Game of Thrones: Kissed by Fire

“I’ve served men my entire life…I’m done serving.”

This episode left me unsettled. Part of it was due to troubling last scene between the Lannisters, and part due to a few earlier scenes that didn’t quite hit their mark. Ultimately, though, I was unsettled because, even though I’ve read the book and know what’s happening and what will happen, I am worried for many of our characters.

If there’s a theme this week, it’s service: servants knowing more than masters, people calling in favors and not realizing their “servants” (read: Littlefinger) are working against them, various authority figures demanding they be obeyed.

The final scene, in which Tywin commanded his children to adhere to a strict devotion to “family” in the abstract, highlighted the key difference between Cersei and Tyrion. Tyrion is horrified at the prospect of being inflicted on Sansa; Cersei is horrified at the prospect of an arranged marriage being inflicted on her. Tyrion’s quick, disgusted response broke my heart: he genuinely thinks he is so horrific that his first thought was for how terrible a marriage to him would make Sansa feel.

Cersei, on the other hand…Well, let me start with a disclaimer. I’m hardly an apologist for arranged marriage: I can’t imagine what sort of terrible match my parents would make for me if given the opportunity. But in Westeros, high-born ladies are almost always set up in arranged marriages (as are the men, obviously). Sure, Cersei was mistreated by Robert, her first husband—but because that scene doesn’t exist in the books, I have a hard time taking it to heart. And doesn’t a marriage to a handsome gay man sound like the perfect set-up for Cersei? But she’s horrified at the thought, and I’m mostly annoyed at her horror, especially in contrast to Tyrion’s selfless reaction to his similar proposal.

Tywin demanded that both his children fulfill their family duty, obeying him as the patriarch, and they resisted. In a neat parallel, Jaime Lannister also described his disobedience to a patriarch (the old Mad King Aerys) in the bath scene with Brienne. Jaime’s nickname, “Kingslayer,” emphasizes his treachery: as a sworn member of the Kingsguard, Jaime should have died to protect his king. But he couldn’t, since the king was crazy and wanted to burn the world along with himself. “Kingslayer” ought to be an honorific, but in a world in which oaths and fidelity are worth more than coin, it’s a curse. Jaime let his reputation be sullied as expiation for breaking his oath, but he seems to feel like it’s time to let that self- flagellation go, as the awkward “My name is Jaime” at the end of the scene made clear.

Duty cuts both ways, though. The Lannisters may struggle with what their leaders demands of them, but leaders like Beric Dondarian and the Lord of Light manage to create disciples by offering companionship, choice, and noble outlawry. The best kind.

Oh, and resurrection. Book readers were expecting Beric Donadarian’s resurrection, which may be why the writers chose not to end the episode on what should have been a shocking scene. It’s a pity they didn’t, as the Lord of Light seems to be the one effectual god in Westeros, where the Seven are more than fancy chapel decorations, and the “old gods” are sleeping in their trees. Resurrection, shadow babies, fire: I suspect the Lord of Light, or at least his acolytes, will be useful and important in the coming zombie wars. I hope so, at least.

As it was staged, however, the highlight of the Brotherhood without Banners wasn’t Beric’s resurrection but Arya’s reaction to it: she wants her father back, by any means. That Beric loses parts of himself with each resurrection doesn’t seem to matter to her—which is reasonable, given that she is a young girl whose entire world collapsed when her father was treacherously beheaded. That Gendry is choosing the Brotherhood over Arya’s offer of family is even more poignant.

Speaking of beheadings: alas, Lord Karstark. He killed the young, irrelevant Lannister hostages to avenge the death of his sons and commit suicide-by-king. Karstark’s actions, ironically, would make perfect sense to Tywin Lannister: he sacrificed everything for “family” in the abstract, forgetting what it would mean for specific, individual family members and bannermen.

Now, without the forces of the Karstarks behind him, Robb is stuck in the upper-middle of Westeros with no home to return to and nowhere to go. His decision to sack Casterly Rock is interesting, as it would take the fight right to the Lannisters (except that they’re all busy in King’s Landing). And it requires an alliance with the Freys, whom Robb snubbed by breaking his betrothal to one of the Frey girls and marrying his current wife instead.

Speaking of wives: ugh, shudder, ugh. Stannis’s wife is insanely creepy. She keeps fetuses in jars in her bedroom. (No wonder Stannis has the hots for Melissandre.) She locks up her daughter just because the daughter has “greyscale.” That was horrifying, and cruel. It was so horrifying, in fact, that I’m not going to say any more about it.

So I’ll move on to Dany and her wonderful army. The liberated slaves seem awfully happy with their freedom. (It’s amazing how a change in perspective can make exactly the same activity seem better or worse.) But Jorah and Barristan the Bold aren’t quite coalescing into the seamless advisory team Dany might need. Jorah is clearly nervous about whether or not Barristan knows that Jorah was a spy for King Robert. Barristan is clearly nervous about throwing his lot in with Jorah, whose name is mud in Westeros. Tensions, secrets, distrust—actually, Dany’s advisors might be perfectly suited to the small council in King’s Landing.

As long as they serve Dany as well as Grey Worm, who is devotedly grateful. And as long as they serve better than Littlefinger, who was tasked by Cersei to find out about the marriage plot with Sansa and Loras, and is using that information for his own ends. (Cersei really isn’t as smart as she thinks she is, is she?) As long as they serve better than Lord Karstark, who let vengeance overrule oaths and loyalty. And as long as they serve better than the Lannister children, who do what they must and spend their entire lives resenting it. As long as Dany manages to convince her advisors, her armies, and eventually the people of Westeros to choose her--since, in a world filled with resentment, only those who choose to serve are any good at it.

Three out of four warm, sultry caves.

Reminder: book-related discussions and spoilers live in the discussion thread.

Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, True Detective, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

15 comments:

Juliette said...

I thought the theme they were going for was oaths - keeping them, breaking them etc (including Jon breaking his oath as well as the various oaths to various kings and/or husbands - and Selyse's weird comfort with her husband's oath-breaking). I actually thought that theme hung together more than any episodes usually do.

But oaths or not, I will always and forever think of this as the Sexy Bath Time Episode! I kinda love that they managed to get both those scenes into one episode.

I loved this episode - probably my favourite of the whole series so far! Bu that's probably just cause it features some of my favourite storylines and characters.

Austin said...

What? Somebody who didn't totally love this episode? ;) You are clearly among the minority on this one, if message boards are any indication. I thought it was a very poignant episode. 4 out of 4!

celticmarc said...

Awesome review, as always.

Hey ! I saw Jaime Lannister In Oblivion ! LMAO

Morgan India said...

I've see people comment, saying "Loras really never loved Renly if he hopped into bed with the hot squire," which I don't agree with at all.

Cersei has never been one of my favourite characters, so I was with Tywin in that scene. But I did love how Tyrion reacted to the news.

And I was slightly disappointed with the cave scene. Disappointed because I just found it to be quite dull.

Freeman said...

Interesting. I thought this was one of the tightest episodes in the show thus far. There was like 6 different things happening in this episode but I never felt aggravated that they cut away from a story or that they weren't focusing enough on something. I feel like every scene managed to get across what needed to get across. Certainly left me with a sense of foreboding, which is in this case a good thing

The Lord of Light certainly does seem to be a more hands on god than the rest of the gods. Though I guess the Old Gods do give the occasional prophetic vision, which from what I've been told is a more prominent thing in the books. Watch the Lord of Light be the Mad King reincarnated or something haha.

Also butts. Butts everywhere.

Mik said...

Did it annoy anyone else that Shireen clearly had dirty blonde hair?

If we know anything about the Baratheons...its that they are all black of hair.

Juliette said...

Maybe it'll go dark later?! (I was blond when I was 2, but brunette byt he time I was her age)

Gus Brunetti said...

One of my favourite characters in the books (from book 3 on) is Jamie Lannister. And Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is nailing the part more each scene. His monologue about how and why he came to slay the king was perfectly delivered, and Gwendoline Christie's reactions made it a perfect scene.

And one of the scenes I was looking forward to was Lord Beric's resurrection. It's a pity they didn't leave it as a final scene, because that would be a perfect WHOA moment to end an episode.

Josie, it always amazes me how you can riview the episodes without spoiling, and do i so well. I bow to you, milady.

Jess Lynde said...

I really liked this episode, but perhaps not as much as last week's. I thought I did, but when I rewatched it, I ended up fast-forwarding through a lot of material I simply didn't need to watch twice (Jon/Ygrette, some of the Riverrun stuff, various bits of Kings Landing plotting). Whereas, last week, I rewatched the entire episode without fast-forwarding. So I guess I liked that one better overall, even though this one probably flowed a bit better scene to scene.

The Jaime and Brienne material was the standout of the episode for me. They are doing such an excellent job of bringing this story and this developing friendship to the screen, and I'm so pleased to see one of my favorite parts of the story coming to life this way. NCW and Gwendoline Christie are fantastic.

The final scene with the betrothals was pretty kick ass, too. Charles Dance was mesmerizing, and I loved seeing Cersei's gloating get nipped in the bud. She was so horribly smug, that I just hooted with glee when Tywin turned his disapproval and demands on her, too.

I also rather liked the Arya/Brotherhood material and the Dragonstone material (Selyse and her preservation jars were fantastically creepy). I was surprised by the way they somewhat underplayed Beric's assorted resurrections, but it was an interesting approach.

Juliette, I think it is funny that you called this the "Sexy Bath Time" episode, because I found myself so horrified by how physically beat everyone looked that I didn't find either bath all that sexy. Poor Rose Leslie needs to eat something. I guess her emaciated look is probably apt for a wildling, but when she was standing there naked in front of Jon all I could see was the poor girl's ribs and bony shoulder blades. Eat, child, eat! And Jaime looked god awful, too. Just bruised and battered and beat. Again, appropriate given the character's situation, but not sexy.

Katherine said...

I’ve said this elsewhere, but I don’t think “Thank you” and “Good job” can be said too often. I will not be seeing this for some time, but it is fun to read a long and not feel like I’m spoiling the experience by doing so. All of the writers and the commenters on this site are first rate.

Thank you, and good job.

Gus Brunetti said...

I beg to differ, Jess. Rose Leslie could be frozen in carbonite the way she is. I like pale skinny redheads. There should be more in the world.

Jess Lynde said...

I'd argue there's a difference between "skinny/thin" and "bony/malnourished." She's got a beautiful face and lovely hair, but I'd rather not see her ribs through her skin. :)

Juliette said...

I must admit I thought the same about Rose Leslie, but I have Issues with skinniness anyway (I personally am fine, but it's an issue that's affected my family and friends).

Jaime, on the other hand, I just wanted to look after, because some horrible unfeminist part of me likes that idea! He's my favourite character from Book 3 on as well, and my favourite surprise out of all Martin's plot twists was the way he somehow made me fall in love with the guy who started out having sex with his sister and throwing Bran out a window...

Jolyn said...

When Ygritte stripped naked I swallowed too when I saw the bones in her back. I don't really mind the beautiful Rose Leslie being skinny (she probably looks fantastic in a 21th century ballgown), I just don't believe Ygritte is using those skinny arms to drop big scary dudes. That didn't look like a warriors body to me.

Did Jon and Ygritte have sex before the bathing? Ew.

I didn't have trouble pittying Cersei at all! As if being given away for politics once isn't enough? She's one of the most powerfull women in her world and it still isn't enough to keep her from being dutifully raped. Then again, being married to a gay guy probably isn't the worst scenario for her.

Btw, how great is Lena Headey? Whenever she is in a scene I forget I'm watching fiction.

I'd forgotten this likable Jaime is the same guy who tried to kill Bran! Good point Juliette! I'm just going to think he's a changed man..



Gus Brunetti said...

Juliet, you're right. When it affects your health, it's never desirable. But being skinny is not always a matter of choice. I, myself, wish I weren't so skinny. I had to work out to be over 120 pounds, and I'm 5 feet 6.

And Jolyn (a very GoT name), come to think of it, in the books it is always mentioned how Ygritte is very skinny, but wears large clothes both because of the cold and to appear larger, not to be mocked as a warrior.