Episode three of the fourth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones reels with the repercussions of the events of last week’s wedding, in a world still dealing with the wedding before that… just avoid Westerosi weddings. Don’t even go for the food.
The plot picks up immediately after the end of the last episode with Cersei maxing the rage scale and a cloaked Sansa, accompanied by her drunken fool Ser Dontos, attempting to escape King’s Landing. After three seasons of utter hell and torment, can Sansa finally escape? And will anywhere actually be safer?
As usual, Lady Olenna Tyrell rules every scene. It only takes twenty seconds of chatter for her to establish herself each week as one of the main power players in Westeros. Meanwhile, Arya and the Hound, GOT‘s answer to Batman and Robin, continue their journey to the Eyrie. Princess Shireen continues Ser Davos’ reading lessons, and Stannis broods darkly and drearily in his dark and dreary quarters.
It’s hard to tell who is more awesome: Samwell Tarly or Poderick Payne. Samwell clocks that the Wall, a place filled with ‘ex’-rapists, thieves and murderer, is hardly the safest place for a woman and her baby while Poderick competes with Bronn for best bromance with Tyrion.
Realising that not enough blood has been spilled this episode, the producers cut to a grisly scene showing what the Wildings and Cannibals are up to this week. Daenerys also returns with her surgically altered (kidding, just re-cast) Daario Naharis as she makes the first strike to liberate the city of Meereen. Ser Jorah salivates in the background.
It was tremendously satisfying as a book reader to watch an episode like last week’s executed and acted perfectly. This week’s had a few more contentious issues, and by a few I mean one in particular, where the show’s creators did that thing where they take something disturbing and twist it until it’s unnecessarily ten times as brutal. Game of Thrones is no stranger to taboo. The show will happily drop in random orgies, nudity and gore to couple its stories of incest, genocide and child-murder. In the books you’re always partly conscious that these characters are children- Daenerys and Joffrey are barely teenagers while Robb Stark and Jon Snow are both around sixteen. The grief or concern of mothers such as Catlyn and Cersei is much more poignant. This version of Tommen also seems a lot older than his book counterpart, who is a chubby youngster more interested in kittens than ruling a kingdom.
Cersei is certainly the only one mourning this week and seems more alone and vulnerable than ever. This leads Jaime to do something completely out of character that has caused a lot of controversy. George RR Martin, author of the original novels, has said he did not know that was how the show-runners were going to interpret the scene. It’s disturbing in the book as well but in a slightly different way, and in slightly different circumstances. After all the attention given to Jaime’s redemption, I don’t really know how to explain this creative decision. It was bizarre and difficult to watch, it also omits some key dialogue which sets the scene in the book. In spite of this, Lena Headey is excellent as Cersei in this episode.
In the misogynistic landscape of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy medieval world, women have limited chances to be strong, yet they have to be so in different ways. Cersei is a schemer, self-destructive, sometimes a little crazy, but she has aspirations and a deep, protective love for her children. She is perhaps in one of the hardest positions: not taken seriously as a potential leader as a woman, forced into terrible marriages, deserted by those she holds dear and not allowed to grieve for lost loved ones. She exercises power through sleuthing and scheming, with little other option. Catlyn Stark is a strong woman who made mistakes but owned the decisions she could make and similarly sought to protect her children. Then there are characters like Brienne and Ygritte, perhaps more free-spirited, the former exceeding the skill of most men with a sword, while Arya is growing into a fearsome young woman. Sansa too has grown, but more subtly. Last episode she maintained a stubborn silence, a strength in what she can endure. Then there is Daenerys, attempting to be a ruler but again not being taken seriously. A large part of her credibility lies in the dragons in her possession.
This episode will be remembered and talked about for one scene and I can’t see how they’re going to reconcile it with Jaime’s character in the coming weeks after such a long time of consistent character development.