“Walk of Punishment”
I really have no complaints about this episode of Game of Thrones, but it’s already started me on the always-entertaining process of trying to guess where HBO might choose to end the season. I think I have a pretty good idea, but it would entail the timeline of “1 book = 1 season” being diverted from more substantially than I expected this early. We’ll see if I’m right.
One character I haven’t talked about much this season is Theon Greyjoy. He was never a huge favorite of mine in the books but his plotline has become rather fascinating, because I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen in it. We’re in completely uncharted territory regarding the entire “rescue” by the young man with no name (Iwan Rheon). In fact Theon was pretty much absent from the story during this point in the books, so he represents a complete wild-card. Even further North, a desperate Mormont turns once again to the vile Crastor for help, as Mance and Jon arrive at the Fist of the First Men to find many dead horses arranged in a spiral, but no dead men. The meaning could hardly be more clear, and Mance realizes that whatever happened to the Crows at that place, Mormont is at best severely weakened, and he sends Tormund to lay the groundwork for an attack on The Wall at Castle Black.
In the endless stream of character introductions, there were two more big ones this week – Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies, in his second sighting of the day on this blog) and Brynden Tully (Clive Russell), known universally – much to the dismay of his late brother – as The Blackfish. Both are hugely important characters, and Blackfish especially is a memorable one – and Russell is the rare example of an actor who looks exactly like I imagined the character would look. With Cat’s father dead Edmure is the new Lord at Riverrun, and he’s already disappointed Robb greatly (showing his displeasure is his best scene in many an episode) by disregarding orders and rousting The Mountain and his men from a mill, while Robb wanted to lure them into Stark territory. I won’t see too much about these two characters and how they’ll slot into the story, but their introductions were spot-on – both projected the persona that they did in the books.
In King’s Landing, we finally got our first look of the season at the irreplaceable Varys – though it was a brief one – and Tyrion got the unwelcome news that he was being made the new Master of Coin to replace Littlefinger (who’s about to depart for The Vale to wed Cat’s sister). The most interesting thing to come out of the scenes here was the entirely original sequence regarding Tyrion’s decision to repay Pod for saving his life by buying him a quartet of whores. This was amusing (especially Tyrion and Bron’s reaction when they heard Pod didn’t have to pay) but a bit over-the-top.
Dany’s thread continues to be most interesting for the philosophical questions it’s raising, now personified in the clash between Ser Barristan and Jorah (it’s worth remembering why Jorah was exiled from Westeros in the first place). Jorah uses his forked tongue to good effect, I confess – his arguments are persuasive, to the point where Danerys decides she’ll take all 8,000 Unsullied (and the boys in training) with her when she leaves. It seems to me that Dany is already very much a hypocrite, and the debt on that side of the ledger is growing with every compromise she makes. But the task she’s set for herself is so monumental that it’s hard to argue with any one decision she’s made so far. Just how far can a person go down the path to consequentialism before their moral authority to fulfil their task becomes null and void?
I imagine the scene everyone will be talking about is the final one, as Jaime discovers the hard way that constantly raising his father’s name can’t always save him. Jaime is, as I’ve said before, a truly surprising character, in many ways one of the most complicated in the cast despite appearances. He first tries to warn Brienne not to resist when she’s raped when Locke and his party make camp – though he admits if it were he, he’d force his attackers to kill him. When Brienne of course resists, he takes it upon himself to save her from the horror that’s about to befall her, tempting Locke with tales of the immense riches her father will pay if she’s returned intact. Jaime’s reward for his kindness is a cruel one indeed, though fairness has no role in Martin’s world and in any event, karma has a long memory and Jaime has much to answer for. It’s a brutal, terrible and ugly moment – the kind GoT is famous for – and somehow, hearing the rock-out version of “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” just makes it that much worse.