This Game Of Thrones post is written from the point of view of someone who has not read the books the series is based on. As such, spoilers are strictly forbidden. Any spoilers in comments will be deleted on sight. If you see spoilers, please mark them as best you can and email toddvdw at gmail dot com or contact Todd on Twitter at tvoti, and he’ll take care of them as soon as possible. Remember: Discussions of things that were different in the books or confirmations of things that won’t happen count as spoilers, too. Have you read the books and want to discuss what’s coming? That’s what our experts reviews are for.
Dare I say, Game Of Thrones is getting very soapy indeed, and I like it. It’s not like this show hasn’t always had soapy tendencies—it’s serialized, there are a zillion attractive characters, everyone’s in a powerful family, there’s lots of sex—but this episode was teeming with relationship intrigue and ended on a shocking plot twist revealed just through conversation. Sure, Jaime getting his hand cut off and cutting to black is gnarly stuff. But Tyrion being told to marry Sansa by his scary dad? “You will wed her, bed her, and put a child in her.” My jaw was in a similar spot on the floor.
Tywin’s arrival in court heeded a whole new set of rules in King’s Landing, for sure. Cersei is cruel and unusual, but she’s not that smart—for example, this week she just marches up to Petyr and informs him that she thinks the Tyrells are plotting against her, which gets her information (she learns of the planned Loras/Sansa nuptials) but also leaves her exposed to Petyr’s machinations, whatever they may be. Tyrion is super-smart, but he’s also rational and less obsessed with Lannister power (more obsessed with his own well-being). Tywin is extremely smart and utterly merciless.
Charles Dance, an MVP for this show since his very first appearance, was brutally good in that closing scene. He wears Tywin’s steely poker face until Cersei puts up a fight when she’s told she’ll have to marry Loras, and then he unleashes the cold, parental fury that helps us understand why all of the Lannister children are so fucked up in their own special ways. Now, to be fair, Tywin has good cause to be disgusted with Cersei and even references “the disgusting rumors” about her and Jaime. “My children. You’ve disgraced the Lannister name for far too long,” he spits. But at the same time, it might be a good idea to look at the source of the problem, dude.
I’m spending a lot of time on this last scene, but it really did flabbergast me with its brilliance. Tywin is furious that the Tyrells are plotting to seize “the key to the North” from him, but he doesn’t get bogged down in that anger, as Robert would have done. No, he’s just plotting to stay one step ahead, and so we may be in for a Tyrion/Sansa marriage before the season is done. That’s not a pairing I would have seen coming.
As soapy as this episode was, it still had that Game Of Thrones brutality I require. One of my favorite plots of the episode was our return to Dragonstone and the introduction of Stannis’ wife and daughter, long a mysterious component of his backstory. We did glimpse his wife once before when he was introduced, but now she’s played by Tara Fitzgerald and, well, she’s a little much, even for dour ol’ Stannis. It’s quickly revealed that she knows he’s been sleeping with Melisandre and approves (it’s in service of God, after all), and that she’s desperately wanted to provide him with a son but has failed in three attempts. Oh, and she keeps the fetuses pickled in jars in her room.
No wonder Stannis is taken with Melisandre; I never thought I’d think she was more normal than someone, but she does seem to have more of a head on her shoulders. Now, Stannis’ daughter is a different story—very cute, bookish, obviously smart, a big fan of Davos (always a plus in my book) but afflicted by some nasty facial scarring that has kept her a recluse. Stannis could be due a moment of surprising affection when he sees his daughter again and she asks after Davos. But this is a man who refuses to varnish the truth. He informs her that her beloved Onion Knight is a traitor rotting in a cell. “Best forget him,” he says, making a sympathetic face at least. I practically punched the air with joy. Almost any other show would have milked that moment for cheesy sentimentality.
Continuing on the soapy theme, there were not one but two scenes of flirtation in the bath. The slightly hacky, traditional one was Jon and Ygritte’s union in some hot springs up north; she has to make the first, second, third and fourth moves, but finally, that’s all over with, despite some mild protestations from Jon and pillow talk about him being a maid. I like Ygritte, but this scene had been so thoroughly telegraphed, so I didn’t find it very interesting. More interesting is the assault on the wall—get to that, please, gentlemen!
Much better was Jaime and Brienne’s moment of intimacy in the tub at Roose Bolton’s. Again, a little bit of an obvious moment (a naked Jaime stomps over and gets into Brienne’s tub for no real reason other than sexual tension) but both he and Brienne were granted fascinating moments. Brienne defiantly standing up and presenting herself as the awesome warrior Jaime knows she is was much needed; her bashfulness was in character, but I didn’t want that defining her. Jaime’s story about killing the Mad King was even better, really defining his internal conflict. To him, killing the Mad King was a moment of heroism in a life of nihilism, saving a city from being set ablaze, and yet he’s mocked and hated for it. The button to the scene, where Jaime collapses and Brienne refers to him as Kingslayer and he moans that his name is Jaime, was unnecessary, but whatever, I get it.
Man, a hell of a lot happened in this episode. Beric’s big fight with the Hound to lead everything off was a terrific piece of action choreography, flaming sword and all. It’s harder to know what to make of the revelation that he’s a zombie knight, revived by Thoros and the fire god. On the one hand—awesome. I like the “science” of the magic, that he returns a little diminished every time, covered in scars. On the other hand—so, the Lord of Light can just bring people back from the dead? That’s a huge bit of legitimacy for a religion I haven’t taken seriously so far. Melisandre giving birth to the shadow assassin was one thing, but I figured she was just doing evil magic. I guess Thoros could be too, but he barely had to do anything, just say a prayer over Beric’s dead body. Maybe sign me up?
Arya’s scene with a newly-revived Beric was lovely, though. The Stark girls are the ones who were most traumatized by their father’s death, since they were present for it, and Arya so rarely gets to talk about it, since she’s always on the run. Beric assures her that his life is not one he’d wish on the great Ned Stark. “I would. You’re alive,” she says flatly. Maisie Williams, as ever, doing a terrific job in a storyline placed entirely on her shoulders.
Robb’s storyline is becoming a bit of a problem, however. Everything’s obviously fallen apart for him—Tywin is barely afraid of the northern armies anymore after getting thumped by them in previous seasons. The execution of scary, bearded Lord Karstark was a long time coming (since Jaime strangled his son and wasn’t killed for it) but well-handled and grim. But it’s tough to watch the wheels come off this bus so slowly. Right now, Robb’s big plan is to attack the Lannister homelands with the help of Walder Frey, whom I remember from season one as a mean piece of shit weirdo played by David Bradley. And then Robb didn’t marry his daughter. So I’m sure that meeting will go just splendidly.
Finally, after the exhilaration of last week’s slaver-burning, Daenerys has marched her Unsullied to a new town and is still learning things about them, like that they’re called things like “Grey Worm” to remind them of their meaninglessness. I loved, loved, loved the scene of the Unsullied leader explaining that he takes pride in his weird new name, because that’s the name he was freed with. Everything about these human-robot soldiers fascinates me, and every detail like that just adds to the enjoyment. The jockeying between Jorah and Barristan is less interesting just because it’s predictable, but there’s so much potential to Daenerys’ journey now. She can do almost anything with her soldiers now, and Barristan and Jorah are adjusting to the new concept of having such power and influence within their grasp.
Even though last week was more chock-a-block with “holy shit” moments, I really, really enjoyed this episode. Human intrigue is the backbone of Game Of Thrones, after all, and a bathtub monologue or a planned marriage can be just as crazy as a slaver getting set on fire by a dragon.
- Man, I hope that’s not the last we see of The Hound. Such a cool fighter.
- Ygritte’s “you know nothing, Jon Snow” being cut off by him going down on her was a clever little moment.
- Olenna got a scene with Tyrion where she calls him a “brow-beaten bookkeeper.” She has a point! I know things are rough, Tyrion, but you gotta get back to being a fun schemer again!
- Jaime calls Pycelle a “great sunken cunt,” a very creative insult.
- Tywin keeps it real with Cersei. “You’re still fertile; you need to marry again and breed.”
- Oh, and be sure to check out our giveaway to win a Stark hoodie.