Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Game of Thrones 3.03: "Walk of Punishment"

Welcome back to another week of Game of Thrones. But first, this.

Takes you right back to the Buffy Rewatch, don't it?

Nikki: Daenerys offers to sell a dragon (GAH!), Arya eats bread shaped like a direwolf… or something… Catelyn’s father’s funeral is turned into a laughingstock, Theon gets away (dammit!), Pod proves himself a sex god, Tyrion hilariously drags a chair, Craster continues to be a dick, Talisa scares some Lannister kids, Stannis’s sexual advances are shot down, Jon Snow finds horse parts in a spiral pattern in the snow, the end credits feature the freakin’ Hold Steady (!!!)… and Locke turns Jaime into a leftie while talking about his “fah-thah.”

Folks, it’s the happy fun-time Game of Thrones hour!

I loved this episode. A lot of it felt like it was pushing chess pieces in line for bigger things to come in the next couple of episodes, but it didn’t feel like an exposition episode for me. Tyrion brought the humour, Daenerys the power, and it ended with a massive shocking cliffhanger. So… let’s start with that last bit.

Chris and I both commented on the awesomeness of the Jaime and Brienne comedy hour last week, but this week that comedy turned into something else. While chained to each other on a horse, Brienne expresses her disappointment that the Kingslayer wasn’t the sword baron that she thought he was. He makes excuses — tired, dirty, hungry, has been tied up for the better part of a year, his hands were tied together at the time — but they just come off as pathetic to Brienne. A Kingslayer should be able to overcome any of those things, not be beaten by a woman. It’s interesting that her chiding didn’t actually come off as sarcasm or a victory dance on his face, but genuine disappointment that the man didn’t live up to his legend.

Perhaps Jaime was suitably impressed by Brienne’s show of swordspersonship, or perhaps he just feels like she’s his only ally now, but he’s actually kind of nice to her… in a way. On the horse he tells her that the men will try to rape her, and she needs to let them. She, of course, takes offense, and asks him what he would do. (Reason #814 why I love Brienne; she doesn’t ask what he would do if it happened to his sister or daughter, she asks what he would do, comparing herself to the man and not the woman.) He says if he were a woman he would make them kill him.

And so, when the men inevitably take Brienne once they’re at the encampment with every intention to gang-rape her, you can see her instincts kick in, and she begins fighting tooth and nail. While her scene takes place entirely off camera — we only hear her screams — one can only imagine the fight she’s putting up. She doesn’t want the men to “besmirch” her, as Jaime puts it, and perhaps, she’s trying to get them to kill her, which would be more welcome than whatever else they have in mind. When they bring her back to the camp after Jaime’s discussion with Locke, notice even her armour is still intact; they didn’t get very far with her.

For the record, this is what she looks like without the armour. 

And as for Jaime, he’s always been a very, very clever boy. It’s what makes his character so intriguing. Yes, he has an incestuous relationship with his sister and has often been characterized as a scumbag, but when you take the Lannister stuff out of the equation, he’s a hell of a knight. He’s killed a king; he’s a formidable swordsman; he’s handsome and witty and strong; he’s very intelligent; he plans things through. But he’s not quite as intelligent as Tyrion. He comes up with an obvious plan, one that could easily be seen through by anyone who’s been to the Sapphire Isle and isn’t three years old. We see earlier in the episode that Talisa loves to scare the Lannister boys with tales of Robb eating children during a full moon. Jaime’s tale isn’t much higher on the intelligence scale, especially with a man as well travelled as Locke. Jaime thinks he can cleverly charm his way out of every situation, but the moment Locke unchains him (something he didn’t have to do), offers him partridge, and refers to him in a manner indicating that Locke is his inferior, the audience knows something terrible is afoot. He’s angry that Jaime would try to convince him the Sapphire Isle is actually coated in sapphires (right… and if I want some emeralds I just need to go to Ireland and chip them out of the sidewalks?) and he makes him pay for his insolence by… cutting off his hand. It’s a horrific scene, one that is immediately reminiscent of the end of Empire Strikes Back, right down to Locke talking about Tywin Lannister immediately before doing it. “You’re nothing without your father” has supplanted Darth Vader’s legendary “No, I’m your father” line, and the episode fades to black as Jaime screams in horror and holds up the bloody stump of an arm that’s left. I didn’t see that one coming.

So, Chris, how close was that scene to the book? There’s a moment where Locke is pressing the sword into Jaime’s eye and then he doesn’t go through with it, and for a second I wondered if perhaps, in the book, they actually removed his eyeball, but the writers decided to switch it to a hand to help out the makeup department. Did they make a switch or is this behanding true to the book?

Christopher: It’s fairly close to the scene in the book, except that Jaime and Brienne are captured here by a different set of people. In the novel, they’re taken by a rather horrifying band of mercenaries called the Bloody Mummers, who had originally worked for Tywin but whose loyalty had been bought by Roose Bolton … so when they capture Jaime and Brienne, they’re technically on the Starks’ side. Obviously the Mummers have been left out of the show for the sake of keeping things simple (or as simple as this sprawling series can be), which is probably a wise decision—but I doubt I’m alone among GRRM fans in lamenting their absence. They are one of Martin’s darker and more horrifying inventions … and that’s a pretty high bar.

Also, in the novel they don’t wait—they cut off Jaime’s hand almost as soon as the capture him, so the protracted verbal fencing between Locke and Jaime is entirely invented. Except, that is, for Jaime’s intervention in Brienne’s imminent rape—that was pretty close to the book.

But in all, the violent amputation of Jaime’s sword hand was very well done, and startling in how quickly it happens. Of course, all those who have read the books knew it was coming; as soon as Locke unchained Jaime, I felt my stomach clench a little. It’s a credit to the show that, even though I knew what was about to happen, it was still a shock to actually watch it. And while Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was pretty awesome all through this episode, he did an especially good job of reacting to his sudden de-handing. A look of shock and bewilderment, followed quickly by a scream of horror and pain as he suddenly realizes what has happened … fade to black!

George R. R. Martin really likes beating up on his characters, doesn’t he? I like to joke with my students that if they ever discover their life is a Shakespearean tragedy and they’re the title character, they’re pretty much fucked. What might be worse? Being a significant character in a GRRM novel.

I’m offering no spoilers whatsoever when I say that Jaime’s mutilation heralds a significant shift in his character and how we perceive him. A Storm of Swords is notable among other reasons for giving him his own POV chapters, and we’re given an insight into his previously inscrutable character that works against everything we’ve thus far assumed. The loss of his sword hand isn’t a literal emasculation, but it’s close—Jaime Lannister, the Kingslayer, is a man who has been defined by his swordsmanship all his life. I have to imagine that, given the choice between losing his hand or losing his dick, he’d be hard pressed to choose. All of which makes the discussion between him and Brienne about her domination in the bridge fight somewhat more poignant—she questions his “manhood” in what we now see to be an anticipatory way.

Nikki, I think you’re exactly right when you point out Brienne’s response to Jaime’s suggestion, re: her inevitable rape. She identifies Jaime’s myopia, and by extension the broadly male tendency to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of rape and sexual assault. In suggesting she lie back and think of Renly, he betrays his ignorance, seeing the entirely-expected rape as different from consensual sex in degree rather than kind. You’re right in that he would probably make the same recommendation to Cersei; he’d just follow it up with the promise of bloody vengeance on her violators. But Brienne cuts through the bullshit: what would he do? He’d make them kill him. Because when it’s his own body, he can’t pretend it’s anything but abject humiliation and a brutal, violent exercise of power over his person.

When Jaime follows up his response to Brienne’s question with “I’m not [a woman], thank the Gods,” it serves to amplify his ignorance. If he were a woman, he’d make them kill him; but he assumes that because he’s not a woman, he is somehow immune to sexual assault, which again implies that rape is connected to unbridled lust. But as it happens, we do see a man nearly raped—when Theon is overtaken in his flight, his captor snarls “I’m gonna fuck you into the dirt” as he fumbles with his belt and his henchmen start to drag Theon’s pants down. Like Brienne, Theon receives a reprieve, but for a few terrifying moments he experiences the horror that Jaime Lannister imagines is merely hypothetical.

One of the most difficult elements of A Song of Ice and Fire, and something a lot of people complain about, is just how baldly and brutally GRRM depicts these sorts of situations. Fantasy? Yes, the novel is certainly fantasy fiction, but grounded in historical realities. Much fantasy, from the Arthurian legends to Tolkien and beyond, glosses the fact that rapine wasn’t just a matter of soldiers being brutal, but was in fact a weapon of war. To “cry havoc” was the order letting soldiers off the leash, giving them free rein in a sacked city to rape, steal, and kill—usually done in retaliation for a castle or town’s refusal to surrender. In Henry V, Shakespeare puts it quite graphically as the king threatens the besieged town of Harfleur:

Sorry for the lengthy quotation, but nowhere else do I know of a more eloquently horrifying vision of soldiers run rampant. Crying havoc was a common enough military practice that the governor or mayor of a town could be prosecuted after the fact for not surrendering and sparing his people such brutality—“guilty in defense” was the actual legal term for such a prosecution.

This feels like an inadequate treatment of this sequence, but if I don’t move on this blog post will go on forever ….

What did you think of our new additions in Riverrun, Nikki? First we have Catelyn’s uncle, Brynden “Blackfish” Tully, and her hapless brother Edmure … played by another Rome alum, Tobias Menzies, who played Brutus.

Nikki: Oh yes, I recognized Brutus and his crooked front teeth right away. If they can get Vorenus and Pullo, my happiness would be complete.

Catelyn’s father is dead, and because of Edmure’s incompetence, what should have been a solemn funeral turns into a farce. Luckily Catelyn’s uncle Brynden pushes Edmure out of the way, checks the wind, and shoots a perfect arrow into the air to set the funeral pyre alight just before it disappears in the distance. (Question: What would they have done if it had gone around the corner?)

I loved the scene of Catelyn and her uncle. Catelyn has made some pretty grave errors and cost people a lot in her mismanagement of things, but in this moment she’s both a grieving daughter and mother, and you can’t help but feel sympathy for her. She just watched her father float away, and now she stares out the window telling her uncle — who never once calls her on the things she’s done wrong — that she’s thinking of how many times Bran and Rickon looked out the window waiting for her to come home, and now they’re gone. Interestingly her uncle says exactly what has happened without knowing it — maybe they’ve escaped and are travelling away right now, just keeping under the radar. I do hope Catelyn sees them once more, or at least finds out that they’re alive and well.

Meanwhile, Robb is pretty pissed that his stupid uncle ruined a battle by going too far and destroying their chances to get a lead in the larger picture. By sacrificing 208 men in an otherwise low-grade fight, he’s hurt their small army enormously. Methinks the battle smarts in the House of Tully seems to have skipped a generation.

But speaking of armies, Daenerys has now gotten herself a hell of a formidable one. In a very long and wonderfully written scene, she marches resolutely along the Walk of Punishment as men hang dying on crucifixes alongside her. When she stops to offer one of them water, he refuses, showing that even in death, his loyalty to his superiors remains. He was told to die, and he will die, dammit. Taking that water would simply prolong the agony.

Daenerys now has two advisors who disagree on what makes up an army. Ser Jorah argues that the Unsullied are the best army because loyalty has been beaten into them. Ser Barristan argues that the best army is one whose loyalty you have earned, not one that you’ve beaten into submission. The best fighters will be the ones with passion and emotion and sincere loyalty for their leader. Daenerys takes both forms of advice and goes to the horrible, filthy Kraznys to tell him she wants every last one of the Unsullied: the 8,000-strong army, plus the ones still in training. I thought about her decision to take the entire army when I was watching this and realized that despite Jorah and Barristan both looking dismayed, she’s actually taking both of their words of advice to heart. Kraznys thinks nothing of killing the Unsullied’s family, cutting off their nipples, and doing god-knows-what-else torture-wise to them. We all know Daenerys wouldn’t do any of those things to the men: perhaps by the very act of buying them, she could earn their loyalty by taking them away from this scumbag? That way, she has the trained loyalty plus earned loyalty all wrapped up in one.

Back to the scene, as Kraznys continues to take potshots at her in another language, he demands to know how in Aerys’s name she plans to pay for such an army. “I have dragons,” she says flatly.

And everyone at home gasps in horror and has the same face as Ser Jorah in that moment.

Give up a dragon?? Isn’t that worth several armies? I don’t care if she still has two. Kraznys realizes the value, says he wants all three, and she’s immovable at one, though she promises the biggest one. And she’ll take his slave girl while she’s at it. I just know Daenerys has something up her, well, okay she doesn’t have sleeves, but up her corset, and I can’t wait to see what it is. Just please, please, please, in the name of GRRM, let her understand everything this cock has been saying to her in every scene.

And if I were a writer, just for the record, here’s how it would play out.

Kraznys’s Diary
That little Targaryen bitch left yesterday, taking all of my soldiers, but I have a bloody dragon! Haha… with this dragon I will rule the kingdoms, and force it to do my will, and
[dragon eats Kraznys, flies back to Daenerys]

Ah. That felt better.

Christopher: I’m saying nothing. Suffice it to say that I am practically bouncing in my chair in impatience for episode four.

If they were to get Vorenus and Pullo on this show, I think my head would quite literally explode from the critical mass of fanboyism. It’s not like there’s any lack of characters we haven’t yet met that they would be perfect for. Think they could tempt Kevin McKidd away from Grey’s Anatomy? They don’t even let him use his actual accent on that show. Idiots.

Poor Tobias Menzies—you’d think that after that hapless, luckless version of Brutus they had him playing on Rome, HBO might have given him a more competent character to play. But failing that … well, he’s spot-on as Edmure, even if it’s starting to feel like typecasting. That opening sequence was perfectly done, and totally true to the novel. The Blackfish is an amazing character in the books, but Clive Russell has managed to ratchet up his awesomeness by a factor of awesome (sorry—channeling Barney Stinson there. True story). I especially love the fact that he didn’t bother to wait and see if the fire-arrow would ignite the boat, just turned and contemptuously tossed the bow back to Brutus.

(Also, as an aside to the Television Gods: either Lucius Vorenus or Titus Pullo would make excellent additions to this series, but we’d also like to implore you to consider making the following additions as well: Stringer Bell, Al Swearengen, or Lord John Marbury. Also, he might not be British, but you know Nathan Fillion would pay his own airfare just for a walk-on. Also, see if you can’t work on that Martin Freeman cameo while we’re at it, OK?)

Something I’ve read a number of times in other comments on this episode is a sense of satisfaction that we finally see Robb Stark’s command chops. So far (aside from the battle in which Jaime is captured) we’ve only heard about his talents as a war leader. Here at last is the King in the North. Remember that aside I had last week about gravitas and the depiction thereof? Robb Stark’s got it. The scene in which he dresses Edmure down is right out of the novel.

But to turn to Dany: James Poniewozik has an amazing blog post this week about this episode and the way it deals with the question of money. As already mentioned, GRRM departs from the custom of much fantasy insofar as he is frequently preoccupied with the often unpleasant historical realities of warfare and monarchical power. One of those realities is money and finance. Or, as Poniewozik puts it: “I’ve been re-reading Tolkien with my kids lately, and while there are troves of gold and plunder, there’s not much talk about the economy of the Shire, or how Denethor pays for the defense of Minas Tirith in a declining Gondor.” One of the inconvenient truths (to coin an expression) with which this episode presents us is the cost of doing business in Westeros, something entirely consistent with the novels. Running a kingdom, raising an army—these are extremely expensive ventures. Daenerys wants to invade Westeros—but with what? Ser Jorah’s pragmatism doesn’t sit well with the honourable Barristan Selmy, but he doesn’t have much in the way of rebuttal to Jorah’s arguments (also, it is worth noting that Jorah’s case resonates thematically with the rest of this episode—the Unsullied will not behave as normal soldiers, i.e. they will not rape and despoil. The ethical dimension here gets pretty knotty; Daenerys is reluctant to own a slave army, but expresses equal revulsion, as we saw in season one, by the prospect of rapine).

Though I can only speak for myself on this point, I suspect many readers of the novels will agree that it was a profound moment of shock and dismay when Daenerys essentially turns her dragons—her children, really—into currency.

Back over in King’s Landing, Tyrion has been handed the “honour” of becoming Master of Coin, taking over as Littlefinger prepares to depart and woo crazy Lysa Arryn, she of the creepy breastfeeding. It’s really rather tempting to look at what Tyrion discovers in the royal ledgers—namely, that Littlefinger’s magic with gold simply amounts to borrowing hugely—in light of contemporary concerns over deficits and austerity, but I’d prefer to talk instead about the way Tywin’s bestowing of this office is … well, I want to say it’s a backhanded compliment, but really it’s an out-and-out insult. It’s made explicit in the novels that Tywin Lannister, and all nobles like him, disdain what we’d call “new money,” and disdain the actual task of tallying expenses. Tyrion’s initial reaction is ambivalent. "I'm quite good at spending money," he says, "but a lifetime of outrageous wealth hasn't taught me much about managing it." And everyone who has ever had to deal with entitled rich kids chorused “YES!”

What do you think of Tyrion’s new post, Nikki? And did you laugh as hard as I did when he took forever to drag the chair to the end of the table?

Nikki: OMG are we doing fantasy casting now?? David Tennant and Christopher Eccleston, please. Actually, Tom Baker would make a formidable ageing king or great-uncle of some sort. But in the non–Time Lord side of things, I second (and third, and fourth) Stringer Bell. I’d also love to see Jared Harris, Anthony Stewart Head, David Morrissey (with both eyes intact), and Eddie Izzard. Seriously, Eddie would be FABULOUS.

But speaking of British wit (from an American, no less), yes, the scene with Tyrion dragging that chair had me in stitches. What a fantastic scene: by simply taking their places at the table, you see the ambitions and cleverness of each one. Baelish — metaphorically speaking — pushes the others into the dirt and leaps over the table to be the first one next to Tywin, looking a little too excitable. Varys bows his head and is content to be second to Baelish. Pycelle, as usual, is just happy to still be sitting at the table, so he takes the third chair. But that’s not good enough for Cersei. She picks up a chair and with dignity and grace, carries it around the table, behind Tywin, to be placed at his right hand, which is symbolic in itself (Baelish is at the unfortunate left).

And Tyrion, the smartest of all of them all (and the most brazen and one who cares least about grace), waits for them to all act like clowns before nonchalantly wandering over, grabbing the chair, slowly and loudly dragging it to the head of the table — the only one with the nerve to make himself an equal of Tywin — and then hops up on the seat, reaching down and pulling it forward with one last little “errr” sound. It was hilarious. Peter Dinklage is just amazing in the scene, not changing his face once, and smugly staring down the table at his nasty father before complimenting him on his choice of table.

In his new job as Master of Coin, Tyrion gets the only title with actual work attached to it, and he’s none too happy (as you said a couple of weeks ago, Chris, Tywin knows that his son is smart, even if he doesn’t have to like him for it). As you rightfully point out, the management of money is a disgusting task that nobles and royalty would rather not think about, but in the modern age (if we think of Game of Thrones as being the modern age… for them, at least), it’s a necessity. Think of the premise of Downton Abbey: during King Henry VIII’s reign he burned all the abbeys, and then bestowed what was left on noble families who built them back up into royal mansions. But by the 20th century, this old money had dwindled, and inflation was forcing these families to pour every cent they had into the upkeep of these mansions, forcing them to look for new ways to make money just to support their houses. So while you tune in to see a family that’s waited on hand and foot, with a bunch of spoiled little daughters who don’t even know how to boil water by the time they’re in their twenties, you quickly realize it’s actually about how the lord of the manor lives every day trying to squeeze one more penny out of the place, wondering how the hell he’s going to pay the bills (while the lady of the manor spends every waking moment actually managing the place). It’s enough to make you think why don’t you just sell the damn place and get a four-bedroom apartment, for goodness’ sake!

So now Tyrion’s been put on this task, and it’ll be interesting to see if there’s any fallout over his discovery of what Lord Baelish has done. But for now, let’s look instead at his gift to Pod, and what happened afterwards. A truly wonderful scene for undercutting the audience’s expectations: we expect the boy to come back, all flushed and now “a man,” but instead he plops the money back onto the desk, shrugs his shoulders and humbly suggests that maybe the girls liked whatever it was he did to them. Tyrion just stops, looks over Bronn, purses his lips and then leaps off the chair, insisting that Pod give them every single detail. Tyrion was definitely at the heart of the funniest moments of this episode.

Not so funny, however, is what was happening in the North with Jon Snow and Sam’s different groups. Just when I thought Craster was the worst rat bastard on the show, he’s even worse.  

Christopher: So we’re clear, the apparently OCD tendency of the White Walkers to strew body parts in symmetrical patterns (which, admittedly, we haven’t seen since the first episode of season one) is an invention of the show—and like most of their inventions, it’s pretty well done. The crane shot of the horses’ heads had me thinking (and I can’t possibly be the only one) “Holy shit—The Godfather on crystal meth.” (And speaking of dream casting—if the TV gods want to include Walter White, that would also be most excellent. The Walter White Walker? C’mon people, the episode writes itself! “Jon Snow! We have to cook!”).

Yep, I can see it. 

I’m falling ever more deeply in love with CiarĂ¡n Hinds as Mance Rayder. In the novel, his directive to Jon Snow to accompany the team heading south of the wall has the same sort of bravado—knowing he can’t totally trust the turncoat, but also recognizing his value, all of which comes together in what is for all intents and purposes a rather daring gesture. It would be safer to keep Jon Snow close, but Mance isn’t a cautious man. We haven’t yet heard his backstory, how he came to desert the Night’s Watch and become the King Beyond the Wall, and I won’t tell that story in case it comes up later in the series … suffice to say that the few moments where Mance gives his orders and makes it plain he doesn’t yet trust Jon? Lovely. His declaration that he’s going to “light the biggest fire the north has ever seen!” was a brilliant flourish.

However nervous Jon Snow is feeling, undercover with the wildlings, he’s in a much better head space than Sam … or the rest of the Night’s Watch survivors, for that matter. They find their doleful way back to Craster’s Keep, and once again we have a rather brutal discussion of utility and value, prompted when one of the black brothers resentfully observes that Craster feeds his pigs better than his guests. To which Craster retorts that his pigs are far more valuable than his guests.

Once again I sigh: poor Sam. He’s already earned the cruel nickname Ser Piggy from some of his “brothers,” and finds himself compared to Craster’s livestock. (I must confess, I laughed at Craster’s suggestion that the brothers carve off bits of Sam to feed themselves as they need it, but only because it reminded me of my father’s oft-told joke about the super-heroic three-legged pig. On being asked why the pig had a peg leg, the farmer matter-of-factly responds, “Hell, a pig that good, you don’t eat him all at once.”)

As Craster torments Sam, they hear the cries of Gilly’s labour. Craster has no patience for her noise (which aligns him with Joffrey’s hatred of the “wailing of women”), but Sam slips away and pokes his head into the birthing hovel. Considering Sam’s previously declared inexperience with all things feminine, one assumes this was rather a shocking experience for him. But of course there is a thematic line here as well: Craster treats his “wives” as he does his livestock, considering them more or less in the same category as his property. That Sam’s view of the birth comes immediately after Craster’s (really rather defensive) declarations that he is a godly man is ominous. Craster’s “gods,” it is made clear, are not quite the same as the “old gods” that northerners worship—and we learned last season what he does with male children. Having read the books, I know the sex of Gilly’s child; but I suspect it doesn’t come as a great galloping shock that he’s a boy … and this prompts Sam to precipitate action.

Any last thoughts, Nikki?

Nikki: That’s so funny, because in my notes I wrote, “Baby’s clearly a boy,” so in my mind, it had been made clear. You’re right; it’s not hard to guess that’s what it’ll be, because if it had been a girl that would sort of be the end of this plotline. But we all remember Gilly telling Sam how badly she wanted a girl because she couldn’t bear to lose her son. Craster is horrible.

Let’s see, the ones we haven’t yet talked about at any length are Theon, Arya, and Stannis. Arya’s story was just a tidbit this week, as she asked the Hound if he remembered the last time he’d been at this place, and then Hot Pie leaves the trio to stay behind as a cook (it made sense, since the “piggy” jokes will be used on Sam and Hot Pie serves a similar purpose in this grouping). Theon — my least favourite character — is freed by the boy and told to head in a certain direction to meet his sister. But so far, he hasn’t made it to the sister and is instead ambushed by the men who’d imprisoned him, and as you pointed out, Chris, they yank his pants down and threaten to rape him (an interesting bookend to the Brienne scene… notice how one man gets more of Theon’s clothes off in one motion than six men do with Brienne after wrestling with her for a good minute). But the same boy who helped him escape saves his arse (literally!) shoots all of the men with arrows (who the hell IS this guy??) and helps him up. Theon promised the boy that he’d make him a lord of the Iron Islands, and the boy said he’s not from there. I think he needs to make him more than a lord now.

And finally, good ol’ Stannis Baratheon. As Melisandre goes off in a boat to god-knows-where, he makes a pass at her, telling her he wants a son and that he wants her. She looks at him with pity, pretty much pats him on the head, and says, “Your fires run low, my king.” #burn #flaccidjoke #stinsonrocks (That’s me channelling MY inner Barney Stinson. True story.) She promises that he’ll sit on the Iron Throne, but first there may be sacrifices.

So. One’s got a fire goddess. One has three two dragons and 8,000 men who will follow her every whim. One’s got a quickly dwindling army and lost loyalties now that he’s married the wrong woman. And one’s got a really awesome crossbow.

My money’s on Daenerys at this point, even short a dragon. ;)

Thanks for reading everyone, and we’ll see you next week! 


EsDee said...

Truly excellent post, guys. You've outdone yourselves. I am re-reading book 3 while watching the show (because I tend to forget everything I read), and your book explanations, Chris, are really shedding light on a lot of things I hadn't really noticed before. Lovely, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the recap - great as always. As Jamie is one of my favorite characters (along with Cersei & Bronn and increasingly Joffrey & Margary) I was hoping that the loss of his hand would be left out of the show (after all - they omitted it in the Walking Dead) but that was INTENSE.

How sad to not see any of Joffrey this week - he's so well-acted that he's becoming one of my favorites. I actually think I would like the show better if they left out the Arya, Jon Snow and Bran storylines entirely and focused on only the Lannisters, other Starks & Danerys. I'm sure most others will disagree.

Can't wait for the next episode.

-Tim Alan

Blam said...

I do love that video.

@Nikki: [Brienne] asks what he would do, comparing herself to the man and not the woman.

Great point.

A cousin of mine said the other day something that Teebore echoed in his writeup yesterday — that you have to, um, hand it to the writers and the actor that we were rooting for, or at least concerned for, Jaime in that moment rather than flat-out happy to see him get his comeuppance. I know that we were being manipulated a bit in that he'd just done Brienne a service with his silver tongue, but he's increasingly been presented as a charming rogue — sure, he's a regicidal mercenary who has sex with his twin sister and will kick a kid down a mountain face to his death to keep the secret, but that's Jamie Lannister for you.

The ol' Vader move almost felt like it was becoming too obvious, albeit within the space of a scene that didn't last as long as it felt given that adrenaline was likely making viewers' perceptions speed up as we took in everything. I was also impressed with the effects work as the camera stayed right where it had been through the deed and Jamie holding up his stump afterward leaving the hand on the tree-trunk chopping block.

Hmm... First Tyrion was demoted from his position as Hand of the King and now Jamie's lost an actual hand. If Cersei's betrayed by a handmaiden or something that'll be at least a metaphorical hat trick (or glove trick, as the case may be).

Blam said...

@Nikki: And Tyrion, the smartest of all of them all (and the most brazen and one who cares least about grace), waits for them to all act like clowns before nonchalantly wandering over, grabbing the chair, slowly and loudly dragging it to the head of the table — the only one with the nerve to make himself an equal of Tywin — and then hops up on the seat, reaching down and pulling it forward with one last little “errr” sound.

That was a classic bit, although the scene overall was just a little too painfully prolonged for my taste (which I get it was supposed to be). I enjoyed the poor funeral-pyre archery more. I'll admit that I expected and hoped Tyrion would just sit there at the other end — to show maturity, both in terms of not giving in to the jockeying for position and not giving in to Tywin's test if test of sorts indeed it was, but also because as you say, Nikki, it provides an implicit visual that shifting perspective would mean that Tyrion could as easily be at the head of the table as Tywin.

@Christopher: The crane shot of the horses’ heads had me thinking (and I can’t possibly be the only one) “Holy shit— The Godfather on crystal meth.”


@Nikki: notice how one man gets more of Theon’s clothes off in one motion than six men do with Brienne after wrestling with her for a good minute

Another great point.

@Nikki: “Your fires run low, my king.” #burn #flaccidjoke #stinsonrocks

Does this mean we finally got you into How I Met Your Mother? Last I recall you were laughing at the screencap of Marshall's "Cecilia" Venn diagram on my blog but you still weren't watching the show. Of course a lot can happen in, geez, 4½ years...

Blam said...

More questions:

Why did Locke seem to take Jaime's advice about Brienne at face value but end up so obviously deeming the rest of his increasingly bald and ambitious attempt at manipulating his freedom to be total bullshit? Maybe the stuff about Tarth actually made sense to him, or maybe Brienne's in for it now that Jamie's been put in his place; I suppose we'll see.

Are we actually supposed to think that Pod's session was free because he rocked the ladies' worlds? I figured at first that he just hadn't gone through with it, although I wouldn't really expect him/Tyrion to get a refund for that. Then I strongly suspected that we, like Tyrion and Bronn, were supposed to think that Pod was so spectacular that the women didn't want him to pay, but that honestly doesn't make sense from any angle (no euphemism intended). We cut away from the scene before any other shoes dropped, though.

Could Danaerys' plan really be as simple as her purchasing all the Unsullied and commanding them to kill their old boss, then having her dragons lay waste to the city as a parting gift? That feels obvious enough that I'm not sure why neither of her advisors seem to have caught on.

Did Theon just not get to his rendezvous point yet, or was he in the wrong place and/or did his sister wasn't there in time, or did his captors let him get free as a setup just for gits 'n' shiggles? It seemed pretty plain to me that Theon was bewildered not to have found anyone where he stopped right before he was overtaken, but then again I couldn't even tell whether the guy who came to his rescue was for sure the one who set him free (doing the old trick where a seeming nobody tells you that you'll meet somebody important, good luck now, and that somebody turns out to be the seeming nobody). 

Can someone tell me why Mance Rayder wants to beseige the Night Watch's headquarters? Do the so-called Wildlings have designs on all the Seven Kingdoms or a particular grievance against the Night's Watch (like something to do with Rayder's having left "the black") in particular, or do they want to take the place as a defense against people south of the Wall entering their territory? If they're afraid of being caught up in the unfolding game of thrones, but don't really care who becomes king (or queen), wouldn't they do better to simply keep to themselves or join forces with the Night's Watch to make sure Westeros politics and war doesn't extend beyond the Wall? If and when we learned the answer, I don't recall it.

Thanks, both of you (even though I quoted Nikki more than Christopher), for another excellent writeup!

Joan Crawford said...

Could Danaerys' plan really be as simple as her purchasing all the Unsullied and commanding them to kill their old boss, then having her dragons lay waste to the city as a parting gift? That feels obvious enough that I'm not sure why neither of her advisors seem to have caught on.

I think you're right... Old Weirdo Nipple Slicer, that's "OWNS" to you, there continues to refer to the Mother of Dragons as a "silly bitch" (basically) over and over - thereby making it awesome for Dany to kill him. You know, I don't even think anyone else can own a dragon... which is what Baldly Blackmouth told us last season "the dragons need their mother".

Jessica said...

Thanks Nikki & Chris for another thoughtful and funny recap!

@Blam, As a dorky book reader, I’ll attempt to answer your questions, while being as spoiler-free as possible 

Re: Locke/Brienne
Tarth is a fairly tiny and not well-known island. People know it as the “Sapphire Isle”, so it is conceivable that it would get its nickname from the gemstones as opposed to the color of its water.

Re: Pod
Trying to put myself in the head of whore… whoa… okay back to reality now… I would say, as a whore (snicker) you get used to men playing the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am or perversion/fantasy fulfillment game with your “profitable collection of holes” (sorry, one of my favorite Varys quotes from last year!) So to have the pleasure (gosh…I feel like a 13 year old boy writing this…) of deflowering a young buck, whose timid nature leads him to became a thankful/grateful/eager AND CAPABLE participant, just might have given them a momentary lapse of reason. Either way, seeing two grown men practically fall over themselves to find out Pod’s secret was well worth the suspension of reason here.

Re: Dany
Can’t. Answer. This. Don’t go asking anyone else either!

Re: Theon
The play-by-play of this storyline is fleshed out by and created by the show so I’m not sure of the game the “Boy” is playing. But I’m leaning towards the “gits ‘n’ shiggles” vibe as well.

Re: Mance
While Mance has his own history with the Night’s Watch, the main reason for his attack on them is simply in regards to the fact that the defense of the Wall rests on the members of the Night’s Watch who are stationed at Castle Black. Knowing what we know regarding the Wights and Whitewalkers, it is more important to Mance and the other Wildlings to get on the other side of the Wall as opposed to keeping others out of the North. Remember, “Winter is Coming” and no matter how much Mance may want to work with/or against the Night’s Watch or anyone else south of the Wall, the NW and the rest of Westeros don’t want them coming down. So basically, Mance’s decisions are mostly guided by necessity and survival as opposed to political.

Hope I answered your questions without spoiling!

paleoblues said...

I think Mance wants to take the wall in defense of what's coming from the North, not the South, ie White Walkers/Zombies/Wights.

As he stated, he united all the tribes of wildings by convincing them that if they didn't, they were All going to die.

As Osha stated last week, Rob's army was going the wrong way. The real threat was in the North.

With all of the gaming to take the throne south of the wall, it appears only the wildings recognize it will be for naught if the situation north of the wall is not dealt with.

paleoblues said...

I think Mance wants to take the wall in defense of what's coming from the North, not the South, ie White Walkers/Zombies/Wights.

As he stated, he united all the tribes of wildings by convincing them that if they didn't, they were All going to die.

As Osha stated last week, Rob's army was going the wrong way. The real threat was in the North.

With all of the gaming to take the throne south of the wall, it appears only the wildings recognize it will be for naught if the situation north of the wall is not dealt with.

Quarks said...

This episode was definitely my favourite so far this season. It was one of the more simply entertaining episodes of this show so far, even if there wasn't a large amount actually happening until the last few minutes.

The scene at the beginning of the episode with the meeting of the Small Council was great, seeing the various characters making their decisions of where to sit. I particularly enjoyed the looks on Varys's face throughout the scene, particularly when regarding something Littlefinger did. In the books we don't get to see that much rivalry between them, but in the TV series it is very clear how frustrated Varys is getting with Littlefinger going up in the world, especially considering they started Season 1 at a similar level. It also makes Varys's conversation with Ros at the end of last season make more sense, as he clearly wanted to get back at Littlefinger.

I think Tobias Menzies was well cast as Edmure, although as you say Chris it does feel somewhat like typecasting. Being from the UK, I've seen him in various one-season-long British dramas, and he does often play a similar character as he does here: a proud, self-important man who isn't half as clever as he thinks he is. He was also in this week's Doctor Who, alongside Liam Cunningham (Davos).

Tyrion being made Master of Coin was also done very well; it could easily have seemed uninteresting, as just an excuse to keep Tyrion in the capital, but once again the show has succeeded in the depth behind the decision. We've seen several times in the series so far that Tyrion isn't very good at managing money; for example, a couple of episodes ago Bronn asked for double his current pay, and Tyrion had no idea what his current pay was, and similarly in this episode he had no idea that he wasn't paying Podrick as he was a squire. In making Tyrion Master of Coin it seems like Tywin is trying to teach him some humility; giving him a task that he knows Tyrion will struggle with as a response to his demands for Casterly Rock for his successes in the last role Tywin gave him.

The Podrick plot was also great fun this week, and led to that great scene at the end with Tyrion and Bronn trying to find out what Pod did that let him get away without having to pay. Taking it at face value (and it was played as though we are supposed to) it is it bit hard to believe; are we supposed to believe that Littlefinger would have no problem with letting his prostitutes give Pod a 'freebie', no matter how good he was? Still, it doesn't really matter, as it was funny enough to make up for any doubts about its likelihood.

In terms of the Jaime and Locke stuff, I don't think it was so much that Locke didn't believe Jaime that the Sapphire Isle wasn't full of sapphires; even if he had, surely he wouldn't have believed that Jaime was lying about his father, as it is well known how rich the Lannisters are and that they always pay their debts. For me, though my thoughts are slightly coloured by my knowledge of the books, I felt it was more that he simply disliked Jaime's attitude of thinking he could do whatever he wanted because of how powerful his father was and wanted to teach him a lesson.

Great recap as always guys, and I can't wait for next week's episode.

Teebore said...

Great discussion, guys. Your points about how Jamie views rape through his gender in particular were very insightful.

My thought process as Jamie was led to that stone table: hmm, are they going to cut off his hand? No, maybe take an eye? Oh, okay, I guess they aren't going to do any-HOLY CRAP THEY CUT OFF HIS HAND!

@Joan: Old Weirdo Nipple Slicer,Baldly Blackmouth

As always, your names for people are awesome.

Sagacious Penguin said...

It's funny -- this is easily my favorite show since LOST, but somehow knowing that future events are already public knowledge makes the prospect of speculating seem somehow moot :)

Guess that's why I tend to read about it more than discuss it. Still I love your posts each week as always, Nikki and Chris.

Having ZERO knowledge of future events from the books (halfway through the first) -- here are my top five wants based on the contents of this episode!

5. Tywin to show his badass zero-bullshit ruleing moxy. He really hasn't done much since taking the seat of power and after having enjoyed his no-nonsense ruthless leadership tactics in previous seasons, I'm dying to see him give the 7 Kingdoms a taste of his scorn from King's Landing

4. Stanis to grow a pair. I want to see him be a legit threat again. I loved how truly powerful a warrior he seemed in S2E9 last year and right now he seems like such a random wishy washy wildcard. Maybe Davos can put some zing back in him while Melissandre's off doing whatever.

3. Crastor lit on fire.

2. Dany to order the unsullied to destroy that entire damn town and walk away with all three of her dragons like a bad ass.

1. Arya to find her wolf since they're apparently right near where the Hound killed the butcher's boy back in S1E2.

Blam said...

@Jessica: @Blam, As a dorky book reader, I’ll attempt to answer your questions, while being as spoiler-free as possible

I appreciate it, Jessica. 8^) My questions were of various types — the one about Daenerys was mostly rhetorical, others called for viewer speculation; only with the last, about Castle Black, was I really asking in case I missed something. So I'm glad you avoided spoilers. I don't want to know anything we're not supposed to know at this point in the show's narrative (unless I get to read the books, which isn't likely anytime soon).

paleoblues said...

Since nobody mentioned that Riverrun was shown for the first time in the title sequence I've prepared a little chart. (If it comes out right?)

Kings Landing, Winterfell and The Wall appeared in every title sequence. For the first 13 episode they returned to Kings Landing before crossing the narrow sea. After that, they did not.

Episodes 1-4 and 9-10 were about 1:34. When they showed the Eyrie in 5-8, it was 5 seconds longer. Starting with Season 2 the sequence has been about 1:41.

EP Time

3 1:34 KL WF W KL VD
4 1:34 KL WF W KL VD
6 1:39 KL E WF W KL VD
7 1:39 KL E WF W KL VD
8 1:39 KL E WF W KL VD
10 1:34 KL WF W KL VD

12 1:41 KL D PYKE WF W KL VD
13 1:41 KL D P WF W KL VD
15 1:41 KL H P WF W Q
16 1:41 KL H P WF W Q
17 1:41 KL H P WF W Q
18 1:41 KL H P WF W Q
19 1:41 KL H P WF W Q
20 1:41 KL H P WF W Q

21 1:41 KL D H WF (Burning) W ASTAPOR
22 1:41 KL D H WF W A

KL=Kings Landing; WF=Winterfell; W=The Wall

Sagacious Penguin said...

Love the list, paleoblues!

I wonder if they just sped up or slowed down the title theme a teensy bit to compensate for the added time...