Game of Thrones: “Walk of Punishment” Review by Jesse Schaffer

“If your Gods are merciful, and they are just, why is the world so full of injustice?”

Jaime Lannister uttered that line to Catelyn Stark back in the season 1 finale, and it was at a time when everyone, including yours truly, had the Kingslayer pegged as a villain. Besides his reputation of slaying kings, he committed a number of vile acts over the course of that first season, and at the time there was no reason to believe that Jaime had any redeeming qualities. When he was captured by the Starks and shared that dialogue with Catelyn, we rejoiced because it seemed that this prick was finally going to get what was coming to him.

Only he didn’t, and season 2 came and went, giving us little cause to see Jaime in a different light or learn anything else meaningful about him. From the show’s protagonists, we were told repeatedly that this was a man without honor and that he deserved to die, yet those same characters would say the same thing about Tyrion because he’s a Lannister too, so their opinions were clearly biased. Having survived this long in the show while remaining in the background and not giving us a good look at him, you got the feeling that despite all he’s done, Jaime isn’t the scumbag that everyone believes him to be. And now that he’s been thrust into the spotlight, maybe, just maybe, we’d see another side of him.

Well folks, you got your first glimpse of another side to Jaime this week, and all it cost him was his right freaking hand. Only in a show as brutal as ‘Game of Thrones’ does a person commit their first truly selfless act and then receive dismemberment in turn. And considering being a great swordsman is what Jaime is known for, losing his hand is about the worst thing that could’ve happened to him. This was such a powerful moment and I loved the slow buildup to it, with Jaime going to his old, trusted spiel about how his father will shower his captors with gold if they release him, and then the tease that his punishment for being smug would just be a simple slap on the wrist. As it turns out, he was forced to sever ties with everything above his wrist, and now we have a whole slew of jokes about how Jaime can never be the “Hand” of the King. More importantly, in one fell swoop the show changed everyone we know and feel about the Kingslayer. I can’t wait to see how he will continue to develop and expand as a character.

And just when you thought we were done meeting new people, along come Brynden and Edmure Tully, Catelyn’s uncle and brother, who are all gathered at Riverrun to lay her father Hoster Tully to rest. The funeral scene here was great, and after Edmure completely fails at lighting the canoe pyre aflame, Brynden, better known as “Blackfish”, fires off a single arrow and turns back without even waiting to see if it made it (it did). Talk about a badass, and a very cool character to boot. Not only is Robb’s great-uncle now one of his staunchest supporters, but he’s also our strongest connection to Catelyn’s past, the time in her life long before she married Ned. Though I believe we had to wait far too long for the Tully’s to show up, this was yet another good debut for characters that should have a lasting impact on the scope of the series.

Across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys is wheeling and dealing in order to acquire 8,000 Unsullied soldiers, who will never do anything on their own or disobey a command because they have no balls (see what I did there?). Trading a dragon to accomplish this, the world’s most valuable asset, seems to be about the worst transaction imaginable, or at least since the Raiders sent the Bengals a first and second-round draft pick for Carson Palmer. Yet when Jorah and Barristan voice their displeasure, the Khaleesi goes all Al Davis on them and forbids them from questioning her judgment ever again. Dany is much more determined than she has been in the past and the pacing of her storyline has been far more direct, yet my favorite part here was Jorah’s epic line straight from the books (“Rhaegar fought nobly. Rhaegar fought valiantly. And Rhaegar died”). There hasn’t been a whole of backstory given on Dany’s long dead brother, nor has she even known anyone from her family other than Viserys, her other and much crueler brother who Khal Drogo dispatched with a golden crown back in season 1. I enjoyed that small moment of exposition and I hope there are more like it on the way.

Out in King’s Landing, the small council played a rather telling version of musical chairs and shook things up a bit, appointing Tyrion as Master of Coin and sending Littlefinger off to the Eyre to marry Catelyn’s batshit crazy sister Lysa. Tyrion was less than thrilled with his new position, but that didn’t stop him from setting up Pod with the foursome of a lifetime, only to shockingly have his money returned to him. Turns out the lad is a stallion in the sack, and of course Tyrion and Bronn want every last detail from Pod so that they may save a little coin in the future. These were by far the most humorous scenes of the hour, but forgive me if I would’ve preferred that Tyrion sat this episode out and gave us more time to get to know the Tully’s a little better.

No Bran this week, but we did get a small snippet of Arya, who said goodbye to Hot Pie and started a road trip with the Brotherhood without Banners. Out beyond the wall, Mance Rayder stumbled across a very beautiful arrangement of horse heads, and now we know what HBO did with all of the ones that died in “Luck.” The Wildlings make their final plans for their assault on the Wall, which is still quite vulnerable with most of the Watch just arriving at Craster’s Keep. He reluctantly gives the Watch shelter, but gives them hardly anything to eat and has a good laugh at Sam. Oh, and remember Gilly, Sam’s crush from season 2? She had the glorious burden of giving birth to a baby boy, who of course will go on to live a full and happy life (unless Craster finds out he’s a boy, of course). And everyone’s favorite brooding Baratheon made a cameo appearance this week, as Stannis bid goodbye to Melisandre, who’s headed off for parts unknown. She wouldn’t even give him any breakup sex, but since it would kill him I guess her reasons were sound.

The tempo of this season is starting to pick up now that we’re nearly four weeks into it, and it’s become a little easier to predict where certain characters are headed. Regardless of everyone else that took place, “Walk of Punishment” will always be remembered as Jaime’s coming-out-party, the hour where he took center stage and paid for all of his previous sins, the significance being that we cared when it happened.

Rating: 8.7/10

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