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
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
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?)
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