kimberlee rossi-fuchs enjoys a good game…
Last week’s Game of Thrones saw several storylines reach an apparent boiling point, with the ambush of Winterfell, the riot at King’s Landing, and the kidnapping of Daenerys’ dragons. In this week’s “A Man without Honor,” everyone’s dealing with the aftermath of those events, either by grappling for position or by simply trying to make sense of their new realities. The episode takes its title from Catelynn’s accusation that Jaime Lannister is a man without honor, one to whom oaths and vows are meaningless compared to his own self interests. Her assessment is fair (and could just as accurately be applied to Theon Greyjoy and Xaro Xhoan Daxos) and while Jaime doesn’t deny her charge, he challenges Catelynn’s assumptions on what exactly it means to be honorable, pointing out that since he’s always been faithful to Cercei, he’s in that regard more noble than Ned Stark, who fathered a bastard son. “A Man without Honor” asks not only what honor is, but if it’s even a worthwhile or useful trait to possess. As Jaime and wildling Ygritte point out, the concept of honor is at best contradictory and often awfully binding.
I’m assuming the storyline that everyone’s talking about today is Theon’s continued bungling of the Winterfell siege and the burned bodies of the two children he hoisted before the horrified onlookers in an attempt to show that, as the new lord of Winterfell, he is to be obeyed and feared. The episode opens with Theon finally awaking from his post-coital nap to discover that Osha has smuggled Bran and Rickon (and Hodor!) out of Winterfell. Realizing this mistake not only cost him two huge bargaining chips in the Stark boys, but also further reveals his total ineptitude, Theon immediately arranges a search party to bring the boys back. He plays the tough guy with Maester Luwin, threatening to harm the children if that’s what it takes to prove he means business. Theon shares Jaime’s cavalier attitude towards honor, believing treachery and cruelty are justified so long as they result in respect and victory. As he tells Luwin, “Don’t look so grim. It’s all just a game.” Yet for all his ambition to lead, Theon seems incapable of making any decisions himself, often following the suggestions of his first mate, who discovers Rickon’s telltale walnut shells (a fondness for walnuts is apparently the kid’s only existing personality trait) and tells him to send Luwin back to Winterfell so he won’t see what they’re about to do. The episode ends with the reveal of the two small bodies hanging from the walls of Winterfell and while I think the scene rang true to the way it played out in A Clash of Kings, I don’t think it had the same on-screen gravity or impact as Ned Stark’s execution last season.Duplicitousness and treachery aren’t exclusive to the War of the Five Kings, however, and across the sea in Qarth, Xaro and blue-lipped warlock Pyat Pree reveal their conspiratory alliance through a bold and deadly power play. Daenerys, still searching for her dragon babies, approaches the council of The Thirteen to ask for their return. It seems as if she’s nowhere closer to finding them when the Spice King (the far most vocal member of the group) proclaims ignorance of their whereabouts, but suddenly Pyat stands up and announces that he took the dragons as part of an arrangement he made with the new King of Qarth, Xaro.
It’s a plot that’s been in the works ever since Daenerys’ arrival and Xaro was determined to claim those dragons – and the power they provide – through whatever means necessary, be it gifts, flattery, and a marriage proposal or outright theft. Dany’s shock and feelings of betrayal quickly turn to horror as Pyat once again pulls his cloning trick to slit the throats of the other members of The Thirteen and then taunts and threatens Dany to reunite with her dragons in the House of the Undying, the headquarters of Qarth’s warlocks where they’re being held captive. The assassination of The Thirteen is another invented scene for the series and another fairly large deviation from the novel (overall, Weiss and Benioff have taken the most liberties with Dany’s storyline), but again, it worked well and was a supremely creepy scene that illustrates just how dire Daenerys’ situation in Qarth has become. With many of her khalasar slaughtered (that shady Doreah is still missing, though) and her dragons kidnapped, her support system has dwindled and she finds herself surrounded by enemies in an unkind land.
While Jaime, Theon, and Xaro seem to think that adhering to a code of honor prevents one from getting ahead, wildling Ygritte goes further to argue that blind allegiance to a King or an oath can actually be a form of bondage. Ygritte challenges Jon’s beliefs at every turn, pointing out that while the people of Westeros are forced to obey a king just because his father was king before him, the free folk of the North elected Mance Rayder. After his obvious embarrassment at spending the night with her, Ygritte immediately infers that Jon’s a virgin and mockingly tempts him, calling both his manhood and his freedom into question since his vows won’t allow him to be with a woman. Even though she’s Jon’s captive, she argues that he’s the true prisoner, confined by his strict code of honor. “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” she coolly informs him. As Ygritte, Rose Leslie possesses the necessary tomboyish manner and spunk and her banter with Jon is spirited and entertaining. Their scenes were easily the most entertaining of Jon’s storyline so far this season and her leading Jon right into the hands of a group of wildlings was a nice little cliffhanger to end on.
Elsewhere in Westeros, Sansa suffers from nightmares of her attempted rape and the even more frightening arrival of her first period, which means she’s now ready for Joffrey’s bed. I especially liked her scenes with the Hound and Cercei, as Sansa still clings to proper courtly etiquette, thanking the brutal Hound for saving her and proclaiming her love for Joffrey to Cercei, despite being shown time and time again that the world is not the beautiful fairy tale she once believed in. Lena Headey as Cercei was fantastic in a rare moment of somewhat kindness towards Sansa, advising her to love no one but her future children, since love makes one weak. Even after all she’s been through, Sansa still seemed shocked by Cercei’s cold, calculating view, as if every last one of her naïve, childhood allusions are stripped away.
In Harrenhal, Tywin misinterprets Loach’s death as an assassination attempt and sends the huge and vicious Mountain to burn the nearby villages and farms in order to weed out the rebels. Arya and Tywin continue to their amusing rapport, though it seems Tywin is beginning to get an inkling of his clever cupbearer’s true identity. On the battle front, Robb is still flirting with that mysterious nurse and after an attempted escape, Jaime is captured again and is left at the mercy of Catelynn and bad-ass Lady Brienne. Tyrion receives word that Stannis’ strong fleet is fast approaching Kings Landing and with the assured reactions to Theon’s actions at Winterfell and Pyat’s creepy invitation to Daenerys, next week promises to be another eventual episode.