Editor’s note: The following is a recap of the events of Game of Thrones: Episode Three – The Sword in the Darkness, not a review. We’ll be reviewing the full season once it’s over; the expectation with these recaps is that you’ve played the episode already and you’re here because you want to think and talk about it. This is your water cooler discussion. Expect plenty of spoilers below, since we’re here to talk about what happened. Also note that, by the very nature of these games, this is necessarily based on the author’s particular choices, and your experience may vary. How is your Game of Thrones journey shaping up? Let us know in the comments.
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Nothing puts your problems in perspective quite like a dragon.
Asher Forrester, exiled from Westeros and selling his sword in Essos, has been swayed to join his Uncle Malcolm’s quest to hire an army in Meereen to sail back home to Ironrath and protect their family from House Whitehill, the wicked rivals of the Forresters who have taken over their precious and plentiful ironwood. Just one problem: Asher and his mercenary accomplice, Beskha, are being pursued by the Lost Legion, furious killers out for vengeance. And, really, it’s a problem that pales in comparison to Drogon, fabled dragon of Daenerys Targaryen, on the loose inside a cave where Asher, Malcolm and Beskha seek refuge while evading the Lost Legion.
The battle heats up, quite literally, as it becomes Asher and his allies versus the Lost Legion versus the unexpected and unwelcome appearance of Drogon. Asher deftly dodges dragon fire and sword-swings alike, making difficult choices along the way, at one point having to decide between helping Uncle Malcolm from Lost Legion soldiers or saving Beskha from Drogon’s fury. Figuring Malcolm can handle himself much better against men than anyone’s odds against a dragon, Asher rushes to Beskha’s aid, watches as Drogon roasts the final Legionnaires alive and flies away for greener pastures.
With the dragon gone and the Lost Legion, well, lost, Asher and his allies can breathe easily for a minute — but that’s all the time they have for rest and relaxation, given the pressure the Whitehills are applying on House Forrester back home.
Indeed, the situation at Ironrath is so dire that the Forrester family’s castellan, Duncan Tuttle, takes it upon himself to visit his nephew Gared at the Night’s Watch. Gared has just taken his sacred vows, officially committing himself to the Watch for life; bad timing, because Duncan wants Gared to break those vows. He provides Gared with a map to find the legendary North Grove, described as “a protected citadel, hidden from the world,” beyond the great Wall of Westeros. Finding the North Grove is pivotal to House Forrester’s future, based on the final words of the late Lord Gregor Forrester. As much as Gared wants to help, however, he’s reticent to break rank with the Watch; desertion is punishable by death.
“I wouldn’t ask this if there was another way,” Duncan implores. The best Gared can do is promise that he’ll try. For now, it will have to do.
Much further south of the Wall, in King’s Landing, Margaery Tyrell’s handmaiden, Mira Forrester, remains hard at work trying to protect her family’s interests by playing the game of thrones, but she has a lot of personal struggles to juggle as well. For one, Margaery’s wedding to King Joffrey Baratheon is just days away. For another, well, Mira killed a guard the other night, so, there’s that. Luckily, she has help in the form of Tom the coal boy, a Fleabottom resident who was there the night Mira killed the guard in self-defense. He corners Mira in the royal gardens and makes it clear that no one will ever find the man’s body; however, the fact that Mira still has the knife she used to kill her would-be assassin in her possession is a problem. Tom convinces her to keep the weapon but clean it of the guard’s blood.
Later, Mira and her fellow handmaiden Sera accompany Margaery in the Red Keep’s throne room, where she and Queen Cersei are going over details of the looming wedding. Cersei reveals that she knows of Mira’s secret conversations with her brother Tyrion, who has been using his role as Master of Coin to help House Forrester out of their current troubles. When Cersei leaves, Margaery chastises Mira for angering Cersei and meeting with Tyrion behind her back. From this day forward, Mira is forbidden from speaking with the Imp ever again.
Unfortunately for Margaery, she can’t stop the Imp from speaking with Mira. On the day of the royal wedding, Tyrion approaches Mira right in front of Margaery, and Mira must make the choice between accepting the little lord Lannister’s invitation to speak alone, or follow Margaery’s orders. She ultimately chooses her obligations to the future Queen of Westeros, leaving Tyrion to opine out loud that he has given back control over ironwood to House Forrester, as outlined in a royal decree on the desk in his chamber. Once the conversation ends, Margaery once again makes it clear she’s not pleased with Mira’s continued involvement with Tyrion — yet another strike against the Forresters.
As Gared and Mira both weigh their family fealty against their occupational obligations, an even narrower tightrope is being walked in Ironrath itself: Lord Rodrik Forrester, still recovering from the traumatic wounds he sustained outside the Twins on the night of the Red Wedding, learns that Gryff Whitehill, the fourth son of Lord Ludd Whitehill, has been sent to rule over Ironrath. Gryff, furious over the Forresters’ treatment of his occupying forces, kicks Rodrik and his family out of their main hall, making a tense situation even worse.
In the nearby woods, Rodrik gathers to counsel with his closest confidants, including his mother Elissa, his sister Talia, his sentinel Royland Degore, his maester Ortengryn, and his castellan Duncan Tuttle. Everyone agrees that something must be done about the Whitehill occupation, but there’s dissent when it comes to the next steps. Some want Rodrik to overthrow the Whitehills in Ironrath immediately, while others want him to first liberate his youngest brother Ryon, held captive by the Whitehills. Ultimately, Rodrik agrees that he needs to rescue his brother first and foremost before worrying about how to proceed in Ironrath. As for how he’s going to do it? Who knows — but “one way or another, there’s a fight brewing,” he says.
After the meeting, Duncan reveals that Lord Whitehill’s daughter Gwyn has requested a secret meeting with Rodrik. What could she possibly want? He finds out at the late night rendezvous, when Gwyn tells Rodrik that all she wants is peace between their houses — a peace that will put an end to Whitehill occupation, and a peace that will put an end to the Whitehill family’s complete and utter abuse of the precious ironwood. And that’s not all: Gwyn reveals that there’s a traitor in Rodrik’s midst, to the point that she knows about his plans to save Ryon. That means the traitor comes from the group of Royland, Ortengryn and Duncan — unless, somehow, it’s his mother or his sister. But that’s unfathomable, right?
It’s certainly unfathomable to Rodrik, who proceeds to go home and confide in his mother about the traitor. “All of our plans are gone,” she mutters. She adds that if they don’t know who the traitor is, then they can’t trust anyone. And that’s bad — very, very bad — seeing as the Whitehills are getting more and more aggressive and at home within the walls of Ironrath. The bad blood is going to boil over soon.
In King’s Landing, the bad blood rages through the streets, following the shocking death of Joffrey Baratheon at his own wedding. Mira is horrified to see Tyrion escorted away in chains — just minutes after learning about the royal decree he secured to help the Forresters. Mira quickly deduces that she’ll be in serious danger if anyone finds the decree in Tyrion’s quarters, so she races off to snatch the letter up for herself. But Tyrion’s room is locked, with no way of entering. Luckily, Tom the coal boy comes to her aid, and finds a way to sneak into the room through the window. After several close calls with City Watch guards, Mira and Tom are finally able to get the decree, bring it back to her quarters, and set it ablaze. The proof tying her to Tyrion goes up in smoke, as do her hopes of helping her family.
For his part, at the Wall, Gared has family on the mind as well — but not the Forresters. He’s furious when he learns that Britt, the Whitehill soldier who murdered Gared’s entire family, has been sent to the Night’s Watch, making these two sworn enemies into “brothers.” Jon Snow, one of Gared’s few friends on the Wall, makes it clear that there can be no bad blood between these two, especially as they have both volunteered to join Jon’s expedition to Craster’s Keep to kill several members of the Watch who deserted their post. Gared promises he’ll keep his cool, but the same can’t be said for Britt.
Later that night, while patrolling the top of the wall, Gared encounters Britt, and the two immediately come to blows. A simple fistfight gets out of hand with swords are drawn, torches are thrown in each other’s faces, and deep wounds are dealt. Proving that iron truly does come from ice, the Forrester-loyal Gared gains the upper hand on Britt, holding him at sword point at the edge of the Wall. Forced with the choice of showing mercy, drawing out his death, or merely kicking Britt off the side of the Wall, Gared decides on the medium option, places his boot on Britt’s shoulder, and delivers one hell of a one-liner: “Don’t piss yourself on the way down.” With that, he kicks Britt down to his death, finally avenging his fallen family. Just one problem: Finn, one of Gared’s fellow brothers, witnesses the whole thing. Is their friendship strong enough that Gared’s secret is safe, or is he about to join Britt in the great beyond?
The question of winning and dying remains very much on the mind within Ironrath, as the situation boils over into a massive confrontation in the middle of the courtyard. Gryff Whitehill plans to publicly punish Rodrik’s sister Talia for biting a rude guard on the hand. Rodrik defends Talia’s honor, taking the opportunity to publicly humiliate his enemy: “What’s the matter? You’re afraid of a little girl?”
Rodrik’s insult does not go over well, as he and Gryff eventually come to blows. In his heyday, Rodrik would have put up one hell of a fight. But in his current condition, he’s no match for even a puny twerp like Gryff, who continuously kicks Rodrik down into the mud. But that doesn’t stop Rodrik from standing up. Slowly but surely, he continues to rise each and every time Gryff pummels him into the ground, even when Gryff threatens to kill Talia and the others if Rodrik doesn’t stay put. But words are wind, and Rodrik can smell the lies coming out of Gryff’s mouth like farts from an auroch.
“You know what they did to me at the Twins?” he growls as he looms over Gryff. “They shredded my face. They put their swords through me. They tried to smash my skull open. But they couldn’t kill me — and you’re not the man to finish the job.”
Rodrik is right, at least for now, as Gryff completely backs down and promises there will be consequences for this insolence. Perhaps he’s right. But in the moment, Rodrik’s defiance sends a surge of energy throughout Ironrath, with all of the Forrester faithful encouraged by their weakened leader’s obvious strength. There’s no question that these people have the heart and soul to take back their home from the Whitehills; it’s only a question of having the muscle to back them up.
And that’s where Asher comes in. Finally, the exiled Forrester and his allies reach Meereen, where they meet up with an old friend named Croft, hoping to buy an army. Croft, who isn’t exactly fond of Asher in the first place, can’t do anything; he and his men are sworn to the Second Sons, who themselves are in service of the legendary Daenerys Targaryen. She’s not likely to take a meeting anytime soon, either, as she’s not only busy with trying to sack Meereen, but also worrying over her missing dragon.
“I know where her dragon is,” Asher grins, and indeed, he does. He brandishes one of Drogon’s teeth, captured during their battle in the cave, granting him a meeting with the one and only Khaleesi. The woman who has the power to grant Asher an army stares him down with her mesmerizing eyes, whispering in her firm, commanding voice: “So, Asher Forrester — if you presume to speak of my dragons, choose your words carefully.”