Some of you will say this so I will say it first: Sunday's episode of Game of Thrones was a little slow -- at least, until that great sword fight. Half the show was really Part 2 of the season premiere, launching stories that did not fit in the first hour. The showrunners wisely put the most exciting launches last week to hook us, then saved some of the slower scenes for tonight. There was Jaime and Brienne walking. Arya and her friends walking. Bran and his friends, uh, wheel-barrowing. There was a lot of walking and talking; it was like an episode of The Westeros Wing.
Fear not. The first two episodes this season require a lot of setup. Momentum increases next week. And episode four is ... ohhh, I can't wait to recap a scene in that one! The producers say there are major set pieces in each of the the final six hours. In other words: This is as "slow" as our story gets this season, and it was still pretty great. We have the torturous return of Theon, the introduction of Lady Olenna, an amazing scene with Joffrey and his true love (a crossbow), and did we mention that sword fight? But first--
Woods: Bran is hunting the three-eyed crow. Will he kill that damn thing once and for all? He's joined by Robb and Jon Snow. Nice to have them all together, even if for a moment, even if a dream. Bran misses his shot, his brothers laugh and we hear, "And which one of you was a marksman at 10?" Ned Stark! Poor Ned. For a moment I thought this was newly recorded dialogue, but it's a line from the premiere.
A mysterious boy appears and gives Bran some advice: "You can't kill it because the raven is you."
Bran wakes. He's with Osha and Hodor and they're on the way to The Wall. Superstitious Osha doesn't want to hear about his dream. And it seems his vision is not the only magic on display -- young Bran's voice has miraculously gotten lower, and he now sounds like a grown-up hooligan downing pints at the pub.
Stark Camp: Talisa is flirting with her husband Robb, teasingly noting that her mother always told her Westeros men were "grim bearded stinking barbarians."
Not sure why she says this like it's not totally true. Admit it, if you walked into your wardrobe one day and were somehow magically transported to the enchanted land of Westeros, that's probably exactly what you would think of the locals (Eventually, I mean. Your first thought would be something like: "Oh f--k, get me out of here! This is a land of serial killers with giant knives!").
Lucky for Robb, humorless and smelly is a turn-on for Talisa -- at least if the barbarian is also the Alpha Male of the North. Their canoodling is interrupted by Robb's bannerman Roose Bolton with some r-mail. This episode's title is "Dark Wings, Dark Words," which is appropriate here. They learn Catelyn's father is dead and Winterfell was burned down, with no sign of Bran and Rickon. Plus, there's "no word from Theon." Hey, that sounds like a transition line...
NEXT: Under the hood