This review may contain spoilers.
“Game of Thrones” gives us another moving example of why it and the books it’s based on are so popular — even a villain can be hero.
Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), now in custody of Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) at Harrenhal, reveals to Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) that his execution of the mad king actually saved King’s Landing and its residents from complete destruction. We’ve always suspected that Jamie slaying the Targaryen king — it earned him the nickname of Kingslayer — was a sensible act, but to discover the full gravity of it is compelling. Even Brienne was dumbfounded.
And Jaime’s distain for Ned Stark (Sean Bean) grows clearer. In Ned’s eye, Jamie had turned on a king he had sworn to protect; the oath, especially for a knight, is all important, after all. But the king was a madman, too far gone to care about anything other than seeing his people and the city burn. Keeping an oath in such a case presents a serious moral dilemma. Ned could never digest that. The decision was a no-brainer for Jamie, yet in the aftermath of the killing he chose pride over pleading his case.
In fact, acts of judgment were a theme in this episode. For Robb Stark (Richard Madden), the murder of two Lannister children by Rickard Karstark (John Stahl) forced him into a nightmarish scenario. Although Karstark, who is a key commander in the Stark army, found that the murders had helped satisfy his need for revenge against the Lannisters for their part in the deaths of his own two sons, the killings ignored Robb’s intentions of keeping them as bargaining chips. Letting Karstark off too lightly was a dishonor to the Stark name in Robb’s eyes; so, taking a cue from his honor-obsessed father, Robb executes Karstark.
The Karstark men, of course, see little justice in Robb’s beheading of their leader. They abandon their duties, which reduces the size of Robb’s force by half. It’s a blow that leaves Robb with one choice: to seek out House Frey for help. However, that presents a problem, as Robb had sworn to take a Frey for a wife and then failed to keep his word.
Judgment also follows Sandor “The Hound” Clegane (Rory McCann), who is sentenced by the Brotherhood Without Banners to fight their leader, Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer), to prove his innocence. Once again, the mysteries of the Lord of Light emerge with eye-popping results as Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye) — a red priest like Melisandre (Carice van Houten) — resurrects Dondarrion after The Hound kills him. And much to Arya Stark’s (Maisie Williams) horror, Clegane is set free, having supposedly proved his innocence through trial by combat.
Lastly, who will marry Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) continues to be a hot topic in King’s Landing, with the Tyrells, the Lannisters and Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen) vying for the inside track. But it’s Tywin Lannister’s (Charles Dance) intentions for her that is the true shocker.
POINTS OF INTEREST
1. Gendry Waters (Joe Dempsie) chooses to serve the Brotherhood Without Banners, leaving Arya, who has already lost Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey) as a companion, to proceed friendless on her journey home.
2. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Ygritte (Rose Leslie) finally get frisky, thanks in part to a cozy cave with an inviting hot spring. This intensification of their relationship should be a dramatic test of Jon’s loyalty to the Night’s Watch. Can he turn his back on the wildlings now?
3. We finally meet Stannis Baratheon’s (Stephen Dillane) wife, Selyse (Tara Fitzgerald), who is a loyal disciple of Melisandre and the Lord of Light. They have a disfigured daughter, Shireen (Kerry Ingram), who secretly visits Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) in his dungeon cell and who consequently may prove to be his key to freedom.
4. Ser Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) makes it clear to Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) that he does not feel that the tarnished knight’s reputation with go over well once they reach Westeros. These two seasoned knights are already at odds over who should serve as Daenerys Targaryen’s (Emilia Clarke) top lieutenant, and it will be fascinating to see how this develops, especially since Selmy is such a legend in the world of knights.
Jamie’s confession to Brienne was a riveting moment for the series. Coster-Waldau delivers an incredible performance, and Christie deserves applause for her simple expression of stunned disbelief.
The fact Jamie is so much more than a cocky villain adds a captivating dimension to a character that seemed so irredeemable at first. This type of realization is a George R.R. Martin hallmark.
On the action side, the sword fight between The Hound and Dondarrion was exciting and nicely staged. The flaming balde was particularly fun, especially with The Hound’s fear of fire involved.
Another standout scene was Daenerys’ meeting with her Unsullied army’s elected leader, Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson). She orders him and his men to replace the names the slavers gave them with any of their choice. But Grey Worm insists on keeping his name, however degrading, because it was the one he had when she freed him. This was a stirring and inspiring moment for Daenerys, who is clearly repulsed by the idea of slavery.
Finally, any scene involving Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Lady Olenna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) interacting was destined to be a highlight — and it was. Seeing him scramble to keep up with Olenna’s sharp-witted tongue was golden. At least he was lucky enough to coax out a monetary contribution for the costly royal wedding.
But Tyrion’s difficulties only start there. Later, Tywin insists that Tyrion marry Sansa to help forge a bond with the North and bring stability to the kingdoms. Not to mention, it will prevent the Tyrells from their plans of arranging her marriage.
Cersei (Lena Headey) finds Tyrion’s forced marriage a true amusement until Tywin turns to her and insists that she marry Ser Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones) to help secure lasting peace with that family. Cersei’s abrupt decent into despair brings a touching note to her character; her whole life has been strictly choreographed by the needs of a heartless father.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
No quibbles this week; once again HBO delivers another great episode!
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. “Kissed by Fire” was written by Bryan Cogman, and it was directed by Alex Graves.
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.”