Game of Thrones 3.09: The Rains of Castamere

SPOILER WARNING: Whether you’ve read all five books or only watch the series this post is for you. I have read the books (multiple times) but I will not go beyond the scope of the TV series (save a wink or a nod every now and then that only my fellow readers will catch on to). All events that have occurred in the TV show up to and including yesterday’s episode are fair game.  You’ve been warned.

Note: With the biggest cast in television it can be hard to keep all the names and faces straight. Thus the first mention of each character contains a link to a picture of them which will open in a new tab.

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Starks and their Honor

Don’t worry folks, I’ll get to the scene you want to talk about in a moment. I’m starting with Arya and the Hound a) to avoid spoilers prior to the jump and b) because within their scenes is a small nugget which represents the episode’s overarching theme: the family Stark and their unending honor. The dog and the wolf girl come upon a man trying to fix a broken wagon. He’s got to get to the Twins to deliver a load of salt pork, you see. The Hound intends to rob him, knocking his lights out before drawing a knife. Arya pleads with him not to kill the man. It’s wrong of course, and it will be plenty easy to rob him without slitting his throat. The Hound tells Arya that she’s very kind, and that it’s going to get her killed one day.

This, in a nutshell, is who the Starks are. They’re a kind and loving family who gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. They run into situations like this one, in a which a person who should be allowed to live is staring death in the eye, and they save him, even when simply killing them and being done with it would be far safer in the long run. In the case of the man and his wagon, nothing comes of it. But in that of the wedding I’ll discuss in a moment, well, you know.

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Game of Thrones 3.07: The Bear and the Maiden Fair

SPOILER WARNING: Whether you’ve read all five books or only watch the series this post is for you. I have read the books (multiple times) but I will not go beyond the scope of the TV series (save a wink or a nod every now and then that only my fellow readers will catch on to). All events that have occurred in the TV show up to and including yesterday’s episode are fair game.  You’ve been warned.

Note: With the biggest cast in television it can be hard to keep all the names and faces straight. Thus the first mention of each character contains a link to a picture of them which will open in a new tab.

I just want to note that George R.R. Martin, author of the books that make up Game of Thrones’ source material, also wrote this week’s episode. Not much to say beyond that, but it’s always worth pointing out that the man most familiar with the characters writes the episode.

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But First We’ll Live

Perhaps the most straightforward theme in this week’s episode was that of love, the way it comes about and the way it ends, loves meant to be and those between the star-crossed. It remains to be seen which of those categories Jon and Ygritte fall into, and “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” spent a good amount of time essentially wondering the question aloud.

The episode opens with Jon and the Wildlings marching towards Castle Black. Ygritte takes pleasure in mocking the customs of Westerosi warfare: marching down roads while holding banners and banging drums to let the enemy know you’re coming. When she sarcastically asserts they won’t be banging any drums when they attack Castle Black, Jon retorts that instead, Mance will “light the biggest fire the North’s ever seen.” Ygritte counters in the same way she always does: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” That’s when Orell wanders over to put some real bite behind her words. Giving Jon some sage romantic advice while spelling out the episode’s theme: “People work together when it suits them, they’re loyal when it suits them, they love each other when it suits them, and they kill each other when it suits them. She knows it, you don’t, which is why you’ll never hold onto her.”

Of course, later on we discover that Orell may not be as wise as his words indicated, he simply wants in Ygritte’s pants too. Orell steps up to tell her as much, and to warn her that Jon isn’t as loyal to their cause as he appears. But in doing so, he proves to be affording Ygritte way less credit than she deserves. As we learned last week, she’s more in touch with their position than anyone: She knows Jon is still loyal to the Night’s Watch, and it doesn’t factor into her decision to be with him because she’s realistic about the odds of their survival.

The tables of mockery are turned when they come upon a windmill and Ygritte asks Jon if it’s a palace. But as was the case in their earlier discussion of drums and marching, the talk turns serious. Jon mentions that he’d like to take Ygritte to see Winterfell, and she responds that maybe she’ll take him, once they’ve “taken their land back.” The conversation brings to the forefront a fact they’ve both been trying to forget, that they’re on different sides of the war, and their visions of what life will be like afterwards are highly disparate. That’s when Jon tells her that Kings beyond the Wall have tried to reclaim the North six times in the past thousand years, and six times they’ve been turned away. He insists that the seventh will be the same, pushing the point even after Ygritte claims that Mance is different than those that came before him, saying that “all of you will die.” Ygritte reminds him that it’s “all of us,” but like her talk of Mance she’s simply posturing. That’s when she lets us in on her true vision of the future: “You’re mine, and I’m yours. And if we die, we die. But first we’ll live.” Jon agrees.

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Love is the Death of Duty

In the first season, Maester Aemon told Jon that “love is the death of duty,” and while the idea is clearly written all over Jon’s storyline, his brother Robb’s may be an even better example. Love is the cause of all the King in the North’s problems, and the reason he’s losing the war despite having won every battle.

It’s not only Robb’s love that’s hurting the war effort. Catelyn’s love of her daughters led her to free Jaime Lannister, which in turn led to Lord Karstark’s betrayal and subsequent beheading. That’s why Robb and his army are on their way to the Twins to attend the marriage between his uncle, Edmure Tully, and one of Lord Walder Frey’s daughers. The match was necessitated, of course, by Robb’s double-crossing his own marriage pact with Lord Walder, but also by the fact that he needs the Frey armies more than ever with the Karstark’s gone.

Like most of the episode, Robb’s story wasn’t big on plot advancement. Much like Jon and Ygritte, it served to underline both the true love between the King and Queen in the North and the black cloud hanging over it as a result of the war effort, of duty. As such, the revelation of Talisa’s pregnancy seems a dire symbol. When has any good deed (or good news) gone unpunished in Game of Thrones?

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The Impchelor 

In our first glimpse into King’s Landing this week, we see Sansa talking to Margaery Tyrell of the woe that is her impending marriage to Tyrion. He’s a Lannister, she complains, and as if that wasn’t enough he’s the scarred, dwarf Lannister. Margaery attempts to cheer her up, pointing out that he’s been kind to her, the scar makes him more attractive, and that he’s experienced in the bedroom, which is a good thing because women are hard to please (her mother told her so). What’s unfortunate is that although Sansa explicitly bemoans the ignorance that led her to dram of the capital and her southern Prince Charming, she’s still not entirely able to recognize that she’s still being ignorant. Tyrion isn’t Loras, that’s for sure, but as Margaery points out he is good looking and he’s been more kind to her than anyone in King’s Landing. What’s more, she complains about all this to the woman betrothed to Joffrey. Come on, Sansa, get your head in the game.

But we know Sansa’s unhappy, nothing’s changed there. What’s more interesting is that Tyrion is just as miserable as she is. He’s had this marriage thrust upon him too, and he’s kind of already in love with Shae. As Margaery does for Sansa, Bronn points out how silly it is for him to be complaining: He’s a lord and she’s a lady, it’s what they’re supposed to do, and it’s not like he has no sexual attraction to Sansa, young as she may be. What’s more, he’s a man, as long as he does his duty in wedding Sansa and getting her pregnant, he can bed Shae on the side for as long as he cares to. Of course, that idea doesn’t go over too well with Shae, who asks him what it will be like. Tyrion responds that he’ll buy her a good home, with guards and clothes and servants, and that any hypothetical children will be well provided for. Shae rightfully snaps back that she has no interest in having children who will never see their father and would likely be killed if their grandfather found out about them. Like so many characters, love is getting in the way of Tyrion doing his duty, and as always, “it will all turn out alright” is never a good bet on this show.

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The Bear and the Maiden Fair

Then there’s Jaime and Brienne, a match no one and everyone saw coming. It’s hard to say whether their feelings for one another go beyond the platonic, but they certainly care deeply for, and perhaps even love each other, in their own way. Losing a hand has changed Jaime, sure, but no more than Brienne has. Would pre-Brienne Jaime have even bothered to go to her chambers and insist that even though there is nothing commanding him to return the Stark girls to their mother, save honor, he will. Brienne has reminded him that honor is enough, and Jaime’s travels with her have revealed to us that despite all he’s done and the opinion we may have held of him before, that’s something he knew well enough at one point. In his talk with Qyburn, Jaime condemns the immorality of killing people for research. But when Qyburn snaps back by asking how many lives Jaime has taken (“countless”) and how many he’s saved, he gets an unexpected answer: half a million, the population of King’s Landing. In much the way some people rediscover religion, Jaime is a reborn honorable man, and that’s what leads him to command that he and the part of Bolton men return to Harrenhal, where he leaps into a bear pit to save his maiden fair.

Check out the preview for next week’s episode below and follow the writer on Twitter @NateKreichman.

  

Game of Thrones 3.06: The Climb

SPOILER WARNING: Whether you’ve read all five books or only watch the series this post is for you. I have read the books (multiple times) but I will not go beyond the scope of the TV series (save a wink or a nod every now and then that only my fellow readers will catch on to). All events that have occurred in the TV show up to and including yesterday’s episode are fair game.  You’ve been warned.

Note: With the biggest cast in television it can be hard to keep all the names and faces straight. Thus the first mention of each character contains a link to a picture of them which will open in a new tab.

Sometimes, I have to work really hard to find a theme that unifies all (or most, or even just a couple) of the storylines in a given episode of Game of Thrones. Sometimes, I don’t bother, because the writers and directors  make it clear that a particular episodes various plots have no cohesive theme, and are instead linked by, say, graceful editing. That was the case in the second episode of this season, “Dark Wings, Dark Words,” an onscreen character would bring up another, and we’d be whisked off to the named character’s far-away land and disparate plotline. But every once in a while there comes an episode which makes its theme quite explicit, and no hard work is required. “The Climb” is one of those episodes, as we got the title, a literal climb, and even a monologue from Littlefinger to fully explain the subtext for those that still hadn’t caught on.

Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail, and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb, but they refuse. They cling to the realm, or the gods, or love. Illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.

In Game of Thrones, whether literally or figuratively, characters climb and fall, and if they survive, they get right back up and keep on climbing. Alternatively, they climb and reach the top, only to realize there’s still plenty of climbing to be done. As Lord Baelish so eloquently put it, “The climb is all there is.”

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The Literal Climb

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Game of Thrones 208: The Prince of Winterfell

SPOILER WARNING: All events that have occurred in the TV show up to and including yesterday’s episode are fair game. I have read the books but I will not go any further beyond small hints that only fellow book-readers will catch on to. You’ve been warned.

Note: Because it can be hard to keep all the names and faces straight, the first mention of each character contains a link to a picture of them which will open in a new tab.

Winterfell

Before last night, Theon’s sister Yara was manipulative and mocking of her baby brother. She went so far as to allow him to get some inappropriate groping in to find out who he really is (and humiliate him). Well, inappropriate unless you’re a Targaryen, Cersei, or Jaime. As I so often discuss, every character in “Game of Thrones” is a human being, and we finally saw Yara’s human side last night.

As much as she is in competition with Theon for both power and their father’s affections, her anecdote about Theon, the “terrible baby” who finally stopped crying and even smiled when she came over to his crib showed that she truly cares for him despite being sent away for half his life. Furthermore, her insistence, and hope, that Theon doesn’t “die so far from the sea” was about as affectionate as the Greyjoys get.

On a happier note, Bran and Rickon are still alive. Along with Osha and Hodor, the boys have doubled back and are now hiding in Winterfell’s crypts, hopefully the last place anyone will think to look for them. That final scene was so perfectly executed, with Osha and Maester Luwin discussing how they could not tell Bran that Theon burned  the orphan boys and passed them off as the Starks, because he’d blame himself.

Eddard Stark’s influence is still incredibly evident in all the children he raised. Indeed Bran heard everything his caretakers said, and his teary expression indicates he does blame himself. Bran feels he has failed in his duty as Lord of Winterfell, and it has shaken him to the core despite his age. Ned’s tutelage is even apparent in Theon, who despite his many failings takes no joy in the things he’s done. Theon is not a sadist and the fact that he even has inner conflict is the direct consequence of the caring nature of the man who raised him. However, we see the most of Ned in Robb, as I’ll discuss right about… now.

The King in the North, the Kingslayer’s roadtrip

We saw Ned’s impact on Robb a great deal tonight, both literally, as in Robb’s initial conversation with Talisa, as well as in the young king’s actions (although not entirely in the way one might expect).

When Robb discovers that Catelyn freed Jaime in an effort to rescue Sansa and Arya, he feels understandably betrayed. Cat once chastised Renly, saying “my son is fighting a war, not playing at one,” yet now she seems to be playing as well. And not just at war but hostage Go Fish. “Got any Aryas? No? How about a Sansa?” As a result, Robb is slowly realizing that no one else, not even his mother, abides by the same code of honor which he does. This upsets him, but at the same time he recognizes some need to change. Robb knows what happened to Ned when he played the game of thrones too honorably (and stubbornly).

I believe something Tywin said to his war counselors was foreshadowing Robb’s, er, “slip up,” with Talisa. Tywin said, “He’s a boy and he’s never lost a battle. He’ll risk anything at any time, because he doesn’t know enough to be afraid.” Indeed, Robb may have risked a great deal by forsaking his pact with the Freys. It’s very telling, and displays the Ned in him, that he waited as long as he did. It’s clear he fears for his siblings just as much as Cat does, and he succumbed, in a moment of weakness, only when Talisa told her story. She knows the feeling of having a brother in mortal peril, which gave him something to latch on to. While his actions weren’t very honorable, Ned (allegedly) had his own moment of weakness while away fighting a war.

Meanwhile, Brienne is escorting Jaime back to King’s Landing. And thus, a buddy-buddy road trip comedy was born. The two appear to be exact opposites, one’s a man, one’s a woman, one seems to be a machine that runs on honor, while the other was quite recently called “a man without honor,” the quote for which last week’s episode was named. Will opposites attract or will the two be at each other’s throats the whole way to the capital (if they even make it there)? If nothing else, Jaime and Brienne’s interactions are sure to provide plenty of humor. We saw the beginnings of it last night. “Have you known many men, my lady? No, I suppose not. Women? Horses?”

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Game of Thrones 207: A Man Without Honor

SPOILER WARNING: All events that have occurred in the TV show up to and including yesterday’s episode are fair game. I have read the books but I will not go any further beyond small hints that only fellow book-readers will catch on to. You’ve been warned.

This week’s episode was different than most, it had a whole lot of character development and almost no macro-level action. As such, I’m going to be experimenting with something different as well. As usual, the post will largely be divided based on geography, but I’m also going to split some of it based on character and thematic groups. Don’t worry, you’ll see what I mean.

Winterfell

Theon Greyjoy is sure in a pickle. Nobody likes him, he goes from trying to rally the Ironborn to please Robb Stark to attacking the North to please his father. He just can’t win. Anyway, the actors in “Game of Thrones” have perfected the art of fading from smirk to grimace. If you watch the episode again, look for the way Theon’s expression changes as he turns from the people of Winterfell to the horribly burnt bodies of Bran and Rickon Stark. I mean, those bodies are Bran and Rickon, aren’t they?

Well, they might be. Theon did say there was nothing he wouldn’t do to stop himself from looking like a fool and that it’s better to be cruel than weak. Then again, when they mounted Ned’s head on a spike in King’s Landing it was perfectly recognizable, so why go to all the trouble of burning the bodies? Let alone the bodies of two boys Theon once thought of as brothers and whom he clearly still cares for, despite trying oh so hard to act like he doesn’t. And if Theon really did find and kill the boys where are Osha and Hodor (who’d be pretty hard to miss)? That said, this is “Game of Thrones,” we all know anyone can be killed. Maester Luwin was certainly convinced, are you?

Qarth

As I suspected, the dragon-napping was a way for Pyat Pree to get Daenerys into the House of the Undying. Most of you still don’t know what that means, but take my word for it, going there is just about the only interesting thing she does in the second book. As I’ve said her story line is boring, so they’re adding stuff like the dragon-napping and Xaro’s little coup d’état to spice things up a bit. There’s not much else to say other than let’s wait and see where it takes us. Oh, and that Pyat Pree is one creepy motherfucker.

The Lannisters as good guys?

As I’ve often discussed, one of the best things about Game of Thrones is that there are no good guys or bad guys, no heroes or villains, no black or white, only human beings and thus shades of grey. This week’s episode gave us some of the best evidence of this yet, as we got a glimpse into the minds of a number of prominent members of House Lannister. While they’ve done some awful things, the Lannisters are still human, and they’ve undergone many of the same struggles as the characters we love.

Last week, we saw a different side of Tywin when he told Arya about teaching Jaime to read. His humanization continued this week, partly because of the way he told Arya she reminds him Cersei after she said “most girls are idiots.” Like Cersei, Arya has no interest in things that are “meant” for girls, although I’m sure she didn’t take too kindly to being compared to someone one her to-kill list. More importantly however, Tywin actually took steps to protect Arya, who he now believes to be highborn, telling her to say “m’lord” rather than “my lord” if she wants to pass herself off as a commoner. Whether or not Tywin knows who she is specifically remains to be seen.

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