Two weeks ago Devin suggested that the Game of Thrones' Season Three premiere should have been two hours, and it's hard to argue his reasoning after two episodes that felt like an awful lot of character catch up but not much action. (Of course, even character catch up episodes on Game of Thrones are totally badass, so please don't read that as a complaint.)
This week's episode, "Walk of Punishment," definitely offered more in the way of decisive forward motion, although forward may be a relative term with many of our characters worse off than they were at the top of the hour. With the episode title and a running theme of loss, it feels as if our fair citizens of Westeros are all suffering some sort of deprivation, either as punishment for past misdeeds or simply because the gods are cruel.
But before we get into our character breakdown: who sang that version of "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" at the end of the ep? Anyone know? I looked in the credits but didn't see it listed. BUT while investigating the credits, I discovered that Game of Thrones employs such positions as Drapes Master, Home Economist, Crowd Hair, Metal Worker and Head Leather Cutter, as well as the entirety of the Dragon Unit and the Wolf Unit. I love this show.
Catelyn and Robb in Riverrun:
Catelyn's loss is in the form of her father, who himself loses the opportunity for a dignified Viking funeral when several flaming arrows fly askance. But she - and we - gain one mister Sir Brynden the Blackfish Tully, her beloved uncle who seems pretty smart and cool and a definite boon to Robb's campaign. As Robb thunders about how the loss of his men is more damaging than triple the loss of Tywin Lannister's, Catelyn and Brynden marvel at how quiet it seems in Riverrun while war rages elsewhere.
"It often comforts me to think that even in war's darkest days, most places in the world, absolutely nothing is happening," Brynden muses. Catelyn's loss of her father is compounded by how much she misses all of her other children, and it seems as if she's still blaming herself for breaking her bargain with the gods to treat Jon Snow like a son. Allow me to quote Henri from last week here:
This horror that has befallen their family is all because Joffrey is a little shit with too much power and the Lannisters are a bunch of egotistical fucktards that need to be killed, and it didn’t matter how much she loved any baby from anywhere, none of that would be any different.
Yeah. This is almost definitely all Cersei's fault for loving her son too much.
Cersei, Tyrion and Tywin in King's Landing:
I've only read the first two Song of Ice and Fire books, but from that short introduction to the universe I can already tell that something Game of Thrones the show does much better than the books is write compelling and empowered female characters. The seeds of such total badasses as Catelyn, Arya, Brienne and Dany are all there in the books, but they're made much stronger in the show, and characters such as Sansa and Margaery are worlds more intriguing on TV than on paper.
But in both iterations Cersei continues to be the most deliciously impotent and petty villain, a character I really love to hate. As Tywin calls a meeting of his council, Littlefinger, Varys and Maester Pycelle all scramble for seats while Cersei coolly drags a chair to her father's righthand side, leaving the worst seat for Tyrion, whose little legs just can't keep up with all these tall drinks of water. Tyrion, however, has spent his entire life learning to make do with a shitty lot, so he just as coolly drags his chair to the foot of the table. I really loved this scene - it's rare to see such a literal demonstration of a power dynamic at play.
Tyrion's loss this week is quickly spelled out, as he learns that Littlefinger is being shipped off to the Vale to marry the unpleasant Lady Arryn (Catelyn's belatedly breastfeeding sister, whose alliance to Lord Baelish will presumably pit her against Robb). So whom does that leave to organize the kingdom's finances and pay for the royal wedding? Why, Tyrion, who has now been deeply demoted to The Master of Coin. "I'm quite good at spending money, but a lifetime of outrageous wealth hasn't taught me much about managing it." Cersei taunts him that she's sure he'll rise to the occasion, but the thing is, he will. While Tyrion is slowly stripped of power and prestige, he continues to stay afloat, and he even remembers to throw a bone to the little guy.
Namely Podrick, Tyrion's virgin squire. Tyrion procures him a half dozen prostitutes and a few hours of afternoon delight. Even better, afterwards Tyrion arranges for the prostitutes to return his money, convincing Podrick that his wonder schlong requires no fee. Pod gains a little confidence, but Tyrion loses a bit of his when he realizes how much money Littlefinger was borrowing from Tywin and the Iron Bank of Braavos. Don't fret, my impish buddy. You'll figure it out. That's what you do.
Stannis in Dragonstone:
Stannis' loss is of Melisandre, who is temporarily leaving to go...somewhere. Don't worry, the fires will show her where. Stannis broods that she's leaving him because she doesn't believe in him anymore, and Stannis, for being such a gruff guy, seems really sensitive, doesn't he? Not in the "writes poetry and ponders existence" way, but in the "is a total thin-skinned crybaby" way. He wants her, she deflects his lust as she has become quite skilled at doing, and then she vows, "You will sit on the Iron Throne, but first there must be sacrifices. The Red God demands it." Melisandre is full of shit and Stannis is an idiot for believing her. She makes these vague, grand promises that never come to fruition, and he continues to abandon everyone else around him for her.
Arya on the road with the Brotherhood Without Banners:
Aww. Arya's loss is of Hot Pie, who finds employment at an inn after the proprietor raves over his brown bread. They say an awkward farewell and he gives her a loaf of bread shaped like a wolf. I might have teared up a bit. Bye, Hot Pie! I will miss you and your best name ever!
Daenerys in Astapor:
A half hour in, we finally catch up with our favorite Khaleesi, who is presumably suffering the most surprising loss - that of one of her dragons. As she bargains for the 8,000 Unsullied to fight her war, Kraznys mo Nakloz continues to be a gigantic, unrepentant dickhole, and Barristan and Jorah continue to fight for Dany's favor. But they both fuck up by contradicting her in front of the dickhole, for which she puts them promptly in their place. "If you ever question me in front of strangers again, you'll be advising someone else." Love this girl.
I like Jorah's reasoning for the purchase of the Unsullied - that as mindless slaves, they will not rape and pillage innocents the way soldiers do, and Daenerys does not want to spill the blood of innocents in her inexorable march to the Iron Throne. But 8,000 mindless killing machines don't come cheap, so how can Dany possibly afford them? Why, with one of her dragons, of course. The biggest one.
Does anyone think she's actually going to let one of her babies go, and to a dickhole, no less? I'm pretty sure Dany's going to be marching out of Astapor with 8,000 Unsullied and three dragons, and one very polite translator to boot.
Brienne and Jaime imprisoned on the road:
Our tallest blondes are still held captive by Noah Taylor, and at first it seems as if their loss will be of Brienne's virtue, as Locke's men are surely planning to rape her. "You'd be wise not to resist," Jaime advises her. "What does it matter?" Unsurprisingly, Brienne thinks it does matter, and when the time comes, she does some serious resisting. It's incredibly upsetting to watch as the noble knight is assaulted, but Jaime's silver tongue saves her with a promise of Tarth's sapphires if she's returned to her father unbesmirched. Alas, Jaime should have quit while he was ahead, because that silver tongue then asks to be unchained and fed...and instead he suffers the most devastating loss of all this episode, as Locke chops off Jaime's sword hand seconds before the credits roll.
We also catch up briefly with Samwell and Jon, but there's not much to report on that front except one truly cool spiral of horse corpse parts and the birth of Sam's crush's baby. Theon is imprisoned and rescued and imprisoned and rescued again, but like Henri, I'm bored to death of this character and can scarcely abide talking about him, so that's quite enough about that for now.
So what can we look forward to next week? The episode is titled "And Now His Watch Is Ended," so take of that what you will. How will Daenerys negotiate her way out of Astapor without sacrificing one of her children? How will Jaime survive without the strongest and most valued part of himself? How will Tyrion serve the realm and himself in such a restrictive position? I don't know, but the one thing I'm certain of is that Lord Twat Beard is the greatest insult ever.