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Game of Thrones – Kissed by Fire

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Game of Thrones, Kissed by FireGame of Thrones gives us one of those episodes where pieces move around the board (literally, in this case) to be set up for whatever terrible fate awaits them in the future. At the same time, we get a glimpse into the sweeping, tragic past that the Song of Ice & Fire grows from.

In the Brothers Without Banners’ secret hideout, Sandor Clegane and Beric Dondarrion prepare for a trial by combat. Beric takes up his sword and somehow causes it to burst into flame, which seems like dirty pool since everyone knows that the Hound has serious pyrophobia. Game of Thrones doles out magic sparingly (you’ve got zombies in the north and dragons in the south, but very little overt magic has occurred in Westeros itself), so the flaming sword looks cool and is perhaps a bit startling. In the novels, some characters seem to think it’s really just a bit of a parlor trick, more for show than anything. But there’s some serious magic ahead.

Clegane fights through his fear of fire admirably and slices into Dondarrion with a brutal hack. It cleaves Dondarrion’s shoulder, splitting his torso open, and he drops, seemingly dead. One of the brothers leaps upon him and recites a prayer to the Lord of Light. Moments later, Dondarrion stands and speaks. The Lord of Light has passed judgment. The Hound is deemed innocent of the charge of murder (for now). Clegane, who is really just brutally amoral rather than evil, manages to avoid getting daggered by Arya.

Campfire talk inevitably turns to the many deaths of Beric Dondarrion. He bears many scars from having died and been brought back several times, though each time takes a little bit of himself away. No parlor tricks there. Where he’d been split open, hours later he’s merely scarred. Meanwhile, Arya’s little band has dissolved completely, now that Gendry plans to stay with the Brotherhood, while Arya is taken to be ransomed to Robb.

Back at Dragonstone, we learn how truly screwed up Stannis’ home life is. His wife is a religious zealot and staunch supporter of Melisandre, even to the point of being overjoyed that Stannis has slept with the priestess because “nothing done in the service of the Lord of Light can be a sin.” Then he stops by a lonely tower cell to visit his daughter, Shireen. Shireen seems very sweet, but suffers from greyscale, which has left her face disfigured. Stannis tries to wreck the only glimmer of cheer in Shireen’s life by telling her that her friend Davros is a traitor.

Shireen doesn’t believe it though, and sneaks down to the dungeon to meet with Davros. She offers him books to occupy his time, but he confesses he can’t read. She begins to teach him against his protests (he’s worried she’ll get in trouble, but Shireen says, “What’ll they do, put us in cells?”). Sad. Sweet. Sweetly sad. Oh, but also terrifically creepy. Shireen’s eerie song (“The shadows come to stay…”) is a mashup of songs sung by a jester named Patchface in the novels. Not only does Patchface sing weird rhymes that seem to forebode looming tragedies, he seriously freaks Melisandre out. I’m a bit sad we lost that character, because there’s opportunity there for some very unsettling images.

Perhaps this week’s strongest segment came from Jaime and Brienne. Roose Bolton receives them at Harrenhal and they are made guest/prisoners. Jaime’s infected stump is treated painfully by a disgraced maester. He joins Brienne in the bath, a pivotal scene that melts their icy relationship somewhat. It’s also a wonderful scene that shows off what a brilliant epic A Song of Ice & Fire truly is. Jaime’s story of how he killed the Mad King Aerys Targaryen II certainly shows the complexity of his character. He’s done unforgivable things like father his own sister’s child and try to murder Bran, but in committing what by any standard was a heroic act (killing the Mad King), he has been branded his whole life as the Kingslayer and the Oathbreaker.

But more than that, this scene shows off how we are seeing a glimpse of a world that existed before we got here and will exist after we’re no longer watching. Robert’s revolution happened years before page one of Game of Thrones, but those events spin directly into this grand epic we’re all watching now. I think that’s important to remember for people looking forward to “how it ends.” George R.R. Martin has crafted this world for us to look in on, but you can be damn sure he’s not going to neatly tie up any loose ends, kill the bad guys and end with a wedding. Even when the final novel is finally written, you’ll find yourself wondering, “What happens after that?”

Something interesting also happens with Brienne in the bath. Until now, Game of Thrones has presented us with two kinds of female characters: princesses and warriors. You can be either like Sansa, or like Arya. You can’t be both. Notice how we never see Daenerys naked anymore, now that she has political power.  A writer I respect remarked on Twitter during season one, “All of the women with power in Game of Thrones wield it through sex, so do they really have any power at all?” I’m fairly certain he thought he was being progressive, but what a weird thing to say, to pretend that sexual power doesn’t exist, or that it is somehow illegitimate. Our society still has a hard time dealing with this stuff, where we think, “This is terrible that women have to use sex as a source of economic power,” without ever considering that they might choose to.

Anyway, Brienne has very much been a warrior. The show has gone out of its way to make her seem plain and unsexual. Seeing her freshly scrubbed; seeing her naked; and most of all, seeing her display some genuine caring for Jaime, all seem to offer the possibility that one needn’t be sacrificed in return for the other. That perhaps a woman can have power both martial and sexual.

One might even refer to that as “the Ygritte way.” Not much happened north of the Wall, although Jon Snow would probably not see things that way, seeing as he lost his virginity with an eager Ygritte. And even showed the more experienced woman a thing or two about oral sex, giving us the great line, “You know nothing Jon Sno-OH!” There was an undertone of sadness there, however. You felt it in Ygritte’s overly visible ribs, and her plaintive desire to stay in the cave with the hot spring forever. Life is not easy in the north, even without White Walkers around.

I spent so much time talking about Jaime and Brienne, so I’m to gloss over King’s Landing politics a bit (and Dany’s section, which was just Barristan Selmy and Jorah Mormont measuring their dicks). Tyrion got the Tyrells to pay for half of the upcoming royal wedding. Petyr Baelish plays creepy uncle to Sansa, then sends a spy to seduce Loris Tyrell, significantly affecting the male to female nudity imbalance. Tywin is pissed about the Tyrells planning to steal Sansa, since she’s the key to the north and heir to Winterfell (That’s agnatic-cognatic primogeniture for the truly nerdy. It means that the line of succession only passes to the eldest female heir once all the male heirs are dead). Tywin starts arranging marriages like pieces on a board. Sansa will marry Tyrion (who is horrified), while an arranged marriage with Loris wipes the smirk completely off of Cersei’s face.

That leaves us with Robb Stark. Or based on that top photo, Sexy Robb Stark. This week he finished demolishing the northern alliance. The Karstarks break into the cell where the Lannister cousins are being kept and murder them. Robb calls this treason. Until now, it could be argued that Robb just didn’t know how to keep an alliance together. But now we see the true source of his undoing: unyielding adherence to the letter of the law. It’s why his father is dead; Ned Stark would rather die than be dishonored. He could not bend, so he broke. And Robb, knowing that killing their lord will drive off half his army, beheads Rickard Karstark anyhow. Rickard curses Robb with his final words, and these sorts of curses seem to hold some weight in this world.

But if Robb is so driven to uphold oaths and law, and behead traitors and follow the law, what of his marriage to Sort-of-Pretty Nurse? Did he not pledge to marry Walder Frey’s daughter, then choose to ignore that pledge? So basically, Robb, who many viewers might point out is one of the truest “good guy” characters in Game of Thrones, is a huge hypocrite.

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Posted by on Sunday, April 28th, 2013. Filed under Dark TV, Headline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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