Thankfully David Benioff delivered on what I hoped for last week: we have picked up the pace. This was a vintage GoT episode, featuring political comedy, introduction of new characters, and sudden reversals of fortune.
REMINDER: WE HAVE NOT READ THE BOOKS. DO NOT DISCUSS THEM IN THE COMMENTS.
We begin in the new location added to the opening scene: Riverrun. There we meet two new characters: Catlynn’s brother Edmure is fucking up everything in sight. He can’t seal the deal on completing a proper Viking funeral for their father, and apparently his stupid tactics meant Robb wasn’t able to follow through with his plan to capture The Mountain. We also meet the Blackfish, who has an awesome name, and backs it up. He hits the canoe with his first shot and is confident enough to throw the bow back to Edmure before it lands. He also wears badass armor that actually evoke the scales of a black fish. His conversation with Catlynn gives her the opportunity for a second somber monologue in as many weeks. Cat is a pretty worthless character at this point so I guess they are trying to keep her interesting by coloring in her background with some sad history.
We move from there to King’s Landing–the new Small Council’s chambers. For the first time, the leader of the Lannisters is actually quarterbacking from the Capital. But before Tywin even speaks, we see how his subjects jockey for positioning as close as they can get to real power. First is Lord Baelish, the most ambitious of men from humble background. He eagerly takes the seat to Tywin’s left. Next comes Lord Varys (first sighting!), who appears to roll his eyes at Baelish’s transparency before sitting next to him. Next comes Maester Pycell, who’s just happy to still have a seat at the table.* Cersei now needs a gesture that shows she’s still more important than all these chumps, so she carries a chair to the other side of the table. Tywin actually looks a little impressed at this bold maneuever–his eyes appear to convey respect. Finally comes Tyrion, the comedian of the bunch. In classic fashion he slowly, and loudly, drags his chair to the complete other end of the table to face his father head on. Bravo, Tyrion, Bravo. Two other newsworthy events happen in this scene. It seems like Lord Baelish is set to marry Catlynn’s sister. Where the hell did that come from? We know he’s in love with Cat, but there was never any indication the sister was in play. We’ve only seen Lysa Arryn once before and she was a nutcase, so good luck with that. The other development is Tyrion’s “promotion” to Master of Coin. Tyrion astutely points out that a lifetime of extravagant spending has not prepared him well for this position, but it doesn’t seem to matter. God he is so likable.
*As a side note, Maester Pycell is latently one of the scummiest characters on the show. Despite holding the title of Grand Maester, he seems to be concerned with no one but himself, and keeps his general good health a secret from all those around him. This is of course in stark contrast to Winterfell’s Master Luwin, who was a great man (RIP).
In Astapor, Dany is preparing a Faustian bargain. Are 8,000 of the finest trained soldiers worth 1 dragon who can lay whole cities to waste when old enough? Hardly, which makes me think the first city that is razed is likely to be Astapor itself. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Astapor isn’t one of the Seven Kingdoms, and I doubt most from outside the city will cry over its demise. We have seen Dany come a long way from the innocent girl who was sold to the Dothraki, and here she warns Jorah and Barristan Selmy not to ever question her in public again. She knows exactly what she is doing, and I don’t think giving up a dragon is part of the plan. Who defends the city if she owns all the soldiers in all of Astapor? After seeing the Walk of Punishment, from which this episode gets its title, isn’t it obvious these people would be overjoyed if ordered to rise up against the slavemasters? The slavers will fall at her feet, and I think she will get particular joy out of killing the one who sold them to her. That Ben Kingsley has quite a sailor’s mouth!
I don’t even know what to say about Theon’s storyline at this point. Obviously my prediction from last week that he was actually being held by Iron-born is wrong, but then who the hell is it and how did someone so easily infiltrate their ranks to free Theon? Thankfully he showed up again (that was the same guy right?) before Theon felt the true meaning of pain. However I really have nothing else to say because the writers have kept us so significantly in the dark that there really is nothing to say.
Finally, we come to the death in the episode. No, Jamie Lannister didn’t actually perish, but hasn’t his spirit been destroyed? That was his fighting hand, the hand that made him a legendary swordsman throughout the Seven Kingdoms. I imagine the next time we see Jamie he will be considering suicide rather than face life as a cripple like his brother.
This is the perfect time to reflect on the audience’s relationship with Jamie Lannister over 2.3 seasons. In Episode 1, he pushes Bran out a balcony in the hopes of killing him because Bran caught him fucking his own sister–setting him up as the quintessential bad guy of the show. However as time goes on Benioff and Weiss have beautifully crafted him into one of the more sympathetic characters. We learned from Tywin that he used to lock Jamie up for 4 hours a day to teach him how to read because there was no other way to fight his dyslexia. We know he is the Kingslayer, which everyone in Westeros views as a dishonorable title, but one which he wears proudly. Despite the fact he killed the “Mad King,” the people of Westeros are in virtual agreement that he committed a treasonous act. The Mad King at the time was screaming “burn them all,” and yet Jamie is a bad guy for killing him? He should be viewed as a savior rather than a traitor. Let’s not also forget that he is one of the few Atheists of Westeros, as he remarks that for every god to pray to there is an opposite. While he may not want to admit it, he is much more similar to Tyrion than he thinks (and ironically after this injury even more so). He is arrogant, and can you blame him when you grow up as a Lannister with supreme fighting skills, but also witty and practical. He didn’t try to kill Bran Stark because he hated him, but because he needed to protect his secret. He explains to Brienne that if she lets their captives rape her then perhaps she won’t be killed. While this is also practical, there is no reason for him to do this other than compassion. They have grown close on their adventure together, and surely he respects her fighting ability after their brief duel. Her living has no bearing on him, and yet he presses on–twirling a yarn about her being of noble birth. While I have always wondered this considering she is always referred to as ‘Brienne of Tarth,’ which carries some air of nobility, there is no indication of it other than this scene. Instead what results is classic Thrones reversal of fortune. At the moment we most sympathize and respect Jamie (and think he is about to be fed a delicious partridge) he gets cut down a peg. Daddy ain’t here to help you now.
And that’s why, you always leave a note. Cue Buster
One final note, as some have questioned why Jamie hadn’t been maimed already. Don’t forget that if news were to get back to the Capital that something happened to Jamie then surely they would subscribe to the ‘eye for an eye’ theory with Sansa. This is why I believe he was fully intact until yesterday.
One more thing on the end–the music during the credits was a terrible choice in my opinion. I don’t know what the song was, but it was some awful fast paced punk/rock song. To me it really didn’t feel like it belonged in Game of Thrones in any context.
Missing characters this week: Bran and Co.; Joffrey; the Tyrells; Sansa; Shae
Also: 2 verrrrry brief scenes this week for 2 big players: Jon Snow and Stannis Baratheon. It seems Snow’s loyalty will be tested in an assault on Castle Black, while Stannis’ priestess is leaving on some mysterious quest. This sets up the inevitable visit to Davos’ prison cell where he tries to convince Stannis to abandon the Lord of Light. I don’t get it though, is Stannis a main character? He has a great claim to the Iron Throne right now, and yet we barely see him. One legitimate person standing in his way is Gendry. Is it possible Melisandre was alluding to him when she said there were others with Baratheon blood?
I bet Hot Pie really is a good baker. Hope he doesn’t burn his hands!
Podrick is packing at least 10 inches right? As an aside, while that was a funny scene, what was the point of it? Surely that time could’ve been more valuable spent elsewhere. Unless, it turns out that it was Lord Baelish who refused the money in order to procure some later favor from Tyrion. This seems unlikely though as you’d want to make sure Tyrion knows this. Sometimes the simplest explanation is the right one: Podrick has a hoss.
Another worthless scene in the North with Sam. The payoff for devoting so much time there better be good. We know another offering to the White Walkers is coming.
Jorah Mormont with the best line of the episode: “There’s a beast in every man Khaleesi, and it stirs when you put a sword in his hand.”
buckeyedpeas: I want to first commend Kyra for a really interesting read on Jaime. Because of the series’ starting point, we’ve basically been predisposed to revile Jaime after he pushed Bran to near death. As we never met the so-called “Mad King” we can’t speak to the truth of that moniker, and so we can’t give Jaime much credit for what might have been, after taking both the good and the bad into account, a passably noble act; instead our first brush with Jaime involved both incest and the attempted murder of a little kid. Westeros may be better off without old man Targaryen, but it’s also possible that his inherited title of Mad King is just the product of history being written by the winners. (Though the fact that so many houses normally at odds with each other each had problems with the guy speaks to the Mad King’s inability to build consensus.) Still it’s true that Jaime is more complex than a simple regicidal swordsman. He’s a man of infinite jest (and wit—couldn’t resist the Hamlet allusion) that should aid him in crafting his handless identity, and his mauling at the hands (PUN INTENDED) of the shitty manager from Almost Famous comes immediately after the first real act of kindness we’ve seen from Jaime (because we haven’t seen anything to predispose us to admire Jaime, other than his sense of humor, within the chronology of the show itself). Jaime, who just earlier was confident that his having a big swinging dick kept him immune fromt the torture and rape that Brianne would face, saw his confidence severed as easily as his right wrist.
I also want to commend David Benioff, Sunday’s director (and co-showrunner), for what felt like a well-directed episode. Certainly a coincidence but the dialogue-free opening, with the failure to ignite the floating funeral pyre, made for an obvious parallel with the Mad Men premiere, and marked a venture into dark humor that Thrones too often lacks. You’d think some deathly jokes would be more common on the show, whereas they’re mostly limited to Tyrion’s and Jaime’s quips, so it was nice to see them do something funny that didn’t rely on some wiseass’s crack.
I could make the same complaints about the show needing to cut waste (The pointless thirty seconds spent with Stannis ruined what could have been a nice visual transition from Theon’s unshackling to the manacled slaves of Astapor. Did you know Craster kills of the baby boys?? Oh, and MORE TEARS from Mrs. Stark!), but I don’t want to dwell on that, plus one scene that could have been filler—Arya’s and Gendry’s farewell to Hot Pie—came across as sweet and felt less like a regurgitation of the books (which as a disclaimer we haven’t read) than a standalone meditation about what some people are and aren’t cut out for in this world. Like Kyra, I also don’t know why we’re being kept in the dark so much with Theon’s storyline,* but I appreciated the decision to at a bit of a chase scene there; this, too, is something the show should be doing more of, especially if budget constraints limit the amount of battle sequences they can film.
*We’re also left a little in the dark with regards to the Khaleesi’s motivations—no way do I think she’s giving up one of her precious dragons so easily—and why Tyrion’s money was returned—I don’t necessarily buy that it’s just because Pod has big cock. But unlike with Theon, those scenes served alternative functions besides just deepening the mystery: with Dany, to show that she’s still the boss over both her knight boy-men, and with Tyrion, to show that he’s the world’s best boss and recognizes good work when he sees it.