I feel that Game of Thrones more than any other television show (perhaps ever) functions as a seasonal arc. By necessity of its fractured width of storytelling we are presented with glimpses of characters stories week by week that eventually tell a story. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss approached the construction of the season not from a perspective of what happens, but rather where do we finish; in what kind of state are these characters going to finish up when these ten episodes are done.
There’s a beast in every man, and it stirs when you put a sword in his hand
This is particularly pertinent to keep in mind throughout episode three, ‘The Walk of Punishment’. Not too much at all in terms of plot advancement occurs yet the subtle machinations of the world tick over. The storylines set-up by the previous two epsisodos are beginning to play out. Daenerys arranges to buy a slave army at the cost of a dragon, Tyrion is made Master of Coin (aka Treasurer) and discovers the vastness of the Crown’s debt and Jon, after seeing another example of the White Walkers particularly macabre style of artwork, is told he’ll be climbing the Wall to betray the Night’s Watch. We also meet Catelyn’s family including her brother Edmure and uncle Brynden (Blackfish) and get a further example of how the Lannister’s may be grinding out a victory. It’s another reminder that Robb Stark is both outnumbered and underfunded. Meanwhile, Melisandre tells Stannis they can’t make another ‘son’ becasue “his fires are running low” and Theon is again saved from a nasty situation by his mysterious helper, who informs him he’s a long way from his sister and “winter is coming”.
-If I had a gold dragon for every time I heard that joke, I’d be richer than you are.
-You are richer than I am.
But the coup-de-grace was Jamie using his wits and tongue to save Brienne from gang rape before going out on a limb so to speak, to win over his captors. This was another reminder of what makes GoT so enthralling: unexpected things happen for logical reasons. The way in which Jaime is drawn in and so viciously cut up by sword and words by Locke (played by Australia’s very own Noah Taylor aka the dad from the awesome Submarine) was thrilling. The particular struggles of Jamie and Tyrion in this episode reinforced that perhaps the Lannister’s really aren’t as invincible as they appear. And to top it off the following credits were accompanied by the Hold Steady performing ‘The Bear and the Maiden Fair’.
Having previous knowledge of the source material can be a two-edged sword. You feel fiercely protective of what you know and love, yet also incredibly excited to see the bones of the story be brought to life. So far this season has provided an excellent adaption by not only presenting some of the favorite scenes faithfully, but by fleshing out peripheral characters and modifying some of the storylines to fit the demands of a serial television drama. The closing scene was for me an example of how thrilling a story can be even when you know where it’s going to end.
When you settle in for Game of Thrones you have to be prepared to not only invest your time but your undivided attention and patience. I saw an interesting interview with Michelle Fairley, who plays Catelyn Stark, about how anal Benioff and Weiss are about the integrity of the script. The actors are strictly forbidden from any deviance from the written page and most particularly she noted that “everything is in there for a reason”.
Previous seasons of GoT have unmistakably followed a pattern of slowly setting up the story arcs that develop throughout the season before a culmination towards the end. Hence some of the earlier episodes have been relatively weaker as new characters are bedded in and new locations added. ‘Walk of Punishment’ succeeds by not only doing this, but by doing it succinctly and with a touch of the unexpected.