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Game of Thrones, Episode 3.7 “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”

GRRM, dude, you’ve let me down.

The North

The episode begins inoffensively enough, with Jon, Ygritte, Orell, Tormund and the surviving Wildling climbers finally on the Kingdoms side of the Wall. Orell expands on his innovative eagles=people theory of psychology, taunting Jon with what Jon already knows: he and Ygritte can’t have a future together.

They love each other when it suits ’em; they kill each other when it suits ’em. She knows that, you don’t. That’s why you’ll never hold on to her.

Tormund also decides Jon needs a little sex ed for no apparent reason, but hey, I can get behind a tip like this:

Don’t jam it in like you’re spearing a pig.

Orell decides that the moment is ripe to come on to Ygritte and gets shot dowwwn.

There were some lovely little culture-clash moments, like Ygritte being overawed by a stone windmill or not knowing what ‘swooning’ is. But there is a deeper problem: Jon has a lot more training in history and combat than she does, and he knows that the Wildlings’ plan has little chance of success:

Jon: If you attack the Wall, you’ll die, all of you!

Ygritte: All of us.

Jon keeps forgetting he’s supposed to be one of the Wildlings now: how many times can she correct him?

Jon and Ygritte about to kiss
She can definitely have sex with him more, though. Can’t say I blame her.

Somewhat ironically, Jon is probably closer to his family now than any time since he left Winterfell – he just doesn’t know it. And, since Jojen hasn’t had another one of his handy if traumatic visions, neither do Bran‘s morose band of wanderers. All they know is that Jon isn’t in Castle Black – so they have decided not to go there. Jojen wants to take Bran beyond the Wall, in search of the three-eyed raven who haunts his dreams. Osha is having none of this mystical life purpose shite:

The gods wouldn’t give a raven’s cold spit for you, or me.

and wants to stick to the original plan. Moreover, she absolutely refuses to go beyond the Wall again: her man was turned into a wight by the White Walkers, and she barely escaped with her life. As she describes his blue eyes and imperviousness to knives, we feel sympathy for the horror on the faces of the children – but it’s impossible for us to share them. We’ve already seen wights and White Walkers aplenty. Will Bran stick to his and Jojen’s plan in spite of Osha?

Osha tells her story
Nuh uh no way

Remember when I said last week that I was willing to give the writers the benefit of the doubt for the endless and pointless Theon scenes this season? Yeah, no more. This scene was not only horrible to watch, it was also another excuse to put naked women on screen for no particularly compelling reason. Theon is being imprisoned and tortured by a sadist, who in this episode, gets women to sexually assault him, then he steps in with what looks like a gelding knife. Did this need to happen on screen like this? And if it’s supposed to be the point of Theon’s storyline, did we really need to wait for the seventh episode for it?

The Riverlands

It’s raining in the Riverlands, something which is slowing down Robb’s progress north to the Twins for Edmure’s wedding. Cat is worried that Lord Frey will take their delayed arrival as a personal affront, but the Blackfish and Robb aren’t too concerned, though Robb puts it less scatalogically than his great-uncle:

Edmure is the best match a Frey has had in the history of their house.

Robb and Talisa have some alone time – they are as sweet together as their bums are beautiful –  in which she teaches him a few words of Volantene Valyrian and uses a letter to her mother to drop a cute bomb:

I know she’d love to meet you. And her grandchild.

(that letter, incidentally, really does say something. As to whether what it says is relevant or not, keep an eye on David J Peterson’s blog at the end of this series). Highlight to see GIANT series spoiler; not a spoiler for book readers: oh my god this scene makes everything so much worse. I hate you, GRRM. On the plus side, since Talisa =/= Jeyne Westerling, we can’t be certain what will happen to her – or indeed her role in the plot. There is some interesting speculation about this here. 

Robb and Talisa kiss
Hot pregnancy announcement kiss!

With Gendry fresh in her mind, Arya is disinclined to listen to Beric and Thoros try to explain their motives to her. She also rejects their god:

Beric: The Red God is the one true god. Who’s yours?

Arya: Death.

Why not? It’s what she prays to every night. The last straw, though, is when they decide ride out to capture a Lannister raiding party – in the wrong direction from Riverrun. She makes a run for it, and seems to manage – until the Hound grabs her. There’s another echo of the first season in Arya’s headlong flight through the forest, but this time she doesn’t have Nymeria with her, and she’s caught. Will the Brotherhood catch them both? And what does the Hound want with Arya?

Harrenhal

Jaime leaves Harrenhal under the protection of another one of Bolton’s soldiers, while Bolton heads to the Twins for Robb’s wedding. Brienne is dignified as Jaime leaves: she knows what she is at risk of left at Harrenhal without Bolton for protection, but she doesn’t beg or plead – she only wants to remind Jaime of his oath to Catelyn Stark. And she calls him “Jaime”, not “Kingslayer”.

We can see Jaime is uneasy about leaving her, but he does anyway. He rediscovers his old fire verbally sparring with Qyburn, who was banned from the Citadel for doing live experiments on dead men. In defending himself from Jaime’s disgust, Qyburn also gives Jaime a way to claim the good he has done:

Qyburn: How many men have you killed?

Jaime: I don’t know… countless.

Qyburn: And how many have you saved?

Jaime: Half a million.

Qyburn also tells him why Brienne is really staying at Harrenhal: Locke refused the ransom in gold Brienne’s father offered for her, because he wants sapphires. Brienne is trapped at Harrenhal because of a lie Jaime told to protect her, and he is quick to order his guards to go back. This is the old Jaime, arrogant and powerful –  the threat of his father’s name and Bolton’s displeasure is enough to make his guard turn them around.

When they get there, Brienne is fighting for her life. In a bear pit. With a bear. Armed with a wooden sword. And when it looks like the bear is winning, Jaime jumps in. With the help of the crowd, Brienne escapes, then hauls Jaime out in the nick of time.

Brienne with a bleeding wound on her neck
Fight a bear. Save a guy’s life. NBD.

This is the piece of action the episode is named for, and while I give them kudos for filming with an actual, real-life, 3D bear, it was truncated before it needed to be. I was barely afraid for either of  them before they escaped.

(Also, the area Qyburn and Jaime were was utterly wrong for the Riverlands. It looked exactly like the landscape where Bran was in this episode, and that seems sloppy from the production team).

King’s Landing

Melisandre and Gendry leave from King’s Landing (on the way back to Dragonstone, presumably) where she takes the opportunity to drop a truth bomb on Gendry: the Red Keep is his father’s house, because Robert Baratheon is his father. I can forgive Gendry for looking a little stunned at this point, but I really hope he back to full consciousness soon, because Melisandre keeps talking about blood… We also learn she is a former slave – is she a potential future ally for Dany?

Melisandre looks at the Red Keep while Gendry looks at her
Have I mentioned that red is my favourite colour?

Joffrey is finally realising being a king involves slightly more than lording it over everyone and getting carte blanche to murder women with crossbows, and he tries to get information out of Tywin. Tywin, of course, only allows him as much as he’s willing to give, which is not a lot. Joffrey does display slight intelligence by worrying about Dany and, more importantly, her dragons. Tywin is quick to reassure him – the last Targaryen dragons were the size of small cats, and nothing to worry about. It is gratifying to see Tywin be wrong about something for once, even if he doesn’t know it yet.

The consequences of Tywin’s matchmaking continue to ripple on, with Tyrion bemoaning his fate to Bronn over wine. Bronn doesn’t see the problem:

You want Shae, keep her. Wed one, bed the other.

And Tyrion tries to persuade Shae it can be business as usual, despite his imminent marriage to Sansa. But she is unconvinced by Tyrion trying to Lannister his way out of this with offers of her own house and servants, money for their children… there are some things gold can’t fix:

You think I want children who can never see their father? Who would be killed in their sleep if their grandfather found out about them?

Margaery, meanwhile, is trying to persuade Sansa that marriage to Tyrion might not be all bad: out of all the Lannisters, he has been kind to her, and he may have other attributes:

Tyrion may surprise you. From what I hear, he’s quite experienced”¦.We’re very complicated, you know. Pleasing us takes practice.

It’s interesting to see the contrast between Shae and Margaery – Shae’s first instinct is to flee, and place her relationship with Tyrion above everything else. But Margaery is in the game to win and relationships are not as important: she wants to persuade Sansa to play along even though Sansa doesn’t realise how much she’s being played.

Margaery smiles at Sansa
When a grown man and a teenage girl half his age are forced to have sex, it’s a beautiful thing.

I would have loved to have seen Loras’s reaction to his betrothal, by the way. Another missing scene we can lay at Theon’s storyline’s door…

Yunkai

Daenarys is looking resplendent, and, flush from her victories in Qarth and Astapor, decides to take Yunkai – not because she needs it or its wealth, but because it’s a slaving city and she hates that shit. This does have something of the ‘white lady saves grateful brown people’ trope, which…yeah. Didn’t Dany learn her lesson with Mirri Maz Duur?

Dany and Drogon
Does this look like a fucking cat to you?

She and her dragons send the Yunkish ambassador off with his tail between his legs, but she got some gold out of it anyway. But he hinted at powerful friends, and wants to find out more before she makes her next move.

Overall, this episode suffers from many of the problems we’ve seen so far in the series: not enough time spent on compelling action, too much on slow-moving plots. On the plus side: Jaime and Brienne together again! So, what did you think? Were you as disappointed by this GRRM-scripted episode as I was?

 

WARNING: if you want to talk about the books from A Storm of Swords on, please preface your comment with a ***spoiler***. The first two books and first two seasons of the show are not considered spoilers.

Screencaps c/o screencapped.net. All images are the property of HBO.

15 replies on “Game of Thrones, Episode 3.7 “The Bear and the Maiden Fair””

Does anyone else not understand all the hate for Emilia Clarke’s performance? I think she does a fantastic job of playing someone who is used to hiding her feelings. I don’t think it is a case of justifying an actor’s limitations by saying the character controls displays of emotion, which Salon’s Willa Paskin points out in an excellent article. (http://www.salon.com/2012/04/30/tvs_gift_to_bad_actors/)

I mean, I am NEVER in doubt of what Dany is feeling, nor do I feel she is without affect. Why the criticism?

I’m curious… where are you seeing “all the hate”? I haven’t seen much if any about her performance, and I read a lot of reviews and commentary about the show. The criticism I’d have is of the way her storyline was dealt with last season, not her performance within it.

http://www.salon.com/2013/05/05/the_julie_taylor_test_how_to_tell_if_a_tv_actor_is_bad/
http://the-khaleesi-sucks-at-acting.tumblr.com/
http://www.themarysue.com/game-of-thrones-novice-recap-fire-and-blood/
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3592338/board/nest/210493299

If you look at the comments for episode recaps, you’ll see a lot people calling her out for it. I’ve also seen comments in response to the speculation that she is going to stop with the nudity. She was also in the Broadway revival of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the reviews were savage, with a lot of commenters saying, “What did you expect, she sucks in GOT.”

Yep, it’s tedious. And in the books, there was an element of suspense – we had no idea what happened to Theon ***spoiler****until he reappears as a POV character and then Asha recognises him (hope I’m remembering that right). ***endspoiler.

This way we have time to be both horrified by what’s happening to him, and really bored by it.

The endless torturing of Theon is so stupid and boring I can’t stand it! It’s taking up valuable screen time! And Joffrey’s target practice was more gratuitous sexualized violence. We’ve hated the kid from day one; there’s no need to keep reminding us how awful he is. I’m so frustrated with the way the show constantly turns to sexual sadism to create drama. But with Peter Dinklage playing Tyrion, and Tyrion being such a layered character with such an epic story, I just can’t stop watching.

I completely agree. We already knew Joffrey was a sexual sadist — the scene with Ros added nothing. (In fact, I had planned to walk away after that, but didn’t because there are a few storylines I’m enjoying.) But then this week it’s torture again with a side of (implied) genital mutilation — it’s getting hard for me to justify.

It’s so interesting to read the variety of interpretations of Margaery. Some people think she is manipulating Sansa to a bad end, others think she is genuinely reaching out to help her. I think it’s the latter, but Margaery has an end game. Sansa is vulnerable because she has not yet recognized her own power, and Margaery knows that if she earns Sansa’s trust now that it will ultimately benefit her to have that allegiance. However, Margaery will ultimately choose her family and her own power over this friendship, which Sansa has not yet recognized.

In this way, Sansa has more of Ned in her than any of the other Stark children. She has willed herself to remain innocent of the Game, clinging to the ideal that chivalry and honor will bring her reward and safety, despite seeing the consequences for her father. The others are all far wiser and wilier. She learned not to trust the Lannisters after they killed Ned, but she hasn’t yet learned to distrust anyone in power who offers something.

I think Margaery would genuinely like to see Sansa happy, but as long as it’s not at the expense of herself or her family and ideally benefits them. It’s probably the closest thing Sansa has to a friendship at the moment, but it’s one with conditions. Very good point about how she is like Ned in that way!

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