GRRM, dude, you’ve let me down.
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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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).
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?
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.
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…
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?
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.