Game of Thrones S3E5 “Kissed by Fire”
Coming off such an action packed episode, “Kissed by Fire” was bound to take the foot off the gas pedal. Lucky for us, Game of Thrones is just as good with dialogue driven low action episodes, as action packed episodes. Also lucky for us, “Kissed by Fire” gives us a chance to enjoy the best of both worlds as it’s jammed pack with killer dialogue and has enough action to satisfy those cravings for violence. As always, there’s plenty to talk about, including but not limited to Robb making a bad decision and leaning towards making another one, Tywin making good decisions, Jon breaking a vow, and Jaime getting something off his chest that’s been a long time coming. Let’s take a look.
We’ll start things off in Riverrun, where Robb finds himself in a precarious situation. Rickard Karstark and a group of his men broke into the prison cell of Martyn and Willem Lannister and killed the young Lannisters. Rickard and friends don’t get away with it though and the group is brought forth to Robb. Robb is extremely upset at Rickard for his actions and calls him guilty of treason. Rickard baits Robb into finally taking serious action against crime and Robb sentences him and his group to death. The group is escorted out of the room and then Cat, Talisa, and Edmure do their best to convince Robb to hold Rickard as a hostage and to let him go if the Karstark’s men remain loyal. Robb doesn’t give in to these appeals to logic and goes through with the execution.
This turns out to be a tremendously bad move as the Karstark men, who accounted for close to half of Robb’s army, have went home due to the killing of their lord. This all goes to show the brilliance of Tywin. Robb has proven himself a genius on the battlefield but mediocre at best at politics. By simply running and waiting Robb out, Tywin has had to exert none of his forces and he can watch Robb implode and lose the war despite winning every battle. Every adviser Robb had told him not to kill Rickard but he did it anyway and he’s suffered the consequences. Realizing that he can’t win if they play Tywin’s game, Robb reveals to Talisa his intent to take the war to the Lannisters by capturing Casterly Rock, the home of the Lannisters. It’s not a bad strategy, when Theon did the same thing to his home, Robb started seeing the war go the wrong way so it makes sense that he’d want to do the same to Tywin. The problem is, he doesn’t have the man power to take the Rock without the Karstarks. In what can only be described as a risky move, Robb is going to go back to the Twins and ask Walder Frey to join his army to the Stark army. Robb broke his oath to Walder by not marrying one of his daughters and Walder doesn’t strike me as someone who will be alright with that so Robb better have a good case to present to Walder to make up for that. This is really his last shot at winning the war so there is a ton riding on this.
Elsewhere in the Riverlands, Sandor prepares to fight for his life in the trial by combat at the Brotherhood’s hideout. It turns out that the fire sword does make a return as it is Beric Dondarrion’s weapon of choice. Sandor as expected is scared but you can’t just run away from a trial by combat so he has no choice but to get over it and fight Beric. It’s a pretty well matched fight but Sandor’s strength and skill prove to be far too much at the end of the day and he delivers a fatal blow to Beric, much to the dismay of Arya who has to be restrained by Gendry so she won’t go attack Sandor herself. Having proved himself innocent in the eye of god, Sandor is allowed to leave, but not before witnessing some more bizarre lord of light magic. Thoros’ prayer to Beric’s corpse somehow brought him back to life! A’int that something?
Arya’s bad day continues later on when she talks to Gendry. He reveals to Arya that he is going to stay with the brotherhood as a smith. Arya pleads with him to come with her to Riverrun but Gendry correctly points out that he’ll just end up serving someone again. He believes in the brotherhood’s cause and that’s the least he could ask for if he’s going to serve once again. Arya says it won’t be that way and that she’ll be his family if he comes with her but he says she won’t, she’ll just be his lady. Class difference is something we may not get a whole lot of in this show since we focus almost exclusively on high born nobles but it does make a huge difference and Gendry is right to point out that while they are friends, he and Arya can never be family if he decides to go with her. A sad but true realization for Arya.
Down in King’s Landing, Cersei continues her pursuit to deny the power grab by House Tyrell. She decides to enlist the help of Littlefinger who has the best shot of helping out given his involvement in the Lannister/Tyrell alliance and his vast network of spies. Cersei seems to have put her trust in the right person as one of Littlefinger’s spies has sex with Loras Tyrell and learns some very important information from Loras. Loras lets it slip that he’ll be marrying Sansa Stark after the royal wedding. Littlefinger’s spy brings this information to Littlefinger who brings it to Cersei who we then assume brings it to Tywin considering what happens next.
Tywin calls in Tyrion and Cersei to discuss the new information. Tywin is offended that after letting the Tyrell’s become part of the crown, they would pay back this kindness by stealing Sansa, the key to the north, away from them. Keeping it a secret looks to have been a mistake by the Tyrell’s because Tywin notes that they can just marry her to someone else before the royal wedding and no one will ever know. Tyrion then asks who exactly is this groom to be and is shocked when he pieces it all together, Tywin plans to marry Sansa to him. Tywin calls it his reward to Tyrion for his efforts on the battlefield but Tyrion is far from happy. Cersei on the other hand, is extremely happy at how uncomfortable this is sitting with Tyrion. She can’t enjoy it for very long though because Tywin then tells her that she will marry Loras Tyrell. To the surprise of no one, Cersei can dish it but not take it and she is extremely upset at this news and begs her father to not go through with this. Tywin lets out an angry scream directed at both his children. He then says that they will do what he says and that they have disgraced the Lannister name for far too long. Cersei and Tyrion may not like Tywin’s plans but he’s done messing around with his kids so it looks like there’s no way out of this.
Next up, Dragonstone for our first significant time spent with Stannis Baratheon this season. He pays his family, wife Selyse and daughter Shireen a visit. In a rare bit of openness, Stannis shows his guilt and admits to his wife that he had sex with Melisandre. Selyse is a bit of a religious fanatic though and already knew about it and says it’s okay because it was done in the name of the lord of light. With that out of the way, he goes to see Shireen. She seems to be good friends with Davos because she gets upset when Stannis tells her Davos is a traitor and in prison. Shireen pays Davos a visit and wants to help him pass the time by bringing books. In a bit of an embarrassing moment, Davos admits he can’t read. No problem for Shireen, she offers to teach Davos (while the drunk guard is on duty) and they start their first lesson. A rare cute scene in this dark show.
I’d like to talk about Jaime last so we’re going to forgo my usual routine of talking about all of the Seven Kingdom plot lines before going north and east and go north to beyond the wall. Jon is pushed more and more to his limits in this episode when Orell and Ygritte both present unique challenges to him. Orell has just come back from a warg adventure with his eagle and saw some scouts along the wall. He confronts Jon and asks him some very specific questions, such as how many of the towers on the wall are manned and how many crows are left guarding the wall. He answers truthfully on the first, saying only three towers are manned. He comes up with a big fat lie for the second question, saying a thousand men guard the wall when it’s really probably closer to a hundred. Tormund pushes him further, threatening to kill him if he’s lying, but Jon doubles down on his lie and states it is true. Challenge one complete.
While he was able to avoid saying confidential information about the wall to Orell and Tormund, Ygritte presents Jon a different problem and he doesn’t do quite as well with this one. Ygritte steals Longclaw from Jon and forces him to chase her into a secluded cave. Ygritte doesn’t seem super convinced yet that Jon really is a free folk so she challenges him to break his celibacy vow with her as she strips down naked. Jon hesitates at first but ultimately breaks his vow and has sex with her. A little while after, Ygritte tells Jon that they should just stay in the cave and not confront the problems that they will have to face such as crows, climbing the wall, and white walkers. It’s a nice thought but we know they can’t do that. This relationship has probably hit its high point if Jon is still loyal to the watch. It won’t be nice to see this relationship end but it probably will because I just don’t get the feeling Jon will give in to the free folk way of life, even if he did break a vow. Jon and Ygritte will be facing some uncomfortable truths sooner or later.
Brienne and Jaime make their arrival to Harrenhal in this episode where they meet Roose Bolton. Locke brags about taking off Jaime’s hand but he’s talking to the wrong person, Roose is furious that Locke would mutilate such a valuable hostage. He then frees Brienne and offers her accommodations and sends Jaime to see Qyburn, the man Talisa saved in “Valar Dohaeris”. Qyburn is a former maester who got kicked out of the guild for his “experiments.” He knows what he’s doing well enough though and he treats the corruption on Jaime’s arm without cutting off any more of the arm, at the request of Jaime.
Later on, Jaime is brought to a communal bathroom which is rather empty. The only other person there is Brienne and Jaime gets in the same tub, much to Brienne’s annoyance. In a brilliant monologue, Jaime finally tells his side of the “kingslayer” story and after hearing it, it’s really hard not to side with him. Jaime only killed King Aerys Targaryen after unsuccessfully pleading with him to surrender to Robert Baratheon several times. Aerys took things in the complete opposite direction and ordered Jaime to bring him Tywin’s head. If that wasn’t enough, Aerys had set up wildfire caches throughout the entire city and was ready to use it all rather than surrender. Rather than let Aerys “burn them all”. Jaime decided to save the city by breaking his kingsguard oath and killing Aerys. Unfortunately, the first person to walk in the room was Ned Stark. Honor meant everything to him so he never even gave Jaime the chance to tell his side of the story because breaking his oath automatically made his word meaningless in the eyes of Ned. The most powerful line of the speech was easily “by what right does the wolf judge the lion?”, as Jaime wonders why Ned got to ruin Jaime’s honor and condemn him to the nickname Kingslayer for the rest of his days. I have to agree with Jaime here. Why is more honorable to keep an oath to a man that orders you to stand by as he burns an entire city and its citizens to the ground rather than just killing him and saving all those lives? It’s so hard to believe that Jaime has gotten shunned his whole life for doing the right thing and for the first time perhaps in the whole series, Jaime becomes a sympathetic character. From a villain, to morally grey. Might hero be next? I don’t know, but the fleshing out of Jaime’s character has been some of the best character work done on the show, and that’s saying something.
Quick check in on Dany’s story line. On their way to the next slave city, Yunkai, Jorah tries to figure out if Barristan knows about his spy work on Dany, looks like he doesn’t, good break for Jorah there. The Unsullied pick their leader, Grey Worm. The Unsullied are given vermin sounding names to remind them that’s what they are. Dany says he can change his name but Grey Worm doesn’t want to because Grey Worm is lucky, that’s the name he had when Dany made him a free man. That’s sweet.
A bit of an oversight that the show made no mention of Shireen’s face. She has a skin condition called greyscale, which kills most but can be stopped in rare cases. If stopped, the scarring is permanent but not contagious.
Roose Bolton is a cold man. He draws out telling Jaime of the results of the Battle of the Blackwater in the most agonizing way.
Tywin seems to be aware of Jaime and Cersei’s relationship, saying that Cersei will marry Loras, have more children, and put an end to these “nasty rumors” once and for all. It must be brutal for Tywin, a person who cares so much about family name and legacy, that two of his children are in an incestuous relationship.
I really liked the transition from the Dragonstone scene to Dany’s scene. The book Shireen was using to teach Davos was about Dany’s ancestor, Aegon the Conqueror and his conquering of Westeros, we then cut to Dany.
Heartbreaking scene of the night is over at the Brotherhood hideout when Thoros explains to Arya how resurrection works. Arya then asks “Can you do that to a man without a head? Not six times, just once”. That’s rough.
Phrase of the day is “kissed by fire”, our episode name and free folk slang for a red headed person. Being kissed by fire is said to be lucky.
“Kissed by Fire” balances violent and nonviolent drama, providing plenty of both in a slower but still exciting episode.