You really got to give Game of Thrones a hand this week for turning the screws. With both exposition episodes out of the way (big cast), the show really seems free now to escalate things with some handy torture scenes. And I just want to say well done [insert hand pun here].
Yes, in the first week of real tension building for Season 3, Jaime Lannister, the world-renowned Kingslayer, lost the appendage with which that famed king was indeed slain. It was an amazing scene where Jaime proved yet again that he is more than the sister-banging/Stark-crippling fiend we thought him to be in the pilot. Despite his taunts and threats, the Kingslayer showed pity on Brienne the Beauty for whom rape seemed all but certain at the hands of their captors. Using those silver tongue gifts for which he and brother Tyrion were bountifully blessed (and Cersei woefully denied), he managed to convince Roose Bolton’s men that the inconsequential Isle of Tarth, Brienne’s home, was worth its weight in sapphires. If they spared Brienne the ends of any blades, including the ones underneath their belts, they would LIKE TOTALLY be paid a fortune. One could just imagine the classic Dinklage eye roll if Tyrion had been present at this scene.
Yet, just as when Jaime stopped the Mad King’s cryptic “burn them all” orders, his moment of humanity is soon repaid by an unintended kindness from men whose flag sigil consists of a guy being skinned alive. With the speed and dexterity of a character in an Evil Dead film, the Bolton bastard separated one of the greatest sword-hands in Westeros from his sword hand.
…Oh yeah, there is a whole rest of this episode to review before we can continue to wallow in this cosmic irony.
As stated above, this show marks real movement for all the stories (featured) this week. And to varying degrees, which are not as severe as Jaime’s, they all developed from acts of pain.
The opening moment, which crystallized this week of self-flagellation, was Edumre Tully’s humiliation at the funeral for his father. In a pretty chunk of morning scenery, all the nobility of Riverrun has come out to say goodbye to Hoster Tully, father of Catelyn Stark and grandfather to Robb. On a personal note, can I just say, as someone who literally read HUNDREDS of pages on this old curmudgeon gripping on to the last strands of mortal coil like he was freaking Rasputin, that it is wonderful to see the show’s writers choose to introduce and kill him off in the same scene? Bon voyage, Hoster!
…Anyway, the Old Man Tully is being sent off in Riverrun fashion where his son must light his boat to the afterlife on fire via a burning arrow. Edmure, Cat’s younger brother, has the heavy duty. Edmure is played by Tobias Menzies; a great character actor who has made a career out of finding humanity in the weakly powerful and power in the weakly human. For example, he played the tragic Marcus Brutus on HBO’s Rome and, just recently, the sniveling Soviet commander in this week’s Doctor Who. HBO’s Edmure Tully is not so different. He cannot honor his father with a burning arrow (which he did successfully do on his third try in the book) and must leave the responsibility to his uncle. He then must also face the wrath of King Robb for engaging and defeating the Mountain’s forces in a skirmish by the river. Sure, Edmure won a minor victory that landed them two boy Lannister hostages, but the Mountain retreated east and away from Robb’s larger forces with whom Robb had laid a trap to kill the Mountain. Five minutes in Riverrun and already everyone is miserably whipping themselves. It surely is Team Stark.
If their moods are sour, then Theon’s has turned completely putrid. That’s kind of what happens when you are tortured at every end by Bolton men (I’m starting to notice a pattern…). Luckily, a strange young man whose name I keep missing happens to free Theon and help him escape the Northerners with an intense horse chase. When the Bolton men catch up with Theon, the strange helper appears again to put the enemies in the ground. This helper, whose name and station keeps getting glossed over, has saved Theon’s life twice now. Considering the Northerners believe Theon burned Winterfell and killed the Stark boys, there is something that just reeks about this subplot…
It is also reeking in Astapor where Daenerys is still trying to buy an army of Eunuchs. Walking along a wall of punishment where slaves are being crucified by their masters, the Khaleesi who was once adamant that she does not have a gentle heart, attempts to offer a dying man water. He refuses, believing his punishment is deserved. The look on her face is not so much horror as anger. Dany truly hates slavery, yet to the stunned silence of Ser Jorah and all of television, she still intends to buy the Unsullied slaves. All of them. An army of 8,000 men with nary a spear between the lot of them in sight. And how will she pay for this elite fighting force? By SELLING A DRAGON. That’s right, Dany agreed to sell her biggest dragon (the red-winged Drogon from all the money shots for those who like to keep track) in return for a slave army. The thought of that is so mind-bendingly absurd that we as an audience know there must be more to it. The fact that it cuts away from the story until next week agonizingly reminds me why I wish these episodes were released all at once, Netflix-style.
Until then, rest assured that there is more to this bargain.
In all these tales of woe, it is nice to see one of friendship. Aye, this week marked the last time we may see Hot Pie. The plump hanger-on of Team Arya decided to stay at an inn loyal to the Brotherhood without Banners. He will be allowed to work in the kitchen and bake bread while hopefully never seeing another man disemboweled by a rat for the rest of his days. One cannot blame him for wanting such simple things, but the sad truth is that we are going to miss his whining from five steps behind Arya and Gendry. The three of them form a triumvirate of orphan badassery not dissimilar to Dickensian protagonists. It is a sign that these “happier” days of Arya’s childhood may be coming to an end. Still, it is a touching moment when he makes her an amorphous piece of bread and claims that it is in the shape of a wolf (I was thinking elephant). It is a shame that the three didn’t eat it together and have a hug, but the goodbye was appropriately bittersweet and awkward. Just like Hot Pie. I hope they stay friends on Facebook.
Meanwhile, Tyrion made a friend for life out of his squire, Podrick Payne. True, Payne is already loyal to the Impish Lannister and did save his life at the Battle of the Blackwater. But now, he must love his boss like a fraternity brother. In the most shamelessly hilarious moment of gratuitous nudity in HBO history, Tyrion acts as MC at Littlefinger’s Brothel when he brings out not one, not two, but THREE courtesans for Podrick’s pleasure. And it is only the best for Tyrion’s squire, as this is the A-Team of whoring. There is one who specializes in virgins like Podrick. There is another who is double jointed and can do some twisted circus tricks just in her intro. And then other one can…take off her clothes, fast? In any event, Podrick is in for a good time and Tyrion cannot wait to hear all the gory details.
Which brings us back to the juiciest one of the week: Jaime Lannister. For a man who claims to care for nothing but himself, he stuck his neck out to a surprising length this episode. He literally lost the hand that made him the most feared sword master in Westeros for a woman he tried to kill only a week ago.
Do we pity him? I doubt the show’s producers do, given the song choice that plays the episode out. Indeed, there is almost a sick sense of justice in the moment because that is the hand that pushed Bran out of a tower and put the Lannisters on a crash course with the Starks. At the same time, he is just so wittily awesome, that it is repulsive these brutes would give one of the greatest warriors in Westeros such an ignominious end to his career. I say career, because while his sword hand is gone, his cunning is not. A lifestyle change is in order for the Kingslayer and one that may actually be for the better. Perhaps he will consider going into stand-up comedy with Tyrion? In any event, before he can adjust, he has a whopping debt to pay. And the ledger for the Bolton boys is leaking red. If I were a betting man, I’d wage they’ll soon be drowning in it.
That was a fun episode. I wonder…will Jaime think twice before he gives Brienne another hand?