Often in Game of Thrones, the show delights in reminding us that most people are dicks. There isn’t much of the chivalry, heroism and self-sacrifice evident in other adventure stories – instead, our “heroes” are those acting least selfishly. Ned Stark in season one was arguably the closest we had to a traditional moral hero, and look where that got him.
Obviously, that was an intentional statement from George R.R. Martin and the showrunners – this ain’t yer normal boring medieval fantasy. But still, every so often we get an episode where more than one character seems like a tolerable person. Spoilers follow.
Jaime, Jaime, Give Me Your Answer, Do…
This week, Jaime Lannister returns to his broad redemption arc of the last two years. His continued conflicts between his family loyalties, his doomed love for Cersei and his growing desire not to be a cock are well pitched and acted in this one. Despite his crippling a child in the pilot, it’s hard not to like the guy.
Except for that weird looked-like-a-rape-scene last week, of course. The more Jaime gets sympathetic moments everywhere else, the more it looks like they misjudged that – either a bad choice to include it, or they were trying to do “angry grief-sex” and missed the mark by miles. Cersei seemed unhappy in her scene, so maybe this contradiction will develop in later weeks. Based on the final scenes of this episode (which are nowhere in the books so far), there are growing signs of the show deviating more from the source material.
Lastly, Brienne and Jaime go their separate ways, as Jaime dispatches her to fulfil his oath to Caitlyn Stark. Yet again, a sympathetic character doing something pleasant. How unusual. And she’s taking Pod with her, so at least there should be some laughs. On the down side, Brienne was pivotal to Jaime’s attempts to redeem himself – does sending her away bode ill for his future success?
Ser Pounce Can Haz Krown?
Elsewhere, Tommen Baratheon seems a nicer and more eager-to-please lad than his dangerously cruel brother. He even has a cat called Ser Pounce. Will he be a better, kinder King, or prove easily manipulated by Lord Tywin and the Tyrells? Probably the latter, but his scene this week was weirdly sweet.
Speaking of the Tyrells, it looks like they killed Joffrey, working with the ever-powerhungry Littlefinger. It was comparatively obvious, so probably best they didn’t drag out the whodunnit. Instead, we’re left with Littlefinger’s unknown motives and the welcome sight of a more pro-active, less whiny Sansa.
And Daenerys is sacking a city. Again, despite a few morally grey moments with her punishment of the slave masters, another heroic moment. Even if the special effects on that big pullback shot of her new castle weren’t amazing.
Captain Jack vs White Walkers?
Lastly, for the lengthy final not-in-the-books segment, we go North to check in on the mutineers occupying Craster’s Keep, led by Burn Gorman of Torchwood fame. After all that talk about heroes and moral ambiguity, here Thrones gives us the most unpleasant villains possible, managing to seem nasty even compared to the White Walkers. Good to see Bran and company getting involved in a more visceral subsection of the plot after all that walking, though.
Yet again, in the contrast between this sequence and the rest of the episode, the show seems more like a straight good/evil struggle than usual. I’m sure that straightforward feeling will dissolve in coming episodes when the inter-Lannister squabbling heats back up.
For now though: although I enjoyed all the subsections of this episode, it didn’t quite have any mindblowing sequences to push it from decent to amazing. Still, great fun. And the fact they’re moving away from the books a little is no bad thing to me – I finished reading them between seasons three and four, and have no problem being more surprised.