Jaime’s decision to return for Brienne shows that, in addition to feeling a growing respect for her, he has actually begun to care for her as well. Jaime is finally safe as he heads away from Harrenhal as he’s got a massive armed escort to take him back to King’s Landing and his family. Brienne, on the other hand, is at the mercy of Vargo Hoat, who is known to maim and murder people for pleasure. As evidenced by his dream, Jaime feels guilty for leaving Brienne behind, and he worries enough about her safety that he forces Steelshanks against his will to go back for her. To get Steelshanks to comply, he even threatens to lie to his father and say that it was Steelshanks who cut his hand off. When they get back to Harrenhal, Jaime goes so far as to jump into the pit with Brienne and try to defend her from the bear, despite the fact that he’s as helpless as she is in the situation, and comes near being killed in the process. Jaime clearly feels a desire to protect Brienne, even at the expense of his own life, which suggests that his regard for her now goes beyond simple respect. The exact nature of his feelings for her isn’t yet clear, but it is certain that he values her a great deal.

In Samwell’s chapter, Samwell demonstrates the progress he’s made as a fighter in his struggle with the wight, and we also meet a mysterious new supernatural figure. Samwell routinely mentions what a coward he is and implies at every opportunity that he is not a fighter. But in the course of the novel, he has experienced multiple battles, including the stand against the Others on the Fist of the First Men and the mutiny by his brothers at Craster’s Keep. He’s also fought one of the Others face to face and survived. These experiences appear to have toughened him somewhat, and here, Samwell actually stands his ground against the wight to protect Gilly. Even when the fight goes badly, with the obsidian dagger shattering on the wight’s armor and the wight then choking him, Samwell manages to fight back and ultimately kill the creature. It’s probably the most courageous Samwell has been in the series, and it’s certainly his greatest victory as a fighter. He quickly realizes, however, that there are too many wights to fight off, but luckily he and Gilly are saved by the strange figure riding a giant elk. This man appears to have some affiliation with the Night’s Watch as he’s cloaked all in black, and he’s clearly not human as his hands are black as his clothing and ice cold.