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Game of Thrones – Episode 3.03 – "Walk of Punishment"

courtesy of HBO

     This third episode was a fun one that featured exciting bow-and-arrow action sequences, a comedic sexual encounter and a hand chopped off an owner who prides himself in his ability to wield a sword.  There have been times that the series has taken itself so seriously, wrapped up in its own mythology, that the entertainment quality begins to lack.  Episodes like these provide for the type of sex, violence and comedy that  HBO prides itself on.  I mentioned in my latest Mad Men review that those who are only interested in the surface-level sex and intrigue of the show would love that particular episode, and this week’s Game of Thrones fulfills that need for the fantasy, sex and violence lovers.  Even with these entertaining moments standing out, the episode still finds room to advance the plot further for several characters, including Daenerys, Stannis, and those beyond the Wall.

King’s Landing
     This episode features the least amount of coverage of King’s Landing since the start of the third season, but it ironically has the most developments.  Lord Tywin chastises Varys for not having anything to report about Jaime’s whereabouts, which is admittedly rather suspicious.  As Tywin notes, it is very strange that the man they call “the Spider” cannot locate such a well-known member of the Lannister family, though he is sure to be found soon, which I will get to later.  Tywin then announces the arrangement of a marriage between Littlefinger and Lysa Arryn, in an attempt to win her family away from the Stark side of the war.  If this means we’ll be seeing crazy Lysa and her Oedipal relationship with her son again, I’m all for it, even if it means putting yet another location into the third season’s cycle of storylines.  Her storyline with Tyrion was one of the more entertaining elements of the first season so this one will hopefully provide some comic relief.  In Littlefinger’s stead, Tywin appoints Tyrion the new treasurer.  Though his stint as the Hand of the King developed his character well, this new position should definitely give him more to do, given the increase in responsibility.  True to form, Tyrion uncovers a scheme of Littlefinger’s, involving his borrowing millions of gold from the Iron Bank of Braavos.  He finds out the loan is not paid back in time, the bank will switch sides and fund the Starks instead.  This isn’t a particularly shocking development, coming from Littlefinger, but it presents an interesting leverage point for Tyrion to use against him in the future.
In the Riverlands
     Speaking of the Starks, the episode opens with the ship burial of Catelyn’s father, Lord Hoster Tully.  In a fun bit of character development, we see Hoster’s son Edmure attempt to ceremoniously set the ship on fire with a flaming bow-and-arrow but fails miserably, forcing Hoster’s brother Brynden to take it arch it with ease.  House Tully prides itself in this sort of cold, steely-eyed traditionalism, so its no surprise to see Brynden publicly shaming his nephew.  Later, Catelyn talks to Brynden about the horror she’s gone through as of late and stares out the window, lost in thought.  I understand why she would be upset that she hasn’t been there for any of her children or now her father, but the show is starting to lay it on way too thick.  Yes, she’s stuck in a situation she can’t get out of and she feels lost without her family (sans Robb) but the continuous self-pity seems slightly out-of-character for her background.  The Tullys are essentially a substitute for Vikings so its hard to imagine she would be in this rut for so long.  At some point she will have to take action, even if the sexism of this world prevents her from doing so.  I have a feeling we’ll see a turnaround soon.
Also in the Riverlands
     The most buzzed-about scene in this episode was from Jaime Lannister, whose smooth-talking, money-wielding swagger was not able to prevent him from getting his hand chopped off.  The men who captured Jaime and Brienne at the end of the last episode tie them up to posts for safe-keeping and they try to rape Brienne.  Jaime, who has warmed up to the “brute of a woman” tries to persuade the leader, Locke, that her father is in possession of millions of sapphires, and he would be more than willing to pay them for his daughter back.  Locke plays along with Jaime and eventually unties him but he is too clever to fall for Jaime’s tricks.  Locke holds him down and proceeds to chop off Jaime’s right hand, the hand that helped give him the name “Kingslayer”.  I loved the director’s choice to end the episode with a rock version of the in-show tune “The Bear and the Maiden Fair”.  The “dramatic climactic moment then cut to a cheeky rock song device” has been used in other HBO shows, such as True Blood, but in an episode as entertaining as this it fit right in.  I wonder, now that Jaime has been “crippled” in a way if he and brother Tyrion might stage a better relationship.  I’m sure Tyrion will find some way to make the comparison to Jaime at some point.
     Poor Stannis.  The scene we get from him in this episode is completely emasculating and shows how calculated Melisandre truly is.  She tells him that she and her powers are meant for King’s blood, which Stannis has demonstrated himself to not have (according to her, anyway).  When he asks her for a son she basically tells him he’s too weak, and not enough of a man for her.  There are very few people on Stannis’s side at the moment and I fear he will do something drastic in the coming episodes.
Beyond the Wall
     After visiting the Fist of the First Men, Mance Rayder tells his wildlings and Jon Snow that they will be waging war with the men of the Night’s Watch in the coming days.  He asserts that the men who died at The Battle of the Fist of the First Men have become White Walkers and orders a select group of men to find them on the Wall.  Ciarán Hinds is clearly having a ball as Mance Rayder, and his line delivery on “If he’s useful, good, if not, throw him off the wall. See if crows can fly,” was hammy as hell but still great.  Elsewhere, the men of the Night’s Watch take shelter at Craster’s inn.  There, Sam witnesses his first love Gilly give birth to a boy, which means instant death-by-White-Walkers for the poor kid.  Never had a chance.  Hopefully Sam can pull through for her.

Across the Narrow Sea
     Millions(?) of miles away, Daenerys informs the slaver of the Unsullied that she would like to purchase all 8,000 of his men.  This makes him laugh, informing her that there’s no way she could possibly afford all of them.  Against the council of Ser Jorah and Ser Barristan, she confidently offers up one of her dragons.  The slaver is understandably intrigued by this offer and agrees immediately.  She also requests the slave translator Missandrei to be a part of the deal as well, and takes her on board.  It’s not surprising that Ser Jorah and Ser Barristan are confused and furious with Daenerys’ decision, but I’m almost positive she has a trick up her sleeve.  For instance, she could very easily tell her Unsullied to kill the slaver and get her dragon back.  I’m not too worried about her decision.
     On the whole, this was a very entertaining episode that provided equal amounts of sexy fantasy and story development, the kind of episode that exemplifies why Game of Thrones has become such a cultural phenomenon.  Some elements need fixing, namely Catelyn’s storyline, and some of the storylines are moving at a glacial pace (Theon’s, whose romp in this episode was too insignificant for me to even mention) but it’s still one of the most gripping shows on television.


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