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Game of Thrones: Season 3, Episode 3 Deconstructed

Posted by Stefan Sasse on Thursday, April 18, 2013

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: "The Walk of Punishment"
 
OK, show of hands: who laughed at the “Meereenese knot” reference? Congratulations, you officially spend way too much time on the internet. In other news, this episode introduced a whole lot of comedy, and some of it even breaking the fourth wall quite openly (besides the Meereenese knot there was also a werewolf reference), with the most point for the WTF-factor going to Podrick Payne being a sex-god and tutoring Tyrion and Bronn. They are quite good with that, cutting back and forth between jokes and comedy to really serious, tragic or terrible stuff in the blink of an eye. Cases in point: Lord Hoster’s funeral, where Edmure was tragic, ludicrous and sad. The Game of Chairs Tyrion and Cersei perform just to get back to business instantly. And so forth.
 
But let’s try to do this in the usual way, looking at the various plot points. North of the Wall, Jon and Mance Rayder arrive on the Fist of the First Men, where they find the remains of horses, artfully arranged by the Others, but no dead crows like Orell said. They’re all wights now, obviously. I really liked the idea of the Others arranging the dead artfully, just because they can. We saw this with the head-in-hands in the opening of the first episode already, and it certainly distinguishes the Others from the usual monsters you get to see and creates some direly needed sense that they are not the Walking Dead but a real danger. Mance then conveniently sends every wildling we know on the same mission with Jon. There’s nothing wrong with Hinds’ performance here, but the scenes beyond the Wall still leave me something cold. Perhaps it’ll be better once the merry band of wildlings gets over the Wall and Jon finally gets something to do.
 
The Night’s Watch arrives at Craster’s Keep again, where – keeping in with the fine tradition of picking up threads that were left behind – Gilly gets her child. Craster get’s a really quick reintroduction as the worst person you can find beyond the Wall, repeating everything we need to know. Don’t touch the women, check. I have no food for you but for the pigs, check. I don’t like you all, check. I offer my sons to the Others, check. Please kill me already and start a bloody slaughter, check. Also, prepare the curtains for Rast, who obviously takes on the role of Chett here, and the Lord Commander. I miss you already, old man.
 
Now, Theon. The friendly little helper makes good on his promise to bring him to “Yara”. Theon’s really desperate to believe this pile of horseshit, but here we go. They had me scratching my head when the mysterious and conveniently unnamed savior shot Theon’s captors, but my initial assumption that this is Ramsay Bolton got confirmed for me when the also unnamed torturer died cursing the “savior” as “bloody bastard”. Oh, how he hates to be called that. I was stunned at how much budget they put in this scene, knowing how expensive everything involving horses is. It was beautifully shot, though, and got a real sense of despairing urgency. You just knew Theon wouldn’t make it, and his pursuers had just the right air of monstrosity around them. Well done there, D&D.
 
A bit farther south, Robb Stark has finally arrived in Riverrun. It was a nice treat to see the castle in the opening credits. Again, show of hands: who does watch if they changed something every time as well? I sure as hell do. I really like this element of the credits, although it’s a poor exchange for the apparent lack of sense of distance in the series. Well, can’t be helped. We get introduced to the Blackfish and Edmure, Robb’s uncle and Catelyn’s brother. They have little time, so they get only the sketchiest of characterizations: Blackfish is the personification of a badass, just like he is in the books, but a tad more passive aggressive (I was a little bit disgusted by his shoving aside Edmure so contemptuous, even worse than in the books), and Edmure is just a failure. But Clive Russel and Tobias Menzies really play their parts and use the source material to lay some groundwork for more depth to come.
 
We also get two other characters, the young Lannister boys (Martyn and someone else, forgot the name. Dennys?) who were caught by Edmure in the useless battle of the Stone Mill. Like everything, the battle was much more important in the books, but the essence is still the same: Robb wanted to lure the enemy west (only Gregor in the show) and get him there, but Edmure wanted the glory and fucked it up. I can only repeat the point I made so often already: Robb and the Blackfish are at fault. If they want Edmure to lure someone, they should tell him. Unfortunately for this specific point, the show gives the blame to Edmure because he skipped the decisive meeting, to show he’s an idiot. I can’t help myself to loathe this change for no other reason than being a helpless Edmure groupie. It’s not at all inferior to the books (almost nothing in the series is, it’s different), but here, my fanboy’s heart yearns.
 
And still Riverrun. Catelyn gets yet another strong monologue enforcing her personality (gee, I wonder why they show her traits so prominently, snigger snigger) and giving us the great “wait for me, Cat” moment, while Talisa is allowed to once again patch up Lannisters, in this case the two prisoners. It’s heartbreaking to know that they don’t have long to live. I’d say episode six or seven, but the bets are on. Talisa leaves me cold in this scene, don’t know why. I know it’s meant to be funny, werewolves and all, but it simply wasn’t for me. Perhaps because I already know how it will end? Don’t know.
 
Let’s leave Riverrun, but stay in the Riverlands, because Arya! She departs from Hot Pie, who stays in the inn (unfortunate because he played along nicely with Gendry and Arya, but realistic and coherent) and tries to confront the Hound about Mica, but the scene was strangely muffled. Arya asked the Hound whether he remembered the Inn, but he declined, and instead of accusing him, she just watched the outlaws having fun with him between the gay jokes. I guess they want to save that reveal for Berric, but it took a lot of impact from the scene for me. The departure from Hot Pie with his wolf pie was heartbreaking, though.
 
Leaving Arya and still remaining in the Riverlands (see a pattern there?), we get to Jaime. He’s tied to Brienne on a horse, still playfully bantering with her until he casually mentions that she will be raped, reminding us just what kind of a person Jaime is. When they get into camp later, book readers will lose any shred of doubt that Locke is the new Vargo Hoat when he tries to rape Brienne, until Jaime, after some real contemplating (that ass) interferes and tells a stupid story about sapphires. For non-book-readers: yeah, Tarth is called the sapphire island…because the waters are so nicely blue. Tarth is a worthless pile of rocks. But anyway, Jaime tries to play Locke for a fool promising him riches for releasing him, and Locke plays along, until he doesn’t. The scene in which he puts Jaime on the block is so intense, and it takes away from Jaime what gives him the most power: his name and family, because Locke clearly doesn’t give a fuck. And then he takes away what makes Jaime what he is: his hand. This scene really nailed it. Man, the look Jaime gave it, blank disbelief transforming into pure terror was such a strong note to end the episode with, and it worked just so well! I’d say it beats the book by a longshot in that regard.
 
In King’s Landing, Tyrion is playing power-plays with his sister, and he’s losing. Littlefinger, departing to the Vale “as soon as possible” (yeah, right, believe that, Tywin), leave his post to Tyrion, who clearly sees it as an insult by his father. He then takes the account books from Littlefinger, who tells him – in so many words – that he made all that’s in them up from thin air. For some reason, Tyrion makes the same mistake as Eddard Stark did and dismisses the comment as idle banter where it really isn’t. Before we can go into the books, however, we get Podrick for his first time, sponsored by Tyrion. The infamous Meereenese knot reference falls, and Pod is positively overwhelmed. I liked how Tyrion thanked him for everything he owed him, because in the books, he never stops abusing poor Podrick. This makes him more sympathetic. We then get back to the dull books, and Tyrion explains Westerosi finance for us, taking great pains into explaining that the Iron Bank isn’t to be messed with. Will we see them earlier than in the books? I would be glad if we did, because they’re a cool institution to have. And then, the big WTF with Podrick the sex-god. Love it or hate it. I laughed my ass off.
 
Let’s end this review with Danaerys. She gets a rather long walk-and-talk with Ser Jorah and Ser Barristan along the Walk of Punishment, a long street where slaves are crucified to die horribly in the sun for offenses not so bad as lying (we never get explicitly told which ones) and only want to die. For all the gruesomeness of the scene, it doesn’t come near the descriptions in the books, and I’m happy for it. The dialogue between them does a nice job in reinforcing the characters of Jorah and Barristan and their respective world views, even finding place for the infamous “Rhaegar fought valiantly”-line, and Dany made a real good figure walking in front of them, never looking back while asking pointed questions. She gets the hang of being queen. In a rather short scene with Kraznys, she wants to buy all the slaves for one dragon. Again, her looking regal is done very well, and the demand for Missandei came in forceful, too. That will get a huge payoff for episode four, wait for it.
 
And with that, we end the episode. No Margaery, Joffrey or Sansa this time around. I think it’s good they concentrate on some plotlines and leave others out, only to bring them back later. It helps the pacing. See you next week!
 
 
[Stefan Sasse is a regular contributor to the “Tower of the Hand” (www.towerofthehand.com), has his own blog “The Nerdstream Era” (http://thenerdstreamera.blogspot.com) and conducts a regular podcast with Sean T. Collins, the Boiled Leather Audio Hour (http://boiledleather.com/tagged/podcast). He lived with his family in his native Germany.]

 

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