There was a lot of stage-setting in this week’s episode Game of Thrones, but that’s not a bad thing because of some fantastic character moments. For this week, I just want to touch on a few of my favorite ones:
* Arya and the Hound run across a dying farmer, who gives them a nihilistic speech that may be a good example of Arya’s developing worldview. They give him the “gift” of mercy, and then get immediately attacked by two of the escaped prisoners that Yoren was once transporting north to the Wall. The Hound eviscerates one, though not before suffering from a nasty bite, while Arya runs the other one through with her sword. Later, while cleaning his wounds, the Hound explains to Arya how his older brother Gregor burned his face when they were young, over a simple child’s toy. In that scene, you can see real vulnerability in the Hound, who’s usually such a stoic, even cold character. He’s hurt, of course, by what his brother did to him, but hurt also because his father cared more about shielding Gregor from the consequences of his action. The elder Clegane protected his heir, and as a result contributed to the creation of a monstrous sociopath who’s murdered countless innocents, and who now is poised to fight Oberyn in a trial by combat to decide Tyrion’s fate. It’s another example of the weight of history in Westeros; how some actions can cause profound, long-lasting, unexpected ripples.
* Brienne and Pod have been wonderful together. As I’ve said before, I hate comparing the show to the books too often, but they’re a vastly better duo on screen because Pod is so much more charming (in a goofy, earnest, puppy dog kind of way). I really think I could spend an entire episode following them around Westeros. As I said a few weeks ago, I really hope Pod is destined to become some kind of great hero, and we’re just watching his early education in true chivalry. It was great to see Brienne and Pod run across Hot Pie, who now seems comfortably ensconced as an experienced cook in a busy inn. The wolf shaped bread he cooks for them is a touching reminder of his fondness for Arya. Now that I think of it, perhaps it’s an example of the positive effect, however small, people can have on each other’s lives amid the chaos raging in Westeros; though, judging by Arya’s current path, I doubt the ripples she’ll leave behind in the future will have much of a positive outcome.
* Tyrion’s three major scenes were so well done. First, he learns that Jaime’s only remaining hand isn’t strong enough to defend him, and the brothers share some sad memories of a pair of wasted childhoods. Next comes Bronn, who admits it’s too risky for him to defend Tyrion, especially now that he’s a knight who’s slowly climbing his way up the social ladder. But he admits how much he admires Tyrion, and the two share a surprisingly emotional handshake and bid each other farewell. Finally, Oberyn arrives and tells the story about when he visited Casterly Rock years ago with his beloved sister and saw Tyrion in his crib. Instead of seeing a monstrous child like all the rumors prepared him for, he saw only a baby. The real monster was Cersei, who stood beside the crib and abused her helpless brother. Oberyn then declares that he’ll defend Tyrion, so he can avenge the death of his sister, who loved him in a way that Cersei never tried to with Tyrion. It’s an incredibly emotional speech, made even more moving by watching Tyrion’s face as he listens. It was worth the price of admission, as they say.
Season 4 of Game of Thrones is taking a week off due to the Memorial Day Holiday, and will our recap. When it comes back, according to the teaser, it looks like we have our duel.