Every week in the Game of Thrones TV Club, Rachael Larimore will IM with a different fan of the show about the goings-on in Westeros and across the Narrow Sea. This week she discusses "Walk of Punishment" with Slate's Chris Wade.
Rachael Larimore: Chris, welcome to my small council. Pull up a seat. Or drag it if need be. We have much to discuss. But mainly, what's the old saying? War is hell. I guess here, though, war is seven hells. Tension is high both throughout Westeros and Beyond the Wall. King Robb is fighting with his uncle, Jaime and Brienne are captives, Mance Rayder thinks the time to invade is now, and Tyrion hates his new job as master of coin even before he finds out how much debt the royal family has racked up. The only one having any fun is Pod. What did you think of the episode?
Chris Wade: After the shuffling pace of the first two episodes, this one was a huge leap forward for virtually every character, which was really exciting. And in addition to some great leaps in the plot, we got some good advances in characters as well. I was struck by how ... kingly Robb has suddenly become, as well as by the fun advancement of Brienne and Jaime's relationship on their seemingly inevitable road to becoming begrudging besties.
Larimore: Uncle Edmure was having a bad enough day after his impotent archery display at Lord Hoster's funeral even before Robb laid into him. I'm glad we saw Robb like this. We have heard of his exploits on the battlefield, but we haven't seen him in war council mode. He's learned he has to be decisive and forceful. I think he realizes he screwed up by trusting Theon, and he wants to make up for that.
Wade: Uncle Blackfish is also one of a few possible new favorite characters of mine in Season 3.
Larimore: Speaking of kingliness (or, in this case, queenliness), how about Daenerys buying herself an army? Just when I thought Jorah and Barristan Selmy were going to come to blows, she united them briefly by offering up one of her dragons. Bold!
Wade: A strong tactical decision. This whole little mini-arc of Daenerys' moral calculus over purchasing her slave army (even if it's been made nipple-slicingly clear they've been purged of their humanity) has been a cool way to display the strength and clarity of her leadership. At this point, she's basically on a streak of badassness, so it will be interesting to see what kind of actual substantive challenges lay ahead of her, rather than just insultingly patronizing slave traders.
Larimore: Jorah and Barristan Selmy were good representatives of the internal quarrel she must be having with herself. She has been fair and has come to be loved by Drago's men, so she clearly sees this as a way to treat the Unsullied better than they have been treated previously. But if she didn’t show any angst about lowering herself by using slaves and also about facilitating the further acts of violence that will result from her buying an army (they will now need more recruits, which means more tortured slaves and more dead babies), she’d have no moral standing whatsoever.
Wade: Speaking of substantive challenges, I'm also digging Tyrion's new gig solving the debt crisis in Westeros. Glad to really get into the fiscal policy of this fictional kingdom.
Larimore: I loved his comment that living with unimaginable wealth has in no way made him qualified to manage money. Littlefinger was shifty and careless in his management of the kingdom's finances. Tyrion was quick to see the problem of owing the Lannisters was one thing, but that owing the Iron Bank of Braavos was an entirely different problem, especially in a land that is being claimed by several other kings. I am fully looking forward to the episode where he single-handedly implements an austerity model for the Red Keep.
Wade: Ha-ha, yes, just like Daenerys weighing her dragon-for-army decision, the money stuff was a great lens to analyze some characters through. It's revealing that Littlefinger used his position as master of coin to increase his personal influence and favor while secretly destabilizing the whole kingdom, while I'm sure Tyrion, in his quest to prove his skill and value, will find a genius way to use the same office to increase his own power while saving the kingdom. And an especially promising tie-in to the oft-repeated motto "a Lannister always pays his debts." Though it's funny to think that his "unleash the wildfire" moment of this season might be a particularly dramatic structured debt-refinancing negotiation.
Larimore: I suspect he will serve rubber chicken and steamed broccoli for dinner at Joffrey's wedding to Margaery.
Chris: As you mentioned above, that whole chair-dragging scene was a great way to illustrate Cersei's and Tyrion's stubborn refusal to be pushed out of the small council.
Larimore: Cersei is not really adapting well to her father's return to King's Landing. She (somewhat foolishly) thought she had the upper hand when Tyrion was serving as the Hand, but she fears her father, and now she's sulking. Tyrion, I think, is stubborn because he actually cares about the realm, in spite of himself. Quickly, let's go beyond the Wall. Mance Rayder and Jon Snow find the Rangers' encampment on the Fist of the First Men, and all they find is a bunch of dead horses (artfully displayed, of course). Mance knows it's time to get the wildlings south of the wall, and he's putting Jon Snow to the test. Meanwhile, the surviving crows show up at Craster's, and the old man is in a cantankerous mood. None of which bodes well.
Chris: Yes, that slaughtered-horse-head spiral was not a good sign. It'll be interesting to see how much Mance charging Jon with leading the group south is a test of his loyalty or a sincere use of Jon's knowledge of the Wall and the Night's Watch. Meanwhile, Craster's now more off the deep end than ever. I almost thought Sam was finally going to snap and take off Craster's head while he was getting berated, but of course he wussed out. Question: How do you feel about Catelyn being portrayed as the ultimate suffering mother in the last two episodes? I found her scene this week sharing her guilt over leaving Bran and Rickon, and her scene last week lamenting her cold treatment of Jon, both very touching, surprisingly and refreshingly so for a show that's usually so boobs-and-blood oriented. But it's kind of a stereotypically reductive use of her character, especially when she's also been shown to be such a strong and capable leader. So I'm conflicted I guess. I'd rather not see Catelyn just sitting around crying about how guilty she is all the time. Thoughts?
Larimore: One thing we have not seen in the show as much as we saw in the earlier books is her anguish over leaving Bran and Rickon behind. When she set off for King's Landing in the first season, I don't think she ever imagined that she wouldn't be home in a few weeks. But then war broke out and she had to go to Robb's side, and it's been one thing after another. I think they are giving her some time to catch up with her feelings. She and Cersei are both mothers of kings, both love their children fiercely, and yet they are very different. I think they wanted to give Catelyn a chance to show that.
Wade: That's a great point. It was just strange to see it be her only business two weeks in a row.
Larimore: One way we know how very different they are, of course, is that Cat sent Jaime Lannister back toward King's Landing in hopes of getting her girls back. And, well, that hasn’t worked as planned. Brienne and Jaime were captured by Roose Bolton's men, and things are looking grim. But that has allowed their odd couple relationship to really shine. Jaime is such a villain, but his time in the Starks' custody has humbled him, as we see when he manages to keep Brienne's maidenhood safe.
Wade: It appears Brienne's defeat of Jaime's legendary swordsmanship has won her some respect from him, though his roguish charms haven't seemed to crack Brienne's shell yet. She doesn't know how he prevented her assault and rape, though now that he's lost a hand for presumptuously exploiting his family name, I suspect he'll make his sacrifice pretty clear to her sooner than later.
Larimore: I was intrigued that Jaime was able to use Brienne’s family connections to save her but could not do the same for himself. Now, the Boltons are sworn to King Robb and so the hatred for the Lannisters is hard to cut through (unlike Jaime's wrist, har-har), but Jaime did pay a steep price for taking his bargaining one step too far. Now, I think that he actually is winning her over, at least some, judging by the look she gave him as he was being led away. She’s a little mystified, because she doesn’t want to like him, but she finds herself not hating him.
Wade: True that, and since the only way it seems they'll be able to get out of this situation is by working together, they better start getting chummy quick.
Larimore: Hard to believe, but in a world with dragons and wargs and faceless men, I suppose we have seen stranger things.
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