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Welcome to “It Is Known – Season 3 Deconstructed”! Every week, you will find my extensive review of the week’s episode of Game of Thrones.
I will explore the narrative that the show weaves. And what a narrative indeed! The story is complex, the characters are manifold, the twists and turns unexpected. I will deconstruct the episodes piece by piece, moving from character to character. This is an unusual approach, I admit, and a bit cumbersome at times, but the show basically does the same. The episodes are just parts of one, epic story, and as parts we have to examine them if we hope to get everything that happens.
There will be no real spoilers for future events, but I will reference the books from time to time, so if you haven’t read them, you might want to be careful around these reviews, although I’ll try to keep the references cryptic.
This Week's Episode: "Kissed By Fire"
More dubious references in fanservice! Did anyone prick one’s ears when Shireen mentioned that A-E-G almost sounds like egg? Man, I want HBO to do a hedge-knight-spinoff! Erm, back to topic. This episode, while containing some major high-points, felt like a setup episode for me again. There were many things happening that weren’t really thing happening but seemed to point out to future big events, and it’s becoming increasingly clear which these will be: wedding, wedding and wedding. Noticing a pattern there?
But let’s return to our usual format. After his absence last season, we return to Jon this week who is on the way to the Wall with Tormund and band. In what seems alternation, we won’t see anything of the Watch, though. The whole Jon plot still doesn’t resonate with me, even now that they are taking really strong material into the mix. Ygritte seducing Jon comes off just right, and the romance of the cave is something odd but fitting. But I can’t still really “get” Jon. Tormund growls at him “I like you boy”, but why does he? What has Jon done to earn the liking? Nothing, really. The same is true for Ygritte. We get that she’s hot for Jon, but why? It’s not his looks, I guess (not that he would look bad, but Ygritte seems to be interested in something else). Perhaps the short banter with Orell in which Jon showed stones for the first time since I don’t know when was the tipping point for Ygritte, but if so, it wasn’t really conveyed. I know that I didn’t dislike Jon in the first season, so it’s not really Kit Harrington. I put the blame with the writers, truly.
Since Theon’s also been omitted from this episode as well as Bran, we leave the North quickly enough. There’s nothing really happened there beside Jon fucking Ygritte anyway, but that was necessary for later developments, obviously (setup, I mentioned it).
In the Riverlands, shit finally hits the fan. Robb is apparently experiencing some real trouble: Rickard Karstark finally took his “vengeance”, killing the Lannister boys (a scene that was really well staged - there can be no doubt that it was child murder) and needs to answer for it. The exchange with Robb is well done, although I somehow missed the “you didn’t kill boys, you killed my honor” line from Robb. Edmure gets another line to prove himself a spineless lickspittle, unfortunately, and the Blackfish simply says nothing and hits Karstark in the face to prove he’s loyal to Robb. Although not really true, the statement that Karstark’s forces made up “half the army” helps to put some weight behind the following scenes and really make this a conflict. If you think about it, it really doesn’t make much sense – we saw at least two other bannermen, the Greatjon and Bolton, and they joined the Riverrun forces, so Robb’s own troops would be ridiculously small – but for the narrative, it works well.
The following conflict is well staged. Robb dismisses all pragmatic ideas, especially of poor Edmure, and decides to execute Karstark himself. It’s interesting, by the way, that he lets the others hang. It’s in the books, too, of course, but when I watched the scene with my wife she cried out that he needed to kill them himself because it’s the old way. It never occurred to me before, but Robb seems to reserve the honor of death by his hand for the lord. The execution scene mirrored the one Theon botched in season 2, rain and score both. After, we find Robb making plans with Talisa. In yet another seemingly random move, he decides to attack Casterly Rock. It seems to me that this decision is yet another product of the missing feeling for time and space that plagues the whole Robb storyline. Why didn’t Robb attack Casterly Rock before when he was at Oxcross if he thinks it’s possible? The whole moment was staged like a brilliant notion, but really, it isn’t. I didn’t get why they couldn’t do it before. We also never learned that he didn’t have Frey forces to do it (although it makes sense of course, marrying Talisa and all), so the whole thing seemed rather forced to me. Well, there we go for wedding number one.
Leaving Robb, we meet Jaime and Brienne again who finally arrived at Harrenhal where Locke delivers the Vargo-Hoat-routine to Bolton, who acts a bit disgusted and dismisses Locke, but seems a bit indecisive about the matter. Book readers know why, but it’s clear that something is off. Roose, being a sadistic bastard, plays with Jaime a bit before giving him over to Qyburn for mending the stump. The scene is well done, and Qyburn displays some real sadism as well just with his eyes. Well acted. Plus, we get one of these classic Jaime lines – “I scream loudly.” The high point for Nikolaj Coster-Waldau comes in the character defining moment that is Jaime’s bath with Brienne. Really, it totally alters Jaime. We bookreaders knew this, of course, and our sentiment of Jaime was always influenced by it (you can’t make yourself forget this), but Coster-Waldau really pulled the scene off. Jaime’s monologue about Aerys was beautifully acted, and he put all the disgust about the Westerosi honor system in it, especially about Ned Stark. His hatred for Stark made the two scenes he had with him in season 1 all the stronger in hindsight. Great payoff, again.
From Jaime, we move on to Arya. In the cave command center of the Brotherhood without Banners, the Hound faces judgment. Lord Berric ignites the sword with his own blood, which makes for a huge WTF-moment for Arya and the Hound both, and I loved the knowing smile Thoros displayed. The fight itself is pretty well staged, and I especially liked the ignition of the Hound’s shield and how the fire spread to his arm. It was really well played by Rory McCann how Sandor feared the fire; you could see it in his eyes all the time. I was a bit put off by Beric’s fighting style, though – his whirling of the sword, 360 degree turns into Sandor and stuff like that were all well and good to set him up as a badass sword fighter, but if you’d actually fight like this against a seasoned swordsman, you would be pretty dead. Watch Sandor simply wait for Beric’s blade when he does one of his turns – he could slay him twice and stab him thrice at the time. Believe me, if you start swordfighting, not doing shit like that is one of the first things you learn. But anyway, that’s just a bit of me being niggardly, so don’t listen to it.
Maisie Williams provided some other real acting gold in these scenes, from her emotional cries of “kill him” to the despair when the Brotherhood let Sandor go, to the even greater despair when Gendry decided to stay with the Brotherhood (still waiting for Melisandre to show up). Her plead for him to stay with her, for allowing her to be his family, and his short and hitting statement that she would always be “my lady” was mirrored on the expressions on her face all the time. Really, really great stuff there. Oh, Arya, you’ve seen nothing yet.
With that, we’re off to King’s Landing. The Queen of Thorns meets up with Tyrion Lannister for the first time and rips him a new one. I guess the anticipation was that now two masters of the political game get to exchange clever words, but instead Tyrion has just to get a scolding and a lecture by Olenna, who doesn’t even let him answer and even bullies poor Podd around for some figs for no good reason. You’re not as good in this game as you think, Tyrion, and Olenna simply uses instruments you can’t use. She cultivated the old crone pose to perfection, much like Violet Crawley in Downton Abbey, and can go away with almost anything because you can’t very well challenge a crone to a duel or let her be killed by your kingsguard. I guess Cersei lies awake every night thinking how she could kill her. I’m really looking forward to season 4 with this stuff.
Sansa again gets her hopes up when Margaery promises her the marriage with Loras Tyrell (a useful departure from the books that omits the other Tyrell siblings, which would have been needlessly confusing given that they don’t need to appear on-screen anyway). They also put much more responsibility for this plot on Margaerys’s shoulders, which is always a good thing.
And then, finally, we get a Littlefinger scene that shows us why everyone goes in fear of him. It was well overdue. Littlefinger had become a lame joke by that moment, much like Jon, because both are in need of others telling the audience how awesome they’re supposed to be. But finally, Littlefinger at least delivers. Cersei wants information about the Tyrell conspiracy, and Littlefinger uses a spy he has already planted with Loras Tyrell to devastating effect. Also nice how Cersei uses the information in the next scene. But the best thing about the Littlefinger plot this episode was his scene with Sansa, where he ever-so-carefully probes whether there’s something in the bushes and acts accordingly. Oh, you’re a devious little shit, and finally, the stuff the screenwriters give to Aidan Gillen delivers on that premise.
The last scene in King’s Landing between Cersei, Tyrion and Tywin is also pure acting gold. The three of them do a great job in portraying the Lannister family (and Jaime too, of course, but he’s in Harrenhal now). When Tywin tries to marry them both off, they try to avoid this fate, but both of them have very different reasons and the actors manage to display these perfectly. You can see Tyrion’s loathing for Tywin for breaking up his happy marriage with Tysha, and his spitted “I WAS married” tells all you need to know. Cersei, on the other hand, clearly shows the disdain for her first marriage with Robert, an experience she doesn’t want to repeat, under no circumstances. Both are oppressed by their almighty father, and both are clearly not happy with it. The looks on their faces don’t bode well for the future, that’s for sure.
And with that, we’re back with Dany. She only gets a small scene that introduces us to more High Valyrian (great job by the linguistics coach) and Grey Worm, the new commander of the Unsullied. I’m interested to see how they will develop him as a character. More important in this setting is the banter between Barristan and Jorah. They both don’t trust each other, and we get yet another example of the writer’s handling of consequence: Barristan was no member of the Small Council in the show, so he can’t unmask Jorah as a spy as he did in the books. Jorah, aware of the possible danger, probes Barristan in that direction. If Jorah is betrayed by somebody in the show, it won’t be Barristan. Excitement for book-readers, I like it!
See you next week.
[Stefan Sasse is a regular contributor to the “Tower of the Hand”, has his own blog “The Nerdstream Era” and conducts a regular podcast with Sean T. Collins, the Boiled LeatheStefan Sasse is a regular contributor to the “Tower of the Hand”, has his own blog “The Nerdstream Era” and conducts a regular podcast with Sean T. Collins, the Boiled Leather Audio Hour. He lives with his family in his native Germany.]
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