Performance. Theatrical performances. As much as we’ve explored power, and sexuality, and even gender, this season, this may be the first episode of Game Of Thrones in which performance and theatricality plays an integral role in several character interactions.
Let’s bitch it out…
Everyone’s playing their role in order to make it to their individual end goals, but some are succeeding far more than others. Actually – if we’re being honest – very few of them are doing it well as this week the majority of our favourites are in over their heads.
Let’s start with the one who does it best: Arya Stark (Maisie Williams). She’s figured out how to blend into the furniture in Tywin Lannister’s (Charles Dance) war room, which is giving her all kinds of insight into what’s happening with her siblings. She’s still working out a convincing backstory, but she’s mostly got a handle on things. Or at least she does until she nearly gets caught stealing a letter about Robb (Richard Madden) by an illiterate underling (see kids, this is why it pays to learn to read!). The near capture means that she’s now down to a single deadly wish. While I sit around chanting “Joffrey, Joffrey!” I fear that she’s unlikely to select him as the final member of her hit list for Jaqen the assassin (Tom Wlaschiha).
Arya’s not the only Stark girl running around this week. Sister Sansa (Sophie Turner) arguably has the worst week when hungry peasants attack the royal procession on its way back to the castle. After sending Princess Myrcella (Aimee Richardson) to Dorne, the poor and the hungry attack, ripping apart priests (anyone else get a Walking Dead vibe?) and attempting to rape the eldest Stark daughter. Like Arya, Sansa is saved by a questionable man – Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann) – who hoists her like a sack of potatoes over his shoulder and brings her back to “safety.” The scene that follows with Shae (Sibel Kekilli), as Sansa sides with the peasants and wonders aloud about their hatred for her, is interesting if only because it reminds us that she remains a young girl. She has no idea how much larger the drama is beyond her isolated piece in King’s Landing.
Whether or not Jon (Kit Harrington) is a questionable man who saves a female is up for debate. After volunteering for the raid last week, Jon ends up in a compromising position after volunteering – and failing – to kill a wildling woman named Ygritte (Rose Leslie). These were my least favourite scenes of the night as Jon essentially recreates the same stupid behaviour we saw Sam exhibiting back at Craswell’s. Like Sansa, Jon is overlooking the larger implications of keeping Ygritte alive as she proudly reminds him and the other members of the Night’s Watch that there are 10, 000 free people ready to march on the wall. Jon may be trying to prove he’s a warrior when he suggests he’s ready to die up North, but his inability to “kill a woman” as she teases him, puts him in the same camp as Sansa: these Stark children are playing at being adults in a hard, cruel world that they’re not entirely ready to live in.
Surprisingly the smartest of the Stark’s children is easily Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright), who yields to Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) after the latter takes Winterfell by force. Bran may be proud like his siblings, but he listens to reason when Theon suggests he will kill innocents if Bran doesn’t support him. For weeks we’ve watched Theon sink lower and lower in his desperate bid to prove himself to his father – and sister – but can we now assume he’s reached the bottom and can go no further? The moment that he listens to his subordinate and decides to chop off Ser Rodrik’s (Ron Donachie) head is pathetic; this isn’t just a boy pretending to be a lord, but rather a proud idiot. We’re later told that Theon is holding the castle with a skeleton crew, so the moron from Pyke better hope that his sister rescues him before Robb’s men get him.
Either way, at least Bran and Rickon are safe. That’s in large part thanks to Osha (Natalia Tena) who makes the ultimate sacrifice by sleeping with Theon in order to allow the youngest Starks (and Hordor!) to escape Winterfell. It’s a great performance (earlier we’re made to wonder if she’s betraying Bran), but admittedly any time I see a woman selling herself like this, it makes me uncomfortable. Game Of Thrones is unafraid – as always - to explore different kinds of power, and one source of power must be sex (how else would a wench like Cersei rise to her position?). It’s uncomfortable for me because I’m a big advocate for women’s rights and using sex as a weapon diminishes what women can accomplish. Of course, that’s a little naive and applies best in a sane society, not one such as Westeros. Although I don’t like it, Osha’s actions are a reminder that she has limited weapons and she must use everything at her disposal to ensure the safety of her charges. And since we all know that Theon is a pig, the best way to get your way with him is to get into his pants (excuse me while I vomit in my mouth a little bit).
It’s appropriate, then, that Osha’s sacrifice precedes a scene in which Dany (Emilia Clarke) discusses with Xaro (Nonso Anozie) the price men want her to pay for ships (marriage, sex, etc). Of all of last night’s scenes, her meeting with the spice king – the man who barred her way into Qarth back in ‘Garden Of Bones’ - was by far my favourite. Whenever you see a staircase, pay close attention to who moves up and down because it’s often a representation of power. At the start of the conversation, Dany stands (tiny) at the bottom, while the spice king and his entourage stand at the top. At various points he wanders down, and when she becomes angry she begins to climb until they are nearly face to face. And then, with a flippant dismissal as he refusals her, he climbs back up. It’s a great performance by the spice king for an appreciative and predisposed audience of followers and suggests that Dany should have insisted on meeting him in private when he would have been less inclined to put on such a spectacle for the viewing pleasure of others.
And then the cliffhanger: she returns home to find her enclave slaughtered and her dragons stolen, being carried to a tall tower somewhere in Qarth (possibly the House of the Undying we heard about last week?). Oh man, Dany’s gotta stop hitching her power-horse to these tiny creatures who can’t look after themselves because without those dragons, she’s pretty vulnerable!
- We haven’t talked about Robb, mostly because I’m bored by his storyline. I like the meet cute rom-com vibe between him and Talisa (Oona Chaplin) – aka high born nurse chick – and had completely forgotten that Robb was promised to a Frey last season. Overall, though, Robb has become a bit bland compared to the excitement of the other storylines.
- Alan Sepinwall thinks that Tywin Lannister may be the second most likable – and least hissable villain – of the Lannisters (Tyrion is obviously the first). I’m inclined to agree with this, though I may be biased since I love that man…it’s probably a little unhealthy.
- If anyone wants to post a GIF of Tyrion slapping Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), please feel free to do so. Is it wrong that I squeal with delight whenever that little brat gets smacked?
- Is it also weird that I got super uncomfortable when Natalia Tena took her clothes off? “Tonks…no!”
- Jaqen’s reaction when Arya demands that he kill the man immediately was pretty hilarious. The editing and acting in this brief part was great.
And just like that we’re down to three episodes before the end of the season. Do you think Jon is an idiot for allowing Ygritte to live? Will Tyrion pay for that slap? Who will be the third – and final – member of Arya’s death list? And has Theon hit rock bottom as a despicable character or do you think he can do worse?
Reminder: We’re discussing the television show, so please refrain from including any spoilers from passages of the books that we haven’t seen on the show.
Game Of Thrones airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO