I want to start off by saying: Yes, I have read all the books, and yes, I know what is going to happen. I will not include any spoilers for anything yet to happen; however, there will be spoilers for the show up to this point and I will include any history or lore from the books to give context to parts of the show. I love the books, I love the show, I would never want to ruin either for anybody... so just make sure you're up to date with the show before reading this or listening to our next podcast.
That being said, episode 5 was a bit tamer than the rest of this season in terms of action, but definitely maintained the fast-paced storytelling that has made this season so stimulating. Whereas last season some of the characters, (Daenerys in particular) seemed complacent and almost stagnant, this season has really been pushing their stories, yet doesn't seem at all rushed. The episode opened with Sandor Clegane's trial by combat, in which he fights Lord Beric Dondarrion. A well choreographed fight which pits Clegane's raw power and savagery against Dondarrion's flaming blade and precision. To Arya's dismay the fight is short lived, proving once again that there is no conventional justice in this world, as the Hound's desperate final barrage cuts through the flaming sword and into Lord Beric. As devastating and unjust as this is to Arya, the most significant part of this scene was Dondarrion's resurrection at the hands of Thoros, which indicates the growing power and capabilities of this Red God.
Jon is still distrusted by many of the wildlings, and proceeds to break his vows with an anorexic Ygritte, but we all saw that coming. Ygritte confessing that she "never wants to leave this cave, not ever" actually reveals that there is more to their relationship than playful teasing, and Ygritte shows some emotion and even vulnerability.... meh.
Speaking of characters bonding over bathing, it turns out Jaime's got some loose lips after hours of searing, undiluted agony. This scene is fantastic and we get some very revealing insight into Jaime's character and his motivations for breaking his oath. Everyone knows that Aerys II was called the Mad King, but there have been very few references as to why. Jaime being one of the closest people to the Mad King saw first hand exactly how sick the king was and would become and eventually broke his oath to the Kingsguard by murdering Aerys. We are learning much about Jaime as a character and he is becoming more and more sympathetic to the audience; in seasons 1 & 2 he was just a pompous, incestuous ass, who was beginning to get what he deserved. Now you can't help but root for him a little bit, and even forgive him some of his transgressions. There is a passage in the book when Jaime is reflecting on his decision, and almost jokingly remarks that he has done plenty of bad things, but the one act that he is most despised for, the act that earned him his degrading moniker, is the one thing he felt was justifiable and has never regretted. It's always great to hear people like Jaime, Eddard, Ser Barristan, Maester Aemon, etc. talk about the past, as these perspectives are crucial in the books but, unfortunately, the majority of them are inner monologues, so we don't get too many scenes like this one.
Meanwhile, Robb is faced with a difficult choice, as Lord Karstark commits a treason and murders the two Lannister captives to avenge his fallen sons. There has been a building tension between the King in the North and Karstark since Torrhen Karstark was murdered by the Kingslayer. Catelyn committed a treason by releasing Jaime but Robb could not execute his own mother. This infuriated Karstark as not only did they lose their most valuable prisoner, but he was robbed of any justice for his sons. After being captured Karstark implies that Robb has lost the north, and assumes that Robb will only scold him like he did Catelyn. Catelyn set a Lannister free, Karstark killed two Lannisters, "It's treason to free your enemies. In war you kill your enemies," he reminds Robb. Robb must make a severe decision, as executing Karstark will cost him the Karstark forces (which are substantial), but any leniency would demonstrate impotence and an incapability to control his own bannermen. In the end Robb proves his father's son and chooses what is honorable over what is beneficial and beheads Lord Karstark. After losing half his forces Robb is forced to turn to Lord Frey of the Twins for the reinforcements needed to carry out his new plan to lay siege to Casterly Rock and take the Lannister's home from them.
Back in King's Landing the Tyrell's, particularly Lady Olenna and her granddaughter Margaery, continue to demonstrate their mastery of the Game of Thrones. It's awesome seeing the Queen of Thorns wrongly underestimated by the other puppet masters at court, along with her obvious contempt for them all. Margeary has been able to tame Joffery slightly and Lady Olenna is doing her part to ensure that her family remains an integral part of the future kingdom. Unfortunately Loras Tyrell does not posses the tact of his sister and grandmother and reveals their plans in a more traditional instance of "loose lips". The Lannisters are able to outplay the Tyrells and Lord Tywin makes marriage plans for both Tyrion and Cersei, in order to bind two extremely valuable houses to the crown.
Overall a marginally slower episode compared to the devastation of last week but no less important, the halfway mark of this season does not disappoint and sets up some very intriguing questions. One of the biggest challenges of this show is the multitude of characters and stories that branch out and interrelate over time. I appreciate the omission of characters like Bran and Sam from this episode to make room for larger stories. I think that the only way the show will work will be by focusing on a few different characters each episode so that they all get their due in the end. We will discuss the episode in full on our podcast Tuesday night, this was a brief review and I know I didn't touch on everything. Stay tuned for a new Game of Thrones review each Monday following an episode, add us on Facebook and Twitter and all that fun stuff, and most importantly listen to the podcast for a more in depth Game of Thrones discussion.
Find our Game of Thrones: Tower of Babble Discussion for this weeks episode here. Or watch it below.
In case you guys missed our discussion from last week, you can find it here: