Hoo boy, this episode. “The Rains of Castamere” contains one of the most controversial events in A Song of Ice and Fire, but it also has some of the finest scenes of exposition that I can remember in the show to date.
**Spoilers under the cut.**
- The Twins are in the opening credits. I don’t remember seeing them there before (previously it was just Riverrun, I think.)
- The ominous shot of the Bolton token on Robb’s map was a nice touch.
- Robb and Catelyn have a sort of reconciliation when Robb asks Catelyn for advice regarding his (frankly, terrible) plan to attack Casterly Rock.
- Next up, the Stark party is arriving at the Twins. They eat Walder Frey’s bread and salt, and Robb offers a really asinine apology to a parade of rather plain Frey girls. Walder Frey calls Robb out, though, while also being particularly vile to Talisa. This scene, for me, is where the substitution of Talisa for Jeyne is most grating. Book!Robb deflowers Jeyne Westerling, and this creates a real crisis of honor for him. Does he marry Jeyne to preserve her honor or does he keep his promise to Walder Frey? Show!Robb, we are told, fell in love with Talisa and just couldn’t help but marry her. He makes a conscious and willful choice to prioritize his own feelings over doing the honorable (and responsible) thing and preserving the Frey alliance. I don’t see how there would be any way for Show!Robb to apologize that wouldn’t make him sound like an asshole. I was happy to see Walder Frey mock Robb’s so-called “honor” here.
- Tobias Menzies doesn’t get many lines as Edmure, but he makes the best faces. I’m honestly impressed with how much he’s able to communicate with his looks. Also, there is at least one laugh-out-loud funny Edmure face per episode, which is good.
- “The wine will flow red…” Well, something will flow red.
- Daario has a plan for how to get Daenerys’ army into Yunkai. Jorah hates it, but Grey Worm trusts Daario (inexplicably) and Dany gives them the go-ahead. I was surprised that the sacking of Yunkai was in this episode since the next episode title, “Mhysa,” seems to indicate a Dany-centric episode. There’s still a little more of this story to be told in the last episode, but I was hoping for a more epic battle scene next week. I guess we’ll see.
- Sam and Gilly arrive at the Wall in the first of several excellent exposition scenes in this episode. Sam tells Gilly about the Nightfort, one of the abandoned castles along the Wall, and he says that there is a secret passage into the castle that will allow them to get through and travel to Castle Black. He read it in a book, which prompts Gilly to say he’s “like a magician” and elicits a proud smile from Sam, who I don’t think is used to being useful and competent. I’ve loved this whole storyline so far, but I do hope this doesn’t mean the show is going to skip Coldhands.
- Arya and the Hound are still working their way toward the Twins, and they commandeer some old guy’s cart of salt pork. When Sandor goes to kill the old man, Arya begs him not to, to which the Hound replies, “You’re very kind. Someday it’s going to get you killed.” Arya then proceeds to bludgeon the old guy one more time to make sure he stays knocked out. The look on the Hound’s face is priceless. I guess Arya’s not that kind.
- Bran, Rickon, Osha, and Reeds are getting closer to the Wall. In the second great piece of exposition in the episode, we learn that the land they’re now traveling through is called the Gift. It’s the land for 50 miles south of the Wall, given to the Night’s Watch in perpetuity to help support them. Unfortunately, we also learn that it’s mostly abandoned because Wildlings raid so often that the diminished Night’s Watch couldn’t protect the people who lived there. Even Rickon has a line in this scene, and it’s adorable.
- Jon and the Wildlings are also in the Gift, where they are about to steal some horses from a man who breeds and sells them to the Night’s Watch. Jon begs Tormund not to kill the old man, but Tormund is eager to draw the attention of the Night’s Watch so they can fight. However, Jon manages to make enough noise to alert the horses so the man can escape.
- Arya is getting more and more anxious the closer she and Sandor get to the Twins. She proves all over again in this short scene that she isn’t all that kind at all. We’re really starting to see the toll her experiences are taking on her. Sandor seems to be only somewhat frightened of this fierce, hard girl, but I think he mostly just pities her.
- Bran and company are trying to figure out how to get past the Wall, and they continue to deliver valuable exposition that feels natural and not like a lecture on the history of Westeros. We learn that only three of the nineteen castles along the Wall are occupied and that the others have had their gates sealed with stone and ice. We also learn more about how the Wildlings manage to come south. Hodor starts freaking out about the storm just as Osha and the Reeds see Wildlings ride up outside, and Bran has to warg into Hodor in order to calm him down.
- Orell hears Hodor, but is momentarily distracted when they capture the horse breeder.
- Jojen wants Bran to warg into Summer and attack the Wildlings. Bran doesn’t know how to do it on purpose, but he figures it out after all.
- Jon can’t bring himself to kill the horse breeder, so Ygritte does. A fight ensues between Jon and the Wildlings. Summer and Shaggydog join the fight. Jon kills Orell, who wargs into his eagle at the last moment and then the fakest eagle ever attacks Jon’s face. Jon manages to escape on a horse, leaving an angry and heartbroken Ygritte behind. Rose Leslie did an incredible job of conveying Ygritte’s sense of betrayal here.
- Back at Yunkai, Daario gets himself, Jorah, and Grey Worm into the city where they fight with the guards in kind of a great battle scene.
- Edmure is apprehensive as he watches his bride walk towards him all covered in a heavy veil. Tobias Menzies and Michelle Fairley communicate so much with their looks in this scene, it’s really impressive. Edmure’s look of relief when the veil is removed and Roslin Frey turns out to be extremely young and very pretty and Catelyn’s encouraging and proud smile to her brother made this scene work. My only nitpick here is that they say “the Stranger” in their wedding vows. I thought that worshipers of the Seven didn’t say the Stranger ever because the Stranger is a god of death and it’s unlucky or something. People who haven’t read the books would never know the difference, but it bugged me a little.
- Bran says that he saw Jon Snow through Summer’s eyes, and we learn a little more about what it means to be a warg. Jojen says and Osha confirms that Bran’s ability to warg into another human is unique. Bran realises that he has to go with Jojen and Meera north of the Wall, so he sends Rickon away with Osha. This scene actually made me teary. It’s been almost a joke that Rickon hasn’t gotten much to do on screen this season, but his desire to stay and protect Bran is sweet and sad enough to make up for his previous lack of screentime.
- Daenerys is getting anxious back at her camp. She doesn’t know how long it’s supposed to take to sack a city. Jorah and Grey Worm come back covered in blood to tell her that they’ve been victorious. Jorah’s face when Dany asks about Daario is, I think, supposed to be sad, but I found it comical. (How do you say “friend-zoned” in Valyrian?) Daario comes back a moment later, and he lays the banner of Yunkai at Dany’s feet.
- The rest of the episode is dedicated to the wedding feast, which at first seems to be going well. We get to hear Roose Bolton’s story about how he got a fat wife. Brynden Tully goes to take a piss, which I think is what is going to save him from what comes later. Robb and Talisa are even being cute. Talisa’s look of alarm/horror at the bedding tradition is probably the moment that I have liked her best. Cat tells Roose that Ned forbade the bedding at their own wedding–because obviously the writers of this show want to keep making us fall in love with these characters right up to the very end. In that same vein, Robb and Talisa are talking baby names, and Robb actually tears up when Talisa talks about a baby Ned Stark.
- And that’s about when the musicians start playing “The Rains of Castamere” and Catelyn knows that something is very, very wrong.
- Cut to Grey Wind whining and trying to escape the kennel.
- Sandor and Arya have arrived, only to be told that the feast is over. The Hound has an idea of what is going on, but Arya has already run off.
- Cat still knows something bad is about to happen. Roose Bolton gives her a look and she pulls up his sleeve to find that he’s wearing chainmail.
- All hell proceeds to break loose.
- Talisa gets stabbed in the belly, which is horrifying. However, it’s not nearly as bad as some people made it out to be. To hear some people talk on Twitter, the Freys practically cut Fetus Stark out and kicked it around on the floor, but that is not the case.
- Robb gets about half a dozen crossbow bolts in the chest, and Cat gets one in the back.
- Walder Frey is just grinning like crazy while people’s throats are getting cut all over the place. I felt like the pure chaos of the scene was portrayed well.
- Arya is trying to sneak in when she sees a bunch of Stark guards and Grey Wind get killed. The Hound clubs her over the head and carries her off into the night.
- Back in the dining hall, Catelyn grabs Lady Frey as a hostage so she can make one last, desperate plea for her son’s life only to find out that Walder Frey doesn’t care about his wife at all.
- Robb has crawled to Talisa’s body, but he stands up, only to get a dagger through the heart from Roose Bolton, who also sends regards from the Lannisters.
- Catelyn’s face just empties of all hope as she screams in agony. She cuts Lady Frey’s throat; then her own throat is cut and that’s the end of the episode.
I guess I should talk about the Red Wedding and how it made me feel, but mostly I just feel relieved to have that part of the show over with. It’s been mildly amusing to see the reactions of people who somehow just had no idea that it was coming, but I honestly just don’t see how that’s even possible.
Robb Stark is a character that was basically doomed from the start, and he’s made pretty much every mistake he could possibly make if he really wanted to be a king. The Red Wedding is, not justice exactly, but the sort of natural result of Robb’s mistakes–as well as his hubris. As recently as the beginning of this very episode Robb was making plans to sacrifice the lives of someone else’s army in waging a campaign that is risky and not even particularly strategically sound. Robb Stark fails over and over again as a leader because he prioritizes his own feelings–his love for Talisa, his desire for vengeance on the Lannisters–over his responsibilities to his bannermen and his fledgling kingdom. Over and over we are shown that Robb doesn’t value or respect his supporters, so I don’t understand why people were surprised at Roose Bolton’s betrayal and Walder Frey’s bloody revenge.
Opinions on the internet about “Second Sons” seem to indicate that this is either the best or worst episode of the season so far. I’m honestly a little confused as to why opinions are so polarized about what I think was a solid, if somewhat slow, episode that narrowed its focus to just a handful of plots, all of which were advanced by what we saw here.
The previous episodes in season 3 have often had a somewhat hectic, frantic pace as the writers tried to cover as much ground as possible in each episode, but there have still been times where it felt as if, although a lot was happening on screen, none of the stories were really advancing very much. “Second Sons” has longer scenes, a slower, more deliberate, pace and less action, but for me it felt like a more thoughtful and thorough examination of the episode’s themes than some of this season’s previous episodes, which struggled to do each plot justice and sometimes had inconsistent tones that undermined thematic messaging.
**Spoilers under the cut.**
- The episode opens with Arya advancing toward the sleeping Sandor Clegane, large rock in hand and planning to bash his brains out. When she realizes the Hound is awake, Arya is unable to actually kill him and they ride on toward wherever he is taking her. Which turns out to be the Twins. Sandor hopes to arrive in time to collect a ransom for Arya at her uncle Edmure’s wedding.
- This opening scene is one of my favorite of the season so far, and my second favorite scene in this episode. Sandor Clegane is one of my favorite characters in the books, and the exchange he has here with Arya works well to establish his character on the show. Arya’s experience of the world is, honestly, still pretty limited, and Sandor’s response when she tells him, “There’s no one worse than you,” highlights just how innocent Arya actually is. The Hound has no illusions of himself as an upright or particularly moral man, and he’s done terrible things, but he’s not a monster. More to the point, he knows men who are monsters. His brother Gregor is one, and Joffrey was another, and while Sandor’s flight from King’s Landing and the Battle of the Blackwater was at least half based on the sheer, visceral terror he felt at the sight of the wildfire, I think that it also represents Sandor’s rejection of the entire system of kings and lords and knights and armies. So here, in this scene with Arya as they look out over picturesque countryside, Sandor is trying, in his way, to be a better man, and he’s looking for recognition of that. I don’t think Arya can give him what he wants, no more than Sansa ever could, but this speech is about Sandor’s self-affirmation as much as it’s about teaching an innocent young girl the ways of the world.
- The first of the three main plots of this episode finds us with Daenerys and her men spying on the camp of a mercenary group called the Second Sons. She summons the leaders of this mercenary band to her own camp to find out if she can buy them away from their Yunkai’i masters, at which point we meet the thoroughly disgusting Mero, his second-in-command Prendahl na Ghezn, and Daario Naharis. Mero is a truly obnoxious piece of work who, without much real malice, has his misogyny on full display as he suggests that Dany is a whore, sniffs in the grossest way possible at Missandei (whose face is priceless), and asks Dany to show him her cunt. Prendahl barely says a word. And Daario…
- Casting Ed Skrein as Daario Naharis is, I think, the biggest missed opportunity this show has had to cast a person of color in a prominent role. It’s a character whose race is never explicitly described in the books–all we know is that he has blue eyes, which could be an indicator of him being white if, you know, tons of PoC didn’t have blue eyes. Or if it really even mattered that much. The show has never been particular about casting any character exactly as described in the books, and the books’ descriptions of Daario gave the casting director pretty much carte blanche to choose whoever they wanted. Daario’s flamboyant fashion and distinctive weapons are far more important than his blue eyes, and the costumers failed entirely in creating everything except the naked lady swords. So instead of a handsome, charismatic sellsword who I could believe Daenerys might fall in love with, we got an ugly white dude in generic-looking armor wearing what looks like one of Cersei Lannister’s season one wigs. I don’t consider this a case of white-washing, but it is an example of defaulting to white in the absence of the writer explicitly describing a character’s race. The fantasy genre has always been very white, especially in European history-inspired worlds and I can deal with most of Westeros being white folk, but it’s pure racist laziness to cast major characters from the primarily PoC-inhabited Essos as white. Even if we accept that Essos has many multicultural populations and a lot of expatriates from Westeros, this casting choice is still a missed opportunity at best and a deliberate exclusion of PoC at worst.
- On the bright side, we finally get another scene of Dany and Missandei interacting with each other. Missandei speaks 19 languages, and I laughed when she criticized Dany’s Dothraki. I really, really want this relationship to be developed more than it has been, and the moment here is cut far too short by Daario showing up to gift Dany the severed heads of Mero (good riddance!) and Prendahl.
- I honestly just have a lot of mixed feelings about show!Dany at this point. On the one hand, she’s fucking terrible. She’s arrogant and smug and imperialistic and I don’t like the feeling I get that I, as a woman, am supposed to find these traits in Dany admirable or empowering. On the other hand, she’s fucking terrible, just increasingly unlikable, and if things go the way on the show that they do in the books this shit is not going to work out very well for Dany at all. Which in the books I read as criticism and subversion of white savior tropes. So it could be just too early to really judge the show, as things don’t really get hard for book!Dany until A Dance With Dragons. On the third hand, Dany has definitely evolved and grown as a character over the course of three seasons of the show. We’ve seen her go from a scared young girl sold into marriage to a man who raped her to a woman who has lost a husband and son, who has learned to own her sexuality, and who has become comfortable (maybe too comfortable) in her roles as both warlord and woman. Her self-assurance was palpable in “Second Sons” as she steps out of her bath to approach Daario, and it interestingly recalls the scene in season one when Dany steps into a scalding bath in order to wash away her brother’s unwanted touch. In the first season scene, we saw Daenerys at her most disempowered, doing something that for any other woman would be an act of significant self-harm, but here we see her as a woman who is confident in her waxing power to the point of being unafraid to stand nude before a man who just moments before held a knife to Missandei’s throat.
- Elsewhere, Melisandre and Gendry have arrived at Dragonstone. Stannis is clearly uncomfortable with Melisandre’s plans to sacrifice Gendry, so he goes to see Davos. The relationship between Stannis and Davos is one of my favorites in the books, and it’s been handled really well on the show. We see here just how much Stannis relies on Davos for advice and friendship, and we find out why Stannis believes in Melisandre and her god. Davos is still unconvinced, so we are treated to a scene where Melisandre seduces Gendry only to tie him down and drop leeches down his pants. Stannis drops the leeches into a fire, naming his enemies (Robb Stark, Balon Greyjoy, and Joffrey Baratheon) one by one. I’m curious to find out what it takes for Davos to be convinced that the Lord of Light is real.
- The biggest event of this episode turns out to be the most awkward and sad wedding in the history of forever. Sansa and Tyrion are finally getting married and basically everyone except Sansa and Loras uses this as an opportunity to act like assholes.
- Tyrion shows up to talk to Sansa before the wedding and says a bunch of stuff about how he know’s how she feels. He doesn’t. Obviously. I feel a little bad for him because I think he’s genuinely trying to be reassuring by pointing out the advantages of her new station as a married woman. However, he ends up coming off as insensitive and a little too cavalier about the whole thing.
- Joffrey uses the ceremony as an opportunity to humiliate both Sansa and Tyrion. Then, at the reception, Joffrey basically promises to rape Sansa, making it very clear that her marriage does not protect her the way Tyrion seems to think it does.
- Margaery tries to be sisterly with Cersei, which prompts Cersei to tell us the story of the Reynes of Castamere. And then threaten to have Margaery killed.
- Olenna sits openly mocking an unhappy Loras and Margaery about the confused relationships they’re about to marry into.
- Tyrion gets wasted drunk and makes scene after humiliating scene while Sansa has to sit next to him and try not to cry or stab anyone.
- Loras tries to make nice with Cersei, who is in rare form tonight, and get’s completely shut down.
- Tywin makes it a point to have a go at Tyrion about his advanced state of inebriation and how that might affect his ability to consummate this marriage.
- Shae stares daggers at Tyrion the whole time.
- My only problem with the entire wedding sequence here is that they had Sansa kneel for Tyrion where, in the books, her refusal to do so was a wonderful example of her retaining her pride and self-respect in the face of months of abuse that have culminated in forced marriage into the family of her abusers. In the book, I was able to spare some sympathy for Tyrion’s humiliation here, but the way the show handled this left all of my feelings for Sansa. Tyrion might be unhappy, but, realistically, this marriage is largely beneficial to him no matter how much he might feel bad about it. Sansa gains nothing, not even basic security or protection against rape, and she has to deal with the mortification caused by Tyrion’s behavior at the feast to boot. I wish they had preserved her refusal to kneel, because no embarrassment she could have caused Tyrion would equal what he does to her.
- The bedroom scene was handled well and managed to convey all the sadness and shame and frustration Tyrion and Sansa must be feeling with rather little dialogue. Sophie Turner deserves an award for her looks alone. She communicates an incredible amount of information without saying a word, as does Peter Dinklage who clearly telegraphs Tyrion’s struggle between his fear of Tywin, his sense of duty, his desire for Sansa, and his desire to not be a rapist. There’s just so much going on here, and it’s one of the rare times that I’ve felt this show handled a complex sexual situation with grace, subtlety and taste.
- The episode is capped with a Sam and Gilly scene that starts off sweet and ends with an event that I’ve been waiting all season for. This pair, with baby in tow, is still on the run back to the Wall when they decide to stop for the night at an abandoned cabin in a terrifying forest. They talk about baby names, and Sam still can’t build a fire. Sam is called outside by the increasingly loud sounds of ravens in the tree next to the cabin, and he heads out with his sword and a torch to see what’s going on. A white walker has come for the baby, and Sam finds a shred of bravery to attack the monster, which instantly shatters Sam’s sword (with a somewhat cheesy special effect) and throws him out of the way. As the white walker advances on Gilly, Sam remembers the dragonglass knife he’s carrying and stabs the creature in the back. The white walker turns to ice and shatters, an effect that is definitely cool enough to make up for the kind of cheesy sword shattering. Sam and Gilly run off into the night, followed be a flock of screaming ravens. The dragonglass dagger, however–the one weapon we now know will defeat the white walkers–is left behind. Oh, Sam.
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.
This episode had some great scenes, a couple of which I absolutely loved, but it also had one of the most infuriating scenes that I’ve seen in two and a half seasons of this show.
**Spoilers (and anger) under the cut.**
- Sam and Gilly are well away from Craster’s Keep, and apparently Sam can barely even build a fire. Their interactions here provide a sweet interlude and are part of a nicely done introduction to the episode’s biggest storyline, which is Jon and Ygritte climbing the wall. I’d just like to say, though, that Hannah Murray is perfect as Gilly. She has a wonderful sort of fragility, but at the same time it’s clear that she’s fierce and capable and has a lot of practical knowledge.
- The other half of this episode’s introduction has us visiting Bran and company, where Meera and Osha are arguing over how to skin rabbits. Then Jojen has a vision of Jon Snow and we cut to the next scene. I actually could have done without this scene, and I think that it would have been a better segue to go straight from Sam telling Gilly about the Wall to Jon and Ygritte getting ready to climb it. I’m still really struggling to get invested in Bran’s story. In the books I didn’t really like it at all until A Dance With Dragons, and I’m finding it kind of equally boring on the show. I’d hoped that Jojen and Meera would breathe some life into the story, but nope. It’s still the most tedious road trip ever, and Meera and Osha’s sniping at each other isn’t making it any better.
- The first scene with Jon and Ygritte in this episode made me believe their relationship more than any other scene in the show or books. Ygritte’s speech to Jon that they should take care of each other since they can’t trust lords or kings to take care of them was wonderfully delivered and made me feel a lot more emotionally invested in this pair. Later on, as they are actually climbing the Wall, this theory is put to the test, and they are literally cut loose by Orell, forcing Jon and Ygritte to struggle to the top on their own.
- I loved the actual scenes of the climb up the Wall. It felt suitably epic, and I suspect that there were a couple of scary moments for people who haven’t read the books. The final shot of Jon and Ygritte standing on top of the Wall was a little over the top and edging into romance novel cover territory, but I liked it. I think we’ve been given a real sense of the scale of the Wall and what the stakes are for the Wildlings who are desperate to come south of it.
- I enjoyed Arya’s archery lesson with Anguy. I think that showing Arya learning these skills on her journey is good. It always bothers me when characters in fantasy stories are just inexplicably good at fighting, so it’s nice to see that, for Arya, it’s a process that she’s really just beginning.
- I was prepared to hate Melisandre showing up to retrieve Gendry (I was already pretty certain we won’t be getting Edric Storm), but this turned out to be surprisingly great. The interaction between Melisandre, Beric, and Thoros was a great way to show viewers a little more about all of these characters and their religion. Also, it was kind of amusing to see Melisandre, the lady who gave birth to a murderous shadow baby, get kind of freaked out when she sees Beric.
- I’m quickly coming to dislike the Theon scenes as they’re starting to just be torture porn. In the books, Theon basically disappears for two books, and when we see him again it’s after he’s been tortured by Ramsay. It’s shocking, and the reader is moved to pity (hopefully) for Theon because no one deserves what happens to him. I understand why the show runners want to keep Theon around on the show, but I don’t like feeling as if I’m expected to be entertained by long, drawn-out scenes of Theon being tortured.
- Robb negotiates with the Freys and Edmure makes an ass of himself. Brynden Tully is entertaining. Honestly, though, the Red Wedding can’t come soon enough.
- Roose Bolton is becoming one of my favorite characters to watch, and this show does awkward dinner scenes wonderfully. Brienne is a ball of fury in the pink dress that Roose has picked to try and humiliate her. I love the interaction between Jaime and Brienne here as well. The evolution of their relationship to being something very like friendship is illustrated perfectly as she helps him cut his food and when she gently restrains her hand when she’s ready to leap across the table and stab Roose Bolton in the neck.
- Olenna and Tywin together is a scene I’ve been anticipating all season, and it’s everything I hoped it would be.
- Loras and Sansa are also awkward, but this is another surprisingly sweet scene. Sansa is so hopeful, and Loras is trying hard to be kind because (I think) he’s a fundamentally decent fellow. I did, however, catch that Loras said “French sleeves” which is a sloppy bit of writing. French anything doesn’t make any sense in a world with no France. (ETA: Upon reading other recaps, maybe it’s “fringed sleeves”? Still, it sounded like “French” both times that I watched the episode.)
- Tyrion and Cersei are having a rare moment of solidarity as they ponder just how terrible things are going to be for everyone if they’re forced to marry Sansa and Loras. It’s the most vulnerable that we’ve seen either of these characters in a while, especially with each other. It was nice to see them both let their guard down a little and actually act like brother and sister as they’re united in the worry for Jaime and their fear of their father.
- My heart broke a little for everyone when Tyrion went to break the news to Sansa.
- Varys and Littlefinger talk in front of the Iron Throne, and it’s very, very bad. Littlefinger has found out Ros was spying for Varys and has had her killed. I can think of several reasons why this is a good time to think of getting rid of Ros on the show, but the way her death was written is disgusting and misogynistic. We don’t even get an actual scene with Ros. We get Littlefinger gleefully telling Varys how clever Littlefinger is for figuring things out and disposing of Ros–a “poor investment”. Then, we cut to a scene of Joffrey setting aside his crossbow, at which point the camera moves to rest on a very dead Ros, who is only partially clothed, tied to a bedpost, with crossbow bolts sticking out of her (including her crotch). This is probably the most egregious and sickening scene of sexualized violence that I’ve ever seen on this show, and it’s particularly upsetting that this is the way the writers chose to treat a character that viewers have come to know and care about. Ros has grown significantly as a character, especially this season, but in the end the show runners and writers reduced her to a plot device to further hammer home (just in case, I guess, that people haven’t paid attention so far) just how evil Littlefinger and Joffrey are. Even more insultingly, they reduced her to an object for Littlefinger to give, for Joffrey to destroy, and for the viewers of the show to ogle.
This show is just getting better and better every week this season. “Kissed by Fire” has some of my favorite scenes for Arya and Jaime, and it advances some important plot lines.
**Spoilers under the cut.**
- The fight between Sandor Clegane and Beric Dondarrian and the subsequent reveal of Beric’s resurrections by Thoros were scenes that I’ve been looking forward to since the beginning of the show, and they did a wonderful job with it. The fight itself was rather short but felt suitably significant, and the terror that the Hound feels at the sight of Beric’s flaming sword was conveyed perfectly.
- Beric’s resurrection and the discussion about the duel provide the best Arya scenes we’ve gotten this season, and when Arya wistfully asked Thoros if he could resurrect someone without a head, not six times but just once, my heart broke for her a little. In the books, Arya’s journey is deeply concerned with matters of faith and the search for something to believe in, and this gives me a lot of hope that this will be true of her journey on the show as well. Arya was never a devout believer in the gods of either of her parents, and Syrio Forel introduced her to the idea of a singular god of Death. Here we see her being not just introduced to an idea, but shown the power of another god, and it’s an interesting exploration of what happens when you are basically forced to believe that a god is real only to find out that that god still can’t give you what you want most in the world.
- Another fantastic scene with Arya is when Gendry tells her that he will be staying on with the Brotherhood Without Banners. Maisie Williams is possibly the finest of the young actors on the show, and the hurt on her face and her plaintive insistence that she could be Gendry’s family made me want to cry forever. It was sad when Arya and Gendry parted ways with Hot Pie, but at least they were leaving him in a place where he might be able to be happy and safe (as much as it’s possible to be in Westeros). Gendry isn’t removing himself from danger, though, and he has been emotional support to Arya in a way that Hot Pie wasn’t. While I understand Gendry’s reasons for staying, I also have a lot of sympathy for Arya and her feelings of being betrayed and abandoned by someone she has grown to rely upon.
- I have a deep and abiding appreciation for Tormund Giantsbane’s face.
- The scene with Jon and Ygritte in the cave was done as well as it possibly could have been, I think. I’m not a huge fan of Jon Snow until A Dance With Dragons, and I’ve always felt that the Jon/Ygritte relationship was not as well-developed as it could be, but I found this scene to be surprisingly sweet and nice to watch in the great sea of bad things happening to every other character on the show. I was a little surprised at just how much Ygritte’s desire to just never leave that cave got to me. I love Rose Leslie in this role, and she did a superb job in this episode.
- Roose Bolton is so hilariously evil.
- Qyburn is creepy.
- Cersei talks to Peter Baelish about the Tyrells.
- Olenna and Tyrion are talking money, and this is another amazing scene that wasn’t in the books. I’m thrilled that we get to see so much of Olenna. The Tyrells were kept sort of deliberately mysterious in the novels, but I am loving that they are such a big part of the show.
- Too bad Loras is kind of an idiot and spills the family secrets to strange men. Whoops!
- I do find it refreshing to have a sex scene that doesn’t involve six half-naked women.
- Lord Karstark kills the Lannister children and Robb chops his head off. I really could do without Talisa. Also–Oh, Robb. You have the worst ideas.
- I was not expecting to see Selyse and Shireen Baratheon this season, but here they are! Shireen is darling, and I love her because she loves Davos. Selyse is very Lady Macbeth.
- Selyse has fetus jars.
- I’m actually really interested to see where things go with the show’s portrayal of Selyse. She’s a sort of fascinating character, really very different from all the other women in the books, and I’d love to see her get a bigger role earlier on than I expected.
- Jaime and Brienne are bathing, and Jaime tells Brienne the story of why he killed the mad king. This scene was, without reservations, absolutely perfectly done. I love the bath as a visual metaphor, and I love the way Brienne’s eyes slowly widen and well up with tears as she listens, and I love her getting angry and forgetting her self-consciousness (Gwendoline Christie has a fabulous body), and I love that the nudity here didn’t feel intended to be sexual or titillating at all. Honestly, just give these actors some awards already.
- I’m not sure how I feel about the Dany storyline these days. I like a lot about it, but I’m kind of anxious to get to the parts where we start to see her fucking up left and right, struggling to learn how to be a ruler, and we can stop getting to see her as a white savior. I’ve always felt like the Dany story subverts a lot of white savior tropes, but seeing it on the show, I feel like we’re being encouraged to think a lot better of her than we are of book!Dany. I liked Grey Worm choosing to keep his “slave name” (in Dany’s words), but I don’t know if the scene went far enough to be critical of what Dany has done.
- I did sort of enjoy the brief moment of Jorah/Barristan comradery.
- Poor Sansa.
- I adore Lannister family meetings. No one is ever happy when they are over. I felt really bad for Cersei in this one, though. When she realises that her dad is serious and starts begging him not to make her marry again, I just wanted to hug her. She’s not just proud or angry, she’s legit terrified, which is pretty understandable after spending like 20 years married to a guy who beat and raped her. There are a lot of good reasons for people to not like Cersei, but if people don’t have any sympathy for her in this scene they’re probably terrible human beings.
- Holy shit Shireen’s song is creepy. I guess we won’t be seeing Patchface, then?
“And Now His Watch is Ended” delivered some of my favorite scenes so far this season. We got lots of Varys and lots of Olenna–even Varys and Olenna together!–and we also get to see a major turning point for Daenerys.
**Spoilers under the cut.**
- The episode opens on a shot of Jaime’s hand, which is now hanging around his neck. This mostly reminded me that it’s been a couple of episodes now since we’ve seen Davos, which sucks because he’s one of my favorite characters. Jaime, meanwhile, is is sorry shape. He’s weak from months of imprisonment; he’s injured and probably suffering from shock and blood loss; and he’s sunk into a deep depression by the loss of the sword hand that is so central to his identity. Also, he just drank horse piss. It’s really kind of awful to see anyone at their lowest point, and this is it for Jaime. Broken Jaime is an enormous change from both the confident, handsome, laughing Jaime of season one and the sarcastic, imprisoned, but somewhat more introspective Jaime of season two.
- Also hard to watch is Brienne’s sheer helplessness to do anything for Jaime. This is expanded upon in the second scene with this pair in this episode as Brienne tries to get Jaime to eat against his protests that he’s dying. Brienne knows what he did for her, but she doesn’t understand why, and I don’t think Jaime understands her determination to see him live either. The truth, I think, is that neither of them are monsters and that they both have at least some sense of honor and justice that guides their actions.
- The thing that rang false to me in the second Brienne/Jaime scene was when Brienne tells Jaime that he “sound[s] like a bloody woman.” A very generous interpretation of that is that Brienne is making a calculated statement that she doesn’t really believe, but that she knows he will feel shamed by, in order to try and snap Jaime out of his depression. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the case. It bothers me to hear those words come from Brienne’s mouth.
- The second scene of the episode is the first of THREE Varys scenes. Tyrion is visiting Varys to find out if Varys can help him on his quest for revenge against whoever is responsible for trying to have him killed in the Battle of Blackwater. Tyrion is out of luck on that score, but we get to hear the story of how Varys was cut as a boy and how he managed to work his way up to his current position. Conleth Hill is delightful in the rule of Varys, and Tyrion’s face when Varys finally opens the crate is absolutely priceless.
- The Night’s Watch is still at Craster’s, and no one is happy about it.
- Sam goes to visit Gilly and the baby, and Gilly has no time for him unless he knows a way to save her son.
- Bran is having traumatic dreams about his family still. This time it’s Catelyn. Honestly, Bran’s story is one that always bored me in the books, and it’s still mostly boring me on the show.
- Next up is Varys again, but this time he’s with Ros. They have an amusing chat about Podrick, and then Ros tells Varys that Littlefinger is planning to spirit Sansa away.
- Joffrey is giving Margaery a rather gruesome tour of the Great Sept while Cersei and Olenna are discussing wedding plans and how stupid men are.
- I love Joffrey being so smitten with Margaery in spite of himself. It’s like every once in a while he will think that he wants to kill her or that he hates women or something, but then he shakes it off because she knows just what to say to control him and because he’s intrigued by her. She’s not domineering like Cersei, and she’s not passive (or at least passive-seeming) like Sansa, and the people love her in a way that Joffrey has never seen the people of the city love anyone.
- I really enjoyed the conversation between Cersei and Olenna as well. Cersei doesn’t like or trust the Tyrell’s, and she’s jealous of Margaery, but she also seemed to have just a moment in this episode when she felt like Olenna understood her.
- Theon is still traveling with Iwan Rheon and telling him EVERYTHING. Oh, Theon, you poor stupid boy. I did tear up a little at “My real father lost his head at King’s Landing,” though. I’m fairly certain now that Iwan Rheon is Ramsay Snow, and his look of almost orgasmic joy as the tied Theon back to the cross thingy was downright disturbing.
- It’s now Cersei’s turn to try and get Tywin to love her, but it doesn’t work.
- The third and final Varys scene is Varys with Olenna, and it’s wonderful.
- Margaery seeks out Sansa to make friends and to suggest that Sansa could marry Loras. I’m actually a little bugged by this change, although I know it’s trivial and that it really, truly doesn’t make a difference which Tyrell son is offered to Sansa. I even understand why the show writers wouldn’t want to introduce another name of a character that we never get to meet, but there were reasons why Loras wasn’t the son suggested for Sansa in the book, and those reasons still exist in the show.
- Craster and Mormont meet their ends and Sam runs off into the night with Gilly. I thought they did a great job of conveying the chaos of these events, but I would have liked Sam to stay and hear the Old Bear’s last words before leaving.
- Arya and Gendry have finally reached the lair of the Brotherhood Without Banners. We get a better sense of who these men are, and we get to meet Beric Dondarrion, who is inexplicably sexy for a dude who has been so obviously terribly injured. Hopefully we don’t have to wait two weeks for the trial by combat that the Hound is facing.
- The scene that has had everyone talking is where Daenerys hands over her dragon, Drogon, in exchange for 8000 Unsullied soldiers. Honestly, this scene is everything I could have hoped. I’ve always felt that Game of Thrones struggles to convey the epicness of the story that is being told, but this was indeed epic. We got wide shots of rows upon rows of Unsullied. We got Drogon flying and making angry seagull noises. We got the glorious reveal that Dany spoke Valyrian the whole time. We got the smoky ruins of Astapor and Dany dropping her whip as she led her army out while all three dragons fly overhead. I was so disappointed in the Dany storyline in season 2, and it’s really gratifying to see this turning point in her story getting the treatment I think it deserves.