“The Bear and the Maiden Fair” is another episode features such a high number of storylines that its focus is very scattershot. Covering nine separate storylines, this episode serves as a transition point from where the characters were to where the characters need to be. Despite a relative lack of action, many of the storylines are compelling enough to make this a strong precursor into the events to come. Much of the quality can be attributed to George R. R. Martin, who wrote the novels for which this series was adapted from. Martin traditionally writes one Thrones episode per season, and they usually tackle some of the most interesting parts of the novels. “The Pointy End” in Season One covers the aftermath of Ned Stark being captured and accused of treason. Season Two’s “Blackwater” covers one of the biggest battle scenes in the novels. “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” doesn’t have any huge, memorable moments aside from Brienne and Jaime’s fight with the bear, but that doesn’t seem like an event that will change the course of the series like the previous two Martin-penned episodes. It’s a curious episode for Martin to write, but it’s one that surely contributes to a solid third season.
In the North
Having continued their journey south, Jon Snow and the wildlings continue to have their subtle conflicts. Orell (who I just realized, in this episode, is played by Mackenzie Crook from The Office UK) confesses his love for Ygrette, who promptly rejects him. Orell sneers at Jon’s “pretty locks”, telling Ygrette that she deserves a real man. Ygrette talks with Jon later to reaffirm his loyalties to the wilding cause. Jon tells her that the wildings will surely die as they have the previous five times they came in conflict with those in the North. Once again, Jon disassociates himself with the wildlings by saying “you” instead of “us”, which Ygrette catches onto. She has to know by this point that he has no allegiance to anyone but her, especially since he keeps pulling this “you” business. Something’s bound to happen that forces Jon (and possibly Ygrette) to choose allegiances. I have a feeling she’ll follow her man.
Somewhere close by, Bran and company continue their march towards the Wall. After Jojen has another one of his dreams/visions/seizures, he tells the group that their true destination is to find the three-eyed raven, also seen in Bran’s dreams. The trick is, the raven is beyond the Wall. Osha gives an impassioned speech about why they cannot venture beyond the Wall, recalling the story of her husband’s death and subsequent resurrection as a soulless wight. Natalia Tena isn’t given much to do on this show so it was nice to see her get a relatable scene. In many ways, I can’t help but think she’s right but lord knows she won’t get in the way of Bran’s “destiny”. This storyline remains one of the most intriguing in theory but it’s also the least interesting in how it has unfolded. Bran hasn’t done much of anything over the past season besides travel. The series has drawn out his story arc so much that he’s begun to lose all interest he once had at the beginning of the series.
Speaking of which, Theon’s storyline continues to be one of the worst cases of wheel-spinning I’ve seen on a show in a long time. Somehow, it has become formulaic for Theon to be tricked into feeling a brief moment of freedom only to have the rug pulled out from under him yet again. In this episode, two beautiful women untie him from his torture post and try to woo him by stroking his ego as well as a few other things. Naturally, Theon falls for their trickery and doesn’t even have the fortitude to see that they’re deceiving him. I can understand why he would be grateful to anyone who freed him but to not learn from the mistake of trusting the cabin boy is just stupid, even for Theon. That cabin boy, by the way, is turning into an uncharacteristically two-dimensional character for this show. I’m still waiting for some sort of forward momentum with his storyline; it’s becoming all the more apparent that Theon simply shouldn’t have had a presence in the third season. Something like Jaime Lannister’s absence in the second season would’ve sufficed. I don’t get what we’re supposed to be taking from this storyline, other than the fact that Theon is an idiot that doesn’t learn from his experiences.
In the Riverlands
Robb Stark and company, who are hoping to get to the Twins for Edmure’s wedding to Walder Frey’s daughter, are delayed by rain. In the midst of their wait, Robb makes love to Talisa. (Quick sidenote: there have been a lot of butts on display this season. A lot more than the previous two seasons combined. I don’t really have a point with this, but it’s a curious pattern.) ANYWAY, Talisa lies in the bed in her nakedness despite Robb’s protests that he can’t concentrate on her winning the war with her tantalizing him. Wait. Maybe that‘s what the show is trying to say. Nakedness complicates things (see: Jon and Ygrette, Jaime and Brienne and now Robb and Talisa). Either way, Talisa is now pregnant from all the love-making they’ve been doing, and Robb could not be any happier. He will now have an heir to his kingdom. Given Robb’s luck, however, I have a feeling Talisa’s going to have a miscarriage. Is that too soap opera-ish for this show? Who knows. This is the same show with a brother and sister in love with each other, countless double-crossings and people coming back from the dead.
Meanwhile, Arya continues to be in conflict with Beric Dondarrion and the Brotherhood Without Banners. She chastises the group for selling Gendry to Melisandre, but they refuse to listen to her reasonings. When they learn that there are Lannisters to be captured nearby, they promptly go after them, once again delaying their bringing Arya to Riverrun. Arya runs away but is soon captured by The Hound. I’m starting to become genuinely worried about Arya. This is yet another terrible turn of events in her life, and I worry about what this will do to her, especially after hearing her telling Beric that she worships death. This is more wheel-spinning by the show, but at least things are gradually building to a boil for Arya. There’s a purpose to the repetition. This girl will cause some massive damage.
Across the Narrow Sea
Speaking of a girl that can do some damage, Daenerys continues her path to Westeros by attempting to free a city of 200,000 slaves. She negotiates with the city’s leader, Grazdan, demanding that he surrender or else she’ll sack the city. Grazdan offers up several chests of gold and numerous ships in exchange for peace, but Daenerys refuses to acquiesce. Emelia Clarke has really sold this transformation in Daenerys from waifish young girl to commanding, borderline arrogant leader. Her command of her dragons in this scene is its own version of badass. Even her trusted associates, Ser Jorah and Ser Barristan, seem like they’re afraid of her.
In King’s Landing
In the Capital, there is more talk of how the newly arranged marriages will affect those involved. Sansa frets over having to marry a dwarf, but Margaery comforts her and asks that she give him a chance. Margaery is a tricky girl and I know she’s playing Sansa somehow, but I can’t put my finger on what she wants exactly. Meanwhile, Tyrion tries to assure Shae that he will still make love to her despite his marriage to Sansa, but Shae doesn’t accept that. She vehemently refuses to continue their relationship should he marry Sansa. Trouble in paradise continues.
More interestingly, Tywin visits his grandson Joffrey on the Iron Throne to inform him of the goings-on in the kingdom. Joffrey quite obviously doesn’t respect his grandfather, let alone his elders, and talks down to him. Tywin’s commanding presence looms over Joffrey in such a way, however, that shows who the real king of Westeros is. I say it every week but I’m constantly impressed with Charles Dance in this role; he embodies the cold, menacing father figure type to a T.
Close by, in Blackwater Bay, Melisandre has taken Gendry by boat to show him his father’s home. Gendry was not aware of his birth father until Melisandre reveals that he is the son of Robert Baratheon. This makes him the true heir to the throne, complicating matters even more. What a mess.
Jaime has been freed by his captors and is being taken to King’s Landing but Brienne is not allowed to go with him. When he finds out what the men at Harrenhal intend to do with Brienne that night, he manipulates the men taking him to King’s Landing into going back and saving her. When he arrives, he finds that that the men of Harrenhal have tossed her in a pit with a bear, with only a sword to defend herself. Jaime ends up jumping into the pit and narrowly saving her. I’m fascinated by how Brienne has turned into a damsel-in-distress (a maiden fair, if you will) for Jaime to save after so many episodes as a brutish, independent woman. It’s an interesting development and I’m not sure if Brienne particularly likes being saved all the time, even if she was facing certain death in the pit.
This episode was all over the place, both location-wise and thematically. I worry that some of the overarching story is being lost by focusing so much on every single character’s journey. While this was an engaging episode, I had trouble recounting exactly what happened over the course of the hour. Writing plot points down certainly helps. I hope these finale three episodes really deliver, or else we’ll be stuck with a season of exposition and glacial plot movement mixed in with a dragon here and there.
MVP: Charles Dance