Sunday, May 12, 2013
Everybody likes that song
We begin with the obligatory shot of the author who also wrote the screenplay for The Bear and The Maiden Fair. Interestingly, he steps back a bit from the seemingly more momentous episodes that he wrote in the first two seasons (eighth and ninth, respectively) but still confronts a host of issues in the increasingly tangled plot (That's a segue...) This episode also continues the extreme departure of Melisandre abducting Gendry, which most might think would create an interesting thought process for the writer: How do I re-write my own story from 13 years ago? But that's what writers do all the time, anyway. In point of fact, the fourth book that became Feast and Dance was half-written in a time setting several years removed from Storm before he decided he didn't like that approach and scrapped it. My bet would be that he enjoyed indulging in the ability to tell the story in a different manner.
Of course, it's interesting to try and second-guess where GRRM's heart really lies in the whole picture. The story started with him envisioning the finding of the wolf pups and it's clear that the North is key to the whole epic and Martin spends a lot of time on the Wildling excursion to the south in this episode; not that that's a bad thing, as it means a lot more time with Rose Leslie and her continual output of memorable lines. But it is interesting to speculate on whether Martin had any input on which episode he'd be writing and whether it involved so much Jon and Ygritte action. Speaking of action...
I wouldn't have been especially traumatized if we'd spent the whole hour watching Oona Chaplin's ass, either. If there's one thing a king needs, it's awareness of what his people want. Robb repeatedly states what he wants and it's pretty much what a lot of us want, as well, so there you go. The larger context of Talisa's refusal to clothe herself is, of course, the fact that she has been distracting Robb's larger purpose (My special purpose!) from the moment they met and that has had consequences and will continue to do so.
Staying on topic, Natalie Dormer continues to do great things as Margaery, even if all it does is draw a focus to the innocence of Sansa... which is the setup to both of Tyrion's scenes, as he gets the reproving common sense of Bronn, seemingly understanding how to be a nobleman with a wife and a mistress better than Tyrion does, and the later anguished argument with Shae, who also knows how the world will put her in her place, even though she seemingly hooked up with one of the few who can deny that placement. She just didn't know about his father. The dialogue between Shae and Tyrion was a standout moment of this episode and was as heartfelt and sad as it was funny, which is true talent from a writer, I think.
Meanwhile, never was it more evident that the true power behind the throne is the man who ostensibly serves it. The scene between Joffrey and Tywin, including the elevated camera perspective showing Tywin standing ominously over his grandson, was excellent. The phrase is "The king shits and the Hand wipes." but, in this case, I think it's more "The Hand spanks." as Tywin again outmaneuvers the opposition at every turn (no great effort needed here, of course.) And we shift immediately from there to another outmaneuvering which is a bit more overt and involves ever-larger lizards.
In a way, it was absolutely appropriate for George to be writing this episode, since it kicks off the conquest of Slaver's Bay which led to the famed "Meereenese Knot" and the long delay to the completion of Dance with Dragons. Nothing like revisiting the scene of one's greatest struggles to gain wisdom, one supposes. It was also a nice counterpoint to one of the earlier moments, wherein Ygritte claims that the Wildlings don't march to the beat of a single drummer, whereas the Yunkai delegation, markedly representing the "Old World", distinctly does. It's now going to have to respect a different beat that it hasn't heard for hundreds of years; that of wings. There was solid CGI work with the dragons here. They definitely were prominent, but didn't render stiff anyone else in the tent, which is often the effect of greenscreening (see: the dragons' first appearance in the last episode of season 1 for a good example.)
Another nice tie-in was the confirmation of both Syrio's and Jaqen's lessons in Arya's brain as she reveals the only god she follows and lays the groundwork for both her immediate future and the long-term. This becomes a greater bonus for me as we proceed, because I was not especially fond of Arya's character in the books until Storm and then her path became fascinating, as her attitude began to resemble a character of mine that I've spent many years with in fits and starts. It only gets better from here and that's not just because the Hound has a very prominent role in her life from here on out.
An amusing side note of audience reaction week-by-week is the seeming dearth of nudity in this season compared to the previous two. Sexposition has been kept to a minimum. Well, leave it to GRRM to bring it back with a vengeance, as we were warned of not only nudity but "strong sexual content" and Theon's elaborate torture was the centerpiece for both. Martin said he wanted to do a fantasy with sex and, dammit, he's gonna do it. Book readers, of course, know where all of this is going, but Theon's story has become so obvious by now that even non-readers can predict virtually everything that's going to happen to him from moment to moment. The 'joy' is in watching the non-payoff, I guess. It was interesting to note the precise grooming habits of certain ladies in the North. I suppose it is kind of pointless to tell someone "You're doing a skin scene. Start growing it back." or waste time on a merkin. For all we know, Ramsay told her to present things as enticingly as possible, if only to make it that much worse for the Lord Greyjoy (and it is very grey joy, at this point.) Had to note that Theon was feeling weak at the start. Or was it meek...?
The Bran scene once again had the veneer of "busy work" but it did have a fine moment for Osha and an elaboration of the danger that they're walking into past the Wall, which no one but the Night's Watch and the Wildlings have yet encountered. But some of the finest acting work was once again the scenes surrounding the title of the episode, as Brienne makes a point of displaying her respect for "Ser Jaime" in taking him at his word and Jaime does the right thing as a knight and retrieves his friend from the clutches of Locke/Vargo. The whole encounter, of course, highlights the absolutely ignoble scrabbling of a maimed nobleman and a defenseless noblewoman fleeing the most(?) bestial character of the evening. Everyone is just human, in the end.
Lines of the night:
"Are you gonna share it with me? The deep wisdom you found inside the head of a bird?" - Jon's curse is to be an outsider everywhere he goes.
"I have your little prince or princess inside me."
"Maybe one of each."
"Don't get greedy." - Too late.
"Your cock shouldn't go near 'til she's as slick as a baby seal." - Something about clubbing baby seals was my first reaction to the lesson of technique by Tormund Giantsbane but... we'll stop there.
"He's rather good-looking, even with the scar. Especially with the scar."
"We're very complicated, you know. Pleasing us takes practice." - Margaery with the facts of life for everyone.
"You waste time trying to get people to love you, you'll end up the most popular dead man in town." - The redoubtable Bronn knows the heart of the common man.
"You are being counseled at this very moment." - Yet another Charles Dance "Now shut up and like it." instance.
"The Yunkish are a proud people. They will not bend."
"And what happens to things that don't bend?" - Against dragons? They burn, probably.
"Golden chains." - Shae keeping it simple.
"I'm a Lannister of Casterly Rock!"
"And I'm Shae, the funny whore." - And still keeping their collective feet on the ground, as much as Tyrion would like to escape it. Martin has spoken often about how ASoIaF is a study of class and gender roles and how they confine us. This episode, drawing the contrasts between Wildlings and Southerners, women and men, nobles and commoners, slaves and those who would free them, was clearly an attempt by him to emphasize that aspect. The story is replete with examples no matter who's doing the scripting, but this was especially highlighted this week.
"He's not my one true god."
"No? Who's yours?"
"Death." - Not today. But soon.
"Not all girls are like you."
"All girls see more blood than boys." - It's always a challenge to pick just one of Ygritte's lines.
"If you attack the Wall, you'll die! All of you!"
"All of us." - This struggle between Jon and Ygritte in the books was an interesting spectacle, as she was clearly too smart to be fooled by Jon's act but loved him, anyway, and you could see her wavering between going with him and abandoning her people and trying to woo him to their way of thinking. It's the mirror image of Jon's own struggle, given his outsider status, and provided for a really memorable dynamic that, thankfully, both Harrington and Leslie have perfectly captured.
"What's the purpose of an arm with no hand?" - Jaime, acknowledging circumstances and trying to remain philosophical.
"How many have you killed, milord? 50? 100? Countless?"
"'Countless' has a nice ring to it." - Coster-Waldau's expressions as he attempted to hide his pride in his former skill in battle while ruefully acknowledging the lives he'd taken were priceless. Without doubt, this is his finest season and it's fascinating to watch his performance grow in the same manner that the character did in the books.
Unfortunately, we still haven't heard a complete rendition of The Bear and The Maiden Fair (other than the proto-punk one from a couple episodes ago.) Perhaps at the wedding...