Because both HBO and AMC are stingy with screeners, this episode of Game of Thrones has been filtered in my mind through Mad Men. I’m pretty sure Sally is destined for the Iron Throne. Back in actual Westeros though, we ignored Bran and three-eyed crows again and bounced all over the realm and beyond with almost everyone else, in an episode that was mostly about setup and a little bit about friendship. Also a wee bit about pickled babies, but that’s another matter. Everyone is growing restless in the calm after Stannis’ failed attempt on the capitol late last season, and are back to scheming about relationships and marrying people off, with mixed results. You know what never gives mixed results? Figs. Hit the jump for more.
After a very successful last two weeks when a few storylines got (mercifully) dropped so characters were given more than a few seconds on screen, “Kissed By Fire” was jam-packed with all kinds of revelations. Jon Snow knows nothing, but knows where to put it, and maybe invented oral sex. Sansa is nearly married off twice before being handed to Tyrion (that smile she had won’t last for long), while Cersei is destined for matrimony with Loras. The Lord of Light was pretty busy: resurrecting Beric, freeing the Hound and bewitching Stannis’ wife Selyse, who has bought into whatever Melisandre is selling hook, line and sinker.
But “Kissed By Fire” also played up the importance of trust and friendship, which was portrayed the most beautifully through Jaime and Brienne’s scenes. Brienne is hesitant at first with Jaime because of their mutual nakedness, but it’s clear that he has no romantic feelings for her at this time (because they’re not related), even though her defiant nudity did spark an apology from him. He talks about his justification for his Kingslaying, a story he had never told before, finally asking to be called “Jaime.” Targaryen lore was thrown around a lot in this episode, from Jaime’s monologue to Stannis’ daughter Shireen giving a book about Aegon to Davos, and in the conversation between Barristan and Jorah about the past Targaryens versus the last: Dany. Dragons tend to make an impression on people.
As Dany marches towards the Seven Kingdoms, Jon and the Wildlings march south towards the Wall. He gives Orell selective info about which castles are guarded and by how many (a gross exaggeration) before Ygritte drags him off. She trusts him completely, and I think he’s starting to trust her as well. His Stark brother (kinda) Robb, on the other hand, trusts no counsel but his own, and despite his family’s pleas to keep Karstark alive for the sake of their bannermen, he executes the impertinent lord by his own hand and with one swift cut, just like his father (and a marked difference to Theon’s attempts at something similar regarding Roderick Cassell after the sack of Winterfell).
But Robb’s decision to visit the Frey’s again seems ill advised — why would they give him help after he went back on their original deal for something much smaller? As Robb ponders his army’s movements to take Casterly Rock from the Lannisters, the Lannisters are plotting to secure Highgarden through Cersei as well as Joffrey, and the North through Sansa via Tyrion. The move takes both siblings by surprise (particularly the extremely defeated Tyrion), and a happy family they are not. It seems Cersei is paying for her paranoid meddling regarding the Tyrells by being forced to marry on of them and “breed” more children like her father’s mare. The kindly Grandpa Tywin figure from Harrenhal last season has been replaced by a cold and shrewd man, and his children discover they have no more agency than Sansa Stark, the code name for someone without a hope or a clue.
Elsewhere, friendships were tested between Gendry and Arya (with the reality of class differences) as well as with Shireen and Davos (which was beyond precious). Those who are open and kind in Westeros don’t usually fare very well, but I’m rooting for Shireen to escape from the tower where she’s kept and to get Davos out of the dungeons (or at least entertain him while she’s there).
A lot (and I do mean a lot) of exposition this week, setting up the Wildling raid on the Wall, Robb’s negotiations with the Freys, the marriage plots in Kings Landing as well as Roose Bolton playing similar mind games with Brienne and Jaime that his bastard son is playing with Theon at the Dreadfort. This season has had a lot of excellent character building, even though the action has all but come to a halt (how can it move forward when we jump around so often?). It’s hard to believe we’re halfway through the season now, which means that the building blocks from “Kissed By Fire” should start paying dividends almost immediately.
Episode Rating: B+
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Everybody calm down: I’m giving this a B+ because there wasn’t much, stylistically or narratively, to set this episode apart from a pack of exceptional ones already this season. It was a fine episode, but it was more about setup than pay off, so obviously it’s not going to rate as high as one in which, you know, dragons burn down cities, even though it had some nice little moments.
— So please make note that R’hllor has brought Beric back from the dead six times. Six.
— Arya and Gendry parting was so terribly sad.
— Rose Leslie (Ygritte) is pretty hot. We also got the tits evened out with the bum (Jaime’s) and the squire’s full frontal (fiiiiiinally).
— The King in the North (of my thighs) looked especially romance-novel-cover-esque in that open-necked tunic.
— Karstark, you can’t go around killing kids, even in Westeros.
— A little Olenna is good for the soul. Kinda like figs are good for the bowels.
— Pickled babies, though. Book readers … feel me on this. Was Cogman serious with that nonsense? The show and the book grow further apart …
— Jorah was clearly testing Barristan out to see if he knew anything about his betrayal of Dany. The trust will out, Jorah …
— And good luck sleeping after that creepy Shireen song at the end (originally Patchface’s ballad).