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SPOILER WARNING! It’s best not to read this review unless you have already seen Game of Thrones Season 3, Episode 7
This week’s episode was scripted by none other than the man himself, George R. R. Martin, author of the original literary saga A Song of Ice and Fire, upon which our beloved Game of Thrones is based. It seems to have become a GOT tradition that Martin will take the script into his own hands for one episode per season; in season one he gave us the fast-moving The Pointy End, in season two the action-packed Blackwater, but for season three the bearded sage from New Jersey has gone in a totally different direction. In The Bear and the Maiden Fair words speak louder than actions for the most part, and the whole thing comes off like one big relationship therapy session.
We’re treated to a sorely needed scene between Robb (Richard Madden) and Talisa (Oona Chaplin). These two are supposed to be deeply in love and married, and yet we’ve seen hardly any interaction between them since they tied the knot. Obligatory nakedness aside, also revealed is the fact that Talisa is in a delicate condition. This nugget of info doesn’t interest us too much at this stage; however, it may become crucial further on down the line.
Also getting involved in the relationship discourse taking place this week are Jon (Kit Harington) and Ygritte (Rose Leslie), who indulge in a bit of flirty banter before suddenly going all serious on us. Jon knows that his halcyon days with Ygritte are numbered, and that the planned Wildling attack on the Wall will probably put a dampener on any ideas he might have had about moving into the sauna cave and raising a brood of red-headed children. Surprisingly, Ygritte tells him that he knows nothing, Jon Snow.
Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Shae (Sibel Kekilli) also have a chinwag about their current situ. He’s unwillingly engaged to a very tall teenager, and she is angry that she’ll have to live like a kept mistress. This conversation is a little jarring for us viewers, as Shae’s anger doesn’t really make sense; she already knows that she’ll never be able to marry Tyrion, and is already living as his kept mistress. Tyrion marrying Sansa (Sophie Turner), for whom Shae acts as maid, would actually work in her favour.
Sansa and Margaery (Natalie Dormer) have some sisterly bonding time over the fact that they’re both about to marry Lannisters, although Margaery squarely trumps Sansa’s misery by reminding her that at least Tyrion is sane, friendly, and reportedly a demon in the sack, while Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) is a certifiable nut-job with an itchy crossbow finger. Even Osha (Natalia Tena) pours her heart out in this episode, revealing why she’s so reluctant to return to North of the Wall; her former partner turned into a blue-eyed Wight and tried to strangle her, which is a fair enough reason, frankly.
Interesting as all this heartfelt chitchat is, the whole thing feels just a little bit soft, and even (dare we say it) soap-like, which is not something we have come to expect from GOT. However, the episode does have its good points – and they are very good. Arya Stark’s (Maisie Williams)badass announcement that her only god is death, for example, or a great sequence in which we get to see Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) queening it over the representative from Yunkai while her dragons (all three of whom are present, for once) flame around her feet. Unfortunately, we’re still subjected to yet another boringly predictable Theon (Alfie Allen) being tortured scene, which we could probably have done without, and which seemed like an excuse to shoehorn yet more nudity into the show. Sexposition is one thing (this is Game of Thrones, after all), but that was taking the biscuit slightly.
The one truly and unimpeachably brilliant scene of this episode comes right at the end, continuing the proud GOT tradition of saving the best (or the worst, depending on how you look at it) for last. Jaime (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) has been sent packing to King’s Landing, but is forced to leave Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) behind. Much to his credit his ever growing conscience gives him a kick in the guts as he is riding off into the sunset, and he insists upon returning to save her from what will presumably be a whole lot of rape and torture at the hands of the evil Locke (Noah Taylor) and his men. Upon returning, he finds that she has been given a wooden sword and thrown into a pit with one hell of a vexatious bear, while the spectators treat her to their rendition of The Bear and the Maiden Fair, a traditional Westerossi folk tune.
Right here is where Jaime becomes everyone’s new favourite character (if he hadn’t already). Without so much as a second thought he jumps, unarmed and one-handed, into the pit and throws himself between Brienne and the bear. After a few hair-raising moments, Jaime not only succeeds in getting them both out of the pit alive, but also secures Brienne’s freedom and puts the verbal smackdown on Locke (this is the dude who cut his hand off, remember?). As the episode ends on a small smug note of victory for Jaime (the first he’s had in quite some time) the soundtrack cleverly fades into a haunting orchestral version of another Westerossi song, The Rains of Castamere. The Rains of Castamere is a musical testament to the unbending will of the House of Lannister; its use following this scene is tantamount to plastering ‘a Lannister always pays his debts’ across the screen in neon letters.
Overall, Martin’s offering for this season left us a little disappointed. There was quite a bit of generally mediocre, and sometimes illogical, nattering going on. This detracted somewhat from the atmosphere, which at this stage in the series should be starting to quake like a dangerously overheated pressure cooker. Still, The Bear and the Maiden Fair definitely had its moments, and there are still three episodes to go…
Best Kill: Would you believe it, nobody died in this one.
Best Scene: Brienne and Jaime in the bear pit.