I know that I’ve been promising action every week on Game of Thrones for the last few (like Winter, it is coming!), and while “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” delivered some towards the end, the rest of the episode was fraught with rich character building and small payoffs that are certainly propelling us into some interesting situations for the final three episodes (I swear!). “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” had a lot to do with hard truths, and studied the pairing off of characters for good or ill. Hit the jump for why “if you waste your time getting people to love you, you’ll be the best liked dead man in town.”
First thing’s first: did anyone doubt that Jaime, who Brienne is finally calling by name, would ever really leave her there to fend for herself against Locke and his cronies? Jaime knows Brienne can handle herself, and also knows that she’s worth more alive to the men than dead — except when he hears the Locke refuses the payment her father offers because he believes that House Tarth owns all of the sapphire mines in Westeros. Oops. Jaime surely does feel somewhat responsible, but it’s really just an excuse to send him back to Harrenhal to aid her. The irony is that it’s neither Jaime nor Brienne’s strength that saves them, but the savvy of a soldier who knows he’s up a creek if he lets Jaime die. Regardless, Jaime and Brienne are back in action, which is all we ask.
There aren’t many positive relationships in Game of Thrones — most are based on lies, mistrust and duty at best, murder and violence at worst. Jaime and Brienne represent one of the best pairs in the series, where a man and a woman (where women usually have no agency) are able to be equals and respect one another.
Truth and pairs played a main role in the episode: Melisandre tells Gendry the truth about his parentage, but it’s uncertain whether or not this will prove to be in his best interest. Arya certainly doesn’t think so, cursing Beric and declaring Death her only God before she runs inadvertently into the arms of the Hound. Sansa receives sage advice from Margaery on how to make the best out of an unexpected and potentially undesirable situation, just as Tyrion takes some counsel from Bronn (and later, has a painfully true conversation with Shae). Bran listens to Jojen over Osha’s zombie-inspired pessimism, and Ygritte trusts in Jon despite her reservations about his commitment to the Wildling cause, and her. Robb and Talisa share a truly emotional and tender moment, while Tywin puts his wayward, sniveling grandson in his place.
Game of Thrones has often been about trust — who to trust, and what happens when you place that trust in the wrong people (exemplified most by Ned’s sad demise). In “The Bear and the Maiden Fair,” most of these choices and relationships have been established now, and are paying off with quieter character moments that are rich not because they contain exposition exclusively, but because they strengthen the characters and bonds that, over three seasons, have finally begun to mature.
In Jaime and Brienne’s case, characters are actually sacrificing for one another (or willing to) whereas before it’s always been about selfishness and schemes. And why shouldn’t it be? It would seem that’s the only way to acquire power and stay alive. But “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” also showed for the first time that sometimes Ned’s brand of honor is the way to go, or that an investment in sincere relationships are worth more than just the price of life. After all, life is not that great to begin with in Westeros, so why not at least make the best of it with the short time you’ve got?
Episode Rating: A
— More Theon torture porn. Like Theon, we all knew the trumpet would blow at some point, but castration … yikes. Glad they blurred it out, but I can only assume Theon will be wearing it around his neck next week at this rate.
— Dany continues to be a badass, and has a new position as Slave Liberator. Though her dragons give her the boldness to make almost any move she pleases, she has gained some political savvy as well, inquiring about the “friends” that the Yunkai claim to have, and not just making a “fair” deal, but keeping the gold she was “gifted” as well.
— Those dragons are also really scary now.
— “I’ve seen wet shits I like better than Walder Frey” – the Black Fish
— Robb continues to be naive about Talisa. Could she have looked any more suspicious writing that letter in Valerian?
— Catelyn was giving some major side-eye in this episode. All deserved!
— Excellent, unusual camera work this week.
— Ygritte only told Jon Snow “you know nothing” twice, which is 438 times less than in the books.
— It’s weird seeing Ygritte and Jon not in the snow anymore.
— Osha’s eyebrows were out of control this week, as were Dany’s. Dany’s really drive me crazy, can they not bleach them!?
— Tywin and Joff were perfection this week. I liked the subversion too of Tywin ascending the stairs to look down on Joff. Also, in the books, the Iron Throne actually cuts those who are not worthy to sit upon it. I wish they had brought that into the show, I would have loved to see Joff squirming as he got constantly pricked.
— Hodor’s “Hodor” in this episode was definitely one of his best.
— Three cheers for Bart the Bear! What a trooper. Damn he was scary.