Game of Thrones: A Man Without Honor

“No matter what you do, you're forsaking one vow or another.”

With only three episodes left, Game of Thrones has unsurprisingly taken a moment to remind us of what is at stake in the constant warfare, treachery, and deceit of Westeros and beyond: people, all of whom might die at any moment, or make an incredibly stupid decision, or both.

Last week, CoolSid offered this explanation of the title: “I think the title itself refers to the shifting nature of the world of Westeros and the choices that characters have to make to either follow the old ways or adapt to the new world,” and Anonymous piggybacked on that idea to explain that “It seems as if every character has to face the choice of where to put his loyalties and beliefs. It also seems as if everyone if being tested... after all, it's an easy thing to follow a certain moral code when you're in a safe, happy environment, and it is only now, when everything is going to hell, that morals and beliefs are becoming a matter to think of and to choose rather than something your learnt from your family.” Iago pointed out that people who keep “their oaths are shown to suffer for it.”

Jon Snow got slapped in the face with the oath he’d sworn to the Night’s Watch—from one perspective, Ygritte is right. It is too much to ask, that someone subsume all desire and choose to be, as she sees it, oppressed by dogma. He is being tested now: the sexual allure of Ygritte and the threat to his way of thinking that the “free people” represent. After all, if he keeps his oath he will certainly be punished. Likely killed.

Theon has put himself to the test without realizing it. He claims to see the world as a game, which shows his own incipient sociopathy (if sociopathy can be inspired by a massive should-chip). Clearly, he is happy to live by the iron law and reap the rewards of cruelty. Are Bran and Rickon really dead? Rule 10 tells us to wait, and we shall. We’ll also see if Theon proves to be a man of honor at all, ever. Silly chihuahua.

In his own way, Tywin Lannister has honor. Sure, he’s the bad guy and evil and basically represents the 1% that the Westerosi Occupy Movement hates, but he is doing that most basic honorable thing: protecting his family. Despite his honor, however, he seems to enjoy the game-play just as much as Theon. He claimed that Arya reminded him of his daughter and told her “You’re too smart for your own good.” How much does he know about Arya? Does he realize entirely who she is, but feel like she is safest at Harrenhal under his watchful eye?

Much-missed (by me) Jaime Lannister lacks honor, and does not even want to protect the distant branches of his family. His willingness to kill a man who had just bonded with him, who had squired for him, shows Jaime’s vicious cruelty. But that’s the cruelty required of anyone who makes their living by violence, as so many of the knights in Westeros do.

As Sandor Clegane (The Dog) said: “Killing is the sweetest thing there is…You’ll be glad of the hateful things I do when you’re queen, and I’m all that stands between you and your beloved king.” The books make Clegane’s distinction clearer: he admits and revels in the violence and immorality required of those who live by the sword. He doesn’t dress it up in false nobility, but recognizes his own atavistic impulses—and hates himself for his own bloodlust. That intrapersonal honesty makes Clegane, in his own way, a man of honor, or at least of honesty. And he seems to have taken an oath of his own to protect Sansa, despite being sworn to Joffrey. Oathbreaking is dishonorable. Except when it isn’t.

Ser Jorah said that “no one can survive in this world without help,” and that statement resonates throughout this episode. Aegon had his sisters. Ygritte has her allies, but Jon needs some. Theon has his advisor, who encourages the “iron law” that might have killed Bran and Rickon. Arya does not have help, and that means she continues to make mistakes in who to kill and who to trust. Dany, too, has placed her faith in the wrong man: Xaro Xhoan Daxos betrayed her trust and colluded to kidnap her dragons. Dragon-nap her dragons. You know what I mean.

The solemnity of an oath makes us value oath-making. But in face of the violence of the War of Five Kings, everyone is realizing that something goes deeper than speech acts: Family, for most: Theon wants to please his father, Tywin wants to protect his legacy, Jaime wants to be with his sister, Jon wants to be with his Black Brothers, Dany wants her dragon babies. But there are also the unofficial loyalties that can mean so much. Shae immediately joined Team Sansa once she realized Sansa would be fated to sleep with Joffrey the Tiny Cruel King.

So where does that leave us? This episode almost felt like Mad Men with Armor: two-person dialogues that told us everything about the characters and their internal (and external) conflicts. The titles of the last two episodes (which I’ll leave you to discover on your own, or not) make clear that we’re heading for something major. Will the oath-breaking, loyalties, and cruelties mean unmitigated disaster? Or will some people help each other, keep their oaths, and still manage to keep their heads?

Grumpkins and Snarks:

• Maester Luwin: “So far, hunting seems very similar to riding, my lord.”

• Theon: “It’s all just a game.”

• Arya: “Aegon, and his sisters.” Yeah, Arya!

• Jaime: “Who’s your mother?”
Cousin: “Cinda.”
Jaime: “Is she the fat one?
Cousin: “Well, maybe she’s gotten a little larger…”
Jaime: “There’s only one fat Lannister. If she were your mother, you’d know it.”

• Gregor Clegane has an evil voice! And there was another mention of the Brotherhood, who are hiding in the forest like Robin Hood and his Merry Men. For those who haven’t read the book: Gregor is the tall guy at Harrenhal. He is the older brother of Sandor Clegane (The Dog).

Three out of four dragons the size of cats.

Reminder: we can discuss the books and changes here.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I´m not really feeling the new Mountain. Can´t put my finger on it but somehow he seemed out of place for me.

Somehow I thought Tywin would be more scary and intimidating. The scenes with Arya make him seem so grandfather-ly.

Theon reminds me more of some kind of rodent. And fittingly he tries to gnaw on the odds that life provided him with and tries to bite himself to the top to claim his birthright.

Anonymous said...

Following Anon above -- did they recast the Mountain? I *thought* he seemed different to Season One, where he beheaded his horse at the tourney, but I wasn't sure if I was misremembering (or if we even saw his face, then, or merely his helm for example).

On the other hand, I do find Tywin suitably intimidating. I think it's his (pleasant) interactions with Arya that make him all the more threatening. It's the obvious edge underneath that, the occasional sharp word to her or one of his henchmen, that belie he's not as grandfatherly as he appears.

I did love Arya apparently weighing up her dinner knife vs. Tywin's neck, too.

--Korlis

Anonymous said...

Awsome Tyrion/Cercei scene. Emotional but on the same time so awkward. I was surprised that Cercei confessed her relationship with Jamie (finally he´s back) to Tyrion so straight forward.

Jess Lynde said...

The Cersei as written in the book never would have. It gives him too much power. And even if she confessed the incest, she never would have sobbed openly about Joffrey in front of Tyrion. I'm on board with most of the changes they've made for the series (or am hesitantly accepting thus far), but I really don't like the way they've softened Cersei. This remorseful and teary woman we've been getting of late bears little resemblance to the woman I came to know reading the book. I much prefer the harder and more viper-like version. But maybe I've misremembered her. Do other book readers feel the same, or do you all like this version of Cersei?

Your Modest Guru said...

I think Theon's remark about it all being a game was more of an empty reassurance to Luwin. Like he was not really worried whether or not Bran and Rickon escaped him because he was gonna capture them. And I don't think he enjoys the iron law so much as he wants to enjoy it to be accepted by The Greyjoys.

I am glad they are upping The Hound's viciousness. He seemed more stoic last season. Ironically, I find the new Mountain to be far less intimidating than the actor playing him last season.

Shae, Ygritte, and Cersei all had great mostly original moments in this episode. And jess, I think it's more likely she got all weepy just to make him drop his guard. Although, I think her being secretly distraught over having raised up a psychotic son to an all powerful king would be a nice change from the books.

I agree about Tywin having some honor. He is just more willing to do what others won't to succeed. I find it hilarious that Arya and Tywin's uneasy sort of bond is one of the best aspects of this season. And again, original. It allows the old lion a little more sympathy when he would rather have friendly banter with a prisoner he is openly suspicious of. I was a bit freaked when he told her she reminded him of Cersei.

Xaro and Pyat Pree's slaughter of the Thirteen was freakier, though. I can't wait for The House of the Undying.

Jorah can't even admit to a stranger how much he loves Dany. Poor old bear. Is the woman in the mask one of the Faceless Men or someone else? Well, don't tell me, I will keep reading.

In our world, Jaime might be called hero instead of kingslayer. He perfectly describes how broken this Westerosi honor system is. There really is no way to win the game with everyone happy and loving you. The scene between he and his cousin was also great, I suspected his plan as soon as they got to talking, but it was still jarring. He basically did the same thing with Jory days before he killed him.

The anticipation just keeps rising and rising, and the show does not cease being good. Still loving it and your reviews.

ChrisB said...

I liked the title of this episode. As you say in your review, Josie, all of the men are struggling to come to terms with their honour, their oaths and their loyalty. The women, on the other hand, do not seem to suffer from this affliction as much.

In spite of sleeping with Theon and most likely being able to use him eventually to gain her freedom, Osha is loyal to Bran, Hodor and Rickon. She risks her life to get them all away from the danger at Winterfell. Whether or not she succeeded, we shall have to wait until next week to see.

Ygritte is loyal to her people, using all of her wiles to get Jon in some serious trouble. I love watching these two together. They generate so much heat, I'm surprised the snow surrounding them does not melt.

Arya is loyal to herself. Right now, she is going to survive, no matter what it takes or what it costs her. I found the scene where she is holding the knife and looking at Tywin's neck fascinating. What stopped her? I think it's because some part of her recognises that she is safer with him than without. So, as much as she hates him, she will use him for the time being.

Like her sister, Sansa is just trying to get by day to day. But, I think she is trying to decide to whom she should be loyal. Joffrey, who will be her husband? The Hound, whom she doesn't understand and fears, yet knows that he will protect her? Cersei, who had a very maternal conversation with her? Interestingly, it is Shae who is the most loyal to Sansa. She is willing to kill to keep Sansa's new status as a woman a secret.

Dany is lost, unsure to whom she owes any loyalty at all. She feels as though her whole identity is in being the Mother of the Dragons, yet they are gone. She vacillates between Daxos and Jorah, both of whom have betrayed her. I believe she will regain her inner strength when her babies are back with her.

Catelyn is loyal to the Starks -- the memory of her husband, which Jamie uses to get a rise out of her, and her son. I can't believe she will drive Brienne's sword through Jamie, but she must be tempted. And, it doesn't get more loyal than Brienne!

Of them all, the one I found the most fascinating was Cersei, a woman loyal to her children to a fault. The scene where she tells Sansa that the only people a woman should love are her children was chilling. Especially when she added it was simply because, as a mother, you can't help it. Shiver.

But, look where that love has brought her. The scene with Tyrion left me unsure. If she is being honest, she knows what a monster Joffrey is and regrets her part in it. If she is not, she is playing Tyrion (who, one assumes, would love to have a *real* sister) masterfully.

Another fantastic episode and another fantastic review, Josie.

sunbunny said...

"Westorsi Occupy Movement?" Hilarious.

Poor Sansa. I loved Shae trying to help her.

For me, the definite highlight of the episode was Jaime's return! I love him as a character. He has layers (and he's funny). Sure, it takes them FOREVER to get to the fact that he has layers, but at least this episode got the ball rolling on that.

Not sure where we're going with Cersei. Jess is right, book Cersei never would have cried like that in front of someone. Is she up to something or was it just the show's way of trying to get into her character?