What. An. Ending.
Game of Thrones is no stranger to controversy, but this episode may have pushed the envelope a tad too far. I know that, for some viewers, certain scenes were hard to swallow.
As a viewer who has read the books, I knew what was coming when Davos and Melisandre set off on their mini mission. I visibly braced myself for “the birth” and it did not disappoint. I think the problem that many people have with this scene is that even though Game of Thrones has been marketed as a fantasy series (hello… dragons, white walkers, and the like), it has prided itself a bit on being low fantasy. This means that although their may be supernatural elements at play, the world is not ruled or controlled by them. Melisandre’s shadow baby is a distinct departure from that mindset. I, personally, thought the scene was brilliantly executed. The CGI effect was really well done for a television show (and appropriately creepy). The nudity in the scene was not gratuitous (seeing as how the red priestess is quite literally giving birth) and I thought it was smart to end the episode by keeping viewers on the edge of their seat wondering what malevolent deeds this force will commit. But I’m getting way, way, ahead of myself here. Let’s take it from top.
We open on two Lannister soldiers discussing loyalty and rumors. One notices that the horses are spooked and moves to check it out. Then, one fart joke later, a giant wolf pops out scaring the crap out of me and killing both guards. I have something to confess; before we got to the shot of Robb and his men, I believed that this was Nymeria, Arya’s direwolf. In the books, Nymeria becomes the leader of a band of wild wolves that often terrorize the Lannister armies stationed in the riverlands. Nymeria becomes this sort of mythical creature leading a giant pack and feasting on the flesh of men. It’s an awesome little subplot in the novels that I’m hoping is referenced in the show somewhere down the line. But for now, I’m happy Greywind continues to show his awesomeness. After the battle, we see Robb walking through the battlefield (with Roose Bolton, a name book readers know all to well ) assessing the damage. It was a decisive victory for the northmen and Robb seems pretty happy with himself. That is until he sees a rather beautiful looking healer tending to a Lannister soldier.
She’s comforting the Lannister who’s lying in the middle of the battlefield, his foot taken by the rot and the rest of him soon to follow. Robb rides up and helps her out by holding down the man and giving him something to bite on while she saws through his ankle. It’s a quick and brutal sequence, but it sets up a dynamic we think we’re aware of: Robb is a good guy, and even if he’s just trying to impress a pretty girl, he’s doing so by being a good man to one of his enemies. Robb is the closest thing we have to a hero at this point: the honorable ruler who tries to do the right thing by those he rules. But what follows flips this all on its head. The nurse doesn’t have any patience for Robb’s actions, because she knows that his battle has doomed this young man to a life without a foot. When he tries to argue he’s on the side of right, she asks what he plans to do once he boots Joffrey from the throne. Well, Robb says, he’ll just ride on back to Winterfell and take back his old seat. He has no interest in ruling. Again, on the surface, this is an appealing quality. We all long for the sort of leader who will know his place and accomplish the big task, then march back to where he “truly” belongs, to let others rule. But does that really make him a good leader? Is he just going to scramble back up north and leave the rest of Westeros a war torn nation with no one to lead it? Is that really the honorable thing to do? Just some food for though
Even though Robb may not be perfect, I think we can all say with 100 percent conviction that he’ll be a better king that The Little Shit Joffrey. For that one person who didn’t hate him before, I hope this episode changed your mind. I love how this character has gone from annoying prince with a superiority complex to a downright evil king that visibly enjoys the suffering of others (you know, like a psychopath). The scene with Sansa was heartbreaking, but totally worth it for that little moment when Sandor “The Hound” Clegane hands her his white cloak.
Also, we get to see Tyrion once again save the day. He gets the best lines doesn’t he? I love how he just doesn’t give a damn about Joffrey’s little show. His exchange with Sansa was also very telling as he recognizes something that I think a lot of viewers miss. Sansa gets a lot of hate in the fandom because she is seen as the petty little girl who offered up her father to the Lannisters on a silver platter. While that may be true, you can’t help but love how much she’s grown up, starting with last season’s finale. Sansa is learning the game. She realizes that her only weapons are her courtesy and apparent loyalty to her betrothed; they are the only things keeping her alive. So when Tyrion nonchalantly mutterss, “Lady Stark, you may survive us yet.” I cheered because he totally gets it. Also, quick shoutout to Bronn for that, “There’s no cure for being a c**t.” line… too true Bronn, too true.
Joffrey’s next scene is his worst yet. Ugh, this one was difficult watch. I don’t really want to go into much detail about his torture of the two prostitutes, but one detail is worth mentioning. Even though it might have been disgusting, this scene does prove to the viewers that Joffrey isn’t an obnoxious teenage boy anymore, he is a legitimately evil individual who revels in the intense suffering of those weaker than him. What. A. Shit.
*whispers* Jack Gleeson is a genius though.
In other news Dany is still in the desert… Oh wait, some really cool looking black dude just saved her and invited her into the awesome oasis that is Qarth. Moving on…
We return to the two must insufferable brothers in all the land. Why can’t you boys just get along? It would make everything so much easier. But alas, boys will be boys even when they’re men. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the youngest Baratheon is dangerously out of his depth with this whole “war” thing. Renly is charming, likeable, and charismatic, yet he underestimated his unloved brother’s greater desire for power with what may prove to be fatal results. To Stannis, power is a straightforward matter of legitimacy. Renly, if not exactly preaching democracy, believes that it’s more complicated, and says that he has the supporters across Westeros to prove it. Legitimacy comes from the governed, he argues in a hilarious and infuriating smackdown when his brother asks who would deny Stannis’ claim to the throne: “Everyone denies it!… Old men deny it it with their death rattles, babies deny it in the womb. … No one wants you for their king. You never wanted any friends, brother. But a man without friends is a man without power.” By the time Stannis told the uncomfortable Davos that “cleaner ways don’t win wars” (very true by the way) it was clear that the older Baratheon was prepared to use any art, no matter how dark, in his quest for the Iron Throne. Small wonder, then, that the exasperated Catelyn, all too aware of war’s real cost, earlier threatened to bang both their heads together.
Let’s have a round of applause for Mr. Tywin Lannister for saving my second favorite bastard (Gendry) last night. I never thought I’d be so happy to see a Lannister, but Tywin riding up on his white horse was a most welcome entrance. His instant recognition of Arya as a girl was a great little addition. It shows that unlike his grandson, Tywin is smart and not without reason. The torture scenes with The Tickler were as gruesome as I thought they’d be, and definitely added a sense of terror to Arya’s storyline. She really is beginning to see the horrors of the world, and soon (if the previews are to be believed) she’ll be able to do something about it. Maisie Williams continues to impress me with her subtlety. He reaction to the burnt behemoth that is Harrenhall was so great and actually mirrored my own (the CGI here was fantastic). Hot Pie’s little scene was also great, although I’m a little sad they had to recast Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane.
Littlefinger had a big role to play in this episode and he seemed to pull it off quite well. His initial meeting with Renly showed his extreme sense of self-preservation as well as his skill in diplomacy. His scene with Catelyn was less impressive (love can make men so dumb sometimes), but I think it was ultimately successful. Michelle’s Fairley’s face when she received her husband’s bones was absolutely heart-wrenching. It was a grim reminder of the stakes of this game they’re playing, one that Catelyn will not soon forget.
Aiden Gillian does such a great job as Baelish that it is not often he’s upstaged. However, in that small scene with Natalie Dormer’s Margaery Tyrell, he most definitely was. I like the slight alteration Margaery’s character is getting on the show. The novels infer that she is smart beyond her years and that she is in fact a competent player, but since she is not a POV character, we don’t get very many opportunities to see it. The show has made it quite obvious that the young Tyrell is a force in her own right. With the knowledge that her character only gets more important from here on out, I think the decision by David and Dan was a smart one. Also, Natalie Dormer is so amazing in everything she does (her Anne Boleyn in The Tudors was positively legendary) and the risk they took casting her is paying off big time.
The worst part of this episode for me was the fact that Jon was nowhere to be seen :(. I can’t wait to see more of him next week, but his presence on the show was most definitely missed. Watch for next week to be even more controversial, expect a twitter explosion after the you-know-who bites it. Over all, another great episode of the best show on television.