Game of Thrones: Walk of Punishment

“All men must die. But we are not men.”

The “smallfolk” of Westeros—the peasants and innkeepers and such—are often mentioned but rarely seen in the Song of Ice and Fire books. The series has mostly followed that model, although of course we get appropriately dirty orphans and farmers in the background of some scenes. Benioff and Weiss, however, have followed the books in emphasizing those people somewhere between “the powerful” and “the not”—women, second sons, minor lords. “Walk of Punishment” continues that tradition, by focusing on characters without a lot of power, despite family connections. It’s an episode of outcasts.

Dany’s time in Astapor had the most obvious rumination on this theme, as Dany still hasn’t decided whether to buy a slave army. (Note to newbies: this is going somewhere, I promise.) Unlike rulers like Joffrey, Dany does care about slaves. She remembers being chattel. Messandrei’s brief smile as she realized that Dany wasn’t like her other masters was wonderful: not just the female empowerment, but that Dany said “we” and meant both herself and a slave. Dany is creating a community of outcasts.

Not all outcasts are hiding nobility under their grime, though. Edmure Tully, Catelyn’s ne’er-do-well brother, has the power of family but not the power of competence. He couldn’t even light his father’s floating bier. Uncle Brynden “Blackfish” Tully doesn’t have the rights of inheritance, but he does have the competence—and how far will that take him? Not far, perhaps, as his name implies: years ago, his brother made a joke about him being the family’s black sheep. As their sigil is a fish, Brynden turned that into a “black fish,” and embraced his outcast status.

Why? He knows that what Littlefinger said is true: titles breed titles, and it takes titles to breed titles. Those in power spend their time acquiring more power and struggling to keep what they have. The small chamber meeting in King’s Landing showed that beautifully. Tywin has so much power that the most powerful men in the city waited for his tacit permission to sit down. Cersei moved her chair to the head of the table, trying to prove her power but accidentally showing how little she has and how desperate she is to keep it. Tyrion simultaneously made fun of her with some musical chairs of his own, and seated himself at the foot, where his father thinks he belongs.

Tyrion’s strategy for dealing with parental rejection is to flaunt that rejection, but that feigned insouciance doesn’t make it easier for him. In a clever bit of parallelism, we saw Jaime recommend the same indifference to Brienne: it seems to be a Lannister trick, pretending not to care while storing up insults for later repayment. (Remember, a Lannister always pays his debts.) In fact, Jaime even echoed some of Tyrion’s lines from back in Season One: “You’re a smart man,” said Tyrion to Mord the jailer in “A Golden Crown.” Jaime echoed those lines as he tried to trick Amory Lorch Locke into undoing his shackles and ransoming him to Tywin. But Jaime doesn’t have Tyrion’s skill at reading people.

Too bad for him. A knight without a right hand? A Lannister mutilated by a petty warlord? Jaime’s unhanding represents a radical shift for his character—all he has been (a beautiful knight who loves his sister and nothing else) will change now. In the harsh world of war-torn Westeros, men like Amory Lorch Locke sometimes do have more power than men like Jaime Lannister. As Jaime surely realizes.

I can’t help but see another parallel with Jaime’s unhanding—Arya and her wolf. At the inn, she reminded The Hound what had happened last time they were there together. He didn’t remember, but we do: Micah the innocent boy was killed at Joffrey’s whim, Sansa’s wolf Lady was killed, and Arya had to send Nymeria away. As the books make clear (not so much the show), the Stark direwolves represent the essential goodness and wholeness of the children who possess them: as with the daemons in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, losing a wolf is like losing a part of one’s soul. That’s why Sansa is so confused all of the time, and why Arya is so violent. Even Jon’s wolf is distant from him now that he is pretending to be a traitor.

But Arya re-gained a wolf at the inn, although it was just a funny-looking baked good made by Ser Hot Pie. Arya may have lost her father, her wolf, her family, and what morality she was developing at her young age, but at this moment she seems to be regaining some of her goodness through the power of friendship and not being an outcast. We’ll see how long that lasts, as nothing good seems to last in Westeros. As Jorah pointed out, nobility often leads to death.

And sometimes a lack of innate nobility leads to awesomeness. Despite all the gloomy near-rape, unhandings, power-plays, and Dany giving up her biggest dragon, I want to end on a happy note: way to go, Pod! Pod has always been one of my favorite characters, and although the scene between him, Bronn, and Tyrion was a bit clumsy, I found myself smiling with pride at Pod’s prowess.

Snarks and Grumpkins:

• I did a search for “floating bier” to see if Papa Tully’s kayak-grave thing had an official name, and got only odd results. Anyone know what those are called?

• Fun Game of Thrones/Doctor Who crossover this week: Tobias Menzies, who plays Edmure Tully, joined Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth) on a Russian submarine in Who-ville this week. The submarine was attacked by Dany’s dragons, and Hot Pie wound up ending the Cold War while Pod seduced Clara.

• Two facts I couldn’t work into the review: the northern wildlings are going to climb the wall, and Littlefinger has borrowed insane amounts of money from both the Lannisters and the Iron Bank of Braavos to fund King Robert’s profligacy, war, and various beheadings.

• Also: Theon, bastard, horse race.

• Reminder: spoilers for the books live here, in the discussion thread

Three out of four Podrick Paynes. Way to go, kiddo!

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?)


Paul Kelly said...

I think the official term is burny-boat-funerally thing. I was doing a search myself and I stumbled across this this gem. It's a bookshelf that, after you snuff it, you use the component parts to build a coffin, hop it (or are thrown in... because you're dead), and someone chucks you down the hole. This has to be the most amazing thing I've ever seen... and I've seen cheese.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what an outstanding review! Loved especially your explanation of the direwolfs and the beginning of the review.

I had a different impression of the "Game of Thrones" respectively the meeting of the small council.

The best place or the seat with presumebly the biggest importance/iinfluence is the one right next to Tywin. That´s why littlefinger was so quick and that´s why Cercei took her chair on the other side. But Tyrion dragged his chair opposite of Tywin and thus positions himself as equal if not in some regards superior because he does not need council next to him.

P.S.: Isn´t it called funeral raft?

Morgan India said...

Did anyone else notice that the man singing "The Bear and The Maiden Fair" was the lead singer of Snow Patrol?

I'm slightly disappointed in Amory Lorch/Locke, but perhaps that will change. When my dad saw the unhanding of Jaime, he went on a five minute spiel of hand jokes. I may have encouraged him.

I loved that they actually included the Rhaegar line and Iain delivered it beautifully.

I may have been more upset over losing Hot Pie than Jaime losing his hand.

Also, my brain cannot handle Iwan Rheon as ... whoever he is.

Sooze said...

The small council scene was brilliant. I also took it the way you did, Anon. And Josie, you are the only GoT reviewer who has mentioned the direwolves and their importance. You do get more of that sense in the books, it's a shame the show hasn't quite delivered on that front (can't do everything, I suppose!). Great post, as always!

Jess Lynde said...

That wasn't Amory Lorch who captured Brienne and Jaime. He's someone called "Locke" (a new character, I believe) and seems to be a Bolton man. Lorch was loyal to the Lannisters, and I'm pretty sure that Arya had Jaqen kill him right in front of Tywin last season.

Loved the Small Council game of musical chairs. I also interpreted Tyrion's seat placement as an opposite/equals kind of thing. Kind of an in-your-face move, especially since he was then the first to speak with a whole bunch of snark. But every other review I've read says he was taking that seat as a "low" position. Interesting.

My other favorite bits this week were the walk-and-advise session with Dany, Jorah, and Barristan (I love that they both have valid points), and the introduction of the Blackfish. It wasn't just that he shoved Edmure out of the way and took the shot himself. It was that he took the shot, then walked away before even seeing if it landed because he just knew that it would. The Blackfish is awesome. And huge!

Josie, I loved your comment about Dany's "we" including Missandei, marking a change in the kind of treatment she's used to. Great point.

celticmarc said...

Awesome review Josie.

Loved the power-table scene. Was so uncomfortable during the rape scene. Was also uncomfortable for Daenerys for being insulted without her knowledge. Freaked a bit a the end with the hand cutting. Then I told myself : "so glad to live here, now, and NOT there !"

I don't watch Doctor Who, so I missed the crossover. But we now have two actors from Rome now. Cool.

Paul, oh my ! That bookshelf beats cheese.

celticmarc said...

One "now" too many...

Paul Kelly said...

I saw the table thing the same as you, Jess. I think it comes from being educated at a school where all the important people (monitors, teachers, etc.) sat in the end chairs, and us plebs sat up and down the sides. Both end chairs were places of rank.

MischievousNinja said...

Loved Bronn referring to Baelish as "Lord Twatbeard"

Josie Kafka said...

Thank you, Jess! I was really confused about what Lorch was doing there. I'll switch the review to reflect that the guy's name was Locke.

My thinking about the table scene: in the Middle Ages and especially in fantasy books is that the rules for pseudo-medieval seating charts is that the head is the most important spot, and everything descends from there. (It mirrors feudalism in that way.)

For instance, the feast at Winterfell when Jon is placed far from the top of the table: the "foot" of the table really is a foot, rather than another head.

Although I do think that Martin should consider making two-headed tables the real threat to Westeros.

Jess Lynde said...

I love how our influences and expectations can potentially undermine the way a scene is interpreted. I never even considered that Tyrion dragging his chair to the foot of the table was him showily "accepting" Tywin's disdain until I started reading it everywhere else. You all are probably right, but I wouldn't have gotten there on my own!

Mark Greig said...

I love this episode. There wasn't a single scene I didn't love in some way. The Small Council scene had me in hysterics. I love how one reviewer referred to it as the characters actually playing a game of thrones. Since it looks like the Bolton men are stand-ins for the Brave Companions/Bloody Mummers, I'm guessing that Locke is meant to be a replacement for Vargo Hoat.

CrazyCris said...

Great review Josie! Bravo on pointing out the importance of the direwolves to the Stark kids, I think most people who haven't read the books don't "get" how important they are (although in the case of Bran and Jon it's pretty obvious already)

LOVED seeing the Blackfish! Can't wait for more of him!

And Dany's plans? I can see them in her eyes! Missandei also knows this new owner is "different". Bring on the next episode asap please!!!

And they are definitely doing a great job with the snippets of Theon's story!

Both almost-rape scenes (and subsequent moments -rescue/hand chopping) were very powerful...

celticmarc said...

"His Dark Materials" :

Very glad they made a movie about the first novel. Very disappointed we'll never see the other two...

(The raven was my daemon when I did the test on the website back then)

Henrik Bennetter said...

Superb episode, and review, as always. Being someone who hasn't read the books - I get the feeling that Dany speaks the language she is being insulted in, only doesn't want to show it. Also, I find it pretty obvious that she's going to bring the whole place down - after she gets the slaves. I'm assuming she will also give them their freedom, if they wish it, which will probably lead to the soldiers becoming even more loyal to her.
But, like I said, this is only speculation on my part - I haven't read the books. Please don't tell me if I'm right or wrong.
About the almost-rape-scenes. I wasn't as disturbed by Theons as of Briennes. Partly because, well - Theons a sonofa, but also quite much so because of Gwendoline Christies acting. I have never, ever, seen the fear on her face before. The utter desperate fear.
Brilliant acting.

Iago said...

The small council scene was one of the best they've ever done. It's rare to see a scene say so much almost without dialogue. Cersei was interesting: how quickly and confidently she took in the setting and made her choice. It goes without saying Tyrion's actions were also magnificent: watching them all make a show of themselves and waiting patiently to wind his dad up.

Was wonderful seeing Riverrun in the titles: I always get nerdily excited when somewhere new is shown in the titles. The Blackfish showed why everyone was clamouring for him last series - the Blackfish is just so cool.

Loved Hot Pie's departure. It's a testament to the writers that they can make you care so much about characters like Hot Pie who actually get very little time on screen. Pod's another example of that.