I will begin by again linking to HBO’s most excellent guide to the 10,000 characters on this show, to help people keep up with who is who.
We start with King Renly, in his camp who was facing off against his older brother Stannis last week. He’s in discussion with Catelyn the Spunky who is assuring him that Robb has no interest in the Iron Throne – and them agreeing that Robb can be King the North but swear fealty to the Iron Throne. In exchange Baratheon and Stark will ally. But, despite Catelyn getting everything Robb could want, she still urges Renly to make peace with Stannis (why? On what ground? They both want to be king, Renly has the larger army – what compromise should Renly offer to a man who is famous for being uncompromising? And why is she even negotiating on Stannis’ behalf?)
However the discussion becomes moot when the evil shadow Melisandre conjured last week appears and kills Renly. Since the shadow disappears that leaves Brienne being blamed for his death – and forced to kill the guards to defend herself. Her grief over dead Renly is extreme and poignant – she always loved her king. Catelyn the Spunky convinces her to flee so she can avenge him later. Meanwhile Loras and Maegery are convinced to flee as well by Baelish.
We later see Brienne and Catelyn riding north to Robb’s camp – and Catelyn’s plan to return to Winterfell. She wants to convince Brienne to join Robb rather than waste her life trying to kill Stannis. Brienne instead swears to serve Catelyn, so long as she is not held back from avenging Renly and killing Stannis and Catelyn accepts her fealty.
To Kings Landing where Cersei and Tyrion are discussing Renly’s death. Cersei is celebrating – but Tyrion is worried because now the whole army is united behind Stannis. Cersei is also bitter about Tyrion’s plans to send Marcella to Dorne – but Tyrion says she’d be safer there – and that Marcella is a sweet, innocent girl (unlike her mother). Tyrion wants to talk about the siege preparations but Joffrey has decided to handle that himself – or so Cersei says.
Of course, Tyrion has other sources even if Cersei is stonewalling him and learn as about her plan to use wild-fire (like Greek Fire) against Stannis’s forces. He also tortures poor Lancel most cruelly (and amusingly). He walks the streets of Kings Landing considering Tywin’s many losses against Robb and what chance they have against Stannis’s army – pausing at a street preacher to consider that dear King Joffrey is a horrendous choice as well. I’m glad that Tyrion firmly rejects and is angered by being called a demon moneky and manipulating the king – since he is doing his best to save them. He doesn’t just accept it.
Tyrion consults an alchemist to find out about wildfire, something that the Targaryens used to hold onto power after their dragons died – a chemical that burns extremely hot. Bronn, a ware veteran, is doubtful because people panic, even well trained soldiers and there’s a high chance of the pots breaking before they’re fired in the chaos – burning the city down. The alchemist has over 7,000 jars. Tyrion is also wary of wild fire – so decides to take control
Over to Stannis, he is pointedly not grieving for his brother Renly – and Ser Davros is most disturbed by what he saw with Melisandre but Stannis won’t talk about it or any debate about Lady Melisandre. He finally listens and agrees to lead the attack without Melisandre in the face of Davros’s hard truths.
With Tywin’s army at Harenhall, Arya is serving as cupbearer for Lord Tywin. Tywin shows himself to be a very intelligent man with very little willingness to believe what he wants and deny reality – facing the harsh truth that Robb Stark is a powerful force and they can’t keep underestimating him. he also pegs Arya as a northerner and asks her what they say about Robb – Arya tells some great tales about Robb and even mixes in a rather good, subtle threat. Arya also meets again with Jaqen H’ghar, the criminal who was being taken to the wall to the Nights Watch whose life she saved – he owes her 3 deaths. She chooses the Tickler (the torturer) first – I’d have gone with Tywin myself. And later, the Tickler is found suddenly dead.