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!