This week, things slow down while the body count picks up on The Wars to Come, our Game of Thrones rewatch analyzing the devolution of David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D)’s smash hit. Last week, we marveled at everyone’s incompetence, but today Kylie, Julia, Jana, and Dan return to break down “A Man Without Honor.”
Following the events of the King’s Landing riot, Sansa decides to thank Sandor for saving her, only to receive a gruff reply. The next morning, she wakes to discover that her period has come. Horrified, she tries to cut out the stains in the sheets with the help of Shae, who even goes as far as to threaten another maid not to speak a word. However, Sandor arrives and sees the mess soon enough. Cersei confirms that this means Sansa is old enough to be wed, and tells her that it will be a hard life, hinting that she may have concerns about Joffrey herself. This is confirmed in her next scene with Tyrion, where the two discuss Stannis’s imminent arrival. Cersei wonders if she and Jaime were tempting fate with their incest given Joffrey’s madness, and Tyrion struggles to figure out how to comfort his sister.
Speaking of Jaime, he is still in a pen in Robb’s camp. When Alton Lannister returns to explain that Cersei ripped up Robb’s peace terms, Robb tells him that they’ll build a new pen just for him, though in the meanwhile, he’s put into Jaime’s. He and Jaime have a conversation where we learn how in awe of his cousin Alton is, having squired for him once. However, Jaime cruelly kills him, to draw in the guarding Torrhen Karstark. Jaime kills him too and briefly escapes, only to be quickly recaptured. The Northern camp is in disarray as many, spearheaded by Lord Karstark, want his head now, and to make matters worse, Robb has left for the Crag for peace terms (taking Talisa with him, who needs medical supplies). It is up to Cat to figure out how to navigate this. She and Brienne step into his pen together, though the scene cuts just after Brienne draws her sword.
Meanwhile in Harrenhal, Tywin gives the cruel order to the Mountain’s men to begin punishing the smallfolk of the riverlands if they seem to be siding with or sympathetic to Robb or the mysterious “Brotherhood Without Banners.” However, he and Arya bond more when he lets her eat his leftovers. They discuss dragons, and she recalls the story of Aegon and his sisters. Tywin realizes she is highborn, though when Arya tries to disguise this with a quick lie, he tells her she’s too smart for her own good.
Less smart for his own good is Theon, who awakens to find Bran and Rickon missing. We see them traversing the countryside with Hodor and Osha, Rickon only having walnuts to eat. Theon orders a hunting party to go after them, dragging along the reluctant Maester Luwin, but it’s clear he’s acting from a place of desperation. When the party reaches the farm where Bran had sent two orphan boys to help, it appears to be a dead-end until one of the Ironborn finds walnut shells in the hay. Theon orders Luwin home. Later, in the Winterfell courtyard, he hoists two charred corpses of small boys to send a message to the Northeners, though is unable to look at them.
Just a bit farther north, Jon and Ygritte wake up with Ygritte still his captive. She teases him about his morning wood, and then about his lack of sex in general. When she propositions him, he gets slightly distracted, giving her the opportunity to slip away and lure him into a trap where multiple Wildlings are waiting. Jon is taken captive.
Finally in Qarth, Jorah has returned after he heard what happened to Dany’s men. Dany seems suspicious of Xaro Xhoan Daxos (XXD), but is mostly focused on getting her dragons back. Jorah runs to Quaithe, who he suspects knows their location, though she says instead that Dany is with the man who stole them as they speak. Jorah runs back to find Dany at a meeting of The Thirteen, where the warlock Pyat Pree reveals that he took them and they’re at the House of the Undying. He and Daxos then stage a coup where the Thirteen are killed, and Daxos is made the King of Qarth. Dany and Jorah look on in horror.
How will she get her dragons back? What happens to Jaime? What will Jon do next? We’ll have to wait another week for those answers, but for now, let’s discuss what we just saw.
Initial, quick reaction
Kylie: Endless! This episode was absolutely endless! I have no other reaction than that, because I couldn’t believe how this thing dragged.
Julia: Really? I only stopped it to get a snack or check my Instagram once. Maybe twice. But now that you mention it, nothing much happened, did it? The greatest movement was in Qarth, and that was GoT!Qarth, so…
Stretching out the Jon and Ygritte Road Show for another episode was totally superfluous. So was Jaime escaping. (Like, they seeded Cat letting him go so he could negotiate for the release of her children, but now it’s to save his life? Why?) The stuff in Winterfell was fine, though I’m not sure why they had to actually try to leave the castle, and King’s Landing featured actual character development that was only a little all about Shae. The less said about Arya and Robb’s stories, the better.
It was fine.
Dan: I’ll come down as pro-slow episodes yet again this time, as I did in Season 1. I really liked the character work in this episode, slowly filling the powder keg until the spark hits and we get “Blackwater” and it all goes up in flames. The sins of the future leak in a bit here, and I definitely groaned more than in the last season (this episode was written by D&D after all), but the show is still constrained by Martin’s deliberate plotting and the worst impulses of our beloved showrunners are kept in check. But they’re champing at the bit to ditch all this “talking” and “consistent characterization,” and that is showing.
Jana: I’m with Kylie on this one. I was close to starting another crocheting project just to have something to do while watching. There were a few good scenes and all, but oh my god, does it drag. Is this where the wheel spinning starts? The talking scenes are fine when they feature… the Lannisters, really. Like, even Tywin and Arya’s plotline is stupid, but at least they have the charisma and chemistry to sell it, as much as it paints them both as the biggest idiots to ever walk the earth. And I could listen to Nikolaj Coster-Waldau talk for basically an entire season of this, while Peter Dinklage and Lena Headey continue to bring out the best in each other. As little sense as it makes.
Meanwhile, every time they cut to Jon and Ygritte I actually groaned. Out loud. Why.
Kylie: Theon remains a stronger storyline, though D&D’s choice to end the episode on the ~ambiguity~ is really showing the signs of the acedia to come. But I honestly think Rose Leslie is my highlight. I’m not overly compelled by Jon’s situation or anything; it’s just that her acting is delightful, and I could listen to her saying “bone” all day. She really made something work when the material itself is just…virgin shaming, basically.
My lowlight was the endless scene between Jaime and his cousin before he killed him. As a book reader the out-of-characterness for Jaime was a bit off-putting, though sometimes I feel the fandom overstates that. As someone watching a show, it just dragged and dragged like Ramsay opening a kennel. As someone with eyeballs, Alton’s bouncing closer and closer was incredibly silly looking. Boo.
Julia: Her whole “and then he said [Jon Snow voice] ‘turn back around,’” made me laugh out loud. She’s an easy highlight. So is Maester Luwin at the whole other end of the acting range. I want him to be my grandpa.
I think I might go for everything in King’s Landing as my highlight. It was all so well acted that I’ll ignore the unnecessary repeat of showing the attempted rape of a teenager, and how confused I already am about Cersei’s journey into Carol-dom.
Lowlight is everything in Qarth? With a special focus on whatever that Quaithe scene was. Why was she painting a man’s back while yet again being bizarrely focuses on Jorah’s stalker habits? Seriously, did they not get that her relationship is supposed to be with Dany? And then when we actually do need her in Meereen, she’s nowhere to be seen.
Jana: Rose Leslie does a good job at performing the bad material, sure, but I still would have skipped those scenes if I could. I was a little impressed by how well they changed the mood from the virgin shaming banter to the greater implications of Wildings vs. South Of The Wall and all, but that’s it. I think this would have been my lowlight if not for Qarth and Talisa casually dismissing the second highest lord of the north from a meeting with his king. I realize that this is very pearl-clutchy, but… Thank you, Roose, for looking appropriately put out by that.
King’s Landing as a highlight is something I can support, though. If you completely ignore everything about Carol’s existence, those were some really good scenes. Why didn’t they make Sophie Turner wear more blue? It looks so good on her, and is one of the few times where I thought the costume design supported the performance extremely well. Same with Carol’s… Built-in safety blanket in the scene with Tyrion that almost made me feel something.
Dan: In an episode like this, paced in an almost Shakespearean manner, it’s about the subtle things. Little quirks, conversations. And when Charles Dance gets a scene, then by god he’s gonna be one of my highlights. I love the Tywin/Arya storyline and think it’s actually a good addition to the Harrenhal scenes, ramping up tension while also making Tywin much more of a presence. The scene in this episode didn’t just give us a peek into his brain, but also into Arya’s slow shedding of her own identity. It’s the shortest scene in the episode but I think it makes the biggest impact.
Quarth is the lowlight, yeah. Mostly because the scenes in the east are where our intrepid showrunners do their best to completely screw up the book. Not only are they even more afraid of outright magic than GRRM, but they absolutely refuse to let Qarth and the inhabitants of Essos be as strange and exotic as they are in the books. Dany’s storyline is rife with ancient magics, plots laid out by millenia, and forces beyond anyone’s understanding, while The Thirteen are supposed to be on a level of power Westerosi cannot understand. But in the show, she just goes around screaming about dragons while some shriveled old guy and Nouveau-Riche scam artist do murder.
And Quaithe is there.
Quality of writing
Julia: Can we talk about how transparent Jorah’s side quest to “find a ship” was? Clearly it was just there so he wouldn’t be there when XXD’s dudes killed all of Dany’s peeps. But, you know, clearly that was the only reason, since it comes to nothing.
Dan: Still good, I think, although Quarth is really one giant wet fart in a season that is just as good as the first. It’s working off of strong source material (my favorite of the books, in fact) and most of the little changes merely help fill in gaps lost in adaptation. However, D&D are writing again so we’ve gone full Carol, and Talisa’s scenes are where good writing go to die. So a much more mixed bag than season one, but nowhere near as bad as they will be.
Kylie: I don’t know…I’m struggling to see what gaps Tywin in Harrenhal is filling in. It makes Arya much, much more passive than she was in the books, though that’s less of a complaint about the actual quality of writing.
Though speaking of Harrenhal, we get Arya’s charming “most girls are idiots” line. There’s the start of that wonderful misogyny that D&D have no clue how to wield. It’s telling that as soon as it’s required of them to write something original, they default to weird “plucky” dialogue for the women they like (Talisa too), that is really just cattiness.
Jana: I will say that I kind of enjoyed Jaime talking to Cat a little. Like, I know the show wants me to believe that Cat hates Jon because Ned cheated on her, and not because raising Jon alongside her sons makes him a contender for inheriting Winterfell or the north as a kingdom, and that’s dumb and all, but Jaime’s delivery is great. “That bastard of his, what was his name again?” – “Brienne.” – “No, that wasn’t it” made me chuckle, okay?
Our 8th grade book report (on themes)
Julia: OMG, it was vaguely appropriate! There were several people, men even, who you could argue are without honor in this episode. There’s Jaime and his totally necessary murder of a guy who worships the ground he walks on. There’s Theon being so terrified of being emasculated that he murders children. There’s XXD and his zany scene to be King of Qarth. Tywin is without honor because he’s into murdering peasants now. And that’s not nice. You can make an argument for Robb, edging ever closer to betrothal breaking territory. You can probably even make a case for Sandor, who’s explicitly rejecting all that knightly stuff here.
I’ll throw Jon in there too. Just for being dumb.
Kylie: No no! Jon’s honor hinges on being the dumbest guy in the room at all times! Just like Ned would have done.
Kind of hard to argue against Ygritte’s honor for her “deceit” too when she was a prisoner. I think maybe their scenes were a bit disjointed. I would throw Karstark into that bucket though, since it’s not very honorable to consider killing prisoners without your king’s consent.
Another theme that is related could be desperation. I think this fits a bit better in terms of reconciling Jon and Ygritte (not that she ever seems desperate, but she is propositioning Jon to get away). Then we can fold Sansa into that mix with trying to hide her period. Though I guess Robb wouldn’t fit in entirely.
Either way, at least we finally get an episode title that means something!
Jana: I mean, building off of what Catelyn reminded Robb of last episode, every time he makes eyes at Talisa, he’s kind of putting his honor on the line when it comes to his betrothal to Random Frey Girl. Which kind of makes this the opposite of what it was supposed to be in the books, but hey.
Dan: I think an important theme in this season, and this episode especially, is the fragility of institutions, of which honor is only one. Whether it’s military tactics (Aegon changing the face of war in his invasion), The Thirteen (who are disposed of with laughable ease), or Winterfell (taken by a small crew of raiders), the things that control the world and hold the faith of its people are incredibly temporary. Even the King himself is a fragile construct, whether he’s killed by his trusted bodyguard, seduced away by a pretty nurse, or even if he’s just a sadistic madman. Honor is supposed to be the one thing that holds the fragile world together, the one constant at the foundation of it all. But this episode proves yet again that the dishonorable (Tywin, Ygritte, Jaime, Aegon) are usually the ones who are going to come out on top. And the honorable characters around them (Jon, Cat, Arya) are slowly figuring that out.
Also I enjoy the kind of settler-colonialism narrative that they’ve established with the Wildlings and the Northmen. They don’t really go too far into it because they’re cowards, but underneath all of Ygritte’s jokes there’s some interesting ideas happening.
Cracks in the plaster (the bullshit to come)
Kylie: One of the biggest issues with this show is that D&D have absolutely no idea what Martin is even trying to do with setting, or what the implications of such a setting are. Julia and I argued this before we were…well, Julie I guess, and given that the setting is trotted out to justify sexual violence, it becomes inexcusably sloppy.
So yeah, the Kool-Aid Man dancing on the rubble of a wall is absolutely Talisa barging into a king’s tent alone to ask him for turpentine.
Julia: Like, at least wash your hands and face first, lady. Even Eliza Doolittle did that.
Kylie: Certifiable Badasses™ have schmutz, Julia.
Jana: Shout-out to Roose’s pissed off face when that happened. Someone forgot to tell him that the setting changed.
Another crack in the plaster is that one time Jon and Ygritte almost had a serious argument. Jon has excellent points here, but they just chose to…end it, to make it seem like Ygritte was right and you shouldn’t fight wildlings if you share a common ancestor or something. That does literally nothing to invalidate Jon’s previous points about the wildlings raiding holdfasts and threatening children south of the wall, and now they’re building an army around Mance Rayder to — as far as anyone knows — do all of that more efficiently. But of course, only one person can have a point in any given argument.
Kylie: And weirdly “survival” wasn’t exactly brought up. Mance united everyone for a reason. But you’re 100% right. D&D have a habit of writing to one character making one point, so even if there’s a thousand follow-ups that could realistically be included, the scene usually just ends with intense staring.
Julia: It guess it’s also a crack, or another stone in Saint Tyrion’s holy pedestal or something, but boy is he trying to be super nice to Carol. If only she could appreciate him and how much he cares.
Dan: You can’t do a meet cute in Westeros. Nothing says “I have no idea what my setting is” than shoehorning in a #feminist #strongwoman character full of sass and gumption into a world where that is like…the worst thing to be (something YOUR OWN SHOW has covered in depth.) Through Talisa, D&D essentially turn a Shakespearean tragedy into a Harlequin romance. And it is a lot harder to buy Robb’s tactical suicide when the cause of it is some rando nurse who argued with him a few times…Also why in the seven hells do you think the king would have turpentine?
I think in this episode we start to see the dark road that leads to “the bad pussy” in the dialogue from Ygritte and the scenes surrounding Sansa. It just…reeks of men writing women but without consulting women? I know the source material is no stranger to being weird with women, but it doesn’t really stick out as much as Ygritte talking about how “dark and soft and warm” it is. They’re really able to write female characters when they’re “not like other girls,” and have a much rougher time when it comes to female sexuality, motherhood, etc.
Kylie: Well, she is trying to seduce her captor in that context, so I give it a pass far more than they way sexuality will come to be surprised. Though I’m glad you mentioned motherhood, because boy oh boy is that idealization dialing up to eleven with Cersei. She has no choice but to love Joffrey!
Julia: I’m more than a little confused as to why Bran and Co. had to actually try to escape and then double back or whatever. Is it really more tension than if we don’t see them all episode and then see two little corpses?
Dan: I’ll take it as D&D straining against their source material. We haven’t reached Benioff Unchained levels of plotting, where we can just not see characters for a few episodes and then have them appear out of nowhere. Quaithe’s appearance also reflects this, as she represents a much larger scheme than the showrunners want to envision, but they keep her in anyway. Things like Cersei in full pitiful victim mode are weird, but she’s early enough in the show that it still works internally. Talisa and Qarth are both complete bupkis, but I expressed my feelings on them above.
The Arya/Tywin stuff is a rare positive addition to the show, which is good because an accurate Book!Twyin would be a total waste of Charles Dance. Other than that it’s still keeping things tight with the book, and they mirror its slow pace beautifully so that our characters actually get to develop.
Jana: It’s a positive addition in the sense that the dynamic between the actors is enjoyable, but once you start thinking about what it takes away from Arya’s development and the world building at large and the overarching themes of the entire series, well…
Julia: And I would argue that letting how awesome the actor is dictate the story, instead of, like, coherence, is nothing but self-indulgence. Especially considering how they’re more than willing to have book!Tywin magically appear for a few lines if they think that’s cool at that particular moment.
Kylie: That’s the entire nail on the head though, Julia. I think there’s a point to be made to writing towards an actor’s strengths, or maybe capitalizing on something that worked. But it’s that line of thinking that gets us Sandor and Arya’s buddy-duo trip for two full seasons, as well as the major Carolization beats.
I don’t know, it is possible ‘Weasel Soup’ just landed a lot better for us than for you, Dan. I do strongly remember enjoying the Arya/Tywin scenes my first time through, and feeling a ton of tension. Now I few them as a tension-killer, but I wonder if it’s just because I know that it ends with him riding off and her kind of shrugging.
Carol Watch: who is Cersei this week?
Kylie: It’s Carol! She’s concerned about Joffrey! She knows Sansa is being asked something impossible! Aww, what a good, worried mom.
Julia: Totally Carol. She’s doing her best! And it’s my favourite kind of Carol scene too. A book scene with just a few super minor changes.
Dan: Bah gawd! Is that Carol’s music? It is! Carol Lannister is back and she’s laying the smackdown on any of you jabronis that thought she was any sort of bad person. Nothing like mean old Cat, who just shouts at men and is rude to Jaime.
Jana: She came out of nowhere but is such a tragic and put-upon figure! Poor Carol desperately loves her son, even though she can totally tell he enjoys cruelty and how Sansa will have a hard time loving him. So touching.
We Need to Talk about Tywin
Jana: Hang twenty innocent men, order your attack dog to burn the villages and farms, and then turn around to feed the intellectual stone mason’s orphan. And let yourself be corrected by a stone mason’s orphan. Who somehow reminds you of your daughter. Has he caught on to the fact his cupbearer is highborn yet, or did Arya’s explanation fool him? And if he has, didn’t he also figure out a while ago that she’s from the north? Tywin. You have all this information. And mail going missing. And men mysteriously being assassinated. What. Are. You. Doing?
Julia: Despite everything, I was a little excited to see book!Tywin on the screen. Even if he’s one of the most horrible people ever. But then it was, like, “Ow, my neck!”
Kylie: The whiplash is real.
I also think he very clearly knows she’s highborn, because even when she tries to cover, he just gives her this doting smile, and goes:
Like…this is beyond stupid. Even if she hadn’t admitted to being Northern, which she has, a highborn daughter is a useful hostage in any situation. The fact that she is Northern, even if he somehow doesn’t realize she’s the very obviously missing Arya Stark, would give him some sort of bargaining chip over the rebelling kingdom, as undervalued as women are. Figure out if she has a claim, at the least.
Griffin is convinced that Tywin secretly knows who she is and is simply trying to keep her close so he can make sure she doesn’t get away or abused like other prisoners might be. I don’t have the heart to tell him that deviations from the books don’t end anywhere remotely logical.
Jana: I mean, that would make Tywin a liiiittle bit less stupid, but, uh, you can keep her close and under watch and protected and well treated WITHOUT having her spy on your war councils or putting her into a position to misdirect your mail, can’t you?
Julia: Well, apparently the only opinions for prisoners on this show, even highborn and super valuable ones, is to keep them in squalor in the middle of a muddy field. So it would never occur to Tywin that he could give this noble northern girl a nice room in a tower somewhere. What’s a grandpappy to do?
Dan: The Tywin defender has logged on. In the context of Westeros, Tywin really isn’t the worst dude ever. Nothing he’s doing is really out of the ordinary in Westerosi warfare, and he certainly has the experience to back his tactics up. He’s not being needlessly cruel, and his habit of nipping things in bud stands in stark contrast with the uh…Starks, who have this weird pathological need to give everyone second and third chances.
He is not, however, a perfect man, as his abusive relationship with Tyrion shows. Considering what we know about Tywin and Cersei and how close they were (she was the only one who could make him smile), I don’t think it’s fully out of character for him to have a bit of a weak spot for Arya. The flip of that, again thanks to what we know from Cersei, is that he also severely underestimates women as leaders and warriors. Just look at how well he remembers Aegon’s sisters, and the condescension with which he seems to view them. I doubt he sees her as any sort of threat. So I think his treatment of Arya really serves as a window into his treatment of Cersei, with the caveat that she is not a Lannister and therefore even more beneath his notice.
Jana: I’m… Sorry, but the guy who has a personal anthem about wiping out an entire family, ordered the capital city sacked, had baby head smashed into walls on his command because the situation with the kids could get messy later, answers to his son being arrested by raiding farmland of a region only tangentially related to the conflict, and whose favorite tactic in war is to kill as many civilians and burn down as many resources as possible is not supposed to be the worst dude ever in this setting?
Even if you chalk all this up to regular Westerosi warfare, which I am hesitant to do, there’s still, you know, that time he ordered his son’s wife gang-raped because he didn’t agree with the union? The constant abuse he inflicted upon all of his children? Book!Tywin is very much supposed to be one of, if not the cruelest character currently alive and in power. Yes, he has people working for him who do the dirty work of burning everything down, torturing, extorting, and raping peasants and all that, but they do this because he lets them, if not downright orders them to do it. People are afraid of him, more so than of any other living commander in Westeros. There’s a point to this, namely:
A chummy grandpa feeding a northern noble lady posing as a stone mason’s orphan only serves to muddy up the issue entirely.
You know, in addition to making both him and Arya seem extremely dumb. As much as he might underestimate women and girls, even when calling them too clever for their own good, a northern noble girl would be a valuable hostage in any case. And keeping her around during his council meetings and around his mail when he KNOWS she can read and he KNOWS she’s from the north and thus probably has some investment in this war not going his way WHILE mail is going missing or misdirected is just… Inexcusably stupid, in my opinion.
Also, the sentimentality aspect is nice and all. It would just be so much better if either the book or the show ever followed up on that. The nicest thing Tywin has ever done for Cersei is not tell her that the Tyrells think she’s too old to marry Willas, from what I recall.
In addition, giving Arya borderline positive experiences at Harrenhal and cutting out pretty much all the atrocities she witnesses in the books only makes her descent into stone-cold killer girl that much more unbelievable and rushed. This entire plotline also just makes her look really, really selfish. Book!Arya herself remembered that maybe using one of her kills for Tywin would have been the smart thing to do, but Book!Arya spent all her time with people like Chiswyck and Weese and it is understandable that those people would be a more immediate concern for a nine year old girl at the time. But when Tywin Lannister is right there in front of her all the time? And she even has her first killer instincts this episode? That’s… not as excusable.
Also from what I remember, Gendry is the one to bring that up next season, and she just shuts him down and doesn’t acknowledge this point at all. Kind of like other stupid ideas in the show will be hand-waved away a season later in the future because the writers can’t think of a reasonable justification for them anymore.
No, this is a good read, because while I am a very-not-Lannister-fan, it’s a pretty common phenomenon in the fandom (books as well as show). So I appreciate the perspective; though, I am quite a bit more compelled by Jana’s argument.
Exposition Imposition: good or clunky?
Jana: Dumb as the scene was, a little girl gushing about queens on dragons burning down castles and wielding awesome swords is definitely the kind of thing a little girl would gush about, and Maisie Williams sells it. So that bit of exposition was pretty well done.
Julia: And little boys would gush about how awesome it is to be a squire? That was… less well done. Poor Alton though.
There’s also Talisa expositing about the medical supplies she needs. Like turpentine. Which is a tree resin, so I guess it makes sense that it be available in this quasi-medieval setting? Apparently Roman woman drank it so their pee would smell like roses. Maybe that’s why Talisa wants it? Or why Robb likes her so much?
Dan: Excluding Talisa, She-Who-Ruins-Scripts, the exposition was fine in this episode. The reveal of Pryat Pree and XXD’s plot led to a bit of clunky explanation, but the two are hammy enough that it just felt more like a cheesy villain monologue than anything. Theon also has a lot of “as you know” moments. I think he reminds different people three or four times how important finding Bran and Rickon are and what pressure he’s under.
Kylie: Yeah, nothing particularly jumped out. (Though turpentine for medicinal uses really only became common practice in the Age of Sail.) No Littlefinger probably helped.
Julia: I like how this rewatch turns on who is the most skilled with google searching about turpentine. Maybe Talisa has an antique chair she’s redoing and she needs to strip off the old paint. Did you think of that!?
How was the pacing?
Kylie: Really, really draggy. I didn’t hate all the content by any means, but these guys are clearly honing their wheel-spinning chops here.
Julia: There are a couple of scenes that made me want to scream “why is this here!”. Jaime’s whole escape seems totally unnecessary. So is everything in Qarth where Jorah opens his stupid mouth. I can’t believe they cast Quaithe and then wasted her like this.
Jana: Yeah, honestly, everything about Jorah’s subplot was… So unnecessary. And you also can’t tell me two scenes of Jon and Ygritte wouldn’t have been enough for the appropriate amount of virgin shaming and bringing up the deeper issues at hand.
Dan: It’s slow, yes. But I will take slow and deliberate, letting the many plots actually move at a steady pace and the characters develop (relatively) organically, over the rapid fire jetpack juggling we get later on.
Kylie: I really don’t know…the stuff I felt like dragged the most was Harrenhal, which doesn’t actually lead to anything or have a payoff, Qarth, which is this bizarre mystery-thriller that doesn’t do a ton for Dany’s characterization, Jaime’s scene where he’s going to kill his cousin that dragged, which I think could have used an edit, and even Jon and Ygritte’s scene, though I enjoyed those more. Jana, you have a point about us getting it already.
Weirdly, the main tension of the season—Stannis going to attack King’s Landing—feels rushed and not well-built at all. So it’s hard for me to credit them with a ton of intentionality regarding the pacing, especially when many of these scenes felt like their episode-padding tricks to come.
Jana: Speaking of main tension, rather than, I don’t know, showing Bran and his posse running away or having Jorah’s subplot happening or whatever, wouldn’t it have been better for the overall pacing to maybe SHOW Stannis’s overwhelming fleet coming for them? I know, budget constraints, but just having Davos do like a count in front of a green screen would have helped to remind people that the scene with Tyrion and Cersei actually has something to do with the rest of this episode and that there is a main conflict happening, oh, two episodes from now.
Let’s talk about sex, baby
Julia: Other than the virgin shaming, the only remotely sex related thing is that now Sansa’s prospect for marital rape is more immediate? Yay.
Dan: There was not a single bit of nudity in this episode, which kind of shocked me. The direct contrast between Ygritte’s idea of sexuality with Cersei and Sansa’s was effective, albeit as clunky as you’d expect from our beloved showrunners. At least the sex jokes were funny, which I think is just a testament to how well Rose and Kit play off each other in their scenes.
Kylie: I just wish I didn’t know that D&D really do associate manhood with having sex. Given Ygritte’s situation, I give her virgin-shaming a pass.
The only thing I can say about Sansa getting her period is that they very notably made Shae a far more active person in that scene than Sansa, going as far as to threaten Mini Maid with a knife (wow, what a payoff). I mean, threaten “Bernadette,” sorry. Best character arc on the show.
Julia: I guess the seasons have changed.
In memoriam…Alton Lannister, Torrhen Karstark, The Thirteen, The 2 Orphans
Kylie: The most hilarious death goes to the The Thirteen?
Julia: I just want to know why Pryat Pree was dressed like a Freman from Dune while he killed them.
Jana: He’s trying to start a new fashion craze, clearly.
Julia: Alton and Torrhen’s deaths were pretty goofy too. And I fail to see how Alton’s was very necessary. He seemed competent enough to pull a sick prisoner gag, and would cleary do whatever Jaime asked. So, why didn’t they escape together?
Dan: I think Jaime’s supposed to be at his most desperate here. He’s not really a thinker like his siblings, and now that he’s up against a wall he’s just looking out for number one. His brain said “kill this kid and you can escape.” And he listened to it. Jaime as a rash idiot is something that show wavers on and I think the fandom sometimes forgets about.
I always love the scene at the end because it is just…so badly executed. The bodies are so clearly mannequins bouncing around, and Maester Lewin just gives out that weird ass whale noise of grief. It’s almost a Monty Python skit.
Jana: I can agree with the comedic effect of the burned bodies, at least. But I’m firmly of the opinion that Jaime’s escape attempt was unnecessary and only there to pad out for time. That’s also the only reason they made us listen to Alton gush for what felt like five minutes straight, in addition to making his death more Shocking™. Gave me flashforwards to the beetle conversation.
Kylie: I won’t cry “character assassination” for Jaime, but I can’t say I felt the necessity of its inclusion here.
Either way, we have gotten very long in this rewatch and will have to bounce out.
What did everyone think? Did the pacing work for you? Is Harrenhal a boon or drawback? And what the hell is going so wrong in Qarth? We look forward to discussing in the comments below, and as always, we wish you good fortune in The Wars to Come.