Episode 27 – The Bear and the Maiden Fair – Analysis
By Winter Is Coming on in Editorial, Recap.

Joffrey and Tywin

Meditations on Adaptation and Dramatic Pacing in a Lovesick Thrones

By Tyler Davis

“The Bear and the Maiden Fair” has proven controversial. From the cacophony of competing voices sounding forth from the halls of internet fandom, refrains like “too slow” or “too exploitative” have dominated. I think the generally strong episode has a few weaknesses, but these overused statements don’t indicate why. I once made the argument that Thrones is novelized television, and not a televised novel (or series of novels). If this is true, it’s worth understanding how HBO’s juggernaut is positioned in the context of television dramas historically, what makes it unique, and how the adaptation challenges it faces modify our appreciation of the episode, its constituent scenes, and its thematic statements.

With origins in radio, serialized television has a history extending back to the cliffhanger-heavy series of old: narrative glue serving as the link to the following week’s episode would be generously smothered just before the running time expired, and the next episode would pick up where this one left off. And so it went each week – a string of episodes hanging together through ceaseless, sticky forward momentum. Presently, soap operas are the most popular form of this brand of “pure” serialization, and what they lack in character depth, they make up for in narrative movement. Characters in these stories tend to be sufficiently reactive to changing plot dynamics, but are unlikely to grow in psychologically meaningful ways, rarely stepping beyond the constraints of audience expectation. The dastardly character will always wind up doing dastardly things (though he may take a detour or two), and the innocent “good girl” will remain so – at least at heart. When drastic changes do occur, they tend to be externally motivated – someone has planted a bomb, someone has been kidnapped, someone has been possessed by a demon, someone has decided to become an astronaut, and so forth.

This method of storytelling can be contrasted with more straightforward episodic television where arcs are contained within individual episodes; with episodic television, cross-episode arcs are rare pleasures generally reserved for end-of-season specials or inter-seasonal fan service. Extended viewership isn’t necessarily rewarded. The audience is initially given a context, characters are introduced, and subsequent enjoyment comes not so much from understanding how characters develop and change, but rather through how our familiarity with their personalities allows us to comfortably experience how they react to a variety of separable situations within their environment over an arbitrary and typically undefined period of time in their lives. This is, after all, the very essence of situational comedy–the sitcom. George might be getting married but he’ll never be changed by it, and Kramer is nothing without his trademark sliding entrances (just give him a doorway and he’ll show you the magic). The same principle holds true for episodic dramas that depend on the standard cast of police investigators or emergency room surgeons. In most episodic television, character development is secondary to routinized character expression.

From the halcyon days of three-channel black and white Pleasantville-brand programming until the recent explosion of reality shows, we’ve been tuning into serialized or episodic television in one form or another. But where soap operatic serialization has always felt like rearranging preexisting character pieces to more melodramatically produce sparks within a perpetually speeding plot, and where episodic television has always felt like an elaborate game of Mad Libs starring beloved, yet static characters, hybrid series really paved the way for shows like Thrones. Consider a series like The X-Files: gradually developing, overarching narrative threads persisted despite more localized episodic resolutions being handed out each episode. But it wasn’t until HBO’s achievements with series like The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, and The Wire that deeply serialized, truly novelistic television came to prominence. HBO’s subscription-based revenue model afforded it the opportunity to take these dramatic risks. Traditional episodic television is factory-made ripe for syndication (and repeat viewings), and the low production costs of soap-television make it readily producible if not repeatedly viewable. It took the promise of “It’s not TV, it’s HBO” to achieve something more demanding.

Involved story arcs typically prohibit new audience members from joining midway through the show’s lifespan, and they reduce the intelligibility of individual episodes selected at random. But in an environment where revenue wasn’t completely dependent on the number of viewers tuning in during each initial airing, things could and did change. When viewers watched The Sopranos, they were routinely enriched by their explorations of a psychologically complex Tony Soprano who visibly evolved, reacted, and acted due to plausible variables in his experience. These viewers were confronting a show with a working internal memory. Tony didn’t just change over time, but from episode to episode. Six Feet Under applied this depth to an entire family, and The Wire brought it to an entire, internally complex city. Thrones is doing it to a brand new world.

As with novels, these shows began to explore themes and employ motifs, but they remained filmic, playing to the strengths of a visual medium (consider The Wire’s stunning use of montage). But unlike its peers, with their broad arcs that may have been outlined in advance but rarely mapped out in detail, Thrones is an adaptation of novels. The hyper-complex source material determines the basic scope of the story, and honoring this story’s spirit is a noted creative goal. So it’s specifically in the process of adaptation that the greatest challenges must be faced: consider that each episode must be independently interesting (with smaller, self-contained resolutions, satisfying beats, and miniature arcs), must work within the context of a seasonal arc (which must reward the audience in a significant way), must work within the context of an interseasonal arc (where seasons themselves represent broad swaths of change taking place between the boundaries of an overarching story), must honor the complexities of Martin’s writing, and must succeed in visual terms. There’s no mathematical approach to this kind of work, and the difficulty is in balancing the countless spinning plates.

Given this monumental task, I’d like to consider the principle of exchange which should guide every adaptation choice. One controversial scene among book fans was the House of the Undying portrayal in season two. In the novels, this chapter is a rich tapestry of vision, magic, and fear conveyed in evocative prose. Characters living and dead, past and present appear before Dany’s eyes as she traverses the many rooms of the ancient structure, the entire experience mutating into a web of prophecy which links disparate facets of the story together. Five novels into the series, many of Dany’s visions still haven’t been realized or explained.

In Thrones, Benioff and Weiss elected to streamline the experience: Dany encounters the Iron Throne incongruously dusted in snow, she finds herself at the Wall, and she has a final encounter with her beloved Khal Drogo. Lacking the hallucinatory intensity of the novel’s chapter, this encounter works in the show because it draws upon visual motifs the audience is familiar with. We know the throne room of the Red Keep – we’ve spent time there! – but we also know that something is amiss if it’s torn apart and chilled by frost. Is this prophetic? We know that Dany has never been to the Wall–but we have. Perhaps her destiny involves this frozen place which seems so far removed from the heat of her experience? And we know that Khal Drogo once represented a real dream that Dany took for herself over the course of season one–a dream she had to sacrifice in order to become the Mother of Dragons. In this final temptation, will she stay or will she let her love go in order to pursue her destiny?

What we lose in the Thrones version of these events is a wealth of detailed prophecy in exchange for broad, suggestive strokes which immediately resonate in visual terms. We give up an overwhelming level of information density for a moment of real characterization that’s instantly relevant to Dany’s position in the story. I contend that changes like this should be praised, and not condemned because they fail to mirror the books. A strong adaptation choice takes into account the sensitivities which must be tended to in the context of a television series; the new audience Thrones has captured would be able to do very little with splendors of wizards and cloth dragons at this point in the tale. Instead, they’re given something they can digest and interpret presently. While the prophetic material drawn from the chapter may or may not make it into Thrones at a later point, it’s less essential that events unfold precisely as they do in Martin’s chronology, and more essential that the moments we encounter are effective without sacrificing the spirit of their source.

And this, I think, is where the most recent episode stumbled–not because the vast majority of its scenes weren’t good, or even that it’s “bad scenes” were poorly crafted, but because these lesser scenes are not establishing themselves as contextually meaningful within the broader arcs currently in play. Even when they’re adaptations of events which weren’t explicitly described in the novels, they feel too literal.

To put it plainly, Theon and Bran are the odd ducklings of season three, and people have been kept guessing for too long in either storyline. This has everything to do with the demands of Martin’s story, and very little to do with the acting or writing on display in the scenes themselves. The arcs may very well pay off by the season’s close or when the show is viewed in its entirety; let’s not forget that Benioff and Weiss have admitted that the optimal viewing experience will be a marathon from start to finish. But we don’t have that luxury yet, and as a result the scenes feel more burdensome than they should; we need more from both, while the running time of either feels unearned.

Theon

Considering Theon first, I have to underscore something that many of you already know: this material was never present in the novels. It was implied, of course, but only through recollection and brief snippets of dialogue. And yet a show’s production is besieged on all sides by such considerations as actor contracts, limited audience memory, and unbroken character continuity. We’re seeing something happen to Theon which may well reap dividends, but this payoff cannot outpace the story broadly writ. As such, Theon’s arc – which achieved its richest season three moment in his regretful confession three episodes ago – seems destined to remain idling in torture gear until the plot bondage allows it to move again. What’s problematic about this has everything to do with what made Theon’s confession interesting: it conveyed the stakes of Theon’s arc in Theon’s own words. But we’ve now lost any window into Theon’s interiority, and are merely watching him break from an external vantage.

Of course, this week’s scene is undoubtedly effective at showing Theon broken by his captor (as opposed to just almost utterly broken, as we saw last week, or just mostly broken, like the week before), and I actually applaud its use of nudity toward this end. It’s a harrowing, gut-wrenching depiction. The show often comes under fire by detractors claiming that it mindlessly seeks to meet an unspecified “nudity quota” or that it otherwise resembles “softcore pornography” (one must wonder if these people have actually seen softcore pornography), but there was very little in the way of titillation here, and I’d argue that the show uses nudity more creatively – and toward a wider variety of ends – than most of its peers. The women sent to undo Theon’s britches were aiming to undo the man; in Theon’s reduction to a shaky bundle of sexual drive even while in a state of abject fear, he’s rendered little more than an animal completely beyond even personal control.

So when the unnamed torturer reappears blowing his horn, it’s a viscerally disgusting moment made worse by the complicity of the women forcing Theon’s body to physically remember a different world and time (before the promise of a “happy ending” is permanently removed). There’s little argument to be had: what happens to Theon is awful. But there is no cathartic release because Theon seems out of time and out of place–floating on the periphery of the show’s naturally webbing narrative. What happens to Theon seems consequential only to Theon, but there’s less of Theon remaining with each passing week.

Far be it for me to make specific writing recommendations, but I can’t help but feel as if one of the torture sequences would have been better served by characterizing Theon in his present state as opposed to teaching us more about the boy torturing him. Some visual device – even just the power of juxtaposition – which would draw clearly, and with vicious finality, everything Theon has lost. Imagine a moment of respite while Theon hangs alone in the dungeon: establish a shot where the camera slowly tracks in on him suspended from his torture device, lit by flickering torch, and alternate between this shot and intercuts of brief moments – in the present – of what he has touched and lost: his room in the smoldering ruins of Winterfell, Balon looking out over the ocean, and so on. It’s quite a challenge to make a character being psychologically destroyed seem internally present in one torture sequence after another, but it’s the responsibility of the creators to ensure that Theon remains an object of pathos. I have confidence that they can.

Bran Stark

Bran also feels removed from everything “that matters”. Within the scope of season three, what once was an intriguing introduction of two new characters has now become a somewhat mystifying exercise in cryptic information doled out in tiny increments. It’s not that Bran, Jojen, Meera, Osha and company are intrinsically uninteresting – quite the contrary – but that their story feels severed from the events unfolding elsewhere and sapped of interdependent consequence as a result. Bran’s story seems to suffer more than Theon’s, because what time we have had with him has been occupied with tensions over rabbit skinning or monologues – well-acted monologues – reminding us of the threat to the far north. Moreover, Bran didn’t have Theon’s tremendous season two arc to descend from, so his season three adventures feel even thinner.

If there’s a saving grace, it’s that Bran – with his visions – seems uniquely suited to being capable of connection with other plot lines in lieu of physical contact with them. But this seems to be a missed opportunity, because the one character who has an active prophetic link – a kind of walking, talking House of the Undying episode on autopilot – so rarely experiences anything which might elucidate the show’s underlying myths, or mystically draw parallels between events happening around the world. With Jojen’s help, Bran has the opportunity to be the show’s orphic guide. If his character is going to continue a much broader, more slowly moving arc than others, that’s more than okay. But it’s quickly becoming essential that he also serve some secondary purpose, even if only as a source of cleverly veiled exposition to develop our understanding of the show’s big picture.

I want to reiterate that neither of these storylines are necessarily failures, because a show like this is capable of redefining what came before by recontextualizing information in later episodes. Many people were upset by Arya’s lack of badassery in season two, but I felt that a direct adaptation of her escape from Harrenhal wouldn’t have worked on screen, and that her ferocious qualities should be more gradually developed. Similarly, Jon’s intelligence and self-confidence have been slow to return from season two’s somewhat bumbling passivity, but I think this is necessary in order to shape his arc to fit the demands of the show. It’s often the case that audiences will complain about a detail not being present only to find it addressed by the showrunners in a creative way episodes later. All of this and more may be in store for both Bran and Theon, but as of right now, they’re problematically detached from the narrative body for the reasons given.

Generally speaking, I take issue with the claims that “nothing happened” or that the episode was merely filler. Consider that not long ago we watched the Night’s Watch mutiny, Jaime lose his hand, the Hound fight a flaming sword-wielding Beric, Dany sack a city and win her army, and more. Thrones is not without big moments, and season three is filled with them. As such, I have zero complaints about an episode which slows down the pace and dramatically raises the stakes by highlighting character relationships as they sail into tumultuous seas. This usually works, because there’s a recurring trend where these big moments result in dramatic resetting. Dany arrives in Astapor, her momentum builds, and – shock and awe – she makes her move. Now Dany travels to Yunkai, her momentum builds, and – you get the idea. Dramatic weight is earned through characterization taking place during scenes of forward momentum, and then this currency is spent in a moments of catharsis which clear the stage for the next forward thrust. The character is more richly developed with each successive instance of dramatic resetting, so the stakes never feel stagnant.

Thrones succeeds admirably when employing this method of storytelling in the majority of its character arcs, as it’s an alternate solution to the lack of episodic climaxes; rather than try to shoehorn a thrilling or deeply personal moment for each character each episode, the showrunners attempt to give each character a few at natural moments throughout the season. But it’s precisely because Theon and Bran feel so removed that they’re unable to spend the currency they’ve accrued. This is almost definitely because they’re building up to even greater adventures, explorations and moments of resolution, but none of this is immediately obvious to the audience.

To return to my earlier explanation of why I felt the House of the Undying interpretation worked on-screen: you might say that Bran and Theon have storylines which are currently playing out the same way cryptic prophecy would have played out had the House of the Undying scene been a direct adaptation: all build-up, and no satisfying integration driving the story to a new expressive phase in the short term. Theon is actually losing his character (given his perpetual state of agony), and we’re learning little about how Bran feels or reacts to the newfound powers he’s discovering, to say nothing of how those powers sit within the world’s mythological backdrop (why they exist, what they mean, why some people have them and others don’t). Could either story have been adapted differently – as the House of the Undying scene was – to avoid these issues? I’m not sure. But these storytelling difficulties aren’t present elsewhere; the episode’s thematic focus on how love and friendship influence the fraught cast of characters was successful because the other storylines have been spending themselves to great effect, and at wiser intervals.

Talisa and Robb

Marriage has been a season-wide theme, dominating the narrative in both King’s Landing and Riverrun; the past two episodes have been exceptional at depicting how characters navigate unions they’ve claimed for themselves, or which others expect of them. What I most liked about Robb’s scene this week was its effectiveness in letting his blunder of a decision to marry Talisa feel purposeful. In another instance of tasteful nudity (there’s little problem in a young, loving couple remaining visible to one another), the marriage not only changed the stakes of the game by introducing the possibility of a son and heir, but also by gently and convincingly reminding us that these characters are actually in love. Love is a force which demands to be taken on its own terms. Many of the Robb-Talisa interactions have been decidedly less intimate, whereas this softly-lit scene offered a convincing depiction why the King in the North broke his promise to Walder Frey, further humanizing Robb and Talisa and underlining Robb’s youth.

(An aside: this is the second time I’ve mentioned nudity in this write-up, and I must admit that I’ve had very little problem with its use in the show thus far (both as compared to the novels, and as compared to competing shows on premium cable). At some point – if I have time – I’d love to ass-ess every bare-assed scene Thrones has provided thus far. Suffice it to say that my view is most similar to the one Matt Zoller Seitz offered in “In Defense of HBO’s ‘Unnecessary’ Nudity”.)

But if Bronn’s warning to Tyrion – “you waste time trying to get people to love you, you’ll end up the most popular dead guy in town” – may not apply directly to Robb and the new life he’s helped create, the consequences of that love are more immediately felt by people like Edmure, forced to atone for his nephew’s sin. As the consort travels through rain en route to the The Twins, where Edmure is to be married off, we’re reminded that Robb’s love cannot exist in a vacuum. Robb is obligated to be a king first and foremost. So if it’s true that his love feels more plausible than ever when it’s nursed within the protective confines of his tent, it’s also true that the consequences of his love for others are no less real or persistent if he chooses to ignore them for an evening. Nor does it change the fact that leaving the war “for one night” is exactly what Robb cannot afford to do, as turning aside for one night is what led him to all this dark and all this rain in the first place.

Love threatens to exact a similar cost elsewhere, as Jon and Ygritte stave off what feels like doomed irreconcilability while traversing a complex landscape of competing affiliations south of the wall. If their moment atop the wall was an answer offered in response to Littlefinger’s dismissal of human bonding as mere illusion, the balance holding it aloft has seemingly tipped: we’re now privy to gloomy chidings from Orell, and moments of consternation as Jon warns that the Wildlings will not succeed. History backs him up, but this dour business really puts a damper on Ygritte’s flame-kissed attitude.

Ygritte’s response that if they die, they die – but first they’ll live – seems to restate the terms of their relationship rather unambiguously, but it’s hard to shake the sense that more difficult decisions await them both. Ygritte knows who Jon Snow really is, rendering Orell’s warnings redundant. But she also seems to know who she really is, and that’s a big part of the problem. Being a wildling–being free–is the only real way their relationship can exist. The freedom the relationship depends upon is more essential than the affiliations themselves; choosing the black isn’t just choosing a worldview–it’s also choosing loyalty – honor – duty in place of love. Littlefinger would see this as swapping one illusion for another, and Ygritte would see this as swapping something real for an illusion.

Elsewhere, difficult decisions are finally catching up with characters who must’ve first anticipated them long ago. Tyrion and Shae appear to have reached a breaking point, but it’s hard to imagine either of them being unaware that this was a looming possibility: Shae, for all of her faults, is a worldly, wise character, and she knew that Tyrion could not legitimize their relationship regardless of the intensity of his ardor. Similarly, Tyrion knows that he’s nothing outside his position as the least-loved Lannister, and that the world beyond Westeros would have him juggling to entertain audiences–nothing more than an especially handsome oddity. Shae seems to project her self-resentment onto Tyrion; never before, as far as we know, has she allowed herself to be taken in by someone’s sincere protestations of love, and now she’s suffering for it. It’s easier to blame Tyrion for the realization of a fate she already knew might come, and that neither of them can change.

Margaery and Sansa

Margaery’s talk with Sansa is deeply relevant to Tyrion’s talk with Shae because it underscores the extent to which all characters involved in this triangle are condemned to dissatisfaction on account of their personal hopes being constrained by external obligations. Despite the fact that Tyrion is a healthier match for Sansa than Joffrey ever was, at the end of the day he’s still a dwarf. And despite everything that has happened to her, there’s still a part of Sansa that cannot help but cling to the idea that her knight in painted armor – her Loras – is waiting for her. Tyrion is no such knight, but he’s a kind man who would do her no harm while actively protecting her from the forces seeking to manipulate her. Under the circumstances, Sansa would prefer to hold onto her hope.

Tyrion’s illusion is that Shae could love and share him while being condemned to a lesser, illegitimate position. Shae’s illusion is that love would ever be enough to extricate herself from the position in which she’s remained on Tyrion’s behalf, and that Tyrion would sacrifice his identity for their shared freedom. Sansa’s illusion is that aspirations of true love are still worth one’s concern when confronted with life and death; perhaps those aspirations make life worth living to a bird in a cage. Love that’s compatible with self-direction is what each of these characters wish for, and love (or a lack of it) is also what prevents each of them from pursuing their destinies while contending with the cards they’ve been dealt.

Relationships can be seen as lenses through which values are made clear; how we protect or abandon our bonds when they’re strained is one of the truest revelations of character we can undergo. For this reason, the episode’s most striking pairing involved characters not in deep love, but deep respect. The rehabilitation of Jaime’s character on Thrones has been nothing if not astounding, and much of it has come from lessons about his past offered to Brienne. What we know about Jaime is that he, perhaps more than any other, is the character who has been most significantly motivated by love. Even Ned favored honor over his romantic bond. Jaime has never been with a woman other than Cersei; he’s directed his life on her account. He has, self-loathing at a fever pitch, pushed Bran Stark out of a window to cover up the crime which would undo his family if it came to light.

But behind all of this, he was once the knight who tried to do the right thing by saving King’s Landing, honor be damned. And somewhere along the line – somewhere in the midst of all the hatred he encountered since that fated day – Jaime began to believe that he really was a bad, bad man. Until Brienne came along. One of the most powerful moments of the season, Brienne’s “Goodbye, Ser Jaime” – uttered as if it would be the last thing she told him – was a direct refusal of the man Jaime has allowed himself to become, and a full embrace of the man he once aspired to be. Jaime’s return to Harrenhal to save Brienne secures his redemption for the audience in dramatically visible terms; Brienne has upset Jaime’s entire worldview, and the trust she offers him is immediately validated. But the even greater moment occurred during their private goodbye, when he promised he’d honor Brienne’s duty to Catelyn by returning Arya and Sansa to the Starks. He isn’t just Jaime – he’s Ser Jaime. He can choose to be something other than what he’s known to be.

If the episode makes one truth clear, it’s that every one of its characters has, outside of the dictates of the game, some personal ideal they wish to see satisfied. Robb never wanted to be King in the North, and the joy on his face when he learns that he might be father to a little prince or princess reveals his quiet hopes. In a different world, we can imagine him inheriting Winterfell after Ned dies of old age, his sons trained by Jory in the courtyard, as Catelyn, her hair white, watches on. When Tyrion offers Shae his golden chain, we know that there’s no part of him that doesn’t love her–indeed, everything he’s doing which she finds insulting is, to him, an ugly necessity which will allow him to remain beside her in some fashion, which is better than not at all. And we know that Shae truly does wish the man she loves could have left with her, so that she might be free to direct her own life without being trapped by the limitations of her lot. Jaime desperately wants to be seen as someone capable of good, and Brienne wants to know that her honor isn’t one lonely flame in a black world. There’s a part of Jon who would shut it all out if only he could–opening his eyes to find a world without crows or wildlings, but only his love. Ygritte’s affirmation is the most important response of all: all that matters is the living part. In a world suffused with choking rules, obligations, and the perpetual threat of death, it’s not what people are forced to undergo, but what they want, that defines them.


53 Comments

  1. Govnor
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Hodor

  2. NONBOOKREADER
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Baby Hodor Jr

  3. AngelosL
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I liked the analysis, but it didn’t change my belief that this was by far the weakest episode of the entire series so far. The episode felt like a ‘filler’, and some scenes, like Osha’s monologue and Theon’s torture were in my opinion completely unnecessary. Overall, the dialogue was (again, in my opinion) poorly written, which is surprising, because so far G. R.R. Martin’s episodes have been highlights of the series for me.

    Michelle McLaren did a good job, and I also love her work in Breaking Bad, but so far the director who has impressed me the most this season is Alex Graves. Also, I think that the editing could be better, especially in the bear scene, which again I didn’t like because it’s like the show is trying to present Jaime Lannister as a saint. He is one of the most interesting characters of the books and trying to make him look like mr perfect will only make him uninteresting. The show has spoiled us so far with its quality, and I think that episodes like this one stand out, even if they are not that bad when compared with episodes of other shows.

    that’s all, sorry for my english!

  4. Andy Gavin
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps nothing other than a good wedding is anticipated as much as the annual George R. Martin penned episode. And fitting that the bear himself should pen The Bear and the Maiden Fair. It’s a good episode, but it feels more stylistically disjointed than last weeks and less packed with turnabouts than episodes 24 and 25. But some of the relationships and performances continue to stand out: Jon and Ygritte (or really Ygritte), Tyrion and Shae, and Jaime and Brienne. They really could not have cast either of these last two better. As always, my detailed thoughts on the episode can be found on my blog.

  5. fuelpagan
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Nicely done.

    But I disagree that Jaime ever started believing he was a bad man. When he killed the Mad King and saved the city from burning, it was simply a conflict of honor to protect the innocent and his vow of honor to protect the King. At that point he morally chose to protect the innocent, and he’s never receive any recognition for saving all those lives. Forever scorned for taking the one life needed to protect the innocent. This coupled with watching the love of his life marry a man who shows no affection for her, made Jaime very cynical towards the notion of what knighthood meant. Basically Jaime believed he can never live down the label of Kingslayer and he gives up even trying to be a good knight. Without feeling passion for his job or his role in the world, it’s simply a plain job.

    Jaime hoped time would allow Ned Stark to finally see the whole picture, but Ned couldn’t get past seeing Jaime sitting on the Iron Throne. But Brienne, once learning the full story of that fateful act is able to see the knight Jaime once was. She awakens the passion Jaime buried long ago for being a knight. Jaime has hope once again for casting off the title of Kingslayer and being the knight he always wanted to be.

  6. NousWanderer
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    fuelpagan,

    I fully agree with your assessment of Brienne’s function in Jaime’s life, but I do think there’s a sense in which Jaime has internalized the vile shit he’s willing to do in the name of ______ as a function of his character. At the very least, he’s willing to play the part of the bad man without remorse when it’s expected of him, even if he understands that there’s a more fundamental place within him that remains unblemished.

    And while he clearly reserves a large partition within himself as a kind of argument-in-reserve against men like Ned, he never really uses it until it cracks open until Brienne comes along.

  7. X
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Really enjoyed as always your analysis. Great work, but i only have one little thing to point out about this:
    “Tyrion is no such knight, but he’s a kind man who would do her no harm while actively protecting her from the forces seeking to manipulate her. Under the circumstances, Sansa would prefer to hold onto her hope.”
    Maybe it’s because the show has white-washed tyrion so much, so maybe it’s not coming across that way or something, but marital rape, which would be what tyrion would do to sansa if he had taken her maidenhead in the books, knowing that she didn’t want him and only married him cause she had no other choice as a lannister hostage, would be harming her. maybe he isn’t manipulating her, but he isn’t oposing his father and refusing to get married. tyrion gains more than sansa does, (winterfell for one) and would i think manipulate her that way, as his wife/pawn. maybe not many will agree with me, but that’s all right. just needed to say this for what little it’s worth.

  8. J
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    It really is okay to be disappointed with the episode. No need for fans to apologize for a job badly done. Let’s all hope that next week will be better.

  9. LilJonUmber
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s at all implausible that a man who’s felt misunderstood and unappreciated by all for half his life (Jaime) would immediately latch on to the one person who gave him these very things. You saw it in his tear-filled eyes as Brienne spoke to him as a person; a respected man whose word was worth something.

    It’s human nature to crave acceptance. And both Jaime and Theon have parallel arcs illustrating this very need. So much so that “A Man Without Honor” was aptly named for their concurrent “stooping to a new low,” committing of unredemptive, despicable acts.

    These two characters seem to be Martin’s commentary on all smug, arrogant and seemingly unlikeable people, whose off-putting behavior is merely a defense mechanism born of resentment and inner-angst stemming from years of being misunderstood and hated.

    But behing these masks exists two people who could be kind, and could be loving, if only they were shown the same. For me, their stories will always be the more compelling of the many within Martin’s vast world.

    AngelosL:

    “…I didn’t like because it’s like the show is trying to present Jaime Lannister as a saint. He is one of the most interesting characters of the books and trying to make him look like mr perfect will only make him uninteresting.

  10. The_Wanderer
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I liked this episode of Game of Thrones, especially when I watched it the second time. True it wasn’t the strongest episode of the season, but it was necessary to help build the significance of a lot the romantic relationships between characters for the upcoming episodes. I wrote a blog article that goes more into detail about all of the relationships that were explored in this Game of Thrones episode, its linked below if you’re interested in reading it.

    http://www.all-that-is-gold-does-not-glitter.blogspot.com/2013/05/game-of-thrones-season-3-the-bear-and-the-maiden-fair-analysis.html

    I liked the extra added history and other minor details that could have only come in from GRRM. The Wildlings six previous defeats was a nice touch, since up until this point the Wildling force has been depicted as unstoppable.

  11. Evltwyn
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    Having read the all books more than 3 times each before the show was even announced, I found this episode to be genius. There is so much foreshadowing that only a thorough reader, like myself, would appreciate this episode as much as I did.

    A lot of my non-readers friends thought Theons story arc was just over the top this week. I had to disagree and walked them through I why I felt, out of all the torture scenes, it was the most effective. Theons pride regarding his sexual prowess has been his only real claim to fame. It’s the only thing he owned that he was never insecure about and even though he knew he was in danger, these ladies managed to pull his last sense of pride and self out of him to be exploited so effectively for his torturer to take it away in such a dramatic fashion. Ramsey Snow/Boltonhas destroyed Balon Greyjoys legacy. Asha/Yara, as a woman, cannot continue that line which causes a war within a war over who shall be King of the Iron Isles now that Balon no longer has an heir.

    Then you have the gold chain that Tyrion gives to Shae along with what seems to be just a random joke about him juggling. These are two wonderful Easter eggs that only we readers can secretly smile about.

    Same goes for the lecture on how difficult it is to please a women that Margery states so casually to Sansa, when she herself is a declared virgin.

    Then we have Orells declaration of love to Yygrite, his statement about ‘what’ Jon really is has more meaning that only the readers will understand. The show has yet to show a side of Jon that was developing during the same time in the book.

    Osha’s monologue seemed like old news but none her companions know that the White Walkers have awakened so she needed to warn them, it had to be done AND she draws a line about how far she is going to go which is relevant to storyline.

    Lastly, Dany briefly looks down at two bowing slaves before she reveals her demands. Irrelevant to anyone not paying attention. Her demands for freeing the slaves are heard by all who are there, including the ones not looking directly at her. Information is going to be passed to all, not just the slavers but to the slaves themselves. Just because their not looking doesn’t mean they can’t hear and unless they have their tongues removed, it means they can spread the word.

    This episode was brilliant and GRR Martin deserves to be admired for it.

  12. fuelpagan
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    NousWanderer,

    I’ve always felt there was a sense of remorse in Jaime. For me “the things I do for love” is indicative of a man performing an act he wishes he didn’t have to in order to protect his family. The Kingslayer label robs him of ever being viewed as an honorable knight protecting the innocent. The only ones left to love him are himself and his family, and he never stops protecting them.

    Jaime certainly was in a bitter place about the Kingslayer title, but I don’t think he ever thought of himself as anything but “the good guy” whom no one would give a chance to hear his side of the story. Seems like any vile shit he’s done he always has justification for doing it.

  13. Ms. D. Ranged in AZ
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Enjoyed your analysis, as always!

    what they lack in character depth, they make up for in narrative movement

    I don’t know if I agree with this characterization of soap operas. It seemed to me that the dialog from day to day was simply the same people saying the same things over and over but in different ways. Suffice it to say that my career in watching soap operas was very brief as I came to realize that I would rather watch paint dry.

    Consider a series like The X-Files: gradually developing, overarching narrative threads persisted despite more localized episodic resolutions being handed out each episode.

    I was a big fan of X-Files but I never really thought about why. Your thoughts on it as being a pre-cursor to the most recent crop of outstanding shows like The Sopranos helps clarify that for me.

    What happens to Theon seems consequential only to Theon, but there’s less of Theon remaining with each passing week.

    I have to admit I gave an inadvertent but hearty guffaw in response to that last bit

    Re: Bran, Osha & gang….

    their story feels severed from the events unfolding elsewhere and sapped of interdependent consequence as a result…..missed opportunity, because the one character who has an active prophetic link….

    Made all the more disappointing because GRRM successfully used that very same device to connect Bran with the wider story. Why D&D didn’t try to use this is beyond me. I do remember them saying something about not wanting Bran’s dreams to be spoilers or to look like a cop-out to tell parts of other characters stories but they could have controlled the spoilers and written it so that it was meaningful.

    I have zero complaints about an episode which slows down the pace and dramatically raises the stakes by highlighting character relationships…

    Hear, hear!

    Littlefinger would see this as swapping one illusion for another, and Ygritte would see this as swapping something real for an illusion.

    Nice tie back to LF, reminding us of a larger theme running throughout the series.

    It’s easier to blame Tyrion for the realization of a fate she already knew might come, and that neither of them can change.

    Sansa SHOULD have known this was coming–a marriage to someone she wouldn’t want or at least should have known that her hope of marrying Loras would end up with the rug being pulled out from under her yet again. So long as she sits there in KL she is a pawn. Her utter naivete needs to start changing because it’s becoming annoying (as it did in the books). However, I will say on re-reading of the books I am seeing some of her internal POV does show a person who realizes at least to some extent the reality of her situation–a POV we won’t get in the shows.

    In a world suffused with choking rules, obligations, and the perpetual threat of death, it’s not what people are forced to undergo, but what they want, that defines them.

    Dany’s desire to free the slaves of Yunkai fits nicely into this conclusion as well.

  14. Juego de Tronos
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Very good analysis!

  15. Ms. D. Ranged in AZ
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    X,

    marital rape, which would be what tyrion would do to sansa if he had taken her maidenhead in the books, knowing that she didn’t want him and only married him cause she had no other choice as a lannister hostage, would be harming her. maybe he isn’t manipulating her, but he isn’t oposing his father and refusing to get married. tyrion gains more than sansa does, (winterfell for one) and would i think manipulate her that way, as his wife/pawn. maybe not many will agree with me, but that’s all right. just needed to say this for what little it’s worth.

    I actually agree. The Tyrion in the book is a much more shaded character. The night of the wedding Tyrion gets naked and in bed with Sansa fully erect. He does the right thing in the end by not taking her maidenhead BUT he was tempted. And yes, he absolutely would have been taking advantage of the unequal power in the relationship. Sansa thinks to herself, in the book, that she has no choice and has to acquiesce to Tyrion’s advances trying to steel herself to the task. As a woman, it’s a cringe worthy scene regardless of how much I like Tyrion’s character. When a woman is forced to have sex when she doesn’t want to, regardless of it being in a marriage or not, it can legitimately be called rape.

    The Tyrion of the show is much nobler and probably would not handle the scene the same way. However, maybe D&D should do this scene the same as in the book…it would add some more depth to Tyrion and if anyone can pull off conflicted, Peter can. But no matter what, I am looking forward to seeing these two fantastic actors in the wedding scenes.

  16. MUGger
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    I enjoy these posts — I find them the perfect antidote to the toxic nerd rage over at Westeros when a scene or character from the books fails make it to the screen.

  17. Gatehouse Ami
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    I’m interested in reading your analysis on nudity.

    Evltwyn,
    I agree, and thoroughly enjoyed being a reader during this week’s viewing.

  18. Nancy
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    fuelpagan,

    However, Jaime never told Ned that Aerys planned on burning Kings Landing down (I can’t remember if he did on the show, but I know he didn’t in the book) and I think Ned’s feelings about Jaime would have been different. In Ned’s mind, it was the Lannisters riding in at the last moment, when it was certain who the winner was going to be and claiming theirs to be on the “right side”. Jaime, and only Jaime, is responsible for letting the Kingslayer name go on by waiting years to reveal the truth.

    Great analysis, by the way.

  19. Evltwyn
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Gatehouse Ami,

    For me, the nudity and sex always comes down to currency and control. During every scene that involved either, based on who was undressed at the time and why determines who was in control at that very moment.

    Each scene that involves nudity and sex could be an hour long discussion on who truly owns who, how and why.

    One of the best examples is Dany and Drago’s relationship. Drogo strips Dany down to take ownership of her. Then Dany flips the relationship, literally, by sharing herself with him willingly, manipulating him from master to partner. He unknowingly becomes a loving puppet to her before the relationship abruptly ends due to her naivety and his trust in her.

  20. Krishnan Gurumurthy
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    You make some good points, especially with regard to the missed opportunity Bran’s arc represents. One place where this analysis falls down a bit for me though is in that your explanation of the adaptation of the House of the Undying sequence and others seems to undermine what you imply earlier in the piece about about GoT’s place within a trend towards ‘novelisation’ on TV. Personally I feel GoT has in many ways failed to capitalise on the opportunities series such as The Sopranos and The Wire opened up.

    For me, the choice, for instance, to ‘streamline’ the HoTU sequence is symptomatic of the relative timidity of the showrunners when faced with the ostensible ‘limitations’ of the TV format. The idea that this scene would need to deal in ‘images with which the viewer is already familiar’ sells us short as viewers, and implies that those behind the series are more content to remain safely within the existing boundaries of the format rather than to take genuine risks with narrative structure.

    Frustratingly, there’s still an essential underlying assumption that TV is there for people who lack the concentration, memory or cognitive capacity to read a book, and by association, to deal with the kind of narrative complexity and ambiguity entailed in that medium. Hence TV, even on HBO, is still held back by fear of the hypothetical casual viewer with a five minute attention span and a hand perpetually hovering over the remote control. (The same reason, of course, that we’re treated to regular doses of full frontal female nudity – what better way to stay that hypothetical viewer’s hand than by ensuring it remains down his hypothetical trousers?).

    I want to see TV that tests me, where I’m regularly confused, where payoffs are delayed, motivations remain un-telegraphed and answers aren’t handed to me on a plate. I feel like we’re slowly heading in the right direction, towards a space where genuinely innovative, complex TV can thrive; in which we no longer have to fret about alienating this ‘casual viewer’ because there’s a big enough audience to make a genuinely daring series commercially viable without them. I’m still unsure if GoT really represents a step forward here, and I still feel like the showrunners are hedging their bets more than they really need to.

  21. Kessell
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    Ms. D. Ranged in AZ:
    X,

    When a woman is forced to have sex when she doesn’t want to, regardless of it being in a marriage or not, it can legitimately be called rape.

    And as we saw with Theon the same can apply to a man >.>

  22. ACVG
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Evltwyn,

    As an avid book reader, I completely agree. This was by far by fav episode of the season. Who was talisman really writting that letter to? That was conviniently written in Valyrian. It confirmed Margerys lack of maidenhood, had Tywin show Joffrey up, Jaime rescuing maidens. It was absolutely great. I just don’t like the Reeds but they weren’t my fav in the books either so there. And it showed Danny being truely tough and kind of reckless in creating a lot enemies in theceast

  23. Albert Renteria
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    Game of Thrones is done in the style of a mini-series, not a TV series.

    Unfortunately, it’s on a TV series’ budget. HBO should just start making it more like a TV Show… let the characters breathe.

    What’s the rush? What will happen when they catch up to the books? TV wants its shows to last forever, so why not take advantage of the source material and slow down the show into the pace of a TV show instead of the pace of a low budget mini-series?

  24. Evltwyn
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    ACVG,

    Since Talisa doesn’t exist in the book, my imagination of who she might be has been all over the place. Is she a plant by Littlefinger or Varys? Is she truly highborn? Is she an Elephant or a Tiger? Is she really pregnant?

    I have no clue how to deal with her. All I know is I have hated Robs relationship with her because I don’t think it’s real, at least not for her, unlike Jeyne Westerlings character in the book.

    I guess we’ll soon find out in Episode 9, unless she doesn’t go, which I think she won’t because of the so called ‘pregnancy’ which was perfectly staged if she is a plant.

  25. Nagga's Kin
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Ms. D. Ranged in AZ: So long as [Sansa] sits there in KL she is a pawn. Her utter naivete needs to start changing because it’s becoming annoying [...]

    In several scenes with Margaery, Sansa has now stated out loud that she isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. IMHO, she’s being a little too hard on herself. After all, she was smart enough to realize that she had to play along while Joffrey was tormenting her and also smart enough to know that the Hound’s offer to spirit her away in the middle of a major battle was dangerous on multiple counts. No-one needed to tell her Cersei and Littlefinger are the most dangerous snakes in a pit full of vipers. Considering she is a teenager who has for all practical purposes lost her entire family and is also de facto imprisoned, a pawn for the political schemers that surround her, simply surviving without falling prey to clinical depression is actually a major feat.

    The other aspect of this is that from the perspective of a 21st century viewer, Sophia Turner is already too mature to convincingly pull off a girl in puberty. Girls arguably change more between the ages of 13 and 17 than many modern women do throughout their twenties, not just in their appearance but in also in terms of their psychosexual development. However, we need to take into account that in this quasi-medieval world sexuality would be a taboo subject except in the narrow confines of marriage. Granted, Westeros isn’t as verklempt as the real Christian world was in its middle ages, but it’s still true that Sansa simply doesn’t have access to an encyclopedia or Cosmo or an internet chock-full of information on everything from anatomy to gaydar to snuff sex. She doesn’t even have her Septa to talk to any longer.

    At the moment, the only way she can construct any frame of reference for herself is through conversations with one person, Margaery. The only other person who could really help Sansa fill in the gaps is Shae, but that’s not going to happen now that Tyrion has involuntarily become a wedge issue between them, one that Sansa doesn’t even know about. Her present naivité arguably has more to do with her lack of access to factual knowledge about the birds and the bees than it does with her IQ.

  26. Joshua Taylor
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Krishnan Gurumurthy,
    When big money and profit is at risk, like all producers (and I’m not talking about Benioff and Weiss either) the average exec does not give a damn about how things ought to be. If they feel the shouldn’t alienate the audience, if they feel they need to amp up the sex and violence because that’s what viewers like, then they will. The only thing that is going to stop them is if all the viewers tune out.
    Unfortunately this is an epic fantasy series, not The Wire where budget is small and lack of audience influences out of the box storytelling. Look at the newbie message boards for GoT with their anger at Theon’s arc, with their complaints about too many characters. People like my own father who after two and a half years said “I don’t understand this show. It makes me feel dumb.” That is who those execs care about. The potential of this series to be as complex and dense as the novels is there, but the realities of television prevent it so. I still think GoT is a great show, but the subject matter is rife for exploitation and the execs take full advantage of this fact.

  27. Sean C.
    Posted May 17, 2013 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    It’s a bit off to suggest that Tyrion will “protect her from forces seeking to manipulate her. Forces other than the Lannisters, perhaps, but marrying her is doing exactly what Tywin wants, an endgame that does Sansa no good at all.

  28. pleonasm
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 3:56 am | Permalink

    While there is admirable writing in this episode, Theon’s scene might be an all-time low for the series.

    Theon’s scenes are problematic for a number of reasons, but this episodes was particularly troubling. The premise of this week’s torture sequence not only was patently absurd, but it had deeply misogynistic undercurrent.

    So our torturer has a harem of attractive women at his disposal who are willing and pleased (they are smiling throughout the scene) to be setting up Theon for a big fall. Who are they? Are they sexual sadists as well? Can you imagine the absurd planning session between our torturer and his female recruits? “It would be really cool if your could undress each other nice and slow, before I step out and cut off his cock”. Any questions? Uggh… was this written by a 14 year old boy?

    But the more troubling aspect, was how misogynistic the scene was – despite the fact, it essentially about castrating a man!! The camera leers over the women as they undress. Yes – It’s too fool Theon and by proxy us, but its troubling nonetheless. We always get a perspective of a man in the scene (1st Theon) and then the torturer (once the scheme is revealed) and his ownership of the women.

    Of course, once the gig is up, they conveniently disappear from the frame. Why the hell would we ever care what they think about what is going on? Delight? Fear? Disinterest? They’re just naked whores…

    That’s why the scene is so awful. It’s completely reminiscent of that absurd Littlefinger speech from season 1 while he has the two prostitutes practice fucking each other. Sigh…

  29. Blue eyes crowlack
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 4:28 am | Permalink

    Evltwyn,

    I agree very much

  30. Kessell
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 5:13 am | Permalink

    pleonasm,

    This is my only complaint of this scene, the idea of Theon being humiliated by woman is completely fine. But who are these woman? is tvRamsey so diffrent from the one we know in the novels that woman can stand being around him without a constant expression of fear on their face? I just don’t understand how these woman fit into life at the dreadfort with Ramseys hunting games going on ect. If they are ignorant they would not be so cool with the situation they were presented with, and if they are not, they are basically as sadistic as Ramsey, which is just wierd. I guess it could be saved if Ramsey ends up hunting them anyway. With regard to the misogeny I feel it is somewhat beating a dead horse, It’s a mysogenistic world, if anything the show only really adresses this through the odd naked whore, even woman like Margery are depicted slightly brazenly

  31. Tori Targaryen
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 5:18 am | Permalink

    Kessell,

    Personally I think their appearance there is irrelevant to discuss. The women don’t matter, what matters is Theon.

  32. Chickenduck
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that episodes featuring Diana Rigg have no nudity whatsoever from any character.

    Is this just coincidence, or is there something in her contract – ie “I work on the show, but only if no one gets their clothes off in my eps”?

  33. WompWomp
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Tori Targaryen,

    For anyone bothered by how happy they look, one mentioned once being on track to become a septa, which implies low birth. The other is named Violet, like Grenn’s old squeeze mentioned last season, the lusty milk maid. Given the right moral adjustment, they could see their strange new station as a step up from the nameless mud they were born in.

    As for how unfazed they seemed by Ramsay’s cruelty, I believe they are in the honeymoon period of their service to him, before they become the prey in his Most Dangerous Game.

  34. WompWomp
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Chickenduck,

    Listen to the D&D NCW interview. Dame Rigg told them before shooting that the show had “a lot of bonking” and that she liked it. Purely incidental if the pattern is there. She’s no prude.

  35. Sh4rp3
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    The torturers ladies could easily be part of his entourage. To the un-read , he is obviously a man of power, he has lackeys, and even the unpleasant have followers if they possess power and wealth. In real life women are just as capable of atrocities and using sex to snare, this is known, and the characters in this episode are by no means far- fetched . In fact they are exactly the kind of women you would expect to find at the dread fort and just because they are pretty does not mean they are made of sugar and spice and all things nice, see Cersei .
    All in all the episode was great and to those who’ve read it pulled the draw strings together in preparation for the huge events that are about to take place and to those who haven’t , trust me, it’s a calm before the storm. Thanks GoT the series, I’m reading the books again !

  36. Ms. D. Ranged in AZ
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Kessell,

    Absolutely! I didn’t mean to exclude men from the definition. I was just thinking specifically of Sansa’s story arc.

  37. Ms. D. Ranged in AZ
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Nagga’s Kin,

    I totally agree on her being ignorant as opposed to stupid in regards to sex. I guess my major complaint comes from her lack of agency. Arya is the polar opposite in temperament being prone to overt action instead of passive reaction to which Sansa is prone. However, you are probably right in that Sansa’s ability to stay passive and remain non-threatening under tremendous pressure has kept her alive. Can you imagine Arya in similar circumstances? She would have lost her temper on day one and Joffrey would have killed her immediately. And as far as depression goes, perhaps her naïveté saves her there as well. She can’t fathom all the possible implications of situations so she isn’t quite aware of just how difficult and hopeless her situation may actually be. A depressive type person usually can only see the negative implications and would never have assumed that marriage to a knight in shining armor would be possible in the first place. My own personality is like Arya’s so I struggle to understand Sansa, but on second reading of the books I am beginning to appreciate her inner strength and your comments help in that understanding. Thanks!

  38. pleonasm
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Kessell,

    Kessell – There is no question Westeros is a misogynistic world, but its more troubling when “Game of Thrones” – the HBO television production celebrates/endorses it.

    After all, there is a fundamental difference between depicting acts of misogyny (i.e. a rape scene of a woman) vs. identifying with the rapist, leering over the body of the victim with slow camera moves, etc…

    One of the things that is admirable about George’s writing is that despite all the ‘evil’ acts committed in ASIOF, he has rarely adopted the POV of the perpetrators, and often the misogyny is recalled or occurring offscreen. That isn’t the case is some of the scenes on the tv show.

    Let’s be honest, for two women to try and turn on a complete stranger, who has been extensively tortured, by stripping naked, fondling each other, and dry humping him, they would have to be either sexual sadists (very rare for women) or traumatized victims themselves (though their wide eyed smiles through out the scene doesn’t exactly support that reading).

    Regardless, the show isn’t interested in their POV, its only that they are hot and naked. That’s misogyny. And it sucks. And we need to call out Benioff and Weiss (and even George) when they as producers/writers continue to do this stuff.

  39. Ms. D. Ranged in AZ
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Kessell,

    Kessell,

    Women can be sadists too, though. Or thy could be under The Boy’s control to the extent that they play any role he asks them and do so enthusiastically so long as they aren’t tortured themselves. Either way we have nothing concrete on their motivation, nor does it matter to our understanding of just how cruel the whole scene was. What matters is Theon’s view of it and that was writ large.

    In regards to Margery, in this very patriarchal society she uses one of the very few tools allowed to her, her sexuality. Also women in such societies tend to have only two acceptable, dichotomous roles: whore or Madonna. Margery defies that dichotomy and is therefore subversive. She understands the construct that she lives in and she walks the line masterfully. In fact I think she can be suitably placed into an archetype of femme fatale, whereas Sansa is playing the role of Madonna, somewhat aware that it is what has saved her so far (remember how the Hound was always mocking her playing the innocent, thoughtless bird? He knew what game she was playing) .

    In such cultures women are the worst critics of other women because they get jealous seeing someone else getting ahead using feminine wiles that they are either afraid to use or don’t possess (or no longer possess due to aging). It’s like the slave that rats out the escape plans of their fellow slaves. They think, ‘why should they get to be special–free, happy, etc–when I am not?’. Margery is absolutely subversive and dancing on the edge of what is permissible and “safe” but the risk is worth it to her, obviously.

  40. Sean
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Pretentious as always.

  41. Sh4rp3
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Sean:
    Pretentious as always.

    Indeed ! Let’s not get carried away with this, the great thing about GoT is that the characters are convincing, they change and grow . The underlining theme is the fight for power ,women and men both. Cersei has used her sexuality throughout . There are many strong female characters and we see just as much from their viewpoint. I maybe agree that the little finger speech scene in series 1 was a bit exploitation but the t*&#$ castration scene was more horrific than titivating, as it was meant. Tyrion is possibly the most likeable character throughout and at this point he is a pawn as much as Sansa, he is sympathetic to the girl but powerless to rescue her. Her part is chiefly as hostage , a pawn in the game of thrones , not a sex object, as a character , she is a naive maiden as opposed to the brazen Margery, surely this is a friendship that can be found in any high school or college anywhere.

  42. WompWomp
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Sh4rp3,

    It also bears mentioning that Littlefinger’s monologuing in S1 wasn’t written explicitly for the show. D&D drafted that up for auditioning purposes and found themselves in a bind with each episode coming up short in terms of running time. Now that we know the scene’s origins, can we stop slinging stale dung pies at them over it? People love latching onto that scene as if it’s the classic example of Everything That Is Wrong With The Show. Enough already!

  43. NousWanderer
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Evltwyn,

    I can also appreciate Theon’s trajectory…as a reader. But that’s just the thing: I’m a viewer.

    Ms. D. Ranged in AZ, Quite right about soap operas as far as visible changes are concerned, though I’d say that the narrative movement is wrapped up in character interactions. Someone said something to so and so which means that someone is now plotting to do something to so and so in retaliation for someone’s something that they something something–etc.

    MUGger,

    I appreciate your sentiment. Book purism has never been the most useful way to appreciate the show–I’m always more interested in the “why” of adaptation.

    fuelpagan,

    Maybe so. It comes down to what we see between the lines of the performance, I suppose: while I agree with you about Jaime’s remorse, I think that remorse stems from an acknowledgment that what he does is often…not good. And I think here we get into the ethical distinction between the moral value of what motivates a crime, and the independent badness of a crime.

    Krishnan Gurumurthy,

    I appreciate this perspective, although I think I give the showrunners more credit. If it were the case that the show was being released in seasonal blocks (all at once), I’d probably agree with you. But as it stands, I think the many of the adaptation choices have been strong given the demands of the medium.

    Sean C.,

    This is true, but as one of the better players of the game, and as one of the few people who seems to have genuine sympathy for Sansa’s plight, I have pretty strong confidence that Tyrion would be a better ally than most (even if he’s far from all-powerful).

    Ms. D. Ranged in AZ,

    You may find this article interesting: http://headspace.ihops.net/2012/07/a-song-of-ice-feminism-part-two-in-defense-of-sansa-stark/

    Sean,

    A devastating critique.

  44. NousWanderer
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    WompWomp,

    Last week I talked about the scene in question. In short: I think it’s one of my favorite Littlefinger moments. There definitely isn’t a consensus that it’s a problematic scene, at least!

  45. pleonasm
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    WompWomp:
    Sh4rp3,

    It also bears mentioning that Littlefinger’s monologuing in S1 wasn’t written explicitly for the show. D&D drafted that up for auditioning purposes and found themselves in a bind with eacch episode coming up short in terms of running time. Now that we know the scene’s origins, can we stop slinging stale dung pies at them over it?

    Whether the scene was written for auditions or as part of the screenplay of the episode, it doesn’t excuse the fact that the scene itself was ill-conceived, misogynistic, and poorly written.

    Shit is shit, it doesn’t matter how it comes to be.

    Benioff and Weiss can and have written much better material. Let’s not be afraid to call them out when they deserve it.

  46. WompWomp
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    NousWanderer,

    I felt like he was breaking character, even as his show incarnation, but “play with her ass” was so ridiculous it almost made up for the break. [laughs]

    I didn’t mind the scene so much, but there is a vocal consensus about it. See above.

  47. NousWanderer
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    WompWomp,

    I think that there’s a vocal majority here, to be sure. The scene was less universally reviled in at least a few other circles. :P

  48. m
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    Good thing you all spent all these words debating these scenes: when these arcs pay off, they’ll be little more than a waste of your time and no one will even remember them.

  49. ATG
    Posted May 18, 2013 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Great analysis as always, but i do agree with fuelpagan when it comes to Jaime. I do not think that he sees himself as a bad person or that he saw himself as a bad person until he met Brienne. I think he just accepted that people will continue to call him the Kingslayer no matter what he said or did, so as his brother Tyrion said, he started waring it like an armour so it can never be used to hurt him.

    Either way great analysis and to the people who say that this episode was merely a filler, there is no such things as fillers in Game of Thrones. Also I was wondering do you do similar analysis for other TV series or movies, or is it something you just do for Game of Thrones?

  50. Tom M
    Posted May 19, 2013 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Great write-up, very interesting analysis.

    Even Ned favored honor over his romantic bond.

    Which sort of indicates the chances of his parentage of Jon Snow.

  51. Shan
    Posted May 19, 2013 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    m:
    Good thing you all spent all these words debating these scenes: when these arcs pay off, they’ll be little more than a waste of your time and no one will even remember them.

    I know I say this a lot, but if you don’t think this kind of thing is fun, what exactly do you get out of reading these comments?

  52. Staeven
    Posted May 20, 2013 at 3:07 am | Permalink

    Thanks again Ser Tyler Davis for your insightful commentary.

    Your early comments about serialised television reminded me of watching Babylon 5, a well produced program with a story arc traversing time and space. B5 had the occasional filler episode and did in the end suffer from funding interference, but still a cracker of series.
    I still use Zathras’ quote; “Not the one, not the one”….

    Keep the essays coming.
    Staeven

  53. Sean
    Posted May 24, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Is there not going to be an analysis of “Second Sons” this week? I was disappointed to not find it this morning when I logged in from work. I need something to pass the time during these slow periods!


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