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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Game of Thrones 3x05: Kissed by Fire



Riverrrun 
Oh, Robb, you are your father's son, adhering strictly to the honorable course even to your detriment. I worry that the end result will be the same...

Nevertheless, seeing Robb back in military strategy mode and the suggestion of some payoff to his deal-breaking wedding last season made this one of the more enjoyable Robb outings all season.

North of the Wall
Just a quick check-in here, as the detachment of Wildlings continues on towards the Wall, and Jon takes a break to explore some caves.

I'm fairly certain he's lying about the number of men at Castle Black (a thousand seems like too large a number even before their recent decimation, which of course Jon doesn't know about), but I'm not sure what his endgame is. He's obviously not going to scare the Wildlings away before they reach the wall, and it will become pretty clear once they arrive how understaffed the place is.

Realizing it's a big deal for Jon to break his celibacy oath (especially since he too is a son of Ned Stark), it makes him more fun to watch when he's willing to cut loose a little bit.

Harrenhal 
Though the broad strokes of what Jamie revealed during his fantastic monologue in this episode had been established before (we knew, for example, that the Mad King's last words had been "burn them all"; also, as Dr. Bitz poined out, he was known as the Mad King, so, you know, it isn't like Jamie killed the Just King or the Cuddly King), it was still satisfying to hear the details of what exactly led Jamie to become the Kingslayer, reinforcing the notion that he didn't do it for personal gain or at the request of his father, but rather to spare the people of King's Landing. It underlines the previously suggested notion that is a guy who broke an oath for what he believed to be heroic reasons, yet was immediately branded some combination of villain, opportunist and dishonorable for it.

This is still the guy who casually pushed a kid out a window in the first episode of the series, and it's tough to get past that, but it's amazing how much sympathy the show has built around the character in the last few episodes (and even if you can't past the attempted murder of a child, he's at least become a much more richly developed, three-dimensional character of late).

As a testament to how much my attitude toward Jamie has changed, I found myself relieved by Roose Bolton's "treat our prisoners with respect" attitude, compared to the casual bullying dished out by Locke.

The Fiery Batcave
All this Lord of Light business continues to inject the show with the most overt uses of magic: last season, we had creepy smoke monster babies, now we have magically burning swords and straight-up resurrections. 

Not for nothing is this series of books called "The Song of Ice and Fire"; we've already seen that the "ice" side of things can raise the dead, via the White Walkers; now we see that "fire" can do the same, with much better results.

Not only is lighting your sword on fire a pretty neat trick, but also kind of a dick move when you're fighting a guy who is afraid of fire (not that the Hound is all that deserving of our sympathy). 

Nice to see Arya's "who I want to kill" mantra return.

What are the odds that Beric will deliver Arya to Robb at Riverrun without incident, and Arya will be back with her family by the end of the season? I'd say pretty close to zero.

Dragonstone
Simply by virtue of the fact that Joffrey is such an  insufferable monster and Stannis has the strongest claim to the throne, I want to see him succeed, but man, he is not an easy guy to like. This episode, we meet his creepy wife and her fetus jars (what is it with genre shows featuring bodies in jars? See also: The Walking Dead), someone who could give Lyssa Arryn a run for her money in the "whacked out of her gourd" category, as well as his daughter, who looks like she might be half-Cardassian and is kept locked up for unrevealed reasons. It's nowhere near the level of "watching a whore get beaten to death for his amusement", but man, it's getting tougher and tougher to really root for Stannis.

Davos also made an appearance; glad the show isn't done with him yet.

Yunkai
Just a quick check-in with Dany this week, as she learns that ordering someone to be free isn't as easy as it sounds (and is somewhat oxymoronic). Meanwhile, Jorah and Barristan continue their quiet jockeying for position in Dany's future kingdom. It's interesting that Barristan, who professes a desire to simply server a monarch worthy of the title, remains worried about how Jorah's past will play at Dany's future court, despite all that Jorah has done for her and his professed loyalty. It has a feel of Barristan still playing by the old rules, which don't quite apply when you're serving a monarch-in-exile, while also being a clear attempt to usurp Jorah's current standing with Dany.

Kings Landing
Putting Lady Olenna and Tyrion in a room together turned out to be as fun as one would have expected, but the real high point was the complete 180 Cersei made at the end of the episode, going from smug satisfaction over Tyrion's betrothal to outrage over her own in an instant, a transformation wonderfully played by Lena Headley.

Charles Dance continues to kill it as Tywin. 

Also, Littlefinger, aside from ratcheting up the creep factor by about ten when talking with Sansa, has found himself in an interesting position, (more or less unintentionally) pitting the Lannisters and Tyrells against one another. The whole "marry Sansa off to Loras" plot was motivated by a genuine desire to keep her from marrying Littlefinger (something the Lannisters are presumably unaware of). And yet, because Cersei went to Littlefinger for intel, he is now aware of both sides' interest in the girl. Then there is his own (creepy) interest in her, something which remains unknown to the Lannisters. Wheels within wheels...

Other Thoughts
Not all episodes of this show have a strong overarching theme connecting the various snippets of the story, but this one did, and it seemed to be "breaking oaths and taking baths".  

No Joffrey, Bran, Theon or the remnants of the Nights Watch.

Yunkai is added to the opening credits, though I was disappointed that Astapor hadn't been changed into a smoking ruin.

12 comments:

  1. For a show that has taken some heat for its disparity between male and female nudity and the socio-political implications of it, it was good to see some attempt to redress that imbalance. I hope they continue being cognizant of it and working to rectify it.

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  2. there were 2 names on Arya's kill list that we couldn't remember/recognize.
    Also- it would be really freaking nice if she did get back with Rob.

    I get that Jon is pretty strict about his oaths, but didn't men at the wall routinely break their oaths of celibacy in the nearby town? Doesn't seem like that strict of an oath...

    This whole Sansa/Tyrion/Knight of Flowers/Cersei thing is some crazy shit. I don't know how they're going to get out of this.

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  3. @Anonymous: For a show that has taken some heat for its disparity between male and female nudity and the socio-political implications of it, it was good to see some attempt to redress that imbalance

    Agreed. This was definitely an episode with a little something for everyone, nudity-wise.

    @Anne: there were 2 names on Arya's kill list that we couldn't remember/recognize.

    I'm trying to remember everyone on her list...Joffrey, Cersei, the Hound...Ilyn Payne (who was the guy who actually cut off Ned's head, on Joffrey's orders)...I think there were two more.

    I get that Jon is pretty strict about his oaths, but didn't men at the wall routinely break their oaths of celibacy in the nearby town?

    I thought the deal was they had their fun in the local town right before taking their oath, then couldn't return after, but maybe I'm misremembering that.

    Either way, Jon is such a stick-in-the-mud (and such a Stark) that I can totally buy him sticking by any oath he makes, no matter how seriously others may or may not take it.

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  4. If Barristan really just wanted to serve a just leader, he could have just headed over to the Starks. I'm fairly certain that even the people who don't like the Starks at least respect them

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  5. @Anne

    Yes, a lot of the Night's Watch break their oaths by visiting the brothel in Mole Town. As Teebore says, though, Jon Snow, being raised by Ned Stark and all, isn't the kind of guy to think breaking oaths is OK just because everyone else did it.

    @ Sarah Ahiers

    I think Barristan made it pretty clear in the first season that he had a huge amount of respect for Eddard Stark, and even liked him in his own way (hard to be bestest buds with someone who fought your side in battle and killed a bunch of your mates).

    On the other hand, Selmy is every bit as unbendable on oaths as Stark was. He's sworn to protect the regent until death; with Joffrey having kicked him out the Targaryens were his only alternatives. Robb might be calling himself King in the North, but the Starks have never sat upon the Iron Throne.

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  6. That was a really good episode.

    Oh, Robb, you are your father's son, adhering strictly to the honorable course even to your detriment

    My big frustration with that — at Robb in-story, not so much with how it was written — is that it didn't feel like he was "only" taking the honorable course. It wasn't just a matter of what his gut said needed to be done; it was a matter of him believing that he needed to kill this guy so that he didn't look weak in the eyes of his followers and opponents.

    A decision made on pure principle damn the cost would be one thing, but a decision that involved strategy not working out strategically is a serious blow to his leadership abilities all around.

    Just a quick check-in here

    I suspect that, its brevity notwithstanding, this passage of the episode will be proven to include one of the more replayed scenes on DVR and DVD. Talk about your hot springs...

    as Dr. Bitz poined out, he was known as the Mad King, so, you know, it isn't like Jamie killed the Just King or the Cuddly King

    Ha!

    It underlines the previously suggested notion that is a guy who broke an oath for what he believed to be heroic reasons, yet was immediately branded some combination of villain, opportunist and dishonorable for it.

    That's a really good point, especially in light of the fact that we've seen so many stories (never mind real life) involving a right-hand man chastised for just following orders and not making a moral decision to turn on his superior. Here's someone who did, but because he was a trusted advisor — and because few if any other people know the redeeming details (despite the whole "Mad King" moniker) — he's vilified for it. Well, okay, like you point out, for that and for being a silver-tongued golden boy from a privileged family, even though he apparently does (or did) have valid skills as a swordsman, and for doing the Shasta McNasty with his sister.

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  7. Stannis has the strongest claim to the throne

    I keep wondering about that. On the one hand, Robert apparently didn't have any natural children by Cersei — there was only Joffrey and his younger siblings, who are actually Jamie's kids, and then bastards of Robert's — which leaves Stannis the next Baratheon in line. On the other hand, Robert only came to power during a coup. On yet another hand, however, the Mad King was, as you pointed out, the Mad King, and I think I recall us being told that the Targaryens were brutal, besides which they came to power through invasion as well. So is Stannis the one with the strongest claim? Is Daenerys the rightful heir? Or is the one who deserves to rule whomever can take the throne by force or by general acclamation of the populace?

    we meet his creepy wife and her fetus jars

    My first thought was "A woman after the Governor's heart!" My second thought was "Geez... Stannis's wife is locked up in The Mütter Museum."

    I'm not really sure what kind of crazy Stannis's wife is supposed to be, though. Did he lock her up because she's just nuts, or because she only bore him stillborn children and a scarred but otherwise apparently fine daughter? Did she go nuts because of that latter part? I don't know what's wrong with Stannis's daughter, either, but it's possible that she was locked away simply for being disfigured.

    Of course, Stannis himself doesn't seem all that sane, given (in addition to paranoia) that he was hot for Melisandre last week not just to make the sex for fun but because he wanted her to bear him more sons. Unless Junior the Homicidal Smoke Creature returned home after killing Renly to play catch with Dad, I'm wondering just what kind of paternal feelings he could have for the thing.

    I know that brothers (and sisters) can be quite different from one another, by the way, both physically and in terms of their dispositions or distractions, but Stannis and Robert seem worlds apart.

    Charles Dance continues to kill it as Tywin.

    He sure does. And I hafta say, Twyin's a pretty sharp guy.

    Once Cersei thinks about it, frankly, I wonder if she won't come to realize that it's a fine arrangement for her to marry Loras. She's of use to her family in one of the few ways a woman can be in this world, as a wife, by uniting the Lannisters further with the Tyrells, while wedding a man who has as much to gain by a superficial union as she does. Given that her son is also her nephew, after all, it shouldn't creep her out too much that he'll end up being her brother-in-law too.

    Not all episodes of this show have a strong overarching theme connecting the various snippets of the story, but this one did, and it seemed to be "breaking oaths and taking baths".  

    Well put! Like I said at the outset, I found this episode really satisfying as it unspooled, and it became even more so as I thought back over it. Given that the show is so heavily serialized, what happens in any given week can feel somewhat arbitrary in terms of story advancement, so even though the characters and narrative are compelling enough on their own it's a cherry on top for a chapter come across as having a theme or themes within itself.

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  8. @Blam

    I'm not really sure what kind of crazy Stannis's wife is supposed to be, though. Did he lock her up because she's just nuts, or because she only bore him stillborn children and a scarred but otherwise apparently fine daughter? Did she go nuts because of that latter part? I don't know what's wrong with Stannis's daughter, either, but it's possible that she was locked away simply for being disfigured.

    Stannis' wife (played by a different actress) was at the burning of the Gods in the first episode of season 2. That suggests either her incarceration is recent, or the show-runners came up with the smorgasbord of stillborns and thought it was so cool they re-wrote their plans for her.

    A wee bit of book knowledge for those as want it: Shireen's condition is known as greyscale. It's a communicable disease that's often fatal and always disfiguring, so whilst there's no actual chance of Shireen being contagious (because her form is now dormant, I think), it's possible the Westerosi don't want her walking around. Especially since the closest thing Dragonstone had to a doctor poisoned himself last season.

    Once Cersei thinks about it, frankly, I wonder if she won't come to realize that it's a fine arrangement for her to marry Loras. She's of use to her family in one of the few ways a woman can be in this world, as a wife, by uniting the Lannisters further with the Tyrells, while wedding a man who has as much to gain by a superficial union as she does. Given that her son is also her nephew, after all, it shouldn't creep her out too much that he'll end up being her brother-in-law too.

    There's also the advantage of knowing she won't have to suffer his amorous drunken advances. No more having to "finish him off in other ways" for her.

    On the other hand, marrying a well-known (if politely unmentioned) homosexual would make it really hard for Cersei and Jaime to have any more kids.

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  9. Regarding Dany's claim to the throne, I haven't read the books. Is it established that women can ascend the Iron Throne? Dany seems to think so and she has three dragons and the Nutless Horde to back her up but is there in-universe support for a Queen of the Seven Kingdoms?

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  10. @ Anonymous

    Yep. Women can take the throne when there are no eligible men. There can be struggles between daughters and uncles, and so forth, but Dany is unquestionably the true queen of Westeros from the Targaryen perspective.

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  11. @Blam: A decision made on pure principle damn the cost would be one thing, but a decision that involved strategy not working out strategically is a serious blow to his leadership abilities all around.

    Good point. And he's had more than a few of those at this point.

    Talk about your hot springs...

    High-oh! :)

    Well, okay, like you point out, for that and for being a silver-tongued golden boy from a privileged family, even though he apparently does (or did) have valid skills as a swordsman, and for doing the Shasta McNasty with his sister.

    Indeed. Which makes it all that much more interesting, because it isn't even like Jamie is just a misunderstood good guy. He is a bad guy, in some ways (he's spoiled, he pushes kids out of windows), he's just not a bad guy in this one particular instance.

    So is Stannis the one with the strongest claim? Is Daenerys the rightful heir? Or is the one who deserves to rule whomever can take the throne by force or by general acclamation of the populace?

    Yeah, I simply meant that Stannis has the strongest claim of the people currently in and immediately around Westeros. Legally speaking (such as laws apply in these cases), Dany probably has the strongest claim since Robert usurped the throne, and she's also emerging as the one who maybe deserves it most from the perspective of likely being a just and kind ruler, but she's too far removed from the action at this point to effectively stake her claim.

    I know that brothers (and sisters) can be quite different from one another, by the way, both physically and in terms of their dispositions or distractions, but Stannis and Robert seem worlds apart.

    With Renly as the third segment of that oddball triangle.

    @SpaceSquid: Thanks, as always, for the non-spoiler-y little snippets of book knowledge.

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  12. "...Jon takes a break to explore some caves."

    Heh heh heh.

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