Once a season, author George R.R. Martin writes the screenplay for an episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ himself. You might think that he’d do this to cover some monumental, game-changing event in the story that he felt needed his personal supervision, but that isn’t necessarily the case. It certainly isn’t with this week’s episode, a rather talky affair that, until the end, is conspicuously lacking in either action or high drama.
Yet perhaps Martin’s real goal here is to make sure that his characters are properly represented. The show is often so heavy on plotting that it doesn’t leave much time for little character moments. Episode ‘The Bear and the Maiden Fair’ functions like a breather. It has a lot of character moments, and most of them are pretty good. Honestly, even though the plot doesn’t progress much this week, I never felt that the show was spinning its wheels or wasting time.
Here are some of the highlights:
- Now over the Wall, Jon Snow and his Wildling raiding party make their long trek to Castle Black. (A lot more of them survived the climb than it seemed last week.) Ygritte, who has never lived in anything that could properly be called civilization, marvels at an old run-down windmill, assuming that it’s a grand palace. Snow laughs at her naivety. They exchange some words about the coming war in which he tells her that he doesn’t believe the Wildlings can win. She has to remind him that he’s on the side of the Wildlings now.
- En route to the wedding of Edmure Tully to Walder Frey’s daughter, Robb Stark and his camp fall behind schedule due to rain. Robb uses the delay to have some sexy naked fun time with his wife Talisa, who reveals that she’s pregnant.
- In King’s Landing, Sansa is very sad about being forced to marry Tyrion rather than the much-prettier Loras. She’s grossed out at the thought of having sex with him. Margaery advises her to make the best of the situation, and informs her of Tyrion’s reputation as a very experienced lover. She says that some women don’t know what they want until they’ve tried it. Hopelessly naïve Sansa asks if Margaery knows so much about sex because her mother taught her.
- Tyrion isn’t particularly pleased about marrying Sansa either, when he really wants to marry Shae. He and Bronn shoot the shit. Bronn sees the upside of the situation: “Wed one and bed the other.” As she makes clear later on, Shae isn’t down with that plan.
- Joffrey is extra pissy this week, because he feels like nobody takes him seriously as king. (Maybe he’s not so dumb after all.) He summons his grandfather Tywin to tell him about the rumors of Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons on the other side of the world. Tywin dismisses the threat as unlikely to ever trouble them. When Joffrey demands the he be kept in the loop about important affairs, the imposing Tywin, without actually needing to say as much, makes it clear who’s really in charge. Tywin is awesome.
- Speaking of Daenerys, she and her new army come upon the well-fortified city of Yunkai. Jorah warns her that attempting to breach the city would be a long and difficult battle, and that it’s probably not a strategic enough target to justify the risk. However, when Dany learns that the city houses over 200,000 slaves, her mind is made up. She summons a representative from the city, who tries to bribe her with gold and ships if she’ll just leave them alone and be on her way. He warns her that they have “powerful friends.” Unimpressed, Dany sets him an ultimatum to either release every slave to her or be slaughtered by her army.
- As they sail past (or towards?) King’s Landing, Melisandre informs Gendry the blacksmith boy that he is the son of Robert Baratheon. “There is power in the king’s blood,” she says.
- When Beric announces that the Brotherhood will take a two-day detour from their journey to Winterfell to raid a Lannister camp, Arya (who isn’t too happy with Beric lately anyway) runs off into the woods, only to get snatched up by the Hound about two minutes later.
- In talking to Jojen Reed about his dreams of the three-eyed raven, Bran decides that they will not go to Castle Black, but will cross the Wall to find Jon Snow. (I guess Jojen’s visions aren’t terribly timely if he doesn’t know yet that Snow crossed back over the Wall and is on his way back to Castle Black.) Osha is really unhappy about this. She doesn’t ever want to go back to the north side of the Wall. After she tells a story about a boyfriend who was turned into a zombified White Walker, we can see why.
- Poor, pathetic Theon Greyjoy suffers his most cruel torture yet. While minding his own business lashed to the cross, waiting for death, a pair of comely whores let him down, give him some water, then turn playful and giggly and take their clothes off. Of course, we know that there’s no way this is for real. Just as Theon makes the mistake of surrendering to their seduction, his coitus is interrupted by the torturer, who tells him that he’s going to castrate him. The scene ends before we know if he actually goes through with that.
- The episode title refers to the Jaime Lannister storyline. Lord Bolton makes good on his promise to send Jaime off to King’s Landing, but without Brienne, whom he leaves in the hands of the sadistic Locke. Jaime swears to her that he will return the Stark girls back to their family. As he heads in one direction, Bolton heads in another to attend the Tully/Frey wedding, leaving Locke and Brienne at Harrenhal. Jaime doesn’t get too far before he’s overcome with guilt. He talks his escort into letting him return to Harrenhal for Brienne. When he gets there, he finds her in an arena pit, facing off against a bear with only a wooden sword to defend herself as Locke and his thugs cheer for the bear. Jaime is unsuccessful in talking sense to Locke. When Brienne takes a pretty good swipe from the bear (though, honestly, her wounds don’t look nearly severe enough for the mauling she appears to receive), Jaime jumps into the pit with her to distract the bear and lift her out to safety. He then barely gets out with his own life. Locke is of course pissed, but Jaime knows what cards to play to walk out with Brienne at his side. Awww, he’s a nice guy after all.
While the last scene is pretty exciting, it’s a little too reminiscent of an even better episode of the former HBO series ‘Rome’. Fans of that show know the scene I’m talking about. It was awesome on a level that this one doesn’t quite reach.
One important note of clarification: The episode’s end credits misleadingly list an appearance by Bart the Bear, the late star of ‘Clan of the Cave Bear’, ‘Legends of the Fall’, ‘The Edge’ and several other movies. In fact, the episode’s special guest star was actually Bart the Bear II (aka Little Bart), who has appeared in ‘Into the Wild’, ‘Zookeeper’ and ‘We Bought a Zoo’. Although named after the original Bart, Little Bart is not related to him by blood.