It’s fun to guess at who the man is in the title of this week’s episode. There are plenty of men without honor in Westeros and Essos. The show’s breakout star of late, Alfie Allen’s Theon Greyjoy is the easy candidate, beheading Rodrik, roasting two children alive (supposedly Bran and Rickon), and betraying the Northern kingdom that was his home for half his life. But we’re meant to sympathize with him too; he was the prisoner for that half of his life, taken from his home and his family. The Greyjoy Rebellion bred this little shit, and it’s almost easy to believe that it isn’t his fault that he’s turned into a despicable, cruel Joffrey-in-the-North.
What if it’s Joffrey, the mosntrous boy-king that’s barely had enough time to earn honor in his life before losing it with his own brand of cruelty? He doesn’t even appear this week, but his presence is felt immensely in scenes with Sansa and Cersei. Ned’s eldest has flowered, and she fears, quite rightly, that her status has been upgraded to king’s uterus; she must be ready to mother children. Cersei is beside herself, having nothing else to do these days, finally realizing the monster she’s bred. ”You can try”, she says to Sansa, when Sansa asks if she must love Joffrey. Cersei might be back to trying too, instead of unquestionably doling out the love for her firstborn.
Could the man be Jaime? His extraordinary return to the story this week was all about his worthiness, his honor (or lack thereof), his knighthood, and his future. He’s a kingslayer, an attempted murderer, a man now openly discussing incestuous breeding of royalty, and after ramming his chains into poor Alton’s brains, a kinslayer too. ”So many vows,” says Jaime, of all the rules he’s broken, before listing how they just can’t coexist. ”No matter what you do you’re forsaking one vow or another.” And despite all that, and all the clamor for this honorless man’s head, Catelyn Stark is still probably going to set him free. What else would brandishing Brienne’s sword and then cutting away mean? She wants her daughters, even if she has to give up the man she hates most in the world to do it.
Is it the Hound? Accused by Sansa of enjoying the death and destruction he sows, he replies: ” You’ll be glad of the hateful things I do someday when you’re queen, and I’m all that stands between you and your beloved king.” A literal echo of the still image from a few weeks ago, and a forced re-examination of honorless deeds; perhaps they are honorable from another point of view.
Or maybe the man is Xaro, Dany’s latest betrayer? Quaithe lets slip to Jorah that he’s betrayed her once in the past, and has him vow never to do it again. Mirri Maz Duur helped send both Dany’s unborn child and her husband to the grave. Why not give the ever-increasingly whiny brat another hurdle in her inner circle? She can’t trust anyone, least of all the new self-appointed king of Qarth. The Thirteen (or at least, eleven of them) are dead, throats slashed and spilled onto their chamber floor. Pyat Pree invites Dany to the House of the Undying, and even though he’s the one she should trust least, she has to to get her only real weapon back. And possibly find her missing handmaiden Doreah along the way.
Xaro: ”A man is what others say he is, and no more.”
That’s how all of these men are forced to operate, where honor and reputation are concerned. Theon to Luwin: ”It’s better to be cruel than weak.” Dagmer chuckles at him as he attempts to fulfill the leader-tyrant hybrid role he’s set up for himself. He winces in pain after decking a guard for talking back to him. He brandishes cruelty with reckless abandon to try and inspire fear, but everyone knows he’s still a boy who’s desperately lost his way.
Jaime is low on deception, and now, openly profaning all of his vows, complaining that he can’t get away from his bad reputation. Watch how he winces every time someone calls him the Kingslayer; he hates it. He feels as if it somehow hasn’t been proven. Or more appropriately, how it connotes the wrong version of the story; he’d rather it be ‘Kingdom-Saver’, focusing on the objective, instead of the deed. And he’s half-right.
And Xaro of course, operates exclusively by his statement. He ‘came from nothing’, and ascended solely on reputation, and solely on the ever-increasing compliments and trust from others. He is only what they say he is. And now, he’s spreading the word: he’s the king.
The Other Three Stories and Notes of the Week:
Robb’s Camp: Karstarks, Kingslayers and Klutzes
Clumsy Karstark Jr. deserved to die, waltzing into the Kingslayer’s pen to investigate the sound of chains and blood-spurts. What did he expect, seeing a twitching body and the most dangerous man in the Kingdoms huddled nearby? Jaime’s plan might have worked after all; forcing the camp into chaos in Robb’s absence left Cat with only one choice, a choice she was probably already considering. Kid’s on the loose for the rest of the season, in all likelihood. Karstark Sr. won’t like that, and neither will Robb, when he returns.
The Boy in the North
As for the King in the North himself, he’s smitten, and stupid, but he’s young. While his hormones are going on an adventure, his men are getting pissed at the situation, housing prisoners comfortably and not coming down hard enough on the war campaign. “Too many prisoners” rings out Roose’s warning. And it’s definitely a warning, with that glare. No one misses the beat where he eyes Talisa, after being ‘kicked out’ of the tent so that she could be heard by the King ahead of him. Don’t expect that attitude to vanish anytime soon. If Cat does what it seems like she’s going to do, the camp will explode in the morning.
Jaime & Alton & Drama & Death
That was a scene. That was the scene. Delicious dialogue, deliberately played out, elongated, stretched. A tight act of edging, bringing us to a point where we thought we’d cracked into Jaime’s psyche and accepted him as a man with some honor. And then, death. The worst part is, he was probably all truth up until he murdered his cousin. There is a likeable character in there somewhere, even if he’s undeniably a fucking monster.
We love the back-and-forth with Brienne that’s started right off the bat; “is that a woman?” We love the allusion to his murder of Alton that we didn’t even realize when he said it: ”You – (Alton) – knew when you were needed, and when to go away. It’s a rare talent.” We love that this monster is part of the Lannister core, each member an entirely different character, in contrast to the relatively homogenous Starks. Alton’s remarks about being afraid of embarrassing his own family in front of “the family” remind us just how holy the main Lannister family is in their ‘kingdom’. Oh Jaime. We love you. And we’re glad you’re surviving another night.
Jon ‘I Ain’t Got a Fuckin Clue’ Snow
Jon’s been turned into a complete bitch this season; first by Mormont, then by Craster, then by his own dire wolf, Ghost, who refuses to stay nearby, and now by this wonderful wildling girl, Ygritte, who is the only amazing thing to really come of this season’s story north of the Wall. That’s all there is to say. The rest of this section, will be a transcription of Ygritte’s amazing lines:
On being bruised in the tailbone by Jon’s raging virgin boner: “Did you pull a knife on me in the night?”
On balls: “I heard they get all swollen and bruised if you don’t use them. ‘Course maybe that’s just what the lads say when they want me feelin’ sorry for them.”
On the Night’s Watch’s lack of women: “So the lads just do it with each other?”
On the belief that the men have to be fucking something else: “Do you have sheep at the Wall? ….with your hands then? No wonder you’re all so miserable.”
On the boy himself: ”You know nothing, Jon Snow.” The thesis statement of Jon’s story.
After their heated debate on who truly has the right to all the Northern lands, Ygritte proves her mastery of the story, the debate and the situation. And she leads him away. And stops him. And leads him away again. Who’s really holding the leash in these scenes?
“I know how to do it.” Sure you do, Jon.
Arya Stark and Tywin Lannister in Dumb & Dumber
We really love this bizarre, dynamic story that arrived a few weeks ago. What a match these two characters have made. But what’s going on here! Arya is clearly leaning toward thoughts of murdering the Lannister patriarch; why isn’t she burning her third wish with her resident genie, Jaqen? And, having revealed what we suspected all along, that he knows Arya’s no common girl, why isn’t Tywin taking more interest in the matter and finding out who she is? Any noble-born girl or lady would make a valuable hostage to him, nevermind a Stark girl.
Legacy: Harrenhal and Winterfell
Tywin: “Harrenhal was built to withstand an attack from the ground. A million men could have marched on these walls, and a million men would have been repelled.” A distinct echo of a line from Theon earlier in the episode.
Theon: “Ned Stark always said, ‘500 men could hold Winterfell against ten thousand.”
The notion that a ruined Harrenhal is being visually portrayed for us and through Tywin, as a what-if future for our beloved Winterfell is stomach-churning; something dark and horrible is coming for Winterfell, or is it already there, in Theon?
Tywin says that Harren and all his sons were roasted alive in Harrenhal; another awful parallel to Winterfell, via Ned and his sons. We’re led to believe that Bran and Rickon hang like so much charred meat at the end of the episode.
And finally, a choice line on dragons and their master: “Aegon Targaryen changed the rules. That’s why every child alive knows his name.” What will children think of Daenerys in a hundred years?
Budrickton wishes to apologize for the delay on this piece! A positive surge in new job prospects (and a hire!) happened. Diablo III also happened. It’s been a good week.
Until next time!
Budrickton, First of His Name, Warden of the Actual North (Canada)