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Friday, June 14, 2024

Game of Thrones – Series 3 – Episode 3 – A Literal Game of Thrones

A narrative contains peaks and troughs, great steep rises and tumbling descents, all of which building to one great crescendo before a final denouement. Sometimes, these troughs are well-realised, a tantalising display which keep the main narrative at bay or on pause just long enough to have you baying for its return. Other times, you must endure them. And endurance, patience, was the theme of this episode.

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It wasn’t so bad as the intro might lead you to believe but it was a definite ‘slow burn’ episode. This was perfectly displayed by the opening scene, in which Edmure Tully attempts to ignite his father’s funeral boat as it slowly escapes. I found myself, before his first miss, thinking how the archers always have perfect aim in these scenarios and was delighted that Edmure missed, having forgotten that this happened in the book. The mourners must watch him drown arrows until The Blackfish steps in and ignites his brother’s pyre. The point of patience, endurance, is hammered home when Edmure and Robb discuss Edmure’s impatience and inability to follow orders which cost Robb his chance of snaring The Mountain That Rides.

“I’ll tell you who isn’t running out of patience,” Robb snarls, “Tywin Lannister.”

This cuts us rather neatly to Tywin holding a meeting of the Small Council, during which the positioning of chairs is a power struggle. In an amusing scene that required no dialogue, Littlefish, Cersei and Tyrion each choose a position of power, dragging their chairs childishly in order to achieve this. It’s a funny, well-acted scene. The meeting begins with Tywin actually going against Robb’s point, he growing impatient for the return of his son Jaime. Reputation versus Reality is another theme for the episode and that’s set up well here.

We check in again with a number of different characters, each discussing or learning the virtues of endurance… which is probably why Joffrey, the least patient person in Westeros, plays no part. Littlefinger is to be the Lord of Harrenhal and also become Lysa Tully’s husband, thus bringing the Eyrie where Tyrion was nearly executed under Tyrion’s control. His absence leads to Tyrion being named the Master of Coin, a role which makes him realise the Crown is bankrupt and owes millions to House Lannister… and tens of millions to the Iron Bank, mentioned for the first time.

One of the more poignant scenes has Daenerys offering a slave doomed to die bleeding in the sun some water and he refuses it, knowing it would only extend his miserable life. We also have Gilly screaming in the background of the Night’s Watch as Craster hosts the diminished force one more, barely able to control herself as she gives birth… to a boy. And we all know what Craster does with his sons.

Jon Snow is sent to climb The Wall with the Wildlings. Hot Pie leaves the Brotherhood to remain at an inn, leaving Arya to carry on with Thoros and his lot. Missandre leaves Stannis Baratheon, who craves her body as much as her counsel. And Theon is able to escape Roose Bolton’s control, helped by his unnamed ally from the Iron Isles. In a good touch, they show that rape is a weapon used against men as well as women, with Theon barely escaping that fate when recaptured thanks to his ally. But Theon lives on to fight another day.

The main thread about resistance comes from Jaime and Brienne as they are captured by Roose Bolton’s men. Jaime offers Brienne advice on how to survive their capture, saying that it is better not to resist the repeated rapes she will be subjected to. Brienne, obviously, says she will do no such thing and asks if Jaime would just let it happen were he a woman. “I was a woman, I’d make them kill me,” is his reply. “I’m not, thank the Gods.”

The resilience of women is shown throughout the Game of Thrones books and none displays it more than Daenerys, who decides to buy her Unsullied army at the cost of Drogon, her largest and strongest dragon. It has been made clear that the Unsullied are not men and the Mother of Dragons is convinced that using slaves is allowable. She gets 8000 men and Missandei, the translator, as part of the deal. They talk as they walk out, the deal made, and Daenerys asks Missandei if she is okay with being taken to war. “Valar Morghulis,” is her reply. “All men must die. But we are not men.”

Women as viewed by men is also a regular motif, and this is continued with a couple of scenes where Pod, Tyrion’s squire, is bought a number of whores as thanks for saving Tyrion’s life. The following scene, where the women would not take Pod’s money, is not well acted but you get the feeling that is supposed to be the case.

The key scene in the episode comes at the end, during which Bolton’s men come to rape Brienne. The man who is in charge – so far unnamed but I would guess it’s Vargo Hoat – claims her first and has his men soften her up first. Ignoring Jaime’s advice, Brienne fights to the end, injuring some of Bolton’s bannermen and screaming loudly as she refuses to give in. Over these screams, we see the first glint of Jaime’s growth as a character as he intervenes to save her by revealing who she is and what her worth – with her virginity still in tact – would be. This saves Brienne but Jaime pushes it too far, being overly smug and relying on his father’s payment as a way to earn himself more comfort in capture.

‘Vargo’ goes along with this, makes him think that he is going to get some pheasant and a good meal… and then has Jaime held down. He tells Jaime that he has relied on his father’s name for too long, that he is nothing without that and his reputation – an accusation which Brienne threw at him earlier in the episode. Then he ensures Jaime will never forget that lesson with one fell swoop.

As I said, there are often declines in a tale in order to allow for later rises. The whole of this episode slowly builds to the final two seconds, leaving a visceral shock with the viewer and setting us up nicely for episode 4. Let us see how fair the next episode rises.

Sean is an editor, writer, and podcast host at Geek Pride, as well as a novelist. His self-published works can be found at all good eBook stores.

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