[Review] - Game Of Thrones, Season 3 Episode 7, "The Bear and the Maiden Fair"

[Author's note: the Continuum and Game of Thrones reviews will be swapping release days. Continuum reviews will appear on Tuesdays, and the Game of Thrones reviews will appear on Wednesday for the remainder of the respective seasons.]
Courtesy of HBO
You must be cautious, Mr. Martin. Your predilections are showing.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that have also spent their fair share of time around wet shit.

I get the feeling that detractors of the series will love using this episode as that which they hold aloft and say, "see, it's filthy and sexy and horrible." Because it was filthy and sexy and horrible, and as we have come to expect from the episodes written by creator George R.R. Martin, a quality episode. Densely packed though, too densely, but never pointlessly. Despite the fact that nearly every storyline is checked in on, each felt like it accomplished something rather then just paying lip service. Unlike last season's Blackwater, which was all about the spectacle, The Bear and the Maiden Fair is all about power. Which isn't a theme uncommon to the series. Who hold power, and from where does that power come? The answer, as it turns out, is sex.

It also was an opportunity for Martin to make explicit some items that he left implicit in the novels, and thus confirming many long held beliefs by studious readers. The most graphic and disturbing of these was the gelding of Theon. It what is easily the most disturbing sequence the series has done (yes, more so then last year's shadow baby), and the most sexually exploitative, sexually explicit and sexually unnecessary scene, Martin pushed the boundaries both of what the show can do, and what the show should do. The entire sequence, clearly building towards something unkind, was very uncomfortable. Forget sexposition, this was torture porn. Which, I suppose, was the point. The Boy is nothing if not a master of torturous manipulation, and delights in his work. And while I never would have pegged Theon for being the Westeroes Wilt Chamberlain, The Boy knew exactly where and how to hurt Theon the most.

Vast tracks of the episode were devoted to the act, or the conversation, of sex. Robb and Talisa's scene took place entirely in the buck-ass nude, and what I'm most interested in with Martin's episodes is to see how he deals with the elements unique to the series, Talisa being one of the larger ones. I know there are several theories going around concerning her motivation and her "true purpose," but if what she says really is true it is a whole new element for the series to deal with in the long run, assuming there is a long run in store for the character.

Lacking a Blackwater to absorb their budget this year, the producers were able to spread the CGI around a bit more, resulting in shots like last week's view from the top of the wall, or this week's dragons, and they have never looked better. Aside from the Wildfire explosion, the dragon's in this episode might be the best effect the show has done. When they were small, they lacked a sense of reality. But the artists outdid themselves here, with the tangle of the three fighting over a scrap of meat mid-air, or Drogon guarding his adoring mother's gold. What more wonderful a mother's day scene then Dany's loyal son nuzzling his mother wistfully.

Martin's episodes are never shy about giving smaller characters for whom he has a preference a scene in which to shine. In season ones Baelor, it was Syrio. In Blackwater, it was Bronn. Here, it was Osha, who gets a tonne of back story, and an explanation for her growing unease as they get closer to the Wall. They've held off for some time in letting her voice what would obviously be a concern of hers, considering how much works she went to through to escape the North originally. A division is coming in this trek Wallward, and Osha isn't going to want to keep on the same path surrounded by those she doesn't trust.

The finest scene in the episode, a scene that should be entered for award consideration for all involved, from the always superior Charles Dance to Michelle MacLaren's masterful direction, was Tywin's summoning. It is good to know that there is still one person in King's Landing with a touch of power over Joffery, though for how much longer that remains true is yet to be seen. But the way Tywin plays Joffery, schooling (or counselling, as he puts it) him while never dropping to vernier of respect was fantastic. What was it that Littlefinger said last week, about the climb? Watching Tywin ascend the stairs to the Iron Throne in deliberate, tense silence was chilling.

While not the strongest episode this season, it was far from the worst, and continued to position the characters into very specific places. And continued to break the characters into pieces, shattering those that felt secure, and giving us every reasons to fear for the safety of those that are very confident in their current positions. The juxtaposition of Jamie and Brienne might have been the best metaphor for the way things are going for the characters on this show: some are thrown into the bear pit, while others jump. Who is able to climb out afterwards is another matter entirely.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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