Monday, December 5, 2016

Game of Thrones Rewatch 3.7: "The Bear and the Maiden Fair"

3.7 “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”
Written by George R.R. Martin
Directed by Michelle MacLaren
Commentary by George R.R. Martin and Michelle MacLaren

While the title of the episode, as Martin points out, comes from the bear pit incident at the end of the episode, it also sort of gestures to the amount of relationship issues that are happening in this episode. It’s a very romance- and sex-heavy episode, in just about every sense, from gentle, loving pairings to outright manipulative torture-porn (literally).

Martin claims that only about half of this episode is actually his; during editing, a lot of the scenes got moved around so that a lot of the episode is Benioff and Weiss’ work. On my first viewing, I’d already guessed at one of the scenes that Martin says isn’t his—in any way. Doesn’t appear in the books, and he didn’t write it. On watching all these episodes and listening to the commentaries, I’ve seen a pattern with the writers; sexposition and other unnecessary nudity scenes are almost always entirely the responsibility of Benioff and Weiss, and the other writers are quick to pass the credit (or blame) to them rather than taking it on themselves. I know there are professional and contractual obligations on the part of everyone involved in a show to not bad-mouth the show, but I wonder how much of this is the (other) writers being deeply uncomfortable with just how much nudity is in the show and how often Benioff and Weiss add it to their episodes, and thus how often it appears under their names.

The scene in this particular episode is the one in which Ramsay devises a new form of torture for Theon—sending in two of “his” girls (invented entirely for the show) to get Theon all worked up before preparing to take away his “most precious body part.” It’s clearly a scene meant to further establish just how horrible Ramsay is (they’re still referring to him as “the boy”), but it falls over a line into torture porn. The girls play with Theon, who is clearly freaked out and in no mood to attempt any kind of sexytimes. The blonde one shoves her hands down his pants multiple times even though he keeps pulling away from her and asking her to stop. The brunette gets naked and climbs on top of him, trying to manually stimulate him. Only when Theon does start to get turned on and does start to participate does Ramsay burst in, verifying Theon’s fear that this was all a setup. So, essentially, Theon is sexually assaulted and then has his penis removed (that part, at least, isn’t shown on screen). Once again, this takes Theon into a feminized realm; most of the time, men aren’t/can’t be sexually assaulted (at least, that’s the attitude in this sort of hyper-masculine culture). However, instead of just threatening him and then having him rescued this time, Benioff and Weiss not only have Theon sexually assaulted, but do it via two young, pretty women in such a way that seems calculated to titillate and even arouse the audience. It is, in short, one of the more disgusting scenes they’ve put on screen so far in the series.

Interestingly, while discussing this scene with Michelle MacLarin in the commentary, Martin says (of one of the actresses having a Brazilian and that not being period-accurate), “This is a fantasy world, so we don’t have to hew to actual medieval cultures; we have different religions and different gods and different sexual patterns, so anything is possible if you say it’s possible, I guess.” It seems that the necessity of historical accuracy varies by how important it is to Martin for something to be exactly the way he wrote it. (Sorry, was that a bit snarky?)

Meanwhile, lots of other not-disgusting stuff is happening in this episode. Robb and company are heading to the Twins for Edmure’s wedding, and Robb seems extremely flippant about facing a man who’s well-known to be prickly about his “honor” (mostly because he has none) and to whom he swore and oath that he then broke. Only Cat seems to truly understand just how badly this could all go, and nobody’s listening to her. The men have always been terrible about taking advice from Cat, and that’s really what got them into this entire mess, but they persist in not listening to her and pushing forward with their stupid plan.

Once Robb and Talisa are alone, they have some amazingly non-exploitative sex, then Talisa tells Robb she’s pregnant. Because what this plot needed was one more way in which everything could go terribly wrong. Robb and Talisa, of course, are very happy, but then as has been demonstrated, Robb and Talisa are incredibly naïve, bordering on stupid. At least in the books, Robb doesn’t have the benefit of Cat’s frequent reminders that he’s got to keep his word to Walder, and we don’t know just how complicit in breaking his word Jeyne Westerling is. In this case, Talisa has all the information, was raised a noblewoman and so should be quite cognizant of the importance of Robb’s betrothal, and still goes along with him breaking his vow and putting everyone in danger.

Jon and Ygritte are in a similarly fraught relationship; he knows that Mance can’t win this fight because in the past thousand years, no attempted incursion by the Wildlings south of the Wall has succeeded. She thinks he’s underestimating them and worries that he’s going to switch sides again, leaving her alone (or making her kill him). That doesn’t mean it’s all angst all the time; there’s a great bit of a scene where Tormund is giving Jon advice on how to please Ygritte, and it’s actually pretty good advice that focuses on the woman’s enjoyment and not just “taking” her, which I thought was a nice touch. They also have an adorable moment where Ygritte teases Jon about growing up in a castle and Jon teases Ygritte about thinking a windmill is a great feat of building and Ygritte knocks Jon’s sexism down a peg or two. The actors have really great chemistry and Kit Harrington’s constant attempts to not break out laughing at Rose Leslie’s antics really sell how cute these two are.

One issue that becomes evident with Jon’s “not all girls are like you” line is that by streamlining the plot and taking out a few characters—namely Val and Dalla—they’ve fallen into the “not like other girls” trope with Ygritte. There are lots of women like her—spearwives—in the Wildling army, but they got left out of the show, leaving her as an exceptional woman when she shouldn’t be.

Margaery also tries to counsel Sansa on her upcoming wedding. Sansa’s of course very upset about it, and calls herself “a stupid little girl with stupid dreams who never learns.” Margaery tries to convince her that maybe being married to Tyrion won’t be so bad—he’s “hardly the worst Lannister,” after all—and since it’s going to happen, she might as well try to find the best in it. She assures Sansa that sex isn’t so bad, and that Tyrion will likely know how to please her, at least, and nobody knows what they like until they try it. This makes it very clear that Margaery is far more experienced than her book counterpart, whose “sluttishness” and sexual manipulation were all in Cersei’s head. The problem I have with that particular characterization is it means Cersei isn’t just power-mad and delusional, but has an actual point when it comes to Margaery. This will become even more problematic later.

Bronn and Tyrion are also discussing the marriage; Tyrion’s just as unhappy with the idea as Sansa is, but from the opposite side. Sansa’s a child, and Tyrion’s deeply uncomfortable with the idea of having sex with her. Bronn thinks Tyrion’s got it made, with a pretty wife, a great mistress, and the entirety of the North as his own kingdom once Robb’s been removed. Tyrion doesn’t think it’s going to be that easy, and his discussion with Shae about the marriage bears that out. Shae doesn’t like the idea of sharing Tyrion with anyone and once again asks him to run away with her. He, once again, refuses. Martin points out what a lot of viewers/readers have already noticed at this point: this is a very different Shae from in the books. Book-Shae is just a prostitute. She likes Tyrion well enough as long as the money and jewels keep coming, and she’s not too bothered about the marriage because she knows Tyrion will keep coming back to her. Show-Shae has genuine affection—even love—for Tyrion, and seems to resent that she can never really be more to him than his “whore.” It changes the entire dynamic (and makes the end of next season a bit weird) but also lends some depth to a major character who doesn’t have a lot in the books.

The most interesting relationship that’s building in this episode is between Jaime and Brienne. Jaime’s leaving Harrenhal, as is Bolton, which leaves Brienne with Locke and the rest of the Bloody Mummers. Brienne has accepted her fate and tells Jaime that as long as he keeps his word and returns Sansa and Arya to Catelyn, she considers the debt between them paid. She bids him farewell and calls him “Ser Jaime” for the first time ever, which makes his face do a thing, and then he leaves. 

On the way out, there’s a hint of foreshadowing about which way Bolton’s going to fall when he specifically asks Jaime to give his regards to Tywin, and Jaime flippantly asks him to send the Lannister regards to Robb and Edmure since he can’t make it to the wedding. Out on the road, Jaime has a discussion with Qyburn about how he lost his chain (Qyburn, of course, makes it sound monstrously unfair and not like he was playing with black magic at all), and Qyburn tells him that Brienne probably isn’t going to last the night. Jaime’s having none of that, and forces the entire company to turn right around and go back to get Brienne.

When they get there, Brienne’s in the bear pit. This is another area where failing to set up the Bloody Mummers meant missing the foreshadowing for this scene; in the books, they bring the bear in a good bit before this ever happens. Instead, just all of a sudden there’s a pit and a bear and Brienne’s being forced to fight it with a wooden sword. Jaime yells at Locke for a bit to get him to release Brienne, and Locke tells him (verbatim) to go fuck himself, so Jaime jumps down in the pit to try to rescue Brienne, as though he’s going to be able to do anything with no hand and no weapon. He tells Brienne to get behind him, and she says “I will not” and now they’re essentially fighting over who’s protecting who and is this the best “bromance” in the entire series or what?

So Jaime boosts Brienne out of the pit and Brienne hauls Jaime out of the pit (so they’ve rescued each other and they’re even), and as they leave the courtyard, “The Rains of Castamere” begins playing.

A few other, not so friendly, relationships are established in this episode, too. Tywin shows Joffrey who’s boss while Joffrey’s trying to show Tywin who’s boss. Tywin wins, obviously. Daenerys shows the Yunkish ambassador who’s boss because she has dragons. Arya rejects Beric being the boss and runs away, only to get grabbed by Sandor.

A couple of quick notes of interest:

  • Rather than letting Gendry fade into obscurity, they give him Edric Storm’s plotline and have Melisandre haul him back to Dragonstone
  • Missandei isn’t wearing That Dress anymore; her costume now covers her breasts completely
  • Dany’s new costume has a cut that mimics the slave-collar motif without actually being a slave collar. I’m not quite sure how I feel about it yet.
  • It’s really unfortunate that the casting choices pull the whole slavery thing away from a mish-mash of whoever they could capture and force into chains and instead make it look very much like race-based slavery. I’ll have more to say about this during that unfortunate crowd-surfing scene later.

RIP: nobody (!!!!)

Next week: The first appearance of Daario Mark I. Sam becomes the Slayer. Arya and Sandor shenanigans. Melisandre uses her assets (again).

All images from

Monday, November 28, 2016

Game of Thrones Rewatch 3.6: "The Climb"

3.6 “The Climb”
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Alik Sakharov
Commentary by Alik Sakharov, Rose Leslie (Ygritte), and Kit Harrington (Jon Snow)

This is another episode whose title works on two levels—the literal and the figurative. The literal is obvious: the Wildlings and Jon are climbing the Wall. The figurative is also obvious because the writers bludgeon us over the head with it in the form of Petyr’s speech at the end of the episode:

Chaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb, they cling to the realm or the gods or love. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s a great speech. But it makes the theme of the episode a bit obvious. (Despite Benioff’s claim that “themes are for eighth-grade book reports,” these episodes do have themes, and for the most part they do hang together. I’m only in season three, though; we’ll see if I still think this in season six.)

There are three things going on in this episode that are really terrible—one for its sheer shock value, one for its misogyny (and shock value), and one for its problematic portrayal of homosexuality.

Because you’d better believe we’re going to talk about Ros’ death. Alik Sakharov didn’t in the commentary, and Benioff and Weiss didn’t in the “Inside the Episode” follow-up, and I haven’t found any interviews (yet) where anyone talks about it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important and they don’t deserve to be held to account for how blatantly, horribly awful the whole 30-second scene was.

Ros has spent the better part of this season working with Varys to help hold Petyr back and stop some of his plans. Varys and Petyr have played a bit of chess with Sansa, the Tyrells, and the Lannisters, and Petyr won. Sansa’s not leaving with Petyr, but she’s also not marrying Loras. More importantly, Petyr’s discovered Varys’ mole and taken care of her, by handing her over to Joffrey, who wanted to “experiment”—read: kill a person. The reveal of Ros’ fate is equal parts kind of a throw-away scene and incredibly disturbingly voyeuristic. The scene cuts away from Petyr while his voice-over about “the climb” continues; the bit about those who try but fail and never get to try again occurs over this scene. We see Joffrey sitting on a bench in his room, his crossbow on his knee. He looks pretty pleased with himself. He gets up and walks across the room and out of frame; the camera follows him as far as the bed, where Ros is tied to the canopy-rail, four or five crossbow bolts in her body. There’s a long-shot, where we see her entire body for a couple of seconds, and then a closer-in shot that starts at about waist level and pans up to her face, across her nearly-bare breast and the bolt that’s lodged there.

Narratively, Ros’ death is disturbing to a feminist like me, because it’s not only sexualized (as will be discussed more below) but it isn’t about Ros. It’s about the men. Ros dies because she dared to have agency, to work against her “master,” to help protect another girl (Sansa). She dies to reiterate that Petyr and Joffrey are awful, which we already knew. Her death isn’t about the consequences of her own actions, but the machinations of men. She doesn’t earn her death the way Ned, Robb, Tywin, Jon Snow, and even (to an extent) Catelyn do. She’s fridged after two seasons of being used and abused by the men on the show and just over half a season of trying to stop being used and start dictating her own worth. Rhiannon Thomas has done a much longer and more articulate write-up on this scene, and I pretty much agree with everything she says.

Cinematographically, the scene is beyond disturbing—it’s absolutely disgusting. Apologies for the next couple of screenshots; they’re horrible, but they’re necessary to help make my point.

The long-shot on Ros’ body is understandable. She’s dead; they have to establish that she’s really most sincerely dead and how exactly it happened. The disturbing part about this is the number and placement of the crossbow bolts; we’ve already seen that Joffrey’s a crack shot with that thing, so presumably he put those bolts precisely where he wanted them, and it appears that he played with her a bit before killing her. There’s three bolts in the bedposts, one in her hair, one in her upper thigh, one in her forearm, one in her lower belly very close to her crotch, and one in her chest just to the right of her left breast—through the heart, presumably. I’m assuming that’s the one that killed her and the rest were for torture—unless Joffrey decided that using her body for target practice would be fun. All of the wounds appear to be bleeding, so I’m going to assume that they occurred while she was still alive.

They could easily have stopped here, but they didn’t. The next shot pushes in and up from about waist level to just over Ros’ head, passing over her chest and face. Her dress is torn, but her breasts are still covered (this rant would be a lot more strongly-worded otherwise), and her eyes are open. It’s a relatively quick pan, taking only about six seconds, but it covers so little actual space that it feels a lot slower. And it feels voyeuristic and titillating. This shot goes beyond establishing her death and into torture-porn, this woman’s dead and mangled body on display for the enjoyment and/or horror of the audience. There’s no narrative reason for it; we know she’s dead. We don’t need to see that death this up-close. If they insisted on a close-up, they could easily have just done her face. The pan up across her breasts is extraneous and horrifying.

So much abuse of women is focused on this one character that the death is unsurprising, but still really disturbing. By combining several prostitute characters into one and then visiting all the abuse that happens to them, or showing us the aftermath of abuse (the slaying of the Baratheon baby) through Ros, and then killing her in a throwaway scene that yet manages to linger on her sexualized dead body, Benioff and Weiss (and Sakharov and the director of photography) have created a perfect storm of misogynist portrayals and treatment of women characters.

In contrast, Theon’s torture is shown on screen with similar close-ups on Ramsay flaying his finger. These close-ups are no more necessary than the close-up on Ros; they’re only there for shock value. We know what Ramsay’s doing to his finger; we don’t need to see it, and we don’t need to see it in that much detail from that close of an angle. So far, none of the torture has added anything to the story; only the fake-escape has really done that and it was all in Theon’s character development and admitting something out loud that perceptive audience members already knew. So again I argue that there was no reason to change what the books did with regard to Theon and the suspense over whether he’s alive, where he is, and what exactly is happening to him until he shows up again as a broken man. All it really does is introduce Ramsay early—or late, considering they didn’t bring him in disguised as Reek when Theon was holding Winterfell, but gave the role of getting Theon to be an idiot to Dagmer. There were lots of other ways they could have handled this whole thing, and they went with the one that gave them the most blood and shock value.

I might be able to get behind keeping Alfie Allen and showing his ordeal rather than shelving him for a season if they weren’t so insistent on zooming in on every injury inflicted as it’s being inflicted. What we know of Ramsay in the books we get from secondhand gossip that doesn’t fit in the show and from Theon’s thoughts, so bringing him in and showing him to be awful makes sense. It establishes his character. However, I don’t believe we need to watch the skin being peeled off Theon’s finger at close range to get that character establishment or development.

Finally, let’s talk about Loras. Torben Gebhardt has a pretty thorough exploration of the way the show treats Loras in particular and homosexuality in general, but since that’s in a book rather than something easily accessible through a website, let me kind of sum up what he has to say about this episode in particular.

In his relationship with Renly, Loras was shown to be dominant, even aggressive. He’s a fierce warrior who uses the trappings of chivalry to disguise a Machiavellian willingness to do what’s necessary to win. Renly is the one who’s depicted as obsessed with clothes, food, and all things shiny. After Renly’s death, Loras is feminized, never shown fighting again, and in this episode argues with Sansa over the correct name for a brooch; gushes about the food, guests, tournaments, and bride’s gown (the bride is an afterthought) at his dream wedding; and shows himself much more interested in clothes than he ever was in season two. As Gebhardt points out, this scene and this characterization are unique to the series; they don’t exist in the books.

Likewise, his proclivities are used as a barometer for other characters; “good” people (Olenna) are perfectly fine with it (although she does talk as though it’s a phase and asks Tywin if he never messed around with the other boys when he was a squire), while “bad” people (Tywin, Cersei) see it as gross and abhorrent. Gebhardt argues that this repositioning of Loras’ character is a way of maintaining 21st-century straight American views of gay men and keeping him from “threatening heteronormative values,” while the sex itself is there for “provocative entertainment.” Loras’ clear discomfort with Sansa and his obsession with clothes are obviously meant to be funny, as is the way everyone talks about him, from Olenna calling him a “sword-swallower, through-and-through” to Shae’s “I bet he does” when Sansa mentions that he likes green-and-gold brocade. The reduction of his character to a cliché is really insulting (in my opinion as a straight woman).

RIP: Ros
Bunch of unnamed Wildlings

Next week: Dany tries diplomacy. The Arya- Clegane shenanigans begin. More grossness at the Dreadfort. Jaime steps up.

Gebhardt, Torben. “Homosexuality in Television Medievalism.” The Middle Ages on Television: Critical Essays. Ed. Meriem Pagès and Karolyn Kinane. Jefferson: McFarland, 2015. 197-213.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Game of Thrones Rewatch 3.5: "Kissed by Fire"

3.5 “Kissed by Fire”
Written by Bryan Cogman
Directed by Alex Graves
Commentary by Gwendolyn Christie (Brienne), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime), and Bryan Cogman

This is another episode with a title that comes from a book line but that works on multiple levels. Ygritte is said to be “kissed by fire” because of her red hair, but there’s a lot of fire imagery going on in other ways, too.

As a slight shift in the usual structure of a Game of Thrones episode, they start off with the big trial-by-combat duel between Sandor and Beric. Because Beric worships R’hllor and has the support of a red priest, he sets his sword on fire. This is Thoros’ signature move from the books, but it’s given a mystical bent here, as it’s not clear exactly how the fire is set. It looks like Beric lights it from his own blood (yet another palm-slice), but it could be a sleight-of-hand trick on his or Thoros’ part.

At any rate, this immediately tips the balance in Beric’s direction because Sandor is extremely pyrophobic and now Beric’s swinging a flaming sword around near his face. (Gwendolyn Christie in the commentary: “I want a sword on fire! Can I have a sword on fire? Can you write me a scene with a sword on fire?”) It seems clear that Beric is going to win this one, especially when he manages to set Sandor’s shield on fire and Sandor freaks out trying to chop it off his arm. The Brotherhood are chanting “guilty! Guilty! Guilty!” and Arya screams “Kill him!” But the thing about setting a sword on fire is that it’s really bad for the steel, and Sandor manages an overhand cut that slices straight through the sword and then a good bit into Beric’s torso.

Arya’s not having any of it, and runs at Sandor with a knife, only to be grabbed and held back by Gendry. Sandor mocks her about Mycah, because he can’t not, and she yells at him to “burn in hell,” which Beric, suddenly alive and well again, assures her he will, “but not today.” There’s a faint echo here of “what do we say to the god of death,” and I’d love to know how purposeful it was.

Arya learns that Beric has been resurrected by the power of R’hllor seven times now, a revelation that would have had a lot more impact if they’d kept all the gossiping at Harrenhal about how Beric had been caught and killed dozens of times. Arya asks Thoros if he could resurrect a man without a head, and Beric says resurrection is tricky and takes something out of the resurrectee, and he wouldn’t wish this life on anyone. Arya would, because at least he’s alive. Again, this would have a lot more impact if they’d introduced Lady Stoneheart later.

There’s more fire imagery, again linked to R’hllor, in the introduction of Selyse and Shireen Baratheon (finally). Now that Melisandre has run off on some mysterious mission, Stannis has remembered that he has a family and comes to visit them. He apologizes to Selyse for sleeping with Melisandre and having a whole emotional affair with her, but Selyse is a True Believer™ and tells him that because he did it for R’hllor, it doesn’t count and she’s actually glad he did it. Melisandre gave him a son, she says (a creepy, murdering, shadow-son, but okay), when all she’s given him are stillborn babies (which she has in jars, because that’s not creepy) and Shireen. Who she clearly doesn’t think much of at all; probably partially because she’s a girl and partially because of her disfigurement from her childhood illness. Selyse doesn’t even want Stannis to go visit his daughter because she’s a “distraction” from being a king. Stannis goes to visit her anyway because she is his daughter, though he then has to tell her that Davos is a traitor locked up in the dungeon.

There’s more out-of-context oddness here; Shireen is singing Patchface’s “under the sea” song, but they haven’t included Patchface in the show. It makes sense that they’d cut him; his whole schtick is singing weird little ditties that foreshadow events in the books (like the Red Wedding) and hint that the Drowned God might actually exist. There’s a lot of fan theories about his further significance, but barring any of those being true, Patchface isn’t necessary for the more streamlined story they’re doing in the show. Also, they don’t want a whole lot of prophecy around so they’re not locked into specific story beats—that’s why they changed up Daenerys’ visit to the House of the Undying. In the books, that whole sequence is full of foreshadowing and clues to the identities of characters—past, present, and future—for readers with the understanding to see it. The show changed it to, as Alan Taylor put it, “the last temptation of Daenerys Targaryen.” So the fact that Patchface’s song, which relies heavily on the fact that he fell overboard, was missing for days and presumed dead, washed up on shore, and was never quite right after that, was handed to Shireen and taken completely out of context, is really weird. What makes it even weirder is that they made it into the closing credits music. That’s where really significant musical motifs go—“The Rains of Castamere.” “The Bear and the Maiden Fair.” But they’ve removed all reason for “It’s Always Summer Under the Sea” to even exist in this world.

The really big scene in this episode is between Jaime and Brienne in the Harrenhal bathhouse. Half-delirious from pain after having the stump debrided and treated—without painkiller—Jaime stumbles into the bathhouse where Brienne is already in one of the tubs and climbs in with her (it’s a really big tub. Like, twice the size of most hot-tubs I’ve seen). Brienne doesn’t like this idea at all, but Jaime starts to tell her about why he killed Aerys, and her curled-up-in-the-corner freaked-outedness turns into horror and pity. She’s had this very black-and-white view of Jaime and how horrible of a person he was for killing the man he was sworn to protect, but his story throws the act into a whole new light. He hasn’t told anyone the whole story before—even Cersei, according to Cogman—but for some reason, he feels like Brienne needs to know or he trusts her enough to tell her. Brienne isn’t sure what to do with this confidence, but when he starts to pass out, she catches him and calls for help for “the Kingslayer.” He corrects her: “Jaime. My name is Jaime.” Which, again, would have had a lot more impact if they’d hit him calling her “wench” and her reminding him that her name is Brienne as hard as Martin did in the books.

Interestingly, Gwendolyn Christie is shot almost identically to the way Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is shot in this scene. Their nudity is exactly equal—for the most part, both are submerged up to the shoulders in the water, but there are shots of each of them from behind, Nikolaj as he’s getting into the water, Gwendolyn as she lunges up to threaten Jaime for something he says about Renly. There’s no full-frontal of Gwendolyn, or even bare breasts, which is very unusual for Game of Thrones. The characters are on exactly equal footing, neither sexualized more than the other, and neither really sexualized at all. It’s a very interesting cinematic decision, and one that I support.

Speaking of impact, Robb is getting the backlash from his choice to marry Talisa instead of the Frey girl. The upcoming Red Wedding isn’t the only consequence; his men are starting to peel away. The North holds honor above just about everything else, and Robb has broken a vow and tarnished his honor. Rickard Karstark also sees his failure to punish Catelyn as a sign of weakness, and takes advantage of that weakness to break into the dungeon and murder the Lannister hostages—two boys, about twelve and thirteen years old. Robb feels this leaves him no choice but to execute Rickard as a traitor (despite the advice from his mother, which he’s shown himself to be really bad at listening to), which loses him the rest of the Karstark army. During a late-night conversation with Talisa, he decides what he really needs to do is take Casterly Rock, to shake the core of the Lannister power. And in order to do that, he needs the Freys.


This conversation also reveals that Talisa has no idea where Winterfell is. The Queen in the North. Doesn’t know where the seat of her power is. The showrunners took away a rather meek yet sweet and politically aware young woman who brought with her a chunk of the Lannister army and replaced her with a “spunky” girl who brings absolutely nothing to the marriage—no army, no political savvy—and doesn’t even know some basic Westerosi geography.

And then they decide that instead of making Edmure’s marriage to a different Frey girl an apology to Walder, that it’s another tactic to try to get Walder to give him an army. As if someone as prickly as Walder isn’t going to see right through that. Anybody who didn’t see something like the Red Wedding coming hasn’t been paying attention.

Meanwhile, in Essos, Jorah and Barristan are dancing around each other, trying to figure out how much of a threat they are to each other and their positions with Daenerys. As is typical, they think Daenerys is young and idealistic and perhaps a bit too soft and female to be a good ruler yet, but there will be lots of men around her to help advise her (that’s very nearly a direct quote). Barristan wants Jorah to step away now, because he thinks Westeros won’t accept him as an advisor to their new queen, what with him trying to sell slaves and then spying on Daenerys for Robert. Jorah reminds him that he was fighting beside Daenerys while Barristan was still serving Robert. Basically they just need to get out the tape measure and have done with it. Dany, on the other hand, is working on actually leading her people, having a conference with the Unsullied and having them name a spokesperson for her council. It’s unclear just how purposeful the juxtaposition between men who are all talk and the young woman who’s actually working is, but it’s definitely funny.

A smaller moment that will pile on other small moments and turn into a landslide of really terrible portrayals of homosexuality occurs in this episode, too. Loras, who apparently at some point has been told he’s betrothed to Sansa, meets a young man named Olyvar who manages to tumble him into bed pretty much immediately. He strongly implies that this sort of behavior is pretty common among the nobility, and then goes back to Petyr and tells him all about Loras’ engagement to Sansa. Petyr, of course, tells Cersei, who tells Tywin, who decides they need to steal a march on the Tyrells and marry Sansa to Tyrion immediately, then marry Cersei to Loras just to clinch the deal. Cogman admits that this was kind of a controversial scene because in the books, after Renly died, Loras joined the Kingsguard and there was no hint that he ever had another lover. All Cogman says about it, though, is “we changed that.” Clearly they used it to show how Petyr gets word of what the Tyrells are up to and get evidence Cersei can bring to Tywin, but there are lots of other ways they could have done it besides further twisting Loras’ character and reducing homosexuality purely to sex.

In contrast, we get an actually really sweet scene between Ygritte and Jon. Ygritte decides that it’s time Jon proves that he’s really broken with the Night’s Watch by breaking his vows—by having sex with her. He resists at first, but then gives in, and christens the new phase of their relationship by performing oral sex on her, something she’s never experienced before. This is probably the healthiest, most equal relationship on the show, and I’m really glad that they kept the scene pretty much exactly as it appears in the books, with both of them discovering something new and falling in love and generally being adorable. Yeah, it doesn’t end well, because it’s Game of Thrones and of course it doesn’t, but we can enjoy this little piece of sweetness in the middle of all the awful.

Beric Dondarrion (he got better)
Willem Lannister
Martyn Lannister
Rickard Karstark

Next week: Wedding shenanigans. Jon climbs a wall. Be prepared for a rant of epic proportions.

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