Game of Thrones: Kissed By Fire

Kissed By Fire was a lot more lowkey than the past few episodes, but after the drama of last week, I think that was just what the show needed. Character development, emotional connections and not a brothel in sight.

Oh, and Jaime and Brienne had their famous bath scene. That might have biased me slightly in this episode’s favor.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Gwendoline Christie really knocked it out of the park this episode, as Jaime confessed his must vulnerable secrets, and Brienne went from angrily dismissing Jaime to being completely captivated and horrified by what he has to say in a single minute. I can’t deny that I’m completely obsessed with their relationship right now, as apparent opposites who have far more in common, and far more to teach one another, than they initially believe, and I think the show is completely nailing their growth together (sexist one-liners aside). And, miracle of miracles, their bath scene had equal-opportunity nudity, and was pretty much word-for-word from the book.

I’m still a bit giddy.

Otherwise, there were too many great moments in this episode to pick a “standout,” but the final scene with Cersei, Tyrion and Tywin was pretty masterful. Lena Headey has done an amazing job of making Cersei into a more sympathetic character (not a good character, by any means, but someone whose motivations we can understand more clearly), and her final minute in this episode was heartbreaking. She might be a selfish, spiteful, vindictive character who delights in watching her brother suffer, but she is also a proud woman who has done everything she can for the success of her family, and who is never treated as anything more than a pawn to be sacrificed without a thought. She survived Robert’s hatred and abuse, and now she is being ordered to potentially face it again. To debase herself and give up the power and independence she has fought so hard to achieve. It’s the one thing that Cersei is afraid of.

Meanwhile, Maisie Williams was absolutely heartwrenching as she showed us Arya’s final moment of disillusionment, when the gods themselves fail her and appear to favor the murderous Hound. They will bring one man back from the dead six times, but they will do nothing for her father, and they appear to be on the side of evil. She can rely on no-one but herself to enact vengeance, and so her prayer of names reappears.

There were really only two “off” parts of this episode, to me. The first was the scene between Jon and Ygritte. It stuck pretty close to the book, so no complaints there, but there is something a little bit strange about the fact that we see long, graphic brothel scenes week after week, but that this scene between Jon and Ygritte quickly faded to black.

The second was Talisa. Is she really so “foreign” that she is involved in a war, but has no idea where anything in Westeros actually is? Not even a vague concept of placement and distance? I understand that the show might need to re-establish some sense of geography for viewers, but isn’t that what the opening credits are for? People have been speculating again that Talisa is a Lannister spy… it seems unlikely to me, as she did not plant the idea of reconciliating with the Freys directly, but who knows? It would be a good twist, and would explain the ridiculous level of apparent ignorance. Another possibility for her character, in my mind, is that she will replace Jeyne Poole (she was one Jeyne, why not the other!). I wouldn’t wish that on any character, but as Jeyne Poole has been written out of the story, it seems possible to me.

All in all, a fantastic episode. Can’t wait for next week!

15 comments on “Game of Thrones: Kissed By Fire

  • Haizea , Direct link to comment

    I really enjoyed this episode, even though I as well found the Jon/Ygritte-scene to be rather short – especially considering the episode’s name. It’s a huge turn for Jon’s character, and for once it ‘s a sex scene that is actually in the book, that isn’t squicky, that actually contributes to the plot – and it felt way more rushed than every brothel scene this show has ever come up with.

    And then we finally see Stannis’ family! His wife is even more fanatic than I remember her from the books, and she has her dead sons on glass… she can compete with Lysa for the role of creepiest mother. Shireen, on the other hand, is ADORABLE. In the books she was mostly sad, but they really gave her more life and personality – which only makes it sadder later, but still. Her scene with Davos was wonderful.

    Also, Lady Olenna remains as my favourite badass old lady.

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      I LOVED Shireen! I forgot to mention it in my review, since I got caught up in all the other things I loved, but her scene with Davos was one of my favorites. Except now I want her to be a regular character with a plot of her own, and that doesn’t seem likely to happen for several seasons at least. 🙁

  • Natália , Direct link to comment

    I’m not sure you’ve notice this (or if you just don’t mind), but doesn’t bother you how much time on the screen they are not giving to Catelyn? I mean, on this last episode, when she starts talking to Rob about the Kastark, Talisa immediately interrupts her. Is all about Rob. She just stands there. They rarely give her any scene where she is not with Rob; is like they don’t think she is important enough. It bothers me alot how much they are trying to make Rob the hero of this story.
    Anyway, I loved the episode overall, and your critique was amazing, as always.

    • hoover2001 , Direct link to comment

      I don’t want to see Catelyn on the screen anymore and I hate that. What happened to the Catelyn who engaged in military strategy and political machinations with Robb and his bannerman from the books? I get annoyed by a lot of the complaining about book to screen adaptions but this complaint is legit. My only hope for salvaging anything from her TV character would be a well written reconciliation between her and Robb that, while still not the greatest, would increase the emotional heft of future events.

      • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

        I hope they do something like that, but at this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up being responsible for the RW or something similar. Because that’s what happens when the king’s mother interferes!

        I do wonder how they’re going to handle the plotline involving her after Book 3, though, since she’s become such a background player in the show this season…

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      It’s something I’m less likely to notice, just because the “King in the North” storyline is one of my least favorite from this book, but I have been frustrated by the way that Catelyn’s story has become Robb’s. Now that she doesn’t have anything specific of her own to do (like being an envoy to Renly or freeing Jaime), she just seems to have disappeared. Although, the way they’ve handled her character, I’m almost relieved. If she’s in the background, they can’t mess her up any more than they already have.

  • Anne , Direct link to comment

    I mostly agree with your review. I think they really do nail Jaime’s and Brienne’s scene for the most part. I liked that they didn’t forget to stress her love for Renly and kept that bit from the book, stressing Brienne’s romantic side (even though her feminine traits are still under-appreciated in the show). The thing that bugs me most in this storyline though -but that’s because of the source material- is how obvious and linear Jaime’s redemption arc is. It’s hard to take Jaime’s words about Aerys and the difficulty of remaining good and honourable, when he tried to murder a child and did murder a good number of Ned’s men in King’s Landing (and probably did a whole bunch of other terrible things, as hinted in the books), but it’s something that I don’t think is stressed in the books, contrary to other characters’ mistakes (especially women’s, and not only when Martin does it to reveal the deeply rooted misogyny in Westeros). Even if Jaime would not blame himself for these actions, it still could have been recalled for the reader. And that’s a narrative choice that prevents me from enjoying this story line completely. Granted, that would have been hard to render on-screen.
    Especially since the show dwells so heavily on Cat’s “mistakes”. The scene where Robb executes Karstark made me so angry. HE gets to be presented as the righteous hero who suffers because apparently he’s the only honourable one of the bunch, playing right into your average dudebro’s power fantasy. The cliché is so obvious I find it offensive. The narrative itself (in the show) fails to underline the gravity of his mistakes. But Catelyn? Throughout this first half of the season, she was presented as utterly fragile. I mean, even though the second season was highly dissatisfying concerning her character, she still had her moments where she shined (fun fact! I showed Game of Thrones to my dad -it bored him to death. But he was so impressed with Lady Stark and with Michelle Fairley he youtubes her scenes. His favourite are her arresting Tyrion, and her confronting Karstark after he tries to murder Jaime). But noooo- she has to play the offensive stereotype of the weeping mother holding his son back! She’s turned into a mere prop. What a waste of Fairley’s talent.
    Speaking of prop, I’m really worried by your hypothesis concerning Talisa. Her storyline with Robb is so unbearably painful I hope both disappear as quickly as possible. The thing is, Talisa is so obviously created just to please your average dudebro, to be a warrior princess completely devoid of substance but ready to be gazed at that I’m worried how she’d be depicted and perceived during rape scenes. Because if she’s so strongly presented as mere eye-candy, as a mere prop, how will they manage to paint her as a real character one should have empathy for, when they show her being sexually assaulted? I find it blurs the limit between an erotic or fan-servicey scene, and a scene depicting a crime. That’s another problem I have with the very way they tell their story.
    I disliked Jon and Ygritte’s (by the by, did you notice that her face was much less dirty than Jon’s and the two other men’s they were speaking with? You know, it’s one of those tiny details that have no reason for existing) scene too, because not only was it rushed, it was also filmed like almost any other sex scene (whether consensual or not), thus blurring this limit yet again: once again, we witness a woman standing entirely naked in front of man wearing clothes literally up to his chin. I mean, I know it follows the book here, but really, it puts violent and erotic scenes on a par if they are all recounted like that. Another thing I disliked (but then again, that’s the books’ faults), is how heavily it plays into the dudebro’s power and sexual fantasy, and it highlights your typical boy hero Jon Snow (yeah, I’m no fan of the character. Here’s a trope I don’t think Martin really deconstructs), with whom the male viewer may identify, as a sex god. Okay, slight exaggeration, but really? Ygritte moaning that he’s soooo good while it’s his first time? I find it so childish on the writers’s part! Also, didn’t Jon invent a sort of justification for sleeping with her in the book, like, “she saved his life, must have sex, honor yadda yadda”? It’s annoying how the show’s basically saying for male characters: “Want sex? Here, have sex! :D”.
    Last thing that bothered me (well, actually no, there are other, but it’s already a long rant) is Daenerys’ scenes. it’s problematic enough that her action are painted is such a positive light in the show. But did you notice how the Dothraki are nearly altogether forgotten, now that the unsullied are here? As if you could only have one ethnicity on screen at the same time. And I cringe everytime the unsullied are mentioned, because it’s so incredibly unrealistic. When Theon or any other white character is tortured, the damages done to their psyche is shown- they may be traumatized, but the complexity of the human mind is brought out. Martin spent so much time examining the psychological effects of violence on these characters, but glosses over them when it comes to the unsullied, thereby allowing Daenerys to give them their humanity back (how not problematic at all!). Torture does not turn people into standardized epic killing machines that are so alike that absolutely no indivual trait can be seen even in one among thousands. Worst thing is, the unsullied thing has some implicit positive connotations, because it enables Daenerys to get her overhelmingly powerful army. This romanticizes torture and slavery. Yeah because that’s not racist at all.

    Pfiu, that was long. But I can’t help but analyzing the show more and more as Game of Thrones’ problematic sides are getting more noticeable. It’s so frustrating.

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      I was really annoyed by the fourth book’s treatement of Cersei, precisely because Jaime gets such a sympathetic treatment in his perspective chapters, but Cersei almost became *more* one dimensional and dislikeable when we got inside her head. But I think that Jaime is S3/ASOS is less on a “redemption” arc and more just having more of his character revealed. He’s still the sort of ruthless person who’ll shove a child out of the window — but he became that person, in part, because he learned that all that noble knighthood stuff is BS and that people would hate him no matter what he did. I feel like this arc made him a more complex (and so sympathetic) character, rather than saying “actually, he’s good now!”

      I don’t know whether I miss having Cat scenes, or whether I’m kind of glad she’s not being included, since that means they can’t mess up her character more. And I hadn’t thought about Talisa’s potential future that way, but it is really worrying… on the other hand, since she’s a badass “not like other girls” type, the show might think that makes her *more* sympathetic (which, ugh), or refuse to put her in a “victim” position like Jeyne Poole. They might want Robb’s great love to die with him. Which I’m more than fine with, even though that reasoning would be sickening.

      Yeah, they simplified the long Jon/Ygritte relationship into one cave scene, which made it make a lot more sense. I *think* this is the one scene where the books also had the guy fully clothed while the woman was naked, but at this point it just seems like a free pass for the show to continue its problematic behavior, rather than something that reflects character.

      What has actually happened to the Dothraki? Her handmaids were both killed off last season, right? I think the last time we saw the others was on the ship in the first episode. On the one hand, since there aren’t any named Dothraki left, it would be distracting to have them in these scenes. On the other hand, why aren’t there any named Dothraki characters left?!

      I’m trying to remember if the Unsullied plotline goes anywhere in Dance. Does she have any trouble there, or are they just her loyal army? I think Dany is blind to a lot of the problems with things that she’s doing, but usually other people or circumstances point out “well this is BS.” Since GRRM is big on subverting tropes, I think it would be interesting if she got the “big powerful army” and THEN it was highlighted how this was really problematic and she’s contributing to slavery even after she says that they’re free. If it’s played straight, though, that’s a major problem.

      • Anne , Direct link to comment

        I don’t mind the simplification of Jon and Ygritte’s scene, since I’m no fan of Jon Snow, but this scene is yet another reason to consider the way they write all the other sex scenes in the show as entirely stupid, because how are we supposed, as viewers, to interpret the cave scene as a turning point, if it seems like every. other. sex scene?

        I was so pissed they killed Irri, I liked her a lot! I think a few friends of Rakharo were still there? I remember one being quite handsome. Yeah, speaking of the Dothraki on the boat, funny how the show has forgotten what great warriors they are in the latest episodes (season 2 and 3)!

  • Foxessa , Direct link to comment

    @Anne — you do no exaggeration; I’ve come to hate this show. I wasn’t a fan of the books either, and I see all the problems of the HBO show to be rooted in the source material. But it’s worse to actually SEE as opposed to read, where you can slide over the words, skip ahead a chapter. I actually leave the room during about 1/3 of the program.

    As mentioned before, during discussion of the previous episode, I wouldn’t read or watch these things except I need to know about them for professional reasons.

  • Âne-Élan , Direct link to comment

    I really hate the emphasis on Selyse’s incapacity to beir Stannis a living heir. Wasn’t she more political in the show, always giving advice, being very opinionated?
    And I missed Patchface, he’s the only thing I liked about the Stannis chapters. I can’t understand what people see in Stannis.

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      The appearance of the creepy fetus jars was so unnecessary. I’m not even sure what they were trying to say with that? That Selyse is crazy?

      I’ve never been a big Stannis fan either, because his character seems kind of boring. But out of the choices for king who are left, he seems like the best one. He’d be just, at least. That’s more than we can say about most of them. Doesn’t necessarily mean I want to read chapters about him though.

  • Âne-Élan , Direct link to comment

    I dunno, I could never forgive him for the way he treated Maester Cressen… How he just left him out of the loop because he was too old, how he let Melisandre (not sure it’s her) make fun of him in front of everyone. He did stop it, but he let it happen at first. He was just so mean to him, when the old man had been there for him his whole life and probably was the only one who ever truly loved Stannis. A just man would NOT disrespect a wise man because of his age – and it’s obvious he still possessed his mental abilities. I could never get over that, and it’s litterally the first time we see Stannis.

What do you think?

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