Game of Thrones
Hot Pie! Hot Pie, Hot Pie, Hot Pie!
The appearance last night of our galumphing, pastry-obsessed old friend – left behind at the Inn as payment for the Brotherhood’s food and lodging bill – was a welcome delight. Not only because his obsession with proper bakery technique is still pretty hilarious, but also because it’s so goddamn nice to have a moment where something goes right for the characters we care for. For once, trusting a stranger turns out to be a good idea. For once, someone’s memory turns out to hold not the seeds of revenge, but the story of a friendship. After coming across Brienne and Pod at the Inn, and hearing that they are in search of the young Stark, Hot Pie tells them that she’s probably with the Hound. Podrick suggests they set off for the Eyrie and the Stark girls’ last living (for now) relative. Hot Pie first gave Arya a direwolf cake 13 episodes ago, and last night he had the opportunity to make her an even better one.
Game of Thrones can be a pretty manipulative show, always twisting your reactions and uncomfortably tweaking your pleasure centers, and sometimes it just feels really good to smile at the choices the writers and directors make (D.B. Weiss, David Benioff, and Alik Sakharov, in this case). There were a number of moments last night that felt … well, sunny isn’t quite the right word, but at least we might say they were rather uplifting, given the grimness that is the show’s consistent backdrop.
After his bravura speech last week, Tyrion is back where he started, in a cell in King’s Landing. Like some alternate-world Ebeneezer Scrooge, he gets three visits from three friends past. First, his brother. Jaime’s angry at Tyrion for losing his temper during the trial and throwing away his safe passage to the Wall. He warns Tyrion not to cross him — he’s the last friend he’s got. But alas, Jaime can’t be his champion: Without his sword hand, he’s no good as a fighter.
Bronn arrives next, and he won’t be Tyrion’s champion. Cersei has offered him a soft, simple young wife and a shot at a castle (if he can finagle a little in-law accident, NBD). Bronn asks why he should risk his life against the Mountain, a man who’s more or less the meat version of the snow monster in Frozen, and Tyrion says because they’re friends. Bronn says yes, they are — but when has Tyrion ever risked his life for him? Tyrion is taken aback but clearly respects the answer; they part almost tenderly, joking wryly of the songs people will sing of Tyrion’s death.
Then Oberyn Martell arrives. He and Tyrion are not friends, though they share a certain basic zestiness, not to mention a healthy distaste for most of the other Lannisters. Oberyn tells Tyrion a rather remarkable story, about how he once visited Casterly Rock
King’s Landing as a child and was promised a freak show in the newborn Lannister baby — a huge head, a tail, claws, one red eye, and the “privates” of both a girl and a boy. But in the end, he was just a baby. Cersei was cruel to Tyrion even then, pinching his privates (he really had just the boy parts, evidently) and noting that “everyone” said the mother-killing infant would die soon. But from that moment, Oberyn, who was apparently not swayed by Cersei’s moving speech about Myrcella, understood something fundamental about the Lannister family dynamic. And since Cersei’s champion will be the Mountain, who raped and killed his beloved sister, Oberyn will be Tyrion’s. Cue the inspiring music!
The whole speech was a great, noteworthy example of how telling can sometimes be more powerful than showing. Lots of book readers have been noting that the show often takes things that happen off-stage in the books (such as Ramsay’s torture of Theon) and plays them out onscreen, in full, splattery Technicolor. George R. R. Martin’s narrative structure in the novels, in which each chapter closely follows the perspective of a single character, means that things can’t be “seen” by the audience unless they’ve been “seen” by a point-of-view character. There’ve been more than a few times, particularly this season, when I wished Game of Thrones had to stage battles and torture scenes the way old plays do, with some guard entering from stage left to tell us what just happened on the field. But then, sometimes all of the show’s intensely visual, pitilessly action-packed scenes make a simple moment of good storytelling stand out all the more. In this scene, we could savor Oberyn’s dreamlike retelling, and watch as Tyrion absorbed this testimony – this gift. (Though it would have been fun to see the Muppet Baby versions of Cersei, Jaime, Oberyn, and Tyrion.)
Another warm-and-fuzzy moment: Poor hangdog Jorah finally gets some love from Daenerys, even though not exactly the lovin’ he really wanted. Daario 2 and Dany finally get their Melrose Place on (it’s good to be the queen), and after he puts her “in a good mood,” D2 runs into Jorah, who is less than pleased at the sight of Mr. “I Only Have Two Talents” in all his unbuttoned glory. But it’s Jorah who manages to counsel Daenerys against her decision to send Daario and the Second Sons to slaughter the masters of Yunkai. He tells her that the act would be beastly, and that everyone in every war has both “good and evil” in them. Jorah’s basically putting forth the same argument Barristan Selmy tried to make back when Daenerys decided to kill the masters of Meeren. And last week, Hizdahr zo Loraq’s eloquent appeal to bury his father continued to undermine her resolve to show no mercy in Slaver’s Bay. But it’s Jorah’s reminder that he himself would be dead if Ned Stark had taken such an unyielding stance against slavery that seems to sway her in this case. (Remember, that’s why he fled Westeros in the first place.) I didn’t quite buy that a rush of genuine feeling tipped the scales here, which made me wonder if Daenerys is really playing a crafty long game with her two warrior suitors: Get your yum-yums with the young one, but then ensnare the old one by making him believe he’s the one who really has your ear. Daenerys tells Jorah to run and tell Daario that she has changed her mind – she will offer the masters a choice between death and accepting her rule – but then revises herself; No, tell him you have changed my mind. Pretty deftly handled.
In the confusingly warm-and-fuzzy category: Arya and the Hound. We see one of the Hound’s flashes of compassion as the two come across an old man, bleeding and dying among the ashes of a ransacked village. (I honestly can’t remember who’s doing the ransacking anymore. Lannisters are always a good bet, yeah? Arya and the Hound aren’t far north enough for it to be the Wildings, right?) The Hound gives the suffering man some water and then stabs him through the heart, killing him instantly. Then Rorge and Biter – two minor characters we haven’t seen in two years – attack them, whereupon the Hound breaks Biter’s neck and Arya stabs Rorge through the heart with Needle. “Now you’re learning!” the Hound exclaims, as if Arya were Wart in Sword in the Stone. Later, the two share a Special Moment as he tells her how his brother, the Mountain, scarred his face with fire for stealing his toys when they were children, and how his father covered it up by telling everyone the younger Clegane’s bedding caught on fire. I’m more alone than you are, he tells Arya, and thus, bonded in their spectacular loneliness, she tenderly pours some water over his neck wound and stitches him up.
I’ve never really known what to make of Arya and the Hound, and this episode didn’t resolve my thinking much. Like all good Americans, I am powerless to resist a sassy kid and a gruff older man (can’t you just hear the Hound yelling, IT’S NOT A TUMAH!?), but I can’t bring myself to celebrate Arya’s new comfort with and relish for violence, even though I can sort of see the argument that the Hound is just equipping her for life’s increasingly brutal realities. But then I remember scenes like the one from a few weeks ago, in which he robbed the man who offered him work, leaving him and his young daughter more or less for dead, and any moment of softness between the two feels very, very wrong.
Meanwhile, in Dragonstone, Melisandre is parading her naked body in front of Selyse, and also her naked tricks: She shows the queen all the powders and potions she uses to create her illusions – she can create columns of fire or clouds of black smoke, and she can make men crazy with lust. But they’re all illusions that ultimately lead men to the truth, she says. Only true believers like Selyse can see the reality without the magic show. Before you can even ask, Wait, so was that Dementor smoke-baby thing not really a thing after all?, Melisandre’s got you distracted by hinting ominously that adorable Princess Shireen has some important task to play in her father’s campaign. I fear something Greek-flavored …
Okay, okay, okay, let’s talk about the end of the episode. The scenes at the Eyrie begin in a way that felt almost playful, as if they might continue the trend of not-terrible feelings that’s been snaking through the episode. Sansa emerges from a dark, stony corridor into a courtyard full of dazzling white snow. The camera swoops down to show just how small the courtyard is – it’s all circled round with high walls; really just an open-air cell, though it looks like a fairy dollhouse. In the white square below, Sansa begins building a snow-castle version of Winterfell – or at least, she hopes she is, since it’s been a long time since she’s seen it. The music is mournful but sweet, and Sansa is smiling, a dark spot against the white.
Robin comes out, and for a moment the two manage some light talk about heavy subjects, as Sansa tells the young boy that someone burned her home down to the ground, and Robin proclaims that when they’re married, they can make anyone who bothers them fly out the Moon Door. But Robin isn’t the most graceful child, and he knocks down one of her towers. Sansa gently teases him, but when Robin flies into a tantrum, she slaps him. The camera is behind Robin and tilted slightly upwards in this moment, so Sansa seems to loom over the boy and the slap has force, heft; it’s the slap of a powerful adult.
Maybe it’s this sign of burgeoning adulthood that convinces Littlefinger now is the time to act on his attraction and kiss her. It’s a taboo moment; after all, just before he plants one on her, he’s telling her that, in “a better world,” one “where love can overcome strength and duty,” she could have been his daughter. But at the same time, Littlefinger has won a part of her. When she asks him why he killed Joffrey, he tells her that he loved her mother more than she could know, and “given the opportunity, what do we do to those who hurt the ones we love?” It’s violence and murder as a love token, but for once, it’s being proffered to her and not wielded against her. Even if Sansa hasn’t whipped up a bloodlust like her sister’s, it’s hard not to see how it would melt her – just a little. Enough that in the moment when they break away from each other, it’s unclear where they each stand.
But we know where Lysa Arryn now stands – or at least, parts of her. Seriously, aren’t there guardrails around that thing? It was a gruesome dispatch for a ghoulish lady (though you could almost get distracted by the gorgeous shot of that winding staircase behind the two struggling ladies), and it’s left for us to wonder whether pretty Petyr pushed her to save sexy Sansa, or to cover up their treason, or because he couldn’t stand looking at those yellow teeth anymore, or because he really is the cold, heartless bastard we’ve always known him to be.
See you back here next week, when we learn what kind of tantrum Robin will throw when he finds Uncle Petyr made his mom go Humpty Dumpty out of his beloved Moon Door. Don’t get me started on the gravy!