Game of Thrones Season 3, Episode 3 – Walk of Punishment

Bodies are burned and business deals made in this week's Game of Thrones, plus someone loses a hand...

SPOILER WARNING! It’s best not to read this review unless you have already seen Game of Thrones Season 3, Episode 3

After a slow but characterful start to the series, the pace begins to quicken in this third episode of Game of Thrones, Season 3. With Walk of Punishment, writers D.B. Weiss and David Benioff take their first stab at directing, and do pretty darn well at it too.

At the Small Council, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is made Master of Coin (not as flashy as Hand of the King, but better than nothing) and tasked with putting the kingdom’s fiscal affairs in order. However, the most interesting thing about the scene isn’t what the characters talk about, but how they place themselves. Crafty Tywin (Charles Dance) has set up the chairs so that his is at the head of the table, while the other five are all to his left. Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen), Varys (Conleth Hill) and Pycelle (Julian Glover) scramble, elegantly, for position – but Cersei (Lena Headey) drags her chair so that she is sitting at her father’s right hand, while Tyrion moves his to the other head, so as to be eyeball to eyeball with his father. This visual representation of the social mêlée surrounding the Lannisters is simple, but very effective.

Robb (Richard Madden), Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) and company rock up at Riverrun for the funeral of Cat’s father, Hoster Tully. We are introduced to Cat’s feckless brother Edmure (Tobias Menzies), and her uncle, Brynden ‘The Blackfish’ Tully (Clive Russell). Their characters are artfully illustrated in the short scene that is Hoster’s funeral. His body is set adrift in a boat; Edmure lights arrows, takes aim and misses several times before the Blackfish finally shoves him out of the way, looses an arrow and casually turns his back before it hits the mark. Robb later gets up in Edmure’s grill for disobeying orders and messing up his plans – it looks like the war ain’t going too well for King Robb right about now. However, he may have himself a real asset in his great uncle Brynden, who seems like a pretty capable dude.

Searching for the remains of his dead Crow comrades, Jon (Kit Harrington)and the Wildlings find instead a disturbing message left by their icy enemies – fifty or so severed horse heads arranged in a galaxy spiral atop the driven snow (The Godfather eat your heart out). Meanwhile, the remaining members of the Night’s Watch have made it back to Craster’s (Robert Pugh) Keep, where Gilly (Hannah Murray) is giving birth to her son/brother (there’s so much incest in GOT, we’re worryingly used to it by now). Given that we know what happens to any boys born to Craster’s ‘wives’, it looks like Sam (John Bradley) is going to have to come to the rescue, and sharpish (also, was that Burn Gorman we saw pop up there as a random Night’s Watch member? Yes, yes it was).

In a well orchestrated horseback chase scene, Theon (Alfie Allen) escapes the clutches of his torturers with the help of his mysterious friend (aka Iwan Rheon from Misfits), who turns out to be a real badass – at the opportune moment, he sticks Theon’s pursuers so full of arrows they morph into porcupines.

In Astapor, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) decides she’s going to buy the Unsullied – all 8000 of them. She rationalises the moral quandary of purchasing a castrated slave army by reasoning that at least she will have complete control over her soldiers; in other words, they won’t rape and murder at random. Although she has money, it’s not nearly enough to buy 8000 slaves. So, she offers the slave master one of her dragons, which he accepts.

So far, we’ve only really seen these dragons as cute babies frying fish and flapping about the joint. The fact that the slave master is willing to take a single baby dragon in payment for every soldier he has is a strong reminder of just how valuable, dangerous, and important these creatures are. Of course, considering how much Dany loves and values her dragons, it’s pretty surprising that she would even think of giving one away – something tells us she’s going to get some very serious buyer’s remorse in the near future, possibly with fiery results.

And finally, we may as well just out with it: Jaime Lannister (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) has had his hand cut off. And not just any hand either – his right hand, the hand he wields his sword with. He and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) were captured by a bunch of mercenaries called the Brave Companions at the end of last week’s episode; Jaime has managed to use his smooth tongue to talk them out of raping Brienne, but not, apparently, out of taking off his chains. In response to this request, his sword hand is sliced off at the wrist.

Although Game of Thrones is ostensibly concerned with the actions and fates of whole groups of people – Houses, families – it’s moments like these that really drive home the importance of the individual in this saga. We hate Jaime because he seems to be on Team Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), and because he shoved Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright) out of that tower – but we like him because he’s brave, faithful and honest. We didn’t want to see his sword hand, his one true source of power, so abruptly severed. Without his sword hand, he’s nothing.

Episode three has given us quite a bit of juicy action, and certainly ended on a massive bang (or chop). Our only complaint would be that the story is beginning to jump about a little too quickly, spending too short a moment with each set of characters. Yes, with a sprawling saga like Game of Thrones you’re always going to have a bit of a tight squeeze , but a couple of ‘meatier’ scenes would be very welcome. We may have to wait for this season’s ‘event’ episode  for that, which usually turns out to be episode nine – in season one we had the beheading of Ned Stark (Sean Bean), in season two the Battle of the Blackwater – could this season’s big showdown turn out to be the infamous ‘Red Wedding’? We’re longing for and dreading it in equal measure…

Best Line: “Always the artists.” – Mance Rayder, in reference to the spiral of horse heads.

Best Kill: Theon’s would-be attacker taking an arrow to the face. Yowchie.

Best Scene: The ‘chair moving’ scene was good, but we gotta go with Jaime losing his hand.

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