You can nearly always tell when the showrunners are directly involved in an episode, can’t you? These episodes feel stronger, clearer, more tightly plotted and with a greater sense of purpose. The involvement of Game Of Thrones’ showrunners Benioff and Weiss in ‘Walk Of Punishment’ is clearly evident and the result is the strongest episode since 2×09 ‘Blackwater.’
Let’s bitch it out…
Not unlike last week, ‘Walk Of Punishment’ features a series of outstanding character moments that showcase Games’ plethora of talented actors. The difference is that nearly every single actor in the cast has a moment, even if it’s just a beat. Each scene feels essential, driving nearly every single narrative forward. The result feels like a narrative leap as the season really kicks into high gear with some truly outrageous developments.
The watercooler moment everyone will be talking about is bound to be the final scene with Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his…appendage. In an episode focusing on brutal punishments – Alfie Allen’s Theon and Gwendoline Christie are both nearly gang raped, Emilia Clarke’s Dany discovers yet more cruel treatments of Astapor’s slave trade – Jamie losing his right hand is by far the most shocking and appalling. Earlier in the episode, Brienne goads Jamie about how his legendary persona is tied to his fighting skills. With his sword handling hand now gone, the repercussions for the Kingslayer are astronomical. It’s yet another reminder of how easily fortunes (both monetary and reputation) can shift in this cruel world.
Developments elsewhere in Westeros are slightly less desperate. For once there’s slightly less political intrigue in King’s Landing as Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) gets a “promotion” to the role of Master of Coin. It’s due to Baelish’s (Aidan Gillen) plans to travel to see Lysa Arryn (an unseen Kate Dickie) at The Vale, which will hold strategic advantage for the Lannister clan.
Not that they need it at this point. We learn early in the episode that Catelyn’s (Michelle Fairley) brother Edmure (Tobias Menzies) is an impatient dud who’s cost Robb (Richard Madden) a great deal: he captured two minor Lannister hostages at the expense of 208 men and scared Stannis (Stephen Dillane) away. Thankfully his uselessness is offset by the introduction of Catelyn’s uncle, Blackfish (Clive Russell) who proves to be an amazing addition to the series right off the bat. At once wise, patient, and tough – he’s got sage advice for both mother and son as their respective strength and influence starts to waiver. Here’s hoping that we see a great deal more of Blackfish as season three continues – I can only imagine the fireworks that will occur if/when he goes up against Tywin (Charles Dance).
- Hot Pie gets a touching send-off as Arya (Maisie Williams), Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and the Hound (Rory McCann) leave him behind. It’s kind of adorable that he makes Arya a (rather pitiful) loaf of bread in the shape of a wolf and Gendry tries to compensate by advising him not to burn his fingers. So long Hot Pie – something tells me you’re safer here than on the King’s Road
- Dany is able to secure her army, but it costs her more than any of us would have thought: a dragon. Does anyone actually believe this will end well for the sexist Unsullied seller who’s called her a whore and a slut for the last few episodes? There’s no way that any of those dragons would let her leave without them. On the plus side, Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) the intelligent interpreter, is now along for the ride
- North of The Wall (in what continues to be my least favourite storyline of the series), Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) and the wildlings discover a Godfather inspired spiral of dead horse heads (yum). This leads Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds) to make a move on the Wall to avoid the White Walkers…and hopefully boredom on the part of the audience.
- Meanwhile Sam (John Bradley) rediscovers pregnant Gillie when the nightswatch spends a night with the ever repugnant Craster (Robert Pugh). With the reveal of baby peen and certain death for the baby, is there any doubt where this storyline is headed? Zzzzzz
- In arguably the most masterfully constructed scene of the episode, the power hierarchy of King’s Landing is reiterated as everyone jockeys for the seat closest to Tywin. It’s a testament to how much brighter the Lannister children are that Cersei (Lena Headey) and Tyrion simply drag their chairs into position (I love that Tyrion does so loudly and slowly, just to irk his powerful relatives). What makes the scene memorable is that it takes place entirely without dialogue. So clever and well executed!
- After helping Baelish pack up, Tyrion and Bronn (Jerome Flynn) throw Pod (Daniel Portman) to the whores as payment for saving Tyrion’s life. Phew – I was afraid that we’d go an episode without sexposition (please note sarcasm). These are amusing scenes, but considering that every other storyline up to this point has been instrumental (save our introduction to Robb’s prisoner Lannisters courtesy of Oona Chaplin’s Talisa), the sexcapades chew up far too much time that I would have rather spent with other characters (such as Arya)
- Baelish: “You want a real challenge? Try whores” Tyrion: “I’ve tried quite a few.”
What did you think of the episode: best of the season or did I over hype it? Do you enjoy the jokey scenes or feel than they detract from the drama? Would you be satisfied if an episode passed without sexposition? And what does the loss of a hand mean for Jamie Lannister? Sound off without your thoughts below
Game Of Thrones airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO