Game of Thrones//Season 3//Episode 9//The Rains of Castemere

Directed by David Nutter
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Originally aired June 2, 2013

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Depending on your personality type, the ethics of survival in Game of Thrones might be your favorite element or the reason for a spiritual cleanse with the ABC Family show of your choice after every episode. Or both. Season three has been dominated by against-the-odds survival (see: Jaime Lannister & Brienne, Sir Davos, Tyrion, and Jon Snow, just to name a few) that occasionally rings a little false. I’m not trying to suggest that if Jon Snow had fallen off The Wall during “The Climb” or if Davos had been blown to bits during the Battle of the Blackwater that the series would have been any better. When it comes to the survival of characters over the course of a multi-season drama, liberties have to be given to certain scenarios for the sake of drama and continuity. Additionally, these vaguely improbable survivals lend each character a sense of immortality that can be proven distressingly insubstantial in a matter of moments. Allowing them to live or even thrive in such a disastrously dangerous environment, where one writer (at least) has theorized that all characters are merely set dressings to the “game” itself, cannot help but encourage an emotional connection that transcends love and hate. Their mere survival fosters an assumptive attitude about their presence on the show. Much like a young child who loses her father too soon, we only truly appreciate and understand the gravity of these characters after they’re gone. They leave in their wake a shifted and unbalanced board, the opportunity for growth or destruction, and the merciless nausea of the void.

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Game of Thrones//Season 3//Episode 8//Second Sons

Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Michelle MacLaren
Originally aired May 19,2013

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It’s been a quiet week in Westeros. Almost too quiet. The series is plodding forward, taking a self-conscious break from the physical drama leaving. Ultimately the slow pace of “Second Sons” left me feeling a little unfulfilled. I’m fine with a series that quietly broods for a while before erupting into violence (The Sopranos was famous for this and Boardwalk Empire gets better at it with every new season). Ideally, silence ought to produce more tension so that important moments feel hand tailored to deliver a satisfying emotional result. “Second Sons” explores, in somewhat monotonous detail, the repressive nature of royal unions. It contains a few moments that really payoff and maintains the series’ high level of production both behind and in front of the camera but overall feels like filler; something to idly think about while the show takes a two week vacation for Memorial Day.

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Game of Thrones//Season 6//Episode 7//The Bear and the Maiden Fair

Written by George R.R. Martin
Directed by Michelle MacLaren
Originally aired May 12, 2013

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Remember in Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons how everyone couldn’t wait until the bratty George Minafer would receive his “comeuppance?” The idea being that arrogant and ungrateful little bastards should suffer for their sins. The problem is that when they do receive their comeuppance, it never makes those who wished for it feel any better. In fact it generally makes them feel pretty guilty. I bring this up because “The Bear and the Maiden” seems driven to highlight the ongoing arrogance and susceptibility to vanity in many of the series’ younger characters. How much you want to see their behavior punished depends on a variety of factors, not the least of which is just how much colossal damage some of these kids can cause.

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Games of Thrones//Season 3//Episode 6//The Climb

Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by Alik Sakharov
Originally aired May 5, 2013

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The Wall is a significant symbol in the semiotics of Game of Thrones. Many characters have mused on its meaning suggesting that it represents the separation of good and evil with the occupants of either side nominating themselves as the favorable party. Still others are crippled by bitter cynicism: they believe the Wall is just another device of control and power, shrouded so deep in myth that one might forget that the young men at the Wall actually spend a lot of their time shoveling shit and bickering amongst each other. The same applies to the Iron Throne (as we will see later). These are places where reverence and mythology smash up against brutal reality. It seems fitting then that seemingly everyone in Westeros is trying to get to one or the other.

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Games of Thrones//Season 3//Episode 5//Kissed by Fire

Written by Bryan Cogman
Directed by Alex Graves
Originally aired April 28 2013

We’ve seen little evidence of religious mysticism since the assassination of Renly Baratheon by the awfully demonic looking offspring of Stannis and Melisandre at the start of this season. In fact, we’ve across very few other practitioners of the New Religion other than Stannis and his faithful followers. There’s been a lot of lip service directed at the new God(s) but let’s face it: religious fanaticism isn’t religious fanaticism without some action. The Brotherhood without Banners a gang of socially progressive misfits led by Beric Dondarrion treat us to breathtaking display of the power of the One True God. After transporting The Hound to their cavernous rendezvous, Dondarrion, a grizzled, half-blind warrior, enters into trial by combat with him. In a flashy and well-choreographed set piece, Dondarrion lights his sword on fire using his own blood. This is no small miracle in and of itself but it’s especially effective as we know there’s nothing the Hound hates more than fire. Yet the most striking moment of their combat is the reaction it spurs in Arya. “Kill him!” she screams and after Dondarrion fails to so she runs at the Hound wielding her own sword, a fire burning in her eyes. Yet it is Dondarrion who steals the show after he is raised from the dead before Arya’s eyes. He recounts to her the various ways he’s been killed which seem to have been getting increasingly horrific. Yet here he is to entomb the ever-unnerving totem of the Lord of Light: the night is dark and full of terrors. Arya seems naturally suspicious of these men who possess a certain measure of idealism but are also holding her captive. In a moment of guarded intimacy she later asks if they can raise a man whose lost his head. Dondarrion shakes his head slowly, “I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way, child.”

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