Game of Thrones suffers what could be its first missteps in an episode that, while still excellent, made a few weird choices concerning at least one character’s development.
My favorite scene of the episode dealt with the introduction of who will be taking Joffrey’s place. The answer is his little brother, Tommen. He is standing with his mother, Cersei, at Joffrey’s funeral bed when Tywin comes in and grills him on what it takes to be king. Viewers afraid that Tommen might be like his brother need not worry, because it seems as though young Tommen is a much more level headed, intelligent, not insane, possibly even kind person.
It’s also evident that Tywin isn’t exactly broken up about his grandson’s death. There could be any number of reasons for this, because Tywin is a pretty complex character. He’ll seek justice for Joff, but not out of grief; he’ll do it to protect the family name. Not to mention that he probably saw Joff as being too hard to control. Tommen is much more malleable and willing to listen, meaning Tywin can effectively rule through him.
Tywin leads Tommen away and Jaime enters, and my favorite scene becomes the most questionable scene, of not only the episode, but in Jaime’s character development. Jaime has been through a crazy arc over the series, going from attempted child murderer to arrogant prisoner to pitiful wretch to someone we might be able to root for. That’s all dashed when he rapes Cersei on the floor next to Joffrey’s corpse. In the novel, this encounter is consensual. It’s still disgusting, but the fault lies with the characters. In this case, by turning it into a rape, I feel the writers have backslid on Jaime’s development, especially considering the character’s attitudes toward rapists in the book and decisions he’s about to make. If Jaime has had one redeeming trait since the beginning, it’s been honesty; this runs the risk of turning him into a hypocrite. Some comments I’ve read proposed the idea that Cersei was only verbally protesting, but physically wanted it, and that the show just didn’t do a good job of conveying that. I have to call bullshit. One, because that idea is just bullshit to begin with (and makes me wonder about the people saying it). And two, while Cersei protests at first in the novel she does verbally consent. Removing the verbal consent is a conscious decision on the part of the writers, and I’m not sure if it was the wisest one. We’ll have to see how it’s handled.
I think Sansa’s story is about to get real interesting. As it turns out, Petyr Baelish was, at least partially, behind Joffrey’s death, and used the opportunity to spirit Sansa away from King’s Landing. It’s worth noting now that both Sansa and her sister, Arya, are in the hands of killers. But where the Hound is brash and will come at you from the front, Petyr kills through deception and manipulation. As such, Arya is learning to kill violently. I’m kind of intrigued by the idea of Sansa becoming a cunning, behind the scenes manipulator, if it’s developed correctly.
Speaking of Arya, she and the Hound are still on their way to the Vale, to find her Aunt. Along the way they are stopped by a farmer and his daughter. The Hound takes advantage of their hospitality for the night and robs the man in the morning. Arya confronts him about it, and the Hound justifies it by saying the man is weak, will be dead by winter, and dead men don’t need silver. I’m not sure how I feel about this argument between the two, though it might be necessary to move the plot forward.
Oberyn Martell makes an appearance, as Tywin interrupts a tryst between him, his half sister, and half of the whores, male and female, in King’s Landing. He posits the possibility that Oberyn may have had a hand in Joffrey’s death, and he does it in the most chillingly amicable way possible. He then discusses the possibility of giving Oberyn a place on the King’s council, reforging the alliance with Dorne, if he serves as a judge at Tyrion’s trial. Why would he do this? Because Tywin is fully aware of Dany and her growing dragons, and knows it’s only a matter of time before she turns her eye on Westeros. Dorne is necessary, because they’re the only nation to hold against Aegon Targaryen and his dragons 300 years before. It’s nice to have SOMEONE finally admit that there is a larger threat looming…even if it is the wrong larger threat.
We catch up with Tyrion, once again in a dungeon. He recieves a visit from Pod, from whom we learn that Tyrion will be tried. We also learn that Bronn is being investigated and Tyrion learns that Sansa has disappeared. With Shae gone, Tyrion has no witnesses to testify on his behalf, except for young Pod. Pod confesses that he was approached and bribed to testify against him, a bribe he refused. What followed was the episode’s heartwarmer, as Tyrion tells Pod he must escape. If money couldn’t sway him, a sword is likely the next offer and he won’t have Podrick’s death on his hands. He gives Pod one last order, to find Jaime, and says good bye.
In the north, Tormund, Ygritte and their group of wildlings are raiding villages, slaughtering innocents wholesale in a bid to draw out the Night’s Watch. The Night’s Watch are down to one hundred men, however, and cannot leave. Jon even has to agree with Alisser Thorne on this matter.
That is until the last surviving members of Mormont’s group return to the wall. Apparently the mutineers are still shacked up at Craster’s place. This represents a threat to Jon’s lie to Mance Rayder that they have a thousand men, and Jon urges that they ride out to kill the mutineers. My memory of the novel is hazy in this area, but I’m pretty sure this point never came up, and this is just filler to sustain the Night’s Watch story until the end of the season. I don’t necessarily mind this, as the mutineers are kind of a hanging thread, if a bit of a superfluous one. Mance is already planning to attack, regardless of the numbers on the wall.
The episode ends by catching up with Dany, who now stands at the gates of Mereen. Dany’s scenes have taken on a bit of a strange tone this season. I can’t quite place it, but there’s a certain levity to them that feels odd, given the stakes. I suppose with Tyrion’s story taking such a dark turn, the writers had to find another outlet for some light humor. Arya and the Hound would be the obvious choice, but the humor in those scenes is brasher, more laugh out loud. The levity in Dany’s scenes is more coy, evoking more of a slight smirk than a laugh. It’s weird, and I’m obviously having a hard time explaining it.
In any case, the highlight of the scene is New-Daario re-establishing himself as a badass as he confronts the champion of Mereen, the lone rider the city sent out in response to Dany’s arrival. New-Daario takes the man out swiftly and with style, leaving the Mereenese masters speechless. I’m sure one of them even face-palmed. At this point, Dany steps up and gives a speech that’s actually pretty good, addressing the slaves of Mereen and compelling them rise up against their masters (I’m guessing the canyon or dry lake bed she’s standing in has amazing acoustics). She then launches several wooden boxes into the city, which smash into the walls and rain down the empty collars of the slaves Dany has already set free. The episode ends with a shot of a Mereenese slave picking up one of these collars, then turning to look at his master.
I’m a bit mixed on this episode. There were some excellent scenes-Tywin and Tommen, Tyrion and Pod, Nu-Daario and the Champion-and some questionable ones-Jaime and Cersei mainly. But also a sequence involving Sam and Gilly, which I won’t discuss in detail, but it involved some pretty stupid logic on Sam’s part. There was also a scene where Stannis berates Davos for letting Gendry go after Melisandre’s leech magic apparently worked a second time, followed by a cute scene between Davos and Shireen, who inspires Davos to write the Iron Bank in Braavos (who King’s Landing is indebted to), to raise money to pay for sell-swords, because Stannis has no army. If that sounds confusing it’s because it is and I’ll likely have wait to see how it plays out before I understand it.
VFX Review: There were a few noteworthy shots in this episode, namely during the Mereen sequence. The matte of the city on approach was well done and up to the show’s usual standard. Some of the compositing during the catapult sequence looked a little dodgey, about on par with the Lord of the Rings movies ten years ago (which is still pretty good, for TV). No Dragons or Dire-wolves this week.
A little something else, unrelated to the episode, is a recently released image of Balerion the Black Dread and Aegon the Conqueror from the upcoming “A World of Ice and Fire” companion book. If anyone is wondering how big Dany’s dragons could (but probably wont) get, take a look: