Warning: Spoilers Throughout!
Jamie and Brienne stole the show again in “The Bear and The Maiden Fair” as their complex, multi layered relationship continued to develop. Instead of opting for a scene implementing the tired high fantasy trope – where-in a knight in shining armor (Jamie) rescues a clueless damsel in distress (Brienne) – George R.R Martin ensured that an appropriate emphasis was placed on the mutual respect and cooperation of Jamie and Brienne as they escaped the perilous bear pit.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jamie Lannister) neatly summarized why the unlikely duo have such a strong, new found companionship: “[Jamie] didn’t respect her at first but he respects her now. I think that any relationship whether romantic or friendship, the core value of that is respect. Their relationship isn’t about attraction, but about two people meeting and in many ways seeing themselves in the other person.”
Nikolaj hit the nail on the head. Brienne’s respect for Jamie became evident when she referred to him as ‘Ser Jamie’ as opposed to his slanderous title of ‘King slayer’, recognizing that he is a truer knight than any of the cruel pretenders she has encountered in her past. I’m pleased to see such a successful translation of their relationship from the books to the screen; a lot of that success is owed to Nikolaj, and Gwendoline Christie who have been persistently outstanding in their performances.
On the subject of convention defying female characters, Daenerys further exerted her power by threatening to siege the slaver city of Yunkai. Oddly the Dragon Queen’s goals appear to have shifted from conquering the Seven Kingdom’s to emancipating the slaves of Essos. Ignoring whether or not this shift in goals is permanent, it can’t be ignored that Dany has begun to wield her power with a cool competence that managed to strike fear into the powerful male representative of the Yunkai slavers; similarly to Brienne, Daenerys breaks the mold of the ‘traditional’ female fantasy character.
Dany’s negotiation scene with the slaver was masterfully punctuated with some superb cinematography; the shot above is the most outstanding example in my mind. The direction in this scene was of an equivalent quality to the cinematography. The coordination of the many extras playing the unsullied as they shifted stance was impressive, as was the inclusion of the eye catching props and clothing that can again be noted in the fantastic shot above.
Joffrey’s slipping control over his uncle, perfectly juxtaposed the improving leadership of Daenerys. The boy king’s meeting with Tywin amply portrayed his uncle’s authoritative demeanor; when Charles Dance climbed the stairs to tower over Joffrey as he sat on the throne, you couldn’t help but connect with Tywin’s sense of power, which was illustrated perfectly through the use of high angle shots over Gleeson as he shifted uncomfortably and helplessly in his seat. Joffrey’s notably unpredictable temperament could potentially lead to quite an ugly outcome if these boiling tensions between uncle and nephew continue to rise.
The theme of disillusionment from “The Climb” bridged over into this episode, most noticeably when Osha said this during her lecturing of Bran: ‘All these bad things happen ’cause the gods got big plans for you? I wish it were true little lord, but the gods wouldn’t spare ravens called shit for you, me or anyone.’ Bran didn’t seem to take any note of this hard truth, but his sister Sansa appears to have gained a better sense of reality.
Sansa instantly called herself stupid for fantasizing about an idealistic wedding with Loras, further chastising herself for not expecting the worse despite all the terrible things that have happened to her since her move to King’s Landing. However in spite of her innocence beginning to fade, Sansa still has a great deal of naivety to overcome; Margaery obviously didn’t garner that sexual knowledge from her mother Sansa. Did the Lannister guards shown in the final shot over hear anything they shouldn’t have? It can only be assumed trouble is afoot for Margaery, I mean why else include the ‘guards’ if not to signpost problems?
If only Robb shared the sentiment of Sansa’s nearing disillusionment. I can’t be the only getting the impression that Talisa isn’t writing back to ‘her mother in Volantis’, but rather acting as an informant for the Lannister party, sewing discord in Robb’s camp and reporting his movements. In fact I discovered a very interesting YouTube video providing the evidence in support of the theory that Talisa is likely a Westerosi Spy; with this very convincing theory brought to light, you can’t help but wonder what will unfold at The Twin’s.
Unfortunately the intrigue of this scene was lined with a degree of corniness (‘I love you, do you hear me?) that I would usually expect to be found in a Tyrion & Shae sequence. The aforementioned Tyrion/Shae exchanges are really starting to grind on me; both the strains on Shae and Tyrion’s love affair, and Gendry’s new knowledge of his grand heritage could’ve been inferred. We don’t need bland scenes to tell us these things, we aren’t stupid.
In the wildling camp, Tormund finally let rip with a few cock gags and his legendary ‘Har! Har!’ thanks to George Martin being at the writing helm, putting all wrongs to right. Orell is intent on stirring up trouble between Ygritte and Jon, forcing the wildling woman to revisit why she supposedly loves everybody’s favorite crow. Jon did an equally fantastic job of planting discerning thoughts in his lovers head by letting her in on the harsh reality of the several failed attempts made by the wildling’s to seize the north. In doing so he subconsciously distanced himself from the wildling’s giving away his remaining loyalty to the Night’s Watch that spells out a tragic end to the couples affections.
Elsewhere in the north Theon’s torture persisted, exceeding last week’s level of cringe worthiness. I thank the seven that they didn’t show his yoghurt lobber getting lopped off and flayed, because that would have gone way over the line of remote decency that is regularly jumped over by films of the new french extremity. Regardless of the effective portrayal of Theon’s torture, the little bit of fumbling in the build up to his captors entrance was nothing less than uncomfortable, if you watch the show with your parents you’ll understand what I’m getting at here.
Finally we come to Arya. Although her showing was brief, it shed light on the sinister developments of Arya’s character under the influence of the recent turmoils in her story. Her growing disdain for Beric and the falsity of The Brotherhood Without Banners as a whole became overwhelming, subsequently leading her to flee straight into the hands of Sandor who lingered near the brotherhood who had yet to repay him. It is safe to say Sandor has his repayment settled, that is of course if he fully intends on handing her back for a ladies ransom.
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Final Rating: B