“Dark wings, dark words” is, at face value, a simple way of saying that bad news travels fast. In the medieval world of Westeros, news travels fastest by ravens – fast, strong and sturdy birds who carry messages across vast distances. Their strength allows them to fly straight and true regardless of crosswinds or of rain. Their intelligence allows them to know which way to go once they’re trained and sent out. Their value is such that only the most urgent and important of messages gets delivered this way. And few things are as urgent or important as bad news.
As for the episode, “Dark Wings, Dark Words” finishes the job of bringing us back into the world of Westeros by bringing these characters face-to-face with new revelations. Hard truths are shared; sometimes by people who have no desire to help those they’re helping to see. Some of these revelations will have greater impact down the line. Others serve to highlight the deep chasms that lie in the past.
Bran is a warg. He not only dreams of life as his wolf, Summer, but he can enter into its mind and control it. While he’s not the only warg in the world – as we see when Orell uses his eagle to scout ahead for Mance Rayder – the promise Jojen Reed makes to him is that he will have power greater than any warg in the world. Jojen should know as he’s a seer – someone who sees the truth of things, even when others cannot see it in themselves. He and his sister, Meera, will have a large role to play in the journey Bran will take, whether Osha likes it or not.
Catelyn’s father is nearly dead and her youngest sons are missing and presumed dead. The twin news of grief coming from both north and south for Catelyn are the kind that shatter hopes. It’s one thing to lose a father. It’s another to be betrayed and lose your youngest sons. But to have both crash upon you at the same time? The messages act to bring back Catelyn to her greatest act of betrayal: when after months of praying for the death of the infant Jon Snow, pox struck him. Her fear at what she had wrought caused her to pray for the child to be saved in exchange for her willingness to love him and treat him as her own child. But she broke her promise the moment the child was safe. Now, nothing and no one she loves is safe.
There’s a group fighting for the common folk. So far, this story has given us many characters which are all aligned either for or against one of the great Houses. Whether it’s for Stark or Lannister or Baratheon or Targaryen, every man or woman is sworn to one of the major sides. But like so many nobles, the concerns of the farmers, the servants and the rest of Westeros are second to the wishes and greed of the noble lords. With the Brotherhood Without Banners around, that has changed. As Thoros of Myr reveals to Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie, they are a wild card group who fight for no side but the poor, downtrodden commoners of the Riverlands and the Westerlands. What will they do with the suddenly-revealed Arya Stark? Or with the captured Sandor Clegane?
Robb Stark has lost the war. He may not know it yet. He may not even be aware of it. But the simple fact is that King Robb is fighting a fight he’s already lost. The men who follow him have no spirit for the fight. The cause they were fighting for – independence and freedom from the Iron Throne’s tyranny – seems so distant and lost. Instead, they now carry grudges and anger against one another – Lord Karstark against Catelyn for her betrayal, many of the men against Robb for his wedding to Talisa and how she’s cost them fighting men and purpose. Karstark tells his King as much, but Robb just cannot hear it. Unfortunately, the proud wolves of Stark cannot accept defeat and don’t know how to retreat from their just causes.
Joffrey is a monster, but Margaery is more dangerous. That Sansa was willing to let that pass by from her terrified lips speaks to the skills of both Margaery and her grandmother, Lady Olenna. But, as the Queen of Thorns states, they’re now that they’re committed to this cause. And this means they will use all their skills at scheming and manipulation on their targets; the first two being the young and naïve Sansa and the sadistic but foolish Joffrey. Neither of these two formerly-betrothed young people have the skills to match the lovely but cunning Margaery or her even more capable grandmother. Cersei sees through Margaery because she is so alike to her, but Joffrey isn’t listening to mother anymore. And thanks to Sansa, Margaery knows how to play the nascent sexuality of Joffrey to her advantage.
Brienne’s honor may have cost them their lives. In some ways, Jaime Lannister is the perfect foil for Brienne of Tarth. He was where she is — full of dreams and ideas of being the best knight possible, the perfect knight. Instead, he found out that the kings and lords that are to be served as sick, twisted, greedy bastards. That the knights are more often than not cruel, vicious bastards too. And that the commoners you’re sworn to protect will betray you and turn you to your enemies without a moment’s hesitation. Jaime’s lessons taught to him by Tywin and King Aerys have brought him to a point where he cares for none but Cersei. Brienne cannot help but hear his mocking. Maybe if she could listen, she’d understand some of the truth Jaime can provide. Let’s hope they live past her mistake.
Theon Greyjoy is in a world of pain. Who has the former Prince of Winterfell remains unrevealed – although you likely can figure it out given all the visual cues you got this episode. Then, a savior arrives. Someone sent by his sister, Yara, to free him from his captivity and his torment. But will he be able to ride to freedom? Or will Theon only find more pain and misery when it’s all said and done?
The Wildlings and the Night’s Watch are both unified in terror. The black brothers flee south to warn the Seven Kingdoms of the terror that came upon them – the White Walkers. Right behind them are the hundreds of thousands of wildlings under the common banner of Mance Rayder’s plan. They too are trying to flee to the lands on the other side of The Wall. The fact is that they will not be welcomed South of The Wall. They’ll have to fight their way there. On a darker note, will anyone South of The Wall welcome the black brothers – the crows – when they arrive with their own dark words, warning of the return of darkness and death?
So now, with the table set and all the characters back in the fold, we can start properly this season. The characters are still scattered across various continents and, with the incoming arrival of the Tullys of Riverrun, the world will only keep expanding. In other words, more dark words will be brought by the dark wings of the ravens. More death. More misery. More destruction.
Should be a fun ride.