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Monday, April 15, 2013

Review: Game of Thrones, "Walk of Punishment"

Season 3, Episode 3
Grade: B
Verdict: Walk of Punishment continues to weave George R.R. Martin's yarns with style, steadily pushing forward half-a-dozen plots while inserting some comedic and playful elements to break up the trek. This episode contained slightly less unique material, which made it less interesting for me (someone who has read all of the books) than the last two, but this was still a solid episode of television. 

This week's episode of Game of Thrones felt a little more sluggish to me than the last two, which is strange in a way, because they probably pushed more plots forward across the board. I know I'm also probably alone in this feeling based on the reaction of the people I watched this with and the general online reaction. The struggle, for me, was in creating a thread that gave the episode a consistent theme or feel, which the show did very successfully last week. I'm also splitting hairs here, because this is an awesome TV show. Not every episode will stand out when looking at the season as a whole, and that's perfectly acceptable. 

This show's greatest challenge will always lie in dealing with pacing. Do you sprinkle a character in an episode for only 2-3 minutes of screen time if it advances the plot? Does it make the episode a little bit too chaotic to push everyone forward an inch instead of spending a little more time with certain characters? It's a hard thing to balance. I think this episode showed the most character and plots of any we've seen in season 3. Everything that happens in this episode is important; I can't think of anything that should be omitted. I can only suppose it would help, as I've said before, that certain threads be merged with scenes in future episodes to keep the episode from getting too unruly (in this episode, those scenes for me would be Arya, who doesn't do much but bid Hot Pie goodbye, and Jon Snow). 

Below please find my recap of the episode - there are definite spoilers here, so continue with caution! 

The episode opens with a funeral for Catelyn Stark's father. Her brother, Edmure, fumbles to simply shoot an arrow into the boat carrying his body away, and this scene encapsulates the incompetence of his character, who engages in political posturing but fails to engage in battles strategically or with any sense of skill. Robb berates Edmure for getting needed men killed in pointless wars, giving us a glimpse into how wise and mature he's become. 

Tyrion plays a large role in this episode, beginning with a meeting with his father. This was my favorite scene in this episode, and this wasn't in the book originally. Tyrion and his father and sister LITERALLY play a game of thrones by choosing where to sit and re-positioning their chairs around the table for several minutes in an attempt to grab a position yielding the most power. It works perfectly and adds some levity to a somewhat dry situation in which the family meets to discuss Tyrion's appointment to the position of master of coin. He immediately realizes the throne is in deep debt, and that the ostensibly useless position is one that will actually require a great deal of effort. Later in the episode, we get my second-favorite scene, which again involves Tyrion and is not originally in the book. He pays for Podrick to spend some time in a brothel, but the ladies seem to enjoy their time so much that they do not accept payment for their services. Podrick is portrayed as a clueless, innocent virgin, but he apparently has hidden talents. 

Theon, meanwhile, breaks out of his prison with the help of a mysterious stranger. He's tracked down and caught, but the stranger returns to save his neck again, only moments before he endures a sort of torture that seems too grown up for television, even with such an adult-oriented network like HBO. 

After missing her last week, we also see Daenerys enter negotiations to purchase all of the Unsullied in her quest to reclaim the throne. She offers one of her dragons as payment, in spite of protests from her advisers. We continue to watch characters like Robb and Daenerys grow up in parallel as they make tactical moves from their underdog positions, and Daenerys's growth mirrors Robb's. Daenerys puts her advisers in their places aggressively, harshly reminding them that it is not their job to question her in front of strangers. It's a small moment, but it's an important one for her character. 

And let's not forget the action happening north of the wall. Jon Snow and his gang of wildlings find a sort of psychotic, snow-version of a crop circle. Dead horses are chopped into pieces and spread across the snow to form a strange pattern. Realizing the knight's watch is probably struggling, they decide to advance upon the wall. Elsewhere, Sam creepily watches Gilly give birth. A closeup the baby reveals the gender to be male, much to the mother's dismay - this means her child will be sacrificed and killed. 

The big moment this week, though, happens at the end of the episode. Jamie uses his silver tongue to save Brienne from being raped, but he goes too far. He brags about the rewards his captors would receive if they returned him to his father, and they decide to take off his hand. Brienne has already mocked Jamie for losing to her in their sword fight. His skill with a sword is one of his defining characteristics, and in a moment it's been swept away from him. 

Also, can we talk about the music at the end of the episode? Kyle pointed out that it was a rocked-up version of the song Arya's captors were singing earlier in the episode. It was a cool idea, but it was also a little jarring for me... 

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