The third season of the now legendary HBO fantasy drama Game of Thrones has gotten off to a spectacular, albeit slow start that has begun to slightly divide opinions amongst fans of the brilliant show. The Walk of Punishment, although only the third entry into the series, perhaps needed to kick the pace up a notch to avoid alienating those viewers who have quickly grown tired of the world building and scene setting that takes up far more time in the book series. Could The Walk of Punishment deliver on much needed, new found action whilst retaining all the cunning and intrigue that makes Game of Thrones such an intelligent piece of programming?
Warning, Spoilers Throughout!
The highlight of The Walk of Punishment in my eyes was Podrick’s induction to manhood courtesy of Tyrion’s generosity and the shady service provided by Littlefinger, otherwise known to Bronn as “Lord Twat-beard”. Although the two scenes had no real relevance in helping to further push the story, they gave Podrick’s character a far greater, desperately needed depth in comparison to his book series counterpart, whilst allowing for some much appreciated banter between the frat like duo of Tyrion and Bronn. Dinklage and Flynn have an utterly uncanny chemistry that translates perfectly through their characters, generating some of the wittiest banter you will find on television. Hopefully the great mystery of Podrick’s free tumble at the brothel will be unraveled in next weeks episode.
Extra hilarity was found in the surprisingly revealing small council meeting scene when Cersei and Tyrion played their own version of musical chairs. In the very same council meeting Littlefinger’s assignment to woo and wed Lysa Tully -consequently bringing the armies of The Vale into the war on the Lannister side – was revealed. Unbeknownst to Tywin and the rest of the small council Littlefinger also has a promise to Sansa to set her free of Kings Landing, a trip to the Eyrie provides a very good opportunity for King’s Landing’s number one deviant to achieve both of his goals.
Moving from King’s Landing to the Riverlands, Arya’s road trip with The Brotherhood without Banners (BWB) took an unexpectedly depressing turn for the worse. Following Hot Pie’s demonstration of his mean bread baking skill he unveiled to Arya and Gendry he was going to take up the offer of working for the innkeeper, putting an end to his travels with the rag tag band. The translation of the event from the book to the screen was outstanding; Hot Pie’s dialogue and gift of the bread wolf to Arya almost broke me, which was completely unexpected because it contrasted the ‘none of us really give a shit’ vibe that I took from the event in A Storm of Swords.
Props to Ben Hawkley and Masie Williams for their meticulous acting efforts.
Over at Riverrun two major members of the Tully household – Catelyn’s brother Edmure (Tobias Menzies) and her uncle Brynden the Blackfish (Clive Russell) – got their delayed introduction. Edmure’s folly at his father Hoster’s funeral, and the chastising he took from Robb (who has finally flaunted his fierce leadership skills) successfully portrayed his complete ineptitude at doing anything that requires the slightest bit of competence. On the other hand we had the Blackfish, who in overcoming the issue with his short time on screen, fully came across as the absolute boss he is portrayed to be in the books. Clive Russell deserves a lot of the praise for making that happen, without any dialogue given to him in the funeral scene he still managed to come across as a bad ass on his actions alone.
That said the screenwriters Benioff & Weiss penned some brilliant lines that really developed the character, including this particular line that sprang to mind: “It often comforts me to think that even in war’s darkest days, in most parts of the world, absolutely nothing is happening.” Unfortunately far less can be said of other pieces of dialogue in the episode. Stannis and Melisandre’s brief exchange left me pretty disgusted with how creepy and out of character Stannis’s behavior was. There is no way Stannis the Mannis would grovel away so desperately, his character’s concern with honorability is far too established for the thought to even cross his mind.
Jamie & Brienne’s capture yielded the grandest dramatics in The Walk of Punishment. Brienne’s misfortune of being a female captive meant that she was almost certainly going to be raped by the captors from House Bolton, a startling moment of compassion and vague wit from Jamie saved her from molestation and murder, albeit this compassion unfortunately landed him in a hefty amount of shit. Locke wasn’t going to bow down to the looming threat of Jamie’s feared father Tywin, to make his feelings clear he made quick work of chopping off Jamie’s sword hand which I’m certain came as a jugular surprise to those yet to read the books. Having no sword hand presents a lot of problems for a man almost solely revered because of his swordsmanship, therefore positive character development is the obvious next stage for the leader of the Kings guard. I can see Jamie quickly rising to the place of fan favourite in episodes to come.
Daenerys and The Night’s Watch both look dead set on starting some serious shit that unfortunately wasn’t given the chance to unfold this week. Daenerys came to a decision that in order to secure the unsullied she would have to trade the black dragon Drogon with the slavers. Initially this will have seemed like a real ‘wtf are you doing’ level of decision making, then it clicks in, how do you chain and enslave a dragon with a free will and the abilities to fly and breath fire? Daenerys has a nasty surprise cooking for the slavers of Astapor that’s for certain. Meanwhile beyond The Wall, The Night’s Watch made their return to the vile wildling Craster’s Keep. Hostility and tension have raised in place of the mannerisms and courtesies they demonstrated during their first visit. These hostilities look certain to bring imminent acts of violence that could divide The Watch, which is something they could do without considering the now ever present threat of the wildling army.
Final Thoughts: Unfortunately those fans irritated by the seasons slow start will likely be in little better a mood following The Walk of Punishment as it was another episode dedicated to building up the tension for later events in the plot to unfold. In spite of this fact I truly loved The Walk of Punishment and I think to criticize it for contributing to the seasons ‘slow’ start is to be a little unappreciative of just how perfect the plot developments, political intrigue and humor were in this installment. If you disagree with me or would otherwise like to share your thoughts on the newest episode, feel free to leave them in the comments section below!