Game of Thrones: The Bear and the Maiden Fair, Review

George R.R. Martin writes an episode that bares all....

Good Seven Lords, the ending of that episode was so intense I could hardly BEAR it. Yes, to the surprise of no book reader, the episode entitled “The Bear and Maiden Fair” was the one where Jaime Lannister pulled a San Diego Channel 4 News Team by commencing in a BEAR FIGHT to save Brienne. It was epic, it was gnarly and it was…at the end of the episode. There are still some on the Internet who claim Game of Thrones is not as good as it used to be. But when I look at the four previous blockbusters we have received in a row, it is clear that Game of Thrones is in its prime and never been better. Hence, it not being no surprise that this week, written by George R.R. Martin himself, only ratcheted up the breathtaking awe and dread (they go in equal hand) even further. It had castle intrigue, violence, torture, super magical dragons and more than a few great lines of dialogue. Also, considering Mr. Railroad himself, lord and creator of this entire realm to which HBO bends the knee, wrote the episode, it meant the return of copious amounts of nudity following a two-week dry spell. What more could a premium cable audience want? This episode more or less kicks off on Martin’s more physical interests. Yes, there is some stuff about the warg who tried to kill Jon Snow and Ygritte last week during their ice climbing escapades, but the show gets down to business at Robb’s camp. His mother, the seemingly liberated Catelyn, is carrying about how much of a grumpy curmudgeon Lord Frey is and the Black Fish is talking something about wet poops (don’t ask), but Robb is only thinking about what is on the mind of every dirty minded producer at HBO: showing off Queen Talisa/Oona Chaplin’s royal throne. And while it is surely a golden one at that, I have a fun fact for you: She is Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter. Yep, the Tramp’s little girl. Don’t you feel ashamed? In any event, the scene at least serves one major purpose besides revealing that Robb Stark can still smile when he isn’t demoralizing bannermen by cutting off their heads or chastising his uncle for his own mistakes. Talisa reveals that the Young Wolf is about to have a young pup because she’s pregnant! Another Stark is coming into the world. May the Seven help the kid, because he/she is going to be surrounded by relatives just itching to make horrible strategic blunders. I can just see Robb grimly and reluctantly insisting on performing the circumcision himself. The doctor will plead otherwise. But as Robb says, “The man who passes the sentence…” If the first few minutes were about sex and its effects, including Jon Snow getting some much needed pointers from Giantsbane, then it quickly turned into a witty, romantic sex comedy. Down in King’s Landing, Lady Sansa Stark, betrothed to a Lannister Lord whom she barely knows, was having a good cry with her royal BFF Margaery Tyrell. “How can I make the best of my circumstances?” the young ingénue pleaded to her best pal during a sun-soaked walk in the garden. “I have to marry HIM!” But Margaery is all ready to drop some wisdom on the leading lady: He is kind to you and is LIKE SO MUCH better than the rest of his family. Totally. She even gives Tyrion some props when Sansa worries about making love to a dwarf. “He’s rather good looking even with the scar. Especially with the scar!” She even points out that Tyrion has a reputation for being an Imp about town when it comes to the ladies. Sheesh Sansa, why so glum about marrying a dwarf twice your age who is related to the family who killed your father and is trying to kill your brother? Concurrently, Tyrion is chilling down with his bro, Bronn. “She’s a child!” the short Lannister protests. Also, to Tyrion’s horror, Shae is becoming furious. Bronn tries to set his homie straight. “Shae is a whore. Are you going to marry her? How did marrying a whore work out for you the last time?” Between swigs of wine, Tyrion begrudgingly concedes the point. Bronn even breaks it down further: “You want to fuck the Stark girl, you just don’t want to admit it.” I SMELL A ROMCOM!  Seriously, it is a wonderful bit of writing on Martin’s part, both in the book and now the show, that places two of the only sympathetic characters in King’s Landing in a horrendous situation. We as an audience know that Tyrion is an amazing guy who would fall on his sword for the women in his life. He already kind of did for his first wife in a way. Yet, does anyone want to condone a wedding between Peter Dinklage and Sophie Turner?! Martin is taking the kind of schmaltzy plotting of your standard Philippa Gregory novel and turning it on its head into a Gordian Knot of moral ambiguity and just plain ol’ ickiness. With that said, I will give a Gold Star to the first commenter who discovers—OR MAKES—a fake Internet trailer for this unlikely love story about when opposites attract in this episode. And a personal recommendation and mention in next week’s review if it includes the song, “Call Me Maybe.” You just know it already exists. Meanwhile, we get the scene I have waited for all season… Joffrey versus Tywin. Actually, the scene plays out more like Tywin sneezes and Joffrey throws in the towel. It seems that the King of the Seven Kingdoms has his robes in a bunch because Tywin has moved the Small Council meeting to the Tower of the Hand. Joffrey has been unable to attend, as it would require he walk up all those steps to run his kingdom when he is not murdering whores in his bedroom. Tywin takes one step of his own up the royal dais to the Iron Throne and Joffrey’s composure instantly implodes inward. It is actually an amazing bit of acting by the always-underrated Jack Gleason, as his Joffrey literally looks as if he is ready to hide behind the 200-sword chair for protection. Instead, he just squirms and avoids eye contact while Tywin puts the child in his place. The interaction is so amusing between Gleason’s coward and Charles Dance’s patriarchal tyrant that it is easy to miss that Joffrey has a good point. Why aren’t they doing something about the Targaryen girl with dragons across the Narrow Sea? Tywin does not put much stock in dragons or magic, kiddo. However, this is the same Tywin Lannister who underestimated the Young Wolf who took hostage his eldest son at the Battle of the Whispering Wood a year ago. Perhaps he should quit underestimating the younger generation just because his grandkid’s a moron… Across that oh-so Narrow Sea, Daenerys and her cultural oddity dragons are putting the fear of R’hllor into the denizens of the slave city of Yunkai. Despite being able to take her 8,000 Unsullied and three greyhound-sized dragons to Westeros now, the Khaleesi has chosen to become a platinum-haired Spartacus. Thus, she has parked her supposedly unbeatable army outside of the next biggest slave town, even though Ser Jorah believes it to be a waste of resources. A representative of Yunkai comes to have a détente with the Mother of Dragons and to bribe her for diplomacy. If she will just spare their city from war, Yunkai will happily provide her with an entire Navy for transporting her forces to Westeros tomorrow. Instead, she has her three still stunningly beautiful demon dragons threaten his life and forces him to leave his gold in her keeping. If Yunkai does not free all its slaves tomorrow, she will lay siege and sack the city.  This should start becoming a very interesting moment of moral confusion for audiences. Should Dany just go from slave city to slave city and massacre thousands so she can feel morally superior? I personally think she is likely making the ethically righteous judgment in sequences like this. Slavery is an abomination and for a girl who was once a slave to her older brother’s whims, she has cleverly avoided seeming like a monster to the Westeros PR machine while she gains once-chained recruits all across Essos. However, what is morally correct is rarely the right decision in the world of Martin. After all, Ned Stark was more honorable than them all, but he was sadly too far ahead of his time. Dany’s moral obligation in these moments forces her to abandon the golden opportunity of a fractured Westerosi power vacuum at its knees in favor of playing the role of liberator/conqueror in the Far East. Worse, it means she will not be feeding Joffrey to a dragon anytime soon! Alas, I suppose the audience will just have to settle for her barbecuing more slavers. At the very least, it is a pretty nifty consolation prize. For us, anyway. Time will tell for the Mother of Dragons. read more: Game of Thrones Season 8 – Everything We KnowWith all this awesomeness going on, one can almost forget that this brilliantly written hour of television is still from the hand of Martin. And it has been a good 30 minutes since a sex scene. Hence, lo and behold and rejoice for another random torture scene is here! At this point, one should half expect Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw from the Saw franchise to shuffle out during Theon’s sad sack season. When we do come back to him this week, imagine my surprise that it is two comely servant girls, one of whom was once apparently a septa (Westerosi for nun) back in the day! Of course, anyone with a brain can tell this is just another mind game from that mysterious bastard in the wings. Indeed, even the perpetually slow Theon has finally caught on that there is no happy ending in this storyline. He pleads with the two nymphs to help him escape and tries mightily to resist their charms. But when they both undress to take turns riding him, the poor turncloak cannot help but be lifted into the game. Sure enough, as soon as Theon takes a moment of reprieve in the grinding, his sadistic tormentor returns with a knife to claim the apparently famous Greyjoy sword between Theon’s legs. Didn’t he tell you there is no happy ending here for you, Theon? You can practically hear Jigsaw scream “GAME OVER” as the blade clashes with Theon’s last weapon. There were plenty of other interesting elements this week. Melisandre finally revealed to Gendry that he is the last TRUE son of Robert Baratheon. Also, Arya escaped the rat nest that is the Brotherhood Without Banners, only to fall into the clutches of the Hound. Yet, the most fascinating aspect was undoubtedly “The Bear and the Maiden Fair.” Lord Bolton, headed for Edmure Tully’s wedding to the Frey girl (along with Jaime’s best wishes), has sent the Kingslayer packing back to King’s Landing with disgraced maester Qyburn. Jaime is reluctant to leave his longtime companion Brienne at Harrenhal, but keeps his pledge to the Beauty of Tarth that he shall send Sansa and Arya Stark back to their mother. But once outside the ruined castle, Qyburn lets slip that Brienne is likely in her own nightmare because Locke, the taker of Jaime’s hand, is intending to kill her for his own amusement. Thus, Jaime throws his weight around as the son of Tywin Lannister and gets a chance to quickly revisit the haunted hall. Unfortunately, he is already a bit late considering Brienne is bloody and beaten as she fends off a bear with a wooden sword for Locke’s entertainment. No matter what I write here, I cannot do justice to this scene. I am still unsure how they staged this pulse pounder, but a Grizzly Bear roughly the size of a trailer (his real name is Bart) stood with Brienne’s stunt double and gave her a right good thrashing across the face to Jaime’s horror. Out of desperation, Jaime does his best Ron Burgandy impression and jumps into the pit with the furry monstrosity to save his lady friend from a deadly hug. Their escape from his clutches is another series highlight in a season that already has featured close to half a dozen of them.  This is a truly inspiring hour of television. I am still unclear how the producers achieved their greatest sequences and I do not care. As with the previous two episodes penned by Martin (one of which is “Blackwater”), the show’s pace flowed perfectly in spite of gratuitous nudity. It was witty, clever and terrifying. Indeed, Theon had to bare something even more awful than Jaime and Brienne suffered this week. This season is building to something ominous. None of the Westerosi-set storylines feel like happy days are right around the corner. For a show once criticized as slow, Game of Thrones is moving like a freight train towards some awful, immovable object. Hold on to your maester’s chain. This series had another climactic moment and we still have not reached the final two episodes of the season. Until then, start looking for those gold more: Game of Thrones Season 8 Predictions and Theories


5 out of 5