This review may contain spoilers.
Power and the length a person is willing to go to achieve it is a driving theme with “Game of Thrones,” just as the show’s title suggests. Everyone wants that damn Iron Throne, and some treat the struggle for it as a viciously twisted game.
As a result, the series chooses to highlight humanity’s darker impulses with impressive vigor. And it’s poised to get a lot darker. Some viewers may find this off-putting, especially over time, but such exploration serves as a welcome and piercing looking glass. Like the reality of combat depicted in “Saving Private Ryan,” some ugly truths in life — however bloody and unsettling — should be brought to light.
In “Walk of Punishment,” Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) witnesses the reality of life in a slave city as she attempts to build an army to conquer Westeros. She is keen on purchasing 8,000 slave soldiers; however, her lack of money presents a serious dilemma. Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) and Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) are horrified when she suddenly offers to trade one of her dragons to a slave master to purchase the troops. Yeah, count me horrified too!
Daenerys’ confidence is starting to match her compassion, but this proposed trade is a strategic blunder.
At King’s Landing, Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) begins to take the reins of the crown and make a few changes, including appointing Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) as master of coin and dispatching Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish (Aidan Gillen) to the Vale of Arryn to win that kingdom’s trust back.
Tyrion quickly finds his new job presents impossible chanllenges — the crown’s debt is too large to salvage.
As the Lannisters digest the crown’s money woes, the Starks take a break from fighting to attend the funeral of Catelyn Stark’s (Michelle Fairley) father, who was the lord of House Tully at Riverrun. We meet Cat’s stern yet likeable uncle, Brynden ‘Blackfish’ (Clive Russell), and her younger brother, Edmure (Tobias Menzies), who seems to struggle to do anything right. Robb Stark (Richard Madden) is particularly disappointed in Edmure’s military leadership.
Not far from Riverrun — painfully close in fact — Arya is still hoping to make it to safety, but the Brotherhood Without Banners have other ideas; although, what those ideas are remain unclear. Perhaps Arya will make a nice ransom?
Meanwhile, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) makes a desperate attempt to escape his captors. But questions remain here, like who are his captors and just what happened at Winterfell during the Season 2 finale.
And the devestation at Winterfell could only be the beginning. North of The Wall, the Night’s Watch is in full retreat as the Wildlings plot an assault on Castle Black. If successful, the Stark’s shattered realm may face yet another invasion. Robb is going to need a bigger army!
Finally, a group of Stark bannermen from House Bolton decide to rape Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), but thanks to the surprising intervention of Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), they decide to ransom her instead. Jamie’s charm only goes so far, however, and the group’s leader abruptly severs the Kingslayer’s hand as a payment for his arrogance!
POINTS OF INTEREST
1. The slave city of Astapor is a true house of horrors. Hopefully Daenerys will raze the place to the ground.
2. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is dispatched to participate in a surprise attack on Castle Black. It will be interesting to see if he can maintain his loyalty to the Night’s Watch, especially since the Wildlings seem to have a good reason for wanting to go south. In addition, Samwell Tarly’s (John Bradley) reaction to Gilly (Hannah Murray) having a son is bound to test his relationship to the Night’s Watch as well.
Although the episode takes some dark turns, “Walk Of Punishment” also features some of the show’s best laughs. Naturally, Tyrion once again wins the gut-buster award. His action to solve his seating predicament during a meeting with his father and the small council was priceless. The whole scene was outstanding, in fact, especially since it was executed with no dialogue.
Later, Tyrion and Bronn’s (Jerome Flynn) reaction to Podrick Payne’s (Daniel Portman) apparent nimbleness at the whore house added another amusing moment.
Daenerys’ confidence continues to build momentum. Her forceful statement to Selmy about her father not being the last true dragon added another nice layer to her overall character arc.
Jaime looses his sword hand. It’s a shocking and horrifying moment. For someone so defined by his ability to wield a sword, this development is bound to dramatically change his arc going forward — that is unless he is ambidextrous.
Overall, Season 3 is off to an impressive start, with several fascinating story threads converging on a horizon brimming with possibilities. HBO can do no wrong.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
At the very time Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey) was showing signs of life as a character, he apparently exits the story. With so many characters competing for air time, however, it’s really no surprise.
GIVING CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
“Game of Thrones” stars Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Emilia Clarke, Michelle Fairley, Maisie Williams, Sophie Turner, Kit Harington, Harry Lloyd. “Walk Of Punishment” was written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and it was directed by Benioff.
Season 3 is based on the first half of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novel “A Storm of Swords.”
“Game of Thrones” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.
See our Season 2 episode reviews of “The North Remembers,” “The Night Lands,” “What Is Dead May Never Die,” “Garden of Bones,” “The Ghost Of Harrenhal,” “The Old Gods and the New,” “Blackwater” and “Valar Morghulis.”
See our Season 1 episode reviews of “Winter is Coming,” “The Kingsroad,” “Lord Snow,” “Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things,” “The Wolf and the Lion,” “A Golden Crown,” “You Win or You Die,” “The Pointy End,” “Baelor” and “Fire and Blood.”