How about I change things up a bit and talk about the third act first, and then get around to the rest of it? Because that may have been the BEST cut to credits I’ve ever had the pleasure to see and I’d rather talk about it than some (one) of the other moments that royally amped my annoyance level through the roof.
Or I could take a breather, behave like an adult, and get through with it.
A note before I begin: that scene with Podrick, Tyrion and Bronn in the brothel was gross. I get that the show is on HBO and they showrunners enjoy testing their limits and seeing just how far they can push the network and its audience, often times going for shock value. Sometimes it works—like the ending scene—and sometimes it doesn’t—like the brothel. We’ve now all seen our fair share of breasts and bottoms and frontal nudity from the female actresses on this show. It has become a given. However, the shameless attitude in which they displayed women’s bodies tonight, with no narrative in sight, was a discouraging moment in a show which promotes such strong female characters—often stronger than the men despite their positions and living in a misogynistic world.
Here’s what you need to know: there was zero reason to show full frontal nudity, often times graphic, in this episode. I’m not a prude; nudity doesn’t shock me, but the flippancy with which it is handled does. There is a discrepancy between the amount of skin we’ve seen of the male characters and the amount of skin we’ve seen from the females and it has gotten tiresome.
This is a fantastically made show; it was a wonderfully entertaining episode so the fact that lazy sexism and fan pandering could possibly derail that, is discouraging.
Now let’s get on with it.
This was an excellent hour of television. It was highly spirited and energized, enthused with new life now that the first two episodes of expository necessities are over. Now, they can explore the characters they’ve re-established and, goodness, it’s a welcome change.
We start in Robb’s camp in a beautifully shot scene on the water’s edge as the funeral procession for Catelyn’s father ends, with him on a boat pushed out to sea. Edmure Tully, Catelyn’s brother and played by Tobias Menzies, tries and fails to light the boat on fire, in a surprisingly comedic scene. He tries, and tries again as Robb, Talisa and Catelyn try to hide their awkward amusement, until an exasperated bannerman takes the bow and arrow from him and lights it himself.
This is just the first example of how humor is used this episode.
Robb has a scene that finally puts him back into my good graces as he strips Edmure later of some of his undeserved dignity. Edmure is indignant (petulant) over not sharing the same “glory” that Robb has in battle. But to Robb it’s not about glory and he admonishes him about the causalities he’s lost—their men mean more to them then Tywin’s do to him. It’s wonderfully played by Richard Madden who has been stuck with some of the clunkier storylines.
In another scene that plays on humor as well as set up, The Small Council is gathering to meet with Tywin and when they all get there, there is a scramble for the seats until Cersei and Tyrion are all that’s left, with one seat at the far side of the table. Cersei spots another chair and drags it until it’s next to Tywin, and Tyrion, in one of the funniest bits this show has had and very likely will have, dragged his own seat to the opposite head of the table.
I’ve grown more accustomed to cringing at this show than laughing.
Tywin is told Jaime is nowhere to be found and Tyrion is told he will be the Master of Coin now that Littlefinger is leaving to marry in order to secure more ties to the kingdom.
Later Tyrion goes to Littlefinger’s chambers to grab the history of transactions in the Kingdom and to get some advice. It’s a fine scene but I can’t help but be distracted by Aidan Gillen’s overacting/over enunciation. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve often heard he was a highlight back on The Wire, what happened?
Insert the gratuitous, pornographic scene here.
After Podrick has enjoyed his gift from Tyrion he comes back with the pouch of money Tyrion had given him, saying the prostitutes didn’t want it. Apparently, he was just that good that payment was then superfluous. Tell us everything, they tell him. And they require “copious amounts of detail.”
It was a hilarious punch line to an unnecessary joke.
Over with Jaime and Brienne’s excellent adventure the two are now tied together on a horse and their captors sing a rowdy song, and the two like last time trade barbs and insults until Jaime quiets for a moment to tell her the harsh reality of their situation. The men they’re with will rape her at night and her best bet is to go silently so they don’t kill her, to picture Renly as the one doing it.
If he were a woman, would he not fight back such an onslaught, she asks him resentful and scared. She’s not afraid to die, but this, she fears. It’s a touching scene that greatly demonstrates their understanding of each other’s temperaments, despite also mutual loathing. However, it seems as if a burgeoning respect is beginning to develop.
Arya’s scene is brief if not touching, in yet another example of how the show’s able to play with the tone more than they’ve let on. She sees the Hound get carted away as she’s being quasi-held captive after her identity was revealed. However, just as she’s about to leave with the travelers, Hot Pie stops her with the news that he won’t be going with her, and instead will be staying at the Inn Keep as a baker. He’s no hero waiting to happen so he might as well settle down somewhere safe. It’s a bittersweet scene since his is a face we’ve come to know, and it’s played well by all three actors.
Other Starks aren’t quite as lighthearted as Catelyn mourns her father and her boys and Talisa cares for the Lannister captive, who couldn’t be older than fifteen. Catelyn speaks with her Uncle, Brynden the Blackfish, about how she used to always wait for her father to come home and wonders if Bran and Rickon did the same for her. It’s a heartbreaking scene, wonderfully played yet again by Michelle Fairley. Catelyn has always had one of the sadder storylines and here we’re actually seeing it fleshed out.
Up in the North, the Wildling group has found a massacre of dead horses with, ominously, no human soldiers of the Night Watch to be found. Three hundred men were traveling beyond the wall, Jon Snow tells Mance Rayder, and now a large portion of them may have turned into white walkers. Mance makes his decision; Tormund is to take Jon and twenty others to climb the Wall to begin an ambush on Castle Black. It’s a test of loyalties and Jon has no choice but to take it.
In Sam Tarly’s portion, we see that Gilly has returned as the camp takes safety at Craster’s incestuous winter home, and Sam sees her just as she’s giving birth—to a little boy, which means a certain death in his near future.
Theon isn’t having a better go of it as Iwan Rheon’s character (we’ve yet to learn his name but I have my hunches) lets him go, giving him a horse to ride along the horizon and to his sister. It’s not long after, however, when he spots three riders chasing after him and oh my word the tension in the scene. Every arrow knocked, every low hung branch, I was flinching at the inevitable painful imagery I’d be treated to when finally Theon was knocked off his horse. Held down and helpless, he’s about to be raped when Rheon’s character steps out from behind the brush and kills all three men, but not before one can say “you little bastard.” What could that possibly mean? I have my theories but fear that my reading of the books could spoil non-readers so I’ll stay away. Rheon’s character helps Theon up and tells him they must move, he’s a long way from home and winter is coming.
That it is, and Stannis is feeling the blow as Melisandre leaves him, having to journey out for a while despite his protests. He tells her he needs her that they need to have another demon, Renly-killing, shadow baby. She tells him he isn’t strong enough and before departure tells him that only by sacrificing those of his blood can he become stronger.
I’ll be totally honest here: I cannot stand Stannis. Not book Stannis, not television Stannis, so his scenes are often met with contempt on my side but at least this served a setup purpose.
Across the sea, Dany has turned into the best version of herself in the entire run of this show. Emilia Clarke isn’t an actress with a wide range, but she can do silently threatening and powerful despite her stature. It is an impressive talent she holds and it works wonders here. She’s still at Slaver’s Bay and is walking through lines of men and women strung up in a place called the Walk of Punishment. She wishes to show them mercy but Barristen and Jorah believe it to be unwise to push at such a delicate understanding between her and the seller. However, she isn’t okay with being forced to watch willful suffering any longer and goes to the seller to tell him she’ll purchase all eight thousand of the Unsullied. As Jorah had advised her, innocents will always be harmed in times of war because men turn into monsters when given a sign of power and the Unsullied aren’t men. They will not cause carnage, they will not rape they will only kill whomever Dany asks them to.
However, it leads to a meaty bargain: one dragon for all of them. It’s a deal, despite Barristen Selmy and Jorah protesting—which later on Dany coolly tells them never to do again.
This is the most interesting Dany has ever been.
Finally, the best scene of the episode and one of the best cut to credits I’ve seen. What Jaime predicted is about to happen as Brienne is dragged off kicking and screaming, requiring three men to restrain her and Jaime it appears, doesn’t want to just let a woman as strong as Brienne be forced into the unfathomable. He tells the leader of the captors that her father is Lord Tarth and would pay heavily for her safe and honorable return. The captor agrees and lets her go and the relief I felt was momentous.
Because now Jaime is testing his luck and telling their captor that his father is so rich that if he releases him, he’ll never worry another day. The captor plays along and as someone who has read the books, who knew exactly what was coming; I was on pins and needles.
And then he leads him to the table under false pretense, still in his chains, and forces him down to listen: he’s a man who has lived his entire life thinking he’s smarter than he is, that whomever he talks to must listen, that Daddy will always be there to save the day and the harsh reality is that none of that is true.
And with one clear slice, he cuts off Jaime Lannister’s right hand.
And he screams.
Cut to credits with such an upbeat song that it’s hard to imagine the tone the show was going for. It’s almost as if with the prolonged shot of his mouth agape in horror plus the jovial sounds we were supposed to laugh at him losing his hand, but it was far from funny with Nikolaj Coster Waldau turning in a wonderfully desperate scene, showing colors Jaime’s never shown before.
A great ending scene to a great episode (for most of it).
Things are starting to move quickly and for many, in the downhill direction. Tyrion’s been hustled into a position beneath his hopes, Robb is losing respect and Cat is losing hope. Jaime’s lost his hand and Theon his pride. It’s a wonderful picture for these characters to paint and with this installment I am more excited than ever for what this season holds.