By Paul Krueger
There’s a cruel irony at work in the fates of the Stark children. As the series started, Sansa dreamed of being a princess in King’s Landing. Now she’s trapped there, a political prisoner and a lady in name only. Robb was eager to one day inherit Winterfell, and had to do so long before he wanted to. And Arya yearned to run away from her noble responsibilities; now she’s ranging the countryside in rags, scooped up by the notorious Brotherhood Without Banners. She might have walked out of the situation a free girl, but the Hound had to show up and ruin everything. House Stark really can’t catch a break, can it?
If Tyrion has been this show’s mind, Arya’s been its heart. Other characters are players in the game of thrones; Arya’s just caught in the middle of it, doing her best to survive bouncing from the clutches of one faction to another’s. Ros the whore is probably supposed to be the common man’s surrogate to the world, but I contend that Arya fits the bill much better. More than anyone else on this show, Arya has no control over her destiny. Even Sansa, caged bird she is, has Littlefinger looking over her shoulder.
Of course, if the man who has your back is Littlefinger, you might be better off on your own.
I wish I could say the same of Bran and company. The producers are playing fast and loose with his storyline; if they’d followed the books exactly, the Reed children would have been introduced early last year, though their entrance now works. It’ll be nice to give Bran someone more cerebral to talk to, but honestly the plot’s setting up to become this year’s version of Qartheen politics. Will it give a talented bunch of actors something to do this year? Absolutely. But will it have a part to play in the show’s larger arc? Unless the producers play very fast and very loose this season, probably not.
But that’s fine enough, because Jaime and Brienne bring more than enough forward momentum with them to make it up. Seeing these two bounce off each other is a delight, since Brienne is the first person since Ned Stark that Jaime can’t just shrug off with a sneer and a quip. And just as things boiled over with Ned in the form of a sword fight, Jaime finally gets to clash blades with another equal. Except that in addition to the general ignominy of imprisonment, the poor Kingslayer gets the very specific ignominy of losing to a woman at his own game, then getting recaptured by the North. Womp womp. For a brief moment he gets to be a dashing swordsman again, but then he has to learn the same lesson as the Stark children: you don’t get to be what you want.
- Thoros of Myr is a priest of R’hllor, the same god Melisandre worships. When he’s introduced in this episode, he’s singing “The Rains of Castamere,” which became a part of the show’s soundtrack last year courtesy of The National, as well as several scenes of Tyrion whistling it.
- Margaery doesn’t get much of the spotlight in the books, and it’s left ambiguous as to whether she’s genuinely innocent or simply putting up a front to insinuate her way into power. The show seems to be going with the latter interpretation, which I prefer. Sansa is living testament to the fact that a wide-eyed damsel has no place in this world.
- That early scene with Joffrey and Cersei had me wondering which of the two I’d rather see come out on top of a verbal smackdown. I was all set to say Cersei, but then Joffrey had to go and basically declare his allegiance to the Westboro Baptist Church. Fuck Joffrey.
- Theon’s torture happens offscreen in the books, and I was genuinely surprised by the showrunners’ decision to make it explicit. I suppose they needed to keep Alfie Allen on the payroll somehow. Here’s hoping it bears fruit.
- Jaime and Brienne’s captors serve Roose Bolton, Robb’s rough second-in-command. House Bolton has a reputation for brutality and torture, as evidenced by taking a flayed man as their sigil. They’re despicable characters, but I always appreciated Martin’s choice to include them. It’s making a grander point: even Robb, the most noble player in the game, has monsters under his banner.