Monday, April 15, 2013

HBO Game of Thrones Recap : Walk of Punishment

Last week we heard of Hoster Tully's death and Robb Stark's decision to attend his maternal grandfather's Riverrun funeral. We are introduced to the new Lord of Riverrun, Catelyn's younger brother Edmure Tully and her uncle Brynden "Blackfish" Tully, so called because of his fierce arguments and rivalries with his brother Hoster. In an opening scene that neatly encapsulates the defining characteristics of both men, after Edmure is thrice unable to light the floating funeral bier with burning arrow, the Blackfish steps in and makes the now much longer shot. He contemptuously returns the bow to his nephew. It's not just anger over the messed up funeral rite that animates Brynden however. In a somewhat clumsy information dump we discover that Tywin Lannister was able to return to King's Landing in time to defeat Stannis because Edmure Tully attacked Tywin and the Mountain too soon. Edmure disregarded Robb's orders and spoiled Robb's plan to draw the Lannisters into a trap. Robb shows some serious anger at his uncle here and is not mollified by the capture of a few distant Lannister relatives. Robb can't afford a drawn out war in which the Lannister numbers, augmented by Tyrells, will turn the tide. Robb's wife Talisa attends to the wounded Lannisters and plays with their fears of Robb's supernatural battle prowess. This ALL should have been in Season Two in my opinion. It's a bit rushed to put it all here. Robb's intense rage comes out of nowhere and we lack context for it.

At the Small Council meeting in King's Landing, Cersei makes a big deal about sitting at her father's right hand. Tyrion makes just as big a deal of sitting at the opposite head of the table. Tywin is upset that no one knows where Jaime is. He decides to send Littlefinger to the Vale to woo Lysa Arryn and hopefully get her support in the war against the North. Mostly just to mess with Littlefinger Tyrion claims that the Treasury is too important to be left with no one to run it. Just like with any other management meeting the person who draws attention to the problem is the person tasked to fix it. Tywin puts Tyrion in charge as Master of Coin. Has that ever happened to you? That's why I try to keep my mouth shut at status meetings. However it's possible this is what Tyrion wanted. We'll see.
Arya and Gendry depart with the Brotherhood without Banners but Hot Pie decides to stay behind and work at the inn. In a surprisingly touching scene he has baked Arya some bread in the shape of a wolf as a parting gift. I liked this scene.
Catelyn and her uncle reminisce about the good old days. Catelyn is emotionally worn out. Brynden tells her she must be strong for Robb no matter how guilty she feels about missing her father's death or the fate of her younger children.
Beyond the Wall Mance Rayder, Jon and the wildlings reach the remains of the battle between the White Walkers and the Night's Watch. They find only mutilated horses but no dead men. Showing he's Captain Obvious Mance tells everyone the missing men are now undead. He also thinks the time has come for the wildlings to make their move. Mance orders Tormund to climb the wall, take Jon Snow with him and wait for his signal to attack Castle Black, a Night's Watch stronghold.
Speaking of the Night's Watch they have straggled back to Craster's compound. He's not pleased to see them. Still they are many and he is one so he lets them in though he declines to share his best food, can't stop cracking jokes about their sorry state and doesn't like the way some of them are looking at his daughter/granddaughter wives. When Craster takes a shot at Sam's weight, Sam gets peeved and walks out. Gilly, the girl Sam earlier wanted to rescue, is (loudly) giving birth. Unfortunately it's a boy. Craster has no use for boys.
At Dragonstone, Melisandre is leaving. An unusually passionate Stannis is upset. Will I see you again? Will you call send ravens? Tell me something Sexy Red! He's suspicious of her intentions and more than a little horny. Showing that he's well aware that his creation with Melisandre killed his brother, Stannis wants to ride Melisandre's pony again, so that the result will kill Robb Stark and Joffrey Lannister. She sadly tells him he just doesn't have it like that any more. His pencil is out of lead and won't write any more. His mule's got no kick. His train can't leave the station. And since cialis or viagra have sadly not been invented yet the duo must use another method to produce the magic they made before. And it will involve royal sacrifices. Melisandre owns Stannis.
In Astapor, Danerys, Barristan Selmy and Jorah Mormont stroll along the Walk of Punishment, which is where slaves who have displeased, disobeyed or insulted their masters have been crucified. They seek the head slaver, Kraznys. Jorah and Barristan have different ideas about war. Barristan doesn't like the idea of using slave soldiers, mostly for moral reasons. Jorah is more cynical, saying that in war innocents are always hurt. He speaks of witnessing rapes. The trio reach Kraznys, who is his normal fount of sexist and ethnic insults, which his slave Missandei, softens in translation. Danerys decides to purchase all 8,000 Unsullied and Missandei as well. In return she will have to part with one dragon, the biggest. Barristan and Jorah both think this is a terrible idea and say so. Daenerys later tells both men she values their counsel but not to ever correct her in public again. It's quite Michael Corleone like.
Littlefinger turns over the financial books to Tyrion. Littlefinger claims to be curious as to how Cersei got the idea that Roz was Tyrion's special lady. Tyrion demurs. Littlefinger advises him that numbers can be made to say anything. Later Tyrion discovers that Littlefinger has had the crown not only borrowing money from Tywin Lannister, which is bad enough but also from the Bank of Braavos, which is notorious for never losing money no matter what they have to do to recover it. Tyrion paid for three prostitutes to take his squire Podrick's virginity. Tyrion and Bronn are a little put off and actually intrigued to discover Podrick got laid and didn't have to pay. Podrick evidently has hidden talents. Or perhaps Roz, Littlefinger or even Varys arranged it for some other reason?
Theon is released by the unknown young man and told to ride east to his sister. But after a few hours Theon is hunted down and captured by the men who tortured him. After a quick and brutal beating the men are preparing to take turns sodomizing him when suddenly the would be rapists are killed by the unknown young man who is evidently quite the shot with bow and arrow.
Brienne and Jaime have been captured by the bounty hunter Locke, a lowborn man who works for House Bolton. Jaime and Brienne are still arguing about who won their fight and who would have won if they could have finished and whether or not the fight was fair. Jaime has an apparent attack of conscience and warns Brienne she will be raped and it's best not to resist as then she would be killed. Brienne scoffs at this advice.

Later that night just as Jaime predicts, Locke and his men come to the bound prisoners. His men attack Brienne. She attempts to fight but they are many and she is one. She's beaten, overpowered and hauled off into the woods. Looking pensive, Jaime appeals to Locke's greed and explains that Brienne's father is rich and would pay quite handsomely for the return of an undamaged and unraped Brienne. Locke listens and then orders the attempted(?) rape to stop and for Brienne to be returned. Feeling a bit more confident Jaime continues to talk about his own father's wealth and how the North's cause is doomed. He says his father can make Locke a wealthy man.  He convinces Locke to unchain him and give him some food. Seeming a bit chagrined, Locke does just that. Things are looking up for Jaime. That is until Locke's men kick his feet out from under him and a furious Locke informs Jaime that he's tired of hearing about Lannister wealth. Locke threatens to take Jaime's eye. Instead just to remind Jaime that Daddy is not around to protect him he chops off Jaime's right hand. Just like that the greatest swordsman in Westeros is permanently crippled.

This episode really showed the casual brutality that is and always has been part of war. No matter the initial "good reasons" one side or another has for war, it always turns to brutality against the innocents and guilty alike. And in Westeros, rape is just another tool of war. Rape of women is most common, but as Theon's captors showed, rape of men or boys is quite possible. This episode moved the story forward in some quite useful ways. It also removed some characters' illusions. Brienne learned that skilled warrior or not she is still a woman in a sexist brutal world while Jaime found out that not everyone is motivated by money.

*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. 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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