When I began the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, it was with trepidation. I don’t like to watch a TV show or film based on a novel (or multiples thereof) unless I’ve read the books. Seriously though? These books are so damn long! But this is a THING I have, and so I read the first book and started the second the summer before season 2 started. As I watched the seasons unfold, it became clear that the television show will not always coincide with the textual version, but it will always be a roller coaster ride. This episode was a prime example of that. After last week’s non-canon rape scene between Jamie and Cersei, I was not sure how the series might redeem the character, at least in my eyes. Still, it became clear in this episode that things are not always what the audience sees, in fact, we are given multiple points of view for a reason–so that we might understand the War of the Five Kings from disparate and diverse narratives and develop and understanding of all sides involved, with loyalties to none. Let’s head to Westeros, shall we? (Spoilers ahead!)
Across the Narrow Sea
In Camp Daenerys, handmaiden Missandei teaches the Unsullied captain Grey Worm to speak the Common Tongue and we learn a bit about the Unsullied’s work ethic. “Kill the Master” is a theme in this episode–which begins with the Meereen slaves, who rise up to murder those who have kept them captive for so long. With help from the weapons the Unsullied sneak into the slave quarters, the captives revolt, raise the Targaryen flag above the castle and pledge their allegiance to the Khaleesi by killing the masters and taking over the city.
While Ser Barristan councils Daenrys that is is better to answer injustice with mercy, the Khaleesi answers injustice with justice and puts up on nails 163 masters for the 163 children they saw nailed to mile markers on the path to Meereen. Another city is hers and another thousand or so freed people stand behind her, ready to storm King’s Landing or do whatever their queen bids of them.
Over in King’s Landing, Jaime Lannister gets a lesson in brotherhood from an unlikely source. Bronn reminds Jaime that he loves his little brother and Tyrion trusted that Jaime would have rode day and night for him if asked. Bronn nudges Jamie to Tyrion, asking the Kingslayer if he would fight for his unjustly accused family member now, when no one else will.
I am going to stop here and take a moment to address the elephant in the castle. Last week, we definitely saw Jaime Lannister rape his sister/lover/victim, Cersei, right? Well, as I look back at the episode, I wonder who’s point of view the audience is really given. While the director seemed to be going for the “she didn’t want it but now she does” vibe, I do not believe one bit that there is such a thing as a “sort of rape”. I do not condone the desperate actions that Jaime took, but we are not quite sure what Cersei thinks of the encounter as of yet. Did she consider herself violated? She surely did protest verbally during the act, but I am hesitant to speculate on what our dear Queen Regent is thinking. Cersei has manipulated, coerced, lied and attempted murder to keep the incestuous relationship with her brother going and a secret. According to the twisted POV that is Cersei’s in book 4, we cannot be sure what this woman is thinking, except that she hates Tyrion, is ready for him to die and will do anything to see that happen, even relinquish control to her brother Jaime, if she felt it would be a means to an end.
Speaking of Tyrion, Bronn does convince Jamie to visit him and when the brothers reunite, Jaime becomes convinced that his brother did not kill his son. This is an interesting scene because we see the Lannister brothers let down their defenses and tell the truth, if only to each other. When Cersei hears of the visit, she questions Jamie’s motives, beginning with his return to King’s Landing and ending with the death of their son. She asks him to find Sansa and bring back the child’s head. Instead, Jaime tasks Brienne of Tarth to take Podrick Payne as her squire and search the lands for Sansa Stark so that they can bring her to safety (not back to KL). Brienne is Jaime’s conscious and his only friend at the moment, and so it is a touching moment when he gives her the armor and his Valyrian steel sword, promising to return in honor, subsequently restoring Jamie’s. The Kingslayer has lost his honor, his hand and his purpose as a Lannister. He has no vow except the one he made to Catelyn Stark, and so he sends Brienne to fulfill it, because he cannot. When he asks her to name her new sword, the sword that was forged from Ned Stark’s and given to Jaime by his father and a symbol of all he was and is not any more, she calls it “Oathkeeper”. It is a symbol of Jaime’s honor, which he watches ride off into the proverbial sunset while he is left alone with his thoughts, his family and his golden hand.
While Brienne is tasked to find her, Sansa is miles away on a dark ocean with Petyr Baelish, headed to The Eyrie and dear Aunt Lysa. Littlefinger plans on marrying the former Tully, sister to Catelyn, and so we have hope that Sansa will be safe there, but at what cost? Littlefinger, who is fast becoming one of my favorite show characters, admits easily responsibility for the death of King Joffrey, stating that he has new friends who wanted to see the King dead.
A man with no motive is a man no one suspects. Always keep your fools confused. If they don’t who you are or what you want, they can’t know what you plan to do next. -Peter Baelish
Littlefinger is a snake and cannot be trusted, of this, I’m as sure as Sansa. Still, a friend of my enemy is my friend, right? Sansa has no choice but to go with Baelish, and so she is forced back into the submissive role she plays so well.
Not to be forgotten, Margaery and grandmother Tyrell still want a piece of the Iron Throne, and so Olenna tells her grand daughter a story of the royal seduction she performed to get the husband she wanted and not the one she was promised to. Margaery takes the hint, and secretly visits Tommen Lannister in his chambers. She is a mixture of seductive temptress and motherly affection, a perfect combination for a boy Tommen’s age. The future child-king is innocent in a way Joffrey never was, and so the Tyrell’s have a serious shot at the throne, if they can just get past mama Cersei.
Up at Castle Black, Jon Snow is teaching the Night’s Watch to fight like Wildlings but the Acting Lord Commander, Alliser Thorne, challenges Snow at every juncture. When reminded that the Maester will pick a new Lord Commander and it just might be Snow, Thorne decides to send the “traitor’s bastard” (as he calls him) to Caster’s Keep, where the mutineers are housed and where he will most likely meet his death. This guy doesn’t know my man, Jon Snow, does he?
Snow is told that he has permission to take Craster’s, but Thorne will not force any of the Crows to go with him. Luckily, Jon Snow has developed a kind of following, and so, after a rousing speech about honor and family, a few men volunteer to travel the 60+ miles in the wilderness, for the safety of the Wall.
As he prepares to head North past the wall, Jon Snow makes a new friend, Locke, who overhears him talking to Sam about Craester’s Keep and Bran. Locke is Ramsay Snow’s murderous henchman who chopped off Jamie’s hand and is most likely at Castle Black to find the Stark heirs. He fabricates a story about stealing food for his hungry family and seems to share a distaste for “high born cunts” with Snow, and easily joins the ranks of the Night’s Guard and people close to Jon Snow.
Further north, we finally see Craster’s Keep and the mutineers, head by one Burn Gorman (Owen from Torchwood, ya dolt!) who sure can play a bad guy well. And a bad guy he is indeed. Drinking wine out of the former Lord Commander’s skull, Karl Tanner is all about killing babies and raping Craster’s women until they’re dead. When he sees Craster’s last male heir he offers to kill it, since they cannot afford the extra mouth to feed, but is told that they must sacrifice the baby to the white walkers. Just as Jon Snow feared, Bran and his group are near Caster’s Keep and they hear the baby crying in the woods. Bran goes into Summer, who finds Ghost, but gets caught in a trap and hurt. When the group go to find Summer, they too are caught. To save his friends, Bran admits his name to the mutineers, who realize how precious their high-born hostage really is and will, no doubt, come up with nefarious deeds to do to the captives until Jon Snow rides in to rescue his brother and save the day. (Team Snow!!)
With the baby, across a frozen lake on a dead horse, a white walker takes the still-living child through a desolate snow covered area to a circle of ice pillars and an altar of ice. The while walkers gather and one of them comes up to the baby, picks it up and touches his face, turning his eyes blue and apparently into a white walker. Now, this is probably where all the literary nerds stopped and scratched their heads, because we have never seen the white walkers in any sort of habitat or gathering in the text, so how did GRRM sign off on this scene unless this is really part of the GoT story? Even with so many different POVs, the television audience and the book readers are both at the same crossroads. There are events taking place in the show that are not necessarily canon, yet expand on an already vast universe that is Game of Thrones. I, for one, am excited about the visualization of the white walkers, the characterization of men like Karl Tanner, Bronn and Jaime Lannister. The chains have been broken and the oaths have been made. Now, to see who will remain honorable and who will allow the darkness to take over.
xoxo The Collectiva Diva
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*all images property of HBO*