If this season of Game of Thrones is a series of peaks and valleys, I feel “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” has us still in the valley started by last week’s episode (though on the upswing) and surrounded by the peaks of the really excellent fourth and fifth episodes and the typically insane episode 9 that looms ahead of us (Season 1’s episode 9 was Ned’s death and Season 2’s ep 9 was the Battle of Blackwater, so I’m just kind of assuming). But this was still a quality episode of Game of Thrones.
The best storyline of the week is definitely Jaime’s. The unlikely friendship between him and Brienne has been an easy one to root for this season and it has been fun to see the kind of growth she has helped spur in Jaime. He heads out for King’s Landing, but before long he realizes that he needs to go back and save Brienne from Locke and company. With his physical abilities hampered, he uses his smarts to convince the man escorting him to the capital that they need to go back for her. And him throwing himself into the bear pit shows how much he has grown to care about her. I even liked the little change from the book where they had to scurry up the wall to escape the bear which made for an exciting finish to the episode. Also worth noting from these scenes is that we continue to get little hints about Qyburn’s background during his conversation with Jaime.
After a slow buildup over the first half of this season, Jon has gotten a lot of screentime these past few episodes and the show is definitely better for it. I commented earlier in this year that I didn’t think the Jon-Ygritte relationship had grown the way I’d have liked, but the past two episodes has done a lot to remedy this problem. Ygritte has the ability to really crack me up with some of her comments to Jon, but we also see how important this bond has become to her. Another thing I liked from this section is the time spent showing how different the worlds Jon and Ygritte grew up in were. How impressed Ygritte was by the windmill was particularly humorous.
The rest of the episode was largely a collection of various one-off scenes of varying quality. A few had some rather nice developments for a single scene though. Daenerys and her army are making camp outside Yunkai. Despite advice to just move on past the city, Dany wants to free the slaves within. She gets to display her badass side when one of the city’s slavemasters comes to meet with her. It’s a fun scene and I especially liked how Dany used the dragons (who seem to be bigger than last time we saw them and still look awesome) to intimidate him. The ending tease has the two sides seemingly headed to war. The slavemaster mentions some powerful friends which Dany asked Ser Jorah to look into, something I assume we should pick up with next week.
Tywin and Joffrey’s scene was another strong one. It gives Charles Dance yet another opportunity to show off in his role as the intimidating patriarch of the Lannister family and even if you weren’t a fan of the way he treated his children in earlier episodes this season, you had to enjoy him making Joff fidget about in the Iron Throne. I especially liked the look of fear in Joff’s eyes as Tywin ascended the steps to his seat. It also acted as a nice history lesson on dragons for the viewer and led in well to the Daenerys scene that followed.
In the Riverlands, Arya isn’t happy with The Brotherhood and decides to make a run for it when they to change course from Riverrun. But during her escape she is snatched up by The Hound. Meanwhile her brother Robb has learned that his wife Talisa is pregnant and her friend Gendry finds out he is the bastard son of King Robert Baratheon. All small scenes, but each still felt significant. Arya continues to not be able to catch a break and regardless of what The Brotherhood did, finding herself in the hands of The Hound can only be a downgrade. I enjoyed the Melisandre-Gendry scene too which gives us a little backstory on Melisandre.
Some other scenes really didn’t work as well for me though. While Bronn and Tyrion’s conversation was fun (those two are really just a good pairing), Shae was expectedly annoying this week when she confronted Tyrion about his upcoming nuptials. Bran’s scene felt like another one that didn’t accomplish much. And Theon’s scenes are really starting to wear on me. They come off especially odd since they largely happen in the background of the books, something I think the show would probably be better for at times. It’s like we get it with these two. We understand the kind of guy Theon’s captor is. We all have begun to feel bad for Theon after hating him in Season 2. We are just belaboring the point now. Sansa and Margaery’s scene didn’t do a ton for me either which is too bad because Margaery has been largely fantastic this year. She does make a good point in that Sansa could do worse than Tyrion regardless of the way he looks. As far as Lannisters go, he isn’t so bad. And they both know Margaery is headed into a wedding with a much worse member of that family.
As I wrote this review, I realized I liked this episode more than I originally thought. I still think Bran and Theon’s storylines this year have some issues which this episode didn’t help. But a strong week for Jaime’s growth as a character, the further building of the Jon-Ygritte relationship, and a handful of other important well-done scenes made for a great episode. With three episodes left this season, I feel we are headed up again from here though and I’m excited to see what they do in the final stretch of this season.
What did you think of this week’s episode of Game of Thrones? Let me know in the comments below and thanks for reading!