Tales From Westeros – Kissed By Fire
Tell me—have you ever been kissed by fire? Sandor Clegane has. Also known as the Hound, as a child his big brother Gregor shoved Sandor’s face in the flames, essentially creating the sarcastic, cruel, bitter, arsonphobic man he is today. So it’s fitting that he is stuck in a small cave occupied by worshippers of R’hllor, the Lord of Light. The red priest Thoros stares into the prophetic fire of R’hllor, the flames flickering throughout the small space, and beseeches his god for guidance. The Hound is about to face trial for his sins, with R’hllor as acting judge. He must fight Beric Dondarrion, a much smaller and weaker fighter—but what the Hound doesn’t know is that Beric will light his sword aflame and come at him as if enacting a scene from his worst nightmares. The sequence is quick and brutal, the bright sword ripping through the underground space until Sandor finally plunges his weapon into Ser Beric’s chest and leaves him for dead. Arya, quickly becoming world-weary and dangerous herself, tries to kill the Hound herself but the Lord of Light has chosen. And then…Beric Dondarrion rises from the dead, effectively slacking jaws across the nation.
And with that, this week’s episode opens up with the theme of fire and continues even in the icy lands Beyond the Wall. Jon Snow is being interrogated as to the behind-the-scenes workings of the Night’s Watch. The Wildling leaders want to know which castles are manned, and if he doesn’t tell them the truth his double-agent status could be discovered. He overstates the size of their force but is truthful when he tells them only three of the nineteen castles belonging to the Watch are manned. At that, the wildling Ygritte for whom the episode is named (she is “kissed by fire” because of her red hair) defends Jon and is accused of only trusting him because she wants to get in his crow pants. Wildling women do not follow the same societal rules as their counterparts to the South, and her accuser isn’t wrong—Ygritte leads Jon to an underground cave (is this another theme?) full of gurgling springs. I sincerely wish they are hot springs. Ygritte is testing Jon as well as flirtatiously playing with him. If he has truly betrayed the Night’s Watch, he wouldn’t have any qualms eschewing his vows to bed her. A lot of crows don’t take this as seriously as Jon does, but since he is of Stark blood and honorable to a fault, he of course does. But in the end he gives in to the temptation of the girl kissed by fire, and they both strip to their birthday suits and get it on in a freezing cave. It’s both sweet and sour, Ygritte’s catchphrase “you know nothing, Jon Snow” ringing in our ears as the expression on Jon’s face reveals his inner torment.
Meanwhile, a little further South, Jaime and Brienne are delivered to Roose Bolton, a Stark bannerman. They are looking pretty rough at this point, Jaime’s decomposing hand still dangling around his neck. Bolton looks at his men with disdain, orders Brienne untied and commands that suitable rooms be found for their guests. It’s unclear why Bolton is being so nice, other than the fact that these are highborn prisoners and should be treated with at least a modicum of respect. Jaime asks for news of King’s Landing and good old Roose fakes him out hard—he lets the words come out slowly, letting Jaime’s fried mind imagine all the worst scenarios, until at last he informs him that Cersei is alive and the Lannisters smashed the Baratheon invasion. Next there is the problem of Jaime’s wound. It’s disgusting and probably smells like a festering heap of horse entrails. He’s taken to Qyburn, a maester missing the chain that reflects his knowledge, achievements, and general legit-ness (apparently the Citadel took it away because of some “bold experiments” that we are not yet privy to). Qyburn warns Jaime that there will be a lot of pain and Jaime breaks out his legendary sass again to let him know “then I will scream.” However, as Qyburn bends over his work with some relish, the screams don’t really sound that sassy and sarcastic, they sound like something I would appreciate never having to emit, ever. Sidenote, I have tried to play “Qyburn” more than once on Words with Friends in the hopes that it will get me 200+ points to no avail. BRB, inventing Westerosi Words with Friends.
Amidst all this craziness, there is some serious plotting happening in King’s Landing, and it all revolves around poor Sansa Stark. Last week we learned that the result of the meeting between Olenna Tyrell and Lord Varys was a proposed Stark-Tyrell union. Since Sansa is the official Key to the North (well, if anything happens to Robb) she now has suitors coming out of the woodwork like snakes on a plane. Olenna and Margaery are in league with Varys, using the subtle Tyrell manipulation strategy (AKA grace and charm) to lure in Sansa with something she already wants—Loras Tyrell. Meanwhile Cersei, now mistrusting the Tyrells, approaches Littlefinger with a request. We don’t yet know what this request is, but when we catch a glimpse of Loras being seduced a little too swiftly by a cute no-name squire who turns out to be in the service of Littlefinger. He then reports back to Littlefinger, who then reports back to Cersei about the Sansa/Loras marriage plot.
It’s an interesting choice then, to abruptly flash back to the woods where former smith Gendry is occupied mending some mail or whatever. Arya is dismayed because he just informed her of his plans to stay on with the Brotherhood. His reasoning is that the Brotherhood WITHOUT Banners is the most free he will ever be from the constant fighting over a silly throne. Gendry never had the luxury of having a tight family like Arya, and when she fiercely declares that SHE will be his family, he gently tells her that no, that would make her “his lady.” At which point she storms off, leaving poor Gendry with the same expression on his face I imagine Tucker Max has whenever he looks in the mirror—heartbroken.
In another rebuttal over the plotting and whining and extravagance of King’s Landing, crazy things are happening at Riverrun. Rickard Karstark, Lord of Karhold and head of an ancient Northern family that claims blood ties to the Starks, has lost several sons in this war against the Lannisters. He. Wants. Revenge. And he takes it in the most immediate way he knows how—by killing the two young blonde Lannister hostages, in direct disobedience to his supposed king. This is treason, and Robb is pissed. He has a tough decision to make: if he does what he wants to do, and chops off Karstark’s head, a huge portion of his army will go the way of their Lord’s noggin. Yet if he doesn’t punish him, how will they respect his rule? He is much his father’s son, and eventually, he eschews the advice of both wife and mother and decides on the path of “honor” and not “strategy,” doing as his daddy taught him and wielding the blade himself. This episode is full of tough decisions, and it shows just how twisty and complicated the plot is getting. Would you ignore the murder of a couple of innocent (despite their bloodline) teenagers right under your nose? Even if it might lose you the war to act on your rage? The scene ends with Robb trying to figure out how to salvage the situation; he recalls the name of someone else he once pissed off…Walder Frey.
Arya’s prayer again. Names have been removed, and names have been added. She stares sullenly at the fire, sharply showing how she has changed from a feisty yet innocent young girl to one older than her years. Thoros tries to tell her she’s not really a hostage, that she’ll be returned to Robb at Riverrun, but she is now too jaded to trust anyone. This is in stark contrast to her sister Sansa, who seems to trust everyone (except maybe Cersei and Joffrey) and never loses a certain innocence. Thoros and Beric explain that the Lord of Light has assisted in bringing Beric back from the dead no less than six times, showing each gruesome mortal wound on his body. There is a price though: “Every time I come back, I’m a bit…less,” Ser Beric notes. Magic definitely exists in Westeros, especially when dealing with red priests and priestesses of R’hllor (have you forgotten Melisandre’s shadow assassin newborn baby?!). However, it’s usually written in carefully and with purpose, never gratuitously (unlike some of the sex scenes).
To parallel the red magic of Thoros, back on Dragonstone, Stannis’s wife Queen Selyse is looking into yet another fire. (Did anyone else think this was Melisandre at first?) Morally rigid Stannis feels the need to confess to his wife about hitting up the Red Woman for some late night snacks. Turns out she knew—not only that, but she’s okay with it! Melisandre gave him newborn baby shadow assassins, which, sadly, Selyse could never accomplish See, look here at all these stillborn babies in jars. (What is this, the Governor’s quarters in The Walking Dead?) NO ONE seems to notice that this is, in fact, very weird. Stannis is all like, I want to see my daughter, never mind these jelly babies. Much is made over this because his daughter Shireen, an otherwise cute and sweet and lovely little girl, has greyscale, the Westerosi disease that disfigures a person with, you guessed it, grey scales on their skin. Shireen is a doll; a doll that wants to see her friend Davos, locked up in the dungeons. Morally rigid Stannis says N-O.
The next scene is possibly the most important in the episode—and if not, it’s definitely the most interesting. Brienne is bathing rather nakedly in some sort of underground cave hot tub situation (THEME?!). A disgustingly dirty yet not disgustingly naked Jaime is led into the room to bathe as well. He chooses to sit in her bathtub filth even though there are other tubs, which she obviously hates/loves. Here though, the nakedness doesn’t symbolize sexuality so much as vulnerability. Jaime is slightly delirious from all he has recently experienced, and with some prompting from Brienne, starts to tell the truth about how he got the nickname “Kingslayer.” This season has consistently shown viewers a different side of Jaime, who we have been previously trained to hate. We also learn some more details of the last Targaryen Iron Throne sitter, Mad King Aerys.
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