We are now halfway through the third season and the plots are starting to swirl and events are moving apace. "Kissed by Fire" was written by Brian Cogman, who aficionados of the show know best for having witten one of the best episodes of Season 2 (S2E03) "What is Dead May Never Die" and is the person on the show officially responsible for keeping the television adaptation aligned with the source material by George R.R. Martin.
What's interesting about "Kissed by Fire" is that there is no (apparently) "big event" that happens in this episode, but it is still one of the most compelling outings of the show. It may be funny to say that S3E05 was an episode where "nothing happens" when a man is apparently reincarnated from the dead, Robb Stark cuts the head off of a Northman lord, a deal is reached on how to pay for a royal wedding, and Jon Snow loses his virginity but only one of these "events" will significantly impact future events. (For those of you who have NOT read the books, I do not guarantee that my recaps are spoiler free, so you should probably stop reading right now!) I will let you all guess which of these is the most significant, but I suspect that we will know by the end of S3E09, "The Rains of Castermere," the penultimate episode of the season. The producers and showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss tend to put the most shocking events of the season not in the finale but in the episode before, or at least they have done so in the first two seasons so far (in S1E09 "Baelor" Ned Stark lost his head due to Joffrey Barratheon's penchant for cruelty and in S2E09 "Blackwater" the legendary battle of the Blackwater occurred where Stannis Barratheon's attack on King's Landing from the sea was repulsed by wildfire).
What Cogman is good at is depicting the dialogue that Martin wrote in a context which maximizes its impact. For what "Kissed by Fire" does have is some very famous speeches.
The most emotional of these speeches is the one in which Jaime Lannister (while naked in a bathtub with his former captor Brienne Selwin!) finally reveals why he broke his oath as a Knight and killed Mad King Aerys Targaryen, despite being a member of the Kinsguard. This scene alone should launch a campaign to get Nicolaj Coster-Waldau an Emmy nomination for the stellar work he is doing to take Jaime from a heartless villain who pushes Brandon Stark out the window in Season 1 and casually kills a Lannister cousin to effectuate his escape in Season 2 to someone in Season 3 that the audience starts to realize has many, many shades of gray. Even though I read the books and recognized the speech immediately, I had forgotten that it occurs in a bath.
The other most significant speech of the episode involves Lord Tywin Lannister, played magnificently by Charles Dance, continuing to try to impose his will on his two other children Tyrion Lannister, now Master of Coin and Cersei Lannister, the Queen Regent. This is another famous scene, because it is when Tyrion learns of the Tyrell plot to marry Sansa Stark (who people seem to think is the "key to the North") in order to secure a claim to the Stark name and holdings in he North. Tywin hatches the plot (or is it Cersei's idea?) to have Tyrion marry Sansa instead. It's great work by Lena Headey as she switches from knowing smirk to despair in an instant as Tywin tells her that she, too, must (again) marry someone she does not love (this time the very gay Loras Tyrell) in order to secure land and power for the Lannister family. "Please don't make me do it again" Cersei begs her heartless father.
The third conversation of import tonight really was not a conversation at all but a verbal TKO by Queen of Thorns Olenna Tyrell as for the second consecutive episode she meets one of the smartest characters on the show and demonstrates her mental superiority (last episode she won a verbal duel with Lord Varys, mostly on points). This time it was Tyrion, who invites her to his quarters and hopes to broach the sensitive topic of the cost of the roya wedding between King Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell, Olenna's granddaughter. Even though the Lannisters are the wealthiest family in the Seven Kingdoms, the Tyrells are not far behind, and Olenna points out that the Tyrells have been propping up the economy of King's Landing with their largesse. Even so, Olenna agrees to pay for half the wedding after Tyrion is reduced to making inarticulate murmurs.
Another highlight of the episode for me was the scene between Loras Tyrell and the smoking hot page who he jumps into bed with. As soon as the page came on screen my husband and I said "whoa, that guy is too hot just to be an extra" and so we were completely unsurprised when he turned out to be a spy for Littlefinger. It was cool that after copious amounts of female nudity in the show, and a lot of nudity (although no female full-frontals in this episode) they actually showed two guys in bed together as well as (very brief) full-frontal nudity of the aforementioned hot page.
There really weren't any in this episode at all. Even the appearance of Stannis, which usually is a drag, was made interesting by (finally) introducing us to his bat-sh*t crazy wife Selyse (she keeps the stillborn baby sons she bore in bottles of brine in her room) and their daughter, who has the shameful "scale face" disease. (I thought it was odd that the producers missed an opportunity in the previous episode to try to explain the extreme social stigma of genetic defects in general and scale face in particular when Margaery fooled Sansa about "porridge face" sickness.) I suppose the one lowlight would be the conversation between Littlefinger and Sansa because it wasn't clear to me what it accomplished except revealing to Littlefinger (I think) that Sansa was aware of the plot to marry her off to Loras Tyrell, and was willing to keep that knowledge secret from him.
This episode was just as good as the previous one, although I still think S3E03 "Walk of Punishment" is the best episode of the season to date, with perhaps this episode a close second. I'm excited about the last half of the season, because it should be even better than the first half!