The scope of Game of Thrones is so gargantuan that you often forget it all started with just the Stark family in Winterfell. How quickly things change.
The only time we see the northern castle now is the opening credits, the smoke rising from the razed ruins a poignant touch to remind us how the Starks are scattered across Westeros. Despite Arya, Bran, Rickon and Sansa all finding new companions, the second episode highlighted how the different Stark members are all trying to find each other once more.
Sansa's new confidant is the one and only Dianna Rigg as Lady Olenna Tyrell. The legendary British dame is perfectly prickly as the Queen of Thorns, directing barbs at the servants and demanding cheese whenever she wants it. Sansa is initially terrified to disclose information about Joffrey to her and Margaery, afraid of which side the Tyrell's are working for.
But after having her fears assuaged by being told, "we're only women here," she spews out the one sentence Margaery needs to hear - "He's a monster". Lady Olenna's acerbic reaction to such news is a delightful response, hopefully paving the way for Sansa to acquire a powerful ally.
After escaping the assault of Winterfell, Bran and Rickon are making their way up north towards the wall when they encounter two wily teenagers by the names of Meera and Jojen Reed. Jojen's appearance is foreshadowed in Bran's dream at the start of the episode, and he reveals to Bran that the three-eyed crow he sees is in fact himself.
Their sudden appearance feels incredibly contrived, and we're given precious few details of who the Reed's actually are. At least they give Bran the chance of someone to talk to, as younger brother Rickon, wildling Osha and oafish Hodor offer little chance for dialogue otherwise.
Arya also finds herself caught up with a new group that go by the name of the Brotherhood Without Banners. This ramshackle lot are led by Thoros of Myr, played with relish by rambunctious comedian Paul Kaye. The group swear no allegiance and say they're looking out for the interests of the people, even if they do seem to spend the majority of the time drinking and playing around.
Things take a more serious turn when Sandor Clegane turns up, captured by the group after fleeing the Battle of Blackwater. Unlike Tywin, the perceptive Hound spots at once the young Stark. The group might hold no affiliations, but they'll realise the value of holding on to the younger sister of the King in the North.
Robb Stark heads off to Riverrun after Catelyn discovers her father has died, but not all of his group are keen on the Young Wolf taking his eye off the war to attend a funeral. Upon hearing of her father's death, Catelyn ruefully reflects to Talisa how she could have been a better mother.
Her anecdote of not caring enough for Jon Snow is a great monologue that illuminates the origins of the show in Winterfell. Right now the Stark family could not be more separate, with the only chance we get to see them together in Bran's dreams.
Playing the Game
Whilst in King's Landing Margaery is blossoming into quite the Machiavelli. Despite Sansa's dire warnings of the monstrous boy king, she seems perfectly able to tame the beast. From last season suggesting a threesome with her own brother as a means of conceiving a child with Renly, she changes to innocent princess when with Joffrey.
The moment she clutches the Little Lannister's phallic crossbow is surprisingly sensuous, the Tyrell queen-to-be conveying sexuality in a subtler and more powerful way than the usual naked prostitutes that gratuitously populate the show.
Theon's fate was left ambiguous in last season's finale, as his rousing speech to defend Winterfell to the death was met with not the warmest reception. Knocked out and handed over to the besieging northerners led by Roose Bolton's bastard son, all we saw here was the young Greyjoy chained and tortured.
He might soon be rescued by none other than Simon from Misfits (Iwan Rheon). Playing a mysterious figure who promises to free Theon, the only problem for the former ward is that he is now hated both in the North and the Iron Islands.
Jaime and Brienne's on the road banter has quickly becomes the best part of the show, with the Kingslayer's sardonic put-downs rebuffed by the Lady of Tarth's steely resolve. It culminated in a great fight between the two, every bit as exhilarating as when Jaime duelled with Ned Stark in season one. He might blame it on rustiness, but there's no question that Brienne is on top before a Bolton troop capture the two. The Kingslayer won't be so smug after that.