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 chats with Slate Product Manager (and huge George R.R. Martin fan) Chris Schieffer.
Rachael Larimore: Chris, welcome to the TV Club. Please pull up a chair. A nice, comfy recliner. Because this entire episode left us as uncomfortable as if we’d sat too long upon the Iron Throne. People are cold, people are fighting, people are being handed over to Joffrey so he can perfect his crossbow skills. We spend a good deal of time north of the Wall with Jon Snow, and then we encounter unpleasant wheelings and dealings not only at Riverrun and with the Brotherhood Without Banners but also down in King’s Landing.
Chris Schieffer: Rachael, thanks for having me! I would categorize the happenings in Westeros as being about uncomfortable as Jojen Reed's “green dream” and as awkward as Ygritte talking about Jon's "skills." But I think that's a good thing for Game of Thrones fans! The season seems to be in full swing now. Deals are being negotiated, love is blossoming, and some of our beloved characters seem to be on the cusp of some intense action.
Larimore: Love is blossoming, and weddings are being planned, and yet those are mutually exclusive developments! Nary a sword was drawn this week, as the writers opted for almost a whole episode of "two people talking." (Though sometimes there were, admittedly, three or four people.) And yet the plot moved forward a great deal, and you’re right that we’re about to see some action. Let's start north of the Wall, with Jon and Ygritte flirting until Ygritte gets deadly serious. What did you make of her telling Jon that she knew he was a loyal crow?
Schieffer: For me, this episode was all about dependency. The dependency of two people on each other, primarily. With Jon and Ygritte, I think they need each other in a couple of different ways. When she originally brought Jon back to Mance, I think she wanted to show Mance she could be trusted, and bringing the man who killed the Halfhand was a huge catch. She seems to want to keep proving herself to the Wildling brass and playing along with Jon's ruse helps. And Jon needs to Ygritte to continue to affirm the story he's telling and almost protect him. Along the way, they've started this romance that I can't imagine will end well. We saw this dependency made explicit when Jon saved her from falling off the Wall. Do you think they really need each other or can Jon complete his ruse by himself?
Larimore: I'm almost afraid to speculate! I've read far enough into the books to know what should happen, but we've seen some major departures from the source material this season. When Ygritte explained to Jon that he needed to be loyal to her because the Night's Watch didn't care if he died, and Mance didn't care if she died, but that the two of them mattered to the two of them, I was left wondering if she hoped to climb the Wall, slide down the other side and run off with Jon. I do think that Jon Snow is surprised by the intensity of his feelings for Ygritte, and that he never foresaw such a problem when he killed Qhorin Halfhand. So I think whether he could do it by himself, he doesn't want to. He wasn't kissing her on top of the wall to prove his loyalty to Tormund Giantsbane.
Schieffer: As a fellow reader, I was initially frustrated that the series didn't stick as closely to the books as I would have liked, but now I look forward to it. It gives us a different look into this world and the more “new” material the better as far as I'm concerned. (And I have an iPhone cover to prove my allegiance to House Martin.) Every decision Jon has made up until sleeping with Ygritte has been planned. What other impulsive moves are in store for him? But speaking of young love north of the Wall, Sam and Gilly look to be getting cozy, too. This is another example of dependency. Gilly needed Sam to help her escape, and I think Sam needs Gilly to make him feel honorable and strong. This week, Sam seemed so sure of himself, even singing in the dark of night. If I were him, I would be scared stiff with the White Walkers and The Others creeping about. Speaking of, where are the White Walkers? They were poised for battle at the beginning of this season and now seem to have disappeared?
Larimore: Sam also needs Gilly to teach him how to make a fire! These two actors have great chemistry, so I'm glad that the story line didn't go into the discard pile. I think that Sam would be even less likely to break his vows than Jon Snow, so I don't know that romance is in store for them, but goodness knows they could both use a friend. As for the White Walkers ... they just took half the Night's Watch to be their wights. Maybe wights require training? Now, let's move from young love to arranged marriages. The Freys show up to meet with Robb, and all they want to repair the alliance is Harrenhal (talk about a fixer-upper!) and a husband for Walder's daughter Roslin. Lord Edmure is not amused. I loved it when Edmure protested by citing “the laws of gods and men…” , and Uncle Blackfish said "The law of my fist is about to compel your teeth." I do sympathize with Edmure, but he really has no choice. But it really show's Robb's desperation?
Schieffer: Poor Robb. Arguably the most honorable character in the show so far except for that one, huge mistake. Robb sure does seem desperate but the Freys could be his salvation. Like he said, he’s won every battle but is losing the war. He has to do something. On a side note, the Blackfish is starting to become one of the more fun characters to watch in the show. Along with Tyrion and Bronn, the Blackfish gets his fair share of zingers. It's nice to see some "humor" in the Riverlands. Speaking of arranged marriages, how about that conversation with Lady Olenna? I loved seeing Tywin have a discussion with another adult, and judging by the wry smile I caught at the beginning on that scene, I think he did, too.
Larimore: It was, hands down, the best scene of the episode. (Tyrion and Cersei being a close second.) I loved that he thought he was completely prepared for Lady Olenna to reject the marriage because Cersei was too old, and he played the "But Loras is gay" card. The nerve of him! But Lady Olenna trumps him by being completely cool with her grandson's "discreet buggery." I know it's rightfully politically incorrect to call anyone a "sword swallower" in our society, but Lady Olenna does not live in such enlightened times. And she throws Tywin's own shame—Jaime and Cersei's (alleged) incest—right back at him. Now, I did think Tywin was a cool cat here. He volleyed by reminding Lady Olenna that if Joffrey is indeed Jaime's son, that Margaery ain't actually a queen. A great verbal duel. And let's move on to two characters who usually spar but didn’t tonight: Tyrion and Cersei. As they looked on from a distance while Sansa and Loras endured the awkwardest (and shortest-lived) courtship ever, they almost sort-of bonded over their shared dismal fate (and how dismal it would likewise be for Sansa and Loras). It was a nice change of pace. And Tyrion finally got confirmation as to who ordered him killed during the Battle of the Blackwater. What did you make of the exchange?
Schieffer: Did they ever decide whether it was a broach or a pin? Ah, it's not important. Bonding over their helplessness brings Cersei and Tyrion as close as they’ll likely ever be. But the hits keep on coming, especially for Tyrion. He finally gets closure on Blackwater, but then needs deliver the news of his nuptials to Sansa, with Shae in the room? Curse the gods! I'm feeling sorry for a lot of people in Kings Landing tonight. And what of Sansa? She's getting married to Tyrion and Littlefinger is gone?
Larimore: I know that less is often more, and that maybe it was best left to our imaginations, but I can't say I wouldn't have enjoyed seeing the scene play out. However daunting a task that might have been for Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa. Tyrion's attempt to get Sansa out of the room was as admirable and gentlemanly as it was hopeless.
Schieffer: And speaking of good characters getting screwed, let's hop on our destriers and head back over to the Riverlands. Hello, Melisandre. Westeros was getting dull, so thanks for joining us. Are we to assume R'hollor lead her all the way from Dragonstone and half way across Westeros safely? When Melisandre left Dragonstone, she told Stannis she was looking for kingsblood and, well, she found him. The most interesting part of that scene for me is when Arya chases Melisandre down and grabs her by the arm. We've seen Stannis be abusive to her, but it really struck me that Arya laid hands on her and she seems just as surprised. Arya continues to be one of the most fearless characters in the show. Did that scene change the way you think about the Brotherhood without Banners? I thought they'd be better than this, as naive as that may sound.
Larimore: I didn't know where Melisandre was going when she left Stannis, though in hindsight it makes sense. While the whole storyline threw me for a loop, I was not surprised by Arya's reaction to the Crazy Lady in Red. And I'm glad someone (besides Davos) was brave enough to call her out. The exchange they had was ... interesting. And, well, I'm disappointed in the Brotherhood, but not surprised. Melisandre and Thoros are co-religionists, and there is gold involved. I'm curious as to how Melisandre figured out Gendry's paternity, though. Now, speaking of crazily ambitious crazy people … Varys finds Littlefinger gazing at the throne, and Littlefinger launches into a crazy speech on how the realm without its lies is chaos, and chaos is a ladder, and some fall and some refuse to climb, but in the end, the climb is all there is. Basically, Littlefinger wants power for the sake of power, and he doesn’t care who knows it. Now we know why Varys has always warned us about him.
Schieffer: That's a great point about Gendry's paternity. Because of the ambiguity of the powers of the Lord of Light, I end up chalking up questions like this to "magic" which I'm not super excited about. Varys has warned us about Littlefinger, but Littlefinger warned us (I mean, Ned Stark) himself! Littlefinger spends more time staring at the Iron Throne than I've seen anyone sit on it in two and a half seasons.We can always rely on Littlefinger or Varys for an epic voiceover to tightly wrap up an episode and tease another. Thanks for inviting me to the TV Club, Rachael. If this was a video chat, you may or may not see me looking at my computer screen tearfully as the TV Club sails away.
Editor’s note: Please remember to keep the comments a spoiler-free zone. Do not discuss specific future happenings from the Song of Ice and Fire books for the sake of Slate readers who are familiar only with the show. Violators will be given to Joffrey for crossbow practice.