Five Essay Prompts for Game of Thrones 3×5: ‘Kissed by Fire’

Illustration by Alex Bedder.

Illustration by Alex Bedder.

These questions regard last night’s episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones. Please answer the prompts with specific examples from LAST NIGHT’S EPISODE, though supplementary material will be accepted as a secondary source. Please write legibly. No. 2 pencils only. You have an hour to finish this test. See below for questions and sample responses.

1. Sometimes Ygritte acts tough and independent, and others she is erratic and even immature, as when she steals John Snow’s sword like a schoolgirl with a crush. Based on her behavior in this episode, where would you say she falls on Barney Stinson’s Hot/Crazy Scale–above or below the Vicky Mendoza diagonal?

Oh, Ygritte doesn’t even qualify on the Hot/Crazy scale, which can be seen here, in a How I Met Your Mother clip. (Come on, we can do better. I know we can.)

HIMYM Special – The Hot/Crazy Scale [3.05] from pride on Vimeo.

After all, Ygritte always has a method to her manic pixie dream girl madness: She wants Jon Snow not just because he’s the cutest crow to ever take her hostage, slay her friends and not kill her, but because sleeping with her will prove that he’s not still secretly working for the Nights Watch, which took that monk’s oath, you know. It’s like her hoo-haa is a sexual polygraph test that gives you quicker results than fighting with Gareth from The Office outside all day.

2. Lady Olenna continues to be smarter and cooler than everyone else in Westeros. We finally get a conversation between her and the arguably equally clever Tyrion in this episode, but he makes an uncharacteristically poor showing, while the Lady of Thorns twists the knife, giving him what he wants but first forcing him to acknowledge just how tacky his request to go dutch on the wedding is. He’s clearly out of his element here. But is that element marriage, or is it money? And considering the final scene of the episode, how important is the distinction between the two?

Not to personalize it, but this weekend I was at a wedding where this guy made a toast about the new couple and tried to work in some analogy to Game of Thrones. Even though that’s like … a really bad idea. First of all, because he totally *spoiler alerted* Joffrey’s wedding to an upsetting degree, but because Game of Thrones is not a series where romantic love factors that much into the equation.

Seriously.

Any marriages that last have been pre-arranged to result in the highest amount of money or power for the respective houses, usually ending in the lowest amount of marital happiness. (Someone should do a study on the correlation between the two in Westeros … obviously Essos is different, because what started off as an arranged marriage for Dany became true love.)

When love does occur, it seems like an unhappy accident; the Lannister twins, for instance, or Tyrion’s love of Shae, which he must keep hidden. Even Robb, the Honorable King, is about to put himself in the firing line of the people who were most betrayed  by his marriage to whatsherface … the Freys. Don’t think that the slight will have been forgotten so easily, not when that cranky guy with the bridge in season one was so hell-bent on marrying off his daughters to the King in the North.

True love/lust is only a distraction that can be used as leverage against you: just look what happened to poor Ser Loras the moment some blondie squire made eyes at him. So many the distinction isn’t between money and marriage, but money and power, or power and marriage. What we know for sure that when it comes to love and marriage, there can be only suffering that brings about a Daenerys-style “No Children” curse.

3. It turns out that Stannis and his wife have quite a little freakshow of their own, complete with stillborn fetuses in jars and a surprisingly enthusiastic sanctioning of cult-based infidelity. Picture Stannis, Selyse, Melisandre and Davos appearing on The Jerry Springer Show. In what order will the producers bring them out in order to assure maximum fireworks? Whom will the audience side with? Will anybody resort to hair pulling or chair throwing?

Jerry Springer is all about letting things build up: you can’t start out with the craziest scenario/person, because you’d have nowhere to build. So it would have to be a show that started with the love triangle of Davos, Stannis and Melisandre. Something like “This Ho Won’t Let My Friend Go!” Where we first see the Onion Knight explaining the situation until Jerry says, “Well, we actually have Melisandre and Stannis backstage, is there anything you want to say to them?”

After Stannis comes storming out and Davos has to be physically restrained from trying to throttle the light out of the red witch, the group would settle down, during which Springer would switch gears.

Springer: “Now, Stannis, Davos might be an untrustworthy, illiterate knight, but you have some secrets of your own. You impregnanted Melisandre with a smoke baby to kill Renly Baratheon, did you not?”

Audience boos.

Springer: Now wait, wait. What do you think your wife and young, deformed daughter would have to say about that?

Audience gasps, starts rioting.

Stannis: SILENCE! I AM YOUR KING!

Springer: The answers might surprise you … right after this commercial break.

During which we finally pan to the chyron on the screen: “I’m having an affair … for the Red God!”

Backstage, you’ll get a quick glimpse of Stannis’s wife–does she have a name yet–holding a jar of feti in one hand and her daughter’s Greyscaled little palm in the other. Maybe we then cut ahead to a weird lesbian triangle that causes Davos to quickly shuttle Stannis’s daughter offstage.

4. In a show marked by regular nude scenes, Jaime and Brienne’s scene in the baths stands out. The fact that they literally expose themselves to one another is echoed by their figurative baring of their souls, with Jaime telling the true story of his murder of the Mad King and Brienne reacting with real sympathy. Have any other characters on the show ever been this naked? And in light of this, what do you make of the director’s choice to show their nudity to us only from behind?

I did think the decision not to show any dick was weak–how better to exemplify Jaime’s situation than with a flaccid cock? But I’m glad that if Jaime was only going to be shown from the behind (and what a beautiful behind that was), Brienne was going to be shot exactly the same, making them equals not just in the eyes of each other, but in the eyes of the viewer as well. We’ve always loved Jaime as a rakish villain, but Brienne has been like Robb or Jon Snow: too noble and single-minded to truly be interesting.

With her eyes getting all glassy wide during Jaime’s speech as he told her the unsolveable scenario the Mad King put him in, she suddenly morphed into someone much more vulnerable …s omeone old Jaime would have easily taken advantage of, what with her woman’s weakness. But new Jaime just wants to subvert the gender expectations and swoon into Brienne’s arms. (Was anyone else reminded of that Girls episode where Hannah faints in that doctor’s shower/sauna, because this was like the same scene but opposite.) The whole “My name is Jaime” line while he lay in Brienne’s arms, her calling for help for The Kingslayer, was perfect. While she sympathizes with–maybe even trusts–him now more than she did (and there’s plenty to make us think she doesn’t entirely buy his story), she’s still not ready to play make-believe and pretend that there’s any real friendship or romance between the two of them. She’s still grappling with the idea that he’s a man–possibly a man who meant well, at one point–and not the monster that she viewed him as.

Of course, as much as we’d like to say that Jaime himself is a changed man, his dig at Renly in the beginning which causes Brienne to stand up nude as if ready to fight is the moment where he begins to see her as human–more than human, but a woman!–as well, instead of some weird freak female eunuch. Or … what would they call a chick who didn’t fit into the traditional lord/lady hierarchy back in those days? Besides the Flower Knight?

So while the bath scene seemed like a breakthrough in their relationship, let’s not forget that Brienne is still calling Jaime “Kingslayer” and Jaime is still thinking with his dick … at least enough to mumble an apology after letting his eyes assess the giant, nude woman in front of him.

5. Nearly every storyline in this episode hinged on questions of betrayal: when it is justified, how it is punished, and who is harmed by it. John Snow finally fully betrays the Night’s Watch (and is rewarded for it), Lord Carstark betrays Robb (and is beheaded for it) or arguably vice versa, Arya feels betrayed by the Brotherhood and by Gendry, Stannis finds out that his wife doesn’t consider his infidelity a betrayal, Sansa continues to be betrayed/betray herself, etc. If you were to rank the characters by who was the most wronged in this episode, who comes out on top–who is the most betrayed individual? Alternately, who feels that he/she has been deeply wronged but least deserves to think so?

The MOST betrayed individual? Easily Davos: he is trying to save his king, and he gets thrown in the dungeons for it. God help him if Stannis’s daughter is caught reading to him … I imagine there is actually a worse punishment out there than being locked in “Friend Jail.” His motives are some of the most pure on the show, as evidenced by the fact that even he considers himself guilty of treason, despite the fact that he lost his (two?) son(s) in the battle for King’s Landing, came back to warn the king with no regard for his own neck, and accepted his punishment as just. Who needs an army of eunuchs calling themselves Grey Worm when you have The Onion Knight on your side?

The problem with ranking the rest of the characters in terms of betrayal/betrayed is that its all a matter of perception. Tyrion would seem to have the most legitimate case about being fucked by his family once again when his dad forces him to marry Sansa Stark, but really, he’s looking at it all wrong: he gets to be Lord of Winterfell! Who cares if he’s married to Sansa in some sham ceremony … he can always keep Shae at his side and act honorably toward her … something that probably Ser Loras would not have even done, depending on the true plans of the Tyrells.

Meanwhile Cersei, the big whiner, does have a legitimate grievance–more so than her brother, perhaps, though she’s so unlikeable that it’s hard to see. The Tyrells clearly have the make on her, and having her marry into the family as a woman means that she’ll be giving up any last claim to power she had as queen regent, and probably the last of her sway over Joffrey, as she’d be quickly removed to Highgarden. (Incidentally, nothing would make the Tyrells happier than a chance to get their own claws into Joffrey without his mother’s meddling.)

There’s one line that Cersei moans in that last scene–”Not again!”–that alludes to her pretty sympathetic fate: she was married off to a man who was obsessed with Ned Stark’s dead sister while she was still Sansa’s age in order to secure a Lannister place on the throne, and though all we saw was the end of Robert and Cersei’s relationship, you can imagine he wasn’t the most kind or faithful of husbands. This kind of cements Cersei’s role–which has been alluded to all season–she’s not the scheming evil queen she once pretended to be, but merely a pawn in her father’s endless chess battle against any perceived threat to the family name.

Now that Cersei has done her duty as queen, her only use to the family is being sold like chattel to the very family she mosts distrusts, to a husband that she just had confirmed was a homosexual, and whose boyfriend took up arms against the crown.

With a father like that, no wonder the Lannisters are all kinds of fucked up.