The Stark clan is fast becoming a scarce breed.
"Game of Thrones" fans watched in horror as the Lannisters treacherously slaughtered King in the North Robb Stark (Richard Madden), his pregnant bride Talisa (Oona Chaplin), matriarch Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) and what was left of Robb's army.
Even the Stark direwolves succumbed to the crossbows of troops commanded by Lord Walder Frey (David Bradley) at what was falsely presented as a festive occasion -- the wedding of his surprisingly lovely daughter Roslin (Alexandra Dowling) to Robb's foolish uncle, Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies).
All seemed well when the bride and groom were noisily spirited off to consummate their nuptials in a pagan-like custom. A sword needs a sheath, and a wedding needs a bedding, as lecherous Lord Frey put it.
But then the doors to the great dining hall abruptly closed, the music turned macabre and the bloody massacre of the Starks began. Desperately attempting to save eldest son Robb, Catelyn grabbed Frey's wife and brandished a dagger. "Let him go or I will cut your wife's throat," she warned.
"I'll find another," Frey replied nonchalantly.
With that, Lord Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) dispatched Robb, whispering: "The Lannisters send their regards."
And Catelyn -- screaming with rage, shock and fear -- succumbed to a slit throat in a scene "Thrones" fans will never forget. Neither will Stark allies in the North, apparently.
Escaping the carnage was young Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), who arrived late at the wedding in the custody of Sandor the Hound; Clegane (Rory McCann). Disguised as a hog farmer, he planned to turn Arya over to her family in exchange for a reward.
So much for that idea! (Arya did kindly promise the Hound that she'd run a blade through his skull at a later date, however.)
Another Stark child still breathing is crippled Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), whose blossoming gift to enter the minds of other creatures proves a lifesaver.
After taking refuge in a tower, Bran and his small entourage hear wildlings about to kill an elderly horse breeder loyal to the Night's Watch. Who's ordered to carry out this murderous act? It's Bran's half-brother Jon Snow (Kit Harington), a former Night's Watch member who switched sides and joined the wildling army.
When Jon can't bring himself to behead the innocent horse breeder, wildling girlfriend Ygritte (Rose Leslie) does the killing with an arrow. This prompts the other wildlings to turn on Jon for his traitorous inaction.
Now it's Bran to the rescue as he enters the minds of wolves and sets them on the wildlings. Jon then escapes on horseback as betrayed lover Ygritte stares in hurt and anger.
Meanwhile, across the sea, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) strategizes on how to capture the walled slaver city of Yunkai. Arguing about tactics are her military leaders Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney), Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and hunky Daario Naharis (Ed Skrein), recently of the Seconds Sons mercenary company.
It's finally decided that Daario will enter Yunkai by the back gate, kill the guards, bring in his new comrades and unlock the front gate so Daenerys and her army can attack. At first the plan appears to work, but Daario, Jorah and Grey Worm are soon surrounded.
We learn that all is well, however, when the trio returns somewhat bloodied but otherwise intact. Yunkai's slave troops would rather surrender than fight for their masters, so Daenerys swiftly captured the city without risking her army or fearsome young dragons.
The Lannisters deviously destroyed Robb Stark and his army at a wedding/massacre, but can the Lannisters retain the Iron Throne with Daenerys on the march? Only next Sunday's season finale will tell.
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