Melisandre uses Gendry in her plans, Tyrion gets married, and Arya strikes up a new relationship with ‘the Hound’.
Following his work on last season’s spectacular sea battle episode ‘Blackwater’, this year Game of Thrones‘s author seems to have landed scripting duties on the ‘relationships’ episode in ‘The Bear and the Maiden Fair’, and most of the relationships put under the spotlight revolve around marriages, whether forced, desired or unlikely.
So we have Jon Snow and Ygritte getting ever closer, Talisa revealing her pregnancy, Shae reacting to Tyrion’s forced union with the bewildered Sansa and even Jaime Lannister refusing to leave Brienne behind with the Boltons, even if it means battling a bear to save her. This is all great character stuff, but the episode was lacking much in the way of narrative progression, with Melisandre’s plot unfolding slowly, and Bran and Arya both wandering the countryside. Only Tywin’s warning to arrogant young King Joffrey of the threat Daenerys poses and Daenerys herself arriving at Yunkai felt related to the overall story.
Peter Dinklage steals every scene he’s in as his marriage goes ahead in ‘Second Sons’, but the meat of the drama here is with Daenerys and her confrontation with the trio of leaders of the Second Sons, mercenaries in the pay of Yunkai. One of the three—Daano Naharis—kills the other two and brings his men to Daenerys’ side because… well, that’s not clear—he “does what he wants” and quite fancies little blondie? Who knows…?
The really captivating scene in this episode, however, is that between Stephen Dillane and Liam Cunningham as they discuss their differing approaches to Melisandre’s ‘magic’. It’s electrifying, and well directed by Michelle MacLaren who uses the bars that separate the two friends to great effect. Where her experiment with the ‘blood of kings’ will lead should be interesting.
It shows the depth of character and the quality of the wonderful cast on this show that it was really rather odd to see so many otherwise major players reduced to voiceless extras during the wedding scene… The final scene offers a clue as to how the White Walkers might be confronted, as Samwell reluctantly confronts one, only to discover that his ‘dragonglass’ dagger causes them to shatter. Shame the fool seemingly left it behind as he and Gilly fled…
Verdict: Captivating even when not pushing the story forward, it’s a shame there’s only two episodes left and we have two weeks to wait until the first of those arrives…
Episode 7 ‘The Bear and the Maiden Fair’: 7/10
Episode 8: ‘Second Sons’: 8/10
Brian J. Robb