***WARNING CONTAINS SPOILERS OF GAME OF THRONES SEASON 3 EPISODE 5 ‘KISSED BY FIRE’***
While last week’s episode was slightly lopsided in tone and driven to excellence by a few key sequences, ‘Kissed By Fire’ was a brilliant piece of storytelling that managed to bring a wide breadth of story arcs together as a continuous whole.
I talked about Jaime Lannister and his motivations last week, and the bathtub scene with Brienne in which he reveals the true origins of his name The Kingslayer, is the crux of how I view his character.
He tells the story of how the Mad King was intent on burning King’s Landing and all the people inside to the ground rather than be defeated and Jaime prevented this.After standing and watching the Mad King burn his subjects while he stood doing nothing, Jaime is presented with a stark decision: either keep his vows by killing his father and letting the city burn, or kill a demented tyrant and save everyone. So instead of being remembered as a savior of the city Jaime goes down in history as the man who broke his vows and murdered the king, no matter if he was a deranged lunatic.
The whole reason this isn’t well known is because the person who found Jaime was Ned Stark, the personification of honor. While Ned was respected for his dedication to personal discipline and ideals of honor, it was also the key to his downfall. In the wake of King Robert’s death Ned rejected all courses of action that would have been dishonorable and paid an immense price for it. He was a man who understood honor as a black and white code that guides a man through his life. When Ned finds Jaime in the wake of his murder of the Mad King he sees first and foremost a man who broke his vows rather than someone who sacrificed his vows of commitment in order to save a city.
“It’s treason to free your enemies. In war you kill your enemies.”
Game of Thrones forces us to really consider the full range of ambiguity of characters actions. Characters are rarely presented as entirely good or bad but rather a mixture. Both the Hound and Jaime have done things that are certainly unpalatable, but we are also forced to consider that they don’t do so because they are inherently evil people, but actions driven by their position in a particular society and culture.
Ned Starks’ influence hangs further over the actions of other in this episode. While Arya is shown to still be traumatized and driven to revenge by his death, it is perhaps the actions of the male Stark’s that reveals his influence. By losing his virginity Jon not only forsakes his vows to the Night’s Watch but also his own personal reason for abstinence. He had previously remarked that he had done so because he was afraid of committing the same fault his father had, by the possibility of making a bastard.
Robb on the other hand shows his absolute unwavering commitment to the values of justice his father instilled in him by executing Lord Karstark. While this execution would seem to be the right moral thing to do it has also left Robb in somewhat a predicament. Instead of perhaps following the advice of his wife, mother and uncle to hold Karstark hostage in order to keep his troops, he is instead forced to turn to Walder Frey, to whose family he broke his marriage contract, in order to maintain the war effort.
“When I gathered my lords together we had a purpose, a mission. Now we’re like a band of bickering children.”
The nature of servitude and honor is also touched upon up by Ser Barristan. He remarks that not only has he spent his whole life dedicated to fighting for horrible kings, but that the ultimate form of service is to sacrifice your own personal interests for the greater good. Ser Jorrah’s motivations however are much more shortsighted. He was exiled for selling slaves before he bought his pardon by spying on Danaerys. Even now he claims to fight and take his orders from Danaerys.
And finally in a well executed sequence the political maneuvering of King’s Landing is in full swing and at the center is Sansa Stark. While as Tywin remarks she is currently the heir to Winterfell any victory over Robb would likely make her the Lady of Winterfell as in all likelihood if Robb loses he would be unlikely to remain in power following an open rebellion. This makes Sansa a particularly valuable commodity and if the marriage between Sansa and Tyrion goes ahead, could potentially make Tyrion Lord of Winterfell. The final culmination of this sequence is deliciously delivered as both Tyrion and Cersie ponder their matrimonial fates.
“My children, you’ve disgraced the Lannister name for far too long.”
The editing of this sequencing demonstrated a significant improvement in the episodic storytelling structure. This burst showed that the fragmeneted nature of the story works well as long as the path of each character can be clearly defined. The burst at the end and the four sharp scenes towards the front featuring Arya worked perfectly in delivering a clearly defined course of action for the characters in the episode.
Over the course of this series Benioff and Weiss and dropped a few treats for book readers. In this episode it was the little ditty sung by Stannis’ daughter Stannis Baratheon over the closing credits.