I make a habit out of not talking about general impressions the books more than I have to in these posts, but a couple of things are bursting to be said. Something I noticed more and more as I read through this section – and deeper – of the novels is that in GoT, you tend to find humanity in places where you least expect it, and darkness in places where you least expect it. You may feel differently, but that’s starting to come across in the TV series in a way that pleases me, despite the increasing number of significant changes to the plot. The other thing I would say is this – I would try very hard to avoid spoilers for the rest of this season, because that’s going to be an important part of enjoying these last three episodes. I promise you won’t find them my posts, and I’ll do my best to make sure they aren’t in the comments either.
There are so many parallels between this story and Fate/Zero that I sometimes wonder if Urobuchi Gen is George R.R. Martin’s Japanese cousin. I won’t bother re-hashing them again, but like F/Z, GoT the TV series seems to be at it’s best when it’s two people in a room, quietly talking. These sorts of scenes are invariably more exciting than in the books, with this amazing company of actors bringing them to life. The big set pieces are impressive, but it’s the conversation where this series really shines.
Let’s start with the magnificent bastard. For my dollar, I’d be happy to listen to Tywin Lannister and Arya Stark talk for an hour every week. They’re both so interesting – unreadable at some times, transparent at others. Most of the dialogue between them at Harrenhal is TV original, and it’s brilliant – funny and full of subtext, as each probes the other relentlessly. Tywin has grown fond of Arya, obviously – he finally admits this week that she reminds him of Cersei (surprised Arya didn’t gag there). Arya is not as clever as she thinks she is – or rather, too much so for her own good, as Tywin says. How much does he know – and how much does he suspect? You can see Arya enjoying the battle of wits and wills more and more, getting herself into dangerous territory (“Careful now, Girl.”). Perhaps she’s even grown fond of him, against her will. I think the irony here is that these two are more alike than either of them realizes, in more ways than one.
And then there’s the Kingslayer, Jaimie Lannister, almost absent this season but back with a vengeance tonight. I’m going to point out a difference between the TV and the books because as it’s already happened, I don’t think it’s a spoiler – and that’s the fact that Jaimie didn’t kill his cousin Alton (Karl Davies). It’s a TV-original addition and an interesting one, as the last ten minutes or so had come in humanizing Jaimie’s character during his amazing conversation with Alton. Jaimie is a man of huge contrasts, and we’ve already seen him do terrible things – but that moment in the pen was quite a shock coming after that conversation. Perhaps, more than the entire first season, we get a taste of the complexity of Jaimie’s nature tonight. “It’s a good thing I am what I am – I’d be useless at anything else.”
Also prominent is Cersei, more human this week than in any prior episode. We see clearly for the first time that she realized how far gone Joffrey is, and how dangerous his behavior is to the kingdom. Her speech to Sansa (newly flowered, a bit of a stretch of credulity considering the casting choice) was almost as heartbreaking as her quiet talk with Robert from the first season. “The more people you love, the weaker you are.” Think about this statement and place it in the context of the twisted and tangled Lannister family dynamics, and you understand its significance. With the news that Stannis’ fleet is mere days away, Cersei even allows herself a breakdown in front of Tyrion of all people, stricken with the possibility that her behavior has brought ruin on the Kingdom. For just a moment, it appeared is if Tyrion actually thought about comforting her – and she considered not shoving him away if he did.
There’s lot of action in the North and in the Far East too – though the title of the episode is obviously referring to Jaimie, it could as easily apply to several men in the episode. It’s in Qarth that the story is taking it’s wildest divergence from the books, and the twisted politics of the place have swept Danerys up in their midst. North of the Wall the daggers are verbal ones, where Ygritte mercilessly teases and tempts Jon “pure as the driven” Snow with her womanly ways, and explains for our benefit the differences between the Free People and the Southerners before leading Jon into a trap. And lastly, there’s our final man without honor – Theon Greyjoy, seemingly willing to go to any lengths to try and reclaim his honor in the eyes of his people.