Game of Thrones: of dragons, slaves, sex with dwarves, bears, domestic bliss, and torture
Have you watched all episodes up until this point? No? Okay, take a step back, catch up, and then read. This is full-spoiler territory for the episodes leading up to this point.
It can be hard to find threads that run through episodes of Game of Thrones, as the show always keeps so many characters and storylines up in the air at any given time. But I think Sunday’s episode has one clear thought moving through it, and that’s the fact that Jon Snow and Ygritte are adorable together.
The relationship episode!
It's rare that the show allows us time with characters simply enjoying each other's company. The playful banter about how men march, go to war on paved roads, and the joys of holding a banner help to round out the background of both Jon and Ygritte. These are two people who are interested in each other, and they’re learning how different their upbringing has been. She wasn’t mad about being cut free in the previous episode, and thinks a modest windmill is a palace. She’s never seen structures like this before, and Jon Snow has seen much grander things in his life.
There is no judgment in how they deal with each other, even through the many claims that he knows nothing, and watching them talk things out is calming and fun. They’re still in the first blush of their relationship, and I just want them to run off and live the rest of their lives in peace, pumping out babies with red, bushy hair.
Still, this light-hearted conversation isn’t all fun and games, and Jon Snow thinks that their mission is doomed. “Six times they’ve invaded, and six times, they’ve failed. The seventh will be the same. You don’t have the discipline, you don’t have the training, your army is no army,” he says. He’s not taking joy in dressing her down, his face is pained. He’s trying to explain how things are, and the very real possibility that they will end up on the wrong end of a sword, or worse.
“If you attack the wall, you’ll die. All of you,” he tells her, and these words say much. It’s not an “us” situation for Jon Snow. He still sets himself apart.
This is an episode about relationships. Sansa and Margaery have a long conversation about love, marriage, and sex, and Sansa is a little bit shocked by Margaery's carnal knowledge and frank talk about the art of making love; an art that Margaery seems to know Tyrion has to have some skill in. She’s also turned on by the scar. It’s another unguarded conversation, and it seems like Margaery is being kind to Sansa in this scene. “We get to try so little before we’re old and gray,” she says, saying that you have to experiment a bit before you find what you like in bed. “Tyrion may surprise you.”
“We’re very complicated you know, pleasing us takes practice,” Margaery continues. Aint that the truth, sister. Fist bump.
“How do you know all this? Did your mother teach you?” Sansa asks. Margaery isn’t put off by Sansa’s naïve question, and simply agrees. Margaery may be a schemer, but she honestly seems to respect and enjoy Sansa as a person, and again we get two people who are comfortable in each other’s company. Even Robb and his wife get a pleasant scene of domestic bliss, where we learn that there is a little Stark on the way.
This is all bad news. Ned Stark taught us that doing the right thing will often put your neck under a sword. Happiness, comfort, and family give your enemies weapons to use against you. Suddenly it seems like so many people have so much to lose.
Of course Tyrion isn’t very happy with how all this turned out, and Shae is even less excited. It’s interesting to watch the character flounder, completely unsure of how to get out of the situation, and unwilling to admit that the thought of bedding Sansa interests him, even a little. Tyrion often talks about Sansa in the show, although they rarely share screentime. He’s aware she’s gotten a raw deal in her life, and doesn’t want to be the latest tragedy foisted upon her.
Tywin all but tells Joffrey he’s a little shit, and towers over him just long enough to be threatening. It’s fun to watch Joffrey realize how little his power actually matters in this company; all Tywin has to do is approach the iron throne without permission to put Joffrey in his place.
The more important aspect of this scene is that they’re aware of Daenerys and her dragons, and Tywin doesn’t take the threat seriously. We also learn that the skulls of dragons range from “apple” to “carriage” sized. We check in with the dragons as well, and they’re becoming large, fearsome things. Not powerful enough to take on a kingdom, sure, but you get a sense of their danger and possibility.
Power, and the dragons to take it
Speaking of Daenerys, she’s now in a position of power. She has an army, three dragons, a reputation, and the will to put it all to work. Pay attention to what’s going on when she speaks to the nobleman about freeing the city’s slaves: She’s not speaking to him, she’s speaking to the men who carried him there. “Breaker of chains, and mother to dragons,” are two of her titles now, and these slaves will return to their city with tales of a fearsome white-haired woman with dragons, a woman who could set them free. She didn’t threaten one man, she promised something to an entire population. It’s a crafty move, and one that may cause the city’s slaves to rise up and join her without much blood being shed.
Daenerys’ story has moved from that of an underdog who is trying to find her way, and is now the tale of someone who knows exactly what she wants. And she has a brutally effective manner in acquiring it. It was a thrilling scene, capped off by the screams and movements of her dragons. Things are beginning to move quickly. Notice his counter-offer: Just take some ships and get the hell out of here. Everyone wants her gone, as her reputation for freeing slaves and murdering their masters has to be bad for local morale. Getting rid of her won’t be that simple, for anyone. Tywin is wrong to label her a “curiosity from the far side of the world.”
But just when you think this is all just a lot of talk, lovey-dovey shit, and politics, Jaime comes out of nowhere and saves Brienne from a giant fucking bear. You'll have to excuse my language, but that was more or less my reaction to that scene. You can say that Jaime only has to bring up his father to get out of jams, but this is one of those times where he leveraged every inch of that power, and it was to save someone else. It also cuts down my theory about him giving up on life; this is a man who remains ready to fight, and it's interesting that in this case he was ready to fight for someone else.
We don't offer scores here at the Penny Arcade Report, but this was one of my favorite episodes of the season.
Remember, I have yet to read the books, so let's keep the spoilers from those books to a minimum. On the other hand, I'm not going to police the comments, so read at your own risk.