If the season’s first two episodes of ‘Game of Thrones’ felt a little too heavy on the set-up and somewhat, perhaps, uneventful, this week finally starts moving things along, and has at least one very shocking development (assuming that, like me, you haven’t read the books and don’t know this stuff already).
I think my favorite thing about episode ‘Walk of Punishment’ is how funny some scenes are. The show has so many storylines and complex moving parts that, too often, episodes feel like a trudge from plot-point to plot-point in order to move all the chess pieces into place. This one, fortunately, takes a few minutes to breathe.
The episode opens at the funeral of Catelyn Stark’s father, Lord Hoster Tully. As his body is loaded into a boat and set adrift, Catelyn’s younger brother (Robb’s uncle) Edmure Tully lights a flaming arrow and launches it toward the boat to ignite the funeral pyre. He misses. Then he misses again. And again. Finally, before the boat drifts too far out of sight, his (and Catelyn’s) uncle Brynden “Blackfish” Tully impatiently pushes him aside, takes the bow, fires just one arrow, and angrily walks away as the bolt of course hits its mark without him even looking.
Later, in King’s Landing, Tywin Lannister, having assumed his role as Hand of the King, convenes a meeting of the Small Council. In an extended dialogue-free sequence, Baelish, Maester Pycelle, Varys and Cersei play a hilarious game of musical chairs as they try to position themselves most favorably around the head of the table. Watching with bemusement, Tyrion stands aside and deliberately moves his chair furthest away from his father at the other end.
Other highlights of the episode include:
- In addition to being a lousy shot, it turns out that Edmure Tully is also an overzealous twit whose wasteful battle to take a mill of no importance has disrupted Robb’s war strategy to lead the Lannisters into a trap. A very pissed-off Robb puts his uncle in his place.
- At the Small Council meeting, Baelish announces that he will travel to the Eyrie in order to arrange a political marriage between himself and Catelyn’s crazy sister Lysa Arryn (the one who breastfed her much-too-old son). This will leave King’s Landing without a Master of Coin. Tywin appoints Tyrion to the position, which is intended as a humiliating demotion for the former Hand. Tyrion objects that he is not at all suited to the job, not that his father cares. As he goes through the books, Tyrion discovers just how badly in debt the kingdom is to the Iron Bank of Braavos. He fears that if they can’t pay, the Bank will cut them off and support Robb Stark in the war.
- North of the Wall, Mance Rayder and his Wildling army discover the aftermath of a battle between Jon Snow’s brothers in the Night’s Watch and the White Walkers. At the scene, the dismembered carcasses of hundreds of horses have been artfully arranged into a spiral pattern. No human corpses are found (because they’ll have been turned into White Walker zombies). Rayder sends his man Tormund to scale the Wall and lead a small assault on the Night’s Watch compound Castle Black as a distraction from Rayder’s own larger attack from another direction. Rayder orders Jon Snow to go with Tormund as a test of his loyalty.
- In retreat from the White Walkers, the Night’s Watch led by Jeor Mormont are forced to seek shelter again from the incestuous creep Craster, who mocks them for their failure. After being taunted by Craster, Samwell finds the pregnant girl Gilly, who’d begged him to take her with the Night’s Watch at their last visit. In the throes of labor, she gives birth to a boy, and realizes in horror that this means Craster will sacrifice it to the White Walkers.
- With the help of a mysterious stranger who claims to have been sent by his sister, Theon escapes his captivity. However, while on the run, he’s hunted down, caught again and nearly raped, until his savior (literally) rescues his ass again.
- In the slave trading port of Astapor, Daenerys’ two advisors (Jorah and Selmy) disagree about whether she should buy the “Unsullied” slave soldiers. Selmy doesn’t want her to, believing that it will weaken her cause with the people of the kingdoms to own and fight with slaves, but Jorah thinks they have no other option. Dany proves herself her own woman by making her own decision. She meets with the disrespectful slave trader Kraznys, who continues to insult her in the belief that she can’t tell what he’s saying. (His translator slave, a girl named Missandei, substantially cleans up everything he says.) Dany is savvy enough to know exactly what’s going on. She says that she will take the entire army of 8,000 Unsullied soldiers, including the young boys still in training. Kraznys laughs and tells her that she can barely afford even 100 soldiers, to which Dany announces that she will pay with her largest dragon. Both Jorah and Selmy are shocked by this arrangement. In finalizing the transaction, Dany also demands that Missandei be included in the deal.
- En route for delivery back to Robb Stark, Brienne and Jaime continue to bicker and banter. He warns her that she should expect the men to rape her, and advises her not to put up a fight or they will kill her, because she is not a prisoner of value. (The episode has quite a lot of rape talk.) Indeed, their captors drag Brienne off to the woods to do their business with her. Before they get started, Jaime (who clearly has a grudging respect for Brienne) tells the leader Locke that the woman is actually the daughter of a wealthy nobleman who will pay handsomely if she is left unharmed. The ploy apparently works, and Jaime continues to sweet talk Locke into loosening his own bonds and feeding him with promises that his father will reward them later. Locke plays along at first, but then, in order to show that he’s no fool, pins Jaime to a tree trunk and chops off his right hand – the sword hand. Jaime no longer feels so smart.
Jaime’s mutilation is obviously a surprise that will mark some huge changes (not just physical) for the arrogant character. I also really like the way that Daenerys is coming into her own. On the whole, the episode has a lot of great character moments and interesting plot turns.
The season is finally warming up, but it’s still frustrating to watch week-to-week. This is a show that benefits from marathon viewing once the whole season is complete.