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Review: Game of Thrones pleases with episode ‘The Walk of Punishment’

Courtesy of HBO

“The Walk of Punishment” is the best episode of Game of Thrones that I have seen, and it will be hard for the directors to top. Two key scenes turn the episode from “Yet More Characters Experiencing Issues” into an astounding display of how the writers have added to the book.

The episode begins with the Viking burial of Hoster Tully. Robb Stark (Richard Madden) and Hoster’s younger brother Brynden “the Blackfish” Tully (Clive Russell) push a boat containing Hoster, draped in his banner, out into the Trident River. Hoster’s nephew Edmure Tully (Tobias Menzies) tries and fails to set the boat afire with flaming arrows three times.

Robb smirks to himself, the first of many small but noticeable gestures in the episode. The actors love this series, and it’s showing in this episode.

The Blackfish snatches the bow from Edmure, fires a single arrow and turns and walks away. The arrow lands in the boat with a solid thunk and sets the boat ablaze.

Because Edmure disobeyed Robb’s orders, the Northern forces lost a strategic advantage over Lannister forces that would have all but ensured the defeat of the Lannisters. Instead, Edmure captured two worthless Lannister hostages. “Do you think Tywin will sue for peace because we have his father’s brother’s great-grandsons?” shouts Robb.

In the dungeons, Robb’s wife Talisa Maegyr (Oona Chaplin) tends to the wounds of the two young Lannisters, one 14 years old, the other 15. She tells them that Robb turns into a werewolf at night – but only when there is a full moon.

At a meeting of the Small Council in King’s Landing, Cersei (Lena Headey) quietly moves her chair to the right hand of her father Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), to say she’s better than her brother Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). Tyrion, the sarcastic imp that he is, carefully and with malice aforethought drags his heavy wooden chair across the rough stone floor to the end of the table opposite his father. The Small Council’s facial language says whole volumes without words about their opinions of Lannister children’s antics.

Tywin dispatches Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) to the Eyrie to court Lady Arryn and secure the Vale of Arryn against alliance with the North. To replace Baelish as Master of Coin, Tywin appoints Tyrion master of the kingdom’s finances.

Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) ride as prisoners of Bolton soldiers, who sing “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” as Jaime tells Brienne that she will inevitably be raped by their captors.

Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) leaves Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey) and continues with Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and the Brotherhood Without Banners. It’s not a large scene, but it breaks up a fellowship that lasted the entire second season.

North of the Wall, the wildlings run across the remains of the Night’s Watch at the Fist of the First Men – a giant spiral made of decapitated horses. The human dead are missing. King-Beyond-The-Wall Mance Rayder (Ciarán Hinds) sends Jon Snow (Kit Harington) to take the Wall.

Lord Commander Mormont (James Cosmo) leads the poor remains of the Night’s Watch back to Craster’s Keep, where one of Craster’s daughter-wives bears a son. From last season, we know that Craster (Robert Pugh) will throw it to the White Walkers.

In Astapor, Danerys (Emilia Clarke) haggles with slavers over the price of the epitome of soldier-slaves, the Unsullied. She wants to buy them all. Continuing the false translation gimmick from the season premiere, the slavers’ translator and the subtitles say very different things. To the dismay of her counselors, Danerys pays for all 8,000 Unsullied with her largest dragon, Drogon.

Tyrion visits Baelish’s whorehouse to retrieve the kingdom’s ledgers. While there, he repays Podrick Payne (Daniel Portman) for saving his life in the Battle of the Blackwater by leaving the virgin squire in the capable hands of three of the Seven Kingdom’s most talented prostitutes.

Tyrion settles down with the ledgers in his chambers and tries to explain loans to the sellsword Bronn (Jerome Flynn) when Podrick returns with a swagger in his step, and, puzzlingly, the money that Tyrion left to pay for the prostitutes. In a hilarious conversation that must be seen to be believed, Podrick reveals that the prostitutes wouldn’t take his money, through no fault of his own. Tyrion and Bronn sit him down, pour him a drink, and demand to know of his exploits, in “copious detail.”

Fulfilling a promise made last episode, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) is cut loose by the boy and let free on a horse. Riding in search of his sister, he is set upon by riders and unhorsed. The riders make ready to rape him but are permanently interrupted by arrows. The archer takes Theon under his wing to a castle and safety. Who is this boy? None of this is in the books.

Brienne and Jaime’s captors set up camp, fully intent on raping Brienne as Jaime predicted. She resists, just as Jaime told her not to, and is dragged off screaming into the woods. Some quick talking by Jaime and promises of gold and sapphires to the leader of the Bolton forces holding them prevents her rape, but it’s a very close call.

Jaime then manages to sweet-talk his way into being released from the tree he was bound against and being offered a bit of pheasant left over from his captors’ dinner. It’s a pleasant evening, and Locke (Noah Taylor) offers Jaime a seat at their table before administering the coup de grâce by chopping off Jaime’s right hand. Jaime’s shocked screams continue well after the screen cuts to black.

And then the credits roll in, accompanied by a punk rock rendition of “The Bear and the Maiden Fair.”

Rating: A+ for playing with the audience

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