Hello hello, and welcome back to our Game of Thrones rewatch project: The Wars to Come, where we dive back into Seasons 1-4 to understand where the greatness to come all began. Last week, Vanessa Taylor gave us a really delicate approach to gender politics, while this week, showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D) take back the pen with “Walk of Punishment.” Kylie, Julia, Alejandra, and Bo are here to dig in, though first for anyone who didn’t have a chance to watch: a recap of events.
Things are rather grim beyond the Wall: Mance, Ygritte, Jon, and Tormund arrive at the Fist of the First Men to find slaughtered horses arranged in a spiral—clearly the work of White Walkers. The horses belonged to the Night’s Watch, meaning there are likely now risen members in the army of the dead. Mance realizes that Castle Black is very vulnerable as a result, and orders Tormund to take a party to climb the Wall, so that they can open the gate from the inside. Jon is told that he’ll be joining them.
The few surviving brothers of the Night’s Watch meanwhile make their way back to Craster’s. There, Craster is very unpleasant, making cannibalism jokes to Sam, who leaves. He finds Gilly giving birth, and to her chagrin, it’s a boy.
Speaking of babies, Stannis tries to convince Melisandre to have another shadow baby with him, so that he can vanquish her foes. However, she is determined to leave, to find someone else with king’s blood that can enhance her magic.
There are fires not burning low at Hoster Tully’s funeral. When Edmure Tully tries to light his father’s boat & corpse on fire as it sails down the river, he misses, though his uncle Brynden “Blackfish” is able to get the shot right away. Afterwards, Edmure tries to tout his victory against the Lannisters when he successfully took a mill, but his king, Robb Stark, points out that this ruined his strategy to try and draw the Lannisters in. Blackfish talks with Catelyn, who is grieving her father, and wondering whether Bran and Rickon are also dead. Meanwhile, Talisa tends to the wounds of two young Lannister prisoners.
Theon is still a prisoner, though the man who promised to free him before makes good on this, and sneaks Theon out. He gives him a horse and tells him to ride east, where Yara will be waiting. Theon does this, though before long there are pursuers on his tail. He is caught by them rather quickly, but the man who helped him escape comes and kills them all, telling Theon to come with him.
It’s an episode with many prisoners, however. Jaime and Brienne are traveling with Locke and the Boltons, and though Jaime is a valuable prisoner, he warns Brienne that since she “doesn’t matter,” she’ll probably get raped that night. When the night comes, that seems to be what happens, but Jaime intervenes, lying to Locke that Brienne’s home of Tarth is rich in sapphires, and anyone who returns her unharmed would be handsomely rewarded. Locke orders his men to leave her alone, but when Jaime begins acting like he’ll be able to buy his way out of the situation, Locke cuts off Jaime’s hand to remind him that he’s powerless without his father there.
Over at the Inn at the Crossroads, Arya asks if she’s the prisoner of the Brotherhood without Banners, and they tell her no, but won’t let her travel alone. They mean to set out with Gendry—now smithing for them—and the Hound as their prisoner. Hot Pie, however, opts to stay behind, having just been offered a job as a baker by the innkeep. He and Arya exchange a goodbye.
Down in King’s Landing, Tywin holds his first Small Council meeting as Hand, which includes lots of jockeying for seats around the table. It’s announced that Littlefinger will be leaving to go marry Lysa Arryn, thus rewarding him with both The Erie and Harrenhal for his work in creating the Tyrell/Lannister alliance. Tyrion is named his successor as Master of Coin. Tyrion visits his brothel later to get the ledgers, and also purchases the services of sex workers for his squire, Pod. Later, looking over the books, Tyrion says he’s concerned about the debt to the Iron Bank. However this thought is soon interrupted when Pod returns with the money meant for the sex workers. They apparently gave it back, so Tyrion and Bronn press the squire for details.
Finally, in Astapor, Dany is horrified by how things run in the slave city. There are numerous slaves strung up on a cross as their execution, and when she tries to give one water, he refuses, asking her to let him die. Jorah and Ser Barristan argue over the necessity of the army, with Barristan telling Dany that Rhaegar’s army was loyal to him because they loved him, not because they were bought. Jorah, however, points out that Rhaegar died. Dany meets with the slavers who say she has enough money for about 115 Unsullied. Yet she offers to purchase all of them, even the Unsullied in training, in exchange for one of her dragons. The slavers agree, despite the protests of Jorah and Barristan. Dany also asks for the interpreter Missandei as a “gift” from the slavers, and when this is accepted, Dany asks Missandei if she’s okay staying with her, since it may be dangerous. Missandei agrees.
What will happen to Dany’s dragon? Will Jon climb that Wall? And please, will we ever figure out the nature of Pod’s sexual prowess? Those questions will have to wait until next week, as we now discuss “The Walk of Punishment.”
Initial, quick reaction
Bo: My initial reaction was, “Thank goodness this was better than last week.”
It was fine. At this point I assume every episode will have at least one or two scenes that I can’t stand. If they keep things limited to one or two scenes, I’m happy. Nothing horribly egregious stood out to me. The pacing was really off and will continue to be. But I’m not as angry as I was last week.
Kylie: Wow, really? I agree that if I had to rank every scene this week versus last week from 1-10, this week probably averaged better. But at the same time, this is really beginning to look like the Game of Thrones I know. We’ve got Pod’s sex arc and the 5,000 jokes that follow, “Winterhell”, ~hilarity~ in the Small Council with chair scraping (which they redo in Season 6), Stannis lecherously grabbing at Mel who jets off to find some royal junk, “All men must die, yes, but we are not men,” and multiple almost-rapes! I think without a self-flagellating Cat, and no Marg/Talisa in the foreground, the worldbuilding didn’t feel as shoddy this week at all, but even there, we’ve got sex workers refusing money because lolz.
Bo: I guess I’m just less angry at the stupid Pod jokes than the Cat destruction, even if the Pod stuff symbolizes more where the show will head moving forward. I also can’t stand how the show misses the point with Olenna, so she makes me angry just by appearing.
Alejandra: When Hot Pie said “Winterhell,” it both delighted me and made me cringe, which I would say is how I feel about the episode in general. Its (few) good moments still encapsulate some of the good this show used to have but it also has some painful demonstrations of what it is already becoming.
Julia: I did not enjoy this viewing experience at all. The way they’re dragging out the Theon stuff is totally eye rolling, multiple scenes just went on way too long, and, like, nothing happened. But at least we learned Jaime should be embarrassed because a girl beat him.
Kylie: I’m actually going to pick Riverrun as my highlight, even if it was a bit truncated. I thought it was a somewhat effective introduction to Edmure and Blackfish, and even if we got the Whispering Wood monologue chopped and out of context, it worked well enough to give voice to what’s going on with Cat now. I think having Bran and Rickon’s status as ambiguous doesn’t make much sense, since Theon did pass off those two orphans’ bodies as them, but ignoring that issue, everything else flowed. And Tommen’s second actor was rather endearing as Martyn!
“We are not men” is my lowlight, which is a shame because the rest of Astapor worked rather well, especially with Dany snapping at Jorah and Barry for undermining her. But it’s just…it’s a perfect encapsulation of everything this show does wrong. It also should be the 101 example of “faux empowerment.” WHAT DOES THAT MEAN, DANY?
Julia: I think it means she expects never to die because…woman? That’s really all it possibly could mean in the context. Despite the fact that she JUST told Missy she might die.
My highlight was when it was over and I could go make myself another pot of tea. Okay, fine. Um… Carol rolling her eyes was fun. Cat and Uncle Brynden both did well in that one scene, even if it was undermined by Blackfish being a jerk to Edmure in the previous scenes.
I felt like I wanted to feel something about Hot Pie leaving the pack, but I didn’t.
The lowlight is where I feel like I’m spoiled for choice. The Stannis and Mel on the beach thing was so bad. Who is this man? Where the hell is Stannis Baratheon? The sound of chairs dragging is not that funny. Why would you tell the boy that your husband eats people but then say that he doesn’t eat kids. Like, why bother? What does that accomplish? If you’re trying to scare them then go all the way, you know.
I’m not even going to get into the Pod stuff. It’s just too dumb. And took SO MUCH screen time.
Bo: I can’t believe Talisa isn’t my lowlight. Yeah, queens don’t patch up prisoners. That’s not how this world works.
Is it cheating to just name Nikolaj Coster-Waldeau (NCW) as my highlight for the entire season? Maybe I’m just so happy to see Jaime’s swan song before his twin Larry replaces him. Worst recasting ever. NCW is just so good in these moments. He perfectly captures Jaime’s guilt, his honor, his privilege, his arrogance…everything that makes Jaime who he is. I’m already a bit iffy on Brienne, but Jaime makes up for my Brienne misgivings and then some.
Pod’s my lowlight without even thinking twice. It’s a stupid joke here, and it never stops being stupid. And honestly, you can see with GoT’s portrayal of sex workers how men like Tyrion (and actual men today) can be shocked when that sex worker they paid to enjoy their company doesn’t actually like them.
Underrated lowlight: the credits song. Holy tonal dissonance, Batman!
Kylie: Griffin jumped a foot in the air and gave the best “wtf” look I’ve seen in a while. Seriously, what was that? Who approved that?
Alejandra: I’ll agree with Bo on both! Jaime and Brienne at this point feel so much like Jaime and Brienne, that it is the one thing I could unabashedly enjoy in this episode. I especially loved the conversation on horseback. Jaime tells her what will happen just to hurt her and then immediately backpedals, gets earnest while at the same time displaying his shortsightedness.
My lowlight is Pod for sure, but my lowlight within it is that first scene in the brothel, where Ros is passing Pod the books and we’re inexplicably shown Ros’s breasts as Littlefinger and Tyrion talk serious business. Just so unnecessarily tasteless and annoying.
Quality of writing
Bo: How can they swing so wildly between good and bad? How do you write material as good as Jaime’s, the Hot Pie goodbye, the majority of the Dany stuff, and then think Winterhell or Pod or Stannis are good ideas? At no point did they think, “Wow, this feels much worse than the other scene we wrote yesterday.”
It scares me more to think they compare Stannis to Cat’s monologue and think it is better.
Julia: Well, they might presume their audience relates more to Stannis thinking Mel is hot than to Cat musing on the more subtle aspects of patriarchy.
Bo: I’m not sure Stephen Dillane or Carice Van Houten have ever looked so lost about a scene. They had no idea who they were supposed to be.
Kylie: Actually, on that Hot Pie goodbye—it was well-written enough, though ‘Winterhell’ is kind of the beginning of them chasing easy jokes. However, it felt a lot more emotional in both how it was scripted and the swelling music than I thought was earned. What’s weird is the first time around, I remember feeling something. This time, I’m wondering where these bonds were developed at all. Arya’s entire journey in Season 2 just felt so empty, and that’s spilling over into this year.
Alejandra: “I remember I felt something last time around, now I’m just meh” is exactly my experience on this rewatch so far.
Kylie: I’m still trying to figure out why that changed. Part of it is suspension of disbelief, but I think it’s mostly that I was big into show/book conflation, until the last couple episodes of Season 4. It’s amazing what happens when you stop letting them lean on Martin’s work that they didn’t bother to adapt.
Our 8th grade book report (on themes)
Bo: Was it just punishing people for doing good things and being generally hopeful?
Julia: My guess is, “shit, 10 episodes is a lot for what little we have to say!”
Kylie: “Why’d we split ASOS in two again?”
Let’s seriously run with Bo’s for a second though: hopefulness was discussed with Blackfish and Cat, Theon was being toyed with and that gave him a false hope, Hot Pie is hopeful about his new baker position (it’s a stretch), and Pod’s magic cock was inspirational for Bronn and Tyrion. That’s…the best I can do here.
This was a very disconnected episode thematically. In fact, it was a very shallow episode, other than the one conversation with Cat.
Alejandra: Jaime certainly got his hopes up when he thought he was getting through to Locke for a hot second. And boy, was he punished. Checks out!
The Butterfly Effect
Alejandra: I think after they saw the Pod’s Magic Junk plotline work they started to let loose in the penis-and-boob-joke department. It may seem like a small thing, but it just makes the show feel so cheap, and while this did not start it, it certainly got silly to the point of ridiculous from here on out.
Bo: That’s definitely something to pay attention to moving forward. I’ve pushed enough of GoT out of my brain to forget when exactly the lazy frat humor swallowed it whole.
Kylie: They also let loose in the ‘sexual violence’ as easy drama category. Or even just, “Oh man, that violence is so messed up!” as drama. We had two almost-rapes in this episode. It was definitely handled better with Brienne, and you know, if we ignore Talisa and Marg’s existences, something that does fit with the world.
With Theon, it’s certainly implied that he was the victim of sexual violence in the books, but there’s restraint, and his torture very notably occurs off-screen. I don’t see what they were hoping to elicit in showing us the hunt and the process of him being mentally broken down. But I guess I should be thankful that we just got Ramsay faking saving the day in this episode, knowing we’re getting those great sausage shaking scenes soon. It’s cheap, it’s exploitative, and it’s something that really, really ramps up this year.
Julia: The chair dragging scene will one day lead to 60 seconds of people walking to their chairs. Will we wish for some dragging then?
Kylie We still get it!
Oh also, Jaime lost to a woman and should feel bad.
Bo: The material and Gwendolyn Christie save her a bit, but I’m surprised how Brute Brienne is already. I remembered her feeling more like book Brienne at this point. At least the bath scene is soon. I’ll treasure it forever.
And I know it’s not new to this episode, but holy cow is the inconsistency of the world beginning to rear its ugly head. Unfortunately we can’t just ignore the Talisa and Marg scenes. More and more, GoT is showing how characters are only in danger of sexual assault when they want cheap, exploitative drama.
Kylie: So many options to talk about here, but I really just keep thinking how poorly Stannis has been brought to the screen. I’m no fan of his, but there is nothing in his scripting that I could see anyone gravitating towards.
Bo: *cries in One True King*
Even though it was a good scene that Michelle Fairley sold wonderfully, why do they insist on randomly changing the placement of iconic quotes and monologues? They did the same thing with Jorah’s, “Rhaegar fought valiantly” quote. The placing wasn’t terrible, but there’s a reason Martin put it where he did and not somewhere else. You don’t get geek points just for remembering the iconic lines.
I also have a serious problem with the gutting of Jon’s conflict in “joining” the wildlings. Why not cut the Pod crap and include those extra two minutes where Jon lies about the Night’s Watch on the Fist of the First Men? Those moments matter. We need to see the gradual blurring of loyalties between his loyalties to the Night’s Watch and his loyalties to those he cares about.
Julia: There were four sequences that you can call “straight book scenes” and they managed to mess up three. (I’ll give them Jaime losing his hand.) First, there was Hoster Tully’s funeral. Need I remind you that in the books, Brynden comforted Edmure by telling him that lots of people miss their first shot and it’s no big deal. Why do D&D always think “gruff” means rude? Second, there’s the scene in Astopor they put that ridiculous faux-Eowyn moment into. Third, you have Craster’s keep, which was ruined the moment I realized that was Karl Fooking Tanner. God damn it.
Bo: I’m glad Julia’s with me about Blackfish’s cantankerousness. He’s a badass, so he must be an asshole! They share the ass sound. Asses are funny.
Kylie: It’s kind of part and parcel with their issue of being unable to have more than one smart person in the room. In the books, Edmure did mess up the shots, and Edmure did make a strategic blunder with the inn. Of course in the books, his family was still nice to him, and he was publicly praised for the mill, since that’s the face that’d you’d put on.
Here, they wanted to paint Edmure as a bit of a screw-up, which you know…it’s not far off. In the books, the guy tries very hard, but he’s just not naturally gifted. There’s this bit of dramatic irony for the reader who is in Cat’s head, and sees how she would so obviously be a better candidate for ruling Riverrun, not that it’d occur to her. On the show, it’s more just that it’s funny for Edmure to be incompetent, and Blackfish isn’t incompetent, so to give us that information quickly, he can only be rude to his nephew and show him up and everything.
Hey, we’ve barely been talking about Jon or the Night’s Watch plots this season. Does that mean they’re doing them well?
Oh, I should clarify, I guess. Like I brought up before, they’re stripping so much of the conflict from Jon’s betrayal. I don’t know if it’s the writing or Kit Harrington’s inability to match the material he’s given. All I know is I sense zero real conflict in Jon here. He’s just a dumb grunt following orders without issues. He shows none of the defiance present in the books.
Julia: I agree. The Far North stuff is totally bland and unworthy of comment.
Carol Watch: who is Cersei this week?
Bo: I know Kylie said she hated it, but Cersei moving the chair to Tywin’s right hand was such a Cersei move. Her condescending appraisal for Tyrion’s money-making was excellent, too. Considering it’s the only time she appeared, I think she was full Cersei this week.
Kylie: Oh, I’m pretty sure that’s from the book. I think? Maybe not, though I know the scramble was in there. What I found very Game of Thrones-y was more Tyrion dragging his chair around in silence to be funny after that, which is something they dial up and up in future seasons. Cersei herself seemed pretty in character, albeit not in the episode much.
Exposition Imposition: good or clunky?
Alejandra: Mostly good I thought. Nothing much happened so there was no need for heavy infodumps, and the plot relevant information was well delivered. Robb scolding Edmure served as a good “catch up with my war campaign” while also being a good character moment, same goes for Dany’s Astapor conversations.
It all goes to hell when it comes to Tyrion. Could they really not find a better way to make the money conversations more interesting than a close up of Ros’s boobs? I also think it’s ridiculous to think Bronn doesn’t know how debts work.
Bo: There is a reason GoT is known as a sexposition show, after all. Tyrion falls into this trap a lot. He’s the “smart” character so there are a lot of exposition scenes involving him explaining basic stuff other characters should obviously know.
I’ll give them credit for the Rhaegar conversation. A natural, well-timed conversation seeding why Rhaegar likely wasn’t the person Robert thinks of him as? Good job! It could have been Tyrion explaining it, after all.
Kylie: Also just some of the best lines this season. Or maybe it was Iain Glen’s voice that sold it. “Rhaegar fought fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly, Rhaegar fought honorably. And Rhaegar died.” Oh wait…that scene worked because it was literally straight out of the book (though they gave Dany’s lines to Barry in that case, which still works). USE MARTIN’S EXPOSITION!
Julia: That conversation made me realize how fond D&D are of the “devil and angel” advisor motif. God, do these two love their motifs.
I feel like I should say something nice about the acceptable foreshadowing when that one Bolton moop called Ramsay a “bloody bastard” or something right before he shot him. But I’m physically incapable of saying anything nice about that plot.
Kylie: Also this:
Julia: I guess a good job was done seeding the crown’s financial difficulties and the Iron Bank. It’s just tough not to remember how they how they “resolve” this in season 7.
How was the pacing?
Kylie: This week actually went fast! Like, I was shocked we were already at the sapphires scene, knowing it was the last. At the same time, reading over the recap…not that much happened, did it?
Julia: I’ve never disagreed with Kylie more. That was the longest 50 minutes of my life, and I’ve done Murph.
And no, nothing happened.
Alejandra: No, not really. I personally felt like the episode dragged a bit at the midpoint, but picked up pace towards the end. I don’t know, maybe I wasn’t really in a mood to watch it. But when am I ever?
Bo: I interrupted a Daredevil binge to watch this. No episode of GoT past the first season was ever going to feel short with those circumstances.
I felt like this episode really struggled with scene transitioning. Most of the cuts felt awkward or too soon. You can see where D&D love their sitcom transitions.
Kylie: I think I expected the entire episode to be longer, since the HBO app said it was something like an hour and two minutes. That was counting the interviews though, so the true fifty minute runtime ended up being an utter delight! I definitely recommend setting false expectations about viewing lengths.
Let’s talk about sex, baby
Bo: Let’s not?
Kylie: It’s the beginning of the most consistent thread in this entire show. And I mean that very seriously.
Alejandra: I’m just happy we didn’t have to actually see it.
Julia: I think we saw enough. And if only they spent as much effort on the writing as they did on that brothel set. That whole “reveal” of the three sex workers was so cringy. Also, I hate to be petty and possibly catty, but is there a special link you can earn at the Citadel for boob jobs, because those maesters do some good work.
Bo: I would have paid money to burn the brothel set to the ground when they finished with it. No good came from between those walls. They’re the true enemy of Westeros.
Kylie: One of the sex workers opened the curtains with her legs. This is just so…you can’t make this up! Also I’m glad we got about five or six shots of Ros’s cleavage in case we didn’t get the subtle framing the first few times. Pod’s looking! Okay!!
In memoriam…Hoster Tully
Julia: I think they officially go back to the spiral thing once every three years.
Bo: I’m just waiting for the heavy-handed confirmation that the White Walkers represent global warming, because EVERYONE will start pointing out how they make hurricane patterns and how “brilliant” it was.
Oh, Hoster. I’d care more if Cat was given her rightful scenes at your side.
Julia: Seriously, I was just sitting here thinking about the Tansy stuff and it’s bringing tears to my eyes. It could have been great. Not that I trust them to handle anything that delicate well.
Kylie: But hey, we get a nice “Tansy” shout-out next season when she’s the victim of a hunt!
That is for another day, of course. For this day, we’re gonna back out of here. What did you guys think? Are we once again overstating the flaws of this episode? Did this little actually happen? Are we being unfair to the plotlines north of The Wall? Let us know in the comments below, and as always, we wish you good fortune in The Wars to Come.