Who else really wants a pet dragon now? They are so adorable, and can burn enemies to a crisp! I don't have a dog or a cat because I don't see the point -- but the utility of a pet dragon is obvious. Of course there's the minor problem that they become enormous, and then things get complicated... but I won't spoil the plot of A Dance with Dragons.
What I will say is that if you enjoy the way nearly everything pretty much goes wrong in this episode, you will love the third season. The third book, A Storm of Swords, is legendary in the fan community for the epic proportions of its devastation. When I met George R. R. Martin at Worldcon several years ago, I asked him if some of those scenes were hard to write. He assured me that they were, because he is actually a nice guy in spite of what he's capable of doing to his characters.
Women have the most compelling roles in this episode. That certainly holds true for what might have been my favorite scene, where Brienne and Jaime come upon the rotting corpses of women (I presume, whores -- the number of whores on this show is endless) who were murdered because they "lay with Lions" (i.e., Lannister soldiers). Faced with what is simply a more extreme form of the routine degradation women experience in her world, Brienne grimly sets out to cut down the corpses and bury them. For this she ends up getting into a pitched battle with the three guys who killed the women, and who think Brienne is an easy -- and even amusing -- target.
It's one of those scenes where a cheer seems mandatory: in slaughtering these men (in one case with particular cruelty) Brienne symbolically strikes a blow against the misogyny that surrounds her. And it's satisfying to see the way Jaime, who mocked her until then and belittled her abilities, just. Shuts. Up. (A good look for him in general, but especially here.)
Brienne is shaping up to be a great character on the show, more so even than in the books, where she lacks the fire she displays onscreen. Her ferocity and lack of traditional sex appeal are a much-needed antidote to the so-called "kickass heroines" that plague TV and books like a horde of manicured, stiletto-heeled locusts.
On the flip side of the same coin, we see another woman drawing upon a more subtle strength to overcome the forces of misogyny: the prostitute Ros, a character unique to the show who has stood in for a whole array of women from the books, is recruited by Varys to work for him in secret from within Littlefinger's brothel. We've already seen Ros subjected to nearly every form of degradation -- from Littlefinger's veiled threats to more overt abuse from Joffrey and Cersei. When we first see her here, she's using makeup to conceal a black eye -- the classic move of the battered woman. It's telling that when Ros first realizes Varys is a eunuch, she fears him because it means she can't manipulate him with sex. Ros has yet to put faith in her own powers of reasoning and intellect -- and this may be something that Varys will train her to do. Perhaps by developing trust in herself, Ros will overcome her current status as a (barely) glorified sex slave. Since she doesn't exist in the books, I can't wait to see where this goes -- and hope Ros's character arc will involve her empowerment beyond the walls of the brothel.
And finally there is Daenerys being fearsome -- not just with her dragons, but also in the brutal way she disposes of her enemies at the end. Like Brienne, Daenerys also represents a subversion of feminine stereotypes. There is nothing that is typically feminine in her singleminded quest for the Iron Throne, which involves a plan of war (as opposed to Margaery Tyrell's ambition to marry into it). It's easy to envision the story of a man fighting to reclaim his royal birthright, his dragons at his side. Except Daenerys considers herself a mother of these dragons, and the central grief of her life is the loss of Drogo and her unborn son. That she is able to turn away from them -- even symbolically -- represents a turning away from a traditionally female role of nurturer and mother, to what is usually the male role of a heroic journey and conquest.
So now we'll have to wait for the next season. For some of you, this may involve catching up on the Song of Ice and Fire novels. For others, it might mean kicking back with some mulled wine in a $30,000 Iron Throne replica -- and if this means you, can you please let me know -- with pics? I am dying to know who will buy this throne, not to mention where it would fit in to someone's interior decorating scheme.
The rest of you -- go ahead and read. The third book's worth it.
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