There’s so much going on in this episode. The title could refer to several of the protagonists.
First we have Lord Tywin. The death on his doorstep of Armory Lorch convinces him the assassination attempt was on his own life – and thus he orders the torture and hanging of his own men to turn up the traitor. When that appears unsuccessful, he orders the local villages and farms burnt. Over several episodes during these interludes with Tywin and Arya Stark we have come to respect and even like Tywin – and now we are reminded how ruthless and cunning he is. He also continues to play mind games with the little Arya, figuring her out, even pointing out how he knows she is noble born despite her best efforts to hide it. This mental back and forth is always fascinating.
In Qarth, Xaro proves he is a man without honour as despite all his protestations, it is finally revealed that the warlock from the House of the Undying stole the dragons from Dany and Xaro is in league with them – the end of which, in a breathless scene, is the assassination of the rest of the Thirteen so that Xaro ascends to King of Qarth.
Then there is Jaimie Lannister. Still stuck in a northern cage, he makes friends with his distant cousin until in a shocking move, he becomes a kinslayer and kills Alton Lannister to attract the guard, kill him and effect his escape. The attempt does not succeed and Jaimie is almost executed on the spot, however Caetlyn Stark, with King Robb away, intervenes to save him proving that she clings to the honour that her late husband upheld. His goading of her just proves how without honour he is but it is truly his words about the vows he must swear as a knight:
So many vows. They make you swear and swear. Defend the King. Obey the King. Obey your father. Protect the innocent. Defend the weak. But what if your father despises the King? What if the King massacres the innocent? It’s too much.
And we get to the heart of the matter, in a powerfully written scene delivered with real verve by Nickolaj Coster-Waldau. How can one hold to honour with so much dishonesty and evil and duplicity in the world? He goes on to stab verbally at Caetlyn about her husband and his bastard son Jon Snow. How much honour did Ned have to lie with another woman and father a son? She struggles to control her anger, until finally requesting Brienne’s sword.
Finally there is Theon, current Lord of Winterfell but lost on whatever path to greatness he thinks he is following. After Bran, Rickon, Hodor and Osha escape he tracks them with hounds. He knows he has his reputation at stake, both with his Iron Men and the people of Winterfell. When he eventually returns to Winterfell, he raises two grisly burned children’s bodies like flags above the keep. The writers and actor Alfie Allen have made Theon enough of a flawed villain that, unlike King Joffrey, we almost feel sympathy for him. But when those small bodies are hoisted like trophies, even his downcast eyes, his awareness of how far he has fallen, cannot save him as any sympathy flies out the window. Theon is truly a man without honour.
Postscript: There is a scene in this episode that speaks volumes about the characters, the actors and the writers. When Cersei and Tyrion are discussing Joffrey and the war, there is just so much going on. When Cersei laments that Joffrey is the price they pay for their sins – her and Jaimie, she means – Tyrion moves closer as if to console her. The two actors here are perfect in how uncomfortable they are with the idea that they may share a close moment.