We’ve reached the halfway point of S3 and while ‘Kissed By Fire’ lacks the arresting visuals from the last episode, in terms of fleshing out several underserved characters, this one is a winner.
Let’s bitch it out…There’s a great deal of talking going on in ‘Kissed By Fire’, but I, for one, find the history lessons completely enthralling. Tales of the Mad King and the origin of Jamie Lannister’s (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) nickname, the Kingslayer, could easily be mistaken for expository dialogue, but in a show where all characters are pawns in a desperate game for power, the events that led to the current political state in Westeros strikes me as compulsory knowledge. This is the legacy that these characters livie with – or perhaps the shadow they’re living in.
At this point, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is emerging as the stand-out player of the season (losing his hand may be the best thing that’s ever happened to the character!). His monologue with Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) in the baths is masterful. Before this season, Jamie was one of the least fleshed out characters. I’d go so far as to say that it’s been easy to overlook Coster-Waldau outside of his incestuous relationship with his sister.
After these last few episodes, that’s no longer possible. Jamie has completely transformed into a tragic martyr figure. The loss of his hand has revealed an entirely different side to the character and this monologue, while also providing integral historical info, digs deep into the psyche of a damaged man. We’ve long known that his moniker the ‘Kingslayer’ isn’t something that he wears with pride, but after this confession, it’s clear that it’s his cross to bear. It’s the mark with which he has been branded.
There’s an interesting conflation to be made between Jamie and the disgraced knights in Dany’s (Emilia Clarke) army: Barristan Selmy (Ian McElhinney) and Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen). Their status is nearly as despised as his since they have both betrayed their pledge to the Kingsguard. The difference is that in the Land Beyond The Sea those kinds of labels cease to matter…except to them. These are men whose entire lives are defined by their servitude to those in power and although they have both pledged their lives to the Targaryen queen, are they truly more free than slaves? Names and naming is proving nearly as important as armies and dragons in this world.
Robb Stark (Richard Madden) knows this fact – or he does now. The King of the North is put in a desperate position after Lord Karstark and his bannermen slay two Lannister hostages. Does he tolerate the act of vengeance he’d forbidden or does he make an example of his most powerful ally? Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) suggests the safer political option, but Robb is his father’s son, which means he has to do what he believes is right. This means a Karstark defection after their Lord is beheaded and an even worse sounding plan to solicit additional men from Walder Frey (David Bradley, last seen in 1×09 ‘Baelor’). Methinks this is trouble.
- The repeated mention of Ned Stark (the departed Sean Bean) looms heavy over both Robb and Arya’s (Maisie Williams) scenes, suggesting that there are dark times ahead for the Winterfellian kids
- Speaking of Arya, how nice is it to get more of her spunky attitude? The moment that Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) loses his flaming battle with The Hound (Rory McCann), you know she’ll try and make a move. The follow-up scene, when she asks if it might be possible to resurrect her father after learning Dondarrion has been brought back six times is heartbreaking
- The King’s Landing scenes are the Game Of Thrones equivalent of ‘Let’s Make a Match’ as all of the scheming and plotting produces not one, but two marriage plans. Which one is the bigger surprise: Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) being told to marry Sansa (Sophie Turner) or Cersei (Lena Headey) being told to marry Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones)?
- The scene of Jamie’s hand being sewn up is appropriately gruesome. There’s just enough gore to make us squirm without being obscene and Coster-Waldau plays the agony for every excruciating beat
- Lady Oleanna (Diana Rigg) knows quite a bit about wartime efforts: pay extravagantly for a Royal Wedding as a distraction or have the masses tear the elite to pieces. This woman continues to surprise not only for her wit, but also for her ability to put people in their place (last week Varys, this week Tyrion)
- Stannis’ wife Selyse (Tara Fitzgerald) has drunk the Lord of Light kool-aid. Melisandre has told her about his infidelity and she “ wept with joy”? That’s something every adulterer wants to hear…but then again this is coming from a woman who keeps (named) fetuses in glass jars. Le barf
- The scenes with the Onion Knight and Stannis’ daughter: cute, but not essential. If there was one storyline to lose, this would get my vote
- Finally, it’s nice to see a balance to the sexposition this week with naughty bits from both genders on display. Of course Ygritte (Rose Leslie) has been after Jon Snow (Kit Harington) since last season. The male nudity, on the other hand, is provided by a throw-away character we may never see again. Equality yay?
- Lady Oleanna (when Tyrion wonders about the cost): “What good is the word extravagant if it can’t be used to describe the royal wedding?”
- Tyrion (commenting on Sansa’s potential marriage to Loras): “She’s missing some of Loras’ favourite bits, I’m sure”
What are your thoughts as we hit the mid-way point? Did you enjoy the very different “bathtub” scenes? Who was more surprised by Tywin’s (Charles Dance) matrimonial decisions? Are you afraid for Sansa, who is unknowingly caught in the middle of all of these schemes? What do you think of the Dragon Stone plotlines? And is Robb’s decision to go back to Frey a terrible idea? Comment away below
*As a reminder, this is a spoiler free zone so please do not share any knowledge you’ve found online or from the books.
Game Of Thrones airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO