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Game of Thrones Recap: The Bear and the Maiden Fair

Recap

Not going to lie, I totally sung along to the theme song this episode. “Beeeeear piiiiiit, bear pit scene, theeee bear pit sceeeeeene (bear pit dah-duh bear pit dah-duh bear pit dah-duh bear pit)…”

Unfortunately, though there were some good scenes (bear. pit.), this episode was the weakest so far this season, at least for me. It felt like a bunch of random, often unnecessary, scenes just got slapped together.

We start off with Jon, Ygritte, and the rest of the Wildling Climbing Brigade south of the Wall, Ygritte giving Jon grief about how Westerosi armies march on roads. Now, I get that banter is Jon and Ygritte’s method of communication, and seeing Ygritte’s reactions to Jon’s southern norms is interesting, but seriously. She’s making fun of him about how his people walk on roads. It’s just getting caricature-ish at this point.

Jon takes a break from banter to have a friendly chat with Orell. Ha, no. He confronts the warg about cutting him and Ygritte loose on the Wall, to which Orell responds “Yeah, what of it? You do what you have to do to look out for yourself. Ygritte understands that that’s the way things are, so why don’t you?” Based on previous characters Mackenzie Crook has played I kind of expected him to be all sniveling and sneaky, so his attitude being more along the lines of “Deal with it” was a welcome surprise.

From there we’re to Riverrun, where bad weather means Robb & co. are going to be a day late to meet with Walder Frey. No one thinks that’s a big deal except Catelyn, who believes that Lord Frey will take it as a slight. [vague book spoilers] Listen to your mother, Robb. She’s the only one who realizes how dangerous Frey is now. After mom, uncle, and great-uncle leave Robb and Talisa strip down and have the sex, after which Talisa writes a letter to her mom back in Volantis. She says she hopes that, after things settle down, the two of them can go visit her, as Talisa the Elder would surely like to meet her son-and-law… and her grandchild. Yep, she’s pregnant.

Then we’re back to Jon and Ygritte, the former receiving sex advice from Tormund (I love show Tormund—he was a jerk in the books), and the latter being grilled by Orell, who’s jealous of Jon and says she won’t love him anymore when she finds out what he really is.

Sansa, meanwhile, is still having a tough time of things back in King’s Landing, because when is she not? Margaery tries to comfort her about her upcoming marriage to Tyrion, saying he’s far from the worst Lannister (true), and that some people find him really attractive (also true—step forward, Peter Dinkage fangirls). Sansa seems horrified at the prospect of having sex with him (though most of that, I’d wager, has nothing to do with his looks and is rather a natural fear of losing one’s virginity against one’s will as a result of an arranged marriage—perfectly valid), which causes Margaery to go off on a semi-hilarious tangent about how Tyrion’s been with loads of women, which means he’s experienced and will make it good for you, which not all men can do since we women are difficult to please sexually, yada yada. Sansa, somewhat shocked that a virgin would know so much about sex, asks if all that information came from her mom, to which Margaery responds “……. yeah sure.”

While Sansa’s getting a pep talk from Margaery, Tyrion’s getting one from Bronn, though Bronn’s less into giving reassurance and more into really freaking Tyrion out by saying things like “But you’ve slept with people almost as young as her before,” “You know you really want to sleep with her, though,” and “Just keep Shae as your mistress! You’ll have her and Sansa! It’ll be great!” As much as I love having another Tyrion/Bronn bro bonding scene, this bit was unnecessary. We already know Tyrion’s uncomfortable with the betrothal, and Shae’s given him grief about finding Sansa attractive before–and does it again later in this episode, in a scene where Tyrion offers her a gold necklace and really, really awkwardly offers to make her his kept woman/mistress. Neither scene told us anything we didn’t already know.

Elsewhere in King’s Landing Joffrey summons Tywin to chat with him about how he wants to get involved in the small council, to which Tywin responds “Then come to the meetings, nitwit.” The reason Joffrey hasn’t been, it turns out, is that Tywin moved them to his house, and to go to them Joffrey would have to climb stairs, horror of horrors.

He asks about the “Targaryen girl” and her dragons and presses Tywin about them being a possible threat. They couldn’t be, Tywin explains, because dangerous dragons haven’t been around for hundreds of years; the last ones to exist only had heads as big as apples. Our experts are sure of it, so don’t worry your little sadistic head. But if you’re going to keep making noises about “ruling” and “being a king,” from now on “I’ll make sure you’re appropriately consulted on important matters whenever necessary.” BOOM. Schooled by gramps.

But, as much as it pains me to type this, Joffrey was right. Dragons, which used to have the power to destroy kingdoms, haven’t been around for decades, and now they’re suddenly back for reasons no one can understand? They probably are of the weaksauce variety, sure, but assuming they are is kind of monumentally stupid.

This scene exemplified for me what was wrong with this episode. It was well-written (the stairs bit was great) and had some great acting and character interaction (Tywin ascending the stairs to intimidate Joffrey was great, and so in-character, as was Joffrey’s resulting “Oh holy fu—” look). But it was pointless. It established three things: That Joffrey says he wants to rule but isn’t actually willing to do anything, which we already knew. That Tywin runs the show and doesn’t care if anyone else wants in, which, again, we already knew. And that Joffrey is aware of Daenerys’ dragons, which [book spoilers] is entirely irrelevant. If memory of books 3-5 serves, the dragons are on no one’s radar (except Varys’) because they’re all too busy fighting each other.

Speaking of dragons, Daenerys and her army camp outside Yunkai, which Daenerys is determined to liberate even though it has nothing to do with Westeros because it’s a slave city. Good on you, girl. Continuing this season’s “leveling up in badass” theme, she informs the city’s rulers that she’ll meet with them outside the city to discuss terms of their surrender. The emissary who meets with her, Razdal, instead says the Old Masters of Yunkai will give her gold and ships to take her to Westeros if she’ll just leave them alone. Daenerys poses a counter-offer: How ’bout I give you the gift of your lives if you free all your slaves and pay them for their services? Razdal doesn’t take this well, threatening to enslave Daenerys, which in turn makes Drogon give a mighty velociraptor screech. He leaves, but Dany keeps the money, which was a gift, after all. Like a boss.

Daenerys used some A+ intimidation tactics this scene, like having Razdal sitting on a tiny chair and throwing meat for her dragons to eat, getting them to swoop around all scary-like right in front of him. She also tells him that sure, I won’t hurt him now, but I make no promises for my dragons. You threatened their mom, after all. I want an entire episode of her and Tywin Lannister sitting at a table trying to intimidate each other for 57 minutes.

Back in Westeros Melisandre and Gendry are on a ship, sailing past King’s Landing. She asks him if he’s ever wondered about his father and, when he tells her that it doesn’t matter because he’s lowborn, lets him know his father was King Robert. There’s power in king’s blood, she explains. [book spoiler] Run away, Gendry, run awaaaaay! If the Edric Storm storyline is followed he won’t die, but still. I love the way this show plays with characters realizing and not realizing how creepy Melisandre is. Though a short scene, I thought this was really powerful.

Arya, meanwhile, is still upset with the Brotherhood Without Banners for selling Gendry. They had to do it to serve the One True God, Beric explains, though Arya’s quick to point out how that “One True God” isn’t hers. Asked who her God is, Arya responds: DEATH. *electric guitar wails in the distance* Damn, Arya, that is so metal. A Lannister raiding party is spotted, and the Brotherhood decides to take a detour from delivering Arya to Riverrun to deal with them. Ticked off that she’s been lied to, Arya manages to escape (by running out of a cave full of soldiers, none of whom try to grab her—that was easy). Once she’s outside the Brotherhood chases her, but Sandor Clegane pops up and gets her to first, carrying her away to who knows where.

Back in Harrenhal Jaime is about to set out for King’s Landing, with Brienne staying behind as Locke’s prisoner after Roose Bolton goes to Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey’s wedding. Jaime promises to fulfill Brienne’s promise to Catelyn by returning Arya and Sansa to their mother. When he leave she calls him by his name, not Kingslayer. Ow, my heart.

Then comes the most painful scene to watch (I think I’m going to be saying that a lot for Theon scenes). Theon is cut down, given water, and sexually propositioned by two women. He’s understandably freaked out. So was I, watching this scene. What is going to happen? What happens, it turns out, is Theon’s torturer showing up just as he’s showing interest in sex, beating him, asking if his “famous cock” is his most precious body part and then castrating him. Gonna be honest, I’m a bit surprised the show went there. This scene was a bit long and meandering, which is kind of a negative in that it doesn’t fit with the rest of the episode at all, but then drawing out the tension really made it all the more terrifying.

Back to Jon and Ygritte, who are bantering and engaging in a north vs south culture shock moment (Ygritte thinks a windmill is a castle) again. We get it, move on. Jon tells Ygitte the Wildlings won’t win, and Ygritte says that if we die we’ll die together, because I’m your woman and we belong to each other—didn’t we do this last episode? She says “If we die, we’ll die, but first we live” which had me rolling my eyes at the romance novel-ness of it. Though I did like Ygritte questioning why women would faint at the sight of blood when they see more of it than men do. Preach, Ygritte!

Then we get back to Osha, who’s again bickering with the Reeds, this time about whether they’ll go to Castle Black to meet with Jon, as planned, or whether they’ll go above the Wall to where Jojen’s prophetic dreams have told him Jon is. Osha doesn’t want to go above the Wall, she explains, because things are horrible there; she had a man once, but he became a White Walker (Edit: He was actually turned into a wight, but I’m going to call them “ice zombies” for now, ’cause that’s cooler), and now she (understandably) doesn’t want to go back. Again, I question the necessity of this scene—if the entire point of Osha’s backstory is to establish how scary the ice zombies are, did we really need it? The audience already knows that. But I’m willing to cut it some slack because Bran’s storyline is different in the show than in the books. Aspects of this scene—like Bran knowing about the ice zombiesf and Osha’s continuing feud with the Reeds and refusal to go beyond the Wall—could be important set-up for later events. Indeed, I’d imagine that that has to be true for the latter; unless the showrunners make major changes to Bran’s storyline Osha and Rickon are going to split off eventually.

Then, finally, we start getting some bear pit action. Jaime, on the road to King’s Landing, is informed that Brienne will be that night’s “entertainment” for Locke and his crew. He convinces Roose Bolton’s man to take him back to Harrenhal, where Brienne, in a frilly pink dress and wielding a wooden sword, has been made to fight an angry bear. Jaime, who doesn’t even have a sword, leaps into the pit like a Disney prince and helps a wounded Brienne escape, after which she immediately turns around and gets him out. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love them. Jaime tells Locke that he has two choices: Let Brienne come with him to King’s Landing, or kill him and face his father’s wrath. Locke chooses the former, and Jaime gets off one last zinger—”Sorry about the sapphires”—before they leave.

General Thoughts:

I understand the need for a slower episode, one without a Dany frees the slaves! Jaime gets his hand cut off! moment, to give us a breather before things start ramping up again for the final episodes of the season. But this episode seemed weirdly pointless to me, like the writers took the sort of random character-building scenes you’ll usually find one or two of in an episode and made an entire hour out of them. And most of the scenes didn’t advance the plot or character development! There are only ten hours in a season, Game of Thrones. You can’t afford to waste one like this.

Even the bear pit scene, which was one of the things I was most looking forward to this season, was kind of off, like with four minutes left in the episode the writers finally remembered “Crap, we still haven’t done that! And the episode’s named after it!” It seemed slapped on, the result of this episode being weirdly paced and structured, with no real narrative throughline.

I hope next week is better. Judging by episode titles the week after that is [book spoiler] the Red Wedding. I need a good, solid episode to stabilize me emotionally before then.

Book-related notes

Robb’s response to Talisa’s pregnancy—”What now?”—mirrored my own. Jeyne wasn’t pregnant in the books, right? Or, rather, she might have been pregnant, but we don’t know for sure. It’s times like these that I wish I hadn’t read the books first, since every time something gets changed I try and figure out what the heck’s going on when I’d like to be able to just go with the flow.

Jaime telling Roose Bolton that he’s sorry he can’t attend Edmure and Roslin’s wedding, but to tell Robb the Lannisters send their regards, made me want to laugh and cry at the same time.

Ditto Tyrion’s question to Shae that, if they ran away together, what would he do? Take up juggling?

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