Remember Daenerys Targaryen’s (Emilia Clarke) inspired tactics to gain more recruits for her army in the climatic frames of last week’s episode? Well it looks as though her methods are continuing to work. As whispers and doubts regarding the passing of King Joffrey still heavily linger across Westeros, the ‘Mother of Dragons’ has bigger fish to fry. As Game of Thrones rolls closer to its mid-season point, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss show no signs of applying the brakes much to all our viewing pleasure.

Under the scorching sun of Meereen, Daenerys and her loyal warrior Grey Worm cut off the shackles and free the city’s slaves; boosting their military frontier in the process. Despite being a women of spiritualism and good nature, Khaleesi is also one of justice and revenges the cavalcades of deceased children posted at every mile by crucifying 163 masters and standing proud at the highest turret of Meereen draping a red and black Targaryen flag which dances in the wind and confirms her as the true saviour of the slaves trapped in Essos.

After his shocking and characterisation-conflicting actions last week, Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is working his way back into the good books; just not with Cersei (Lena Headey) or his father…the ‘Kingslayer’ pays brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) a visit as he remains prisoner until placed on trial for the murder of Joffrey after some humbling advice from swordsman trainer Bronn (Jerome Flynn) and sends Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) off on a quest to recover Lady Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and secure her safety; a debt he promised to pay to Lady Catelyn before her untimely death at ‘The Red Wedding’. Supplying Brienne with a custom-made armour, Tyrion’s squire Podrick and offering her his Valyrian Steel sword – to which she names ‘Oathkeeper’ – Jaime waves away the woman who changed him for the better, and someone who audiences are believed to think is romantically invested in the single-handed troublemaker.

Sansa remains at sea with Lord Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Balish (Aiden Gillen) who as per usual is up to no good and continues to twist the knife of doubt and deceit in the side of everyone residing in the Capital. He somewhat confesses to organising the poisoning of her previous husband and smartly covered his tracks to discard any evidence or means of the event falling back at his feet, but this is ‘Littlefinger’ we are discussing the words and breath which roll from his mouth could be gospel truth, or just another lie; something he is undeniably brilliant at. With ‘The Imp’ locked down for the murder and currently seeming like he will unlikely walk away from the trial means Balish is able to spew such stories – true or false – with little worry. However, as he and Tyrion’s wife flee further from King’s Landing, his potential involvement in the event continues to strike notes back on shore with Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) filling Margaery’s (Natalie Dormer) head with rumours before advising her to get close with the following King – Tommen.

Aesthetically Oathkeeper was a sensational episode; beautifully crafted, elegantly framed and gorgeously rendered, and as usual the performance and production levels are sky-high, but what makes this yet another roaring success in the already immaculate 4th season campaign is the storytelling. Westeros is absolutely enormous – spanning miles and miles, with sun and snow at each end – plus it is bursting with characters; all finely detailed and relevant, and yet for a show of such scale and weight, each 60 minute saga feels intimate and controlled. Every cast member has their moment, and each moment is smartly attached to a following scene of some relevance. Never does this episode feel remotely disjointed or misguided – the narrative is tight, focused and most importantly compelling.

A weekly occurrence in HBO’s flagship show is a scene designed to jaw-drop, and this week offered two excuses for spectators to be agape. The first came at the hands of the wicked and sadistic Tanner played with brutal intensity by Burn Gorman. The former brothers of the Night’s Watch have set up shop at Craster’s Keep in which they act like animals. Tanner drinks wine from a human skull and spits dialogue so venomous and repugnant that a further adult content warning was introduced mid-airing of the episode. Meanwhile his companions repeatedly rape and beat their women and soon capture young Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), Hodor and the Reeds after they spot the family direwolf Ghost locked away in a cage.

The following sequence of shock is the reveal of a newborn baby at Craster’s Keep which is chosen to be sacrificed. Left for dead in the blistering cold of The North, the child is soon cradled and carried on horseback by none other than a White Walker. Placed in the centre of what appears to be a ceremonial circle, the baby isn’t murdered, instead merely touched by the icy, demonic beings which causes the baby’s pupils to dilate and transform. A new chapter is about to be unfolded with the mythical ice creatures and it is something viewers will be supremely interested to witness.

Next week sees the halfway mark for Season 4, but it looks as though the drama, tension and surprises are set to continue in abundance. The one certainty is that Winter is Coming, and its arrival will shake up George R.R. Martin’s world good and proper.