Monday, April 15, 2013

Game of Thrones review: Walk of Punishment

I hope you'll forgive me, because I need to be an unabashed fan this week. That was probably the most fun I've had watching an episode of this series, from the opening scene of bad marksmanship to the rock song rolling over the final credits.

A rundown:

1) What starts out as a solemn moment -- Catelyn's late father being put out to sea -- turns into farce when her brother fails three times to get his flaming arrow to the body to spark the funeral pyre. The first miss and hollow plunk as the arrow hit the water was classic, because it turns that staple of medieval movies on its head -- those arrows always hit on the first shot. As Robb barely suppresses a laugh, Catelyn's uncle steps up to the plate, aims and fires, then turns away before it hits its mark in that cocky way people have when they know their shot is true. That first scene really set the tone for the rest of the episode.

(Bad marksmanship isn't her brother's only blunder. He also botched Robb's plans to bring the ruthless Mountain out into the open so he could be killed, ruining a perfectly good war strategy. And don't worry for poor Catelyn: She got her chance to grieve, in a nice moment with her uncle.)

2) The small council! So much deliciousness was happening in that musical chairs scene, all of it so telling of the characters: Littlefinger rushing to the seat nearest Tywin. Cersei strolling in behind everyone else, then moving her chair to Tywin's other side. Tyrion noisily dragging his chair to the foot of the table, to be on equal ground with his father. Varys poking fun at Littlefinger by rubbing in the fact that Roose Bolton holds Harrenhal, a castle bestowed on Littlefinger last season. Littlefinger's face shifting from amused to crestfallen when Tywin then calls Harrenhal a worthless piece of rubble. I could not stop chuckling. (This show really should be spun off into several two-person series: Littlefinger and Varys, Tyrion and Bronn, Brienne and Jamie...)

3) Whether Tyrion bribed Pod's prostitutes to refuse his money or not (as some theories suggest), I enjoyed watching the young squire return triumphant and somewhat bewildered. Also with that sequence, "Game of Thrones" went from sexing up lineage to sexing up finances -- Tyrion and Bronn were in the middle of a rather droll conversation about how hopelessly in debt King's Landing is. Finally, I'm amused that prostitutes are the only gift Tyrion ever thinks of giving.

4) I cheered a little at this line from Dany, as she walked out of Astapor with the slave she intends to free: "All men must die. But we are not men."

5) I loved the rock version of "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" by The Hold Steady over the end credits -- not so much the song on its own, but its very existence. It was jarring, for sure, but it's not like it came after some solemn event -- it came after an equally jarring behanding. In other words, it fit the moment.

And speaking of that behanding...

Jamie has steadily been growing into a more sympathetic, layered and understandable character, far from the guy who shoved a boy out a window. Though he's been pushing Brienne's buttons, he's come to care for his companion, and genuinely tries to protect her from being raped by their captors, or at least to prepare her for it. (And Brienne got to jab him back, taking aim of his combat skills.) In trying to convince their main captor to back off -- while the assault happened off-screen, with yells from both Brienne and the men, indicating she was putting up a good fight as promised -- Jaime adopted the same conspiratorial tone of voice he used last season when he lured an admiring cellmate to his death in an escape attempt. (Props to Nikolaj Coster-Waldau for that choice.) Only this time the person he hoped to sway was not a child, but a man who could see through the bull. While it did seem to work on one level -- Brienne was brought back, apparently unscathed -- Jaime ultimately felt the effects of "no good deed goes unpunished." The loss of his hand isn't a triumph, but a tragedy. And as for the action itself: That's how you end an episode.

Other thoughts:
-- Another shocker was Dany offering up one of her dragons as payment for the Unsullied. But after seeing that hideously long line of strung-up slaves, who look forward to death because at least they would be free, I can understand her motivation. That, plus Jorah's again-sage advice that the Unsullied would not take collateral victims, as a regular army would. Still, I would hope/guess that Dany won't give up her dragon so easily.
-- Amid all the tomfoolery was the nice little moment when Arya and Gendry said goodbye to Hot Pie. It made me sad to see them part, and I wanted to hug Arya for telling Hot Pie that she liked his wolf bread.
-- North of the wall, it feels like people are being situated for something epic.
-- I still have no idea what's going on with Theon.

Did everyone else have fun?

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