Monday, May 20, 2013

Game of Thrones (S3E07): "The Bear and the Maiden Fair"

Episode 7 of Season 3 of Game of Thrones is titled "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" which in the fictional land of Westeros is avery famous song and as depicted in the image at the top of this post, refers to the plight one of our favorite characters, the gender-bending Brienne of Tarth, finds herself in  during this episode. S3E07 was written by George R.R. Martin, the author of the source material for the series of books which inspire the television series (it's not clear if we can call the HBO series an adaptation of the books any more since they have strayed so far from the original text). Martin's involvement raised expectations for this episode, which sadly were not really met.

As you know I have been blogging ever my reactions to every episode in Season 3 (click on the House Buckmire sigil in the left navigation bar for my Game of Thrones-related blogging). However, I was unable to write up my reaction to S3E07 in a timely fashion because I had to get ready for my 15-day Caribbean vacation (which I am currently on).  I will also probably not review S3E08 "Second Sons" until after I return to the United States on Friday May 31. Happily, I actually do have access to HBO at the place I am staying so I will try and view it at least once, but I can't promise a review. The soon-to-be infamous S3E09 "The Rains of Castamere" episode will air on Sunday June 2.

Anyway, one reason why I wasn't motivated to write about "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" was that it was somewhat disappointing. (Any episode in which Varys doesn't appear tends to be that way!) After the brilliant run of three great episodes (S3E03S3E04, S3E05) and one very good episode (S3E06) this 7th entry in the 10-episode season was mostly about setting up things that will conclude the season, so there was not much action or shattering events in this episode.

The main highlight of this episode was that Jon Snow, who is probably my favorite character in the books, finally got some dialogue for Kit Harrington (the actor who plays Jon Snow so fetchingly) to sink his teeth into and reveal more about the depths of his character. He has an excellent scene where he explains to his Wildling girlfriend Ygritte how he knows that the Wildlings are going to fail in their attempt to defeat the Night's Watch and invade Westeros. "Six times in the last thousand years, a King-beyond-the-Wall has attacked the kingdoms. Six times they failed. You don't have the discipline. You don't have the training. Your army is no army. You don't know how to fight together." Of course, the fiery red-head responds with her stock phrase "You know nothing, Jon Snow!" We will see...

The other highlight of S3E07 was of course Dany taking on the slavemasters of another city on the continent of Essos. She and her Unsullied army are camped outside of Yunkai when she is brought two trunks full of gold and the offer of a ship to sail to Westeros as a bribe if she will just leave Essos (and its slave trade) and go on and cause trouble someplace else. Dany doesn't take this well and neither does her dragon (which looks amazingly rendered on screen). Doesn't everybody know dragons love gold? The Yunkai dude is lucky to leave with  his life and Dany has another battle on her hand. Not only Yunkai but their "powerful friends," whoever they are.

Other highlights

  • Margaery Tyrell consoling Lady Sansa Stark and realizing that the Stark girl is really very clueless about how relationships work between (straight) men and women, revealing to the audience (and to a clueless Sansa) that she has a lot of knowledge about sex, which presumably comes from experience, which as a professed virgin about to marryKing Joffrey she really should not have (or be telling anyone).
  • Jamie Lannister jumping into the bear pit where Brienne has already been injured slightly after forcing Lord Bolton's men to turn around and go back to Harrenhal save her, after getting his stump treated by Maester Qyburn who we also find out has some unorthodox (i.e. vivisectional) proclivities of his own

The main problem with this episode was raised expectations not met. This happened in multiple scenes, starting from the confrontation (finally) between Lord Tywin Lannister and his teenage grandon King Joffrey Barratheon, the famous titular scene between Brienne of Tarth and a very large bear, and another scene with Tyrion trying to placate Shae (this time because he is being compelled by his father to marry her employer Sansa who she is already jealous of). All of these scenes should have been absolutely crackling and basically each one of them fizzled, or failed to meet (admittedly very high) expectations.

Grade: B-.
I understand that there can't be major action in every single episode of the show, and that a lot of the action of Game of Thrones is really in the dialogue and drama between the characters and the intricacy of their competing motivations. I just think S3E07 was not well-executed, which is pretty shocking since the source material was from the Source Himself, George R.R. Martin. Happily, the preview for (S3E08) "Second Sons" looks like we will atleast see an out-of-control Joffrey and the introduction of a potential love interest for Dany, the dashing Daario.

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