Monday, April 29, 2013

Game of Thrones review: "Kissed by Fire"

Loyalty is a slippery thing. It shifts with victory, defeat, duty, love, lust, bitterness or any number of other reasons. This week's somewhat dull episode (even with hot tubs and butts) featured various characters grappling with what loyalty -- and trust -- means to them.

Jaime, who last season spoke of being torn by loyalty to a crazy king, laid out in more detail his reasoning for killing him: to stop him from destroying the city with a bunch of wildfire hidden in strategic locations. Once again, Jaime's so-called betrayal as Hand of the King brings up the question of blind loyalty. He knows, and now Brienne knows, he did what he did for good reason. But no one else would understand that -- including the honorable Ned Stark -- so Jaime has kept it a secret all these years and painfully grinned through the Kingslayer moniker.

Barristan Selmy, on the other hand, remained loyal until the end to the mad king, and was awarded a place in Robert's Kingsguard because of it. Now he's serving another Targaryan, but it feels like his intentions are a little more squishy.

Robb chose to stay true to the moral compass set by his father, personally beheading a man who killed two innocent boys. No matter that the man was the main Karstark, whose army had aligned itself with Robb's and whose family is entwined with the Starks going back generations. The Karstarks are no longer on Robb's side. (It's the second time Robb has chosen the personal path instead of the political one, the first being his marriage to Talisa instead of the Frey girl.)

Jon Snow had to prove his loyalty to the Wildlings by offering up strategic information about The Wall. But he sealed the deal, so to speak, by giving up his once-solid oath of celibacy. (More thoughts on this later.)

Jorah is now fiercely devoted to Dany, but he started out as a spy for King's Landing. Is his current loyalty enough to erase his initial motives?

Stannis' scale-faced daughter learns that her favorite adult, Davos, is branded a traitor, but she doesn't care. Meanwhile, Stannis himself is given a free pass to make shadow babies with someone other than his wife because it's supposedly in service of the Lord of Light.

And the Lord of Light has his own loyal following, including the Brotherhood Without Banners and their leader, Beric Dondarrion, whose frequent resurrections(!) give him good reason to believe.

Once again, the thematic thread that runs through the episode is solid and offers the cohesion necessary in such a large tapestry. But I'm starting to grow impatient with a couple of storylines.

Not much has really been happening with Jon and the Wildlings -- just a series of stagings, really. Last night something actually did happen with Jon and Ygritte, but the two of them haven't been paired together much this season, so their coupling seemed more academic than romantic. Where was the spark from last season when he was her prisoner?

And Stannis. Sigh. The man just sulks about now, with nothing to offer. I think "Kissed by Fire" was supposed to maybe soften him up a bit, with the appearance of his daughter and a glimpse into what he deals with regarding his wife, who keeps her three stillborn sons on display. But it didn't work on me. (I was, however, drawn in by the cuteness of the daughter and Davos becoming reading buddies.)

Other thoughts:
-- I loved the bulk of the bath scene between Jaime and Brienne -- major kudos once again to Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. It showed a great deal about the friendship that has grown between them, first that Brienne is trusting enough to bare herself to Jaime, and second that Jaime trusts her enough to bare his soul about the mad king. All of that loveliness was undone, though, by the final theatrical-in-a-bad-way moments: "The Kingslayer!" "My name is Jamie..." If he had a hand to put to his forehead, I'm sure he would have.

-- Apparently Joffrey takes after his grandpa, because Tywin just becomes a worse human being in every episode. Sansa gets screwed again. Cersei gets knocked down a little more.

-- Maisie Williams (Arya) does best when she gets to play off adults. Which is good, because she's about to be all alone again now that Gendry has decided to stay with the Brotherhood.

What did everyone else think?

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