This was kind of a weird episode. I was expecting to like it since it’s George R.R. Martin’s episode for this season, but I think it’s probably the weakest episode in season three. There’s an enormous amount of stuff going on in it, but at the same time it felt very long to me. There were some scenes that I really loved, but as a whole I ended up just feeling a little underwhelmed by “The Bear and the Maiden Fair.”
**Spoilers under the cut.**
- The episode opens on Jon and Ygritte who are now trudging along south of the Wall. I loved the interaction between Jon and Ygritte in this episode, which surprised me since their romance has never been one of my favorites. However, it was nice to see their roles end up reversed a little. South of the Wall, Jon knows a lot more than Ygritte does. She’s never seen stone buildings, and she’s ignorant of the history of previous wildling attempts to attack the Wall. Amusingly, she also doesn’t know what “swooning” is, which was a nicely humorous exchange that balances the pretty obvious tragic foreshadowing going on here.
- I didn’t like Orell’s declaration of lust/feelings for Ygritte. It felt like filler to me, and I think that minute or two of dialogue could have been better spent on advancing another storyline or something.
- I did like sex ed with Tormund. I giggled, but again I think that was a bit that could have been cut in favor of something else more interesting.
- Robb and Co. are caught in a storm on their way to the Twins for Edmure’s wedding. Apparently Talisa is going with Robb instead of staying at Riverrun, which I hope means what I really, really hope it does. Also, apparently Talisa’s pregnant. I know this scene is supposed to be sweet and emotional, but I really, really don’t like the substitution of Talisa for Jeyne. It’s the one change from the books to the show that I absolutely hate, and I’m ready for it to be over.
- I think I like the handling of Sansa’s impending marriage in the show more than I did in the books, at least for the scenes with Sansa. Three scenes in this episode are dedicated to Sansa’s upcoming nuptials.
- First is Sansa talking with Margaery, which I thought was an excellent scene. Sansa is frightened and upset and disappointed in herself for not seeing something like this coming. Margaery is delightfully pragmatic and encouraging, although I’m not sure how receptive Sansa is to Margaery’s advice to “make the best of things.”
- Next up we find Tyrion complaining to Bronn, who doesn’t really understand Tyrion’s dilemma. Depending on how they shoot the actual wedding night, I think this scene might end up just being a superfluous bit of telling rather than showing. It is interesting, however, just how much Bronn’s perspective on Tyrion’s problems mirrors Margaery’s pragmatic advice to Sansa in the previous scene.
- Finally, later in the episode, Tyrion is finally talking to Shae about the wedding, and Shae is (I think rightfully) pissed. Tyrion presents Shae with a costly gift, but what she really wants is security, which is one thing that Tyrion can’t really offer her. Instead, Tyrion seems to think that he can somehow live a double life, married to Sansa, but also building a family with Shae, and Shae knows that this is a fantasy that Tyrion can’t deliver.
- Tywin has been summoned to Joffrey’s throne room for a long, dramatic walk (seriously, the throne room is huge) and a talk with his grandson. This might actually be my favorite scene of the episode, although I’m a little bothered that I feel like we’re being asked to feel sympathy for Joffrey after what he did in last week’s episode. Basically, Joffrey hasn’t been going to his Small Council meetings, and he’s upset that he isn’t more informed. Tywin explains that Joffrey is welcome to show up anytime, but in a way that makes it clear that Joffrey isn’t really welcome at all–especially when at the end of the discussion Tywin makes a point of telling Joffrey that he’ll be informed and consulted “when necessary” about matters deemed “important.” Joffrey is in many ways still a child, but show!Joffrey is old enough to be doing more actual ruling than his book counterpart. What we’re shown in this scene is that Joffrey is, while foolish and blustering, mostly king in name only. Even his (I think legitimate) concern about Daenerys and her dragons is dismissed by his controlling grandfather. Joffrey, in his way, wants to be a good king and is in desperate need of guidance, but when he asks for it he’s rebuffed and relegated to puppet-monarch status. It’s a weird scene, honestly, since the show has worked so hard to make Joffrey completely unlikable. I’m not sure why, at this point, they want to portray him in a sympathetic manner.
- Speaking of Daenerys, she’s now in sight of the walls of Yunkai on her quest to be an awesome white savior and end slavery. Honestly, she’s so smug and arrogant when the representative from Yunkai comes to treat with her that I can’t wait for things to backfire on her. I don’t think the show has done as good a job as the books did of making it clear that Dany is supposed to be a criticism of the white savior trope, but this scene actually went a long way for me as far as dispelling any positive feelings I had about her actions. That said, judging by the number of Dany-celebratory GIFsets I’ve seen on Tumblr the last few days, I think this is still going over the heads of many television viewers. How much more insufferable do the showrunners have to make this character before people realize that we’re supposed to see her as a dangerous, colonizing mad person rather than a hero?
- The dragons are beautiful, though.
- Melisandre and Gendry are sailing through the remains of ships that sank on the Blackwater, and she tells him who his father is. We also learn a little more about Melisandre’s own history.
- Arya is furious and miserable without her friends among a group of men she no longer trusts. Beric tries to reassure her and explain things, but Arya runs out of their cave lair only to be promptly captured by Sandor Clegane.
- Theon is still being tortured. These scenes just make me increasingly uncomfortable every week. I don’t want to watch the process of Theon’s destruction at Ramsay’s hands. It was awful enough reading Theon’s chapters in A Dance With Dragons when I realized that he hadn’t just died after he lost Winterfell. No one deserves what happens to Theon, and it really bothers me that I feel like we’re expected to be titillated and entertained by it on the show.
- Bran’s group is still on the move. Osha is getting increasingly anxious as they go farther north, but we find out why in this episode. She really, really wants to just take care of these children, and she’s terrified to go back north of the wall. The split in this group should happen soon, I guess, but I’m curious to see how that works out next season.
- Jaime is leaving Harrenhal to return to King’s Landing, but he’s forced to leave without Brienne. Before leaving, he vows to Brienne that he’ll return Catelyn Stark’s daughters. On the road we learn more about Qyburn, who has been sent to King’s Landing with Jaime. Jaime learns that Brienne won’t be ransomed and returns to rescue her from Locke, only to find her in a pit fighting a bear with a wooden sword, which prompts Jaime to do something incredibly brave and stupid. My favorite part of this whole storyline in this episode is Brienne’s sort of bemused look at Jaime’s back as they are leaving Harrenhal for a final time. She’s so strong and self-reliant and she’s never been rescued before and she’s just confused about what just happened and why Jaime would do something so obviously stupid for her.