This week's episode of Game of Thrones felt a much better improvement on last week's affair. We continue with each character trope, both of great and small significance, but with better pacing and intermittent moments of pure brilliance, crafted by the collective genius of David Benioff and D. B. Weiss.
Things aren't going particularly well for the Stark family to say the least. Not only is Robb mourning the loss of his grandfather, he still does not know the whereabouts of his brothers Bran and Rickon and is now having to deal with his uncle's (Edmure) bad decisions. Edmure sacrificed men in the kidnapping of two Lannister cousins, both of whom do not hold much worth in the act of competition against the Lannister family. Robb expresses his dissatisfaction, declaring they cannot afford to sacrifice men, especially against Tywin Lannister.
Speaking of whom, in King's Landing Tywin holds a meeting with the small council. Cersei sits loyally by her father, not saying a word, nor having to as her facial expressions speak far louder. As a clear act of defiance, Tyrion moves his chair to the other side of the table. The lack of dialogue make it a wonderfully comical and poignant moment, continuing to prove that at the very least, Tyrion is the rightful king of wit and wonderful performativity. He is also, as a result from the meeting, the new Master of Coin.
Elsewhere in King's Landing, other than seeking advice from an ever creepy and suspicious Littlefinger, Tyrion treats his squire to a visit from not one, not two, but several prostitutes as a thank you for saving his life. Contrasting the previous weeks in which sex and nudity has been relatively tame for the show, this week showcased naked women, one of whom had no shyness in demonstrating her flexibility. Problematic objectification of women? One could most definitely argue yes. But on the other hand, however, we have a character like Daenerys – a strong willed female, purchasing 8000 slaves and causing two rugged men to compete for her approval. In response to the phrase, "Valar Morghulis" (meaning all men must die), she replies "yes, but we are not men". This paradoxical portrayal of women is atypical of Game of Thrones but is a debate only served justice in an article of its own right. It just felt that the objectified vs. almost-feminist paradox was particularly prescient this week.
Mance Rayder and his men, including Jon Snow, come across the patterned remnants of an attack from the White Walkers. The only corpses apparent, however, are those of horses, causing them to question where the Nights Watch are and if they're even alive. Mance decides to send a crew of 20 men to the wall, including Jon Snow. He wants to create the biggest conflagration the North has ever seen. Remaining members of the Nights Watch continue their long march back to the wall. They take shelter at Craster's Keep – the oppressive home of misogyny and sacrificing baby boys.
Theon Grayjoy is released from torture and captivity as promised, and sent away on a horse. He is eventually found, however, and is chased down by his captors in a brilliantly choreographed, intense sequence. Theon is once again saved by the man who released him, as he skilfully (and quite brutally) shoots down each person.
Arya and Gendry continue travelling with the Brotherhood without Banners, but Hot Pie decides to stay and serve as a baker. Queue a brief but heartfelt goodbye and a nice moment of childhood innocence, most welcome amidst the adult ethical and moral issues.
Jaime and Brienne remain captured by the men of House Tully. At night time, as Jaime had warned, the men take Brienne away to rape her. At first she is beaten, with Brienne fighting back every step of the way. Taking place off camera, Brienne's screams cause a glimmer of humanity in Jamie as he looks rueful. In typical Lannister fashion, he uses his charm and promises a plentiful of wealth if both himself and Brienne are returned unharmed and undefiled. Brienne is saved and we are led to believe that so too is Jaime. However, the leader of House Tully is disgusted by his charm and use of family wealth and proceeds to chop of Jaime's hand. Queue end credits and the most random choice of musical accompaniment, so abruptly exporting us away from Westeros back in to the real world I thought my Itunes had sporadically booted up.
As Game of Thrones so typically does, this week was once again a fragmented mix of each character trope – some more entertaining than others. Overall, however, the pacing felt far better and as a result, made the episode much more captivating. The little things also made all the difference, such as a moment of childlike innocence, a well orchestrated chase sequence or a cleverly crafted pattern of horse corpses. Although this week's particular highlight was once again in King's Landing, via Tyrion's comical act of loudly dragging the chair across a silent meeting room – a standout moment... that, and a blunt ending.
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