HBO, 28 April 2013
As Jon Snow breaks his vows with Ygritte, Stannis visits home, and Robb Stark loses half his army but sets his site on a new conquest…
Despite opening with a fast-paced action sequence, as the Hound fights for his life and is reprieved by ‘the Lord of Light’, this episode is light on action, but big on talk. Thankfully, it’s full of developments, even if most of those are character-based. As Dondarrion wields his flaming sword against the Hound, Arya Stark is denied her first scalp in her quest for vengeance over her father’s death… The intriguing thing here is Dondarrion’s claim to have been resurrected from death at least six times.
There are some great character confrontations in this wonderful episode. Tyrion finally meets his match in Lady Olenna, with Diana Rigg relishing her role opposite the series’ biggest schemer, Peter Dinklage. His appeal for funds to pay for the royal wedding is met with a superb monologue, although she eventually gives him what he wants, but not before running rhetorical rings around him.
The other great monologue comes from the rather sorry figure of ‘king slayer’ Jamie Lannister, as he takes a bath with Brienne (no, not like that…). We finally hear his side of his killing of the ‘mad king’, and it changes the circumstances somewhat. His scene with Anton Lesser—an actor always worth watching—is a good one, too.
In fact, there are so many of these superb discussions between pairs of characters—including Selmy and Mormont seemingly getting on together, until their respective ambitions become clear, and Daenerys freeing Grey Worm, the elected leader of her army, to adopt any name he chooses in preference to his ‘slave name’—that it is hard to pick a favourite. The lovely series of edits towards the end that follows the chain of characters plotting the fate of Sansa Stark is a stroke of genius.
However, easily the best scene is the final one, in which Tywin lays out his plans for his children, Tyrion and Cersei. At first Cersei is all self-satisfied smiles as Tyrion hears he is to marry Sansa for political reasons, before the smug smirks are wiped off her face (pictured above!) when she is instructed to marry Loras, again for reasons of politics. Perhaps these enemy siblings now have a reason to work together…?
Verdict: Superb dialogue, great editing, and fine character drama: the very definition of Game of Thrones…
Episode 5 ‘Kissed by Fire’: 9/10
Brian J. Robb