'Game Of Thrones' Recap: 'Kissed By Fire' Packed With Schemes And Developments
April 29th, 2013 10:41am EDT
If "Game of Thrones" is about one thing, it isn't war or honor, death or betrayal, succession or glory. It is, funny enough, about family, or the frayed remnants of whatever that word means to the individual. For Robb, that family is Talisa, his mother and the siblings he believes dead. For Daenerys, it's her dragons and the memory of her dead brothers, husband and son. For the Lannisters, it's the strange but unspoken sense of loyalty that binds them as one ragged, but surprisingly sturdy, unit. The boundaries between all the different families, from the blood-related to the scrounged and forged, is complicated, messy, never unmistakably clear. And even when they're physically there, the quest for family is never truly fulfilled.
Take Arya, for instance. Her sense of family is long-lost. This episode opens with a duel between the Hound and Beric Dondarrion, a battle the Hound wins when he stabs Beric to death, and a battle Arya observes and has a great stake in (remember, the Hound slaughtered her friend, the butcher's boy, back in season one). Because of this victory, the Hound is free to go per the Brotherhood's rules. But Beric isn't really dead, or at least not for long - the red priest, Thoros, resurrects him, for what we later learn is the sixth time. Despite this shocking revelation of magic (resurrection! That's a new one!), Arya seems unfazed. The murder of her friend was her first experience with death and the brutality of the world, and with the Hound free, any vengeful hope she'd been grasping at is easily deflated. As Thoros and Beric ramble on about their various resurrections, and the brutalities Beric has suffered because of them, Arya asks, rather innocently, "Could you bring back a man without a head?" It's the first time in a long time that we've heard her mention her family. And so we remember, once more, that she's still a little girl. A fatherless, motherless, siblingless child lost in the muck. And now that Gendry has left her for the Brotherhood (another play on family values - he admits to Arya that he's never had a family, and she replies, "I could be your family" - it's a gut-wrenching farewell), she's truly as alone as she's ever been.
North of the Wall, her brother, Jon, is in an opposite predicament - he's too close for comfort. The Wildlings are planning a merciless attack on Jon's black brothers, and he's still fibbing about being separate from them. Orell and Giantsbane taunt him for information, which he guiltily reveals. Poor Jon. Lucky for him, the pain of betraying his fellow men isn't long felt, for Ygritte lures him away from the camp and into a cave, and makes him prove once and for all that his oath his broken - a.k.a. she seduces him hardcore. He gives in, of course, because he's a man, of course. And despite his lack of experience, he seems pretty good at… well, doing what he does. The love scene comes awkwardly early in the episode, and we don't see the two again afterward, and so the weight of the moment is lost. Jon Snow loses his virginity! He swims naked with a girl in a bubbling spring! He teaches himself cunnungulis on accident! This shouldn't have happened in the first ten minutes, it's too hard to digest!
But there's just so much to digest, and therein lies everything that's good and bad with "Game of Thrones." Good, because it's such a rich world, and so fully realized that by now it feels like home (albeit it a pretty nasty, unwelcoming, brutal home). But bad because there's just so damn much of it. It's great to see Littlefinger up to no good again, this time meddling in the happiness of Sansa Stark's future (more on that in a bit), but it's lost in the delight of Lady Olenna's frequent discussion of bowel movements and the odd honor of Dany's new army (as well as the continued bickering between Jorah and Barristan). It's nice to see Loras get some male-on-male loving, but it's hard to remember when there are so many other sexual exploits going on (not that I mind).
Somewhat lost in this ruckus is the continued descent of Robb Stark. After his once trusted ally, Karstark, turns on him and kills the hostage Lannister squires in the night, Robb sees no choice but to execute him for his deeds. Talisa and Catelyn urge him to reconsider, to take Karstark as a hostage instead, but Robb has the nobility of his father, whom Karstark himself once served. He carries out the execution, in a scene that parallels Theon's rainy slaying of Rodrick last season. Unlike Theon, Robb swipes Karstark's head in one fellow swoop. But not before hearing his ominous final words: "Kill me and be cursed. You are no king of mine."
But Robb seems undeterred. He realizes his setbacks, but he sees an advantage later on when discussing strategies with Talisa. He decides to siege Casterly Rock, Tywin Lannister's home fort. But he'll need the help of the only men left who he might rely on: House Frey. The house he was once sworn to marry into. We'll see how this goes.
More puzzling this week is Stannis Baratheon. Stannis's story is always a wildcard, and it felt almost frustratingly depressing here. We meet his wife for the first time, Selyse, a woman as equally deranged as the red priestess Melisandre. Stannis tries to confess that he's been unfaithful to his wife, but she admits that she already knows, that Melisandre told her, and that when she found out she cried "tears of joy." Selyse is so lost in the cause of R'hollor that she, too, believes her husband an almighty savior, a belief Stannis himself seems more and more hesitant to rely on these days. We also see that Selyse has kept jars of dead babies in her chambers - the stillborn sons that Stannis couldn't give her. Oh, and Stannis has a daughter, Shireen, and we see her for the first time, too. But like her dead and vialed brothers, she's deformed (were those scales on her face?) and locked away in a hidden place. Her only friend seems to be Davos, who she affectionately calls "the Onion Knight." When her father visits her and tells her that Davos is a traitor, she's heartbroken - but not too heartbroken to visit her Onion Knight down in his dungeon. What is Shireen's significance and why does she love Davos so much? And will she help him escape and wreak havoc on his captors?
The real shining star this episode, as always this season, is Jaime. He's back at Harrenhaal with Brienne, his hand-slicer all too eager hand him over to Roose Bolton. After a brutal scene where a chain-less "maester" cleans up Jaime's wound, he joins Brienne in a communal bath (all sorts of nudity this episode!). After she continues to call him Kingslayer, he tells her the story of how he truly earned that title - and it's not the record-tainting tale we've been led to believe. Jaime only slayed the Mad King after he asked Jaime to kill his own father and instructed one of his men to burn everyone in the city to death with wildfire. By killing the Mad King, Jaime in fact saved the entire kingdom. But he was never one to explain his actions, especially after Ned Stark caught him in the murderous act, and so he wore the Kingslayer title with an ugly sort of pride. After telling his story, Jaime slips into delirium and Brienne rushes over to keep him from drowning. It's a rousing scene, perhaps the best of Jaime's run, and keeps aflame the awesome unity of these new allies. More Jaime and Brienne forever, please!
The real wallop of this episode comes, as always, in the closing moments. Tyrion is led to the small council table, where he joins his father and sister and learns of a plan they've been hatching - a plan to keep their family at the top of the food chain, lest the Tyrells slip in while they have their backs turned. Tywin informs Tyrion that they can't let Sansa marry Loras, or else the Tyrells will have a claim to the North. Instead, TYRION must marry her, a duty he's none too pleased to agree to (she's a child, after all - and there's the whole matter of Shae). Ceresei is smug as ever with Tyrion's match-up, until Tywin tells her that SHE must marry Loras if Sansa can't. She refuses, of course, but Tywin reminds her that she doesn't have a say in the matter. He's the ringleader, after all. And it's here that the family interplay is best-recognized - as a struggling, ugly beast that will break the spirit of the individual parties, but lay a foundation too sturdy to fail. It's the pits, is what I'm getting at, and Tywin lets it sink in with one brutal final thought: "My children. You've disgraced the Lannister name for far too long."
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