Insurgents bent on ending the reign of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) in the city-state of Meereen launch a devastating attack on her troops in "Sons of the Harpy," Episode 44 of HBO's "Game of Thrones."
It's the traditional start of fighting season when slaves once battled to the death, gladiator style. But Dany refuses to restore this barbaric practice, even though it could appease the masses.
Determined to bring back the old ways of slavery and fighting pits are the mysterious Sons of the Harpy. Concealing their faces behind golden masks, these rebels set a trap for Dany's warrior-eunuchs, the Unsullied.
Dany's soldiers, commanded by Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), struggle valiantly — as does advisor Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney). But when the carnage stops, all the men are dead or dying.
Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), meanwhile, hopes to regain Dany's trust after being exiled for spying on behalf of rival House Lannister. To demonstrate his loyalty to Dany, Jorah seizes Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage).
"What a waste of a good kidnapping," Tyrion says with a laugh when Jorah announces they're bound for Meereen. "So happens I'm heading there myself."
Before his abduction, Tyrion was traveling with Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) to join Dany in her quest to conquer the Seven Kingdoms. Aligning with House Targaryen is an act of rebellion for Tyrion, whose family falsely accused him of poisoning King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson).
As for Tyrion's sister Cersei (Lena Headey), she refuses to be sidelined by new daughter-in-law Queen Margaery (Natalie Dormer). Cersei retaliates by causing Margaery's gay brother Loras (Finn Jones) and other so-called sinners to be imprisoned by zealous followers of the High Sparrow (Jonathan Pryce).
In other action, Cersei's twin brother, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), sails to Dorne with expert swordsman Ser Bronn (Jerome Flynn). They're on a secret mission to rescue Jaime's "niece" — actually his daughter — Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) before she falls victim to Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma).
Ellaria blames House Lannister for the slaying of her paramour, Prince Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal). That's why she plots to capture Myrcella and send her back to Cersei in pieces.
"We must avenge Oberyn ourselves," Ellaria tells the prince's daughters, known as the "Sand Snakes." These lethal half-sisters are Obara (Keisha Castle-Hughes), Nymeria (Jessica Henwick) and Tyene (Rosabell Laurenti Sellers).
When Ellaria learns that Jaime is in Dorne, she asks the Sand Snakes if they favor peace or war with the Lannisters. War it is, by a unanimous vote.
In northern Westeros, Sansa Stark (
Not to worry, Littlefinger assures Sansa. Bolton's troops will likely succumb to the superior forces of Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), who will then name Sansa "wardeness of the north." And should Stannis fail, Sansa could wed Bolton's son Ramsay (Iwan Rheon).
At Castle Black, Night's Watch Lord Commander Jon Snow (Kit Harington) remains staunchly committed to defending the Wall. If Stannis and priestess Melisandre (Carice van Houten) have their way, however, Jon and his wildling prisoners will march on Bolton and his allies.
Melisandre tries to win over Jon with a bold seduction. But he resists because of his vow to the Night's Watch and lasting affection for his deceased wildling girlfriend Ygritte (Rose Leslie).
"The dead don't need lovers," Melisandre argues, "only the living."
"I know," Jon remarks sadly, "but I still love her."