'Game of Thrones' Season 3 finale recap: 'Mhysa'

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Didn't we say that things would get better in "Game of Thrones" after the traumatic Red Wedding in "The Rains of Castamere"? Though the Starks are in a tough place, the state of the world definitely improved in Season 3's final episode, "Mhysa."

Nothing can ever quite redeem the deaths of Robb and Catelyn Stark, but at least larger forces are taking shape that are propelling this series into Season 4. Daenerys is as powerful as she's ever been, Jon Snow returns to the Wall while Bran heads north of it and the Greyjoys ready an assault to finally save Theon from his captor. Then there's the fact that Stannis decides to sail north to the Wall to aid the Night's Watch in their fight against the White Walkers, which seems like it's going to end up being the greater, global conflict in the future of "Game of Thrones."

Here's what happened in the "Game of Thrones" Season 3 finale, "Mhysa":

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At the Twins

If you thought the horror of the Red Wedding ended in "The Rains of Castamere," then you thought wrong. "Mhysa" opens with Roose Bolton looking out over the carnage as Walder Frey's men continue to murder the Stark soldiers. The Hound fortunately manages to help Arya escape by grabbing a Frey banner to make it seem like they're on the side of the Twins, but they don't manage to leave before seeing one of the most horrifying images of all: Grey Wind's head sewn onto Robb Stark's body. The look on Arya's face after she sees this speaks volumes.

Arya and the Hound only make one more appearance in the episode when they stumble upon some Frey men on the road. One is bragging about how he was the one responsible for sewing Grey Wind's head on Robb's body, and Arya hops off the Hound's horse Stranger and walks up behind the men. Showing just how dark she has become, Arya pretends to be a girl looking for food and warmth when she presents the coin Jaqen H'ghar gave her back in Season 2 to the man. When he bends over, she stabs him repeatedly in the back and kills him, while the Hound murders the rest of those present. The involvement of the coin is some pretty major foreshadowing for those who know what's in store for Arya's storyline.

"Game of Thrones" could have easily moved on from the Red Wedding without touching on the victors in that situation, but instead there is a telling scene between Roose and Walder where they discuss how they have moved up in the world thanks to their arrangements with the Lannisters. At long last, Roose reveals that it's actually his bastard son Ramsay Snow who has been torturing Theon Greyjoy this whole season. Viewers who have been paying close attention might have already made the connection between Roose and "Boy," as the Bolton's sigil is that of a flayed man, and we all know how much Ramsay likes to flay people.

With Bolton's bastard

Speaking of Ramsay, he has a pretty pivotal moment with Theon following his big reveal. The Bastard of Bolton continues to psychologically torture Theon by eating a sausage in front of him following Theon's castration. He then goes on to tell Theon he doesn't deserve a lord's name any longer, beating him until he takes on the identity "Reek" instead.

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At the Iron Islands

Fortunately it doesn't seem like Theon/Reek is without hope. Ramsay sends a box containing what we can only assume is Theon's severed penis to Balon Grejoy and Yara (both of whom we haven't seen all season) along with the threat to remove their men from the North or else more pieces of Theon would soon follow. Balon, who we already know doesn't have a soft spot for his only son, says he won't try to save Theon because he is a "fool" and because "he's not a man anymore," but Yara steps up and assembles a rescue team for her little brother.

In King's Landing

Instead of starting out with Sansa finding out about the deaths of her mother and brother, "Mhysa" instead first shows a pretty adorable scene between Sansa, Tyrion and Shae. Sansa and Tyrion are ultimately comparing notes about how disliked they are in King's Landing and Sansa even gets to show off her devious side when she brings up different ways they could prank those who make their lives miserable. She unintentionally shows off how young she is when she says that "shift" is the vulgar word for "dung," not realizing it's actually "sh**."

That cute scene is cut short when Pod summons Tyrion to the Small Council. There Joffrey is gloating with delight over the news that Robb Stark had been murdered. He insists he's going to serve Sansa Robb's head at his wedding day, something which Cersei seeks to diffuse. Even with the excuse she provides, Joffrey stands by the offensive claim. Tyrion stands up for his young bride but even that isn't enough to stop Joffrey's warpath of evil. It's not until Tywin tries to subdue him that Joffrey finally oversteps his bounds.

All season Tywin has been suggesting that he is the one who will be able to put Joffrey in his place, but we haven't actually seen that come to fruition as much as it did here. When Joffrey claims that Tywin acted like a coward during Robert's Rebellion, Tywin -- as Tyrion says -- sends Joffrey to bed without his supper. Even though Joffrey angrily insists that he's not tired, it's clear that Tywin is ultimately the most powerful man in the small chamber.

That situation is underlined in a conversation after between Tywin and Tyrion, where Tywin tells Tyrion that Roose Bolton will be named Warden of the North until Tyrion's son with Sansa, if they ever have one, comes of age. Tywin talks about the greater sacrifices people need to make for the sake of their family versus their family making sacrifices for them, which is an interesting parallel to where Robb Stark went wrong. When asked by Tyrion how Tywin has sacrificed himself in such a way, Tywin says it was by not killing Tyrion when he was first born. The Lannisters really have that family affection thing down pat.

Fortunately Tyrion didn't have to be the one to break the news about the Red Wedding to Sansa, but the eldest Stark daughter isn't the only one to hear bad news in "Mhysa." Varys confronts Shae during the episode and asks her to leave King's Landing because she is a "complication" for Tyrion. Her presence and their love for one another puts Tyrion in danger, and Varys tries to give Shae as much money as she can possibly need to start a new life. Ultimately Shae refuses, claiming that Tyrion can send her away himself if he wants, showing that her true love for Tyrion doesn't extend as far as actually protecting him from himself.

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To add to the Lannister love fest this episode, Cersei confronts Tyrion in his chambers where he is drinking with Pod and also tries to get him to consummate his marriage with Sansa. She claims that her children were the only thing that help her from committing suicide, even a monster like Joffrey. It's interesting that even Cersei has made no secret of her dislike of the person her son has become, even though she treasures the moments when he was a cute baby. Fortunately Cersei is no longer alone in King's Landing anymore as she and Jaime finally reunite in this episode, though it's unclear how well she'll take to the new handless version of the Kingslayer -- or what's in store for Brienne.

At the Nightfort

If you thought that Bran and Jon recognizing one another in "The Rains of Castamere" was a treat, then you likely loved the storylines that crossed over in "Mhysa." While Bran, Jojen, Meera and Hodor camped in the Nightfort to cross through the Wall, they come across Sam and Gilly traveling in the other direction towards Castle Black. Sam recognizes Bran from Jon's many stories of his little brother, but he can't convince Bran and company to travel back to the Night's Watch away from the dangers north of the Wall. In fact, Bran seems to think that he is the only person who can stop the White Walkers. Sam gives Bran's group dragonglass weapons and sends them north of the Wall, continuing them on their journey.

At Castle Black

While that's the last we see of Bran and his crew, Sam and Gilly do in fact make it to Castle Black. There Sam has to explain to Maester Aemon why he showed up with a Wildling girl and a baby (which Gilly names after Sam), and Sam makes a fantastic argument about why protecting Gilly upheld the values of the Night's Watch. "The night is gathering, Maester Aemon. I've seen it," Sam tells Aemon, and then Aemon instructs Sam to start writing some very important letters.

Meanwhile Jon has not seen the last of Ygritte. She finds him while he is having a drink of water, and she draws her bow on him. He tries to argue that she always knew he would have to leave but that he still loves her, and she utters her infamous line, "You know nothing, Jon Snow." She fires several arrows at him -- none of them fatal, even though she has a great shot -- and Jon manages to escape. It's doubtful that that's the last we see of her.

Jon makes it to Castle Black barely, and collapses outside its gates. There he is brought in by Night's Watch men, and is reunited after a season with his friends Sam and Pyp. At long last, Jon is with the Night's Watch once again, but they've still got a major threat to face in the form of Mance Rayder and his army.

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At Dragonstone

It turns out that learning to read was pretty beneficial for Davos after all. He is at the center of the Dragonstone scenes in "Mhysa," and arguably the most important moment of the episode comes when he reads a letter from Sam to Stannis asking for reinforcements at the Night's Watch.

Davos realizes how significant this is, and of course he brings it to Stannis' attention because it's the right political move to make. But he first allows Gendry to escape Dragonstone because Melisandre intends to sacrifice him to R'hllor. Stannis is livid about this and sentences Davos to die, but the Onion Knight makes a case for why he needs to live. Surprisingly, Melisandre agrees with him.

Like Davos, Melisandre realizes that the real threat to Westeros lies to the north. "This War of Five Kings means nothing. The true war lies to the north, my king. Death marches on the wall. Only you can stop it," she tells Stannis. It's up to Davos to rally men to Stannis' cause, and it seems as though his men will be heading north to the Wall in Season 4.

Across the Narrow Sea

It's pretty incredible just how far Daenerys Targaryen has come since Season 1. Though she didn't have much to do in the final episode of Season 3, she was the main person responsible for giving the episode its name. She and her Unsullied army array themselves outside Yunkai where they wait to see how the slaves respond to Dany's defeat of the city's lords. They quickly accept her, and start chanting the word "mhysa," which means "mother." She walks out into the mass of former slaves and they lift her up, resulting in one of the most gorgeous scenes in "Game of Thrones": Dany being held up in the center of her now-massive following while her three dragons fly overhead. Is it Spring 2014 already?

Best lines

Tyrion to Sansa: "The disgraced daughter and the demon monkey who are perfect for each other."

Ramsay introducing the world to "Reek": "You're just meat. Stinking meat. You reek. Reek! That's a good name for you!"

Yara of rescuing Theon: "I'm going to march on the Dreadfort, I'm going to find my little brother and I'm going to bring him home."

Tyrion to Joffrey: "Monsters are dangerous and just now kings are dying like flies."

Tyrion to Pod: "It's not easy being drunk all the time. Everyone would do it if it were easy."

Tyrion to Cersei: "There's nothing worse than a late blooming philosopher."

Fun facts

- When the Hound asks Arya if the Frey man was the first "man" she's killed, she doesn't correct him, but the youngest Stark daughter has killed before. In Season 1, she accidentally kills a stableboy while she is trying to escape the Lannister men trying to capture her in King's Landing. Unlike in the show, Arya has already killed several people in the "A Song of Ice and Fire" books by this point in time.

- The death of Robb and Catelyn Stark at the hands of Walder Frey is known in the "A Song of Ice and Fire" books as the Red Wedding, but the event is never once referred to by that name in the show.

- In case it wasn't clear enough in "The Rains of Castamere," it is a big no-no in the world of "Game of Thrones" to murder a guest when they have broken bread and salt under your roof. Walder Frey broke the Guest Right when he murdered Robb, Catelyn, Talisa and the rest of the Stark bannermen, and Bran tells the story of another infamous person who pulled the same stunt who is now known only as the Rat Cook.

Photo/Video credit: HBO