I imagine the expression ‘kissed by fire’ could be good or bad. You could say Dany was kissed by fire when she emerged from a funeral pyre unharmed, and with dragons. You could say Stannis was kissed by the fire of the Lord of Light, which up to now has brought him mostly defeat (along with fratricide). Where I want to start this review though, is with my favorite topic. A man who was afraid of what the Mad King would and could do with a pyromancer by his side and no one standing in his way. ‘Burn them all,’ he said.
DO NOT DISCUSS THE BOOKS WE HAVEN’T READ THEM.
Sweet, sweet justice. After weeks of writing about Jamie Lannister’s interesting place in history as the notorious ‘Kingslayer,’ in this episode we finally learn the extent of Jamie’s heroics. While they say history is written by the winners, and make no mistake Jamie Lannister has been a winner until just recently, Jamie’s side of the story has never been told. We find our (anti)hero being taken in by Roose Bolton, who I think is supposed to be one of Robb’s bannermen. While I definitely have a suspicion that ol’ Roose will be betraying Robb in favor of picking up some gold and possible titles, I want to focus on the exposition in the bathhouse. Jamie is at his most physically (he is naked after all) and emotionally vulnerable state. After enduring un-imaginable pain to keep his wound from festering* he slides into the bath and opens his pores and his soul to Brienne–the one person he trusts. Jamie regales us with a vivid illustration of the Mad King’s insanity. He loved wildfire. He loved to watch people’s skin crinkle and turn black under its flame. How had no one betrayed him already!? That’s a better question than why Jamie did what he did. However when honorable Ned Stark walks in to see what you’ve done, you never get a chance to tell your side of the story. The monologue ended brilliantly, with him passing out in Brienne’s arms. As she yells for someone to help the Kingslayer, he corrects her–“my name is Jamie.” Truly a powerful scene, and I hope you faithful readers understand now why I am so sympathetic to Jamie’s plight.
*There can be many explanations for why he refused the milk of the poppy. I think is he wants to feel as much pain as possible because it will make his anger that much exponentially greater. He will not forget his enemies.
I’ll tell you who’s been kissed by fire: Beric Dondarrion. I’d be praying to the Lord of Light too if he had revived me 6 times (twice by Cleganes!).* A duel is always a fun way to start an episode, and when Beric lit his sword on fire it was like he was using a medieval lightsaber. The Hound seemed surprisingly less flustered by the fire than during the Battle of Blackwater, but then again his life was much closer to ending here. Arya tried to finish what Beric started, but good ol’ Gendry sporting a fresh Fu Manchu stopped her. It is an important lesson for Arya, seeing a man guilty of murder go free. She is maturing well beyond her years, as she recognizes she is a hostage of the Brotherhood (not accepting of any euphemisms Beric may want to call it). She makes a heart-warming plea to Gendry that she can be his family, and I suspect he will not be traveling along with the Brotherhood as he intends. Gendry, as the rightful heir to the throne, is too important a character to disappear for long stretches. The Hound on the other hand, I’m assuming will just randomly show up again when we need him.
*The Lord of Light is making a pretty damn compelling case for being the God worth praying to. Between the smoke baby, revivals of Beric, and letting Stannis see into the future or something in the fire, I’d be an instant convert. Furthermore, if the Lord of Light judges those who survive judgment by combat to be true, then isn’t The Hound in the clear? The Lord of Light has judged him innocent, but his disciples seem to agree he’s guilty (although they do let him go).
Someone who has disappeared for long stretches so far is Stannis, but we get a healthy dose of him, his crazy wife, and scaly daughter this week. Stannis represents the Lord of Light’s chosen one, but right now he hasn’t accomplished much of anything. I’m under the impression that when he goes to visit his wife he has no idea that she has become a devout follower as well, as he seems surprised when she is so forgiving of his ‘sin.’ Then again, she’s probably too busy admiring the dead fetuses in her chambers to think of much else. She must think of herself as a huge failure for not giving Stannis an heir, and so she keeps these stillborns to what? Punish herself? She’s nuts. This storyline falls flat for me, as I don’t feel much sympathy for Stannis because we haven’t spent enough time with him. His wife seems to be locked away, and based on her reaction I don’t think he’s seen his daughter in months if not years. Has he kept her locked in a room just because she has a scaly face? Even Tywin wasn’t that harsh on Tyrion. She’s such a sweet girl too! All she wants to do is teach the Onion Knight how to read, where’s the harm in that? This glimpse into Stannis’ wretched life just reminds me of all the bad decisions he continues to make.
Another guy who’s been making bad decisions for a while now is Robb Stark. While I guess you’re supposed to admire his conviction (in contrast to Theon) in beheading his Bannerman despite warnings the Karstark would abandon him if he followed through (which they did), I find it hard to have sympathy for Robb because he put himself in this mess. All the unrest that exists in the Stark camps is brought on by Robb himself. His marriage to Talisa sent a message that his heart wasn’t in the war–it was in love. Then Winterfell is taken by Theon? It’s embarrassing. Now when he finally has a good idea–invade Casterly Rock and do to the Lannisters what Theon did to him–he doesn’t have enough men to do it. As an aside, despite Tywins exceeding brilliance to this point, I do imagine him as a man too prideful to not want to re-take his own home even if it’s not a smart tactical decision. So who does Robb need on his side? Of course, Walder Frey, the father of the girl he was supposed to marry. Good luck with that.
Dany learns the former Unsullied feel completely indebted to her. She’s been an admirable, gracious, and just leader so far. However, the more important development this side of the Narrow Sea comes from Barristan Selmy’s conversation with Jorah. Barristan is driving at something that may become important one day, which is Jorah’s reputation in Westeros. Is Jorah really in this to re-establish himself at the top, or does he truly believe in the cause? If he does, he should obey his commands, which may entail him stepping aside. Of course we know that Jorah has fallen in love with Dany, but will this love and devotion to the cause outweigh his interest in power? Only time will tell.
And once again, Charles Dance brings it. It’s almost as if he just points: you, marry Sansa. You, marry Loras. “You will wed her, bed her, and put child in her.” Problem solved. Just great. Although, it may catalyze a rare alliance between Cersei and Tyrion. We will see!
Missing Character Count: Bran & Co.; Sam & Co. (for once); Varys; Joffrey and [Margaery]; Theon; Bronn; editor’s note: I originally incorrectly said that Margaery was not in the episode. She was, near the very end, although not with Joffrey and her brief appearance was merely a re-hashing of what had been establish with Sansa the previous episode.
Olenna always has figs in the afternoon. “They help move the bowels.” She is nothing if not blunt. Also seems to have a pretty good handle on how much the Tyrells have supplied to King’s Landing.
Baelish fulfills Varys description of him as one of the most dangerous men in all of Westeros when he remarks that now that he has one ship he wants 10 more. I think he’s the most ambitious character on the show (him or Dany).
I guess Jon Snow possesses some of Podrick’s skill in the bedroom eh?
Another note on the Night’s Watch–I hadn’t really comprehended just how large/long the wall was until Snow noted there were 40 towers along it. They could really use some more criminals up there to help man more than 3 towers. 3 towers!? What’s that gonna accomplish?
I know Loras being gay is an open secret, but how much of an idiot is he to tell some stranger about his plans to marry Sansa? He should just come out like Jason Collins already. Be a pioneer!
Speaking of dumb, how dumb is Sansa? While I think she has demonstrated quiet strength in the past (such as in the underground chambers during the Battle of Blackwater), why doesn’t she seize Baelish’s opportunity to leave King’s Landing? I know the cunning Margaery is working on her, but come on Sansa. You gave up leaving with The Hound. Now you’re gonna do it again? Dumb.
Update (buckeye): Not much to add to Kyra here; I think Kyra’s analysis of Jaime’s character development is the best out there, so I’m not going to try to match it, meaning my small recap will be no Jarron Collins’ to Kyra’s Jason. I’d just like to expand on three storylines.
I think I have a begrudging appreciation for Stannis after his appearance this week and the revelation that his wife is extremely skilled at the art of canning—preserving fetuses surely requires a different touch than preserving tomatoes and green beans. I might have liked his scenes more than Kyra did but I think we’d both agree on this point: Regardless of whether you’re now a little more sympathetic towards Stannis after this week’s episode, these developments came way too late, as I’m pretty sure all of us were well past the point of caring one wit about what Stannis was up to. There was nothing preventing Weiss and Benioff from working Stannis’ imprisoned wife and daughter into the Season Two plot—we knew last year that Stannis, at the fire lady’s command, had them locked away—or, indeed, any prior episode of this season. Stannis, because he’s so fucking sullen, is a guy who’d benefit from us knowing a little more about him, which details like his wife’s worship of the god of the crazy witch who’s poisoned her husband’s mind and penis. Stannis has backed himself into a dark corner, so I don’t know why Thrones has willingly squandered attempts to make us empathize with him until fourteen episodes after his introduction.
Second, I’d like to applaud the final scene of this week’s episode, in which Tywin unveils his plot to stop any designs of the Tyrells in their tracks. I voiced my criticisms with the earlier scene between Tywin and Tyrion (I believe in the second episode), in which Tywin basically scoffed at Tyrion’s . I thought that scene was out of character for Tywin: Yes, he’s embarrassed by his midget son and yes, he’s a proponent of tough love, but he’s also pragmatic, and none of his pragmatism was on display in the earlier scene. (Indeed Tywin’s naming Tyrion Master of Coin right after undercut his scene with Tyrion; city treasurer’s a tough job but Tywin wouldn’t give that position—and a Small Council seat—to someone incompetent.) Sunday’s closer, by contrast, seemed to fit Tywin’s character perfectly: He put his arrogant daughter in her place and he lorded his status as patriarch over Tyrion, and not just for the sake of yelling at his kids, but as part of his power play. Margaery has put on an impressive and ambitious show that’s flown right over Cersei’s head, and Tywin is the one Lannister with both the smarts to realize what’s going on (which Cersei doesn’t) and (this is what Tyrion lacks) the authority to do something macroscopic about it.
Finally, a quick note about Jon Snow’s frolicking deflowering at the hands of Ygritte. Not much new here—it’s still unclear where Snow’s loyalties truly lie (though he did bullshit to his new buddies about the number of men left at Castle Black)—but I had a couple of random tangential observations. First, and I share this question with my buddy G-ross, why the fuck is nobody else in this army spending their downtime at the hot spring in that cave? Second, I’m guessing the scene was written to be awkwardly humorous, but I still found some of the comedy to be unintentional—specifically, when Snow was chasing Ygritte into the cave, his absurdly large and furry snowsuit was restricting his flexibility to the point where comparisons to Randy from A Christmas Story were all too obvious. [kyra add: and his line ‘by the 7 heavens!’ might have been the lamest thing said in the show’s history.]