Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Review: Game of Thrones "Walk of Punishment"

Non Spoiler Review:
Walk of Punishment turns its attention to Riverrun and Catelyn's homecoming for her father's funeral. Robb continues to lament the state of his war. Melissandre embarks on a secretive mission, Arya bids a friend good-bye, and Tyrion receives a promotion. Daenerys opts for an extreme course of action in her bid to create her army.

While enjoyable, Walk of Punishment wasn't the most exciting chapter, composed more of set up and filler scenes for coming weeks. A case in point, Podrick likely got more screen time here than the entire last season for what amounted to nothing more than some injected humour into the episode (unless there's some very subtle plot development hidden there). Beyond the scenes that amounted to updates, there was definitely some meat to be found—the introduction of the Tully family, as well as Tyrion's new role in King's Landing, and what appears to be a significant turn for Daenerys' storyline.

Walk of Punishment ended on a dark note, something not totally unexpected for that particular character. So while not a memorable episode, it certainly provides the catalyst for a host of consequences that should begin next week.

Spoilers Now!
Catelyn and Robb oversee the funeral of Lord Hoster Tully who is set adrift in his boat down the river. Unfortunately Catelyn's brother Edmure is unable to shoot the flaming arrow to light it with any accuracy. Their uncle Blackfish angrily takes the bow from him and finishes it. Later, Robb berates Edmure for taking the initiative and attacking Tywin Lannister's forces on his own. Robb had wanted to draw them into the west but instead the Lannisters are now safely back at King's Landing. Edmure protests that they have hostages—two young Lannister cousins. Robb points out he hasn't sued for peace given his sisters are captives, and neither will Tywin for some distant relatives. Edmure apologizes, but Robb laments Tywin is the only one who is not running short of patience in the war.

Catelyn is happy to see her uncle again. He and his brother had been estranged your years prior to Hoster's death. She remains despondent she'll never see her youngest sons again. Blackfish tells her remain strong for Robb. Meanwhile, Talisa sees to the two young Lannister hostages, and indulges their questions that Robb can turn into a wolf and eats the flesh of his enemies.

Tywin summons Pycelle, Baelish, Varys and Tyrion to the small council. Cersei arrives and takes her seat, then Tyrion, who drags his chair to the end of the table opposite his father. Tywin wants to know of any news of Jaime, but no one has any notion where he is. He's advised Robb is in Riverrun, with Roose Bolton in Harrenhal. Despite being named Lord of Harrenhal, Baelish now has suitable standing to be betrothed to Lady Arynn, a marriage that would make him Lord of the Vale, and also secure their position as an ally of the Lannisters in the war. Tyrion suggests Baelish's absence could present problems given the expensive royal wedding coming up. Tywin agrees and names Tyrion the new Master of Coin. He protests that he doesn't manage money, though both his father and Cersei seem to think he's capable.

The Bolton bannermen led by Locke escort a bound Jaime and Brienne through the woods to Harrenhal. She takes the opportunity to mock him for not living up to the legend of his swordplay. Jaime counters that she'll more than likely be raped by the men by nightfall. If she fights they'll kill her, and he suggests she let them do what they want. 

Arya watches as the Hound is marched passed her. He's taken to a carriage and driven away. As Thoros and the others prepare to follow, Hot Pie tells her he's decided to stay at the inn and be a cook. Arya and Gendry say their good-byes and leave him behind.

In the north, Mance's party arrives at the Fist of the First Men, and the elaborate display of dead and decapitated horses the White Walkers have left behind. Jon notes there are no human bodies, and Mance explains those men are just meat for their army now. Mormont's best fighting men are dead, and if he's still alive, he's a long way from home. He orders Tormund Giantsbane to climb the Wall and take Jon with him. If Jon isn't any good to them, he suggests he throw him off the Wall. When Mance gives the signal, they will hit Castle Black in the night. It will be the biggest fire the North has ever seen.

Mormont has reached Craster's Keep and Sam spies Ghost in the distance. Craster emerges and reluctantly lets them in. As night falls Craster muses they should be very grateful to him for not turning them away. He suggests they should dine on Sam. Sam goes outside and hears the birth screams of Gilly, who is in labour. He watches her deliver a son.

Melisandre is about to leave on a secretive mission, though Stannis believes she's abandoning him. She assures him when she returns he will understand. He asks her to make him another son, but she explains he doesn't have the strength. She suggests a better way. There must be a sacrifice to the Lord of Light and there are others with his bloodline they can use.

In Astapos, Daenery is led by the walk of punishment where escaped slaves are crucified. She attempts to give one water but he refuses. Selmy urges them to leave as soon as possible and get soldiers in Pentos instead. Jorah challenges Selmy's suggestion—the Unsullied are not like other soldiers—they will not rape or put cities to the sword. They will only do what she orders them. Selmy disagrees. Men need to follow leaders they believe in, and he tells Daenerys of his admiration for her brother Rhaegar, and she wishes she had known him.

Daenerys visits Kraznys mo Nakloz and announces she wishes to buy all his slaves. She wants the 8000 and the ones in training as well. Kraznys won't sell half trained warriors, as they could bring shame to Astapor, nor does he belief she can afford it. Her ship can only buy her 100 Unsullied, he says via his translator. He also wants her Dothraki. And that will amount to a pittance compared to the number she wants. She has dragons, she explains. She'll give him one. Selmy and Jorah are both shocked and protest at that, but Kraznys' interest is piqued. He wants all three. She holds fast to one, so he wants the biggest one, and she agrees. She also wants Missandei as Kraznys' gift to her.

Afterwards, Daenerys warns both men never to question her decisions in front of strangers again. She then walks with Missandei and asks if she has any family. She has none. Daenerys explains the slave on the walk of punishment had asked her to let him die. She questions the obedience of the Unsullied. They obey, that is all, Missandei answers. Daenerys warns her they are going to war and as such she could die, as well. 

Tyrion receives the royal ledgers from Baelish at his brothel. Baelish muses that Tyrion owes Podrick his life. He also owes Tyrion a debt for securing Ros' release from Cersei. Tyrion clarifies they have no special relationship but Baelish wonders how the queen would get that idea in the first place. Bronn, Podrick and Tyrion leave with the ledgers and Tyrion rewards Podrick with several women. 

Tyrion peruses the ledgers and realizes the crown is borrowing millions from his father. Far worse is that they owe tens of millions to the Iron Bank of Braavos, and if King's Landing doesn't pay they will fund their enemies.

Ramsay Snow releases Theon but he can barely walk. He gives him a horse and tells him to ride east where his sister is waiting for him. Theon rides off into the night but the next day finds himself pursued by riders and is brought down. The men are about to rape him when they're all shot by arrows. Ramsay arrives and proceeds to kill the last one, who calls him a bastard before he dies. Ramsay offers Theon his hand.

Locke and his men camp for the night, and Brienne and Jaime are tied to trees. The men come to rape her but she protests she's serving Catelyn Stark. There's no love for Catelyn among the bannermen. Jaime watches them beat her and drag her off into the trees. Jaime comments to Locke that she's Brienne of Tarth, daughter of Lord Selwyn of Tarth. Every sapphire in Westeros was mined on Tarth and her father would pay her weight in sapphires if she were returned to him with honor intact. Locke considers this and has her brought back to the camp.

He then asks if Jaime's father would pay his weight in gold to get him back. Jaime attempts to reason with him and explains the north can't win the war. Locke agrees. Confident, Jaime asks to be freed from his chains so he can sleep lying down. Locke does so but only leads him to another tree to chain him up again, then their conversation takes a darker turn as he warns Jaime that he thinks he's smarter than everyone else. He tells him he's nothing without his father, and puts a knife to his throat until Jaime becomes contrite. Then he cuts off Jaime's hand.

The Verdict:
Walk of Punishment was another transitional episode furthering plotlines along—evident by the extended scene dealing primarily with Pod getting laid. But it still had some great moments, particularly Daenerys' slave dealing, the curious artistic expression of the White Walkers, and the introduction of the Tullys of Riverrun.

Robb looks to be losing his authority rather quickly, so it's doubtful the momentum of his campaign can last much longer without some major development. Catelyn's uncle and brother are some interesting new additions. Anything to help round out Catelyn's character at this point.

I'm still struggling over Ramsay Snow's game with Theon. He looks as if he might be setting out on his own (given he killed his own men) but why with Theon, and where will this lead? We know nothing of his relationship with his father to have an indication he's betraying him yet.

The big development was, of course, Jaime losing his hand. I had always suspected Jaime would meet some sort of injury as soon as he was captured by Robb. It was a tense exchange, and can we suspect Jaime might have developed some concern for Brienne in order to save her honor? Or did he really? He reverted quickly to sassy Jaime and made a costly error in judgement. These are Bolton's men and they have no problem disarming the Kingslayer as long as they deliver him relatively intact. More important is how the Lannisters will react to this.

As Master of Coin, Tyrion now has some grave responsibilities, and he realizes how vulnerable the kingdom is by being in debt, something that should be obvious to Tywin and Cersei, but appears lost on them. Will Daenerys eventually reach Braavos and find the bank eager to fund her war?

Daenerys' ethical debate over the use of the Unsullied brought some interesting questions about the nature of power, reflecting back to Varys and Tyrion's discussion about where it springs from. While Jorah and Selmy both had valid points, Daenerys seems to have an even grander scheme up her sleeve. Kraznys' character is screaming for punishment and bringing doom upon his city. I don't believe for a moment she's giving up her dragons, as they will remain loyal to her no matter who has them, so I suspect the slave trader will be meeting a bad end very soon and Daenerys can take comfort she has stopped any further generations of Unsullied and the suffering from their training. 

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