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'Game of Thrones' episode recap: Crucifixion, confrontation and a blue-eyed baby

“Oathkeeper” is the best example yet of the showrunners’ most basic challenge: keeping the action moving on all fronts while keeping the story coherent. It succeeds, despite feeling a bit manic, thanks to some pared-down exposition in the crackling dialogue.

For a few brief, shining moments, I thought Mance Raydor was finally attacking the wall. But it was just a group of Unsullied, sneaking into the slave city of Meereen, the latest stop on Danerys’ march. Once the slaves of Meereen are issued their own knives, it’s all over, and it’s ugly.

The slave masters of Meereen are evil, no doubt, but crucifixion? Emilia Clarke ascending a pyramid as the tortured screams rise from below? And of course, more worshipful cries of “Mhysa, Myhsa,” as Daenerys basks in her victory among the grateful masses. This is how megalomaniacs are born. Soon she’ll be unable to tolerate anything but the adoration.

Back in King’s Landing, Jaime finally visits his brother’s dungeon cell after a slightly hokey prod from Bronn: “You’ve got to fight for him now.”

The ensuing scene between “the Kingslayer brothers,” as Tyrion put it, has Emmy clip written all over it.

“I’d hate for you to do something inappropriate” is one of the series’ best one-liners, and Dinklage delivers it with just the right degree of dry restraint.

It’s a gratifying, if a bit clunky, moment when Sansa finally gathers her wits about her during a debriefing with Littlefinger, still smarmy and smug.

Everyone’s a comedian this week, with Oleanna Redwyne reminiscing about the bawdy seduction that saved her from marrying a Targaryen. “Marrying a Targaryen was all the rage back then.” And Margarey, just like Sansa, puts two and two together about Joffrey’s murder. “You don’t think I’d let you marry that beast, do you?” her grandmother asks.

Up at the Wall, the jerky guys whose names we haven’t learned yet are setting Jon up for failure by letting him clean out the bad seeds at Craster’s Keep. “Let the mutineers take care of Snow, or you’ll be taking orders from him the rest of your life,” one says. Evidently, at the Wall, Kit Harrington is the one exuding natural leadership.

Finally, a cathartic, albeit brief, scene with Cersei. She’s worried about Tommen’s guard detail. She’s also determined to make Jaime kill someone for her, this time Sansa. Then she dismisses him with, “That will be all, lord commander.” And we all sighed with relief.

Margaery is making her first secret visit to Tommen’s bedchambers. Tommen gets that look on his face Anthony Michael Hall had in “Weird Science” when Kelly LeBrock got in the shower with him.

Jaime starts lobbing gifts at Brienne to make her leave, including his Valyrian steel sword. She names it Oathkeeper, showing off her earnest integrity again. Brienne wanders back north in search of Sansa, looking for another chance to let her basic decency be her downfall.

Jon, getting permission to gather a volunteer force to clean up Craster’s Keep, gives a great Jerry Maguire speech and gets some takers. Good thing, too, because these guys are real nightmares. (How many hand-wringing think pieces will be written about the casual depictions of the rapes of Craster’s daughters? Or were those rapists not handsome enough?)

The final sequences with the White Walkers and infant sacrifice were equal parts disturbing and visually stunning. Were the same fans who cheered as Joffrey bled from his mouth worried about that (remarkably calm) baby? And more importantly, is there some freaky snow army of dead babies with eyes the color of Gatorade?