This review contains spoilers.
3.7 The Bear and the Maiden Fair
The episodes written by George R. R. Martin have traditionally been some of the best of their particular season. Since he’s the man who invented the characters that inhabit this world (and the world itself for that matter), it’s only natural that he seems to have the deftest touch when it comes to creating episodes and writing for the characters. In his hands, the already sharp dialogue gets that much sharper, honed and clever without being forced. His scripts tend to feel very natural, which is pretty impressive when you have slaver kings being threatened by dragons.
That is a very important skill to have when dealing with a dialogue-heavy episode, and this one certainly is. This was the romance edition of Game of Thrones, with most of the focus being put on the show’s relationship pairings, from the romantic to the bromantic to the confusingly father/daughter. One of the least developed relationships, Robb Stark and Talisa (Oona Chaplin), actually gets a fair amount of screen time this week and surprisingly, in Martin’s hands, the couple seems to actually have some chemistry. Not as much as Jon Snow and Ygritte, who continue to steam up the North no matter which side of the Wall they’re on with some of their best and cutest banter to date.
Balancing out the brilliant scripting is some great visual directing work from Michelle MacLaren. She proves to be a deft hand with the camera, and the CGI crew is more than up to the task of bringing her vision to the screen. The dragons hanging out in Dany’s throne tent looked great, but the long and lingering trip of the slaver litter through camp – and its many rows of Unsullied lining the road and generally looking very intimidating – show just how much of a force to be reckoned with the Mother of Dragons is, even without her dragons. However, the show is satisfying not just with its flash, there’s also a lot of substance. The weekly Tywin Lannister scene, in this case a confrontation/discussion with Joffrey, is sheer brilliance on the part of all parties. It’s shot well, choreographed wonderfully, and the acting choices made by Charles Dance and Jack Gleeson said much more about the relationship between those characters than their exchanged words ever could.
The show has been doing something the past few weeks that I find pretty interesting. Rather than jump around without much purpose, they have been picking and choosing their jumps to keep certain story lines together. For example, Margaery and Sansa are having a discussion in the garden about how to make the best of Sansa’s new betrothal to Tyrion Lannister. From Sansa and her confidant we jump immediately to Tyrion and his confidant, Bronn, talking about the very same issue. It’s a clever bit of organization, and a good way to keep story lines properly connected. Jon Snow and Robb Stark serve as a matched set to open the episode. Gendry and Arya are backed into one another in the middle of the episode despite being separated by leagues of ocean travel.
Much like the show’s opening catch-up, it helps keep things organized and helps the audience to make the proper connections between characters and to keep everyone straight. Given Game of Thrones‘ massive assortment of characters (I had forgotten the name of Robb’s wife, though I remembered the actress thanks to her Chaplin connection). Some big steps were taken this week to move the pieces the show has to play with, but there are still a great number of pieces to keep track of and any little bits of help it’s willing to give us are greatly appreciated by those of us who stay up late nights to do things like this. I think we’d all want more Tyrion, but season three is doing a better job of keeping him involved/stretching out his storyline than they did with Daenerys last season, and Dany is very much paying off in this run.
However, with only three episodes left in the third season, it might be time to stop shifting pieces around and start knocking them off the board. The ninth episode is traditionally the episode where the landscape really changes for Game of Thrones, and I have to wonder if that’s going to hold true in the third season simply because they’re splitting up the third book of the series into two seasons. Will we have a season of (satisfying) set-up with a follow-up season of spectacular knock-downs? They were able to do that with Daenerys and her rag-tag bunch this run after a second season of planning; will they have the guts to do that with an entire TV series, or do I need to prepare myself for something even more awesome than tonight’s episode next week and beyond? Will they finally explain the torture of Theon besides just reminding us how he deserves it?
Knowing how the show seems to work, I should be prepared for some next-level craziness in two weeks. I’m not quite sure what form it is going to take, but I’ve got no doubt it will be impressive.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, The Climb, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan was impressed to see such a great deal of pre-show warning letters on the parental advisory page. That’s how you know it’s going to be a good night in Westeros. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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