Monday, April 29, 2013

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: Kissed By Fire

This week's episode starts with the trial by combat duel between Beric Dondarrion and Sandor Clegane, The Hound. As mentioned last week, Thoros is a priest of R'hllor, the same god that Melisandre serves. He intones a prayer that the Lord of Light show the truth. As befits the champion of a god so infatuated with light and fire Beric fights with a flaming sword. The Hound is famously afraid of fire. Prayers are chanted by all and the fight is on. It's a classic battle royale with The Hound's strength and size matched against Beric's speed and fire. They go head up for quite some time before The Hound's brute force starts to turn the tide and he cleaves Beric from collarbone to kidney. It's a death blow. The Hound has won the fight but he and Arya are both shocked to see Beric still alive after a quick prayer by Thoros. The Hound is free to leave, albeit without all his gold. An infuriated Arya is prevented from killing the wounded Hound. Arya is further disappointed when Gendry announces he intends to stay with Beric. Gendry thinks the social distance between Arya and himself is too great to allow for true friendship. Arya is personally hurt that Gendry won't trust in her big brother Robb, as she most assuredly does. It's ironic that Gendry is indeed Robert Baratheon's son and thus, illegitimate status aside, could indeed be Arya's future husband. 

Beyond the Wall Tormund and Orell continue to distrust Jon Snow. They interrogate him about the Night Watch and the Wall, specifically how the various castles are manned. Jon gives some answers but finally starts to show a little anger at the disrespect. They threaten him but before the men can engage in more figurative "sword" measuring, Ygritte shows that she'd like to do a little literal "sword" measuring of her own. In a scene Freud would have had a field day with she steals Jon's sword and runs with it into a warm cave. If he wants his sword back he'll have to .. Well you know what happens next. 

Ygritte has decided that her hints and flirting just aren't working with Jon Snow so she lays it on the line. Jon Snow shows that he may not have been a master debater but he is indeed a cunning linguist. After they've done what any healthy non-related heterosexual duo would do when there's no one else around Ygritte recalls some of her previous unsatisfactory experiences. She wants to know where the formerly virginal Jon got skills, especially the special kiss. Jon says he was just doing what came naturally and would prefer not to hear about Ygritte's previous paramours. Ygritte is head over heels in love.

Locke brings Brienne and Jaime to Bolton at Harrenhal. Bolton, however appears angry about Jaime's mutilation and Locke's sadism. He is courteous to both Brienne and Jaime and orders Jaime's wounds treated by Qyburn. Qyburn is a former maester who was expelled from the Citadel for unauthorized and unethical experiments. Tyrion meets with Olenna Tyrell to complain about the cost of the wedding between Joffrey and Margarey. Showing that she knows exactly how important the Tyrells are, Olenna reminds Tyrion in great detail of the soldiers, food and wealth that the Tyrells, which is to say Mace, which is to say Olenna, are providing to the Lannisters and how untenable the Lannister situation would be without the Tyrell backstop. She also points out that weddings are important diversions for otherwise troublesome lower classes. Nevertheless she agrees to split the cost. Meanwhile Cersei has not let go of her distaste for the Tyrells and tasks Littlefinger to find something on them.
In a scene that is a bit too rushed and didn't quite have the sense of betrayal required, Lord Karstark and his retainers murder the Lannister child prisoners. Robb is very upset by this as he's fighting for justice and can't have his men murdering children. This could obviously put his sisters' lives at stake. Edmure, Talisa and Catelyn all remind him that whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter are, Karstark leads a key part of Robb's army. When brought to account Karstark shows no remorse and is downright contemptuous of Robb and Catelyn. That does it. Even if he had doubts Robb no longer does. He orders Karstark's retainers hanged and executes Karstark himself, just like Dad would have done.

While Arya is reciting her prayer for vengeance against those who have wronged her and her family, Beric explains that Thoros has brought him back from the dead six times but that he loses more of himself each time. When Thoros and Beric sadly explain this process won't bring back Ned, Arya is further embittered.
Stannis finally goes to see his wife, Selyse. He is ill at ease and in typical Stannis fashion wants to admit his adulterous wrongdoings with Melisandre . He is taken aback to discover that Melisandre has already told Selyse everything. Selyse is not only okay with it but downright happy. Stannis may be a true believer both in his right to be King and in R'hllor but Selyse is a fanatic on both levels. In fact Selyse is downright creepy as she has evidently saved her stillborn children in glass bottles. Yeah. Stannis leaves his wife to see his daughter Shireen, who suffers from greyscale, a disease akin to leprosy. We see that Davos is still in prison. Shireen considers him a friend.

Jaime goes to the same pool as Brienne to take a bath, something which puts her ill at ease. He insults her, almost for old times sake, but immediately apologizes. He explains that everyone calls him "Kingslayer" for killing the Mad King but that by murdering the king, he stopped the king from incinerating King's Landing and also avoided the worse sin of patricide, which is what the king had just ordered him to do. Brienne is shocked and wonders why Jaime never told anyone this before. This is a pretty powerful scene.
Daenerys is on the march. The Unsullied have chosen their own leader, Grey Worm, to speak for them with Danerys. Jorah and Barristan talk about the good old days, even though they were often on opposite sides. Jorah is still suspicious of Barristan and old man or not, doesn't want Barristan having clear access to Daenerys or authority over him. Typical friend zone behavior. Unfortunately there apparently isn't a bard in either Westeros or Essos who's written any song like Tell Her About It. So Jorah still hasn't made his move. Jorah is curious as to whether Barristan was on the small council.

We see the limitations of feudal as opposed to national armies. Karstark's men have left the army. Their primary loyalty was to Karstark, not Robb. In a scene that echoes the comments of our own Fed Up, Robb admits that he's lost purpose and direction, primarily because the Lannister armies won't engage him anymore yet he lacks the ability to siege King's Landing. Talisa suggests going home to retake the North but Robb knows if he goes north he won't be able to get his remaining bannermen to come south again. Robb decides to attack Casterly Rock and draw out the Lannisters. To do that he'll need more men and that means making peace with Walder Frey, whom he rejected as a father-in-law when he married Talisa.

Sansa and Margaery (cleavage alert!) are watching Loras spar. A squire is flirting with Loras and later they do what any healthy homosexual duo would do. It turns out that the squire was one of Littlefinger's prostitutes. Littlefinger learns that Loras is to marry Sansa. Littlefinger doesn't confront Sansa with this information but when Sansa demurs at leaving with Littlefinger, claiming that it's too dangerous, Littlefinger says he understands and hopes that Sansa considers him a true friend. He then promptly passes this information on to Cersei.
Tyrion visits his father to report on progress cutting costs. He is somewhat dismayed to find Big Sis there looking like the cat that swallowed the canary. Tywin dismisses Tyrion's report of wedding cost containment as small potatoes. Cersei has told Tywin of the Tyrell marriage plans for Sansa. As it is widely believed that Robb and Sansa are the only Stark children left alive that makes Sansa not only a very valuable hostage but also the heir to the North.The Lannisters don't want the Tyrells to have her. Tyrion wants to know what that has to do with him and soon picks up through his sister's smirk and his father's glare that he is to marry Sansa. Tywin has made up his mind and won't hear differently. Tyrion says Sansa is still a child but in Westeros old enough to bleed means old enough to breed. Tywin has another order however. He intends that Cersei should marry Loras. This was a surprise to Cersei and she likes it even less than Tyrion did. But Tywin is master of this pride of lions and browbeats both of his children into sullen submission, saying that they disappoint him. From his perspective the Lannister name and power is far more important than his children or their happiness.

I enjoyed the shifting of perspectives regarding Jaime and the nature of good and evil. Stannis and Melisandre have a very Manichean view regarding morality. Either a man is good or he is not. An onion with rot in it is a rotten onion, period. Even Ned Stark was probably closer to this view in some ways although he was more forgiving than those two. However Jaime has a more flexible sense of morality. We are introduced initially to the evil side (trying to murder a child, sleeping with his sister, cuckolding the king, being snarky and arrogant to everyone not a Lannister, killing a distant cousin in an attempt to escape, murdering the king he was sworn to protect) but recently we've seen that for at least some of those actions he had very good reasons, reasons we might even claim were moral. We've also seen him try to protect a woman from rape. GRRM's work challenges the usual depiction of good and evil in fantastical/historical literature. Benioff and Weiss have captured that aspect pretty well, I think. We also see as Sansa did not, that the Tyrells may not be as abusive or evil as Cersei or Joffrey are, but they are quite definitely self-interested. 

*This post is written for discussion of this episode and previous episodes.  If you have book based knowledge of future events please be kind enough not to discuss that here NO SPOILERS. NO BOOK DERIVED HINTS ABOUT FUTURE EVENTS. Most of my blog partners have not read the books and would take spoilers most unkindly. Heads, spikes, well you get the idea....
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