Episode 3 - Walk of Punishment
17 April 2013
Synopsis: Jaime and Brienne are taken prisoner by Lord Bolton's men. Jaime persuades them not to rape Brienne but suffers for his kindness. Baelish is set to wed Lady Aryn of the Vale and Tyrion is appointed Master of Coin in his place. He rewards Podrick for his loyal service. Melissandre sets out to perform sacrifices and assures Stannis she will return. Arya and Gendry head off with the Brothers but Hot Pie stays behind. Robb bemoans his strategic position while at Riverrun and Catelyn laments her lost sons. Dany offers a dragon in exchange for all of the Unsullied. Jon Snow is ordered to attack the wall while the Nights Watch return to Craster's place and Sam sees Gilly give birth to a son.
The Good: While I didn't have much of an emotional reaction to the loss of Jaime's hand it was a much needed moment. A show can only threaten rape (not just of Brienne or Theon but of anyone on the losing side of a war) so many times before something of consequence needs to happen. I'm glad it wasn't rape but losing your hand is its own horror. Jaime will never wield a sword again (at least in the same way) and with the loss of his great skill he will be a changed man. It's hard to feel sorry for him but there's definite tragic irony in what happened. If he had kept his mouth shut and let Brienne suffer he would have been fine. But by speaking up on her behalf he angered Locke and his arrogance cost him. The greater irony of course is that Jaime shoved Bran out of a window because he knew the importance of keeping his love a secret. He would doubtless have laughed at the imprisoned Ned's naivety and yet his own desire for mercy and kindness has led him to somewhat similar suffering.
I liked Robb's angry tirade at Edmure which gave us a strong sense of how the war has now shifted in the favour of the Lannisters. The scenes with Catelyn's misery and Talisa's kindness were fine too.
The Bad: Nothing as such. But I've mentioned before the odd tone to Game of Thrones. When Hot Pie bakes some bread or Tyrion moves his chair around the show feels almost network drama friendly. It turns to quite the opposite of that when rape and crucifixion and decapitated horses are involved. Then you have Tyrion's gift to Pod which felt about as explicit as anything the show's done so far. It's not easy to capture all the moods of a medieval world in one show, I'm sure. But most TV shows will maintain one tone for much of their existence and only reach for the horror when they need it. Sometimes it can be tough to mentally absorb the sheer brutality of war within the same episode as light comedy and sparkling dialogue.
The Unknown: I enjoyed the rest of the episode. I really did but I place it all in The Unknown because I don't feel I can call any of it just good until I know more. There was a sense of consequence to the other stories but they were far less clear than someone's hand being lopped off.
Tyrion's appointment as Master of Coin was the culmination of a very funny scene (as the Small Council rearranges its chairs) and it was good to hear about the Royal debts to Braavos and the Lannisters. But I was confused by Pod's return with cash in hand. The comic overtone that the whores had done it for free is surely not the answer. Surely there were Baelish's girls and so the natural assumption would be that he had laid them on as a gift for Tyrion, right? No one voiced that though. Nor have we really explored why Pod is so loyal. Or who Baelish is leaving in charge while he's away. In fact the idea of Baelish marrying Lady Aryn is a mystery that needs more than Varys' raised eyebrows to address. Obviously we know she is not the most stable person (106) and unlikely to get on with Baelish but there's also the question of Catelyn. I mean if Baelish still hopes to be with her someday this won't help him. Or will it? Is this his plan to take Sansa north with him? Could Baelish really betray the Lannisters for love? It doesn't sound right.
Similarly Dany's offer of a dragon in exchange for the Unsullied was definitely an impactful moment. However it prompted a lot of questions. For a start will the dragon remain loyal to its mother, making this a trick on her part? Will the Unsullied come with a fleet to help transport them? I liked hearing Ser Jorah's moral argument for how the Unsullied would make a better army than any other but it all felt very rushed. Dany's questions to her new slave girl didn't reveal much and made me slightly question the actress playing Missandei who seemed more blank than subservient.
A third story that felt rushed and full of questions was Mance Rayder's decision to storm the Wall. He gave the order for twenty men to scale it as if they'd only just come up with it which didn't feel like a grand strategy. It also doesn't feel like long enough for us to have got a sense of what Jon's thinking. I think we needed a lot more explanation of the logistics of moving thousands of Wildlings south and how they would avoid running into the Walkers who are clearly ahead of them. The pattern of dead horses seems to confirm the impression in the pilot that "corpse art" is intentional.
At least Theon's story was deliberately mysterious. His torture was so inconclusive that I expected his pursuit to be part of some elaborate test. Instead it would seem at least part of it was sincere as his torturers were all killed including a moment which recalled Sean Bean's death in Lord of the Rings.
I had no problem with Sam returning to Craster's camp to be faced with the obvious dilemma of Gilly giving birth to a boy. But it was pretty awkward to have Sam just stick his head into the birthing tent for a good minute.
Best Moment: The Jaime story was very strong and made for a far better closing moment than we usually get. In a way I hope the story about Brienne's father is a lie as it would confirm that Jaime really went out of his way for her.
Conclusion: I'm a little disappointed that so many stories seemed to lack the kind of obvious explanations or questions that would have illuminated them. I have no fear that answers are coming but once more it makes you wonder if the producers ought to consider focussing on one character's story at a time.
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