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GAME OF THRONES “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” Recap

As always, these recaps are for the benefit of fans who have not read the Song of Ice and Fire novels and are only familiar with Game of Thrones through the television series. Spoilers follow.

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Bears, bribes, and babies may be the major plot highlights, but it’s probably more accurate to say that disappointment, foreboding, and sadism are what thoroughly permeate ‘The Bear and the Maiden Fair,’ the seventh episode of Game of Thrones third season.

The fallout from Tywin Lannister’s arranged marriages is still being felt in King’s Landing. Sansa is bitterly disappointed that she didn’t flee from King’s Landing when she had the chance. Tyrion is disappointed that he has no recourse but to follow his father’s orders. Shae is disappointed that… well, she’s more irate than anything about her lover marrying a teenager, but it’s not called an ‘arranged’ marriage for nothing. Regardless, no amount of happy promises on the part of the Imp can calm her anger about the fact that, in the end, she’s just Tyrion’s whore. Tyrion’s place at King’s Landing has never exactly been a cozy one, but man, it has been a precipitous fall from grace from even just one season ago for the Imp.

Game of Thrones is expert at setting up situations with subtext that suggests either real or perceived foreboding. It’s not an overexaggeration to say it is rife with these situations, so rife that you often have to pick through dialogue, geography, and motivations in an attempt to understand whether something terrible truly is in store for a character or if it’s just your overactive imagination. In ‘The Bear and the Maiden Fair,’ there are a couple such instances, the first concerning Jon Snow.

The Wildings are finally over the wall and about a week’s march from Castle Black, but Jon Snow is hardly in the mood for battle. He practically says as much to Ygritte, who brushes it off. I find it interesting that, for all her xenophobia and jingoism, Ygritte has dropped all pretenses of not knowing that Snow is a traitor in disguise in favor of her love for him. She knows he’s no Wilding and yet does not care. That must be some kind of love. Then again, it turns out that Orell has a thing for Ygritte and tells her that she won’t love Snow when she finds out what he really is. Except that she already knows what he is, so Orell seems a tad late to the party. Snow loves Ygritte, too, but it’s probably out of guilt more than anything else that he tells her that no Wilding attack on Castle Black has been successful in the last 1000 years. In short, disaster awaits, Mance Rayder or no. To which Ygritte replies that they’d better get a lot of living in before their heroic deaths. Now THAT’S some foreshadowing.

The next bit of possible foreshadowing comes in the form of increasingly distracted Robb Stark who, it is revealed, is screwing around with minor raids instead of hauling ass to the Twins to get his uncle married off to Walder Frey’s family as he promised. Once again, we get more scenes where his mother and advisers advise him and Robb doesn’t listen. Robb can’t even get his head right to plan the eventual march south and attack on the Lannisters because Talisa is DTF and laying around naked all the time. And then he REALLY gets distracted when Talisa reveals that she is pregnant. A little Stark (or Starkette) on the way might just be the wake-up call Robb needs, but who can tell with this guy?

I’ve gotta say that sometimes (not all the time, but sometimes) Charles Dance playing Tywin Lannister is a little distracting. Lately, I keep waiting for him to explode and turn into a demon like his character from The Golden Child. Can a person’s head explode from a bad case of BeingInNoMoodForYourShitItis? After not seeing the Iron Throne for a while, we are treated to our second straight episode of a great scene by the throne, when Joffrey summons Tywin and asks why he’s being kept out of the loop on a bunch of things. The king surprises Tywin by telling him that he’s heard of Daenerys and her dragons and is a bit worried about it. Tywin really doesn’t have time for coddling and hilariously vacillates between looking like he wants to incorporate Joffrey into the architecture of the Iron Throne itself and diplomatically promising to keep him up to speed on current events. Tywin is always going to be Tywin but it is a little surprising to see Joffrey portray actual concern about faraway threats, even though it’s almost surely out of a personal sense of safety rather than his responsibility for the realm. Guess killing prostitutes only keeps one entertained to a certain degree.

Joffrey might have to worry about Daenerys sooner if she wasn’t so concerned with being the Abraham Lincoln of Essos. Despite the next slaver city the Unsullied army reaches, Yunkai, having no strategic value, and despite its emissary Grazdan offering her a crapload of gold and ships to Westeros if she just gets the hell out of there and leaves them alone, Daenerys is told that 200,000 slaves reside inside and her dander is up in a big way. It might be a while until the Mother of Dragons reaches Westeros, but until then, she’ll apparently be content with irritating every single powerful person in Essos. Until, y’know, she kills them.

So there’s disappointment and foreboding. How about the sadism? Well, Theon is still being tortured, so the showrunners still seem set on sadistically torturing the audience. But in what seems to be almost a blatant nod at the complaints about Theon’s repetitive storyline, a couple hot chicks untie him, give him a brief hand-j, undress each other (full frontal nudity and all), and grind up on him… before Theon’s gleefully-cackling mystery torturer walks in to break it up. Things go from bad to worse when a couple of heavies walk in to hold Theon down while the torturer grabs a sharp knife to deliver the cockblock to end all cockblocks. As visually stimulating as this particular Theon visit was, just tell us who this torturer guy is already. Out of all the many entwined plots on Game of Thrones, this one seems more disconnected than any of the others.

More sadism reveals itself in the orders of Roose Bolton, who sends Jaime with a band of men to King’s Landing, but not before giving Brienne to creepy Locke to do with as he pleases. For whatever reason, this takes the form of Brienne, a wooden sword, and a bear pit (thus the episode’s title). On the road, Jaime discovers what is about to happen to Brienne and fools his escort into taking him back to Harrenhal. Once there, he saves Brienne in the nick of time and then outwits Locke into allowing Brienne to accompany him or risk disobeying Bolton’s orders. I’m pleased with Jaime’s progression, now finally figuring out that he can outsmart people without having to rely on dropping his Lannister name and hoping that everyone cowers in fear. I was a little worried that Jaime and Brienne might have been separated for good when he left Harrenhal but, happily, Westeros’ Odd Couple lives to see another day.

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And that’s about it. We get a brief scene of the new duo of Melisandre and Gendry, who sail through the wreckage from the Battle of Blackwater in a neat visual. Gendry is finally told about his Baratheon lineage and the dude seems pretty relaxed for somebody who has to know he’s about to have a probably huge amount of blood removed from his body for spellcasting. (He has to know that…right?) Meanwhile, Arya is angry at Beric for letting Melisandre take Gendry away. Beric begs off, saying it was the Lord of Light’s bidding. Arya doesn’t care much for the Lord of Light, saying that ‘Death’ is the only god she believes in. Oooooooookay. Arya bolts when the Brotherhood makes ready to attack a nearby Lannister party, but is caught by… The Hound? Out of the frying pan, methinks.

What did you think about ‘The Bear and the Maiden Fair’? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 

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The Author

Gabriel Ruzin

Gabriel Ruzin

Gabriel is a genre film lover, giddy in the presence of beauty and awesomeness, cranky in the presence of artless junk. His first movie memory is watching Khan die in STAR TREK II as a 4-year-old (true story). Gabriel started his online writing 'career' a few years back on a WP blog before graduating to writing for a few bonafide movie sites, including serving as an editor for two. The Coen brothers, Terry Gilliam, and David Fincher are among his favorite directors. He co-hosted the Telluride Horror Show in 2011, 2012, and will host again in 2013. In the midst of writing a book on THE TWILIGHT ZONE for Applause Books. Film trivia whiz. Facial hair artiste.