).

      They could have solved this with one more scene with the Halfhand – where perhaps after being captured, they’re left alone, tied to a tree, where the Halfhand asks Jon to quietly say the vows with him, and then more pointedly, stops and says, “Will you do what needs to be done?” In the show’s version, that development is rushed through, and it all kind of goes too quickly. And Phil has a good point; Armstrong is one of the few actors on the show who doesn’t really distinguish himself with his presence – compared to Donachie, or Donald Sumpter, for instance.

      This episode is nearly a classic, though, largely on the execution scene at the beginning, in the terrible, stinking rain, and with all of the mud and muck about. His line, “Gods help you Theon Grejoy. Now you are truly lost,” just kills it. Ron Donachie did a great job on this show, and Ser Rodrick gets a much better death on the show than he does in the books.

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    48. Jon Snow's Curling Iron,

      in Jon’s case you can make arguments for why sparing Ygritte was a good or a bad idea. However, I think if he had killed her, Jon’s scouting party would have still been captured by Wildlings and Ygritte wouldn’t have been there to speak for him.”

      That’s interesting, never thought of it that way, that him letting her live might have in reality, saved him. I always looked at it from the point of view that by doing so he just got his brothers killed but potentially they could have been captured anyways, as some of those Wildlings seemed to be more crafty than they thought. Anyways, a chain reaction effect, had Jon executed Ygritte, and the NW scouts were not captured, Jon just might have given in to Melisandre’s advances and produced one of those evil shadows. Would that have been a good thing, or a bad one? We’ll never know.

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    49. Jared,

      “Hush now, lad. I’m off to see your father” just slays me every time.”

      Heartbreaking scene. Such bravery and kindness from the wise and loyal servant… To think of the boy’s feelings when he’s about to lose his head. As for Theon with that fumbled beheading I say the meaning is to show his ineptness/foreshadowing that nothing good will come to him in near future as a result of his folly.

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    50. Jared,

      Yeah, he tells Jon, not long after meeting him, that he must be as dumb as he looks, or something like that. It felt rude and unnecessary. Also when Commander Mormont allows Jon to go with Quorin he says in a disappointed voice “Maybe you’ll make a better ranger than you do a steward.” Hmm. Well, being unsullied I never would have guessed that the half-hand was ever really a mentor to Jon. For one thing, they didn’t show them to have that much interaction before things went south.

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    51. viki,

      What you said does remind me of similar thoughts I had regarding the Stark siblings hardly think about each other. Or at least, shouldn’t it be written into their dialogue to show some genuine concern for the fate of the others? Cat reminds Robb of it, Jon talks of Robb but only makes a comment about the girls to commander Mormont, does Bran ever? Am I forgetting where Sansa and Arya show concern over each other’s whereabouts?

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    52. Ygritte:
      viki,

      What you said does remind me of similar thoughts I had regarding the Stark siblings hardly think about each other. Or at least, shouldn’t it be written into their dialogue to show some genuine concern for the fate of the others? Cat reminds Robb of it, Jon talks of Robb but only makes a comment about the girls to commander Mormont, does Bran ever? Am I forgetting where Sansa and Arya show concern over each other’s whereabouts?

      Well they both believe each other to be dead but, in the books, Arya does think about Sansa

      Arya never looked back. She wished the Rush would rise and wash the whole city away, Flea Bottom and the Red Keep and the Great Sept and everything, and everyone too, especially Prince Joffrey and his mother. But she knew it wouldn’t, and anyhow Sansa was still in the city and would wash away too. When she remembered that, Arya decided to wish for Winterfell instead.

      Arya sipped at her tankard cautiously, between spoonfuls of pie still warmfrom the oven. Her father sometimes let them have a cup of beer, she remembered. Sansa used to make a face at the taste and say that wine was ever so much finer, but Arya had liked it well enough. it made her sad to think of Sansa and her father.

      I could find out somehow, I know I could, if only I could get away. When she thought of seeing Robb’s face again Arya had to bite her lip. And I want to see Jon too, and Bran and Rickon, and Mother. Even Sansa… I’ll kiss her and beg her pardons like a proper lady, she’ll like that.

      And Sansa

      She tried not to think of them too often, yet sometimes the memories came unbidden, and then it was hard to hold back the tears. Once in a while, Sansa even missed her sister. By now Arya was safe back in Winterfell, dancing and sewing, playing with Bran and baby Rickon, even riding through the winter town if she liked.

      She sang with those inside the castle walls and those without, sang with all the city. She sang for mercy, for the living and the dead alike, for Bran and Rickon and Robb, for her sister Arya and her bastard brother Jon Snow, away off on the Wall. She sang for her mother and her father, for her grandfather Lord Hoster and her uncle Edmure Tully, for her friend Jeyne Poole, for old drunken King Robert, for Septa Mordane and Ser Dontos and Jory Cassel and Maester Luwin, for all the brave knights and soldiers who would die today, and for the children and the wives who would mourn them, and finally, toward the end, she even sang for Tyrion the Imp and for the Hound. He is no true knight but he saved me all the same, she told the Mother. Save him if you can, and gentle the rage inside him.

      These are the internal thoughts though which are harder to do on screen.

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    53. Ser Not Appearing in this Series,

      Those were interesting snippets to read, thanks! I kind of wish i had discovered the books before the show but on the other hand i like being surprised during the viewing and the books will always be there after, plus when im ready to delve in the story will be complete (or one can only assume:)

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    54. Sean C.,

      I agree with everything you said about Jon. I hated much of what they did with Jon in S2. That’s one of the reasons why S2 is low on my list of favorite seasons.

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    55. Ygritte,

      In the show, Arya mentioned Sansa once in episode 210 to Jaqen, along with the rest of her family. Sansa mentioned Arya in episodes 301 and 310 (the “sheep shift” scene, the less said about which the better).

      They’re both much more silent about their supposedly dead brothers, if anything. Arya has never mentioned them at all; Sansa never even acknowledged they were dead until 505 (which, if the writers were really planning to send her to Winterfell since Season 2, seems like a really weird writing choice).

        Quote  Reply

    56. viki,

      Re Littlefinger telling Sansa that Arya’s alive…

      He only barely suggested it. Then he allowed Sansa to draw her own conclusion when she asked him outright if Arya was alive, he just stood there silent. He allowed Sansa to believe what she wanted. In fact, LF didn’t know Arya’s fate at all.

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