This review contains spoilers.
3.5 Kissed By Fire
Introducing new players is always a tough task. Just ask Da Vinci’s Demons, which struggles to differentiate characters in any significant way in terms of look, if not personality. Game of Thrones does not have those concerns, as the show introduces multiple new characters this week (and this season) without batting an eye. It’s a skill that is difficult to master, but Game of Thrones has the advantage of having a cast and crew with whom we’re already familiar to make the job easier.
Writer Bryan Cogman may have had one of the more difficult episodes in recent memory to write. He had some of the more challenging scenes and most delicate pairings to balance. Given the task he took on, you could say he was wildly successful simply because he pulled off one of my most-wanted pairings: Olenna and Tyrion. Just having Tyrion in any scene raises the pressure, yet Cogman pulls it off brilliantly and manages to show in one brief moment that the Queen of Thorns is more of a player of the game of thrones than any man in King’s Landing. Diana Rigg is fantastic in this role, and she plays the power behind house Tyrell terrifically, as someone who is not to be trifled with by some browbeaten bookkeeper, as she so adroitly describes Tyrion.
It definitely felt like a fan-pleasing episode, as plenty of simmering pots finally came to the boil involving various characters. Between the thaw in the relationship between Jamie and Brienne and the actual simmering water involved in Ygritte and Jon Snow’s romp in the hot springs, there was a great deal of fan service going on this week, and not in a negative way. It all seems to be developed well, with things moving slowly (or quickly, as appropriate).
Importantly, the pace of the episode seemed to slow down a great deal. As well as actually getting time with Snow and the Wildlings, Stannis and the Dragonstone sections were allowed to breathe and linger, helping things like Shireen visiting Davos in prison work on a surprisingly deep emotional level. Ditto Jaime and Brienne’s discussion of the Kingslayer name. By pairing off characters and leaving the amount of hopping around to a minimum, it added something of an easier flow between scenes, with less of the jarring that comes along with the usual “two minutes and we jump to Astapor” style. The shorter scenes (particularly with the Unsullied) had more punch while the longer scenes seemed to resonate a little deeper.
Credit has to go to director Alex Graves, who did a wonderful job handling both the actors and the action this week. The show has some great balance, and it’s nice that it can work in both a vicious sword fight and a vicious dressing-down at the meeting table in the same week without losing all the sex and comedy that we’re used to. Graves has done some wonderful work with the actors, with Maisie Williams translating Arya Stark’s burning fury in a brilliant way, and Nicolaj Coster-Waldau putting in a masterfully heartbreaking performance during the Kingslayer’s bathtub breakdown.
To the show’s credit, they seem to have a lot of faith that the viewers can follow along with seasons-old plot threads, but then Game of Thrones also has the best “Previously On” montages on television. If you see something from the first season, the second season, or last week, you know it’s going to be important and it’s something you should look out for (or possibly refresh yourself on). Much as the opening credit clockworks tip off viewers to new locations every week, the catch-up pre-credit scene is something that shouldn’t be ignored. Otherwise, you might know nothing, Jon Snow.
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