Oliver Davis reviews the third episode of Game of Thrones Season Three….
Walk of Punishment.
Directed by David Benioff.
Written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss.
Those catch-ups at the start of the show are getting longer each week. Which is good, because I forget half the characters’ names 20 minutes in. Mainly because they have about three different titles each.
A few changes to the world-building opening credits this week. A large cloud of black smoke currently hovers over Winterfell (or “Winterhell” as Hot Pie calls it). It’s probably to do with the Stark home being burnt to the ground. That, or Melisandre’s been at it again, giving birth to giant shadow assassins. And a little further down the map, we have the new Westeros-themed Mecano playset of Riverrun, where the King in the North has settled in…
…the opening scene of Walk of Punishment is masterly constructed: a riverside funeral of Lord Hoster Tully (Catelyn’s father) conducted in near silence. The only speech is background muttering.
Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies) takes aim from the bank, slightly adjusting himself for the wind, and fires a flaming arrow into the air. The boat on which Hoster Tully idly drifts downstream is his target. The distant splash might as well be the ‘wam wam waaaaam’ sound effect often used in cartoons.
He tries again. Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) is as stone-faced as ever, probably thinking about the kids she lost, or the kids that were kidnapped, or the bastard she wanted to kill as a child. She’s like a singularity of depression in some scenes. Splash. Edmure misses for a second time.
Third time’s the charm. Robb (Richard Madden) allows himself a boyish smile. It’s easy to forget sometimes that The King of the North is still only a teenager. The Blackfish (Clive Russell) shifts with agitation. Edmure tenses, looks up. Splash.
Blackfish – Edmure and Catelyn’s uncle, brother of the corpse in the boat – pulls his nephew away from the bank and snatches a bow and arrow for himself. He takes one look up at the Tully flag. Easterly wind. He fires and walks away. Thunk. A wholly non-verbal opening scene. Edmure and Blackfish show more about their relationship and character in this short interaction than a whole season of duologues could muster. Show, don’t tell.
…everyone’s favourite Imp is offered a similar, non-verbal scene. Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) has called his first meeting of the Small Council since becoming Hand of the King (at least in what we’ve been shown). The entrance of each member feels like an event, as though it should be accompanied with theme music and pyrotechnics, perhaps even a zipwire for Pycelle (Julian Glover). He had been glimpsed in an earlier episode, and Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) has appeared numerous times already. For Lord Varys (Conleth Hill), however, this was his season three debut.
Upon Cersei’s (Lena Heady) entrance, she lifts her chair and carries it to sit beside her father. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), in reply, drags his own to the other end of the table, as physically far from his sister as possible. Another non-verbal dual, wonderfully accentuated by Varys’ borderline Carry On… facials.
Two important announcements are made in this meeting. Firstly, the obvious: Tywin makes Tyrion Master of the Coin, the realm’s treasurer. It’s a demotion, from Hand of the King to glorified accountant, but the appointment keeps Tyrion a player in the Game.
The second is more throwaway – Tywin’s plan of Baelish marrying Lysa Arryn (Kate Dickie). She’s the lady who still breast feeds her son on top of that crazy-high mountain place. She is also the widow of Jon Arryn, whose death was the spark that ignited current events. He’s Westeros’ Archduke Franz Ferdinand. More on that later. Like, much later.
The rest of Tyrion’s story this episode is a rather charming lads’ tale of the Imp, Bronn (Jerome Flynn) and Podrick (Daniel Portman), quite separate from the books. After collecting the Master of the Coin’s ledgers from Baelish’s brothel (of which there is a neat line in reference to the massacre of King Robert Baratheon’s illegitimate children in season two: Baelish – “it’s the safest place in the city,” Tyrion – “Not for bastards.”), Tyrion treats Pod to three whores in reward for saving his life at the Battle of Blackwater Bay. He has yet to be with a woman, and who better to provide a rites of passage than prostitute connoisseurs, Bronn and Tyrion?
When Pod reemerges, he returns the bag of gold untouched. The whores didn’t accept payment. “What did you do to them?” inquires Tyrion. “Lots of things,” Pod replied, just as confused. In a realm ridden with so much treachery and scheming, the relationship between these three men is a beacon. A sellsword, a dwarf and a simpleton; a delight in miscreants.
…after spending the season-so-far on a buddy/comedy road trip with Brienne (Gwendoline Christie), Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) finds himself bound to her on horseback. The episode prior ended on them being discovered by traveling soldiers, and now they are their prisoners. They only appear in two scenes…but the last is the cliffhanger, and tremendous.
Shackled at a campsite by its night’s fire, Brienne is carried away to be raped by their imprisoners. Jaime sits there, silhouetted by the flames. He shows no confliction. That wouldn’t befit a master swordsman. Instead, he talks the head capturer, Locke (Noah Taylor), into keeping Brienne unspoiled. Jaime saved the “wench” who led him shackled through the Riverlands. A glimmer of humanity. He’s come a long way. Just two seasons ago he pushed a child from a tower with not a smidgen of remorse.
But Northmen don’t take to kindly to sweet talking. They probably take two spoonfuls of salt in their tea. Locke pulls Jaime up onto a cutting board and slices his right hand – his sword hand – from off its joint. Jaime screams, the episode cuts to black.
And then the credits roll, playing a punk-ish version of The Bear and the Maiden Fair – a song from the books that is sung by the Brotherhood earlier in the episode. It’s the least diegetic piece of music played in Game of Thrones yet, the audibly electric guitar jarring beautifully with all the flutes and violins and lutes that came before it.
Hell of an episode. You’ve really got to hand it to them. (Sorry Jaime).
Oliver Davis (@OliDavis)