Welcome to “It Is Known – Season 3 Deconstructed”! Every week, you will find my extensive review of the week’s episode of Game of Thrones.
I will explore the narrative that the show weaves. And what a narrative indeed! The story is complex, the characters are manifold, the twists and turns unexpected. I will deconstruct the episodes piece by piece, moving from character to character. This is an unusual approach, I admit, and a bit cumbersome at times, but the show basically does the same. The episodes are just parts of one, epic story, and as parts we have to examine them if we hope to get everything that happens.
There will be no real spoilers for future events, but I will reference the books from time to time, so if you haven’t read them, you might want to be careful around these reviews, although I’ll try to keep the references cryptic.
I see what you did there, Game of Thrones. Calling an episode “The Climb” in which Jon climbs the Wall, but in truth referring to something else. Heh. Clever. Ok, that sounded very sarcastic, and I don’t really know why I said it because I damn loved the episode. It was as well a climb as it was laying real groundwork, much of it aimed at future seasons. Consequence, consequence, consequence. I love this writers.
Let’s start north of the Wall, which will be the last north of the Wall we’ll see for quite a while since they’re now south of the wall, which sounds dumb writing it. The climb up the Wall was taken into several parts and splitted over the episode, which made it into a more colossal and epic undertaking, which is a pretty smart move. And boy, was it well staged! The sheer height, the strain, the danger, all was in it, and when the ice cracked and the Wall shoved some of the climbers off – my hands were wet from vertigo. The setup also was quite nice, with Ygritte providing some much needed context for her relationship with Jon and even improving the character from the books in the process, where her motivations (“wildling to a bone” was as far as it went) were not exactly as complex. Jon also got a moment of genuine heroism, which improves him at a crucial point in the narrative. Tormund Giantsbane still fell a bit flat, although his line about not screaming if you fall so you’re remembered brave was sufficiently badass. The episode ended with Ygritte and Jon finally arriving at the top of the Wall together, their fates locked and intertwined, and a beautiful composition of the snowy, white lands to the north of the Wall and green lands south. I found the idea that immediately to the south the lands start to become green a very good one to provide a metaphoric image to the whole “battle of life vs. death” thing that goes on as constant subtext for the story. On a sidenote, the CGI was somewhat off; the actors were clearly standing before greenscreen and the landscape inserted later (or the other way around).
Just south of the Wall, we get a quick glimpse of Bran that mostly serves the purpose to remind us that he’s still around and, eh, not quite kicking, but alive at least. The pissing contest between Meera and Osha was very nice and creates an interesting dynamic that never makes me regret that Osha is still with them (and Rickon too, I totally forgot about the little boy before he suddenly spoke up). I also liked the gender reversal in the scene; normally you get such banter between male characters, and a woman is annoyed. In this case, however, skinning rabbits was done by women, and Osha had the longest. Great stuff. I also liked that Jojen experiences epileptic shocks in his visions, which make them a more serious affair in some way. I can’t wait for them to actually revel a bit in the mysteries of the show. If Meera doesn’t talk about the Knight of the Laughing Tree, I shall be very cross with the creators.
This week, we’re also back with Ramsay, who tortures Theon in a really, really bad way. They captured what is only hinted at in the books and made really engaging (although certainly not enjoyable) television out of it. The guessing game was really bad, and it’s likely that Theon will snap pretty soon. He so eagerly grasped the explanation of Ramsay being a Karstark and that he is tortured for betraying Robb where it was clear that this couldn’t be all that I doubt that he’ll be on his game again anytime soon. I guess Ramsay will soon become a new hate character for the fandom – or else, a source of shivering admiration of poor evilness.
Speaking of it, let’s talk about the father of the creature, Roose, who is currently holding Jaime and Brienne. He’s reinforcing what we know of him as a sadistic creature by providing Jaime with knife and fork to cut the meat, a task Jaime clearly can’t undertake, and smiles oh so thinly at the vain attempts to do so. It’s nice to see how Bolton walks a very thin but sharply defined line between delivering Jaime to King’s Landing, thereby securing himself a royal pardon and making sure that Jaime doesn’t make him responsible for his hand loss on the one hand (no pun intended), while on the other hand (still no pun intended) he clearly shows Jaime the limits of his power and reputation by reminding him of Locke’s lesson. This comes as a shock to Jaime, who clearly has to see that Bolton doesn’t fear him. He fears Tywin, but not him. As a sidenote, Brienne’s look when Jaime demanded her to go with him was very well played out. Brienne’s in for some rough times, that’s for sure. She wasn’t given a pink gown by chance. Bolton doesn’t leave things like that to chance.
Meanwhile, Robb treats with two emissaries from the Twins. I’m sure they’re both named Walder, but we aren’t given any names. The discussion is pretty awkward, with the two of them being insolent to a fault and Robb swallowing all their shit because he has no choice at all. They want Harrenhal (who doesn’t, really?), a direct apology and Edmure. Quite understandably, Edmure isn’t as quick in getting his life ruined for his stupid uncle as the others are, and the Stone Mill wasn’t exactly a big enough blunder to legitimate the treatment he gets (in the books, the battle is bigger in scale, and it’s still not Edmure’s fault but Robb’s, again). I seriously like to see someone smack the Blackfish over the mouth, because the motherfucker doesn’t have any right to talk like this to Edmure. And I’m not saying this because Edmure’s his liege lord, technically, but because the Blackfish was wroth with his brother, the lord of Riverrun, because he never accepted a wife. He refused it all his life, because he didn’t wanted to, so he has no right at all to force it like this on Edmure, and I seriously with Edmure would grow a pair and call him on this bullshit. I hope we will get something of a payback when Edmure comes into his own as lord of Riverrun.
From there, we get to the last Riverlands plot, Arya. I guessed it right with Melisandre taking Gendry, which is a rather huge departure from the books, but one that is working way better than “Edric Storm”. There were several really interesting things in this scene that need to be analyzed one by one. First, we have Arya meeting Melisandre. Melisandre essentially plays the role of the Ghost of High Heart (if anyone got hopes we still see her: pretty much no), acknowledging Arya for the ticking time-bomb she is. The line about meeting again is also ominous, I’m VERY interested in seeing where that’ll take us. Should you be a non-reader of the books: Melisandre never goes to the Brotherhood, so this whole plot it totally new even to readers, and there’s no way of knowing where it leads us (although I’m fairly certain Gendry will fulfill Edric’s role). Second, we have a really good characterization of Thoros as opposed to Melisandre; here the wine-ridden sot who can barely speak a proper prayer, there the religious zealot. And it’s the whine-ridden sot who can bring people to live, dear Melisandre, and not you. You made note of that, no doubt, but I’ll guess you draw pretty wrong conclusions from it. Third, Thoros and Berric really badly sell out poor Gendry. No brotherhood romantic here. Really heart wrenching scene, especially after his bonding with Anguy. Fourth, not only do Melisandre and Thoros both speak High Valyrian, but they also greet each other with “Valar Morghulis” and “Valar Dohaeris”, which might interest book readers very much, because it leaves only two possible explanations: either the phrases are universal for the east in the series, or they merged R’hollor with the God of Many Faces and his cult, essentially tying Braavos to him. This will also be very interesting in the future.
We get no Stannis this week, but I was reminded by my readers that I forgot him last week, so here he comes. His depiction is really improved in comparison to season 2, especially in his interaction with wife and child. Selyse is just plainly nuts, much more than in the books. She’s become a zealot in a way that can’t be healthy, and she’s keeping the stillborn sons of Stannis’ in jars! Man, this is so sick, and it turns the whole character around and in really unsettling territory. This is further reinforced by Shireen, whose greyscale makeup is great, and whose singing Patchface’s song (which I take as a meaning that the fool won’t appear in the show neither). This makes her pretty ominous, and Stannis is keeping her in a cell, for christsakes! That the child is as mentally stable as she appears is close to a miracle, and I really liked her interaction with Davos, who was brought back into the story.
With that, off to King’s Landing. We get our first one-on-one between Olenna and Tywin (she’s making the rounds, isn’t she?), and the first time, she loses. Without her knowing that the plot with Sansa isn’t working, Tywin forces Cercei on Loras, who, surprisingly for bookreaders, is not only officially confirmed as only heir to Highgarden, which makes his being gay all the more problematic for the Tyrells, but who is also threatened by Twin to be commanded in the kingsguard if Olenna doesn’t accept. It’s an interesting mirroring of the Blackfish in Riverrun: Tywin of all people, who lost his favorite son and presumed heir in that way, uses the exact same device as leverage. They are alike, these guys. Despicable.
Then we go off to Tyrion and Cersei, who solve the mystery of who ordered Ser Mandon Moore to kill Tyrion: it was Joffrey. In the bookreading community, it has always been a mystery who really did it, but seeing the show version, I say: of course. The remark that any clever person would have simply poisoned Tyrion is hitting the mark. Cersei wouldn’t have ordered Ser Mandon, she’s too clever for that. I’ll accept this as canon from now on. We also get really great acting by both Lena Heady and Peter Dinklage in all their emotions in this scene, so much stuff unsaid and unspoken. Tyrion would now remind me that the two are the same.
And with that, to the real heart of the episode: Littlefinger finally coming into his own. Much criticism was hurled at the show for depicting Littlefinger as the strangely muted, almost clumsy conspirator, but in this episode, Aiden Gillen really nailed him. His encounter with Varys already was putting away the veil. Note just how he started his revelation. It was purpose; he wanted Varys to know (and, by the way, great line with the “Lysa Arryn of chairs”). And then his ugly grin when he talked about chaos: that is Littlefinger. He’s a psychopath little shit, and he doesn’t care for anyone. There’s a lot of criticism out there from people complaining that Littlefinger in the show is too plainly villainous, but to you I say: you haven’t been paying attention. Littlefinger was always like that. He isn’t when anyone of importance can see. Remember the scenes in the show around Cersei, or in the Small Council? Always the lickspittle. But when he’s alone – that means, with his nemesis Varys – he has a no-bullshit approach. Varys already knows what Littlefinger is, so no need for concealment. This is purely egocentrism at work.
For Sansa, the whole episode was pretty much a kick in the guts. Tyrion broke her the news (with some eerily appropriate inappropriate humor directed at Shae), and we see Sansa looking at the literal ship sailing away, proudly displaying the mockingbird. Oh, the irony, the imagery! Great stuff. Really great stuff. I loved the episode, and I can’t wait for next week.