Dylan had to take a break from these two weeks' worth of Game of Thrones episodes, so Nick is tackling them solo to catch everyone up, but Dylan and Nick's conversational reviews will be back with episode six of season three.
3.05 “Kissed by Fire”
Throughout its three seasons, Game of Thrones has kept the more fantastical elements of its fantasy world to a minimum. Sure, there have been dragons, and zombies, and shapeshifters and shadow babbies, but they only appear in small increments and at key points. Which made “Kissed by Fire” especially notable, since it featured an incredible fight scene that just so happened to end with one man basically sliced in half, who then miraculously came back to life. That moment may just be the most literally fantastic plotpoint in the show so far, particularly since it happened in the Brotherhood Without Banners segment, which has to this point been very normal. Arya isn't unfamiliar with weirdness, though, since her best friend last season was a shapeshifting assassin, so maybe it shouldn't have come as much of a surprise. But when the Hound struck down Beric and then he rose up like some kind of flaming sword wielding Lazarus, well, I was shocked.
What's most impressive about it, though, is that it immediately makes the Brotherhood Without Banners more mysterious and more incredible, as their connection to Melisandre's religion in the previous episode initially seemed kind of silly. You don't really expect your Robin Hood figures to also be religious zealots, but Beric's demonstration immediately made it clear that they're a true force to be reckoned with now that they have supernatural abilities on their side. The fight itself was handled masterfully as well, since Beric appeared to have the upper hand thanks to the flames he utilized, which we all know is the Hound's major weakness. Arya was robbed of vengeance once again, though, and the Hound is now free to do whatever it is he's doing, and he may be deadlier than ever since his trial by fire allowed him to face that fear directly.
We also got a bit more of a glimpse at how Melisandre so effectively took control of Stannis, as this episode took us behind the curtains of his court, specifically his wife, who is a true zealot, and his daughter, who has been hidden out of sight due to deformation. Stannis' wife is maybe just a little bit insane, as we saw that she not only buys into everything about Melisandre (turns out she knows about Stannis' nighttime activities with the lady in red and approves) but also acknowledges Stannis' need for a son, since the children she has given him have mostly all died…which we know because she keeps their fetal corpses in pickle jars in her room. Stannis' daughter is more tragic, a sweet girl who is treated like a monster just because she looks different. It's no wonder that she's so drawn to Davos and sneaks down to see him in his cell, since he too has struggled with appearances, albeit those of a more classist angle.
There was a lot of baggage dealt with in this episode in general, and the Jaime and Brienne storyline explored this particularly well. Jaime was presented to Roose Bolton, who fucked with his head a bit before having him taken to quarters to get cleaned up and seen to by the court Maester (who, it turns out, was stripped of his honors due to some questionable experimenting, which I'm sure we'll find out more about soon). But from there Jaime intruded on Brienne's bathing, walking into her bath and antagonizing her before she stood up for herself and got him to reveal his own anxieties and vulnerabilities in the process. I didn't quite feel much for his “woe is me, everybody hates me because I slayed the mad king” monologue, mainly because we've already gotten plenty of material to make us care for Jaime and we all knew he killed someone literally nicknamed the Mad King, so why did we need further reason to trust he made the right decision? But it had the desired effect on Brienne, so it seems that it wasn't for the benefit of the audience anyway. Brienne now clearly cares for Jaime and whether that's organic or a ploy of Jaime's is yet to be seen, but given his collapse shortly after, it seems he'll be banking on it soon.
Still, his bit of baggage unrolling didn't have the same impact Arya's similar confessional to Beric about her father did, if only because Arya hasn't been as forthcoming with her troubles. She's not the only Stark dealing with that particular problem, though, as her brother Robb came face to face with the shadow of his father when he had to decide whether to execute Lord Karstark because of his brutal slaughtering of the two Lannister children or to simply imprison him and use him as a bargaining chip with the rest of the Karstarks. Robb clearly knew that the decision would have been easy for his father, as Ned could never look away from such injustice and he lived in a world of black and white morality. Robb at least understands that he will be in deep shit if he executes Lord Karstark, but he knows he's damned either way, as one path will turn the Karstarks against him while the other will make him appear weak. Despite the advice of literally everyone in his cabinet, he executes Karstark, but not before Karstark calls down a curse on him, calling him a “kinslayer.” Robb will have a difficult time with that situation, as we immediately saw with the news that the Karstarks abandoned him as a result of his decision. But it got worse as Robb's “big plan” now is to enlist the aid of Walter Frey, who is so clearly a helpful man. That definitely won't go wrong. Not at all.
Tyrion was similarly burdened with his father's shadow in this episode, but the stakes for him are decidedly lower. After Cersei's pissy meeting with Tywin last week, Tywin has decided that the way to counteract the Tyrell's covert maneuvering is to force Tyrion to marry Sansa, keeping the Stark clan away from the Tyrells and instead uniting them with the Lannisters. That's interesting for a whole shit ton of reasons, but the biggest is that it will undoubtedly have a major impact on the Stark war effort, as the news that Sansa is no longer a prisoner (in title at least) but now a member of the Lannister family will force Robb to co
nsider his strategy as his bannermen will undoubtedly be a little concerned a the development. It's probably as close as Tywin will get to offering a truce, and Robb is now in a far worse situation than he even realizes. Plus, Tyrion is going to have to send Shea away or hide her even more, because there's no way she's going to be able to stay with Sansa anymore, or that she'd necessarily want to. Cersei didn't get away cleanly, though, since she's been promised to Loras in the process, with Tywin demanding she be a good wife and breed some more children, preferably of the non-incestuous variety.
The only characters who had a remotely good week were Jon Snow and Daenerys, for entirely different reasons. Jon had to give up some numbers about his former fellow soldiers, and it's unclear whether he's playing his new friends or if he gave them accurate info, but he doesn't know that the Night's Watch is doomed either way. In better news, he finally got laid and showed off some cunning linguistics, so there's that. Daenerys, on the other hand, is restructuring her troops, trying to make them comfortable with being free by allowing them to elect a leader and to give themselves new names. Problem is, their new leader prefers his current name of Grey Worm, because it's the name he had when he was liberated, as opposed to the name he had when he was first enslaved. Daeny is going to have a hard time with these troops' mentality, because they may not even want to be completely free at this point, or may not be able to accept that. Likewise, she's unaware that her lieutenants are bickering behind her back and competing for her affections. Ser Barristan is a welcome addition to the storyline, if only because this is the most alive Jorah has been in ages. But those two need to grow the fuck up and keep focused on the conquest, there will be plenty of time after to fight over who gets what honor.
This episode may have lacked the beautiful symmetry of last week's, but it did a lot of world building, and moved the big players into place for the climax of the season. We're only halfway there, but already the stakes are insanely high and no one except for Daeny is gaining momentum. But will that remain true much longer?
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he's the last of the secret agents and he's your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Comics Bulletin, where he reigns as the co-managing editor, or at Panel Panopticon, which he started as a joke and now takes semi-seriously. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd rants about his potentially psychopathic roommate on twitter @Nick_Hanover and explore the world of his musical alter ego at Fitness and Pontypool.