Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Game of Thrones 3.03: "Walk of Punishment"

“Yes. All men must die. But we are not men.”

Despite its title and the fact that all episodes of this show have to have at least some seriousness and violence, I think “Walk of Punishment” is quite possibly the funniest episode of “Game of Thrones” that has aired to date. The humor wasn’t “stupid” humor. It wasn’t pratfalls and poop jokes. Instead it was gallows humor and humorous situations that arose from a deep understanding of the characters. The plot really didn’t advance at all in this episode, but it was an enjoyable watch anyway, just because the character interactions were so compelling. Now I generally tend to like a bit more plotting than your average HBO drama, in the sense that I like individual episodes to hold up on their own in service of an arc as opposed to the full-on “television season as novel” concept that HBO so embraces. This, however, was the exception to the rule. The humor punctuated by the occasional shocking moment (well, one especially shocking moment at the very end of the episode) kept me engaged for the whole hour.

The gallows humor kicks in right at the beginning of the episode, as it is the funeral of Cat’s father, Lord Hoster Tully. Since the Tullys rule Riverrun, where there is plenty of water, their funeral custom is to do the Viking-style burning boat on the river. The problem is that Cat’s older brother, who is now supposed to be Lord of Riverrun, is a really bad shot. He tries to shoot a burning arrow at the boat three times, and he misses each time. Finally, Cat’s uncle, the Blackfish, pushes his nephew away and makes the shot himself, perfectly on the first try. The awkwardness of the whole thing was kind of hilarious, in a darkly comedic way. Cat is, however, understandably devastated by the loss of her father. It hits her that she may never return to Bran and Rickon, either. In other more humorous Stark news, there’s an amusing scene where Talisa basically manages to convince a teen Lannister that the Starks have captive that Robb is a werewolf. That scene made me warm up to Talisa a bit. I was kind of ambivalent towards her until that point.

There are also entertaining happenings taking place in King’s Landing. Littlefinger is headed for the Vale, with instructions to marry Lysa Arryn and bring her into the Lannister fold (even though she’s a Tully). This means that the Crown is in need of a new Master of Coin, and Tywin thinks that Tyrion is the right man for the job. The Small Council meeting where this is decided is also pretty entertaining, where Tyrion and Cersei try to exert power over one another through where they move their chairs. There’s also a funny vignette where Bronn and Tyrion take Tyrion’s squire to a whorehouse to thank him for his loyal service. The squire spends his time with the whores, but afterwards, he returns the money to Tyrion. Tyrion and Bronn then desperately want to know what the squire did to please the whores so much that they didn’t demand payment, especially considering the squire was a virgin before that particular experience.

The characters who are currently captured by people on the road, Arya, Brienne, and Jaime, all had elements of humor to their plots, although Brienne and Jaime’s was more serious and contained the biggest shock of the episode. Arya and Gendry split from Hot Pie when Hot Pie decides he wants to remain at the inn to bake brown bread for a living. He bakes a wolf-shaped loaf of bread for Arya, which is kind of adorable. She tells him that it tastes good as she rides away from the inn. Brienne and Jaime spend their time on the road talking about how Brienne is probably going to be raped multiple times that night. This scene has some lightness to it despite its serious subject, because Brienne can’t believe that Jaime is telling her to just consent to a vicious assault. She is incredulous that Jaime would just consent instead of fighting to the death to avoid that indignity. He corrects her. He’s happy he’s not a woman because he most definitely wouldn’t consent. The mood gets more serious when night falls, and their captors make it very clear that they do intend to sequentially rape Brienne. They even take her behind some trees so their leader can have at her first. Jaime tries to use his (limited) intellect to save Brienne, reminding the leader that Brienne comes from a rich family who would pay good money to see her unharmed. Brienne is indeed saved, but it comes as a price. The leader cuts of Jaime’s hand. His sword hand. Considering his identity is so tied to his swordfighting prowess, watching where Jaime goes from here should be interesting for sure.

And of course, since we didn’t see her last week, we get to see the next bit of Daenery’s story. When we last saw her, she was contemplating whether she wanted to buy the Unsullied to serve as her army to take back the Iron Throne for the Targaryens. Ser Jorrah and Ser Barristan are both trying to give her advice, each trying to one-up the other, even though they pretty much agree. They take walk down the Walk of Punished where disobedient slaves are, well…punished. Daenerys is absolutely horrified at the sight. The slave who has been serving as translator to the slavemater with whom she is negotiating doesn’t seem to bothered by it, though. Her attitude seems to basically be that the punished slaves had it coming because they probably lied or worse. Anyway, seeing the Walk of Punishment makes Daenerys go all Manifest Destiny and think that she should buy the Unsullied because she would treat them better than any of the natives of this land. She tells the slavemaster that she wants to buy all the Unsullied, and he scoffs at the idea that she would have that much money. She offers to throw in one of her dragons, and he accepts the offer. Will the Mother of Dragons really give up one of her “babies?” And also, the slavemaster wanted her ship as part of the payment. So even if she gets her army, how the heck is Dany supposed to get to Westeros? It doesn’t seem like she really thought this through (although I will probably be proven wrong in the next episode).

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